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* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
2. I am seeking submissions of accounts of forced abortion, sacrifice, or forced adoption of babies in a cult setting. Contact me through the comments section, email@example.com or RA Projects, PO Box 14276, 4304 18th St., San Francisco CA 94114.
When I was much younger, I thought healing always happened in small steps; each hour, each day, I’d get better. And then one day, poof! I’d be all well and able to forget all about it.
Now I am older and wiser (I hope!) Some things work that way. Head colds, for instance. When I had my knee replaced, it got incrementally less painful. There was a base level of pain which worsened when I did the physical therapy exercises, but, after an hour or so, it returned to base level. The pain lessened a tiny bit each day until one day it had disappeared entirely. What joy!
(This lasted two years until I tripped and fell onto the wheels of my walker. Since then it feels like I have bruised a bone whenever I move a certain way. The doctor is not concerned, so I am not concerned. This is a kind of pain that doesn’t heal – it just stays steady. But it is infrequent and minor and thus easy to live with.)
I am talking about osteoarthritis, where pain increases as the disease progresses. There is an initial flare up, which leaves a small residue of pain. Then another flare up, which increases the level of pain. And another and another. If you made a graph, it would look like a flight of stairs.
When I look back at all the years I have been dealing with ritual abuse, these models don’t seem to apply. Healing didn’t proceed evenly, in a straight line to completion. Luckily, I was not stuck forever at a steady amount of emotional pain and dysfunction. Nor did I heal something, then take on something else, heal that, etc., creating a stair-like pattern leading to “all better.”
There is a pattern that people often speak of, and that is a circular, or spiral form of healing. You deal with something once, then go on to something else. Later, you come back and revisit it, but at a deeper level. It’s as if you needed time to absorb what you had learned. Each time it is really tough, but each time, you can do it. I’ve experienced this, but it isn’t my usual pattern.
This is how my journey looked. Without doing anything, I got used to my new reality. Perhaps it was like moving to another country; in time, just by living there, I picked up the language and got used to a new culture. I’m not entirely comfortable in my new identity, but at least I don’t feel crazy or evil any more.
At various times, I had a lot of flashbacks to different things that were done to me. I was distraught, but I bulled through it. I wrote about what had happened, I told people, sometimes I drew it. Gradually the flashbacks faded in intensity and became further apart. Each time I worked through a wave of flashbacks, I felt there was more of me, if that makes any sense.
Yesterday I had a flashback to something that hadn’t bothered me for fifteen years. What happened? New situation, unfamiliar people, same old triggers.
This involves dentistry, I had been going to a wonderfully kind dentist who patiently worked with me for about ten years of memories of dental torture. Then we had clear sailing for about fifteen years until he inconsiderately retired.
I thought I knew how to explain to my new dentist how to prevent me from going into flashback by talking to me throughout the procedure. He didn’t understand: he thought I wanted him to explain what he was going to do. That was not enough to keep me in present-day reality.
So does this mean I’m “not healed” from those experiences? I don’t think so. I think it means that being with strangers, in an unfamiliar setting, made me feel more vulnerable. Then the coping mechanism I had relied on for fifteen years failed. Since I didn’t know it would fail, I had no back-up plan. Before the next procedure, there will be a back-up plan; hopefully, one that will work. I like this guy and don’t want to start over looking for a new dentist.
Having flashbacks after so many years of calm did not feel like a dismal failure on my part. It felt like a normal part of living long-term with the effects of ritual abuse. Something to cope with, nothing to freak out about. Just another pothole on the road of life.
This is why I don’t think in terms of healing or not-healing – or even getting better or regressing. I think in terms of understanding why I react the way I do to certain situations and then managing those reactions. I have figured out why I had that flashback and I have a plan for how to handle the next visit. That’s enough.
The more I learn about my past and the ways I deal with its after-effects, the more I accept how very different I am from people who have not been severely abused. And also how very much the same we all are in our common humanity.
6/24 St John’s Day
7/2 Total solar eclipse. Visible in parts of South America
7/4 Fourth of July/ US Independence Day
7/16 Full moon
July 16 – 17 Partial lunar eclipse. Visible in South America, Africa, most of Europe and Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
8/15 Full moon
8/15 (?) Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)