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Friday, August 19, 2016

I've stayed away from here for the past three weeks. I've cycled through so many emotions, and I'm learning that I can't really trust any of them anymore. Writing about them simply reminds me that I'm unbalanced.I don't need that reminder. And I'm not in a place where trying to sort through the mess brings any sort of solace or relief. So why would I make a record of what I'm going through right now? That makes no sense.

I'm here now because my head got too full.

Jeff's wife has filed for divorce. Jeff, who was my mirror image as a child. Jeff, who now can't manage his life without alcohol and will lose everything. His wife stayed longer than I would have. She supported him, hopeful that he would find the strength to heal. He didn't. When I spoke with Jeff on his birthday, he was so drunk I could barely understand him. He's a mess. I don't know that he'll get better. When I spoke with his wife on Jeff's birthday, she said she's at peace with her decision. She hopes we'll remain friends. I do, too.

I'm not sure what the subtle difference is that whispers to me, even when I cannot manage PTSD symptoms, that I'm better than this. I don't know why, even when I'm in pain and despair, I know I'm going to be okay. I don't know why I will survive and somehow rise victorious in the end, while Jeff loses job after job, and now his wife and home. I don't know why.

Indomitable.

A teacher once used that word to describe me. There was a rueful edge in the description. Impossible to subdue. While he celebrated my eternal enthusiasm, he wished it was not quite so loud. Today I am grateful for that quality which causes me to celebrate beauty, hope for the best, and know that I will succeed. And I will. Perhaps not in my own time frame, but I will.

In the meantime, I battle the remainder of depression. I try different strategies to manage the PTSD symptoms skewing my perception of people and social interaction, leaving me wondering if I can still be loved or wanted. And next week, I'll feel differently. I just have to make it to next week.

Indomitable. Unable to be subdued. It's still inside me. It surges forth each time I meet an obstacle or experience failure and pushes me to try again. And I do, often as I push through feelings of despair and exhaustion. It's not pretty. It's who I am. That feels desperately pathetic. I'm the person who bobs to the water's surface as I go over Niagara Falls. I can breathe as I plunge to my death?

It doesn't make sense. And tonight I have no idea if it even matters. It just is. I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Three Weeks

That's how long I'm giving the post-anesthesia depression. I think it's reasonable. About one week per hour that I was in surgery.

Today I'm acknowledging everything I feel.

Yesterday was my post-op check. It didn't go amazingly well. Surprise!

My doctor's still scratching his head. He chose an anti-inflammatory from a different drug family from the ones that cause my body to get horribly sick and lose consciousness, hoping that I would be able to tolerate it. I had the same reaction to it, but sooner than with the others so I was still in the hospital when it happened. Then part of my lung collapsed in spite of the fact that I was doing the respiratory therapy and taking in larger volumes of air than most post-op patients. There's no reason for that to have happened. I speculate it might have something to do with my having asthma and being under anesthesia for nearly four hours, but I'm not a doctor.

Then there's the no pain thing. Hysterectomies and collapsed lungs are notoriously painful. I've had zero pain. None. I tried to talk to him about how sometimes trauma people shut down that part of their brains. It's not a conscious thing, it just happens. Especially (for me, anyway) if they're triggered intensely or for a long duration. He just shook his head and said the lung should be cutting through all that. Well, it's not.

Then he laughed and said I was one of his most puzzling patients. Thanks. Thanks for that. I think I need a t-shirt with a fun slogan now.

And, of course, I had to have a vaginal exam. That's yucky.

But I'm cleared to drive and go walking and go on road trips if I stop every couple of hours and walk around. And I can do planks and all the maintenance exercises for my bionic hip. And I can lift up to 10 pounds.

So I suppose if I have to label the feelings in order from most to least intense, they are as follows:
1. Lonely
2. Sad
3. Freakish
4. Unlovable
5. Unwanted
6. Frustrated
7. Grumpy
8. Afraid

And I suppose these are the things I wish would happen:
1. I wish my parents would call me and see how I'm doing. My brother is trying to go through a divorce, so they're sort of distracted by that, but I still wish they'd just call. Still, I'm using their house while they're gone so that I can have peace and quiet during the day, so maybe it's okay if they don't check on me.

2. I wish my sisters would call me. One of them has. And another one has been texting me - she doesn't have to call because her 14-year-old son was in a 4-wheeler accident and is all broken right now. She's got lots to take care of, so I'm happy with the texts. It's nice that she thinks of me in spite of the stress she's under. But I have three other sisters. One I contacted prior to surgery because she's had a hysterectomy before. I was hoping to be able to ask questions and get some reassurance. She never returned my calls or answered my texts. She still hasn't contacted me. I wish she would. I don't know. My family's never been good about talking to me when I'm having difficulty. Silly to wish for the leopard to change its spots, I guess. And my kids are making sure I'm okay. And Darrin. Even Darrin's dad checks in on me. So it's not like no one's talking to me. Still, I wish my sisters would.

3. I wish anyone would call me. Weird. I'm even answering the phone when a scammer or solicitor calls. Just to talk. I mean, I let them tell me all the reasons I should buy or donate, or that my computer is at risk, or someone is using my internet without my permission, or they're from the IRS and I owe money so they're taking everything I own. And I tell them I don't want to buy or donate and that I'm okay with risk and internet use and I'm pretty sure they're not the IRS because the IRS uses snail mail, not phone calls, to contact people. And then I say I've had major surgery, and I really appreciate them calling and talking with me because it's been pretty quiet lately. And I ask them about their families, and their jobs (and suggest they get real ones), and sometimes I say I have a great recipe to share with them, but mostly I don't get to that point because they hang up on me. Sigh.

Okay. It's pretty clear that I'm needing people. Also clear that talking with strangers on the phone isn't filling that need. And weird for me. I'm not used to wanting to be with people.

People interaction, however, is beyond my control. I've initiated contact a few times. I've called or texted people. But it's not the same as being contacted by them. After three or four days of that, I just feel like a bother. So I've stopped doing that unless I'm really in dire need. Like yesterday. After I saw the doctor. I was pretty messed up, emotionally, so I checked in with Tolkien Boy. He was at work, but he talked with me a bit. I felt badly about bothering him at work. But it was sort of necessary to talk to someone. As I said, I was messy and I really needed a person. I hate it, but I'm not stupid. If I don't find someone when I'm like that, it gets worse.

Since people interaction is pretty much beyond my control, and I've been cleared to start walking, I believe that's what I'll be doing. And I need to get more books to read. And I have enough work to kill me. Toward the end of the week I'll start practicing again. Maybe I'll find something good on Netflix to watch.

I am going to make it through this depression thing.

Oh, yeah. And I'll be talking with Therapist soon.

Someday, I would like to not be like this - not needy and stupid vulnerable. I seriously need to figure out how to do things on my own.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How am I doing?

I'm actually not sure why I write here anymore. Maybe to keep a record? I'm pretty sure it's not because I feel the need to share. Writing it down brings more distress than solace now. Probably, when all is said and done, I am simply a creature of habit, and I've been writing about my life for more than a decade.

I came home from the hospital with a catheter. The surgeon wanted to make sure that all his scar tissue removal and rerouting and whatever else remained undisturbed until yesterday, at which point I could have the catheter removed. At least, that's what I remember being told.

Having the catheter placed was terrifying. And painful. But I survived. Sort of.

Having a catheter means I am being touched 24/7 in a place that triggers all sorts of PTSD symptoms, none of which are pleasant. During the day, I can manage it. At night, management is impossible. Sleep was scarce, and when it happened, the nightmares were terrifying. But it was only until yesterday, and I could manage.

********************************************

I wrote that last Tuesday. Then I got tired and stopped. I'm tired a lot.

When they removed the catheter on Monday I was informed that I needed to pee, then a straight catheter would be placed to measure what was left in my bladder. If it was determined that I was not voiding enough, another Foley catheter would be placed and I would be sent home to heal for another two weeks.

Then the nurse asked if I felt able to urinate. I said no. She told me to go home, drink lots of water, and come back when I was able.

So I walked to the car with my husband who had accompanied me because I'm not supposed to drive until I'm a week post-op. And then I had one of the biggest meltdowns of my life. It continued until I got home, then continued when I got inside the house and basically consisted of me crying hysterically and saying at different volume levels:
1. I would not have another catheter.
2. They can't make me have another catheter.
3. I'm not going back to the doctor's office.
4. I would rather die than be touched ever again in my entire life.
And then I vomited a few times just for good measure.

You see, I made it through having a catheter for five days and four nights. That's five days and four nights of constantly being triggered. Five days of constantly managing feelings that threatened to overwhelm me and make me die, and four nights of continuous nightmares, paranoia, and terror that I was being molested and raped over and over again. Reading those words, I can see how they don't really convey the depths of what was going on. After all, I'm only talking about feelings and nightmares. I suppose the depth lies in the fact that I've lived the reality.

Darrin let me rant and rave and vomit, then, after assuring me that the I didn't have to go back, he suggested maybe it would be a good idea to just go talk with the doctor so he'd know what was going on. I thought about it for an hour, then decided maybe I could do that. But I didn't want to. And I was scared out of my mind to go back.

