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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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

no title because sometimes I don't want to think of one

I have a friend with whom I chat fairly frequently--usually every couple of weeks, although there have times when it's been less frequent because our online times haven't coincided or because one or the other of us has been busy when online, but still, often enough for me to consider him a frequent friend. Those chats have been 100% instigated by me, as he's a little bit shy. He's always willing to talk and we have delightful conversations, but I'm aware that if I want that contact to happen, I will be the one tapping his shoulder, not the other way around...until last night.

I've often wondered during the past few years, if he felt discomfort being my friend. We're mostly online acquaintances, as we've had very little in-person time and only once have we spent time one-on-one. We met because one day, not quite four years ago, I noticed his name on my chat list. I had no idea who he was, no recollection of contacting him for any reason, no referenced connections, but I was intrigued by his surname because it was the same as some dear friends of mine who used to live across the street from me, so I left him on my list and each time his green dot appeared, I would think of those friends with the fondest of memories.

After about two weeks, I decided to solve the mystery of why he was there in the first place, so I sent him a chat message:

me: Once I had a bishop whose last name was the same as yours. Then Bishop moved to Arizona. The end.
Friend: My dad was a Bishop for a while.
me: How funny. My dad was a Bishop for awhile, too.
Friend: Yeah. My dad is now a Stake President. After seeing the time and patience those sorts of callings seem to require, there's a part of me that hopes I will only never have “Bishop" in my name. But I digress. . .
me: Weird. My dad is now a Stake President, too. I, on the other hand, will never have to worry about a religious title other than sister, which is best for all concerned.
Friend: Very funny. I'll take your word for it.
me: You must, as I never lie. May I ask, who are you? As in, what is your connection to Tolkien Boy, who seems to be responsible for your ending up on my chat list?
Friend: Right. Good question. I'm Friend. I'm good friends with Tolkien Boy through "The Poetaster Project"--the other writing group. I think we met once at Ben's house.
me: We, as in you and Tolkien Boy? Or you and I?
Friend: I'm pretty sure I met you. It was brief. But as a Fob, of course I knew of your existence.
me: Mmmm...sadly, not so. I have never met Ben, although I would certainly like to.
Friend: Wait. You're not a Fob? Then no, we haven't met.
me: I'm a humble honorary. Ben says that if I ever achieve the status of a tall, black man of heterosexual orientation, I will then become a true FOB.
Friend: Right. . . for diversity's sake.
me: However, since he dreams of having group therapy with me on a regular basis (every other Thursday), I really think he ought to grant me Fobbery simply on that basis--and on the basis that I'm a much better writer than he is.
Friend: Based on that, I'd have to agree. Sounds like you're a near perfect fit.
me: Now--to convince the Master.
Friend: Good luck.
me: Thank you. I’ll probably need it.
Friend: Now, I must be leaving, actually.
me: It's been lovely chatting with you. Good night.
Friend: Yes. Likewise. Pleased to pseudo-meet you. Have a good evening.

Later, my friend confessed to me that our first interaction seemed to him rather creepy, and I must admit, after all these years, I still see nothing creepy in it. But perhaps because he thought I was someone he knew, then found out I was not, he was left feeling weird that I contacted him in the first place. However, creepy or not, I'm glad I did, for I like my friend immensely, and I've enjoyed our fairly regular chats and infrequent personal meetings very much.

Last night though, for the first time, my friend initiated a chat with me.

The timing of this was a bit astonishing to me. I have been feeling for awhile now, that I have nothing left to say to people and therefore few people chat with me anymore (no, this is not a bid for attention--I can appear extroverted when the occasion calls for it, but in my heart I'm a bit of a recluse), and while this seems the normal course of human friendships, there have certainly been days when I've wondered what I will do when I have become invisible. This does not apply, of course, to AtP, who pops in almost daily to say hello. Part of me wants to believe it's because he misses me and chatting with me makes him happy, but I have a feeling it's mostly because he, too, has experienced many of the emotional impulses I have (including feeling suicidal) and is just checking up on me to make sure I'm still around and I appreciate that with all my heart.

Lately, though I have begun to feel that I am the only one initiating chats and when that happens, I feel bothersome. It's very possible that I am hailing friends who are busy or who are getting ready to sign off, which accounts for the lag time between responses, and sometimes the complete lack of response. But recently I've begun to feel I'm becoming intrusive and annoying, two things I despise. This feeling feeds beautifully into my PTSD responses and soon I am quietly overreacting, vowing to delete my chat programs and become silent online forever...yeah...stupid...

I was at this point yesterday morning. There have been a number of upsets in my life recently which has made PTSD sort of monstrous (but still, compared to a few months ago, very manageable--YAY!). I'd had a rough night and was tired, and all this business of being social and understanding people and enjoying closeness seemed like a bunch of crap, wasting my time when I could be working or doing something much more productive. So I immersed myself in work and stubbornly refused to think about people, hoping at some point the symptoms would subside and I'd have relief.

Then Tolkien Boy interrupted my self-imposed cone of silence, which was bad news for him because I was in a foul mood and I quite willingly shared it with him...sigh...sometimes I'm beastly.

