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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Working on the impossible



All quotes are from the National Center for PTSD.

"Trauma survivors with PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving."

Always. Always. Always. I'm so tired of this. And it's been the case for so long that much of the time I no longer address what's happening inside of me as it pertains to relationships. Everyone's tired of talking about it. I'm tired of talking about it.

"Survivors with PTSD may feel distant from others and feel numb. They may have less interest in social or sexual activities. Because survivors feel irritable, on guard, jumpy, worried, or nervous, they may not be able to relax or be intimate. They may also feel an increased need to protect their loved ones. They may come across as tense or demanding."

That first thing. I have trouble with it. Pretty much always. There have been moments when I've been able to escape it. Those have felt glorious. And then awful. The glorious is always followed up by guilt and fear topped off with an obsessive need to repeat the moments as soon and as often as possible. Which leads to the feeling that I'm using the person I love simply to get what I want. Ugly.

"Dealing with these symptoms can take up a lot of the survivor's attention. He or she may not be able to focus on the partner. It may be hard to listen carefully and make decisions together with someone else. Partners may come to feel that talking together and working as a team are not possible."

That's my fear, really. Dealing with symptoms often distracts me from conversations or potentially intimate moments. Dealing with symptoms keeps me from fully committing to what is happening now. And I'm pretty sure that someone on the outside, looking in, can only see that I"m not acting or reacting in a way that will foster closeness and trust in a relationship.

"Certain types of "man-made" traumas can have a more severe effect on relationships. These traumas include:
-Childhood sexual and physical abuse
-Rape
-Domestic violence
-Combat
-Terrorism
-Genocide
-Torture
-Kidnapping
-Prisoner of war"

Okay. The first two. Only two on a list of nine.That's less that 25%. So why am I having such difficulty? And seriously, genocide and torture would be so much worse. Except, clearly, my brain and body do not perceive it that way. Still, it does seem that I could manage a little better. Childhood was a long time ago.

"Survivors of man-made traumas often feel a lasting sense of terror, horror, endangerment, and betrayal. These feelings affect how they relate to others. They may feel like they are letting down their guard if they get close to someone else and trust them. This is not to say a survivor never feels a strong bond of love or friendship. However, a close relationship can also feel scary or dangerous to a trauma survivor."

They do. All close relationships feel scary and dangerous to me. But I still feel strong bonds of love and friendship. Which makes everything feel even more complicated.

"People with PTSD can create and maintain good relationships by:
-Building a personal support network to help cope with PTSD while working on family and friend relationships
-Sharing feelings honestly and openly, with respect and compassion
-Building skills at problem solving and connecting with others
-Including ways to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others"

Working on this. So much work. It's a lot of work to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others. It's a lot of work to figure out how to connect with others. It's a lot of work to share honestly and openly. It's a lot of work to find a personal support network. I'm sort of exhausted.

"What can be done to help someone who has PTSD?
Relations with others are very important for trauma survivors. Social support is one of the best things to protect against getting PTSD. Relationships can offset feelings of being alone. Relationships may also help the survivor's self-esteem. This may help reduce depression and guilt. A relationship can also give the survivor a way to help someone else. Helping others can reduce feelings of failure or feeling cut off from others. Lastly, relationships are a source of support when coping with stress."

Well, that's not really an answer, is it. It just tells me all the reasons relationships are important. The next paragraph talks about all the ways you need to seek profession (expensive) help. Yay. And I'm not blaming the information source. It's really, really hard to figure out how to help someone with PTSD. Everyone experiences it differently. Therapist keeps telling me to stop worrying about overtaxing the people in my life and bank on their love for me instead. Those aren't his words, of course. They're my interpretation of his words. Still, it does seem that he's asking me to do something impossible. That's just how it feels.

But I'm persisting, I think. At least for now. Until I completely run out of stamina. I want to be different. I want to stop being a afraid. I want to be loved because I'm worth it. And I want it to be less taxing to love me. 

But I've been working on this a long time. And I'm so tired.

Monday, June 19, 2017

How to proceed?

I gave myself a few days for everything to calm down. I told myself to stop being dramatic.

The result?

PTSD management isn't even a thing anymore. Today was rather horrible. I spent the morning dealing with nausea from panic attacks that wouldn't stop. And I locked myself in my bedroom until 2:30 in the afternoon when I finally went to work. And I didn't answer the phone. I turned it off.

I'm not really sure what's triggering all of this, but I think it's that I don't feel like I can talk about it anywhere except on my blog. And there's no feedback here-- no one to tell me it's okay or it's not okay. No one to say I don't have to be afraid of the mailman. No one to suggest that I use my voice and talk to a real human being instead of sitting quietly in my bedroom on my bed with the door locked so no one will know I'm there.

I went outside to run this morning. And I went right back inside. I couldn't do it. There were people outside.

This hasn't happened to me before.

It's all in my head, right?

Right?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I had a friend once who read my blog. This was back when I wrote things of substance that were upbeat and sometimes even funny. He would read something and then, months later, say to me, "Remember that post you wrote about [insert topic here]? I know someone who could really benefit from reading that, but I can't find it. Am I just searching for it incorrectly? Can you help me find it?"

No. I couldn't help him. Because from the time I began blogging, more than 10 years ago, I have written posts and then, later, removed them. My friend would get frustrated. Why would I do that?

I don't know. I just did. And I've done it again today. For some reason, removing posts makes me feel better.

My blog has been the place where I've not really worried about what people think or say. It's where I've felt ultimate freedom to speak or not speak, to publish or delete. My blog is and has always been for me. It has never been intended to inform or entertain or teach or, well, anything that would require an outside response. It was purely serendipitous that, many years ago, my blog was discovered by a reader who linked me and invited others to come. I did not do that.

And for a few years, people came and read and conversed. Some of us met and became friends. Some of us did not. But that's not why I wrote.

I wrote chiefly because for most of my life I have felt that my words were unimportant. I thought I would be mocked or disbelieved or, worse, ignored. I thought there was nothing I could say that was good enough for anyone else to hear. I thought I did not matter.

When I began writing here, I had one reader. He checked in with me every day for many months. And then he left. At that point there were others checking in and reading and talking to each other. Some of them told me they appreciated my willingness to share my story. They found it inexplicably helpful.

Probably they said those things because in those days I was not depressed. I was rarely sad. I was a fighter. I was delightful and funny. And then they left, too.

That was okay. My blog was certainly fun with their additions and their presence, but I never lost sight of why I was writing. I was proving to myself that even if my words meant nothing to anyone else, they were important to me. I had a voice. I was a person.

So when I became sad, when my life became overwhelming, when I was no longer funny or delightful or entertaining, I kept writing. It made me feel that I still existed, and I knew I did because I could come here and see that on a day previous to the one before, I wrote and published something. And it really didn't matter if anyone else saw it. I saw it.

I have been in terrible, deep depression for more than a year now. I talk about it here and nowhere else. I have learned that terribly, deeply depressed people repel others, even those who love them.

My friend who used to chide me for unwriting my posts has been saying for months now, "We should talk. We don't talk anymore." But when I send a text, pressing him to schedule a time, he responds with a heart emoticon but makes no commitment.

Another friend sent me a text on Mother's Day. My phone didn't recognize her number. I asked who it was. We texted back and forth for about an hour, then I said, "We should go to lunch! I haven't seen you in forever!" And the texting ceased. No answer. Nothing.

Jeff tells me he wants to spend time with me. I say, "Yes! When? Come to dinner on Sunday!" Crickets. No more messages from Jeff.

Three other people have created similar stories with me during the past six months. And I am understanding that lip service happens because they used to love me in the days before I was terribly, deeply depressed. They still want to love me. They still want me to remember who they are. They just don't want to spend time with me. It's hard to spend time with the terribly, deeply depressed person.

Even people who spend time with me regularly in spite of the depression, I believe, do not feel comfortable with me. Few people touch me anymore. Darrin say's I'm giving off the Keep Your Distance vibe again. I don't mean to. I would love to be hugged by someone because they want it, not because I seem to need it so badly. I would love to sit close enough to someone that they could put their arm around me or at least let our arms touch occasionally. I would love to have my hand taken and held simply because we care about each other.

The process of existing through terrible, deep depression has made me feel less than human in many ways. Today I saw a picture of someone I know doing something fun. Under different circumstances I think I might say, "Hey! That looks fun! We should do something fun, too!" Instead, my brain simply said, "That looks fun. I'm glad they're having fun." The end. No need for connection. No desire to reach out. It felt like looking at a page in a magazine, recognizing someone I once knew, and understanding that their life was no longer connected to mine. This is happening more and more often with more and more people to whom I used to feel inextricably bound.

Terrible, deep depression. I tried to talk with someone about it. Apparently, they have pills for terrible, deep depression. She said it like I would, of course, not know anything about medication. I tried to explain that I react to psychotropic drugs adversely. Well, clearly, she said, I haven't tried all of them. No. I haven't. But drugs belong to different families. I've tried something from most of the families. Well, was her simplistic response, maybe I just need to try something different.

She's right, of course. I do. But when one is already terribly, deeply depressed, dabbling with medication that could, and probably will, make me terribly, deeply, suicidally depressed seems unappealing. It's all in my head, of course. I'm just making excuses probably. Maybe I really don't want to get better.

