Tag Archives: recovery

Treading on bees

18 Feb

This post is not about politics. Don’t complain that I didn’t tell you.

bee lifting leg

I woke from a dream of my lover’s shoes. 

He always wore dirty black shoes with square toes when we met up. I asked him as I watched him undo them in preparation for getting into bed with me, “Do you ever clean your shoes?”

He shook his head. “I only have one pair,” he told me.

I thought that was all right. I have lots of shoes but I prefer wearing boots. Mostly in the climate I live in it’s better to go barefoot. The only problem with going barefoot is treading on bees. I accidentally tread on bees a lot and as you might know, a bee sting can itch for around five days and it’s no picnic.

I’ve been trying to keep a dream book for a while and interestingly, the effort has provoked more dreaming than I can remember for years. Dreams are like poems, or bits and pieces of them.

Shattered people are best represented by bits and pieces. Rainer-Maria Rilke.  I know this to be true. I have never in my life been able to sustain a continuous narrative.

My lover was in his shoes in the dream, but I couldn’t see him. I wrote down the bits and pieces  I could remember, and then the phrase ” erotic vulnerability” dropped into my head from out of nowhere so I wrote that down too. A writer ought to jot down everything, no matter how disparate the bits and pieces might seem at first blush.

After that I could no longer ignore what I was trying to avoid. I was having one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt in my life. It was a feeling of the most abject, and infinitely lonely desolation. I was looking into an abyss, but it was inside me. The abyss was filled with the miasma of all the grieving I have never done.

I did what I was taught to do, and let the feeling linger for as long as it wanted. That made my day difficult, trying to be ordinary as all the while this dark, dank grief came over me in minor thirds.

The grief wasn’t about my lover. It felt as old as the world. Yet somehow, his dirty black square-toed shoes took me right into it. I forget, sometimes, the unsaid things we do for one another, without even knowing that we do them.

The next day the feeling was mostly gone. Only a few miasmic wisps remained. I thought, well, that’s interesting. I’ve felt the most abject feeling of utter desolation that I’ve ever felt in my life. For a whole day I looked into the abyss, and it didn’t, as I’ve always feared, kill me.

Childhood sexual abuse damages the soul. I don’t use that word in a religious sense. I use it to describe the sense of oneself that is forbidden to a child who is sexually abused. The sense of me. Sometimes a child has little chance to form that sense of me, if the abuse begins very early.  Sometimes the task is to restore it after the damage.

It never crossed my mind that I might find a fragment of me in the abyss.

I have been in the garden, sitting under the mango tree beside Big Dog’s grave. Of course, on my way barefoot across the grass  I trod on a bee.

I don’t know what will happen next.  The abyss will probably be there again some time. These things never entirely leave us. We are shattered people and we are best represented by bits and pieces. Sufficient unto the day.

 

The conservative sexual crusader wants kilos of McFadden’s flesh

3 Mar

At Melinda Tankard Reist’s website today there’s a list of tweets from the hapless Brian McFadden, promising to donate money to rape crisis centres, and saying he’s sorry that his lyrics have been misunderstood.

He reiterates that he intended them as an intimate song for fiancee Delta Goodrem, and not as triggers for women who’ve been sexually assaulted while drunk.

I’m inclined to believe the bloke. I don’t think for  minute he wrote that song with the intention of glorifying or encouraging the rape of senselessly drunk women.

But his apologies and donations are not enough for Melinda Tankard Reist. Not a truckload of money, she writes, will make up for the damage he has done to women.

Even in a court of law, intention counts when you’re passing sentence. But not in the courts of Christian sexual conservatism.

MTR also holds Delta Goodrem partially responsible. Why didn’t Delta check the lyrics before allowing Brian to record them, she asks. Is Delta so inured to sexual violence that she didn’t even notice what Brian was on about?

This would be unfortunate, MTR implies, as Delta is a spokeswoman for Avon Voices, a group that raises awareness of violence against women.

I guess the sexual conservatives also hold women responsible for what the men they live with do.

Personally, I think that’s a pretty low and unnecessarily malicious swipe.

Then there’s a letter from a victim of sexual assault whilst she was drunk, telling how McFadden’s song has brought it all back and is severely distressing her.

Nina Funnell then writes a long reassuring response to the victim, and I hope the woman follows this up with counselling.

There are triggers that cause memories of sexual assault, and many other traumatic experiences to flood back into consciousness, often without any warning.  This is very hard for the survivor to deal with.

Triggers can be almost anything. I once worked with someone whose flashbacks were caused by pieces of green soap with a particular smell. Triggers are impossible to predict, extremely individual, and powerfully connected to the original trauma.

As much as the survivor would like never to have encounter these triggers, it is literally impossible to clear the world of them.

In some instances they may be so particular as to rarely emerge. Sometimes they aren’t known until the moment they strike. In many instances the triggers are all too common, and people have to deal with them on a daily basis.

It would be a foolish therapist indeed who recommended total avoidance of anything likely to act as a trigger. That would be condemning the survivor to a miserable life.

What we can do is teach cognitive behavioural techniques that can be used to manage the distressing flashbacks. This has the added advantage of empowering the survivor, both with the skills to handle bad times, and with the sense that she or he has some control over circumstances that can feel uncontrollable.

Given the proliferation of sexual topics in popular culture, it’s unrealistic to blame any artist for triggering a survivor’s flashbacks. As the triggers are so individual, its impossible to know what they might be.

As stupid as you might think McFadden’s song is, blaming him for activating post traumatic stress disorder is wrong. You might as well blame the manufacturer of green soap, and I believe McFadden, in his intentions, is as  undeserving of blame.

The world is not an easy place to live in when you’re suffering post traumatic stress disorder. Many people don’t understand it, and have a low tolerance of sufferers who can seem difficult, withdrawn, moody, angry, weepy, and generally not interested in much. It’s tough, having first to withstand the trauma, and then to spend your time dealing with the aftermath.

The most difficult part is working with people towards an acceptance of their experiences, in the sense that they cannot be changed and must be lived with, as must the aftermath. The survivor has to take responsibility for learning to do this. This is the cornerstone of recovery. It can take many years, and nobody can do it for them.

I don’t think it helps survivors to be encouraged to look for someone to blame in the world around them. Nobody deliberately triggers someone’s flashbacks, unless they are entirely sadistic and know the survivor well enough to be able to do it.

If a creator of any kind must first consider if something in their work will cause distress to someone somewhere, and then abandon it in case it does, then nothing will be created.

I think Tankard Reist’s crusade against McFadden, and now Goodrem as well, is bordering on the vicious. She wants what she wants, which is an abject confession that they’ve caused immeasurable distress to women everywhere by recording the song. If she doesn’t get that, she will hound them, of that I’m certain.

She is displaying all the signs of the outraged self-righteous good Christian woman bent on vengeance, not only on him but on the woman he loves, and that is not a pretty sight.

And let’s remember, he isn’t a rapist. He wrote a song.

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