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Sunday, February 26, 2017

I'm supposed to write more about my therapy stuff tonight, but I don't want to.

Tonight I want to be on a warm beach, listening to the ocean.

Tonight I want to breathe in pine forests and wildflowers.

Tonight I want to smell cinnamon and vanilla.

Tonight I want to listen to poetry.

Tonight I want a long walk with only the stars for company.

Tonight I want so sing and dance and go skinny dipping.

Tonight I want to taste strawberries, sweet and wild.

Tonight I want to hold a hand.

Yes, I just wrote that.

I think I'm ready to work on the other thing.

My sense of touch has reawakened.

This is distracting, overwhelming, and frightening.

But tonight it is also interesting.

That's new.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 3

During his interview, my father discussed with me the extent of mental and physical disability suffered by the person who molested me. Brent and his brother, as their mother explained to my father, had a chromosomal defect which caused their bodies and brains to grow to puberty, then to regress. The men were in their late 30s, but at this point, their mother believed them to be mentally and emotionally about seven years old.

Given what I know now, I'd place them at 12 to 15. I base that on some memories I've had recently. I believe their mother seriously underestimated their mental acuity and maturity. It was probably easier for her to excuse the delinquent and violent behaviors if she attributed them to a little boy who didn't understand he was causing harm.

Physically, Brent was no taller than 5'3" and weighed between 110 and 125 pounds. Basically, he was about as big as I am now. But to an eight-year-old who weighed about 40 pounds, he would have been very large.

It was important for me to have this context as I remembered.

When I met with Therapist, we discussed the things I had learned from my parents. I told him I was still afraid of remembering more. I told him when I tried to remember, I became overwhelmed by fear. To me, this was far more frightening that being raped by my cousin when I was eleven. Therapist said that was probably because I'd spent the last decade learning how to manage the emotions of being raped. This event was new, when it came to learning about it and managing whatever I might feel about it.

He gave me my second assignment: I was allowed to try to remember as much as I felt comfortable remembering. I was not allowed to do it alone. I needed someone to be with me. Therapist warned me that I would need someone to help me feel grounded and to bring me back if I got caught in the flashbacks. He suggested I ask Tolkien Boy. Darrin was discussed, but Therapist felt I needed someone I could work with for a short period and then leave behind when I went home. Because I would associate those memories with the person who was with me, I needed it to be someone I do not live with. That would allow me breathing room while I processed.

I don't like asking people to help me, but I did it anyway. And Tolkien Boy agreed to help me because he's amazing that way.

So we met the first time. I won't lie. It was pretty much horrible. But during that time, I was able to finally see that my clothing was different from what I had been imagining. And I was able to hear the words that were whispered while I was being molested. And I figured out where the blood came from. It wasn't mine. Nor was it my hand I was seeing. It was Brent's, because I bit him. And scratched and hit and kicked. I was very, very angry at him when he tried to take off my clothes.

I got tired before I could see everything. I needed to stop. Probably that was a bad idea because it left me in limbo, which meant the next few days were pretty horrible. Adam and Darrin woke me several times during the the following nights because I was having terrors. And screaming. Or just yelling. That's not a fun thing to hear.

But I started. That's something.

There was a second, unrelated assignment, but I'm too tired to write about it right now.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 2

I interviewed my mother over the phone first. She wasn't present when the incident happened. On top of that, she was experiencing a difficult pregnancy. I don't really remember seeing her much during this year of my life. She was often sick, and when she wasn't, she was on bed rest. Also, I didn't know what I would hear from her. She has dementia. What that means is she has no healthy emotional boundaries. It is common for her to hijack whatever topic is raised and make it all about her. There's a bit of narcissism in her personality that has been exacerbated by the dementia. I was pretty sure I'd find nothing of importance in her interview, but Therapist had assigned it, so I did it.

And it wasn't horrible, actually. She was more lucid than I've seen her for years. And she was completely honest. There was no twisting to make it all about her, no assumed or constructed impossible details, no lamenting about what a horrible mother she had been. She simply said, "Sam, I wasn't there. I don't really know anything that happened. I was only personally involved afterward, when we went to see the bishop about it."

