111909 – working with 8 letters (ages 29 to 33)
I have to realize as I do this writing work that I am writing from the ‘bottom of the barrel’ looking up. Very few people can write from this perspective. I am primarily writing FOR the people that know exactly what I am saying. My words will resonate within the cells of your body as they are resonating within the cells of mine.
This is hard work, both the writing and the reading of these words. But I believe that the work does profit us. Being misdiagnosed and then, however benevolent our own and other’s intentions have been, mistreated continues to hurt us. The truth is we have remained undiagnosed. It is only by assessing the security or lack of it that we had with our earliest caregivers that we can begin to understand how our attachment system has operated to create changes in a trauma-centered body brain from severe child abuse.
Those changes manifest themselves in all the ways and on the levels that I will be describing here today, though my list is still far from complete. It is based solely on my own experience as I suggest it might apply to others with backgrounds similarly traumatizing as mine was to me.
People try to help us, and we try to help ourselves, but if our history of insecure attachment because of severe infant-child abuse and the changes it caused in our development away-from-ordinary are not considered PRIMARY, we do not experience the recovery we so desperately need and hope for.
The work that we have done and what we have learned so far in the journey of our life has value. We need to find ways to transfer all that effort and learning onto a new and different path that is the truer one we were placed upon from the beginning of our lives. Things will begin to make more sense to us then. We can achieve new insights that are accurate and effective given OUR REALITY.
The research that is discovering how early infant-abuse changes body-brain-mind development is new. We are truly the only ones that know what living with one of these changed body-brain-minds is like from the inside. We can describe our experience. We can learn together what this means.
We can learn how to translate and apply the vast body of information that is already available about positive life change for ‘ordinary’ secure and organized-insecure attachment people to ourselves as ‘trauma-centered changed’ extra-ordinary people.
I see the image of all of us lumped together in the past on the same ‘recovery’ train racing down a track into the future. Now I see a railroad switch and a new, different train. We have to sort ourselves out, based on the reality of our infant-child abuse experiences so that the more ‘ordinary’ people end up on one track, and those of us with disorganized-disoriented insecure attachments and dissociation are in the new car. Both tracks run parallel to one another. We have to create a dialog between these two cars so that we can continue on our journey into a life of increased well-being no matter what the conditions of our childhood were and no matter which kind of body-brain-mind we ended up with as a consequence.
[Written while I was on my 30-day Greyhound bus trip from my sister’s house in Safford, Arizona – the first part of the letter was written on a card that is now missing]
February 27, 1981
…..In my mind’s ear I can hear all kinds of comments on some of the things I’ve been feeling lately. I am letting myself feel, anyway, without blocking with rationalizations and “thinking.” I read recently concerning anger (and probably applies to other things as well) that if we don’t deny the feelings but allow them to come into our conscious life that there is then hope we will work them out for good to positive ends. [2009 note: This is a different mission and process for us than for ‘ordinary’ people].
Some of these things have been under the surface smoldering away for some time, and part of the purpose of this trip is to allow myself some “feeling” space – alone – with hopes that I can be honest with myself without having to feel responsible to others for what I’m experiencing. I am glad I have you to bounce some things off of, though I am quite certain I will need to do another 4th and 5th [AA] Step at some point when I feel ready and am in better touch with myself. [2009 note: Nobody told me about the overwhelming conditions I grew up with – or about the power of dissociation that allowed me to survive them. My feelings and memories do not exist in my body in ordinary ways].
A lot has to do with pain that still sits heavy on my heart over my relationship with my first husband, Patrick. Obviously I have not worked through the feelings, or let go, or accepted. Mostly I think the guilt I once felt has been replaced by a terrible sense of loss, hurt, remorse, and anger over the situations of my past. There is no way to change the past, and I feel angry over that fact. Unreasonable and irrational, but anger, anyway.
I feel anger at the illness through which I managed to so thoroughly screw things up. I ask all the “whys” and that leads to the self-pity. I suppose, that there was no help and no hope when I needed it and even reached out for it. It just wasn’t there, and then logic says “You weren’t ready for help” and I feel angry because I feel I was.
Many of these feelings are personal, and I think I’ve labeled them “BAD” and that’s why it’s been so hard to let myself feel the feelings and look at them and thus work through them.
I know I feel anger yet that I could not control Pat’s love for me. When he’d had enough – that was it. He could not hurt anymore because of me and that was that. He then denied that he ever even loved me, and that is hard for me to accept. Pride? Terrible fear of rejection? It’s like on Kay’s birthday last Jan (did I tell you about that day?) I had to know if Pat even knew it was her birthday. After talking to my AA sponsor I decided to call down and talked to Pat’s wife. She said, yes, Pat did know and thought about her – I felt 100% better knowing that. Well, I feel the same need to know that Pat did love me (brain says “Linda, that’s stupid”) but my feelings would like to just know and rest in the truth. [2009 note: Classic insecure attachment ‘stuff’ here….]
It’s certainly not possible to ask him, so there I need acceptance on my own. The awful feeling part of this is that I have not stopped loving Pat. I have tried to identify the feeling exactly and specifically, but it sure feels like love. Maybe I have a lot to learn about what love is —
In my gut there’s also guilt for having married Leo – even though I knew there seemed to be no chance of ever having Pat back in my life. Was it, is it fair to have married Leo knowing I still love Pat? My brother John asked me (and the question surprised me) if I have any fantasies of ever getting together with Pat again. I didn’t answer him honestly, but I need to be honest at this point with my feelings and say I do fantasize even about meeting Pat again even if it’s when we are old people.
