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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Friendship Experiment

It has almost been a week since I saw Therapist. I feel some days, that I'm being consumed with working on assignments and I have no life. Then I realize that the things consuming me are my assurance that I'll have a life--a good one--and it's all worth it.

With few exceptions, the anxiety I've felt in my relationships with others has eased. It feels nice to be around people, online or in person, and I no longer feel any fear lurking beneath the surface. My touch aversion has reverted to "normal", which means I still am selective about the people I touch, but there's no problem with those I care about and trust.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are a couple of friendships I had felt were close and good that are fading. Therapist told me that's a normal thing--for one person in a relationship to feel closer than the other person feels. He said it feels funny to me because for the first time, I'm the one who wishes the closeness to continue, instead of the other way around. I've always maintained that I would never ask anything from people I love that they would not freely give, but I've never had to test that before--I've never really wanted anything from anyone, so it was easy to say. It is not easy now.

One year ago I had this conversation with Tolkien Boy:
me: I'm trying to figure it all out. Not the perfect friend part, just the friend thing, in general.
Tolkien Boy: Well, I've had Melyngoch as a friend for four years now. And we're just as close as we ever were. And that's pretty marvelous, isn't it? For me, the key has been getting into a place where I can be myself. Perhaps you've found your place now? Or one of your places?
me: Every time I think I'm getting close, I realize I don't have any idea what I'm doing. You and Melyngoch are veteren friends.
Tolkien Boy: Well, no one knows what they're doing. We're all just trying.
me: Yes, but trying for different things.
Tolkien Boy: And there are still times when we have to say to each other, "Don't go?" Or we fight. Or wonder if it doesn't make us more tired to be friends than not.
me: It does seem to me that it is more work than it's worth. There's a lot of safety in being an interested observer. However, it makes me happy that you have her--that she has you, and that friendship has lasted a long time (in Samantha years).
Tolkien Boy: Well, she's maddening, but loveable. What is it about friendships you don't understand?
me: Well, I suppose the longest lasting friendships I've had are the ones where we only have limited contact. I call once or twice a year. We exchange Christmas cards. Occasionally we visit. But I'm told that's not really a relationship. So I'm trying to understand why a friendship with close contact is better.
Tolkien Boy: For one thing, it's a lot more dangerous, and therefore more self-affirming.
me: I have rules about this. My therapist suggested it was time to rethink these rules. He said that back in August. In a few weeks, I'll hit the six-month mark in my thinking.
Tolkien Boy: What are your rules?
me: Well, they mostly apply to things I'm allowed to do or feel. For instance, I'm not allowed to take offense at anything. This is not a Christlike attitude (as in not being easily offended), but simply keeps me from having to accept hurt or defensiveness. I'm not allowed to feel those things in a friendship--it complicates things. I'm not allowed to share things that I don't like about myself. Or things that upset me.
Tolkien Boy: Very much so. It creates an unequal relationship.
me: In our interactions, I must always be fine. I'm allowed to say "no" if I feel the friend is asking me to get too close. My life is very busy--friendship must not interfere with that. That's enough.
Tolkien Boy: You have more.
me: Many.
Tolkien Boy: It does seem like those are good rules to rethink.
me: And what is the value in that?
Tolkien Boy: It will help you not be alone. And it will help you see that not everyone exists to hurt you or betray you. And it will let you relax.

I have to say, after trying out the friendship thing, I disagree wholeheartedly with Tolkien Boy. There are times when I feel more lonely than ever, when I feel people pulling away from me, when I long to be with them but know they would have a much nicer day if they didn't feel an obligation to answer my hellos. I'm understanding that not everyone wishes to hurt or betray me, but the reason that is so is because I really don't figure that prominently in their lives. It takes effort to go out of one's way to hurt another. As for relaxing--well, obviously that applies only to people less messed up than I am. However, I find myself disagreeing not only with Tolkien Boy, but with many people lately, or perhaps just being disagreeable, in general.

me: Honestly, I've tried to do things differently--and there are definite ups to that--but I also find myself more stressed in an area that used to cause me none.
Tolkien Boy: Are you thinking of quitting?
me: I can't tell you that. Mostly because I'm still in the analytical stage--not the conclusion stage. But because I consider you a friend--a very good friend, I have a feeling you'll start making my plans for me--helping me quit.
Tolkien Boy: I would advise against quitting. But what do I know?
me: Given your four years' experience--I would say, you know so much more than I. Which is why I'm talking to you about this.
Tolkien Boy: You need to talk to someone else than me. I am happy to talk to you, but I don't know anything about friendships.
me: Well, you should know by now, that I never research in one spot. I value your opinion, but I'm incapable of accepting only one source of information. You're one of many.
Tolkien Boy: Good. You have to remember that for this weekend, at least, I'm a failure as a human being.
me: You're welcome to consider yourself in that light. I never will.
Tolkien Boy: I know. Which demonstrates, first and foremost, what a wonderful friend you are.
me: The problem has never been in my ability to see value in others, nor in my capacity to love them. It comes in accepting those things in return--especially when I don't believe it's possible--and when I wait daily to be left alone. Anyway, that's not really the point. I suppose I'm trying to determine the value of what I've learned through the close friendships I've formed. It's a character flaw.
Tolkien Boy: It doesn't seem like a character flaw.
me: Darrin says it is. He says that real people don't take a "time-out" to decide if it's worth it to be a friend. He tells me that sometimes you just expect everything to work, talk about the things that don't, and love each other through good times and bad. He has friends.
Tolkien Boy: Well, I do think you'd be helped by letting go and letting God, as they say. If you look for a reason a friendship won't work, you'll find one.
me: Good point.

It's interesting to me that now, when I wish friendships to continue, there are some which seem to bring more unhappiness than joy. Not because my love for that person has decreased, but because I understand their need to leave--I truly understand. I lived that way for most of my life. I hear it when we chat--it's not fun anymore, it's become a chore. I hear it when I call--tolerance in the voice, but not enjoyment or love. And suddenly I realize why I've avoided close friendships for so long. This is the part I cringe from, and it's directed at me.

me: Okay, thank you for talking about this with me.
Tolkien Boy: You're welcome. You sound kind of...formal.
me: Sorry--in my research mode.
Tolkien Boy: It's okay. I don't mind being a subject. As long as it isn't all the time.
me: Oh. I didn't think about that. You were more a source of information than a subject.
Tolkien Boy: Oh, awesome.
me: Honestly, just for your information, this is how I work. I'm doing things I've never really done before--I have to understand what I'm doing, how it might affect me, what I can gain or lose. I think everyone does it to a certain extent, but they go about it differently.
Tolkien Boy: I'm not offended. I'm happy to be here.
me: Thank you for telling me about you and Melyngoch. I hope you and she are always friends.
Tolkien Boy: I think we will be.

I realized, when I read this again, that I was envious for the first time. Someday I would like someone feel that way about me--that we will always be friends--not because neither one of us knows how to end what we've started, regardless of the jaded quality of our relationship, but because each time we're together, we fit, we have joy, and we make each other laugh.

I'm thinking of making this my final post about friendship. I've researched it thoroughly. I've tried to incorporate it in my life. I've experienced successes and failures. But, as usual, I don't know what to do next.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Repeat after me:

Therapist is usually right.

This has reference only to my own Therapist, and not to yours. He is right. Usually.

I'm almost finished with most of my assignments. I've been writing like crazy in my super-secret blog. I'm creating works of fiction because apparently that's an important outlet for a person like me who dwells on reality, distorts it, then believes the distortion. I've talked to the assigned people about the uncomfortable things that were causing me some stress. I've accepted the fact that in most of my relationships I'm an idiot and, as Therapist predicted, am becoming accustomed to it. There are other things--but the point is, I'm doing as instructed and it's working.

Current results:
1. I've come to a very good place with abuse issues. It happened. It's sad. Sometimes I still cry about it. I may always have that reaction. I think that's okay, because abuse of a child/adolescent/teen/adult is heartbreaking. I would be less than human if I felt otherwise.
2. I feel more at peace in my relationships with others. I've stopped obsessing about whether or not I'll get hurt at some point and just accepted that it will happen. My hope is that the people who love me will care enough to work through any hurtful things and stick around to see what happens next.
3. I'm learning how to cope with overwhelming feelings, and I understand, finally, that they probably won't stop happening. I've found ways, occasionally, to circumvent the feelings before they become overwhelming. When those don't work, I'm trying to remember to discuss the situation as soon as possible with any involved person, or to write about it so that I can look more rationally at the feelings and events that might be causing the feelings.
4. I'm accepting that, for now, PTSD is a condition I will live with. It's not going anywhere until I can understand it, work within the boundaries it presents, and someday cope without agonizing over it. I accept that this is a condition brought about by mistreatment in my life (and it still ticks me off that I contracted PTSD as a loving memento of rape and physical abuse, but perhaps with time, I won't be angry about it anymore) and I will take care of the uncomfortable symptoms rather than ignoring them. However, I still maintain that someday it will no longer be a part of my life--I refuse to relinquish that dream. And this is my blog, so humor me, please.

