Saturday, June 25, 2016

Amputate: a poem

I wrote a poem, and I hope that doesn't mean I'm manic. It's about nobody in particular.


I should amputate
the traitorous parts of me: the arms
that reach for you, the
fingers that want to trace
your jaw and cheek and
all your beautiful bones, the
heart that wants to beat in unison
with yours.
The tongue that seeks your shoulder, chest, your neck and
every inch of skin; the hips
that sway in your direction when
the traitorous eyes enrobe you in their gaze.
I should amputate the thights
that wrap yours cozily, the fragile cheek
that presses on your beard.
My lying mouth
betrayed me when I said
I didn't need you, didn't love,
and since I cannot amputate
you from my treacherous heart,
my heart should be the first
to feel the blade.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, June 18, 2016

How I paid for my date

A few nights ago I went on a date. It was my first week back at work, I've been tired all the time, but I've also been bored and lonely. The three weeks of recovery from surgery were spent primarily lying in bed watching "Mad Men." Which was an excellent choice, since it has relatively few laughs and laughing hurt the first two weeks. But I was by myself, mulling over my choice to discard yet another friend I was sick of and my recent diagnosis as a sex addict.

It's an accurate diagnosis. The process I went through to hook up with a cub--posting a clever ad on craigslist, weeding through the responses, meeting up and banging, then feeling ashamed--is very similar to the stages of copping and using drugs. It's a huge distraction from loneliness and frustration, because it takes up so much time. (This article explains the cycle very well.) So phone sex and other addictive unhealthy non-relationship-building sexual activity was out.

Going back to work was good, albeit exhausting. Going to volunteer meetings (even during my medical leave) was also good. But trying to date is necessary. If I want to have a healthy relationship, I need to practice appropriate dating behavior.

So I went out with a guy. He wasn't very attractive in his photos. I thought that would be an excellent way to keep my expectations and hopes low, and force me get to know him as a person.

Except he wasn't interested in getting to know me. Maybe I'm still too swollen after abdominal surgery, but the second he saw me, his face settled into lines of resentment and disappointment. He was too polite to just walk away, but it was clear he wanted to.

I thought if I could get him talking, he'd relax and enjoy the date more. He might have, but I didn't. I asked him as many appropriate questions I could think of--about his job, his children, his car, his family, his politics--and he was animated and eager to discuss them. But when he was finished, he was finished. His face resettled into resentment. I had to come up with another topic.

He didn't ask me a single question about myself.

He also didn't ask me to suggest a restaurant until we were in the car and had driven past the places I usually like to go. Why not ask me before picking me up, or actually make plans ahead of time, like a gentleman? Yes, we're in my neighborhood, but I don't know what you're willing to spend or what kind of food you like. And I really don't think well when I'm put on the spot. I'm the least spontaneous person you'll ever meet.

But mainly, the date was painful because the responsibility for conversation rested solely on me. A few times I thought, "I'll wait a few seconds and he'll say something." He's apparently a champion at conversational chicken, because if I didn't speak, he didn't speak. This happened to me before when I had coffee with a guy I suspect has Asperger's--he could speak at length on a topic he was interested in, but he couldn't start a topic; it had to be suggested. That was another exhausting date.

It's a shame he was so disappointed in me, but I was annoyed that he expressed zero curiosity. Why even go out at all? I would have rather he stood me up. Mediocre chicken teriyaki--and being expected to try his sake and sushi, even though I hate both--was so not worth it. Even the green tea ice cream was a chore.

Maybe I should forget about spending time with people outside work and volunteer activities. (At this point I volunteer with three organizations and could potentially add a few more.) I'm no good at keeping friends, I'm obviously shit at romance. Maybe I should just be a hermit, and come out of my cave just to work and volunteer. Because I'm no good at organizing fun outings, and I don't know how to make new friends.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Myomectomy and betrayal

I met with my surgeon, and with another surgeon for a second opinion. Even though a hysterectomy would heal more quickly and painlessly, I'm having a myomectomy: the surgeon will dissect out the fibroids and sew together what's left. Because what's left is enough to keep, and I am not ready to lose my uterus. I know, rationally, that I will probably never have a child, but that seems hugely different from saying I will definitely never have a child.

I emailed an aunt about my mother. Actually, she emailed me first, to say she missed me over Passover. At first I didn't know what to say. Then I decided to tell her the truth. After all, I was the victim, not the sex offender. It's not my fault.

