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Monday, December 19, 2016

Starting Over


Therapist tells me the regression I perceive is exaggerated. He also said if his life was close to mine in terms of stress - physical, mental, and emotional, he would be in the hospital. I don't believe him on either count.

There are times when I cannot understand why the people who have experienced life with me as a part of it for the past 10 years are still doing that. Therapist says this is because my self-esteem has taken a large hit as PTSD symptoms have increased in intensity and duration.

The sudden, overwhelming depression continues to come at least once daily. I know what it is now. I know what to expect. I'm taking steps to manage it when I'm able to catch my breath. Therapist says this is happening because I need to escape.

I have been terrified to touch people. The thought of it has overwhelmed me to the point that I've been known to run away suddenly just because I don't think I can manage hugging or not hugging-- either seems scary. Therapist says I've not had healthy, non-sexual touch as I have needed it, probably for more than a year.

I operate, socially, at a level of paranoia I haven't seen for many, many years. I want to do something with someone, but I can't ask because they might say no. I want to visit with someone, but I can't go (or if I do go, I can't stay) because I might be unwanted or intruding. I want to call someone, but I don't because they might not want to talk to me. In short, I am undermining my ability to interact with anyone. Therapist says when I have stress at the level I've experienced for more than eight months, it can be impossible to navigate boundaries or understand social nuances which creates social paranoia.

Darrin and I have been talking past one another for almost two months now. We love each other, but we don't always get along. Sometimes one of us snaps at the other for no reason. Therapist reminds me that I've always said people need time away from each other. Darrin and I need time away. We're spending too much time in the same place, doing the same things.

There's more. So much more. But these are the things Therapist asked me to work on:
1. I am to create more positive scenarios about why the people who love me are still here. And I'm supposed to ask them to tell me why. That's not comfortable at all.

2. I am to take steps to seek out sunshine and exercise. And take more vitamin D (my idea). And when the depression hits, as soon as I am able, I'm supposed to find a person to talk to, either real or online. I'm supposed to ask for reassurance. Again, uncomfortable.

3. I am to visualize myself in physical contact with another person, preferably that contact should last longer than 30 seconds. It can be something as simple as sitting next to the person and allowing our arms to touch. Therapist would prefer that I have an arm around me or a real hug or a hand to hold. I am not comfortable with this. Surprise!

4. I am to make appointments to be with people I love. I am to spend time with them. We can do some sort of activity or we can sit and stare at the wall together. I am to pretend that they like being with me. I am to tell myself how glad they are that I want to be with them. I am to understand the social boundaries are not put in place to push me away. I am to put effort into understanding social norms and nuances and function within those norms. This is beyond uncomfortable. It feels impossible.

5. Darrin and I are to have one scheduled evening just for us. It doesn't have to be long, but it does have to be one-on-one. And then we are to schedule time, weekly, alone. With no one else. Not working. Doing something we enjoy. Which means I have to figure out what I enjoy. This feels beyond impossible.

Therapist told me, once again, he's not going anywhere. He said, again, he loves working with me. He suggested I make a follow-up appointment, but then said he'll allow me to choose when that will be. Then he said, "Sam, given your background and your current circumstances and the physical health problems you've experienced in the past five years, there is no reason for you to be sitting in front of me, well-adjusted and coping. Any other of my clients would be drinking constantly or hospitalized. You're doing better than fine. I honestly don't know where you find the strength to do what you're doing without breaking."

Except I do break. All the time. And then I pull myself together. Nothing else makes sense. I don't like it when things don't make sense. And even though I hate everything Therapist has assigned, I'll do it. Because I think I trust him. And I desperately want to feel better.

So if you're in my life (and Tolkien Boy has already had a taste of this), expect me to contact you. If you live near me, I'll be asking for a real hug. And I might sit next to you. And our arms might touch. Just for a few minutes. And it will be okay. You won't die of contamination, and I won't implode. Therapist has promised this is so.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dear everyone who has ever been in my life,

I suppose I need to mention that I'm writing this at a very obnoxious time in my life. I'm experiencing random dips throughout the day. One moment I'm calm, sane, happy even. The next I'm so sad I can't stop crying. I have fleeting thoughts of ways to end my life that are odd and unwelcome. I'll be doing something mundane: loading the dishwasher, showering, using the bathroom, drinking water, and the thought will come: I could just               (fill in the blank)             right now, and then things will be better. I'll be better. I'll be dead. And better.

This feels different from suicidal depression (I've been there before). It feels like desperation depression. I've been is an intensely difficult situation for more than a year. I've had major surgery and shortly thereafter, moved to a different state after living in one place for more than 20 years. I'm living in less than optimum circumstances. I think it's understandable that my brain is opting out of everything right now.

So anything I write this morning is suspect.

This is a confession.

