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Posts Tagged ‘post traumatic stress disorder’

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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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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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To my best friend’s children, I am “Auntie”.  After taking the boys to the playground several times a few weeks ago, apparently I’ve been associated with that place.  Now, when anyone says “Auntie” at my friend’s house, her two year old looks up, eyes wide and hopeful and exclaims “paygwound!”  He is presently parading around my living room with a Nerf sword as long as he is tall and I am remembering just how much more energy toddlers require.  I remember calling my friend when my boys were small.  I’d call her in the morning and she’d still be asleep.  She’d smile and laugh and tell me “someday your kids will be big enough to get their own breakfast and you can sleep in again!”  Now I’m the one with older kids and she has a second round of little ones waking her up at the ass-crack of dawn.

Strangely, though, I miss my kids needing me more.  There was never any question about being bored or not knowing what to do.  Each moment required me to do something.  I had to keep the house clean for their safety, I had to prepare endless meals, snacks and drinks, I was constantly doing laundry or changing someone and if they were sleeping, there was a long list of things I had to accomplish before they woke.  Now I sit, lost in my thoughts and confusion.  Wasting the day clicking and reading and plaing games on the computer – sometimes curled up with a book.  They occupy themselves and I only prepare meals once or twice a day.  I need to be busier.  I just don’t know what to do.

Lately I’ve been craving extremes.  I want to feel something big.  I’ve worked overtime the past few weeks to suppress the intensity of feeling released by the EMDR.  I’ve been angry about my fears with therapy possibly ending and overwhelmed about finances and car repairs.  I can’t let myself be really angry, though.  There was something that felt so dangerous and vulnerable about how I cried that day that terrified me.  My therapists office has shifted into the category of places where Bad Things Happen.  I’ve been irritable and sullen.  My body is sore and tired all the time.  I’m being pretty productive, but almost on auto-pilot.  I feel like somethings gotta give.  I’m going to explode or implode.  I feel like I just need to keep it together until my little one goes to camp and his brother goes to his grandfather’s, then maybe I can let my hair down.  Maybe I can find some way to let loose.  I don’ know.  I feel reckless and dangerous.  I feel tired and scared.  I feel lost and confused.  But I keep on keepin on.  I’ve got to put on a bra and take the kids to the beach.

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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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I feel like I’m on the verge of something dangerous.  I’m so conflicted about the possibility of my therapy ending that a huge part of me just wants to throw in the towel now.  My therapist said she wouldn’t leave me in the lurch – she said she’d take me on as a pro-bono client if we couldn’t get approved for additional sessions.  I am grateful for that, but I still feel so much uncertainty about it.  Maybe I’m just scared because things got tough and this is an easy out?  I am scared.  I’m scared to continue, I’m scared to stop, I’m scared to move.

I saw an old friend last night.  We were best friends in high school and I haven’t seen him in nearly ten years.  The last time I saw him was in the weeks surrounding the death of my foster mother (who was also a very dear friend and mother-figure to him).  We keep in touch on facebook, but it is all very superficial.  I feel like he is someone who really knows me.  Someone who knew me before I became all the different characters I’ve played in my life.  Someone who knows the person I”d like to rediscover.

We met at the bar, because his visit was short and he was under a lot of pressure to visit too many people, so he just said to everyone – meet me at the bar Wednesday night if you want to see me.  I was agonizing about whether to go or not.  I loathe social interactions in general, and showing up at the local bar felt like a LOT of pressure for me.  I worried that there would be people there I don’t get along with – people I used to know who never really liked me and vice versa…  I drank a beer before I left home and put on some eyeliner and mascara for armor and steeled myself for the worst.  I couldn’t bring myself to pull in the parking lot.  I drove past and parked at the drugstore for a few minutes while I made up my mind to go back.  Eventually, I did.  I’m glad I did.  The first ones there were his aunt and cousins and a friend from high school that I didn’t hate.  I knew most of them from childhood, so it was more comfortable than I had feared.  His mom and more cousins came in and I was buffered by people that felt like family, so it was ok.  His Ma was asking who one girl was and I replied “you know her, one of the twins with the dad who was principal and smacked the kids around?”   Oops.  I have a pretty big voice.  Everyone shushed me, and if the girl overheard, she had the grace not to acknowledge it.  It was a pretty big deal back in the day – he ended up being prosecuted for it years later but when we were in school it was the norm.

My gaffe wasn’t quite as bad as his cousin K’s… my friend, K and I went out to smoke a cigarette and ran into one of their distant cousins that he didn’t immediately recognize.  He was in his twenties, very gaunt, pretty grungy and missing most of his teeth.  They went through the obligatory “oh, you’re so-and-so’s boy” and figured it out before too long.  Then K pipes up “what happened to your teeth?”  In these parts, there are a lot of skinny young people with no teeth… methamphetamine abuse is rampant.  Alternately, you see people who have suddenly gained 80lbs… those are the ones who are on methadone for the prescription opiate abuse that was lately replaced with meth as the drug of choice.  My friend was mortified.  I just laughed… I mean, hey, it is their family… if you can’t be up front with your own kin, then what?

