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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » Working Through the Effects of Abuse (note: this post is ridiculously long)

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Author Topic: Working Through the Effects of Abuse (note: this post is ridiculously long)
skiesofgreen
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Heather gave me a list of reading recommendations on sexual healing a while ago when I first started talking about the abuse I went through with my ex (we'll call him Alex) but I've only just gotten around (worked up the courage) to take them out. I only have one so far but I have two more on hold, currently the reading selection is "The Sexual Healing Journey" by Wendy Maltz.

Reading through the first section has really got me thinking about how Alex has impacted my sexuality and my ability to be sexual. Much of this I already knew but it seems like a bit of a revelation when its all laid out in front of me. I do however fear that I won't have the ability to think as clearly about this once the initial feelings have passed so I want to get it out now before I loose it. I was also hoping that perhaps I could get some advice on how to work past these things now that I've discovered they exist.

1) I have a sense of obligation and confusion tied to sex. On the one hand I want it, I have sexual desires, I find people attractive and I often feel the desire to engage in sexual acts. However when I engage in sexual acts I become confused. I have this automatic (mostly unconscious assumption) that once things start it will have to progress. This is confusing because even if I am enjoying the act I'm still feeling a sense of obligation, or unavoidableness in performing it. Which attaches to sexual acts, even one I initiate or want, a sense of dullness, or necessity. I feel like it dampens my ability to enjoy them.

On top of this I've come to realise that I also don't understand the possibility of sexual activity ending simply because one does not feel like it anymore, because of it "just being done", without it being a big deal. Essentially I seem to only see two outcomes: a) we continue with sexual activities until both or one of us orgasms (in my head I assume that if it is going to end after only one of us has come it will be the male, I have this assumption that male orgasm marks the end of all sexual activity) or b) I will have to declare crises, be obviously overwhelmed with the situation, possibly be on the verge of a break down in order for it to stop. I fail to grasp alternate possibilities. Although logically I can understand and grasp their existence not only do I not think I've ever really experienced it (except in some situations with my current boyfriend - we'll call him Jude) I can't even imagine myself experiencing one of them. I exist under this assumption that ending sex will have to be a big deal. Even if the partner is going to be receptive to me wanting to stop sex it still feels like its going to be a huge event or something I'll have to explain

I think this is a huge reason for me being unable (or finding it very difficult) to reject sexual advances or to say no when I want to stop. While I've been getting better at doing this with Jude it still feels (to me) like the end of the world whenever I want to ask to stop. I don't think this is because he portrays it as such (the fact he always asks if I'm OK, do I need anything, did he do anything wrong probably does reinforce it though) so much as that I hold this assumption going in.

On top of this I think this mix of inability to say no combined with a desire to be sexual gets in the way of my initiating. I've come to the assumption that if I just don't say anything things will happen and so I don't need to make it clear I want them. This is probably because with Alex he would always continue, without feeling a need to check in with what I wanted (except in a controlling way to say something along the lines of "you want that don't you" "you like it when I do this"). This is also probably where the feeling of inevitability/obligation comes from. The feeling that "It HAS to end that way. It HAS to turn into sex/blowjob/handjob/orgasm."I think this feeling encourages me to avoid speaking up about my wants (perhaps I feel my wants are wrong? not sure about that) because I feel I already know where it's heading. Also when Jude states something along the lines of "I'm letting you call the shots, we won't do anything more than this until you initiate it" I get incredibly flustered, almost angry, or fearful, or annoyed. Anxious maybe is the right word. For the longest time now I couldn't figure out why but thinking it through today I believe it derives from the fact that I'm playing off of a scrip with a dictated end. I feel like if I'm given the reigns that simply means I have to be the one to initiate sex/sexual acts in that direction. This ties into the feeling of obligation and not understanding where other than orgasm or tears a sexual experience can end. I think I hold the belief that it's expected that I continue in that direction (towards orgasm), so I feel a need to do so, otherwise I don't see how it will ever end. How does one just stop kissing without it being a big deal? I how does one start fondling another and then decide to stop? I mean I have done this before, especially at the beginning of relationships, but when the possibility of other things happening exists, I feel as though those things need to be acted out, because it's the natural course for being sexual to take, the required course even, and if they are not acted out (even if I expect that decision to be respected) it will Have to be a big deal.

Also, though this is not something I would personally expect, I always feel as though there's an expectation to reciprocate (either orgasm or simply the action, ex manual sex) once something has been done to me. I think this adds to anxiety about asking for what I want because I feel like it will have to be returned, or that there is an expectation that it will be returned. And for me, I find the idea of expectation, and expectation in general, just as daunting as the idea that someone will actually request that I return the favour. With Jude I think something that hasn't helped with the process of letting this assumption go is that the first time we ever did something together (and he asked if I'd give him a blowjob, before he knew this was a trigger for me of course) it was said as "I don't want to go any farther than we've gone but it'd be nice if you reciprocated" it might have actually been "but I wouldn't mind if you reciprocated" or "but you can reciprocate" but whatever the exact wording was I felt there was a requirement to follow through. I don't know if that's actually what he intended by that statement or if it was just worded poorly but that might be something to address with him, just to clear my mind on the issue.

