Friday, June 28, 2013

One hundred fish in one day can make you forget (in a good way!)

BJ and I went camping. It was awesome.
I knew before we went that we were going to be there on the anniversary of my wedding to Larry. I also knew that in the past that has been a hard day for me... Just full of bad memories that make me want to curl up in a ball in my closet and disappear for a day (or more)... I hoped that camping and fishing in one of my favorite places would make it easier, but I didn't know.

The trip was AWESOME.
So relaxed. So chill. So much fun. And I completely forgot what day it was, and that THAT day is usually hard for me. Of course, the fishing was non-stop. I lost count of how many fish I caught, but BJ and I figured we each caught at least 100 fish that day.

Home sweet home - at least for the weekend.
The view from our tent.
I don't know what this is... but it's kinda cool, right?

There are so many little springs that feed the lake. That's a tree root that is catching the water.

Setting sun

SO MANY BUGS! But I couldn't really see them until I used the flash. I quit fishing when I couldn't see my fly on the water anymore, but that didn't stop BJ.

I was super excited to catch an albino trout.

Then BJ caught one, and he was super excited about his. (They are just weird looking!)

Then I caught another one, and wanted my picture taken with him.

Not sure what this face is about... but here you go.

I am "Catch and Release" only. This guy just got released a few seconds earlier than I was planning.

Using my new camera to take pictures of the moon... It didn't work so good at first.

That's the moonlight! I felt super loved having BJ sit with me while I tried to figure out how to capture the best picture. I also felt super loved that he gave me the camera just for moments like this one. He has given me the assignment to take pictures that will be custom framed and then used to decorate our house. These aren't quite there... yet...

This one would be awesome, but when viewed at it's full size, you can see it isn't quite in focus... I'm getting better though!
 And next week? I'm going to Alaska! BJ, my parents, two of my brothers and their wives, and me... Getting on a boat and cruising through Alaska. BJ and I are going fly fishing for trout and Dolly Vardon. We're all going to go to "musher's camp" to play with the sled dogs. We're going to Alaska!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is a comedian still funny underwater?

(I wrote the following in December - day after it happened. I never posted it, and to be honest, now I can't remember why. Probably because I was hoping to have a nice little addendum before I posted it that said, "I went back and tried again! I was fine. It was awesome!" But I can't say that. I haven't gone back yet...)

Sometimes, I'm still crazy. I thought about not sharing this story, because I was embarrassed. Because I'd like to say I'm all normal and silly things don't freak me out ever. But then I realized that silly things DO freak me out. I'm not "normal", and that's okay. It sucks to still have to deal with trauma related shit, but it is what it is. Part of recovery is learning how to deal with triggers.

Scuba diving in the pool went great. In the pool, if I felt anxious or if something wasn't going quite right, I could come up and talk to my instructor. In the open water dive, I knew that wouldn't be possible. If you're forty feet underwater, and something isn't right, you still have to take your time coming up (or cause yourself serious injury).

I passed the written final. I passed off everything in the pool. I was all geared up and ready to do the open water dive. And then I got dizzy and nauseous and I couldn't breath. I thought it might be because the water (and the cave around the water) were really warm. I walked outside, and I realized it wasn't the heat. I was about to have a full-blown panic attack.

At this point, I didn't want to go back in and look like a fool. I also didn't like just walking away and having the instructor worrying about where I'd gone. I walked back in, told them I wasn't feeling well, and I'd make up the dive later. One of the worst parts of dealing with PTSD or panic is dealing with other people's thoughts and opinions of me. It sucks to have people think that you're crazy and out of control, but I learned a long time ago that trying to control other people's opinions of me didn't make my life better. It didn't help me recover. It didn't help anything... except that we all got to live in a delusional world. I don't know what instructor dude thought of me, but he told me it was fine.

At first, I didn't see how panicking about scuba diving could possibly be related to trauma. I was sexually abused... there was no water around at the time... what the what?