I told her I knew that, I just wanted to hear what she remembered. She told me my father related the incident to her. She said she thought he had asked me, on the way home, what had happened, and I had said that Brent (because apparently, that was my attacker's name) had followed me to the bathroom and lifted up my skirt. She said they had spoken with his parents and the bishop, and she and my father had been pressured to let the parents speak with their son and handle any necessary discipline.

My mom said she never felt it was enough but, based on my account, the encounter had been scary, but I hadn't been physically harmed, so she was unsure if they would be able to report it and prosecute the man. He was mentally disabled, after all, she was told.

Then she asked me what was going on; why was I talking about this now? I briefly let her know that things had been triggered, that much more happened in that bathroom than peeking under my skirt, and that I was doing a therapy assignment. She was quiet for a moment. Then she said, "Sam, I'm so sorry. I wish we had done more. We didn't know what to do." She said, "I wish I had held you when  you came home. I would have told you you were loved and safe. I wish I had done that. I'm sorry."

Five years ago, those words would have made me angry. I would have felt resentment that she had assumed I would want her to touch me. I wouldn't have responded at all.

This time, I was grateful. I'm not stupid. I know, given where our relationship was at that time in my life, she probably didn't have the emotional stamina to offer love to me. But somehow, hearing her say this now, even knowing full well that it probably stems from her dementia, was important. I needed to know that she felt something about what had happened to me. I needed to know of her need to love and protect me, even if it was fabricated. And so I told her, "Thank you for saying that, Mom. It helps. It really does."

I've come a very, very long way.

My father called me about an hour later. He corroborated most of the story I've believed my whole life. He told me when I returned from the bathroom, I was visibly upset and seemed confused, incoherent. When he understood what had happened, he asked me to sit on a chair near a family friend while he got our coats. They were on the other side of the gym. He was able to see me, and I him, the entire time we were separated, and retrieving the coats took a matter of seconds.

I told my dad that wasn't what I remembered. I remembered being left for a long time. Later, I said, he had told me he found Brent and threatened him with violence if he ever harmed little girls again (this behavior, we found out later, was chronic-- I was not the first victim). My dad said, no. We left and went home immediately. It was later, perhaps a week or two, before he spoke with Brent.

He mentioned the car ride home. And I remembered. I remembered it was dark, and I was afraid. I remembered him asking me if Brent had hurt me. I remembered saying no. He just lifted up my skirt. I think that's what I wanted the story to be. I think it was too hard to talk about what really happened. I think there was a part of me that wondered if I was in trouble or if I'd done something wrong. Mostly, I was just too scared and confused to talk about it.

My dad told me that he wished they had prosecuted, or at the very least, made a police report. I'm not sure I could have endured that. Within a day, my subconscious was hard at work making me forget, redrawing my clothing, shutting down the memory.

My father told me that Brent and his brother were often in trouble. At one time, they were throwing rocks through car windshields and breaking them. The sheriff took them to the tiny, local jail, and locked them in overnight. In the morning, he told them they could go home if they promised not to break anymore windows. The men promised and were released. No more windows were broken.

My dad said that, as no repercussions seemed to be forthcoming for the bathroom assault on his daughter, he felt he needed to make yet another impression on Brent to deter him from harming any other little girls. He spoke with Brent a few days later and showed Brent his pocket knife. Brent admired the knife a great deal. My dad said, "I want you to remember this knife. I keep it with me all the time. And if I ever hear of you following another little girl into the bathroom for any reason, I'll use that knife to cut off your penis."

I have no idea if the threat was effective or not. After all, I was working very hard to remember that nothing ever happened. But none of the girls my age ever went to the bathroom alone. It was an odd circumstance that left me alone the night I was assaulted. For whatever reason, I had been allowed to go with my father to the basketball game. It was late, probably 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. It was a school night. No other children were there-- at least, none that I knew. I don't remember seeing any other school-age children. If there had been any there, I would have been playing with them rather than watching the game.

My dad asked me if I was going to be okay, and expressed his dismay and distress that I was still suffering after so many years. I reassured him that the suffering had just begun and told him not to worry. Therapist and I would work through it and I would be fine. He told me he loved me. I think I've always known that.

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 1

And now I know, I think. But I still don't know how to talk about it.