Therapist gave me the "given what you've been through, you're extremely well-adjusted" speech, once again. I hate that. I refuse to be judged on that criteria. The things that were done to me did not decide who I am--I did. They may effect me. They may intrude in my life, unwelcome and uncomfortable. But I have chosen who I will be, and I will continue to do so. If I decide I am beautiful, charming, and witty--I will believe it. If I decide I am strong and wise--I will believe it. If I decide I'm smart and talented--I will believe it. If I decide I can do cartwheels, jump on a trampoline, or run forever--I will believe it. And please don't argue with me. I'm not planning to change my mind. Ever.

For the past few months I have struggled with everything that constitutes me. I have questioned my sanity, my love for others, my faith in God. I've wondered if I'll ever be strong again. I've thought about curling up and crying for the rest of my life. I've pushed and pulled and clawed at everyone who offered to help or love me. "In a dark time the eye begins to see..." I'm finished doubting. It's time, once again, for me to believe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Complete sentences

DJ: So, at All State Choir, for the concert they arranged us by height.
Me: Don't they always do that?
DJ: Yeah, most often. But this time I got stuck between an extremely heavy-set baritone...

(long, long pause until I can no longer stand it)

Me: DJ, please tell me there's another part to that sentence.
DJ: Huh?
Me: You got stuck between a heavy-set baritone?
DJ: Oh, sorry...between a heavy-set baritone and also a heavy-set tenor.
Me: Thank you. That first visual was disturbing.
DJ: Mom, sometimes you're a little bit weird.

The Storm Before the Calm

There is no knowing who of my blog visitors has experienced an eating disorder. My guess is that many have, if not firsthand, then vicariously through a loved one. Someone once told me that anorexia seemed to him to be simple deprivation with little payoff. I've read about anorexia extensively. Most of the information seems to focus on anorexic habits, thoughts, and causes. There are also articles which discuss end results of starvation (hair loss, infertility, dry skin, tooth decay, death), and I've found quite a bit of information about therapy methods, eating disorders clinics, and possible causes of eating disorders. Yesterday, though, I realized that every person has something which motivates him/her to seek out negative coping devices--even me.

Obviously, my life has become increasingly stressful in the past few months. My emotions have moved beyond my control. My ability to think clearly and rationally has left me. I've become unpredictable and moody. This is not who I am.

It was stupid of me to stop going to therapy. And yes, it was by design. Something inside me began rebelling in early October. Therapy no longer felt helpful; in fact, it seemed that each time I discovered one more thing, my life became more complicated, frustrating and sad. I was losing the joy that has motivated me for years and finding it difficult to regain it. However, not going to therapy simply increased the problems.

I've wondered sometimes why of all the coping devices I've used, anorexia is the one I seem to turn to most often. It doesn't give immediate relief--in fact, it seems to make me more uncomfortable, initially. It doesn't relieve stress; quite the opposite. So--why? The answer comes clearly after about three days of extreme food restriction or starvation. That's when the endorphins kick in, soothing me, bringing a delightful feeling of well-being and strength. I understand that it's not good for me. It feels wonderful.

Negatives of the high--I can't think clearly, I have difficulty speaking (mispronouncing words, or inability to find the proper ones), I shake, reduced physical stamina.

Positives of the high--I feel absolutely whole, rested, and at peace. There is a slight euphoria about life in general. The emotions that I feel are muted--if I cry during this time period, I can usually recover quickly, whereas in a "normal" state of mind I might have difficulty with recovery for a few days. In short, this feels wonderful and it lasts until I begin eating again.

I'm well aware of the deceptive quality of this phenomenon. I also know that when it came around 2:30 a.m., Sunday morning, for the first time in months, I felt calm. I skipped church and just enjoyed the feeling. Then I used the time to work on therapy assignments that would normally cause me incredible stress. There are some things that have happened in my interactions with people in the last few months that have hurt me. Rather than accept that I'd been hurt and working through that, I buried the emotion and continued forward. In a non-PTSD person, this actually can work, allowing the emotion to sit and somewhat resolve itself until a calm conversation can take place. In a person with PTSD it serves to make one paranoid, unreasonably emotional, suspicious, and stressed. I'm no exception. Therapist told me I must revisit those I've felt have hurt me in some way and discuss this with them. This was not an assignment I was happy to have.

When the calmness came, I made a list of people I needed to talk to. I made certain to talk with them on the phone, so that I could hear vocal inflections and not be left guessing about hidden meanings or unspoken feelings. I was able to talk to every person on my list. I find it interesting that almost immediately, with one person, I felt that life was normal again, I trusted him again. It was an odd feeling. With another friend, I felt stress had eased, but I still felt wary of him. There was an undercurrent of disbelief from him as we spoke--a feeling that regardless of how I explained things, he believes I'm exaggerating my responses on purpose. I was frustrated because I care so much about him--however, Therapist said this might happen and I was prepared for it. The result is that I still feel insecure in that friendship. I would like to have it last indefinitely. I don't know if I can sustain that. I don't know if it's healthy for me to try. The others I spoke with were accepting and supportive. It was a relief.

I've agonized for a few months about the situation with my mother. I've felt rejected repeatedly, and unhappy that she wants me in her life, but only as a friend, or as someone who will "give" constantly. I realized yesterday that things have shifted. I no longer feel miserable about this. Perhaps I'm finished grieving. All I know is that it no longer seems to be bothersome, and I have no more desire for a shift in our relationship. Do I wish I had different parenting? Yes. But there is nothing I can do about it, and there is no logical reason for me to look for the affirmation and affection I didn't receive as a child, now that I'm an adult. I can't explain exactly what has happened, I only know that just as I've been able to let go of the sexual abuse agony, my feelings about my childhood have eased and I no longer care as deeply.

I have a few more therapy assignments, and two weeks to work on them. I need to start eating again--that will be a difficult one, but doable, because now I think I finally want to. I still have negative reactions to being touched, but those aren't present constantly, nor are they accompanied by intense fear. I think that aversion will continue to lessen as I work on things that bother me, and stop avoiding them.

I wish I didn't feel so much resentment that I have to deal with the results of being abused. I would like to say, "Okay, I have PTSD. That's part of my life. I'll just figure out ways to deal with it gracefully, and end up a well-adjusted, wonderful person." Instead I'm still in the "IT'S NOT FAIR!! I DON'T WANT THIS!!" phase. I'm sure that will pass, in time. But for now, I'm not graceful or accepting or wonderful in any sense of the word.

I have to go to work now.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Merrily We Roll Along

Please don't ask why I chose that title. I'll have to make something up if you do, because I have no idea.

I just got home from a rather eventful Utah weekend. I left for home more than eight hours ago. It's about a six hour drive.

When I talked to Therapist about the things that are happening with me, he was fairly insistent that I come see him as soon as possible. So I started to Utah early yesterday morning, nervous and unhappy about the circumstances behind the trip. I didn't want to stay with my sister this time, so I invited myself to stay with Ambrosia and Bawb (who will think twice before inviting me again--more about that later).

Because I love him and like to have lunch with him, I arranged to meet Edgy between 11:30 and noon. However, Thursday night I had difficulty getting to sleep. I finally began dozing around 2:30 a.m. One hour later I was awakened by Adam emptying his stomach in the bathroom above me. Tabitha came downstairs to deliver shocking news that she thought Adam might be ill. I said he was. She thought maybe she should do the paper route alone that morning. I said yes, again. She said something about bringing in the papers now--I had no idea what she was talking about, so I said yes, yet again. Moral of the story--if you want something from me, visit me when I'm starving for sleep and I'll probably agree to anything. I went back to sleep, expecting my alarm to wake me around 5:00. It didn't ring. I woke at six, flew around getting ready and left just before 7:00.

