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Friday, November 25, 2016

I started this blog a long time ago because I needed a place where I could be honest. I think even when I was trying to be honest, though, there were times when I censored myself. People were reading, after all...

But that was years ago. No one really reads anymore unless they stumble here by accident. So have no more reason to worry about how my words might upset someone I know. So raw honesty today. Because I really, really need to say this.

I am angry. There has been a series of events during the past few years from which I have not recovered emotionally, and for some, also physically. I feel broken, unable to function, and defeated. And it makes me angry. It seems, no matter how far I climb upward, there is something that will knock me right back down. How many times can that cycle happen before one says, "This is crap. I think I'll just live here at the bottom, because no matter how ugly and uncomfortable it is, it's better than believing I can make it to the top when I know I really can't. Something will stop me."

I am bitter. I wanted so badly to believe that people in this country - MY country - would never elect a man who espouses everything that terrifies me, personally. This goes beyond the political terror he inspires; his discussion of deploying nuclear weapons, his insult to international communities, his inability to become a public figure with any semblance of dignity or decency. This is personal. This is a man who will disparage a woman because of her appearance, her reproductive system, her gender. One has only to lack a Y chromosome to be in his line of fire. This is a man who will not defend my right to be safe. If I am groped, attacked, raped, surely, he will say, I deserved it. This is a man who does not respect the boundaries of marriage. From his own lips he has said he takes what he wants, married or not, because he has money. In my eyes, this man is evil. And now he is my president-elect. And I feel bitter that they people who elected him disregarded all the things that would cause me to feel unsafe in my country and my home. I wanted them to care about the things I care about. They didn't.

I am alone. This is my own doing. Tolkien Boy said, "I don't know what more I can say or do to make you feel more welcome." I don't know either. But it's not him. It's EVERYONE. I can't be with anyone anymore. I'm trying like crazy. I'm working so hard to combat the PTSD symptoms that tell me:
1. No one wants you, Sam.
2. No one is safe, Sam.
3. No one will protect you, Sam.
4. No one cares, Sam.
Those things aren't true. I know they're not true. But they're still there. WHY ARE THEY STILL THERE???? And so I do the dance of placing myself in positions where I spend time with people I love, but my stomach is sick with stress and my brain feels like it's exploding because it's constantly arguing about whether or not this is a good idea. And sometimes that condition is more deeply lonely than actually being alone.

I am sad. I can't seem to bounce back. Nothing feels happy right now. And for me, this is such foreign territory. I have had the luxury most of my life of naturally gravitating to happy, regardless of my circumstances. Not so now. Part of this is that I'm living in a garden level apartment and my sunshine exposure is minimal, especially in the morning. Part of this is that there has been too much difficult everything without adequate recovery time. Part of this is that I know I'm messed up, but I don't seem to have the energy to put myself back together. Part of this is that I'm living in a circumstance that I chose, but I chose it because it needed to be chosen, not because I wanted it.

I feel guilty. Things that make me feel guilt:
1. I don't want to live with my father-in-law. I never have. I'm doing it because he needs to live with us. But I do not want it. I have no relationship with him. I don't want a relationship with him.
2. I haven't gone running regularly for the past two weeks. I didn't go running last week because I was in Laramie and the weather wasn't great and I am a wimp. Also, I didn't want to pay $8 a day to go running at a gym. And I've only gone once this week because, since returning from Laramie, I don't want to do anything. Not running means I don't have the emotional stamina to manage PTSD which means everything I've talked about in this blog feels worse. And I know I need to do it. I just haven't.

I feel helpless. Which is stupid. I'm one of the most capable people I know. But even doing simple things makes me feel overwhelmed. Cooking dinner, making my bed, taking a shower-- everything feels like it's too much. I have developed so many different skills and healthy ways to cope with stress and difficulty. But it feels too difficult to use any of them. I know what to do. I just don't do it.

I feel confused. Mostly about people. I don't really know how to talk to them anymore. My brain can't seem to make room for what they want to say. I've lost my ability to listen and care. All I can think while they're speaking is, "I need to get away and hide somewhere." This is not like me at all. Who have I become? Am I so wrapped up in myself that I can't make room for people I love? I don't even know me anymore. I hate this person I now am. In addition, I don't feel I know people anymore. People I've spent incredible amounts of time with now feel like strangers. There's no connection when we're together. Just a big, huge, confusing barrier which I somehow put in place all by myself. Why would I do that? Who am I?

