The Process of Recovery Begins (Again) #AlAnon #Recovery #AcademicAbuse #HigherEd

September 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

I am starting to feel better. I can feel the dark, grasping reach of my ex-supervisor gradually ebbing away. I am under no illusions about the damage that has been done. I worked for ten years under the influence of his sadistic compulsion to control every aspect of my academic career. That is, to control it to the point that I would not have one. I may never understand what motivated him to exercise such power in such a destructive way. What it was that seized him to ruin my career. I should probably seek professional help to recover from this abuse, but, after ten years of having my every resource drained to the breaking point, I don’t have the money to pay for therapy and I don’t have the will to fight the university for restitution. My response to this entire bad fortune is to use it as material for my own creative work.

Last weekend I sorted and organized all my art supplies. I set up a drawing table, complete with mirror for self-portraits. After all these years, my creative work drawing and painting are re-instated and I have ample material to process for my subject matter.

I have also started working my way through the Al-Anon fourth step, “Blueprint for Progress”. The combination of writing and drawing, later, painting, is my response to healing from the injury of psychological abuse.

In my thesis I developed an enactive theory for building imaginative capacity through discourse. When we talk to ourselves and each other, in productive ways, we can positively build our imaginative capacity. This is true of our ability to build negative imaginative capacity as well. Anyone who suffers from depression and anxiety is familiar with the power of using chanting or a mantra, or talking to someone and asking for help, to break the spell of negatively re-enforcing self-talk loops. I am applying this theory to my own recovery.

I am using the Al-Anon text to facilitate my thinking in productive lines of inquiry. I am forcing myself to face the painful memories of events where I gave way, one pressure point at a time, to submit to my ex-supervisor’s will. Until I had not will left of my own and reached the breaking point. It is very difficult to not let my negative imaginative capacity to run wild and shame myself for being so weak, so pliant, so willing to allow my ex-supervisor to take control of my academic career. However, in that way lies my own destruction through my own negative imaginings.

Instead, I am investigating my own condition with compassion and empathy for the vulnerable person who I was when I started out at the university. I am inquiring into my own state of mind, and the historical conditions that made me an attractive target for my ex-supervisors’ attachment. It is through this inquiry that I broaden my perspectives and deepen my understanding, which make it possible for me to imagine new futures for myself.

I am feeling better because I am enacting new practices of self-care, and new commitments to productively build a new life for myself.

Here is my drawing from last night:

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The Legacy and Labor of Psychological Abuse #highered #alanon #recovery #addiction

September 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Amidst the clutter on my dining room table sit two hard copies of my dissertation. They are printed and cerlox-bound with transparent covers. These are my copies of the dissertation that I submitted last Friday to the department of graduate and post-doctoral studies. These are my personal copies, one to keep for the defence, the other to lend out to interested friends who actually have the patience to read it.

I expected, after seven years of labor, to feel proud of this accomplishment. Instead, to my dismay, I feel shame. I feel so embarrassed that it took me so long. That I continued working in an abusive relationship even as I watched others leave my toxic ex-supervisor. That I protected ex-supervisor from the critical comments of others even as I was being subjected to ex-supervisor’s manipulations. In fact, I can see now, that my protective comments were part of the whole web of emotional, psychological and mental abuse perpetrated by ex-supervisor.

I have announced to family and friends that I have achieved this milestone and they are reasonably happy for me. They await the invitation to attend a celebratory party with me, to participate in the glory of getting to the end of my graduate program. They would be dismayed to hear how I actually feel. That I want to cry, that I almost lost my marriage, that I almost lost my house, that I came so close to declaring bankruptcy, that I feel depressed, that I have been having panic attacks.

Here is the ironic twist to this horrible tale. The day before I submitted my dissertation for external examination preparatory to booking my defence I visited my department. There was a delay getting the printed copies from the copy shop but I could still pick up the paperwork that needed to be submitted with it. I checked in with my graduate secretary, my department manager, the department head, my new supervisor, and my new committee member. It was very nice to see them and know that they all have my back, that they all want me to get through.

I expressed my concern that my ex-supervisor, who is now barred from any communication with me or my committee members or even the graduate department regarding my case, would be allowed to attend my defence. I was worried that ex-supervisor’s presence in the audience would cause me emotional and mental distress that would impinge on my defence performance. My new supervisor did not think this would be a problem because the defence itself would be tightly programmed and there wouldn’t be an opportunity for any disruption from my ex-supervisor. My new supervisor could not grasp how upsetting it would be to have ex-supervisor in the room.

However, new supervisor had been told, unofficially, by the committee member who had replaced ex-supervisor, that ex-supervisor would not be allowed to attend. I next visited my new committee member and he assured me that ex-supervisor would not be allowed to attend the defence and that I don’t have to worry on that account any further. This was deeply reassuring, and I felt a mass of anxiety evaporate. I could now focus solely on my defence and not worry about whether I would have to contend with disruption from ex-supervisor.

In the aftermath of these momentous occasions, I am left observing my own reactions to changing conditions. I observe how concerned I was that ex-supervisor would attend my defence. I observe the shame I feel as I contemplate the documents on my dining room table. I observe the depression I am coping with in the aftermath of the relief that I am actually going to get out of this graduate program (with a degree). With these observations I deduce the depth of damage I sustained under the abusive tutelage of my ex-supervisor. I infer the magnitude of injury to my health and well-being. I realize I must take steps to recover from the injustice, the threat, and the unrelenting obstruction (in the form of belittling, invalidating, stonewalling, obfuscating, threatening behaviours) received from my ex-supervisor. I realize I must recover from my sincere efforts, in the continuing face of irrefutable evidence that ex-supervisor would never let me graduate, to try to win approval, to appease ex-supervisor’s criticism.

Today is Sunday, and I am going to clean my house, walk my dog, kiss my husband, and prepare for the week ahead. I am also going to work on developing my own program of recovery, so that I can make sense of what I have endured, ascribe meaning to the significance of these copies of the dissertation sitting on my table, and rightfully feel proud that I endured and I prevailed.

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