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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Maybe I can talk with Therapist

When I become tired, everything is not awesome. And today I'm very tired.

I have been feeling increasingly isolated during the past month. This is no one's fault but my own. I've buried myself in work, taking on task after task, because Darrin is still unemployed and last week was his last paycheck. It also marked the end of our benefits.

When I get in this state, someone can send me every single flower in the whole world and tell me I'm amazing and loved, and I will not believe it. The feeling of being ignored persists - of being an afterthought, or only worth spending time with if someone wants something from me.

I'm doing my best to ignore all that. I know it's not true. Well, when I get through all this, I'll know it's not true then. Until then, I'm trying to remind myself that I'm tired and those feelings are not representative of, nor fair to the people who care about me.

Which just makes everything worse because I don't really want to be fair right now.

Yesterday was the day when I cry about everything from the color of grass to the fact that we sometimes eat meals.

Today I awoke feeling more empty that I've felt in a very long time. And alone. So utterly alone. Which was stupid because Darrin was right there.

So I contacted Therapist. Maybe he can help me.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

We are well into the gorgeous summer days which remind me why I love it here. They're bittersweet this year as Darrin applies for jobs which will require relocation. And I'll be fine moving. In fact, I've always believed I would. Just not now.

Not now - because the timing is wrong. I'm contracted to teach next semester. Moving means Darrin will live one place and I'll stay here while I fulfill those contracts.

Not now - because in all the time I've lived here, finally, I've formed social and emotional support with people I trust. I'm sort of fragile at this point and not ready to venture into doing that again. Chances are good that I won't do it if we leave, no matter how much I want to. That sounds silly, I know, but if you have PTSD you understand completely what I just said, and if you don't, I simply sound churlish.

Not now - because I'd like my kids settled a bit more before we leave them behind. Tabitha and DJ will be fine, but Adam is still trying to regain memories of who he was before the migraine drug obliterated his persona. And he has no job right now. He can come with us, but he has a good therapist who has helped him a great deal. He's still dependent. He hates that, but it's true.

Not now - because I'm tired. I feel completely wrung out and every time I start to regain my footing, the rug is pulled from under me once again.

Things I don't need to be told because I've already said them to myself:

1. My attitude stinks. A simple change of attitude will solve all my problems.
2. This is an adventure. I like adventure. But the truth is that I like it when I choose it, not when it's forced on me.
3. A fresh start will be good for everyone.
4. Moving means I can throw away or use Darrin's collection of cardboard boxes residing in the garage where I wish I could park the car (no, I don't know why he collects them).
5. I need to have more faith. No doubt God has something planned...

But you see, I know all those things, but it's difficult to manage them when your strength is gone and your emotions are freaking out all over the place. And there are panic attacks. Let's not forget those. And nightmares.

6. I need to talk with Therapist.

It's on the agenda this week. I might actually be able to talk now. We'll see. In the meantime, the blue flax are everywhere, my roses are blooming, and my morning runs are incredibly beautiful. I hope we go somewhere with a lovely place to run.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Talking about things doesn't always make sense anymore. There was a time when it was crucial for me. Not talking led to the feeling that I was less, shameful, that if I actually spoke the things that were hurting me, I would be left alone. Talking about that helped me understand a few things:
1. I'm only one of many with similar experiences (in other words, there is nothing special about suffering silently).
2. Initially, when I am most vulnerable, there will be people who will take time to help me through the hard part. When I am stronger and need them less, they will return to the important things in their own lives.
3. Nothing that happened to me indicates shame on my part. Being defenseless is not a weakness, it's simply a part of being young and small. A person who takes advantage of one who is defenseless is shameful.
4. I am allowed to say the things that hurt. I may or may not find an audience for my words, but I am still allowed to say them.

My initial hope was that I would talk to a professional, there would be a "fix" for every problem, and all my past hurts would go away. I've spoken with people who have basically told me that was their experience. It has not been mine.

It's possible that I'm my own worst enemy. When one aspect of the trauma I experienced begins to feel better, I immediately identify and tackle the next one. Maybe I just need to stop doing that and be grateful for the progress I've made.

