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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dear Adam,

When you read the directions on a chocolate orange, and they say, "Whack! Then unwrap!", it is best to choose a hard surface for the "Whack!" part.

Your forehead does not qualify as a hard surface. I'm trying to muster up sympathy for you because I'm sure this hurts, but mostly I find myself questioning your intelligence:

(Adam's forehead)

I do thank you, however, for not making a scene or getting blood on my car seat.

Love,
Mom

P.S. Next time (and I hope there's not one) please let me know what you have done before five hours have passed, just in case you concuss yourself.

Getting to know me

Yes, it's a therapy assignment--but a very old one I couldn't do before because I wasn't ready--and I've tweaked it a bit to make it easier:

Things I love:
1. chocolate
2. being barefoot
3. people who smell right
4. sunrises/sunsets
5. running
6. dancing
7. the blue of the sky at night, just before it turns black
8. flowers
9. long talks about nothing
10. long talks about important things
11. kisses on the cheek or forehead--giving and receiving them from people I love
12. practicing the piano
13. singing with a friend
14. reading words that reach my soul
15. playing games
16. feeling comfortable enough with someone that touch feels normal, not scary
17. playing with my kids
18. spending time with friends
19. laughing
20. waking up in the morning

Things I do:
1. cook
2. work
3. run
4. laugh
5. tell stories
6. take long walks
7. research
8. think
9. meditate
10. pray
11. look at things
12. clean
13. write
14. teach
15. wish for things
16. read
17. practice instruments
18. perform
19. take care of my family
20. plan imaginary adventures/vacations

Who I am:
1. a mother
2. a teacher
3. a financial advisor/tax preparer
4. a person who works online
5. a musician
6. comic relief
7. an arbitrator
8. a rape/abuse survivor
9. a dreamer
10. a woman
11. a curious person
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.

This is a difficult assignment. Clearly, I'm still trying to decide who I am. I hope I figure this out someday. Feel free to add to my list--I'm out of ideas.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Therapist's Theories

Slowly, life is becoming "normal" again. It's been about two weeks without even a hint of PTSD. It's been awhile since this has happened. Even on the good days, there have been fleeting moments of panic or paranoia--but not recently. The good days are good days.

Therapist believes that I have two paths when it comes to PTSD. The first is what I've done for most of my life: I simply ignore or deny that I'm feeling anything at all. Doing so has kept the flashbacks to a minimum, although the nightmares have taken on a life of their own. It's much easier, however, to explain away bad dreams than it is to live through a incident of rape, however imaginary. However, in order to stay on this path, it was essential that I isolate myself, have no close relationships outside of Darrin, and keep all interactions with people businesslike or casual. This is not healthy and I will admit that in the years when I did this, there were moments when I was so lonely I felt immobile and overwhelmed. And while I was content for the most part, there was no depth or intensity to any joy I felt. Life was good, it felt happy, and it also felt completely two-dimensional.

The second path involves allowing people access to me. This causes me a great deal of stress and is what began to trigger panic attacks when my life became too busy to be manageable. I can read people fairly well as long as there is no connection to me, personally. I know when people are sad or lonely, when they're not feeling well, when they're dying to talk. Darrin used to call me "the Piano Bench Counselor" because it was not unusual for students to come to their lessons and end up unloading current problems as I listened. This usually involved a great deal of tears and a bit of embarrassment, but I think it was good for them to have a place to talk.

However, in regards to decoding how people feel about me, I'm at a complete loss. I love the communication I have with Ambrosia because she's very specific about things we do that she enjoys. She doesn't assume I just know how she feels, and if I do something she finds helpful or unusual, she tells me. Most of the time I have no idea I'm doing the thing she mentions, so when I hear her words I'm able to understand better how our friendship works--what things she finds supportive or enjoyable. For someone like me, such explicit communication is invaluable. It keeps me from feeling insecure or retreating--concerned about breaching boundaries or being unwanted or unwelcome.

Not everyone feels comfortable with that type of communication. Some people have no idea how to easily initiate it, and often my friends just assume I know things that I do not. Therapist has been working with me for about two years now, trying to help me learn how to tell people what my communication needs are and then following up, reminding them, and returning similar communication to them. I hate it. I don't want to have to talk about this at all. I want my interactions with my loved ones to be easy and natural.

Therapist reminds me that I can't have that natural ease--yet. He promises me that as PTSD becomes more and more manageable, I'll learn to quiet the remembered abuses, the inaccurate conclusions, the imagined unkindnesses. But I have to put in the time now in order to get to that point. I still don't want to. It makes me feel like I need special treatment. Therapist says I do. He reminds me that much of the pain behind PTSD is an inability to navigate and maintain close relationships. He insists that with practice I'll learn how to read the nonverbal cues and body language and I'll understand that no one really wishes me harm, but until that time I need people to say exactly how they feel, I need to hear positive reports of the way I enrich their lives, and I need to be reminded that I'm not invisible when I'm present nor forgotten when I'm not.

This is unpleasant.

Tolkien Boy believes I hate this because, while many things come easily to me, this particular part of life feels cumbersome and frustrating. I don't really care why, I just want to "get it", and I want that to happen right now. It's not going to.

There is a great deal of vulnerability in admitting feelings and discussing needs. I'm noticing this is not only true for me, but also for my friends who do not have PTSD. I understand why I feel this--I have deep fears abandonment and I'm combating words which undermined my sense of self-worth over many years. There is a belief that if I speak of the things I need I will be told those needs do not matter, that I have no value, and that I need to stop talking. I don't understand, however, why my friends feel this, as well. Perhaps they're afraid their words will be misconstrued--or maybe everyone has a tiny bit of abandonment fear, or a fear that their needs, too, will be disregarded once spoken.

It's interesting to me that each relationship in my life carries with it a unique sense of identity, each with its own areas of strengths and weaknesses. I've been confused that, in spite of the fact that we've talked nearly every day for more than four years, I have the most difficulty talking about my specific needs with Tolkien Boy. I find it much easier with other friends and yet, TB and I are close enough that this should not be a problem.

Darrin believes the difficulty lies in the fact that I often relax so much when I'm with TB that I don't really pay attention to what he says. I've been known to spend a day with my friend, and when Darrin asks what we talked about I can't remember. Or we'll talk on the phone or chat for a very long time and I find myself constantly losing my train of thought. Darrin says allowing myself to let go of stress when I'm with TB is a very good thing, but it also keeps me from listening closely to the things TB says, or noticing when he's letting me know his feelings or thoughts concerning me or our friendship. Darrin knows me very well. I'm pretty sure he's right.

So--during my last visit with Tolkien Boy I paid attention and I asked questions and I made certain to remember what we talked about. And while I didn't experience the complete relaxation of inner stress which I usually indulge in when I'm with him, I walked away from that visit feeling much more level. I heard TB tell me about parts of our friendship that bring him joy, as well as those that cause him aggravation; and I believe I was completely incoherent in everything I said, but I also believe I was able to communicate some things I've been wishing to say, as well.

And all this meandering through my mind has taken place in this blog post because Therapist believes if I keep doing that sort of thing with the people I love, eventually the stress I've been feeling within my relationships will ease and I'll have one fewer trigger for PTSD symptoms. Based on my recent lack of symptoms, I'm willing to believe him and test his theory, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be.

And now I am going to bed. It's time to sleep on this.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

If your mind is closed to answers you do not wish to hear, I cannot help you understand.

Recently I was asked point blank why I stay with Darrin. The impetus behind the question came from a conversation with a friend in which we were discussing the number of people we knew who had recently coupled-up. Those people span many different ages and are all gay. This is because my friend is gay and has limited her inner circle of friends to gay people. I am the only "gay" friend who lives a heterosexual lifestyle. My friend knows and likes Darrin, but she said she's always wondered how I can remain with him.

I've never been asked this before. I've been told I should leave, that I'm being dishonest and hurting my husband and children by maintaining a charade which will eventually crumble. I've been accused of undermining the acceptance of gay relationships and marriages by remaining in my mixed-orientation marriage. I've been introduced to prospective mates, placed in my line of vision to help me come to my senses and embrace my true self. I've been told that all my emotional problems, including PTSD, are the result of my current living arrangement (which is largely harmonious and peaceful, as well as delightful and fun), and have nothing to do with being a rape and abuse survivor...

I've never been asked.

The novelty of being consulted rather than assaulted threw me a bit off balance. I'm used to having to be defensive, or simply ignoring the person who assumes or predicts much about something they know little.

Why do I stay with Darrin?

There are a number of practical reasons:
1. I love him.
2. I enjoy spending time with him.
3. We have built a lovely family and we'd like to maintain that family unit.
4. I promised I would.

My friend listened intently, then pointed out that none of those reasons would be enough for her to stay with a man. She insisted that being in love, being completely attracted to one's mate, feeling a sense of "home" with that person...all those things would trump the reasons I just named.

I disagreed. Reason number four, alone, will keep me with Darrin forever. The only possible way I would break that promise is if he became abusive, if he was unfaithful to me, or if he told me he no longer wished to be married to me. She said I'm committed to a principle or an ideal, not a person.

I said, no.

I openly admit to not being physically attracted to my husband--or any man, for that matter. I've mentioned that I find women beautiful and still have moments when I feel physically attracted to someone. My friend said I'm completely missing out on a relationship which would feel whole and complete.