I think, when I was a child, I actually had friends. I think I had them more than once. I remember having two very close friends in third grade. But then my family moved, as they did every couple of years for the first decade of my life. It was harder making friends after that final move, but I remember having them.

After I was raped, it was more difficult to have friends. I spent a year with none. Then, when I was in 8th grade, a group of girls adopted me. I don't think any of them really thought of me as a friend, but they sat with me during classes, ate with me at lunch, and invited me to their parties. Maybe they thought I was their friend? I think that's what friends do when they're in 8th grade. But I felt nothing for them except gratitude. It was nice to have a group. I didn't belong with them, but they made sure I was not alone. I appreciated that.

I had friends in high school.

I think, though, that I didn't really. I had learned by that time to cope and cover up and pretend. I had subconsciously figured out that you can socialize, and even enjoy yourself, without connecting deeply. You can have fun. You can like people. But you're safest if you let them talk, but never talk about yourself, if you entertain, but never confide, if you interact and laugh and smile and never, never, never let people know if you're sad. This pattern of behavior continued long into adulthood and marked my interactions even (or perhaps especially) with my siblings and parents.

And it worked for a long time. But not really.

And one day I came here. Here, where people often wrote things they would never say, things that could not be said aloud or to another person. This was a place of truth. When I joined, I didn't always write truth. I couldn't. I didn't know how. But I practiced. And I joined the community of truth while writing half-truths.

I wrote about my past. I became more truthful as I allowed myself to accept what had happened to me. It took years. Bit by bit, I allowed myself to write more truths. Eventually I came to a place where I could speak the words. I suppose that meant I was healing.

But what I did not expect was that I would find people here who cared about me. Well, cared about Samantha, whom I created. Some of them went a step further. They wanted to meet Samantha's creator. They wanted to know who I was. They wanted to be friends.

I don't think I expected that.

Still, I allowed it to happen. I had an ironclad persona. I was likable and funny. I had nothing to fear. The persona had been practiced to perfection. I forgot that these people had read my truth right here as Samantha told her story.

So this was a new experience. I was interacting with people who sometimes read the honest words I wrote about my past, my present, my feelings, and my life. This created an unexpected, instant intimacy. I was not prepared for that.

Suddenly, there were people with whom I was falling in love. I wanted them in my life. I knew about them in the same way they knew about me. I felt close to them, connected somehow. It was very uncomfortable.

Online interaction became in-person interaction with a few people I had met here. There were phone calls and visits, as we all lived in different places. We chatted online whenever possible. And as our emotional closeness increased, I began to panic. I wasn't used to this. Only my husband and children, people who lived with me, were allowed emotional intimacy with me.

I found myself vacillating between joy and contentment during our interactions and intense fear, guilt, and paranoia when we were not interacting. I made deadlines for myself: On this day, I have to end my friendship with         (fill in the blank)       . Or I would set the timer so that an online or telephone conversation wouldn't last too long. Or I would turn off my phone or not log into my chat program for a few days so that everyone would have a break from me.

I didn't want to risk people getting tired of me. I wanted them.

A few people became very close friends. This was even more upsetting and uncomfortable for me. And very scary. I started a different blog under a different blognym so that I could write down my thoughts and feelings. The blog was private. The thoughts and feelings were private. Mostly because they were insane.

In my new blog I talked about how afraid I was. I talked about the things I assumed those who were closest to me thought and said about me when I wasn't there. I made plans for how I would cope when the people I loved left me. I wrote them letters. I composed pretend conversations. I said the words they were thinking (what I assumed they were thinking) for them. I told myself, in their voices, that this was all temporary, that I was too messed up, that in the end, it was too much stress for them to stay with a person like me.

It was a blog where I allowed myself to be verbally and emotionally abused and, ultimately, abandoned by the people I love.

You might wonder why I would do that. It seems insane, yes?

Keep in mind that I've been abused physically, mentally, and emotionally from my earliest memories. Keep in mind that the number one perpetrator of the abuse was someone who, traditionally, nurtures and loves. Keep in mind that I was isolated, emotionally, from other people for many, many years.

I suppose I needed to prepare. I loved these people so much that if they decided to harm or abandon me, I needed to be strong enough to withstand the damage. So I was practicing. It's what I do. I'm a musician, after all. By allowing myself to feel what I would feel in the event that people hurt me or left me, I was preempting the feelings of overwhelming loss that would inevitably occur, so when they actually happened, I would be okay.

It's a trick I learned as a child. I knew that when I came home from school, my mother would be there waiting. She wouldn't want to hear about my day. She wouldn't hug me or say she was glad to see me. She would have found something while I was gone: my room wasn't clean, or my bed wasn't made right; she'd found a dish I'd washed that wasn't quite clean: there would be laundry to fold or other chores to do; or she would just be angry and yell about something I didn't understand. I knew that was waiting.

