Wednesday, March 16, 2011
a chapter closing
it has been nearly four months since my last post. it's not because nothing has been going on, but rather because i haven't known what to say. the culmination of the last four months--and, in fact, the past twelve years--came just last week. i confronted my abuser in person and forgave him.
i have been seeing a therapist on a regular basis and have been doing EMDR with her. this has had an amazing effect on me. the nightmares stopped. the flashbacks stopped. thinking about my past and the abuse no longer gave me panic attacks, caused fear or anger. i was able to let the anger toward him go. i have been much happier and much less volatile.
i have also been put on hormone therapy, which has helped immensely. i don't have such drastic mood swings and my depression has been better overall. i have had more energy and don't lose control of my emotions nearly as often.
i have had little to no contact with my parents. this has been extremely difficult for me but i believe it has been for the best. i have separated myself from the dysfunction of our realtionship. i still want so badly to try to repair the relationship but in spite of my willingness to do so, my parents have all but refused to alter their method of communication and won't listen to my feelings. i don't know how much longer this will last. i still feel ostracized and cut out of the family. part of this is my doing, i know--but to be frankly honest i felt that way even when i was communicating with them on a regular basis.
approximately two months ago i was visiting my grandmother in the hospital. she has been sick for quite some time; several years, in fact. when i arrived i found my uncle (my abuser) was there. this was the first time i had encountered him since i had done the EMDR work with my therapist. when i saw him, and knew he was there, i was able to remain calm and relatively unaffected by the situation. i left the hospital feeling happier than i had in a long time, proud of myself for my progress and relief at the fact that the fear and anxiety were no longer attached to his memory or presence.
just over a week ago our family had a devastating blow...my grandmother passed away. i have been struggling so much with her death. yesterday is the first day i have not cried since her passing...and even then i had to fight the tears. i cannot go into any more detail than this because i am sure i will lose it again. i was very close to her and i am sure it will take a long time for me to recover from the loss, to lose the ache in my chest every time i think of her.
last friday night was her viewing. i spent all week in agony, anticipating the viewing and funeral. i was so anxious, i didn't think i would be able to handle it. once there i did better than i had expected. i cried--a lot--but i didn't go into hysterics. of course my uncle was there, standing with my dad and his siblings and my grandfather, next to the casket. i avoided him through much of the viewing. but just before we left, i gathered the courage to talk to him for the first time since i was thirteen.
i felt safe knowing that i was surrounded by many people who loved me. my husband was there. he has been so strong for me, so supportive of me. i knew my grandmother would be proud of me. so i did it.
i told him that i forgave him. i told him that i would never be okay, that i would always struggle. i told him it had taken me a very long time to get to this point, but i had finally been able to forgive him.
he tried to touch my arm and i stepped back. he apologized and stepped back from me as well. he told me he was very sorry for what he did. he said that he had been through a lot of counseling, and that the therapy had helped him fix his life. he said that he tried to convey to me how sorry he was through my parents and others. he apologized to me probably five times. he thanked me for speaking to him. i told him thank you for the apology and i shook his hand. then i walked away.
through this entire interaction, which lasted five minutes at the most, i had nothing worse than butterflies in my stomach. afterward i was amazed at the way i was able to maintain my calm. i didn't feel threatened or afraid. it was an impromptu confrontation but i am very glad that i did it. i left the viewing with a mixture of devastation for the loss of my grandmother and euphoria for my ability to confront my uncle.
the next day at the funeral i did not look at him or speak to him, and he still stayed away from me. but knowing that i was finally strong enough to be in the same room as he without being affected was a huge relief.
my interaction with my parents over the course of the last week--at the hospital the day my grandmother passed, in several phone calls with my dad, at the viewing and at the funeral--were overall positive. i maintained some distance for my own emotional well-being (i had enough to deal with) but was able to hug them and cry with them. i believe they enjoyed interacting with my children. i am hopeful that things will eventually be able to change between us--but as of yet i am not holding my breath. i love my parents dearly but i need to hold on to my new found strength, to continue to stand up for myself and my well-being, to maintain emotional stability.
this journey from abuse to healing has taken me much of my life. i have an odd sense of pride in myself, of freedom. this is a very unusual feeling for me. self-loathing, anger and fear have been my constant companions for as long as i can remember. i still have a long way to go as far as my self-esteem is concerned, and as my communication with others goes, but i believe i am on my way. this blog has been a large part of my healing. the ability to share my feelings and thoughts, to connect to others who have been through what i have, to learn from and help other abuse victims has been empowering. i don't know if i will be posting here again. perhaps i will, but this chapter of my life is closing.
the image of the swallow is one that i drew. traditionally, sailors would have swallows tattooed on their bodies to represent their experience sailing--the number of miles they had traveled on the ocean. (one swallow for every 5,000 nautical miles.) it also represented hope for returning home, to safety, as birds are one of the first signs of land and a safe harbor. legend has it that if a sailor drowned at sea, the bird would alight upon his soul and carry it safely to heaven. swallows are also a symbol of freedom, loyalty and love.
this swallow is just that to me--a symbol of freedom, of hope, of a safe return. i am free from the chains of my abuse. i have hope for a better future. i have safely returned from the stormy waters of recovery. it is a symbol of healing, of love and support and loyalty from and for my family.
i wish all of you the same peace, recovery and happiness that i am beginning to find.