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Posts Tagged ‘sunshine’

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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This is a really tough process.  I’ve spent the past  few days ruminating.  I haven’t gone to bed, but I have withdrawn for hours at a time playing sudoku.  I’m struggling so much with fighting the feeling that I’m being dramatic – I’m exaggerating – maybe I’m even making it all up.  I know I’m not.  I can’t be.  I smelled the soap sitting there in my therapist’s office and it was such a powerful, visceral sensation.  The propaganda campaign is working overtime to suppress and minimize what I’m feeling and remembering.  I visited with an old friend over the weekend who has also experienced child sexual abuse and distanced herself from it much like I have.  She bought up a particularly gruesome experience very nonchalantly and I said – what if someone said that had happened to your daughter…?  She said she would want to kill the person.  She’s right.  If I step back and imagine these events happening to someone else, or to my own children, I am outraged!  I understand having a shitty day as a mom.  I understand yelling or over reacting and feeling guilty about it.  What I don’t understand is a sustained pattern of cruel words and behavior.  I don’t understand consciously, actively causing my own child pain.  I just couldn’t do it.  So, even though my rational mind says I should be thinking how could she do that to me?  Instead I’m thinking what was wrong with me that I deserved to be treated that way.  How did I make her do that.  That was part of her litany – asking why I made her so angry.

I’m scared of this process – the EMDR.  I’m surprised at the memories it has dredged up – memories that I have mostly been aware of on some level, but have never thought of in the context of how they hurt me.  It is just my life.  It is just how things were.  I never questioned it.  When I told my dad, he wasn’t surprised.  They split up when I was around three, but he said I wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know.  I don’t know if that means he knew how she treated me, if I told him, or if he just recognizes how crazy she is.  I don’t really feel comfortable talking to him about it.  He is my rock.  I would be utterly alone in the world if I had to direct some of the blame on him.  I don’t think I can handle that.

I need to go to therapy today.  I’m bringing my mother’s letter to my father.  I’m so tired and confused.  I’m functioning, more or less – I’m not depressed, just thoughtful.  I know this takes time to process.  The boys spent the weekend at my dad’s so I had some quiet alone time.  I sat on the porch with the dog and cat in the sunshine.  It was nice.  I have to get motivated to hit the road – off I go.

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any more than I want to be my diagnoses.  This journey is so wild – like a country road in frost heave season, I’m cruising along when I suddenly hit a bump that sends me flying in the air, coffee spilling and barely maintaining control of my course.  This is why I applied for disability.  I knew I needed time to heal – time that I could focus on my treatment and deal with the hard work of getting better.  Nevermind just how bad things had gotten and how incapable I was of holding a job…  But here I am.  This is my time to heal and get treatment and really work on finding a way to get back to a life where I can provide for my children and give back to society.  I have to believe that that day will come.

The sun is out.  This time of year is usually productive and relatively asymptomatic for me, so what better time to dive in and address the toughest issues in therapy?  Because I’m scared.

I’m 38 years old and I’m still scared of the people who abused me.  I’m scared to talk about what happened to me.  I’m scared that they might find out I’ve told.  I’m scared they will try to discredit me.  I’m even afraid I might not be telling the truth.  I battle this constant campaign in my mind, reminding me that I’m dramatic, I’m a liar, I can’t be trusted, I just want attention, I just want to hurt them, I just can’t admit that it was really my fault.  I made them do bad things to me.  I deserved what happened because I am a bad person.  I’m a bad girl.  I only got what was coming to me.

How do I fight that?  I close my eyes and doubt what I’ve just seen.  I have to open my eyes again to make sure the sky is still blue.

I have a hard time trusting my feelings.  I have a hard time trusting who I am.  I read back a few weeks and wonder who was that girl who couldn’t get out of her own tracks?  I don’t even feel like the same person.  But how close is it?  Is it inevitable that I’ll be back in bed?  Will it be today, tomorrow, next week?  Will I be able to wake up again?

I am suddenly terrified that I made this blog public to my friends and family.  What if they are reading it.  Will they believe me?  Will they talk about this?  Will this cause problems for others in my family?   I’m in a panic.  I want to cover my tracks.  I don’t want to go out.  I don’t want to answer my phone.  What have I done?

