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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Accepting Changing and Ending Relationships

This has been a tough one for me, probably because I've always had a deep-seated belief that no one will stay. Darrin has definitely proved me wrong, and my children seem to continue to enjoy spending time with me even as adults. Covid-19 has created difficulty in maintaining relationships outside of my family. We tried, at first. But there was too much risk, too much unknown.

So now that Covid is dying down (sort of), I'm taking steps to see who is still there. Miraculously, some are still interested in reviving those relationships. It hasn't happened yet, but slowly, I'll take steps to reconnect with them.

And that brings me to Tolkien boy. 

This is a difficult one. There was a time when TB and I spoke daily, shared our lives, and expressed hopes, dreams, and ideas. He was my go-to person when I was sad, happy, bored, whatever. It took many years to establish that trust, on my side, at least, but once in place, I loved every moment.

I noticed things changing about five years ago. I tried to talk about it with TB. I invented reasons for us to meet regularly. I tried to check in every couple of days, at least. I had worked hard to learn to trust him. I was unwilling to let that go.

It's one of the reasons I'm currently in therapy. I need help with the adjustment. I want TB to be where he's happiest. I want him to have the freedom to change. I want to support his decision to be less close, less connected. I want that for him. Not for me.

Were it up to me, our close relationship would continue indefinitely. It's not up to me.

So I've been talking to my therapist about it. She's given me some food for thought.

1. I would never want someone to remain in a relationship when they want something different. 

2. I need to think of the benefits of having a lighter, less close friendship. 

3. If I truly love TB, as I say I do, eventually, I will be happy that he is happy, even if it doesn't involve me, personally.

For now, I'm good with number one. I'm working hard on number two, and I'm trying to think about how I can be happy that TB is okay without me, even while grieving the loss of a relationship that was paramount to my personal healing and one that brought me incredible joy. It's not easy.

I haven't discussed all this with TB yet, but in fairness, I probably need to. He won't like it, but neither will he like it if I make assumptions about him that are inaccurate, so communication is proabably a good idea. 

I've been feeling some depression about this yesterday and today. I think part of this is because I was in Laramie last weekend. My sister's home was destroyed by a fire last week, so we went to help do some salvage. It was hard work, and very emotional. Also, I had a reaction to the fire retardant that left me struggling to breath that night. And my visit with my parents the following day was also difficult. A couple of years ago, I would probably talk about it with TB. I don't feel that's appropriate to do anymore. I talked with my therapist about it. She's helpful, but sometimes talking about it with someone who really cares about you makes a huge difference. 

I am resilient. My therapist reiterated that. She said I would do the work necessary to allow the feelings, take time to grieve, and rally myself. There are other people who care about me, who are interested in my life. I can turn to them, and I know this. I will be all right.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Accepting Past Abuse


Accept that I was an abused child. I was. I knew this. There was no denying it. But I did not want to BE an abused child. I wanted to be cherished and loved and protected. That cannot happen. I was not. But accepting this does not say anything about ME. It says a whole lot about the people who raised me.

Parenting does not come with a manual. That's not to say there aren't a million books that have been written about how best to raise children, but not all of those are correct, probably because parenting is complex and every child is different. The most emotionally healthy person in the world can still be a terrible parent. Parenting is pretty easy to mess up. 

However, if someone comes from a background of abuse, it's not unlikely that that person will also become an abuser. It happens all the time. 

My mother was the child of an abusive, alcoholic father. She has a lot of issues that were never resolved. I and my siblings bore the brunt of this. We didn't deserve to be abused. Accepting that we were abused does not change that. It also doesn't mean that we're somehow less because we were abused.

Understanding that I was raised by a woman who lived with brain damage due to the severe abuse she suffered helps me understand her erratic behavior. Her parenting practices were completely dominated by fear. She was afraid of losing control - even though she was never really in control. She was afraid of making mistakes - even through most of what she did, discipline-wise, was definitely a mistake. She was afraid of being judged by other parents if her children misbehaved - not something anyone can avoid, really, and definitely not something she could do anything about. She was afraid of not being perfect - an insidious trap to fall into because on one is.