I have been in touch with Therapist. A lot, actually. He says things take time. That just makes me want to lie on the floor and weep. What do I DO during that time? Therapist says I'm doing it. I'm letting myself feel what's happening. I'm recognizing that I've been wounded. That also makes me want to lie on the floor and weep. Therapist says a step forward would be to seek healthy touch (my stomach just tried to throw up), take time to myself (REALLY?? Did he forget that I'm never alone?), do things I enjoy (I don't even know what those are anymore), and try to connect with people I love (I think I've lost that superpower forever). I finally told him I'd be making an appointment in the future, but right now I can't even find the words to talk about what's happening to me. And I can't. Not even here on my blog, so I'm going to stop now.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A week away

I spent the week in Laramie. That was weird.

I didn't contact old friends or try to meet up with people. I don't know why. Maybe I'm overwhelmed.

I have a friend who tracked me down anyway. Laramie is a small town. She insisted we have lunch, so yesterday we did. And I'm glad we did. I love her. But I think I'm overwhelmed. Possibly other things besides overwhelmed, too.

I've never really had a "Mom". Someone who noticed when I wasn't doing well physically or emotionally. My mother had other children. If I was sick, I had to tell her. When my children were sick, I knew before they did. If I was sad, I became invisible. When my children were sad, we went for a drive together. If I was nervous, afraid, or angry, I went for a run or a long walk alone. When my children were nervous, afraid, or angry, we talked about why and discussed ways to cope. Sometimes they went for runs or long walks, but usually not alone. If they were alone, it was because they felt it would be the healthiest way for them to sort through whatever was consuming them.

Since I've become an adult, I've had friends who have sometimes noticed when I was not at my best and reached out to me. I've not always known how to respond to them. Often their gestures were met with suspicion or panic.When you don't really have a Mom, you're not taught that sometimes people reach out, or notice when you're sad or lonely, or just try to help when they think you could use a hand. Sometimes they just do it because they love you. When you're not taught this, the gestures is foreign, intrusive, and scary.

After years of practice, I'm still not good at seeing things for what they are. I question motives and affection. I still don't always respond well. But I also kind of want people to notice and reach out when, for some reason, I'm feeling less than happy. It's new for me to wish for that and something that has developed in the past five years. Prior to that, I did everything in my power not to allow people to know if I wasn't doing well. It was what I had learned was proper. People don't really care. People don't really want to know. People don't really want to help.

So today, I'm in the middle. Or, perhaps more accurately, I'm more confused than ever. Spending a week with my mother was not good for me. She has a way of asking about my life, then twisting it to make it all about her. I don't respond well to that. Also, all the confusion of what makes authentic interpersonal relationships has risen to the foreground. She's the person who raised me, after all. She still has sway even when my boundaries are secure.

I believe I might be feeling depressed. There's certainly a lot in my life that would bring on those feelings right now.
1. I'm living with three other adults in a two-bedroom apartment.
2. I'm living with my father-in-law who does not always respect my boundaries.
3. I've been the sole source of income for our family for the past three months. This is not strictly true. My father-in-law offers constantly to help financially. And he lives with us. I don't know why it's beyond my ability to accept help from him.
3. I don't have a "place" anymore. No prairie or mountains to go running. No room of my own. No place. Always, people.
4. I am not doing well with the person who has been elected to lead our country, for obvious reasons.
5. There is too much change in too little time for me to process it successfully.

Okay. That's valid. I might be depressed.

But what has happened since I moved, is that all the paranoias that I used to ignore are consuming me. When someone I love calls me on the phone, my first thought is, "Oh, I'm so glad they called. I REALLY need to talk to someone." Then the paranoia says, "Um, no. They want to talk to you. Shut up and listen." So I do, unless I have a complete panic attack at which time I talk really fast, thank them for calling, and hang up without even finding out why they called.

If I'm with someone with whom I feel safe, I think, "Oh! I feel safe with him/her. I need to spend some time and let this ball of anxiety relax a bit so I can live." And then the paranoia says, "YOU might want to spend time, but he/she does not. Your person is busy. There is a life waiting for them (or a spouse or a different friend). You need to do your business and go home so you aren't bothering them." So I do. And then I practically run away so I won't be a bother.

