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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Four Months

That's almost how long it's been since I came here. I have a number of reasons for staying away, the first of which being that I just became exhausted.

It's been a very long time since I've been so sick for so very long. I lost interest in most everything. There were mornings when I was sorry I was still living. Some mornings I thought about ingesting everything prescription at once. That would have included prescription decongestants, cough suppressants with codeine, narcotic pain meds for my tooth extractions...

When that happened, I convinced myself I was being melodramatic and probably I'd just end up nauseated and vomiting. Then I got dressed and went to work.

Five months of nearly nonstop illness. That's actually not terrifically long, but it felt endless.

At this point, I've had about four weeks of feeling well. Then last week I contracted another virus.

The diagnosis: My immune system is compromised. I have asthma which puts me at high risk because I live in a polluted environment. Probably, as long as I work in a place where I am exposed daily to different germs from more than 500 students, my life will be like this.

You know that natural happiness that has always been mine? That wonderful feeling that bubbles up even when I've been at my lowest? It's gone. It's been a very long time since I've been happy at all.

In the meantime, PTSD has nearly eaten me alive. I've tried so very hard to maintain relationships and stay in touch with people I love. But it feels impossible.

A bright spot. My sweet sister, K, with whom I work, knows I'm struggling. Every day or two she pops into my classroom to give me a hug or just check in with me. She doesn't say anything about noticing that I'm not doing well; just says she missed me and wanted to say hello. I need that. I need people to smile back at me while I'm trying desperately to look as though I'm okay, walking through hallways filled with students I teach, smiling, talking with them, all the while wanting to just go to my classroom, lie on the floor and sleep.

I'm not sleeping at night lately.

I had this conversation with Therapist:

Therapist: You mentioned you feel that people love you, but try very hard to maintain distance between you.

Me: Yes.

Therapist: What causes that feeling?

Me: I don't know. It just feels like people want to talk with me, but only if they have something to tell me. They're not particularly interested in me, personally.

Therapist: Do they ask questions?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: That might indicate concern or caring.

Me: It might.

Therapist: Do you believe they're concerned?

Me: Not really, no.

Therapist: Why not?

Me: I just don't see why they would be. Here's our conversation: They ask how I'm doing. I say, "Still sick. They say, "That sucks. I'm really sorry." I say, "Yeah, it does. Thanks." The end.

Therapist: What do you want them to say?

Me: You know, it's not really what I want them to say. And it's not really about being sick for a long time. I used to spend time with people. More than that, people wanted me to spend time with them. Now I go places and see people I know, and I understand that things have changed. It's not that I'm unwanted. It's just that I'm no longer an integral part of anyone's life. Except Darrin's. Yes, I knew you were going to mention him. And that's great. I love that after eons of time, he's still in love with me and I, him. That's not what I'm talking about.

Therapist: You're talking about friends.

Me: I suppose. Except, if you look at what's happening, I have tons of friends. Those are the people who know you, who make a big deal about wanting to see you but are too busy to actually do it-- and they're okay with that because when you finally do get together for an hour, it will be very special, like no time has passed since you were last together, and you still love each other madly, because that's the kind of friends you are!

Therapist: I take it that's not what you're interested in.

Me: I'd really rather have no one.

Therapist: What have you done to keep your relationships close and less like those casual friendships you just described.

Me: Not a lot. Sick, remember?

Therapist: It sounds like you wish someone would take care of you a little.

Me: Not a chance. That would make me nuts.

Therapist: And also make you feel loved, needed, and cherished.

Me. I don't think so.

Therapist: Well, I could be wrong.

Me. Yes.

LONG PAUSE

Me: Actually, I think the people in my life are sort of afraid of me.

Therapist: Why would they be afraid?

Me: I'm an intense person. I'm not afraid to say I love you a million times and mean it with all my heart. I don't get tired of the people I love deeply. I always want to spend time with them. I'm happy to hear all the things in their lives from the really momentous to the mundane. I often try to dig deeper, to know them better, to find out more. I don't think most people like that. I think I make them uncomfortable.

Therapist: Maybe they want the same thing.

Me: Do you? How many people outside of immediate family do you have who feel that way about you?

Therapist: A few.