Reminds me of something they said in family therapy, “It’s normal, but it’s not healthy.” I believe that can apply to me, too, even for where I am at now. But I’m glad I’m willing to be honest with myself, or try anyway, without judging.
I know you’re a sensitive person where men and love and taking and giving are concerned. Therefore I’m hoping you’ll feel free to give me feedback as I work through this. You know the old saying “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” What do you feel about that?
I know when Leo and I were married we were both feeding on mutual loneliness. If I hadn’t come back and married Leo I’m sure my life would have been different. I was working to get residency in Calif. And then planning to go to school in art and pottery. Where I am now doesn’t feel like me and I tend to feel terribly trapped in Glyndon by climate, finances, general feelings of the area, extended family of Leo’s, etc. I’m having problems living there day-to-day without goals because I can’t see any open doors leading out. This trip is giving me some perspective, and I’ll probably achieve more before I make it back and I already feel I’m breathing easier but can feel fearful at thoughts of returning and I don’t know why.
I went to an AA meeting last Friday in Ashland and it’s time to find another to go to. I’m continuing with daily inventory and meditation books.
Feel free to take a break or an intermission if this letter starts getting too lengthy. Also I wondered if you would keep this and give it back to me to read when I’m home as I’ve been keeping a journal but a lot will be here that won’t be there, OK? Thanks. [2009 note: Letter returned to me now, 28 years later.]
As adults, Pat and I have both chosen our paths. As for me, I guess I’m finding for myself that while marriage provides a lot of support and comfort for me, it also makes demands that are hard for me to concede to. This need I have to be alone and view life from my personal standpoint scares me. [2009 note: Again, classic insecure attachment disorder ‘stuff’.]
I haven’t missed home, or the children, or Leo yet. I know they’re OK and are continuing along day-to-day without me. When I’m there their needs for me are obvious and sometimes feel oppressive. Then I wonder shy it is hard for me to know others depend on me. It’s not only this thing with my past and Pat as I do have hope and confidence that my Higher Power is there helping me work through some of these feelings for good. It’s just that I’ve seen myself for so long in relation to others – children or a mate – and wondering where LINDA is. Me, my goals, needs, hopes, feelings.
[2209 note: Looking back, my fragmented and dissociated self was organized and oriented around others – and I think some part of me knew this fact, and knew “I” was missing from the picture. A healthy, whole self is organized and oriented around its self from birth, and is ordinarily concretized into a ‘core self’ by the age of 2!]
I’m glad I have my unattached (partially) friend Ruby to bounce some of this off of. I believe you know yourself pretty well, and have confronted fear and many other feelings on your own and spent time even growing in loneliness. I’m very afraid of being alone in this big, strange world, and yet coping alone is an important skill.
Don’t let me scare you, now. Yes, I am coming home to pick up where I left off – but I obviously feel something changing – me changing – and it does feel strange.
Maybe I’m looking for some absolute answer that will always elude me. I am tired of being poor, but having a struggle with money and what it has always meant to me. [2009 note: Classic consequence of child abuse]
My old back and white dichotomy – wealth=materialism does not equal spirituality. And if we can and need to raise our standard of living – is it possible? This is all related to my career choice ordeal [2009 note: Related to changes in my planning abilities in my changed brain!]. I’ve been thinking a lot about “Forestry.” Also wondering about something like engineering or some other very specific skill in demand in enough places where I would feel some doors would open and also a decent salary above what Uncle Sam would take could still be possible.
I feel right now that if I do indeed love two men, and one love is as dead-end as it seems to be, that the energy stored in these feelings can be owned and directed even if they don’t “go away.” I don’t know – love – whatever that is – does not seem to be much in existence any more. Perhaps it is something of a bygone era that poets and mystics remember and the rest of the world considers best forgotten. After all, it can’t be processed, packaged and sold – and besides most of society seems to be chemically dependent and pretty unmanageable.
But – I am sleeping well at night and taking it easy and learning to listen to what others are saying. The rest will fall into place and I can’t force it. I need to accept, like that little pamphlet says, to the point where I would not have anything different even if I could. That is what I feel the need to learn the most.
Nothing seems to last forever here on this earth. Generations come and go. If healthy relationships are what we need strive for – then I do have a husband who seems willing to work along those lines. Looking at my relationship with Pat, it was not at all healthy. I really believe the love was there, but little else to help us along. If nothing is coincidence, then for some strange reason all that hurt had to be there. All that ugly, ugly stain is there in my past because I was sick, and so probably was (is) Pat, and for that God knows the reason.
If there’s anything in this strange rambling letter you’d like to comment on, please write to be c/o my sister. I should be able to get mail there through the 16th of March or so. Thanks for being my friend, and for being there when I need you. Your love is true, I feel it and believe it and need it.
Yours truly – love, Linda
March 25, 1981
I choose to write you tonight because I have trouble feeling guilty when I feel there’s a chance I’m procrastinating on something. I think of you often, and I don’t really have a phone # to call you at, and wishing you would call is a way to shirk my responsibility to write, so here goes….
I sure appreciated your letter – there’s more I could say here but hopefully can in person soon. Thanks for writing, though, and sounds like you’ve been dealing with a lot on a self-honesty level and doing some changing, too!