Needless to say, the need to talk is increasing and the ball of anxiety has begun to gag me.

So, Samantha, you have a therapist...

I do. I have a therapist.

Is that all there is? Run away from the people I love and talk about it later with my therapist?

Monday, November 14, 2016

I've been doing better as the week has progressed. Until today. Now I'm back in complete panic mode. One of my students was targeted because he was gay. A threatening note was left on his car. It referenced his homosexuality, a racial slur, and Trump.

He is a music professor.

He's not even a U.S. citizen. He's a visiting artist from Brazil. A visiting artist and a music professor. What kind of threat does that pose? And when he took a photo and posted it on Facebook, trolls suggested he made it up (HE MADE IT UP?????) to get attention (seriously - he's a performer - he gets all the attention he wants - he doesn't need to pretend to be a victim), and then they hijacked the comment threads on his YouTube channel to the point that he has felt the need to shut it down. Which means no one's listening to his music tonight. Maybe I'm the only one in mourning, but it seems that listening to someone play the piano is so much better than calling names and ridiculing someone who has just been threatened because he's not white and not heterosexual.

And I would like to blame Trump. Well, in all honesty, I do blame Trump. But the truth is, he simply fanned into flames an ember that has resided in the cesspools of our society forever. So as much as I want to say to Trump, "You started it!" I can't. Because he didn't. He just took what was already existent, no matter how slimy and nasty, and ran with it. U.S. citizens provided the ammunition. He offered an opportunity for those who have lived beneath the rocks to crawl out and show their true colors, and they chose him as their leader.

Their leader. Not mine.

And so tonight I want to go find all those potentially targeted people who hold parts of my heart and hug them. I want to make sure they're safe. I want to say I can protect them even when I can't. I want this to be better.

I can't make it better.

So I am grouchy and panicky, and I picked a fight with Darrin because I feel picked-on and helpless. Because that was productive.

And now I don't know what to do. But I want to call Tolkien Boy. And Josh. And AtP. And Mr. Fob. And everyone else who has ever walked through my blog and stolen my heart (If I didn't list you, it's because I don't know if you still go by your blognym. Also, I'm guessing no one reads here anymore, so it's probably okay). Because you do not deserve to live in fear. You do not deserve to be targeted. You deserve to be safe.

I want you to be safe.

This sucks.

I'm going to go have another panic attack now.

If you see me tomorrow, will you please hug me?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Usually when this happens, I wait to talk about it. I wait until the calm has come. Otherwise, I'm fairly certain the post will feel passive aggressive, at best. I am not a passive aggressive person. Those closest to me have known me to occasionally say something that is. Then they have known me to recognize it for what it is, quickly apologize, and then retreat until I'm able to act like a real human being again.

However, this time I need to talk. Should I sound whiny or self-absorbed or, yes, even passive aggressive, then so be it. I apologize in advance.

What does it feel like to have PTSD?

I've attempted to answer this question so many times, and always, I have failed miserably. This time I am answering the question while the symptoms rage and my ability to be rational is gone.

PTSD is something that lurks quietly beneath the surface during the calm times. In those moments, I feel the most like myself. I recognize my feelings and reactions. They feel logical and appropriate. But always, I am aware that I might hear or see or otherwise experience something that will awaken the PTSD symptoms. Always.

So I look for ways to circumvent that possibility. I avoid large, noisy crowds. On days when I feel particularly vulnerable, I avoid people, altogether. I don't watch movies that graphically depict violence, especially sexual violence, toward women. I don't go places where I might feel unsafe (translation: I stay home with the door locked and I don't answer my phone). On highly sensitive days, I don't touch people.

What this all means is that when the calm days are present, I spend most of my time trying to avoid things and waiting for the less than calm days. Which translates into a lot of stress. At some point, when my life will allow it, I will meet with Therapist and talk about ways to live my life again - to really live, not just await the next time I will feel the full impact of PTSD and spend each moment trying to appear normal while dealing with the mess it makes of me.

I am currently not in the calm days.

It was a small thing, really. I went to church. And two men came in and sat on the pew in front of me. They were mentally challenged/disabled/whatever the current politically correct word is.