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No one wants to smell like garlic – in America, “garlic eaters” is a long-standing insult with implications of poverty, lack of sophistication and people who are not *normal*.  But I love garlic.  I eat garlic all the time.  I don’t think it reflects on my social standing, financial status or education.  I just like garlic.  I’m typing away with fingers that carry the lingering smell of garlic having prepared spaghetti sauce to simmer.  The smell is wafting through the house with echoes of comfort and warmth – not judgment and shame.

As a side note – I went to the grocery store the other day, armed with my mother’s gift card.  I decided to indulge myself.  I bought a set of bamboo cooking spoons and spatulas to replace those that the dog has managed to find and chew up, I picked up some expensive moisturizer, brand-name Q-tips, and a very special indulgence… a $12.99 garlic press.  It is magnificent.  It has heavy red-rubber gripped handles on a shiny steel body.  Best of all, on the reverse side, there is a red plastic prickly pad that reminds me of those funny building blocks I had when I was a kid.  You flip the press backwards, and the little prongs fit neatly into all the holes to push out any remaining garlic!  For readers who don’t use a garlic press – there is little more annoying than trying to gouge dried garlic out of those little holes to clean it…  So I have a fancy-schmancy new garlic press, and I love it!

But I still have smelly garlic fingers.  Should I be ashamed?  Does this make me a “garlic eater”?  What if I said I was mentally ill?  Should I be ashamed of that.  What if I said I was a victim of child abuse?  or worse, a victim of incest.

Yep.  That’s not one you want to put on a badge and wear proudly.  I was able to “come-out” about my mental illness.  I decided to challenge the stigma and deny the shame.  Let my friends carry the discomfort if they couldn’t avoid it, but I wanted to shed the heavy shell of shame I wore, hiding my situation.  While mental illness carries more than its share of stigma, there are public efforts to change that.  There has been a lot of advocacy to change the cultural views of mental illness over the years.  That can’t really be said for incest.

I cringe just writing the word.  This is the part of the PTSD that I really struggle to admit to – even to myself.  I know that I need to address it in therapy, but it absolutely terrifies me.  The feelings around child sexual abuse are SO complicated, conflicting and complex (and maybe a touch redundant 😉 that I can barely wrap my brain around them enough to think about it, never mind start talking about it in therapy.

I might encourage others to bare their scars, but I recognize that scars can be deep and strange and represent so many things.   Sometimes they say “Hey, I’m a freak!”,  sometimes they say “Don’t ask, you don’t want to know”, sometimes, they are best left covered.  For me, baring my scars says that this shame is not mine to carry.  I have mental illness, but I am not mentally ill.  I was a victim of sexual abuse – I am not a sexual abuser.  I am who I am with all my warts and scars – a complicated, confused and creative individual who loves and hurts and breathes.  Just like you *normal* folks.

I was feeling pretty sunny and optimistic this morning when I commented on Gemma’s post – but it got me thinking that scars are more complicated than I thought.

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Ten days of feeling good.  Ten straight days.  What have I done to deserve such respite?  It isn’t the weather – we’ve had a few sunny, warm days, but there have been a number of gray, stormy days and today is chilly and gray.

I was wondering about good days and bad days and noticed that The Warm Milk Journal posted on the subject today.  I found an affirmation there one day that really struck me – I adapted it to my screen saver to remind me “life is safe to live”.

I was wondering about wondering… and saw Gemma’s post earlier.  I left this comment:

I think we need to give ourselves credit for wondering why. As long as you are able to question and examine what is happening in your life and mind you are not just a passenger whisked along the ride, but a participant and sometime navigator. There’s power in asking why, even when the answers are hard to reveal…

I wonder if wondering is enough?  In terms of dealing with depression or anxiety, when the answer was medication, I could expect to see changes in a matter of weeks.  If the answer is therapy, I’m expected to understand that this is a process which can last years.  I’ve chosen therapy because the pills only ever offered me temporary relief and extended upset – I describe that story here.  So now it has been almost a year since my breakdown – the end of May – and what have I achieved?  How far have I come?  I worry that I’m standing still, so I need to take an inventory.  I need to identify what I’ve done in the past year and is where I’m sitting today better than where I was a year ago.

