Confronting My Abuser Before God and All the Patrons at Irwin’s Lunch Counter

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I used to wonder what I would feel when my stepfather died. On June 8th, around 2:30 am, I received the call that he had passed.

My mother was asleep in the room next to ours. I had picked her up earlier that Sunday. Before going to my house she asked me if I would mind taking her by the nursing home for a quick visit. There were times that I would have made an excuse not to, but on this day I easily obliged. She was in and out within 15 minutes, and was concerned because she could not wake him and he hadn’t yet eaten his food. I made dinner and we watched a movie, but all night she kept saying that it didn’t seem right that she could not do anything to rouse him from sleep.

My mother does not spend the night often. The fact that she was here, where I could immediately console her and take care of all the things that needed to be done was no coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences. It was divine timing. It was God, angels, and loved ones gone before us that ordered the events that unfolded, and it was an answer to prayer.

I had forgiven him and come to the place where I didn’t wish for him to linger, suffering. He had asked for my forgiveness throughout the years. I know it didn’t change who he was, but it did help me in terms of learning to release the pain and trauma that my body was constantly reminding me of.

I felt peace. I felt a huge burden had been lifted, and the air I was breathing seemed new and energizing, as opposed to recycled from a painful time in my past.

My CPTSD attacks  have lessened dramatically, and when depression or anxiety creep up, I surrender through prayer and meditation, asking what it is I am intended to learn through it. God has rewarded me for my faith by bringing me to this new place of hope and strength from which I can confidently march through these valleys, knowing that new blessings and opportunities are coming my way.

Time used to pass differently when I was young. Whenever I was overlooked or mistreated at work  I always knew that something bigger and better would come around, and it always did. Soon into my 2nd failed marriage, time seemed to stand still, and I was hanging by a thread. I didn’t see it then, but I was falling back into the same victim/perpetrator dynamic so familiar to me, and I spent the next 20 years in survival mode.

The level of dissociation and sheer madness and sorrow reached its apex this past spring, and as I began to see my way out of the darkness, I was also more acutely aware of the spiritual signs that were harnessing what was left of my faith, as I let go of the judgements of others and graciously accepted the long months of poverty, and paralyzation, instead recognizing them as a time for gentle healing, to relinquish my fears and just “be” Valerie.

Ed’s death had given me closure.

This week there has been a full moon in Aquarius and something major happening astrologically, called the 8/8 Lions Gate Portal. It is a time of increased cosmic energy flowing between the physical and spiritual realms. It has been observed and honored since Ancient Egypt as a time of great energetic influx and activation. I have experienced the greatest amount of sustained peace and joy I have ever felt. I have been brought to my knees in tears over the manifestation of my heart’s longings, and just as quickly, bitch-slapped by potentially triggering circumstances. The difference between how I used to react, (waiting for the other shoe to drop-syndrome) and how I have, instead, responded to these incidents, is also divinely guided. I have felt the presence of angels and such intense heavenly love, through a voice connected to a beckoning in my heart.

It is for that reason that the situation I am about to show a recording of occurred.

I was having lunch with my mother at our favorite spot when a man walked in. He looked straight at me. There was a vague familiarity about him. Part of me wanted to dismiss what I quickly realized, that this was the stepbrother who had molested me. He absolutely pretended not to see my mother and I as he bellied up to the lunch counter. I was overcome with intense emotion, knowing that this was ordained. I have never, ever, “bumped” into him before. The fact that this was happening in the midst of so much enexpected good fortune, made it easy to muster the strength needed to confront him. I am still reeling, trying to process my feelings around it.

I captured it with my phone. I am sharing it with the hope that it will empower others to step out of the shadows and break their silence. To pretend it never happened, to feel muted by other’s insistence that they simply “get over it”; to self-sabotage out of the deep shame felt over having no control of the abuse, is to give victory to the perpetrator. A part of the confrontation that cannot be heard was my stepbrother telling me that I was “just like (his sister) Lorraine, who refused to get over it and move on.”

What Lorraine refused to “get over” was being raped and impregnated by her own biological father and dealing with an abortion as a young teen.

I am putting this man’s shame out for the world to see, with no regrets or fear of retaliation. I would love to see him try to silence me.

