Archive for the ‘Families’ Category


Why Dylan Farrow’s Disclosure Matters

Posted on:

“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator…All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.” 

                                                                                                ~ Judith Herman

 From 1989-1993 I worked in Massachusetts for the Child-At-Risk Hotline at Judge Baker Children’s Center, in the Longwood Medical Area.  We covered the entire state after hours for reports of suspected child abuse and neglect when the departments of investigation were closed for the day and on weekends.  I was a supervisor, which meant that every single suspected case of abuse or neglect was “run by” me.  With the screener’s help I determined whether it was a case that was false, probably true or so emergently true that we had to take action that very shift.

 Children’s lives and well-being hung in the balance so we were very highly trained and conscientious in our work.  Over that period I estimate that I heard somewhere around 15,000 stories of child abuse.  I developed a very good BS detector.

 Like many I had heard vague allegations about Dylan Farrow when she was a child, but it was hard to know what to think and why the case had not been prosecuted.

This week’s publication of her letter to the New York Times has changed all that for me.  

Since it was published last week there has been a firestorm of responses and conversations popping up all over social media, some helpful and others not so much.

As a child abuse prevention professional and a treater of many adult victims of childhood trauma I would like to add my perspective.  I believe Dylan.  Her story is coherent, believable and internally consistent.

Let’s look at the list of secondary gains that each side gets from lying.  For Woody and Dylan there are reasons to lie and reasons to tell the truth.  There are also many reasons not to.

Dylan Lies:

 Pros:                                                                          Cons:

She gets attention in the press.                           She and her family is vilified in the media.

She gets people to feel sorry for her                   Her credibility is forever tarnished

                                                                                   in the eyes of friends, employers, etc.

She’s going for a book or movie deal?               Her accused is a Hollywood insider.

 

                                                                                  She could be sued for defamation.

 Maybe I lack imagination but I’m already out of reasons for her to lie about this.  Usually when people tell big lies there is a big positive payoff.  I don’t see it here. Do you?  The Cons are overwhelmingly negative and threaten to ruin her life.  Just to be a somebody in the press? There are easier ways.  OK, let’s look at the other side.

 Woody Lies:

 Pros                                                                           Cons

He keeps making movies                                     He gets a clean conscience (if he’s not

                                                                                    a sociopath)

He keeps all his money                                         He may need to pay a lot of money in a

                                                                                    lawsuit

 

People keep loving him and his work                 People will be revulsed by him and his work

 

He keeps his relationships                                     He loses friends and business contacts

The Romans used to ask an important question, Qui Bono?  Who benefits here?  Dylan suffers more by lying than she gains.  Woody suffers more by telling the truth by far.  Lying is in his best interest as it is in the case of most perpetrators.  Even if we look at just dollars and profit motive, Dylan stands to lose more than she gains by lying where the opposite is true with Woody.  It is incredibly hard to win lawsuits against perpetrators, especially when there was no original conviction.

But what about the argument her mother made her do it by “implanting” memories. Oh please!  Maybe (maybe!!! although I’ve never seen it in decades of practice) a seven year old could be persuaded.  But an adult knows better.  Mind control is possible, but it requires years of skilled training to do and the only experts in the world are black ops top secret level psy military people who do not publish manuals.  Occam’s razor suggests that this argument is full of giant holes.  Like smoke and fire, reports of abuse almost always coincide with actual abuse!

As for Woody, well we already know him as a man with exceedingly poor boundaries and someone who acts without considering the consequences for those around him by marrying his long-term partner, Mia’s teenaged daughter. Everyone who “testified” for him at the awards show (wasn’t that strange) talked about all the roles he had written for women, not anything about his character.  I had the sense that the women supposedly speaking on his behalf were really speaking on their own interests.  But having said that perps are exceedingly good at getting people to believe them. And the longer the friendship, the harder to see the perp inside the man.

If you look at the Herman quote above you will see why.  I have written in The Trauma Tool Kit how the mind wants to avoid material it sees as threatening to its own sense of security and comfort.  Contemplating that your best loved films were created by a monster creates a level of cognitive dissonance that most people cannot handle.