I’ve been home [from my 30-day Greyhound bus trip] a week today. The first day I was home Ramona was gone to nursery school, Kay to school, Leo to work — and boy was it a shock. I had a lot of feelings – very lonely and depressed and I let myself cry. I’ve been with people and on the move for 30 days and I felt I had walked right into my “Glyndon Linda” box and the lid slammed shut.
I was also exhausted from the 50 hour trip home and realized since then I was sick as I’ve had a pretty bad cold since coming home – fever, cough, the whole bit.
Leo had to leave Sun. to work for a week in Minneapolis and yesterday both girls were running 103 temp, so today has been our “sick and re-cupe” day. I hope this ends soon, maybe tomorrow will be more of the same. I’m much better, but still real low on energy, but being kind in letting myself and making the girls slow WAY down.
Fri. Leo wishes me to sit in on an 8 AM – 5 PM solar workshop at MSU so I’m hoping we’re all well enough by then to manage the day as I’m looking forward to it.
I hope this doesn’t scare you away from visiting. After another week goes by I’m hoping we’re all healthy, if not wealthy and wise! Really, I’d love a week-end visit from our special friend Ruby – we all would. Let me know when you’d be free to come and all. Is your car running? How can you make it up here? I am worrying a little I guess about that ‘cause I’d sure enjoy you coming and hope it’s not “wishful thinking.”
But – I trust there’s a way and that you’ll let us know. I bet you’re ready for a break and I hope you can come here and relax.
Take care and write soon! Your friend, love, Linda. PS. The trip was wonderful!
January 3, 1983
I’m not sure why I find writing letters so un-fun lately. I write very few of them, but today is my day for catching up a little bit. I appreciated your letter, and the beautiful card, and the newsletter with your article in it. I think you did an excellent job on this!
Perhaps I’m not surprised that I don’t have a simple reaction to Anne’s [9-day therapeutic] intensive. I tried not to expect anything in particular before I went, and think I was successful in doing that. It was very special to have Eileen Tiedeman [old therapist of mine] there, and I was able to complete some issues inside of myself with her.
I had an interesting thing happen in regard to Anne. From the first minute I saw here I did not like her…..at all. At first I felt and owned the feeling to the group that I resented her “authority” as I perceived it. What I have understood about it is that I did some intense projection/transference things with her as my “mother” and I in that sense felt very safe. In fact I guess the sense of safety was real and important to me. I have some inner wars raging that I can escape from most of the time, but it was harder there. I felt at times extremely isolated and alone, and in sharing that found that many of the women have at times felt those same feelings. I liked the idea of honoring oneself which surpasses respecting for me.
I had found another therapist before I went to the intensive so that I would have someone to continue my work with when I returned home. A wise idea, I have found. Kathy has known of Anne’s work for some time, but hasn’t attended an intensive. She is a feminist therapist, and is good. We have done some good work together, but I still protect my feelings. I found some of the “deep process work” at the intensive interesting, yet threatening and scary. I’m not ready, not even yet.
In regard to the work I’m doing with Kathy, I have disowned my Mother. [2009 note: I guess I hoped I did!] I haven’t written her since last June, and finally she called me two weeks ago and talked for three hours. After all the months of my anticipating a confrontation (and my fear of not being able to do what I needed to do for myself when it came).
I found the call to be good. I did what I needed to do for myself. After a lifetime of being so closely “meshed” with my mother, I have not been able to see where she ended and I began. That is not surprising as her craziness has deeply involved me. I feel freer and lighter than I ever remember feeling regarding her. Interestingly, I am beginning now to remember things and to begin to stop repressing things that have happened to me …. Both in my childhood and since.
My mother uses a defense mechanism called splitting, which Kathy has studied. It is one identified by Freud, and seems to fit my mother (I almost wrote Mildred, which is her name…..a feeling of detachment). Anyway, Mom cannot stand the thought that there is anything bad in her, and her need was to see herself as good. So she took all the “bad” and put it on me, and has spent my life trying to make me “good.” But in the process, she has never seen me for who and what I am. And it has been damned hard to begin to see myself as other than the “bad” person I have been all these years. It is interesting, to say the least. I feel a sadness for the loss of the parents I have never had, but that is also being worked through.
One thing that I am doing that I really enjoy is taking dance lessons. I quit the ballet, and am taking modern dance. I am also working on dance therapy in an effort to integrate myself with my body, but I think I’m going to quit that as I don’t feel ready yet to be free with my body. I’d really like to, and feel frustrated with my lack of progress (according to my own standards).
I’m still doing my workouts, and my body likes to have muscles. One of these days I am going to move into my body. That may sound strange, but is something I got in touch with during the intensive – the fact that it has never been OK for me to have a body, and in my childhood I survived my mother’s attempts to drive me crazy by “going away” in my head. [2009 note: Looking back, that’s not what happened].
Lorraine helped me to see that in treatment, but I thought somehow I had gone away and returned. Now I think I haven’t returned. [2009 note: No return possible – I was never in my body from birth onward]. I want to come home to live in my body [2009 note: Which CAN happen, but it’s a first time experience, not a return], which is part of claiming my personal power. A goal of mine.
Well, enough about all of that. Sharing with you seems to be easy, even if it has to be limited to a piece of paper. Basically I’m fine. Realized the other night that I haven’t made the choice to be married – as odd as that feels, and shared this with Leo. It feels something like it did when I was blaming everyone for the fact I had to live in this house in Glyndon on the prairie when I hated it. I worked through that, and now know I am here because I chose to be, and will move when I choose to.