Retelling what happened, what I can piece together from flashbacks and real memories, feels glib, almost false. I don't know why that bothers me.

What I began with:

I was eight. I went to young men's basketball game with my father who was the YM president and, I think, also helped coach the team. I watched for awhile. I remember the game, the sounds, how the gym smelled. I had to use the bathroom. Someone followed me. I turned to see who. It was a man who was mentally disabled. He was odd looking. My mother had said he had a grown-up body but a little boy mind. I was at the door to the women's restroom. I thought he must have made a mistake and began giving him directions to the men's restroom. 

He grabbed me and pulled me into the restroom. Then I got scared. I pushed him away; told him to stop. I was wearing a white cotton bodysuit and a twirly, floral skirt. The bodysuit had a front zipper. He unzipped it. I pulled it back up, telling him, again to stop. He lifted up the skirt. I pushed and hit and kicked and finally broke away from him. I ran to the door. As I reached it, he said, "Don't tell your dad. Don't you tell your dad!" I turned, enraged and defiant, and said, "I AM telling him. I'm telling him right now!" And then I ran. 

When I reached my dad, I was less angry and much more frightened. I didn't know how to say what had happened. I told him I had been followed into the bathroom. I told him the man had tried to take off my clothes. My dad asked if I was okay. I said yes. He picked me up and set me on a chair. Then he left.

That is all I remembered.

There are all sorts of feelings connected with this. Most present has been aggravation at my father that he abandoned me when I wished to be held and made safe. Everything else has seemed less important.

Then, shortly after moving to Utah, I got triggered. Two mentally disabled men in their late 30s or early 40s sat in the pew in front of me one Sunday at church. Within 15 minutes, I could barely sit still. I was stressed to the point of being nauseated. Darrin asked if I needed to leave. I was somehow able to make it through the meeting, but when I got home I felt embarrassed and silly. I was not in danger. The men were completely unaware of me. I wasn't threatened in any way. Still, I was overwhelmed by fear.

Then the flashbacks began. And the nightmares. I became increasingly nervous and stressed. PTSD symptoms were rampant. I began to disconnect, emotionally, from everyone close to me. Touch became unbearable. So I contacted Therapist and asked to see him.

As the flashbacks and nightmares continued, I began to realize that the narrative I had always believed was flawed. There were things that could not be true. There were gaps and omissions. I didn't know what had truly happened, and not knowing was causing me terrible distress.

So I talked with Therapist and told him the following:
1. I have always been afraid of mentally disabled men. It's embarrassing and something I have hidden. I felt there was some bias or discrimination I felt toward them. I didn't want anyone to know.

2. The flashbacks were confusing. There was one in particular causing fear and confusion. I was standing near my father after the incident occurred. I looked down at my hand and saw blood on it. I knew it was not my blood. This same scene was replaying in my nightmares.

3. Whispering, especially from a male voice, terrifies me. If you want to wake me when I'm sleeping, whisper within earshot of me. I'll wake immediately. And I'll want to punch you in the face. Darrin is a chronic whisperer. He does it when he reads "silently." After about 30 seconds, I seriously hate him and want him dead. I realized, after the flashbacks began, that there was whispering when I was attacked, but I could not understand the words being said in the flashbacks.

4. The outfit I was wearing was impossible. It was made for me for a dance recital when I was five or six. The bathroom incident occurred 2-3 years later. The outfit would have been much too small. I could not have been wearing it.

Therapist said it was clear that I was preparing to find out what really happened, and my body was sending me messages to help with that process. However, I am not in a secure place right now. Many other external issues are also causing me distress. He asked me to wait until my circumstances were more stable. I said I would try. My body had other ideas.

Within three days I was no longer able to keep food down and I didn't want to eat at all. Sleep wasn't happening. I started losing hair, which always happens when I'm very stressed. I called Therapist and asked to see him. I told him waiting was not an option.

So we met a couple of days later, and I was given an assignment: Talk to my parents and find out as much information as possible from them about the incident.

So I did.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I can't explain.

But I will try.