But, you see, we must.  Because this is one story among millions.  Every day there are victims who tell the truth and are shut out of their families because the perpetrator is believed.  Because the people they tell will not or cannot tolerate a change in perspective and a re-ordering of their own lives and view of reality.

Our culture is sick.  I agree with the neo-feminists who talk of the ‘rape culture’ in which we live.  All over the world from time out of mind women and children have been raped, dominated and treated like property. Men have relied on each other to maintain power, to satisfy their lusts and desires and do what they want. Just because they can.  For humanity to evolve, this has to end.  That means TELLING THE TRUTH, no matter how unpleasant or personally uncomfortable that makes us.  After all, it could be your daughter or son, neighbor, friend or cousin who is the next victim.

Only then will the real healing begin for individuals and society as whole.

As for me, I’m breaking up with Woody and all his films.  I wish Dylan a sense of wholeness, peace and healing for her future. She has suffered enough.

 

 

 




Helping Kids Deal With The Moore Tornado and other Disasters

Posted on:

Children can be particularly vulnerable to distressing weather and events.  Even children that were not directly affected will be deeply disturbed by these community wide disasters. Most parents have not been taught to look for signs that children are under stress, or even intense stress. This blog, by request, will give you some tips on helping your children recover from the devastating tornadoes in the midwest.

First know that your child is stressed. Some signs that children are stressed include:

– repetitive talk about the event 
– repetitive drawing of the event
– unusually irritable
– unusually withdrawn
– needy and clingy
– more forgetful than usual
– having trouble regulating emotions: laughing silly “highs” crash into sullen “lows”
– hair-pulling (trichotillomania)
– disturbed eating
– disturbed sleep

We forget what it is like to be a child. Under 14 years of age, children have some awareness that they cannot survive without adult assistance; this is especially true for very young children. Children watch their parents very carefully and take their cues from them about whether they should be upset or not. In addition children have losses in the storm that adults may trivialize or not realize the depth of the loss. For instance, a parent may not know that a stuffed animal was more like a best friend, or that a destroyed work of their art has taken away a precious sense of self. Because parents are suffering their own losses and in survival mode they may not feel like children are dealing with anything significant, but, of course, they are. 

Here are some ways to help your child heal in the aftermath:

1) Limit media exposure of the event. Adults tend to watch traumatic events obsessively but we know from 9/11 that this can create traumas in kids who may not understand that they are seeing the same event repeated rather than several different events. TV may make them think the world is ending

2) Set some “processing” time aside every day for your kids where they can express their feelings. Young children (3yrs-8yrs) might be encouraged to color, draw a picture, or engage in puppet play. 8-12 years olds might want more information about storms, or just to spend time playing games. (Experienced child therapists know that most kids need to be occupied with a game or activity in order to talk about their feelings.) Teenagers may be able to sit and talk if they are mature, and are invited to participate in a judgment free zone. Also, ball throwing and basketball hoop shooting are excellent ways to get kids to open up. During this time turn off your phone and your own agendas and create a lot of space to just listen or answer questions.

3) Try to keep a normal rhythm to the day, even if you are in a shelter. Have regular mealtimes, structured activities and a bed time.

4) Speaking of bedtime, be aware that sleep may be difficult at first. Kids may be having unpleasant dreams processing the storm. Be patient and non-judgmental about this, while helping maintain a schedule.

5) Monitor your own reactions. Calm yourself down as much as possible. Do not share horrible new stories with your kids or in earshot of them. They will be alarmed but will not tell you.

6) Understand that quiet kids may not be OK. Invite them to play with you or help you with simple chores. Reinforce any sharing with your attention and love.

7) Provide lots of hugs and affection. Take time for yourself and for them. You both need the contact!

8) If your child has a pronounced behavioral change reach out for professional help ASAP. Red Cross will have referrals for free and low-income therapy professionals.

9) Be active in reassuring your children that life will get better. Hold the optimism for them, even if you are feeling discouraged. This is kind and wise parenting.

