The Center of the Earth

I’ll warn you now, this is not the type of post you’ll want to read if you’re triggered by trauma related topics, specifically, sexual trauma. If you choose to read this, know that it’s full of detailed revelations, not details of my experience. It only looks long but I assure you, it reads easily. That said, here we go…

Many of you are aware of the sexual assault that happened to me when I was 6 years old by a man 70 years my senior. We knew him, he was like the neighborhood grandpa, but that all changed one afternoon. For a very long time, even in this moment, I take some sort of responsibility for this happening. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but is it really? I can argue with you all of my reasons but it won’t change your opinion or mine.

I went to therapy today after work and we have been scratching the surface of my sexual assault. It has been something I have wanted to talk about for a long time in therapy but whenever the subject comes about, I put on my avoidance pants and take a sharp turn toward Nopesville – population: me. It’s not deliberate but it happens every time. My therapist (thankfully) called me out on it today and said that next week we really need to start focusing on that. My request to her was to jerk me back on track when I pull the avoidance card. She laughed and reminded me that avoidance is one of the most significant symptoms of chronic PTSD.

Here’s where this blog gets sticky. Where I feel excessively vulnerable. Where I’m afraid to say what I’m about to say publicly. So why bring it up? Well, for one thing, I know that openly speaking about this means that I am ready for a change – as scary as it might be. For another, I know too many of my friends that are right here with me. I’m giving myself a voice but I’m giving them one too. Here’s your last chance to peace out.

Compliments make me very uncomfortable. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. I’m very good at looking a certain way on the surface but feeling another underneath it all. It’s hard, practically impossible, for me to just accept the compliment and move on. “Why would anyone say something nice about me? They must be just trying to be nice.” Those were the top two lines that ran through my racing mind whenever someone says something nice about me, especially my appearance. But I realized something much deeper today and it’s something so deep that I could only imagine it as being like the center of the Earth. Hard, on fire, nearly impenetrable. Impenetrable. What a disgusting word for such an awful blog topic.

I believe that my sexual trauma is the core of who I am, for the most part. The trauma responses I have to many things, my chronic PTSD, my feelings about myself and the self-sabotaging I’ve done, and the appearance that I’m trying to hide behind. Subconsciously, I believe that if I look a certain way I won’t be found attractive, which is a huge reason why I am so overweight. If I’m not found attractive then someone won’t desire me in the ways that I was desired when I was only 6 years old. “Don’t look pretty, don’t wear that, don’t maintain a healthy weight, don’t put yourself in a position that will draw attention to your looks…” All of those thoughts race through my mind about 10,000 times a day. Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with someones size unless we’re talking about the fact that I subconsciously chose to look this way as a deterrent to attention. In my twisted mind, I figured if I was fat, nobody would want me and I would be safe.

I struggle with this because, just last week, I got my hair cut and colored. For two days leading up to the appointment, I thought maybe I shouldn’t go. “Don’t draw that kind of attention to yourself, Aubrey, you don’t want what happened to you before to happen to you. It’ll be your own fault…again.” I went anyway because the side of me that’s advocating for my best and healthiest self won the argument. “I deserve to feel good about myself. I deserve to go have some me time. I work really hard and I deserve to have something that nobody can take from me.” Off I went. I love how it turned out and, for the most part, my new do has been well received, but I didn’t do this for anyone else. I did it for me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when people notice and compliment but thinking about the internal struggles I have with compliments and self-image, I’d be okay if nobody said anything. At least then nobody would make me argue with myself about whether or not I should let that compliment sink in and feel good or if I should push it away and run from it. It’s always such an internal struggle. I’m so tired of arguing with myself about whether or not I should be allowed to feel good about me.

What I realized today is that if I’m told I’m beautiful it makes me vulnerable and scared. “If that person thinks I’m beautiful, is there a chance I’m going to be assaulted again???” I’m so fucked up. Only Aubrey can take a simple compliment and turn it into some sort of sick, delusional, statement. Full disclosure, I realize how emphatically dramatic I sound. I’m even rolling my eyes at myself. As I type this sentence I’m thinking, “Maybe you shouldn’t make this post” but now my mind is shifting into thinking, “…but what if someone else out there feels exactly the same way and they just need to know someone knows what this feels like and that they aren’t crazy, they’re just sad.”

