I am looking forward to hearing what happened. Have a safe trip and I'll talk with you when you get back.
Wow Shay, that is great. How do you feel?
That's ok. You need time to process this and see if it does have an effect on you.
I'm glad you had a chance to go. And it's good you didn't plan it. That might have helped you because you didn't have time to think about it or become upset by it.
That's fine. I figured that now is not a good time.
I'm sorry that you had a nightmare. It might have been triggered by your visit to the site of your attack. When you mentioned that you felt nothing after your visit, I figured that either you were not letting your emotions in, or you were going to experience your feelings later when you had time to process them. Your nightmare may have been a sign of that.
I would not say that you are becoming a scaredy cat. Instead I'd say you are getting in touch with your feelings. It is normal human behavior and instinct to protect yourself once you are aware of a threat and especially when you have experienced that threat as real. You have real knowledge of what can happen to a person when they are attacked. It is a unique knowledge. Therefore it is normal for you to react to that knowledge by continuing to protect yourself from the possibility of it happening again, however slim that might be.
Look at it this way. Think of a person who has been through a school shooting. They witnessed a gunman shooting several people and killing some of them. As a survivor of the attack, they will always be aware that there is a possibility of a shooting happening any time, any where because they personally witnessed it. Before the shooting, they heard that it could happen, but it did not enter their world. But now that they have witnessed it, it becomes part of their world. Now, when that person enters a building, especially a school, they are on alert. They may scan others, looking for signs of guns or even just odd behavior. They may even leave if they feel uncomfortable. Or they may not even be able to go into schools at all. The threat is now very real and present for them. Therapy will help, but the awareness will always be there for them.
This is the same for you. You are now aware that there are people out there who will cross your personal boundaries and hurt you. P has never had the same experience so she still feels that sense of safety around her. She is no different that you with the possibility of it happening, she is just less aware. Avoiding hotels because of your comfort level is you being in touch with your fear and sense of safety. In other words, it is a sign that you have been exposed to trauma. This is something you can work with in therapy to become less vigilant and more in touch with your feelings.
The nightmare was probably your unexpressed feelings about seeing the place you were hurt. Nightmares can represent emotions that you push aside or only look at briefly then try to repress. Because you had a particularly bad nightmare, my thought is that it was related to seeing the place where the attack happened. It is a sign that you have something you need to work through, whether that is about seeing the place or something else.
Songs can really affect your emotions. And the song you heard is very traumatizing given what they are saying. I listened to it and I think the message is disturbing to someone who has been through what you have been through. It may have not been meant that way, but everyone has a different point of view because of experience. There are, no doubt, other trauma survivors out there who felt as you did hearing that song.
Shay, this is always going to affect you. But it's not always going to affect you in the same way. Right now, you are dealing with the worst of the trauma. You are like the school shooting survivor I mentioned in my last answer, but instead of looking for the guns you are trying to say that the sight of guns does not affect you. But even as you convince yourself of that, you are still caught off guard by things like the song you heard. Your feelings are very much there, but not looking at them is still an option for you.
But even through you sometimes consciously avoid your feelings, you still have the drive and determination to recover from this. The nightmares are motivating you to face your past and work through. And it sounds like therapy is helping you discover things about yourself and your life that you want to be aware of, like the situation with your parents.
As you work through therapy, you will begin to find ways to adapt and think differently about what you went through. Thinking about it will not bring up the same emotions it does now. You will gain new ways of coping which will help you see what happened but help you not react the same way. You may not be able to recover your self from that time, but you can adapt and learn to see it as part of your life but something that does not define you.
I'm not irritated at all! Avoiding your feelings is a natural response to what you are going through.
You seem to have taken my post as me feeling irritated and annoyed with you. I feel quite the contrary. I understand why you feel as you do. It makes sense why you avoid your feelings. It is the way you cope. I was trying to explain that and either I did not do a good job of it or you are feeling I came across as upset for another reason.