I was still feeling remorseful late last night when Friend said hello. I stared at his words for a moment before responding, wondering at his impeccable timing and unexpected but welcome invitation to talk. Within a few moments he had confessed he was feeling a little bit lonely. I understand loneliness--I've felt it on many different levels, both in the presence of other people, as well as in solitude. I also know it's not an easy thing to admit to another person. Such admittance requires trust that the other person won't tell you all the reasons being lonely is your fault, as well as a belief that disclosing the fact will somehow ease the loneliness. When any friend allows me to know he or she is feeling this, I feel humbled a bit, because for me the cost of such an admission is high. I choose very carefully the person with whom I will discuss it.

I understand that I'm projecting and it could simply have been that Friend was ready to talk to anyone with a green dot last night, and I was that person. I'm choosing, however, to believe we've been friends long enough that he feels he can talk with me about some of his thoughts and ideas and even share with me when he feels a little bit lonely. I'd like to believe I've been a good friend to him, as he has been to me.

I'm not sure what I'm saying in this post. Maybe that I've been having a hard time lately, doubting love, losing faith in people, and most of all questioning my personal worth. It seems to me that whenever this happens, some fortuitous communication arrives from one or more sources, reminding me I'm not invisible, and occasionally someone thinks of me. Often such a communication is in the form of soliciting some sort of support from me, which also reminds me I have purpose beyond fluff and entertainment, and I'm not really as disposable as I sometimes assume.

As my friend does not read my blog, he won't know how welcome his beautiful intrusion was last night. Given his nature, that's probably best. I made certain to thank him and let him know how much I enjoy talking with him. He's important to me and I want him to know that. The rest of the maudlin story can remain here, too sentimental and self-absorbed to pass on in any dignified manner. But I hope today, if nothing else, he feels appreciated and loved, and a little less lonely.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Real Thoughts

I think the majority of people who read this (which means two of the three) will disagree with what I have to say--and that's okay. In truth, I hope in the end that they are right and my findings are incorrect. But it's time for me to lay out my findings over the past few years in regards to human relationships.

Briefly, this was of interest to me because I've always felt I could not sustain long-term, honest, close relationships but I wanted to know for sure, so I decided to test this theory in the hopes that I could find what I was lacking, fix it, and learn how to enjoy such relationships.

1. Relationship: A situation in which intimate, platonic emotional bonding occurs between two people not bound by blood or marriage.
2. Long-term relationship: A relationship lasting longer than two years. Note: This time limit has been known to change throughout the duration of this experiment, beginning first with three months and increasing as each time barrier was met. After polling people I know, two years seems to be a generally accepted boundary for someone who is involved in one's life long-term.
3. Honest relationship: A relationship which allows each participant to know of past events which have shaped the other's life, as well as the creation of an environment in which opinions might be expressed, safely discussed, and disagreements allowed as a matter of course. Also one in which feelings might be expressed without fear of manipulation or coercion, and both parties feel free to speak their thoughts, albeit with tact and consideration.
4. Close relationship: A relationship which allows confidence, one in which each party would be probable to turn to the other for advice, opinions, or a listening ear. Such a relationship would also provide comfort when necessary, as well as encouragement and love, and "relentless forgiveness" (this term does not belong to me).

Frankly, given the above definitions, I was certain such relationships didn't really exist at all, so trying to see if I was capable of participating in one seemed doomed for failure. In the first place, I would need to find a partner willing to conform to my definitions without actually being told what those were, and in the second, it seemed that every exemplary relationship I encountered, once I delved beneath the surface, had components which excluded them from being examples of that which I was seeking--the most glaring of which was honesty.

I found friends who declared they told one another "everything!", then found myself in the unenviable position of hearing one or both parties saying to me, "Don't tell __________________, but...", and then those friends who talk about everything would disclose to me all the things they don't tell each other. Naturally, they had various valid reasons for not discussing those topics with each other, but still--in the act of disclosing confidences to me, they nullified their relationship's validity within my experiment. Indeed, I found no relationships which would fit my definitions, although I believe they exist, and based on that belief, I embarked on my "friendship" adventure.

This is not the first time I've attempted this type of experiment.

Finding relationships which fit the first two criteria is easy. One encounters those regularly. I certainly haven't spent my life friendless. I have the type of personality which seems to draw people, most likely because until recently, interaction with me consisted of  my asking questions (people love talking about themselves), and being delightful and funny, but never wasting their time by discussing myself. As much as most people don't like to admit it, that type of person is approachable and comfortable--and completely disposable. I was that person.

However, the honesty criteria is next to impossible to find and closeness, as defined by me, conversely seems to lend itself to drama and distance. It requires a unique combination of people to be able to withstand the intense vulnerability required by each, and also integrity and a belief that each party will not betray the confidence of the other. This is a difficult component to access, and I admit my flaws in this area, as I believe most people have them, as well.

