“Hurry Up and Heal” – An article from Feministing.com

I want to share this great article from Feministing.com called “Hurry Up and Heal”: Pain, Productivity and the Inadequacy of ‘Victim vs. Survivor’ by Dana Bolger. I think many of us can relate to this!

“Hurry Up and Heal”: Pain, Productivity and the Inadequacy of ‘Victim vs. Survivor’

Afterward, my friend said to me, “Stop calling yourself a victim. You’re a survivor.”

The notion of the compulsory transformation from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’ is hegemonic in violence care-work in the United States. To be a victim is to be fresh, still smarting, an open wound. Weak, disempowered, passive.

To be a survivor is to be strong, (pro)active, healthy, and productive. To have progressed.

The point of transition from victim to survivor is variously delineated as the moment at which someone first discloses to someone else that they suffered violence, meets with a therapist, reports to the authorities, or (even) takes their story to the press or engages in policy work.

In elevating those who “move forward,” the victim/survivor dichotomy implicitly condemns those who do not, reaffirming myths about what constitutes a good versus bad survivor, and legitimizing certain forms of survivorship over others. To be a (strong) survivor is to carry that weight — figuratively, and literally. To be a (weak) victim is to crumble, “stay” silent, engage in self-harm.

Compulsory survivorship depoliticizes our understanding of violence and its effects. It places the burden of healing on the individual, while comfortably erasing the systems and structures that make surviving hard, harder for some than for others. You are your own salvation. You are your own barrier to progress.

* * *

My school hired a lawyer to clean up its act. She was invited to speak to the entire campus community to educate us about rape culture. Instead, she said: “Rape is the death of the victim’s spirit.”

I’m not dead.

‘Victimhood’ comes with its own baggage. In the popular imagination, to be a victim is to have lost but worse: it is to have let yourself lose.

Only certain people get to be victims (or survivors). The very categories are policed on the basis of identity, presentation, and experience. We only recognize the violence of certain acts. We only mourn the violation of certain bodies.

* * *

“Just get over it.”

Others decide how we express our pain: too little and they catastrophize (“he damaged you”), too much and they demand we move on.

The idea of the victim-survivor transformation is linear, and directional. You’re a victim until one day, you “speak up,” you report, you go to therapy, and poof! you blossom into a survivor. You “put it all behind you,” and then there’s no turning back.

The cult of compulsory survivorship ignores the cyclic nature of healing. The good days. The bad days. Healing is nonlinear, messy, disruptive, and unpredictable. Trauma is, as others have pointed out, generational and historical. We carry trauma in our bones.

I don’t believe the afterward of violence ever really ends. We get better until we don’t.

* * *

“We’ll get you fixed up and back to college in no time.”

Before that, I’d never known I was broken.

Who benefits from believing in the “fixable”? Who benefits from insisting that trauma and its effects have ended, from tying up pain with a pretty little bow?

Our society is invested in the idea that we will return to “normal.” That there is an impending date at which we will be as we were, when the ‘after’ will look like the ‘before,’ when everybody can finally have some peace and quiet. Perhaps for some that day will come. Perhaps it won’t.

We want to believe violence’s impacts are finite. We want to believe that healing is constant and progressive. Perhaps deep down we know this is not true. We cling to it for our own comfort. We insist victims perform resiliency for our own peace of mind.

The relentless imperative to “hurry up and heal” is an appeal to smooth over your rough edges and Move On. Get back to being a productive member of society. We hear it everywhere from our homes to our college campuses to the streets of our burning citiesI urge you to set aside your pain and engage in productive steps forward. Performing our survivorship benefits the privileged (who seek to remain comfortable in their ignorance) and the powerful (who are deeply invested in managing the anger of the marginalized). The compulsory transformation from victim (unproductive) to survivor (productive) serves an imperialist capitalist state.

Our history books paint the U.S. occupation of this country as over and done, a concluded (if tragic) chapter from a colonial past. If the trauma is over, then we can move on and forget. If the trauma is done, we can in good conscience stop carrying that weight.

I don’t know what to call myself these days. Victim/survivor feels inadequate. I want new language. I want new structures and systems and institutions that affirm and support vulnerability, instability, and anger.

* * *

“Right now you might think of him every second of every day but someday, you will think of him less.”

I do–

Read the article in its original format and find out more about Dana Bolger on Feministing.com.