2) On top of all of that I think I associate sex with a dominating dynamic. I experience this in sexual fantasy (which can make me feel ashamed because why should I, someone who's been abused, feel the need to imagine to get off on a dominative dynamic) and also in practice. Either I feel the need to take dominance (though this happens only rarely due to my lack of ability to initiate) or I feel the need to be dominated. Although I realise that S&M dynamics can be healthy I think that this might tie too closely into my lack of wanting to assert myself for it to be healthy.

I also sometimes find myself ashamed of getting off on slightly dominating behaviour that really shouldn't be shameful (example hair pulling, pinning my hands above my head) and I also associate this arousal with fear. It's frustrating because I think I would enjoy these activities with or without being abused (they occupied my fantasies long before Alex) but due to this association with Alex I find it almost scary. And yet at the same time they seem to be some of my biggest turn ons. I get the Most aroused by these types of acts. Sometimes I also think I get aroused by the sense of fear. I'm not sure if that's because I associate the performance of sexual acts with feeling fear or not. I do however know that I don't particularly want to stop doing these things (hair pulling etc.) because they do tend to be the areas that get me off the most. Yet I also don't know how to associate these things with a loving/caring dynamic.

On top of this when I do think about myself in a dominant role I find myself either having to picture it with another women, or with myself as a man in my mind. I have this unconscious assumption that being a women makes me easy to dominate. In thinking about being sexual with men I've often wished I myself was a man. Not in the sense that I feel I am transgendered however, just in the sense that in order to have the even power dynamic that I desire I need to be a man, because I almost feel as though a man and a woman can not share a balanced power dynamic, even though I realise that is a false assumption. I have even found myself feeling (irrationally) jealous of homosexual relationships because I (again irrationally) feel that is the only way I would be able to engage in dominating type activities (like hair pulling etc.) and have it feel equal.


------


I'm sure there's more, but those are my two biggest revelations of the day. I suppose my big reason for voicing this is a) to voice it to medium where my history has already been discussed so I don't feel like I have to go explaining the backstory to talk about it and b) to see if you have any advice on how to address these issues, ways to start rethinking them. Although I'm sure the book will also have suggestions it'd be nice to hear feedback from a source I trust that's directly related to my concerns.


Also I apologise for the obscene length of this post.

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Heather
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It's great to hear from you. [Smile]

No need for apologies: this is big stuff, and I imagine that even what you wrote here involved shortcutting a lot.

I feel like the best way to talk about these things is to try and first talk about one, then the other. Hopefully that's okay by you.

With the first thing, let me ask you a couple things first:

1) Have you ever had an experience you'd consider sexual or sensual where you were enjoying being in it so much by itself that you didn't even think of what might be "next?" or where, say, in something like a makeout sessions, things just wound down pretty organically, whether that's because there was something else to do, people got sleepy, it turned into talking, or that level of makeout just felt like all that was wanted from both folks?

2) Have you yet experienced asking for sex -- whatever that means for you -- to end, be over for the moment, and had it go well?

3)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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skiesofgreen
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Working through one at a time sounds great. Also that was a speedy reply. I'm impressed. [Wink]

1) I've taken some time to think about this and I can't say any experience really jumps to mind as far as not thinking about what was going to happen next is concerned. I think I have been in situations where I wasn't concerned about what's next in brief intervals but I don't think (or at least can't remember) a situation where that endured throughout the entire situation. For instance I might feel that way when we first begin making out and then once it's been going on for a while "what's next" may pop into my head. I've possibly had that experience when Jude and I were making out right after I'd confided in him about Alex and we'd agreed not to do anything else for the time being. But I'm not even positive if that's true.

I have had situations that have just faded out, either to talking or cuddling or we had to leave to do something. I'm not sure if before that happened however (it ended that is) I had the expectation it might go somewhere else or not.

2) I've had it go well with Jude for sure, in the sense that whenever I ask to stop, or express interest in stopping, he automatically stops and assures me that it's fine that we stop. However it always feels very stressful and difficult to ask to stop, to the point where I might think about it for 10 minutes or more before saying anything. Also Jude often follows the stopping with "are you ok? was there something I did to make you feel uncomfortable?" which, while in the best of intentions I'm sure, I think probably contributes to feeling like it's a big deal to have to stop. I haven't mentioned this to him as I've just realised it myself.

Jude has also occasionally noticed me zoning out or not seeming comfortable before I said anything and has asked me if I'm doing alright, but even when he asks I often find it difficult to confirm that no, I'm not feeling ok. All this despite the fact he's said multiple times that he doesn't want to do anything I don't feel comfortable with and that he wants me to tell him when I'm not comfortable, that it's important to him that I'm actually involved in what we're doing. All the same I find it hard to assert that I want to stop.