Therapist has said on many occasions that, given the abuse and assault I have experienced, and the ages at which those occurred, there is no logical reason for me to be functional. And when he has said it, I've laughed. He's tried to tell me about people who have similar experiences. He's talked about their inability to hold jobs or their failed marriages. He talks of drug and alcohol abuse, of the ways they have neglected or abused their own children. He says I've been saved by my brain.

My brain.

The thing that noticed something was going on that could completely destroy me and simply said, No.


That is not happening.

And so it didn't. For years I've been able to keep a lid on the things that have the potential to make my life hell. But even the most talented brain can't do that forever. One by one the past is presenting itself to me. Memories suppressed begin to surface. There are some that I have changed in order to protect myself from their reality. But they don't make sense in context. They cannot be true. Therefore there is another truth, another reality, from which I am hiding.

I'm not good at believing things that aren't true.

And so I have begun to find out what is real. And as I do so, I'm beginning to understand how someone could be lost to trauma. I'm understanding how they might lose a job or a spouse or a family. I'm understanding why they might turn to drugs or alcohol.

I won't. I can't. It's not who I am.

But as I worked yesterday with Tolkien Boy to recover the real memories, it was very difficult to remain present. There were too many flashbacks. For years the memories have been piled against a door, and when it was opened, they all spilled out at once. I get caught in the memories. They feel tangible. I can't get out by myself.

Which is why Therapist said I cannot do this alone. And that was a very good thing yesterday.

But my brain gets tired. After a little while it just stops. I can't think or feel anymore. I'm calm, unaffected, because to be otherwise requires more energy that I have. So after we worked for awhile, we had dinner and played games. because what else would we do?

Today, though, was another story.

Today the emotions and the panic can't stop surfacing. And, let's face it, they're bound to be the worst in a bathroom. Which they were.

And when I think of what we uncovered yesterday, I feel crazy. My brain feels mixed up. I can't make words to talk about it. How does this even happen?

So I am trapped between revelation and disbelief. I'm stuck inside flashbacks and panic. There are more memories I am afraid to look at. They'll hurt but I won't be able to feel it. Unless I choose to. Sometime I have to choose to.

I am not a child. I am not defenseless. I can do this. But right now, I just feel overwhelmed and confused. There's too much. And in the large scheme of things, is this even important?

I think it's important. It has to be important. It's about me. I matter, maybe, but I don't know why.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I need to sleep. My brain wants to think. Incompatible.

I practice in sections. Each piece is divided and marked before I ever begin learning it. I never start at the beginning. To do so ensures that the beginning is always very good, but there will be weakness throughout the piece. To learn a piece from beginning to end means the ending will never be as strongly performed as the beginning. You have to mix it up. Never begin practicing in the same place. Make certain one section is not more flawless than another. And then, when everything is balanced, you put it in order. You make it into music.

I've run all my life. Then I got injured and had to learn to run again. I'd never done that before. So I learned to run in sections. Run, then walk. Run, then walk. Each day make the running sections longer, the walking sections shorter. Eventually, you just run. No walking. But it takes time. You have to learn to breathe. You learn there is a threshold at which you feel your lungs may burst and your muscles are giving out and you HAVE TO STOP. Except, if you don't stop, if you push through the threshold, you hit your stride, breathing becomes rhythmic and easy, and it feels as if you could run forever.

I must work through the current problem I face in sections, methodically, piece by piece. Therapist says to do some work, then go read or take a walk or be with someone who helps me feel the most like me. If I push too hard, the memories will stall out, continuing to haunt my dreams and triggering the terror I feel at the edges of my brain.

It has been nearly six and a half years since my no-flashbacks anniversary. Even though the flashbacks have returned, I'm keeping that anniversary. Those flashbacks pertained to a different incident. These are new. I'm not as good at masking my reaction when one comes. It's been more than six years, after all, since I've had to do that. My body shakes. I can't focus on what is being said to me. I have to remind myself where I am and what I'm doing when the flashback ends.

One step at a time, Therapist reminds me. I can't manage the flashbacks until I recall what happened. I can't recall what happened until I create a safe place in which to remember.

But there is still a part of me wondering what it is about me that attracted those who would follow and molest me. A child. A very small, 40-pound 8-year-old with dark eyes and brown curls. What made them wish to hurt me?