Don't want to get better? Why would anyone ever WANT to remain terribly, deeply depressed? Why? It's not like I'm getting any mileage out of it. I don't talk about it outside of this place. I spend my life pretending I'm the happiest, most amazing person anyone could meet. How could I ever prefer pretense and solitary misery to getting better?

I know. It's a mystery. Probably I should just get better.

In the meantime, I'm finding myself becoming at peace with lack of connection. It's an inevitable consequence of being depressed for so long. For about eight months I fought against it. I reached out to anyone who would listen. I tried to talk about it with people closest to me. I devised ways to spend time with people, trying to create new memories, pretending all of that was helping. But what I felt was that I was doing a whole lot of work to be with people who were happy to humor me, but wouldn't really miss me when I was gone.

Feelings are not necessarily reality. But these feelings are very difficult to shake when one is terribly, deeply depressed. And, honestly, I don't know what to do anymore. I think, probably, anyone who used to love me doesn't know either, hence the lack of response when I request any interaction beyond a text or a Facebook comment. And I'm teetering here between wanting to weep at the sadness and unfairness of it all, and just letting it all go and allowing the chips to fall where they may. Am I worth fighting for? I just don't know anymore.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 4

I've put off writing about this because it causes all sorts of unwelcome and overwhelming emotions. Therapist assigned me to write down all emotions as they came. I didn't do it. I think it's because I'm still startled when the emotions come. And they're exhausting. I don't know. I just didn't want a written reminder, I think, of what's happening to me right now-- at least, not one like that.

I think I have a better picture of what happened to me. I've written much of this already, but here it is, pieced together, with my extrapolation of what probably happened in the spaces I don't remember clearly.

I was followed to the bathroom by a mentally disabled man. I didn't know why he was behind me. I tried to explain to him that the bathroom I was going to was not the one he needed. He grabbed me and began whispering, "I just want to see. I want to touch you. I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to see..." As he repeatedly whispered the phrases, he began taking off my clothing. I was shocked, angry, and terrified. I yelled at him to stop and tried to get my clothes back from him. He held me in place. I fought back and screamed. I hit and kicked whatever I could. I scratched and twisted, trying to get away. I saw his hand in front of me and bit it hard. I remember the taste of his skin and blood in my mouth. I heard him yell and he hit me, then threw me against the cinder block wall. 

My next memory is of him bending over me repeating the same words over and over. They don't make sense. I can't move for a few moments. Then I see my clothes nearby. At some point I become dressed and he is no longer restraining me. I run to the door and open it. I hear him behind me saying, "Don't tell your dad. Don't tell your dad." My brain grabs that phrase. I turn to look at him with all the defiance and anger that fills my small body, loudly and clearly saying, "I WILL tell my dad. I'm telling him right now!" And then I run. He doesn't follow me.

I believe I lost consciousness when I hit the wall. I think that's why I couldn't move, why the memory at that point is muddled and confusing, why I stopped fighting for a moment. I've run from the words he said because, in the context of what I had allowed myself to remember for most of my life, they didn't make sense. And they were very upsetting. While sitting with Tolkien Boy, I was able to hear them and place them where they belonged.

After hitting the wall, my next memory is of him bending over me. He's saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't mean to hurt you. Please be okay." The repetition continues while my clothing is replaced. I don't know for sure, but I believe he helped me dress.

Here is what I believe about this:
1. I believe I may have been the first in a string of children he molested to fight back. Or perhaps I fought the hardest. I think I was the first to really hurt him. I think he was surprised.
2. I believe that when he hit me in the head, it was neither planned nor malicious. I think he realized that I wasn't going to stop biting, scratching, and screaming, and he was desperate to make me stop resisting.
3. I believe the same is true when he threw me against the wall. At that point, I think he was done trying to "see" and "touch" and just wanted out. I don't believe he meant to throw me as hard as he did. I'm guessing I blacked out and lay very still, which, given his mental maturity of about 14 years old, let him know he was going to be in big trouble if he had hurt me badly.
4. I believe he was a little bit shocked at how the events unfolded, which was why he allowed me to leave. I also think his hand was hurting him and he didn't want to get bitten again.
5. His hand was bleeding still when I left the bathroom. I think that's probably the last thing I saw, which is why it kept popping up in my nightmares and flashbacks.

So now I'm in the yucky part.

I was assaulted. I was molested. I was eight. It was too much for me to think about, let alone talk about or process. My parents didn't know what to do. I didn't get the help I needed. So I blocked it and put it away so that I could live.

But that can't happen forever.

Yesterday I was at the ER with my father-in-law. On the waiting room television there was a show about an eight-year-old who was assaulted by a man who is still at large. She is currently in her late 30s. Her attack was much more savage than the one I experienced. The man had no problem beating her up and, given the severity of her injuries, it's likely he expected she would die. That is not the case with my experience.

In 2012 a woman was gang raped on a bus in Delhi. She died of her injuries. One of her attackers described what was done to her, then said, "A girl is far more responsible for a rape than a boy," then said she should not have fought back. He's wrong. And he's a murderer. I don't believe my attacker wanted to murder me. I don't think he wanted to punish me. I think, in his sick, twisted mind, he believed it was okay to experiment with me. I think he expected me to be frightened and compliant, not angry and relentlessly resistant.

I'm not excusing the actions of my attacker. I'm simply saying, the intent was different from the above examples.

That doesn't help me right now, though. I don't now how to make sense of all the emotions. The intensity exhausts me. I feel the rage and the fear and the determination to hurt the person who was hurting me. I feel the confusion and the loneliness and the overwhelming impulse to shut it all down and forget it. Because it's too much for an eight-year-old to understand.

I'm not eight anymore.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I'm supposed to write more about my therapy stuff tonight, but I don't want to.

Tonight I want to be on a warm beach, listening to the ocean.

Tonight I want to breathe in pine forests and wildflowers.

Tonight I want to smell cinnamon and vanilla.

Tonight I want to listen to poetry.

Tonight I want a long walk with only the stars for company.

Tonight I want so sing and dance and go skinny dipping.

Tonight I want to taste strawberries, sweet and wild.

Tonight I want to hold a hand.

Yes, I just wrote that.

I think I'm ready to work on the other thing.

My sense of touch has reawakened.

This is distracting, overwhelming, and frightening.

But tonight it is also interesting.

That's new.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 3

During his interview, my father discussed with me the extent of mental and physical disability suffered by the person who molested me. Brent and his brother, as their mother explained to my father, had a chromosomal defect which caused their bodies and brains to grow to puberty, then to regress. The men were in their late 30s, but at this point, their mother believed them to be mentally and emotionally about seven years old.

Given what I know now, I'd place them at 12 to 15. I base that on some memories I've had recently. I believe their mother seriously underestimated their mental acuity and maturity. It was probably easier for her to excuse the delinquent and violent behaviors if she attributed them to a little boy who didn't understand he was causing harm.

Physically, Brent was no taller than 5'3" and weighed between 110 and 125 pounds. Basically, he was about as big as I am now. But to an eight-year-old who weighed about 40 pounds, he would have been very large.

It was important for me to have this context as I remembered.

When I met with Therapist, we discussed the things I had learned from my parents. I told him I was still afraid of remembering more. I told him when I tried to remember, I became overwhelmed by fear. To me, this was far more frightening that being raped by my cousin when I was eleven. Therapist said that was probably because I'd spent the last decade learning how to manage the emotions of being raped. This event was new, when it came to learning about it and managing whatever I might feel about it.

He gave me my second assignment: I was allowed to try to remember as much as I felt comfortable remembering. I was not allowed to do it alone. I needed someone to be with me. Therapist warned me that I would need someone to help me feel grounded and to bring me back if I got caught in the flashbacks. He suggested I ask Tolkien Boy. Darrin was discussed, but Therapist felt I needed someone I could work with for a short period and then leave behind when I went home. Because I would associate those memories with the person who was with me, I needed it to be someone I do not live with. That would allow me breathing room while I processed.

I don't like asking people to help me, but I did it anyway. And Tolkien Boy agreed to help me because he's amazing that way.

So we met the first time. I won't lie. It was pretty much horrible. But during that time, I was able to finally see that my clothing was different from what I had been imagining. And I was able to hear the words that were whispered while I was being molested. And I figured out where the blood came from. It wasn't mine. Nor was it my hand I was seeing. It was Brent's, because I bit him. And scratched and hit and kicked. I was very, very angry at him when he tried to take off my clothes.

I got tired before I could see everything. I needed to stop. Probably that was a bad idea because it left me in limbo, which meant the next few days were pretty horrible. Adam and Darrin woke me several times during the the following nights because I was having terrors. And screaming. Or just yelling. That's not a fun thing to hear.

But I started. That's something.

There was a second, unrelated assignment, but I'm too tired to write about it right now.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 2

I interviewed my mother over the phone first. She wasn't present when the incident happened. On top of that, she was experiencing a difficult pregnancy. I don't really remember seeing her much during this year of my life. She was often sick, and when she wasn't, she was on bed rest. Also, I didn't know what I would hear from her. She has dementia. What that means is she has no healthy emotional boundaries. It is common for her to hijack whatever topic is raised and make it all about her. There's a bit of narcissism in her personality that has been exacerbated by the dementia. I was pretty sure I'd find nothing of importance in her interview, but Therapist had assigned it, so I did it.