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Technical Difficulties

Hi Everyone,

It’s Saturday, November 29 and unfortunately we’re experiencing some technical difficulties with the website. You will be able to access most of the content but comments are not available. I’m so sorry!

I’m looking into this and hope to address the issues within a reasonable amount of time, but I appreciate your patience with this. It’s possible that in order to address the situation I may need to change the look of the site. We’ll see…

I appreciate your understanding and I apologize for the inconvenience!

Kristi

UPDATE – December 6

Well I was so hoping to have this all sorted out by now, but the universe has other ideas. Just know that I am working on this as best I can and hope to have everything back to “normal” (if there is such a thing) as soon as possible. I am so sorry for the inconvenience! (And if anyone knows a web person who’d like to donate their time to a worthy cause, please have them get in touch!)
~Kristi

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Questions to Ask a Prospective Therapist

Looking for a good psychotherapist can feel like a big hassle. The impulse to just go with the first person you meet and avoid having to look any further can be strong, but unless you find someone right off the bat who feels like the perfect fit, it’s best to do some shopping. For a healthy and successful therapeutic relationship, you will want to find someone skillful you can trust, who treats you with kindness and respect, and who maintains good, strong boundaries. So it’s important to be selective. There are many different therapists—and types of therapists—out there, so don’t assume that the first one you meet is the right one for you. Plan on talking to at least two to three different practitioners so that you can get an idea of what you want in a therapist and who will be a good fit for you.

While many therapists will want you to come in for a get-to-know-you session that you will most likely have to pay for (although some offer free, short consultations), it will save you time and money if you can have at least a 10-minute phone conversation with a prospective therapist before you set foot in their office. This is especially important if you have experienced therapy-related trauma in the past. Having an initial phone conversation allows you to get an idea of what the practitioner is like, how they manage boundaries, and see whether any red flags pop up to signal you that maybe this is not the right therapist for you. An introductory phone call allows you to determine the likelihood of their being a good fit before you meet them.

I highly recommend you do three things before you start calling your prospects:

  1. Take some time to consider what you want in a therapist. What kind of therapy do you want to do (e.g., cognitive-behavioral, Jungian, somatic, transpersonal, etc.)? How much do you want to pay? Do you need someone who takes insurance? Do you want to work with someone who specializes in trauma? If you’ve suffered abuse in the past, give some thought to what kind of boundaries feel appropriate for you and what’s negotiable and non-negotiable in terms of the therapist’s behavior.
  2. If you’re going to be paying out of pocket, decide what your monthly therapy budget is and what you can afford per session. A therapist may have the expertise you’re looking for but charge more than your budget allows. Depending on your needs and your budget, you may want to consider options such as having sessions every other week or doing longer sessions. (Longer sessions can be particularly helpful if you’re doing trauma-oriented work such as EMDR or Somatic Experiencing.)
  3. Put together a list of questions based on information you want to know. When you get the prospective therapist on the phone, start interviewing. Depending on the length of your list, you may not get to all of your questions, but you can hopefully cover the most important ones.

As you are contacting your prospects, let them know you would like to ask them some questions and would appreciate the chance to speak with them on the phone for 10–15 minutes. This gives them a heads-up so that they can set aside time for the call. Make sure you provide them with your phone number and some good times to reach you.

To assist you with putting together your list of interview questions, here is a sample list that includes questions to ask when you first speak with the therapist (and/or when you have your first session), as well as questions to ask yourself after your initial contact and/or first session, to help you gauge your reaction to the therapist. A number of the questions are from an excellent book called Take Back Your Life—Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias, and I’ve also included several of my own. Decide which ones are most important to you and ask those first. The rest you can leave for your first session (if you decide to meet the therapist) or a follow-up call if you decide you want more information. You should have answers to all the practical questions by the end of the first session.

If you think of other questions you’d like to add to the list, please leave a comment below!