One of the biggest problems I have is that I function beautifully in a social situation, but I have no idea how to understand the emotional complications of close relationships. My impulse is to simply say the things that are causing me distress, or to enthusiastically crow my deep, loving feelings for anyone who is close to me. I've learned that most people don't do that, nor do they respond well to me when I do. These are the tacit rules for close relationships that I have gleaned over the past decade or two:
1. Ignore the small things. Pretend they will go away (they won't, but if you use your energy ignoring them, you can be surprised or uncomfortable when I tactlessly point them out and ask if we might do something about them).
2. You actually can tell someone you love them too many times. I'm not one of those people who becomes annoyed when it's said too often. I spent my childhood and teen years not hearing it once from my family. When I was 16 and 17, a few of my peers said it to me. Two of my teachers from church told me they loved me. That absence created a vacuum inside of me. I can never hear it enough now. Always it is welcome. Always it makes me feel beautifully happy. It is a mistake, though, to believe others will feel the same when I say it to them. They have boundaries. I'm not always good at recognizing those.
3. I should not scoff at the "Love Language" thing. It's real and it serves a purpose in close relationships. I was skeptical when it became a cool discussion item many years ago because in my head, everyone needs some form of touch, time, affirmation, service, and gifts from the people they care about. To identify a main one, in my mind, was to exclude the importance of any other needs a person might have. Shifting the focus to a main love language seemed like a bad idea. However, as I've come to understand myself better, I've realized that someone could send me a lovely gift, but if I've not spent time or talked with them recently, the gift feels meaningless. I'm just not a person who cares about "things." And unless I have time to connect frequently with someone, it's very likely that the other four love languages will have no impact, with the exception of touch which will probably freak me out and repel me.
4. I don't get to choose the way a relationship changes. Well, that's not true. Restated: I only get to choose 50% of what happens in a relationship.
5. Time and space in relationships are vital for some people. I need to respect that. I also need to understand that I probably won't know how to interact with them when they come back because I'm sort of broken. And they don't like to be told that. They want to believe that they have the freedom to come and go and nothing will change in my level of close feelings for them because that's how it works for most people. It makes people who have been close to me uncomfortable when I tell them I'm happy to see them, but I'm not really interested in frequent interaction with them anymore. I need to stop talking after the "happy to see you" part.

This is a crazy week for me emotionally. I don't know how I feel most of the time. It seems that when I decide how I feel, or what I should do next, someone surprises me. For example, on Saturday my life seemed to suddenly melt down. I couldn't stop panicking or crying or shaking. Eating was not happening. Sleep was not my friend. Life felt completely painful in every way. Therapist had told me this might happen. He suggested when it did, the I send a text to people who have been supportive of me in the past, just asking for some reassurance. Lame. I hate doing that. Saturday, though, I was sort of desperate.

So I sent the text to a few people, knowing that because it it was Saturday there would probably be no immediate response. When my phone rang a moment later I was almost too surprised to answer. I let it ring a couple of times, debating whether or not I really wanted to talk to anyone. Then I answered. And I had a really wonderful conversation with a person who allowed me to know of the things that were causing him difficulty in his life, as well as showing interest in the things that were bothering me - letting me support him as he did the same for me. That's balance. That's what is missing very much in my life right now. He gave that to me.

So now I'm sorting through stuff and trying to make sense of what's going on inside of me. I'm still too overwhelmed to really address anything, and if I'm asked questions I probably won't be able to really express the things that are painful and confusing. I tried talking with Darrin about it. Darrin is not stellar about listening without fixing or personalizing. It did not go well. So right now I feel a little bit isolated and misunderstood. When I'm done being self-centered and stupid, I'll probably stop feeling that way. Mostly, though, I need this week to be over, I need Darrin to get a job, and I need to go for a run. Right now.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

" a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." -- James Joyce

Last time I spoke with Therapist we talked about my nightmares. He asked me what happened in those. I said I didn't know. I didn't want to know. This was my lecture from Therapist:

"We've talked about this before, Sam. There are lots of reasons nightmares occur. Sometimes there's an external cause like being too hot or too cold or eating something that causes stomach pain or distress. But most often it's because there's something we're ignoring - something our brains want us to know or do or discover. As long as you ignore the nightmares, they'll probably continue. And that means you're not sleeping well, which means you're not going to recover and gain the strength necessary to deal with your insanely complicated life. I've been honest with you - I could not go through the stress and physical things you've had in the past few years without completely losing it. I don't think most people could. I don't know how you've managed to maintain your strength and sanity though all of it.