Understanding that because of the damage she suffered, she did not have the emotional skills to raise children in a healthy manner helps me to understand that my mother is not monstrous. She was in a situation that she had no idea how to navigate. She reacted with anger and frustration. And somehow, in that addled brain of hers, she convinced herself that everything we did was designed to infuriate and thwart her. She decided that we were rotten to the core. Somehow, she was able to rationalize her behavior based on what she believed about our behavior. 

She didn't understand that we were children. She didn't, and still does not, understand children.

My mother was not a good mother.

Having said all that, I do believe she tried. And I think, as much as she was able, she loved us.

She did things for us that she wished had been done for her. 

She read to us every night. My world was filled with a love of stories, poetry, history, and science. 

She made certain we all had music lessons. My world was filled with piano lessons, choir, orchestra, and band. I was given the foundation that made me a professional musician.

She sang. I loved listening to her sing. I have spent my life singing.

She taught us to clean house, do laundry, sew, knit, crochet, bake, preserve food, and make dinner. We weren't always willing learners, but we are capable, self-sufficient adults because of it.

She played games with us. I loved that.

She painted. My mother loved art. She was better than she knew. I loved her paintings.

She took classes throughout my life, and always assumed I would be a college graduate. She, herself, graduated from college when I was 24. She earned her masters degree ten years later. I was amazed by her determination to constantly learn.

I grew up believing my mother could do anything. She was creative, energetic, and so incredibly intelligent.

She also physically, emotionally, and mentally abused each of her children. In retrospect, however, my siblings have all acknowledged that she targeted me, specifically, most of the time. I used to wonder why. I no longer care. Abuse is abuse. Whether it is more or less does not diminish the damage it does.

What I have come to understand as I accept all of these things is that, while they each affected me differently and helped to shape the person I have become, ultimately, I am the one who gets to decide how much power they have. I choose where I will dwell. 

I was an abused child. I am no longer an abused child. I am ready to allow that part of me to heal, to cherish the child that I was, and to be grateful for the adult I have become. 

I suppose if there is any triumph to be had in my story, it comes because I took the steps necessary to ascertain that the abuse cycle ended with me. I got the help I needed so abuse was not perpetuated when I had my own children. I will never claim to be a perfect parent - such a thing does not exist. But I will claim that I worked hard to build a home where mistakes could be learned from in a healthy manner, good boundaries were in place, and love could prevail. Sometimes I was better at it than other. My children learned that their mistakes could always be forgiven, and they also needed to learn to forgive me when I messed up. That's part of the beauty of being human.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Acceptance

I suppose, if I have to assess where I am right now, I would say I am more calm. About pretty much everything. Tolkien boy once told me that there is value in acceptance. I resisted that for a very long time. Acceptance meant acknowledging that some things are real and cannot be changed. 

However, not accepting reality means I am stuck in the wish-world. There is no growth there. There is a lot of frustration and anger. In the wish-world, I understand what was, but remain in the place where I don't want it. And if I can't accept what is, I cannot move forward.

I think it's okay to acknowledge that reality sometimes aches. I think it's okay to say I don't want to be the person who lived through my reality. I think it's okay to be angry and sad and wistful. I think it's okay to wish it was otherwise. In doing all those things, I'm remembering that I am worth more than that. I deserved better. 

And then, in the end, I accept that what I wished for did not happen. It still makes me ache, but I can become who I am if I allow myself to be who I was. 

Finally, I can say this and still feel calm. That's something.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Therapy Assignment the first

 I'm fascinated and a little aggravated at how my subconscious does not want me to return to this. A couple of weeks ago, my therapist gave me a task. It was small and involved simply thinking about something. But in the ensuing week, each time I would try to remember what she had asked, it was as if someone slammed a very heavy door in my face. I would absolutely be unable to remember what she said. In fact, it became impossible to bring the therapy session to mind. I drew a complete blank. 