So here it is, folks. I’m sure there will be more on this later, if I’m not too afraid to talk about it. My writing is therapeutic for me. I know I haven’t come back here since the twins left, but many of you know how things are going in my life since this blog typically gets posted to Facebook anyway. I’ll circle back later and talk about my new favorite thing to talk about – my kids! As always, your questions, comments, etc are always welcomed but if you’re going to be a dick then move along.

xo,

a

 

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You Are Always On My Mind

I feel like talking about my dad today.

I think I have to point out that he was a good provider when he wanted to be. We had nice things like music and movies, which is where Luke and I get much of our interest in it from, my mom always had a neck and fingers full of nice jewelry, we had nice vehicles, we lived in nice places. All of that being said, it came at a cost.

My dad was the kind of guy that was the life of the party. Funny, a good entertainer, and vivacious. People were drawn to him in every arena and he was always the one ready to party and have a good time. The problem was that he never knew the fine line between fun and fury. As grand as he was is as atrocious as he was. He was a Jekyll and Hyde of the drug and alcohol world. He was vicious.

My dad has had several wives and there are six of us kids all spread out between the marriages. Not a one of us has a close relationship with him. That wasn’t always the case, though, as I spent many of my fragile childhood and young adult years putting his needs in front of mine. I fostered his demand for acceptance, love, and encouragement well beyond the call of duty, especially for a child. I spent well over a decade trying my best to instill the love I had for him that I could only wish he had given me. It was never enough and for a long, long time it made me believe that I was not enough.

Experiencing rejection from a parent is an incomprehensible blow to a child of any age but as a young girl who desperately wanted her father’s approval, it completely broke my spirit. To watch him replace me with his insatiable thirst for a world I couldn’t understand, yet hated, shattered my expectations of ever having a normal relationship with him. Drugs became his new wife; alcohol became his new children; addiction his new career. His soul was a vagabond on the precipice of defeat more often than not. There has always been a good person underneath those layers of skin that hold his hatred, shame, and guilt like a cloak of failure.

I cringe when I hear the phrase, “I’m just going to sit this one out…” because that’s what he told me when I was two weeks away from my wedding day. After having spoken to him about the most important day of my life and making plans for over a year, he had promised me he’d be there. I foolishly believed that he would be but he wasn’t. It was then that I knew I could no longer allow my father to hurt me. I was about to start a new life as a married woman and I refused to allow the turmoil my dad poured all over my fragile heart for the first quarter century of my life affect my marriage. So when the phone rang the morning of my wedding day with the word “Dad” across the screen, I simply ignored the call and that was that. Easy? No. Necessary? Absolutely. Regretful? Never.

I had to realize that I have to be OK even if he is not. I have to make good choices even though he has chosen not to. I have to parent our kids in the ways that he chose not to. I refuse to be the insufficient source of love, protection, and acceptance that I was aching for as a child and sometimes even today. Walking away from a parent is not easy. The comments that have been made to me are bewildering. As if I hadn’t already thought about the repercussions of living a fatherless life would bring.

This hurts me every. single. day. Especially at times where I wish he was here, like right now as we struggle with the idea of sending our girls home to their mom. And speaking of mom’s…how unfair is it that my mom has had to shoulder the weight of two kids and two parents? Did they not create this family together? Why should she have to be the one left standing? It doesn’t seem fair. She has experienced her own trauma at the hands of a man who could be so loving, yet so damaging. What a toxic and confusing way to live. It was awful.

Today, I am free from my dad’s presence but I am not always free of his emotional stronghold. All I can do is keep moving forward and reminding myself of the exceptional reasons I choose to live and be happy. I wish I could have seen him do the same. What a sight he would have been.

xo,

a

Pushing Through 

Violent. Sexual. Predators. 
The interview offer came yesterday and the interview was today. I reluctantly accepted after misinterpreting my own boundaries. I was nervous all day yesterday, had nightmares last night, and was terrified today.

I went anyway.

The interview was out on McNeil Island where there used to be a prison. Technically, the prison is still there but it isn’t being used but if you go on the north side of the island you’ll find their compound that houses violent and non violent sexual offenders that have completed their prison time and are being further screened to be sure they are ready to return to civilized society.

Having been a sexual assault victim, I believe I had every right to feel terror about going. Nobody knows what I live with on a day to day basis and I sure as hell wouldn’t want them to. So why go? Trust me, the idea rolled around in the pit of my stomach since the original interview offer came through. Some said I should strongly consider not going, some couldn’t understand why I was scared to go. And then there was my opinion. The only opinion that mattered.