"However, you've been telling me now for about two years that the fatigue is getting to you and that you're very tired. This means you're vulnerable, and even if you are a little bit superhuman when it comes to enduring crap, at some point you're going to reach your breaking point, and my guess is that will happen when nothing is really going on - when things have slowed down and there are no suicidally depressed children, Darrin has a job again, and no one is broken or needs surgery. That's when you'll lose it. And it will be a simple matter of not getting enough sleep, or recuperative sleep, for a very long time.

"A lot of people who deal with nightmares keep a notebook by their bedsides. They simply jot down a few sentences about the nightmares when they awake. Then, after a few days (or even longer), they look at the things they've written and piece together what it is that their subconscious is trying to tell them. I think you should try that. And I think this might be a really good thing to focus on. I'm worried about the fact that these nightmares have been bothering you for more than a year now, pretty much without breaks. That's a long time, Sam."

So last night I didn't do the thing that I haven't been telling Therapist about where I actually CHOOSE not to remember my nightmares. I know the content. I always know. But who, in their right mind, wants to look at the details of the things that caused PTSD in the first place? I think most people want to forget, and to have different facets of it paraded through their dreams every night is miserable. Choosing to forget seemed a good course of action. I've gotten so good at it that even when I awake, drenched in cold sweat (or just before that happens so I can leap out of bed and spare the sheets), I have no idea what the nightmarish details are.

But I trust Therapist most of the time. So last night I shut off the forgetting mechanism and let the nightmare be acknowledged. I awoke early this morning, nauseated and upset. I didn't jot it down on a notebook. I don't need to. I also have no idea why it's relevant or what my subconscious is trying to tell me.

I spent the night with an older version of my rapist cousin. We were in a room with other family members and some of my friends. He sat alone and seemed to be trying to come to a decision about something. Then my dream slipped through a moment of time, as dreams often do, and he was sitting on the arm of my chair, talking to me. I was filled with the love and delight that I felt as a child whenever I was with my cousins. We were friends. We played and laughed together. I had no real reason to be afraid of David. Those feelings were mixed with the loathing and anger toward the man (and he appeared as a man in my dream) who raped me, who was sitting next to me and chatting as if we were old friends.

I moved to a couch with three other people. The dream slipped again and David had squeezed in next to me. Everyone on the couch made room for him. I felt panicky. He wouldn't leave me alone. But I said nothing.

When the dream slipped again I was in an empty house. No furniture and bare light fixtures exposed torn spots in old wallpaper. I knew David was there somewhere. I was upstairs. I couldn't hear him.

It would seem I'm still afraid of that man. But really, I'm not. The truth is, I don't believe he will ever approach me again. And should he decide to, I'm very good at telling people not to bother me. I would have no qualms letting him know that I have no desire to spend time with him at all. And should he press the issue, I don't believe I would have a problem defending myself.

I think the nightmares I've been having aren't about David at all, really. I think they're more PTSD related. As I contemplate the dreams, the feelings I have about him are annoying, confusing, and upsetting, but I think the really upsetting part is that I feel abandoned. My family is present in the dream, as are my closest friends. No one says anything when David approaches and follows me. They make room for him as he invades my space on the couch, and in the end I am alone in an empty, abandoned house, with my rapist cousin.

Do I really need people to protect me still? Does it bother me that I feel I fight this alone? Why can't I own this? I don't need anyone to help me. I've done the physical work necessary to keep me safe. I've done the mental and emotional work to move beyond the state I was in 10 years ago in regards to this. I've come to terms with the fact that I am not really a priority in anyone's life but my own. I understand all this and I'm okay with it.

So why am I still having nightmares? And maybe I'm misinterpreting all of it. Maybe there's something I'm missing?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I know. I need to talk to Therapist. But I want to wait until I can talk like a person. It's sort of ridiculous to go to someone for help if you can't tell them what's wrong.