I think part of this might also be tied to the fact that often when I do want to stop it is related to previous abuse, in that I start getting anxious or feel like it's going to go farther and I freak out a bit and have feelings I associate with the abusive relationship (fear, anxiety) arise, so in a way maybe stopping never feels like it isn't a big deal to me because it's always associate with something that is a big deal, at least indirectly. I'm not sure if that's clear (even to me) but I hope it makes sense.

[ 10-04-2011, 06:52 PM: Message edited by: skiesofgreen ]

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Heather
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Can we maybe think about situations that were just sensual, rather than sexual?

For instance, have you ever danced at a party? If so, have you just been in the moment enjoying dancing, then stopped when you didn't feel like it anymore? Or what about eating something delicious? Or sitting in a warm tub?

I think with your partner's responses you're talking about, it's important you try and recognize that he's likely responding to knowing this is a big deal for YOU and to the stress you're feeling. NOT to the fact that he thinks stopping is a big deal himself, save checking in to be sure that it isn't, and that you don't want to stop because he did misstep. In other words, per that latter thing, that's him being a good partner who wants to make sure he isn't doing anything you don't want.

Can I also check in with you on the barest of basics: do you really feel like you're ready to be sexual with someone yet? Like you've done the kind of healing you need to for this to be something okay for you, even in moments where you feel uncomfortable or triggered?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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skiesofgreen
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I definitely relate to the dancing analogy. I thoroughly enjoy, and often get lost in the sensation of dancing and have no problem stopping when I'm tired or need to take a break. Dancing, especially in a large group, tends to be a very sensual experience for me but I've never felt the inability to step away from it. I'd say I have a similar experience with food but I have a notorious appetite, thank goodness for the metabolism of a champion. [Wink]

I do understand what you're saying about him checking in, and I do think I know that logically, but I think perhaps part of the problem is wanting to feel myself like it's a not a big deal, so I feel irritated at his addressing my personal stress over the issue. I don't think that's a particularly useful reaction, but it's the reaction I feel non the less.

As for feeling ready for being sexual I'm honestly not sure. I thought so, we did step back from anything for a period and the first time we really did do anything more than makeout (manual sex in this case which is currently the limit) I definitely felt OK with it, even in the aftermath. However as time has progressed I think maybe I'm becoming less comfortable with it again? Which is frustrating, because I still WANT to do it. Or maybe I'm just not able to deal with moments where I'm uncomfortable and triggered yet? I've definitely thought today and yesterday about talking to Jude about putting a temporary hold on anything other than kissing again.

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Heather
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Okay! So, see if you can't start to think about sex the same way as with dancing. I mean, for sure, sometimes you or someone else might see the "end" of dancing as getting to the end of a sing. or as dancing until the party is over or the venue closes. But a) it's not always that way and b) even when those are end goals, it's not like people's world is going to end if the party ends early or someone gets tried before the sing is over, right?

Around this stuff of wanting to think this isn't a big deal, what happens in your head if you acknowledge that for you, for now, it IS a big deal and that this is something you're working through? And what if you recognize that a partner of yours IS someone you're allowing to be part of your sexual healing process, so they are going to be in all this in some way if you're going to be sexual with them?

Can you also recognize that in this whole process -- and in life in general -- there will be times when being sexual feels okay and times it doesn't? That even if and when we want sex, some things may make it so it isn't the right thing for us, and at those times, we'll choose not to engage in it, knowing that most likely, the time will come again when it is the right thing?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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skiesofgreen
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I definitely understand the dancing analogy. However even though I understand it, thinking about it, even right now, gives me a certain sensation of anxiousness.

Admitting it's a big deal feels kind of comforting, kind of overwhelming and kind of anxious making. It makes me feel scared it won't go away, or Jude will feel rejected, even though I get that neither of those are likely outcomes. I think maybe talking this through with Jude with would be helpful, it's been helpful in the past.

I think I have a hard time realising that just because I want sex doesn't mean it's a good time to be having it. (It's an issue I've struggled with with what happened with Alex, because sometimes I would feel a desire for sex even though those were situations were sex was not being conducted in a way I wanted or with my well being/wants in mind. In fact it was/is a reason I struggled with accepting what happened with him as sexually abusive.) I think learning to accept that wanting sex does not equal being in a place where having sex is a good is something I need to work towards, also that coming to terms with the fact that while this feels like it's lasting forever right now it's unlikely to do so forever and trying not to rush towards a place I'm not ready for yet, even if I feel like everything's moving at an unreasonably slow pace. Which I often definitely do.

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Heather
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I totally understand all of this.

Have you ever been seriously ill, or had a serious injury?

I ask that because I think it can be helpful -- and I've found it personally helpful -- to remember what a healing process is like. And a physical healing process and an emotional healing process are very similar. They both tend to take time, often more than we'd like. They both tend to have stops and starts. They both can present situations where it feels like something is way better, only for something new to show us that something else is now the matter, or that nope, turns out in this different situation, we still have healing to do.