Thank goodness for fair road conditions. I hit the border around 11:30 and called Edgy to move our lunch to 12:30. I started into Utah and found wet slushy roads. I also found that I had no windshield wiper fluid. Needless to say, visibility was severely limited. I made it to the arranged meeting place on time and called Edgy to let him know I'd arrived. He brought his parents with him, so I got to meet them--and I like them very much. It was a delight to spend time, however short, with them. They left Edgy and I to discuss online Scrabble games, children, graduate school and the Wii. It was a lovely break from driving, and as is my curse, because I was preoccupied with impending counseling, I talked way too much about whatever came to mind and was without doubt, babbling about dozens of random things which I, thankfully, don't remember. Edgy, if you love me, you won't remember either.

I went to Walmart and bought wiper fluid, replenished my car and set off for Provo. AtP and I share very few things, but Therapist is one of them. I knew he was supposed to meet with Therapist that morning, so I texted him to find out how that went. He responded that Therapist had canceled all appointments that day. I had heard nothing of this. Since I had nothing else to do, and Provo was closer than home, I decided to head to Therapist's office to see what was going on. I let the receptionist know I'd arrived for my appointment with Therapist. She told me he was out, and had been ill all week (which isn't true because I arranged my appointment with him on Wednesday). I must have looked unhappy because the other receptionist asked me if she could help me schedule an appointment for Monday. I said no, and explained that I'd just driven seven hours to meet with him. The very nice lady immediately called Therapist to remind him that he'd scheduled an appointment with me and to see if he'd do a telephone consult. Then she asked me to have a seat and offered to go get me ice cream, which I politely declined.

Therapist called within 10 minutes. He apologized several times and explained that he and his family had been ill with influenza A (whatever that is--I assume it has something to do with why we get flu shots), but that he definitely wanted to see me and would be there in 20 minutes. The ice cream offering receptionist took me to an empty conference room to wait so I could work on the tax returns I brought with me.

Therapist arrived around 4:00. I can't even begin to explain how much I love him--and how much I hated our session. He told me I had waited way too long to come. He talked about stupid facilities for people with eating disorders. He told me I was practicing avoidance again and gave me a list of things I need to do to help ease the stress that's causing me to stop eating/touching/and other things that I don't want to talk about right now. He told me I'm not resting enough or taking enough down time. He assigned me to watch American Idol. Honestly, what kind of therapy assignment is that!? The session went on and on. I had made arrangements to take Sully to dinner around 5:00. AtP, wondering what happened to me, texted me. I couldn't answer because the session was still going. At 6:00 I finally asked Therapist if he would allow an interruption so I could call Sully. He said yes, and asked me to tell him hello for him (which I forgot to do. Sorry, Sully. Therapist says hello). Sully said to just let him know when I was finished talking to Therapist--which finally happened at 6:30.

I picked up Sully and we ate at my favorite place, where I ordered my favorite salad and ate all the berries off it. I should just tell them next time that I don't want the greens or the salad dressing. I only want the berries and the nuts. We talked until 9:45. I had left my phone in the car, so I had no idea what time it was. I was supposed to see AtP when he got off work at 9:30. Sully and I hurried to take him home and I went to AtP's house. By the way, Sully, thank you so much for a lovely evening. You just make me smile.

AtP and I visited for nearly an hour. I love spending time with him. I was all stressed and nervous because of the incredibly long marathon therapy session, so I think I talked non-stop about probably the most uncomfortable and inappropriate things. Thank goodness AtP forgives me when I'm at my worst. I love him!!

I left to go to Ambrosia and Bawb's house. I've been there once before, but I realized as I was driving there that I'd forgotten to bring the address. I located the paper where I had written their phone number, and found that the number thereon only had nine digits. I called AtP in a panic, asking if he remembered where they lived. He remembered the exit number and said something about driving a long way before you turned left. Not exactly helpful. Feeling desperate, I gave him the password to my Gmail and had him locate the number for me (so if weird posts suddenly appear on my blog--blame him).

I called Ambrosia (thank you for not being upset that I called so late) and got directions to her home. I arrived shortly after midnight--still full of nervous tension and talking non-stop. We visited (which means I talked my head off and probably told Ambrosia and Bawb the life history of every living being I've encountered) until after 3:00 a.m. Not the smartest thing in the world. We all slept in this morning, causing Bawb to miss one of his classes (I think it's probably a lot my fault because if I hadn't talked forever, we all would have gone to bed earlier, so I'm really, really sorry). Unfortunately for Ambrosia--the talking non-stop thing hadn't dissipated overnight, so I spent yet another two hours talking about who knows what. Thank goodness she was graceful about it and listened to whatever came out of my mouth. Truly, Ambrosia, I usually don't do that. Someday, if you invite me back, I promise to talk less.

So that brings me to my long drive home. I ran into black ice two hours from my destination. Fortunately, I noticed cars and trucks slowing down long before I was actually on it, so I was going pretty slowly (20 mph), but less fortunate vehicles (5 of them) were on the sides of the road, upside down, headlights still burning. It was very scary. The icy highway lasted until 30 miles from my home. It took me four hours to drive 110 miles. You do the math. It was a long, long trip.

So now I'm home. And Therapist insisted that I choose between a nice visit to an eating disorders clinic and a return visit in two weeks (during which time I have an unspeakable amount of assignments to complete--and he gave me those assignments after he told me I was working too much??? What is he thinking?). Naturally, I opted for the assignments and two week check. And even after all that talking--I still feel the need to shoot my mouth off, which accounts for the length of this post.

The End

Friday, January 25, 2008

Johnny Lingo's Revenge

As of today, I am no longer involved with the youth of the church. I opted not to teach Seminary this year because I knew I was having personal difficulties, and today my Bishop stopped by to let me know I'll be released from the Young Women's organization on Sunday.

I told him I knew he was releasing me because I hate Johnny Lingo. He laughed and assured me the release came because a new YW presidency was being sustained. Then he said he owed me an apology. He said that for years I've listened to him talk about how he paid his father-in-law "eight cows" for his wife. It's an inside joke between them that actually has nothing to do with the Bishop's wife and more to do with his relationship with his father-in-law. He said, knowing how I feel about the video, it must have taken much restraint to say nothing. Then he thanked me for sharing how I feel with his wife. He said he had never seen the movie from my point of view, but knowing my past and understanding how I see things had made him rethink his ideas. He apologized for spending class time on something unnecessary and potentially harmful (based on the background of some of the young women). And he thanked me for helping him remember that class time is better spent helping the youth learn about themselves and their relationships to deity. And he told me I was a great teacher, even to him.

So--I have no callings for the first time in many years. It's probably for the best, considering my mental and emotional state right now. However, it's difficult for me. For nearly three years I have felt the Lord's hand in my life. He has given me opportunities to grow and learn and teach within his church. Those are now gone. Other blessings have also been temporary, I am learning. It seems that perhaps my days of being supported by him are numbered. I hope he's not telling me it's time for me to stand alone again. I don't think anyone should have to do that. It's lonely and frightening.

However, if that's what's next, I'll do it. Sometimes there is no other choice.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I love Darrin

This week (Monday night, actually), I hit a wall. It might have something to do with my blood sugar levels, because when they drop I lose some of my ability to think rationally and I become highly emotional and easily frustrated. Regardless, I came to the point where I could not cope with the things which are happening inside.

In a nutshell, my ability to eat has become next to non-existent. Adam and Tabitha have been bringing me meals and snacks because they're concerned that they don't see me eating. One of them sits next to me at dinner and tells me how delicious it is and how I should try a bit more. Honestly, I'm trying, but their efforts make me feel worse. So I eat with them to keep them from being afraid and reassure them that things are better and I'm fine. It's good for me to have them with me right now--on the other hand, I'm quite certain that watching what I'm going through is emotionally damaging for them.

I'm agonizing over my problems with touch aversion. On Monday the feelings increased to the point that I've been flinching even from Darrin. I don't think that's happened before. DJ hugs and gives me a kiss each morning. I've been trying make sure I'm in the shower when he leaves so I can avoid that. I've started bringing more work home so I'll have things to do when Tabitha decides she needs to cuddle. Adam has always been in sync with what I feel. He's adjusted his hugs into a light shoulder tap at bedtime. During the day, when rehearsals are over and I am at home working on tax returns or editing I have been overcome by incredible sadness. I WANT to hug my children, kiss my husband, be held and hugged by them. I WANT to hug my friends and receive that in return. But everything inside me is rebelling when I'm touched. The fear is intense and I feel sick. I've never sobbed uncontrollably in my life. That happened this week when I realized that rather than easing, the feelings are becoming more out of control. The thought of never being able to touch anyone again is not something I can cope with right now.