I was surprised that within my experiment I was able to find at least ten people who approached my definitions in their relationships with me, and four who were able to nearly perfectly conform to those definitions. This exceeded my expectation, certainly, but also allowed me to learn the following:

1. Relationships within the parameters set by me are not unavailable to me, nor have they been scarce in my life because I am incapable of participating in them. Rather, they have not been plentiful because I have rarely been able to create an environment in which I felt safe enough to participate. This is not a flaw in my personality, but a reflection on my background and also on society, as a whole. Such relationships are revered in fiction, but not in fact. People mention yearning for such a friendship, but our society creates few situations in which such relationships can be fostered. Indeed, chance meetings and short-lived hook-ups seem to be encouraged both within and without the sexual context. In essence--I am perfectly capable of building and maintaining the friendships I have been seeking, but it takes the participation and commitment of both parties for such a relationship to be considered authentic.

2. While there is a definite benefit to such relationships, there is also a large work component involved, and if both parties are not putting forth effort, these relationships are not sustainable. This element seems to be the ultimate truth. How long can one continue close, intimate, platonic relationships? Or perhaps more pertinent: How long will the desire to continue such relationships last? And this seems to be the key difference between me and most of those with whom I've discussed this topic. All have expressed a desire to have lifetime friendships, but they are perfectly content with sporadic contact which spans many years. They would describe the lunch dates I have with high school and college friends (which take place about once every ten years), as quality time and reconnection, and would describe those friends and I as having life-long relationships. Certainly, I plan to remain in contact with these friends, but I consider them incidental to my life, not integral to it.

3. I am uncertain, in reference to the point above, whether relationships falling within the definitions I have set forth, can continue indefinitely. I'm not saying they cannot, and I hope with all my heart that they can, but I don't know. At this point I am entering year five with the relationships I am currently fostering. As I analyze the life changes which have taken place in our lives, I'm amazed the friendships have lasted this long, but in a lifespan graph, five years is not very long. Understanding that I am hyper-vigilant in this particular area, I often see waxing and waning of these relationships, and I suppose as long as both parties have a desire for continuance, it will be so, but I admit to doubting more often than not, that such desire is unlimited.

My personal conclusions are thus: On my part, I don't believe I will ever stop wanting my friendships to continue, nor will I stop working toward such an end. But in the process of my experiment, I've learned to accept and celebrate the autonomy of each party. A friendship which continues out of obligation, coercion, or habit produces no joy, and for me, seeking for joy is the reason I began this quest in the first place.

Interestingly, the initial delight of finding someone new, learning all one can about that person, and enjoying the compatibility of a new relationship is something I have not sought for awhile. This could be because my past couple of years have been difficult in many ways, and I had no emotional reserve to expend on such activities, or it could be that I'm simply not interested in that right now. There is an undeniable exhilaration in those moments when one discovers a person who seems to fit perfectly in one's life, but I seem to have no desire for that feeling, nor for the work involved in getting to know someone new.

Finally, the extroverted exercises of the past few years seem to have left me feeling exhausted and lately I'm yearning for solitude and obscurity. I often find myself regretting that so much of me has been shared, wishing I could somehow disappear into anonymity rather than revel in the fact that I have nothing to hide. This is true in my casual social interactions, but also in my more intimate friendships. I did not expect this. Knowing people know me well (albeit only a few), does not bring me the comfort and security I thought it would.

Perhaps this is one reason why people allow close friendships to wane. The honesty becomes overwhelming, or the intimacy stifling. I don't know. I do know that I have not yet reached that point of extremity, in spite of my recent feelings of discomfort. My heart wishes for the relationships in my life to continue while my head searches for solutions to ease my discomfort, and I am not yet certain what the outcome will be because it is an outcome which must be determined in tandem with those who participate in such relationships with me.  And so I have no answers, but certainly more information, which is what all good experiments are about anyway.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


During our last visit, Therapist told me chatting is a venue which causes him stress--I'm not the only one. He's very much an "in-person" person, and chatting feels flat and fraught with assumptions and misunderstandings. He finds himself littering his phrases with italics (to simulate vocal emphasis), over-explanations, and smiley faces. And after about ten minutes, he's finished. He can't handle the lack of immediate response and spontaneous smiles and laughter. And he doesn't think there's anything wrong with him...or me, in reference to this particular topic anyway.

So I'm going to choose not to worry about this phobia and move forward.

Now, if I could just learn to enjoy it when someone touches me.

I do have to say I believe I've made progress in this area. I've not hit "enjoy" yet, because it still causes me stress when someone touches my skin--which doesn't mean I don't want it, just that I have to remind myself that I'm safe and it's okay. And I'm all right if someone I care about has an arm around me, or hugs me--but it's not my favorite thing if those things come from someone unfamiliar, and I think that's normal enough.

I don't expect I'll ever love crowds or elevators or my bedroom in the house I grew up in.

I don't plan to be best friends with David-who-raped-me.

But I've had no flashbacks for nearly 8 weeks and my nightmares have been dreams, not memories. And last week I encountered a setback which makes me angry and I don't want to blog about it, but I think it will be resolved within the month. So--I'm hopeful. It's been a long time since I've had hope.

I've stopped stressing about friendships and other relationships. They will become what they will--and I seem to be the only one who worries, which is silly. If I'm left behind, well, there will never be a last time that happens until I die. It's part of life. I don't love it, but I accept it, finally. However, I do have to say that in accepting it, I think I become a whole lot less magic and certainly less beautiful--but mundane has its place, I guess.