I went because if I let myself cower down then the men that did (or tried) to take advantage of my body still win. I went because I have a degree in Criminal Justice with a specialized focus in Violent Offenders that I spent years of late nights busting my ass to graduate with honors from. I went because it was my way of winning; my way of saying, “Fuck you for the anguish you have brought upon my body, mind, and spirit.” I went because it was my chance to have a say in things. I went because I owed myself the privilege of getting to tour an intriguing and secluded location that many wonder about but few understand.

I was a bit of a mess as I got to the dock to ride the boat. I fumbled through getting my visitors pass. My mouth was dry and my eyes bulged. I smoothed my hair about 10 trillion times. Finally, we set sail and it was a beautiful ride across the Puget Sound. I think it calmed me as I have always been drawn to the water. The more time I spent on the island, the more at ease I was. I needed to see what it was like in order to make an educated decision as to whether or not this was somewhere I would want to work every day. I needed to go for me.

xo,

a

Bumps in the Night

The kids were at their visit with their bio mom. Mitch was asleep because he had to get up in a few hours to work the graveyard shift. I can’t begin to remember what I was watching on Hulu. It was 5:15 pm on Thursday night. I was supposed to have the night off from the crisis line but I eagerly picked up an extra shift at the last minute. The phone was on, charged, and ready to be answered.

*Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.*

“Hi, this is Aubrey.” It’s the answering service. “Hello. I have a caller named Bob* that didn’t want to give out his information and said he’d like to speak with an advocate.”

The answering service connects the caller to me and within the first 1.5 seconds, I froze. It’s my dad. I haven’t heard his voice since my wedding day on August 2, 2008. Irrational. Irate. Infuriated. Ranting. Raving. Screaming. Swearing. Spitting. And this is about the time during the call that things start to go black for me.

If you’ve ever been to “da club” or “clubbin” or seen raves on TV, then you’ll know what I mean when I say how jagged people look when they’re dancing under a strobe light. It’s a bunch of 1 second stills, then it goes dark, then there’s another 1 second of light but the picture is different and so on. Jerking. Jostling. Jumpy. That’s what this call was like in my mind.

He’s yelling about how pissed off he is. He’s so angry and talking so fast that I can barely make out what he’s saying until he says, “I’m just going to kill all of them or maybe myself!” He has been unstable my whole life, so I’ve heard this from him before, but does he really mean it this time? How do I know? What do I do? I know! I will get him to calm down. Deescilate the issue so we can talk this out. I’ve seen my mom do this with him. I’ve tried to do this with him. I’m experienced in trying to deescalate my dad’s temper. These are all coping mechanisms a small child should know nothing about, but I know it all too well.

Me: “Bob. Bob…Bob, I need you to listen to my voice, okay? Bob. I need you to listen to my voice so you can take a deep breath, okay? It’s okay for you to be angry right now but I need you to breathe for me right now, okay buddy?

Bob: “Fuck you, you dumb bitch! You don’t have a fucking clue, do you?

Me: “Bob, you will not speak to me like that. I am trying to help you, but you are not going to speak to me like that again.”

My voice is firm. He calms down. 

Me: “Bob, I need you to take a deep breath for me and tell me what your location is.”

Bob: “I’m at the convention center. I’m sitting on the bricks.”

Me: “Okay, now I’m going to ask you a question and I need you to tell me the truth. Do you have a weapon on you right now?”

Bob: (irate) “No, I don’t have a fucking weapon on me, I’m not going to hurt anybody!”

Me: “I’m going to call to have someone come pick you up. What are you wearing?”

Bob: “Nobody here takes me seriously, nobody is coming to pick me up! That’s why I’m just going to kill every one of these assholes!”

Me: “Bob, I’m sorry but I have to take these kinds of threats very seriously so I need to call someone to come get you. I have to hang up now.”

It took me 3 different transfers to get to the correct city 911 operator. When I get to the right gal she tells me they are very familiar with this guy. I give her the full details (many omitted for privacy reasons) and we hang up. I called my boss to let her know what transpired. She asks if I’m okay and I tell her I’m totally fine. We get off the phone. I go to the bedroom to check on Mitch since I’m sure I woke him up by accident.