What my friend does not understand--but I do--is that no relationship is whole and complete, regardless of how it feels initially. She cannot understand this because her longest lasting relationship had a duration of ten years, and the final three years of that relationship were spent in turmoil, times of separation, and infidelity. My marriage is twice that long, has never felt the sting of infidelity, and we have never been separated, nor have we wished for that. My friend envisions a marriage akin to a partnership-- amicable, sexless, and cooperative.

I simply smiled and shrugged, suggested this was something my friend could never understand, and changed the subject. She said she believes that I, myself, do not know why I stay in my marriage, then allowed the subject change. But she is incorrect.

I know exactly why I stay.

I stay because although strong physical attraction to my husband is absent, a deeper, emotional attraction to him exists. This emotional connection causes me to desire, initiate, and enjoy a fulfilling sexual relationship with him. It is unique and joyful. I have no reason to look elsewhere for this.

I stay because I love waking every morning to find him beside me and knowing he will return to me each night. I love talking with him, telling him my deepest thoughts and listening to his. I love seeing him in a crowd and knowing I am the person he is looking for and when he finds me, he will come to my side and within moments, my hand will be in his.

I stay because I love laughing with him, making fun of his odd quirks, being aggravated with him. I love the entire spectrum of emotion and affection I share with him, and I know that any discord will be resolved. It might take time, it might hurt a great deal, but it won't separate us or cause irreparable damage.

I stay because if I told Darrin I wished to leave, he would let me go, but he trusts that I will never ask. He places in me implicit faith. He expects that I will always be present in his life. He believes I love him and that I know he loves me.

I stay because, no matter what my friend perceives, I am in love. Perhaps I am not in love in the way she would define it. Perhaps I am not in love in the way the world would define it. Perhaps Darrin and I have created our own definition of being in love; one on which we both agree; one which will endure because in the end, we will both stay. To me it's not a question of why I stay with Darrin, it's a question of why, given the joy and contentment I experience right now, I would ever wish to leave.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." ~Galileo Galilei

Therapist asked me when I felt the most "Me". My answer was that this occurred when I was teaching, but now that I've had time to think about it, I don't believe this is correct. I feel confident when I teach and I have lots of fun, and I think teaching is something at which I excel--but not necessarily what makes me who I am. I chose that because it's a place where I'm comfortable, but I don't believe I'm comfortable, necessarily, when I'm the most "Me."

I've been thinking about this for nearly a week now. I've realized that there are times when I feel almost completely whole:
1. When I'm practicing.
2. When I'm reading.
3. When I run.
4. When I'm laughing.
Surprisingly, though, there was an unexpected revelation: The time when I feel the most "Me" is when I'm allowing myself to be completely vulnerable with someone I love. I'm no longer hiding any parts of me, dodging questions, or deflecting attention. And this feeling of being whole increases if I'm allowing physical contact. This situation, two or three years ago, left me feeling guilty and devastated--concerned that I had somehow hurt the person I was with. I would spend weeks trying to undo the imagined harm and scurrying about, apologizing for some unknown thing I had done.

I no longer feel that. I'm finally convinced that no one will allow close contact with me unless they desire it--and therefore I'm probably not hurting anyone by allowing them to have physical contact with me--which might mean anything from a hug, to sitting closely side by side, to something as simple as a brief kiss on the cheek or shaking hands.

I had a long talk with a friend recently. It felt as though both of us were sharing honesty. It was simultaneously frightening and deeply moving to me. I'm still trying to sort out what that means, but I think it has something to do with the fact that as I listened, I wasn't internally negating the words that were said, or excluding myself from mutual devotion or love. Also, for the first time, I found myself believing the words that were spoken, trusting the person who was speaking, and allowing myself to understand that while nothing on this earth is perfect, much of what I experience with another person can be joyful.

I still don't know why those moments I've identified make me feel whole. I'd like to understand this better. I believe the first four things make me feel complete because I'm able to participate in them without holding back any part of me. I throw myself into the activity, losing myself in it completely. Perhaps I've never done that with another person outside of Darrin, and never in the realm of friendship. Maybe when we allow ourselves to let go when we're with another person, we discover who we really are.

Regardless of the answers to those questions, I'm left in an emotional upheaval. Nothing seems level or predictable. And the really strange thing about all this is that I'm not upset about it--curious, but not worried.

I have a feeling that everyone in the world understands innately the answers I'm seeking and that what I am discovering, they have been experiencing all their lives. Better late than never? Apparently this old dog can still learn new tricks. And with that, I will stop being cliche and go to bed.

December 25, 2010

I am very protective of my deepest feelings and beliefs. I rarely share them for a number of reasons:
1. My motives can be questioned--and usually judged to be other than what they truly are.
2. They belong to me and only me. I see no reason to discuss them with anyone else.
3. Often when I'm asked about them it's for the purpose of trying to persuade me I'm foolish, misguided, or just plain wrong. I don't respond well to that.

However, on this night I have a few things to say. First, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude that I'm finally feeling stronger than I have in two years--stronger in every way. It's been a long road and one from which I wished to turn almost daily. Loved ones, mortal and spiritual, have lent me strength, held my hand, and sometimes held all of me as I struggled to find the stamina to keep trying to heal.

Second, on this night I speak of the reality of my Savior. So many times when I have been devastatingly lonely, certain I could not embrace myself wholly, wondering how I would ever stop being afraid of the pain lingering in my past, wishing with all my heart that I could be someone else for just enough time to catch my breath, I have allowed Him to carry my burden so that I might rest. Always I have been granted that blessing. Without it, I believe I would have lost my mind long ago.

And so tonight, regardless of the doubts of many in this world, in spite of their disparagement of my beliefs, I celebrate the miraculous birth of the person who came to earth long ago and made an unspeakable sacrifice so that a little girl, abused, abandoned, and molested, might one day find healing for her heart and soul. With every part of my being, I adore Him. For me there is no other way to peace. He is my Lord and Redeemer, but He is also my friend. He has walked with me every step of the way, even when I ignored and denied Him, and He walks with me still.

I wish every person who happens onto this post, a joyful Christmas day. May you celebrate in whatever way brings you happiness. And should our beliefs on this point diverge, then on my day of peace, I wish you the same.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Just in case you were wondering...

Some convenience store/truck stops along I-80 have soda fountains. And some soda fountains have add-ins you can put in your drinks. And most of the time there is cherry. I like cherry.

When these add-ins were first discovered by me, one could push down the button and hold it and a pre-measured amount would flow into the cup and then it would stop. Not so today.

In honor of Tolkien Boy (and because I was driving home on an average of 4 hours of sleep over the past four days), I got diet Pepsi and added a shot of cherry to it (not in honor of TB who does not like cherry). Thinking the syrup would stop after a moment, I held the button down and stopped paying attention to what I was doing, then I removed my finger, capped the cup and grabbed a straw.

In the car, I took a sip and thought, Hmmmm, lots of cherry. Then I felt red seeping through my veins. I checked my tongue in the mirror. It was bright pinkish crimson. I showed Adam who immediately tried to turn his tongue red, as well. However, he had about four very strong mints in his mouth which, in combination with the nauseatingly sweet, syrupy drink, cause him to gag alarmingly.

We both decided the drink was disgusting. This conclusion was drawn while we continued to take sips, ensuring that our tongues remained vividly red. After five minutes of drawing that conclusion, I was feeling a sugar rush--not a familiar feeling for me. Ten minutes later I asked Adam to get rid of the contents of the cup so I would quit drinking the foul brew. He chugged the remainder to save me--such a noble boy.

All I have to say is, Thank goodness we were within forty-five minutes of home. We are both rather ill. And our tongues are still red. You should come see.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh, yeah.

Sometimes Therapist says things that are so completely obvious I want to roll my eyes at him. I don't--because obvious or not, the things he says are usually beyond my range of thought, and definitely things I need to think about.

me: So why haven't we talked about my attachment issues? You know I have them--I know I have them.
Therapist: Yes. We haven't talked about them because you haven't asked.
me: You're the therapist.
Therapist: And you're Samantha. 
me: I don't understand.
Therapist: Yes, you do. This is your show. You've let me know from our first visit that you want to choose what we talk about and what we work on together.
me: True.
Therapist: So, do you want to talk about it?
me: Maybe. Will it help?
Therapist: I don't know. It might. Your attachment issues, however, are things you've already addressed.
me: I haven't.
Therapist: Not consciously, maybe, but given the extent and frequency of abuse and abandonment you've experienced in your life, you function at an impossibly high level for someone who has never addressed that issue.
me: Meaning?
Therapist: You've identified behaviors and feelings related to attachment issues and understood what you need to do to cope with or manage those. Otherwise you'd have a number of social problems that you currently don't have to deal with.
me: So--I did this by myself.
Therapist: I think so, yes.
me: See--I can do things on my own.
Therapist: There was never any question of that.
me: What was the question?
Therapist: The question was whether or not you'd be able to allow others to lend a hand.
me: Sigh. This is too complicated. I need sleep.
Therapist: True. We can talk about it another time.
me: Why do we have to talk about it all?
Therapist: Because you brought it up, which means you have something on your mind. I think you'll tell me when you're ready to work on it.
me: Do you always throw my words back at me?
Therapist: Yes.
me: Okay, so I have abandonment issues.
Therapist: We're changing the subject?
me: Well, you mentioned that earlier.
Therapist: Yup, I did.
me: And those abandonment issues are part of the reason I'm constantly waiting for people I love to leave me, yes?
Therapist: Yes.
me: And why, sometimes, I want them to just do it, so I can stop agonizing over when it will happen, which, by the way, is horribly painful.
Therapist: I would think so.
me: You don't worry about that? About people leaving you?
Therapist: Probably everyone has some level of concern about that, but it usually is not the focus of interaction.
me: Okay. So what do I do?
Therapist: Talk to them? Tell them your thoughts, fears?
me: I have. I think they're really tired of it.
Therapist: Someone who cares about you, who understands your background, who wants to remain in your life, will not become tired of it. Remind them you need to hear often that they care about you and they intend to stay.
me: It makes me feel so pathetic: PLEASE--tell me constantly that I'm not a pain in the ass, that you aren't going to run away from me, that I'm not making you crazy with my insecurity.
Therapist: Is that what you say?
me: No. I just tell them I'm having a difficult time and ask them to remind me again that we're friends and no one is going anywhere.
Therapist: I can't imagine that would upset anyone.
me: Maybe not. I'm just tired of always needing to be taken care of.
Therapist: Sam, they love you. They're not going anywhere.
me: How do you know?
Therapist: Well, when you ask them to remind you of those things--where are they? They're right there with you. They're there NOW.

