Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Healing, part 4 - Therapy Goals

Trigger warning: this post contains references to sexual assault and violence which may be triggering to survivors.

While I was in therapy, Lauren and I spent a lot of time defining my goals and working toward them. My goals were always these big, amorphous things like “I want the flashbacks and anxiety to stop” or “I don’t want to be afraid to go to sleep.” Or “I want to remember the good things with Daphne, not just the horrible ending.” And then she would go through each goal and dissect it, breaking things into little manageable pieces - what exactly is triggering the flashback? What is it about that particular trigger? What are the parts of that trigger? What are the feelings associated with it? With what senses am I feeling it? On and on, forcing me to look at all the pieces and then finally trying to pull back and look at the whole picture. Every week I knew what we were going to work on. She gave me homework - writing assignments and mental exercises to get me to try to recall and feel things from all angles. Practicing calm. We exchanged emails throughout each week, she always pushing me to dig deeper, remember more, acknowledge feelings, etc.

It didn’t always feel like it, but by the end, I had actually achieved many of the goals. I am most grateful that I am now able to share great memories of Daph with my friends who knew her. It is still a struggle not to flash directly to the last terrifying hours, but with effort, I can hold onto the good and hold the horror at bay. That alone has made this journey the biggest success of my life.

But there were still a few goals left. Well, those smaller parts of goals that were left incomplete with Lauren’s death.

The Laundromat: The smell of a laundromat has always been one of my most violent triggers. And even though I am fortunate enough to never have to use a laundromat, Lauren always believed that until I could master it, the anxiety would always master me. I never knew why I had the fear of laundromats, and it took me almost a year of therapy to pull together the pieces of why the smell was such a huge trigger - I had been kicked in the jaw which dislodged two teeth. I was choking on blood and the teeth and couldn’t breathe since they had stuffed a shirt in my mouth to keep me from screaming. Those moments of pain and panicked suffocation are now linked with the smell of that shirt. I now understand the trigger, but the smell is still a problem. Lauren had taken me to laundromats a few times, trying to disassociate the smell from the memory. And I had gotten better with it, I thought, until later I walked into a laundromat on my own and had a total debilitating physical flashback. And so, that is still my goal. I have enlisted a few trusted friends who are going to help me with this - gradually increasing my exposure to the smell until I can convince my brain that a laundromat is just a laundromat, and the smell, while once associated with a terrifying experience, is no longer a threat to me. This is a work in progress.

The Accused: I don’t know why, but I have always thought that if I could watch this movie, it would be a sign that I’ve had conquered something. I can’t even explain that. Jodie Foster. Gang rape. That’s really all I know about it. Lauren had thought I had moved to a place where I could watch it, and we were going to view it together. Now I am going to try it with my closest friends at my side. Then I saw a blog where folks all rented a movie from NetFlix and watched the same movie at the same time and then blogged about it - like a book club. And so I thought I would ask any of you if you would care to join me. I know many of you who read this blog are rape survivors yourselves and I would not recommend this. I am already apologizing for whatever triggers you may be experiencing. But if anyone else is interested, I will set up a date and time in the future - let me know if there are days/times that work best for you. I would be most pleased to know that there are people out there supporting me through this.

The whole story: Two years of immersion therapy and I still could not fully retell the story of what happened to me. This was to be the final hurdle but I didn’t quite make it. It still looms in front of me as the finish line. I don’t think I will be able to tell that story here, in such a public venue. But there are those of you with whom I have grown special and trusting relationships. And so I am asking if you would be willing to hear that story, or parts of that story. To hear my confession so to speak, in a safe and affirming space.

The sudden death of my therapist was quite a setback to me. But I think the best way I can honor her is to complete the journey she gave me the confidence to start and the tools to finish. I have lost my safety net. Now I need all the cheerleaders and support I can get.


  1. I have read your blog for a couple of years and never left a comment. I am a rape survivor who never told anyone what happened to me. Your story has been an inspiration to me that maybe I could do the same as you. I am not doing too good emotionally. I wish I had your guts. I have never heard of the movie but I would watch it with you. Thank you for giving me hope.

  2. You know I'll be there - to hear, to see, to hold. Always.

  3. Anonymous - I can't imagine the guts it took for you to leave this comment. Thank you. I hope you will now take one more step and email me (8thdayplanner at gmail dot com) how I might contact you. I would love to get to know you better - even anonymously.

  4. I remember the movie "The Accused". It is tough viewing but I would be honored to watch it when you do, to be a part of your healing, if at all possible. I would also be honored to listen to your story, as you once did for me.

    You are a remarkable person, 8th day. You have a strength and a love for all that is good in life that is rarely seen today.

    Sign me up for anything you need.

  5. I saw the warning, and read it anyway. Inspiration is too little a word. This made me cry, both for what you have been through and how much I can see you willing to sacrifice to heal completely. It is a very courageous step.

    I doubt I am ready to watch the movie but have always appreciated your understanding ear and positive guidance. It would be great to return the favor.

    You are so close to your finish line. I will be there cheering.

  6. Cheering with you and for you, dear one....


  7. Yes. Anytime. Of course. Count of me for anything.

  8. If I could tangibly support you in some way, I would do it. Your words, your journey, your strength - I admire you a great deal and through you, I've been able to work through some of my own triggers.

    I would be honored to hold space any way I can.

  9. This is powerful stuff. Powerful. Please consider me one of your cheerleaders, although this is the only way I know you and I know it's not much. But do add me to the mental list of folks out there in the wide world who are cheering you on.

  10. I'm emailing you....


  11. I am moved by the strength it must take to pursue this journey. I would be honored to bear witness to your story, your healing and your growth, however you choose to do that.

    My constant prayers are for your peace.

  12. I know I'm a few weeks late. I've been having a particularly hard time with triggers lately and trying to piece together why.

    I don't think I'm ready to watch The Accused. But I love the idea of gathering people, both present in body and present in tme-space, to watch together in support of each other. Has it already happened? If not, let me know when it is and I will hold you in my thoughts.