I emailed Therapist and mentioned some of what's happening. He's seeing me tomorrow. I'll have a nice long drive to get myself pulled together and figure out how to talk about this rationally with him. Even talking about it makes me feel afraid--especially of the person to whom I'm speaking.

Last night I was finally able to tell Darrin what was happening. He was quiet while my body shook uncontrollably and I fought to get the stupid words out. Normally, he would hold me and try to comfort me. Somehow, my sweet husband understood that action would only serve to make me more agitated and upset. He told me he was glad I was going to talk to Therapist and asked if there was anything he could do to help me. Just knowing he wasn't angry or upset with me for feeling this way was helpful. Then he tried to make sure I was comfortable, that he wasn't intruding in my space (we were in bed). He mentioned that he hoped I'd sleep well and not be troubled by nightmares. I apologized for disturbing him when I have them. Sometimes I yell or strike out (I've hit him a couple of times). Sometimes I cry or mumble. It can't be easy to sleep next to me. He said he wasn't upset when I wake him, he just feels sad that the dreams trouble me and he's concerned because I don't sleep well (I'm often up late, avoiding the dreams, and I'm usually awake between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. because of them).

Darrin doesn't think I'm a freak, and he still loves me in spite of everything. That seems impossible to believe, but it's true. He's treated me with gentleness and love. He doesn't understand, nor does he try--he just stays by me whenever possible so I don't have to be alone. And he's sad when I'm hurting. I'd never thought of that before.

I love my husband. Someday, I hope this touch thing goes away so I can hug him for a long time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another research project

No. I haven't stopped researching. It's what I do. I just haven't been sharing the results as is my norm. However, I've drawn some conclusions, finally, so it's time to leave them here.

When I began therapy three years ago, I identified some specific problems/ideas/things which I have difficulty understanding or coping with. At the top of my list were these two items:
1. Human relationships, especially friendship.
2. Love, both that which I feel and that which is offered to me.

Most of my research projects have been planned, explored, and reported within a matter of weeks once I decide to look at them. These particular items have been in the process for the past three years, and I'm still not finished. I am, however, at the point where I've asked questions, researched articles, read books, explored in real time, and I'm ready to share my findings and also hear the viewpoints of others.

I'm combining the two items for the sake of this post because they seem to be intertwined in many different ways and one of my research points is to understand how love and friendship (in order to streamline my research, I'm limiting my "human relationships" to friendship in this research project) overlap and if they are interdependent.

This subject is highly emotional for me because it's an area where I feel I lack basic human understanding. I feel insecure and irrational when I discuss and research the traits of love and friendship--so this post may seem less organized and logical than my past research reports have been.

I suppose it's impossible to define love in any concrete way. I asked many people about their definitions which included short descriptions and synonyms (fondness, passion, warmth, deep feeling, joy), and anecdotes in which the person speaking "felt loved." All this is very nice, but it can only suggest each individual's experience with that emotion he/she feels is love, and that might be something completely different from my own experience. What I've gleaned from my research is this: everyone feels love at different levels and intensities--but each seems to know it when it happens. For the sake of clarity, I'm not including the feelings that come from attraction as love. I'm speaking of the feelings that last longer than three weeks at a time, and exist when a person feels reasonable rather than twitterpated. Keep that in mind as you read, please.

My research, although including the thoughts and opinions of others, was to ascertain my personal ideas and thoughts about love as it pertains to me. These are my conclusions:
1. I feel love for people regardless of whether or not I feel safe with, or trust them.
2. My love is based on my perceptions of that person--this can have a basis in the physical, spiritual, or emotional interactions I have with them.
3. While I am usually able to control or manipulate feelings when they occur, it is impossible for me to control my feelings of love. They just happen. I do not choose the people I love.
4. Once I have fallen in love with a person, it seems impossible for me to stop loving them. For example: As a small child I developed a deep love for the cousin who later molested me. Even today, that love still exists, and while I mourn the actions that hurt me, my heart still cares about the person responsible for those actions. Sometimes I think it would be more healthy for me if I could stop loving him--but the point is moot. I can't. So it is with any that I love--even if time and distance have separated us for a very long time--I don't know how to stop loving.
5. Love consumes. Sometimes I love so much it hurts. I have felt this way about my children, and about Darrin, and have felt similarly for people in my life who are close to me. I don't like this part of love. It feels tangible and beyond my control.
6. Love can heal deep wounds. It can also cause them.

Moving on to friendship, these are the conclusions (again--they only apply to me, personally) I have drawn:
1. Friendship, for me, is more binding than love. I often feel feelings of love for whomever I'm with, but never form an attachment to that person. I may not see him/her again for months and that's okay. I still feel love or affection, but not a need to spend time or talk with that person often. Friendship, for me, forms when that attachment happens and I feel drawn to that person often.
2. Friendship cannot exist without love. I am not friends with people until after I've fallen in love with them. But it must have other components for it to be viable for me. Chief among those is a feeling of safety. If I feel unsafe with a person, I will not be his/her friend. Trust is added to this--I trust the person won't hurt or betray me in any way. I trust that my friend will keep my confidences. I feel that I can relax, even if just for a moment with that person.
3. I suppose there are many people whom I love, but would not necessarily choose to spend my time. For me, a friend is one with whom I click in some way. We share interests or a sense of humor. We communicate often and well. We enjoy being together and miss each other when we're apart.
4. I suppose the thing that marks a person as my friend more than anything else is if they can withstand the person who is really me. I've had many attempted friends--those who filled the above criteria--who, in the end, could not bear being my friend. They fell in love with the idea of me, not with the person I actually was. In their minds they built someone who had lived through troubles gracefully, who was self-confident and mostly happy all the time. Their Samantha-ideal was always around to listen and support them in their difficulties, but had very few of her own. In truth, they never really saw me, but were looking instead for a figment of their own imaginations. There have been very few who, when they saw the ugly parts of me, were able to stay. The truth about Samantha is that she is insecure, sometimes needy, often unhealthy, afraid, sometimes unable to listen and consumed by her own trivial and persistent problems, and underneath it all runs a thread of sadness that never goes away. The other truth is that Samantha sees beauty in nearly every part of life, she laughs often because it feels good, she loves being alive, and underneath it all is a thread of determination that one day things will come together and the ugly parts will become more beautiful. Honestly, I completely understand why the whole picture is so much more difficult to love than the idea of Samantha. I'm not sure that, given the opportunity, I could be my friend.

So there it is. I've listed no sources because I have way too many, and also because this is more of a summary of my own thoughts and opinions. Feel free to add to, editorialize, disagree with, or orate about your own thoughts. This research project is a work in progress, by no means finished. I'm simply making an accounting at the three year mark. Perhaps, in thirty years, I'll have everything figured out.

Life is just a bowl of cherries

I have low blood sugar.
I have an eating disorder.
I am a runner.

These three things don't work well as an equation. Occasionally I have problems. Yesterday was a good example.

I don't eat before I run because it sort of makes me feel ill...okay...I don't eat before I run because I don't want to. There. I'm being honest.

I made it into my fourth mile before my blood sugar dropped. I don't know how others with this condition feel when that happens. I usually feel light-headed and extremely nauseated. It's not unusual for me to have some disorientation, as well. I can't stop running immediately when this happens or I end up fainting. I walked another mile or so, gradually slowing down, then I showered and tried to eat. My stomach said "NO" most emphatically.

I cleaned my house and visited a friend. I went to the grocery store. At this point it was around 2:00. I got home an hour later and finally felt that I could eat without losing it. I grabbed some peanuts and my daughter poured me some orange juice just as my first piano student arrived--I had forgotten about them (did I mention that I become somewhat disoriented?).

I taught piano lessons for a couple of hours. Adam told me he'd make dinner, so I let him. I sat down with my peanuts and orange juice and did an hour of editing. I ate some of the dinner Adam made for me and started to feel a little better around 9:30 p.m.

If you chatted with me yesterday, I offer my apologies. Not only do I feel miserable physically when this happens, but it messes with my emotions, as well. I can't always understand the motives behind the words and often I feel frustrated and attacked. I appreciate those who said hello. I hope you understand that I was not myself.

Today is much better.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


...was a very bad day. That means tomorrow will be a better one, I think.

Darrin left at 7:00 this morning to go be a bishop. I'm a rotten bishop's wife. He won't be home till late tonight, and then he'll be really tired and want to sleep.