We got to the office and were put in an exam room. The nurse came and told me that everything was set up in the bathroom for me to use. I said, okay, but maybe we should talk first. I meant to be lucid and calm and just explain everything. I started out that way. I told her I had PTSD and that drugs could not be prescribed for me so I ran and did physical exercise to manage the symptoms and that hadn't been available to me for the past five days during which I had been triggered constantly because the catheter was touching me constantly. Then it ramped up into another hysterical crying jag that ended with me saying that I didn't know why my bladder had to be checked to make sure I was emptying, but if it meant that something bad happened inside and the surgery was all messed up or I bled to death, that was okay with me because I wasn't having another catheter, and then repeating several times that I would rather die than be touched again.

She looked a little shell-shocked. Then she assured me that I didn't have to have a catheter, and told me the reason for the procedure was to make sure I was emptying completely because apparently, having a too-full bladder for too long can cause the stitching to become unstable. Then she assured me she would talk with the doctor, suggested I try peeing, and sort of ran out of the room.

So I did.

And the bathroom was right next to the exam room so when the doctor came to talk to Darrin, I heard everything. Darrin was asked if I was getting help for the PTSD. Darrin said yes. Then he was asked if I had seen a mental health professional. Darrin said yes. Had I been in contact with that person prior to surgery? Yes. Then Darrin said that, given the amount of emotional stress I had been suffering due to the length of time I'd been required to wear the catheter, he thought I was reacting very calmly, and suggested it might be a good idea for the doctor to ask a few questions of his PTSD patients and make sure they were okay before prescribing procedures that traumatize those patients. The doctor agreed that he ought to have gotten more information about me prior to surgery, then let Darrin know I needed to stay in contact with the therapist because otherwise, given the things I'd just said, they would need to report the incident and have me admitted to the hospital for further mental/emotional help.

I have no idea who they would report it to. That's just a weird thing to say.

Darrin said that was the plan. Then he said that while I was in the hospital they had checked my bladder capacity with an ultrasound machine. Surely that could be used again? The doctor said yes, so I decided it was safe to come out of the bathroom.

So the end of the story is that I had to go back one more time that day and pee again and be ultrasounded, and then I went home and tried to recover from all the crap that had been happening PTSD-wise. And I drove myself. Screw waiting until a week post-op. I'm finished feeling like I have to have people do things for me.

And yes, I talked with Therapist. And he actually was upset at my doctor. He says people go through lots of training, but they either get it or they don't. My doctor understands that I've been through something, but he should have asked me about things that cause me distress. And I should have asked more questions. And probably I wouldn't have made it through surgery without being triggered, but at least I would have had a physician who was checking on me and making sure I wasn't breaking down.

As a side-note, my anesthesiologist got it. He talked at great length with me about things that could be done to make sure I didn't lose it during recovery. He said he'd like to use a spinal as well as general anesthesia and told me why (something about it making 3.5 hours of surgery less traumatizing all around), and asked if I was okay with that. I was. He checked on me three times during recover and, weirdly, while I don't remember much, I do remember that. He always introduced himself and told me why he was there, then asked me how I was feeling, if I was afraid, and what he could do to make things less scary. And he introduced my nurses to me each time. They were always the same two, and he assured me they would be the only ones with me during recovery. But he understood that I wouldn't remember that in five minutes, and he wanted me to feel safe. He gets it.

And when I cried during recovery because I didn't know what was happening to me, the nurses explained. I think they did that repeatedly because I kept waking up in terror, but they didn't seem to mind. They held my hand and reminded me who I was, where I was, and why I was there. Over and over again. They get it.

And now it's Sunday, 11 days post-op. I'd like to say I'm fine, but the post-anesthesia depression set in today. I think I've been crying for six hours. I know why. I know I'm fine. I understand this happens every time I go under general anesthesia. But it sucks. A lot. I can't even describe the level of sad and lonely and worthless I feel.

Three weeks is the longest I've ever had post-anesthesia depression. I can make it three weeks.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Picture Perfect

That's what this was not.

1. My insurance has denied the claim. All of it. Apparently, if I was in the ER, bleeding to death, and an emergency hysterectomy was called for, they would review the case and think about paying for it. As it is, because the surgery could be scheduled, it has been ruled an elective sterilization process which is not covered under any circumstance. Yay.

2. Things did not go as planned. With me, they rarely do. I was given Celebrex and can add yet another drug to the list of those that try to kill my body. No more Celebrex for me. My potassium and magnesium levels became critical, which means I got to pay for another two days in the hospital. They're still not great, but good enough to release me, finally. And I have a collapsed lobe in my left lung, compliments of a 3.5-hour surgery and asthma. Yes, it did take that long. There were leftovers in my vagina from rape and a posterior first birth that my surgeon cleaned up for me.

3. This morning Darrin and Tabitha went to run errands. They were gone from 8 a.m. till noon. Normally, that would have been fine. Except somehow I managed to go into shock. My body couldn't stop shaking. I was freezing cold. And I was in more pain than I can describe. Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting to bother them, I took some pain medication and put myself to bed. I'm told now, that was a big mistake. It's really difficult to know what the proper course of action is when one is in pain. And I didn't die. So that's good.

4. Depression. Worse than I've felt it. Ever. It began in the hospital when my potassium and magnesium bottomed out. I truly did feel that it would be better to die than to try to get better. I've never felt that before. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. That still sort of hangs over me. I think it's what I thought when I put myself back to bed this morning when my body went into shock. Not a literal thought, but there was definitely the feeling that I needed to just go to sleep and not wake up. I don't really know what to do about this. I tried to contact people and ask them to check in with me, but at this point, I don't even know if that would help. Therapist texted me and asked if we could schedule a phone call, but I was too tired. I'm still too tired.

Things did not go as planned. I sure hope tomorrow goes better.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

TMI always and forever

Things I've been doing to prepare for surgery:

1. Running. Every day. Sometimes twice a day. Because I can't stop panicking. And I'm exhausted. My nurse told me it was due to loss of blood, but I'm not bleeding right now. And I wasn't bleeding yesterday. So I figure, as long as I'm not losing blood, my blood stats can't go lower. So I'm going to run. Because after surgery, it will be six weeks minimum before I'm allows to do that again. Six weeks. God help me.

2. Crying. Because regardless of what stupid people who have never had one might say, a hysterectomy, in any form, is not "routine surgery." If it was, fewer women my age would have their uteruses. And they do have them. I've asked. My friend 10 years older than I has her uterus. My sisters have theirs (and I have a lot of sisters). My online friends have theirs. This is not a rite of passage, nor is it something every woman will experience. My 98-year-old grandmother died a year ago, still in possession of her uterus. Stop telling me this is common and nothing to worry about! I'm worried! Well, actually, I'm terrified.

3. Cleaning. Because I'm supposed to spend the first two weeks doing nothing. I'm pretty sure I've never spent two weeks doing nothing. Ever. In my whole life. I don't even know how to do nothing. This is giving me a panic attack so I should probably stop writing about it.

4. Having sex. Often. Every day. Sometimes more than once a day. I would say, "Poor Darrin," but he seems unfazed. I am doing this because a good percentage of women who are uterus-less lose the ability to achieve orgasm post-surgery. I like orgasms. I want them. This seems an unacceptable and unfair side-effect, and I have contemplated just not having the surgery and just bleeding to death as an alternative to the chance of never having an orgasm again. Don't judge me. However, Darrin and my children have suggested that they would like me to remain alive and not bleeding, so I'm doing this. But I am not happy. Even if orgasm is achievable post-surgery, it will be hugely different. The uterus is a large part of female orgasm. And they are taking my cervix, as well, which supplies necessary lubrication. This is a problem. Imagine drying your mouth out completely, then filling it to capacity with something that rubs back and forth. Now add about 100 times the number of nerve endings to that equation. If you don't come up with excruciating pain, you did the math wrong. Also, no sex for at least six weeks. Do I sound unhappy about this? I am. And a little bit angry, too. So I am having sex. Whenever possible. Every single day until I'm on that operating table. 

But I'm also really scared and really sad. Really sad. And tired of having surgery. And just tired. Actually, it would be a very good idea to avoid me for the next three months. I have a feeling I will be fit company for no one. I know right now I'm a complete mess. And unpleasant. It's a good thing Darrin thinks I'm sexy no matter what. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

At a loss

I am having trouble coping with this day.

Yesterday I got bad news about my health. Major surgery-type news. I can't even think about it. Also, it is a terrible idea to do online research about bad health news. I was scared before. Now I'm beyond terrified.

My Facebook feed is filled with reactions to the people who were killed yesterday. All I can think is thank goodness Trump will build a wall when he's elected. That way we can all stay inside and kill each other. Innocent people of color can be killed by police officers, and other police officers can be killed by peaceful protesters protesting the deaths of the people of color. In-between acts, we can nurture our rape culture so that those who stay alive will be entertained by flashbacks and constant fear. Lives matter? I can't stop crying about this.

On top of everything, I'm living with my father-in-law who is sweet, but helpless. We're supposed to be moving to Utah. Darrin and I are supposed to be looking for jobs. We have to decide what to do about our house lease here, which we are supposed to sign in a week.

I feel like my life and my country and its citizens are all messed up, and there is nothing I can do about anything.

Probably it's time to stop looking at Facebook. And the news. Maybe all the internet.

