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Friday, March 31, 2017

I have been tired. There is no surprise in this. But the surprise, to me, comes when I understand how being tired interferes with my ability to have healthy boundaries with people. This isn't usually an issue for me. I've been guilty of having boundaries which keep people out, but it's rare for me to lower those to the point that I allow people to use me. It's happened a couple of times in the past few months, though.

Case in point: Father-in-law came home from the hospital on Monday. His surgery was very long (about 8 hours), but they were able to save his leg. He's tired and in pain. But he's not an invalid. I forgot that in the midst of packing and moving and unpacking and losing things and trying to work and live life. So I went to check on him Tuesday morning. He asked me to help with his pain medication, which I did. That was silly. He's perfectly capable of getting his own medications, and he needs to do that. Then he asked if I would help with the blankets on his bed, which I did. Also silly because he's supposed to do as much for himself as possible. Then he asked me to empty the bottle of urine on his dresser, rinse the bottle, and return it. I balked for a moment. Then, wanting to get out of there and back to work, I did it.

About an hour later, I heard him in his room moving things around, unpacking, etc. And it dawned on me that he DID NOT NEED ME TO HELP WITH THAT LAST TASK! In fact, he was perfectly capable of using the toilet. And I got angry.

I'm still a little angry. But I also understand that this happened because I was too tired to say, "Nope. That's your job, not mine." The result: I haven't been back down to see my FIL since Monday. Yesterday at dinner he asked if I was upset with him. I'm not able to have that conversation with him yet without throwing something at him, so instead, I made a list of everything I've had to do for the past two weeks (including transporting him to and from the hospital), and everything I have to do in the next few days. And I mentioned that I'm very behind at work (note: I'm writing this and not working now, so that's not really valid). Then I mentioned that the stress of this was causing me some problems.

And Darrin backed me up 100%. He's a little angry about the pee bottle incident, too.

I don't mind helping. I don't mind giving companionship. I DO mind being taken advantage of when I'm too tired to realize it's happening. And I don't need people in my life who will do that. This is the conversation I need to have with FIL. I am not his nurse.

A physical therapist came by yesterday. FIL told him he doesn't need physical therapy. He needs someone to help him move furniture and boxes and unpack. Physical Therapist said that's not his job. I need to take a page from Physical Therapist's book.

So today I have been doing work to regain emotional stamina. I've done some relaxation exercises. I was going to run, but the wind is daunting. I have a feeling I'll get back and be exhausted which is not the point of running. I've read a bit. I've stayed away from work and will tackle that later today. And I'm trying to think of all the ways my being emotionally healthy is good for everyone I love. And it is. I know this.

My new home is lovely. And it has zero storage and cupboard space. This is a problem that is solvable. My FIL is not. He has to solve his own problems. And if he thinks we're upset at him, well, he's not wrong. In a few days, I'll be strong enough to talk with him about it.

We have lovely neighbors. Three have stopped by to introduce themselves. One couple brought us cookies. A widow who lives across the street brought us a brightly flowering plant. She has a lovely yard and identified some of my trees for me. I have a weeping cherry. I think everyone should have one of these in their yard. I'm deeply in love with it. And a man from down the street who is clearly autistic brought me his business card on Tuesday and told me that we're supposed to put our trash out that night or very early the next morning. Which he repeated four times. It is, apparently, very important to him that we don't miss trash day. I sort of love him.

So things are not horrible. And I'm working on me. And I have a weeping cherry tree with gorgeous blossoms. Everyone should have one.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

There is a weird, "Who could possibly care?" and also "Why would I want them to?" thing that happens when I can't manage PTSD. It permeates every aspect of who I am until I lose myself. There is no trace of self-pity. It feels logical and calming. I stop reaching out to people. I become lovely, and pleasant, and two-dimensional. Grocery store clerks and strangers fall in love with me. I don't know why that's important to me. Maybe it affirms that I'm still living and breathing and real.

Years ago, this was a state of being. No one really cared beyond knowing I was "fine." Fine was what and who I was. I'm fine, thank you. I had lots of friends. We laughed often. We enjoyed each other's company. I said we should have lunch soon. Then I went home, exhausted, and tried to regroup. It's hard work not being me.

But over the past decade I've been working on believing people do care. They care. Not everyone, but some. And those that care want good things for me. They're sad, even if only momentarily, when unfortunate things happen to me. I try to think, "There are people who care about me," when PTSD becomes unmanageable, and, "I need to want them to care."

I think I've gotten close to believing in the caring. Last week I confided to a friend that I really, really wanted someone to be sad about the assault and molestation that happened to eight-year-old me. And I was confused as to why I wanted that. I'm still confused. He suggested that if someone feels sad or angry or upset about what happened to me, it means they love me. They care.

