The Power of Baby Steps

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.” 


* Additional information on the following holidays is available at:
 Thanksgiving https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
 Yule/Winter Solstice https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/

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Some changes come in such small increments that you don’t notice them until a long time has passed, and you take a moment to remember what it was like in the beginning. When I was a kid, did I feel taller every day? Of course not! But every few months, my height was marked on a door frame, and so I could see that I was noticeably taller than I was a year or two earlier.

So it was with healing from ritual abuse. Day by day, I felt I was getting nowhere fast. I couldn’t see any changes, and I was discouraged and, at times, hopeless. But when enough time had passed, the changes started to become visible.

This was what was like for me in the early days.

The moment when I realized there was ritual abuse in my background, my blood ran cold, and I burst out with, “Oh fuck!!!!” An hour or so later, the flashbacks started, and they continued non-stop for many months.

Well, I am exaggerating. They weren’t really non-stop. I was working at the time as a therapist, and they were kind enough to stop when I was with clients and to wait for times when I was alone, like on bathroom breaks. I was petrified I would have one during a session, so I was anxious all the time, but it never happened. Otherwise, they were 24/7.

I also became paranoid. I thought my cats knew I had killed cats forty years before and that they hated me for it. I thought that when radios were silent, they could broadcast thoughts and place them in my mind. I therefore slept with the radio on – it was lovely to wake up to “Mozart in the Morning!” Because I knew these thoughts were nuts, I figured I wasn’t quite as much of a mess as I thought I was, if that makes any sense. Even so, I was in pretty bad shape.

Now, my therapist had an optimistic streak that drove me crazy. He believed that I could come through this, and he attempted to slow me down. You see, I was failing around wildly, not knowing what to do, where to turn, not knowing if something was useful or hurtful. “Baby steps, Jean, baby steps.” But baby steps in what direction? He counted getting out of bed, eating every day, washing, as baby steps. Me, I thought that didn’t count as progress. I had done all those things for years. I wanted to do things I couldn’t do, like stop the flashbacks. It didn’t occur to me that I had never done any of those things while in flashback. Poor guy, he had his hands full reassuring me!

Finally, in exhaustion, I decided that all I had to do was not kill myself and wait for the changes to happen magically with no effort on my part.

As the months passed, things did start to change. I couldn’t see that anything was different, of course, because change came so slowly. I was also fighting “old tapes” from the cult and from my family.

The cult had taught me:
I was powerless
I was weak
I was stupid
Given a choice, I always chose the wrong thing
I would never learn
I deserved what I got, I deserved all the abuse
I could never change

My parents had taught me:
I was not nice enough
I was not pretty enough
I was not smart enough
I was not kind enough
I was not popular enough
I was a disappointment to them
I was stubborn and would never change

All the voices in my head conspired to deny or sabotage every positive baby step I took.

And when I reached a place when something positive had become a habit, it was frighteningly unfamiliar. I didn’t trust it to stick around, and I didn’t know how to act, think, or feel. It was like the first day of school or waking up one morning in a foreign land, not knowing the language or the customs. So what did I do? I made a vow not to hurt myself and waited to magically adapt with no effort on my part. Time is a wonderful healer!

Now, thirty years and six months later, I can see how all the little tiny things I did along the way have added up, and I feel transformed. There is still plenty of work on myself I can do, but the difference is amazing.

I’ll give you a recent example.

Halloween and Beltane are the worst days for me. They always had been, even before I realized that I was a ritual abuse survivor, and I figured they always would be.

But this year, I had no flashbacks on Halloween. I was not anxious and frightened the week or two before. I was not agoraphobic. I was not sick to my stomach. I was not upset by the decorations my neighbors chose for their front doors. It was just an ordinary day like any other.

If you had told me that someday I would not be bothered by Halloween, I would not have believed you for one minute. I never imagined that such a thing would happen. And yet it did. Why? An accumulation of little things I did along the way added up. Which ones helped and which didn’t, I don’t know. Perhaps they all helped, just because I put energy into trying.

I can’t promise you that you will get the same results as I did. But I can promise you that change is possible and that there is hope, even if it is clouded over by despair. All those baby steps make a huge difference!

Upcoming Holidays

November
11/11 (?) Veterans’ Day
11/12 Full moon
11/28 US Thanksgiving
December
12/1, 12/8, 12/15, 12/22 Sundays of Advent
12/11 Full moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/26 Annular solar eclipse. Totality will be visible in Saudi Arabia, southern India, Sri Lanka, parts of Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of the Philippines.
12/31 New Year’s Eve

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
12/22 – 12/30 Chanukah
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)

Perpetual Change

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

* Remember that two anthologies are seeking submissions:

1. .Jade Miller is working on an anthology about the difficulty of finding a therapist who can work with DID or other forms of dissociation. Write her at thetraumasurvivorstale@gmail.com

2. I am seeking submissions for an anthology of accounts of forced abortion, sacrifice, or forced adoption of babies in a cult setting. Contact me through the comments section, rahome@ra-info.org or RA Projects, PO Box 14276, 4304 18th St., San Francisco CA 94114.