DJ left for All-State choir this morning. I think I'll miss him even though he'll only be gone till Wednesday night.

Adam was cranky because he hates it when DJ is gone.

Tabitha screamed at me because she was tired and I was there. She felt really awful later and is currently making me dinner as an apology.

But the sunset tonight was gorgeous. I sat and watched it for nearly twenty minutes.

AtP--thanks for letting me cry on your shoulder even though I didn't really cry and there wasn't really a shoulder here. I love you.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Just one more job in the work pool

I suppose there are only two possibilities available when one reaches the point I have come to:

1. Continue to wallow in despair, believing that life has been harsh and unfair.
2. Decide to find ways to live again.

I've made an honest attempt at the first, spending nearly four months giving it my very best effort (and I believe I've been successful--especially at the wallowing part). It's possible that I needed to spend time allowing myself to believe that there are parts of my life that seem horribly unfair. But the truth is, I can't stay there. I have spent my life fighting to find joy. Despair is not an acceptable alternative.

For many years I could not cry. Tears made me feel vulnerable and weak. I'm realizing that the majority of stress in my life arises because I feel unsafe in an environment or with a person. Often it has nothing to do with that particular setting or individual, but more with the feelings churning in my guts--I still don't always know what to do with those. Regardless of the negative feelings I have towards crying, I understand that suppressing that physical expression has stopped the natural resolution of many emotions, and resulted in increased stress which causes me to seek unhealthy ways of coping.

So for the past couple of weeks I have allowed myself to cry. I have acknowledged that parts of my life are sad--and tears are part of expressing that sadness. I have noticed that many things bring me joy--and tears can happen as I feel that emotion. I have noticed that there are times when I'm frustrated or angry when tears come unbidden. I'm also noticing that crying when I am by myself is incredibly lonely. However, there seems to be no solution to this currently, because I don't know how to cry when anyone else is around. Mostly what happens if I experience a profound emotion in the presence of another person, is that my body trembles uncontrollably, impeding speech and normal range of motion. Sweet Sully once told me he thought it was "kind of cool" (I love that boy!). To me, it is simply embarrassing, frustrating, and it feels horribly vulnerable.

There have been some unexpected side-effects of all this emotion-allowing in my life. The most daunting, of course, has been my inability to eat as I should. I can't talk about this yet because it still ticks me off and makes me feel like an idiot--while at the same time seems to be the actual solution to all my problems (what psycho person thinks like that????). Aside from the eating disorder, I've found that my touch aversion has increased dramatically over the past three months. There have been too many times in the past couple of months when I have felt the need to shrink from even Darrin's touch. A dear friend went to lunch with me on Thursday. When she hugged me goodbye I felt physically ill--not because I don't love her, but because for what ever reason, I'm finding I feel horribly unsafe, attacked or violated when people touch me. I even felt this to an alarming degree when I was with Tolkien Boy, AtP, and Sully before Christmas. I have never felt this with them before. I find this all very upsetting. Darrin, Sully, AtP, and Tolkien Boy are among the people I trust most in my life. To have this reaction to their touch makes me feel sub-human, guilty, and defeated.

I don't know what to do about the things I just talked about. So I guess that's all I have to say about them.

In spite of the negatives that have been presenting themselves, I find myself taking the second option. In truth, even if I'm never able to touch anyone again without wanting to throw up, I need to live. I need to feel joy coursing through me as I watch the sun rise, smell flowers, run under the incredible blue of the sky. I need to wake up ready to work and play. I need to feel wonder as I play music or watch my children grow. I can't wallow anymore.

I haven't seen Therapist for nearly three months. It's too long. I know I need help. I've been using sweet friends as substitutes. They've allowed me to vent when they had better things to do. Sometimes they've offered sympathy or helpful thoughts. But we all know I need to talk to Therapist and stop putting off the visit. I've done so because I don't like driving long distances in the winter, and I'd have to go alone. Actually, I can come up with many reasons for not going, but the truth is, it's time. I've waited far too long already.

I used to wish that at some point I could transcend all that seems to belong to me as a result of my past. I think I really believed I could magically make everything go away. As I accept that this won't happen, I feel frustrated, as if I put my soul on the line for no reason. I was thinking of this a few days ago, and I remembered sitting with a student one day. He was near tears because he had worked on a piece of music for more than three months and still was unable to play it as well as he wanted to. He felt he had done all I had asked but the payoff had been meager.

I asked him what he wanted.
Student: I want it to sound like it does when you play it.
Me: That's not possible.
Student: I know. Because I haven't played as long and I'll never be as good as you.
Me: No. That's not why.
Student: Why then?
Me: Because you're not me. Only I can play it in the way I do. When you perform that piece it will be played as only you can play it. There is no one in the world who can perform it in the same way. That's the beauty of music. No matter how many times a piece is played, each time it is learned it becomes part of the person playing it. It becomes new and alive. You give it life. Listen to what you're doing. Enjoy the sounds you're making. Let the piece become unique in your hands.

I think sometimes I try to make my life be something it's not, based on what I believe "normal" life should be. My life is my own. It will always be different from every other life. It's up to me to let myself come alive--to take the things I now have and work with them until my life becomes beautiful once again.

A new audience

When I began blogging two years ago I had two regular visitors. One was Ward Cleaver, and the other was a person I never got around to tagging--but I think I inherited him from Ward's blog (which has been deleted--something I weep over often), and I think it was a "him" because even though he never commented, Ward's blog was not frequented by women (except for me, of course).

A couple of months after I opened my blog a new audience was introduced to it by my friend Elbow, whose blog has become privatized. The new audience consisted of mostly gay men between the ages of 17 and 30. Occasionally a woman would visit (thanks, Kim). As time went on, more men became regular visitors, but with a few exceptions, most of the women who visited quickly lost interest and left.

In the past year, however, things have changed drastically. If I look at my last 20 visitor tags, fifteen are women, moreover, they're women who visit me regularly and even comment. Speaking of comments, there are now more women who comment than men. In fact, my last post was the first time I've had an exclusively female response which included more than one person.

There is only one conclusion that may be drawn from this data. It is incontrovertable...backed up by solid facts...absolutely true...



ummm............that's funny right? You're laughing? Well, I think I'm hilarious..........

A Day to Remember

Today is one of my favorite days of the entire year. There are many good days, but this one, to me, is one which should be celebrated with abandon. It's the day that Sully was born! I had no idea when he made his appearance on earth 19 years ago, that he would become someone very important in my life. And so, because I must--it's tradition, you know--on his day of celebration, I am posting 10 things I love about Sully (and you should go to his blog and offer him felicitations, too!):

1. He knows, sometimes, exactly what to say to help me feel better when I'm a little bit sad.
2. He's not afraid to find out what he believes is true.
3. He's compassionate and concerned for the people around him, and worries about those he loves even when they don't seem to extend to him the same compassion and concern.
4. He's not afraid to try new things.
5. His smile. It just makes me feel happy.
6. He took Adam to the movie--just the two of them. Adam was thrilled that someone like Sully would spend time with an awkward 13-year-old.
7. He helps me cook. I love anyone who will spend time with me in the kitchen. Sully does it whenever he visits.
8. He understands and shares my enthusiasm for the book, Nancy Drew's Guide to Life.
9. He has been my student in different venues, but still allows me to call him my friend--and he is not only one of my finest friends, but also one who has been a close friend for a long time--we're heading for three years, Sully. Imagine that!
10. He laughs with me. Always. Sometimes when there is nothing to laugh about. We're useless as game partners because giggling causes us to cease functioning. But there is something incredibly joyful in laughing with someone you love.

Sully--thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for putting up with my quirks and insecurities and for just loving me. You are a part of what makes my life beautiful.

Happy Birthday. I love you, Sully.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm going COUCH SLEDDING tomorrow!!!

And I think you should join me. It's so much fun. And the sun is shining today, so tomorrow the snow will be perfect and it's supposed to be warmer, and I'll make you lunch...

I think maybe I'm tired of working so much and I want to play.

Remember to dress warmly if you come. I don't have enough winter clothes to share.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What I'm thinking about today

I don't think it's possible for me to be unhappy. There are parts of my life that are frustrating. Sometimes I feel hopeless. I've been sad before. But even when I was on suicide watch at the hospital, even when I felt that dying was the only solution for my life, my soul felt moments of joy. A friend was one of the med-techs in the psyche ward. That made me feel happy. Darrin brought me my down comforter and pillow and cuddled with me in the wretched room with its picture window, while the staff watched--that made me happy. One of the nurses was very pretty--again, happy. I realize that the past four months have been challenging and filled with defeat and much sadness. But in the midst of everything, I can't seem to avoid finding the things that make me laugh and feel alive.