Terrified with intermittent crying is not a good look for me. I need to find a new thing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Going Home

I've never really felt like I was home. Anywhere. Probably this has something to do with the fact that I lived in six different cities/towns during my first decade. It's difficult to feel stable when you move every couple of years. And when we finally landed for a longer space of time, my life became surreal. I think there's a lot of logic behind the feeling that I don't really have a home.

I asked some people what home means. I wanted a descriptor, a synonym. Love, safety, belonging, familiarity, family-- those all figured prominently on the list supplied to me. Those are all danger words for me. I don't experience them as I assume others might.

It's likely that the closest thing I've experienced to a "home" feeling has occurred when I was with selected people - with Darrin, of course, but there have also been others. I remember talking about it with them. Probably that was a mistake. Many people enjoy experiencing feelings, events, closeness, whatever, but they don't necessarily wish to analyze or discuss those things. And then there's the common problem that occurs when one person feels something, but the corresponding person does not. That's when the pity emanates from them.

I don't understand pity. Empathy, yes. Sympathy, also yes. But pity implies that one is somehow less because of whatever situation incites the pity. In my particular case, it implies that I am less because I feel comfortable with, or I feel a larger portion of love or intimacy toward, a person who does not reciprocate. I used to be embarrassed that I felt something unreturned. And frustrated. Today I don't believe I feel that way anymore.

You see, feeling at home with a person, for me, is a huge accomplishment. It's also something that for a very long time I wasn't sure I'd ever feel. Feeling love and safety and belonging - those are not things that come easily for anyone, but are for me complicated by past trauma. And probably, if I allow myself to cultivate those feelings, there will be many times when they are misplaced. I'll choose people who don't want me. I'll choose people who enjoy my company but have no interest in closeness or frequent contact. I'll choose people who initially reciprocate, who feel that I have become family, but who cannot maintain that threshold and allow us to relax into casual friends. This will happen.

And if I address it with those people, I will encounter pity. They will look at me and think me less for investing in them.

They are wrong.

I am not less. Each time I try, I become greater. Each time I see that look of pity, or hear the words, and move beyond them to try again, I become better. Each time I invest and trust and love, I become the person I truly am. I deserve no pity. And if one truly knows the cost of trying again and again, I probably deserve accolades and celebration.

This is what Therapist tells me. He says most people give up and retreat, and that is a normal, logical reaction. The fact that I keep trying, he says, means I am courageous and hopeful.

I actually think it means that I'm stubborn, I believe with all my heart that I am going to find the people who love me back - who feel at home with me. And giving up is something that is just not in my DNA. Therapist says I'm just rephrasing what he already said.

I need a T-shirt that says, "If you don't love me as much as I love you, you're missing out."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Do not feel sorry for the crazy people.

I'm not kidding. Also, I'm not politically correct. Do not feel sorry for the mentally challenged? the reality benders? those who cannot remember?

It doesn't matter. All I have to say is that those whose minds are losing capacity do not feel stress. They're fine. They make their own realities. It's those who are sane who suffer.

I just listened to my husband tell his father that the phone jack in his bedroom is broken.

Father-in-law: Let's just plug this in the wall here.
Darrin: Dad, remember, the phone jack doesn't work in here.
FIL: Right. So we have to plug it in.
Darrin: No. The phone outlet doesn't have service in here.
FIL: But we have to plug it in.
Darrin: Well, you can try it. But it doesn't work.

FIL plugs in the phone line to his MagicJack (no, I don't know what that is).

FIL: It's still not working.
Darrin: Because the phone jack doesn't work.
FIL: But I plugged it in.
Darrin: But you plugged it into an outlet that doesn't work.
FIL: How come it doesn't work?
Darrin: I'm not sure. Something to do with the wiring, probably. It hasn't worked as long as we've lived here.
FIL: Oh.

FIL unplugs his phone line. Then looks for another phone jack in the room. He spots the same one and starts toward it.

Darrin: Dad, that phone jack doesn't work.
FIL: I'll just plug it in the wall here.
Darrin: Dad, remember, the phone jack doesn't work in here.
FIL: Right. So we have to plug it in.
Darrin: No. The phone outlet doesn't have service in here.
FIL: But we have to plug it in.
Darrin: Well, you can try it. But it doesn't work.

Six times. This has happened six times. My husband is going to heaven. That is all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sometimes I grow things.

Most often, I grow flowers and herbs in the garden area in front of my house. That's good.

Sometimes I grow things inside of me. That's bad. Also, this post is about my body. Just letting you know.

The first time it happened I was 24. All sorts of tumors were sprouting inside my bladder. Some were made of skin cells, some of muscle cells, some of lymph glands. But after a number of tests and surgeries, it was determined that the tumors were not cancerous, they were removed, and I was fine. Except within weeks of their removal, they came back. So I was treated as if they were cancerous and given chemotherapy for about a year. Not in my blood, but directly into my bladder using catheters. I am the catheter queen.

As I'm writing that, I can't help but shudder. It was a terrible time for me. I became a lab rat. I was sent to university hospitals and given experimental treatments for about six months. Then one day I decided I would rather die. So I told my doctor I'd be back if the tumors came back, but if not, he probably wouldn't see me again. Then I radically altered my diet and lifestyle. The tumors didn't come back.

At least, not in my bladder.

A couple of years ago there were more in my uterus. That's a little different. The uterus is meant to grow things. It wants to. There are all sorts of hormones and tissues that encourage growth of foreign objects meant to become humans at some point. I knew something was wrong because I started my monthly cycle, which is usually no big deal, and it didn't stop. A month later I was still cycling, so I went to my doctor who said I had a polyp. One polyp.

So I had surgery to have that polyp removed and everything went fine and life was normal again, at least in regards to my body function.

Except last Tuesday I was visiting with friends and realized I was wet from my ribs down to my knees. I excused myself, ran to the bathroom and realized I was bleeding. A lot. I'll refrain from detailing how I got cleaned up and tried to be human while my body was spewing blood from its vagina because, honestly, I just don't want to think about it.

Suffice it to say, I spent most of the afternoon and evening and all night passing large clots and blood and being alarmed. And getting tired. So tired.

I talked to the nurse at my doctor's office when I called to schedule an appointment. She pulled my chart and said, "Let's see. You had some surgery done two years ago. We removed a sjkdoiufhwn and did a owuy0ak bj]9EHN, and you also had 2w9jgma dvj:KDMMIFmn." I said, "I don't even know what those mean." "Oh," she said. "We removed some polyps and tumors, and you had some fibroids removed, as well. It looks like some of the tissue was pre-cancerous, but follow-up ruled out cancer."

Okay. Good to know. I'm still a little in the dark about what all this means.

The nurse instructed me to go to the ER if I was soaking through a sanitary pad an hour. They could determine if I was becoming anemic, and I would see the doctor a week from Friday.

I didn't go to the ER. If you're anemic, they give you iron. I can give myself iron. I don't need to pay an ER $2000 to give me what I can buy at Walmart.

The bleeding slowed almost completely by Thursday morning. I felt well enough to go for a run. So I did. A short one. And then Friday afternoon, the bleeding was back with a vengeance. Fortunately, I was ready for it this time. After so long, one can tell when clots are lining up, ready to see the world. I spent Friday night, all day Saturday, and Saturday night mostly in the bathroom. Sunday things began to feel calmer. Monday, more blood. Tuesday, more blood. Today things are slowing again. There are more out-of-the bathroom times than in-the-bathroom ones. And I see the doctor in two days.

I was feeling okay until the nurse called to have me do some pre-appointment paperwork for blood tests, ultrasound, and cancer screening. I asked if the cancer screening wouldn't be more appropriate after we found out what was causing the bleeding (i.e. polyps or fibroids, etc.)? She said, based on my history, they actually want to do one first. I don't know what that entails. And I didn't ask. I'm sort of overwhelmed.

And did I mention I'm pushing iron-high foods and supplements? But I'm still tired. I ran again yesterday, but couldn't push past 30 minutes. And eating is hard. And sleeping. And being a person. And after passing lots of blood, my whole body sort of hurts. And my brain doesn't want to work. At all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Because I need a place and it's not Facebook.

I don't really have words to say what I'm feeling. Forty-nine people went out to enjoy an evening. Some were probably with the person they love most in the world. There were probably others who were trying to find that person, and still others who maybe just wanted to dance or drink or find someone to spend time with right now. And they're dead. And I can't stop crying about it.

I can't imagine how I would feel if one of those had been someone I love every day of my life. And there's no way to make this better.

People on Facebook are talking about terrorists and ISIS and Obama and Trump and gun control and semi-automatic weapons. But no one can make this better. Every person who loved one of those 50 (and that includes the family of the shooter) is mourning still today.

People are donating blood and eating Chick-fil-a. There are candlelight vigils and protests and profile pictures with rainbows. That doesn't make this better.

And then there are the people (and I use this term loosely) who applaud the loss of life. They sully the names of the dead simply by uttering them. They call the victims "pedophiles" and "deviants" when they don't even know who the victims are. They buy into some a frightening certainty that the whole attack was engineered by their god. I don't know that god. He's not the one who speaks to me and reminds me how very much he loves every one of his children. Even, or perhaps especially, the gay ones, or the ones who want to kill the gay ones, or the ones who are glad the gay ones are dead. No respecter of persons.

