Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How the past affects the future...

Since posting my survivor story, I've gotten multiple private messages asking me questions. Most of the come from concerned parents who are raising children who have survived sexual abuse & are trying to figure out how to best help them. Apparently, my discussion of compulsive behaviors caused light bulb moments for some, making them able to connect behaviors that they had not previously realized were related. For others, the fact that I seem to be a relatively well adjusted human being, gave them a flicker of hope that their own situation may turn out okay.

The most commonly held concern seems to be: how will this effect their future relationships? Of course, I can't answer that. The answer is as different & as complicated as the individual human being. Still, some want to know how my experiences affect my relationships.

So, I'll do my best to give an honest assessment, without too many gory details...

Let's start with my marriage. I didn't think I would ever get married or have children, mostly because I didn't feel like I had anything of value to give & assumed that I would be a terrible parent. However, when I met a person that seemed to value who I am & wanted to build a life with me, I started to reevaluate.

Bear in mind, this didn't look like the typical "I'm in love, I want to marry him" routine that most teenage girls go through. Actually, even though I was only 16, I took a very pragmatic approach. We discussed everything. And by that, I mean everything. We talked about education, children, even how we would discipline any of these hypothetical children. I wasn't willing to commit to a person that wasn't on the page with me on the important things because I wanted to make sure that we wouldn't fall apart because of different goals or perspectives. Yes, I admit, that possibly sound a little bit overboard (though, I think there is definite merit in being practical). It's also another result of my past. I have a tendency to find solace in being overly rational & have an overly developed ability to compartmentalize. This makes me able to handle crisis situations, but also can make me appear very cold to some people.

As I have stated before, my wasband & were very happy for the duration of our marriage. I can take responsibility for the part I played in the end. We had had a few bumps in the last couple years, mostly because he had been trying to make a career change & was struggling with insecurities that came along with his not being the sole provider in the house, as I had returned to work to allow him to go back to school. However, we had weathered those issues and planned to renew our vows, or at least that's what we thought.

When I went to an 8 week, out of state pre-law program, however, it became apparent how deep the issues actually were. His insecurities didn't just come out...they busted down the damn door. For example, one night I went to a friend's apartment to study with a couple of female students. Even though I had let him know where I was going & that I would be back very late, he flipped out when he wasn't able to reach me for a few hours (my cell phone died). When I say he flipped out, I don't mean that he got mad & pouted. When I returned to my room, at the extended stay hotel, I had approximately 25 messages on my cell, multiple missed calls & a maxed out message box on the hotel phone. He had inquired about me at the hotel desk so many times that they were also calling me. He had even attempted to call the New Mexico State Police, but they wouldn't do a welfare check because he didn't have an address.

Perhaps this is normal in some people's relationships, but it was not in mine. I had never had to check in with him. So, this was so far out of the ordinary. Plus...and this is where my issues came in...this triggered me terribly. It felt so much like being stalked. I tried to explain it to him, that I needed him to just calm down because my issues were being triggered & making it difficult for me to be reasonable & focus on the real issues. Well, needless to say, he couldn't manage that & we were separated in a matter of weeks. The problem continued, even after we separated & directly led to my asking for a divorce. Perhaps, if I didn't have the issues that do, I could've just kept going & given the storm a chance to pass. I couldn't ignore his disregard for my boundaries, though. It made me feel completely violated & I couldn't take that from the one person that had made me feel safe for all those years. So, while my issues weren't the cause of my divorce, they definitely complicated the matter.

Since then...relationship have been pretty much non-existent. There have been times of compulsive sexual behavior, though I was more mindful of safety than I had been as a teen. But, for the most part, I have chosen to keep myself emotionally unattached. I sort of developed a pattern of being "the rebounder". I would generally end up hooking up with a guy and being friends first, and friends-with-benefits, second. So, the way this usually works is, we're great friends & can talk about just about anything (because that's just who I am). However, since I've been so busy with kids & law school, I haven't been available to fully give myself to a relationship. So, when another woman would become available that could give them a relationship, I would encourage him to pursue her. I've given relationship advice & helped them create these relationships, even though I know how it will end. Inevitably, when the relationship turns serious, the girlfriend (who, in at least one case, is now the wife) will not be comfortable with his continued relationship with me (even though the sexual part of the relationship is over) and he has to distance himself from me. Some speak to me on occasion...& I'm very glad when I get to see that they are happy in their lives. So, basically, the pattern had been that I am a placeholder...someone that is great to be with & supportive, until they find someone else that can give them what they really want.