One of the skills I've learned in dealing with fear (irrational and rational) is to ask myself two questions:
  • How old do you feel?
  • What's the worst that could happen?

How old do you feel? often shows me what is triggering me. A few years ago, I was having panic over buying brand name shoes for myself. When I asked myself that question, I realized I felt like a little girl. My dad didn't see the need to buy brand name shoes (and when you're buying them for a ten year old, it makes sense). I was still holding on to what he'd said. As soon as I realized that, I let go of that old story, and just enjoyed my shoes.

This time, that question didn't do any good. I couldn't link to any specific age or event that would be triggering this.

What's the worst that could happen? usually helps me to get to the root of my fears. When I asked myself the question this time, I first thought, "I might drown." But that didn't really trigger any fear. When asking myself the question, I have to pay attention to what I think would be the worst, not what OTHER people would think is the worst.

So I just kept asking myself.
What's the worst that could happen?

The worst that could happen is I will be trapped under water, and I won't be able to use my voice.
I won't be able to tell people what is happening.
I'll be hurting and have no way of communicating my hurt.
Trapped. No voice. No way out.

That's when the flashbacks started. I was suddenly back trapped, no voice, no way out, and in so much physical and emotional pain that death would have been a welcome relief. (No wonder drowning didn't trigger any fear.)

I called my friend Steph. She has an amazing ability to make me laugh at things that aren't really funny. She teased me about what a storyteller I must be: Why else would I be afraid that I wouldn't be able to talk underwater? How could people know I was funny, if they couldn't hear my jokes?

And then she empathized. It sucks to have such silly things feel SO big. It sucks to have something so unrelated (like scuba diving) trigger trauma and flashbacks. She understands. Been there and doing that herself.

What she said next is the main reason I am sharing this here. She told me I was a hero. Not because everything is perfect. Not because all of the flashbacks and trauma symptoms are all gone, but because I keep fighting even though they aren't. She also pointed out how rarely this stuff comes up now, and how it takes so much more than it once took.

That's what recovery from PTSD and sexual trauma and shit looks like. Sometimes it's just messy. Sometimes you look crazy, and a lot of times you feel crazy. And we just keep going anyway.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I feel confused. (Everyone says send it, but what if I don't want to?)

The letter... people telling me to send it... The following will be mostly a stream of consciousness, so please don't expect it to make too much sense. Also, it may be triggering, because I'm angry and sad and talk about rape and abuse... and well... there's the warning.

I don't want to send the letter. I have lots of reasons, but I'll start with the reasons why I want to send it.

It would make other people proud of me.
Others would think I was strong, "over it", good, "recovered", and any number of labels that equal, "Other people will love me."
I feel like it is my responsibility to save the future Mrs. Curtis, or at least do everything I can.
Other people tell me it would be helpful to me, and if other people say it, than I have to do it, no matter what I think would be helpful to me.

Noticing any trends?
There's nothing on that list that is for me.

I'm all for doing things that are helpful for others, but I think in this instance it is better to think about me. I think. (And super loud in my head, I just hear, "Stupid, selfish, bitch," and it isn't in MY voice that I hear it. It's his. How horribly messed up is THAT?)

The reasons I don't want to send the letter.
I don't want anyone to tell me that I'm crazy or stupid or it doesn't matter. I'm not sure I could handle getting that feedback from the Catholic church or from Larry.
Closely related, I'm not sure I could handle getting nothing back from them.

Those fears seem like a good reason to send it. Show myself that I can handle getting whatever feedback (or lack of it) that comes back. Who knows how I will handle it until I try?

More reasons I don't want to send it, and these go deeper.
I don't want to hear anything from that man. I don't want to hear an apology. I don't want to hear that he has changed. I don't want to hear that he has worked hard and overcome it. I don't want to hear that he is sorry. I don't want to hear it, and I don't care how much he has changed or what he has done since then. I don't care who he is now - I'm too angry at the man he was to listen to ANYTHING that comes out of his face.