I went home and thought about that. There's so much that confuses me about the whole incident. Not the incident, itself, but my feelings and reactions to it. I honestly cannot figure out what I'm feeling. I don't know how to feel. Part of wanting someone else to feel something about it is so I will have an idea of what I, myself, feel. Maybe. That sounds silly. See? I'm very confused.

But today I'm lost in the PTSD crap. I haven't talked to anyone yet because I can't seem to crawl out of the hole where "Who could possibly care?" rings in my ears, only to be followed up with, "Why would I want them to?" The answers come quickly. The first: No One. No One, Sam. They have their own stuff. They don't need or want yours. No One. And then the second: You don't. You don't want them to. That means they'll ask questions and you'll want to answer. If you talk about it it's real. If you don't, it will go away. No One cares and that's exactly how things are supposed to be. Just make everything go away. Be fine. Fine is good.

But for 10 years I've been working on not hearing those answers. They're very loud today, but there's a second, quiet voice, insistently telling me, "You know better, Sam."

Do I?

Maybe. I'm pretty tired. It takes effort to hear that dissenter. It's easier to listen to the voice that has controlled me for many years, to heed the words, disappear inside myself...

Probably right now is not the best time to listen to either. I'm too confused.

In moments like these, my brain imagines reactions from people who supposedly care. I hear them say, "I've told you I care. Why don't you believe me?" or "We've been through this so many times. How long will it take?" or "I don't have time for this, Sam. Pull yourself together."

So I do. I pull myself together. And I don't give anyone opportunity to say the hurtful things I imagine. Because it would hurt. A lot.

"I've told you I love you. Why don't you believe me?" I want to. I want to so much. I'm trying. Sometimes I try until I'm exhausted with the effort. And then I feel terrible because you don't deserve my doubt. And I don't deserve your love.

"We've been through this so many times. How long will it take?" I don't know. Honestly, I thought, when I began therapy, I'd be all over this in about three months, maximum. I was wrong. I'm wrong about most things. You're right. We've been through this repeatedly. It's a lot to ask of you. It's a lot to ask of me. For a long time I kept asking people to stay. I don't ask that anymore. I don't know how long it will take. No one deserves that kind of negative repetition and pointless uncertainty. And it is pointless. I don't know if this will ever stop happening.

"I don't have time for this, Sam. Pull yourself together." What you don't know is, this is me, all pulled together. I'm not sure anyone except Darrin has seen me completely unhinged. Even my father, when I told him I needed to be taken to the hospital's psyche ward, was presented with a completely calm person. So if I seem unsettled, or confused, or at odds with something, that's probably a very toned down version of what is really happening to me. And I know you don't have time. I don't either. But you also need to know I'd never take time you're unwilling to give or that you would give begrudgingly. I don't do that. I never would. You don't deserve that.

Oops. Time for me to go. For the next little while I need to be competent and confident. Fortunately, I'm not going to be with anyone I'm trying to fall in love with. That helps.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I don't believe I'm feeling self-pity. I'm just exhausted. And when I'm tired, PTSD is ugly. That's all.

Sometimes I don't go to bed because Darrin is already there. It's not that I don't want to be with him. It's that he snores. Loudly. Sometimes the snores get incorporated into my dreams which then turn into nightmares. Sometimes I can't even dream at all because the noise keeps me awake. Last night I went to the couch. But it was Friday night and people come and go most of the night. My sliding door borders the parking lot. So there was a lot of noise, talking, laughing, car lights... Around 3:00 a.m. I tried again to sleep in my bed. I had success after about an hour, but woke around 7:00 because of daylight.

Darrin has been sick. Cold medicine makes him sleep more heavily and snore more loudly. But I think a sick person probably needs more sleep than I do, so that's okay.

But it doesn't help me navigate what's happening right now. I've been trying to juggle work, which has become a little insane, and home buying, and very, very ill father-in-law on little sleep. It's hard. Also, I've been making less than wise decisions in all my relationships. That's stressful.

And the worst part of it is, I keep shutting down. I'll be feeling fine, but then, suddenly, my brain stops processing anything. Someone is talking to me, but I can't understand the words. I'm working, but I can't remember what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm talking on the phone or chatting online, but I've lost the words that need to be spoken or sent. I feel like someone just dropped a wall between me and whomever I'm with or whatever I'm doing. I become nonfunctional.

That's stressful, too.

So I'm here. Tonight all the erroneous thinking began. That's all I have to say about that. It takes all my energy to negate the incorrect thoughts and emotions that don't make sense. Talking about it is not going to help tonight. I'm too tired.