Maybe, though, there will be some relationships which remain close and vibrant, a place where someone is always happy to see me, who likes to hear what I have to say, and who wishes to share with me the things that are important to him/her. I'm going to believe in that, even if it's not true, otherwise there will be no more magic left in me at all.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's after midnight and I very much need to sleep--but I also need to write some things:

1. Today I went running with a dog of medium size and no particular breed. It trotted toward me, stopped about a foot away, then ran with me until I got home, at which point the dog watched me go through the locked gate to my yard. I put some water into a bowl and took it outside for the dog, but it had all ready gone away.

2. I change my shoes several times daily, but I probably only actually wear shoes cumulatively for about an hour, total. This is the assessment my son gave me today. And while I told him he was wildly exaggerating, he's actually correct. I like to be barefoot.

3. I have forgotten to water my front lawn for about a month. This is sort of good because that means it doesn't need to be cut. Of course, it's not green either and makes our front yard look abandoned and ugly, so I might water it tomorrow if I remember.

4. Darrin is going to make me crazy. He keeps "fixing" things. When I bought my car about four years ago, it was two years old. I knew when I purchased it that the light in the glove compartment doesn't shut off and you can see a rim of light around the edge of the opening at night. Darrin bought some foam stripping to block the light (which bothers no one but him), and left all his trash from failed fixing attempts in the cup holders. And the "fix" is ugly--there's white foam sticking to the bottom of the dash which I will probably peel off tomorrow. He also eats in my car. In short, what used to be my pristine haven for driving has become a trash collector for my husband and my children are following his example. I do not like this.

5. Adam ate almost an entire giant bag of coconut M&Ms tonight. There are 12 servings per bag. Tabitha and I each took a handful or two. Adam ate the rest. I warned him that he would be sick. I mentioned saving some for Darrin who wasn't yet home. Adam ignored me. Now he feels awful. I told him not to even think of using my bathroom to throw up--to stay in his own room, and not disturb me. So far he's still asleep. I'm hoping the chocolate doesn't end up outside his body tonight.

6. Tabitha made dinner tonight. I love her.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


New "well, duh!" discovery:  A possible trigger of PTSD symptoms might be my ability to ignore pain.

Yesterday was not a good day. I experienced all sorts of paranoia and self-pity and imagined scenarios in which harm came to me at the hand of those I love and trust. And through it all, I was aggravated and angry that it was happening in the first place. My head responds with, "You know that's insane," and I do...but it feels real.

Work was excruciating. I would sit at the computer, go to my first website, look out the window and think: I do not want to be here. Then, naturally, my legs would decide we needed a walk and sitting at the computer would feel even more beastly and I hated the people in the webpage, and the words and the cutesy pictures...

Rehearsals are usually better. Not yesterday, which was odd because a good friend walked with me to the rehearsal (about 3 miles) and we talked a lot, which usually helps ground me and gives me time to regroup. But as soon as I walked in my front door, I was cranky and upset again.

A friend of mine who is aware of how PTSD affects me once told me to write on a piece of paper that he loves me and put it by my mirror, or in some other spot where I'm likely to see it daily. I haven't done it, of course, but yesterday I lectured myself a bit and reminded myself of our conversation, as well as dozens of others which have involved various people in which they, too, have expressed love for me. It helped...for about fifteen seconds.

Thoroughly disgusted, I tried to talk with people online, but my connection was faulty. I would say something and receive no response (this is a very bad thing when symptoms are extreme), and just when I was certain I'd done something offensive and chased away my chat buddy, I'd check my chat history on a whim and find all sorts of lines that had recorded there but never made their way to my chat box. Aggravating.

I went to bed, out of sorts and too tired to sleep. As I lay there, Darrin suggested I might have forgotten my assignment to recognize pain, that I might be hurting and that was causing my discomfort. I tuned into my body and discovered a raging headache and clenched muscles all down my left thigh and calf, and my knee was aching. I also discovered a couple of burns on my left hand that weren't feeling great. So I took some pain medication, waited twenty minutes, and finally fell asleep. I awoke feeling much better and the PTSD symptoms had absented themselves completely.

Hypothesis: When I disregard or suppress pain impulses, my body employs different tactics to get my attention, and if those are unsuccessful, PTSD kicks in to let me know something is amiss. I don't know if this is something I can prove or disprove, but I do know that when I made the decision to acknowledge and take care of pain in the moment, and actually followed through with that decision, I've had little trouble with PTSD and I've had no flashbacks or nightmares. I'm fairly certain if I hadn't taken care of the pains I had last night, there would have been nightmares. Those are mostly predictable and preceded by familiar feelings that tell me they are coming. And it's possible that the pain meds suppressed the nightmares, but I don't think so.

A lot is happening again, and I forgot to stay on top of the "feel pain in the moment" thing. I don't even remember when I burned my hand. That hasn't happened for more than a month. So--today I was careful to pay attention to my body. No unmanageable aches and pains, but I'm starting to feel those tonight because I'm been sitting for much of the day and didn't have time to go walking. I've been running in the mornings and walking later in the day.