(This seems odd to me, especially considering that I have never felt this emotion towards him. Four years ago, I was upset with BJ and Bishop C for feeling anger towards Larry. I preached forgiveness and love and not having any ill wishes towards him. Bishop C was moved to tears by how "good" I was. BJ was moved to tears of frustration, because he didn't think it was an appropriate reaction to the way I had been treated. I am such a different person now. I like this new person. Anyway.)

I don't feel the need to offer him redemption. I don't feel the need to offer him a chance to apologize or show me that he's changed. I don't feel the need to do anything with him.

I would love it if he had to face consequences of his actions... but no matter what I say, that won't change that HE will never have to deal with PTSD, or the pain, or the confusion or the shit. Nothing will take away all that I have had to go through to just survive, and then to try to find a life worth living... And that makes me angry. Jealous. ANGRY. Nothing that he could possibly have to go through would compare with what I have had to deal with because of his actions.

There was nothing against the law about what he did when he did it. (There was no such thing as marital rape at the time. A lack of a law doesn't change how it felt, it only changes the consequences for him if I could somehow prove it, which I can't, and I don't want to.)

The leaders of the LDS church saw nothing wrong with his behavior... BJ was the first to care... and he didn't believe the doctrine of the church... do I think the Catholic church will care? No. Why should they? Most religious leaders believe in the Biblical definition of marriage: Women are property, and they have responsibilities. They may not condone raping your wife, but most won't condemn it either. Hell if I am going to put my voice out there to be thrown away AGAIN.

NO! I get to choose who I share with, and it isn't religious authorities, and it isn't Larry.

(Interesting. I'm still feeling pretty hurt and angry at the church. For the things leaders said, for the things said in the temple that could be used to justify his behavior, and for the continued ideals preached about "traditional marriage".  I feel pretty helpless and powerless when it comes to them.)

I still feel like future Mrs. Curtis deserves to know something... but then I think about how I would have responded if the first Mrs. Curtis (the one before me) had sent a letter like this one. He had painted her as crazy and messed up and lucky that he got away. I would have ignored the letter and it would have pushed me EVEN MORE to take care of him, to love him the way no one ever had. I hope that the new lady is not as messed up in her thinking as I was, but...

The only reason that I would send it, is for her. Even if she still married him, maybe if he treated her poorly in the future, she would know it wasn't just her. Maybe she could skip the blaming herself part and go straight to the, "he's a jerk," part. I don't know.

I still welcome feedback. I'm still trying to figure out what to do - not for everyone else, but for my own healing and progression. Still a lot of questions, and a lot of pain.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Facebook page

I started a Facebook page for my blog.
Feel free to follow me there.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The letter I will never send, except that I might,

So.... I got a letter in the mail. From the Catholic Church. It seems that Larry (ex-husband) wants to get remarried, and the Catholic church wants me to answer a few questions. I'm not sure if my answers (or lack of answers) affect his ability to get married again or not. I don't want to respond. I don't want to help him. I feel angry. WHY would I want to do anything to help that man hurt another wife? Why would I want to help him do ANYTHING?
The best way I know how to deal with shit is to write... so I wrote a letter... it was going to be just for me, but now that it's done, I think I'd like to share it with you. BJ suggested actually sending the damn thing. I don't know. I'll just start with posting it here...

To whom it may concern,

I was married to Laurence Curtis for two years. We were both members of the LDS church when we met. We met in November and were married the following June. I was nineteen when we met, and twenty when we married. There were signs that I shouldn't have married him, but I didn't pay much attention.

For example, once I fell asleep while watching a movie with my roommates, and he unzipped my pants and groped me. But I dismissed it... like it was somehow normal for a man to grope a sleeping woman, just as long as he put a blanket over her so her roommates couldn't see what he was doing.