Me: And how often do you see them?

Therapist: Not often enough.

Me: Which means what? Monthly? Annually? Every decade?

Therapist: Probably a couple of times a year.

Me: And do you call them in between?

Therapist: Sometimes.

Me: Often?

Therapist: Usually every few months, yes.

Me: That's not often.

Therapist: For me, it is.

Me: That's what I'm talking about. If someone contacted me every few months, I'd be fine with that. I'd let it happen. But I wouldn't count them as close relationships. And probably they'd die out because I don't have the ability as of yet to trust people who walk in and out of my life every few months or years or whatever. That's why I think people are afraid of me. I want them. I want them in my life often. I want to know about them, lend support, touch them sometimes. I'm scary.

Therapist: Sam, you're not scary. And I don't think they're afraid. They're just busy.

Me: Yes, they are.

Therapist: That's not a bad thing, you know.

Me: Nope. It's a healthy boundary. It's living life and allowing people to have a part of that life. It's how real grown ups interact.

Therapist (laughing): I'm not sure that's what I meant.

Me: No. But one thing is very clear. I'm a three-year-old in my heart.

Therapist: I think that's understandable, given your background.

Me: Maybe, but not socially acceptable. And I realized something this week.

Therapist: Yes?

Me: I was at a dinner for staff appreciation week. I was with colleagues I meet with weekly for meetings. We work together, sometimes teach collaboratively. And I like them. I think they like me. But that's it. I don't belong. I never have. I probably never will. This is not me asking for advice as to how I CAN belong. It's just an observation. And because I like my colleagues, I find myself wishing sometimes that I did belong. Except then I remember-- I've never belonged anywhere. Not ever. The closest thing I've felt to "belonging" is when I was alone in a practice room playing my guts out. I belonged there and on stage. And with Darrin.

Therapist: There have been other times, Sam. You've told me about them.

Me: Yes. There have. But always with people who feel the need to put up those "healthy boundaries." And you know what? That's wasted effort because I would NEVER trespass. I would NEVER insert myself where I was not needed or wanted. And I would NEVER put someone I love at risk physically or emotionally. But still, they seem to need to warn me about all the reasons they can't spend time with me or communicate with me or whatever. As if I wouldn't already have thought of all those reasons because PTSD reminds me constantly that I am unfit for human company.

Therapist: They tell you they don't want to spend time with you?

Me: No. They tell me they do. And then they tell me why they can't. And it's fascinating to me. Because if I want to spend time with someone, I make time. I schedule it. It's a priority because THEY are a priority. I never want anyone I love to believe they're not important to me or are less important than another social engagement or work or the weather. But I think they're afraid I'll think they feel the same way about me. And for whatever reason, there has to be a boundary that makes certain I'll never believe that.

Therapist: You've been feeling pretty down lately. It sounds like you're emotionally spent and a little bit angry.

Me: Anger is a secondary emotion.

Therapist: That's my line.

Me: And now it's mine.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018

Sometimes you celebrate the demise of a year quietly. Outside there were fireworks. Some felt a little too close for comfort as the sparks hit our window for about 15 seconds. But inside was peaceful and calm.

2017 was yet another difficult year in many, many ways. There were troubling and frustrating things, but also triumphs and growth. 2018 will bring the same, no doubt.

I do not love my current job. I've vacillated between wanting to find a new job right away and feeling that I need to complete the school year. I'm currently at the halfway mark. I believe I may have stayed too long. However, the final decision will be dependent on my interactions with one of my administrators. I have some consulting to do with district personnel, at which point I will figure out the proper course for my future employment.

The situation at home with my father-in-law is one of d├ętente. He was gone for about three weeks while he had a couple of surgeries and spent time in a care center, receiving daily physical, occupational, and emotional therapy. There is no question that he is lonely and bored at home. However, his desire for Darrin and I be the sole people who can fill those needs is misguided and unhealthy. I've told him we won't do that for him. Prior to the surgery, at the insistence of his primary care physician, he visited a nearby senior center and loved it. I'll be encouraging him to go back frequently. In the meantime, Darrin and I have enjoyed some peace at home during his absence and that seems to be continuing now that he's back.

And how am I doing?