DJ says this is one of the reasons why he loves me. He says when he's feeling down, even if it's for a really good reason, he knows if we spend time together his feelings level out and he starts to feel lighter. This is a win/win situation because I love being with that boy.

Adam had a birthday last week. As tradition demands, we went to buy flowers together. His choice, as usual, was a dozen roses--dark orange this year. Then we shopped for his birthday dinner and he helped me prepare it. Tolkien Boy said that in his family that was called "doing chores". In our family it's a special time with just the birthday person and me, and we have so much fun together. I suppose everything in life is about perspective.

Yesterday, Sister 5 sent me a letter. She's not Sister 5 because she's the youngest, but because she came to our family last. Her birthday is the month after mine and we're the same age. I found her when I was eleven. She had moved in with an ailing grandmother because her parents were alcoholics, unable to care for her. She rarely smiled or spoke. I smiled and spoke for both of us. She was defensive and shy. I decided I loved her. She was lonely. I took her home and asked my mom if she could stay. Eventually, she became a part of our family. We adored her. She was sweet and kind. She was a peacemaker who loved to play pranks and giggle. Her sense of humor is unmatched by anyone else in my life. We were the best of friends.

The year my cousin molested me, Sister 5 was living with us. The following year she went to live with an aunt, where she stayed for the rest of her teen years. She visited us often, but I was unable to be the same kind of friend I had once been. I spent most of my time surviving. Eventually, we drifted apart. Even now I have difficulty allowing closeness between us. I believe that part of this is because I didn't think I could confide in her the things that had happened to me while she slept in a bed ten feet away.

While on our Christmas vacation, I finally found myself in a position where I could talk about that summer with Sister 5. I saw the shock on her face. She quickly recovered and changed the subject. A victim of abuse, herself, the reaction didn't surprise me. I decided now that she knew, we could talk about my resulting self-isolation at another time, and eventually, maybe she'd understand that I never stopped loving her, I just couldn't cope with everything life was sending me at once.

So--yesterday I received her letter. It was in a card with beautiful flowers on the front--she has always remembered how I feel about flowers.
Dear Sam,
Thank you for sharing your family with me. I hope you understand what you've done for me. You are the person who put me on the right track. At such a young age you introduced me to love--the true meaning of it--and to real families and friendship. And you helped me learn about the Savior in a way no one else had. You are a priceless person in my eyes.

I felt so saddened when you shared the grief and pain you went through that summer. How blind I was that I couldn't help you. You have always loved, never judged me.

Sam, it seems that no matter what life deals you, you find a way to be happy. I have wished to be like you (without the trials, of course). Someday, maybe you'll share your secret with me.

I love you, Sis!
Sister 5
Perhaps what she doesn't realize is that she is an inspiration to me. I watched as she nursed the parents who abandoned, abused and neglected her, on their deathbeds. With compassion, she held her father's cigarette for him when he was unable to do so himself--no words of remonstration for the habit that helped to take his life--only concerned that in his last days of life he be comfortable and feel cared for. When my grandmother was in the hospital, dying of cancer, Sister 5 visited her every day. The biological grandchildren lived hundreds of miles away and were unable to do so. Sister 5 gently made certain that Grandma had all that she needed, loved her, and reported back to those of us who wished we could be there in person. Sister 5 is one of the best mothers I know, raising three beautiful children. She's a better homemaker than I will ever be. When I'm with her I feel as though a missing piece of my life just fell into place. She makes me happy.

Tolkien Boy told me last night (and I'm paraphrasing) that it was good for me to recognize that I need people in my life. He's right. Although, just for the record, it's my nature to only write about the people I love when they're right--I don't usually spread it around when I think they're wrong about something. Just thought I'd mention that in case you get the skewed idea from my blog that TB is some paragon of correctness. He's human...

Anyway, those are my thoughts today. And in case there wasn't enough disjointed rambling in the contents written here, I'll probably be writing again someday. It seems to be something I do often.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Friendship Honeymoons

"Once you're past the friendship "honeymoon" stage, where you no longer feel excited to spend time with this now-not-so-new person, what keeps you coming around? Or should you just move on? I try to maintain friendships which I believe to be mutually beneficial past the honeymoon stage. Is that "love" because I see reason to dedicate myself to that person even when it's not "comfortable" or "easy" or entirely "natural", anymore, to do so? And if that is love, isn't love more an action than an emotion? But then, that action leads to an increased desire for that person's welfare and happiness, which I suppose I could call love."
~Original Mohomie

I can't answer OM's questions--I have too many of my own. But I've never really thought about the friendship honeymoon until he brought it up. I suppose, for me, new friendships are so fraught with anxiety and mistrust that I've never really felt that initial excitement or desire to spend time with someone I've just met. In fact, I'm embarrassed to admit that any long-term friends I have now, with whom I spent time more often than two or three times annually, are those who persistently remind me that I love them. That can't be fun.

I talk about new friends incessantly. I do this mostly because I don't understand why, after a week or so, they're still wanting to talk or spend time with me. This does not mean I don't feel the same way about them. I adore the minutes I spend with people I love--I just don't always feel confident enough to initiate it. Consequently, those who are not quite as good at recognizing that I'm more timid than my external illusory self purports, usually end up fading away as I wonder how to keep that from happening, but feel trapped by the person underneath who tells me not to bother them or intrude too much in their lives.

With a couple of exceptions, the friends I'm closest to now are those I met through an online venue (blog/chat/email). That has given me the opportunity to learn about them before I actually spent real time with them, which in turn, has given me more confidence in the friendship itself. It seems a flawed method, since they can tell me whatever they'd like about themselves, and I have no way of determining whether or not it's true, but in the end I suppose it might not matter. People truly seem to conform to their perceptions of self, after all.

I'm wondering though if I actually do experience the honeymoon stage once the friendship has become strong--rather than when it's in the initial stages. There seems to be a period of about four or five months after I've established a trust threshold with a friend in which he/she can do no wrong and I could talk with them forever. Then my normal insecurities begin to hack away at the relationship until I become more trouble than I'm worth.

Ugh. I really don't get this. I hate it when I don't understand things.

Monday, January 14, 2008


is a marvelous healer.

Life seems to be coming full circle for me.

There is peace to be found, sometimes, in unlikely places.

It's okay that sometimes things end. Something else is always beginning.

I'm going to be okay. There have been moments when I've wondered if this was possible. It is.

There is no greater power than Christ's atonement. I am living proof of this. Daily another part of my soul is mended. Someday, through him, I will be whole again. There is nothing that was taken from me that Christ cannot heal or restore in some way. I love him.

Golden Family Moments

Overheard at the airport while waiting for infamous flight to Hawaii:

Sister 3 (sitting on a heater vent) to Adam as he stands next to her: Adam, my butt is really hot!

Adam (looking alarmed and uncomfortable): Could we have a different conversation?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Going to the dentist sucks!

Dear Mr. Nice Dentist:

I really don't care how beautifully matched my new tooth is--never hand me a mirror when I'm sitting in your chair! And I just have to say, if you're flossing my tooth and it feels like you're pulling my head off, I get a little alarmed.

Dear Ms. Nice Dental Hygienist:

That thing in the back of my throat--it's called a tonsil. And yes, it hurts like a mother bear when you suction directly on it. Don't do it again! please.

p.s. Thanks for telling me I smell good.

Dear Nice Dentist Office People:

No, I am not having a seizure. I shake like this when I have flashbacks. It stops after awhile. Considering the things that happened inside my mouth a long time ago, I think it's completely understandable that flashbacks might be triggered by someone touching me there, especially if the touching is rough or painful. No, you don't need to call an ambulance.

p.s. Thanks for saying my tooth looks great. Thanks more for telling me I look great.

Dear Everyone Reading This Right Now:

I think it's okay if I cry on the way home from the dentist's office. The feelings are A LOT overwhelming and there really seems to be no other option. And if I'm still crying when I get home, I think that's okay, too.



