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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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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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I was pretty vague in my post yesterday about the EMDR session.  I got a phone call on the way home from the school that my older boy had been in trouble on the bus again, so I was pretty distracted, but just wanted to jot down what happened to keep it fresh in my memory.  I’d like to take some time to process what I think the significance and common theme is.

It was a different session than the first time, but it was not less successful.  We started with the same target memory of sitting in my bathrobe looking out the window unable to get up and get in the shower.  The overwhelming feeling is helplessness and sadness.  I feel so stuck.  I know that I should get in the shower for all the most reasonable reasons, but I just don’t.  It is like there is something bigger than me holding me back from taking care of myself.

I told my therapist how intense the campaign was in my mind to suppress the memories and discredit myself, so we anticipated that it would affect the treatment.  When I closed my eyes and began this time, it was different.  It was less like I was experiencing memories and more like I was viewing images as if on a screen – step one in distancing myself, I guess.  There was no sound to the images, the soundtrack came from the propaganda campaign telling me with each successive image that there was  no significance, I was just making stuff up, I was doing it wrong, it was stupid.  I was stupid.  I  was drawn to the first image of the kind woman’s profile.  Her paper thin cheek drooped softly onto some vibrant wrap, framed by her wavy, light hair.  Her profile was similar to the well-known optical illusion of an old lady who can also be seen as a young lady.  There was something very familiar about her and I felt that she had something important to say, but the propaganda campaign (PC) kept pulling my away and degrading me for searching for meaning where there was none.  The space around her was also familiar, but nothing was really clear but the wrinkles on her cheek and the kindness in her eye as she turned to me.  I felt like I should try to draw her.

I subsequently flipped to a painting that a dear friend painted for me in the psych hospital.  Meeting him was like being introduced to part of my soul in a male body.  He *knew* me instantly.  We sang opera together, painted and exchanged snarky comments about our surroundings.  He painted a fun young woman in a hat, strolling down a street with echoes of a turn of the century French movie poster.  It felt like me as I wanted to be.

That image changed to a large square, divided diagonally in black and white which slowly became illuminated from the bottom left corner with red light.  The red light grew stronger and morphed into an angel.  The wings grew together to become a vivid red flower in the style of Georgia O’Keefe.  (I’ll leave you to imagine the derisive comments the PC made about how absurd I was to be having vagina imagery… oooh, this must be deep!  angels and flowers and bloody vaginas… I felt like such a fool.)  This shifted quickly to the moment of my younger son’s birth which I described yesterday.  This is where the images gain recognizable significance.

I was bombarded with intense, bloody images.  The first was an old woman’s face, wreathed in blood – bleeding from the neck.  It was not an image I recognize or remember.  Images followed of two situations where I helped injured strangers.

The first was an older man who appeared to be homeless.  I can’t remember exactly when or where this happened.  In my memories, the street looks like Boston, but for that to be the case, I would have had to be very young – at the most 14 years old.  I know it was a city and in the US, so it had to be either Boston or Pittsburgh when I was in college, but I’m leaning toward Boston.  I know it was before cell phones.  The man had fallen on the corner and was near a light post, partly in the street.  He was bleeding from the face and nose.  He was disoriented and smelled like alcohol.  People were just walking past him, averting their gazes.  I know that I stopped and spoke to him.  I tried to help him sit up, but he was big and confused.  A young man stopped, then and helped me.  We got him to sit on the curb and asked him if he was okay, where he was hurt, etc.  He wasn’t very coherent, but it was clear that he needed medical attention.  A policeman arrived then.  We told him the man needed an ambulance.  He scoffed.  He tried to explain to me that the man was a drunk and he was just going to fall down again.  There wasn’t any sense in helping him.  I was appalled.  I feel so sad remembering it.  So what if he was drunk?  He was injured.  He was bleeding.  He needed someone to help.  The officer finally agreed to call for help and I went on my merry way.

The next memory was from a few years ago.  I was on my way to work with my ex, S.  We saw a woman coming down the hill opposite us on a bicycle, then as she approached the metal bridge, she just disappeared from view.  We rounded the curve and stopped to find her sprawled on the bridge.  It was an old bridge, the surface was a metal grid, with holes about two inches square.  She had slipped and was thrown from the bike.  She was lying on her side with her long dark hair covering her face.  I spoke to her and touched her shoulder.  She rolled to her back and I saw her face as her hair fell away.  Her cheek and lip were cut in a perfect angle, like a cookie cutter had been pressed into her face.  I could see the fat and muscle under the skin.  There was a lot of blood.  She was mumbling in Spanish.  I could understand something about a child, something about a phone.  She wanted me to call someone.  She was saying numbers.  She said no hospital.  No police.  There is a big seasonal migrant worker community here – I wondered if she might be undocumented.  She was scared.  I tried to comfort her and keep her from moving while S. called for help.  He blocked the lane of traffic with his truck and another man stopped in the other direction and they kept cars moving.  She would shake and cry when cars went past – just feet away on the narrow little bridge.  It made a terrifying noise.  We call them singing bridges for the hum they make when cars go over them, but crouching there with her, it sounded more like a scream.  I asked S. for a cloth, something clean and he brought me a pile of paper napkins.  I pressed them to her face carefully to keep the wound together.  I hoped it would be better than nothing.  I was calm.  I just kept talking to her.  Telling her it was going to be okay.  I told her she would be taken care of.  I don’t know if she understood me, but I don’t think she believed me.  She was terrified.  She felt helpless and hopeless.  She moaned.  The ambulance came after an eternity.  They didn’t really want to hear what I had to say.  They said they’d figure it all out at the hospital.  I tried to tell them she was scared.

My knees were bruised from kneeling on the rough metal bridge.  I had blood on my clothes.  I stood up, lit a cigarette, got back in the truck and went to work.  I spent the day deadheading day lilies for a rich old lady because old ladies don’t like dead things.

I wanted to help those people.  I don’t know if I really did.  They still seemed helpless.  They still seemed like victims.  Like there were bigger things than them that were beyond their control.  I think that is the underlying theme.

Even the image of birth – it was a moment of powerlessness and inevitability.  I was there, I wanted to make a difference, but I couldn’t really change anything.  There were forces bigger than me that would keep things moving in a direction I couldn’t shift.  When I am depressed, resignation overwhelms me.  I drown in the feeling that I can’t change anything – that things are moving forward whether I want them to or not.

I feel good right now.  I have for a couple of weeks.  My body is lighter, I sit straighter, my head is clear.  I still feel upset and overwhelmed at times, but it doesn’t envelop me like a fog – it just is.  I feel such disdain for the person I was a few weeks back.  I don’t understand how I could *let* myself be paralyzed like that.  It feels like it was a different person.  At the same time, I know what that feeling is and I know I could sooner order a paraplegic to just walk out of her chair than to tell myself to just snap out of it when I am that bad.  I can’t imagine feeling so low, but I can’t shake the fear that it could hit again at any time.  It feels like something bigger than me that I can’t control that will keep moving forward no matter what I try to do to help.

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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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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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