And it wasn't horrible, actually. She was more lucid than I've seen her for years. And she was completely honest. There was no twisting to make it all about her, no assumed or constructed impossible details, no lamenting about what a horrible mother she had been. She simply said, "Sam, I wasn't there. I don't really know anything that happened. I was only personally involved afterward, when we went to see the bishop about it."

I told her I knew that, I just wanted to hear what she remembered. She told me my father related the incident to her. She said she thought he had asked me, on the way home, what had happened, and I had said that Brent (because apparently, that was my attacker's name) had followed me to the bathroom and lifted up my skirt. She said they had spoken with his parents and the bishop, and she and my father had been pressured to let the parents speak with their son and handle any necessary discipline.

My mom said she never felt it was enough but, based on my account, the encounter had been scary, but I hadn't been physically harmed, so she was unsure if they would be able to report it and prosecute the man. He was mentally disabled, after all, she was told.

Then she asked me what was going on; why was I talking about this now? I briefly let her know that things had been triggered, that much more happened in that bathroom than peeking under my skirt, and that I was doing a therapy assignment. She was quiet for a moment. Then she said, "Sam, I'm so sorry. I wish we had done more. We didn't know what to do." She said, "I wish I had held you when  you came home. I would have told you you were loved and safe. I wish I had done that. I'm sorry."

Five years ago, those words would have made me angry. I would have felt resentment that she had assumed I would want her to touch me. I wouldn't have responded at all.

This time, I was grateful. I'm not stupid. I know, given where our relationship was at that time in my life, she probably didn't have the emotional stamina to offer love to me. But somehow, hearing her say this now, even knowing full well that it probably stems from her dementia, was important. I needed to know that she felt something about what had happened to me. I needed to know of her need to love and protect me, even if it was fabricated. And so I told her, "Thank you for saying that, Mom. It helps. It really does."

I've come a very, very long way.

My father called me about an hour later. He corroborated most of the story I've believed my whole life. He told me when I returned from the bathroom, I was visibly upset and seemed confused, incoherent. When he understood what had happened, he asked me to sit on a chair near a family friend while he got our coats. They were on the other side of the gym. He was able to see me, and I him, the entire time we were separated, and retrieving the coats took a matter of seconds.

I told my dad that wasn't what I remembered. I remembered being left for a long time. Later, I said, he had told me he found Brent and threatened him with violence if he ever harmed little girls again (this behavior, we found out later, was chronic-- I was not the first victim). My dad said, no. We left and went home immediately. It was later, perhaps a week or two, before he spoke with Brent.

He mentioned the car ride home. And I remembered. I remembered it was dark, and I was afraid. I remembered him asking me if Brent had hurt me. I remembered saying no. He just lifted up my skirt. I think that's what I wanted the story to be. I think it was too hard to talk about what really happened. I think there was a part of me that wondered if I was in trouble or if I'd done something wrong. Mostly, I was just too scared and confused to talk about it.

My dad told me that he wished they had prosecuted, or at the very least, made a police report. I'm not sure I could have endured that. Within a day, my subconscious was hard at work making me forget, redrawing my clothing, shutting down the memory.

My father told me that Brent and his brother were often in trouble. At one time, they were throwing rocks through car windshields and breaking them. The sheriff took them to the tiny, local jail, and locked them in overnight. In the morning, he told them they could go home if they promised not to break anymore windows. The men promised and were released. No more windows were broken.

My dad said that, as no repercussions seemed to be forthcoming for the bathroom assault on his daughter, he felt he needed to make yet another impression on Brent to deter him from harming any other little girls. He spoke with Brent a few days later and showed Brent his pocket knife. Brent admired the knife a great deal. My dad said, "I want you to remember this knife. I keep it with me all the time. And if I ever hear of you following another little girl into the bathroom for any reason, I'll use that knife to cut off your penis."

I have no idea if the threat was effective or not. After all, I was working very hard to remember that nothing ever happened. But none of the girls my age ever went to the bathroom alone. It was an odd circumstance that left me alone the night I was assaulted. For whatever reason, I had been allowed to go with my father to the basketball game. It was late, probably 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. It was a school night. No other children were there-- at least, none that I knew. I don't remember seeing any other school-age children. If there had been any there, I would have been playing with them rather than watching the game.

My dad asked me if I was going to be okay, and expressed his dismay and distress that I was still suffering after so many years. I reassured him that the suffering had just begun and told him not to worry. Therapist and I would work through it and I would be fine. He told me he loved me. I think I've always known that.

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 1

And now I know, I think. But I still don't know how to talk about it.

Retelling what happened, what I can piece together from flashbacks and real memories, feels glib, almost false. I don't know why that bothers me.

What I began with:

I was eight. I went to young men's basketball game with my father who was the YM president and, I think, also helped coach the team. I watched for awhile. I remember the game, the sounds, how the gym smelled. I had to use the bathroom. Someone followed me. I turned to see who. It was a man who was mentally disabled. He was odd looking. My mother had said he had a grown-up body but a little boy mind. I was at the door to the women's restroom. I thought he must have made a mistake and began giving him directions to the men's restroom. 

He grabbed me and pulled me into the restroom. Then I got scared. I pushed him away; told him to stop. I was wearing a white cotton bodysuit and a twirly, floral skirt. The bodysuit had a front zipper. He unzipped it. I pulled it back up, telling him, again to stop. He lifted up the skirt. I pushed and hit and kicked and finally broke away from him. I ran to the door. As I reached it, he said, "Don't tell your dad. Don't you tell your dad!" I turned, enraged and defiant, and said, "I AM telling him. I'm telling him right now!" And then I ran. 

When I reached my dad, I was less angry and much more frightened. I didn't know how to say what had happened. I told him I had been followed into the bathroom. I told him the man had tried to take off my clothes. My dad asked if I was okay. I said yes. He picked me up and set me on a chair. Then he left.

That is all I remembered.

There are all sorts of feelings connected with this. Most present has been aggravation at my father that he abandoned me when I wished to be held and made safe. Everything else has seemed less important.

Then, shortly after moving to Utah, I got triggered. Two mentally disabled men in their late 30s or early 40s sat in the pew in front of me one Sunday at church. Within 15 minutes, I could barely sit still. I was stressed to the point of being nauseated. Darrin asked if I needed to leave. I was somehow able to make it through the meeting, but when I got home I felt embarrassed and silly. I was not in danger. The men were completely unaware of me. I wasn't threatened in any way. Still, I was overwhelmed by fear.

Then the flashbacks began. And the nightmares. I became increasingly nervous and stressed. PTSD symptoms were rampant. I began to disconnect, emotionally, from everyone close to me. Touch became unbearable. So I contacted Therapist and asked to see him.

As the flashbacks and nightmares continued, I began to realize that the narrative I had always believed was flawed. There were things that could not be true. There were gaps and omissions. I didn't know what had truly happened, and not knowing was causing me terrible distress.

So I talked with Therapist and told him the following:
1. I have always been afraid of mentally disabled men. It's embarrassing and something I have hidden. I felt there was some bias or discrimination I felt toward them. I didn't want anyone to know.

2. The flashbacks were confusing. There was one in particular causing fear and confusion. I was standing near my father after the incident occurred. I looked down at my hand and saw blood on it. I knew it was not my blood. This same scene was replaying in my nightmares.

3. Whispering, especially from a male voice, terrifies me. If you want to wake me when I'm sleeping, whisper within earshot of me. I'll wake immediately. And I'll want to punch you in the face. Darrin is a chronic whisperer. He does it when he reads "silently." After about 30 seconds, I seriously hate him and want him dead. I realized, after the flashbacks began, that there was whispering when I was attacked, but I could not understand the words being said in the flashbacks.

4. The outfit I was wearing was impossible. It was made for me for a dance recital when I was five or six. The bathroom incident occurred 2-3 years later. The outfit would have been much too small. I could not have been wearing it.

Therapist said it was clear that I was preparing to find out what really happened, and my body was sending me messages to help with that process. However, I am not in a secure place right now. Many other external issues are also causing me distress. He asked me to wait until my circumstances were more stable. I said I would try. My body had other ideas.

Within three days I was no longer able to keep food down and I didn't want to eat at all. Sleep wasn't happening. I started losing hair, which always happens when I'm very stressed. I called Therapist and asked to see him. I told him waiting was not an option.

So we met a couple of days later, and I was given an assignment: Talk to my parents and find out as much information as possible from them about the incident.

So I did.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I can't explain.

But I will try.

Therapist has said on many occasions that, given the abuse and assault I have experienced, and the ages at which those occurred, there is no logical reason for me to be functional. And when he has said it, I've laughed. He's tried to tell me about people who have similar experiences. He's talked about their inability to hold jobs or their failed marriages. He talks of drug and alcohol abuse, of the ways they have neglected or abused their own children. He says I've been saved by my brain.

My brain.

The thing that noticed something was going on that could completely destroy me and simply said, No.

Nope.

That is not happening.