I know it can be rough to look at, but emotional healing from trauma really is a lifelong process. I was assaulted before you were even born, I have done a ton of work on my healing, and yet, I know I am still, and ever will be, in that process. Am I at the same place I was one, five or ten years later? Nope, I'm far forward. But I'm still healing, and that's okay. It's got to be okay, really, even in moments I don't feel okay about it, because it simply is, you know?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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About the anxiousness: I'm curious if that might be because you WANT for sex to have a very static, definite end point that is always consistent? In other words, even though some parts of that might make you uncomfortable in other ways -- like around stopping things before that end point -- maybe the notion that it's more fluid and flexible and less predictable than that is part of your discomfort?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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skiesofgreen
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No, I haven't had a serious illness or injury myself. My closest experience to that would be a sibling with a mental disability, however that's not something that "heals." However I do understand what you're saying about healing, I guess I've just never experienced this personally before and I find it hard to cope with. I was going to say hard to accept but I don't think that's the right way to phrase it because while I realise/accept it may be a long process I don't necessarily deal with that fact very well.

As to your last point, I'm not sure. Let me think about it while I walk from studying and I'll let you know once I've had some time to mull it over. It's not a way I've thought about this issue before.

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Heather
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So, let me maybe share some of my experience with a serious injury of mine: maybe you can borrow from that for yourself.

In 1977, 7-year-old me mistook something for a jungle gyn that really was not and didn't work at all well as one. It was a big mess of iron meant to keep cars out of an alley courtyard that wasn't cemented into the ground. I climbed on it and it fell on me, smashing my right hand so badly it took most of two fingers completely off.

My mother was a nurse, so poor as we were, I was able to get good care with this once I got to the ER. Surgeons tried a whole bunch of experimental things to reconstruct my hand. I was in the hospital for a while. For months, my arm, and then later, just my hand, were in a complex contraption of casts and splints. Months later, it turned out the surgeries they did just didn't work. I was always in a ton of pain, and the fingers were kind of...well, not holding together (gross, I know). I was right-handed, so during all of this time, I was trying to learn to write and do everything else with my left hand.

So, around a year later, I had to go back for another bunch of surgeries. I was in the hospital a long time again. I had wacky contraptions to walk around with again. This round did seem to work, even though my hand certainly looked like something happened to it. There were social issues throughout all of this: teasing, curiosity, etc.

My hand didn't -- still doesn't -- work the same as my other hand, as lots of other people's hands. I spent years and years learning to adapt, to do some things differently, to rely on my left hand for some things. I still learn. I hurt that hand often because, especially in those two fingers, I often don't feel that I am hurting it until it's already hurt. For example, I get bad burns on it all the time because until it's blistering, I don't realize I'm burning it.

When it's very cold, I get severe pain, due both to issues with joints and nerves not connected like they should be and because one of the "bones" of one of my fingers is a metal rod, so when it gets cold it hurts like heck and freezes up my whole hand. In very cold climates, there are days or even weeks where I can barely use my hand. (This has mostly been solved by eventually moving to an area where the climate is pretty mild all year.) As I got older, arthritis also came into the picture.

So, here we are in 2011. The hand I have is likely the hand I will always have unless something radically changes for me and I can get health insurance. I probably need another surgery, but I can't get one. It hurts sometimes. It can't do everything, or do everything the same way other people can. There are things I really, really want to be able to do or to do better than I can, but I have limitations my wants don't fix. I have to ask for help with some things more than I'd like.

At the same time, I've made adaptations. People close to me always learn a lot of what I need help with or what they can't ask of me because I just can't do it. I've learned to ask for help when I need it. I'm comfortable with how my hand looks, less comfortable with how it feels and what it can't do, but I have an acceptance of all of that. As my body as a whole keeps changing, I have to learn to adapt anew sometimes. I do what I can to challenge myself to keep healing, keep adapting.

I purposefully tried not to shortcut all of this too much just so you could get some kind of real picture about a long-term healing process. It IS long-term. It IS probably lifelong. There are times when I don't even notice my hand or my process, there are times when it -- often to me great annoyance -- takes center stage. Sometimes I do try and do things I know I probably can't because I want to so bad or forget I can't.

At the same time, there's something about all of that process, this process of over 30 years now, that I think plays a big part in the person I am, in how I go about things, in how I deal with other people, too, that's all very positive. For sure, I think there are less traumatic ways I could have had the kind of influence to do those things, but so it goes: this was one of my ways, and however frustrating the process can be at times, there's a lot about it I think has also been really beneficial.

I'm not sure if that helps you, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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skiesofgreen
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I've taken some time to think about it and what you've said about your injury and it does make sense. I think the concept of having limitations that wants don't fix particularly sticks out to me. Thanks for sharing.

