Sunday, February 03, 2013

Will the Exchange Student Fix My Life? (Not a Running Post)

If you're looking for running advice, poke around in the archives. Today I am giving a personal update.


...


...


Running-only people gone?

Reporting on the sex thing I referred to a while ago.

I will come clean: I have never told anyone the extent of my problems with the above. I've hinted, said some things to some very close friends & my husband, but never the whole story. Let's just say it's about as bad as it could be - as in, panic attacks at the very thought of ANY physical contact - FOR YEARS. I have been so ashamed of this I can't tell you. Why? I don't know. I guess it's because I felt like a fraud: how can I be a strong, has-it-all-together, feminist woman with a healthy marriage when this rotten piece is in my core? Because if it's not my husband (and trust me, it isn't), it's ME, right?

The other thing I have never told anyone is the extent of the abuse and trauma I went through as a kid. Again, I've told people bits and pieces, but I haven't wanted to even think about the worst of it, much less talk about it.

And connecting those two things? Didn't even occur to me until relatively recently. Why such emotional stupidity? Because I so desperately wanted to have overcome the latter that the thought that I maybe hadn't made it impossible to connect the dots. It didn't seem to bother me for so very long that I really believed it never would again.

I started to kick around the idea of therapy some months ago but made only token steps toward it.

This is where the exchange student comes in. She's a high schooler in my son's school whose original host placement wasn't working out. The stated reason for needing to switch families - an hour's commute to school each way - sounded plausible, but when I met her I could tell that something else was very wrong. What else could we do? We took her into our (rather small, one full bath) house, and it's been pretty great. She is funny, astute, enthusiastic, and cheerful.

But. Within a week the real story came out: she had been experiencing some similar things to what I had gone through. Nice, right? Welcome to America, teenager all alone who doesn't speak much English! Let's prey on you! So there was a pretty intense time during which I got to plunge into the subject much more than I had ever done. She felt very guilty about telling anyone about it - didn't want to get anyone in trouble, etc. So I told her that something similar had happened to me and I hadn't told, and I now very much wish I had. She asked me if and how it still affected me, and it was like a knife to the gut. I didn't give her details - didn't think that would be appropriate - but I did tell her that it affects me personally, and that although I am totally against the death penalty and pro-gun control and very good at controlling anger, if I were in a room with a gun and this person today I'm pretty sure I would shoot him. "Do you think there's any way you could help all that now?" she asked, and I said, shamefacedly, "Probably."

Within a couple weeks my husband and I were sitting with a therapist who specializes in such things (in the setting of marriage counseling), and after a few questions he was like, first, I have never in my whole career heard a husband say such supportive things (told you!), and second, PTSD much?

I came out of that first session feeling like I'd accidentally grabbed a Brillo pad instead of a loofah, and I was in a fog of pain and anxiety for days. I wasn't sure I'd be able to go back, but I also felt like there was no putting this back in the box.

The next time and the next were not quite as bad, but it is hard to go through my days with it so much on my mind. Not just the events (though that too, believe me), but the guilt, guilt, guilt that seeps into everything. (If you have had something like this happen, that guilt makes sense; if not, it's really hard to explain.) Running helps, just as it does everything, and I'm working on self-compassion, but geez, this gets old fast.

I filled my psychiatrist in (I mostly see him for med management), and after pointing out that I had told him my sex life was okay ("I know! I lied!") he actually chuckled a bit (in a good way) and said, "This exchange student may be the best thing that ever happened to you."

Fingers crossed.

25 comments:

Julie said...

Crossing my fingers too. I have loved ones with PTSD from childhood abuse, and while it still sucks that it ever happened, things got so much better for them when they were able to gently, with the help of professionals, look at it and process it. Thinking of you.

beenthere said...

Wishing you all the best. I know what this is like, from personal experience. I've been addressing a similar issue in therapy for almost four years now and what I have to say is: the first year of the process is a roller coaster like nothing else, but it gets better, and it starts to become apparent that healing is possible and is happening. Also, you confront it when you are ready, and not a minute before. It's ok it's taken you until now.

Solitary Diner said...

Thank you for sharing something so personal, and I wish you great healing. I'm sure your words will be more helpful to others than you ever know.

jill said...

Thanks for being there for that young woman. Gads, what an awful thing. And what an awful thing you have been dealing with. Good for you for facing it. It's a brave thing you're doing.

DoctorMama said...

Thanks. I almost took this down immediately after posting, but I'm so tired of the shame. I don't have any idea what to expect and "believe" only intellectually that healing is possible, so it's good to hear, beenthere.

Anonymous said...