And so it didn't. For years I've been able to keep a lid on the things that have the potential to make my life hell. But even the most talented brain can't do that forever. One by one the past is presenting itself to me. Memories suppressed begin to surface. There are some that I have changed in order to protect myself from their reality. But they don't make sense in context. They cannot be true. Therefore there is another truth, another reality, from which I am hiding.

I'm not good at believing things that aren't true.

And so I have begun to find out what is real. And as I do so, I'm beginning to understand how someone could be lost to trauma. I'm understanding how they might lose a job or a spouse or a family. I'm understanding why they might turn to drugs or alcohol.

I won't. I can't. It's not who I am.

But as I worked yesterday with Tolkien Boy to recover the real memories, it was very difficult to remain present. There were too many flashbacks. For years the memories have been piled against a door, and when it was opened, they all spilled out at once. I get caught in the memories. They feel tangible. I can't get out by myself.

Which is why Therapist said I cannot do this alone. And that was a very good thing yesterday.

But my brain gets tired. After a little while it just stops. I can't think or feel anymore. I'm calm, unaffected, because to be otherwise requires more energy that I have. So after we worked for awhile, we had dinner and played games. because what else would we do?

Today, though, was another story.

Today the emotions and the panic can't stop surfacing. And, let's face it, they're bound to be the worst in a bathroom. Which they were.

And when I think of what we uncovered yesterday, I feel crazy. My brain feels mixed up. I can't make words to talk about it. How does this even happen?

So I am trapped between revelation and disbelief. I'm stuck inside flashbacks and panic. There are more memories I am afraid to look at. They'll hurt but I won't be able to feel it. Unless I choose to. Sometime I have to choose to.

I am not a child. I am not defenseless. I can do this. But right now, I just feel overwhelmed and confused. There's too much. And in the large scheme of things, is this even important?

I think it's important. It has to be important. It's about me. I matter, maybe, but I don't know why.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I need to sleep. My brain wants to think. Incompatible.

I practice in sections. Each piece is divided and marked before I ever begin learning it. I never start at the beginning. To do so ensures that the beginning is always very good, but there will be weakness throughout the piece. To learn a piece from beginning to end means the ending will never be as strongly performed as the beginning. You have to mix it up. Never begin practicing in the same place. Make certain one section is not more flawless than another. And then, when everything is balanced, you put it in order. You make it into music.

I've run all my life. Then I got injured and had to learn to run again. I'd never done that before. So I learned to run in sections. Run, then walk. Run, then walk. Each day make the running sections longer, the walking sections shorter. Eventually, you just run. No walking. But it takes time. You have to learn to breathe. You learn there is a threshold at which you feel your lungs may burst and your muscles are giving out and you HAVE TO STOP. Except, if you don't stop, if you push through the threshold, you hit your stride, breathing becomes rhythmic and easy, and it feels as if you could run forever.

I must work through the current problem I face in sections, methodically, piece by piece. Therapist says to do some work, then go read or take a walk or be with someone who helps me feel the most like me. If I push too hard, the memories will stall out, continuing to haunt my dreams and triggering the terror I feel at the edges of my brain.

It has been nearly six and a half years since my no-flashbacks anniversary. Even though the flashbacks have returned, I'm keeping that anniversary. Those flashbacks pertained to a different incident. These are new. I'm not as good at masking my reaction when one comes. It's been more than six years, after all, since I've had to do that. My body shakes. I can't focus on what is being said to me. I have to remind myself where I am and what I'm doing when the flashback ends.

One step at a time, Therapist reminds me. I can't manage the flashbacks until I recall what happened. I can't recall what happened until I create a safe place in which to remember.

But there is still a part of me wondering what it is about me that attracted those who would follow and molest me. A child. A very small, 40-pound 8-year-old with dark eyes and brown curls. What made them wish to hurt me?

And the can of worms is open yet again.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Therapy Assignment Number One: Complete

Talking to my parents about their recollections of the bathroom molestation incident. That sucked. Indeed, it did.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I really did try to not think about the bathroom thing. And here's what happened:

Wednesday: I got up and went running. And everything felt fine. But then I made myself a smoothie. And I drank it. Still fine. So I went to work. While I was working, I noticed my head couldn't seem to stop thinking about the bathroom thing and its accompanying nightmares. And as the thoughts came, so did the nausea. By 2:00 I could barely sit up. A thought would come and I would vomit. Another thought would come...more vomiting. The nausea isn't new. I've been feeling it for more than a week now, but this is the first time it's been more than a little stomach upset. I tried eating some potatoes around 8:30 p.m. and they stayed down, but I felt terrible.

Thursday: I decided not to rock the boat. I took a walk instead of a run and drank Gatorade. And I felt well enough to make dinner. So I did. And I ate it. And I threw it up. I cannot get away from the nightmares.

Friday (that would be today): I can't even think about eating. It's not happening.

So I made some plans, and some worked and some did not.

I talked with Darrin and told him all that's going on. He listened, but didn't say a lot. He's concerned about my being alone while I remember. I'm concerned, too. No solution. He's at work. Everyone is at work. There is no way in Hell that I'll involve my father-in-law in this. He's the only one I know who is home during the day. But I talked with Darrin. That's a good thing.

Tolkien Boy said he's like to help if he can. I thought I might be able to talk with him. I have no idea how to utilize his help, but it's early days. I though maybe he would be able to think of a possibility. But I was too sick this morning to talk with anyone. And this afternoon I was looking at houses. So no conversation with Tolkien Boy.

I called Therapist. I said I knew he'd like me to wait, but my body had other ideas. He said he was afraid of that. We'll talk more on Monday.

And now I'm going to go see if food will go in my mouth.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings - always darker, emptier and simpler." --Friedrich Nietzsche

Today Therapist told me that I'm not really in a place, physically, where I have what I need to work on the things that are becoming increasingly bothersome. Well, the thing. THE thing. The THING. Thing.

Bathrooms. Why have I always been afraid of public restrooms?

Because I'm silly, that's why. There's nothing to be afraid of.

That's what I've told myself. It hasn't helped that there are urban myths mingled with truths about things that have happened in public restrooms.

Afraid of going to the restroom. Especially those in the church.

Therapist said, "Have you told me about this before?"

Nope. I haven't.

"Have you blogged about it? Told anyone else."

Yes.

"Is there a reason why we haven't talked about it?

Yes. Probably. I understand that in over a decade of therapy, I probably should have brought it up.

"So, why?"

Why? Because I thought it was okay. I thought I was okay. I thought everything was okay.

Things that came out in therapy today:

1. I haven't told Therapist about the bathroom molestations because I don't want to know if they're things that will cause me distress. Except now I do. They cause me distress now. After a million years of being ignored.

2. The first time I was molested I don't really remember that much about it. I was probably three. Why was a three-year-old allowed to go to the bathroom alone? That is a very good question. What happened? I don't know. Do I remember anything? Yes. I went in the restroom. Someone entered after me and turned off the light. In the dark, I was fondled. The person talked to me. I don't remember what they said. I don't know if it was a woman or a man. I was three. I don't feel anything about this, really. It doesn't feel frightening beyond the realization that my parents allowed three-year-old me to go to a public restroom by myself. The experience of being molested by a stranger simply feels weird. The residual effect was that, from that point, I was afraid to enter the bathroom. There was also some fear of the dark and some transference of that fear to inanimate objects in my bedroom (stuffed animals, dolls, and/or pictures hanging on my walls).

3. It is clear that I have blocked much of my memory of the second molestation experience, and that I am aware that I've done so. I don't want to remember. When I try, every part of me says, "NO!" But the nightmares still come. So some part of me wants to remember. I told Therapist today that being raped when I was 11 was horrible. There were parts of dealing with it and with the aftermath that were unspeakably painful. But the experience when I was eight, when a man who was mentally disabled followed me into a church bathroom and molested me-- that's terrifying beyond anything else I can think of.

4. I believe one of the reasons this experience terrifies me is because I don't remember exactly what happened. I'm dealing with the unknown. Except I do know. I just can't make myself look at it.

5. I'm not really contradicting myself. I truly do not remember parts of the experience. I also know that I DO remember. I can't really explain this. One of the reasons I had Tolkien Boy go with me back to the park where where we walked nearly 10 years ago after we had lunch with the man who raped me is because I know we did that. I just can't remember it. After we went back and Tolkien Boy described as much as he remembered (it was a decade ago, a different season of the year, and who really pays attention to all the details anyway?), I began having tiny flashes of remembrance. This is sort of what's happening with the bathroom molestation in question.

What do I remember? I remember being shocked that a man followed me into the bathroom. Then I saw who it was. He was different. My parents said he was mentally challenged. He was grown up, but his brain was not grown up. They had made it sound as if he thought on the level of a child who was four or five years old. He must be confused. So I said something about how he needed to use the other bathroom - the one for boys.

And then he grabbed me. I couldn't get away. He was strong, but I was angry and scared out of my mind. He took my clothes off me, muttering under his breath all the time. I don't remember what he said. I remember hitting, scratching, biting, kicking, screaming. He put his hand over my mouth. I bit that, too. And then there is nothing. I don't remember anything else until either he let me go or I broke away. I don't remember dressing, but I remember running to the door fully clothed, so that must have happened.