And the can of worms is open yet again.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Therapy Assignment Number One: Complete

Talking to my parents about their recollections of the bathroom molestation incident. That sucked. Indeed, it did.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I really did try to not think about the bathroom thing. And here's what happened:

Wednesday: I got up and went running. And everything felt fine. But then I made myself a smoothie. And I drank it. Still fine. So I went to work. While I was working, I noticed my head couldn't seem to stop thinking about the bathroom thing and its accompanying nightmares. And as the thoughts came, so did the nausea. By 2:00 I could barely sit up. A thought would come and I would vomit. Another thought would come...more vomiting. The nausea isn't new. I've been feeling it for more than a week now, but this is the first time it's been more than a little stomach upset. I tried eating some potatoes around 8:30 p.m. and they stayed down, but I felt terrible.

Thursday: I decided not to rock the boat. I took a walk instead of a run and drank Gatorade. And I felt well enough to make dinner. So I did. And I ate it. And I threw it up. I cannot get away from the nightmares.

Friday (that would be today): I can't even think about eating. It's not happening.

So I made some plans, and some worked and some did not.

I talked with Darrin and told him all that's going on. He listened, but didn't say a lot. He's concerned about my being alone while I remember. I'm concerned, too. No solution. He's at work. Everyone is at work. There is no way in Hell that I'll involve my father-in-law in this. He's the only one I know who is home during the day. But I talked with Darrin. That's a good thing.

Tolkien Boy said he's like to help if he can. I thought I might be able to talk with him. I have no idea how to utilize his help, but it's early days. I though maybe he would be able to think of a possibility. But I was too sick this morning to talk with anyone. And this afternoon I was looking at houses. So no conversation with Tolkien Boy.

I called Therapist. I said I knew he'd like me to wait, but my body had other ideas. He said he was afraid of that. We'll talk more on Monday.

And now I'm going to go see if food will go in my mouth.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings - always darker, emptier and simpler." --Friedrich Nietzsche

Today Therapist told me that I'm not really in a place, physically, where I have what I need to work on the things that are becoming increasingly bothersome. Well, the thing. THE thing. The THING. Thing.

Bathrooms. Why have I always been afraid of public restrooms?

Because I'm silly, that's why. There's nothing to be afraid of.

That's what I've told myself. It hasn't helped that there are urban myths mingled with truths about things that have happened in public restrooms.

Afraid of going to the restroom. Especially those in the church.

Therapist said, "Have you told me about this before?"

Nope. I haven't.

"Have you blogged about it? Told anyone else."


"Is there a reason why we haven't talked about it?

Yes. Probably. I understand that in over a decade of therapy, I probably should have brought it up.

"So, why?"

Why? Because I thought it was okay. I thought I was okay. I thought everything was okay.

Things that came out in therapy today:

1. I haven't told Therapist about the bathroom molestations because I don't want to know if they're things that will cause me distress. Except now I do. They cause me distress now. After a million years of being ignored.

2. The first time I was molested I don't really remember that much about it. I was probably three. Why was a three-year-old allowed to go to the bathroom alone? That is a very good question. What happened? I don't know. Do I remember anything? Yes. I went in the restroom. Someone entered after me and turned off the light. In the dark, I was fondled. The person talked to me. I don't remember what they said. I don't know if it was a woman or a man. I was three. I don't feel anything about this, really. It doesn't feel frightening beyond the realization that my parents allowed three-year-old me to go to a public restroom by myself. The experience of being molested by a stranger simply feels weird. The residual effect was that, from that point, I was afraid to enter the bathroom. There was also some fear of the dark and some transference of that fear to inanimate objects in my bedroom (stuffed animals, dolls, and/or pictures hanging on my walls).

3. It is clear that I have blocked much of my memory of the second molestation experience, and that I am aware that I've done so. I don't want to remember. When I try, every part of me says, "NO!" But the nightmares still come. So some part of me wants to remember. I told Therapist today that being raped when I was 11 was horrible. There were parts of dealing with it and with the aftermath that were unspeakably painful. But the experience when I was eight, when a man who was mentally disabled followed me into a church bathroom and molested me-- that's terrifying beyond anything else I can think of.

