I’ll bring my SEXY back: My first pole dancing experience

Image: Brass Vixens logo, a star with a circle and a person pole dancing in the center of the star.

Last night, I went to Brass Vixens with a friend, C, for my first ever beginner pole dancing class. C had mentioned going to a PinUp Pole class she took last Friday and when I expressed interest she agreed to come along and it is now going to be our weekly outing! I have been wanting to get out of the house more and I can’t think of a better way than with a friend, exercising our bodies in one of the most fun ways possible!

When  I first arrived I was nervous. I knew that I was out of shape and the thought of others seeing this was horrifying. The staff were really nice and I began to get the sense that I was safe here. When C and I went into the class and I got my first look at the pole I was excited. I played scenes in my head of one day being able to do a whole routine which would not just mean looking sexy but also having strength in my body. From the moment the teacher started our warm up I knew I was going to hurt the next day. She taught us a few floor moves which made me realize I am not as aware of my body as I would like to be. We also learned how to walk around the pole, do a floor spin into it and also the fireman spin. It was so much fun and I can’t wait to practice once my arms can support my weight again 😛

At one point during the class, I briefly became overwhelmed. I was judging myself harshly and these judgments confirmed that I do not believe I am sexy. Not only that, but that I have not felt sexy many years. When I was younger, I did not hesitate with my body. I knew how it moved, I knew what it was doing and most importantly, I knew inside that I was sexy. The emotional abuse I endured in the past upon leaving high school has taken a toll on my body image and self-worth. When you are told by someone who is supposed to love you that their attention and affection need to be earned and used as a control tactic it is very difficult to still see yourself as sexy, desirable, and anything other than a disappointment. I realized all of this in seconds of watching my body move in the mirror.

I had to shake my head and tell myself to stop those thoughts. I reminded myself that what people in the past have told me directly or indirectly about my self-worth and body is wrong. I told myself to not compare myself to my classmates. I told myself to just listen to the music and move. I reminded myself that I wanted to take pole dancing because I knew it would strengthen me physically and emotionally. I knew that it would tap into a side of me that has been dormant for a long time. As an added bonus, the class brought me into the present. After a month of feeling disconnected from the world, I felt connected as my mind focused on my body, the pole and the music. I am still feeling connected.

I will get my sexy back!

I hope to pole dance like these amazing teachers one day and I also want to try Lyra 🙂

 

‘Positive Thinking’ Mantras Can Cross into Gaslighting

As I just commented to Patient Anonymous, I should write a light and fluffy post given that I am coming out of 4-day depressive episode, but this post on Facebook caught my attention and I want to say something about it (I will do light and fluffy after).

I am not against positive thinking, but I am against the mandatory positive thinking and happiness we have created in our culture. Because of this, it is very hard for some people to see how promoting positive thinking could be invalidating and even abusive. An article I came across on Facebook called, 7 ‘Positive Thinking’ Mantras That Can Actually Cross the Line into Gaslighting echoed my concerns and gave it a name. If you are not familiar, gaslighting is a technique used to manipulate people into questioning their perception of reality. It is frequently used by abusers as a form of emotional control. I have been a victim of gaslighting. It is a horrible experience to be in and hard to undo (but possible). I am not saying that people who use and enforce these ‘positive thinking’ mantras are abusers or mean to be abusive, but gaslighting is deeply embedded in our everyday language. Ever been told you’re ‘too sensitive’? It plants the doubt in your mind that you are being unreasonable, hysterical even. Gaslighting also removes the responsibility the person or people have in being respectful and responsible because the blame is laid on the other person or sometimes whole communities.

Please click on the hyperlink above to read the article and see all of the mantras. I would just like to touch on a few, how they damaged my life and what I’m doing about it.

‘There is no use dwelling on the past.’

Saying this means that our past does not matter and that feeling upset about it means there is something wrong with you. In some cases, the part of your past you may be “dwelling” on is a traumatic event that shapes your present and may influence your future.