This not-remembering thing has continued to insert itself. There are times during a session when my Therapist will move to a topic or ask a question that makes me stressed. I know I answer. I remember answering. But within seconds, I can no longer recall what was said by either of us. I'm fighting very hard not to go to the places that make me uncomfortable. 

So I'm supposed to return to the assault that happened when I was eight years old. I've been trying all week to do this. Every time I sit down to write, I am overwhelmed by my inner voice. It asks, "Why is this helpful? What is the point of writing this all down again? I think I should understand how this will be healing. And actually, I'd be very interested in hearing, from a therapeutic perspective, what the end goal of this exercise is. Not the end goal of therapy; I know what that is. Just this particular, nasty, little exercise."

It's a distraction technique. I understand this. I'm digging in, resisting taking this next step.

I have difficulty remaining present when I discuss things with my therapist. With anyone. She says I need to remain present. I'm not allowed to go away. But then what? What happens if I'm invested in what I say? Why is it important for me to feel pain again and again?

I know the answer. I do. I'm just not sure I believe enough to do as I'm asked.

That being said, therapy is today, and I have to go to work soon. I have procrastinated this long enough.

I am eight years old. I live in a very tiny, close-knit community. I love it here. I have many friends. Many parts of school are fun and engaging. I don't like my classroom teacher, but I adore my math team teachers. My PE teacher is my best friend's dad. I love to sing. I have an amazing music teacher. He loves to sing, too. He taught us a song in German. Except when I sang it to my mom, she said it wasn't in German, it just had a few German words in it. I think it's in German because my teacher said so. "Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken..." That seems like German to me. 

At home, things seem calmer. My mom is pregnant, but that is often the case. She's often ill and in bed. For the most part, she doesn't interact with me. This is a good thing. I think she likes it here, too, though. She seems to have friends. 

There are two men who attend our church. Something is wrong with them. They're not like other men. They live with their mom. They don't talk to people very much. One of them struggles to speak at all. The other one smiles a lot. My mom and dad told me that these men have brains that didn't grow up. They're like children in adult bodies. Some people make fun of them. I need to be kind to them. I don't really think about it a lot. I see the men at church and no other place. 

My dad is a youth leader for the young men at church. Sometimes he takes me with him when they have activities. They're nice. When they play games, they let me join them sometimes, but mostly, they just ignore me. Not in a mean way, though. They just like to do things together. Most of the time, when I go with him, I read a book. I love to read. I like mystery books. And ghost stories. And I really love reading folk tales from other countries. There's one about a witch named Baba Yaga. She travels in a mortar and pestle. I don't know what that is. I don't know how to say it out loud, either, but I like the stories. The heroine is Vasilisa and she's smart. 

 One night, my dad let me go with him to a church basketball game. I don't really like to go to these. They're very loud and echo-y. People yell a lot and there are whistles. And the time clock makes an awful noise when the minutes are up. And it smells weird. But I like to go with my dad. It's fun to be with him without all my sisters around. I don't really understand basketball. But my dad loves it. He played basketball in high school. He's the coach of the young men in our church, so he stands up and yells things to them a lot. 

When we had been at the game for a while, I had to go to the bathroom. Our church is kind of old. The bathroom is downstairs. Everything is kind of muddled now. When I think about this, my brain remembers going down the stairs, but the bathroom I remember the incident happening in is actually a bathroom that was in a different church in a different town in a different state. We moved to that different place when I was nine. And even though I know we continued to attend church in that building for a while after the incident happened, I don't remember that. Our church had been building a new church. That's the place I remember going to church next.

When I got to the door of the bathroom, the light was on, but the hallway was dim. Someone was behind me. I turned around to see who was there. It was one of the men who were like children. His name was Brent. I said, "Hi Brent. You're in the wrong..." I was going to tell him where his bathroom was. I thought he might be lost. Before I could finish my sentence, he grabbed me and carried me into the bathroom. I was confused and scared. He shut the door behind us. 