I need to say this: I have spent my life in fear of those who are mentally disabled - especially mentally disabled men. Judge me, if you will. I am fearful of them, but I do not hate them. I recognize my fear is irrational and wrong and the each person is unique. I've even spent time with the mentally disabled, volunteering, or just visiting, in an attempt to allay my fear.

But this fear stems from a time very, very long ago. Eight-year-old Samantha was attending a men's church basketball game with her father. She needed to use the bathroom. So she skipped to the ladies room, used the facilities, and was washing up when she realized she had been followed by a man. He was watching her. She turned to him, remembering that he was mentally disabled, thinking that perhaps he had gone to the wrong bathroom by mistake, and he grabbed her.

Understand, at age 8, I was very small. I had not reached four feet in height and I weighed about 40 pounds. This was a grown man in his mid-30s. A very strong, grown man. He began roughly removing my clothing, and I was terrified. I screamed, fought, bit, scratched... it didn't matter. I remember finally getting away, grabbing my clothes, and running. I heard him say, as I reached the door, "Don't tell your dad. Don't you tell your dad." I turned my defiant, angry, scared-out-of-my-mind self to him and said firmly, "I WILL tell him. I'm telling him right now." And then I ran.

I have no idea how I dressed while running, but I arrived at my father's side, fully clothed. I stood quietly next to him. He must have noticed I was upset because he tore his attention away from the game to ask if I was okay. I don't remember what I said, but I conveyed what had just happened to me. I watched my father become angry. He picked me up, sat me on a chair more firmly, I think, than he intended, and told me not to move. Then he left.

So I sat. And my child brain told me that I must have done something terrible. And I wanted someone to hold me and tell me I would be okay. But no one did. I wanted to be told the man wouldn't touch me again. But no one did. I needed, badly, to be told that I had done nothing wrong. But no one did.

And that is the extent of my memory. My father tells me that he left because he found the man who had molested me and threatened to kill him. That doesn't really help me. My parents told me that they met with the bishop, that I came with them, that I told my story, and they discussed bringing charges against the man. No charges were brought.

And I am left with the memory of being attacked, molested, and when seeking comfort, instead being met with anger. While it was not directed at me, it is all I remember. Church bathrooms are still a place of fear for me, years later. And, while I despise myself for this, I am still afraid of mentally disabled men, as a group.

So two days ago I went to church. And two disabled men sat in front of me. And that experience has triggered PTSD symptoms that rage in my gut. A war has begun. PTSD brings to the fore all the bizarre and unnatural impulses and feelings I have toward loved ones in my life. I spend time that could be used for work and rest and normal life interactions, reminding myself that such impulses and feelings are not appropriate nor logical. I watch everything I say, to make sure I'm not expressing something strange or ugly. I don't touch people.

I completely understand that what is happening is my body and brain reminding me that something horrible happened to me a long time ago and that it's not quite healed. I completely understand that if I feel something inappropriate toward another person, this is not an authentic feeling, nor is it coming from the person who is really me. I completely understand that, while I may have impulses or thoughts that are immoral or violent, this is not what I would do if I had experienced less violence in my own life.

The feelings and impulses feel foreign and wrong. They also feel appropriate to the situation. And because I understand where they come from, I allow them. Attempting to shelve or stop them simply causes an increase in intensity and a decreased ability to manage them. But as I allow those to happen, I also completely understand that, were anyone I love to know about them, they would be tremendously uncomfortable. I also believe our relationship would be irreparably damaged. No one really wishes intimacy with someone who, voluntarily or not, periodically feels things or wishes to act in ways that are reprehensible..

That, naturally, creates conflict. And a little bit of self-loathing. And a whole lot of frustration.

And so I wait. The wait is miserable. I get cranky and sad. But someday this will ease up, and I'll be back to the calm days that are also stressful because I know, at some point, I'll be back in the PTSD war with myself again.

What do I want right now? I want the war to end. I understand that most everyone experiences unwanted feelings and impulses, but I want to have impulses and feelings that are less bizarre and frightening - ones that don't make me feel I'm a psychopath. I want to believe that, even if the people in my life know that I think or feel these things, they would understand that's not who I really am, that I'm not violent or crazy, and that they can still love me even in the moments when I'm battling PTSD. I want, someday, to be free of the vicious cycle.