And I am left feeling angry and sad and afraid.

Nothing makes this better.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Letting things be exactly what they are

I promised myself that when Darrin got a job I would take some time to regroup. About a month ago, he began a temporary job. It will end in July, I believe. So it's something. And I did as I promised, and I have taken some time off.

One of my contract jobs was unhappy with me. Even though I explained the situation, they put me on probation for lack of productivity and let me know that if I wished to continue contracting with them, I would have to let them know, and then I would be required to do the entrance testing again. I've worked with them for four years. It was a little aggravating. Regardless, I sent in my letter of interest because the job pays well, and I don't hate it. They answered that they would let me know when testing would be available, but I would need to be patient because they currently have a large number of applicants. I rolled my eyes.

What that translated into was two months of not working one of my contracts. I'm pretty sure my company thinks they punished me adequately for taking a month off for personal time. They have no idea how good this was for me.

I used that extra time to work on therapy assignments and de-stress. That was a very good choice. I'm feeling like myself again. The depression is waning. I'm not as exhausted as I've been for the past year.

My situation is no less stressful. In fact, I had some unexpected physical problems pop up this week. I was concerned, but I've dealt with it. Last weekend, I left for a few days to take care of some business out of town. I returned to find my house looking like it hadn't been cleaned in months and the rooms were filled with Tabitha's "stuff"-- things she can't bring herself to move, but also can't throw away yet. I spent Tuesday cleaning up after her and trying to put my house in some semblance of order. Normally, I would ask her to do it. In this case, it seemed a better idea to keep her away so I could actually get rid of, or pack up, most of the items. That was stressful. I handled it just fine.

There are a number of interpersonal things cropping up. My friend, Lydia, has been needier than usual and in a way that makes me nervous. Time to be supportive while reinforcing boundaries. I'm learning that I'm really not the most helpful nor supportive person in the world, and that's okay. For a long time, I thought that was who I was. It was illusory, at best. I'm a decent listener. And I'll lend a hand to help if I believe that's the best thing to do in a given situation. But the truth is that I don't want to be the one people come to all the time. I have very little to give other than a temporary ear and some sympathy. That does not go far.

I'm learning that what I believe I need is not always what I need. And working to achieve filling that need or maintain a status quo that is artificial is a mistake. No one benefits in the long run.

For awhile, it was satisfying and a little delightful when I was told I was loved or a good friend or very helpful...words along those lines. Now I find myself feeling confused when I hear those things. Much of the time they're offered when I'm not trying to be helpful or friendly or loving. And when I actually might need to hear the words, they're usually not said. I don't know why this is. Hence, the confusion.

Also, while I believe I deserve love and friendship, and I'm happy to help on many levels, the words, "I love you," or "I'm so glad we're friends," or "You knew just what I needed help with today" (I'm using those three examples because those are all things that have been said to me in the past week), seem to be substitutions for a simple thank you. Given that, it rings hollow when I'm told those things. They don't feel appropriate or sincere.

There was a time recently when I would ask those closest to me to remind me that they loved me. And they did. It was a good thing because I was failing at life, and I needed to hear it even if it was not true. That is no longer the case. I'm not hanging by a thread anymore. I won't be asking again. I will say it, however, when I feel I can safely express it. I'm noticing I don't have a lot of safe places/people right now. Three months ago, that realization would have sent me into a panic, scrambling to reinforce relationships and reassure myself that everything was okay. Today, even if everything's not okay, even if safety is waning within situations and relationships, it's all right. I'm all right.

In essence, I'm becoming myself again. And in this process, there are some loose ends I need to secure. I owe some people a follow-up email. So I believe I will take care of that tonight and tomorrow. It's time to close some chapters of my life and move forward.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"I've become accustomed to her face"

Getting used to things...people...places...circumstances... I suppose eventually one grows accustomed to most things in life. And then things change. Tabitha is moving. This is a good thing. A really, really, really, really good thing. She needs to be on her own. I need her to be on her own. Which doesn't mean I won't miss her a little.

Things I won't miss:
1. Laundry everywhere.
2. Her version of a clean bathroom.
3. Moodiness.
4. Her version of a clean bedroom.
5. Her fights with Adam over who gets to do laundry.
6. Her belongings everywhere.
7. Drama.
8. Procrastination of schoolwork, then an appeal to me to bail her out (which I don't do).
9. Her incessant chatter.

Things I will miss:
1. Watching silly TV shows at night.
2. Cooking together.
3. Hearing her play her guitar and sing.
4. Hearing her play the piano.
5. Having family prayer with her.
6. Having her at dinner each night.
7. Giggling together.
8. Shopping together.
9. Her incessant chatter.

Tabatha bought a car this week. And had an interview for a real job in the mental health department at the hospital. And she dealt with some frustrating stuff like a real adult. Tabitha is ready to leave. And I'm ready to let her go.

But it makes me think of other things I'm letting go. We're moving soon. Each time I run on the ridge above my house, I say good-bye to the wildflowers, and the antelope, and the prairie grass, and the butterflies. And the sky. Mostly the sky. It's so beautiful. There will be other places to run. I will find them.

And then there's the part of me that still feels weird about relationships. Except everyone feels weird about relationships, so that's not unusual. But I don't know how to be comfortable with the changes that happen. I accept them. That's not the same as being comfortable.

I've needed to talk with someone this week. The people I often talk with are unavailable. Darrin is also unavailable because he's emotionally spent. My dad isn't here, either. The friend I often talk to is in Nepal. Another friend is mourning a death. Yet another is vacationing. One does not contact people on vacation, or mourning, or in Nepal, and say, "I need to talk."

I guess I'm just becoming used to the fact that everything to which I've been accustomed is going away.

Monday, May 23, 2016

1+1=2

Okay, let's lay this out and look at it carefully:

1. I've been under a lot of stress for a very long time. That's not changing very soon, so I need to find ways to manage the stress and still live.

2. PTSD symptoms have been increasing over time because I've not taken the steps necessary to recognize and minimize them.

3. New PTSD symptoms (or perhaps old ones I just didn't notice before) have been cropping up and becoming more and more distressing.

Number one is something I just have to organize. I've become more adamant about including rest, running, and some sort of downtime activity (reading, practicing music I want to play - not what I'm paid to play, and spending time with my family, for example) in my days even when they're busy. I've finished my performance schedule for now and will not be contracting more for awhile. I've cut back on my students (down from 15 to 9, currently) for the summer and that will decrease even more in June and July. I'm taking more breaks when I work online - real breaks, not just substituting different work. The trees are in bloom, the weather is gorgeous, and I want to be outside. That helps.

The remedy for number two is linked to number one, and since I've begun to address number one, number two has become less obnoxious. Also, I have to admit to simply refusing to recognize the symptoms occasionally. Sometimes I don't have the energy to decide whether someone is trying to get rid of me, or really wishes to be with me and I've misinterpreted something said. That takes a lot of emotional stamina. So when I don't feel I can figure it out, I just don't. I'm guilty of hiding for awhile until I feel ready to talk again. That being said, I've also been careful to allow the other person to know I'm doing that, and why. 

Example: Tabitha's car has been rear-ended twice in the last three months. Needless to say, she needs a new car. But when she talks to me about it, I get frustrated and panicky. So I told her I can't talk about it with her right now. That was about 10 days ago (actually, before the last accident happened , which was last Tuesday). But on Saturday, I went with her to test drive cars because she had allowed me enough space to process what was happening and at that point, I could address the topic without losing my mind. Thanks, Tabitha! Side note: We both found a car we're in love with. That's bad.

But number three is the kicker. I'm not ready to deal with new symptoms. And if they're not new, I'm not ready to deal with unfamiliar symptoms, or ones that have been lurking in the dark and have chosen now to rear their ugly heads. But I will. Because I have to.

So looking at the most insistent of those symptoms:

1. Sometimes when I'm with people, I feel like they are no longer the person I know. These pictures illustrate what it feels like to me. They arouse the same feelings that occur when I'm experiencing the phenomenon with another person: 



I talked with Therapist about this when I saw him last month. He identified the phenomenon as depersonalization/derealization, and my homework was, of course, to do research on that. So I did.

In my first day of research, I discovered the above pictures. And there was a lot of information. I'll admit that I became completely freaked out and scared when I was viewing all of it. And I couldn't do it alone. So I called someone and made him look at the stuff with me. I think I might have cried. I don't remember. And then I became completely overwhelmed and had to stop.

I've been revisiting the research bit by bit this month. When I feel scared or frustrated, I stop. I regroup. Then I try again. 

This is what I've concluded:

1. My symptoms align more with derealization than depersonalization, although I definitely experienced the depersonalization symptoms years ago. These are identified derealization symptoms (from Mayo Clinic website):
  • Feelings of being alienated from or unfamiliar with your surroundings, perhaps like you're living in a movie
  • Feeling emotionally disconnected from people you care about, as if you were separated by a glass wall
  • Surroundings that appear distorted, blurry, colorless, two-dimensional or artificial, or a heightened awareness and clarity of your surroundings
  • Distortions in perception of time, such as recent events feeling like distant past
  • Distortions of distance and the size and shape of objects
2. All my research suggests that derealization is upsetting and can be frightening, but does not indicate that I'm crazy or dangerous and is only harmful if the feelings escalate and cause more distressing symptoms or behaviors. 