I remember hearing him say, "Don't tell your dad. Don't you tell your dad!" I remember the inflection and the sound of the voice clearly, as if they were said to me seconds ago. I remember turning to look at him and saying with more anger and defiance than I had ever felt in my life, "I AM telling him. I'm telling him right now!" And then I ran.

But I didn't tell. At least, not right away. I stood, shaking, next to my father who was watching a Stake basketball game in the gym, and shouting instructions to the players. I think he was coaching. I don't know. At some point, I touched his leg. He didn't feel it. I touched him again and said, "Daddy?" Maybe it was the way I said it. Somehow I was able to convey that things were not okay. He asked what was wrong. I remember saying the name of the man who had molested me. I said he followed me into the bathroom.

This is where the flashes of memory begin. I remember seeing blood on my hand. I don't think it was mine. I remember being hit in the head by the man. I remember him flinging me away, finally. I remember hitting a wall.

I remember being placed on a chair by my father. And then he left.

I have been told that my parents talked with me. I have been told that we met with people so I could tell my story. I have no memory of this.

I remember not going to the bathroom at church anymore. And sometimes at school. I would wait until I got home. Or I would make sure I had a friend with me.

And so the nightmares happen. I look down at my hand, my eight-year-old hand, and it has blood on it. I don't know why. My head hurts. I have bruises on my arms and legs.

I remember bathing that night. I remember the water and the soap hurt inside my vagina. But I don't think I was raped. I don't remember him taking of any of his clothing or exposing himself to me. I remember seeing bruises on my ribs and stomach.

But the nightmare always begins and ends with the blood on my hand.

I didn't tell Therapist any of this. He believes I forgot because that was the healthiest way for an eight-year-old to deal with a terrifying experience. He says it's healthy. He wants me to wait until I'm in a safer place, physically and emotionally, before we delve into any of this. But my brain has other plans.

Therapist asked if I could shelve it for now. I said I'm trying. I'm not having a great deal of success. It's not like I WANT to do this. He suggested finding a safe place outside of my apartment where I won't be disturbed. I'm afraid if I do that, the molestation experience will become associated with that place which will then no longer be safe.

Therapist asked me what I'm most afraid of in reference to working through all this. Honestly, I'm afraid of doing it when I'm alone. There's more to add, but I don't have words to express. Alone, while I'm sifting through what I know and allowing more memories to come, is scary to me. I'm at the point now where I can almost see his face. I don't want to be alone when I see it clearly. I can hear his words and his voice. When I find out where the blood came from, I want a person nearby.

Therapist didn't say anything when I told him that. Maybe he thinks that's cowardly? When I pressed him for an opinion, he said that I should not be alone when the memories come, but that, right now, it sounded as though I didn't really have any control over when they would manifest themselves. It could very well happen when I'm alone. He suggested having someone I could call if no one is with me.

I'm rereading all of that. I'm talking about remembering. Nothing I remember can hurt me. This happened so long ago. It's possible that the person who molested me is dead now. He was in his late thirties, possibly early 40s, when I was eight. I don't need to have someone with me. I'm a grown-up.

I'm saying those words while my brain is saying, "You were alone when you were raped and molested. Maybe it's okay to ask for someone safe to be with you while you sort through the trauma and look at what happened to you. It's bound to be an ugly sight. And really, really frightening. And probably at least a little bit horrible. Do you want to be alone when that happens?"

But how do you say, "Please just sit with me. You can't see what I'm seeing or hear what I'm hearing, but I need you. Because I'm afraid. Is that okay?"

I don't know if it's okay.

What I do know is that it's long after midnight. I need to sleep. Let the nightmares commence.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Today, springlike, made me wish for a walk. I didn't take one. Still resting that strained tendon and hoping for healing soon. But I will run tomorrow, healed or not. I need some relief from the internal stress and tension.

I know I have become emotionally depleted when I no longer have to remind myself to set proper boundaries with people. I don't need to do that because the yearning for them has disappeared. I don't really care if we connect or not. I'm not really thinking about people I love. Mostly, I just want to read. All the time. It makes complete sense, probably. I've spent a length of time feeling stressed socially and emotionally. My environment is not such that I can find relief. And so something must shut down. And it does.

Therapist and I have discussed protocols to put in place when this happens.
1. Take some time for me. Regroup. Think of things that are calming and safe.
2. Devise ways to spend short periods of time with people I love. This can include online time, but only if that feels like a safe place.
3. Make physical contact, if possible. Think of appropriate ways to share proximity without it causing panic.
4. Talk about what is happening.
5. Don't make any big decisions during this time, especially in regards to relationships.
6. Do something joyful.

Okay. The last one is mine. I just decided to add it now. I don't know why. Probably because much of my life right now feels joyless.

I bought irises last week. That helped.

I feel...old and used up.

I can hear all the people who have walked with me for the past decade saying:
1. It won't last.
2. You'll be okay.
3. Many people are feeling something like this right now.
4. Given your circumstances, everything you're feeling is reasonable.

And they're right. All of that is correct. And unhelpful.

Almost 10 years ago, I went to lunch with the man who raped me as a child. And Tolkien Boy came along. But before we went to the restaurant, Tolkien Boy was with me in my hotel room. I said, "I'm scared." I was looking out the window. I felt like such a coward for admitting to being afraid. Tolkien Boy didn't tell me not to be afraid, nor did he tell me I was a coward. He just opened his arms to hug me. He was sitting on the bed. My brain went through a million thoughts in that moment, but chief was that he was willing to touch me, the raped person.

And so I lost every scrap of dignity I had, threw myself at him, just in case he regained sanity and changed his mind, and we had what is probably one of the most awkward, uncomfortable hugs ever. Not because of the circumstances, but because I landed sideways, oddly positioned, and not in the proper hugging position. But I didn't let go. Just in case he remembered I was the raped person and pushed me away. Which he didn't do, but he did suggest repositioning after a few moments.

I'm remembering this because I don't know how to hold onto people anymore. Physically, I find myself timing hugs again. 15 seconds is too long. But I don't think of myself as untouchable anymore. I just think, maybe, more than a 15-second hug with me might be unpleasant. I haven't delved into that, really. I tried to on Friday last week, but my head started to hurt. Then AtP started talking to me online. So I said, "I live within three miles of your house. Would it be okay if I stopped by for a 10-second hug? You can time me." And he said yes.

So Darrin and I went. And I was careful not to hug for longer than 10 seconds. But AtP's three-year-old let me hold and cuddle him longer. Tolkien Boy's dogs let me touch and hold them longer, too. Children and animals...

I'm skirting the issue. Probably on purpose.

1. It won't last. Of course it won't. I know that. But it will last for awhile, and while it's here, will you please just tell me you love me even when I'm emotionally numb?

2. You'll be okay. Of course I will. I always am. But okay is not really that great of a state of being. It actually sort of sucks. It's when you're not wanting to die, but you're watching everyone around you laughing at a joke you don't understand, or you're eating food that tastes like sawdust, or you feel like there's a glass wall between you and all of life. So in the moment when I'm okay, will you remind me that I'm actually not okay, I'm amazing? Tell me you love my smile, my sense of humor, and that I'm fun to be with? Remind me that there are times when I make your life better?

3. Many people are feeling something like this right now. They are. It hurts my heart that so many people ache or are angry or feel afraid or desperate. And I'm right there with them. Help me remember that we're in this together? Because there is a lot of feeling alone right now, and also the belief that, in the end, everyone will do whatever is best for them, personally, and no one will care about anyone else. That's not who we are. That's not what makes us better. We need to stay connected and lift each other. Alone, we have no chance. Even if we move out of the current situation, there will be another. We need each other. And this is coming from the person who needs no one. So I'm reminding you of this. The moments when we all feel this way are the ones when we need one another the most.

4. Given your circumstances, everything you're feeling is reasonable. It is. But those words feel both dismissive and unhelpful. They feel dismissive because my brain does not interpret them as, "I'm saying this because I want you to have the freedom to feel whatever you're feeling," which is probably the intent, but rather, "Yeah, you've been through some stuff, but you really complain about it a lot. So it's understandable. Now can we talk about the weather?" They feel unhelpful because they offer me no hint about how you feel about how I feel. I can't differentiate between trying to be empathetic and being judgmental when those words are spoken. Also, it feels like those words are said because there's nothing else to say. "You feel this way. It's understandable. Sucks to be you." So when you say those words, will you also please remind me that you're here for me? For the duration? For as long as it takes for me to become a real person again? Please?

For now, though, I'm reminding myself that when I was being a person who was raped, there were people who were brave enough to hold me tightly and reassure me that touching me was not harming them. I'm reminding myself that, ten years later, many of those people are still part of my life, and a few have become essential to it. I'm reminding myself that probably none of the things I've asked for will happen, and that the four logical points made most often by people who care about me, really are true, regardless of how I feel about them.

On a completely unrelated note: This week I will be applying for jobs. Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Okay, this has to be short because it's after 1:00 a.m., and I really do need to be sleeping.