Emotionally, not well. I've been seeing Therapist fairly regularly. He's not thrilled with my quest this year to "normalize" all relationships. He said that's something he encourages clients to do because many of their relationships are unhealthy or dependent. Mine are not. My desire for normalization is based on my feelings about the relationships, not on the relationships, themselves. Because I experience intense feelings that are difficult to moderate, I have concern that I need to make changes or strictly control my interactions with other people. Therapist says this is probably unhelpful. It simply serves to make me even more hyperaware of myself and less likely to connect with anyone.

Also, he points out, my attempts to normalize probably weren't even close to normal.

So I'm left with that. Therapist has provided a lengthy list of things I can do to help alleviate my stress in this area, but they all involve cooperation with my relationship counterparts. He assumes they are all perfectly willing to work with me on this. And I think they are, as long as the work is short and sweet. None of this will be short. As for the other, well, I'm guessing it won't be that either.

Physically, I've been better. 10 weeks of pneumonia has certainly taken its toll. There were times when I was ill that I have no memory of things I said or did. Then there was the broken tooth thing. That was painful. I now have no tooth and am waiting for an implant to heal enough to be capped. It was also during that ordeal that I realized I've shut off pain again. There's a lot of numbness going on, I suppose. It's hard to feel things when I'm very sick. 

Currently I'm battling another virus. It seems mild and I don't expect it to develop into anything horrible. But I'm concerned about a couple of things:
1. I go to school on Tuesday and there's a whole host of bugs there. If my immune system isn't up and running, I'll be sick continuously.
2. I can't be vaccinated against the flu, and it's here. I survived H1N1 about seven years ago, but I really thought I might die. I'm not being melodramatic. I'm pretty sure, even in comparison to the two times I've had pneumonia, H1N1 is the closest thing to death I've ever experienced. There were a few times when I stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. It was scary. I'd rather not do that again.

Also, there's a good chance that my left hip is dying. I was told that whatever caused my right hip to die was not something I needed to worry about, but I'm having similar symptoms on the left. I'll be seeing a doctor this month to determine what needs to happen next. I'm hoping for a verdict of more weight loss and physical therapy.

But this is a new year. I begin each new year with a list of pieces I want to learn. I haven't had time to compile one yet, but Beethoven figures prominently. I've been spending time with Mozart and I'm ready for a change. I also have an insanely difficult Prokofiev Toccata that I've been wanting to finish. Between those two, that might be my complete list for 2018, and if I finish them, it will definitely be enough.

Other things I would like to do this year:
1. Hike more places. I need to do this in June before the heat hits. Hoping my hip cooperates.
2. Read more books (Duh! Always!).
3. Write more in this blog-- but positive, or maybe even creative stuff. I'm finished whining. 
4. Start cooking again. Real cooking. And maybe I'll document it in my cooking blog. My kids have been asking for recipes which I'm bad at creating, but I could make the attempt.
5. Redirect my PTSD. I need to stop being overwhelmed by it. It's impossible to live with anything approaching joy when I'm preoccupied with painful symptoms that distract and detract from the things that make me happy. 
6. Decide what to do with people. I know that sounds weird, but it's become very difficult for me to talk about what I need from people which, in turn, makes it difficult for me to support them or even just spend time with them. I suppose the time has come for me to figure out how to meaningfully have people in my life, or stop going through the motions altogether. I need to take some time to think about what both of those scenarios look like. Therapist says I don't get to make decisions about this on my own. But, honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who cares about it. Everyone else seems fairly comfortable with the status quo and I'm not sure I want to upset that. Also not sure I'm strong enough to deal with rejection or rebuff from people I love right now. It's sort of an ugly place to be, but I'm bent on being more positive about everything. 
7. Let things go. I've been hanging onto some events, thoughts, dreams, and relationships for far too long. It's time to move on.
8. Face failures and redirect myself. There are a number of things that have been pure failures. Usually, when that happens, I look at the data, figure out what went wrong, and decide if I want to try again or move on to something else. Lately, I've just been allowing the failures to sit and eat at me. It's time to deal with those, as well.
9. Sing. Not at school or in my job, but when I'm alone and I want to. It's been awhile since I've sung simply for the joy of it. It's time.
10. Dance. Because I need to. Because it's good for me. Because. 