Sexual sin is next to murder according the LDS teachings... except that sexual sin is pretty common place, so when Larry promised to abstain from all sexual activity until marriage (which was only six weeks away), they gave the okay. He mostly kept his promise, but that lead to AWFUL behavior in the marriage. In his mind, he had abstained for six weeks, and marriage gave him the right to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it.

I'll just start with the wedding night.
I was exhausted. He refused to let me bring my bags in. Since we were married, I was supposed to just get naked and climb in bed with him. I didn't do what he asked, but that didn't matter. He removed my clothes for me. (I didn't fight him, but I asked him not to.) He forced himself in me. I cried. It HURT. He responded by saying, "Shut up. I'll be done in a second."

I went to the bathroom and cried. He yelled at me. He told me I was being selfish and stupid. I was HIS wife now, and I had responsibilities. I came out. I apologized, because I thought he was right. I had no right to say no, I had no right to decide what I wanted to happen, or what I didn't want. I was nothing but his property. He accepted my apology and then did the same thing again. I cried. I told him it hurt. He responded by saying, "It wouldn't hurt so much if you'd just relax."
There was often blood after "sex" with him. He said it was normal. He was WRONG, but I didn't know. He'd been married before. He'd had sex with other women, so I thought he knew better than I did.

Over time, my body adapted to having quick, forced, "sex". I got instantly wet if he touched me. A hug usually meant that "sex" was coming, and I was lucky that my body reacted the way it did. It saved me a lot of physical pain. He hated that. He said it was disgusting when a woman got turned on. He preferred her to be dry. He told me I was disgusting. I believed him. There was something disgusting about me and my body, and I couldn't control it. He'd insist I shower, and then come back to bed, and then we'd have "sex". I did it. I thought what he did was normal. I thought I was disgusting.

If I cried, he'd put a pillow over my face.

If I talked or made any noise, he'd tell me to shut up and put a pillow over my face.

If I moved, he'd yell at me for ruining HIS experience.

If I said no, he'd ignore it.

If I fought him, he was bigger and stronger and it just made him get more violent. I couldn't stop him, and it made things worse for me.

If I got away, and locked myself in the bathroom, he'd wait until I came out... then masturbate and squirt at me. He blamed me for forcing him to do that. I believed him when he told me it was my fault. I believed him when he told me I was hurting him by trying to stop him from having "sex" with me.

If I threatened to leave, he'd threaten my family, especially my sister. She was twelve, and he called her crude names. I felt afraid of what he might do to her.

The last time I ever tried to fight him, he yelled at me for "making him do that". We both knew that he had just raped me. It was the only time that it looked like rape... like the kind they show in movies... like the kind that rarely happens, but when it does there is no doubt in anyone's mind. I apologized. I felt like a good wife would never fight. A good wife would not object. It was somehow MY fault that he had done that. It is completely true that if I had just laid there, and held my legs out of his way, he wouldn't have had to pry them apart. If I had done what he wanted, he never would have been violent.

I stood there, half-naked, and apologized to him for making him rape me. I still feel anger at myself for apologizing to him. I should have kicked him in the balls and told him to get the fuck out... and never come back... but I didn't. Instead, I tried harder to be what he said a wife was supposed to be.

From then on, I laid on my back and held my legs out of his way until he was finished.

He'd have "sex" with me in my sleep. I didn't mind that as much. At least I could be unconscious for some of it. (I didn't understand that if I wasn't awake to consent, that was rape, even if I was married to him.)

I once talked to him about the way he treated me. He told me that I was lucky he was so good to me. No one would be as kind and considerate as he was. EVERY man would act like him or maybe even worse. (I'm not sure what "worse" looked like in his head... but I know now, most men do not say or do the things that he did.)