Questions to Ask a Prospective Therapist

  1. What is your counseling experience? How long have you been in practice? How long have you been licensed?
  2. What types of clients do you work with?
  3. What are your areas of expertise?
  4. What type of therapy do you practice (e.g., cognitive-behavioral, Jungian, transpersonal, somatic, etc.)? What does that involve?
  5. What is your educational background?
  6. What is the length of a regular session?
  7. What is your schedule and availability?
  8. What is your fee? Do you offer a sliding scale?
    Note: If you want to consider options such as longer sessions or every-other-week sessions, this is a good time to ask the therapist about these and other possibilities.
  9. What is your cancellation policy?
  10. What’s your policy regarding phone calls? Are you reachable in a crisis or an emergency? How often do you check your messages? What’s your policy regarding returning phone calls? Do you charge for phone conversations?
  11. Do you take treatment notes?
  12. What’s your privacy policy? Do you ever share information and under what circumstances?
  13. Do you have an advisor or someone you consult with regularly?
  14. Do you believe in setting treatment goals? How are these established?
  15. Tell me a little about how you hold boundaries for the relationship. What kind of therapeutic container do you provide?
  16. What do you do when you run into a client outside the office?
  17. Do you ever conduct therapy sessions anywhere other than the office?
    Note: If the therapist says they sometimes meet clients in coffee shops, make “house calls” or conduct sessions in their home (and do not have a dedicated home office), this may be a warning sign of someone with boundary issues.
  18. What’s your experience working with trauma and abuse? Do you have experience working with PTSD? How do you work with trauma and PTSD? What’s your approach? What modalities do you use? (For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy, EMDR, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and other modalities/techniques may be used in working with trauma.)
    Note: If the therapist uses few or no techniques other than talk therapy, ask if they refer out to someone more experienced in working with trauma, should you need that kind of support.
  19. How do you feel about spiritual or New Age concepts? Do you incorporate any New Age or spiritual techniques in your therapy? Do you ever use hypnotherapy or guided visualization techniques? If so, how do you determine if and when these techniques are appropriate?
    Note: While these techniques may be beneficial for some clients, they can be very triggering for others. It should be up to you as the client to decide whether or not you want to incorporate them into your therapy.
  20. What is your policy about having physical contact with clients? Do you ever hug or initiate any types of touch or contact? Do you ever use physical touch as part of therapeutic treatment? If so, how do you ensure proper boundaries are maintained?
  21. Do you believe it is ever appropriate to have sex with clients or former clients?
    Note: If the answer is anything other than “Never,” run—don’t walk—away from this practitioner as fast as you can!
  22. Have you ever worked with anyone who was a victim of sexual misconduct by their therapist?
    Note: If you have been the victim of abuse by a therapist, it is entirely up to you what you tell a prospective therapist about your situation and when. It’s completely understandable if you do not feel comfortable disclosing information about your abuse until you know this practitioner better and feel you can trust them. If you do feel comfortable disclosing some basic information, then feel free to ask the therapist if they have any experience working with this or similar issues.

Questions to Ask Yourself After Initial Contact with a Prospective Therapist

  1. How do I feel about this therapist? What’s my initial reaction?
  2. Do I feel accepted, respected, and comfortable?
  3. Am I experiencing any negative reactions (emotional or physical)? If so, is there anything I can pinpoint about the interaction that I might be reacting to?
  4. After a first session in the therapist’s office: Did anything in the environment make me feel uneasy?
    Note: It’s not unusual to react to the furniture, paintings, books, or other objects in the office.
  5. Was the therapist direct and open in answering all my questions or did they avoid answering some of them?
  6. Does the therapist seem sensitive, intelligent, and mature, someone with whom I can feel safe?
  7. How confident do I feel in this therapist’s ability to work with me?
  8. Did the therapist give me the impression that they have all the answers or could “heal” me?
  9. Did the therapist go overboard in assuring me that they were the right therapist for me? Were they trying to come across as the perfect therapist, the only one who could help me?
    Note: If the practitioner acts as if they have all the answers to your problems or they’re the only one who can help you, move on to someone else.
  10. How much talking did the therapist do? Did the therapist talk so much that I felt overwhelmed or didn’t have the opportunity to say what I needed to say?
  11. Did the therapist talk about their personal life? How much did they disclose?
    Note: This could be a red flag about boundaries. The therapy should be about you, not about your therapist.
  12. Do I feel that I can easily give feedback, state my needs, and be respectfully heard by the therapist? Do I feel that I can say no to the therapist if I need to?