So I'll take another pain pill tonight (I've been without them, prior to last night, for about five days), and then work on keeping my aches and pains under control with proper exercise tomorrow. I'm certain pain isn't the only trigger, but I think it's probable that it's one trigger, and if I can track those down one by one, eventually I'll know how to manage them so my PTSD symptoms will, hopefully, remain at bay indefinitely.

Wish me luck!  :-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Make-believe is weird.

I'm going to bed very soon, but just have to remark on two things (one is very long):

1. After 18 months such as my last, life seems almost rote--no more crises. And I'm not complaining, because this is infinitely better, but it does take a bit of adjustment and there is a very odd feeling of being at a loss because life is different.

2. I seem to have lost my understanding of how I fit in other people's lives--or perhaps more accurately--there is a certainty that I do not. My brother told me last week that my sisters miss the "old" me and believe I have changed. My response was that I haven't changed at all; I simply allowed them to see who I really was and they don't like that person as much as the pretend one. She sometimes talks about herself, shares information, likes, and dislikes. She doesn't sit quietly, listening to problems and helping sort them out, all the time. And she doesn't bend over backwards to celebrate family birthdays (while no one has ever acknowledged hers), or call all the time, or visit often. She, for some inane reason, has developed a belief that relationships need to be two-sided, and one person doing all the work might be fun for the other, but desperately lonely and empty for the toiling one.

This has permeated my friendships, as well. While no one has said anything about, well, anything, I still don't see how I can possibly be a part of anyone's life. It's not a devaluation of myself, simply me observing an incongruence and unable to balance it equitably. I don't belong anywhere--this is what seems to be the surviving truth, the one thing I have always known which has seemed to never change. Every pleasant discovery seems to be accompanied by the knowledge that it should not exist and as time passes, that knowledge seems to overshadow the delight of the initial discovery.

I remember Sully telling me, years ago, how much he enjoyed our friendship--only to follow that remark with, "It's a weird relationship." And he was correct. Our age difference, alone, was enough to be daunting. That same stigma exists in my friendship with AtP...well...with most of the friends I've made recently. And it doesn't matter whether I look my age, because I am my age.

I remember four years ago, after I encountered for the first time in more than a decade, the cousin who raped me, Tolkien Boy was kind and gentle enough to hold me. And he commented that we "fit" nicely--and I giggled, because I can't think of anyone else in the world who would notice, let alone, remark on that. Then later, when I had time to remember, my soul shrank because I was concerned that that kind of close contact with me was probably damaging to TB, and I shook my head, baffled...we fit? That does not happen to me. I don't fit anywhere, physically, spiritually, emotionally... And what's the point, anyway? Incongruence, yet again...

I remember feeling absolutely safe in my friendship with Jason for nearly three years, and then one winter evening he let me know that he did not feel the same--things felt weird, to him. I believe I said loudly and clearly, that he was free to leave any time he wished, but my stomach ached because it seemed, once again, that there really was no safe place for me--no place at all, safe or not. And I was angry with myself for becoming comfortable. I knew better than to let that happen. But I also believed my friendship with Jason was healthy and important, and I think part of him agreed with me because we're still friends, even if our friendship is weird.

I remember when Ambrosia told me I could stay with her and Bawb when I came to Utah. And I didn't cry in front of her, because that's just awkward, but I cried on the way home because I didn't understand why she would allow that, but I was very glad she did. And I've stayed with her many, many nights. Once, when I was supposed to drive home, I recognized I was much too tired to begin my trip. I dropped in on her and she let me nap. There aren't many people who will let you just come to their homes and sleep. And Ambrosia and I believe different things about God and life and death and, well, pretty much everything that most people believe are important. They don't seem to be as important to me as just sharing time and conversation with her. Maybe that's weird, too.

And sometimes, when I'm hundreds of miles away, I find myself wishing I could make AtP laugh, or sit quietly with Tolkien Boy, or pretend I'm wise when I'm know I'm not with Jason. Or I wish I could laugh with Ambrosia because she dislikes nearly every food on which I subsist, but sometimes I pretend she likes those things, too. In those moment, even knowing I don't belong in their lives, I cherish all those weird friendships, and for just a moment, I pretend I do belong, somehow. I know. I don't. I belong right here, in front of my computer, working, but perhaps a mental vacation is as helpful as an actual one sometimes, and everyone needs vacations. Therapist told me so and I believe everything he says.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I suppose most things happen this way. I began my tiny personal crusade, expecting to find answers and peace within three weeks. I assumed I'd meet people along the way who would enter and exit, enriching my life and gratefully leaving it. I thought I might have to work a little bit. Gravely overestimating my superhuman abilities seems to come naturally to me.

I feel as though I have ridden a tidal wave, and not very well. The times when I've been immersed have far outnumbered the ones where I rode the crest and coasted neatly into shore.

I realized last week, though, that the bad days are fewer now than the good ones. It's been more than two years since I could honestly say that. And when the distress comes, it rarely taints an entire day, almost always comes in the afternoons and evenings when I'm tired and less able to manage it successfully--and often when I've spent lots of time alone.

The contrast, naturally, when I'm used to feeling happy most of the time, is a bit difficult to deal with, but then I notice even the emotionally trying times are now less overwhelming than they were even two months ago. And often there are moments of peace and well-being. It's been a very long time since I have felt that.