See...I stay friends with past lovers, not for future hook-ups, but because they caught my attention by being awesome people. I see no reason to eliminate amazing people from my life simply because they no longer share my bed.

Anyhow, keeping focus on how my issues effect my relationships. I've been rather resistant to entering actual committed relationships. Part of that is my trust issues, the other part is just being gun shy from the divorce--although, some of it has been the fact that I haven't had much left to give to another person, after all the energy expended with law school, kids, etc. There was one person that I dated, actually thinking there was a possibility for a future. However, there was a distance problem & we ended up just being friends. I didn't realize, until I saw him a few months ago, that I still have feelings for him. It's a moot point, though, because he no longer seems to be speaking to me, for some reason.

I've also had people ask about my current relationship status, probably just out of sheer curiosity. I suppose the answer is...I'm currently undefined. I'm not just being flippant because of my reluctance to place labels on things. I had something going for the last lil while that was working well for me. However, at the moment, I don't know the status of that. So...your guess is as good as mine on that right now.

Let's see...other ways that my issues, both from the past trauma & that of the divorce, effect my relationships...

I tolerated treatment that I never should have from the baby's dad, both because I needed help supporting him & because I didn't want yet another child growing up without their father. That is not something I'd recommend because, if they continue a behavior, even after knowing it hurts you, it's not something that will change. So, it's really just a matter of whether or not you can tolerate it. If you can't, don't. It's an exercise in frustration to try, like I did, & hang on for too long, hoping that it will change. It won't.

 My paranoia leads me to keep my social life as separate from my kids as possible. No one comes into my house, with my kids, without me checking them out. I'm sure I have friends who are reading this, wondering if it applies to them. The answer is, YES. If I let you in my house, while my kids were there, I, at the very least, ran your name through the public court records database. If I had found any reason to believe you a threat to me or my children, you never would have been allowed in.

I don't tell people about what has happened to me. If it ever gets to the point of having sex, I generally have to have a conversation about triggers. If they ever spend the night, though, is when the real conversation has to take place because there's no way to hide the nightmares. I don't always have to tell them exactly what happened. I didn't used to give any info at all. In fact, I gave no warning to one person, but he handled the situation very well. He told me that I didn't have to explain, and just held me & told me I was safe. In many ways, he gave me hope that there may actually be someone in this world that can deal with my issues. Perhaps that's why I still have feelings for him, even though I know he gave up on it ever going anywhere a long time ago.

As for the future...

I do often get tired of being lonely & wonder if I'll wind up alone. Honestly, I don't see that I can have a typical relationship any time soon. That doesn't have much to do with my issues, really, though. It has more to do with the fact that my pool of possibilities is relatively small. Statistically, my educational level reduces my chances of finding a mate. I'm an independent woman. I don't need a man. This was an issue in my marriage. He said that not needing him was a problem. I will never understand why wanting them isn't enough but, for some men, it is not. Also, and it's not generally considered kosher to talk about but, let's deal with reality...I have 5 kids. How many men are willing to take that on at all, let alone with the added complications that I have (transracial foster/adoption, multiple baby daddies, etc.)?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gender roles & stereotypical beauty.

I'm mad as hell right now, so forgive the rant.

I've always shied away from forcing my kids into stereotypical gender roles. I don't give the boys Legos & cars, while handing the girls play kitchens and baby dolls. My girls need to be prepared to me more than just mothers & my boys need to be able to do more than just the typical testosterone saturated activities. I would like them to be more well balanced individuals. So, I have always provided my kids with a variety of activities & never labeled things as "boy toys" or "girl colors". Over all, I've noticed that the way they play is very much the same & doesn't seem to diverge too much from one another until they become tweens. Then, as the boys are reaching puberty & testosterone is doing what it does, they are changing, of course. So, I call bullshit on that whole "little boys will be boys". Kids are just kids & they learn what they live.