Encouraging someone to ignore their past pains isn’t helping them move on but potentially burying the trauma and making it worse. Trauma is complex and not ‘dwelling’ on it won’t make it go away. Possibly you just don’t want to hear about my trauma? Did it involve you? Does it make you feel bad? It’s not about you. It’s not like I want to remember and I really do have no control over when the memories surface.

When people tell me it’s in the past and that it shouldn’t matter I try my best to ignore them (if they are not significant people) or explain to them how the past is affecting me presently (if they are significant people). It is problematic that I need to explain this, but this is what I have chosen to do. Reading books about how our past affects our present as well as briefly seeing a therapist that believes our past influences our present, have helped me understand the value of my past experiences not just negatively (bad memories) but also positively (demonstrating my ability to survive).

‘We seek confirmation of what we already believe.’

I believe that this one hurt me the most. I have memories of crying on the floor of my ex’s home, completely terrified that what I believed was happening was not actually happening. What do you do when you cannot trust your mind to tell you the truth? Well, you put your faith in someone else, you surrender your reality to another because apparently yours is wrong and theirs is right.

To tell someone that what they believe is a preconceived notion instead of being based on their actual observations is damaging. This mantra devalues our thoughts, our intuition and our intelligence. Nothing you believe is taken seriously by outside parties or yourself. This is wrong.

Getting this book from the library. I will report back on it!

I, personally, have found this particular gaslighting mantra to be difficult to overcome. After many years of being told that I was making things up, looking for bad things and creating my own problems I still find myself agreeing. What I have been trying to do to combat this is by reminding myself and others that our perception is our own and that by sharing it we can better understand where each other is coming from. I know that acceptance of someone’s perception is not agreeing with it, but it is the first step to being able to create a solution for everyone to move forward.

‘Smile’ (or ‘Don’t cry’).

Probably the most annoying mantra of all time and the most used.This is the mantra that children hear from an extremely young age that will emotionally debilitate them for the rest of their lives. I  have heard parents, caregivers and staff frequently say this throughout my work with children.

Telling someone to smile or not to cry is directly telling them that they should be happy and not express the sadness or other emotion that they are feeling. ‘Smile’ or ‘Don’t cry’ encourages people to hide their emotions, propagates the belief that we are completely in control our emotions and that how we feel is someone’s business.

I cope with this through my own emotion-positive mantra which is, “It is ok to feel bad.” I do my best to validate my own emotions and the emotions of others. Learning about the brain and emotions has also been of great help in understanding where I do and do not have control and what emotions mean from a biological standpoint.

Also see:

3 Lies we need to stop telling about ‘negative people’

Affirmation colouring book: It’s ok to feel bad

Sensitive is a dirty word

New Therapy

On Monday I am going to see a new therapist. Psychology Today has a list of therapists in your area so it was fun to sit and “shop” for one that might fit me best.

I chose a social worker (this is important to me) who is affordable to begin with but also offers a sliding scale. She uses psychodynamic, CBT, Solution-Focused Therapy and Narrative Therapy. I haven’t used some of these approaches yet so I am interested to try something new.

While I am excited I also feel like I’m going to be sick and would like to implode to avoid it all. My goal is to work on moving on from the past emotional abuse I have experienced. I see how it affects me on a daily basis and I do not like it. I have no problem admitting this but i do have a problem with talking about it at great length because I do not like to see how much it does affect me or admit that I was in relationships where this happened. But, I live in fear and that is a motivator. Being afraid is exhausting.

This is the first time I will be paying for therapy which will probably mean bi-weekly sessions based on when I get paid. I am usually against going private but if I can pull it off then why not utilize it. We will see how it goes.

Why Didn’t You Just Leave?

Inspired by The Huffington Post’s “Why Didn’t You Just Leave” Series.

I thought this is was what a relationship with me was going to be like.