3. While some medication helps a few individuals, better results are achieved through talk therapy, which is what I would have turned to even without the research. 

So I see Therapist on Thursday. And I'll present my research and ask what I should do next. And he'll say, "What do you think you should do," because Therapist learned a long time ago that if I don't believe it's my idea, I probably won't buy into it. He's not stupid.

Except I don't know what I think I should do yet. And I'm tired. I'm thinking maybe I should let Therapist make the suggestions this time. And maybe I should take his advice and do my assignments. Because the truth is, I'm pretty sure I don't want to keep doing this derealization thing anymore. It's a little bit terrifying (please see pictures above).

Monday, May 16, 2016

And now a word from our sponsor.

New development, sort of. It's a shift in paradigms that's been taking place over the last couple of years. I've been unwelcoming, but there are certain changes I don't embrace well. However, the shift is clearly finished, and it's time for me to figure out how to navigate this particular change.

And it's a good one. I just don't want it. Not unusual, since I usually don't want that which is good for me.

So, therefore, I'm taking a short break from therapy stuff so that I can look at the big picture and decide how I fit. Or how I don't fit, as the case may be. Either way, it's okay.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I don't really know how to write about this. It's been hanging around for a long time, but words escape me. When I try to explain verbally, I end up embarrassed, fumbling, certain that I'm not expressing anything close to reality. But if I can't write it, I can't solve. This is my curse. Until I'm able to clearly express the problem, I cannot find a solution or, at the very least, a management device.

The topic I'm addressing seems to have multiple facets, so I'll probably post a few times on different aspects. Also, talking about it seems to be panic inducing, so if the same thing happens when I write, I'll probably just stop when it no longer feels tolerable. This post is partial attempt number one. There may be many attempts before I get it right.

I have difficulty visualizing people. I know who they are. I recognize them. I just don't always remember what they look like. I think I have always been this way, I've just chosen never to think about it unless I had to. Situations constituting a need to remember people's faces:
1. When I'm introducing someone.
2. If I see someone in the store or restaurant who talks to me as if we know each other.
3. If I have to pick Tolkien Boy (or anyone) up at the airport.
4. If Lolly (or anyone) is picking me up at the airport.
5. If I initiated a group get-together at a restaurant.

Further explanation:
1. My wedding reception was a disaster when it came to introductions. Normally, I don't believe I would have failed quite as miserably as I did (this was my hometown - I KNEW these people), but getting married was stressful for a number of reasons, all of which are awkward and frustrating to talk about, so I won't. But the gist of this is that when people came through the reception line, I didn't recognize them so introducing them to Darrin was impossible. Thankfully, they introduced themselves.

2. I've lived in my small town for many years so most people who know me also know that when I'm shopping, I'm rarely looking at people. They believe it's because I'm very focused. It's actually because if someone stops to talk to me, probably I'll leave the store not knowing who they are unless they're a person I see and speak with frequently. About a year ago, a former student from one of my classes stopped to chat with me. I'd graded his comp exams, too. But I couldn't remember him. I do know, however, that he passed and was applying to some Canadian universities to pursue his PhD. That's something, right?

3. I have known him for nearly 10 years. Outside of Darrin and my kids, I probably know no one better. I have picked him up at the airport so many times I've lost count. But I still panic every time because when there are hundreds of people around, I can't remember what Tolkien Boy looks like. This could be because there are hundreds of people around. Regardless, if I'm picking him up, I have his photo on my phone screen. And I make sure I know what he's wearing in case he's changed a lot since that photo was taken.

4. I chose Lolly because she's the last non-family member to pick me up at an airport, but the problem is the same as in number four--lots of people, my panic, fear of nonrecognition on my part. In this case, I can watch for a car, but my automobile recognition skills extend no further than a color and whether I'm looking for a sedan, truck, or van. It's dismal.

5. I do this on occasions when I'm traveling and  I want to see a large number of people, but I have a limited amount of time available to me to do so. I'll contact all of them and say, "Let's have lunch!" And then we do. And while the time spent is not as long as I would like, nor am I able to visit with each person individually, I still get to see them and that's better than nothing. However, I don't always recognize them immediately, so I try to have someone with me to watch for them. I have also been known to arrive a few minutes late so the Friends are already there. I can identify the group better than the individuals.

It has been suggested to me that I might have prosopagnosia which is a real disorder. I don't know if I have that.

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

My mother has dementia. I'm not sure how many times I've written about this. She seems perfectly normal. If you met her today, you'd not notice the small things I do, the telltale signs that the woman before you is losing her brain function slowly each day.

Her short term memory functions at minimal capacity. This means that my mother will repeat things often. She'll become confused about who said what and when it was said. She gets lost on the way home from the store. 

Time has no meaning for my mom. This has always been a problem. Now it's out of control. She goes to bed when she feels sleepy and arises when she wakes up. That might mean bedtime is at 3:00 a.m. and morning comes at 1:00 p.m. As she sees a large number of doctors for many reasons (not the least of which is that she believes she is ill most of the time), being on time for appointments is problematic.

I see clients in an office located in her home. We enter through the living area. The office is located just around the corner. Sometimes my mother greets my clients in her pajamas.

Testimony meeting in church is stressful. Mom often feels moved by the Spirit to testify. We never know what the subject of the testimony will be, but most of the time it's a life story of a family member, rife with wrongdoing and sin, always ending with conversion and perfection. I play games on my phone while she speaks. It helps me remain in my seat so I don't drag her from the pulpit and out the door. Always I feel huge stress as she walks before the congregation to administer her latest dose of mostly fabricated family gossip. She doesn't know she's lying. In her poor brain, everything is real.

I have spent more than a decade in therapy to learn to forgive and accept my mother. In the beginning I was trying to resolve anger and resentment stemming from abuse I suffered at her hands-- abuse that nearly caused me to lose my life. Abuse that resulted in eating disorders not just for me, but for all of my sisters. Abuse that causes me to reel in confusion because the voice that shouted demeaning, angry, attacking words which were mostly unwarranted, still resonates in my head. Now, a decade later, I can silence it when I have enough emotional stamina. But I don't always have that, so the voice continues unchecked much of the time.

I've had a few breakthroughs. I've also suffered defeat. A few years after I was married, I received an apology from a broken woman who understood what she had done to her daughters and viewed herself as a monster. She told me she expected no forgiveness. She said she had no understanding of why she had acted in such a way. She knew it was wrong to treat her children as she had. But regardless of her unforgivable behavior, she wanted me to know of the sorrow and remorse and regret she lived with.

I didn't forgive her. She said that was to be expected. But I was willing to begin again - to try to build a new relationship. I placed boundaries. My mother respected them. She allowed me to tell her and immediately changed her behavior when I pointed out words the were hurtful, judgmental, and/or demeaning. I insisted that my children would only be touched by her in love and never in anger. She was not allowed to reprove them. Instead, she might tell me what they were doing that she disliked, and I would be the person to deal with the misdeeds. Again, my mother respected that request. She wasn't perfect, but she was definitely trying. 

Eventually, after many years, the time came that I thought I was healed enough to discuss with her some of the abuse, that we might find some resolution. About that same time, my mother had a seizure. A scan of her brain revealed the dead spots caused by a physically abusive father who struck her far too many times while drunk beyond reason. And I became aware of the magnitude of the demons my mother had carried for her entire life. Not only had the dead spots in her brain caused the seizure as they spread, they had inhibited her ability to regulate her emotions and behaviors for her entire life. In addition, they were now causing mini-strokes. My mother was literally losing her mind and had been doing so for most of her life.

Medicine helped slow the progress and even allowed some slight regeneration. It wasn't enough to cure the problem, simply to allow her more time to live with a semblance of sanity. But I understood when the diagnosis was revealed, that my hopes of building or maintaining a relationship, talking through past problems, and becoming whole were not going to happen. And that was unexpectedly painful. 

When I recovered from my disappointment, I continued what I had begun. I needed to find resolution. I needed to stop being a victim of my past. I accepted the agonizing truths that stemmed from abuse throughout my childhood and teen years. I dealt with it ungracefully and resentfully without my mother's help. I found myself wondering why, after all I had suffered at her hand, I was still trying. I found no answer-- but I could not stop what I had begun. My disdain and aggravation toward my mother increased daily.

I doubled my efforts. I learned more about her past. I recovered the good memories that had been forgotten, held in check while I allowed myself to be angry and hurt. When the good memories returned, they increased the agony I already felt. Questions, unanswered and unhelpful, coursed through my brain. Why did I have to remember that she was sometimes wonderful? Why did I remain near her now that I have the autonomy to move? Why was I placed in her care? Why did SHE have to be my mother?

Those questions haunted me. They became especially piercing as I watched her speak to the church congregation we share, bearing her "testimony" that was filled untruths that would have been devastating, should they overhear, to whichever sibling she chose to defame. Thus far, her only stories about me consist of my delightful childhood behavior, my amazing intellect, and my limitless musical talent. In short, I have become the perfect offspring. Anyone who has met me knows that's an absolute impossibility. I am not a well-behaved grownup. I have certainly never been a well-behaved child. My intelligence is above average, yes, but I am not the smartest person alive. I have musical talent, but it might be noted that my fame ceases to exist outside of the small town where I live, and even here, such fame is limited to a small number of people who believe anyone who can successfully play a church hymn is a piano virtuoso.