So...onto the reason I'm pissed off tonight...

It has taken me a while to convince Lil Sis that it's perfectly acceptable to play with what are usually categorized as "creative toys" or to play basketball. Apparently, in her previously placement, they were considered boy things & she was directed to Barbie & anything they could find in pink...the more obnoxious the shade, the better, from the looks of it. She still feels the need to label it, but she'll at least try some things that she thinks of as boy activities.

However, I hadn't realized until tonight, how ingrained the typical mainstream idea of beauty is in this poor child. Tonight, when I was parting her hair to braid it, she begged me to flat iron it. Apparently, when they would give her scalp a week off, in between braided styles, he would straighten her hair & go on & on about how beautiful it is straight. This, of course, was simply because he didn't know how to deal with her AA hair. However, she took from this that her hair can only be beautiful if it's straight. This led to a conversation, of course...Turns out she also wants to be blonde, with light skin...you know...she wants to look like a Disney Tramp (yeah, yeah...I know y'all call them princesses...but I never had much use for princesses. I'd rather not be helpless, thank you very much.).

I explained that she was beautiful just they way she is. She assured me that I have no idea what I'm talking about because you have to look like them to be beautiful. So...my question is this: Do people not think about the messages they are sending kids, or do they know & just not care?

What a relief!

I had a terrible Memorial Day weekend...like an I wouldn't have even gotten out of bed if it weren't for my children kind of terrible. I was supposed to get money on Friday to pay my rent, which is due on the first. Well...that didn't happen. So, I spent all weekend depressed & wondering how in the hell I was gonna make rent. After all, my account is already overdrawn & I've already sold just about anything that I have with any cash value.

Well...miracles do happen! I got a call this morning saying that I had received a child support payment. Wow! I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that he's just over a week away from beig arraigned on Contempt of Court for being $24K behind...but I don't care the reason. I can pay my rent! I'm so happy that I don't even care that I'll be broke afterward...as long as I can pay it!

I will be so glad when I pass the Bar so that I can support my kids without having to depend on anyone else. This whole wondering if I'll have a place to live for another month thing isn't working for me.

So...

If trying the same thing over & over, expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity...what is it when you try many different strategies & STILL get the same results?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sometimes I hate being right...

When I found out that Lil Sis was in foster care, I refused placement. This was an unpopular decision amongst many of my friends & some of my readers. It wasn't that I didn't want her...after all, I had already spent 5 years worrying about her & wondering about her safety. However, I knew that adding a 5th child would be difficult even under the best of circumstances. After all, one person can only do so much. I also recognized that, while Beautiful is well adjusted, she still has some insecurities stemming from her time in foster care, which results in her feeling competitive with other little girls. Add to that the fact that Lil Sis had already been in a stable placement for several months & was very happy. They were a bit naïve about the red flags that I could see in her behavior, but they were starting to see that there were some deeper issues and seemed to be in positive about following my advice to get her therapy.

So, considering all the factors, I thought that the best solution was for her to stay in that placement, where there was more individual attention, and not further traumatize her by putting her through another move. After all, she could have her sister in her life, without being in the same home.

However, that option was taken off the table. So, I did what I thought was the next best solution. She came here.

I pleaded with the former fosters to allow a long transition, so that it wouldn't be further trauma for this little girl to overcome. Ultimately they decided against that. She was moved abruptly, with no real understanding that she was actually moving. She thought she was visiting us & would be returning to them. I still get told "I want my dads" every time she gets upset.

As it turns out, I was right in my concerns. Beautiful feels competitive with her & is acting out. Granted, it's not manifesting in behaviors that would raise eyebrows with most people. I keep hearing "that's just normal kid stuff", but I realize that it's indicative of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. I've discussed it with Lil Sis's counselor & we will be trying sessions with the two of them together, and will later determine if Beautiful needs to begin individual counseling again.

