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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life might never be the same again.

When I started blogging many years ago, I made these promises to myself:
1. If blogging became too important to me, I would stop.
2. If I began worrying about the opinion of someone who might read, I would stop.
3. If I could no longer be honest with myself here, I would stop.

The first two are actually very easy. I'm far too busy to become obsessed with blogging on a schedule, and I steal moments when I have something to say and write as fast as I can (no proofing, because that takes time and also requires me to read what I write--and I don't want to do that--although if a reader points out a typo I will go back and fix it). And I don't know that I've ever worried about someone else's opinion of me. I've had moments when I've wished for a particular person to care about me--but that's more to do with knowing who I am, forgiving me for not being perfect, and loving me anyway. If someone is embarrassed by something do or say, or thinks less of me because of it, I will probably avoid that person. I judge myself harshly enough without inviting that type of judgment from someone else.

But number three is difficult. I like avoiding painful truths...well, that's not really true. I think about them. I try to find solutions or understanding, but I don't like talking about them. What I've learned, however, in the past few years, is that by not talking about them, I'm able to pretend the truths do not exist outside of me and I hide them carefully inside where they can eat at my soul. Speaking the words, making them real, gets them out and allows others to see, which is the only way I can stop the pain, I think.

I stopped writing and closed my blog because I encountered some truths I was not ready to speak. I'm finally ready.

Many people have asked me (including Therapist) why I'm adamant about making my way through life without the relief some psychotropic drugs would offer me. I give many different answers--all valid, but not completely true. The truth is that I have a very strong tendency toward dependency. This is something I monitor with intensity in my personal relationships, but that same tendency presents itself when I take certain medications, as well. I believe this propensity toward addiction is genetic. I come from a very long line of alcoholics on both sides of my family.

When I began taking the prescribed medication to help me through the pain caused by the pinched nerve in my back, I noticed a feeling of well-being and sense of relaxation I've not felt in many years. In addition to that, every PTSD and anxiety symptom I've been trying to manage was gone. Completely gone. I can't describe the relief. I think it might be the closest thing to heaven that I will ever experience.

In about a week the problems caused by the pinched nerve were gone and I was physically fine. I began running again. I resumed all my regular activities. I stopped taking pain medication. The next day I experienced my first withdrawal symptoms. By the second day I was a mess. I was one big, continuous panic attack, I couldn't stop shaking, I think I cried most of the day, my entire body felt like it was in pain, I was imagining voices and things that weren't there, and I couldn't stop scratching myself. I still have several long, thin lines of scabbing on my chest and back where I drew blood. Without talking to anyone, or getting help, I simply began taking the pain medication again.

The next day, calmer (because of those lovely meds), I recognized I was in trouble. I talked to my doctor, and Darrin, and a couple of other people, and did some in-depth research about the prescribed medication, and then I began a step-down program designed to reduce my dependency gradually and thus keep the withdrawal symptoms to a minimum. I don't know that the program is very effective. Each time I step down the amount, I go through withdrawal. It sucks.

Darrin left for the East Coast last week. This was bad timing, as I was entering the last phase of the step-down program. I hadn't been able to get rid of the pills (I had been prescribed fifty and taken fewer than 20), because every time I tried I would go into a hysterical panic--WHAT IF I NEEDED THEM!!!!????

Darrin left in the morning. At noon that day, DJ held me while I cried like a baby, then took the extra pills I wouldn't be using and disposed of them. Yesterday, I took my last dose.

I should be celebrating. Instead, I want to lie on the floor, kick and scream, and then cry some more. It has been so very long since I felt relief from the symptoms that make me feel crazy, and insecure, and overwhelmingly sad. I was ready to disregard all the nasty side-effects of the medication, hire one of my kids to drive me everywhere, quit all my jobs (because I was not performing well, at all), and just enjoy being alive without PTSD forever.

I know--this is a good thing. But it was one to the most difficult things I've ever had to do, and I've done some fairly difficult things in my life. I don't feel like celebrating. And yes, I'm still crying--there seems to be no other possible response today.

Tomorrow could be ugly. I hope it's not. My final doses for the past couple of days were minuscule.

But the truth of all this is:
1. I'm mortified that I could feel so dependent on a tiny pill--so addicted that I wanted to take those pills for the rest of my life, no matter what the cost. I wanted that desperately.
2. I'm embarrassed that I'm weeping because there won't be a pill to take tonight.
3. I feel incredibly weak and I sort of hate the person I am.
4. I should not be alone today--but I have no other recourse. Darrin is gone and so is most of my family. I have a few friends here, but family obligations and other things are priorities for them right now, and I'm being very careful about whom I disclose this particular weakness to. So--alone it is.
5. I hate crying. I don't know how to stop. But I think I will some day.