And now it's two hours into the new year and I need to sleep. Happy New Year. May your 2018 be everything you wish. Consider yourself kissed for luck. 


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude

Gratitude is a funny thing. I talk about things that make my life better. I remember people who have helped shape my life and who continue to do so. I think about ways I have grown and opportunities before me. And I think those things are gratitude sometimes.

Today, though, I think it's something different.

Today I believe gratitude is the ability to wake each morning prepared to live the life I've been given. I believe it's allowing for the mistakes of other people and being forgiving of my own. I believe it's a willingness to accept whatever I have. I believe it's living without malice or scorn toward others because life without people, with all their flaws, would be joyless. I believe it's allowing those slights that will to slip away, while working towards the day when the more stubborn ones that wish to stick around will lessen to the point where they are unnoticed.

Today I believe gratitude is showing love regardless of whether or not it's reciprocated. I believe it's speaking to those who make my life better, telling them exactly why my life is better because of them. I believe it's remembering people who are no longer with me. I believe it's not worrying about whether or not I'm appreciated or wanted because I'm so busy appreciating and including everyone else.

Today, for me, it's about going to a family gathering without spending the previous month wondering if I am happy enough, skinny enough, talented enough, or beautiful enough to spend time with my relatives. It's about looking in the mirror and seeing a person who has flaws and difficulties and accepting that. It's about knowing how far I have to go while recognizing how far I have already come.

Today I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving.
So much on my mind today.

I stopped writing after my last post. Not just here. Everywhere. I have other blogs where I'm not anonymous and still others where I write really awful stories and poetry. But a number of things happened to me and I saw no purpose in writing anymore. That hasn't really changed. I'm not sure why I'm here today, but I think it's because one of the things that changed is that I don't feel I can talk anymore about anything important. To anyone.

And I have things to say. I have questions to ask. They're all bottled up inside me. It's uncomfortable. So maybe if I write them, I won't need to say them or ask them anymore.

Tolkien Boy pointed out that our conversations often result in my need to analyze our relationship. He didn't say he didn't want to talk about it. In fact, he said he was fine talking about it. He just didn't want it to be our main topic of conversation.

Darrin said that talking to me is difficult. He said I wait until I feel something deeply and at that point, nothing he says will help. And he's right. I do that. Not on purpose. It just happens.

Therapist suggested that communication might be a good thing for us to work on.

I think if one of those things had happened independently I might have responded differently, but it's difficult to know. But all three things happened within days of each other. There are a lot of inferences my brain can fabricate, given what was said. And it doesn't seem to matter that I know those things are fabricated.

So I still talk. But I make sure I don't talk about me. Really me. Or relationships. Or what makes me happy or sad or upset or content or alive.

I'm not withholding. I understand it seems that I am. But it's not that at all.

I just get confused.

When I talk about a relationship with someone, it's usually because I've become worried or feel vulnerable or unsafe for some reason. There's a lot of guilt behind all that. The person in the relationship has done nothing to warrant my feelings. Often there's nothing that's triggered it. I'm just in a place where I need reassurance or I feel confused and am hoping for clarification. But a lot of times, I just need the other person to tell me the relationship is still important. I'm still important. WE are still important. And that's crap. I know it's crap. Real people don't have to be reassured all the time. They can be comfortable. They get to know one another and stay there because they like it. They don't have to be told repeatedly that things are fine and the relationship is good and they're still loved.

Sometimes I don't know things are bothering me until they build to the point where I have to say something or I'll explode. Especially when it's a repeated thing that bugs me or hurts me or causes me distress. And I don't know how to talk about it before that point. And I'm afraid if I say anything, I'll be accused of being hypersensitive or nitpicky or just wrong. So I don't say anything, hoping it will go away, which it doesn't. And I know that if I wait until I'm really upset, that's a mistake. I also don't really know what else to do sometimes.

And Therapist is right. I'm not a great communicator. But there is a part of me that wonders if people want me to communicate or if I just need to do what helps them feel most comfortable. I think if I never told Darrin the things he does that make me feel hurt, he'd be okay with that. He really doesn't like it when I talk to him about things that bother me. And I don't like it when he gets stressed because of me.