After thinking it over some more I do believe I can conjure up a bit of a personal experience (albeit not one that directly impacts me) that relates to a long healing process. My younger sibling has scoliouses (diseases are hard to spell) and it became so severe she had to have a rod attached to her spine or her lungs were likely to collapse. Before this she spent a lot of time in back braces with the hopes that they would decrease the curvature enough so as to not have to use the rod. However the rod was necessary and after the surgery I remember there were several months were she had little movement. Since then she's recovered to a large degree but even so she will never have full movement of her back. As such she'd never be able to say, do a somersault or roll into a ball, even something like getting up and down from the floor is more difficult. However she's learned to adapt to these limitations and even took up therapeutic riding but it's obviously something that will continue to manifest itself to greater and lesser extents for the rest of her life.


As for the previous topic about my anxiousness I've thought about that for a few days and I think you're not entirely off in saying that. However I would edit the statement that I want "a very static, definite end point that is always consistent" to "I want a definite end point."

For instance the idea of going into a situation where it's established that we stop after makingout, or we will stop after x activity has been performed doesn't give the same kind of anxiousness as thinking about a situation in which I do not know where the end will be. This may be related to the idea that if I do not know the end point I fear I won't be able to stop it when I want to or have any other endpoint than the predictable one, ie it will progress to a level I may or may not be comfortable with, possibly to the point outlined before of one or both us coming.

I would go into more detail but I've got to run (seems I always have to run these days, darn being back in the city and school). If I have time later I might expand on that more. I'd like to hear your thoughts on it either way.

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skiesofgreen
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I wanted to add a bit of an update to this:

Thursday I was with Jude and we started making out, when things started to progress I felt myself focusing on what was next rather than the present and also becoming anxious. I decided it would be best to stop so I said so. We did and then started talking about what it was that had made me feel anxious. I went through most of what I posted here in the first section him and we ended up having a very lengthy conversation that continued into the next day.

What came out of it was that:

1) He asked if we should take a break for now and I said yes. We agreed at least a week without doing anything sexual at all and then checking back in and seeing how I'm feeling

2) He expressed frustration at not knowing how to help me and I expressed frustration at not knowing how to help myself.

3) On top of that he mentioned that he feels bad for wanting to be sexual with me because he knows that doing that poses the risk of making me uncomfortable or bothering me and it makes him feel bad that he wants something that has the potential to make me upset. I tried to reassure him about this, pointing out that me wanting to be sexual (despite the fact it could make me upset) isn't something he would think I should feel bad about and him having a desire to do things with me is no wronger than me having desires to do things with him. Also that nothing we've done has been unconsenting and he's always stopped when I said I was uncomfortable. I don't think I really resolved his fears though, and I'm really not sure what else to say to reassure him, or if I can.

4) He asked me if I'd be willing to talk to a counsellor. I said that yes I would be but in all honesty part of me became really frustrated with the question. Not that I think it's an unreasonable question or that it's a bad suggestion, it's likely a needed one, it's just I feel like I've been taking more affirmitive action lately (taking out books, coming here again) and it's annoying that there's still MORE to be done. Also that I feel like I'm doing SO much better than before (compared to me right after the relationship with Alex) while Jude really only sees this compared to the three months we've been together and from his point of view everything's been static. So while I feel like I should be congratulating myself on improvement he's only seeing what else could/should be done. And I haven't really been able to convey this to him.

[ 10-08-2011, 11:43 PM: Message edited by: skiesofgreen ]

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Stephanie_1
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It's great that you found you were able to talk so honestly and openly. That's a great sign and showing some huge progress steps in any problem one has. And it's also understandable to feel frustrated when deal with something like anxiety, because it's not an easy thing to work through.

I would continue to talk with him over time about how it's not for him to feel bad about how he feels. Wanting to be with someone - showing that interest, that's not bad in and of itself. It shows he's interested in you, in a healthy way, where he still follows any boundaries set out - so you can always let him know it makes you feel good that he does want to be with you, it's just a matter of working through other feelings sometimes too.

I understand how it can be tough having someone suggest counseling when you're being so proactive with something you're working through already, but sometimes it *is* that extra step or that other person helping work through anxiety as well that really make the ball roll down the hill towards finding solutions that work. It doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't still be congratulating yourself - just that there could be someone else there to congratulate you through your progress as well. Make sense?

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skiesofgreen
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Thanks for the reply Stephanie,

that's a very good point for bringing up with him, I'll see if bringing that up doesn't help calm some of his concerns.

Also what you're saying does make sense. And I actually sent an email to friend asking her for the phone number to the clinic where she got counselling last year. I've decided to go there rather than going back to school counsellor because I can have someone consistent to talk to there, rather than being a drop in. The thought of starting with someone new on this is a little daunting though I'll admit. I mean where do I even start?

That said I've decided not to make an appointment until next week when the bulk of my midterms and assignments are out of the way. So if we could keep talking here I'd really appreciate that.

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Heather
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(skiesofgreen, I'm back around as well if you'd like to talk more with me, too. Sorry to have been away longer than intended, my weekend off ended in a nasty bout of stomach illness.)