The past month hasn't been without it's bumps and bruises, but I think I've weathered them well.

Am I stronger?

No doubt, I am. I'm also wiser in ways I wish that I was not, and more realistic about who I am and who I may become. I can never again say I was not raped. I can never again excuse the abuse which triggers PTSD now. No matter how much I wish it was not so, I am the little girl I ran from for many, many years. But I'm not afraid of introducing her to people anymore--if they cannot accept and love all of me, that's okay. It's scary to open one's eyes and see what is real.

For a long time I insisted I needed no one. The truth was that I needed many people. I needed Darrin to stand beside me no matter what happened in our lives, and no matter what I had to go through. I needed friends to talk and laugh with me and hold me when I was afraid or sad or lonely. I needed stalwart sons and a daughter who still look up to me and treat me with respect and who look to me for guidance and advice. I needed Therapist.

And now...I will say I need people, but probably I need them less now than I ever have, because I know how to live, and work through problems, and comfort myself. I enjoy my own company, and have no more inner demons to run from. So perhaps, a more honest statement is that I want people. I don't believe I've said that before.

I have gracelessly floundered through experiences which tested my heart and hurt my soul--and I'm still here. Probably I won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Some things have changed drastically and some things never will. My children will continue to grow up and I'll continue to grow old. And every spring I'll be meeting the butterflies and gasping at the beauty of wildflowers as I run on the ridge behind my home. Each summer I'll dodge grasshoppers and listen to dry grass crunch beneath my feet in that same place. In the winter I'll put mile after mile on my steadfast treadmill. And in the moments in-between, I'll cherish each sunrise and sunset, laugh with joy at every thunderstorm, and get lost in the incredibly blue cloudless skies.

There are some things about me that were in place before harm ever came to me...that are with me still...some things no one can ever take away.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Driver of the Year

Both Tabitha and Adam have their learner permits and Darrin and I are a little stressed about it. Sadly, Tabitha is a natural when it comes to driving--so she often becomes too relaxed, forgets to pay attention and begins to stray into lanes best left to oncoming traffic. Adam, on the other hand, is tense to the point of seeing nothing and has nearly killed me more than once. I also have a permanent case of whiplash thanks to his braking skill. The parents may not survive this chapter of life.

Yesterday, however, Tabitha earned a standing ovation from me. We were at an intersection and the light was red. There was a large truck in the left-hand turn lane beside us. The light turned green and Tabitha eased into the intersection, proceeding as she should, in a straight line. The truck next to us decided it needed to go straight, as well, and came right into our lane. Tabitha avoided the truck while I yelled pointlessly at it, but it still didn't notice it was shoving her off the road. My daughter continued to calmly avoid the other vehicle while I reached across her and pushed the horn down on the steering wheel, finally gaining the other driver's attention while Tabitha giggled at me.

The truck's brakes squealed, Tabitha drove calmly off the sidewalk and onto the road, grinned at me and said, "That was funny when you honked the horn."

By the time school let out that afternoon, Tabitha had forgotten the incident completely. I'm not sure if this is a good thing, but I'm very glad we didn't die.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I ran today!

And it was a gorgeous morning, and the air smelled beautiful, and running felt wonderful, and I only ran three miles because I'm trying not to overdo it, and there were two friendly dogs which didn't bite me, and I saw a bluebird.

I can't stop smiling.  :-)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One more thing:

When DJ went birthday shopping with me, he kept taking things out of my cart and placing them back on the shelves. When I asked him why, he said the last time I shopped while taking pain pills, I had no memory of the trip, we ended up with a year's supply of frozen cookie dough, I'm still using the hair products I purchased (this was three years ago), and we got a new blender.

Which reminded me that we really do need a new blender, but DJ wouldn't let me buy one. Nor would he let me drive.

DJ is a tyrant.

I would put a title here if I cared enough to do so.

I'm not certain if the pain pills I'm taking are removing the pain. They are, however, making me less concerned about it...and about everything else in the world. I have a lovely feeling that all is well and nothing can go wrong, and while I'm aware of the searing pain in my leg and calf, that seems to be just dandy, as well. Also, I want to sleep--a lot. And I have a feeling I'm saying things I probably shouldn't and chatting about socially unacceptable topics. I mentioned this to Tolkien Boy when he called me on my birthday, and suggested I should probably go to my chat history and read what we've been discussing for the past week. He said it might be better if I didn't...


Normally this would make me nervous. Today, with a couple of pain pills inside of me, it feels soothing and comfortable. This will come in handy when I go to the dentist today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sigh..a rant in which I swear again...

me: Are you up to listening to a good whine, or shall I scout out someone else?

AtP: of course I'm up to it :D

me: It is almost 10:00 p.m. on my birthday.  At midnight last night a very good friend sent me an amazing birthday text. On my Facebook profile, even though I don't publicize my birthday, Jason, Salad and Drex, Darrin, my cousin, and a guy who plays games with me on Facebook, but with whom I have never spoken  wished me a happy birthday.  Also, my sister, Lila and scary visiting teaching lady.