And this is something I have never considered. In order for me to force someone to leave so that I don't have to wait for it anymore, they have to be present. And if they're present, I must assume it's because they want to be. And if they want to be...why would I ruin that by pushing them to leave?

It's completely obvious--just not to me. At some point, though, I'm going to think about it enough that it will become so. So if you're my friend, don't leave, okay? And keep reminding me that you're not the one trying to make that happen--it's me and I can manage that impulse if I tune into it. And when I finally figure all this out we can go get ice cream to celebrate and I'll eat some even though I don't like it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Genetic

If you spend enough time with me it will soon become clear that I have a mental deficiency: I cannot differentiate between snowmen and penguins. This only applies to the cutesie ones like those found on Christmas wrap, mugs, and baby sweaters. I'm not sure when the problem began, but I believe it started when I discovered I had a favorite hot chocolate mug emblazoned with a penguin...I think. My children insist it's the penguin mug, but in my head it is immutably a snowman. When I see the mug I see a penguin. When I use it, it's a penguin. When I ask for it--it's a snowman.

This happens repeatedly and interchangeably with other snowman/penguin items. My friends and family ridicule me for it. My dad smirks and says, "Mensan, eh?" Adam suggests flash card practice. DJ rolls his eyes. Darrin hides my mug...

I do know the difference. I just can't always make the correct word match the character. I think.

Yesterday Tabitha was helping me wrap presents. We had Santa wrap, poinsettia wrap, and snowman wrap (or possibly penguin wrap--I can't remember). Tabitha finished one gift, then asked me to pass her the penguin paper (or snowman paper--regardless, it was not the character residing on the gift wrap). I handed her the roll. As she took it she began to giggle, said, "Oh, I meant snowman paper," then, "MOM! It's your fault! I'm going to spend the rest of my life confused about penguins and snowmen."

I sighed and said, "It's really very easy to tell the difference, Tabitha. Penguins can't fly."

She looked at me in silence for a moment, then replied, "No wonder you're hopeless."

 

Friday, December 17, 2010

So this is what it feels like...

Life has become confusing, but not in an upsetting way. I keep discovering things new to me--things people around me simply accept. Today I was visiting a friend's Facebook page and noticed the year was no longer visible on her birth date, and just for a tiny moment I thought of my own birthday and for the first time since I was a small child I felt a twinge of excitement, not in anticipation of anything celebratory, but a simply feeling of "that is my day--that's when I was born," and it felt amazing. I seem to be discovering me, independent of the approval or judgment of any other person; I know of no other way to describe it.

When I went to bed last night, Darrin mentioned, as he does each year, that he was planning my Christmas present. I felt the customary protest form on my tongue: Please don't--let's spend our money on the kids. I don't need anything--or want anything, really. Just spend time with me, that's all I want... The words didn't come out. Thoughts flew rapidly through my head, memories of the time I spend choosing gifts for others, personalizing them, basing them on previous conversations or past experiences, appreciating the fact that there are people in my life I know and love so much that I find incredible delight in finding gifts for them. For so many years I have never allowed the people I love to do the same for me. I've discouraged and rebuffed their attempts to find out what I might like, selfishly keeping my deepest thoughts, likes and dislikes hidden from even the person who loves me so much he wants to spend his entire life with me.

I closed my lips over the habitual words and said instead, "I can't wait to see what you find." Darrin didn't say anything, but I found my hand suddenly held in his--too tightly. I felt a mixture of shame, regret, and oddly, anticipation and joy. It's a lot to absorb, but not unpleasantly so.

Today I cancelled a meeting and a rather crucial rehearsal. I will finish my work, pay some bills, do a bit more Christmas shopping and then go home to prepare food for our family tree-trimming party. Tomorrow I will meet with friends for our traditional pastry-making, and Sunday my last performances of the year will take place.

I am getting to know Samantha. I don't like all that I find, but I think I might be falling in love. And I don't really care what that sounds like. For so many years I've been running away from someone rather amazing. It's time for me to embrace her.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sometimes Life is Beautiful

Today I went Christmas shopping. As much as I try to be mature about this holiday, I'm a sucker for glittery ornaments, cinnamon scented candles, and obnoxious elf hats that sing. I don't necessarily want to buy them, I just want to stand in the store aisles and look/smell/listen.

My Christmas tree is still undecorated. I need to do something about that.

I stream Christmas music while I work, singing along as loudly as possible, and pausing every fifteen minutes to dance a little bit.

While I understand the world is not Christian and this holiday can be annoying for one who does not celebrate it--for me, this year, it is wonderful. I will not explain why because I have learned that it is unwise for me to share the things I most wish to say, and there is no one who will cherish my words as needed. In the past four years I have learned to speak--and also to remain quiet again.

I will simply say, I am incredibly grateful right now and finally, miraculously, at peace. I do not ask anyone who reads this--anyone who knows me-- to understand.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This is a PTSD Post--skip it.

Unless, of course, you have some interest in the disorder.

For nearly three years I've talked about being affected by PTSD, but I've had difficulty explaining why it feels so daunting. I discuss the feelings and the symptoms, then I look at what I've written and think, "That's not it at all--not even close."

My most recent bouts of PTSD have been severe and exhausting. They're slightly different from previous ones because I find myself feeling intense dislike, even hatred for people I love (mostly men). If you encountered me online, there's a good chance I was curt or uncommunicative (if you were lucky), or I was sarcastic and impossibly argumentative (if you were unlucky). And then I escaped from the conversation, ran to my room, fell on my bed and sobbed because this is not like me.

Tabitha found me there last night. She put her arms around me and said she was sorry I was sad. I'm sorry, too. I said, "Tabitha, when I have PTSD symptoms this badly, I lose who I am. I can't figure out what's real anymore. I'm hurting people and I don't know why." She looked at me in a way uniquely Tabitha's, and said, "Actually, Mom, you might feel like hurting people, but I doubt you do. And anyway, even if you forget who you are for a minute, everyone else knows. They'll remember for you until you can do it yourself again."

Maybe she's right.

I told Jason recently, that one of the reasons Tolkien Boy and I are such close friends is because he allows me to hate him. That sounds completely screwed up, and no doubt, it is. But there are large amounts of hate and resentment residing inside me that were spawned when my tiny eleven-year-old body was raped repeatedly for three months until I could no longer cry about it or even feel the pain and nausea resulting from the abuse. And complicating those feelings are additional ones which were created by a mother who spent each day of my young life screaming at me the reasons I was vile and unacceptable, punctuating the words with physical abuse. That same mother who reminded me that my size zero body was too fat, and who approved of the days of skipping meals so I could drop those extra pounds...the feelings are still there and I don't know what to do with them.

It's not like I said to TB one day, "By the way, I have all this nastiness and hate inside of me. Would you mind terribly if I direct it at you and say awful things that I don't mean and act like a complete jerk to you?"

But because he probably talks with me more often than any other friend, he is frequently in my line of fire when the feelings become overwhelming and uncontrollable. There's a chance that I might feel more intensely hateful than my words convey (I hope so) and that I don't actually say anything damaging or hurtful, but I know Tolkien Boy is aware that there are times when I dislike him simply because he is the owner of a penis--which is completely unfair, I know, and unreasonable and just plain stupid. Except, to me, it's logical and sane in that moment.

I think there have been times when TB has become impatient or aggravated with me, but this happens when I'm using double meanings (because I'm dying to say something horrible, but restraining myself because I know TB does not deserve any of the nastiness I'm aiming at him) and he's not quite sure what's being said. When I've been honest and explained what's going on, I don't remember him ever being angry or mentioning that he feels used by me. In fact, he usually becomes more gentle, careful not to say things that might make me more frustrated (which sometimes frustrates me anyway because I'm completely insane sometimes).

I don't know why he does this.

Maybe he knows that little girl inside of me better than I do. Maybe he wishes he could make her feel less sad. Maybe he understands that the feelings have to come out somehow and while they might be momentarily directed at him, they really have nothing to do with him. Or maybe, he really believes what he said when he told me people who care about each other must practice relentless forgiveness.

