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*written July 2013
I did something amazing. I was in Boston to meet a friend and I went home. I went back to the place it all started, where I experienced so much pain. I knew I was ready. I knew I needed to do it alone. I’ve struggled so much to retrieve memories of my youth that were not traumatic – I couldn’t find images, feelings, laughter from so many years while I felt imprisoned behind the gated doors and windows. I was scared to meet up with that sad little girl crying on the stoop, but I went. I marched right up the street from the station. I took a picture of my old school and remembered Molly asking my why Malik always looked up my skirt in the coat room in Kindergarten (I replied, “I think it’s because I can read.”) I remembered running down the street to Caroline’s house where her mom made cookies and we were allowed to lick the bowl. I remembered roller skating the day Ronald Reagan was shot. I took a picture of the Mackie school yard where I smoked my first cigarette behind a dumpster. I got a little scared as I approached the block my old house was on – I walked on the far side of the street and pondered it from there for a few minutes. I knew I was strong enough. I knew I was ready. That little girl wasn’t crying anymore. Alison Meridith can go f*ck herself – I *do* have friends. People *do* like me. I’m happy. I’m healing. I’m intact. I’m integrated. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been… so why was I so scared of an old brick house with bars on the door and windows?

I took a deep breath and wandered down the block. I realized just how busy the street was where I used to run across four lanes of traffic to get my mother’s newspaper three blocks down. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know the Sunday Globe was almost too heavy for me to carry. I remember it was scary. Nearly as scary as crossing the same street to catch the T to school in first grade – my mother never got up in the morning, so I usually missed the school bus and had to get there on the city bus. Those places were so big… I used to be so small. There was a lovely little shop on the corner – a building I remember burning in an apparent arson when I was a girl – so I thought I’d find something to mark the occasion. I discovered a sweet card intended for a newborn, and I realized that is what this day was – a rebirth. I decided to mark the occasion with a gift to myself and bought the card and a cheap bangle bracelet. I steeled myself for the next step and walked back up the block to my old house.

The magnolia my mother planted the year I was born has grown almost to the third floor. The bars were still there but there was the sweetest little dog asleep in the dining room window who perked right up as I stood there to take a picture. I was weeping the most cleansing tears. The little girl wasn’t there anymore. She’s happy now. She’s healing. She’s whole. I felt like an honest to god grownup, ready to move on and live life without that sad little girl hanging off my skirt. I scanned the house looking for traces of my old world when a young man came out of the house to smoke on the stoop. I had a lovely conversation with him about the house that belongs to his family now. I don’t know if he noticed the tears behind my glasses and sweat.

I called my boyfriend and texted my therapist to let them know what I had done. It felt amazing. I was released. I was liberated. I am free.

I wept all the way back to Copley Square then proceeded to recount the experience to a dear friend I spent the day with. We went into my old church and chatted with the receptionist before going into the sanctuary to say a prayer of thanks. I’m not really a praying kind of girl, but this day was extraordinary, and that church was as much my home as any other place – I found real sanctuary there for many years. My gratitude fills me. My liberation is like this incredible gift I never dreamed I’d receive although I write that with the knowledge that this is no gift. This was hard-fought and hard-won. I busted my ass to get this far. I worked like a beast to battle demons and ghosts, misunderstanding, sanctimony, judgement, rejection, loss… I won.

I know I’m not done yet. I have plenty of work left to do and there will be ups and downs for sure, but I’ve made tremendous strides and I’m pretty freaking proud of how far I’ve come.

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Will I ever stop chasing the little girl I was? I wish I could stop her from feeling all the hurt, change her path so she might find an easier way. I guess it isn’t up to me. All I can do is work to heal the woman she has become.

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I have had my eye on it for a few weeks, sitting at the end of a nearby driveway with a for sale sign on it.  I have stopped to look at it, but there was no price marked and I was afraid they might want more than I could afford.  It is a real peach of a bike… a vintage 3 speed Huffy, classic 80’s metallic teal with barely any rust and brand new tires…  Best of all, it is very sturdy and has a broad seat with springs that can handle my ample backside 🙂  Anyway, it was a steal at $35 and he even adjusted the seat height for me.  Problem is, I haven’t been on a bike in oh, let’s see, 20, maybe 25 years?  They say you never forget, so I hopped on and after a wobbly start, I was off.  I rode around my friend’s driveway for a while, gaining confidence on the gravel as I dodged the potholes and larger rocks.  Eventually, I worked my way up to go out on the road, on the pavement… I could FLY!  It was so much fun – much sweatier and wobblier than I had hoped, but so much fun.  I didn’t ride long, but afterwards I felt like my knees were going to just bend backwards and I’m sore all over tonight.  Further proof of just how out of shape and overweight I have become.  I am trying to remind myself that every little bit matters, and this is 10 times more activity than I had yesterday, or in weeks, even…  In breaking body image news – I squeezed into a bathing suit on Sunday and even briefly took off my cover-up to swim for a while at the lake…

