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Ask The Band: Post Abortion Coping

I’ve decided to have an abortion. It was a very difficult decision, but I know it is right for my partner and me and he is fully supportive. We have a 6-month old, we are completely financially strapped, and having a baby was so out of the question for us right now that I actually had an appointment to get an IUD inserted 6 days after I peed on the stick.

The decision is made, the procedure is rather straightforward, and I’m not worried at all… until the moment I have to leave the clinic after my abortion.

I’m most afraid of how I will cope emotionally after the all is said and done. I’m sure I’m doing the right thing for our situation, and us but I don’t handle emotional stress well.

My first pregnancy was plagued with severe antenatal depression and I worry how that will play in.

For all of you going through infertility treatments and struggling with all the emotions that go along with that, I’m so very sorry and I don’t mean to be insensitive.

Have any of you been in this situation?

How do you handle the inevitable emotional fallout after an abortion?

Did you regret it?

Because, oh my goodness, I’m so scared I’m going to regret it. Choosing abortion is, in part, choosing the path that will be the least psychologically damaging for me in the long run. But I’m still so scared.

Owning A Long-Buried Truth

Up to 70% of college students admit to being sexually coerced.

This is her story.

I blog about dealing with owning various truths about myself – the painful ones, the happy ones, the well-lived ones and, in this case, the ones that have remained buried for years.

Many of my truths have been recent discoveries while others I’ve owned for years. But there’s one truth, one single truth that I’ve kept buried for a long time, unwilling to examine it or call it what it was. This long-buried truth was yanked up to the surface by a recent online discussion.

Owning this truth began with another post by someone else, in which the author insinuates that an incident of sexual coercion was merely an accident, a bit of miscommunication between he and his girlfriend.

Some might agree with that.

But, as I read it, all I could think was, “Just because there wasn’t an explicit no doesn’t mean it was consensual.” And then a long-buried memory hit me like a sucker-punch to the gut. Some fifteen years ago, I didn’t explicitly say no, either.

I was a sophomore in college, living in my first apartment. I had a boyfriend, slightly older than me, whom I had met in a history class. In that class, we had to do those awful, awkward introductions everyone hates – you say your name and then offer up a favorite movie or book or quotation. This guy let fly with Marx’s, “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” and my angry, punk-rock eyes lit up.

I was smitten. We started spending a lot of time together. He stayed over at my place frequently. And we drank.

A lot.

One night, after we had been drinking, he started in with a request that I’d denied on many previous occasions. See, he really, really wanted to have anal sex: “C’mon, just this once. I’ll go really slow. It won’t hurt. C’mon.”
I was beyond hesitant – I didn’t want to do it. I was scared. I was also very, very drunk and absolutely incapable of making good decisions. The pestering continued and I finally caved.

I don’t remember much except pain. And blood. And tears. And humiliation. I remember sitting on the toilet, tears falling, somewhat sobered by the pain and the reality of what I had allowed to happen. Allowed to happen. It was my fault – I didn’t said “no.” I cried but I never said “no.” I told him I didn’t want to…but I never said no.

I didn’t stop him.

I let him do it.

It was my fault.

I took that shame and I buried it nice and deep. I never examined it, never called it what it was. Rape was something different: something forceful and angry and not something that happens with your boyfriend, especially not something that happens if you don’t say no.

But that’s exactly what it was: rape. I didn’t want to do it. I was crying, for fuck’s sake. I was wasted. He did it anyway, despite my hesitance, my prior protestations, and my tears. It wasn’t an “accident” and it had nothing to do with a lack of communication.

It was non-consensual, and non-consensual sex is rape, plain and simple.

Since this memory resurfaced, I sat with it for quite some time. There’s been lots of processing, more blame, and then letting go. I’ve decided to share it now, during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, because I’m certain that I’m not alone. Sadly, I’m sure it happens every day. A woman doesn’t want to…isn’t comfortable with it…might be drunk, might not…but doesn’t explicitly say no. Her reasons do not matter: what matters is that she didn’t want to and he continued.

Being sexually coerced isn’t equal to giving consent. It’s not your fault. And it wasn’t mine.