And so last month I watched with dread as my mother walked to the front of the congregation. Those haunting questions began their endless cycle through my brain as I attempted to drown out her voice while she once again embarked on her version of the life history of one of her unlucky offspring. The final question reverberated through my head: Why did SHE have to be my mother?

And God spoke to me. I know it was Him, because those words would never come from inside me. I don't have that capacity. Naysayers and doubters and unbelievers who encounter my words here are welcome to skip to the end, because nothing I write from this point forward will make sense to you. And I'm okay with that. It doesn't really make sense to me, either. 

God spoke to me and said, "You were given to her because I knew you would forgive."

And it was true. I knew in that moment that I had forgiven her long ago. I simply had to feel the emotions. I had to face the reality of who she was, where she came from, and the person and mother she wanted so badly to become - the person she could not be, because that ability was taken from her by her very own abusive parent. And I forgave her for the emotional, physical, and mental abuse that scarred me. Because to not do so would alter the person I am. It would place me in the same position she had long ago assumed; that of living my life as an abuse victim. 

One might say that an abuse victim is what I am. I am simply living in denial. That I am destined to continue the same path my mother has trod throughout her life. But that would be wrong. I am not a victim. I vowed I would never abuse my children. And I worked to keep that vow as I made choices that would benefit them through discipline rather than succumbing to the desire to punish as I had been, or berate or belittle. And the desires to abuse were real. They were all I had known as I grew up. People naturally raise their children in a similar fashion to the manner in which they were raised. But I did not. I refused to allow my children to live as I had. I would not be ruled by my past.

And I chose to get help. I spent years trying with my whole soul to move beyond the painful experiences and become a joyful, positive person. I have not always been successful. I still have moments - sometimes very long moments that last days, weeks, even months - when I am unable to manage PTSD and other resulting problems enjoyed by one who has abuse experiences in her childhood. But I'm still here. And I'm still trying. And I'm slowly becoming the person I have always wished to become IN SPITE of my past. I will not be hampered or deterred. I am more. 

You see, I have the advantage of a healthy mind, unscathed by injury-induced dementia. I am not my mother. And part of becoming the person I wish to be is allowing myself freedom from past pain, anger, and resentment. I grant myself permission to forgive. 

What I didn't understand was that my Heavenly Father knows me. The Big Guy has always known me better than I know myself, in the same way that I know my own children. I can predict with about 95% accuracy how my children will react to most situations. They surprise me occasionally, but only for a moment. Because I know them. And in the end, everything makes sense within the context of their individual personalities. I'm guessing that's the same for God when it comes to me. I don't really do anything unexpected. And a long time ago, before I was born, I'm guessing I knew what my mom would endure as a child. Knowing myself the way I do, I'm also guessing that I volunteered to be her daughter. Pretty much because I'm an idiot with a savior complex when it comes to people I love - and I loved her. And also because I probably wished to help her - to make her life better. But mostly because I knew, too, that no matter what she became, no matter the things inflicted on me by her, I would forgive her. 

And I think, somewhere, in that poor brain of hers, riddled with dark spots that stop logic and reason and encourage random emotions and panic and neuroses, she understands the depth of the pain she caused her family. I believe it haunts her. And the tragedy is that she does not have the mental capacity to understand that it's over. She's made changes - good changes. And the awful things she did were only part of the story. She did wonderful things, as well. 

Today the good things are on my mind so often that the abuse takes a firm back seat. I point them out to her. I remind her. I try, as gently as possible, to distract her from making up stories because I want her to remember the beautiful realities. It never works. She no longer has the capacity to differentiate reality from fantasy. But it reminds me. It reminds me to look at the whole picture. It reminds me that half of my genes come from the abuse survivor who is my mother. It reminds me that so many things I do well are because she believed I could do anything. It reminds me that my life is beautiful and she is a part of it. 

The day will come when she will no longer be the person who is my mother. There will be more parts of her brain that slowly die. One day she will no longer remember anything at all. Before that happens I will tell her I not only forgive her, but she is deserving of such forgiveness. I'll tell her I'm proud to have her as my mother. And even if she doesn't remember forever, she'll remember for a little while. 

Happy Mother's Day to my imperfect mother. On this day, for the first time in my life, I can say with all honestly, I choose you. And I love you forever.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lots to think about tonight. I don't know that I'll have the words for the thoughts. Probably that doesn't matter.

There are many, many changes taking place soon, but nothing is concrete. Being in limbo is not the best state. Still, very little I can do about it.

I spent a five days in Washington with Josh and family-- wonderful days which took me away from some of the distractions of home and allowed me to see how I'm unraveling in ways I had not noticed. Those ways are not going to get better on their own.

I came home to a thunder and lightning snowstorm which knocked out power for about 30 hours. No electricity = no heat. It was a cold night.

And then my mom dislocated the hip that was replaced in November. I spent the day at the hospital with her. My dad was unable to cope with the emergency. I sent him home to light a fire in his stove and warm up his house.

And now I'm tired.

I canceled three days of private lessons so I could visit the Weeds. Then I canceled lessons and a class yesterday so I could be with my mom. Now I'm sort of behind. A lot behind.

Darrin's father is in crisis, as well. He keeps calling to ask questions he's asked hundreds of times before. Darrin is losing his mind. So we're going to see him Friday. More travel. More missed work. More behindness.

In the midst of all this, I've just decided I have to get help. Now. So I will. I'll see Therapist on Friday since he is sort of near Darrin's father. When you have to drive seven hours anyway, another two isn't that many. And I need this. The cost will be worth it in the end.

Also, I'm out of ideas. I don't know how to make myself better. Talking about what's happening sends me into major panic. Thinking about what it means makes my brain hurt.

Today the sun came out, finally, and dandelions bloomed as the snow melted. They are undaunted.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dependency is not satisfiable.

I recently encountered this sentence in one of my transcription jobs. For whatever reason, it's running in a loop in my head. I keep thinking about what this might mean in different contexts. I keep wondering about those contexts in regards to myself.

Never become dependent. This has been the mantra of my life. Which doesn't mean I've always been able to adhere to it. There were a number of years when I was extremely dependent on Darrin. He insists it wasn't unhealthy, and that it was perfectly understandable, given that he was the first person I allowed myself to trust. At that point, I had to experience all the emotions that accompany vulnerability and trust. Because those feelings had been stopped for so long, it stands to reason that I would feel unable to function normally without frequent contact - physical, social, and emotional - with the person in whom I had chosen to invest.

However, that experience did not pave the way for future relationships based on trust and love. I simply put all my eggs in one basket. Darrin was the one I trusted. The end.

Eventually, I broke the dependency bond and learned more healthy ways to interact with my husband, and I recognized that in spite of myself, I had been far too reliant on him. And my mantra became even stronger. Never become dependent.

Dependency is not satisfiable. No matter how much time and love and touch is given, dependency demands more. And more. It consumes. Never become dependent.

And so my subsequent interactions with people I love have been militantly monitored. Never become dependent. No doubt, part of this is because of my ingrained belief that at any moment, someone might need to let me go so that more important things can take my place. I've sometimes asked (especially in moments when PTSD makes me feel incredibly lonely and crazy), "Please stay." But the plea is meant to be temporary. Always, people have to leave when they have to leave. I just don't want it to happen when I'm battling symptoms that feel overwhelming.

Does that make me dependent? Am I never satisfied? Do I demand or consume?

I don't know. I might. I've always made certain that anything I give emotionally, physically, or materially, is given without strings. No one should feel bound to me for any reason. Never become dependent.

Sigh... this interaction thing is really complicated. And Tolkien Boy told me a long time ago that no real relationship can exist without some degree of mutual dependence, which is different from codependency which is what he believes I am talking about when I say "dependent". And maybe he's right. But I don't depend on my children. I suppose I rely on Darrin to be my sexual partner and my lifelong friend. But there is always a degree of separation that says if he was no longer there for some reason, I would survive. I think I feel the same way about everyone in my life.

I'm not sure if that's okay or not. I would definitely rather spend the rest of my with the people I love. I'm just certain that if that was not possible, I would recover from the loss. Honestly, I think Tolkien Boy feels the same way, in spite of what he says. I think everyone feels that way unless they're under the age of 20. I think I recognized that feeling in myself when I was nine. Since that time, I'm always a little bit confused about relationships with longevity. Maybe everyone feels that way, too.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A few years ago Tabitha was going through some terrible times. She would have breakdowns every day - sometimes more than one a day. I never knew when those would happen. I could make no plans because I didn't know when the school would call me to come get her and take her home (or to the hospital, if necessary). I lost a job because I was so stressed I could no longer concentrate. I was making mistakes. I couldn't do the work. My life was no longer my own.

I remember waking up one morning and thinking that I wanted Tabitha to just end her life, not because I didn't love her or because I wanted her dead, but because I had reached the end of my ability to cope. I was too tired to continue, uncertain whether she would be alive in the morning, unable to work or schedule my own life because I never knew what would happen each day. In short, I was exhausted to the point that I could no longer feel empathy for my child nor could I think logically.