I'm sorry, [aunt], but after speaking with a leading expert in abuse and trauma, I have confirmed that my mother's boyfriend committed incest with me when I was a teenager. This was a significant trauma that led to tremendous problems for me in forming intimate relationships. I will never have a baby and I might be alone for the rest of my life. She refuses to get rid of him. So I can't be around her right now.

She wrote back,

I am so sorry to hear this.  I understand how u feel. 

To me that was inadequate. More evidence that my family thinks I'm making a mountain out of a pile of Penthouse magazines.  And a coffee-table photo book about people masturbating (I Am My Lover.) And all the other atrocious trash I was fed.

I don't think you do. I don't think you know how it feels to have 
your family embrace someone who abused you.

I don't know what I was hoping for her to say.

You are correct, I do not know how it fees to have your family embrace someone who abused you. I"m sorry if you thought that was what I meant. I meant I understand how u felt about not coming to pesach at Jerusha's house because of it.

I didn't respond. It's dawning on me that my family will never hold my mother accountable for what happened to me. Or feel at all upset that I was molested.

Not all abuse victims have to prove their victimhood to family and friends. I'm not saying I would have preferred to have been abused more violently. But everyone needs to stop telling me to forgive my mother, reconnect with my family. I can't do that. It would be lying to myself. Pretending that I'm something that I'm not.

You wouldn't tell someone who is gay to pretend not to be gay around homophobic relatives, or to spend time with them and not be bothered by the vitriol they spew. You wouldn't isolate someone who married a person of another race or faith because some family members disapprove. But my family is never going to confront my mother with the heinousness of what she allowed to happen in her house.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Incest and hysterectomy

I used to think it was okay for my ob/gyn to be an asshole because he was a good doctor. Turns out I was wrong. He wasn't a good doctor. I should have had fibroid surgery years ago. Now it's too late for anything but a hysterectomy.

So that's that. No babies. I knew I couldn't breastfeed, but I will never give birth to a child.

My friends have helpfully pointed out that I'm not the only woman in this situation and are urging me to join support groups. I'm really not ready for that. I'm basically covering my raw pain with a very thin skin of normalcy. when I'm not working and focused on other people's problems, I am devastated.

I know that I can't really blame anyone else for this situation, so I'm still trying to figure out what I did wrong to get here. Besides being too picky about potential mates when I was young and an attractive mating prospect.

But I've been having dreams about my mother. Almost every night. Dreams where I'm with her, in her house or elsewhere, but I don't want to be there. Once she made me sleep in the bed with her boyfriend. Another time I climbed up a kind of jungle gym trying to get into the house, only to find that the window was too small. (I think. Dreams are weird.)

I'm connected on LinkedIn with a very Prominent Sex Addiction Expert (PSAE). So I thought I'd ask him if I could get some advice about a "client":

Hi PSAE, thanks for agreeing to a consult.

Let's call her Jennifer. Her father died when she was very young. Her mother moved a boyfriend into the home when Jennifer was 10 or 11. He was a former hippie-type who had done tons of drugs and considered himself a poet, although he worked as a custodian. He brought a great deal of pornography into the home -- several books and many, many magazines, which Jennifer read. And reread. And masturbated to. Sometimes the boyfriend would try to talk about sex with Jennifer; when her mother was around, her mother would stop him from talking about sex. He also smoked marijuana in front of her during an unsuccessful fishing trip on his friend's boat.

Jennifer has had difficulty establishing healthy relationships with men and has always rushed into having sex early on. Throughout college and her 20s and 30s, she had few long-term relationships but numerous one-night-stands or brief sexual relationships. Part of the hypersexuality might be attributed to bipolar disorder (type 2), which was diagnosed when she was 26. Despite knowing that was a symptom, she hasn't been able to bring her sexual behavior under control. She is now still single at 46 years old.

After I read your article, I wondered if her mother's boyfriend's behavior could be considered covert incest. She has struggled not only with intimate relationships but with work as well, having been fired from several jobs (I think the bipolar is a factor there as well). I can't tell if she's a sex addict, but I do know she's desperately unhappy, having wanted very much to marry and have children, which, thanks to an impending hysterectomy (fibroids), is now impossible. She has stopped speaking to her mother, since the boyfriend still lives in her mother's home and is financially supported by her mother.