Ever since I began dating (14 years old) I was told that I was difficult to be with. My constant sadness, self harming and suicidal thoughts as a youth were cited as the reasons why boyfriends would break up with me. I carried into each new relationship the belief that if I could just get my sadness under control that they would stay and we would live happily ever after. It never worked. There was a lot of pressure in many of my relationships to change. “If you don’t stop self harming I’m going to break up with you.” I would then do my best to hide my cuts and scars because I couldn’t stop and I didn’t want him to leave.

While I know being with someone who was always sad, angry and hurt themselves wasn’t easy I can recognize now that it became an easy out for their abusive behaviour. They fed off of my vulnerability and I so desperately wanted their love. I found it impossible to love myself so I needed outside sources to give it to me.

With the ending of my most recent relationship I have realized the extent that my mental health was used as a scapegoat. I will never deny my negative behaviours and damage done to the relationship. In the end, I was ALWAYS trying to make my relationship better with someone who didn’t care to improve himself. His denial of needing improvement led me to believe that I was always the problem and that once I fixed myself our relationship would be perfect. If I could stop yelling, if I could stop being angry, if I could stop cutting, if I could stop thinking irrationally, then we would be perfect. A relationship full of screaming, yelling, being called names  and things being thrown around was the price I had to pay for not being mentally well and causing the one I loved pain. Or so I thought.

The day came when enough was enough. I didn’t care anymore what was my fault and what was his because I didn’t want to work at a relationship that felt so one-sided. I didn’t care if I was in the wrong in leaving because I was finished with it. It was like a switch went off in my mind. I was done.

Being with my new partner I am seeing that a relationship with me doesn’t need to be chaos. Being with someone who responds lovingly, shows affection, and isn’t quick to anger (well, isn’t abusive) is showing me that many things weren’t my fault, that I was with people who knowingly or unknowingly took advantage of me. I’m not as bad as I thought I was and was led to believe.

It’s amazing.

 

Why Does He Do That?: 10 Types of Abusers, Part 3

Talk of abuse

Talk of abuse

6. The Player

  • usually good looking or sexy (or at least thinks he is)
  • early on he seems head over heels for you and wants to spend a lot of time together in bed
  • you feel lucky to be with someone like him and be seen with him
  • after awhile though, aside from sex his interest in you seems to disappear
  • sexual undertones run throughout his interactions with females he considers attractive
  • there are rumours he’s seeing other women
  • he usually stalls on important relationship milestones such as moving together or getting married
  • much of his satisfaction in life comes from exploiting women and feeling sexual power
  • he turns women against each other to distract them from his abuse
  • he may hit on women you care about (ie: sister or friend) and out of fear of losing him you isolate yourself from those women
  • he may be always cheating on his female partner with other women
  • sometimes claims to suffer from “sex addiction”
  • he is still verbally abusive and sometimes physically abusive
  • “Women were put on this earth to have sex with men. Women who want sex are sluts and women who don’t are uptight. It’s not my fault women find me irresistible. I’m in this relationship when I feel like it. If you could meet my sexual needs I wouldn’t have to look elsewhere.”

7. Rambo

  • he is aggressive with everybody, not just you
  • gets a thrill out of creating fear and intimidating others
  • he has an exaggerated and stereotypical view of what a man should be
  • may come from a neighbourhood where he needed to be tough and without fear or he would be targeted by violence
  •  in the beginning he is loving and you feel safe and protected by him
  • he lack respect for women so his aggression will eventually be put on you
  • He can be emotionally and physically abusive
  • Maybe be a sociopath or psychopath
  • “Aggression is good, compassion is bad. Anything feminine or homosexual need to be avoided at any cost. Men need to keep their women in line even if that means physical violence. You are my property.”