What do I need? Probably more than anything, I need someone to hold my hand and tell me it's okay. Weird.
Usually when this happens, I wait to talk about it. I wait until the calm has come. Otherwise, I'm fairly certain the post will feel passive aggressive, at best. I am not a passive aggressive person. Those closest to me have known me to occasionally say something that is. Then they have known me to recognize it for what it is, quickly apologize, and then retreat until I'm able to act like a real human being again.

However, this time I need to talk. Should I sound whiny or self-absorbed or, yes, even passive aggressive, then so be it. I apologize in advance.

What does it feel like to have PTSD?

I've attempted to answer this question so many times, and always, I have failed miserably. This time I am answering the question while the symptoms rage and my ability to be rational is gone.

PTSD is something that lurks quietly beneath the surface during the calm times. In those moments, I feel the most like myself. I recognize my feelings and reactions. They feel logical and appropriate. But always, I am aware that I might hear or see or otherwise experience something that will awaken the PTSD symptoms. Always.

So I look for ways to circumvent that possibility. I avoid large, noisy crowds. On days when I feel particularly vulnerable, I avoid people, altogether. I don't watch movies that graphically depict violence, especially sexual violence, toward women. I don't go places where I might feel unsafe (translation: I stay home with the door locked and I don't answer my phone). On highly sensitive days, I don't touch people.

What this all means is that when the calm days are present, I spend most of my time trying to avoid things and waiting for the less than calm days. Which translates into a lot of stress. At some point, when my life will allow it, I will meet with Therapist and talk about ways to live my life again - to really live, not just await the next time I will feel the full impact of PTSD and spend each moment trying to appear normal while dealing with the mess it makes of me.

I am currently not in the calm days.

It was a small thing, really. I went to church. And two men came in and sat on the pew in front of me. They were mentally challenged/disabled/whatever the current politically correct word is.

I need to say this: I have spent my life in fear of those who are mentally disabled - especially mentally disabled men. Judge me, if you will. I am fearful of them, but I do not hate them. I recognize my fear is irrational and wrong and the each person is unique. I've even spent time with the mentally disabled, volunteering, or just visiting, in an attempt to allay my fear.

But this fear stems from a time very, very long ago. Eight-year-old Samantha was attending a men's church basketball game with her father. She needed to use the bathroom. So she skipped to the ladies room, used the facilities, and was washing up when she realized she had been followed by a man. He was watching her. She turned to him, remembering that he was mentally disabled, thinking that perhaps he had gone to the wrong bathroom by mistake, and he grabbed her.

Understand, at age 8, I was very small. I had not reached four feet in height and I weighed about 40 pounds. This was a grown man in his mid-30s. A very strong, grown man. He began roughly removing my clothing, and I was terrified. I screamed, fought, bit, scratched... it didn't matter. I remember finally getting away, grabbing my clothes, and running. I heard him say, as I reached the door, "Don't tell your dad. Don't you tell your dad." I turned my defiant, angry, scared-out-of-my-mind self to him and said firmly, "I WILL tell him. I'm telling him right now." And then I ran.

I have no idea how I dressed while running, but I arrived at my father's side, fully clothed. I stood quietly next to him. He must have noticed I was upset because he tore his attention away from the game to ask if I was okay. I don't remember what I said, but I conveyed what had just happened to me. I watched my father become angry. He picked me up, sat me on a chair more firmly, I think, than he intended, and told me not to move. Then he left.

So I sat. And my child brain told me that I must have done something terrible. And I wanted someone to hold me and tell me I would be okay. But no one did. I wanted to be told the man wouldn't touch me again. But no one did. I needed, badly, to be told that I had done nothing wrong. But no one did.

And that is the extent of my memory. My father tells me that he left because he found the man who had molested me and threatened to kill him. That doesn't really help me. My parents told me that they met with the bishop, that I came with them, that I told my story, and they discussed bringing charges against the man. No charges were brought.

And I am left with the memory of being attacked, molested, and when seeking comfort, instead being met with anger. While it was not directed at me, it is all I remember. Church bathrooms are still a place of fear for me, years later. And while I despise myself for this, I am still afraid of mentally disabled men, as a group.