Taller, Present, Going Back

I’d started EMDR with a therapist at the VA for trauma when a co-worker at the assisted living center physically assaulted me. My reaction made me realize it was time to start some work I’d buried for decades; the relatively small action of him violently twisting my arm behind my back stimulated a response that had me making mental plans to kill him, and I am a strong believer in ahimsa.

Ed.-In the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jainist traditions, ahimsa is a respect for all living things and avoidance of violence toward others.

During the first few sessions last year, I made a list of small and large traumas in my life: being born with a cleft palate and the years of surgery, my father’s death in Vietnam when I was two months old (I blamed his death on my imperfection), the father and son who molested me when I was eight, being gang-raped by my peers in the army when I was 20, and the subsequent break and burying of that for 20+ years.

We chose to focus on the smaller, more recent trauma. After working through it, I realized I didn’t need to carry those unfortunate events. I returned to school and work, avoiding intimacy and instead allowing my large, no-longer-carried, but still present damage to sit in my cluttered room, a “Monster in a Box,“ as Spaulding Gray put it so well.

I knew I would return to therapy, but also knew I had to pay the mortgage, stay well, and wait for that mythical time when I was ready. A dear friend whom I had a brief relationship with a few months back sent a text near the end of December saying something like “help, this is killing me.” I didn’t even think about whether or not I would help her, despite how poorly things had ended just a few months back.

I loved her really since the moment I met her, and went, not expecting anything but to somehow help her survive the recent loss of custody of her son. Being with her, loving her, gave me the push to re-enter therapy. Last Thursday I spent two hours cycling through the largest, most painful personal event in my life.

Sexual assault is a common enough experience that the VA mental health clinic has a pamphlet about Military Sexual Trauma. Prior to starting the job, I self-reported the experience as an eight (where zero is nothing and 10 is death) 25 years after three soldiers sexually assaulted me, drunk, in a shower.

During this session I was vibrating with disturbance, weeping, and asked not to dry my tears, over-intellectualizing, referring to myself in the third person, returning to the scene, again and again until I imagined myself as each of the perpetrators.

In the end, we decided that “survivor” reminded me of that song from Rocky, so instead I’m just a human, a human who happened to be victimized by other humans and who wasn’t to blame, wasn’t raped because of anything but the fact that humans occasionally do horrible things for reasons we will never know. I ended up a one on the scale of 0-10, unable to believe I could ever be at a zero for such a profound violation.

Instead of an out of body experience or dissociation, the thought of the event now causes a vague flutter in my gut that I am very, very willing to tolerate. I wasn’t willing or interested in completely letting it go; the thought of completely removing it as significant felt unnatural, as it did happen, was real, and has caused more disturbance, illness, and pain than any other event in my life.

We ended the session with the standard wind down. I left the VA center feeling strangely taller, breathing more deeply, and at the same time feeling like I was missing something, something awful, but familiar, something indelible and old.

I return next week and every week until the work is done.

My Thoughts on Learned Hate

Just a warning, this is stream of consciousness writing about events that happened over a quarter century ago, triggered by current events. Please have patience with the time jumps. I’m trying not to tell all the details that are huge, but not important to this part of the story, and to try to be as anonymous as possible.

You see the pictures, the young people, basically still children, with hate and contempt in their eyes. Hate is taught at home, that’s what we say. We post the pictures of toddlers hugging, one pink, one brown. The idea is clear; we can solve racism in just one generation if we stop teaching our children to hate.

If only it were that easy. In high school I fell for the stereotypical bad boy. He had a car, a leather jacket and a terrible grade average. When you are living in a rural area, a car is essential when it comes to dating, and who can resist a leather jacket? He was tall, blonde and never smiled. He wore button-down shirts in an era of pop-collared Polo shirts. He was older, but was in a couple of my classes anyway (I mentioned the terrible grades). I am an empath, so I gravitated to him.

Maybe I could help? Here, I can explain the math. I tell a joke, he cracks a smile. What charming crooked teeth! Oh, that’s why you don’t smile, just a little self conscious, not such a bad guy!

I eventually met his mom, the woman who would become my mother-in-law. I loved her instantly. She was so sweet, not a mean bone in her body. She had a rough life. Her father’s violence ended in the death of both of her parents, in a murder-suicide that scandalized the town, leaving her and her siblings behind to face the judgement of small town gossip. She fell for a boy and his promises of freedom, only to have him disappear when they found out she was pregnant. It was hard, but she did it. She was a single mother at time when that was a huge stigma, working hard and struggling with a young son.

