My First Date

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I went on my first date, yesterday.

I wasn’t afraid of him. He was much bigger than I, and I still was not afraid, that is how mild mannered he is. Perfect, really, for me.

We met on a dating site, and he invited me for coffee. I ran a background check and found his wide open social media and went willingly.

Over a year ago I Skyped with a much younger man for the first time, ever. We had been talking for three years, via forum and text boxes. He thought I was cute. I was flummoxed. He knows my story.

Since then he has insisted I am beautiful, repeatedly, consistently. Until I began to have suspicions of my own that my self perception might be off.

I shaved my head. I still could not accept my face, and my hair grew in.

I complained in therapy about this, was it a dysmorphic disorder? My therapist was incredulous. “No one ever told you that you were pretty?” She asked me. She did not offer an opinion. She approached it thoughtfully. She had suggestions.

I started taking selfies. I skipped the filters and played with light. I read tutorials on eyeliner. I put my face online in places where I was known, but not my identity. Didn’t have a great response, but didn’t have a bad one, either.

I wrote a dating profile. I sat on it for months. I put it live. I got some responses, but all women do. I shut down the profile and started talking to some of those responses.

I got to my first adult date invite. Ever. The day before I go, my friend who insists I am beautiful tells me he wants to move here, where I live. He knows I love him, I don’t bother to hide it anymore, but he probably does not feel quite the same and I don’t think he should. The therapist tells me to let him make his own choices and stop deciding what is best for him. I start calling in favors via phone. I take time off work to do this.

I go on the date. He asks me for another. I plan it for two weeks from now. I can’t afford the sitters but I can’t afford not to go, either.

I don’t know what I am doing. How do you get to know someone without confessing things up front like “I am in hiding. I am an apostate, they want to kill me. He wants me dead. My children have PTSD. I have PTSD. I survived. I understand honour violence from the inside out. I am not a product of my culture.”

The small talk is killing me. I want more. I want everything, all at once.

Everyone focuses on the wrong word…

4:34 Surah An-Nisa
But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.- Sahih International Version

In my opinion the key in this ayah is “fear”, and indeed I have never seen it without that word. Fear is not proof or witnesses or even any tangible thing. Fear is a man’s paranoia, his personal issues, his deep-seated insecurities, his mental illness, his worry, his stress. Fear is the justification, here. Fear alone makes it permissible to beat your wife.

Everyone looks at “strike”, which is often translated as “beat” in English versions. I have seen that word picked apart, worried over, given alternate meanings, historically analyzed, excused, justified, and explained away. Daraba, the root of it. To hit.

The ayah is not simply a license to hit, as they claim and also deny, depending on their sympathies. It is a license to use fear itself to justify physical and moral authority over an adult female.

You can reach your own conclusions. You know what mine are.

So I am out, and now you know.

Consolidating Power

I spent my therapy session explaining political history and party loyalties and background of my ex’s country of origin to my therapist. The entire session, and still I was not done. But she did not know, you know, WHO he was. She does not take notes on our sessions, she is afraid to enter them into her database, since my identity is supposed to be concealed and her system is linked up to cloud.

Not that he is famous, outside of the borders he fled.

But today I read the news from there and his party has mended their rifts and taken up arms again.

I don’t want him to gain any power, from anywhere. I don’t want him to gain support or get organized or start to use his rank again for anything. I want him to stay penniless and addicted to his vices and far away from us-forever.

I don’t want to worry that he is coming for us.

Boundaries Between Identities

Most often when I try to explain emotional things my tongue dries up and my mind goes blank and I crack a joke instead.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to write poetry, free form stuff that drew pictures in the mind of the reader and also created emotional response. I used to be in touch with myself, I think.

I haven’t been able to write poetry for years. I think I stopped during my second marriage. I don’t know if it was about the marriage or about being happy or about embracing religion or about being so busy working that I put in fifty plus hour weeks. I just stopped and never started again.

I don’t know if I ever explained myself properly, emotionally. I just know I used to write it down pretty clearly. I could write rants, too. Those emotional rants you write while crying, the ones you never wanted anyone else to see. I don’t cry anymore, either. I stopped crying and talking about emotion while I was with their father.

I joined a PTSD forum a few years ago and was flagged as being in violation of the rules because my paragraphs were not double spaced on my intro (see how I am doing it here, remembering this). I made maybe four comments and never went back. It hurt my feelings, to not be able to follow the rules. It brought up some deep pain in me that I know has been there since childhood. I was always in trouble, socially.

I was in touch with myself when I was very young. I knew what abuse was, from outside, when it was being done to others. I had boundaries and I had terrible crying fits that could last hours when I realized someone didn’t love me or had cheated or had hurt me in some way. My boundaries eroded from constant battering, on all fronts. Abuse wasn’t abuse anymore, it was how things were. It was what was to be expected if I wanted to keep my religious beliefs, my husband, my everything. It wasn’t until the children were being battered that I woke up and I remembered where the boundaries should be.