So two days ago I went to church. And two disabled men sat in front of me. And that experience has triggered PTSD symptoms that rage in my gut. A war has begun. PTSD brings to the fore all the bizarre and unnatural impulses and feelings I have toward loved ones in my life. I spend time that could be used for work and rest and normal life interactions, reminding myself that such impulses and feelings are not appropriate nor logical. I watch everything I say, to make sure I'm not expressing something strange or ugly. I don't touch people.

I completely understand that what is happening is my body and brain reminding me that something horrible happened to me a long time ago and that it's not quite healed. I completely understand that if I feel something inappropriate toward another person, this is not an authentic feeling, nor is it coming from the person who is really me. I completely understand that, while I may have impulses or thoughts that are immoral or violent, this is not what I would do if I had experienced less violence in my own life.

The feelings and impulses feel foreign and wrong. They also feel appropriate to the situation. And because I understand where they come from, I allow them. Attempting to shelve or stop them simply causes an increase in intensity and a decreased ability to manage them. But as I allow those to happen, I also completely understand that, were anyone I love to know about them, they would be tremendously uncomfortable. I also believe our relationship would be irreparably damaged. No one really wishes intimacy with someone who, voluntarily or not, periodically feels things or wishes to act in ways that are reprehensible..

That, naturally, creates conflict. And a little bit of self-loathing. And a whole lot of frustration.

And so I wait. The wait is miserable. I get cranky and sad. But someday this will ease up, and I'll be back to the calm days that are also stressful because I know, at some point, I'll be back in the PTSD war with myself again.

What do I want right now? I want the war to end. I understand that most everyone experiences unwanted feelings and impulses, but I want to have impulses and feelings that are less bizarre and frightening - ones that don't make me feel I'm a psychopath. I want to believe that, even if the people in my life know that I think or feel these things, they would understand that's not who I really am, that I'm not violent or crazy, and that they can still love me even in the moments when I'm battling PTSD. I want, someday, to be free of the vicious cycle.

What do I need? Probably more than anything, I need someone to hold my hand and tell me it's okay. Weird.
Usually when this happens, I wait to talk about it. I wait until the calm has come. Otherwise, I'm fairly certain the post will feel passive aggressive, at best. I am not a passive aggressive person. Those closest to me have known me to occasionally say something that is. Then they have known me to recognize it for what it is, quickly apologize, and then retreat until I'm able to act like a real human being again.

However, this time I need to talk. Should I sound whiny or self-absorbed or, yes, even passive aggressive, then so be it. I apologize in advance.

What does it feel like to have PTSD?

I've attempted to answer this question so many times, and always, I have failed miserably. This time I am answering the question while the symptoms rage and my ability to be rational is gone.

PTSD is something that lurks quietly beneath the surface during the calm times. In those moments, I feel the most like myself. I recognize my feelings and reactions. They feel logical and appropriate. But always, I am aware that I might hear or see or otherwise experience something that will awaken the PTSD symptoms. Always.

So I look for ways to circumvent that possibility. I avoid large, noisy crowds. On days when I feel particularly vulnerable, I avoid people, altogether. I don't watch movies that graphically depict violence, especially sexual violence, toward women. I don't go places where I might feel unsafe (translation: I stay home with the door locked and I don't answer my phone). On highly sensitive days, I don't touch people.

What this all means is that when the calm days are present, I spend most of my time trying to avoid things and waiting for the less than calm days. Which translates into a lot of stress. At some point, when my life will allow it, I will meet with Therapist and talk about ways to live my life again - to really live, not just await the next time I will feel the full impact of PTSD and spend each moment trying to appear normal while dealing with the mess it makes of me.

I am currently not in the calm days.

It was a small thing, really. I went to church. And two men came in and sat on the pew in front of me. They were mentally challenged/disabled/whatever the current politically correct word is.

I need to say this: I have spent my life in fear of those who are mentally disabled - especially mentally disabled men. Judge me, if you will. I am fearful of them, but I do not hate them. I recognize my fear is irrational and wrong and the each person is unique. I've even spent time with the mentally disabled, volunteering, or just visiting, in an attempt to allay my fear.

But this fear stems from a time very, very long ago. Eight-year-old Samantha was attending a men's church basketball game with her father. She needed to use the bathroom. So she skipped to the ladies room, used the facilities, and was washing up when she realized she had been followed by a man. He was watching her. She turned to him, remembering that he was mentally disabled, thinking that perhaps he had gone to the wrong bathroom by mistake, and he grabbed her.