I need to work on the process in relation to my marriage, and I feel angry that I am married and it feels oppressive. [2009 note: ‘Part of me’ made decisions that other ‘parts of me’ hated.] Nothing against Leo personally. In fact, he mazes me in his ability to “wait with” my process. I think it must be because he loves me. I’m not at all sure what love is; I’m working on that one too. In writing this, it sounds as though I’m pretty busy. No wonder I don’t feel I have the time to go to school. There’s so much to learn without it!
Which reminds me. I am taking a course this quarter at MSU that is exciting. Radical Social Work, a graduate level course taught by Kathy Powel (who is also my therapist). It finally makes some sense to me to spend hours and hours reading, as the material means something to me. I have an incomplete in a course from last quarter, and if I don’t finish it, I won’t graduate. It is a 400 level psychology course on learning theory, and it is HORRIBLE. A lot of BS. I hate it (obviously) and it is about as white male system as anything I’ve encountered. I am going to have to summon all the stubbornness I can to help me get through it to get the degree I deserve – after working for it for ten years. Wish me luck!
I imagine that facilitating your own women’s group is challenging, exciting, and scary. Well, it would be for me. It is a lot of responsibility, but maybe you are used to that now after these months of working. I visited with one of the women from the intensive when we went to the Cities for Christmas, and she is meeting with a group of women who all attended the Brainerd intensive in Nov. I envy them. Barb (my friend) is also planning to be at the Jan. intensive.
Presently, I am still trying to figure out a way to pay for the rest of what I owe Anne for the one I went to. I have been hoping that my insurance would cover it, but that has been a hassle. Anne did tell me in Brainerd that if it wouldn’t pay for it for me, that she is interested in working out a barter with hand-woven shawls. So I wrote her today to ask her if that is a possibility. I hope it is. I feel honored that she like them.
Well, I better close and get the rest of my letters written. This hasn’t been too bad, writing this. If I could get past my procrastination more often….! I sense that your excitement about your work with Anne must be great. It is only in a non-ordinary reality that things that good can happen for people! Please drop a line when you have time.
Lots of love to you always!!! Linda
February 5, 1984 Sunday
Thanks for the letter and the info on rolfing. Leo brought it up with my other mail when he came to Bemidji this weekend. It was a month since I returned here, and I hadn’t seen them during that time. It was (is) a hard weekend – for all of us.
Saturday I told Leo I want a divorce. It was the last thing he wanted to hear, as he told me. I don’t think he was entirely surprised. I just can’t live in the half-light any longer. I cannot pretend everything’s all right, in fact, I can’t even pretend to him or myself that things will get any better. I can’t keep the lie alive and stay sober and grow. God only knows what happens from here. Leo reacted in anger, I think. He told me he wanted full custody of the girls, and that hurts. The whole thing might hurt, I guess.
Let me know what happens in O. City. I believe you are capable and worthy of such a job. You have done so much work to get well. I don’t know if we realize how much we have done. And continue to do.
Perhaps in some spiritual way we can give sustenance to each other as we grieve for the men passing out of our lives —- or at least as they pass out of this phase of our lives. In a very deep place I know my child-woman inside is terrified of the choices the adult in me is making. She says “Don’t let go of him! It is not OK. You can’t make it without a man.” Bullshit. We can.
I want to grow not at this time as a mother, or a wife, or a mate, or a woman. I want to grow as a person. I want to be sober, happy, joyous, free, clear and strong. One day at a time, I believe with this program and my Higher Power’s help, I can do it.
[2009 note: Reading this 25 years later, I know that I needed different information than I had then about how what had happened to me during my development had changed me in order for my hopes to be realized. Now that I have this information, how realistic can I be about the changes that I can make NOW? Time will tell….]
Please stay in touch, and I will try to do the same. I love you, and I need/want your love, too. Love, Linda
April 6, 1984 Friday
Dear, Dear Ruby,
How good it was to have a touch of you come into my life – a veritable breath of spring and of love and life. Thank you for the gorgeous card. And for the gift. Process and love, people and Higher Power. I do believe everything takes care of itself when we try our best to let it.
I, too, am looking forward to a long talk, hopefully on a Saturday (I don’t know what a SRINT line is, coming out of the sticks and all) but, whatever, I am glad you are in my life.
You know, I’ve heard that writing is a good way to connect the right and left brains, so I don’t mind at all taking a little while to spill some things here. My life has been full of changes – different in kind from yours, but I think we both have been going through a lot. For me, I am amazed at it all. Sometimes it could scare me, but I’m OK with it.
I have not even been back here from Bemidji a month yet. THAT amazes me! I left there on Fri. the 9th, fully expecting to spend the weekend with the girls and then head to the halfway house in the Cities. Well, when I got home, the shit hit the fan. Kay had been crying for the entire previous week, and she and Ramona both were at the end of their ropes. I think knowing I was going even further away, after everything that’s happened for them over the previous year with my life and how it’s affected them, well – as in Kay’s words, “I’m falling apart, Mom.” There was no way in hell I could leave. So, I stayed. Absolutely terrified of losing it down here like I have so many times. The first thing I did was ask for a good woman AA sponsor, and my Higher Power gave me Pat.
[2009 note: It is very painful for me to read this, and to remember the cost to our children from the abuse we suffered from child abuse as their parents. Kay, my oldest had just turned 13. Ramona was soon to turn eight.]