You are not supposed to be experienced in how to handle trauma. And it is not a cop out for you to avoid your feelings. You need to do what is natural for you to do. It is up to me (and Linda and Dr. M) to try and help you work through that so you can learn better ways to cope.
I am sorry if I came across as anything less than supportive. I am in your corner, Shay.
You can do this. You already are doing this. You are strong and resourceful. And you have people around you who care. We are all with you.
Yes, your feelings are there. And not looking at them is still an option for you. But I did not mean that as you are not trying. It is part of coping with a trauma that you use defenses to protect yourself.
Because of how you were raised, you learned to repress your emotions. And you learned to blame yourself. Both of these defenses you learned from your parents, who taught you their defenses. When the trauma happened to you, you used what you knew to protect yourself. There is no shame in that and it is not something you are to be punished for. Linda and I are not like your parents. We both can see that you are hurting and that you avoiding your feelings is a way to help keep the pain away. I will not abandon you because you are avoiding your feelings. Avoiding your feelings is exactly the kind of thing I can help you with.
Not dealing with your feelings is not really a choice. Anyone who survives a trauma is going to use some type of defense to cope with the overwhelming nature of the feelings. Some turn to alcohol, some become angry and hurt others, and some try to avoid their feelings and pretend nothing happened. It is human nature to do what you are doing.
I know it's hard to hear that this will be in your life in one form or another. We are all a sum of the experiences of our lives. Some are good and some are bad. But your survival of this experience does not have to mean sorrow and pain for the rest of your life. Because you survived, you are stronger, smarter and more resourceful. You are gaining strength and insight every day. You are changing your life and the lives around you. God has a purpose for what you went through. He would not abandon you and give you no purpose for surviving. He will use you in some way to affect someone. You may even end up saving a life because of what you went through. And there will come a day when you look back on what happened and see the reason why it you survived. It will be part of your life, but no more than anything else.
I wanted to suggest something to you. Feel free to check this out with Linda if you want. I am not sure that you have taken the time to mourn what you lost as part of this attack. You mention missing the way you were and how you used to see things (both are losses). And what you have missed since then in your life because of what you went through (another loss). When you experienced the trauma, you lost your innocence, your right to boundaries, your right to your own body, and many other things. Mourning can help you process this loss, give it the time it deserves so you can let it go. Once you let it go, you can move on with the rest of your recovery.
I know this hurts, Shay. I am sorry that you have to go through this. And I'm sorry for the losses you have had to suffer. No one deserves to have something like this happen to them. I will say a prayer for you that the burden is a lighter and your healing easier.
I know you are tired. I was just thinking earlier that you have had quite a week. Getting away for a while can be good, but it can also be emotionally trying, especially when you are facing so many things from your past like you have. I think there is more going on for you than you have had time to process.
Don't worry about alienating me. And although I cannot speak for Linda, from what you have told me about her I would imagine that she feels the same as I do. Therapy is a messy and difficult process. Therapists know to expect ups and downs. It's part of how people recover. You are not alone in this and you will not stay in the same place you are now. You won't let that happen because your emotionally healthy side is pushing to recover. And we are with you and God is with you. One day you will look back on this time and understand that it was worth it. I've seen it happen with many people who have worked through traumas.
Be safe on the rest of your trip,
I hope you got some good sleep last night without nightmares. I imagine that you feel very tired from your trip!
You raised some very good questions. I'll try to do them justice here so let me know if you want more clarification.
Whenever you lose something whether it be a loved one, a job or even a friend, it is a loss. Something that was once part of your life is gone. It is natural to mourn what you lose. But some people do not mourn a loss because either they feel they do not need to, they do not realize they should or they don't want to. When you were attacked, you suffered several losses. Mourning the lost you, the things you wanted for yourself, your dreams and your right to peace of body and mind is important to do. Mourning is acknowledging your loss and spending time missing what you wished you had. Here is a link to help you understand what I mean:
Once you mourn your losses, they are much easier to put behind you. So mourning the loss of your dreams can give this part of yourself the attention it needs so you can let it go and move on. It doesn't mean you will forget about it but you will be able to think about it and feel calmer and more settled about it.