8. The Victim

  • appeals to women’s compassion and desire to heal the one they love
  • tells persuasive and heart wrenching stories about how he was abused by a former partner
  • adopts the language of abuse victims
  • will claim you are abusing him when you do something he doesn’t like (ie: stand up to him during conflict)
  • highly self-centered in relationships
  • everything in your relationship revolves around his wounds
  • claims to be victimized by many in his life (ie: boss, parents, neighbours etc.)
  • may believe women victimize men and not able to accept the results of sexism towards women
  • makes you feel guilty when you try and leave
  • presents himself as helpless so you will find it hard to take your life back
  • “Everybody has done me wrong, especially women. When you accuse me of abuse you’re just like everyone else who has hurt me. It’s justifiable for me to treat you the way I think you’re treating me so you know what it feels like. Women who complain about how men mistreat them are anti-men. I’ve had a hard life and not responsible for my actions.”

I have dated a Player. I felt so special with him because he chose me over all of the other girls that wanted him. On our 1 month anniversary I watched him with great confusion as he cuddle with another girl during a movie. He told me that they were just friends. I had to endure countless angry looks from girls when we went out to parties. I also had to endure the rumours that he was seeing other girls in various capacities. I found a MySpace message once between him and girl saying that the next time he saw her he would give her a kiss. He claimed to have been taken advantage of by another girl who dropped off a skirt for me at his house and he later admitted they slept together. The amount of times I watched him flirt with other girls is actually stupid. BUT, if a guy would do the same with me then he’d come over all tough and stake his claim on me. 

Source: Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft- pg. 175-188

Part 1: The Demand Man & Mr. Right

Part 2: The Water Torturer, The Drill Sargent, Mr. Sensitive

Janay Rice and Victim-Blaming

Talk of abuse

Talk of abuse

This morning a friend/colleague of mine, Jeff Perera, posted a video (click his name for the video) of him on The Morning Show talking about the recent release of security footage of now former-NFL player Ray Rice punching his fiancee, Janay Rice, in the face, knocking her unconscious. Jeff is the community engagement manager for the White Ribbon Campaign, an organization that sets out to end violence against women but educating men and changing our current idea of masculinity as meaning violence. One of the hosts mentions that Janay Rice came forward and acknowledge her role in provoking Ray Rice. She took the blame for him punching her. This is called victim-blaming, survivor-blaming, and it is WRONG!

So many women are blamed for the abuse they experience. It doesn’t matter which culture or race either. The motivations of power and control are the same. The ways of keeping women down are the same. Some women, myself included, even begin to identify as the abuser. They begin to believe that they are in fact the abuser and their abusive partner is the victim. Women can be a willing participant in their blaming because most times it’s just easier and what is accepted by society. This is WRONG!

I am writing this feeling extremely overwhelmed as I have realized the extent to which I blamed myself and was blamed for the abuse in my last relationship. It was easy to blame me and accept blame because of my mental health issue. My poor mental health was a scapegoat. I was always emotional and angry, lashing out verbally and sometimes physically, so anything he did or said to me was justified in my mind and most likely his mind too.

I was so mad at myself for destroying him, making him act in ways he didn’t want to act. During the second year of our relationship I spent two weeks trying to come up with a way to survive a suicide attempt so I could get into therapy faster and save my relationship. I went back into therapy with the goal of controlling my anger and saving my relationship. I went back on psych drugs to save my relationship. I did all of this with a person who had no interest in acknowledging his role in our unhappiness and wanted things to stay the way they were because they worked for him. Who wouldn’t want to be with someone who struggles so hard to keep them happy?

The truth is, he is 100% responsible for all the rotten abusive things he did. Was I easy to get along with? Of course not. But he could never admit when he had done something wrong to upset me. I was always overreacting or delusional. He could never admit that he could have done something differently during a fight. I was always making him behave in ways that he believed were against his nature. He wouldn’t try different ways of communication or wouldn’t try counselling. I was always trying to change him and believed he shouldn’t have to change. These were my warning signs and instead of saying, “Fuck this! I’m out!” I stayed and told myself that I was too demanding, selfish, and broken.

All of these realizations are refreshing and exactly what I need to be able to heal but I’m also extremely mad and sad that I put myself through all of that. But, that is still blaming the victim which as I said earlier is WRONG!