That's enough of that.

The second honesty I'm addressing today is something I never thought I'd be able to talk about--ever.

This friendship-crap quest of mine, I think, might be coming to an end finally. I immersed myself in more than four years of research. I addressed many, many questions I had about myself and about other people, and about friendship, in general. Time after time I felt I was beating my head against a brick wall--I'd find my answers and recognize that I hated what I was finding. Nothing seemed to fit into my idea of what I wished in my relationships with other people.

In the past four months a number of things have happened within the frameworks of the friendships I've established. I'm not going to give details because some are fairly personal and I only spew my own intimate facts on this blog. But I will share some of the things that have greatest impact:
1. I had a few moments online and in person with Sully, which I enjoyed, but during those moments, it also became wildly apparent that he no longer has a place for me in his heart. I've thought about this for four months now, wondering what to do with that knowledge. Interestingly, it changes nothing for me. I love him. I'm forever grateful for the years he brought joy to my life. I miss him. But pain no longer accompanies those feelings. I let him go when he left and he is always welcome in my life and in my heart--but that decision lies with him. It always has.

2. I experienced an unfortunate event with another friend which affected me in profoundly negative ways. My initial response was to put that relationship out of my life forever. The pain caused by that event was great enough for me to want to shut down completely and it was complicated by horrendous flashbacks and night terrors triggered by that event. After a few days, in spite of the after-effects, I found myself wanting to find a way back to safe ground with this person, and I worked toward that with all the energy I had. Probably it's more accurate to say that we worked together, for I can't discount his willingness to help me through this. In the end, we were successful--but it was grueling and miserable and I don't ever want to do it again.

The interesting thing about this is that I don't know what to think of it. It doesn't feel like a personal victory of any kind. There is relief, of course, because I'm no longer triggered and the flashbacks/night terrors are gone. But I worked with my whole heart toward resolving the issue--and it was resolved--and I don't really feel anything. It's sort of on par with the rape thing--it happened, it shouldn't have happened, it won't happen again, I'm okay, the end. But I want more, although I don't know what "more" is. And I feel changed, somehow, and a loss I can't explain.

3. This is, perhaps, the most important of all. I recognized, finally, that the impetus behind the friendship-crap quest, was that I've never felt that I hold a tangible place in anyone's life--not even Darrin's or my kids'. Therapist would tell me that's because those feelings of importance to others are established in our formative years, reinforced by parents and extended family members who fall in love with us at birth. Because that's absent in my memory, I don't know how to comprehend the fact that other people care about me in a very real, significant way and that my presence in their lives is more than just a trivial event.

But at some point this month, in spite of the delights of withdrawal, something broke through my thick skull. Over a period of a few days, and perhaps catalyzed by an unfortunate email I sent (which I should not have sent) in a weird mess of drug induced euphoria which later caused me to have a panic attack and freak out all over the place, an understanding began to dawn in my head. During a phone call, the unlucky email recipient said a number of things which clicked into place and some of the unanswerable equations I've been doodling with for all my life, found solutions--unlikely ones, but also true ones.

I realized I'm really not invisible. I'm not the only one who wants my friendships to continue--there are people who partner with me in those relationships who feel that those friendships are important and joyful and they want them to continue. And it's not just the friendship they want, it's me. The relationship is a representation of our partnership, and I'm a vital part of that.

Simply put--it is possible for me to be loved. Not only that, but loving me does not mar the person who cares about me, nor does it hurt them. In fact, it's very possible that caring about Samantha is good, and healthy, and joyful, and right.

How about that! All this time, what I was searching for was evidence to destroy past, corrosive beliefs which my head knew were incorrect, but which I had been conditioned to believe when I should have been unconditionally loved. I don't know what happened to turn the tide, and I don't believe it was just one thing, but I also think it has much to do with patient, loving people who were willing to repeat themselves again and again until I finally believed the words they were saying.

And so today I am weeping because I have to let go of an addiction which provides me with artificial joy and relief, but I'm also crying because I'm real. There are people who think about me, who love to spend time with me, who care when I'm hurting, and who might even cry when I'm sad. And they have no wish to leave. I'm still not sure how this happens, but I'm very glad it does.

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