I think the short answer is yes.  One of the best parts being that I can read again.  I’ve been reading blogs about mental illness, mental health, child abuse and PTSD.  I’ve read a number of memoirs about journeys through mental illness and I’ve picked up a fair amount of non-fiction on the subject, the latest being “The Body Remembers” by Babette Rothschild.  This last is a real eye-opener and is helping me understand how my body and brain have processed the trauma in my past and how that manifests itself in my adult life.  Again, this reinforces that the healing process is not a short one – there’s no quick fix.  I feel optimistic about therapy, more so now than I have in a while, knowing that the EMDR feels like something concrete and productive.  I still can’t get over the physical reaction I had to it – this incredible sensation on movement inside my body as if a dam had literally burst and I could rid myself of the negative energy.

So, I’ll go back to therapy tomorrow and tell her about my son nearly burning down the house, how I disowned my mother, how I survived mother’s day and how I am still – for now – okay.

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I rediscovered the yummiest salad dressing yesterday… Green Goddess.  It is the prettiest color green and oh so creamy delicious.  I drizzled it on my reheated leftover rice and it felt so decadent 🙂  Some days it is about the little things, like laundry in the summer breeze.

I’ve had a few good days in a row lately – still running off the change in perspective from chopping my locks, perhaps.  I managed to clean my son’s room and today attacked my own.  I dealt with about half the mess which was quite an endeavor.  My dad came over this morning and we were able to repair my porch door which wasn’t closing properly.  I made him a sandwich and we just stood (clean folded clothes occupy all the kitchen chairs) and talked for an hour or so.  It felt so healthy and normal.  I don’t know how to describe the change.  Last week I was in bed all week.  There were days that I could hardly move – my whole body felt heavy and achy and miserable.  These past few days I’ve been so productive – not exactly happier, but busy – and I feel like a different person.  My therapist asked me what it was that stirred me to get up and clean and I was at a complete loss.  I can’t pinpoint anything that changed or that might have triggered a change in behavior.  I just felt like I needed to get stuff done and did it.  It is absolutely infuriating on the one hand to just switch directions completely – not knowing when I might just switch back to complete helplessness…

I’m feeling much better about where my treatment is headed, too.  I’ve always known that I am deeply affected by childhood trauma, but the PTSd diagnosis was just another in the long list… My therapist has helped me to recognize just how dissociated I am from the abuse.  She says I drop information about the abuse in passing – like a random associated tidbit – as if I’m talking about laundry or groceries.  It is funny, because I remember in high school and college talking about my past and people being really surprised at how nonchalant I was about things like my mother choking me or being molested.  I always thought it meant that I had dealt with it and gotten past it, so it didn’t hurt anymore.  I need to go back and read “Little Men” by Louisa May Alcott, because I remembered yesterday that I read a scene about putting bad memories and hurtful thoughts away in little drawers and locking them away.  I have this very vivid image of a wall of shelves and different size drawers and I remember at one point when I was around 12 years old, that I cleaned up my mind and just put things away in those drawers.

So I am coming to see PTSd as the most important issue to address – with the understanding that most of my other symptoms can fall under the umbrella of PTSd, so treating them is like treating the symptoms without treating the cause, or treating a fever without treating the underlying infection.  We are starting EMDR tomorrow, so it looks like I’m going to need to pry open those drawers and get a peek at what is inside.  I’ve told my therapist that I’m worried about it.  She’s worried about the pain of dredging up traumatic events, but I’m more concerned that I won’t be able to reach them.  I’ve distanced myself so completely from them that they are as if they happened to someone else.  Funny thing is that I feel guilty for distancing myself… like I’m not human for not feeling pain or anger at what was done to me.

