On Friday I wrote a piece articulating my struggles with PTSD. I’ve only recently begun writing about the ongoing consequences of my ex-husband’s choice to abuse me, mainly because I had this fear of people judging me as incompetent to do the work I do. That somehow the ongoing impact of male violence on me would preclude me from contributing fully to addressing it. I guess it revealed to me some of my own fears and prejudices. That even though I work full time on ending violence against women and wider issues of gender injustice and though I would be the first to challenge language and attitudes which blame women for the abuse men have chosen to perpetrate, deep down the truth has been that I believed I needed to be fixed, no longer affected, in order to offer myself to the cause.
I regularly stand up and share my story. A few years ago I spent time working at a few large Christian conferences for men. More recently I have begun working with perpetrators. And in all of those spaces, either telling my story, spending time within all-male spaces or working with perpetrators, I feel a responsibility to represent women well. To not perpetuate the issues which lead to stereotyping of women, to challenge the misrepresentation of women, and when telling my story, to do it in a way that will challenge misconceptions, preventing anyone leaving after hearing me thinking that abuse happens to “those women, out there”.
I once spoke at a conference where I had been billed as “THE VICTIM PERSPECTIVE”. I walked into the building with some other people attending the same event. As we chatted about the day ahead, one woman said to me, “I’m very interested to hear the victim perspective.” I responded, “Oh yes, it will be very interesting won’t it?”
After the event that same woman came over to talk with me, she told me I had shocked her, she would never have expected me to be a victim, that she would never hold those same views again.
Yet perhaps by sharing a story of being okay I have misled those who have heard me speak. Perhaps those who are currently dealing with the impact of male violence or those with family and friends who have been hurt, I have suggested that there will come a day when everything is sorted, that being fixed is the aim. Yet there is a sense that no matter how far we come, how good life gets; the pain of male violence doesn’t end.
This is why we must prevent it, why addressing the root causes of male violence; ownership, entitlement and inequality are so important. Because once the damage is done, life will never be the same.
I attended an event called “Woman at the well” run by an organisation called Transformation Powerhouse a while ago. During the evening one of the women leading the event said she had a word from God for me (I know those of you reading this without a faith may be a bit like “okay…” at this point, but bear with me). She basically said that God had told her I have so so much love to give, but that fear is getting in the way of me offering it. She (and God) are right. My fear of being honest, of being judged too broken, of being patronised or disparaged has prevented me from offering my all. Thinking that by telling of the pain as well as the victory would diminish me. And yet the story shrinks if it is not told fully. The ending of being fixed denies the truth of being broken.
I attended a session with a Human Givens therapist on Friday. I only needed one session in which she did something called the Rewind Technique. It is an effective treatment for PTSD symptoms and basically resets the brain to factory settings and moves the trauma that has led to a serious episode from the lower brain (which deals with trauma) to the upper and then mid-brain which sees the trauma as a memory rather than an ongoing, current event.
I arrived at the session unable to communicate much, numb, exhausted and incapable of making decisions (anyone who knows me will realise that’s basically me losing my entire personality). After the session I was back, my brain worked, I decided to go for food (both deciding and eating were impossible for me to do ninety minutes earlier) and I was able to think, laugh and generally be myself again.
Over the weekend I’ve felt quite fragile. Although I’m back, social interaction is tiring and I’m vaguely subdued. But I’m on way back to being normal.
So many people have offered their love, prayers and kindnesses over the weekend. Texts, tweets, emails, direct messages, cake and offers drive miles just to sit with me. Even when I felt unable to respond, the love and care has been much appreciated, so thank you if you are one of the many who have loved me!
I’m still the same person I was before I began sharing the downs as well as the ups, the feelings as well as the doings, but hopefully now I’m over the fear of being so vulnerable, I will bring more of the truth to this battle and as we know, it is the truth that sets us free.