I was also right about the fact that the move would be horribly traumatic for Lil Sis. Since she didn't understand what was happening, and she's had no contact with the former fosters, she has been left with this huge void that she doesn't know how to deal with. Since her CW is the one who moved her, even seeing the woman is hugely triggering for her. Every month, when she makes her visit, Lil Sis freezes & then spends about 2 weeks acting out and going through waves of grief and misbehavior before it levels out. Then, there's a small break...and then the CW shows up again. I've been trying to request a new worker, but I haven't been able to reach anyone at DHS for the last 3 weeks & they don't return my calls.

I knew that it would be difficult to bring her in as part of my family, and I knew that moving her would be traumatic. And I hate that I was right about those things...

I also knew that I love her & that I was willing to do the best I can to help her...and those things are true as well.

My fear, though, is that I am not enough. I keep hearing the nay-sayers, who were oh so vocal, saying that DHS shouldn't give a foster child to a woman who is already raising 4 other children, especially when she's also a working woman. The truth is, I had more energy & time to dedicate to meeting the children's needs when I was a stay at home mom. However, that's not an option, so I do the best I can...but I do worry.

I feel guilty that her tantrums drive me crazy & that sometimes I need a break. I feel angry that she is even in this situation, because DHS had the opportunity to prevent the hell that she endured. I'm mad as hell that DHS doesn't do their damn job & get back to me when I call them. I'm sad that there's not more that I can do. At times I'm overwhelmed, but at the same time, part of me feels like I don't have a right to be.

There's a voice in the back of my mind, though, that says that it will all work out & be alright. I pray that I'm right about that, as well...

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Thing About Parenting...

The thing about this whole parenting gig is...that I honestly have no idea what I'm doing.

The good news, I suppose, is that no one else does either.

It's not a science. There's no tested solution that will work for any given kid. It's all guess work, really.

Sure, there are ways that are likely to produce better results than others...but, even then, the best we can hope for is to hope that we don't screw up too badly.

Personally, I try to parent with the end goal in mind. To me, it's important that my children grow to be independent, kind, caring, capable people. So, I do my best to teach them how to make logical decisions, with the hope that they will be able to make good decisions as they get older & to recognize when they are in over their head. Likewise, I try to foster a positive, open relationship with each child so that they know they can come to me when they do find themselves in that position.

Will any of this work? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that the people that I would like for my children to turn out like were parented in this fashion...so, it's worth a shot. None of us will know how our parenting worked until the kids are grown...and it's too late to undo it, at that point. So, I try to hedge my bets & learn from other people's experiences.

The complicated part is, though, how to form the strategy to achieve the focused goals. Sometimes the answer to how to deal with a particular child is easy...sometimes it's not. This week, the only word I have for it is frustrating.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How I became me...the dark chapter...

If you know me in real life & I haven't trusted you with my innermost secrets (which is pretty much everyone, with the exception of a few close friends), your best bet is to stop reading. If you choose to continue, I'd like you to know this: if I haven't spoken about this to you, at least cryptically, then I probably don't feel safe talking to you about it...so you should just keep your mouth shut about what you read here. Unless I bring it up or you share (or have shared) my bed it's none of your fucking business...so don't mention it to me...and damn sure don't run your mouth to other people because it's none of their fucking business either.

Which reminds me, there is likely to be a lot of foul language & rambling in this post. This is hard for me to put out there so, if I self-censor or edit, I will never wind up hitting send. So...with all that out of the way...


I just finished having a conversation with a good friend about what is missing from my blog...the part of me that I don't put out there...

I generally don't speak about it unless it's to help others who have survived similar situations. I posted about it a couple of times in my old blog, but ended up deleting the entries because it was just too hard to have that out there. In fact, don't be surprised if this one disappears. However, I'm going to try this as a means of taking control over it.

Right now, I am just past the anniversary reaction & starting to level out emotionally. I'm hoping that this, although difficult, will ultimately be empowering.

Ok, enough stalling & bullshitting...


People often ask me why I so stubbornly disagree with the "everything happens for a reason" platitude. The answer is simple: There are things in this life that are worse than death & I don't believe that any just God would cause them to happen as part of some grand plan. Even taking the concept of God as a given, I cannot accept that such horrible cruelty would be part of a divine plan, unless the deity was some sort of sadist. Quite frankly, a sociopathic God scares me more than just accepting the fact that, sometimes, the reason is simply because human beings do terrible things.