He put me down and started messing with my clothes. He lifted up my shirt. I pulled it back down and told him to stop. He was whispering, "I just want to see," over and over again. He pulled down my underwear. While I was trying to pull them back up, he grabbed my shirt and took it off. Now I was angry. He had no right to do this. His hand was near my mouth. I bit it hard. I could taste blood and his skin was salty. He yelled and threw me away from him. I hit my head on the wall.

There's a space here. I don't remember anything. It felt black, like I was in a tunnel. Then I heard him whispering again. At first I didn't understand. Then I heard him saying, "Please be okay. Please be okay. Please be okay," over and over again. He was holding me, trying to put my clothes back on me. I grabbed them away from him, and dressed as quickly as I could, then I ran to the door. He didn't try to stop me, but he said, "Don't tell your dad! Don't you tell your dad!" as I opened the door. I paused. Suddenly, I felt as angry as I had in my life. I turned and screamed at him, "I'm goin tell my dad! I'm telling him right now!" And then I ran.

I ran all the way to my dad. He was focused on the ball game, but sitting in a chair. I sat in my chair next to him, but slid close. I was shaking and scared. I wasn't angry anymore. I put my arm through my dad's. He kept watching the game. I said, "Daddy..." very quietly. He looked down at me. I said, "Something happened. Brent followed me into the bathroom." I know he asked me if I was okay. I said Brent didn't hurt me. But he did. My head hurt. My person hurt. 

My dad stood up, so I did, too. I could tell that he was very angry. He picked me up and set me back down in my chair. He said, "Stay there." And then he left. 

I wondered what I had done to make my dad so angry. I was still very scared, but now I was alone. I wondered why I had to sit in a chair. That usually happened when I was being punished. I wasn't sure what I had done to be punished. I wanted to cry, but no crying happened. My body wouldn't stop shaking. I was cold. I don't remember going home. I don't remember anything else.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm back in therapy. It will be vastly different this time. 

Years ago when I started the first time, I began my first blog. And people came to visit me. A huge, supportive group of people. That doesn't happen anymore. No one blogs.

 Years ago when I started the first time, I gained beautifully close friends who walked with me, followed my progress, encouraged me. That won't happen this time. They've moved on. They have spouses and families and wonderful lives. 

Years ago, Tolkien boy would tell me the paragraphs above sound wistful. He doesn't say things like that anymore. We mostly talk about work. Sometimes we talk about the weather or our families. Mostly, we talk about anything that's not intimate or intrusive. I think it's good that we still talk.

Am I wistful?

I don't know. 

With all that has happened in the past five years, I've become reclusive - not in a physical way, but mentally and emotionally. When my stress level becomes unmanageable, when PTSD symptoms work their way into my daily existence, I am unable to gauge how people feel about me. I don't understand the intricacies of mutual friendship. And so I withdraw. I don't want to place myself where I might not be wanted or appreciated. And I'm too tired to battle for a place in anyone's life.

I talked to my therapist about this. I told her that I understood that it's unfair of me to believe people don't want me. And I think it's sad that I don't know how to be okay with being loved. And I want to learn to trust people. I want to trust Darin, and Tolkien boy, and Mr. Tolkien boy, and my kids. 

I just don't.

So this time will be challenging. I came close last time. It was difficult to deny that I was loved when people were telling me frequently. It was difficult to believe I was unwanted when people visited me and made time for me to visit them. It was difficult to buy into the belief that I have nothing of interest to say when there was always someone waiting to talk with me online. 

This time I get to do everything alone. And the irony is, I'm good at alone. Very good at it. But learning to let people into my alone-ness - that's the challenge. And believing they wish to be there - impossibly challenging. 

I hope I can do it. I want to. And I think I will. But when I finally get it, I hope there are still people around who want me.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

I finally watched my friend's memorial service. It was predictably Mormon. I wanted them to say more about him. I miss him.


Tolkien boy agreed to watch it with me. He said it made him think about the things he did NOT want at his own funeral. I don't think I care what goes on at my funeral. I don't actually want to have one.


I'm sad today. Not just because my friend died, but there are so many things, overwhelming things, pushing their way into my life. I think I need a reset.