Any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

He wrote back in less than a day, suggesting that we speak by phone to discuss the case and adding:

Actually - fyi- this is not covert incest. His showing her those magazines and talking to her about the content -is actual incest. Covert incest is just that -not appearing to be sexual- like using your child like an EMOTIONAL husband or pal. But once the overt sexual piece is added, it becomes plain old incest.

This woman has a profound, early, chronic sexual abuse history by an abusing stepfather and emotionally absent mother. No wonder she is where she is today.

I would like to get a bit more info about her current life -and then I think I can help here as it falls directly into my work.

Hopefully we'll talk soon. I'll let him know I'm Jennifer, and if he agrees to keep talking, maybe I'll get some help. He's wrong about my mother being emotionally absent--she was only selectively absent, turning a blind eye to something that might have forced her to get rid of the degenerate pervert. But at the very least, PSAE has validated my decision to cut my mother out of my life.

The last time I spoke to my mother, I tried to tell her how wrong what hr did was, bringing pornography into the home and trying to talk to me about it. I said to her, "I am damaged."

She said, "I'm damaged, too."

I'm not a parent, but I thought you were supposed to want your children to have a better life than you did, and that you wanted to protect them from harm.

She is asking me to forgive incest.

And I will not.

UPDATE: PSAE called.  "Incest produces intimacy disorders in adult women," he said. "Your stepfather is a predator. This was overt incest--it was reportable, arrestable, and I would report him if he's involved with other children." And, for the record, he does think I'm a sex/intimacy addict.

He suggested some books I should read and workshops and meetings I might want to attend. I'm going to talk to my therapist about this when I see her next.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mindfulness in a nutshell

After two mammograms and two ultrasounds (one done by the tech and another done by the radiologist "just to be sure"), it seems like I have a large nonmalignant lump in my right breast. "It doesn't look malignant," said the polite radiologist (before she sonogrammed she delicately asked, "May I examine...?" and then palpated me very apologetically). But I'm having a biopsy next week just to be sure.

So it looks like I don't have a Get Out Of Life Free card, and I'll have to find ways to make my life tolerable.

Therapy is helping. I've broken down the mindfulness process into three steps: notice, acknowledge, distract.

First, you notice what you're feeling and where you're feeling it. Anxiety in the belly. Anger in the shoulders and chest. Heat, tension, burning -- any sensations and emotions.

Second, you acknowledge: "I'm feeling really angry about X." "I feel anxious and I'm not sure why." "I'm sad and there's a heaviness on my shoulders." Recognizing the emotion and how/where you feel it can attenuate the intensity of feeling.

Third, distract. With something comforting or just different. Touch a piece of soft velvet. Grip an ice cube in your hand. Smell some perfume. Suck on a lemon, like I did in grad school.

I need to put together a comfort drawer. With perfume to smell, lotion to put on my hands, and something very tactile -- maybe a child's spiky rubber toy to grip. Because I got a job offer, so I might soon be back at work.

It's not the job offer I was dreaming of, but that job interview is scheduled for more than two weeks from now. I'll keep it, just like I'll keep another I have in a few days. I'm looking out for what's best for me; even though I've provisionally accepted another offer, I'm still keeping my options open.

Still, I do have an official job offer in hand, in part because a friend of mine from the methadone program came through with a reference.

After I was bullied and harrassed but before I was fired, I asked several co-workers if they'd give me a reference. They all said they would, and then they all stopped answering my calls and emails. I can't entirely blame them -- they work under my former boss, and they know what a vindictive bitch she is. Still hurt, though. But my good friend Vic didn't let me down:

It is not that easy for me to be brief about my friend, co-worker and colleague but I will do my best.

As a person she is very personable, very easy to be with due to her fast wit, good nature and engaging attitude.

As a colleague, when working together on an individual project or seeking her opinion or advise with our patients she has a tendency to really digest the information before giving me her thoughts on the subject. I liked that.

And I always admired her good knowledge of medication, mental health and mental health issues.

When working with Ayelet she demonstrated a high level of clinical and administrative skill as evidenced by some of the presentations and solutions to staffing concerns that our office had prior to her coming on board. We had to deal with a lot of inefficiency until she created some substantive solutions to the problem. Ayelet is detail oriented and a problem solver.

I heartily endorse not only her work but the person for the position. Knowing her, If she is seeking the position with you, it is probably because she has already researched and concluded that she could be an asset to the position.

Please feel free to call me with any questions or additional information that you may need

I don't have a lot. But I do have some good friends. They support me when I'm feeling low, they always believe in me, and they help as much as they can, which is a decent amount.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"