Most of those boundaries never came back. I tell my children all the time where their boundaries should be, how to respect the boundaries of others. But I haven’t got them anymore, myself.

I think it is a good thing I don’t date. I think it is the best thing I have done for my children apart from separating them from their abuser.

I worry all the time that it is not enough. I worry every time I am angry that I am abusive, that my children are being scarred. My own mother was pretty cold. I don’t remember much anger from her, or much feeling, really. She compliments me all the time now and I have no idea where it is coming from. She was not like that when I was a child. I have always responded to very verbal and very intense people, like my father. Which is not a good thing, necessarily. Very verbal and intense people are often self absorbed or abusive. I just couldn’t feel people who were more low key. So I worry that I am setting my kids up to expect outbursts from people, or scolding, or punishment when I make them clean up their messes or go to their rooms. Am I being hard on myself? Maybe. I don’t know the proper boundaries. I feel a sense of panic if they have no consequences, too. I am terrified to go easy and frightened of coming down too hard.

I don’t know how or where being autistic plays into this. I don’t know where I and autism differ (perhaps we do not) and I often do not find the PTSD until retrospect kicks in. I hate it, I hate the PTSD. I was the most patient person in the universe until PTSD. Now I am tired and I am distracted and I am irritable often enough that I worry how it affects my children.

I was sick with food poisoning for the past few days. None of the last minute Christmas stuff got done. There is no one to do it for me. I have to get it done and I have to do it while being tired and meeting my prior commitments. I have to keep the PTSD at bay. I don’t want to spend Christmas yelling at my kids, like I did this evening. Kids will goof off and break rules and violate boundaries with each other. Why do I expect more? PTSD is always so much worse with stress or fatigue.

Maybe I should try EMDR. Maybe I should talk about what happened to me.

Happy Holidays.

Conditioning

I have a trauma anniversary coming up in a few days and I have been very proud of myself so far. I have not been irritable or triggered that I can tell.

A few days ago I skyped with a friend I had not yet met but had corresponded with for a few years, a nice young man finishing up his Master´s degree. It was a nice conversation even though he said some nice things to me that threw me completely. I am not so good at compliments.

Even worse than the fact that I spent days obsessing over this conversation and feeling awful about everything I said is the fact that most of what I said and all of what I did not say came from cultural and abuse conditioning. I have been living in Western culture for four years, answering to no one but myself and still I am paralyzed inside, unable to voice perfectly acceptable comments because I have been conditioned not to speak to men, or not to speak nicely to men. This is a nice young man and he deserves some positive communication. I can write it, but I cannot say it. I feel ashamed to be controlled by things that are no longer present in my life.

I said nothing wrong. I just did not say much of what I wanted, encouraging or supportive stuff. I am supposed to be free, supposed to be able to talk as freely as I write.

It nearly makes me feel like crying. I never do that.

International Women´s Day

The last official release I wrote for International Women´s Day on behalf of my ex took me two hours to get down into Word.

My children were sleeping, I wrote it during their nap.

My ex dictated the gist of it to me. I would write a bit and he would read it and then he would scream at me and slap my head until I made it more to his liking.

I was so angry (not that I could show it) that I switched gears halfway through the process and somehow convinced him to let me write the rest of the press release about how empowering women begins at home.

It is the worst official statement I ever wrote.

I was exhausted, as I always was at eight months pregnant.

I hate International Women´s Day. I hate it. I hope it does someone some good, somewhere. I never felt that it made much difference.

 

Triggers- How Can You Tell?

When I was evaluated and treated by a psychologist for PTSD he corrected me on my perception of ¨being triggered¨.

I had always thought of it as experiencing emotional distress or panic in reaction to something that brought on memories of undergoing trauma. He told me I was profoundly mistaken, that ¨being triggered¨ means you are reacting inappropriately, in any way, to something- and that you can trace the source of that reaction back to your trauma.

He informed me that I was triggered pretty much all the time. Just most of my reactions were internal and not visible to an observer.

That blew me away. I thought, you know, that my PTSD was pretty controlled and that I had no problems. But it turns out that seeing dads of children in the grocery store and wondering if the mothers knew where their children were is me being triggered. Assuming most couples have an abusive relationship is me being triggered. Being nervous around strange men is me being triggered.

I never could tell him what happened to me, and I have told my therapist only a couple of stories in the two years since I saw the psychologist. I suppose if I talked about it more, I would trigger less. That is the theory.

But the therapist gave me some homework. She wants me to identify my triggers. It seems impossible, since everything triggers me. Has anyone else had to do this? Any advice? My list is crazy long. Is everyone´s list ridiculously long?