I’ve really been backsliding… I wouldn’t say it is full-blown depression, because I am actually pretty busy and getting out of the house, but when it comes to my treatment I’ve really stalled.  I’m going through the motions of the every day all the while I’m in chaos inside.  I did finally do another EMDR session Tuesday (oh, and I’ve got 2 appts/wk until August now) but it didn’t go very well.  I feel very detached and afraid I’m doing it wrong, messing it up.  We did address some feelings of shame and inadequacy, but I was pretty distant from all of it.  Tomorrow I’m supposed to take some paperwork to my session and sit down to get it done because part of the depression and feelings of shame is that I have this growing pile of stuff relating to my mortgage and finances that I HAVE to deal with – like months ago…  I’m also hoping to complete the application for a volunteer position I’d like to be considered for.  I want to train to be a special advocate for abused children who are involved with the courts and child protective services.  It is something I learned about when I was a court advocate for victims of domestic violence and really wanted to do back then, but didn’t have the time.  My therapist keeps suggesting that I do some volunteer work, so I remembered how much I wanted to be involved in this.  I recognize that there is a concern it might be triggering and cause me difficulty, but I think that is outweighed by the  therapeutic value of giving children a voice.  I never had a voice as a child.  Mine wasn’t a case that ever would have had the authorities involved (regardless of the reality of the situation, I know how the system works and with my parents’ education and social status and the extent my mother had gone to to establish me as a liar – they never would have found jeopardy).  I feel like it would be such a tremendous thing to give my voice to a kid who is ensnared in a system so full of seemingly arbitrary rules and procedures.  If I could make just one child’s voice heard, even if the outcome is negative, to let one child feel like someone is really on their side and will help their voice be heard… it seems like a pretty wonderful thing.  I want to do it.

So, my plan is to drop my son off early at driver’s ed and then take my bike to a trail nearby and take a short ride before driving to my appointment.   It is supposed to be hot, but it will be early in the day, so hopefully I won’t be a complete sweathog when I get there… 🙂

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Something has happened since I started EMDR.  I’ve always felt different sides of me experiencing different things and struggle to balance them.  That experience is not to say that I have different “parts”, simply that *I* am experiencing conflicting things in my brain, all of which is most definitely *me*.  Lately I’ve been doing well.  I’ve been getting out of the house, walking, doing things with the kids, planning for the future.  This is a good thing.  Lately I’ve been doing poorly.  I’ve been obsessing over memories, feeling self-destructive, binge-eating, feeling hopeless and hating myself.  Lately I’ve been improving.  I’ve been feeling stronger, standing straighter, feeling saner.  Lately I’ve been in crisis.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, needing help, feeling chaotic and needing support.

The trouble is that I used to feel these things simultaneously and struggle with the conflict.  Now I am feeling these things simultaneously, but it is as if they exist separately.  It doesn’t feel like me.  It feels like me, but not me.  It feels like a division is growing between the feelings and the separation is growing between what is going well and what is going badly.  The feelings of wellness seem to be thriving and growing stronger.  The feelings of crisis seem to be thriving and growing stronger.  I am so confused.

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Viral obsessions

I spent almost four solid days fighting some malware infection in my computer.  I hesitate to claim victory – but for the moment, at least, it is operational.  I obsess over things like this.  I read and research and try different things until I get it resolved.  I am struck with the importance of backing up my photography – I used to be vigilant about it, but haven’t in over a year.  The “up” side, if you can call it that, is that I’ve thought of virtually nothing else for days.  I’m headed to therapy this morning with a pretty clean slate.  My son was sick Thursday, so I missed that appointment.  We’re planning EMDR, and in spite of my struggles with it, I know I want to continue.  I know it is hard – excruciating, even – but I’m committed to getting as much out of the process as I can before my time/insurance runs out.  I’m supposed to go to the local bar tonight to meet up with a very dear old friend from years gone by.  He is visiting for a couple of days, and in order to avoid the pressure of trying to visit everyone, he simply arranged for everyone to gather at the bar if they want to see him.  I haven’t done anything remotely social in months, so the prospect is pretty daunting.  I’m wondering if it might be a good warm up for my friend’s semi-annual party Saturday night…  I just feel really fat, pimply and crampy – I don’t have anything to wear…  I’ll see how I feel later, I guess, and hope to post a more complete post when I get back from da big city.