Understand, at age 8, I was very small. I had not reached four feet in height and I weighed about 40 pounds. This was a grown man in his mid-30s. A very strong, grown man. He began roughly removing my clothing, and I was terrified. I screamed, fought, bit, scratched... it didn't matter. I remember finally getting away, grabbing my clothes, and running. I heard him say, as I reached the door, "Don't tell your dad. Don't you tell your dad." I turned my defiant, angry, scared-out-of-my-mind self to him and said firmly, "I WILL tell him. I'm telling him right now." And then I ran.

I have no idea how I dressed while running, but I arrived at my father's side, fully clothed. I stood quietly next to him. He must have notice that I was upset because he tore his attention away from the game to ask if I was okay. I don't remember what I said, but I conveyed what had just happened to me. I watched my father become angry. He picked me up, sat me on a chair more firmly, I think, than he intended, and told me not to move. Then he left.

So I sat. And my child brain told me that I must have done something terrible. And I wanted someone to hold me and tell me I would be okay. But no one did. I wanted to be told the man wouldn't touch me again. But no one did. I needed, badly, to be told that I had done nothing wrong. But no one did.

And that is the extent of my memory. My father tells me that he left because he found the man who had molested me and threatened to kill him. That doesn't really help me. My parents told me that they met with the bishop, that I came with them, that I told my story, and they discussed bringing charges against the man. No charges were brought.

And I am left with the memory of being attacked, molested, and when seeking comfort, instead being met with anger. While it was not directed at me, it is all I remember. Church bathrooms are still a place of fear for me, years later. And while I despise myself for this, I am still afraid of mentally disabled men, as a group.

So two days ago I went to church. And two disabled men sat in front of me. And that experience has triggered PTSD symptoms that rage in my gut. A war has begun. PTSD brings to the fore all the bizarre and unnatural impulses and feelings I have toward loved ones in my life. I spend time that could be used for work and rest and normal life interactions, reminding myself that such impulses and feelings are not appropriate nor logical. I watch everything I say, to make sure I'm not expressing something strange or ugly. I don't touch people.

I completely understand that what is happening is my body and brain reminding me that something horrible happened to me a long time ago and that it's not quite healed. I completely understand that if I feel something inappropriate toward another person, this is not an authentic feeling, nor is it coming from the person who is really me. I completely understand that, while I may have impulses or thoughts that are immoral or violent, this is not what I would do if I had experienced less violence in my own life.

The feelings and impulses feel foreign and wrong. They also feel appropriate to the situation. And because I understand where they come from, I allow them. Attempting to shelve or stop them simply causes an increase in intensity and a decreased ability to manage them. But as I allow those to happen, I also completely understand that, were anyone I love to know about them, they would be tremendously uncomfortable. I also believe our relationship would be irreparably damaged. No one really wishes intimacy with someone who, voluntarily or not, periodically feels things or wishes to act in ways that are reprehensible..

That, naturally, creates conflict. And a little bit of self-loathing. And a whole lot of frustration.

And so I wait. The wait is miserable. I get cranky and sad. But someday this will ease up, and I'll be back to the calm days that are also stressful because I know, at some point, I'll be back in the PTSD war with myself again.

What do I want right now? I want the war to end. I understand that most everyone experiences unwanted feelings and impulses, but I want to have impulses and feelings that are less bizarre and frightening - ones that don't make me feel I'm a psychopath. I want to believe that, even if the people in my life know that I think or feel these things, they would understand that's not who I really am, that I'm not violent or crazy, and that they can still love me even in the moments when I'm battling PTSD. I want, someday, to be free of the vicious cycle.

What do I need? Probably more than anything, I need someone to hold my hand and tell me it's okay. Weird.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

For years I have asserted that I will be okay. It's who I am. I've spent my life perfecting the art of being okay. And I will.

What I've noticed is, while I insist that I will be okay, I lose the sense of who I am. I'm concentrating so intently on making sure I don't bother any person who might know me with not being okay, that I get completely lost in the effort. For the last decade, when this happens, I've turned to Josh, AtP, and Tolkien Boy to remind me about the person I was before I got so busy being okay.