And I have to get a new therapist. The need for help is becoming stronger each week. And I am becoming weaker.


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Saying Good-Bye

I feel like I've done a lot of that lately. A wonderful friend of mine passed away earlier this year. It felt like my heart would break. I was supposed to call him, but I put it off. I won't every call him again. 

The other good-byes feel less tangible but equally as potent. I don't really have words to describe those moments or events, but I know they're endings. Sometimes I'm ready for that end, as in the case of Darrin's father's death. That event felt like a gift - permission for me to live and breathe again. There was no sorrow at that passing. But other times, I'm not ready to let go.

Then there are times when I know a good-bye, spoken or not, is coming. This is especially apparent in relationships. I feel the increasing disinterest. Attentiveness is non-existent. There is an overarching impression that interactions are taking place by habit, or perhaps because of some odd, displaced sense of duty. In the past, when those circumstances evolved, I jumped ship. I hated good-byes. I got out as quickly and cleanly as possible. I realize now that fear dictated that motion. I was so afraid of being left behind, outgrown, or rejected, that I simply sped up the process, got it over with, and ignored any residual pain.

I haven't done that for a long time now. And I have to say, I'm not sure it's better. At least when I left, I knew exactly where I stood and what would happen next. When I stay, I feel constant uncertainty. I'm so very afraid of taking a misstep. And I read way too much into any interaction. 

The problem is probably 75% PTSD. I'm sort of proud of the fact that I've been able to nurture relationships in spite of the daily battle I wage with that monster. But it doesn't make me stronger. My need for reassurance, especially verbal, simply increases. And if that need isn't fed, I feel broken.

It's an odd thing to confront. I am one of the most capable people I know. I'm fairly confident in my ability to do anything I wish. And I know I'm not a pariah. People want to like me. I am approachable and friendly. 

But maybe that's the extent of me. Meeting me is actually the best part. Getting to know me is a downhill road. Maintaining a relationship with me is nothing more than work. Lots of work. Lots of work with little reward. When I am very old, I'll be alone and probably friendless, but I will be one heck of a Walmart Greeter.

I guess I feel like I'm on the verge of losing something and someone I value. That's not a good feeling. Someone once told me that feeling badly about losing a loved one is a positive trait. So I'm allowing myself to feel that. But the good-bye is so very long and drawn out. Neither of us wants to say the words. We will, though. Probably sooner than I wish.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Hi Blog! It's been a long time!

 I survived 2020. Just wanted to put that out there.

Why am I back here? Well, during my decade of blogging I learned a great deal about myself, my past, and my relationships, and I became Samantha. Good things, all. And I made some amazing friends, learned more about people, in general, and questioned everything I thought I knew about life. Mostly good things. 

But now it's been a decade and a half since I started blogging. That "half" part doesn't really count as blogging, given how little I've been here, but there is a piece of me that I still consider a Blogger. It's an important part. I don't believe I'd be who I am now without it.

Things I learned then that are still true now:

1. I can heal. And I have. There are so many hurts that were festering that now are only whispers of themselves. They still visit me in the night sometimes. Occasionally, they cause me enough distress that I speak of them to someone, but not often. I am definitely better.

2. People can help. And it's okay to ask for help sometimes. I've done it. I'll say more about this later.

3. I will continue to grow and question no matter how old I become. Because things change and I change. What was a surety 10 years ago, no longer is. 

4. Life is tenuous. I knew it a decade and a half ago. I know it more now. I've lost friends and family in the past year. That still hurts a lot. I miss them

Things I hoped I would leave behind me that haunt me still:

1. Friendships. Not that I wanted to leave those behind, but my insecurity within them--that's the part I hoped I could talk myself out of. It's still there. I'm still the person who frets that I will become pass√©, or boring, or forgotten. I wish that was different. It's not. And the closer I am to someone, the more stressed I become. I've had friendships wane or pass away. I don't worry about that. I probably don't even miss those people. I'm comfortable when the friendship runs its course because that's my expectation. There is still one person who has told me it's okay to be uncomfortable in our relationship, and that he's not going anywhere. But I don't know how to believe that. Even after all these years.

