i wake up and i don't know what i was dreaming but i know i heard a knock. and i know no one was actually knocking on the door at 2 am but then i distinctly remember the knock. the knock is what woke me up, not the dream, and the knock didn't seem to be in the dream.
i don't recall the dream. but i wake up to the knock and find my right arm is in a triangle, at a 45° angle beside me, hand beside my head, and my left arm is down, head turned skyward.
i went and got a massage the other day and she said you have such a good energy given what happened to you. because i told her what happened to me because she was about to put her hands all over me and i didn't know how i was going to respond to that. and because i was specifically there because my shoulders have been carried in my forehead for the last 2 1/2 weeks. turns out one can only live like that for so long. and so, in the middle of grading all the essays, the pain spread from my shoulders to my neck to my right arm above the elbow.
there's this book called the body keeps the score and i've been trying to read it in the middle of my panic attacks as i try to remember to lower my shoulders, as i try to remember to relax.
you have to remember to relax and then you need to remember to lower your shoulders, you have to relax and breathe deeply and lower your shoulders and then you're just living your life and you don't even notice it but your shoulders are back up by your ears again so, again, you have to stop, you have to remember to relax, you have to breathe and relax and lower your shoulders. and there comes a time where your shoulders are actually just more comfortable up by your ears and it hurts to even lower them, because your whole body has realigned itself to accommodate the tension you've been living with.
when i "relax" my shoulders, so much pressure and effort goes into holding them down that it's actually probably more stressful for the muscles than when they're up by my ears.
i've been thinking a lot about the past because we're processing it in therapy and because that's what you're supposed to do when you're processing: let the thoughts come, let it intrude. i'm way better at letting my shoulders sit by my ears than i am at allowing the past to intrude. in ways that are constructive, at least-- harmful intrusions are my bread and butter; productive ones, not so much.
trauma rewires the circuitry, so that you learn to live in a whole different way. you learn to think in a whole different way. debo asks me: is this the goal of therapy? is the goal of therapy to get over that and get back to yourself? and i feel really sad when i tell her that, actually, i don't think that is the goal.
i think the goal is to learn to navigate and cope with the brain you now have, which is not the brain you were given but the brain that's been made over time.
so i was sleeping and there was a knock and i awoke to find that i was lying in bed as though i were ready to be raped. not the exact position of when i was raped but certainly evocative. in that the major difference was that, when i awoke, i wasn't looking over my left shoulder (as i had been when raped) but up at the ceiling.
i knew there was a big knot in my back because the whole left side of my body hurt. i've had massages before and they always find the knot on the opposite side of the body so i figured the pain on the left side was criss-crossing from somewhere else.
what i didn't know what that there were twin knots in each of my forearms. i wasn't pinned down but they were right where one would expect soreness in the arms of one who had been. that i wasn't pinned down is part of the confusion and part of the problem-- physically, i seemed willing enough. in part, because this has happened before and my brain has been rewired such that the way i survive these situations is to roll out the red carpet for them, to not just relent but to seem to welcome it, as a way of denying the horror as it unfolds.
i don't know how to be right in these situations. i do the right thing to survive and get through, which seems to be the wrong thing in the long term because it just hurts you more maybe. but then you never know. the thing that hurts you can be the thing that keeps you alive. just as the person who hurts you can be someone you know.
my therapist keeps coming back to this idea that the adaptations we've made and the things that we do that may seem harmful or don't make sense are also the things that protect us. so we can't just throw them out entirely.
the vibe here seems to be very "hotel california"-- where all kinds of shit can come in then never leave.
my brain has adapted to protect me so when it returns these patterns, it does the things it's done before. it's trying to protect me and, bless its heart, it tries.
this is how i am and this is where we are and i'm very grateful for that and for sunsets and i'm very, very grateful the claude is alive, and i'm very, very grateful that my brain has protected me thus far.
i don't know what i was dreaming, i remember there was a knock and i woke and i felt the pressure, the soreness, of the knots in my forearms, which was the result of the therapist having worked them over the day before.
she said that i have have a really high tolerance for pain. and she said that's a good thing. and i liked her and i'm going back to her again on friday, but i'm really starting to be quite skeptical of all these discourses around pain and discomfort. because i think it's an adaptation. i don't think we come equipped with that. just like the therapist who once said that i have an unusually high tolerance for emotional discomfort. that's not a compliment. that's not a skill. i don't know what that is but it's not an inherently good thing and i can see how being able to bear pain to a degree that is not typical suggests one has put up with a hell of a lot of pain along the way.
i went in for the bodywork (how hilarious that is actually what it is called while also being a term applied to cars) because it became quite clear to me that the pain in my muscles was a symptom of PTSD.
twice now, in therapy, i've been like i think we can move on from the date rape! twice now, in therapy, i've come back later and said, i think this is still about the date rape.
three months. it has not even been three months. soon, it will have been three months.
i try to minimize it in all sorts of ways, focusing especially on the fact that it was only oral. which, i recognize, is a way of trying to make it ok for myself. but that's also a really fucking awful way of denying one's own experience. which is something at which i excel.
there was a knock and no dream that i remember, and i woke up entirely aware that i was positioned as though a man were in the middle of raping me, and that the soreness in my forearms felt like the pressure of him holding me down.
all signs would point to my having been in the middle of a dream about being raped. this was a jarring sequel to the previous night's dream of tom hiddleston unexpectedly having been in my class all semester and asking for an extension on essay #3.
there's some tiktok going around where you're supposed to focus on a black dot on a tree colored purple and orange. and then when the image shifts to black and white, your brain will supply the colors of green and blue. the moral of the tiktok was basically EVERYTHING IS A LIE.
watching it, i found myself taking strange pride in my brain's response, as it flipped back and forth between supplying the colors and seeing what was actually there.
i went to the conference last weekend and delivered my talk. after spending the whole of friday morning right up to the hour before the panel started thinking that i would bail. because i could bail. because i wanted to bail, but ultimately because bailing would mean some metaphorical victory for the man who raped me, i did not.
this is what we do. a student wrote me that they and their therapist are talking about in-patient care, but they decided to tough it out through the last weeks of the semester.
reading that email, i thought no no no no no! don't do it! be gentle with yourself!!! whilst realizing what i'm doing to myself-- as my body screams no no no no no! don't do it! be gentle with yourself!!!-- is the exact same thing.
my shoulders are rising towards my ear lobes as write this. I NEED TO RELAX. I NEED TO BREATHE. I NEED TO CALM DOWN.
the knock woke me, as i lay there. dreaming i know not what, but physically braced for rape.
i say i want to learn to be as generous with myself as i am with my students but, frankly, that doesn't really feel possible. my teaching style is, ultimately, self-harming just as my writing practice is, ultimately, self-harming. probably because both have been developed, over time, within situations and institutions that have, ultimately, been abusive.
that's not my fault. it is what it is, but it's not my fault.
i don't do endings, as you may recall. and we're obviously not done here anyway.