However, today I hit a wall. I've been doing all the things I'm supposed to do (mostly) to keep depression and anxiety at bay, but sometimes there are just things that are depressing. Like air so polluted it's unbreathable. And a pulled tendon in the groin that screams pretty much all day long. And so few houses on the market that the ones that are there are ridiculously priced. And a political climate that feels threatening and frightening.

There's more, but that's enough to talk about right now.

So Darrin came home today and said, "Let's go for a ride." Which we did. And I was cranky.

But Darrin had had a good day. And he told me about it. Which made me feel more cranky.

So we went to the store and got some things we needed, during which time that pesky tendon began telling me that I needed pain killer NOW. Which made me even more cranky.

On the way home, I took some pain killer and then proceeded to cry because sometimes you do that when your tendon is causing you misery, but mostly you do it because, even though you were trying not to be, you're still depressed.

And when I get depressed, my first impulse is to panic because we have no money and go to work a million hours a day so we don't end up on the street.

Except we have money. And I don't need to work like that. But it FEELS like I need to.

So Darrin said we should go home and I should finish my work project while he ran another errand, and then we should make dinner. And I needed to think about planning some activity that would keep me away from the computer tonight.

But after Darrin left, I decided I needed to practice so I did that instead which meant my work project wasn't done by the time he got home. But I did plan and arrange for an activity that would keep me away from work, so that's one thing.

We made dinner. I finished my project. Then I left with Tolkien Boy and we spent a couple of hours together which equals me not working.

When I got home, I immediately checked in with work and loaded up the sessions they had waiting for me.

And then I saved them for tomorrow.

Because it's silly for me to set myself up for another really awful day.

There are some things I cannot control. Probably tomorrow the air will be unbreathable, my tendon will still be painful, there will be a dearth of available houses to buy, and our political climate will be unchanged. But I don't have to keep working constantly. And I can get rest when I need it. And sometimes, probably, Darrin and Tolkien Boy and a few other people will let me call or visit or go get dessert with them.

And now I'm sleepy. Good night.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stable today.

When PTSD feels managed, I occasionally feel the need to just spend time with someone. Not needy, discuss feelings, tell me I'm not crazy time, but the kind of time when you just sit together quietly. Sometimes you talk a little bit. Maybe you lean against each other, just because. Sometimes you just do nothing because it's enough that you get to be together. You don't have to DO anything.

My cousin, Jeff, and I used to do that frequently. Sometimes I would read and he would take a nap. Sometimes we had snacks. Sometimes we compared hand size. Sometimes we just sat and giggled. No one understood us. We didn't care.

One time the two of us were left to make pasta sauce for the family. I don't know why. I think we were 10. We decided the sauce needed pepper. Then more pepper. And then more. With each pepper addition, we both agreed the sauce was greatly improved. The other relatives who ate it for supper disagreed.

Jeff referenced this on my Facebook page recently.

I'm still in the place where I'm surprised when someone remembers the same thing I do. I feel, often, that my memories are unique to me and no one else shares them, even if the experience was shared. I'm even more surprised when someone will say to me, "Remember when...?" It raises a host of questions for me. Why do they still remember that experience? Why do they mention it to me? What emotions do they feel when the memory arises? Is it just an interesting topic of conversation? Something we have in common?

Tolkien Boy once told me that people sometimes will bring up a shared experience because there was something that linked the two people together. They might be briefly reliving something funny or tender. It's a shared intimacy.

That makes me uncomfortable.

My memory is amazing, as long as it's not personal. Talk to me about books or poems I've read. Ask me to play the piano for a couple of hours-- all pieces memorized. Give me an hour to memorize lines from a play. Ask me about a conversation we had three years ago.

But if we shared a moment during which I felt vulnerable, there is no way I feel comfortable talking about it. Chances are, if you bring it up, I'll be trying to come up with a million ways to apologize for having that moment with you at all. And I'll probably ask you to help me come up with a plan so something like that never happens again.

When you're gone, however, when I no longer have to reconcile the fact that I may have touched or said or acted in a way that imposed intimacy on you, I'll probably, tentatively, think about how I, personally, felt in that moment. And I'll feel guilty for wanting the intimacy at all. But I'll still think about it.

And sometimes, when PTSD is at bay, and I'm not questioning my relationships or doubting that people love me, I'll wish for someone to be with me, sitting quietly, maybe talking a bit or leaning against me, just because, or perhaps just doing nothing because it's enough that we're together. And later, maybe years later, I think it would be okay for that person to say, "Remember when...?" And during the in-between time, I'll be working on saying, "Yes. That was a good thing. We should do it again."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ready to tackle PTSD once again

Someone once asked me why I waited so long to get help for PTSD. I'll be honest. I just walked away and pretended I hadn't heard. At that time, I felt it was too personal for me to answer, and I was sort of aggravated that anyone who hadn't experienced PTSD felt they had the right to question me. But the question is valid, I suppose.

I waited because:
1. I didn't know I had PTSD and wasn't diagnosed until I was hospitalized with suicidal depression about 10 years ago.
2. But even if I had known, I might have waited. Learning about and dealing with PTSD requires a lot of emotional stamina, at least for me.
3. After I was diagnosed, I still waited until I had done a great deal of research and had some idea of what post-traumatic stress disorder actually was.

About four years ago, my emotional reserves became depleted for a number of reasons. Since that time, my attempts to manage PTSD have been largely ineffective. That doesn't mean I haven't been trying. It just means I've not been successful.

I'm guessing that most PTSD symptoms follow similar trends, but also manifest themselves uniquely for each person. I can only speak for myself, of course. And I've tried to describe what happens to me when I'm overwhelmed by symptoms. But if I'm honest, I would have to say that, even here, I don't tell the truth. It's embarrassing. It feels foreign. And I feel crazy.

But I can't get better if I keep hiding what's happening. So I'm going to try, regardless of my mortification, to talk about exactly what is happening. Starting now.

I don't feel like me. The emotions and impulses are so far from what I would normally experience that they feel as if they are coming from another source. That's scary.

Always, the negative ramifications of the symptoms center around people.

I remember feeling resentful toward my mother until the age of 9. After that, I just hated her. I despised everything about her and wanted nothing from her, ever. That spilled into nearly all my interactions with people. I had become numb. I had become convinced that no one in the world would ever want me and I didn't want them, either. People made me nervous. When friendships ended, it felt like a matter of course. If they didn't end naturally, after a certain period of time, I took steps to terminate the relationships.This was my mode of social interaction for more than 25 years.

And I felt nothing about it. It just was.

When I left my roommates after a really lovely year of bonding and spending time together and falling in love with each other, I made no attempt to contact them again. When a few of them contacted me, asking if I'd like to share an apartment the next year, I felt nothing but mild surprise-- no anticipation, no delight, nothing.

Everything felt like a matter of course. I had no desire nor motivation to form or maintain permanent relationships. Darrin ended that. He was incredibly persistent. And he told me he loved me while we were just being friends and I was borrowing his car frequently. Having a friend with a car is very convenient. But my subsequent marriage to him did not end my feeling that he would leave. It was a very long time before I realized he wasn't going anywhere.

So now. What happens to me now?

It's as if every adolescent fear, anticipation, and feeling has been amplified. When PTSD hits and I'm alone, I'm angry that someone I love isn't with me. And that feeling progresses to the very mature, "If they loved me, they'd help me. I'm sad and lonely and miserable. They obviously don't care." Never mind that everyone is at work (or at 3 a.m., asleep). Never mind that they have lives and families. In that moment, clearly I am the only one who matters. And they just don't care.

Imagine for a moment how that sits in the brain of adult Samantha who studies and researches and follows lines of logic for nearly every aspect of her life.

In those moment, I am completely lost. This feels so far from what I know to be true, and yet, in that moment, it is the only thing in the world that is true. I'm in need and no one cares. People lie when they say they love me. They think I'm an inconvenience. They said they would help me, but they won't. They hug me, but they really don't want to touch me. They find me annoying. They despise me.

When I am emotionally weak, I cannot fight what is happening inside me. I try. I do everything I can think of. Even when it takes every bit of stamina, I've reached out to people. I've asked them to negate what is happening inside me. I've begged for reassurance.

Yeah. That feels horrible, too. No one likes to beg for love. But that is exactly what it feels that I'm doing. And I know when I'm reassured that I won't believe the person. Which makes me feel guilty and frustrated.

And what shall I do?

Tolkien Boy persists in reminding me that I need to be kinder to myself, more accepting, more loving.

But this THING that is happening-- this is not me. It's not. It's a cancerous beast devouring me from within. It springs from my own brain. It is fed by my past experiences and by past trauma. Who can love this?

Therapist suggests that I need to do more things to center myself and my life. He encourages me to work on relationships when I'm not overwhelmed by symptoms. And he says I need to continue to talk to people, ask for reassurance, and whenever possible, invite touch, especially when the symptoms are rampant.

But I don't know how to be not-stupid when the symptoms are present. I want to hurt people. I want to be sarcastic and vitriolic. I want to push everyone away, not pull them close. And I know it's stupid. I just don't know what to do about it.

Darrin suggests that I tell people what I'm feeling.

Ummmm... nope. I'm pretty sure no one wants to know what's happening in this head of mine during the times when I'm battling PTSD. Not only is it irrational and insane, it's ugly. It's bound to become personal. I'm trying to build my relationships with people, not destroy them.