I need to talk to Therapist about this. And someday, soon, I need to figure out a better way to channel these feelings from a long time ago because what I'm doing now is just making me feel guilty and sad.

Jason called Tolkien Boy "noble". There's a very good chance Jason is correct.

Concerts

I have only one left.  :-)

The performances have gone well, but I had no idea how many I'd signed up for. I forgot how to say no. Consequently, I've been performing almost nonstop since November 21st and on more than one instrument (not simultaneously) which equals insane amounts of practice time. This week I've had a concert every night. Most of them are at least two hours long. So if you've wondered why your Christmas Carol order has not been filled--now you know. It's probably not going to happen. However, I'll try to send out at least one email before Christmas.

Last night, prior to performing, I was sitting briefly in the audience (too crowded backstage), by a family with two small children. The four-year-old was whining about not having the pen he wanted to draw with. Mom was frustrated and trying to quiet him, dad was wrestling with the two-year-old, I was counting my blessings...when I heard Mom whisper with intensity, "You stop this right now! You're not behaving like I asked you to. When we get home, I'm calling Santa Claus!"

The four-year-old immediately dissolved into tears and I'm pretty sure my face disappeared completely because my shocked mouth and eyes were opened so widely. Do people really do that? Well, evidence would suggest that they actually do. I was even more shocked when, as her child sobbed, the mom looked at me and grinned and winked. Yup, you sure pulled a good one. You had to be mighty tricky to fool that innocent child of four. Nice one, Mom.

Maybe it's no big deal, but to me, if a child is misbehaving, chances are they're uncomfortable, sleepy, or simply out of sorts. Hmmmm...naturally, that never happens with adults...

And it seems to me that there are better ways to train a child how to behave outside of threatening them with a make-believe being who gives and takes away presents they don't need based on a naughty/nice list. Fortunately, I had to leave because it was time to be on stage, which was the best outcome for everyone involved.

But I still believe good behavior is a habit learned by positive reinforcement--not by punitive measures, nor by empty threats which have no factual basis-- and if you use them on your kids, and the time comes when they learn you've lied to them and everything comes full circle and bites you in the butt--I have only one thing to say:

You deserve what you receive from those kids of yours--every bit of it.

There's a reason adults are parents and not kids, but sometimes when I see what I saw tonight, I can't remember what that reason is.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reliance

This word has always fascinated me. One definition seems obvious: "The state of relying on something or someone," but another definition leaves me mystified: "Certainty based on past experience."

The first, in my world, is negative. I must never rely on anyone--ever. It's a mantra which became ingrained in my head as far back as I can remember.

The second, in my world, is something I am trying to negate. Most of my certainties are based on extreme circumstances which, hopefully, the majority of people will not experience. Given such extremity, my certainties are unreliable and often untrue.

Add to this the prevailing synonym for the word "reliance" : TRUST.

None of this adds up for me.

[The state of relying on someone or something] = [Certainty based on past experience] = Trust

My head just exploded.

One does not rely on other people.

Past experience tells me that I will likely be used and abused and left alone to clean up the remaining mess.

Trust is scary beyond belief.

Once Therapist asked me who I trust. I thought for a very long time before I finally answered...No One. I trust no one. But in the process of drawing that conclusion, I thought about Darrin, who certainly deserves and has earned my trust, and friends like Tolkien Boy, and Jason, and AtP, and Ambrosia, and Sister P., and many others who became my friends nearly four years ago and who are still here--who still welcome me into their lives and try to help me when I need it.

Why don't I trust them?

It's not that I distrust them, either.

Tolkien Boy told me recently, that he relies on me. When I pressed him for an explanation, the words he said, in my mind, were interpreted thusly: Somehow, I have become an integral part of his life. Sometimes he enjoys sharing with me the things he thinks about and experiences. He likes knowing who I am and where to find me.

There is a part of me that wishes to find every person I love deeply and bind them to me somehow--not in a way that's harmful, but in a way that lends strength and support, if that makes any sense. But it also does not wish to ever let them go away, and that's the part which causes an equal and opposite reaction which says, no one should ever belong to anyone in any way and my desire is wrong. My whole purpose in being involved in someone's life is to point them toward the time when they no longer wish me to be there and they have the freedom to leave whenever they wish.

Have I confused the heck out of anyone yet? Because I'm completely muddled at this point.

Is there a way for me to enjoy the people I love without feeling I've committed some sort of trespass?

Will there come a time when I stop counting the days that AtP pops in and says hello, tells me he just woke up, and wanders away to find something to eat--when I exhale slowly and enjoy one more exchange with him, simultaneously dreading the day when it no longer happens?

Someday, will I understand exactly what it means when Tolkien Boy tells me he expects we'll be friends forever, rather than assigning that statement my cynical definition which says, "Eventually Samantha will become boring and then we can go to that tradition of sending annual Christmas cards...what a relief..."?

Will I ever relax enough to figure out that when Jason and Ambrosia say they enjoy spending time with me--that's exactly what they mean? And no amount of analysis will add hidden meanings or slanderous undercurrents, because no one really wants to work that hard and, honestly, what would be the point?

Someday, will I finally recognize that for some people, love changes and wanes and even turns to hatred or resentment--but not for all people? Sometimes love grows and brings acceptance and structure and familiarity and security, and it's okay to expect a hug or a smile, or even a hand to hold when life feels scary or sad.

And maybe it's okay, once in awhile, to rely on someone and to allow them to rely on me, as well--whatever the reason.

And maybe one day I will have stored up enough new experiences that my certainties will be based on my interactions with people who truly love me; who act in healthy, constructive ways; and for whom the idea of hurting me is completely foreign.

And maybe, in the meantime, I can try out this trust thing. I think I'll probably be very bad at it, and there's a possibility it could backfire--but one never knows until one tries, right? And it's also possible that it won't backfire and one day I'll wake up, realize I'm a very old lady and I've finally figured out the equation for reliance--and perhaps it will even make sense, barring senility and Alzheimer's.

However, should the senility/Alzheimer's thing happen first--I think we should never play hide and seek. I'll end up being lost forever. On this you can rely...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Only two more performances before Christmas--yay!

The desire to write has been fading over the past few months, mostly because the only time I feel driven to do so is when PTSD becomes intolerable. I don't enjoy writing about it and blogging seems to do nothing more than create a permanent record of my most irrational moments, and a distorted representation of who I really am. I've been open about the fact that the person who speaks on my blog is only one facet of me, but still there are times when I wish that facet was less whiny and oppressed.

I find myself wanting to lash out at people--to cause hurt when none should be given. The compulsion feels foreign yet familiar, as if I've been wanting to give pain for a very long time. It sickens me. Therapist would tell me this is old--a result of being unprotected and severely hurt as a child. I don't know what to do with it--where to put it--how to dispel it. Therapist would say to allow the desire to occur without shame; to understand where it comes from and to "speak" to it as I would if one of my own children were experiencing such feelings. Except--I'm not a child.

I told Darrin about this one night. He held me close and said it was okay. He said, soon, when the feelings have all been spent, I won't be bothered by them anymore. He told me he knows who I am and that this is unpleasant but temporary and I don't have to go through it alone. But he's not always here, and for the next few weeks he'll be gone even more as he teaches the afternoon and night classes.

I'm not going to say this to DJ, but I miss him terribly. He visits often. Darrin and Adam invite him to spend the night--to stay longer with us. I don't. I know it's good for him to be on his own. But there are times when I'd love one of his hugs, and I reluctantly admit that there were moments when he was still at home when I felt safe knowing he was watching out for me. I didn't need him to do that, but it seemed to be an amazing luxury I've rarely had--someone who always seemed to be thinking of me, wondering if I was okay, reminding me of the important things in my life. Not everyone has that, and probably I shouldn't have had it from my son, but it still made me feel valued, regardless of the source.

I finally have a Christmas tree. Darrin and Adam went to the mountains in rather nasty weather and cut one for us. It's not beautiful, but I'm guessing when you're traipsing through snow in high winds and all your extremities are numb, beauty is less of an objective than proximity to the truck. We haven't decorated it yet. I'm not sure when that will happen, but I'm really glad to have one.

Tabitha and I made my favorite Christmas cookies with my mom yesterday. She's become less and less linear in her thought processes. She went downstairs to get a bottle of maraschino cherries and came back up with an armful of quilts and blanket and photos of others she had made. Then she made us listen as she displayed each one, told us who it was for, and why it was made. Mixed in with the pictures were photos of a quilt I made years ago for Darrin's aunt and uncle. It was king-sized, a sampler quilt made of pieced blocks I thought would be fun to make. Then I took the top to my mom's house to elicit her help in quilting it. I had four younger siblings living at home and DJ was two. There were pictures of one brother and a sister quilting, and one of DJ putting in some stitches, as well. I left in his quilting when I gave the give to Darrin's aunt and uncle--just because I wanted to.

We made fifteen dozen cookies. I took a bunch home and they now reside in my freezer. Tonight the kids and I made tamales and this weekend we'll make pastries with our friends across the street (an annual tradition). Tabitha spends enormous amounts of time playing Christmas carols on the piano and when she's not playing, Adam has his favorite saxophone carol CD playing. I admit to being a little tired of their choices of music. I also admit to loving the fact that they're enjoying Christmas in their own ways and allowing each other time and space in the process.