Pat has 11 years of sobriety. She told me that she asked her Higher Power to give her someone with special needs to work with, and POOF! Here I was. Well, she and her husband, Dick (who is in insurance and gone a lot), live here with the remaining “at home” children – Kim (19), Shelly (15) and Robin (13).
I ended up here in town without a car (I borrow Leo’s ¾ ton truck. What a fear I had of driving a stick, but I had to, and did, and now I love it – except it gets 7 miles to the gallon – anyway, I needed to know I could overcome a fear like that one). I had no money, no home, etc, the same weird stuff for me I’ve been finding myself with for the past few months. Stress. Well, I know I cannot live with Leo. So I stayed with a friend and lived out of bags for a week. Then Pat asked me to move in with her, and here I am.
I have indeed learned to accept from people. It was hard, but I had to. Pat doesn’t ask for rent, and will let me stay here until I am on my feet. What a gift, to have such a wise and healthy (as far as we can expect) sponsor, and literally be with her daily. It has done wonders for my growth, as has Gary from AA, but I’ll get to that later.
Anyway, I had to hit the streets looking for work. That was scary! My Higher Power very slickly took care of the whole situation. I can give you details later, but was hired ($4 per hour) as an assistant to the two curators at the Plains Art Museum in Moorhead. I had to deal with some alcoholic/addict negative thinking (which pisses me off sometimes), but basically I am very happy with the job. I couldn’t have found a more ideal job for me if I’d tried. Right out of the Big Book. I get paid on the last working day, so still am very broke, and I tell you the gift $ from you came at a really neat time.
Things are a little hairy between Leo and I. Pat helps me a lot here. Basically, she does not want me to see him, as she says, “When you see him you always have a crying jag.” So, it is something like negotiating a canoe through rocky water. Carefully.
One really neat thing that came clear for me is some priorities. #1 – sobriety. #2 – my children. #3 – work. I tell Leo when the work and financial part is more settled for me, I suspect the marriage will be a strong #4. So, basically I am stalling.
Part of what I am waiting for is the year in the program to go by, just because I need it. I have to work very hard at maintaining an emotional balance. Daily. But that’s what it is about, anyway.
So, Pat says I know Leo and I will not get back together. Talk about fear! By-the-way. Have you had the occasion to read “The Cinderella Complex?” That book upset me a lot, and I only got ½-way through it, but it is GOOD and fairly true. (Pat has me on a diet of AA conference approved literature and light fiction right now). No more feminism for awhile.
Which is another interesting thing. Gary, I mentioned earlier, has been working with me on anger for along time. Something broke through after my experience with the above mentioned book. I had to look at how my anger and resentments feed into my “feminism.” I absolutely cannot afford that. Somehow that part about giving up old ideas will fit in here for me, absolutely.
Oh! And tomorrow is my 10th month sobriety birthday!
So, I am doing what I can one-day-at-a-time. It is exciting. I need a lot of help, but that is OK (most of the time).
I was going to take a minute and mention Gary. I still think of him daily. When in Bemidji I talked to him on the phone every night. Then here I wrote him every day for a couple of weeks. Something is gong on now for me in regard to him, or myself, rather, that I will understand better looking back on it. I have a lot of program help from him. He’s quite a man. I realized tonight driving home that maybe now I am willing to begin letting go of the fantasy. For a long time here things have been pretty hard on a lot of levels. I figured once other things started falling in place that I would let go of Gary. I can see other positive things happening now.
He is such a male. He thinks feminism is bullshit, and from a Program perspective, it is. And yet his process is so different from mine. Yet in the Program it is the same. We had to deal with the “other” as he call it, and even if I didn’t like it, his strength in doing the “right” thing has probably saved my life. It is interesting that he is the 3rd man in a year, and there’s a possible 4th, who are aware enough of my needs and their own to have absolutely no sexual involvement with me. In some ways I feel like an innocent – a 32 year old virgin. And it may take a divorce from Leo for me to blossom in that area as well. Hopefully in a sane and healthy way.
Which reminds me. Pat has instructed me to begin my 4th step. I am putting it off, but I imagine she will call me on it.
I will be spending the weekend with the girls, so this is my quiet time. I love them very much, and I am glad my Higher Power helped me to be here.
Ruby, you do have a big job. I hope you are clear on asking the 11th step stuff. I thought of this a few months ago, and it helps me a log: I know in the morning when I am physically awake. What kinds of things can I do for myself each morning to be sure that I am spiritually awake? I cannot assume and stay sober that I am automatically awake spiritually just because my body is awake. I literally work on connecting and awakening my spirit each day. I am looking forward to growing in this process. It is literally keeping me alive.
Another thing Gary says is bullshit: Picking at your own sit. We need to be able to let some things just be. Don’t be too hard on yourself, measuring your progress in this area or that. Your relationships will take care of themselves if you work your program. Jut be honest with yourself, and take it easy. There are people all over the place that love you, and are connected to you spiritually. Use us, even if only in your heart, and the others will come into your life. You’re just too wonderful to pass up!
Good luck in all you’re doing, Ruby. It sounds like a lot to me. I can’t even conceive of it. But if you weren’t ready and able to do it, I don’t think you’d be there. Whatever you do, I hope you don’t let yourself get crazy. Not for more than one day without doing something immediately to short-circuit it.
Well, enough of this. I care a lot about you, and thank the powers that be that we were able to visit. I use the book you gave me every night, and the green one every morning (even if they aren’t Conference approved).