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skiesofgreen
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I'd love to keep talking to you Heather. It was a long weekend here in Canada (Thanks Giving and all that) so I haven't been around much this weekend either. Hope you're feeling better though.
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Heather
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Happy to do that. heading off for the day, but maybe so I can pick this up tomorrow, you can fill me in on where you're at beyond the conversation you've had in this thread until now (which I can get current with before we talk more, too)?

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skiesofgreen
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I'm not entirely sure what else there is to add besides what we've discussed so far and the post Stephanie replied to. I'm definitely feeling a little (a lot) overwhelmed right now with school (midterms, papers, all at once, hoorah!) and that always seems to make anxiety/issues surrounding sex etc. more apparent. In fact (looking back through posts and my old journals) I've noticed that it's usually around this time of year that I start feeling like I really need help with this. Not sure why that is, probably related to the stress, though I don't seem to get quite the same way during finals or second term. Which is odd. Maybe I just haven't gotten into the swing of things by this point in the school year. Who knows why.

As for what we were actually talking about not much has changed since I last talked to you except, as I posted earlier, Jude and I had a long conversation about this, in which we decided to hold off on anything sexual other than kissing for the time being, which has been good. We had the conversation last week and we said one week initially, then talk it over again, but I think I'm going to need to extend it, I'm just not feeling there right now. I have to admit that I have an automatic reaction of becoming frightened of having these conversations though. Even though I know I have no reason so suspect it will go anyway but understanding it's like I've been trained that every time I try to set up boundaries/do what I need, I'll be harassed, so learning to stop running from having these conversations is hard. I feel a lot like a dog who's been taught that every time he goes in the door he'll be hit, and even though someone new lives inside now, who's never so much as yelled, he still stays away from the door.

We also talked about me getting some in person conselling which I was admittedly a little defensive about, but I know is a good idea. I haven't made an appointment yet (papers, midterms, hoorah!) but I have a number and plan on doing so after all this dies down a bit. Or getting a friend to in case I chicken out (she did offer to call for me).

Also, before when you brought up my possibly feeling like I need "a very static, definite end point that is always consistent" I changed it to "I want a definite end point" but on further contemplation I think yours is closer to the truth. Or perhaps it's not quite the way I'd phrase it, I can't put my finger on quite what but something feels a little bit off about it, but I think it's along the right lines. I mention this because one time with Jude when we were making out and we had decided it would go no further than that, I felt very lost (maybe not the right word), almost worried, because I no longer knew when it would end, and that scarred me. It's as though I have this pre-programmed setting that goes "When engaging in sexual acts (regardless of how much desire you are feeling for them) you will always be focusing on the ending, because this is how you survive sexual situations" because I think in the relationship with Alex that really WAS how I survived them and I never had any sexual experiences with anyone before him and ALL of my firsts (except my first kiss) were coerced out of me.

Anyways I'm sure I could rant more but I have another paper to write (thrilling) so I better get on that. Also I'd love for you to reply, and I'll stop by in the evening and possibly morning tomorrow but I'll be busy on school work the rest of the day so I might not be around a whole lot (just so you know).

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Heather
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One thing I always suggest to anyone feeling really overburdened by...well, just everything our lives involve, when we're in the thick of crisis or strife is to see if there is anywhere where you can cut back a little. Is there anything you need to do in a day you can cut out, put on a little hold, or do a bit less of so you have more time for your mental health right now?

I totally hear you on your fears around these conversations. Really, what's likely to help with that most is just having the positive experiences you have started to have. In other words, you do set limits and boundaries, they get respected, and you experience them as being respected. A pattern of negative experiences with that changes, you get to experience it changing, and in time, you get to instead have a more diverse pattern where negatives won't feel like such a given anymore. And I know: the waiting game with things taking time around healing is always a big stinker. Of course we all want things that are really tough to get better now, but with some things, it is going to be a constant process that takes time.

I saw what you'd said about counseling, and I totally hear that some of your feeling around that (very caring, but you know that) suggestion from Jude was that you felt like that suggestion didn't acknowledge what you have done for yourself, by yourself. Totally understandable.

At the same time, I'd throw in a few thoughts. For one, people who need help are often very resistant to help themselves: it's a problem we tend to have as people, on the whole. I think often someone suggesting counseling IS an acknowledgment of work and progress and autonomy, because someone is often saying that they know we want to help ourselves, which really can be such a big step for so many people, too.

I'd also pitch that counseling isn't about someone doing work we can't or won't do for ourselves. Counselors and therapists can't do our work for us, after all. They can't "fix" us, even if they wanted to. What they are, instead, are people who can support us very well in our OWN work: IN what we do for yourselves. Because without that, counseling is like a see-saw only one person is sitting on. Know what I mean?

As well, a good counselor is someone I think of as a person with education and background and skills I may not have, there to share them with me so I can have them and use them. They're someone I can know is always in my corner. They're someone I can always talk to about my own stuff without worrying about giving them equal air time. They're also someone not in close relationship with me with their own wants, so some ways of providing support are much easier for them.