So I'm going to go to bed. I'll read and wish for the snoring to cease. It won't. I'll try to sleep, get frustrated, and read again. I've thought about going to my car and sleeping there. I might try that tonight. We'll see.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Never go to the bathroom alone, Part 4

I've put off writing about this because it causes all sorts of unwelcome and overwhelming emotions. Therapist assigned me to write down all emotions as they came. I didn't do it. I think it's because I'm still startled when the emotions come. And they're exhausting. I don't know. I just didn't want a written reminder, I think, of what's happening to me right now-- at least, not one like that.

I think I have a better picture of what happened to me. I've written much of this already, but here it is, pieced together, with my extrapolation of what probably happened in the spaces I don't remember clearly.

I was followed to the bathroom by a mentally disabled man. I didn't know why he was behind me. I tried to explain to him that the bathroom I was going to was not the one he needed. He grabbed me and began whispering, "I just want to see. I want to touch you. I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to see..." As he repeatedly whispered the phrases, he began taking off my clothing. I was shocked, angry, and terrified. I yelled at him to stop and tried to get my clothes back from him. He held me in place. I fought back and screamed. I hit and kicked whatever I could. I scratched and twisted, trying to get away. I saw his hand in front of me and bit it hard. I remember the taste of his skin and blood in my mouth. I heard him yell and he hit me, then threw me against the cinder block wall. 

My next memory is of him bending over me repeating the same words over and over. They don't make sense. I can't move for a few moments. Then I see my clothes nearby. At some point I become dressed and he is no longer restraining me. I run to the door and open it. I hear him behind me saying, "Don't tell your dad. Don't tell your dad." My brain grabs that phrase. I turn to look at him with all the defiance and anger that fills my small body, loudly and clearly saying, "I WILL tell my dad. I'm telling him right now!" And then I run. He doesn't follow me.

I believe I lost consciousness when I hit the wall. I think that's why I couldn't move, why the memory at that point is muddled and confusing, why I stopped fighting for a moment. I've run from the words he said because, in the context of what I had allowed myself to remember for most of my life, they didn't make sense. And they were very upsetting. While sitting with Tolkien Boy, I was able to hear them and place them where they belonged.

After hitting the wall, my next memory is of him bending over me. He's saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't mean to hurt you. Please be okay." The repetition continues while my clothing is replaced. I don't know for sure, but I believe he helped me dress.

Here is what I believe about this:
1. I believe I may have been the first in a string of children he molested to fight back. Or perhaps I fought the hardest. I think I was the first to really hurt him. I think he was surprised.
2. I believe that when he hit me in the head, it was neither planned nor malicious. I think he realized that I wasn't going to stop biting, scratching, and screaming, and he was desperate to make me stop resisting.
3. I believe the same is true when he threw me against the wall. At that point, I think he was done trying to "see" and "touch" and just wanted out. I don't believe he meant to throw me as hard as he did. I'm guessing I blacked out and lay very still, which, given his mental maturity of about 14 years old, let him know he was going to be in big trouble if he had hurt me badly.
4. I believe he was a little bit shocked at how the events unfolded, which was why he allowed me to leave. I also think his hand was hurting him and he didn't want to get bitten again.
5. His hand was bleeding still when I left the bathroom. I think that's probably the last thing I saw, which is why it kept popping up in my nightmares and flashbacks.

So now I'm in the yucky part.

I was assaulted. I was molested. I was eight. It was too much for me to think about, let alone talk about or process. My parents didn't know what to do. I didn't get the help I needed. So I blocked it and put it away so that I could live.

But that can't happen forever.

Yesterday I was at the ER with my father-in-law. On the waiting room television there was a show about an eight-year-old who was assaulted by a man who is still at large. She is currently in her late 30s. Her attack was much more savage than the one I experienced. The man had no problem beating her up and, given the severity of her injuries, it's likely he expected she would die. That is not the case with my experience.

In 2012 a woman was gang raped on a bus in Delhi. She died of her injuries. One of her attackers described what was done to her, then said, "A girl is far more responsible for a rape than a boy," then said she should not have fought back. He's wrong. And he's a murderer. I don't believe my attacker wanted to murder me. I don't think he wanted to punish me. I think, in his sick, twisted mind, he believed it was okay to experiment with me. I think he expected me to be frightened and compliant, not angry and relentlessly resistant.

I'm not excusing the actions of my attacker. I'm simply saying, the intent was different from the above examples.

That doesn't help me right now, though. I don't now how to make sense of all the emotions. The intensity exhausts me. I feel the rage and the fear and the determination to hurt the person who was hurting me. I feel the confusion and the loneliness and the overwhelming impulse to shut it all down and forget it. Because it's too much for an eight-year-old to understand.

I'm not eight anymore.