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I had a good mom moment last night…  My 16 year old has been struggling in Biology.  He could hardly contain his excitement as he brought me his latest quiz to show me his grade – he scored a 99!  I congratulated him and said (jokingly) “go put it on the fridge!”  He did and I smiled.  Later, I saw he had updated his Facebook status to:

“Slim feels awesome because his mom told him to put his biology quiz on the fridge!”

**GRIN**

He’s a big, hairy teenager, but he’s still my little boy – I have to remember that 🙂

On a more sour note, I’m in a bit of a pickle about therapy.  Starting July 1, my insurance will only allow 18 therapy sessions per year.  My therapist wants to change our appointments to once a week (currently twice a week) starting then to stretch the time out.  I’m so confused about it all.  Part of me wants to throw in the towel right now.  I feel like it is pointless to continue now if I’m going to get stuck with no therapy come fall when my depression usually gets worse.  How can I spend the winter with no support?  I feel like I’ve come so far and now we’re just going to have to stop – at whatever point I’m at in 18 weeks.  Alternately, I’d like to keep going twice a week to try to get as much EMDR in as we can and have more time in the fall to adjust before winter hits… I just don’t know what to do.  My therapist is looking into what the options are, if there is a possibility of petitioning to continue with additional sessions if the situation warrants it.  She said she’d fight to keep me there as long as I need it.  I just feel so hopeless.  It took me so long to build a trusting relationship with her and I feel like I’ve come so far in a year – now they expect me to just stop?  It doesn’t make any sense – Even a year of therapy can’t cost as much as a hospitalization!  I understand the idea of keeping costs down, but realistically, I’m in crisis just dealing with the news – what am I going to do when I have to give up my primary support and assistance?  It took me 38 years to get this fucked up, now I’m supposed to fix it in 18 sessions???  I’ve been struggling the past few weeks as so many things have been dredged up in therapy and I’ve fought to stuff them back down – this really feels like a setback.

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Which is the best reason not to mow your lawn.  However, your neighbors may not agree.  My lawn is currently sporting a look similar to the spiky haircut I gave my Barbie in second grade… I didn’t watch my twelve year old mow it, but I suspect he didn’t follow a pattern, but just aimed for the spots that looked tallest and didn’t notice how much he missed.  He got high praise for his efforts, and I enjoy a quiet smile when I look out the window.  His brother, of course, thinks this is emblematic of how easy his little brother’s life is and how he Never Has To Do Anything… At sixteen, he is meticulous in his mowing, but he had his bad haircut moments too 🙂

I’m still reeling.  I’ve been busy with kids this weekend which is good.  I spent time with my friends 2 and 8 year olds, riding bikes down to the beach and playing at the playground.  My body aches with all the physical activity, but it is a pleasant soreness.  I just keep looking at the kids and thinking how small and innocent they are and that is how it should be.  I’m so hurt and sad that my innocence was taken from me.  Looking back, I see that my mother really laid the ground work for it.  With her scrubbing me and telling me I stunk, it was clear from my earliest memories that *down there* is a place where bad things happen.  The abuse by those boys served to confirm it.  Girl parts are dirty, smelly places where bad things happen.

Words are not coming easily today.  I need to get dressed and get to therapy.  The sky is gray and it looks like rain, so I didn’t leave early to spend some time walking on the waterfront as I usually do.  I’ve been catching up on blogs and drinking too much coffee, trying to sort out what I want to deal with in today’s session.  I think we need to take some time to process the last EMDR session before doing another one.  I’m really struggling with the voices that say I’ve made it all up and that none of this really happened.  That just doesn’t jive with the power of that wave of emotion that came over me in my last session.  I just saw the image of C’s strange wrinkly boy part and the sadness welled up like a wave and filled me like I’ve never experienced.  When I connect the emotion with the event, it seems so strange how disconnected I’ve been for so long.  When I recognize how young I was and how wrong those things were, I feel so strange having written it all off as something that just happens or something that all kids do.  Granted, kids of the same age will play doctor and so forth, but these boys were between 4 and 8 years older than me.  They were teenagers with men’s bodies – they had no business using a child the way they did.  It continued for a while – that summer at least – with my brother and his friend.  I thought for so long that it was my fault for wanting to play with the big kids.  I never really understood that I was a victim.

I wonder sometimes if I should just let the grass grow.  I don’t spend any time out there.  I only mow it for the neighbors – well, for the people who drive by, my neighbors are all dead since I live next to a cemetery.  I’ve been cutting myself off all these years to try to be appropriate, to not offend, to fit in.  I’ve stifled thoughts and memories in order to be a good girl.  What if I stopped cutting myself off?  What if I let all this out and deal with it?  If I let the grass grow tall and strong in my heart, will it kill off the weeds?  Am I strong enough to find out?

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