When you went to see the site of the attack, you mentioned feeling nothing. That is not unusual in and of itself, but it is usually a sign that you are repressing your feelings. Most of the time when you are faced with something that holds a lot of emotional connection for you, you are going to have some type of reaction, whether you feel anger, sadness, agitation or whatever. A good example is the movie Forest Gump where Jennie goes back to her childhood home with Forest. She becomes upset and begins to throw stones at the home because of the memories of what happened to her there. She was manifesting all of the pent up emotional trauma from the abuse she suffered in that home as a child and what she has gone through since in her life as a result. You may not feel the same as Jennie did about the place you were attacked, but any emotion is appropriate because the place represents something that had a huge impact on your life. But by having no emotion, you are either repressing how you feel or you could not process it there and needed time to feel it later. The nightmare you had last night was a sign that you did feel very strong feelings but that you had repressed them.
It is very normal to have layers of issues to work on in therapy. Humans are complicated. Because of our experiences, we process what happens to us in different ways. We use defenses like avoidance, repression, deflection and intellectualization to cope with what we go through. This creates barriers and layers of defenses to work through. Add to that a person's ability to have insight or a lack of insight and it can sometimes take a while to work through issues. Because your parents forced you to repress your feelings and you suffered a horrible trauma, you built up strong defenses to cope (This is not bad. You are just protecting yourself). In order to help you work out your nightmares, the layers of defenses and insights need worked through. Your high intelligence also adds to your defenses. You analyze and defend yourself with ease. You want to be sure of something before you accept it. This is not a flaw. I want to be clear with that. It actually helps you in the end because you can see complex situations easier than some people. But it can also make breaking through your defenses harder as well.
When people are married and in love, sex is an added bonus to the relationship. How often a couple has sex is highly subjective. You sometimes have a couple who agree on how often which can range from once in a while to several times a week. Other couples differ with one person not caring and the other very focused on how often they have sex. It can be an issue to the point of threatening the marriage. Sex is also affected by stress, having children, physical issues and how well the couple gets along. I imagine P did not want to be with her husband because of his issues. Attraction is a huge factor.
Don't worry about anything you said yesterday. You are under a lot of stress and you are trying to process all of these new ideas and feelings. You are bound to be upset. I am just fine with it.
It's good you felt ok letting out your feelings at Katie's funeral. It helps when there are others who feel as you do. And the more experience you have letting your feelings come out, the easier it will get.
I'm sorry you are feeling down, but it is not unexpected. You just went through a very stressful time during your trip. You attended your good friend's funeral, visited with your parents and you went to the place you were attacked for the first time since it happened. All of those things by themselves are emotionally stressful. Put them together and you have a lot to pull you down. Also, you have not had therapy for a while now so you could not work through what you were feeling along the way. You also drove for many miles and you did not have time to process what you have been through. And you are probably very tired, just like you said. Being so tired can lower your resistance (defenses) to what you feel.
In a way, it might be good that you are letting your feelings out. It's not great to feel the way you do, but in terms of working through your feelings, being in touch is better than trying to resist how you feel.
You can feel upset and still function. It is a matter of degrees. When you are expected to be out and doing something, try some ways to reduce the intensity of your feelings for a while, like we had talked about a few weeks ago. Use your mind to help you move your thoughts to your mind and away from your heart, if that makes sense.
I think it's a very good idea to tell Linda that you went back. You may not be experiencing a lot of emotion about it now, but you do have feelings about what you saw. Linda can help you process what you feel and work it through. It's an important part of your recovery. Also, you could let Linda know about how it went with your parents and at Katie's funeral. There is a lot there, no doubt.
You can tell Linda you went back to the site of your attack because you wanted to. Do you know why you did? What drew you there?
There is nothing wrong with you going back to the site of the attack. It can be very therapeutic if you feel you are doing to help yourself heal. You made a choice based on what you felt was the right decision at the time. This is your journey, Shay. There was no right or wrong in your decision. And this certainly is not about being brave enough. You already are brave enough. You went through a terrible attack and survived. And now you are facing your feelings about it and working on healing. That is plenty brave enough!