And things haven't been horrible while I've been not talking about relationships or asking for reassurance. Tolkien Boy and I still talk and I love that. And we spend time together, which I also love.

But underneath all of this is the person that still wants to be told I'm valuable. I don't really know what to do with her. What if I'm not really that important? Probably people will still talk to me and interact with me. I don't think Darrin will divorce me. I think people will still email and chat with me online. Life really doesn't change because someone says, "Hey, I love you. I'm glad you're here, and I want you in my life."

And the bottom line is this: No one in their right mind ever wishes for someone in their life who has PTSD. Because PTSD sucks and makes people crazy. People want someone who has hangups and quirks that are understandable and predictable and endearing. PTSD is not endearing. Or understandable. Or predictable.

And I just made PTSD the scapegoat for my failure to communicate. I'm not sure that's fair. It might just be that I'm a communication nightmare wrapped in a cloak of insecurity. I don't really know if I can blame PTSD.

What I do know is this: not talking makes me unhappy. I am unhappy. I am really, really sad. But it's only been a couple of months. I think it will get better. Things take time. I have to remember that.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

In spite of my better intentions, I have been disconnecting. It would be very easy for me to talk about all the reasons this makes me a terrible person, but the truth is, it's not intentional. I'd like to pretend I have a great deal of control over it, but I don't. This is a stress reaction that is nearly as old as I am. Have I been trying to combat it? Replace it with a healthier coping device? Choose a different result?

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

But sometimes, especially when one is very tired, the body and mind revert to what worked before. It's not about loving or not loving people. It's not about relationships. It's not about the importance of people in one's life. It's simply a need to to remove anything that causes stress because my ability to manage that stress has hit an all-time low. And people, for me, are stressful. All people.

I understand that's not fair. I have people in my life who do everything they can to be supportive and nurturing and loving. I have others who just settle for supportive. But it's not really about what they're trying to do or who they are or how much they love or support me. It's simply a reaction. And I react to people.

There are certainly other people in the world who have more intense stress than I do and who cope with it brilliantly. I would love to be able to do that.

That being said, the amount and types of stressors in my life are uniquely tailored to trigger me. And I'm not coping well. I've not been coping well for more than a year.

What this all means is that old habits have begun to rear their ugly heads. The ugliest one is the one that erases people, events, and time from my life. I don't even realize it's happening when it starts. Then one day, someone mentions a memory. "Hey, Sam, do you remember when..." And as they chuckle while the memory plays out on the flat screen in their brain, I'm experiencing nothing. Panic begins. I've not just forgotten, I've removed that chunk of life. And how much more is missing? What has happened? Why don't I remember?

So I laugh and nod, but say nothing. Because people will fill in the gaps for me. They'll recount what happened. And I'll file it away for later.

When later comes, I sit alone and concentrate. I do everything in my power to recall events, sounds, smells. And if that fails, then I commit the narrative I heard to my memory. My friend's or family member's memory becomes the one I rely on. It feels flimsy and fragile. If I'm called upon to provide details, I have none beyond what I've been told. The memory is not mine.

Then there is the emotional separation. That one is worse because I do remember. I remember how it felt to really connect. I remember feeling intense love for someone. I remember wanting to be with them. I remember how my whole body relaxes when I'm touched by that person because there is relief and sanctuary in loving and being loved in return. This is not "in love" that stupid romances depict. This is not me finding my one and only. This is what others would call friendship, perhaps, although I'm certain what I'm describing is not what other people feel for their friends. I have often speculated that I am broken when it comes to feeling what other people feel.

Regardless, the memories persist, but the ability to actually FEEL what I remember is gone. I try. I touch. I interact. I concentrate. Nothing happens. What I end up feeling is that I am hopelessly wrong in every way. Which increases the stress. Which increases the detachment. Which increases the feeling that I can't ever have healthy, strong relationships. Which increases the stress. Which increases the detachment...

In the midst of all this, my strength has slowly been returning. I have to remember that I've had some pretty serious physical problems in the past five years. I have to remember that I've had equally difficult emotional setbacks and life changes. That's a lot for anyone to deal with. Add to it the fact that I have PTSD and have been dealing with past trauma, especially during the past six months, I think it's understandable that there would be some things that might spiral out of control.