That experience put a barrier between my daughter and me. Even now, while I love her with my whole soul, I'm unable to feel that love as deeply as I might otherwise. Therapist says that when we are in situations such as the one Tabitha and I lived for over a year, the effects are similar to those of abuse. It will take time to heal.

There has been a gnawing fear inside me, as I've gone through the stress of the last couple of months, that I am becoming a Tabitha in the lives of the ones who love me. That one morning they will awake and think, "I wish she would just take her life and get it over with." People can't live with constant stress without being affected by it. I know this. I'm pretty strong, but the type of stress I was enduring with Tabitha brought me to my knees. The stress I currently experience has driven me to the edge. I've shared some of that with people close to me, sometimes asking for help or support. But it worries me.

I wonder, how can the people who support me be unscathed? If they truly love me, how can they not feel the trauma? When this is over, will it have destroyed any past or future closeness? Will they feel about me the way that I feel for Tabitha? Will they love me and be happy that I'm making progress away from the place I'm currently in, but be too tired of me to want to spend more time or deepen relationships? I know that no one has stress-free interactions with the people they care about. But I've been the one who has needed help for so long. And unless I'm able to change things soon...

I don't know how to finish that sentence. I'm pretty sure there's a second half to it. I just can't make my brain figure it out.

Tolkien Boy tells me that it's a two-way street, and I help other people, too. I have difficulty seeing that. He and I had a misunderstanding recently over some chat messages. As I go back and read the conversation, there seems to be nothing there that would be upsetting to anyone. But I didn't say the things I was feeling. Things like, "The questions I'm asking you are important to me. I need some answers. And asking you is really difficult for me. It makes me feel vulnerable. The fact that I'm not being taken seriously when I've finally found the courage to ask is really hurtful. I'm frustrated. I feel angry that I asked in the first place. And now I feel afraid."

But if you read the words I said, it seems that I'm mildly put out, but not really affected by the conversation. There is humor in the few attempts I made to ask my questions. In the end, there is a large pause followed by my messy attempt to express what I felt. It was ineffective. I was upset about the whole situation for three or four days. Now I just feel stupid about it. And I feel like it was completely my fault. Tolkien Boy has never volunteered to be the person who answers my questions. It's nothing to do with him if I feel vulnerable asking. And chat is not always a good way to ask anything that makes me feel vulnerable. In short, I messed up. Again.

Josh has been wonderful about trying to contact me, and responding when I write stupid things in my blog about how bad my life is. But our timing sucks. I don't think we've had one conversation in the last four months that has lasted long enough to talk about anything. We like talking to each other. We laugh a lot. But he's had a lot on his plate lately, and I've wanted to ask about so many things. I just haven't been able to because of the timing of the conversations and because I've been distracted by myself. In short, I messed up. Again.

I attempted to contact an old friend with whom I've not spoken for a couple of years. The lack of speaking happened not because of any friendship rift, but because our communication largely happened online, and he became a bit scarce as he worked on some career and schooling things. And I wasn't in any shape to call him. I guess he felt the same way. But I texted him and set up a time to talk online. And I invited mutual friend, Tolkien Boy, to join us. And then I sat back and watched them chat. I had nothing to say. Before Tolkien Boy joined, my friend asked how I was doing. It seem inappropriate to say, "Crappy. My life sucks. I'd like to die pretty much every day. Thanks for asking." So I changed the subject instead. But I never did talk to him. In short, I messed up. Again.

AtP asked me if there are any flowers here yet. There aren't. I think, maybe, he wants me to tell him fun things, let him know that I'm okay and I'm happy. But I'm too tired to do that yet. I want him to think I'm better, though. Knowing someone you care about is not doing well is a stressful thing. And I'm the person who's older. I'm supposed to be fine. "There are no flowers. Maybe next week." And the conversation dies. Because I messed up. Again.

If I sound scared and frustrated, I am. If I don't, clearly I'm still having difficulty saying what I feel. I'm so tired of feeling this way. I'm so tired of feeling like a life-sucking, joyless person.

Yesterday I smiled at a little girl I do not know, and she told me she loved me. I'm thinking maybe I just need to smile more and talk less. It feels nice to be loved by someone who doesn't understand that I'm not really all that lovable.

Done feeling sorry for myself. I have a rehearsal in three minutes.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter 2016

This is usually a beautiful day for me. I love Easter.

Today, though, not so much.

I'm not better yet. As Therapist would say, "...still on the verge." Which means, essentially, that I'm functioning well, and working hard at becoming healthy again, but not yet stable.

Therapist said I should not remain quiet about what is happening with me. To do so brings more shame and stress. But he also said it's a good idea to choose carefully the people with whom I share. And it's interesting. When I've talked about it, I'm met either with complete silence or a pretense that nothing out of the ordinary has been said, for example:

Me: I've been having a difficult time. Dealing with some suicidal depression. I'm working through it, but it's hard.
Other person: How about those Dodgers?

On the other hand, there are some who completely acknowledge what I'm saying with this response:

Me: I've been having a difficult time. Dealing with some suicidal depression. I'm working through it, but it's hard.

Other person: You're one of the strongest people I know. I'm certain you'll be fine.

I suppose this is my own fault. It's what I always say. "I'll be fine. I'm always fine." But the truth is, I don't know that I'm going to be fine. I'll probably keep saying it because it makes people feel more comfortable. But it's a lie.

I've never hosted this type of depression for this long. I've never felt so incredibly alone when going through something like this. I've never felt it constantly at the edge of my mind, reminding me that things aren't right yet. I'm a little scared.

When I try to talk about it, I feel a little stonewalled. "Get help." "Have you talked to Therapist?" "Stop working so much." "Maybe you're not trying hard enough." I'm paraphrasing, of course, but do the people in my life even know me?

For the last decade I've worked my butt off trying to make certain I get help when I need it, regardless of the personal, emotional, and financial cost. And Therapist keeps tabs on me. He doesn't check up on me constantly, but if I send a chat message, text, or email, he responds immediately. Yes, I've talked to Therapist. As for working so much, I've been cutting back. The truth is, I make more than enough money. Even with Darrin not working, we've been fine. I can take time off. Yesterday I did. And I went on a date with my husband. And not trying hard enough? I don't know. Maybe that one's true.

I told Therapist about this. He said all the things I knew he would. People want the best for me. Getting help is important. Talking to a therapist is important. Taking time to rest is important. Not giving up is important. When I didn't respond, he asked, "Sam, what would you like them to say or do?"

What would I like them to say or do?

Call me unexpectedly? Tell me it's okay that I"m not doing well? Remind me that they're on my side and I'm not alone? Let me cry? Give me a hug for a really long time? Tell me I'm loved? And, I suppose, remind me that they don't want me to die because they like having me around?

I don't know.

I can't say that no one has done this for me (Josh). So I don't know why I want this from more people. Clearly I'm not focusing on the "important" things.

That's how I feel on this Easter morn. I'm a little too self-absorbed to sing, "He is Risen." I just want to stop feeling like I want to be dead and I don't want to rise again. I just want to stop. Well, not all the time. Sometimes I feel okay being alive. That's progress, right? Right?

Crickets. Always. This is not a popular topic. This is why we have therapists. So I'll stop talking about it to other people and keep it behind closed doors - confidential - invisible.

Sigh.

Happy Easter.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pilgrim Song

Therapist called me last Wednesday. I had sent him a very short email that morning, briefly letting him know about the suicidal thoughts/depression/plans that exhibited themselves the week before. He called me about an hour after I sent the email which surprised me. He's kind of busy.

Therapist asked why I hadn't contacted him earlier. I said I didn't know. He knew I was lying.

Why didn't I contact him?

I think I'm afraid he's too busy for me now. We've worked on my particular brand of weird for about a decade now. From my perspective, I've made very little progress. He says I'm wrong.

I think, no matter what I do, I'm afraid this will be my life forever. I'll work to manage PTSD symptoms. I'll feel like my life is balancing out. Then stress will come and without warning, I'll be looking for ways to die. I'm afraid Therapist will be upset that I can't seem to manage PTSD when I'm under stress - that he'll say I'm not using the tools I've been given - that he'll tell me I'm failing. Therapist says that's not going to happen and that he thinks I'm managing very well, given that I've been unable to use available medications (the warning labels at the bottom of the ads are talking about me, personally), and that I take the proper steps to get help when I'm in trouble. He says he doesn't believe this will be my life forever.

I think I'm afraid that Therapist will go away. He did once, years ago. He moved far away. And I ended up in the psyche ward of the hospital. Because I told him I was fine. Because I didn't want a referral. Because starting over made me want to vomit. So I became suicidal instead. And I went through three counselors who told me they weren't equipped to help me. And while I value their honesty, it sort of sucks that I had to find Therapist again and drive 14 hours round trip to see him again. And I'm afraid not that he'll move away again, but that he'll tell me he no longer wishes to work with me. Therapist says that's not possible. He's not going to do that. But I don't think I believe him. Except I believed him when he called me on Wednesday.

I think I was blindsided by the fact that I became suicidal in the first place. I didn't see the signs. It just happened. I woke up on Monday morning and realized an hour later that I was obsessing about which pills in my house would kill me the fastest. And on the off-chance that they didn't, I was trying to remember where my father keeps his gun. And then I cried because going to that place felt natural and right, and fighting it felt horrible and wrong. And then I was embarrassed because I thought if anyone I loved knew what I was going through, they would probably not love me back. Because who wants to love someone who wishes to be dead? But Therapist says it was right to tell Darrin, and to talk to some other people, and to take the day off work-- my first in about six weeks. He said no one will stop loving me.