Christmas is in two weeks and I've bought exactly zero presents. I feel no urgency or stress to do so. I'm taking one day at a time, grateful for snow, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, Christmas lights on neighbors' homes, beautiful music, my fragrant (if hideous) Christmas tree, and crazy-still-blooming pansies. We had an ice storm on Friday. When everything subsided and warmed up slightly, the silly things were still there, displaying their riot of colorful petals. Visitors to my home shake their heads and laugh at my stubborn flowers.

And after they leave, I go out and whisper to those pansies how very much I love them.


Friday, December 10, 2010

There are days like today...

I'm quite certain I can do anything--ANYTHING!!!!

This feeling is the result of three PTSD-free days. They're marvelous. In spite of the fact that I've been living at the dentist's office (one of my most despised of places), and I've developed an infection near the roots of one of my teeth, and the dentist tells me I should probably get prepped for a root canal because that's what happens next, I am deciding instead to believe I'm invincible, finishing my antibiotic and pretending the infection will not spread, but will simply go away. This is not denial. I'm very aware of the pain and the prognostication--I just believe, at least for now, that my superpowers are residing in my teeth and in a matter of four days, all will be back to normal. The fact that my dentist told me it's not impossible simply increases my belief that this will happen ("not impossible" = "logical result" in Samspeak).

Tonight I kill off Messiah. Last year I told the committee I didn't want to to Messiah again. I was voted down. I said I didn't want to be on the committee. I was given loads of guilt because I'm one of three founding members. I said I didn't want to play in it. My friend who has been my friend forever and with whom have played since I was twelve pretended she couldn't hear me. So...I'm playing.

The good news is that for all of us "oldies", it's been more of a chore than a joy. I think my "I'm tired" message is beginning to make sense to them. This could be because I did nothing for the committee. On this I was firm. I came to rehearsals. I conducted when asked. I played and practiced, but if asked to do more, I simply smiled and said, "No, thank you." And then I walked away. People have difficulty trying to persuade an absent person to do something they don't wish to do.

This year every member of the Stevens family is in the Messiah production. I have to admit--I love that.

And now I must go dry my hair so I can attend yet another rehearsal (not Messiah).

Oh--no, I haven't sent out the carols yet and you haven't been missed. I've just been busy. Don't worry--you'll see them soon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

YAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!!


I got my iTunes to work again!!!
And now I will commence with the second annual possibly illegal Beautiful World Christmas Carol giveaway, even though I'm starting seven days late.  :)     :)     :)     :)

P.S. It's still not too late to join the fun--just send me your email or post it in a comment and I'll add you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Dentist

It rained today. The morning dawned, characteristically sunshine bright, dimming to soft clouds by afternoon. My pansies insistently bloom. They have no idea it's almost Christmas.

My "final" visit to the dentist has been extended until January when the root canal work begun today will be finished. No flashbacks. I've almost forgotten what they feel like.

Okay, that's a lie, but a hopeful one. Someday, I hope I'll forget.

I realized today that it's been nearly six years since this therapy journey began, and I still have moments when I wish for someone to be outraged at the ways I was violated--moments when I want to be held as I cry--when I yearn for someone to tell me it's okay to still feel sad after a million years have passed. Perhaps one day that will go away, as well. I'm aware that, just as I have grown used to the fact that I am a rape survivor, so have the people closest to me. It is a mundane fact of Samantha, no longer shocking or remarkable.

It has been of interest to me to recognize that as the news of my violation has become old, people have been able to see past the sensational nastiness and find only me, and at the core, Samantha is simply a woman like any other. Part of me revels in this--while part of me wishes there was more...

I lay in the dentist's chair for two hours, willing my trembling body to be still, nodding briefly when the dentist asked repeatedly if I was okay. No flashbacks = very okay. Still, it can't be easy to work on a patient whose body is wracked with tremors. I took deep breaths and tried not to remember that the firm, painless pressure bearing down on my lower jaw was actually a dentist prying my gumline away from the roots of my teeth. Now, in the aftermath, there is no way to avoid that knowledge as the throbbing pain and metallic taste of blood remind me fairly constantly.

I am reminded of the sight of blood which would not allow me to ignore the damage done during my cousin's nightly visits. For a long time I was dreadfully afraid of the child who dragged herself downstairs to find clean sheets, and then clean herself. The tremors I still experience mirror those that shook her body as shock and horror left her feeling numb and alone. She wanted someone to help her--to save her. No one did.

I'm no longer afraid of her. I know her well because she is me. I fear to let anyone else love that eleven-year-old girl. She is unable to understand that love forgets. She would wish for it to continue. She doesn't understand she is invisible still. No matter what I do, I cannot change my past.

Yesterday I finally made the connection between my current bouts of PTSD and the need for love in my life. It's difficult to explain, but I understand. That young girl inside me still wants to be saved. The fact that in the end, I saved myself, seems meaningless.

There is agony, aching and acute regardless of the fact that it is ages old. The pain in my mouth seems minimal in comparison. I don't know how to assuage my need, how to put this all to rest forever. Six years of hard work and I'm still searching for answers and waiting for the hurt to heal.

In the meantime, I watch the jaded expressions in the faces of my loved ones as I seek for some sort of support. They're tired--so very tired. I understand that feeling. The responses I receive are textbook (validate her feelings, allow her to vent, then get away quickly). There really is no other option at this point. We've said all there is to say--over and over again. Even Darrin braces himself now when I ask if I can talk to him. He's tired, too.

Therapist insists I'm making progress. I want to believe him. He says I'm lovable and interesting and delightful. I want to believe him. He says I'm strong and compassionate and loving. I want to believe him. He says I'm not alone and people care about me. I want to believe him. He says, in spite of everything, I have beaten the odds and become amazing. I want to believe him.

I want to believe him.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Whatever you do, don't crush their spirits...

I've spent most of my life teaching--and most of my church service has been teaching gospel classes of some sort to the youth. Currently, I'm teaching the young women again--maybe I'll get it right this time and they'll let me be with the adults for awhile. That would be novel.

On the first Sunday of the month the young men and women meet together. This month it was my turn to teach the combined group. I enjoy having the young men join us most of the time, but today I was feeling a bit intolerant. Also, occasionally when PTSD rears its ugly head I am...unfond...of male people, especially those between the ages of 15 and 18. Sigh...

This is all complicated by the fact that the young man who inappropriately touched my daughter is in this group. I don't know exactly what's wrong with him but he's socially weird and often makes odd or shocking comments in order to draw attention to himself. Ordinarily, I take this in stride and let him know as tactfully as possible that he's out of line. It sometimes takes a couple of reminders, but that's rare.

Today, however, I was not tolerant nor tactful. I met his first couple of comments with, "This sounds like something better discussed privately with your parents," and "I appreciate your willingness to share but appropriateness is a good thing to consider before speaking." But when he compared any kind of socialized structure to Communism, and then mentioned that a government run by women was responsible for such an abomination, I'd had enough. I responded with uncharacteristic curtness: "I'm not even touching that comment because I'm offended by your insinuations and if you really mean what you say, I have little respect for your powers of reason. Also, your comment has nothing to do with what we're discussing and I'd like to stay on topic. You can talk about political philosophies at another time and with another person." Please note: I didn't tag the end of that last sentence with "person who is actually stupid enough to care what you think." I believe this shows considerable restraint.

I didn't realize I was being so ...umm ...straightforward ...yeah ...that's a good word ...until another leader moved behind the young man and quietly requested that he refrain from making other inflammatory statements meant to derail my lesson or discuss topics beyond his range of comprehension. The young man turned red and looked angry.

I gave him a couple of minutes to simmer down, then invited him to share his ideas/opinion in reference to a general question I had asked the class. I'm not sure if I was baiting him, or if I was angry at his former attitude still. I have to give him credit. He carefully considered the question and answered with sincerity which he retained for the remainder of class time.

One of the young women leaders caught me after class to tell me she enjoyed the discussion and mentioned a couple of comments the kids had made. I asked her if she thought I was out of line in reference to my response to the young man. She responded by harrumphing and saying, "Someone needs to let him know he's being obnoxious. It's about time! I probably would have just ended up being frustrated, lost my train of thought, given a terrible lesson, and gone home to cry." So--maybe it was a good thing? And she said I seemed completely calm and not angry at all (which Adam verified and he can usually tell when I'm upset).

Sigh...

I am really not good at this emotions thing. It makes me cranky, unpredictable, and shockingly rude--all things I despise.

On the bright side--I'm guessing it will be awhile before that young man takes me on again--unless he really is stupid--the jury's still out on that.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Someone's Attitude Needs Adjusting

I am not a party person. This does not mean I don't enjoy spending time at gatherings with friends--but I like to hand-select those friends. I've been known to contact people and say, "I'll be in your area soon and I'd like to see you--would you meet me at..." and then we'll arrange to meet at a restaurant or mutual friend's home, and usually there are a number of other mutual friends invited, as well, and I love this, but my favorite times are spent one on one with people I love. Small groups where we can talk quietly or laugh at inside jokes with no need to explain them, or take walks, or just be--this is where I thrive.

I don't love conversations which rise in volume as more people arrive or more alcohol is absorbed into the systems of the party people. I like people who remain in control of their impulses and inhibitions and don't make me afraid. And if I answer a question, I prefer it to be heard by someone who will actually remember it the next day.