Back to therapy? How I would love to say, "Nope. I've got this. I know what to do. I have the tools to repair and rebuild. Everything will be fine." But I don't and I can't. Not alone. And I'm so desperately tired of seeing Therapist so he can tell me how to be a real human being. I want to be able to do this life thing and have a bit of success.

But I also want to reconnect with people I love. And I don't want them to be upset because the disconnect happened in the first place. And I don't know how to make those things happen. I don't really have any control over the second thing. If they're upset, I can only hope for forgiveness. But it seems unfair and stupid that I have to apologize over and over again for something I never meant to do in the first place. Which isn't to say I won't apologize. Just that I'm really tired of having to do that, as well. I'm tired of always being the one who is wrong.

That's all. I'm just facing some yucky realities today and wishing I didn't have to. I need so much help. Someday, I would like to stop that.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Two things:
1. I'm exhausted.
2. PTSD is big tonight.

Most of the time I wait to write until the worst is over. And I really believe that's the best course of action. Tonight, however, I'm not sure what I'm feeling.

I was out with friends tonight. It was fun. Part of me enjoyed it.

Another part, however, kept questioning why I was there. I didn't belong. I couldn't connect. And words came out of my mouth that were not what I meant. Still, I said them. When I'm tired, I sometimes say things that come out wrong. There are people among those I know who would tell me that the words that come out when I'm too tired to control them are actually what I believe. I'm too tired to mask those truths in those moments. Freudian. And that's not true. Mostly what comes out are words that partially convey what I wanted to say, but not in the way I meant to say it. And that's all. The end.

I didn't belong. Well, that's a given. I'm a decade older than those I was with. I usually don't belong, really. It shouldn't be bothersome anymore.

I couldn't connect. That's a big one. I tried. I can't connect when I'm having PTSD crap. It negates any closeness I might feel.

Also I was the only female. But, again, that's not unusual.

On the way home I was overwhelmed with two simultaneous feelings:
1. I was certain I was not really wanted tonight. Why? I do not know.
2. I was certain that I didn't want to be with anyone tonight. Why? I do not know.

It's very confusing. And frustrating. And I want to talk about it.

But I don't really. Because people will say, "That's understandable. It sounds frustrating."

Thank you for validating my feelings. I appreciate it. What I really need, though, is someone to say, "Sam, I know those feelings seem real and intimidating, but they're not. They're PTSD. You don't have to buy into them. And they'll go away."

And now I'm tired so I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Every once in a blue moon I do something despicable. I don't know why I do it, and it usually involves someone I care about deeply. Like share a confidence that has been kept for years. Or throw them under the bus. Or ignore a plea for help. I am, in short, not a safe person.

Therapist would tell me I do these things because I still have trust issues. I'm sabotaging. I'm not sure he's correct. I think I'm just really a despicable person at the core. I try to be otherwise. Then I find myself doing something awful to someone who doesn't deserve it, often when they're not there. And usually it's a person who is a key support to me. 

The whole time it's happening, my brain is instructing me to stop, my heart is demanding that I make a different choice, and my soul is screaming. To no avail. Nothing has the power to stop me. Not even me.

I need a neon sign that blinks every time I meet someone: DUPLICITOUS.

I had training last week with new teachers and instructors at the school where I now work. We went to lunch. I was told I was one of the nicest people they had met. Likable on sight. Energetic. Upbeat. They were looking forward to being friends. They should not be my friend. I am not trustworthy. They will tell me things. People seem to want to do that. They will trust me with their confidences. Then, when they least expect it, years later, I will betray them. That is who I am. 

I need to understand why I'm doing this. It needs to stop. But until it does, people need to not be close to me. I am carbon monoxide, gently lulling and lethal.

Moral: If you know me and like me, stop it now.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

July is almost finished. I haven't written because I don't really know how to express what I've been feeling. Lots of things have happened. Lots of almost bad things, but they're tempered, so they're only sort of bad.