10) Lastly, cultivate patience! Be patient with your kids and be patient with the city and be patient with yourself. Stop and breathe as needed. Practice self-care and stay aware of your own needs! Then you won’t resist the children’s needs when they are up.

Know that there are so many of us pulling for all of you and your kids. Our hearts go out to yours. Be well and be safe!




24 Hours With PTSD

Posted on:

 I wrote this post so that those without PTSD can begin to understand and so that those with PTSD know that someone else has been there before.  I do not have PTSD any longer. WARNING: MAY BE TRIGGERING.

     I wake up groggy, with remnants of a bad night’s sleep still clinging to me. I don’t want to go back to sleep, but I’m not sure I can face the day either. I cannot remember my dreams, but I know they weren’t good. Last night I didn’t yell in a nightmare and disrupt my husband’s badly needed sleep. That, at least is good. I cannot remember the last time sleep felt refreshing. Now it feels like another form of deprivation, another instrument of suffering, another of the myriad losses of PTSD. I wonder if I will ever have a good night’s sleep again.

     My joints and gut ache as they do every day now as I push myself up to sit on the side of my bed. If I don’t move slowly I risk dizziness. Lately my body doesn’t seem to know where it is in space. I have bruises that I don’t remember getting from bumping into doorways, edges of tables and chairs. It’s like having the PMS clumsies all the time. The bruises don’t hurt though. On the contrary, I hardly feel them. It’s the pain inside that absorbs all my attention. I breathe, attempting, without success to ground myself before beginning my day.

     My kids are waiting for breakfast and a ride to school so I need to get a move on. Every day my prayer is the same. Please let me be a good mother. Help me protect them from what I am going through. Give me the strength to do what I need to and I will deal with my PTSD later. It doesn’t always help, and guilt over bad mommy moments is a constant companion these days.
Mornings are particularly bad with PTSD. It is as if someone has gone through my sensory system and turned up all the knobs to high. Light stabs my eyeballs making me squint with pain. Sounds are amplified as if I am in an echo chamber. Internal feelings and emotions can rev to highs and lows with no warning. I keep a very zen environment. The kids know not to talk too loud, bang their plates or scrape their forks. My husband is encouraged to leave the kitchen without cleaning it because the running water sounds like white noise in my head. We keep the lights low. I never know how bad it is going to be and they don’t either. Fortunately, my kids are not morning people either. They move slowly and quietly. I worry that I’ve become too controlling, but the stakes are too high to do anything different.

     I’ve tried to explain what it is like to live in this body now to my very calm, stoic Lutheran raised midwestern husband. If there is a superpower for nerves of steel, he has it. My husband deals with life and death in his cath lab on a daily basis. He works in the space of millimeters for hours on end to open blocked hearts when his patients’ only alternative is life threatening surgery or certain death. He has not experienced PTSD or any mental affliction. His mental health and stability is both an asset and a hazard in our relationship. Sometimes I just need him to lose it on my behalf, to show that he really, really gets it.

     I explain to him that on bad days I feel like I have ground glass running throughout my nervous system with sharp jaggedy edges. I explain how triggers make me want to jump out of my skin and how that jump is always accompanied by intense emotion, either a tornado of disintegrating rage, or fear or both. I explain how I know what some of my triggers are, but that every day, as I work through my healing in therapy, new ones are popping out and that we can both be caught off guard. I want him to understand that the constant flow of adrenaline makes me look alert and energized on the outside but that inside I feel exhausted. Wired and tired is how I put it. The foot is full throttle on the gas pedal, but the car is stuck in neutral. (I look for good manly analogies.) I explain that I need him to not react to my irritation and anger, to not take it personally, that it is only the PTSD rearing its ugly head. He nods his head with understanding, but the next time he does take it personally. And why wouldn’t he? Another source of guilt and rage for me. And a source of fragility for our marriage, a marriage that has always been strong. Is PTSD going to take this away from me too?