I know you already know this at an intellectual level and that the challenge is to take in emotionally, but the only shame belongs not to you but to whoever did this to you. I hope the process you're starting now will help you to believe that in time.

Jessie

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you for doing the big work. For both you and for the exchange student. How fortunate for you both to have found one another.
Wishing you the best.

BB

Not on Fire said...

Thank you for putting yourself out there. It is helpful to hear that others who have the scars are moving forward too.

Snickollet said...

Call it fate or just plain luck or whatever you want to call it: I'm just so glad for both you and the exchange student that your lives met at this time. Thanks for telling us Internets about it; for what it's worth, your words and actions are what I needed today, and I'll carry them forward to other days.

Anonymous said...

Hey DoctorMama. De-lurking to send heartfelt good wishes your way. A similar thing happened during my childhood, and with therapy it can and does get better. Be gentle with yourself during the process.

Sinéad.

Julie said...

Oh, just sitting here loving you, is all.

Anonymous said...

So many girls and women are hurt in this way, so the more that we share our stories, the more we make it OK for others to share. But the shame is so debilitating and the guilt is so exhausting, that it seems overwhelming and impossible, sometimes. I am impressed by your courage and your strength, Dr. Mama. For me, the therapy/healing process isn't steady - it's leaps ahead, then periods where I seem to be "stuck". But in retrospect, I realize that I was making progress, but I just couldn't see it. You are in my thoughts and I am wishing you healing and peace. You richly deserve both. From Esmeralda

L. said...

Thank you for "coming out". You did the exchange student an enormous service, as well as many others who read you here. (That's piled on top of the gift you've given others by making running accessible.) I hope (and believe) this will end up being a great service for yourself and TH as well. More wishes for peace and healing from me too.

Anonymous said...

Oh Doctor Mama, I wish you the best with your healing. Thinking of you and hoping you can heal.
LD

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing something so personal. Sad, sad, sad that you had that exoerience. Interestingly I'd been thinking about a childhood experience along the same lines, google-stalked him and made contact, albeit 35 years later, explaining that despite my mother not defending me at the time, it was NOT too late for ME to call him on his shockingly inappropiate behaviour. I said I didn't expect a response so it was quite surprising when I received a reply saying he didn't remember but was sorry.
Wishing you peace and healing.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are finally seeking help for this. Of course is has impacted you your whole life....how could it not. You will be better and stronger for your work in therapy.
gmg (a psychotherapist)

Anonymous said...

Wishing you and the exchange student healing. Praying that no one ever hurts my little girl the way you been hurt. Cannot imagine. *hugs*
Tammy

Anonymous said...

Has the exchange student reported what happened to her? I hope she finds the strength to do so. Her abuser deserves whatever "trouble" he gets.

aibee said...

I attempted to leave a comment when you first posted this, but stumbled around because I didn't wish to make it about me, so I walked away but you've been on my mind ever since.

Around about this time last year, I realised the impact abuse had had on my life, and then basically lost my shit. Then I put the walls back up and castigated myself for "making up" such horrible lies. Which are truths, but old habits die hard, etc.

Point being - and this is the bit where it is about you - this time now may be the most difficult of your life and I admire your courage. The abuse and trauma is a large part of your past, but you're now making sure it doesn't have a stranglehold on your future too.

When it's the middle of the night and you're reading and rereading your comments for solace, chances are there's at least one person out there who is awake, thinking about you and wishing you well, and chances are at least one of those people is me.

Best, xx

Emmanuelle said...

<3

E

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for writing this. I've never done therapy for the abuse I suffered a a child. Always felt my cousin had it so much worse as she had to live with the f..ker. You are so brave to start the process. I don't think I ever will.

Bones

Anonymous said...

I admire you for having the guts to take this on. Please know you are in my thoughts and I am ON YOUR SIDE. You are doing a great thing. *hugs*

- Beth

Carrie said...

So happy that you found the courage to post this, Dr. Mama. I too was abused as a child by a cousin, and while that sucked the worst was how the family dealt with it once it was found out. No Bueno.
I want to believe I'm over it, and I'm OK, but the fact that I'm 35 and still single is kind of an every day reminder. I'm not, I still have shame, I still put walls, it still effects me.
You are awesome for being there for Exchange Student the way you were. I have no doubt you significantly changed her life with your reaction.
Thank you for being brave and reminding me it doesn't have to be this way.

Girlyngdicky SuckerGoogy said...

Hi, The Parental bedroom doors . Let`s discuss the true tales of sex after kids.

Anna Grace said...

Thanks Admin. Spicy Photo Gallery