Regarding red flags, if you feel anxious after seeing the therapist for the first time, that’s not necessarily a sign that something’s wrong. It’s normal to feel anxious or even wary of someone new, especially if you have trust issues. What you want to pay attention to is if you consistently feel triggered by the therapist and it doesn’t lessen after a few sessions, or if you feel in some way unsafe. If this happens, you may want to bring it up in therapy. If the therapist is open to discussing the issue and making changes and adjustments, that’s a good sign. However, if the therapist acts as if it’s your problem or tells you you’re wrong or that you should feel safe, that’s a big red flag. If this happens, move on to someone else!

It’s critically important that you find a therapist you can trust, who makes you feel safe, comfortable, respected and accepted. This is non-negotiable. You may need to speak with several practitioners before you find someone who feels like a good fit. That’s okay! You are worth it! Don’t settle for someone who disrespects you or can’t give you what you need. Just because someone is a practicing therapist doesn’t mean they have done their own personal work! Remember, therapists are just as human as you are. They’re not psychic or endowed with special healing powers or have a direct line to God. They’re simply people who chose to go into a helping profession to support people in need. Some are good at their job and others aren’t. It’s up to you as the consumer to be as discerning as you can. No one else knows you or what you need better than you do yourself. So honor yourself in this process and find a therapist who honors you!

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Seeking UK Attorneys Who Specialize in Therapist Abuse

Hi Everyone,

Occasionally I get contacted by UK readers looking for attorneys who specialize in therapist abuse. Since I have no contacts in the UK (or anywhere outside of the USA), I’d love to get some names.

Remember I do have some attorneys listed on the Legal page. Any one of them should be able to provide you with information and possibly a referral for your area.

Thanks for your help!

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New Video from Heather Sinclair: The Real Crisis in Healthcare

Heather Sinclair, of Lynette’s Law and the Lynette’s Law website, has posted a video on warning signs of bad therapy called The Real Crisis in Healthcare. The video includes some great advice on what to do if you see any of these warning signs in your own therapy.

You can visit Heather’s website at www.LynettesLaw4Maryland.com for other videos and a wealth of information.

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When The Pieces Don’t Fit: The Corrupted Puzzle

Note from Kristi:
I am happy to welcome Michelle Mallon as an ongoing contributor to the blog! Look for more of her posts in the future.

If you had asked me what happened, I would not have been able to explain it to you. I couldn’t tell you who was at fault either. “Was it my fault? Was it his fault? Was it intentional? How did this happen? And why wasn’t he trying to help fix what happened?” I said “Why?” in my head more times than I could count. I was completely and utterly broken and I had no idea how or why it happened. I was so lost. Everything about my life was so different now. It was as if I had gone from being a woman who had her head screwed on nice and straight to a person who couldn’t tell you for sure what color the sky was. I felt completely and utterly broken.

The best way I have come up with to describe this is that it felt as if I was trying to put pieces of a broken puzzle together. This “puzzle” in its entirety symbolized the way in which I understood my entire life—each piece representing various milestones, different important relationships throughout my life, all of my accomplishments and failings. Everything that made up my life as I knew it could be represented as a piece of this puzzle. Together those pieces represented who I believed myself to be and what I believed I could become. For most of my life, those pieces made a picture that made sense. I could take the pieces out of the box and put them together in ways that fit. I may not have always been proud of the picture they created, but I at least understood the picture and how it came to be. I knew why each piece was where it was. I knew what pieces represented parts of my life that I wanted to change and which pieces represented things that I held very dear to me.  At any point in my life prior to this, I had the power to change the new pieces I was creating to make the overall picture look more consistent with how I wanted my life to be. Suddenly I was beginning to realize that my “puzzle” no longer made any sense at all. Not only did the pieces no longer fit together or make sense, I had no idea how to adjust the new pieces I was making with my life choices to alter the final picture my puzzle was creating. Something terrible had happened and I could not identify what it was or how it happened. All I knew was that nothing made any sense anymore and I felt powerless to do anything at all about it.

And this feeling alone prevented me from feeling any sort of control over being able to feel safe moving forward with my life. As a result, I began to learn that finding my way back meant figuring out how I got to where I was. I couldn’t move on and I sure as hell couldn’t protect myself from this ever happening again if I didn’t know what just happened. Putting that puzzle together meant everything to me.

Now at first I tried to do the things that had worked for me in the past. I spent a great deal of time trying to rearrange the pieces of my puzzle to try and make them fit.  I knew from experience that sometimes the pieces got bent or I was looking at them with the colorful side down making it hard to see where they fit. But if I put enough effort into looking at the puzzle from different perspectives, I could put it together. Not this time. No matter what I did I couldn’t make those pieces fit.