Seeing if you are brave and testing whether or not you could face the site without it bothering you is something you learned from your parents. Seeing if you can make yourself face something terrible without letting it affect you is saying that you have to repress your feelings even when dealing with something that it completely emotionally traumatizing. That is your parents talking. Another way to might want to look at it is to say "I want to see the site and see how I feel about it. How is it going to help me in my recovery?" When you think of it in that way, you are focused on feelings and how you can help yourself. You deserve to feel whatever you feel about the site. And you deserve to express it anyway you need to.
In a marriage, many couples choose to have sex without having intercourse. Sometimes it is not possible to have intercourse because of physical issues or emotional issues. For example. after having a baby many women fear intercourse because of the soreness and pain involved. Menopause also causes dryness and less desire for intercourse. A trauma like you have been through or past childhood sexual abuse can make intercourse very frightening. If the couple has a good emotional bond, other options for closeness and sexual relations are a good choice. Sometimes it is the only choice and many couples make that work for them.
I'm sorry that happened. If you need to it's ok to contact the moderator and let them know if you need help. They are used to dealing with the site issues. And lately, there has been a lot of bugs so that might be what happened to your post.
Good night, Shay. I hope you have a good sleep, without nightmares. I'll be thinking of you.
1. But what if that was the real reason I decided to go? I mean, that wasn't what made me initially think about it. I think that was because I thought we were going to drive right by there, and my friend from that town wanted me to stop by, and I thought maybe I should go see it, because I knew this would be my only time in years (or maybe ever) I would be close, to go there. It is sad that I equate my college campus with what happened, when I spent 4 years there, and I made some of my best and life-long friends there, and had so many awesome and fun times there. But then the thought kind of repulsed me. I didn't really want to go anywhere near it. But then when I decided to go at the last minute, it was because I didn't want to have to go back home and face the fact that I chickened out and couldn't handle it. I did want to show myself I could be brave and it wouldnt affect me. But that didn't work, I guess. I didn't show myself anything. I thought maybe I got through it with no effect, but then the bad nightmare.
I wish I hadn't gone because I achieved the opposite of what I was trying to achieve. I will admit that I am upset. It shouldn't bother me. It's just a place. An it's been there all this time. But, first, it bothers me that when I saw it, I saw that there was only about a 20 foot section of the side of the turn-around where one can walk straight into the park. (I could see that because there are no leaves on the trees this time of year). Any other place, and going through the trees would have brought us to a steep hill. This is just further indication that everything worked out so perfectly that night forwhat happened --- the right place in the trees, the bottle being there, my walking back to the sorority house and then choosing to walk back to the party that way. WHY?? It's as if it was meant to happen, in which case I am really pissed off.
Second, for some reason it bothers me that they have put in a colorful playground right next to where it happened. They have covered thestone stage and put in several small buildings. And there is now a paved pathwy going up behind the stage, instead of the dirt path I went up when it was over. It is obviously now an outdoor concert/theater/art space. I know that shouldn't make me upset, but it does. It bothers me that all these families are walking all over that park every summer, their kids playing feet away from what happened. I wish I had found that it was bulldozed and full of trash. I don't know why.
Also, I feel like the place itself has moved on and is better - and why shouldn't it have, after all this time? But I maybe am resentful because I have recently discovered that I haven't. I don't know what I expected to see. It wasn't going to look the same no matter what. It was daytime. If it had been at night, I would have been too scared, probably.
I just can't believe it seems to have had such an impact on me. I really thought it might have none. Am I being overdramatic? It just seems like I am so sensitive lately.
You said to look at it a different way - that I thought it might helo in my recovery and thought I needed to do it. I can't change my motivation for doing it now --- but I could try to change the way I look at it. Is that what you meant?