I don't believe that we are defined by the things that are done to us, against our wills. However, I am not naïve enough to believe that they don't effect and shape who we become. We may find a way to turn the negative into a positive, but it still affected us, didn't it? I'm not trying to stall, here, I promise...I just have a lot of thoughts swirling & I'm sorta letting it free flow...

So...what happened to me, you ask? What made me become the compulsive, paranoid, remarkably empathetic & overly logical person that I am?

A few weeks after I turned 14, I was raped & tortured by a sadistic sociopath. What he did to me is nobody's fucking business, but I will disclose that it continued on for hours. At a certain point, I realized that, if I didn't let him know that he was hurting me, he couldn't keep his dick hard. So, I would stop fighting. Then he would stop raping me & find other ways to hurt me...but at least I could disassociate enough to make that more manageable for a while. At moments, I wished he would just kill me like he threatened to. At others, I tried to not piss him off to that point because I didn't want to die. There have been many, many moments since that day that I wished he would have just killed me. That would have been far more merciful.

To cover his ass, he made a point to tell many people in our small town that I had consensual sex with him (not sure how that was supposed to explain my injuries but, whatever). Believing his threats to kill me, if I told anyone the truth, & knowing that he stalked me at some points after, I just let them believe whatever they wanted. Some people were smart enough to realize what had likely happened, others preferred to spread the gossip. From my perspective, being labeled a whore was better than people knowing the truth.

After that, I became sexually active as a means of control. It not rational, certainly. However, to me, having consensual sex was a way to feel empowered...I was the one getting to decide what I did with my body, rather than having sexual acts forced upon me.

I also started drinking & popping random pills, as well as self injuring. It wasn't until I almost killed myself by huffing that I realized how much trouble I was really in. So, I asked my parents to get me some counseling. I had issues & I didn't know how to deal with them. My request was refused. I was later raped, at the age of 15, while too intoxicated to fight the man off. It goes without saying, that this didn't help improve things any...

So, with no appropriate tools to help navigate what I was dealing with, I continued my coping mechanism...which eventually formed into compulsive behaviors. I won't spend much time on the psychological theories surrounding addiction/compulsive behaviors. However, I will say that I have managed to learn how to control most of my compulsions. I won't deny that I still feel the compulsion to drink, or self injure. If I don't, my anxiety sky rockets. Generally, though, I make a point not to drink if I'm feeling that way...and I don't self-injure, with the exception of a few tattoos & piercings. As for compulsive sexual behavior, I no longer engage in random or unsafe sex. While it's not necessarily a good thing, I do have the ability to separate emotion & have completely casual sex...not that I have much time for sex at all, since I have 5 kids...but the reality is what it is.

After all these years, the only time I have compulsive thoughts are when my PTSD is triggered. I hate to label it, but it's the simplest way to describe it so people know what I'm talking about. I spent many years dealing with flashbacks, but these days they only come in the form of night terrors. It's been quite some time since any somatic symptoms have appeared, but I continue to be hypervigilent & paranoid. So...things have improved...but I'd be happy if it all just disappeared.

Just for the curious...the psycho is dead. I remember when I found out about his death. At first I was numb...then I became deliriously happy about it (which actually disturbed me a little)...then I became angry that I didn't get to be the one to send him straight to hell. There have been many moments when I wished that I had killed him...especially when I learned about some of the victims that came after me.

So...that's why I do some of the things that I do that puzzle people. It's also why I have such empathy for people and always look at the underlying issues that cause their behaviors. It's why I understand how Lil Sis feels when she has nightmares, even though she can't tell me what she had been dreaming. The reality is that it doesn't matter what she dreams...what matters is helping her to feel safe & empowering her to cope with the things that have happened to her.

So...don't pity me...don't patronize me with things like "sorry those things happened to you" ...don't tell me how amazing I am to have overcome so much...don't do any of that. What you should do is find a way, every day, to make this world a better place. Give grace to others when you can but never feel guilty for defending those that need it. We are all human, none of us are perfect...but we damn well could all do a lil bit better...and we should at least try...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Esquire

I am officially a lawyer.