So I came here tonight to try to make sense out of everything. And I saw the comments written by Josh and Jenn-Van. I sort of saw Josh's comment earlier, but I couldn't really read with any degree of comprehension at that time. My brain had exploded. But those things helped tonight, though. It's good to know that someone who knows me, and someone who does not, will take time to comment when I'm distressed and trying to figure things out on my blog. So thank you. A lot. And also, Josh, thanks for the very inopportune, spontaneous phone calls and chats. Those were helpful, too.

I took a trip last week. And I spent time with people. And there were moments when I felt valued. I just don't know how to hold onto those. I heard a song on Sunday - one I think is lovely and that has some good memories connected to it. One of the lines is "I'm going to live forever." It made me cry. Not because I'm going to live forever, but because I'm going to live. And it won't be easy. And Therapist says it's entirely possible that another day might come when I want to die. But he says to contact him if that happens, and he (and many other people, he says) will help me remember that I'm going to live.

Monday, March 7, 2016

This morning, very early, I called a suicide hotline. And then I hung up. Because what would they tell me to do? Get help. Go to a hospital. Call a friend. Talk to someone. But there's really no one around at 4 a.m. And if I get help or go to a hospital, someone has to pay for that. I'm fairly certain I won't be released from the hospital for rehearsals, nor will I be able to work online while I'm there getting help, and I don't have insurance, so I don't really know how that bill would be paid. It's sort of a stupid system, if you think about it. Probably I feel this way because I'm working lots and lots of hours so we have money to live. But it makes me want to die. But if I get help for that, I have to work lots and lots of hours to pay for it. Which sort of defeats the purpose, right?

Talk to someone.

About what? There's nothing to say. And everyone will just walk away from that conversation feeling worse. I am not really in the business of making other people's lives miserable.

So why did I call the hotline in the first place?

I'm not sure. I was in a bad place. It seemed a logical step. It felt less logical after the number was dialed. Maybe I just wanted to tell someone I'm having a hard time right now. But it's not like that can change right away anyway. And telling someone just makes me feel stupid.

So calling was a bad idea.

I got a haircut on Saturday. That was fun.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I Googled, "I'm sad" today. The result was page after page of ways to cheer up, interspersed with the odd mental health article/exam which will help you know if you're depressed or just sad.

I don't know why I did that.

Maybe it's because I feel absolutely bound right now. I am not allowed to say I'm sad to anyone. And if I do, no one knows what to do next. Sam is sad? That's not possible.

And Google wasn't really any help. I haven't been through ten years of therapy without learning ways to deal with depression and sadness. And actually, it's not that I don't want to do any of those. I just want to know that it's okay for me to be sad. Because I am.

So I'm telling my blog. Even though it can't hug me or sit with me while I allow myself 15 minutes to be sad (seriously, if anyone ever did that, I think we'd be giggling after 5 minutes-- that's just who I am), and it can't tell me that it's okay for me to be sad, I can still say it in my blog. And there's no guilt in it. I've made no one uncomfortable. I just wrote the words.

The end.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day

I've had more than one friend who was single on Valentine's Day tell me that I just don't understand. I've never been in my late 20s, 30s, or older, with no romantic interest on Valentine's Day. And they're probably right. But they don't understand, either.

They don't understand that this was one day during the entire year when my mother wrote "I love you" in a card. She never said it. But it was written. And even though I hated her with the intensely pure hatred only a teenager can experience, I still wanted her to tell me she loved me. She was my mom. And on Valentine's Day, she told me. And I have saved every single card.

They don't understand that on one Valentine's Day, I recognized that because of my upbringing and mistreatment by the people who molested me, I didn't really understand what love was. I had no idea what it meant to love a person, and even more, I didn't know how to BE loved. I still struggle with that last part. Constantly.

They don't understand that I spent nearly three years reading everything I could about love. I read poetry, and psychological studies. I read tawdry novels about love and sex. I read religious writings. I asked my friends what they thought love was. In the end, I was more confused than ever.

And then one Valentine's Day, I decided to just do it - just love. I didn't really know how to go about it, so I began with NOT-people. And I made a list of NOT-people I loved:
1. The misty clouds when they scattered themselves across the mountains behind my home.
2. Baby ducks.
3. Cats.
4. My dog.
5. Turning cartwheels and climbing trees.
6. Cookies.
7. Playing the piano and singing and dancing (not all at once).
8. Long walks in the mountains. By myself.
9. Flowers. All of them. But mostly the wild roses which smelled heavenly even when you were so far away you couldn't see them anymore.
10. Butterflies. All of them. But mostly the tiny lavender blue ones that sometimes landed on me during my solitary walks in the mountains.
11. Reading. And writing. And thinking.
12. Listening to people talk. Hearing their voices. Wondering what it would be like to be those people.
13. The sky in both day and night. Watching it move through shades of blue, and staring at the blackness of night, so far away from civilization that the only lights are the moon and the stars.
14. Laughing.
15. Sitting beside a creek or river. Watching sunlight sparkle on each tiny ripple.

The list went on for a very long time. I think I covered four or five pages with NOT-people. And I realized as I wrote, that my capacity to love was not stunted in the least. So I decided to move on to people. And I made a list of people I deeply, deeply loved:
1. My grandma.

At that point I realized that I could love, but people were problematic. I thought I loved my siblings, but I really didn't trust them and I was pretty sure they didn't love me back-- and that was the key. I was ready to love people, but I was afraid of not being loved in return.

I believe I was 16 years old when I made it to this point. So my Junior year of high school, I made Valentine cards for my friends. And I told them I loved them. All of them. And I waited to see what would happen.

I think the biggest reaction came from one with whom I had been friends since we were in 4th grade. He looked at me for a few minutes. Then he said, "It's not easy to tell people you love them when you really mean it." And he was right. We said it to each other all the time, but it was a catch phrase - a way to say good-bye. I said it to fill the void inside me; the one that longed to hear it from my parents. I said it a lot. They said it back, "Bye! Love you!" It was meaningless.

My friend said, "Do you love me?" I said, "Yes." He laughed and said, "I love you, too." Then we both laughed.

And that was all. We never talked about it again.

Sometimes my friends sent each other notes. We always had. My group of friends were always passing notes, even when there was no reason to. It was fun. But now we signed them with love. I don't know if everyone was sincere in that signing, but my friend from 4th grade was. And I knew he was one person who loved me. Because he told me he did.

All of this catapulted me into a love experiment. I entered every new personal relationship with the idea that I would love that person. I looked for things that made them lovable. I noticed the things that made them less than lovable and tried to love them anyway. I gave them leeway to be whomever they were and I tried with all my heart to love that person.

The experiment was semi-successful. I knew I loved those people, but I was also very sure that they could not love me. They didn't know me. They didn't know my mother hated me so much that she was unable to have a civil conversation with me. They didn't know that when I left home at 17, she drove me to my new home and left me standing on the driveway with no idea what to do next. They didn't know that my cousin raped me and two other people sexually molested me before I was 12. They didn't know I was pretty much used up and nasty. And I didn't tell them because then they wouldn't want me to love them. I wanted to love them.

Marrying Darrin helped me allow myself to be loved. It didn't happen all at once. We had some incredibly rough spots. But he was determined to love me. I needed that.

Having children taught me brand new ways to love people. And even though they knew nothing about my past, they were determined to love me, too. Even when we fought, I knew they loved me.

So about a decade ago, I decided to try a new experiment. This time I would be honest. I would tell my story. I would let people love me at their own risk. And some people did. It felt miraculous. I sent them Valentines because once a year, at least, every person needs someone to write it down: "I love you." I didn't care if they thought it was weird. I didn't care if they didn't understand my intent. I didn't care if the words were welcome or not. I just sent them and allowed those I loved to do whatever they wished with those words. I hoped one of them would "get it". I hoped they would understand where I came from, the difficulty of telling them about my feelings, the vulnerability of being exposed and honest. I hoped maybe one of them would love me back.

For most of my life, I have claimed Valentine's Day as my personal holiday. This assumed ownership has nothing to do with romance or sex or soul mates or Cupid. It was the day when I pretended, as a child, that I was loved because I had a beautiful card telling me I was. It was the day when I decided to figure out what love was and if I could have and share it. It was the day when I learned I had a friend who loved me even though we weren't "in-love", and that was something to be enjoyed and shared. It was the day that I told the people who tried to love me even when I was very unlovable, that I loved them back and I wanted them to be a part of my life. I suppose one might say that I was sort of "saved" by Valentine's Day because rather than becoming a product of my environment, that day inspired me to investigate a human emotion that could shape me into someone productive and functional.

And so today, I write this here: I love you. Regardless of whether I know you well, or have never met you. I love you. And it's okay if you love me back because today, in a box of chocolates, I received three messages:
1. Laugh often (and I do).
2. Go on an adventure (always - even if it's just going to the store or reading a book).
3. You are lovable (I'm still not good at this, but I think maybe someday I'll know this in my soul).

Happy Valentine's Day.