AtP: nods

me: I received phone calls from Darrin's dad and mom, and Tolkien Boy, all of whom sang me the birthday song. My boys fixed me dinner and made me a cake.  Darrin brought me roses and expensive perfume which makes me want to throw up, but which I love anyway because he loves to give me things.

AtP: :)

me: I have two parents and seven siblings. The math isn't difficult--how many of my family members remembered my birthday?

AtP: None? which happens every year?

me: One.

AtP: oh right, your sister :) you said that

me: Lila--who remembers every year, even though she's halfway across the world and doing a million things and just had a baby. Well, had a baby in June. So--for the next three weeks I'll be fielding apologies and being gracious about being forgotten. Except, you know what? I'm not going to this year. My new answer when a family member says, "Oh! You had a birthday! I'm so sorry I missed it!" is this: "Yes. You did miss it. That's okay, I celebrated being born without you, just like every other year--and the people who cared about me sent songs and happy wishes and cards, just like they do every year. You don't have to apologize anymore--you've done it enough."

AtP: YAY. I'm proud of you!

me: It's ridiculous, AtP. I have three children--the days they were born are precious to me. I do not understand parents who can forget me unless they need something from me. Not only that--your day is important to me--very important. And Darrin's, and Tolkien Boy's, and Jason's, and Ambrosia's… Seriously--what is so difficult about my birthday? And this year it was on a national holiday--I can't put it in a more prominent place. So--they were at a family reunion--a family reunion--spending time with people they don't talk to more than once a year--and they can't even call me.

AtP: where was it held? When did your parents first stop remembering ?

 me: They've never remembered. My dad registered me for Kindergarten. He told my teacher I was born on Sep. 9th.  I got in trouble because she tried to give me a birthday card on that day and I told her it wasn't my birthday. She said, "I guess your father knows when your birthday is!" and I said, "I guess he doesn't!" and I got sent to time out.
My mother knows, she just doesn't remember that it's the 6th until my older sister's birthday rolls around on the 11th--then she remembers she missed mine.

 AtP: o.O

me: They used to pretend it was just easier to celebrate my older sister's birthday with mine, since they were so close, but really, I'm not stupid. When we always celebrate on the 11th, and no one says a word on the 6th, it doesn't take a genius to figure out they can't, or choose not to, remember my birthday. However, thank you for remembering.

 AtP: nods
You're welcome. I have nearly missed it several times :(

 me: I talked to them about this last year. I told them it was hurtful when they ignored the fact that I was born. It made no difference. I'm not talking to them again.

That's the thing, though--I'm your friend, not your child. You could miss it and it would be okay. If you want to remember, that's wonderful, if you forget--that's okay, too because we're friends. But my parents sort of birthed me out--I think they're obligated to remember. They don't have to do anything--just say they're glad I was hard is that?

So--this year I celebrated without them. And I will next year, as well. I was thinking about inviting them to my house for dessert to celebrate, but I really don't want to. I'm tired of apologies and saying it's okay, because it's not. Even scary visiting teacher sent me a Wonder Woman video--that took some thought and web searching--I just want my parents to acknowledge the day with two words.
And I'm going to tell you something, AtP
  I know who I am.
  I've seen what i look like.
  I am not monstrous or ugly or mean or selfish
They should be damn proud to have me as a daughter. And if I was my daughter, I would never forget. You know that's true. I don't forget people.

AtP: You don't. You're beautiful, smart, and amazingly talented. I'm appalled that they won't remember your birthday. btw, I'm very happy you know who you are, and I'm very happy you're in my life.

 me: Me, too. Thanks for letting me rant.

 AtP: You're welcome. I like when you rant

 me: I don't, but I appreciate having a place to do it.

AtP: I wish I was smart or clever enough to ask poignant questions, or say something meaningful like other people you sometimes rant to, but I'm glad you are comfortable enough to talk to me when you need to :)

 me: Don't be silly--I talk to you because you're you, and I love you. Besides, when I'm ranting, no one can get a word in anyway.

 AtP: hahaha I love you too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Also, in reference to my toes...

I wrote last month about my feet, and how Tolkien Boy asserts that they cannot be lovely because my toes are weird--too short for beauty, apparently. And I agreed with him when he said it.

However, a few days ago I was with a very beautiful friend and she glanced down at my feet and said, "I love that you put glitter on your toe nails." Then she added, "I've always thought you have the prettiest feet and toes."

Now, I hold TB's opinion in the highest regard--in fact, I often ask him to tell me his thoughts on many topics, but this was a beautiful woman...and I'm sort of attracted to women...and she, herself, has lovely feet...

Well, whose opinion would you choose??

Yeah, I'm sticking with the most recent one. I adore Tolkien Boy, but my female friend is so much prettier...I can't help it...

Grounded--sort of

I don't know how many years I've been running, but I've never had a running related injury. It's something I worry about as I get older, because I'd like to continue my running regime until the day I die. But last weekend I woke up at about one in the morning, in incredible pain which radiated down my left hip, into my thigh and knee and ending in the muscles at the top of my calf. I had felt some back pain earlier, in the muscles on the lower left side, but it seemed to be gone--replaced by something much worse.

Yay for the timing of learning to feel pain!