I also hear you in what you're saying about sexual endpoints. You're tabling sex for now, but if and when you start feeling like you don't want to, I think we could come up with some ways to create some end-points for you in more limited ways that could help you ease more into being okay with those clear end points NOT being there a lot of the time, okay? Mind, I also think it's possible that some of that desire just might be being sexual when you're not at enough of a point yet where that is really what you want and what feels right for you. I'm possibly oversimplifying things, but I think it's obvious that when we don't feel totally okay about something or totally want something, but are in it, we'll tend to want to know when it can be over. If and when that's an issue with consensual sex, though, the thing to try and learn and always remember is that everyone always CAN have that, because that end point always is "when I or someone else wants it to be over." That is always, always there, you know?

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skiesofgreen
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I see what you're saying about the the end point in consensual sex always being an option, and I think I know that, I just don't really KNOW it in the sense that subconsciously I don't operate under that principle. However I do think just having talked about it a bit and having stepped back from anything besides kissing has helped. For instance the other night Jude and I started kissing and I got really into it, being able to focus on how sensually pleasing it was rather than where it was going. I'll admit there was a moment towards the end where I found myself zoning out and focusing elsewhere (like the end point or, honestly, just other trains of thought) but once I reminded myself I could have an endpoint whenever I wanted I was able to bring my focus back to what I was doing, I'll admit not completely but more so than before.

As far as counselling goes I hear what you're saying. I plan on making an appointment tomorrow as I'll have the last of this set of midterms over with (I didn't want to make myself more stressed by doing something I find incredibly stressful - making appointments - in the middle of exams). I am scared I'll chicken out simply because I have a bit of an anxiety issue when it comes to making phone calls (even with just calling a restaurant to make a reservation) but I have a friend who's willing to call for me if I don't think I'll go through with it. So I know I always have her to fall back on.

I really WOULD like to get into counselling, on regular bases, not just a drop in setting. I mean Jude has been great to talk to, and I have a very good friend who is also a sexual abuse survivor who's a great support, but having someone I can talk to that doesn't need anything from me in return is exactly what I need right now. I'm a little nervous about making an appointment with the clinic though, simply because I'm not sure they specialise in sexual abuse, however I've always got a good vibe from the place and they've given me good support when it comes to birth control, testing etc. Not to mention the place is full of "only yes means yes" and "have you got consent?" pamphlets. And I'm sure that if they didn't think they were the right ones to be helping me they could give me a referral. Plus I think this is a good option for me, rather than school counselling, because it is still free and I can make an appointment, which is so necessary for me to actually follow through.

I guess a question I would have then, going into that situation, is how do I approach it? I mean I don't really know where to start. I know what I want to be dealing with (what I'm talking to you about here) but I don't know how to start that conversation with someone new again, especially when I'm not sure if they'll need to refer me to someone else because that might not be the area they specialise in. For the record I'm fairly bad at asking for what I need on the spur of the moment and usually need to have thought through my options and what scenarios would be best for me beforehand, so if you could give me any advice on that I'd appreciate it.

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Heather
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Sounds like there's been some good progress with some of this: that's awesome!

One thing people often don't realize about counseling is that the patient/client isn't the person who needs to worry about starting or leading conversations. That's something counselors and therapists take care of, and it's really their job to initiate in that way, and to keep the conversation moving if and when a client/patient has a hard time responding or stalls out with their communication.

The most you really need to know walking in, is what you'd like to work on. So long as you can voice that, you're pretty golden. It might also be helpful to make a list in advance of places where boundaries are particularly important to you, or conversations you know trigger you, etc. Know what I mean?

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skiesofgreen
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I've made an appointment with the counsellor for Nov. 1st. I'm nervous but I know it's the right thing to do. Also I see what you're saying about it being their job to lead the conversation, not mine, and I'm trying to remind myself of that when I feel anxious about it.

I can't think of any conversations that are particularly triggering to me. I mean I know describing what happened with my ex can be draining and nerve racking but, when it goes well, is usually rewarding in the end.

I think if I had to sum up in short what I want to get out of counselling I'd say that what I want is to work through having previously been in a sexually abusive relationship and its effects on me and my intimate relationships since then.


On a slightly different note could we talk a bit about finding ways to ease me into being ok with not having clear end points?

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Heather
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That all sounds good!

And we sure can. How about I get started on that with you tomorrow morning?

Want to get us started by first filling me in on what YOU think would make you feel better about that, potentially including trying to go ahead and set clear end points for a while to ease into that?

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skiesofgreen
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I'm not one hundred percent sure what would make me feel better about this. I know that this past weekend Jude and I ended up doing having manual sex and it was (as far as I can remember) the best experience I've ever had, possibly physically but definitely emotionally, when it comes to being sexually active with someone. I think part of the reason for that is that I wanted for both him and me to orgasm so badly that the idea of obsessing about that endpoint was null. In the other words the fact I wanted to reach what I perceive as the endpoint so badly it didn't matter if we were headed there. I also know that during the time we limited it to just kissing I was able to get much more into making out than otherwise (as I noted here before) and it's possible that that experience helped me feel more comfortable this past weekend.