He asks if I’m okay. I crumble. 

For a good 20 minutes I’m hyperventilating on the bed, in my chair, on my back porch, and back to my chair. My legs feel week. I can’t stop crying. I HATE THAT I’M CRYING. The strobe light of memory lane flashes glaringly in my mind. My dad, all 6 ft 1 of him, towering over us in the middle of the night as we all quiver in the bed we’re sharing – begging of him to leave us alone and let us all sleep. The room is as black as his eyes but his casted shadow and his foaming mouth burn through us with the heat of 1,000 suns. He says the most awful things to the 3 of us. He is scarier than the monsters in the horror films I grew up watching. He is THE monster.

Maybe you’ve guessed by now that the guy on the phone wasn’t my dad, but his voice sounded just like my dad’s. It’s like I heard a ghost and when that happened, when that ghost kicked in the door, busting the frame, like he had time and time again, I instantly traveled back in time. Panicked. Shocked. Disbelieving. Yet, there I was, on the phone, trying to hold it together to help this guy calm down enough to get a description of what he was wearing, whether or not he was armed, and where he was at so I could report to police in the area he’s in since I have no tracking information like a dispatch center would.

I was truly terrified tonight. More terrified than I can remember being in years. It was a full on PTSD flashback and it completely drained me. At times, I couldn’t figure out if I was standing on my back porch or if I was hiding under the covers from the monster that my dad was. Thank God Mitch was here. He did such a great job at soothing, helping me breathe, refocusing my attention on that stupid tree in the back yard that I could barely see because it was dark, but dammit, he was going to get me to focus on ANYTHING other than the trauma I was reliving.

He grabbed my work phone, he called my boss, and he told her I couldn’t finish my shift tonight. She was extremely understanding and I appreciate that. I have been a crisis line advocate for a year now and this was the first time a call triggered my PTSD. I should also mention that the man I spoke with tonight has called multiple times before, and I truly like the guy. He’s a good man with a hard life. I think part of my tears tonight weren’t because of him, but for him. My heart cries out for where he feels insufficiencies in his life. Regardless of what the outside world perceives to be true or not, he speaks his truth to me when we are on the phone and his rage is not unfounded – it just came out in a different way tonight. I feel sad for him. Sad because I think he’s lonely and sad because, in his mind, his world is so chaotic and scary.

I really don’t know what I would have done if Mitch wasn’t here. I’m so glad the kids were on their visit with their mom during the call, but when they got home…oh, how I hugged and loved on them like no other. Not just because it made me feel happy to do so, but because it’s important for kids to be hugged and kissed and doted on by parents (or parental figures) in their lives.

Mitch, just as in many other scenarios, you were, once again, my hero tonight. Thank you so much for all of your courageous and heartfelt work to try to understand what it’s like for me to live with PTSD. Thank you for loving me when I’m sure I’m hard to be loved. And to anyone else reading this – thank you for reading, for not judging, and for continuing to encourage me to share whatever it is that’s on my mind through the written word.

xo,

a

The Crisis Line

Some of you know that I work on as an on-call Crime Victim’s Advocate. I have about 8 shifts a month with half of them being a 16 hour weeknight shift from 5:00 pm – 9:00 am and the other half of them being 24 hour shifts (typically on weekends) from Saturday at 9:00 am – Sunday morning at 9:00 am. Last January I went through a 30 hour training course in order to be qualified to take the calls, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being on the crisis line for nearly a year now is that sometimes you can never be qualified enough for what you’re about to hear.

I took a call a few nights ago that I’m still thinking about. I made a vague post on Facebook about being sad that I wasn’t able to help her. Many of you wrote very kind and sincere responses. Thank you! Without going into too much detail, it became clear to me that this person was suffering from mental illness. Yes, I specifically used the word suffering. She kept repeating the same three sentences over and over again during the hour we were on the call. I’m not going to reveal here what she was saying because it doesn’t necessarily matter what she was saying, but that she believed what she was saying. It made me really sad because, in her mind, that’s who she is now. This caller has had some sort of trauma in her life that made her cling to the last time she felt normal, loved, appreciated, and made her feel like she had purpose and she couldn’t understand why the world around her didn’t see her that way.

Imagine that for just a few minutes. You feel a certain way, you know yourself a certain way, but the world doesn’t understand you. You’re trapped inside of the words and pictures in your mind. Regardless of whether someone else is seeing it, understanding it, or feeling it, you are experiencing all of these in real-time, all of the time, on repeat. And it’s frazzling.