* DID Awareness Day was a great success. The powertotheplurals Facebook page alone got 100,000 hits! https://www.facebook.com/groups/250575105622931/permalink/ 297502367596871/

* Powertotheplurals presents “Plural Positivity World Conference” on the Internet Saturday, March 30 throug Monday, April 1. Information, including the conference schedule (scroll all the way down) is at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1c2KYOgyKaysMo6NTQYLlv2GKYLeaXzFMBVqSYtdyUEU/edit#heading=h.v0yqprrnr0sphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/250575105622931/permalink/ 297502367596871/

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I’ll be honest. I hate change. I hate it and fear it. When I was a kid, whatever I was doing, I always knew just how safe or unsafe I was. If I was sitting there doing my homework, I knew I was not being beaten or raped or anything, but I never knew what was going to happen the next minute. And therefore for me, even as an adult, change always comes with the possibility of leading to disaster.

When I am really stressed out and lots of old feelings have been stirred up, I can be so afraid that I have a really hard time not just leaving the house, but going from one room to another. I can see what’s in my bedroom, for instance, but I can’t see into the bathroom and therefore I have no idea who or what might be lurking there, waiting to trap me. The fear is so great that I can sit in a trance for an hour or more. I finally get the courage to start talking my way through my fears. That can take another half hour.

There are other situations when I get paralyzed with fear. When driving, I am sure I will get lost and nobody will ever see me again. I have to tell myself that I have a full tank of gas, a charge card, maps, and a mouth I can use to ask directions. I will be okay and I will get home again, even if I do get lost. I have soothed myself with those words zillions of times. Sometimes the ghost of another old threat comes back and I am afraid that if I go out I will be gunned down in the street. That won’t happen if I stay home, of course. My agoraphobia is never simple.

Change never stops, even when I trick myself into thinking everything is stable. I don’t notice the little things, like how my hair grows, and I often close my eyes to medium-sized things, like how my waist grows. I find that the really big things are impossible to ignore, though.

Some people adore change and seek it out. They take risks and get high on the adrenaline rush. They are always on the go, doing things, seeking out new experiences. If for some reason they have to stay still, say in a traffic jam, they get antsy and bored and uncomfortable. Not me, my friend, no, not me.

If these folk have trauma in their past, perhaps they were so flooded with cortisol and adrenaline that they have can’t live without them. When things are calm, they go into withdrawal. They need the jolt of risky behaviors to feel alive. They live fast and hard, always seeking the next thrill.

And then there are those lucky people who are balanced. Either they had pretty darn good childhoods or they have worked through things long enough that they have learned to neither freeze at change nor rush to experience it, creating it if necessary. If they encounter real present-day danger, they can quickly mobilize to fight or escape. If things are calm, they can enjoy the peace and quiet. In between, they can modulate their state of arousal in response to the amount of external stimulus.

That’s the direction I am going in and I feel frozen in panic much, much less often. I’ve learned to welcome and embrace some changes, even to rejoice in them. (Like how much better life is knowing what was the matter all those long years and learning new ways of living with my past.) Acceptance brings a certain peace. I know I cannot prevent changes from happening, they are part of all life, and of the existence of all inanimate things, too. Why fight it? Why be afraid of all changes? Better to save my energy for those battles I can fight and fight them with courage and perseverance and patience and grace.

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Upcoming Holidays

March
3/17 St Patrick’s Day
3/20 Full moon
3/20 Spring Equinox
3/24 Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan
April
4/1 April Fools’ Day
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/14 Palm Sunday
4/19 Full moon
4/19 Good Friday
4/20 Holy Saturday
4/21 Easter Sunday
4/26 Grand Climax/De Meur
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve
May
5/1 Beltane
5/12 Mothers’ Day
5/18 Full moon
5/18 Armed Forces Day
5/27 Memorial Day

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
3/20 – 3/21 Purim (Deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman in Persia)
4/19 – 4/27 Passover/Pesach (Deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt)
4/20 Hitler´s actual birthday
4/21 Hitler’s alternative birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday and half-birthday on 4/20 and 10/20 and his actual birthday and half-birthday on Easter of the current year and six months later.)
4/30 Anniversary of Hitler’s death
5/1 – 5/2 Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day)
5/8 V-E Day (Victory in Europe, WW2)
5/7 – 5/8 Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day, Day of Remembrance)
5/8 – 5/9 Yom HaAtzma´ut (Israeli Independence Day)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)