Okay. I've said enough for now. It's out there. And it's good that most people don't read my blog. They don't need more reasons to avoid me. I need them to NOT avoid me. I need them to see all the crap coursing through me and love me anyway.

Therapist once asked me what I wanted in the most ugly moments. I said I didn't know. But I do. I want someone to pull me close, kiss me on the cheek, and tell me I am loved. I want them to acknowledge that I won't believe them, and it's okay. They'll keep saying it until I'm convinced. I want them to forgive all the horrible thoughts I have about them. I want them to hold me until the monster leaves and I can think clearly again. I want them to remember who I am when I cannot remember, myself.

Too much to ask. I know. But he asked. Maybe someday I'll tell him the truth.
Eight years ago Obama became the first black American president. And lots of people hated him. Really, really hated him. He was called Satan, Hitler, and likened to all sorts of different animals. And everything he did, good or bad, the people who hated him opposed. Everything. Even when it benefited them.

Example: President Obama wanted the U.S. to have universal healthcare that was affordable and accessible to all citizens. And even though many people wanted that, too, they didn't want it to be put in place while Obama was president. Which didn't stop them from having health insurance of one type or another through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There was another word flying around which Obama haters were really, really glad they didn't get. It was called Obamacare. They wanted nothing to do with that. Thank goodness out lawmakers had the decency to bypass Obamacare and put in place the ACA. Somehow the haters didn't get the memo that Obamacare WAS the Affordable Care Act which allowed them to procure health insurance through healthcare.gov.

And so when Mr. Trump promised to repeal Obamacare, the haters were really happy because, well, they hated Obama and Obamacare. So repealing was a really great thing. Except it wasn't because what they didn't notice because they were too busy hating Obama, was that repealing Obamacare meant that they would lose their health insurance purchased because of the Affordable Care Act which was THE SAME THING as Obamacare. They missed the memo. Because they were so wrapped up in hating a person. And now they'll be without insurance because they voted for the man who would take it away. Because they asked for it. Because they didn't recognize that what they wanted was also what they hated.

It didn't matter what Obama did during his 8-year presidency. He could help old ladies cross the street. Deplorable. He could create a cure for cancer. Despicable. He could bring end poverty and hunger and bring about world peace. Evil Incarnate.

I'm not saying he was a perfect president or person. I'm not saying he didn't make mistakes. I'm not saying I agree with every policy or decision he made. I AM saying, among those that hated him, he could not win. Ever.

And now it is my opportunity to be one who opposes our current president. And no matter how much I despise the way he treats and talks about women and minorities, no matter how many lies he repeats in his attempts to gaslight the people he leads, no matter how narcissistic and horrible he appears to me, I do not want to become one of the people who cannot see beyond the miasma of hate. I don't want to be one of them.

It's not an easy thing because I feel incredibly hurt. I am shocked and dismayed that our current president was caught on tape discussing how he can get away with sexually assaulting women because he has money and he's "famous." I'm sick that he labels people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. I hate his objectifying of women. I am afraid of his dishonesty and clear belief that anything he does is right and that he is above the laws of the land. In short, it would be a logical step for me to oppose him simply because he exists.

But that would make me one of those people. I don't want to be that.

The conflict is painful. I want to dig in and resist. I want to fantasize about his removal from office. I want to time travel into a place where he is no longer rearing his foolish head as he pretends to govern. But I need to move away from the feelings and see clearly what is happening. If it is good and healthy for my country, I need to support it, regardless of origin. If it is destructive, I need to stand with those who will help our country move toward the solution which will reinstate equilibrium and rebuild what will, inevitably, be lost.

I need to be me. I sort of feel that the freedom to be me has been taken away, and I have become reactive and resentful. Those things feel foreign. They feel uncomfortable. They feel dark.

Still, I'm not ready yet to say, "Okay, Mr. Trump, I'm willing to give you a chance." That will come later. Right now, I need to be angry and afraid. And, honestly, I don't know how long I will stay in that place. Because I'm not just angry at and afraid of our current president. I feel those same things in an even greater degree toward the constituents who elected him, some of whom are my family and friends. They elected a sexual predator to be my leader. Mine. The person who was sexually abused and/or raped by three different people before the age of 12. That's revolting.

So it's difficult not to feel like I'm once again a victim. I'm not, but the feeling persists. There are days now when I hate all men on principle. And then I weep because that's not who I am. And I'm surrounded by men who love me and treat me with respect. Men who will stand by me when I need solidarity, comfort me when I'm sad, and laugh with me when I need someone to lighten my load. Men with whom I have shared discoveries and conversations and hugs and confidences. And in spite of all that, there are still days when I cannot bear all the emotions which war within me. Because of an election. Because of a man I despise who reminds me of past abuses and is now my president.

But one day I will triumph over all this. I will not be a hater. I will not spend my time looking for reasons to be angry or feel downtrodden. I will find ways to love my life and the people in it. I will stand in defiance when my rights are threatened by those in power, and in support when, within our government, there is goodness and positivity. I will not allow myself to become so bitter and angry that I cannot see what is before my face. I will not be so blinded by hate that I cannot see the reality that one thing, called by two different names, is still one thing. I will not be them.

It's going to take time. Maybe a lot of time. Maybe four whole years.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sometimes I can't stop thinking. Probably that happens to lots of people. The trouble is that when my brain is in overdrive, I want to unload it, tell someone, talk about all the thoughts even if they're completely disconnected and meaningless.

No one is awake at my house tonight. I really need someone to be awake.

I applied for some jobs last week. In truth, I don't think I've ever really applied for a job. I've just networked into them. I don't really have that option here. What I didn't expect was that I would talk myself out of being qualified. I nitpick every job description. I'm hypercritical of my resume. And I procrastinate applying until I'm fairly certain the job has been filled. I don't know why.

So I'm expecting rejection mail soon. I need to stop doing this to myself.

I once told Therapist that I knew few people more capable than I. I think I believed it then. Today it's more difficult to believe.

We've been bidding on homes. So far, no luck. I'm trying to feel badly about this, but I don't really love the homes we're bidding on. Still, we need to be under contract for a home by the end of February at the latest. Time is slipping away. And I'm sort of terrified that we're not going to get a home. Also terrified that we will.

A single man at church tried to be my friend today. He thought, perhaps, I might like to go to dinner with him. I motioned to Darrin, across the foyer, and introduced my husband. Single Man suggested I might wear a wedding ring so people like him would know I was off limits. Off limits? Why does that phrase make me want to punch Single Man? Also, why am I upset that he wants me to wear my wedding ring?

I have a feeling that all of this stems from my defiance toward people who make decisions for me, finish my sentences, assume what I want or think, or just generally tell me what to do. Also, just for the record, if I wasn't "off limits" I still wouldn't go to dinner with Single Man. He smells like mildew. I have a problem with people who don't smell right. And I don't wear my wedding ring because I have to take it off when I practice, which means I might lose it. And I don't really wear jewelry anyway because I don't like to.

I really think I should be the one to choose whether or not I wear my ring. Side note: If Darrin asked me to wear it, I would. Not because I feel I need to be compliant, but because I love him, and if he's more comfortable when I wear it, I'm happy to do that for him. But that's easy for me to say because Darrin doesn't really worry about things like that.

I had nightmares last night. The kind that make me scream and wake everyone up. Embarrassing. I wonder if our upstairs neighbors can hear me. I'm pretty loud. Still, this was the first time I've had nightmares since coming home from Laramie. So...a whole week and a half. That's probably a record for me.

I think I might need flowers. I bought tulips for my sister's birthday last night. And when I went home I thought, "I need some of those." Tomorrow, perhaps I will buy some.

Final thoughts: I am tired of the nasty divisiveness of our nation. I am weary of the slinging of insults and personal attacks. I want to be able to say what I'm thinking without being labeled or people assuming they know a million things about me because I divulged one thought. I want people to ask questions out of genuine curiosity or interest, not because they are trying to lead the other person or prove a point. I want people to figure out how to survive without having to always be right.

That being said, I love the fact that people can be nasty and divisive and sling insults. I love the fact that people are allowed to jump to conclusions or make incorrect assumptions. I love that if someone feels they always must be right, they can pursue that goal if they choose to. What I'm saying is, while there is currently so much dishonesty and unpleasantness, I'm grateful that we have the latitude to be dishonest and/or unpleasant.

That being said, I'm not yet in a place where I feel comfortable coexisting with friends and family members who have made uncivil remarks or judgments about me. I'm not finished feeling anxious about what will happen with our country's new leader. I am still appalled that a man who won an election by inspiring fear and divisiveness, who blatantly disrespects anyone who is not him, and who verbally abuses women, minorities, and, basically, anyone who disagrees with him, will be at the helm of my country for the next four years. I still need time to process everything that has happened.

I'm trying to find moments of peace, of humor. I'm trying to spend time with safe people. I'm trying to create and work and proceed with my life. And I will. Soon.

The person who prayed in church today asked God to bless those who need to mourn. It was an odd turn of phrase. Usually we hear supplication for those who have need to mourn or, simply, for those who mourn. The words struck me. "Have need," to me, indicates that something has happened that will cause them to mourn, whether they choose to or not. And those who are mourning are doing it already. They're in the process.