4. I believe one of the reasons this experience terrifies me is because I don't remember exactly what happened. I'm dealing with the unknown. Except I do know. I just can't make myself look at it.

5. I'm not really contradicting myself. I truly do not remember parts of the experience. I also know that I DO remember. I can't really explain this. One of the reasons I had Tolkien Boy go with me back to the park where where we walked nearly 10 years ago after we had lunch with the man who raped me is because I know we did that. I just can't remember it. After we went back and Tolkien Boy described as much as he remembered (it was a decade ago, a different season of the year, and who really pays attention to all the details anyway?), I began having tiny flashes of remembrance. This is sort of what's happening with the bathroom molestation in question.

What do I remember? I remember being shocked that a man followed me into the bathroom. Then I saw who it was. He was different. My parents said he was mentally challenged. He was grown up, but his brain was not grown up. They had made it sound as if he thought on the level of a child who was four or five years old. He must be confused. So I said something about how he needed to use the other bathroom - the one for boys.

And then he grabbed me. I couldn't get away. He was strong, but I was angry and scared out of my mind. He took my clothes off me, muttering under his breath all the time. I don't remember what he said. I remember hitting, scratching, biting, kicking, screaming. He put his hand over my mouth. I bit that, too. And then there is nothing. I don't remember anything else until either he let me go or I broke away. I don't remember dressing, but I remember running to the door fully clothed, so that must have happened.

I remember hearing him say, "Don't tell your dad. Don't you tell your dad!" I remember the inflection and the sound of the voice clearly, as if they were said to me seconds ago. I remember turning to look at him and saying with more anger and defiance than I had ever felt in my life, "I AM telling him. I'm telling him right now!" And then I ran.

But I didn't tell. At least, not right away. I stood, shaking, next to my father who was watching a Stake basketball game in the gym, and shouting instructions to the players. I think he was coaching. I don't know. At some point, I touched his leg. He didn't feel it. I touched him again and said, "Daddy?" Maybe it was the way I said it. Somehow I was able to convey that things were not okay. He asked what was wrong. I remember saying the name of the man who had molested me. I said he followed me into the bathroom.

This is where the flashes of memory begin. I remember seeing blood on my hand. I don't think it was mine. I remember being hit in the head by the man. I remember him flinging me away, finally. I remember hitting a wall.

I remember being placed on a chair by my father. And then he left.

I have been told that my parents talked with me. I have been told that we met with people so I could tell my story. I have no memory of this.

I remember not going to the bathroom at church anymore. And sometimes at school. I would wait until I got home. Or I would make sure I had a friend with me.

And so the nightmares happen. I look down at my hand, my eight-year-old hand, and it has blood on it. I don't know why. My head hurts. I have bruises on my arms and legs.

I remember bathing that night. I remember the water and the soap hurt inside my vagina. But I don't think I was raped. I don't remember him taking of any of his clothing or exposing himself to me. I remember seeing bruises on my ribs and stomach.

But the nightmare always begins and ends with the blood on my hand.

I didn't tell Therapist any of this. He believes I forgot because that was the healthiest way for an eight-year-old to deal with a terrifying experience. He says it's healthy. He wants me to wait until I'm in a safer place, physically and emotionally, before we delve into any of this. But my brain has other plans.

Therapist asked if I could shelve it for now. I said I'm trying. I'm not having a great deal of success. It's not like I WANT to do this. He suggested finding a safe place outside of my apartment where I won't be disturbed. I'm afraid if I do that, the molestation experience will become associated with that place which will then no longer be safe.

Therapist asked me what I'm most afraid of in reference to working through all this. Honestly, I'm afraid of doing it when I'm alone. There's more to add, but I don't have words to express. Alone, while I'm sifting through what I know and allowing more memories to come, is scary to me. I'm at the point now where I can almost see his face. I don't want to be alone when I see it clearly. I can hear his words and his voice. When I find out where the blood came from, I want a person nearby.

Therapist didn't say anything when I told him that. Maybe he thinks that's cowardly? When I pressed him for an opinion, he said that I should not be alone when the memories come, but that, right now, it sounded as though I didn't really have any control over when they would manifest themselves. It could very well happen when I'm alone. He suggested having someone I could call if no one is with me.