Yeah. That last paragraph made no sense at all.

But the fact is, whether or not it makes sense, it's still true.

What also happened during the past decade is that Josh, AtP, and Tolkien Boy got lives and are living them. Which means I have to remind myself who I am. And this is a good thing. I need to be self-reliant. Self-aware. Self-sufficient.

Mostly, this works out. When I have time to regroup and space to think, I find myself and continue doing whatever it is I do. But sometimes, like today, I just feel a little bit like an alien and I'm not really sure why I am at all.

It's just that everything that's happening in my life is new and unfamiliar and difficult and overwhelming. And today I feel unable to cope with it. And lost. And more than a little alone - which is completely ridiculous because I live with three other people in a 2-bedroom apartment, and don't even ask how that's going because I don't think I can talk about it without losing my mind. Regardless, I'm the furthest thing from alone.

And I'll be okay. That's what I do. I'm okay. But someday, I would like to be more than okay.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Just another day.

Today is my birthday. :)

I will celebrate by continuing to pack up my home so we can move on Saturday. Well, we. I'll be staying behind to clean for a couple of days, Then I'll join my family in a two-bedroom apartment while we look for a home to buy. It's a little daunting, I'll admit.

I'm hopeful that I'll be able to steal a few moments of quiet time, though. It's always been my tradition, even when I was a child and everyone else forgot that this was the day of my birth, to just take a little bit of time and celebrate me. It was important. I needed to remember that this was a significant day in my life. I still need to remember that.

Last year I talked with my family about maybe doing something a little bigger to celebrate on my next birthday. Darrin got very enthusiastic about throwing me a party which effectively killed my tiny desire to have a small celebration. He was miffed at my lack of enthusiasm and threatened to throw me a surprise party. I told him, if that happened, I would walk out. He thought I was being churlish. It took seven months to help him understand that I'm not, I just need to have control of what happens with me on this day. It's difficult for me. I don't need someone taking that control away from me, even when they have the best of intentions.

So instead of a small celebration this year, I'll be getting ready to move. And that's okay. But in the meantime, happy birthday to me! I was born! Yay!

Addendum: I had to go to the doctor today. As I was checking out, a small child was reading a book that would play The Birthday Song whenever you opened it. So I got a song today, too.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Running Again

Midnight, and I should be sleeping. How I feel the need to keep typing after doing transcription this entire day is baffling to me. Too much on my mind?

I'm packing up years of living during the next couple of weeks. Throwing out things that have sat waiting for that event for too long. Packing away books and games. Wondering if they will be stored for the rest of my lifetime or if I'll find the energy, one day, to open the boxes in which they reside.

I run every morning now. My feet know every inch of the trail I've traversed for the past two decades. It's August. The baby hawks are now adults, circling in the blue sky as I run below. Most of the wildflowers are gone. Yellow clover persists in its blossoming, along with some red-petaled daisies. Occasionally, the intense blue of my favorite flax flowers shows. Their season finished with July, but a few of the plants forgot to stop blooming. Grasshoppers with colorful wings leap in front of my feet. Shiny black beetles and spiders scurry from me. The prairie grass is long now, and golden.

Soon I will run here no more. Will I miss it? Tolkien Boy asked me this a long time ago. And the answer is yes, but this has never been my home. I'm not sure there is a place for me anywhere. For now, I will savor the moments I have left before I move to a new place.

In the new place there will be times when air quality will preclude running outside. A track or treadmill in a gym will be my new haven. No hawks. No wildflowers. No prairie grass. I think I will miss it then.

Friday, August 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

Indomitable.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Three Weeks

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

Today I'm acknowledging everything I feel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am going to make it through this depression thing.

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

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How am I doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Picture Perfect

That's what this was not.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

TMI always and forever

Things I've been doing to prepare for surgery:

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

At a loss

I am having trouble coping with this day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Going Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are wrong.

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 4, 2016

Do not feel sorry for the crazy people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sometimes I grow things.

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

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

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

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

At least, not in my bladder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I am left feeling angry and sad and afraid.

Nothing makes this better.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Letting things be exactly what they are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"I've become accustomed to her face"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

1+1=2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So looking at the most insistent of those symptoms:

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



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

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

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

This is what I've concluded:

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

And now a word from our sponsor.

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

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

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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