Sunday, January 6, 2008

Church today

The good things:
1. It's now at 8:00 a.m. I realize that for some this would be deadly, but for me--it's wonderful. I'm home by 11:00, and I still have a whole bunch of hours to play with my kids. Yay!
2. There were some really wonderful things said in testimony meeting--things I needed to hear. Not just during the testimonies, but in the hymns and and in my thoughts. I like it when that happens.
3. I skipped Sunday School because Darrin was supposed to turn off a pot of stew and I kept being certain that he hadn't. When I got home I was locked out of my house because I forgot to take a house key and DJ wasn't with me to bail me out. So I had to slide through the hole I made in my garage door when I hit it with my car (no, it's not fixed yet--I have to see the dentist on Friday so I thought I'd wait until my dental visits were over, just in case). I am happy to report that I not only made it through the hole, but I did so without tearing my pencil skirt, running my stockings, or getting incredibly dirty. I'm not thinking about the neighbors who were watching me out their windows. Turns out Darrin had taken care of the stew, so my errand was for naught--but I still got to skip Sunday School.
4. When I went back to church a van pulled up next to me. Out popped a young boy (around nine years old, I think). He stepped onto the iced-over parking lot and slipped right under his van. His mom stepped out and said, "Hey--where are you?" He waved his hand at her from under the van and said, "I'm okay." And I know this probably shouldn't be listed as a good thing, but it made me laugh really hard because, well, no one got hurt and I thought it was funny.

The bad things:
1. The parking lots were iced-over (please see above incident for slipperiness description). I like wearing heels. Tall ones. Walking was difficult.
2. I was cold in church. This is nothing new because I'm almost always cold, but today it really bugged me.
3. Now comes the rant...stupid bishop man suggested to YM president man that for our combined YM/YW meeting the movie Johnny Lingo be shown. I hate that movie. Passionately. Why?
a) It glorifies a practice that objectifies women and portrays them as property. I don't care if it was cultural. I don't care if Mahanna lived happily ever after with her new owner, Johnny (and why does he get an Anglicized name?). It ticks me off and should only be remembered with reprehension and never held up to our youth as a parabolic example. Notice, please, that when Christ taught, he used modern examples, not those that were outmoded or outdated, and aren't we supposed to be following his example?????
b) Underlying storyline: women get self-esteem from men. What a load of CRAP!!! And if we teach our young women (or even implicitly agree with) this premise, we open them up for abusive relationships because they don't know how to be whole people. Women and men have worth because they are children of God. End of story. If a woman suddenly becomes someone because her husband loves her, there is something very wrong with the family in which she was raised, the church to which she belongs, and the first time she and hubby fight, all that she has become will be lost. Not healthy in the least.
c) There are so many things we could be teaching our youth that have greater importance in their lives. Bottom line--some of them won't marry, some of them will divorce, some of them will face the death of a spouse. And even if that doesn't happen, they need to have a very strong sense of who they are as individuals in order to be good parents and healthy adults. I believe our time would be better spent teaching them how to live authentic lives, rather than wasting a class period with outmoded, non-gospel drivel.
So--I left the class. I thought about taking my kids with me, but I didn't want to push my luck. Besides, when we got home I was able to indoctrinate them about the evils of Stupid Johnny Lingo, which made me very happy. Never miss a teaching moment...
4. My mother and Bishop's Wife were talking in the hallway outside the YW room. They were discussing a young woman in our stake whose family is good friends with my parents and with my bishop's family. It was discovered around Thanksgiving this year that this young woman was being molested by her father (she's also a friend of Tabitha's). Understandably, the topic was a little upsetting to me, as it would be to anyone. Bishop's Wife mentioned a female family member who was preparing to get counseling to help her learn to live with the fact that she was molested by her father, uncle, and grandfather for a number of years. I said, "Does she understand how long it will take?" And then I started crying. ACK!!! I never cry in front of people. My mom explained to BW that I was in therapy for a similar experience. BW apologized and said, "If I had known I would have been more careful. I wouldn't have said anything." And being my normal self, I said, "No. We need to talk about this. We need to shout it from the rooftops. It's time to stop being silent, especially in the church." And I continued my soapboxing for another few minutes while I bawled my stupid head off. It was horrible. Be very grateful you didn't have to witness it in person.

Hmmm...I think I wrote more about the bad stuff than the good stuff. Sigh.

I've decided to have an "I hate Johnny Lingo" party at some point. If you agree with me at all, you should consider attending. I'm thinking of having a pinata.

Stick around--it just gets better from this point.

Actually, I believe all this really started about a week after my lunch date with child-molester-weird-scary cousin. That was when I began to have feelings I couldn't understand. Until that point, even though I was sometimes uneasy in relationships, I felt little stress and for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed them. Therapist says that this is all typical of how PTSD manifests itself. Hmph! Typical!! Who wants to be that?! However, in retrospect what happened was that each event which might, under normal circumstances (normal circumstances = no PTSD), have been easily coped with, ballooned into something more extreme. In my typical way, I ignored each item until it became a crisis and then I became a raving nut-case. Sometimes I raved more than others.

Example: Therapist decides to have a life 350 miles away, which does not include me. I end up in the psyche ward of the hospital.
Example: My life is crazy busy, but I still have too much energy so I take a few more contract jobs.
Example: I find out my mother loves me in a different way than I would like, so I decide life has no meaning and I will never have hope again.
Example: I'm unable to do the suggested friendship assignment from therapy, so I become certain that I will never be able to have friends and I should just go live in a cave somewhere.
Example: My friends show me kindness and love--which causes my stress level to skyrocket whenever they're around--physically or virtually.
Example: I have to go to the dentist which makes me so nervous that I put the car into D instead of R and run into my garage door.

Okay, enough embarrassing examples. The truth is that the "friend" example nearly did me in. I was so stressed that I was picking fights, being traumatized by words that were never intended for trauma, and in general, mostly just feeling like a failure all around. I truly did want to erase my blog(s), delete my chat account(s), and disappear from existence. You must admit that my sense of drama is completely intact and unimpaired.

I finally got to the point where I just needed to say it:

me: Tolkien Boy, if I let you know in advance, and then disappeared for a little while, you wouldn't worry or take it personally, right? Because I'm having a whole bunch of overwhelming things going on, and I think I might need to just be away from everyone and regroup. Not because they're a burden or because they're not helpful, but because I think maybe I just need to be alone for a day or two.
Tolkien Boy: I would worry, of course, but if you tell me in advance I wouldn't worry too much. To be honest, I've wondered if you were getting ready to do so.
me: Well, truthfully, I have to do something. I hate to admit it but right now trying to understand the intricacies of human interaction is beyond me. I used to love chatting with people, now I just wait for them to say something unkind--and isn't it interesting that I always seem to find that unkindness, regardless of whether or not it's intended. My head tells me what an idiot I am to run from people who love me, or to not trust them. My heart tells me what an idiot I am to be with people in the first place. I'm really sorry. This doesn't need to be explained.
Tolkien Boy: Sam, please don't apologize for having a conversation with me. If you think about it, and need to step away to figure things out, then by all means take that time. I'll be here after you've taken your vacation.

I'm not sure why, but when I finally addressed the subject and was reassured that I wasn't a monster, and that no one would hate me for taking time to rest and regroup, the incredible anxiety and impulse to leave began to ease. Two days later it was gone. For the first time in months I'm feeling human. It's a good feeling.

I think I'll spend more time thinking about this later, and I definitely need to discuss it with Therapist. In the meantime--to those of you who haven't already written me off as hysterical and insane--thank you. I think the worst of the storm is over.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

And since I'm feeling like myself again...

To the amazingly closed-minded person speaking in the guise of gay rights:

1. You're right. Eating disorders are a little bit stupid, and they certainly do attract attention, especially when the person dies. I'm not intending to die, myself, and have complete confidence that I'll figure everything out. Whether I could actually afford to lose a few pounds is not something I'll discuss with you--or anyone else, for that matter. Let's just say I don't know you and you don't know me but I'm pretty happy with my size and I'd rather not get much smaller.

2. I have the greatest amazement when people like you believe you can speak for every person within a subgroup. Being married under any condition is a fairly personal decision. The fact that I chose a man is really a moot point, since a woman and I would be unable to be married. I actually don't consider myself a menace to gay people everywhere, nor do I consider that by marrying a man I've done a disservice to lesbians everywhere. Actually, when you figure out the percentage of people living on earth today who are even aware of my marriage, I don't think it figures into any equation. So, given those statistics, I think I'll just stay with my man. But thanks for your concern.

