Yoga Journal Day 34

Last night was a rough one. I woke at 2 and then again at 3 and finally got out of bed at 4. Big somatic flashback of a rape around 4:30. I pulled at my hair for a few minutes and tried to find the will to let the feelings move. I went from feeling helpless to angry pretty quickly. I hit the bed a few times, noticed my body shaking and felt the heat building. I got up and did my pacing thing. I added a little skip to it, let my hands shake and repeated (thinking of Dory from Finding Nemo) “just keep breathing, breathing, breathing” over and over for about 10 minutes. I didn’t have enough cognitive awareness to get a wet towel for the back of my neck but I was able to open a window and let the cold air cool me down a bit. The whole thing lasted almost half an hour. I didn’t spiral into the feelings of self-pity I so often experience when I have a flashback. I didn’t try to rush out of it. I let myself feel what was coming up and I helped it move through and out of my body.

I got on my mat a couple of hours later.

Day 3 of Adriene’s 30 Day Home Journey
today’s theme: Awaken

Yesterday in yoga, I set the intention to allow myself to be in each moment without pushing away from, or holding onto, whatever feelings arise. I very much want to get to a place where I can accept what I’m feeling and find some ease in experiencing my emotions and physical sensations.

Today I practiced that on the mat. Do I feel off balance, awesome, awkward, silly? Can I notice and accept that without judgment? Today was a good opportunity to practice that because I was sleep deprived and not as coordinated as I usually am. In the first downward dog, I noticed my heels touching the mat and I wasn’t disappointed when they didn’t touch in the rest of the downward dogs.

I contemplated awakening feelings that I’ve kept shut down most of my life. I recognize that’s a process and not something that will (or should) happen all at once. Growing my practice of being in each moment is the ground work for allowing myself to feel.

I don’t believe in forgiveness for people who rape children

My heart feels tender. I’m still very angry that my mom told me she wants my dad to find peace. It feels like a betrayal. I cannot fathom how anyone could have empathy for someone who rapes a child and sets them on a journey into a hell from which they’ll never completely escape. Child sexual assault is an epidemic. Statistics from reported incidents show that 1 in 10 children will be sexually assaulted by an adult before the age of 18. But experts agree that most sexual assaults on children go unreported.

Most of the female bodied people I know and several of my male bodied friends and acquaintances were sexually assaulted before the age of 18. I know people who were trafficked by their own parents, people who were raped by fathers, brothers, grandfathers and mothers, as well as many people who experienced date rape and domestic violence. Some of these people have been actively engaged in healing their entire adult lives and they are still struggling most days. I struggle to varying degrees most days.

And yet, while so many lives are destroyed, our culture pushes victims to “get over it” and forgive. The Germanic etymology of the word forgive is to “give up desire or power to punish”. In a just world, perpetrators of all sexual assault should be punished. So why would we ask victims to let go of wanting their perpetrators to be held accountable for (punished) actions that impact every aspect of their lives? It seems to me that part of recovering from trauma is owning the truth that all shame belongs to the perpetrators; that perpetrators are predators who prey on the vulnerable and should be removed from society.

I have decided that once this pandemic is over, I will file an official report with the police department and will do whatever it takes to see him convicted and imprisoned. In part, because I want him to be punished for destruction he caused in my life, but also because I want him to suffer. I want him to be exposed for being someone who raped children. I want him to spend the rest of his life confined to a prison where all his fellow inmates will know that he raped his own children. I don’t believe that these monsters deserve peace. I believe they should suffer because they are evil.

Rage sleeps lightly

My therapist and I have an ongoing conversation about my anger and rage. We’ve worked out that the reason I stuff it is because I learned at an early age it was useless against the nightmare that was my father and often made things worse. I don’t know if one of my alters still feels afraid of what will happen to me if I let myself get angry. I do know that I will face any other feeling, but rage I try to keep sedated. I often search around for it inside of me and instead of finding the boiling feeling in my stomach, I find the concept of rage. These days it sleeps lightly and erupts when I least expect it.

My mom received a letter from my dad yesterday. Same old shit, only my mom said he was even more narcissistic than usual. He used to write to her almost one a year but in the last 10 years his letters have become more sporadic. He writes about how he’s sorry for not being a good husband and father (though never admits to anything specific), he describes how he suffers because his children won’t speak to him and he pleads with my mom to intercede.

My mom called to tell me about it because the return address on this letter was different than the one she gave me when I wrote to my dad a few months ago. I don’t think he ever received it. And that’s ok; I can print it out and send it again. It was the conversation with my mom that brought up so many unexpected feelings. My mom said the only reason she leaves the lines of communication open is to always be able to reach him if me or my sister ever want to get in touch with him. She said what she wants more than anything is for everyone involved to find peace. I told her I can’t imagine ever wanting to speak to him or hear anything he’d want to say.

And that’s when it all came pouring out of me. Rage.

Looking back, I think it was her saying she wants peace for all of us. First, how the fuck does my dad get included in people who deserve peace? Second, I don’t believe peace is possible for me. Not the kind of peace she’s talking about. But I couldn’t process that in the moment.

I found myself yelling on the phone.

“What could that man ever say that would change the suffering I’ve been through? Even if he did get to a place where he could sincerely offer apologies for raping me as a child, I wouldn’t want to hear it. I don’t give a fuck what he feels.”