We’ll be in touch, and take care. I love you lots and lots, Linda
June 26, 1984 Tuesday
How are things going? Someone down there is going to be very pleased with that job you offered me. I thank you for your thinking of me. It is hard to know sometimes what direction to go with things.
Did you find out about the house? Please let me know. It will be hard if the answer is “no,” but things do work out, and there’ll be a better one for you. I know how hard it gets to be not having a home. But I am finding that one can learn interesting things about one’s self without one.
I am writing this to you during my coffee break. Yet I still feel nervous, like I am doing something wrong. Actually, I need a few minute’s break from the work. Been pulling together 3 12/ months of programming for this Indian Show coming up. Lots of ideas, films, lectures, videos, demonstrations and events to organize – all the way down the line. It should be good, though. One of those jobs that you work out all the little pieces for weeks, and at some point I suppose I’ll look back and see it all – the people that have participated and enjoyed the events. Sometimes the rest of it seems a bit like swimming in water with lots of little sharks. Waiting to jump and claim my attention. Not a neat desk! For sure.
I don’t know that I can get my thoughts down here the way I’d like to. And when I leave here it seems that I rarely sit down long enough to write anyone. So I do the best I can.
Gary did indeed go to Dallas. And he called. Not just Sat. night as he said, but Friday night, Sat. afternoon, Sat. night, Sunday afternoon…….
I’m not blaming him. It got to be too much. On Saturday night I knew a point had been reached. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but it was obvious to me that he wanted me there with him as much as I wanted to be there. And I felt a terrific lump under my breast bone. Pain. And self will fighting. And he told me he doesn’t want to hurt his family. That being married for 16 years he loves his wife. Doesn’t want to hurt anyone. And yet this thing between us I think has gotten out of bounds.
And I do not have the strength to remain detached. Objective. Logical. Right. Good. Safe. And he barely has it. The emotional slips are harmful to us both, and I don’t know how to avoid them.
So I became willing, finally, to talk to my sponsor, Pat about Gary. I haven’t before. I knew what she would say. And she said it. “No contact. Absolutely none.”
So I cried that first night. A lot. It felt good, somehow, to let that pain out. I don’t see how else the pain will go. And it could get a lot worse. And yet the letting go is hard. If it is God’s will, which it probably is, then I hope I will take that power from without me to get this over with.
Pat will be calling Gary tonight. So he doesn’t know yet. The decision was made Sunday night. Somehow I want him to know, so it is the same on both ends.
I don’t know if any of this is making sense. I feel a hole. [2209 note: Again, insecure attachment….] And yet I know I am an emotional retard, and had little choice but to become emotionally entangled with this man once I made the initial decision to pursue the relationship at all. 13th step. Thinking about it, I suppose today I am at that stage of the grieving process – bargaining. I can hear myself in my head doing that. But what if we only write and never talk again? But what if we just write about art? But. But. But.
I just wanted to share this with someone. I believe in the sharing things become easier to bear. I suppose I would like someone to tell me that it is OK, this thing between us. Yet that is, ultimately, irrelevant.
You know, I have never gone for any period of time without being emotionally hooked on a man. Junkie love, my NA sponsor calls it. Obsession. And I was reminded of a line from the NA Basic Text – Insanity is making the same mistakes and expecting different results.
What can I expect out of this thing with Gary but trouble if I continue it any further? And yet letting go is hard. I need help for that. Truly.
So, I dump some of it on you. I guess knowing that intuitively you understand what I can’t put into words. Not asking for pity. Agreement or disagreement. Just trying to let the process be. And to let it go through its course to wherever it ends up.
I was supposed to be moving into Luther Hall for the night residency manager tomorrow. But they called and moved it another day until Thursday. I wasn’t too pleased, but can accept it. Looking forward I guess to more activity, different people, different surroundings. Wanting to forget as fast as possible, I guess. Get into other people and out of myself. Something I have problems with most of the time.
Gary would say, “Be gentle with yourself, Linda. Take it easy. Be good to yourself. And most important, don’t drink”
I have to get to work now. Thanks for listening.
Love to you always, Linda
September 28, 1984 Friday
It was good of you to write. I enjoyed hearing from you yesterday. One of my support people I miss a lot.
Pardon me if I am way off base, but wanted to mention my impression. That you are lonely, and maybe complicating the hell out of things with your head. I do that. Easily. Old familiar territory, my head. Relationships don’t live there.
And then for myself, and relating it to you. That maybe we don’t give ourselves the chance to experience all that we have learned in the years since we started growing. The old jump in and swim thing. That really every relationship we have with anyone – male or female – is always different. Maybe our attitudes and behaviors can be automatic and repetitive, but to allow that the other person is different, and nothing can be the same.
Being honest and trusting Higher Power. To ask for help. In relationships along with everything else. On the spot help can come, too. With amazing results.
Sexuality. To be aware, for myself, of how I feel, respect that, and be honest with myself and the other person. An ideal, I guess, but not as hard as I thought it would be. And to kick the expectations the hell out the door. How we think the other person expects us to react. How we expect ourselves to react.
And not being afraid of feelings. Just had an interesting thing happen. This woman, Sheila, confronted me, gently, on the fact that most of the time I appear angry. And then I cried for 4 days. And got real confused about whether or not I want a divorce. And got in touch with how scared I really am. About being alone with no man in the world. Raising the girls. Financially supporting us. Wanting to get sick and die. Feeling sorry for myself. Hurting. Trying like hell to control my world and not doing it. Creating hell and chaos. Being unmanageable. Not accepting. There’s all kinds of things. Because I’m human and not perfect, and the world’s not perfect either.