1. Adam found a flat tire when leaving for work. We changed it to the spare and found that the belt was coming through. It sliced up my hand nicely. We knew we needed to replace the tires on the car, but not how badly that needed to be done. This could have ended in a very bad car accident had the flat not happened. I'm grateful for Adam's safety. But it's still costly. Adam paid for half the bill since he uses the car the most. But it's my car, so I foot the rest of the bill.

2. We then drove the car to Laramie where it broke down in my parents' driveway. It refused to start. The battery was fine. There was no sputtering, just silence. We determined the problem to be a bad starter. Darrin and a friend replaced it. When they went to buy the new part, the owner recognized Darrin and reminded him that we'd purchased a new starter less than two years ago. So it was still under warranty. Result: free replacement part. I cannot complain about this. But I wish the breakdown had not happened.

3. My hospital bill in Laramie was denied by my insurance resulting in a $50,000+ bill. I was told my monthly payment would be about $4,000. That's not really in my budget. So I applied for financial assistance, hoping the monthly payment might be lowered to something more manageable. The hospital forgave half the debt and lowered my payment to $400 a month. I'm feeling very grateful for the forgiven debt, but stressed because $400 is still a hefty monthly payment.

4. Because of the above thing, I owe the surgeon in Laramie $15,000. They're not forgiving any of it but said as long as I pay monthly, I can determine how much that payment is. So I can pay as little as $50 and be fine. But $15,000 is a lot of money to owe.

5. I have a medical bill here in Utah for an ER visit. It's around $5,000. They would like me to pay $250 monthly. I applied for a lower payment but my request was denied. These monthly bills are rapidly becoming unmanageable.

6. I've interviewed for quite a few jobs. I'm still jobless. I'm pretty sure that's not because I'm unlikeable or unhireable, but it's difficult not to lean in that direction. Still, I'll keep applying.

7. I didn't pay the final bill on our apartment, partly because I forgot, and partly because I'm a little upset about the things they're charging for. But I also have zero stamina for contesting the charges. I already have to muster up the energy to contest the health insurance company's decision to deny my claim. Two contests are too many for me. So I need to pay $650 by July 31st. My brain just exploded.

I suppose I'm in the place now where I'm simply surviving. My brain cannot conceptualize a way for me to pay my bills, and I'm swiftly moving to the mental place where I will not and cannot ever be hired. Anywhere. Overwhelmed I am, I suppose.

I don't feel desperate, though. Or sad. Or depressed. I don't really feel anything. I can't. There's too much. Darrin suggested he could go without his medication for a few months. I think that's not going to be happening. We're cutting back wherever we can, and Adam helps a lot. Father-in-law continues to coo about how lucky he is that the VA charges him next to nothing for his medical care, and he makes enough from his retirement to pay all his obligations and still put $400 away monthly. That's helpful. And empathetic. He's lovely.

I make that observation without bitterness. He is who he is. We had no illusions about that when he asked to come live with us. Well, maybe Darrin did, but he's entitled. It's his father. I think most people want to believe their parents are not passive aggressive narcissists. The disillusionment has been palpable.

I'm looking out my window right now. There is a Japanese maple showing bright red leaves in the bottom left corner topped by the deep green of the tall tree across the street. The rest of the window is filled with clear blue sky. And I wonder, on a day like today, how can I possibly feel sad? For lunch, I believe I will take a walk. That will save on my food bill! :)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

There have been a lot of days during the past couple of weeks when I have wanted to come here. But I'm working on something.

I am trying to teach myself to recognize temporary.

Hmm. That's not precise enough.

Okay. Long, long, long explanation:

Sometimes I come here simply to release stress. I say whatever is on my mind. Sometimes it's extreme. Also, extremely inaccurate. Not reality.

Well, it's my current reality when I say it, but it's not going to be reality in a day or two.

So I'm trying to see what the difference is when I ride out the storm without writing out the storm.

Also, a long time ago, I had this conversation with Therapist:

Th: What happens when the symptoms increase. Can you describe it? What parts of your life does it affect? How does it feel? How long does it last?
me: It feels miserable.
Th: Why?
me: Because I start to imagine stupid things about people who love me. And I end up convincing myself that they don't love me anymore. Or they won't very soon.
Th: Can you give me a specific example?
me: I don't know.
Th: Well, if you can think of an example, maybe we can decode exactly what's happening.
me: I know what's happening. And I know I'm being stupid. Which doesn't make it less real.
Th: I think it's very real. However, I also believe you can circumvent the process.