For years I brushed his abuse aside and pretended my wounds were healed, going so far as to invite him to my wedding. It wasn’t until my CPTSD manifested after the stunning realization that I had married yet another toxic man, that I sought justice after learning from a counselor that there is no statute of limitations on sexual abuse in the state of VA. Twice I attempted to file charges, feeling so empowered. Twice I had to graphically re-call what had been done to me, and both times, though this man works for the City of Virginia Beach, I was told that they could not get in touch with him for a response. I even had a phone conversation with my stepfather recorded by the police, where he admitted to abusing me, and allowing his son to get away with it as well. I was forced to let it go, until Friday afternoon, August 16, 2019.

This is what unfolded –

Here is a replay, in case you missed what he did upon acknowledging me-20190817_115231

“We see your rants and everything on the computer.”

“We” being himself and his fiance’/girlfriend of 40 years, who is allegedly a virgin, saving herself for marriage. They don’t even live together. They are both approaching or beyond 60. She is somewhere between believing that I am a liar, and a seductive child-whore. I am not friends with them on social media. My mother is, likely, but that is a whole other issue. My point is that in order for either of them to see anything of mine, it would take some active stalking. I’m willing to lay money on which one of them is doing that.  But I digress.

Forgiveness is empowering because it releases you from the burden of hatred and resentment, but it is an ongoing process. Just because I have forgiven does not mean that I will ever forget the hell I’ve endured. It means that I acknowledge that nobody is exempt from making horrible mistakes that hurt others, and I pardon the trespasses of others, as I too ask to be pardoned from my own. I know the Lord’s Prayer, and I live it daily. There is no escape in denial. It is like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and it creates layer after layer of continuously mounting lies; lies so ingrained that a person actually feels emboldened enough to proclaim that God will judge the unrighteous, without even recognizing that person as himself. 

I have no need to stutter or nervously use scripture as a shield to defend myself. And truly, God does know who the liar is.

To all the people who have taken advantage of me, who have projected their bitterness and insecurity, taking delight in my failures, disregarding my Phoenix-like strength to rise above any attempts to cause me undue strife:

DO NOT FUCK WITH ME.

I hereby proclaim myself to be unfuckwithable.

It is a glorious day, indeed.

Complex PTSD; Anatomy of a Trigger

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I have wanted to talk about triggers, the anatomy of a panic attack, and what that looks like for me as a person living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for some time.

Having been feeling very optimistic and experiencing a beautiful reprieve that drastically improved my attitude and strength was so blissful that I began to feel I had truly turned a corner in my healing journey, and though I knew it was still an important thing to share, I was not ready to revisit my suffering just yet. I wanted to give myself time to swim and splash in the healing waters. Sometimes the universe, (God) has different plans.

It is hard not to get angry. I have held onto my faith, even if by a thread at times, and I will continue to do so. Belief takes action. Anger is a default. I am willing to do whatever is necessary to change that. I start by not feeling guilty that I don’t want to communicate with my dysfunctional family who have no understanding of how this illness affects me, by not making excuses for declining social invitations, or answering phone calls. I am putting myself first.

During these past few months I have watched potentially triggering things on TV and been able to point them out, stay in the moment, and watch them pass. I have successfully dealt with a panic attack on the trail while riding by talking about my trigger with someone who would listen and allow that wounded child’s voice to be heard. But sometimes the painful memories, or the feelings of sadness and helplessness that they trigger, rise up from deep in the body in a manner in which they cannot be contained. My adult self disappears, as if suddenly held captive by this trapped energy that only allows me to see, hear, and feel as the child who survived this trauma.  I am blindsided. 

Dealing with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a challenge made bigger by the lack of information and support available. The difference with the Complex label has to do with the age and duration that the abuse took place.

The first thing I want to do when processing my painful, debilitating, triggered episodes, is to find comfort in knowing my symptoms are shared by others. This is so important to me because I feel like a freak in that fugue state following the trigger. Coming up empty in my search, I decided it was critical to explain what I experience, not just for other survivors, but for the people who may witness me in the midst of one of these episodes, as well as loved ones who struggle to understand.