So on the walk home (or later, on the bus ride home), I would spend the first ten to fifteen minutes allowing myself to feel the fear and agony of her berating me, demeaning me, and then the next ten to fifteen minutes numbing myself to those feelings by losing myself in a book (bus ride) or stopping briefly to play at a park (when I was in walking distance of school and home). Then, when the event finally happened, I was able to not respond. I'd already felt the feelings. There were none left. I could allow her to yell, or hit, or whatever she might do without crying. I WOULD NOT CRY.

And so, when I began to care, really care about the people who seemed to care back, I was terrified. I needed a place to feel what I would feel when they betrayed my trust, when they found someone new and left me behind, when they suddenly recognized they were bored or emotionally drained by me. And when they suddenly disappeared, above all, I wanted to be sure that I WOULD NOT CRY.

Okay, maybe even with that explanation, the abuse blog seems over the top and very crazy. I can't apologize or even explain more. This is who I am. I have learned that the best offense is a good defense. I have been protecting myself for a very long time. And while I have longed with all my heart to allow others to protect me sometimes, it has become abundantly clear that I would probably not allow it. Because I don't trust anyone. Because I'm pretty much broken. Because who, after years of no abuse, creates a blog so she can experience imaginary abuse from people who actually don't have the time, energy, or desire to abuse her?


That's all.

The blog still exists. I'm working with Therapist to put it to rest. It might take another decade. And in the meantime, I'm left thinking, "I am such a freak. There is no way I can ever become the person I pretend to be-- the one people like." And there are days, like today, when trying to become that person seems pointless.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

It is very late and I have an early morning, so this will be as brief as I can possibly make it and still say what's on my mind tonight.

After more than a decade, I think I finally understand.

A very short explanation so that I might be as clear as possible:

For many years I avoided intimacy and close relationships because I did not understand them. And I thought I was fine. I had lots of less close, non-intimate relationships. And I had Darrin who was safe because we were married. It's harder to dissolve a marriage relationship than a friendship.

But then a therapist suggested I needed more authentic interaction with people. And connection-- I needed that, too, apparently. And close ties to more people than Darrin and my children. And because I trusted my therapist, I tried it out. But I still didn't understand any of it.

I didn't understand that people form very close relationships with friends and family and others who fall somewhere in between those two descriptors. And those relationships wax and wane and everyone seems okay with that. Except me. I was never okay with it. And I didn't understand why when you love someone, you don't do everything in your power to work together to keep a healthy, close, fulfilling relationship with one another.

But I think I understand now.

When it comes to intimacy and relationships (excluding sexual intimacy), I am a child. I think and feel as a child does. Holding a hand, cuddling, sharing physical proximity feels very much to me as though I am being protected and loved. There is nothing more to it. And I want that. I did not receive it as a child. As an adult, I wish for it more than ever.

Except, I'm not a child. What I deem innocent and healthy, to another, might be crossing boundaries, unwelcome, and uncomfortable.

I'm not a child. Adults have moved beyond the need to be protected and have learned to protect themselves. And I do protect myself. To the point that I will deny myself of any physical touch at all, lest I want more. I protect myself because someone has to. And I can. But while I'm doing that, I cannot say I don't wish for a moment of intimacy when someone else will protect my heart and my being. Because those are moments when I feel most cherished. And now I'm right back to being a child.

So I understand that I don't see things in the relationship arena as other adults do. I see and feel differently. I learned at a very, very young age to build walls and shut people out. I learned that no one is to be trusted. But I want to let them in. And I want to trust them.

But my adult self understands that boundaries and limits make people feel safe and make relationships healthy. Boundaries are not the same as walls, but for me, they seem the same. When someone shows me a boundary: "I want you in my life, but do not cross this line," or "I want you in my life, but not often or for a prolonged period of time," or "I want you in my life-- except sometimes I don't," that's when I get all muddled. Because I'm not sure what they're really saying. They could be saying one thing when they mean something else. Or they could mean exactly what they are saying.

But either way, suddenly I have to negotiate a boundary I don't understand completely.

"I want you in my life, but do not cross this line." Why? What do you think will happen if I cross it? Do I present a danger or an inconvenience? What is it about me that makes you feel I am a threat? Or is it just that you need a limit so that you can feel safe? Help me understand.

"I want you in my life, but not often or for a prolonged period of time." Why? What will happen if you see me more than once or twice a month? What will happen if we spend hours or even days together? Will you be bored? Will you feel stressed that I'm here? Do I talk too much? What if I shower first? Will that help? Or is it just that spending lots of time with me makes you feel stressed and you need some time in-between to regroup? Help me understand.

"I want you in my life-- except sometimes I don't." Why? What is it about me that makes you not want me in your life? And how do you function having me there sometimes, but then making sure I'm erased and forgotten when you don't want me? What is it about the on-again/off-again friendship that makes you feel happier and more secure? Or is it just that a close relationship with me requires time and work and commitment, and you don't have time to work or be committed right now? Help me understand.