2. Thanks for your response to my second question. I understand all that, and I am not implying I do nto want to have actual intercourse if I fall in love and get married. I really want to. I just wondered if, in a normal healthy sexual relationship, the normal thing would be for things to always progress to that, or if it is sometimes just fooling around. I know that probably seems odd. I just wanted to know. With P, her husband always wanted to have sex and apparently, he wanted to try out stuff from the porn he was looking at. She felt totally uncomfortable, but thought it was her duty as a wife (he probably told her that) -- she's from a different generation than ours. Then, I think it got to the point where he was so drunk all the time, it wasn't an issue.
3. I am glad I can write to you - even late. It doesn't matter that you can't respond until tomorrow. It's just calming to be able to get stuff out when I am thinking it. I feel like this trip screwed things up even more. Now I think I need to get away again - but this time, somewhere where I don't know anyone and to where I've never been before, and by myself with my dog. Of course, I HAVE to catch up on work. No chance I can go anywhere anytime soon.
I'm going to be totally straight with you, Kate: I feel awful. I thought I would feel better when I got home, but I feel worse. I am so sad. I think maybe you're right that part of it is having gone back there. And what you said about losses and mourning them -- I kind of looked up what you were taliking about. I started to make a list. Some things I cn't really include, because I was a 21 year old college student on my way to law school. I don't have any clue what my real life was supposed to be like. So I don't know what I have missed or what I haven't, or whether certain things were a result of what happened or something else or of nothing. But I just started with what I know I lost. But I can't finish - at least right now. I am feeling even more tearful and sad. As I said, I think I am a little depressed. I am all nervous and anxious just sitting here, and I am afraid to go to sleep. I feel like I am so thin-skinned and overly-sensitive, and I don't know how I got this way or how to get back to not being like this.
Is there anything right now to make me feel better?
PS - I still meed to fill you in on my conversation with my parents the other night.
I didn't see any evidence of you clicking the wrong button on my end so it's up to you if you feel you need to talk to the moderator. But it did not affect me so I'm ok either way.
Your visit to the site of the attack seemed to help you a lot. I know you are probably shaking your head right now, but in terms of getting in touch with your feelings, this was a good move. It showed you that you have very strong feelings about what happened to you. When you can get closer to those feelings, letting the emotions in and accepting them as part of you, then you can heal. It's when you push them away and try to repress them that you are going to have more problems.
Expecting that you would have any other feelings about the site right now or even ever is unrealistic. It's like expecting the family members from 9/11 to go to New York where the World Trade Center stood and expect them to think about all the business that went on in there. How much good happened when everyone worked there. Or in the planes, how nice the flight was that sunny morning. That is no worse than what you are expecting of yourself when seeing the site for the first time.
You don't want to see any signs of happiness going on there because you cannot attribute any good to the site. For you, it was a place of horror. Many survivors feel that way. It is like after a loved one dies. You look at others and wonder what they can laugh about when everything looks so dark. This is part of mourning your loss. Seeing the site as a different place than others lets you know that for you, it will always have a deeper meaning. It is a place of sadness. But as you recover, it will hold less emotional distress for you and may even take on a hopeful meaning.
Seeing your visit as benefiting you is a good way to look at it. That is what I meant when I said changing how you look at it. You have faced the site and gained from it. You are in touch with your feelings about it and that helps you process your loss and move on. That makes you one step closer to letting go.
It's ok that you feel sad. Like I mentioned, feeling anything is a good sign. It's the expectations that you should not feel anything or that you are being weak if you do that is dangerous to your recovery. That would mean that the repression of your feelings you learned as a child is convincing you that you are bad for wanting to feel and work through your emotions. You learned that having emotions equals weakness and blame. But in order to be healthy, having emotions needs to equal normal and accepting. God would not have given you the ability to feel if you were not meant to use it. And he would not have given Jesus if we were not meant to be forgiven and be blameless. Let in His love and you will feel better. Also, surround yourself with those who care for you. They can help sooth your pain. Take some time for yourself as well. It may be a good time to pamper yourself a bit. You have been through a lot in the past few weeks. Allow yourself to acknowledge that and relax knowing that you are doing the best you can right now.