Today I feel normal.  I feel like a person who is in extremely difficult circumstances – financially and otherwise – but who is functional.  I feel competent and capable today.  I did dishes and laundry and opened doors and windows to let the house air out.  I got dressed and made coffee, entertained a guest (albeit my dad…), and prepared a meal – I’m even planning supper.  My body feels strong and tired, not heavy and unwieldy.  My head feels sane.  How can this be the same person who lay in her own stink all last week in the depths of despair?

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I made it through another day upright.  I was surprised when my friend stopped by with a pretty bouquet of flowers and an ice cream cake for my birthday.  We had a nice visit and I was inspired to neaten up the kitchen while she was here.  My kids were really terrific today – the oldest made a peanut butter cake with peanut butter / chocolate icing from scratch 🙂  I wish I didn’t have such a chip on my shoulder about birthdays, maybe I could feel happier about the blessings I do have.  My heart has been pounding out of my chest all day – I don’t know if it is anxiety or my blood pressure, either way it stresses me out.  My mother called.

When I turned sixteen, I got a card from my mother saying she’d take me to see Les Miserables for my birthday.  I subsequently did something wrong and as a punishment, she didn’t take me.  That hurt.  I didn’t send her a Mother’s Day card.  It hurt worse the next year when she missed my birthday.  I didn’t wish her a happy mother’s day.  For twenty years she did not acknowledge my birthday on my birthday.  Some years she would call or send something after the fact, but it was not until my 36th birthday that she acknowledged it on the day.  Thus, the big ol’ chip on my shoulder around birthdays.  I was dreading her call today – I haven’t spoken to her since I asked her for some money to help me buy Christmas presents for the boys and she refused because she thought it was frivolous to spend money on presents when I was behind on my bills.  She called with my step-father on the phone and they sang happy birthday then he rambled on about how he was going to be 94 in a few days and he’s busy writing his obituary because if he doesn’t, my mother won’t write what he wants and all his friends are dead.  It was a real treat.  She said she needed ideas for my birthday present and joked about how proud she was for getting my youngest an ipod shuffle for his birthday a few weeks ago.  I told her he really liked it – it is the same color as the iPod Shuffle she got him last year for Christmas and almost as much capacity as the iPod Shuffle his brother got him for Christmas this year…  It is awful.  As much as she has hurt me, I don’t really want to hurt her, but I can’t resist a little jab when I have the opportunity.  She asked how I am and I said fine.  I don’t know what I am supposed to say – thanks for the birthday wishes, my life is perpetual hell.  I don’t sleep but I sleep all the time, the only time I’m not eating, I’m in bed, I can’t wear any of my clothes because I’m almost 300 lbs, I want so much to heal but I can’t even afford to go to therapy.  My kids are terrific and I wish I could get my shit together to be a better mom to them.  What am I supposed to say?

I emailed her after the call and told her a little more frankly how things are.  I hate that I spend so much time crying on my birthday.  I hate that she says all the right things and makes me question my sanity for all the ways she’s hurt me.  She just answered my email and it has me reeling.  She says all these nice things about loving me no matter what and how I misunderstand what her expectations of my are and how EMDR is good but her friend married her therapist and in a grand ol’ WTF  moment finishes with this:

“One thing to think about is what you expect of yourself now that you have a disability check.  Almost everyone I’ve known who has gotten one comes to think of themselves as disabled and staying that way in order to justify getting the check.  I know you won’t want to hear that, but it is what it is.

Love,

Mother”

I am at just about the lowest point in my life – but I must be thinking about staying that way to justify the $787 a month I’m trying to raise two kids on???  Like I WANT this??? Like this is what I wanted to grow up to BE???? Like this is all I have to aspire to now???  AAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!

I want so much to be productive again.  I want to keep my house and pay off the car that was repossessed last fall and stop saying “no, we can’t afford it” every fuking day!  I want to help people, I want to work, I want to draw and make music… I have SO MUCH to offer the world when I am well, I know it is still in me.  I WANT TO BE WELL.  I don’t intend to collect a disability check all my life,  I just don’t know how to get out of this hole.  I just want to stop crying and be grateful for being alive.

I took the dog for a walk and found the jaw and spine of a rabbit scattered in the field.  I feel like scattered bones.

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