Then I tried to convince myself that maybe I didn’t need to put that puzzle together. As time went on I was being told by people around me that I just need to move on not knowing “Why?” or “How?”. To others it sounded as if I just needed to accept that reality and move on. They had no idea that this was impossible. You can’t move on after being nearly destroyed without knowing the “Why?” or the “How?”. Without these answers, you know it is likely to happen again. You know full well you were lucky to have survived this ordeal. Another one would surely do you in.

As much as I wanted to be able to believe I could move on not putting that puzzle together, the reality was I couldn’t. I had no way to protect myself from this ever happening again if I didn’t understand what happened in the first place. Nothing I had ever encountered before in my life gave me the framework I needed to put this puzzle together. My entire world had been rocked and destroyed to rubble. I was standing in a lonely, desolate place where trying to find the missing pieces seemed overwhelming. There was no one to ask for help. I mean, there were people there, but at times it seemed I was speaking a different language. Or perhaps, they had assumed I had lost my mind based on the questions I was asking and the things I was saying. Somehow, I had gone from being a person who “had it all together” to a person who had absolutely nothing. I had lost my sense of who I was, though it wasn’t amnesia. I could remember back to being a person who had a strong sense of who she was and where she needed to go in life. In fact, it hurt so much to know that I had come from that place to where I was standing now and I had no idea how to get back. And everyone around me seemed to be reacting to me as if I wasn’t the person I used to be. I was utterly and completely lost, alone and afraid. If I could have at least known how I ended up in that God forsaken place, maybe I could find my way back. But the truth was, I really didn’t know how I got there. All I had was a small box with a broken puzzle—clues that I believed might help me find my way back.

And that is when I realized that my entire life depended on me putting that damned puzzle together. I was stuck in a prison that I couldn’t figure out how to get out of. I couldn’t move on without understanding what happened. That wouldn’t really be moving on. That would just be “existing.” And simply existing was still a life prison sentence for me. It was unacceptable.

What I didn’t realize was that in that lonely, desolate place in which I found myself after the abuse, there were people there who spoke the same language I did and could have understood my questions if I would have been able to find them. The problem was, I didn’t know these people were there. I couldn’t explain what I had seen and experienced without the missing pieces of my puzzle. All I had was sheer determination that I was not going down without a fight. Even though I couldn’t find my way back to where I had been before, I knew that place existed. I could remember it. Really, that was about all I had—the memory of knowing that at one point in time, I knew who I was. And I knew one thing: Who I had been was a person with life, vitality, passion, intelligence, optimism, strength, honesty—a whole host of things that I did not have now. And that was where I started.

Those parts of me had been stolen and I wanted those things back. They were mine.

Slowly, I began to learn that there were things about this puzzle that were not making sense; there were pieces in that box that shouldn’t have been there. I couldn’t really tell you how those phony pieces made their way into my box. I wanted to believe that maybe I had put them there, but that didn’t seem like something I would do. I had spent my life carefully selecting what went into that box and what didn’t. As much as I wanted to believe I put those pieces in the box, I knew I hadn’t. But the problem was, they were still there. Somehow, they had gotten into the box. I must not have been guarding that box as carefully as I thought. How did I get so careless? Careless was not something that described me…. At least not before the abuse.

It took a lot of time for me to figure out which pieces in that box were fake. The fake pieces symbolized twisted and distorted information I had been fed over time that had slowly become a part of my belief of who I was. In fact, this process of slow brainwashing was so subtle that I couldn’t even distinguish the fake pieces until I found more of the pieces that had never been in the box in the first place. The pieces that weren’t there in the first place represented important things I still had to learn—new words like malignant Narcissist, grooming, gaslighting, soul murder and trauma bonding. There were things about life I thought I knew simply because I hadn’t encountered anything to challenge my beliefs yet. That new information—the missing puzzle pieces—was crucial to my journey. And slowly, I was beginning to see that.

But I wasn’t just putting my puzzle together. I had kept all of the phony pieces that had somehow found their way into my box. I began to put those pieces together as well. Slowly, ever so slowly, I was starting to put together a puzzle that would shock me. What I found was that the picture the pieces of my puzzle created was a very different picture from the one that the counterfeit pieces created. In fact, nothing could have prepared me for the image I would see when I put all of the phony pieces together.