2. PTSD. I wanted to beat it. I believed I would make it go away. The truth is that when I was told I would deal with it for the rest of my life, I told Therapist that wasn't happening. I would work and research and do whatever it took to not be burdened with the disorder. And he said he believed I could do it. The funny thing is, as real researchers made discoveries about PTSD and its treatment, it was proven that PTSD isn't a lifelong illness and some people recover and aren't troubled by it anymore. I'm not one of them. I don't know if I just got tired or if I just stopped trying, but something happened. PTSD is alive and well in me.

3. My abuser's voice. I'm very good at ignoring it now, or tuning it out. But it's still there, telling me all the reasons I'm not good enough, or thin enough, or pretty or talented or kind... I'm not enough. But I am. I know I am. I FEEL that I am. Still, the voice persists. I don't know how to leave it behind.

I'm here today, Blog, because I'm feeling those things in the second list. And I don't know who to talk to right now. Darin just had surgery--a huge life-threatening one. He would definitely listen to me, but he's tired and trying to heal. He might go to sleep while I was talking, which is reasonable, but off-putting. 

I could talk to Tolkien Boy, but he began his own therapeutic journey not long ago, and I get the feeling he's rethinking a lot of things in his life, which includes me. And the truth, my truth, is that one of the things I want for anyone I love is for them to have control over how they find, explore, and speak THEIR truth. If he has a need for space from me while figuring all that out, I don't want to influence how that plays out. I want him to have that. I was talking with Darin about this and he said, "What if TB decides that space from you is what he wants permanently." I tried to tell Darin how painful that would be for me, but something I would want for TB if that was the thing that was needed. But Darin fell asleep. 

So I'm here. You're not the best at offering advice, Blog, but you let me say my piece. Sometimes I don't know what to say. Today is one of those days. But it's also very lovely outside. I'm vaccinated against the dreaded plague. I have spent so much wonderful time with my children (can you believe they all grew up?), their spouses (and got married?), and my husband (yes, he's still her--love that guy!) during the pandemic. There are blessings to be had, always.

Anyway, I'm feeling lonely today. And sad for many reasons. Thanks for being there, Blog, and for listening. I appreciate it.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

So Many Changes

Adam calls me Robohips. And he's married now. That's weird.

We're moving again. This is a very good thing. We need to be away from my father-in-law. The three years we've spend with him have taken a huge toll on Darrin. Their relationship has never been great. But I've watched my husband's self-esteem disappearing as the days with his father have continued. The past does not erase simply because it happened long ago.

So we're moving. FIL is going to be with another child - one who will not allow him to bulldoze or undermine her. My guess is that he will either capitulate, or he'll marry the person from the Dominican Republic who wants him to bring her to the US, and she'll take his money. She'll also take care of him, which is what he wants the most.

I wonder sometimes if that's what everyone wants at the core. I say I don't. If someone tries to coddle or pamper me, I become indignant. But there are definitely days when I could use a listening ear and a cuddle. So maybe I want the same thing Del does. I'm just not passive aggressive about getting it.

The people who came into my life more than a decade ago have disappeared. Some left abruptly. I didn't even know they were gone until I was ghosted. Some left gradually. I watched it happen, wondering why it seems to be the inevitable end of every relationship. Some still check in with me occasionally. I know they care. They're just not here.

I confessed to DJ, during one of our many commutes, that when people no longer present themselves in my life, my brain works very hard to omit them. I told him that happened when he moved out the first time. DJ wanted so badly to be independent. He was exhausted from living with pre-treatment center Tabitha. We all were. And he needed to regroup and learn to live again. As a result, he was rarely in contact with us, even though he lived less than a mile away. And within six weeks, my PTSD brain had convinced me that he was gone--and that was okay. I didn't try to contact him. Ever.

