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Thursday, March 3, 2011

"...sometimes, when you fall, you fly..." ~Neil Gaiman

Tabitha's anxiety disorder has expanded into depression. It's not debilitating. It's not constant. But she feels the depression more often than is optimal. So at the suggestion of our pediatrician, I made an appointment with a pediatric nurse practitioner who also has a bajillion other degrees and specializations, one of which includes knowing which psychiatric medications work best for teens.

I've actually been trying to get an appointment with this person for two months. Not easy.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. She spent about an hour with us, asking questions and taking Tabitha's history. She asked me to briefly give my background, as well--trying to determine if Tabitha's anxiety and depression were genetic. And she spent about ten minutes alone with Tabitha, during which time she asked about drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, and any other situations Tabitha might not be comfortable discussing with me present. Tabitha answered her questions and said, "You didn't have to send my mom out. She knows pretty much everything that's going on with me. I tell her," at which point the nurse practitioner invited me back in.

The NP asked me how I was able to get Tabitha to talk to me so much. I've never really thought about it, so I couldn't answer the question. Tabitha said she talks to me because I listen--and I make sure we're in a place where we won't be interrupted (on a walk, driving in the car, in her bedroom...). Also, she said she's not afraid to talk about anything because I don't get angry or act shocked or disappointed (which isn't completely true--I do, Tabitha just doesn't notice). And, Tabitha said, she knows I love her no matter what, and I let her make her own decisions most of the time.

Interesting. I didn't know Tabitha felt that way about her relationship with me.

So that was a positive experience I had not expected.

Also positive:

1. When asked to talk about my past, I revealed that I'm a rape survivor. I used those words. I didn't flinch. My voice remained steady. And inside, I didn't feel that I was dying and somehow freakish and ugly. I'm a rape survivor. It happened to me. It is not who I am.

2. I told her I was a survivor of emotional and physical abuse until I left home at 17. During Tabitha's private interview with the NP, she adamantly stated that she has never been abused by me in any way and that I've never even spanked her (not true--I've swatted her behind once or twice when she was a toddler, to get her attention--it was never enough to cause pain or make her cry). NP told me that's unusual. Many adults who were abused as children will perpetuate the cycle--even if it's to a lesser degree. She said it's common for most adults to resort to how they were treated as children when it comes to parenting. I said I'd chosen to parent differently and I had to do research and take classes and read and pray...and I still do. She said she was impressed with my efforts and pleased that I had the foresight to get help when I needed it.

She doesn't understand--there was no other option for me. I cannot cause harm to people I love. It hurts me in ways I can neither describe nor endure. This means I will initiate difficult conversations to find solutions which will help my relationships thrive, I'll forgive almost anything, and I'll try constantly to make certain healthy boundaries and mutual respect are in place and continuously fostered. However, even though I couldn't explain to her that, yes, it was a conscious choice to stop the cycle of abuse when it came to parenting my children, it was also the only possibility for me.

3. I talked about flashbacks and PTSD and my own anxiety, and answered all her questions without feeling attacked or less human because I have all those things. I told her I've had no flashbacks since August 2nd, I'm still learning to manage PTSD, I have difficulty sleeping when nightmares come, I have panic attacks which sometimes last a couple of days. I told her I'm unmedicated. NP said it sounded like there was no link between what I experience and Tabitha's symptoms. She feels, as I do, that my symptoms are situational not genetic and the fact that I'm able to function well without medication supports that supposition. But I talked about those things--and I was okay.

I know there are many people who have endured greater challenges and tragedies than I have. But for me, the things that have happened were daunting and traumatic. There have been many times in my life when I felt I could not live one more day knowing the things that have been done to me, understanding how helpless and aching I was left, recognizing there was no way to change that. In those moments I simply chose to not have those experiences anymore. I was not a rape victim. My mother did not mistreat me. I lived a boring, normal life, just like every other person on the planet.

Today I can say what happened. I can talk about it as needed. It no longer eats my soul. I am Samantha--entirely whole. I can be sad about the sad parts, but also feel joy as I recognize the depth and beauty I experience each day.

One day, a long time ago, I asked Tolkien Boy if he believed a person could be hurt beyond the ability to heal. I don't remember exactly what he told me but today I can answer that question. For me, the answer is that if indeed, people can be hurt to that extent, I am not one of those people.

I was raped and abused. I was hospitalized because I wished to die. I stopped eating in the hopes that I could discard the body which I believed had betrayed me somehow. And then, one day, I decided to live.

I don't know that I'll ever be completely free of the memories and aftermath of those experiences. Perhaps it's good that I remember. But remembering does not keep me from becoming lost in a sunrise or singing or writing terrible poetry or laughing just because I'm happy. It doesn't hamper my determination to grow and learn and overcome phobias and try new things. It doesn't isolate me from people I love or make me stop trying to learn about relationships.

Remembering helps me know I'm real. Knowing I'm real allows me to seek out people to love who will love me back. Giving and receiving love helps me remember that I am more than that which was done to me.

I am more.

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