I'm rereading all of that. I'm talking about remembering. Nothing I remember can hurt me. This happened so long ago. It's possible that the person who molested me is dead now. He was in his late thirties, possibly early 40s, when I was eight. I don't need to have someone with me. I'm a grown-up.

I'm saying those words while my brain is saying, "You were alone when you were raped and molested. Maybe it's okay to ask for someone safe to be with you while you sort through the trauma and look at what happened to you. It's bound to be an ugly sight. And really, really frightening. And probably at least a little bit horrible. Do you want to be alone when that happens?"

But how do you say, "Please just sit with me. You can't see what I'm seeing or hear what I'm hearing, but I need you. Because I'm afraid. Is that okay?"

I don't know if it's okay.

What I do know is that it's long after midnight. I need to sleep. Let the nightmares commence.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Today, springlike, made me wish for a walk. I didn't take one. Still resting that strained tendon and hoping for healing soon. But I will run tomorrow, healed or not. I need some relief from the internal stress and tension.

I know I have become emotionally depleted when I no longer have to remind myself to set proper boundaries with people. I don't need to do that because the yearning for them has disappeared. I don't really care if we connect or not. I'm not really thinking about people I love. Mostly, I just want to read. All the time. It makes complete sense, probably. I've spent a length of time feeling stressed socially and emotionally. My environment is not such that I can find relief. And so something must shut down. And it does.

Therapist and I have discussed protocols to put in place when this happens.
1. Take some time for me. Regroup. Think of things that are calming and safe.
2. Devise ways to spend short periods of time with people I love. This can include online time, but only if that feels like a safe place.
3. Make physical contact, if possible. Think of appropriate ways to share proximity without it causing panic.
4. Talk about what is happening.
5. Don't make any big decisions during this time, especially in regards to relationships.
6. Do something joyful.

Okay. The last one is mine. I just decided to add it now. I don't know why. Probably because much of my life right now feels joyless.

I bought irises last week. That helped.

I feel...old and used up.

I can hear all the people who have walked with me for the past decade saying:
1. It won't last.
2. You'll be okay.
3. Many people are feeling something like this right now.
4. Given your circumstances, everything you're feeling is reasonable.

And they're right. All of that is correct. And unhelpful.

Almost 10 years ago, I went to lunch with the man who raped me as a child. And Tolkien Boy came along. But before we went to the restaurant, Tolkien Boy was with me in my hotel room. I said, "I'm scared." I was looking out the window. I felt like such a coward for admitting to being afraid. Tolkien Boy didn't tell me not to be afraid, nor did he tell me I was a coward. He just opened his arms to hug me. He was sitting on the bed. My brain went through a million thoughts in that moment, but chief was that he was willing to touch me, the raped person.

And so I lost every scrap of dignity I had, threw myself at him, just in case he regained sanity and changed his mind, and we had what is probably one of the most awkward, uncomfortable hugs ever. Not because of the circumstances, but because I landed sideways, oddly positioned, and not in the proper hugging position. But I didn't let go. Just in case he remembered I was the raped person and pushed me away. Which he didn't do, but he did suggest repositioning after a few moments.

I'm remembering this because I don't know how to hold onto people anymore. Physically, I find myself timing hugs again. 15 seconds is too long. But I don't think of myself as untouchable anymore. I just think, maybe, more than a 15-second hug with me might be unpleasant. I haven't delved into that, really. I tried to on Friday last week, but my head started to hurt. Then AtP started talking to me online. So I said, "I live within three miles of your house. Would it be okay if I stopped by for a 10-second hug? You can time me." And he said yes.

So Darrin and I went. And I was careful not to hug for longer than 10 seconds. But AtP's three-year-old let me hold and cuddle him longer. Tolkien Boy's dogs let me touch and hold them longer, too. Children and animals...

I'm skirting the issue. Probably on purpose.

1. It won't last. Of course it won't. I know that. But it will last for awhile, and while it's here, will you please just tell me you love me even when I'm emotionally numb?