That said after this weekend Jude (and initially I as well) made flirty comments about not being able to wait until later this week when we knew we'd be alone again. However when we were alone I was apprehensive, not to the extreme extent that I have in some instances, but definitely not 100% comfortable or in to it. So we started a few times, and he came, but I kept feeling like stopping (and eventually vocalising that so we did) when it came to me. I didn't vocalise why I wanted to stop though, but this reason is largely comes that the comments that were meant as harmlessly flirty actually made me feel like there was an expectation to do what we had done this weekend (even if there wasn't), thus putting my normal default of "orgasm as endpoint" in my mind and making me feel less enthusiastic about participating. If I hadn't felt so clearly like that was the endpoint I think I may very well have stopped it much earlier on and, hopefully, would have felt more comfortable and enthusiastic with whatever it was we did end up doing. I'm not sure how to get myself away from focusing on that endpoint however, aside from perhaps not leaving it until I'm in the moment to come up with a different end point (ie setting a limit beforehand) or finding a way to become more comfortable voicing my desire to not proceed any farther, but I'm not sure how to approach that one because I've been reassured so many times I can stop/set a limit where ever I want and yet I still have trouble acting as if I believe it. Perhaps talking in more detail with Jude about possible outcomes would help (for example, what would happen if I wanted to stop half way, what would happen if you gave me an orgasm but I didn't feel the desire to reciprocate) because we've always only talked in broad terms, but then I'm wary that that has the potential to come off as accusative or quiz like. Its also possible I just need more practice setting limits and having them respected to feel comfortable, but I'm not sure how to approach that either.

I don't know if that's helpful in figuring this out but essentially what I've taken away from this past week is that a) I may still need to set an end point either than orgasm in order for me to not FEEL like that is going to be/has to be the case and that b) I do want to be able to engage in sexual activities when I really and truly desire it (in other words I don't see setting up a system where we will only perform x activity for y days/weeks as being a very favourable model).

Hopefully that gets at what you're looking for.

[ 10-28-2011, 04:23 AM: Message edited by: skiesofgreen ]

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Heather
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It does sound like talking with Jude more about possible outcomes could be very helpful. So, I put a vote in for that myself, too.

How about, too, if you do go ahead and set "endpoints" way before orgasm, understanding -- and expressing this to your partner -- that you can both always ask after you have reached whatever those endpoints are to start something new with another set endpoint?

For instance, let's say that one of you asks the other if they'd like to make out. And you both want to. Then you say that sounds good, and set an endpoint that says that stops at, say, any stimulation of each others' bodies above the belt. So, you get to that, and then you stop. You can stop there, OR, if you felt comfortable and wanted to do something else, then you create a new set of limits, and go to there, etc. Obviously, this still doesn't mean anyone has to commit to do these things, either of you can also always stop "in the middle" if you want to.

That also could give you a good deal of practice setting limits. And it's very much sounding to me like you've got a great partner to work on this with, someone who is clearly totally on board, which is awesome.

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skiesofgreen
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So I went to counselling last Tuesday! It went well I think, talking about it wasn't nearly as hard as I expected and it was relieving to have the counsellor classify my experience as rape. Though I have to say I had a really hard time hearing that word out loud so we agreed to talk about it as an assault for the time being.

I did have a pretty rough week afterwards though. I tend to have a pretty hard time feeling emotional about all this (I get distant/emotionally dissociated) but instead I end up becoming obsessive in thinking about it and making a time line of events/reading about date rape. And I felt so off all week that I didn't really get a chance to test our endpoints idea, because even kissing was making me feel uncomfortable.

Jude got me out of the house today though and doing homework with him and being with his family got me out of my funk, in fact I'm feeling really good and relaxed right now, and I'm feeling really good about having gone to counselling.

Also I did talk in more depth with Jude about possible outcomes and I think that was at least temporarily a beneficial step.

I also have to admit that when I was feeling really low this week I started beating myself up about being a burden on Jude, which I know is untrue but nonetheless that's where my mind went, and that became a pretty vicious cycle especially when thinking of all the time that Alex called me clingy or overbearing (when in retrospect I was really just asking for normal human decency, like being able to talk to him when I was upset). And I was wondering if you had any suggestions for managing those thoughts, or funks of obsessiveness/unemotionalnesss in general. I'll definitely bring this up with counsellor but I won't be seeing her again for two weeks (she's taking this week off). She gave me some relaxation excersizes but they were more aimed at when I'm feeling triggered with Jude and I think I could really use some more tools to manage my stress when I start feeling like I did this week, because it really got to the extent where I was incapable of getting work done. So if you have any suggestions or if we could brainstorm some ideas I'd really appreciate that.

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