I don’t remember much about the man who was technically my father-in-law. I may have met him once. That was another thing that drew me in: a broken relationship with a step-father. “This poor bird has a broken wing!” My empathic brain was in overdrive! I. Must. Fix. This!

Anyway, that’s a long story, and I’ve set the scene. How romantic! High school sweethearts get married! That’s what the world sees. Behind closed doors, hatred grows.

For my bad boy, who needed to graduate? Not him! He was so smart, his teachers just hated him. Trouble getting and keeping a job? Those stupid bosses didn’t know how good they had it. As time went on, the need for a scapegoat grew. His problem must be his teeth. His stupid mother was too damn cheap to get him braces. Our money problems were my fault, for not being ambitious enough. But I couldn’t socialize to network because then I was being a slut. Rather than looking at his behavior, he looked for someone to blame. And he found them everywhere! He couldn’t do what he wanted to do because he was a straight, white man of course! Stupid Equal Rights! And then he found a new hero who would always tell him the truth, Rush Limbaugh.

I don’t know exactly what went wrong. I don’t know when the wheels came off. I was suddenly in a marriage with a Nazi. Hate ruled my home. My mother-in-law did not teach this. People like Limbaugh, (and now Alex Jones and the like) didn’t start this. They fan the flames, turn a spark into a brushfire, but where did the spark come from? Mental illness in an era where it wasn’t talked about certainly ran in the family. Remember his grandparents? I eventually admitted to myself that murder-suicide would probably be the end of me as well. But even in an era where mental health is widely talked about, hate still happens. Hate is easy. Mental health is hard work. I’ve been working on it. He did not. His mother even warned him that he was pushing too hard, and our marriage broke under the strain.

I am one of the lucky ones who escaped the hate. Too many don’t survive. After all that rambling, all I can say is, I don’t know. I use words as I learn them. Malignant Narcissist? Incel? I was that frog in a pot of water, unaware I was boiling to death. It happened under my watch, was it my fault? Of course not. Neither was it my mother-in-law’s fault. Yes, there are many generations of racists being born and taught to hate. Some even gather in enough members to teach it in schools, perverting religion to suit their needs. But sometimes it seems to just…happen. Nature versus nurture? I wish I had the answers. Even having lived through it, I don’t know what I would do differently. I have to release myself from the “should haves,” but could have I done something? If not, does that mean we are all powerless? I hope not. For all our sakes, I hope not.

I’m a Binge Eater

I’ve written about the night my daughter died. I’ve gone on and on about my depression battles. I’ve even written about a suicide attempt. Yet this is the most difficult post I’ve ever written. Because I’ve never told anyone. I just made the connection a few weeks ago. My “aha” moment, Oprah would say.

And Oprah could probably relate.

Deep breath.

I’m a binge eater.

I’ve never typed those words, or even thought about telling anyone.

I’m ashamed. The stigmas attached to this disorder, painful. I’m the fat girl. The one you judge. The one you think should “just go on a diet.”

I used to lie to myself. Tell myself excuse after excuse. For a while, I went to the other extreme. I stopped eating for over a year, and the weight fell off. I became so sick. I was “normal” weight for probably under a year.

When my daughter died, the weight gain was so fast. I told people this or that. I lied to them and lied to myself.

The truth is I’m overweight because I eat an outrageous amount of food when I’m sad. I eat too much.
I’m so ashamed. I’m ready to get rid of that shame. I’m ready to eat like a normal person. I’m ready for my husband to not ask “Is the ice cream all gone?” or “Did you eat all the XXX?” He means no harm, but I feel so bad when he asks. I feel like a fat ass.

I think coming to this realization is important. I think it will be key to changing this. It’s not going to be easy though, The Band, not easy at all.

I’m scared to hit publish. I don’t know if I should do it anonymously or not.

I’m scared people will think of me differently.

I know that coming out about this publicly will mean that I’m fully ready to admit to being a binge eater.

I just don’t know that I’m ready. I can continue to deny and go on eating to provide comfort if I publish this anonymously. Or if I publish as me, it will be the catalyst to change. I know that from my experience with other demons. I need to own this as both part of me and something beyond my control.

I’m a binge eater.