So I’ve been feeling like moldy pea soup. Knowing that it will pass. The ups and owns. That I am in a growing process again, and even if I feel shitty, it is OK.
Rick, this man I’ve been seeing. A musician, artist, brilliant man. Maybe 6 or 10 years younger than me. Made me think again about being a victim. That maybe the men I am immediately attracted to will be the f—-ers, as Counseling Associates says. Maybe I’ve written you about this before.
Anyway. I’d been at AA meetings with Rick 2-3 months, and honestly never noticed him. Then he asked me out. So we see each other. Make love. Sometimes. Kiss. He’s a good kisser. A safe man I’d never “fall in love” with. Which neither of us want. I see myself in him a lot. And clear about that. His intensity, seriousness. Self-centered. Rarely smiles or laughs. Very serious about his art/music. Still young in a lot of ways. But good to hold, when I want to. He stays detached from my shit. Won’t play games. Just listens. Good.
And Sheila talked me into joining a bowling league with her Monday nights. Have never bowled, but is good for me. Sitting there for 2 hours watching these balls roll and pins falling over. Learning that no one cares how I bowl. Not taking myself so seriously. Doing something on a regular basis besides work and AA. Good.
Still think about Gary. Was 3 months Wed. since last talking to him. Still hard not to write. He’ll be heading to Alaska with the dogs soon, I suppose. Wonder sometimes……
Today’s my last day, officially with pay, at the art museum. Am being naughty, I suppose, wasting time writing letters. But know there is no way I’ll get everything done today, anyway, and will be in tomorrow, and maybe another day as well. Go volunteer. Need to finish grant files, one final report on the big project, which went amazingly well. Of course my not taking in all the compliments I got about the work I did on that.
Haven’t found another job. Don’t feel up to the job hunt. Will hopefully be able to make it through temporary agency employment for a while until I feel more settled. Still worry about money a lot. Have trouble with letting go and faith.
Thanks again for writing. Need to do something here like work. Please write again. I need support, too. Missing all my close friends that have moved away. And having to accept that they are not gone from my life. That there are connections, and love is still there.
Lots of love, Linda
October 12, 1984 Friday
Oh dear. Oh dear. You won’t believe what I did. I got myself pregnant. By Rick, who I now realize I can’t stand. No emotional involvement. That’s what I wanted. And got. And now this.
After trying with Leo 7 years for a baby. And sex 4 days after my period ended, and boom. I must be at least 9 weeks along. My stomach is getting larger. Breasts are sore. And I am depressed. Scared. ANGRY. Hurting. Confused.
When I paid attention to how I felt with Rick, he is a dark, black mood person. And no feelings. No though of anyone or anything outside of his life. Oh, Ruby. So, I lied to him and told him the preg test was negative, and that I didn’t want to see him again. Which is honest. But I will have to deal with him sooner or later. But I am fairly sure I do not want him to have NYTHING to do with this kid. I have thought about putting it for adoption, probably won’t. But do I feel ishy.
I’ve been officially without a job for two weeks today. And haven’t felt like looking. Thought maybe I’d take a break for a while and spend time with girls and go on AFDC, but complications there as my name still on title for the house with Leo. Don’t know what will happen. They only give you $301 per month to live on. Nuts, it is.
So, I will have to get out of this shitty-feeling place and do something.
[2209 note: It is hard for me to accept how my brain worked back then – because it still works this way – and always has!!!]
One thought I’ve been playing with for the future is to go to the Tech school in Staples next fall for 18 months and learn heavy equipment operation and maintenance. I like work out doors. I’d also like the pay. I look at where I’m comfortable, and it isn’t in an office. With dresses, heels, nylons, make up. I want to be physically strong, and I’m tired of mind work.
Anyway, not clear on my motivation for wanting to do this, or if it is crazy or not. Part of me says that I have spent a long time doing what I thought others wanted me to do. Being another kind of person. Living on the flat land, in cities. I miss the woods. I would like to be able to work some months out of the year and do art the rest. I don’t want a terrifically stressed and busy life. I’d like to build roads. I like the smell of dirt. I even like to get dirty.
Been thinking about how hard my mother tried when I was a child to make me into [her version] of a girl. I wanted to play with the boys. Get dirty, climb trees, learn to shoot. I hated dolls and dresses. And I drove her nuts. And she still squished and squished me into being a “girl.” Maybe I can own who I am now. Maybe I don’t have to continue doing that to myself.
Then I think that’s crazy, sick, stupid. I have this brain, and all this college, and besides……
16 months of my new chemical free life. And I still think I expect an awful lot of myself. And I’ve been really hard on myself. But wanted to throw this out. Maybe because you drove truck. Is this a similar thing for me? Is it angry. Or is it possibly healthy to think along those lines. How the hell I’d get money for the school I don’t know. But….
Letting go of my marriage has been really hard. I am still so scared of the world. I want to hide, and be protected, and taken care of. Neither one of us has the money for the divorce. I’d like to have it done with so there is finally some closure.
Well, I’m going to mail this now. I hope you can write to me soon. I need a refresher on process. I only have one woman here I can talk to about that. I loose it really easily.