I drank two more beers and was feeling pretty good.  We told embarrassing stories from yesteryear and had some laughs.  My friend asked me to come hang out as his motel room for a while, confessing that I was the one he really wanted to see anyway.  It was strange.  I always used to be the one with my shit together – he was the basket case.  He was always drinking or smoking too much, getting his heart broken and crashing his car.  I was always the one picking up the pieces and making things right.  Now he has a steady job, gets along well with his family and has a great house and two dogs and two cats.  He couldn’t understand how things had gotten so bad for me.   We had no secrets back then, so he has always known about the abuse, but the way we talked about it then, it was normal.  It was just par for the course that shitty things had happened to us.  He said that looking back he could see I used to have disproportionate reactions to things – it all makes more sense to him now with the understanding of PTSD.  He used to get such a kick out of my exaggerated startle response and laughed his ass off surprising me and making me shriek.

What puzzled him is that I looked so normal.  He said that just looking at me he would never know that anything was wrong.  I think that is pretty significant – I mean, I’ve worked a lifetime to behave as if every thing is okay… I’m a pro at it.  He couldn’t understand that the evening going “well” for me meant that I spent it sitting on my hands with my heart pounding out of my chest.  That I agonized over every word that came out of my mouth and beat myself up, second-guessing every turn of phrase.  He couldn’t see how my stomach lurched whenever I caught anyone’s eye or how I panicked when someone spoke to me – so consumed with fear of responding appropriately that I barely caught everything they said.

And that’s when things are going *WELL*.  I didn’t run screaming from the room.  I didn’t burst out sobbing.  I didn’t scream at anyone or let slip any of the colorful adjectives I was using to describe them in my mind.  I didn’t vomit, fart or shit myself, so the evening was a success.

Today I’m paying the price.  Three beers, three cigarettes and staying out until 11 might as well have been a three day bender…  I had to get up early and get my son to his first driver’s ed class and take the truck to the garage.  The good news is that the repair was $150 less than expected.  The bad news is that the tires are worn down to the wires, it needs an alignment, most of the undercarriage looks like flaky pastry because the rust is so bad, the brakes are shot, the brake lines are rusted, the vacuum hose is broken, the oxygen sensor wire has been chewed by a mouse and there is a hole in the floor big enough to pass a hand through…  Oh, and it probably won’t pass inspection.

**BAD WORD**

So, I’m panicked and overwhelmed and nervous and agitated and hung over and tired and angry and frustrated and confused and annoyed and just plain wiped out.  And I don’t know what to do.

I should be grateful that my mechanic is a sweet, honest man (and my ex) who genuinely cares about my safety and well-being.  I should be happy that the old heap is all paid for and even runs at all.  I should be thrilled that he made my son’s day by offering to sell him a 1984 VW for $100.  I am actually excited about the idea of him having the old car to work on and rebuild.  It will be a great learning experience for him and the car is old and simple enough for him to do the work himself.  He’ll be that much more inclined to take care of it and feel good about it if he does it himself.  I am less excited about the colossal task of cleaning out the garage to make room for the car…

I think things will be okay.  I think I’ll get it figured out.  I think I need a good night’s sleep.

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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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I have been in a bit of a fog the past few days.  I think I just ended up shutting down after addressing the child sexual abuse in therapy.  I fought with myself about whether it was true or not (I know it is true – these weren’t new memories, just the first time I’ve processed them as the painful experiences they really were).  The propaganda campaign is too strong.  I couldn’t fight it, so my mind responded by shutting down.  We were supposed to do another EMDR session on Thursday, but I thought it best not to.  I didn’t want to be upset this weekend.  Today is my younger son’s school play.  He is excited, he has a great part and I’m sure it will be terrific.

But I don’t want to go.

I get so overwhelmed in crowds – especially school functions where I feel like everyone is judging me.  I will go.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  The hard part is that it marks a difficult anniversary.  Last year, after my son’s play, I went home and fell apart.  I had a psychotic break and ended up in the psych hospital for two weeks.  I remember sitting in the school gym, alone in the back on the bleachers.  I was shaking.  I was terrified that someone would talk to me and I didn’t think I could handle it.  I raced out as soon as the play was over.  I didn’t even take the time to tell my son what a wonderful job he did.  I was a wreck.  I can’t keep punishing myself for it – I mean, I was psychotic.  I was hallucinating and paranoid and utterly out of my mind.  It wasn’t something I could control and I did the right thing by seeking help before I hurt myself.

That said, today is going to be hard.

I *know* that it isn’t going to happen again.  I know that I’m in a completely different place today than I was a year ago.  I’m stronger, healthier and more focused.  It has been weeks since I spent a day in bed or even slept during the day.  I’m okay.  I can handle this.  My dad is coming.  I know it’ll be hard for him too.  He just lost his dog and I’m sure he’s worried that people will bring it up and he might fall apart.

I can do this.  It is rainy and cold today.  I’ll get in the shower and put on clean clothes, and I’ll go.  And it will be okay.

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