Except I think I finally do understand.

It's not personal. Not really. In an adult world, people seem to function daily with a significant other. That's the daily person. And then there are those who get together with non-significant others on weekends. Sometimes the non-significant others are always the same people. They're a group. They rely on each other for entertainment and companionship. They know who they'll be with, and they're comfortable with that. But those are weekend people. More than a weekend can be too much.

Sometimes the weekend people are different all the time. Then the adults have lots of people for entertainment and companionship. Not knowing who they'll be with each week is part of the fun. They meet new friends and have even more weekend people to choose from . But those are still just weekend people.

And then there are the people who used to be daily people before the significant other became significant. Sometimes they stay in the picture and become weekend people. But other times, they feel a huge loss because they're no longer daily people, and, unable to negotiate the feelings of loss, they drop out of sight. But then sometimes, they'll call or drop in for lunch just to catch up every six months, or even annually. Those aren't daily or weekend people. They're occasional people. But they still care about the person they used to be with daily. It just hurts too much to know they're not daily people anymore even if they understand why.

It seems that most everyone is okay with this. But I couldn't be. Because I'm still a child. I still want to hold a hand sometimes, or cuddle, or have close physical proximity that feels protective and loving. I still want to be important and cherished. I want to be the every day person, not the weekend or occasional person. Even when my adult self explains to my child self that it's okay to be less present, and that adult people show love differently to other adults, and that you can't always be first choice, I still want those things.

So now I understand the why. And when someone puts a wall or a boundary in place, I accept it without argument. Because I'm trying to be an adult about this. But inside there is a very young voice desperately trying to remind the person pushing me back a bit, that they're missing out. That they really do need me and want me, just as I need and want them, but they got distracted by some adult person or thing. And sharing intimate, sweet moments with me more often will be better than whatever or whomever they've found to replace me. And besides, I need them, too.

And then I go wash the dishes, or do real adult-person work, and remind myself that it's healthy for people to have boundaries. It makes them feel safe. It allows them to regroup. And it gives them time needed to build relationships with their significant other, or someone else very important.

But that pesky part of me that didn't grow up just howls indignantly and refuses to be comforted. Understanding rarely solves the real problem. And that is the most adult discovery I have ever made.

Friday, December 9, 2016

I stopped writing because I'm frustrated. And I feel that most of what is causing me distress is deserved because it's somehow my own fault.

As expected. my FIL is causing complications. And there are other complications. And I don't want any of them.

Complication 1: I don't want to buy a home with my FIL on the title. But he's providing the down payment. So if he's not on the title, a little more than half the down payment becomes taxable income to Darrin and I. And that's a lot. Are there ways to alleviate this problem? Yes. But FIL isn't listening to me. He would need to gift half the money in 2016 and the other half in 2017. Again, he's not listening. He wants to keep that money in his bank account until the home is purchased. There could be some pretty severe money problems unless he allows the gifting in the next couple of weeks. Or I could back off and let his name be on the title. Which I don't want.

Complication 2: I feel trapped. Everything makes me feel trapped. If you ask me how I feel, regardless of the circumstance, I'll feel trapped. How do I get untrapped (not a word - don't care)?

Complication 3: Darrin is making great friends and is beginning to enjoy his new job. This is a good thing. No, this is a GREAT thing. When Darrin feels part of a community, he could be working the most sucky job in the world, but he'll still love it. So why is this a complication? I don't know. Maybe because it means I'm still working from home. Which means I'm basically alone during the day. Which is complicated.

Complication 4: I'm lonely. I don't know why I'm lonely. Actually, I do know. This is what begins to occur when I've been not-touching. Touch for me, lately, comes in the form of brief hugs from Darrin and Tolkien Boy and his husband. That's enough, right? Apparently it's not. I hate this. I don't want to need touch. But when I'm feeling that I CAN'T touch anyone because it's bad for them, I start to get a little weird. And at this point, I would have to say, I'm way past weird.

Complication 5: I don't have a lot of time. I'm taking time now to write because if I don't do something I am going to lose my mind. But I don't have a lot of time. I'm supposed to be working. FIL had the gall last night to suggest I work too much. Yep. He said that after telling me he wouldn't be able to help with the household bills this month. I work too much? I wonder why...

Complication 6: Adam wants to play. When I get the way I am now, I'm not emotionally available to anyone. Darrin calls me pleasantly plastic, which is fair. But it makes Adam crazy. He comes home from work and wants to go for walks or a drive. He wants to talk with me. I love talking with him. See Complication 5.

The bottom line here is that I'm not in a place where I can make changes. And I don't necessarily have the resources anyway. So this is a whine. I hate whining.