I also detest church parties.

I understand this makes me a heathen. I'm okay with that.

Reasons for my church party anathema:

1. The food is either really awful or awfully bad for me to eat. This is because high sodium foods rank high on the list of preferred group offerings, accompanied by large dry rolls, baked potatoes (which I can eat, but don't necessarily enjoy), and packaged ice burg lettuce far past it's prime which is called "salad". Often, just for color and tradition, Jello is found on the table, as well, and the dessert is usually some mysterious pudding based creation with a creative, semi-familiar name which ends with the word "Surprise". I do not trust foods that are supposed to surprise me. Other main dish options include Hawaiian Haystacks (I know--everyone loves these, but I think they're foul, and besides the sauce is canned soup based with so much sodium I'm in agony for a week), taco bar (I don't understand this--chili is not taco meat), or a pot luck brimming with mysterious casseroles, all of which frighten me. Yes. I'm very picky about what I eat, and the less processing, the more likely I am to deem it delicious.

2. I'm very good at making conversation--when I feel like it. For some reason, that desire turns off completely when I find myself plunged into the middle of people I see each Sunday, many of whom have children I teach or have taught. I've never been able to figure out why this happens. I can attend parties for other wards and not feel the same way--in fact, I go out of my way to meet people and talk with them. I think this is probably because it's likely I'll never see them again. However, I need to figure out how to enjoy social time with members of my own ward--because I can't remember the last time I attended a church social function with them. Sigh...I know this is just me being obstinate and wanting to hoard my spare time. Spending that time with people I didn't choose or invite does not make me happy. I know. I'm evil.

3. Programs. I hate them. I always have. I find myself waiting for the next mistake, or musical number which should never have been performed in the first place, or correcting the MC's grammar, or being astounded that something so lame is actually being performed in public...yes...I'm disgusting. And I know I'm more critical than I should be, and that I should appreciate the talents of my peers, and that I'm exactly the sort of person no one wants in the audience--so I say nothing. But I'm very glad to get home and I run before someone tries to strike up a conversation about how wonderful/touching/beautiful the program was, because it's more than a little bit likely that I'll say something I should keep to myself, which probably is more scathing than accurate.

For these reasons, I stay home. I'm a church party Scrooge. Darrin has given up on trying to get me to go. However, in the next two years I plan to repent because I know he wants to go. I have to figure out some sort of bargaining tool--I'll attend the party if he'll...sigh...there's nothing I want to trade...

Ah, well, I have two years to think about it, to learn how to stop being disgusting (wrinkling my nose, furrowing my brow--not excited about this, but still determined to overcome my nastiness).

In the meantime, I intend to get in as much quiet, intimate visiting time with people I love so I can hoard those memories while I'm at large parties (church or otherwise) if the noise level increases beyond my tolerance, or if the food makes me want to retch.

Just makes you want to throw a party and invite me, right?

(hums quietly to self: "Every party has a pooper...")

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Feeling Pain

It was my goal to do this.

There's really no way to explain how one shuts out pain. It just sort of happens. I do it particularly well. There was a time, shortly after DJ was born, when I needed a tooth filled. I'd never had a cavity before, but had experienced Novocaine when I had a wisdom tooth extracted and I didn't like the stuff, so I opted not to have anything. The dentist suggested that when he drilled to the part of the tooth that hurt, I might flinch and cause him to make a mistake. I assured him I would not flinch. And I didn't. I don't remember feeling anything--just finding the drilling noisy and bothersome. Granted, I was distracted by flashbacks and those do cause pain, but the tooth filling itself, went smoothly.

Allowing myself to feel pain after many years of masking it took some practice. There are still times when I forget, but those are becoming rare. I have to say, I know this is a good thing--a NORMAL thing--to feel pain, but it's not very much fun. The thing that bothers me most is hunger. It's uncomfortable and insistent and I'm still trying to figure out how and when to eat. Hunger pangs get in the way. Darrin says to just eat when I feel them. The problem is, they feel so foreign I'm disconcerted by them and the last thing I want to do is eat. There's a lot of stress associated with hunger pangs and when stress kicks in I stop eating.

I knew the physical side of this would cause discomfort. I didn't realize it would leak into my emotional feelings, as well. I've been working on "feelings" for a few years now--accepting, acknowledging, allowing them. But everything seems to have deeper levels. Learning to feel physical pain also triggered a depth of emotional pain I didn't understand before. I still don't understand it. I've always been able to step back, analyze what's happening, and make necessary decisions concerning my emotional health. Now I find myself caught sometimes, immobilized by the intense feelings associated with emotional pain. Naturally, these are connected to interactions with another person. Formerly, if I sensed a problem or felt uncomfortable/hurt, I would seek out the person and try to talk through the difficulty. Now I find myself fearful of further hurt, or unable to find words to express myself, and definitely devoid of the ability to be rational.

Therapist says these are natural reactions felt by most people when they find themselves similarly hurt. If this is so, I have no idea how the human race continues to survive. He also tells me that, in time, everything will come into balance and I'll be able to temper the intensity of what I feel with the learned behaviors I put in place long ago to prevent those feelings. I hope he's right.

In the meantime, I'm becoming friends with Novocaine--no more non-deadened tooth drillings for me. Monday I had five teeth worked on (top and bottom). I was numb to the point of drooping facial muscles accompanied by copious drooling. And I was happy to wander around dabbing at my mouth with a tissue, grateful for the numerous injections which allowed the dentist to fix the cavities I've been harboring for a number of years and replace my defective crown (which broke!) with a lovely, temporary silver one. And next week I'll go back for more.

And I did not have a flashback. Tremors, yes, but those are just embarrassing and I'm used to embarrassing myself. I deal with it beautifully.

Also, after sub-zero temperatures, tons of snow, and wind chills approaching -35 degrees, yesterday dawned with no frost on the windshield of my car and a lovely warm southerly breeze. The roads are almost completely bare now, and the snow has melted off the small garden area in front of my house...and my pansies are still alive. The edges of the leaves are frost bitten, but by yesterday afternoon the blossoms were perky and vivid...still blooming on December first. Their tenacity is amazing.

As for the Christmas Carol giveaway--it's in danger of becoming a bust unless I can figure out why my iTunes won't load. Tabitha and I traded computers for a couple of months this year and I have a feeling this has something to do with that. I'll work on it today and see if I can get the first couple of carols out by this evening--any hints would be welcome.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By

Dear Christmas Carol Recipients,

I can't load my iTunes. Therefore the carol will be late. 

My apologies.

~Sam

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was." ~Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday as I was driving through our white and drifted snow, I had a sudden urge to get a Christmas tree. This hasn't happened for a couple of years. I've been so tired, the thought of putting it up and decorating it just seemed overwhelming. But this year I want one.

There was a period of time--a long one--when I desperately needed to talk with people every day. If it didn't happen, I was in trouble, emotionally. I drew on their strength and love and it would sustain me for a few more hours. I feel helpless and guilty as I write this--but it's true. I could not make it on my own. Therapist believes I suffered some postpartum depression, but as is my habit, I ignored it and immersed myself in work which is what led to the suicidal feelings I was battling a year ago (Has it been so long? It still feels like yesterday). And so I created for myself, mentally and emotionally, safety nets made of loving arms, encouraging words, and interactions with people who care about me.

Today I'm enjoying alone time once again. This doesn't mean I don't want to talk with people--I do. My day is brighter and I'm happier when I connect with loved ones in person and online. It does mean that if it doesn't happen, I'll be okay. The need is gone. There is an odd sense of loss as I recognize that I'm letting go of some beautiful moments most adults rarely experience, mixed with a knowledge that I'm somehow setting myself free--and that freedom extends to those who cared for me. I am finally confident that PTSD will not last forever, and while I don't like it, it doesn't seem to stop my progress. The child inside, the one I ignored for so long, the one who frightened me with her needs, pain, and loneliness, is growing up.

I'm finding myself dreaming about my future, thinking of the endless possibilities, happy to spend time with family and friends, planning beyond the day at hand. And for the first time in at least three years, I'm looking forward to Christmas.

Which reminds me--the Christmas Carol giveaway starts tomorrow. Of course, I'll let latecomers opt in, but if you want to receive all 25 of my hand-picked carols, contact me with your email address before tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two Things

First: A couple of people have asked what the Christmas Carol giveaway is, and I've taken compassion on them and not referenced last year's Christmas posts, mostly because I think I deleted them along with a bunch of other posts. So, briefly, this is when I email you a Christmas Carol every day until Christmas. And no, I don't know if this is legal, but most of the carols I'm sending are public domain, I think. But just in case they're not, don't sell them or do anything like unto it.

Naturally, if you're opting in I'll need you're email address. If you leave me a comment that links back to your blog, I'll use whatever email address is listed there, so if you want it sent to a different address, you'll have to let me know either by listing that address in my comments, or emailing me (and I send it all bcc, just in case someone wants to keep their address private).

I try to send less well-known versions of carols and am toying with the idea of including one or two trash-with-flash piano recordings I did a couple of years ago (apologies to anyone who already has a CD of those--I'm duplicating).

Anyway, let me know if you're in--the list has begun. If you're interested, I'd love to add you.

