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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Grand Re-Opening

I'm back. I'm not back because I miss this place and can't do without it, but because I'm finishing what I started a decade ago. I've realized that much of what I need to process and write needs to be placed here where it won't be accidentally found by people in my life who won't understand or might feel hurt by what I write.

My mother, for instance. Much of my healing requires me to look honestly at the things she did to me when I was in her care. I may have to express how I feel about that time and about her actions. I've come a very long way, and she, too, has made major changes in her treatment of me. But I still have to process what happened. It was damaging and harmful and it's time for me to finish working through the residue of those experiences. However, my mother has dementia. She remembers the things she did, but does not know how to deal with criticism. She berates herself endlessly and feels deep guilt. My purpose is not to cause her pain, but to ease my own in healthy ways. Because I need a place to write freely without concern about who will read my words, I have come here.

As I do this work, I'll not only be processing emotions from my past, but also trying to work through some of the relationship difficulties I've encountered as I've tried to form healthy connections with people throughout the past decade. I'll be acknowledging things I don't understand, and talking about failed attempts to learn the type of trust that allows those relationships to feel comfortable and comforting rather than stressful and frightening. Admitting those failures does not mean I'll stop trying. Probably I'll go to my grave still trying to figure out how to love someone and not be afraid. That's better, I think, than not loving.

Probably I'll be analyzing the quality of my love for others. Someday I would like people to feel that it's a gift-- something wonderful and worthwhile. That's how it feels to me when others love me. I need to figure out what it is about my love that makes it less important and unnecessary, and then I need to decide if I can make changes so that being loved by me is a more positive, building experience. Also, lest I am misunderstood, I am talking about Philia, not Eros. All of this, of course, has it's roots in attachment issues I've carried with me for most of my life and is deeply affected by whatever PTSD symptoms are occurring at any given time.

Finally, I'll be working through those PTSD symptoms. I am no longer able to function while just allowing the symptoms to happen and waiting until they are gone. Last October I found myself in a very dark place for a number of reasons.

1. My hip injury of three years ago and its subsequent surgeries and replacement had hampered my ability to use physical exercise as part of my PTSD management program. While I was still exercising and remaining active, that, of itself, was causing me more pain than I can think about. By October of last year, I was retraining, learning to run again, and enjoying freedom from pain. But the three years leading to that had taken their toll. It would take more than just running again to remove me from the dark place I was in.

2. My cousin, Jeff, had asked me in September to go with him to make a report to authorities about what our cousin, David, had done to us. This required a series of interviews during which I was required to talk about the experiences with David that led, ultimately, to his raping of me. I thought I was ready for that. I think, in some ways, I was. I think it was a positive step. But the timing of that step came when I was already in a great deal of stress over my teaching job (two classes: one with 150 students and one with 40, as well as a number of Murphy's Law occurrences in conjunction with those classes), still recovering from hip surgery, and dealing with reality that Darrin's job security had become unstable as news that the company he worked for had finally been charged by a couple of Federal agencies for tax fraud and other dishonest/illegal business practices.

3. My stress level had increased to the point that it was unmanageable. I was having panic attacks throughout the day-- some that immobilized me and left me feeling ill. Nightmares kept me from sleeping well. The classes I was teaching continued to be fraught with problems. The stress at Darrin's job escalated as the college he where he worked was sold, and uncertainty about his job increased as student enrollment decreased.

By November I was feeling mildly suicidal. This has happened before. I know the drill. I contacted a few of the people who had agreed to be support for me when those moments happened. Within a week, I realized that they had made that agreement with me years ago. Since then all their lives had changed drastically. They needed to concentrate on spouses, jobs, children, pregnancy, paying bills-- in short, they needed to be support people for themselves. It was unfair of me to ask additional support when their emotional resources were already stretched beyond what was reasonable.

That dark place became darker by January. I had hoped, with the end of the semester, that I would bounce back. Instead, I found myself feeling ill all the time. Eating caused me distress. Sleep was still problematic. I found myself waking each morning and wondering if it was all right to die that day. I spent some time with Therapist, allowing him to remind me of the things that I needed to do to return to a healthy mental and emotional state. The problem was, I was too ill and too tired to do them.

In February it was determined that my gall bladder was contributing to the feelings of illness I was having constantly. In March it was removed. I began feeling better in April, but still couldn't shake the death desire that seemed to haunt me daily. Then there were surgery complications from my gall bladder removal. My body decided it hated the dissolvable stitches residing in my abdomen. I was in so much pain that I ended up in the emergency room for treatment. My doctor told me that anything they did to try to alleviate the situation would actually make it worse - it's not like they could remove the stitches. That would require more surgery and longer healing. I was given strong pain medication and assured things would get better in a couple of weeks.

Two days later one of my incisions opened, and I began leaking fluid and blood. The upside of this was that my pain became significantly less. The downside was that, again, the only thing to do was to wait for my body to heal itself and watch for signs of infection. For three weeks I lived with that. What the surgeon didn't tell me was that the effort expended by my body to heal the wound would leave me completely exhausted. Also, Darrin was laid off. The mornings I arose wishing for death that day went from a few times weekly, to every single morning. I was distressed because of the physical problems I was experiencing, worried about Darrin finding new employment, and suicidal. On top of that, new PTSD symptoms which left me exhausted and feeling defenseless were manifesting themselves. I was in trouble.

Two weeks ago the incision healed. I was no longer leaking. Within two days my energy level had returned to nearly normal. On Friday I had my first run in years where it felt effortless and beautiful. And last week I realized I have finally regained some emotional stamina. No doubt it was gathering while I was concentrating on healing physically. Throughout the week I made some life decisions that had been put on hold.
1. I am going to finish what I started therapeutically.
2. I am going to learn some new strategies to manage my PTSD symptoms and implement them.
3. I am going to find ways to diminish or eliminate those symptoms entirely.
4. I am going to figure out how to lift myself out of the desire for death.
5. I am going to learn how to manage the emotional distress surrounding my relationships with others.
6. I am going to go back to school.

I'm expecting all those things will take another decade or two to finish. At that point, I'll just be old and no one will care anymore, but at least I know what I'll be doing for the rest of my life. :)

So this will become my therapy blog. I'll be logging my research, my strategies, and the results of my attempts to get better.

I'm also writing all this here because I need to track the suicidal feelings. I haven't established a live accountability network yet. I don't really know how to do that. Darrin's a little bit overwhelmed by trying to find a job, and I'm not excited about making new friends and then saying, "Oh, by the way, I have thoughts about needing to die, and some days I really want that to happen. So would you mind checking in with me every few days just to make sure I'm okay?" Yeah, that's not happening. But I'll work on it.

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