My weekend was consumed by graduation ceremonies & celebrations. Some people that I wish could've been there didn't make it. Others made great efforts to make my celebration as special as possible. My sister-by-choice flew here from the other side of the globe, just to mark my milestone, and I got to spend time with both long-time & recently made friends. Overall it was wonderful & memorable.

Friday night was the American Indian Academic Achievement Celebration, where all the Native graduates are honored and presented with a custom made stole (the red one in the photo). Of all the ceremonies, this is the one that meant the most to me. Perhaps that seems counter intuitive, since the law degree was the primary objective, and the Master's was sort of an afterthought. However, some of the faculty are the same one that were in the department the first time I was in college.

Back in the late 90s, I was a Native American Studies major as an undergrad. I had to drop out
while I was pregnant with my oldest son because I was simply too ill to go to class. At that time I thought I would return to school the next semester. However, near the end of my pregnancy, my then husband got a new job. We relocated when the baby was two days old.

I was able to return to school as a distance student. However, because of the limitations on how many degree programs are practical to provide in an online format, I had to change my degree plan. While I was glad to earn a degree, I always missed the program that I had left. The area of study had been of great interest to me and the staff had been immensely supportive. No other program that I tried was ever quite the same.

So, when I learned that the law school had a joint degree program that would allow me to return NAS and receive a Master's, without adding time in school, I jumped at the chance. I can sincerely say that my connections in the NAS department contributed greatly my success in law school. The staff was encouraging and kept me going when I felt too overwhelmed by balancing my family and all the issues that I have lamented in previous blog posts, among others. For that reason, it meant a lot to have a special ceremony with the people that meant so much to me and my success.

Later Friday evening was the university wide Commencement. I was honored to carry the Cheyenne & Arapaho flag for the processional. Afterward, I got to have a wonderful evening spending time with some amazing friends.

Saturday morning was the law school hooding ceremony. It felt wonderful to walk across the stage, and be formally pronounced a lawyer. [The blue stole is for earning a certificate in Indian Law & the honor cords are for working more than 100 pro bono hours.]

I was prepared for the good emotions but I wasn't expecting the bittersweet. In the middle of the ceremony, I had a flash of a memory from a few years before, when my wasband and I were discussing what that moment would be like. We had planned for this for years. When I was accepted to law school, we made a plan on how to make it happen...and we talked about how amazing it would be for him & our children to watch me walk across that stage. So, for a brief moment, I felt a bit of the heaviness of realization about how much my life has changed in a few short years.

I started law school with a husband & 3 kids. The husband was gone within, quite literally, a matter of weeks. Since then, two children have been added to my household. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I miss my wasband. At this point, because of all that's happened, I wouldn't take him back even if he asked. Admittedly, though, I do miss having someone to really share life with. However, that isn't what was bothering me. What got me was the ever present realization that, as much as it hits me at
times, it is an even more looming reality in the lives & minds of my kids. The Bigs are hurt a lot by the fact that he chooses to largely be absent from their lives. Lil Sis is heavily grieving the absence of the former foster fathers who have chosen to have no contact. It seems like I'm always trying to pick up the pieces of shattered children who have been hurt by the childish behavior of grown men & it gets to me at time...but that's a different post. Seriously, it's a miracle that I don't need to be medicated. ;)

Anyhow...back to the graduation stuff...Saturday evening, my sister-by-choice & I marked the occasion by getting tattoos together. I got "Esq."...because it's not official until you get the title permanently inked on.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Officially done with school!

Yesterday, I submitted my Master's thesis to the Acquisitions Department, officially fulfilling the
final requirement for both degrees (MA/JD). So, I'm done with law school! Yay!!!

I have the Bar prep course all summer. But, for now, I have a slight break. I'm still in DHS training twice a week & my internship, so it's not a real vacation...but it's less work than I had...and once step closer to being a full fledged attorney.

So, today, I took the opportunity to spend a few minutes outside. It's been a while since I had time, so I was enjoying myself. So much so that I didn't even mind pulling weeds from the garden. It's lovely to see all my little plants growing & my peas blooming. I'm hoping to replant what didn't come up thanks to our crazy weather (seriously?!?! 70s during the day & 30s at night?!?).

I'm starting to feel like I can breath again...even if just a little... ;)