Second: New milestone passed and it's an odd one. I passed through a rather horrible bout of PTSD symptoms last week. What I'm beginning to realize is that when those happen now, they're usually followed by some sort of therapeutic breakthrough. I'd love to say this always brings joy and relief. Unfortunately, this is not the case, but progress is progress even when it's painful.

Following the most recent recession of symptoms, I recognized a number of things:
1. During the PTSD episode I was agonizing over my inability to express/confide/discuss things of personal emotional importance with people closest to me. After the episode I found myself no longer stressed about it. The truth of the matter is, most people aren't interested anyway--even those those who are closest to us. They listen because they love us, but that's pretty much the only reason. There was a part of me dying to share the things of my heart. I realize now that there's really no point to that. I'd be speaking simply to fulfill my own desires, not because the person wished to have the knowledge I imparted--and that's not sharing, it's just talking. I'm not sure, exactly, what this means nor where it will lead, but at least I'm not trying to force my inane trivia on anyone anymore and that is a very good thing.

2. I'm no longer afraid of what, three weeks ago, I would have deemed the negative aspects of friendships. I'm recognizing the wisdom in allowing people to go away and return--how long the absences are and how frequent the returns are up to the people involved and based on how busy their personal lives are. I've always known it was impractical and unfair of me to wish for people to remain in my life indefinitely. Knowing this has not made my understanding of that friendship dynamic any stronger. Following a number of thoughts and experiences last week (during the PTSD time), I'm recognizing that my ideals are not sound nor healthy and I need to allow natural developments in my friendships without agony, anger, or rancor. It's something to work on, and I will. The important thing is that now, finally, I can consider doing so without wanting to rant or scream or run away from it all. This is progress, maybe.

3. While I'm continuing to move forward, emotionally, and complete therapy tasks, I'm also continuing to fail physically. My fatigue level is not improving and I've reverted to a number of negative ways to cope with stress. Today, as a result of clenching and grinding, I managed to break a tooth. This bring the tally to: three cracked teeth, one broken, and several small cavities. In addition, I find myself sometimes going a couple of days without remembering to eat, and I've started sleepwalking again (thank you, Darrin, for bringing this to my attention even though I'd really rather not know). My anxiety about being in crowds and touching people is escalating, and I'm finding myself nauseated to the point of vomiting when stress becomes unmanageable. On the bright side--no flashbacks, still, but something (or maybe more than one thing) is obviously causing me some distress and Therapist let me know about ten days ago, that he's tentatively planning to leave for vacation on the day I scheduled my appointment with him.

4. I will be all right. Finally, this assurance is back. Sometimes I say it simply to make sure I still believe it, and often when I say it I'm really wishing someone could rescue me so I don't have to do this by myself (whatever "this" may be), but I know that's not possible, and in the moment I'm just feeling inadequate and lonely. It's good, though, even when the certainty is small, that I'm finally feeling that I can make it through whatever is happening now and whatever might develop in the future.

There is some lingering depression, which I believe is understandable. Some of it stems from disappointment that my outcome is not going to be what I wished. Some of it is a result of fatigue. I'm keeping an eye on it and should it become unmanageable, I'll talk to my doctor about steps I can take to find relief. Until that time I'm remembering that people often feel sadness, it's a part of life, and I am no different from anyone else.

And now I'm hoping that I can have a tiny vacation from PTSD for awhile. I know that's not how it works. I'm hoping for it anyway.

Will the real superhero please stand?

It's after midnight. There is no reason for me to be up this late. But it's quiet and I'm thinking...

My sister, Lila, called me tonight. It's Sunday morning in Armenia. Darrin, the kids, and I have been talking about her, missing her--which is appropriate anytime, but especially during holidays when families often gather.

Lila...

Lila is my opposite. She's six feet tall, blue eyed and blond. Her bone structure is large and she's beautiful and strong. The only things we share, genetically, are crazy curly hair (which I straighten and she does not), a love and gift for music, IQ level, voice quality (especially the sound of our laughter), and our sense of humor (which isn't genetic, I know, but still--we share it).

Shortly after I miscarried last year, Lila announced she was pregnant. I didn't want to hear about it.

Lila and I have both had difficulty conceiving, however once Lila's babies were growing, they didn't want to be born. Mine have tried to get a look at the world beginning with week 22.

My children were small, as premature babies are. DJ has grown the largest in breadth, but Adam matches him in height. I've been happy that in spite of their short parents, both boys are above 5-foot-10. Tabitha will be lucky to hit my amazing height of 62 inches.

Lila's children are giants. Her three-year-old son is fifty pounds and he's 42 inches tall. He's as large as the average first-grader. My eleven-year-old niece towers over me, and her eight-year-old sister looks me in the eye.

Lila has spent her married life living in different countries as she went with her husband wherever he was stationed. He's worked in counter-intelligence for the military for fifteen years, but no one's really certain what he does. They've lived in different places throughout Europe and Asia and my brother-in-law spent long periods of time in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been times when Lila, herself, has not known where he was stationed, nor was she allowed to contact him.

Lila has weathered all this with courage and grace while she took care of their children and wondered if/when she would see her husband again. She's sort of my hero.

When they received the assignment to go to Armenia, Lila thought this would be just another adventure for their family. Then my brother-in-law was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and Lila got pregnant. Thyroid cancer is curable and most who get it survive. However, the treatment for the cancer is intense and difficult, and regaining strength afterward takes a very long time. Add to this the burden of moving with a small family, including a new baby, to a country which doesn't even share the same alphabet.

Lila is tired and lonely.

And she called me tonight to tell me that when she feels tired and lonely, or her kids are misbehaving, or she fights with her husband, or money is tight...she thinks of me, and wonders what I would do in that situation, and this is what she told me:

"I love your relationships with Darrin, and how you parent your kids, and how--no matter what happens--you're still happy and people love to be with you. I want to be like that."

How about that. I might be a hero to my hero. Maybe we both have Wonder Woman boots.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My house is haunted

I am not a collector.

However, I do collect music boxes. I've always been fascinated by them. I have several unusual ones, all tucked out of sight because when Adam was small there was nothing visible that was safe from him. He managed to break the blown glass piano that was on the top of one of my music boxes, at which point everything breakable disappeared.

I've kept out four music boxes. They're largely unbreakable, and they joined my collection when Adam was old enough to stop breaking things (which doesn't mean he actually did stop). The music box parts are in the lids of  decorative, circular tins which originally held ginger cookies, and they play Christmas carols. I've left them out because my nephews (more destructive than Adam was) can play with them without destroying them. 

I've had those music boxes for more than ten years now. My nephews no longer find them novel, and they've lain silent on my shelves for the past two years.

Today, however, I sat alone at my computer. The kids and Darrin had gone shopping, or visiting, or whatever else, while I worked for a few hours. The silence was suddenly broken by a tinkling Christmas Carol. My first thought was that someone had left the CD player on pause, and something had jolted it back on. Then I recognized the tune of the red tin. It played for about twenty seconds, then stopped.

I have no idea what caused the music box to sing on its own but if, indeed, it was the work of a ghost, he or she is welcome. This specter has very good taste. I believe we would like each other. 

Oh--and speaking of Christmas Carols, if you want to get in on this year's giveaway, be sure to let me know in an email or a comment. I'll be sending out one a day from December 1st, through the 25th. I'm not promising I won't duplicate any from last year, and you can count on at least one bagpipe serenade because that still makes me laugh. Let me know if you're in...maybe I'll let the ghost choose the first one.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

Adam is unusual (to say the least).

This year he decided he and DJ would be cooking the turkey for dinner. They've done this exactly zero times--and watched me do it equally often. However, they've been perusing television specials about cooking turkey, and Adam is confident about pretty much everything he does...and DJ is a very good sport.

So DJ bought a cooking bag and a foil roasting pan,and made Adam read the box directions. My parents, misguidedly, believe I've trained my boys to be fabulous cooks, so they surrendered the 25 pound turkey meant for our dinner. Adam planned to cook it yesterday (a little bit excited about all this). I talked him into waiting till this morning.

So DJ picked up Adam this morning at 9:00, and they've been working at DJ's apartment. Adam appeared briefly to rifle through my drawers for a baster and thermometer (which they do not need), then disappeared out the door yelling, "See you at Grandpa's! Love you!", so I think they must be having a wonderful time.

Darrin is worried the turkey will be inedible. I'm not concerned--I never eat it anyway.

Hmmm....it's almost noon. Maybe I'll roust Tabitha out of bed and go for a run. Darrin says he has the sweet potatoes under control. This could be a very nice day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anonymous Exhibitionist

The Great -L- named me that back in the days when he was being a super hero and when he actually talked with me. At the time I was, momentarily, affronted, but after thinking it over I realized he was correct. I was anonymous. I was airing my personal, deep feelings and discussing experiences I had tried desperately to forget. I talked of my family and my daily life, and threw in snippets of music, comics, poetry, mixed together with infrequent posts about other bloggers, religious philosophies, and research projects. "Anonymous Exhibitionist" was an apt description.

I am, however, no longer anonymous. Many people know me. What I'm finding is that there is safety in anonymity. I can post what I wish without feeling defensive or protective because no one can read what I write and weigh it against the person they know. It's very possible that this is a PTSD by-product, but each time some key player in my life mentions they've read my blog, I find I'm bracing myself for...something? Certain that whatever comes next will be unpleasant.