I miss you, and hope you are OK. Lots of love, Linda
That’s the last of the letters, #8. There. I did it. I faced myself today as I faced myself then. Now the letters are burned to black ashes. I lit them on fire outside in my cast iron skillet I never used, and stirred the mess around with the end of my broom handle until I knew not a single word remained of a single letter.
They are all entered here now, for what they might be worth – to me, or to anyone else. Nobody ever told me that trauma had so formed me that every feeling I had then, every feeling, every idea, every decision I made was trauma-in-formed. I could not escape that trauma by leaving my childhood home. It was formed into my body, and most importantly, into my entire brain.
I am 58 years old now, and I am only now just beginning to figure this out. How would my life have been different at any point along the way if I had known what I know now? How can I begin to understand how an ‘ordinary’ person with an ‘ordinary’ history of a childhood full of love and goodness – even with SOME hardship, because nearly everyone struggles to grow up – would feel and think and act in this world?
I can never know what being a securely attached, fully integrated, organized and oriented self will feel like. I can’t even imagine it. What I do have now – finally – is an information-based understanding about why my entire adult life has been so difficult for me. I no longer have to blame myself for being ‘less than’ other people, for making ‘mistakes’, for not being able to guide myself into a good life, for not being able to be ‘happy’ along the way.
The true hope for finding out how to live well with a trauma-centered changed body-brain-mind lies with people younger than I, and with the future generations. It is they that can now begin to understand all of the implications stemming from consequences of growing up through severe abuse and trauma.
SOME OF THE KEY TYPICAL TROUBLESOME WORDS, CONCEPTS AND EXPERIENCES THAT ARE DIFFERENT FOR SEVERE CHILD ABUSE SURVIVORS – SEEN FROM MY NEWLY INFORMED PERSPECTIVE.
These things connect to what continues to ‘trouble’ us because they are all connected to the changes that our body-brain-mind had to make in order to survive early severe abuse during our infant-child developmental stages:
Feeling guilty – the whole concept of guilty
Concept of procrastination as being a source of our problems
‘shirking’ responsibility – the whole concept of ‘response-ability’ as it applies to us
dealing with things on a self-honesty level
concept of ‘changing’
the concept of feelings, feeling feelings, experiencing feelings
emotional brain not form ‘ordinarily’; emotional dysregulation = chronic problem
feeling lonely, depressed, crying – all different for us than for ‘ordinary’ people
experience of ‘feeling low’ and low on energy is different
‘anger’ has a different meaning to us – both our own and other people’s
being with other people
our experience of the experience of ‘being sick’ and recuperating is altered
our experience of being kind to ourselves
our experience of giving ourselves ‘permission’
how we experience anticipation of enjoyable experiences
experience of worry different
experience of ‘wishful thinking’ is different
experience of disappointment different
Experience of trust is different
Our experience of the passage of time is VERY different!
Our experience of friendships is different
Being willing to reach for and experience ANY kind of self-help we can find
Finding that it does not REALLY help us at all
blaming-shaming ourselves that it doesn’t
not being able to immediately and completely trust our impressions of people
my ‘who-to-trust/not-trust’ center in my infant brain could not form correctly
making a mess of our own thinking trying to change these first impressions!
Our sense of safety with others is THE number ONE issue – we have to trust it
Intense feelings of isolated-alone, trust them, they are REAL beyond belief
Realize that ‘ordinary’ people do not experience them with the pain we do
Yes, we will do everything possible to ‘protect our feelings’ – naturally
Have to be hyper aware of what feels threatening and scary to us – it’s real
There are memories and feelings we can’t touch because it isn’t good for us to
Repression of trauma is not the same thing as dissociation
we can’t ‘work through issues’ like others if we dissociate
not helpful to feel guilty-shame for what we cannot possible accomplish!
Terrible ambiguity can exist about our abuser(s) – ordinary people can’t imagine
Confused-meshed identity and relationship with abuser
Commonly called ‘defense mechanisms’ don’t begin to describe true insanity
Have to be realistic about ‘recovery’ goals – ours will be different than ‘ordinary’
Be careful of what we believe of what therapists who do truly not know us, tell us
We don’t really know what love is or what it feels like – we weren’t built that way
I strongly suspect that ‘love’ is different from ordinary for us
We will never stop learning about what ‘ordinary’ people automatically know
We did not grow into our thinking abilities like ‘ordinary’ people do
Not helpful to be told by others we are ‘rationalizing’ as a defense when we think
We need help learning about our thinking process because abuse changed it
Our disorganized insecure attachment means that we do not grieve the same
Extremely helpful to understand insecure attachment and love relationships
Our own pain-loneliness puts us at risk for attaching harmfully in relationships
Our sense of ‘time passing’ is different; things do not ‘end’ in time like ordinary
Difficulties with accountability if we don’t know source of our difficulties
Terrible troubles with goals-future plans, our higher cortex formed differently
We have a different version of a selfhood – not the ordinary one formed by age 2
When we feel alone in the world, a lot of it is because we are lonely for our self
(a self-centered-self is cultural and evolutionarily a recent luxury we didn’t get)
We had no say in the matter – we developed a trauma-centered self from birth
12-step program talk about ‘unmanageability’ = not from our ‘planet of origin’
12-step program talk about ‘acceptance’ = not from our ‘planet of origin’
12-step program talk about ‘powerlessness’ = not from our ‘planet of origin’
12-step program talk about ‘resentments’ = not from our ‘planet of origin’
the set-point for our nervous system is not at ‘calm’ like ‘ordinary’ is
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