Tabitha and I went to church that morning and then drove six hours home, at which point I felt fine. Then I woke up at 1:00 A.M. again. From that point forward, I was living on OTC pain killers (which weren't putting a dent in the pain) and trying to figure out how to work my computer jobs while standing up. Standing, walking, even running, seemed to make the pain subside, but as soon as I sat or lay down, it was back. Also, hot baths helped (I hate baths--so boring). Tolkien Boy kept advising me that a doctor visit was in order. I ignored him (I hate doctors).

Finally, after doing a bunch of research online (a bad idea), I decided that I had no idea what was wrong or how to treat it, the pain was increasing, and anything I was doing could be causing damage. So I called the doctor.

I have never in my life said this: I AM SO GLAD I WENT TO THE DOCTOR!!!!...I said it Friday.

And naturally, I've fallen head over heels in love with Doctor because he told me exactly what I wanted to hear.

I saw a new physician, one in the same office where Darrin goes (when I make him and he's not being incredibly stubborn), because Darrin said he thought the doctors there were pretty wonderful and I'm not thrilled with my current one.

Doctor said I do not have a running injury (YAY!!), but rather a pinched nerve. I don't have to rest for weeks, waiting for healing, but can walk as much as I want--the more the better (but he knows me through my husband and thought he might mention that I ought not to overdo it--something, he says, he's never told a patient with this malady before--thanks a lot, Darrin!). I'm not supposed to run for five days, and then only if the pain is gone. But today is day three and the pain is much less, so I'm hopeful day five will bring no pain. He also prescribed prednisone, but said I don't have to take it if there's no swelling, or if I notice marked improvement without it. I opted not to take it. I'm not fond of steroids or their side-effects.

In the meantime, Darrin has allowed me to use him as a leg-propping station at night which means we have to snuggle a lot. I thought he might get tired of it and need some alone space in bed, but he hasn't. He's often moving closer so I can elevate the leg and we can cuddle more. I'm seeing no downside here.

So, if you'd like to join me on my walk today, you are warmly invited. I'm not supposed to walk on hills, and I'm to wear flat shoes with as little side and ankle support as possible (yup, Doctor recommended my flip flops as appropriate footwear, and I can walk as long and as far as I wish to, so that means if you come along, we'll have scintillating conversations and laugh a lot, because that's what I do.

Oh my goodness! I'm so happy this isn't a horrible injury and I'll be running before the week is out! I couldn't ask for a better birthday present. Yay!

Friday, September 3, 2010

I just have to say that public toilets should have seats attached and closed...

...because then when my car keys fell out of my pocket, they would hit the seat and bounce off onto the floor which, although undoubtedly germy, is dry and does not require me to put my hand inside the toilet to retrieve the stray keys.

Also, it's good that keys are sealed nicely because the water seems to have done no damage to the remote functions, nor has the hand sanitizer with which the keys have been sterilized.

I, on the other hand, may never stop washing my hands.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dear Offspring,

The kitchen utensil game must stop. I know it was started by DJ, so now everyone believes it's a family tradition, and I know I laughed the first time when, on our long family trip, he pulled an ice cream scoop from his backpack, but that does not imply tacit approval, nor does it mean anything in particular. I laugh at everything--a carpet fiber or stray sock can leave me giggling for days. And the second time, I laughed, too, when all of you withdrew your particular kitchen utensil of choice and compared to see who brought the best one, but I'm not laughing now.

While I appreciate that you purchased the items with your own money (really? you can't think of anything else you'd like to spend it on, like candy or iTunes?), and donated them to me (so nice of you, please don't think I'm not appreciative), there is no more room in my kitchen. Also, the barbecue sized ones must leave my home completely. Consider giving them to your friends for early Christmas presents. And I would like the game to end. The last trip ended with you sword fighting with a whisk and a melon baller, and a hot dog roasting stick (guess who won), and was more than a little distracting to the driver (but I handled it beautifully by pulling to the side of the road and yelling at you to PUT THOSE THINGS AWAY!!!).

So--no more kitchen utensil game on long trips, and please remove your purchases from my kitchen drawers immediately.


P.S. Maybe you could do something different on long trips--like listen to music, or read books, or sing, or play video games, or have belching contests...seriously, you're very weird.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I almost forgot the other dream in which I was rowing a boat in the desert while AtP played the guitar and Darrin sang some weird song from the 1980s. I think it was by a group called Earth, Wind, and Fire, because Darrin talks about the group all the time, then tries to sing some of their songs for us in a rather horrible falsetto (Darrin is the youngest in his family and inherited his older siblings' taste in music--very unfortunate). But in my dream he could sing four parts at once, so it sounded like some pop song from the '80s, barbershop style. Also, whatever Atp was strumming on his guitar was not what Darrin was singing.

So very glad I woke up from that dream. I'd like to not have it ever again.


I dreamed last night that Darrin died. I don't think this is unusual when one considers how much I've been obsessing about his health. But then several other people I adore decided to die, as well. So I've made some new rules:

1. Darrin is not allowed to die before I do.
2. In the event that Darrin breaks rule 1, every other person I love better stay alive.
3. Rules 1 and 2 are not to be broken--ever--by anyone--are you listening, Darrin?

Sigh. I need better dreams.