But some of us NEED to mourn. We need to. Our bodies and minds are telling us that something happened, something awful. It hurt us. There was loss involved For whatever reason, we've shelved it, we're ignoring it. Perhaps facing it feels too painful. Perhaps we're just too busy and mourning will take time. Perhaps it feels like we just need to move on.

"...bless those who need to mourn..."

I need to mourn. What happens if I don't? I will continue to weaken. My brain will continue to feel clogged with messiness. Panic attacks will be randomly attached to nothing at all. I can't be the person I need to be.

What will it mean to mourn?

I don't know yet. But I think it means I'll need to write a lot more. I'll need to look at what I feel is lost or harmed or hurtful. And I will have to decide what I will do with all of that.

Okay. Brain feels less crowded now. Time for me to sleep.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I am slowly reclaiming myself. It's difficult to describe what this means. Also, it sounds completely melodramatic.

That being said, I've been noticing things changing. Therapist told me the trick to not slipping back into what I feel was despair, but could just have been silly self-indulgence, was to remember to do things that make me feel whole. So I've been doing that. 

Adam had a birthday last week. As is my tradition, I took him to choose flowers. His choice: six white roses and six orange ones. They're gorgeous. And we made his birthday dinner. Therapist says to do the things that have always made me feel happy. This birthday tradition makes me feel happy.

I've been spending time walking and thinking. And taking steps to prepare for applying for jobs. This sounds silly, but the truth is, I've really never had to do that. It's intimidating. And my resume is a mess because I have too many different job experiences to add to it. The result is unfocused. I need it to be focused. I need to get a job. I need to be able to leave my work behind me when I go home. 

I spent the day with Darrin today. I went through a weird 20 minutes when I kept telling him I needed to get home and work. Then I reminded myself that I was spending the day with him, I'd already finished working for the day, and I could do a bit more this evening if I chose to. Then I apologized, we went to a late lunch, and we spent the afternoon talking and laughing and remembering we're in love.

So it was a good day. And a nice evening. And soon I'm going to bed. 

Side note: I've had weird pain today. I think it might be related to anxiety. There's a lot of that in me right now. Anyway, pain in my chest, stomach, and joints. It became pretty severe around 9:00 p.m., but seems less intense right now. I'm hoping I can sleep. Also hoping this is a one-time thing.

Also, I really dislike my father-in-law's television choices.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

And then I came home. 

Except it doesn't feel like home. 

Therapist and I talked a bit while I was away because I'd had time to think. I'd figured some things out. And also, I'd had my first opportunity in more than a year to de-stress. When I do that, I start to understand why I've been thinking craziness and acting stupid. It's a little disconcerting and a lot embarrassing.

I've spoken to people close to me. They assure me that they know, after spending lots of time with me, that this is how I work. And I should be grateful, but all I can think is, "But one day, I won't work like this anymore. That's the endgame. And when I don't, I'll be different. Then what?"

It's a problem. However, before I came home, I felt very calm about what might happen to me in regards to my relationships with other people. In fact, one of the things I said to Therapist was this: "I'm still afraid of people leaving, but not desperately so. People do leave. But sometimes it's good that they do that, for both of us. You have to choose, mutually, to have long-term relationships and allow for the misunderstandings while having the desire to continue building that relationship. Tolkien Boy calls it relentless forgiveness, but it's much more than that. But my point is, I don't feel aggravated or defensive or resentful right now about the possibility of someone deciding that they need someone different from me in their lives (Darrin excepted, of course. He doesn't get that choice.). This doesn't mean I'm not uncomfortable with the possibility, just less irrational about it."

Then I continued: "I actually don't believe the people in my life WILL leave. It's been awhile since I've been able to feel that. I'm finally able to feel what my brain is telling me when it says, 'Um, Sam, your kids call you all the time. This isn't because they feel guilty or obligated. You didn't raise them that way. It's because they miss you just like you miss them.' And, 'You're ridiculous. You have people who have been your friend for 10 years now. Do you understand that many people don't even have 10-year friends? They're not leaving because you've worked together to build something that will last.' Or, 'You've been married a long time. Stop making up scenarios in which Darrin will finally be free of you. He doesn't want to be free. He wants to be married. Start being married and stop worrying about things that aren't real.' Yeah, my brain is much smarter than the rest of me. But the point is, while I'm here, all that paranoid crap feels just like paranoid crap."

But the problem is that if I'm not able to find space and time to work through stress, I'll be right back in the place where the paranoid crap seems feasible and the most likely scenario for my life. And nothing anyone says or does will make a dent in my certainty that the paranoid crap is reality.

I don't want to go there again. 

So this week I am working on buying a house and getting a job outside my home. Darrin and I are going to take some time to talk about boundaries we need to protect our independence and intimacy as a couple. And I am going to figure out how to enjoy being close with people once again instead of being crazy afraid of physical and emotional closeness. I'm going to do it.

There were so many nice things that happened while I was gone. Good, building things. I needed that. I had good conversations with a couple of people who have made a place for me in their lives for more than a decade. I made up new beautiful, creative, delicious recipes. I haven't done that for awhile. I spent time reading and writing. I haven't written anything other than emails and whiny blog posts for more than a year. I went out with people and had fun. I spent a day with my parents and worked with my dad in his office. I shoveled snow for hours. I watched the sun rise and set every day. 

Today was my first day home. I won't lie. It was pretty awful. Lots of depression waiting to descend. Frustration. Uncertainty. But I'm going to be okay. More than okay. I'm going to figure this out. Tomorrow I will go running. I'll practice. I'll work a bit. I'll look and apply for jobs. And I appointments to see two homes. Right now I don't feel like being with anyone, but on Monday I'm going to see if Jeff will have lunch with me. I'm glad he decided not to die. 

For now, though, I'm going to sleep. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Not Sleepy

That makes me giggle a little. I think those words have come out of my mouth more than any others. My mother speaks of the time when I was an infant. Most babies will fall asleep while eating or shortly thereafter. I would stay awake for hours. I wasn't fussy, just not sleepy. She said it made her nervous. I would just quietly look around.

Later, as a toddler and preschooler, I would fight naps with a vengeance. My mother's solution was to read to me. Most often, she would be the one who ended up napping. I would finish the story by myself. Resting was not an issue for me. I was fine lying in bed and looking at books or coloring. Sleep just wasn't my thing.

As a preteen, Sunday was a day when everyone napped. Sleep seemed to be something one should want. So I trained myself to go to sleep for an hour or two. Inevitably, I would wake feeling frustrated, grouchy, and ill. The sensations stayed with me for three or four hours, especially the nausea. I felt the same way if I tried to sleep late in the mornings.

So in a house full of people who valued sleep, I learned to silently entertain myself until around midnight, sleep four or five hours, then wake up. I'd get ready for school, then when everyone else awoke, I'd practice the piano until the bus came. I'm pretty sure no one appreciated my practicing, but no one ever asked me to stop.

Throughout my life, I've maintained that sleep pattern. Sometimes I'll go to bed earlier, but that means I'll be up around 4:00 a.m. That's fine, I suppose, but it also means I have to be sure I don't disturb anyone while I do things. I've spent a lot of time reading during the early hours of morning. In the summertime, I'd go running and watch the sun rise. Every once in awhile, I'd try that napping thing again with disastrous results. I'm usually pretty easygoing. Naps still make me grouchy and impossible. And sick.

So it's 1:00 a.m., and I'm not sleepy. As usual.

I've been having nightmares the past few day; the kind that end up drenching me in cold sweat. That could be part of the reason I don't want to sleep tonight. There is also a sense of no longer belonging in the place I lived more than 20 years which is unsettling. And there are so many memories here. Good ones. My children were born and grew up here. It's a lovely place. And I don't belong anymore.

I will be back in my apartment on Thursday. I don't belong there, either, but it's where my clothes are. And Darrin. I belong with Darrin.

Tabitha salvaged many of the Christmas decorations I discarded when we moved. She still has them out in her apartment. One of the items she took was a wooden Rudolph I made years ago. I cut, sanded, and stained the wood, then painted on the face. There used to be fake snow atop his antlers and around his hoofs. Time has worn that away leaving splotches of white where the texture used to be. I drilled holes in the bottom of the antlers so the kids could hang candy canes in them (I know-- who hangs candy canes in reindeer antlers???). I painted on a smile and large eyes, and then, for some unknown reason, I painted a heart in the middle of his forehead instead of giving him eyebrows.

Tabitha has always loved our wooden Rudolph. She has made sure his antlers always had candy canes. She was indignant when I threw him away. I said, "Tabitha, he's old. I made him years ago." She said, "You made him. It doesn't matter when." I think that's sweet. I also don't really understand it.

So tonight Rudolph is keeping me company. I feel a bit offended by his insistent reminder that once I made crafty things and I don't even know why. He also is in desperate need of a new ribbon for the wreath around his neck. But he's quiet and doesn't disturb my thinking. AtP once accused me of thinking too much, and he might be right. That's not something that's likely to ever change.

Okay. Time for me to attempt sleep. Perhaps Rudolph will keep the nightmares at bay tonight. I'd like that.