There are two distinct responses to my triggers. One involves cumulative, excessive stress that I strive to overcome. I am determined to power through it, no matter how much it depletes my stores until something, either a situation, or words that hit the “no going back” trigger, causes my body to completely shut itself down. If I am standing, I will immediately slump to the ground and “freeze”. This is called the faint and freeze response which is the opposite of the fight or flight response. This happens in the wild when an animal fears inescapable death. They freeze, or play dead. In this state respiration slows, eyes become fixed, I am unresponsive, having retreated deep within myself where the harrowing enormity of what caused this can cause me no further harm. This usually lands me a visit from paramedics and a trip to the ER where Dr’s  and staff crowd around me, poking and pinching, using painful attempts to get me to “come to” . With each failure to get me to show signs of life, the methods increase in force, as they all stand by, utterly perplexed. One important thing to note is that I can see and hear everything going on around me. I cannot speak, I cannot move or even blink. I am paralyzed, trapped somewhere safely, deep inside, where I can wait until the threat has passed. I can feel the pain, it’s just a matter of enduring it so as not to be forced from that safe place. 

It takes a decent span of torture time before I make my way back  at the sharp prodding of a toe so excruciatingly painful that I bolt upright gasping for air and hyperventilating, as if  rising from the dead. It’s as if they have never witnessed any such thing. I must be the only person who has ever displayed such symptoms. I question my own sanity. 

One time a Dr kept applying very painful pressure to my sternum in an attempt to make me tell him my name, telling me they would not help me if I did not comply. Even with tears streaming out the sides of my eyes, there was no empathy for me. At that point they could have cut off a finger and I still wouldn’t have made a peep. 

There was one very kind older Dr during one of these trips. He seemed to understand what was going on. He spoke gently as he held my hand, and reassured me in a most loving way, that everything was going to be alright. I fell into a deep sleep after that, not from any medication being administered, but from the soothing nature of his words, which had been directed at the trapped, wounded child in me.

Western Medicine, particularly as it relates to ER protocol and training, is USELESS in helping people suffering from all forms of PTSD, and mental lillness in general. No wonder the suicide rates are so high. The pain generated from the flashbacks and memories of suffering trapped inside the body feel like unbearable torture. To know that there is absolutely no-one coming to rescue you from that battlefield is like fearing imminent death. In my usual state, I know that this threat holds no power over me.

That brings me to my second trauma stimuli response. They are always brought on by a trigger. These triggers can take the form of sights, sounds, smells, or actions that seem to trip a switch in my mind. It feels like instantly being in a different reality. I am looking out through my adult eyes, but I am seeing a memory from the past through my child eyes that witnessed it, complete with the feelings of terror and desperate need for rescue. Sometimes I am triggered and experiencing a trauma from my adult life, but the child shows up because I have been piggy back triggered; a double whammy that starts off as a traumatic memory from adulthood that then triggers intense fear and sadness from a childhood experience.

One minute I am my happy, witty self, engaged in whatever it is I am doing, the next I am overwhelmed by deep sadness, fear, and helplessness. I cannot shake it off. It comes on like a tsunami and I begin crying uncontrollably, gasping for air, covering my face,  as if doing so makes me disappear. Other times I hide in my closet where I can make myself as small and undetectable as possible, or if in public, I sit and hold myself, rocking back and forth, inconsolable. It is extremely humiliating. I am unable to communicate as my adult self. I am held captive, as an observer, powerless until those emotions subside. It doesn’t end there.  Something happens in my brain, leaving me despondent. It feels as if a wire has been cut. I am deeply depressed and cannot hold back tears. Physically, I am exhausted, as if I had just run a marathon and been tripped at the finish line. This phase of paralyzation varies in length from one day to several weeks.

The longer it takes me to recover, the deeper into Depression I go. I cannot simply “snap out of it” . I am not wallowing. I think it is like being struck by lightening. There has been an electrical surge that has altered my chemistry. I struggle not to loathe my setback, regretting having felt so triumphant and shouting it from the rooftops. I feel raw, skinless, unprotected and vulnerable. And my body feels heavy like lead.

I know that this negative, trapped energy needs to be released. Unfortunately I cannot afford weekly massages, which I believe would be a tremendous help. This is where horses have had the biggest impact on getting me out from underneath all the weight. Whenever I feel my mental illness robbing me of all control, I know that it gets restored whenever I am able to ride. The harder, the better. When I can do something that brings me joy, that I am good at, it gives me hope. 

“At times, it seems as though the depth of suffering and blackness, the downgoing, penetrates the psyche and breaks the barrier between the human and the divine so that the grace of the divine may respond.”

From PREGNANT DARKNESS; ALCHEMY AND THE REBIRTH OF CONSCIOUSNESS by Monika Wikman