This doesn't happen with people like Jason, mostly because we established our current relationship based on discussions of my blog. I may have challenged him to read it in our first conversations, or even sent him selected entries because I had a reason for talking with him that actually had nothing to do with me, personally. To my surprise, he not only read the entries I sent, he went back and read my entire blog. At the time it was relatively small, nothing compared to the monstrosity it is today. Still, I was impressed that he would be interested enough to follow up. Jason has continued to read for nearly five years now. He's open about reading it (or not, when he gets busy). We can be chatting online and he'll say, "Wait--did you blog about this? Give me a second, I'm going to go read." And then he does and then we talk some more. It's an established rhythm and routine.

Other people, though...

Sometimes I'll be talking with a friend and he or she will mention something they've read in my blog and I feel suddenly guilty--like maybe I should have brought it up first, or there's some underlying sin in discussing my personal life with strangers online but not talking about it with people who really know and care about me. Or I might find myself feeling exposed--defenseless--as though I laid myself bare in a place I thought was sheltered and safe, and was discovered by someone who knows who I am.

I don't know why this is happening; and it's fairly new. I first became aware of this reaction in July. And it's silly. Nothing I put in my blog is secret. Most of it I would discuss with people I love anyway--and if I don't, it's because I feel it's not important, just something I felt like writing at the time.

It's making me crazy. I feel fine for a little while, then this nasty little "thing" crops up and I find myself awash in the unnecessary aftermath of all those stupid feelings. And then I do and say irrational things. I even told Tolkien Boy recently that I wasn't prepared to discuss personal things, like what I write in my blog, with him.

Not prepared to discuss personal things??? with Tolkien Boy???

This is the person who escorted me to lunch with the man who raped me and took care of me afterward. I have laughed with him, cried with him, and slept on his shoulder. He's been present when I've had flashbacks, visited me in my home, and eaten countless meals with me. I stayed with him for a few days this year in his home, and we've talked about nearly everything under the sun from trivia like the current weather, to deeply intimate thoughts and beliefs. I know his parents and siblings. We talk nearly every day...

And I can't discuss my blog with him?

There was a time when I had one or two private blogs. Tolkien Boy was one who was invited to read.

I don't know what is happening to me. I'm losing my mind. I have this certainty that I cannot discuss anything deeply important to me with anyone anymore because there is no way they can care about the things I care about--and it is wrong of me to wish for it. I cannot ask people to feel the same way I do. It's wrong.

But I do wish for it. I long to talk about the tiny, trivial things that make my heart beat a little more strongly, and cause me to have hope or excitement. And then I slam the lid back down, remind myself that I'm not allowed to want people to care--and they won't--and if I tell people who don't care I'll be hurt and aggravated, both with them (for not caring) and with me (for wanting them to). But the result is the same--I'm frustrated because I'm staying silent as I believe I should, and angry because every once in awhile I forget and start talking about those terribly important (to me) things, and then, midstream, I remember and I become all sorts of upset because I don't know what to do next.

AAAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!! I make no sense at all.

But the really difficult thing, for me, right now is that this--whatever it is--is causing some deep, overwhelming depression and I don't know why, nor do I know what to do about it. I'm acting like an idiot--I know this--but cannot come up with an alternative.

Maybe this is what happens in close friendships if one does not drift away...maybe it causes insanity...or blindness...wait...that could be something else...so...very...confused...

Weekend

Adam went with my parents to Utah last weekend. Friday night, Darrin and I took Tabitha out to dinner, then Tabitha and I went to a video store and I let her choose whatever she wanted to watch. She chose Beezus and Ramona, because Adam wasn't around to make fun of her. We spent the evening relaxing and watching her movie.

Adam popped online during the evening. He has difficulty with change and this is the first time he's gone on a trip without a sibling or parent. I chatted with him for a little while, then told him to go talk with his aunt and spend time with his cousins (he stayed with my sister). He laughed and disappeared.

Saturday Tabitha got up early--unusual for her. She did her chores (again, unusual) and showered. Darrin took her shopping--they were gone three hours. When they got home, Tabitha sat next to me while I worked for a few minutes, then said, "Don't tell Adam, but I miss him." Adam had said something similar to me the night before. I promised.

DJ joined us for dinner that night and we played games. Tabitha won (really unusual).

Last night I made a new friend. It's possible I'm in love with him, and while I understand that's meaningless (given the fact that I fall in love frequently and with many people), it still makes me smile a little.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A list

I love reading children's books.

Sometimes I dance in my kitchen.

There are days when I go to work wearing my pajamas.

I sing when no one else is around.

I love pink grapefruit--the taste, the smell--all of it.

I go barefoot even when I'm freezing to death and I've been known to drive my kids to seminary wearing flipflops when there's a foot of snow outside.

I have a recording of Tolkien Boy singing in Italian (and he has no idea what he's singing). Sometimes I listen to it when I'm running.

I keep a box of the craft items made by my kids at various stages of their lives. I have no idea what to do with it.

I write terrible poetry. I think I've perfected the art.

I love really old movies.

I rarely think jokes are funny, but I laugh a lot.

Sometimes I don't do my hair after I shower. This means, three hours later I have unruly curls all over my head and I look like I'm wearing a frightened poodle on my head.

I don't like to wear make-up and I often go without it.

I love smelling nice.

I change my toothbrush every three to four weeks.

I floss every day.

Touching someone's feet, or letting my feet be touched by someone feels oddly intimate.

I like to climb trees.

Lying on the grass beneath a shade tree on a warm summer day seems, to me, to be the ultimate luxury--doubly luxurious if I'm with someone I love who is quietly enjoying the moment, as well.

I find more depth of communion when I'm spending a moment of silent time with someone, than if we talk nonstop for hours.

I hate spending money on restaurant food and wishing I'd made something better at home.

I don't like ice cream, but I love Haagen-Dazs dark chocolate covered chocolate ice cream bars.

I think neckties are weird.

Construction sites of any kind are creepy.

Sometimes I crave pancakes and mashed potatoes at the same time. I've never eaten them together, though.

I don't like cuddling but there are a few people with whom I would cuddle daily if given the opportunity.

Touching meat, raw or cooked, makes me shudder.

I love to play games--online or in person. And I don't care if I lose. I just like to play.

I don't have dimples. This concerns me. I believe all people should have at least one dimple in a clearly visible place (i.e. on the face).

Until three years ago, my ears had Spock points. Tabitha and Adam both inherited my Spock ears. They don't think they should have to wait as long as I did before the points become less pronounced.

My children all have larger mouth capacity than I do. I blame Darrin.

This time last year:

Darrin had been out of a job for a month and I was starting another job--which made, at the time, six jobs. Fortunately, my teaching contract for the university last year was only for fall semester, so I was finishing that job up and only had the final projects left to grade. But I was tired mentally, emotionally, and physically. When it came time to put up the Christmas tree I wanted to weep. I had no energy left to decorate or spread cheer. Somehow, though, I managed to finish Christmas gifts and make cookies. I went through the motions of most of our traditional baking and singing and parties. And I played in Messiah.

It was grueling. I think I cried every night as soon as I was sure everyone was asleep. I didn't send Christmas cards.

It's not like I was trying to be miserable. I did things to keep moving. I crocheted four afghans. I gave away Christmas carols to blog readers. I helped write music for our church Christmas program.

But I also worked like a crazy person. I worked six days a week, and I worked through the holidays, as well. I didn't take Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's off, and the trend continued until July when I was told in no uncertain terms that I MUST take a vacation.

This year Darrin has a good job. He just started it three weeks ago. I've been told I need to quit one of mine, but we're still playing catch-up. I'm not sure when that will happen.

I've been playing Christmas Carols for the past two weeks. As long as there's snow on the ground, Carols are allowed to be played in our home--one of a few traditions I kept from my growing up years--and I'm making plans to bake with my mom for the first time in many years. I think it's time. I also think she needs me to help.

My mom had a mini-stroke three weeks ago. At her follow-up the doctor said all indications point to the fact that this was probably not the first. She'll have a bunch of scans done in the next week, to locate any damage to the brain, check for cancer and clots, and see if there's atrophy of any kind.

My siblings and I are not exchanging gifts this year. We started drawing names when I was in junior high because there were so many of us and the tradition has continued until now. But one of my sisters is now living in Armenia. She wrote of the need for clothing, basic necessities, and the corruption in government which makes it difficult to obtain medical assistance for most of the people. We decided to use the money we would have spent on each other to contribute to the needs of those people. My sister has sent us information about items needed and reputable places to send monetary contributions. It feels better to do this, somehow. We've always enjoyed exchanging gifts but we've done it for so many years now, it's nice to have a change and one which will, hopefully, make a small difference in the lives of others.

I'm still tired, but it's a different kind of tired. I don't feel beaten down. I'm not waiting for the next disaster. My life is utter chaos but it's okay.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paying the Piper

Adam is miffed at me. I let him know yesterday, after a sizable snow dump, that people who drive my car are responsible for preheating it and cleaning it off in the winter time. He suggested we wait until another day before enforcing the edict, so he wouldn't be late. I suggested that I had told him this more than once before the snow came and I thought today would be a fine day to try it out. Then I stayed inside and watched him struggle with the ice-bound windows for at least three minutes before lending a hand.

Tabitha walked by, saw me watching and said, "He hates you right now." I responded, "You'll get to hate me tomorrow."

I'm a good mom.