This is part of what having PTSD can feel like. It’s like a hamster wheel of turmoil that you can’t get off of. All of those words, pictures, flashbacks, and the multiple emotions are washing over you like a weighted blanket. Your brain is in overdrive while it’s trying to dissect every single thought, emotion, and flashback at the same rate they’re crashing into your mind. Suddenly, there’s a multi-level back up and everything is tangled up and there’s a mess everywhere. Everything has to be pulled apart, sorted, cleaned up, and eventually the road will reopen. It’s not like this all of the time – thankfully, but there are certain things that trigger that type of response, and it’s important to know that it’s not just an emotional response but a full body response. Adrenaline pumps through your veins like white-hot electricity, your bones crack as they try to break free from underneath the skin that covers them because the skin you’re in is uncomfortable and raw and can feel like razor blades on fire tearing away every shred of who you are until you’re screaming in agonizing pain for it all to just stop.

And as my counselor has told me time and time again, all of those things might be happening to me on the inside but on the outside I look calm. Even my voice and movements are steady and precise. I think this must come from how our brains work (without us knowing) to protect ourselves. Instead of your brain “allowing” something so volatile to happen to you it replaces those thoughts with happier moments, days where you felt carefree, a time when things weren’t so complicated. I think this is where that lady’s brain was at the other night. Instead of being the emotional basket case that I have been in the past, her brain allowed her to remember a pleasant time, except now that’s all she can see. Some might think this isn’t so bad, and maybe it isn’t, but the gap between that time in her life, her trauma, and where she’s at now is significant.

The reason it struck me is because I am afraid of that mindset leading her to what mindset I’ve had before. Will it eventually drive her crazy that nobody in the world can see her for who she believes she is? I’m worried that it might. And there’s nothing I can do about that. There was no way for me to help her and when I couldn’t help her, that translated to me that I had failed her. “I’ve been there before, I see all the signs, I can fix this!” But I couldn’t and it was an awful call to hang up from. And I’ll never know what will come of it…

xo,

a

 

The Beginning of the End

2016 was probably one of the most yo-yo years on record for me. The best thing that happened to us was definitely our sweet girls. Another highlight was all the fun parties we had at our new home. We had “just because” parties and holiday related parties, we had Bunco parties, birthday parties, anniversary parties. All kinds of fun! I can’t wait for summer so we can start planning round two. 

On the flip side, I had (have) some major struggles and hurdles to overcome. I began to see a counselor in the spring and that’s when I was diagnosed with Chronic/Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I implore you to learn more about this by clicking here. Once the diagnosis came, my counselor and I began the long haul of work ahead of me to peel back the layers of the things in my past that still haunt me every. single. day. I learned that who I thought I was, how I thought I came off to others, how I thought I was acting/reacting, the emotions I thought I was feeling, and so on, weren’t that at all. As you might be able to imagine, this was and still is very difficult for me to process. When you go about your life a certain way for 30+ years you think you know yourself. I hadn’t a clue.

I had to reevaluate everything in my life which meant my job, my friends, relationships with my peers, and most difficult, myself. I had to reevaluate something I already have a hard time with – who I can trust, so only a select few knew what was going on. For those of you that I could truly trust to see me through some of the darkest days of my life, THANK YOU for your love, space, and understanding. I’m so profoundly proud of myself for the changes I have made thus far. I can feel my heart, my mind, my temperament, and my vision changing. It may not have been easy but it was necessary and as hard as some days can be for me, I know it won’t always be like that. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. 

I gave up New Years resolutions years ago, but I replaced it with being mindful of things I’d like to personally grow from or into. I guess it’s a resolution of sorts. Maybe I just don’t care for the word “resolution” so I use something else that makes me feel less committed. These mantras are a part of my daily life and year after year, as I continue to grow, those mantras mean something different than they did the year before.

Always be moving forward. Always strive to be compassionate. Always strive to be better than you were yesterday. Always strive to find peace in all things. 

I hope that 2017 brings you joy and love in every interaction. I hope you find peace and make the conscious effort to take good care of you. I wish you prosperity and personal growth in the year to come. To all of you here on Earth and to those no longer with us, Happy New Year. May we all find what we’re looking for. 

xo,

a