There's something wrong inside of me. What has happened to my cousin-- being ostracized, ignored, even shunned-- this has happened because of his choice to harm and prey upon those smaller and unprotected. He raped me. He raped Jeff. He stalked my little sisters and tried to groom Jeff to join him as I was raped at night. We're not talking about someone who just made an unfortunate choice. David's acts were premeditated and ruthless. Not once did he think about the ways he was destroying his victim.

And I can't stop being sad that he's alone. He's a middle aged man no one wants. He came to the funeral without his wife. I don't even know if he's still married to her. David's sons want nothing to do with him. He has no access to his new granddaughter. My parents and siblings, Jeff's parents and siblings-- no one would even look at David or acknowledge his presence. These people are his family.

I know. He is reaping the reward of his actions. I know.

And still I feel sad that he is alone.

I'm messed up.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Girl Interrupted

Before I could begin with my grand intentions to finish what I began so long ago, my grandmother passed  away. She would be 98 next month. It was not unexpected. I wasn't traumatized by her death. It was peaceful and blessed and she is free from pain now. I am and always will be grateful to be her granddaughter.

However, her funeral meant that I would be spending an undefined period of time with the cousin who raped me. I've not seen him since I went to lunch with him about 8 years ago. At that time, I made no accusations. We did not discuss what he did to me. I simply wished to see him and stop being afraid of him. Last October, Jeff and I made a police report and David was contacted and interviewed by the authorities. As far as I know, that's as far as anything will ever go. But this meant that the funeral would be the first time I've been with David when he is aware that both Jeff and I have accused him, and I did not know what to expect.

I called Jeff and asked him to please be sure to join me at the funeral. He said he would. I called Therapist and asked for a pep talk and some reassurance. He did his best. I tried to make contact with a few people who would respond if I needed help. That was semi-successful. AtP checked in with me, but I was unable to talk because phone reception was spotty, at best. But it helped to know he was thinking of me.

Jeff was a mess when he got to the funeral. I suppose I was, too, but I suppress emotions. The messiness has yet to be expressed. I don't know how long it will take. Seeing David was distressing and upsetting. He did not approach Jeff or me. Smart man.

We spend a great deal of time with my extended family and with Jeff and his extended family. Under different circumstances, the visit would have been lovely. My sister, Lila, stole me away for a few minutes to ask some questions about how I was doing. I could only answer at the time, "I'm okay."

I'm okay.

But not really.

I find myself not knowing how to feel again. I'm angry again at David. I'm angry that he stole our childhoods and made trophies of us when naming his own children. I'm angry that he attempted to molest my younger siblings and who knows how many other children who are now adults without the words or strength to talk about what was done to them. I'm angry that he came to my grandmother's funeral and had the honor of being a pallbearer. I'm angry.

And I feel sad for David. He was clearly uncomfortable. Darrin suggested mean ways to make him even more uncomfortable. I stopped him. I reminded Darrin that I don't work that way. I'm not a bully. David appeared at the funeral in a new suit. I know it was new because he hadn't removed the tailoring in the vents at the bottom of the suit coat. So he stood in his new suit, looking for friends. He ended up staying only with his brother and parents, while Jeff and I were surrounded by people who love us and despise David. And I felt compassion for the person who raped me but cannot hurt me ever again.

I thought maybe I should talk with David. As I approached him, I felt such a wave of nausea and faintness that I turned quickly away. I didn't attempt approaching him again.

I don't know why I feel sad for my cousin. I don't know why I wished to ease his discomfort. I don't understand any of what I'm feeling. And all this serves to intensify the belief that there is something wrong with me. That I am somehow unbalanced. And I feel isolated and alone. How can I be loved and accepted when I have bizarre feelings like this? I can't talk to anyone about it because no one will understand. I don't understand.

I can't cry because I miss my grandma. I'm too busy crying because I'm so confused about my reaction to seeing David. And I don't have time for this. I have a huge work week beginning tomorrow. Darrin has two more paychecks and then no more. At the end of this month, our health benefits cease. I'm trying to work overtime to put some money aside, just in case no job has materialized at that point.

So I still intend to follow through on my goal to finish. I've just had a setback. It makes me feel stupid because I can't figure it out and move on. And it makes me feel sort of like I'm tainted again. It's an interruption. I need to not be interrupted like this.