     Normally couples can make up with physical intimacy. But even the least little bit of this comfort is now denied me. When the PTSD first hit, even hugging through two layers of flannel pajamas made me nauseous and dizzy. That initial shock has settled into a distant sort of numbness. I hug out of habit, but I can’t really feel it. I can’t feel my connection to myself or to him. The only connection that is safe for me is the kids. Thank goodness I can still feel my love for them. I realize that it is possible that my husband has become a trigger. But I’m not sure. Is it him? Or is it the trigger? Is our marriage viable? I have no idea, and I have to live with that uncertainty for months, and so does he. I decide not to decide until I have progressed in my healing.

     After everyone leaves for the day, I face hours alone, just me and my PTSD. I am both relieved and terrified. Some days are better than others. Some days I have therapy with the shaman therapist. He is helpful and powerful, and there is no state he cannot bring me out of. I am very, very lucky to have him as a resource. Still, there are many hours to fill.

     With PTSD I am never really happy. I miss simple happiness. I miss joy. I take my dogs on a walk and watch them run with abandon, big wild dog joy grins on their faces. On a good day, my insides feel like a grey, shadowless Portland winter day, flat and featureless. On a bad day, a howling storm is raging that threatens to obliterate me. Unless I am in the bleakest place I will myself to do my job as mother and housemaker: cook something, clean something, pay something. Self-care and hygiene is no longer a natural act, but something that must be chosen and willed every day. When I am in the darkest states, I curl up for hours on the sofa waiting for my next therapy appointment.

     Fortunately, I did not just fall off the turnip truck. I have had a lot of training and life experience. I can meditate. I can do breathing exercises. I can walk (until I have a very bad skiing accident, but that is another story). I know by virtue of my age and therapy that this too shall pass, that there is no way I can stay in this state forever, that I am working actively on my healing. Sometimes this helps, and sometimes it really doesn’t.

     PTSD taunts me with loneliness. If I had cancer, or some other major medical illness, if I were a victim of a current crime or in a car accident or had something visibly wrong with me, people would know. People would sympathize, maybe bring over a casserole, send a card, check in with me or take me to lunch. But nobody knows. I cannot talk about my disability because to talk about it makes me feel much, much worse. Talking about it makes my head spin and my stomach want to retch. Even if I could stand to see the look on people’s face when I tried to talk about my condition, most of them, like my good husband, would not really understand. They might nod their heads politely and say that time heals all wounds, or that I should be grateful for what I have now. I might have to kill them for that. Or myself. So I remain silent and withdraw unnoticed. I go to school events, put on a brave face and then crawl into bed exhausted.

     If I am lucky I make it through the day without any major triggers. But it feels like walking daily through a mine field. At the end of the day I lose myself briefly in spending time with my happy amazing kids. I manage to stay focused on them and their needs until their bedtime. But then I am used up and collapse on the sofa exhausted. I have nothing left for my spouse. I try to look back over my day and find one thing to feel good about. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I just want to hurt myself. I watch these moods come and go with the experienced eye of a therapist and meditator. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though.

    I have no idea how people make it through without the level of support that I have, and then I realize that many of them don’t make it.

     Bedtime comes, and with it, intense dread. I used to love bedtime. I couldn’t wait to snuggle down into flannel sheets, cozy up to my hubbie and drift off feeling our warm connection. Now we sleep on the edges of the bed. I tell him I love him, but please don’t touch me. Trained doctor that he is, he falls asleep instantly. I am left with the final battle of the day.

     Sometimes I can fall asleep easily sometimes I can’t. But I never stay asleep. Every 90 minutes like clockwork, my mind and body pop out of sleep. It is exhausting. REM sleep is where our bodies process intense emotion and memories. I think about how waking people up before REM sleep is a torture that can result in psychosis. As I slip into the dream state the nightmares come. They are bad. Sometimes they are screaming and striking out in my sleep bad. But more often I wake up before I can even have them, a new conditioned response that is out of my control. I meditate. I do yoga to relax and start over. I read. Sometimes these things help and sometimes they do not.

     I don’t know if tomorrow will be any better, but I hope it will. And when I can’t hope I endure.




© Lotus Heart Counseling, LLC • 530 NW 23rd Avenue, Suite 109 • Portland, OR  97210 • (503) 869-0314 • moc.t1544462680tinab1544462680esaep1544462680eus@o1544462680fni1544462680

To Top