The counterfeit pieces, when put together created an image of a hideous, evil, dark side to human nature of which I was completely and totally unaware. In fact, what I was finding was something I didn’t want to believe. Those fake pieces created the hideous image of an emotional vampire—a person so hollow and shallow with no sense of remorse or shame for the destruction they cause. Prior to the abuse I endured, I had no idea what a malignant Narcissist was. I knew what abuse was and I knew what a Narcissist was. If someone had asked me if I knew what it meant prior to the abuse, I would have assumed it mean abuse perpetrated by a Narcissist (a shallow, vain person). And at some level, I would have been right. But in so many ways, I would have been wrong. I would have thought I understood. I could see why all of the people in that lonely, desolate place were avoiding me. What I was describing to them was frightening. Having no real understanding of this type of abuse, those whom I tried to ask for help couldn’t comprehend what I was saying. Or maybe it was too scary to try and comprehend. The truth was, prior to what I went through, I wouldn’t have wanted to believe me either.

But what I found to be even more astonishing was the discovery that there were people I knew who had seen monsters like this before but had no idea these were monsters. In fact, what I was beginning to see was that people who had endured this kind of abuse often times were left believing they were deficient in some way when the relationships crumbled. For some of these people it had been years since the abuse occurred and they had begun to move on with their lives. However, the haunting, nagging memories of having failed to prevent the destruction of a relationship they cherished was a sign to them of what a failure they were. What I discovered was even more people with puzzles that had been corrupted over time. When they looked back in their puzzle boxes, they too found things that were missing and things that shouldn’t have been there. Here I thought I was the only person in the world to have experienced this horrific abuse. It turned out that there were a lot of people who had experienced this and internalized it. They believed their abuser’s insistence that there was something wrong with them.

I began to see that unless they became aware of the extent of what they went through, those counterfeit pieces would remain in their puzzle boxes. The result was the very real potential for them to experience even more abuse from future Narcissists who were on the lookout for wounded, vulnerable people… just like them.

And it is because I know what it feels like to be so lost with so little hope of ever finding my way back home that I will continue to talk about and write about what I experienced. It was because of survivors before me who were strong enough to keep talking and writing that I found my way back to who I am. For that, I am eternally grateful.

So it was in putting this puzzle together and realizing what the final picture looked like that I realized I had to write about this. I have found that there are countless others with broken puzzles, trying to find missing pieces so that they too can survive. That haunts me every single day. I think back to my own journey, how difficult it was and how I almost didn’t find the missing pieces. Knowing how hard I searched, I realized it should not have been so difficult or taken me as long as it did to put this thing together. The reality was that my story is painfully common. And the truth is, it shouldn’t be.

And that part has to change.

* * *

Michelle Mallon has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Ohio State University and currently teaches in the Computer Science & Engineering Department at OSU. Her understanding of therapist abuse came after she was emotionally abused by a psychologist to whom she had taken her two young children for counseling. Now an advocate for victims of Narcissistic Abuse, Michelle is currently working with the Ohio chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to create a CEU program to prepare social workers to effectively help these victims. For more information about this endeavor, click this link http://www.naswoh.org/?page=mallon.

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You Won’t Make Me You

This is a guest post from one of our readers, Michelle A. Mallon, MSW, LSW.

The true strength of a person is measured in forgiveness. It is so easy to endure hardship at the hands of another and never be able to move on from it or worse, move on from it forever broken, vowing never to trust again. The desire to take that horrendous experience and use it to try and “protect” ourselves can overpower the gentle temperament of compassion, love, patience and kindness that gave us the power and strength to trust so deeply in the first place. The anger we might feel at ourselves for allowing our own eyes to deceive us is unfair at best, a lifelong prison at worst. We cannot always know or understand the dark reasons why our heroes fall from grace, why those we look up to fail us so miserably. In fact, they themselves may not know either. Perhaps, they too were victims of misguided trust that went horribly wrong and their response, their choice in how to understand this pain was to allow the experience to change them forever- in ways that left them scarred and broken. I will not make that choice. I still remember the bright-eyed, compassionate, strong, young woman who once inhabited this body. She is still in here, somewhere, searching for the way back to the place she knows she should be. I will not give up on her, though at times I had believed she had given up her fight. I see now that she had not given up. She had merely stopped for a moment to rest.  During that pause, she would reflect on how much this very journey has given her the tools she will need to love more deeply, trust more completely and understand more fully when she reaches her destination.  When she arrives, she will embrace the world around her with open arms and say:

“There is no man so horrible, so wretched, who possesses the power to convince me that my life is better lived in anger, fear, resentment and darkness–at least  not without my consent.  And because I can see what that choice has done to him, I will choose the path he was not strong enough to choose for himself. Perhaps someday he too will see that he is strong enough to make that same choice. Maybe he too will find that the fighter in him has never given up. His inner fighter had just stopped for a longer pause because he had waited so long to stop to rest. In fact, he was so close to his destination but assumed because his journey had been so long that he might never reach it. Once he opens his eyes he will how close he is and will finally gather up the strength he needs for the last leg of his journey. Perhaps… But that is his battle, not mine.”

-Michelle A. Mallon, MSW, LSW
Survivor

Michelle Mallon earned her Master’s degree in Social Work in 1999 from Ohio State University. She worked as a medical social worker at St. Ann’s Hospital, primarily on the Palliative Care Unit, for 14 years and has taught (and continues to teach) in the Computer Science & Engineering Department at the Ohio State University for 16 years. Her understanding of therapist abuse came after she was emotionally abused by a psychologist to whom she had taken her two young children for counseling. The therapist lured her in and referred the children out. She endured nearly two years of extensive predatory grooming followed by horrific emotional abuse. She recalls that the last time she ever saw this therapist (in June 2012) he was yelling and cursing at her and throwing things in his office.

One of the most painful and challenging parts of this journey to recovering her life has been overcoming the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that developed as a direct result of the abuse. It has not been an easy process, but she is finally reclaiming her identity, passion and enthusiasm for all of the thing she held so dear prior to the abusive relationship. Now, she devotes much of her time to reaching out to other victims of emotional abuse, not only victims of therapist abuse, to help them in finding the currently hidden path to recovering from such insidious emotional abuse. Her interests include malignant Narcissistic abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to this type of abuse. One of the most important books she has read in her own journey to healing has been “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion Of Identity” by Marie-France Hirigoyen.

Michelle says, “Without the detailed explanation of the intentional and manipulative aspects of the abuse that I was able to come to recognize from reading this book, I would still be reliving the events over and over again trying to understand what I missed that could have prevented the destruction of a malignant relationship that I had been deceptively led to believe was a supportive, helpful one. This book held the keys to open the prison door behind which this abusive therapist had locked me.”

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Escape from the Emotional Black Hole

This is a guest post from one of our readers, Michelle A. Mallon, MSW, LSW.

August 2012:

Looking back, it was as if I went through months of someone telling me there wasn’t a massive black hole sucking me in. It felt as if he was telling me “Everything is fine. Keep walking. In fact, walk faster. Just trust me. Do you trust me?”

Even as the wind picked up, and I couldn’t see anymore as I got further in, he still kept reassuring me, “Pay no mind to the feeling of being out of control. That is normal. You MUST go through this to feel better.”

When I would turn to ask again if it was really safe to do this or make a plea to try and run out, I would find the exits blocked by threats. I would hear him say “If you run out, you will be personally hurting me and it will cause immediate harm to your family and people you love. They might get sucked into a real black hole. You wouldn’t want that now, would you? All you have to do is try harder, and keep walking. You just have to trust me. Don’t you trust me?”

 I had to trust him that the black hole wasn’t going to destroy me in the process. Even though I know that all black holes destroy everything in their paths, I was being reassured that this one would not. Though it made no sense to me at all and was completely contrary to what my gut was screaming at me to do, I felt as if I had no choice but to keep going, knowing full well that it was going to rip me apart in the process. I was essentially choosing my own death. I remember being consciously aware that no matter what I did, I was going to be annihilated.

-Michelle A. Mallon, MSW, LSW

Michelle Mallon earned her Master’s degree in Social Work in 1999 from Ohio State University. She worked as a medical social worker at St. Ann’s Hospital, primarily on the Palliative Care Unit, for 14 years and has taught (and continues to teach) in the Computer Science & Engineering Department at the Ohio State University for 16 years. Her understanding of therapist abuse came after she was emotionally abused by a psychologist to whom she had taken her two young children for counseling. The therapist lured her in and referred the children out. She endured nearly two years of extensive predatory grooming followed by horrific emotional abuse. She recalls that the last time she ever saw this therapist (in June 2012) he was yelling and cursing at her and throwing things in his office.