So I provided an example which basically goes like this: Person in my life is close to me. That makes me feel vulnerable. PTSD symptoms target that vulnerability and make it feel unsafe. Then I feel unsafe with Person. Then I feel guilty that I feel unsafe with Person because they have done nothing to make me feel unsafe. Then I decide that the only way to feel safe again is to stay away from Person. Then I feel guilty because I'm avoiding Person for no real reason. Then I decide Person probably needs a less complicated life and will go away shortly because that's logical. The end.

But then, when the symptoms subside, I feel compelled to go to the person and try to reconstruct the closeness so we can be "us" again. It's a little bit exhausting.

Continued conversation:
Th: What if you didn't wait? What if, when the symptoms began increasing, you went to the person right away, told them what was happening, and expressed what they might do to help you through the process?
me (sidestepping the question): There's really not a process.
Th (ignoring the sidestep): Well?
me: I don't know if I could do that. I don't think linearly when PTSD begins. I can't see logical steps. Everything just feels like a big pile.
Th: Okay. But what do you think would happen?
me: I don't know.
Th: What do you need from that person?
me: Reassurance, I suppose.
Th: Specifically, what type of reassurance:
me: Verbal.
Th: What do you want to hear?
me: That I'm not a freak. That I'm loved and needed. That we're okay even when I'm not okay.
Th: What if you asked them to say that?
me: I don't know. How would you react if someone asked you?
Th: I would be deeply honored that they would come to me when they felt weak and vulnerable and overwhelmed.
me: I don't believe you.
Th: No. It's true, though. And I would tell them that they're important to me, that I love them, and that I'm here because I want to help them through this.
me: How many times would you do that? Because this is a pretty common occurrence. I could ask every week for a year.
Th: That's only 52 times. Not really that many.
me: You'd get tired.
Th: Possibly. But tired doesn't mean you stop loving or wanting to help someone important to you.

So I walked out of that therapy session dead set on never, ever taking that suggestion. The thought of saying, in essence, "Hey! I can't handle life. And when I can't handle life, I decide you probably don't want me anymore, our relationship is stupid, and I'm a pain in the backside. But just in case I'm wrong about all that, will you tell me? Because I need to hear it. Probably 52 times a year," makes me want to vomit. And how will I know if they're saying it because I need to hear it, or if they're saying it so I'll shut up and go away?

But I tried it. Years later. I tried it this week. And I think it was helpful. What happened is the symptoms stagnated. They're still hanging out, but they're not overwhelming me.

So the jury's still out. I haven't decided if I can make a habit of reaching out for feedback before the symptoms become horrible. But I tried it. So I have a small inkling of what it's like.

And now I'm really, really tired. Going to sleep now.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Working on the impossible



All quotes are from the National Center for PTSD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

How to proceed?

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

The result?

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

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

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

This hasn't happened to me before.

It's all in my head, right?

Right?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now I'm in the yucky part.

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

But that can't happen forever.

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

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

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

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

I'm not eight anymore.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

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

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

Tonight I want to breathe in pine forests and wildflowers.

Tonight I want to smell cinnamon and vanilla.

Tonight I want to listen to poetry.

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

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

Tonight I want to taste strawberries, sweet and wild.

Tonight I want to hold a hand.

Yes, I just wrote that.

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

My sense of touch has reawakened.

This is distracting, overwhelming, and frightening.

But tonight it is also interesting.

That's new.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I started. That's something.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've come a very, very long way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 1

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

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

What I began with:

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

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

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

That is all I remembered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I did.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I can't explain.

But I will try.

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

My brain.

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

Nope.

That is not happening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, though, was another story.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the can of worms is open yet again.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Therapy Assignment Number One: Complete

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope. I haven't.

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

Yes.

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

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

"So, why?"

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

Things that came out in therapy today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't know if it's okay.

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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

I bought irises last week. That helped.

I feel...old and used up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm skirting the issue. Probably on purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

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