I started to break down in tears because the rage always terrifies me. It’s so huge and there’s nothing I can imagine doing that would truly release it. It also reminds me of how much I suffered as a child, how much of a ruin my life has been since then, and how much effort I have to expend to get through most days without falling into a pit of exposed trauma wounds. That’s when I said this:

“Honestly, mom, I wish I could just shoot him in the head. I would do it and I wouldn’t think twice about it. I wouldn’t be sorry. He deserves to fucking die in a violent way.”

And I meant it. I mean it. If I could kill my dad and not spend the rest of my life in prison, I would totally do it. But even that wouldn’t be enough to release all the righteous rage that lives in me. I can’t imagine ever getting to a place in my life where I wouldn’t want to stand 6 feet away from my dad and shoot him in the head with a bullet until he was dead.

I’m sure he does suffer because he lost the right to have contact with me and my sister. Maybe that suffering consumes him. I hope it does. I hope it slowly kills him because I doubt I’ll ever be given the opportunity to do it myself.

I’m trying to find a punching bag for when my rage erupts. In the past, I’ve only ever let it be a destructive force I couldn’t control, or a feeling that had to stay shut down completely. After I ended the call with my mom, I cried and pounded the bed (a step in the right direction, my therapist would say) and then I dissociated. I was shaking and crying and I poured water over the back of my neck. And then I was gone. For a while. I spent the rest of the day trying to find stable ground to stand on. Glimmers to nourish me. But I actively tried to avoid the rage. Consequently, there were several more dissociative episodes and eventually I felt really nauseous and woozy. I fell asleep last night with my heating pad pressed against my stomach and listening to my favorite D&D podcast. Sleep was fitful and the dreams I had were dark.

Yoga Journal Day 29

Theme: Be Brave

Sometimes when I get on the mat, my mind is set aside and I’m able to abide in my body and just experience. Today is the day after my kids left to go back to their dad’s. I did yoga every day this last week, including a one hour practice with the trauma center’s virtual trauma informed yoga .

Today I had some truly awesome glimmer moments on the mat. Stillness, laughter, patience, and self-love.

Today is my self-care day. I have a week ahead of me without my kids and I have a rather daunting therapy assignment. I have to go back and read journals from when I was in my late teens and early twenties. My therapist is trying to help me reconnect with my anger and she suspects I might find some in those journals. I’m anxious because I don’t remember much about those years except that I was an out of control wreck with no idea of how to care for myself in healthy ways. I don’t know exactly what I’ll discover in those pages, but I’m guessing they’ll bring up a lot of feelings. I’m hopeful that my daily yoga practice will provide some ground from which to approach those journals. If nothing else, yoga is helping me accept that my experience is constantly shifting and that I have some agency in what I experience.

Yoga Diary Day 23

written November 15, 2020

Got the the mat for day 23 of Adriene’s True journey.

The wind is howling today, something which always unsettles me; it’s almost as though the wind could blow my stability away. Thoughts were all over the place this morning and lots of inner dialogue with my alters.

Theme: Balance
Right up front she suggests we choose an intention for today’s practice. I chose Acceptance. Let me accept whatever happens on the mat. I may not be able to balance today. I tried not to have expectations.

I let myself be super present. Let the morning so far drop away. Let the sounds of my kids in the next room fade. The poses were challenging but I stayed in my body and noticed what the practice of balance feels like. The pull of gravity against my body rising up. I’ve been thinking a lot about balance lately because the process of healing is, for me, all about balance.

Perhaps starting a yoga diary…

written November 13, 2020

Day 21 of Yoga with Adriene’s True practice.

Theme: Finesse. In Adriene’s words “It’s all about how you move.”

Today I came to the mat with less grumpiness than the previous two days. More a sense of not feeling super excited or engaged. But, as I have every day for the last month, I got on the mat and began following Adriene’s instructions, with some curiosity about how she would incorporate finesse.

Lots of thoughts and some desire to pull back and not engage. Maybe just go through the motions. Doing a wide legged knee bend, I really felt the pull on my muscles and I wondered if I was strong enough to hold it. Lifting up with one arm and bringing it overhead for a side stretch. Adriene asked “how can you bring more finesse to your movement?” For me, it was noticing my tattoos and feeling a sense of connection. That motivated me to bring more intention to the subtly of the sweeping movement. I noticed that when I focused on that, I was less concerned with the tug and discomfort in my quads.

Yesterday, I asked a friend who’s a long time meditation practitioner about my experience of the mat being the thing that never changes in my practice. A sort of foundation for what I bring with me to the mat each day and in each moment. I described how I showed up feeling grumpy and couldn’t fully let it go and how I felt disappointed and also curious about that. He said this is very normal; people often feel a sense of ‘doing it wrong’ when they don’t have the experience of a big glowing connection. And I feel that. I am aware that’s part of what I’m working with on and off the mat. I had a couple of good weeks on and off the mat and I was so proud of myself. When I began to have a lot of uncomfortable feelings, I got frustrated with myself. I have this expectation that I should feel good and connected when I’m on the mat, not ambivalent. My friend mentioned a Shambalah teaching about peaceful abiding. As far as I understand it, it’s the notion that we try to let go of our ideas about what successful mindfulness looks like. Instead, trying to find some peace with whatever arises or doesn’t arise. I want to explore this more.