When we got married, I was underweight. I had struggled with an eating disorder and had only been in recovery for a short time. I gained about fifteen pounds while we were married. He told me I was fat and unattractive. When I got busy and forgot to eat, he'd tell me how great I looked. When he informed me that he was having sex with other women, and I handled it by not eating for three days, he congratulated me. I knew enough about eating disorders and my body to know that what he was saying was FUCKED UP, but I didn't know how to get out of the marriage by then. I dismissed his comments as ignorant, but I don't think he was ignorant. He knew that starving could kill... but with his words, he showed he preferred a thin wife to an alive wife.

When we went to the bishop (because Larry said he was cheating... and we wanted help to save our marriage), the bishop only confirmed the bullshit that Larry had been saying. It was my responsibility to keep my husband happy. I worked two jobs, because Larry didn't work. The bishop told me that no matter what I did outside of the home, my only REAL responsibility was to keep my husband happy. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.

I tried harder to be who he needed me to be, but felt like I was dying.
I became suicidal. I envisioned driving over the edge of the cliff every day on my way to school. Every day I would tell myself, "not today, but if you still feel this way tomorrow, then you can." The next day I would repeat the same thing. I feel lucky to have lived through that time.

He went to Texas for a job interview. Something in me changed while he was gone. I was done trying to save a marriage that was hell. He didn't work. We didn't get along. He hated church. I hated the way he treated me. I didn't want him to come back. I told him I wanted a divorce. He told me I was screwed up, and I would regret that decision. He told me that I wasn't capable of making a good decision, because I didn't have "the spirit" with me.

Eventually he agreed with me. Divorce was the best option for both of us. We said good-bye. We divorced. We didn't talk again. When I got married again, I needed a letter from him to cancel our LDS sealing. He sent the letter willingly, and the sealing was cancelled. I was relieved that I would never have to write a letter for him... The sealing was cancelled, which meant if he wanted to get remarried, he could just go for it. No one would ask me about my experience of being married to him.

And now he wants to get married in the Catholic church, which means that I was asked to give my opinions. I didn't know what to say, but I feel like I couldn't say nothing. I gave you a few examples of things that happened while I was married to him, but even those barely touch on the horror that was my life with him, and the horror that I have gone through since then.

I have spent hundreds of hours in therapy, which cost tens of thousands of dollars. I've spent months without sleep. Years of feeling hopeless and suicidal. Years of feeling afraid that all men would treat me like him. Years of feeling like I didn't deserve any better than the rapist that he was. Years of hiding and pretending, because I didn't know how to talk about what he did. Years of believing that a wife is nothing but a plaything to her husband. Years of believing that I was worthless, damaged, crazy, disgusting, and all of the other words he used to manipulate and control me. Years of nightmares where I can feel him ripping me apart. Years of physically hurting, because of the damage he did when he forced his dick inside me. Years of confusion. Years of questioning. Buckets of tears. Seizures. Night terrors. Nightmares. The list goes on.

I am still dealing with the effects of PTSD... Post Traumatic Stress from the trauma of being raped by a man that was supposed to love and care for me. Post Traumatic Stress from the trauma of being used and abused. Post Traumatic Stress from all of the shit that man said and did...

And now, he's about to get married again. I don't know if he has changed or not. I don't know if he still believes that women are disgusting if they get turned on. I don't know if he still prefers to force himself on women than to have sex with them. I don't know if he still gets violent. I don't know if he still thinks that raping a woman IS sex with a woman. I don't know if he still blames women for his thoughts and actions. I don't know if he still believes it is a woman's job to lay there and hold her fucking legs out of his way while he goes at it. I don't know if he still believes that it is wife's job to "keep him happy", while completely ignoring that his wife is actually a person too. I don't know if he still uses and abuses others. I don't know if he still encourages women to starve themselves, so they will be attractive to him. I don't know anything about who he is today, but I figured since you sent me the letter... reminded me of those experiences... I would tell you about just a few of the things I experienced while being married to him. 


(P.S. I could really REALLY use comments on this one. I feel vulnerable and icky, and any words you could share, would be nice.)