One of the most painful and challenging parts of this journey to recovering her life has been overcoming the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that developed as a direct result of the abuse. It has not been an easy process, but she is finally reclaiming her identity, passion and enthusiasm for all of the thing she held so dear prior to the abusive relationship. Now, she devotes much of her time to reaching out to other victims of emotional abuse, not only victims of therapist abuse, to help them in finding the currently hidden path to recovering from such insidious emotional abuse. Her interests include malignant Narcissistic abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to this type of abuse. One of the most important books she has read in her own journey to healing has been “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion Of Identity” by Marie-France Hirigoyen.

Michelle says, “Without the detailed explanation of the intentional and manipulative aspects of the abuse that I was able to come to recognize from reading this book, I would still be reliving the events over and over again trying to understand what I missed that could have prevented the destruction of a malignant relationship that I had been deceptively led to believe was a supportive, helpful one. This book held the keys to open the prison door behind which this abusive therapist had locked me.”

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Survivor Poetry – Come into my Parlour, Said the Spider to the Fly

I am excited to share with you a wonderful poem written by one of our readers. I am sure you will enjoy this creative and moving piece, which can also be found on the Survivor Creativity page. ~Kristi

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Sue McDonald writes:
Although my abuse was not sexual, I feel emotionally raped by my lesbian therapist. I am a heterosexual female, seeking to heal from an abusive relationship with my mother, and have attachment issues and probably complex PTSD. I am a therapist myself, yet still fell into her trap of physical holding, telling me she loved me, and promises of always being there. I am trying to address this , but suffer enormous shame and so many confusing and mixed feelings. I am including a poem, written a year after I ended our relationship, which became co-dependent and spilled out of therapy.

Come into my Parlour, Said the Spider to the Fly

Lured inside your spider’s web with promises of care
My wellbeing your prime concern – you promised to be there.
Despite my early warning signs, I listened and believed
In all you said, it all made sense. Inside I felt relieved.
“Come talk to me, tell me your story. I want to hear it all
I’m interested in all you say.” And so I bared my soul.
I trusted you with all my pain, and shared my deepest fears
I gave you everything I had, and cried so many tears.
Until one day, when I awoke, I realised my plight
My therapy had been a joke, and so began my fight.
I fell into your sticky trap, ensnared by all you said
Believed in your integrity. Believed in what we shared.
Slowly, I began to see, your self loathing and your shame
But when I questioned I received your anger and your blame.
Now stripped of my defences, had exposed my infant self
So fragile, left wide open – for you to help yourself.
Hoodwinked and fooled, felt so ashamed – how could I be so blind?
You stole my soul, broke all the rules – and you were so unkind.
Terrorised and terrified, confused, entangled too.
Attached so firmly, lost myself. I thought I needed you.
Your cruelty and ignorance have caused me so much pain
Maleficence and arrogance – to meet your needs , not mine!
Finally I saw the truth, saw through your little game
Of cat and mouse, spider and fly – a creature filled with shame.
To feed your soul you preyed on mine – and so I did comply
My pattern, history, destiny – our relationship awry.
You had become my jailor, your web my darkest jail
I lost all sense of who I was, confounded, stuck, impaled.
To free myself I had to find a part of me unknown
A wily cunning creature – a spider of my own.
I wove my own protection, a silky soft cocoon
And lured you in with empathy – I understood your moves.
I retrieved my tiny infant, and held her very close
You rescued and you shamed her – in my book, that’s abuse.
I gave you understanding, you felt my empathy
The tables turned and you exposed your hidden self to me.
Horrified, re-traumatised – I needed to escape
from your traumatised imposter. My emotions had been raped.
One year on, the residue of our encounter still affects
I trusted you with heart and soul, and deserved all your respect.
The bitter truth still haunts me – that you were not yourself
You stole my child, abandoned yours, and then you harmed my health.
How can I forgive you for what you did to me?
I feel such rage and hatred for all your cruelty
Yet understanding is my goal, my mind to live in peace
I see your plight – your wounded soul – this torment has to cease
Revenge and retribution is not my scene at all
Forgiveness is the answer, to dissolve this mighty wall.

©  2014 by Sue McDonald

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