3. Wow. Having admitted that you, yourself, have never experienced heterosexual copulation, it seems a bit presumptuous that you'd insist there is no way I can possibly enjoy it. However, I am unabashed about discussing any part of human physiology, reproduction, or sexual acts, so I'm happy to set you straight about the parts of sex I find enjoyable. Truly--it doesn't embarrass me. Just the other day TB and I were discussing the female menstrual cycle and anatomy and it was no big deal, and Sully, DJ and I were talking a couple of days ago about foreskin regrowth (among other things), and AtP and I have discussed more than once breast reductions/augmentations. After all--our bodies are fascinating and I think everyone should be able to talk about them in some context. So please, allow me to dispel your disbelief. There's nothing I'd enjoy more...

To the freakishly scary religious zealot:

1. Please--pull your head out. I've been completely open when I've discussed religious topics and each time I've made certain to point out that my opinions are my own. The most amazing privilege in the world, to me, is that I can hear what is said in conferences and from the pulpit, and then I'm given agency to decide if I believe it's true. And it doesn't make me a "bad" member of the the church if I believe the church isn't perfect and that the men who lead it sometimes give incorrect opinions/information. After all, the prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said we'd never see the day that a man would walk on the moon--and it happened in his lifetime. I'm fairly certain that if the church leaders have had the opportunities to be tested that we all have had (and it would be unfair to them if they weren't), they've been wrong more than once, and they'll continue to make mistakes because they're human. Some of those mistakes will affect church policy and leadership, no doubt. Then we'll all have the opportunity to learn about forgiveness and human frailty. So....yes, I plan to continue preaching the gospel according to Samantha. To do otherwise, in my opinion, would make me a slothful and unwise steward.

2. Yes, I really am a Young Women Leader. And if you're serious about contacting my bishop and letting him know I'm gay...well...I hate to burst your bubble...but he already knows. Not only that, but he has a daughter in my class and another will be joining us soon. As for letting the Stake President know...yeah...too late on that one, as well. If I had known that tattling brings you such pleasure I would have waited and let you tell them, but I had no idea that anyone would care as much as you seem to. Let's see...I don't think my Relief Society president knows, though. Would you like to tell her?

3. Here's the thing: one day you'll grow up and realize that the things you've clung to really aren't truths--they're traditions. And while traditions can serve a purpose, sometimes they are unhealthy, promote incorrect beliefs, or are just plain stupid. And at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ is love for mankind. I have difficulty believing that Christ would call me a heretic for exercising the mind I've been blessed with, for striving to find real truth, and for sharing my beliefs with others (and I think he liked my birthday post to him--really--I do). I'm certain that he would never threaten to tell my bishop that my natural inclination is to fall in love with women, nor would he try to isolate me from young women or women, in general. In fact, I'm sure that he loves me--imperfect, gay, insecure, sinful me. And even though sometimes it's really difficult, I want to love others as he loves. And so--bottom line--I forgive you for being ignorant and challenge you to find out more about your fellowman instead of assigning us to live in hell. Last time I checked, that was someone else's job. Come on...deep down really love me...I'm know you do...let's hug....

I'm b-a-a-a-ck!

I think...

It's very possible...

I'm not sure but I'm almost positive...

I might be myself again. Don't get your hopes up, but I think the whiny, self-centered, completely preoccupied, insecure, insufferable person I became last year is leaving me. She started to go away earlier this week, and I began to feel stronger.

Someone who loves me says it's just a side-effect of food restriction. I don't care. I'll take it. I despise feeling weak. I abhor being needy. I refuse to be dependent.

This is very good. I'm suddenly feeling that life might be worth living.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Response to email questions

These questions came from a dear friend, wishing to know more about eating disorders in general, and how I'm affected by mine, specifically. I've decided to address them here, using simplistic, non-scientific responses, and I'm also enabling comments again, in the hopes that people will be kind regardless of their ability to understand. Also, you're welcome to add your opinion, but this is not intended to become a debate. If I happen to give incorrect information and you wish to correct it, please add a link to a reputable site so that all statements might be corroborated (p.s. I don't have to do that because this is my blog). Thanks.

1. What kind of eating disorder do you have?

I hate to answer this. For someone like me, having an eating disorder is humiliating and frustrating. However, acknowledging I have one is important or I won't be able to recover. There are many types of eating disorders, and many different definitions given them. Basically, an eating disorder occurs when one begins to focus in an unhealthy, often psychotic way on food intake (or lack, thereof). Most commonly spoken of are Bulimia, which involves binge eating and purging, and Anorexia, which involves extreme calorie restriction or starvation. Both can be accompanied by excessive exercise and a person might suffer from both conditions. In my broader views, I consider excessive overeating to be an eating disorder. To me, basically anything which causes one to be unhealthily obsessed with food intake falls into that category.

Now that I've given the long definition of eating disorders, I'll answer your question. I have Anerexia Nervosa.

2. How did you "get" your eating disorder?

Disorders develop for many reasons. In our society today they often occur in young women in their teens and twenties, trying to conform to an impossible body ideal. The emphasis to be thin is ever present in all types of media. Those young women who are desperate to achieve that ideal are usually ones who suffer from low self-esteem, and/or abuse, and/or toxic family relationships. Because they feel out of control in so many areas of their lives, they focus on the one thing they can control (food intake) and become so caught up in it that they lose the reality of what is happening to them.

My disorder began when I was twelve years old, not because I was trying to achieve a body ideal, but for several other reasons:
a) Initially, I was unable to eat because I was extremely unhappy, confused by the experience of being raped, wanting to talk about what happened, but finding it impossible to feel safe or to find the words to express any of my experiences.
b) Going without food caused my parents to be concerned for me. I desperately needed to be cared for. By starving myself, I was able to get their attention, and in some measure, fill that need.
c) After a prolonged period of time, during which I restricted my food intake, I felt powerful. I felt I didn't need food like everyone else did. I felt I was special. I no longer wished to eat. I needed to feel empowered. Starving myself gave me the illusion of being in control of myself and my life.
d) My mother spent most of my teen years telling me not to eat or I would become fat. It seemed easier to skip meals than to try to fight her about this. Interestingly, my sisters all have a memory of me being overweight throughout high school. I was five-feet, two-inches. I weighed between 85 and 97 pounds. I wore a size 2. It was often too large for me. I find it fascinating that because of the emotional and physical abuse factors that existed in my home, my sisters were somehow influenced to believe I was larger than I actually was.
e) Restricting my food intake caused my menstrual cycle to cease or operate sporadically. I hated having periods. Seeing blood in that particular area caused more flashbacks than I was able to cope with, and inspired terrifying nightmares. If I ate very little and exercised a lot, any period I had lasted only about two days. I averaged two or three cycles annually.

3. What did you do to start eating again in the period of time you said you were in "remission."

Actually, I did very little. Mentally and emotionally I began to feel better after I married Darrin. We lived with his mother for a year and she is a rather amazing cook. She collected cookbooks and tried many new recipes. Her father was from Spain, so she introduced me to Spanish food, and her mother was from Germany, so I was exposed to food from that country, as well. Because I was interested in what she was doing, I became distracted from the eating disorder. It helped immensely to be away from my home (and mother), and in an environment where people believed I was wonderful. Darrin's family has always treated me with respect and addressed me in such a way that I felt I was beautiful, intelligent, strong, and capable. Living with my mother-in-law was not always easy, but it was good for me to be in a place where I received validation and was never criticized. By the time we left her home, my bouts of starvation were nearly non-existent.

The other factor that helped me eat healthily was pregnancy. I never experienced morning sickness, but I was hungry! Almost all the time. And if I didn't eat when the hunger began, I truly felt that I would die. At no other time in my life have I felt such a desperate need to eat food.

4. Why do you think the eating disorder has become difficult to manage now?

I don't know. I suppose, if I'm honest, many of the things that were causing me to use the eating disorder in the first place were suppressed after I got married. There were too many other things to navigate--like finances, schooling, sexual intimacy... I just pushed everything else out of the way until I could cope with it. Now that I'm trying work through the things I've buried, there are many coping devices from my past that rear their ugly heads. This just seems to be the most unmanageable one.

5. Does it help if I tell you that I love you?

Yes. So much. Because the most horrifying part of knowing I don't want to eat, is the insecurity that I'll appear to be a freak, and anyone who has loved me in the past will stop loving me, and I'll be alone. And my impulse is to run from everyone before they can reject me, so each time you tell me you love me, I want to stay just a little bit longer. I want to hope that you'll keep loving me when I'm certain you cannot. I want to believe that I can figure out how to be healthy again. I know it's asking a lot--but please, if you love me, I hope you'll remind me whenever you feel that you can. And please know that I love you, too.