2. You'll be okay. Of course I will. I always am. But okay is not really that great of a state of being. It actually sort of sucks. It's when you're not wanting to die, but you're watching everyone around you laughing at a joke you don't understand, or you're eating food that tastes like sawdust, or you feel like there's a glass wall between you and all of life. So in the moment when I'm okay, will you remind me that I'm actually not okay, I'm amazing? Tell me you love my smile, my sense of humor, and that I'm fun to be with? Remind me that there are times when I make your life better?

3. Many people are feeling something like this right now. They are. It hurts my heart that so many people ache or are angry or feel afraid or desperate. And I'm right there with them. Help me remember that we're in this together? Because there is a lot of feeling alone right now, and also the belief that, in the end, everyone will do whatever is best for them, personally, and no one will care about anyone else. That's not who we are. That's not what makes us better. We need to stay connected and lift each other. Alone, we have no chance. Even if we move out of the current situation, there will be another. We need each other. And this is coming from the person who needs no one. So I'm reminding you of this. The moments when we all feel this way are the ones when we need one another the most.

4. Given your circumstances, everything you're feeling is reasonable. It is. But those words feel both dismissive and unhelpful. They feel dismissive because my brain does not interpret them as, "I'm saying this because I want you to have the freedom to feel whatever you're feeling," which is probably the intent, but rather, "Yeah, you've been through some stuff, but you really complain about it a lot. So it's understandable. Now can we talk about the weather?" They feel unhelpful because they offer me no hint about how you feel about how I feel. I can't differentiate between trying to be empathetic and being judgmental when those words are spoken. Also, it feels like those words are said because there's nothing else to say. "You feel this way. It's understandable. Sucks to be you." So when you say those words, will you also please remind me that you're here for me? For the duration? For as long as it takes for me to become a real person again? Please?

For now, though, I'm reminding myself that when I was being a person who was raped, there were people who were brave enough to hold me tightly and reassure me that touching me was not harming them. I'm reminding myself that, ten years later, many of those people are still part of my life, and a few have become essential to it. I'm reminding myself that probably none of the things I've asked for will happen, and that the four logical points made most often by people who care about me, really are true, regardless of how I feel about them.

On a completely unrelated note: This week I will be applying for jobs. Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Okay, this has to be short because it's after 1:00 a.m., and I really do need to be sleeping.

However, today I hit a wall. I've been doing all the things I'm supposed to do (mostly) to keep depression and anxiety at bay, but sometimes there are just things that are depressing. Like air so polluted it's unbreathable. And a pulled tendon in the groin that screams pretty much all day long. And so few houses on the market that the ones that are there are ridiculously priced. And a political climate that feels threatening and frightening.

There's more, but that's enough to talk about right now.

So Darrin came home today and said, "Let's go for a ride." Which we did. And I was cranky.

But Darrin had had a good day. And he told me about it. Which made me feel more cranky.

So we went to the store and got some things we needed, during which time that pesky tendon began telling me that I needed pain killer NOW. Which made me even more cranky.

On the way home, I took some pain killer and then proceeded to cry because sometimes you do that when your tendon is causing you misery, but mostly you do it because, even though you were trying not to be, you're still depressed.

And when I get depressed, my first impulse is to panic because we have no money and go to work a million hours a day so we don't end up on the street.

Except we have money. And I don't need to work like that. But it FEELS like I need to.

So Darrin said we should go home and I should finish my work project while he ran another errand, and then we should make dinner. And I needed to think about planning some activity that would keep me away from the computer tonight.

But after Darrin left, I decided I needed to practice so I did that instead which meant my work project wasn't done by the time he got home. But I did plan and arrange for an activity that would keep me away from work, so that's one thing.

We made dinner. I finished my project. Then I left with Tolkien Boy and we spent a couple of hours together which equals me not working.

When I got home, I immediately checked in with work and loaded up the sessions they had waiting for me.

And then I saved them for tomorrow.

Because it's silly for me to set myself up for another really awful day.

There are some things I cannot control. Probably tomorrow the air will be unbreathable, my tendon will still be painful, there will be a dearth of available houses to buy, and our political climate will be unchanged. But I don't have to keep working constantly. And I can get rest when I need it. And sometimes, probably, Darrin and Tolkien Boy and a few other people will let me call or visit or go get dessert with them.

And now I'm sleepy. Good night.