I would like to say this no longer happens, but it does. When people leave, they're gone. It's that simple. And I'm embarrassed that this happens to me. I really do try not to let it happen. I remind myself that I'm not invisible and people really do love me. I remind myself that separation is a part of life and usually it's temporary. I look at pictures, and read chat message, and think about what we'll do when we're together again. Except we never will be. Because they're gone. And the best thing for me to do is move forward and forget.

Anyway, that's the cycle. It sucks. And it's super embarrassing. I have forgotten people so completely that when they come back (and they do), sometimes I can't remember why we knew each other to begin with. Of course, that didn't happen with DJ. He's my son. But when he came back, I didn't know what to say to him. It stressed me out that he was there. I wanted him to got. Again, completely embarrassing.

Twice in his adult life, DJ has had to come back to live with us. Once, when he had knee surgery and needed a place to stay and recuperate. And again, when I told him about the job here, and he moved. He's finally in his own place now. He's said he'll make contact with me outside work a couple of times weekly. That's a large commitment. but I hope he will. I want him to stay in my head.

Probably at some point I'll find another therapist. Therapist is no longer working with private clients. Adam cried when he found out their work together would be ending. I didn't. I've been with him more than a decade. And he's helped us both to much. But probably, six months from now, I won't remember what he looks like. Embarrassing.

I don't know how to talk about this with people. I don't know what's appropriate to ask. I'm pretty much mortified that this is even a thing. I'd like to ignore it and just let people think I'm stuck up or don't want them because that's how badly I don't want to address it.

Ugh.

We had an amazing thunderstorm today. I love those. And I made fagots. And I mowed my lawn. It was beautiful today. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Today is a rock bottom day. You know when you get to the place when even crying feels like too much of an effort? I'm there.

The job is still good. I like it. It allows me to recover from last year. And it has good benefits. And DJ works there, too, now.

But my other hip needs to be replaced. I'm really trying not to let this be huge.

It's huge.

And it makes me super depressed.

DJ keeps reminding me that the pain will stop when the hip is replaced. I remember that from last time. But I also remember how long it took to recover. And I remember how depressed I became.

And I just got my running stride back. I love it so much. And it's going to go away. Soon.

I'm trying. I want to make certain I write that. I've been continuing to try to work on therapy stuff and things that will keep me healthy emotionally. I'm trying.

It's just that there's so much that keeps pulling at me.

My dad is dying very slowly. But also, he could go at any time. Congestive heart failure. Arrythmia. Organs failing. Inability to eat leading to extreme weight loss. Calcium deficiency. He's dying.

My mom is is denial. She insists my dad will get better. She says she does not have dementia. She's very upset that we've asked her to stop driving (after two major accidents caused by her).

My siblings have stepped up and are helping all they can. That's a good thing.

There are many good things. My father-in-law is leaving on Sunday for an extended vacation. And when he comes back, we'll be selling the house and parting ways. That is an incredibly wonderful thing.

Fall has been lovely.

I'm not sick.

I'm not teaching school in a place where I'm not allowed to teach.

The summer from hell is over.

The air is still breathable.

We had some positive results in our mid-term elections.

But still, today is pretty difficult. Tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

I have a new job. It's good.

I'm finally well enough to use running as an effective tool to manage PTSD again. What that means is, when I run, I don't end up exhausted and comatose. And there are endorphins. And I have energy.

I've also realized that I'm in that stupid place where I don't know who I am anymore. This is only in relationship to other people. Inside, I know who I am. I have a very strong sense of self. But when it comes to other people, I have no idea at all.

Touch is problematic again. Because I want it, but I also keep being attacked by the belief that other people are repelled by my touch, and perhaps by me, too. It's a weird phenomenon. I want to touch you, but I REALLY do not want you to recoil or rebuff me. Therefore, I'll just smile instead.

I don't believe this is new. I think caring about it is. Ten years ago, I didn't care. If I wanted to hug you, I did. If you didn't like it, too bad. If I wanted to touch your arm, your hand, even bestow a very brief kiss, I did. And I laughed if I thought someone didn't like it because it didn't matter to me.

It matters now. Maybe I've become more real.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I stopped writing. Real writing. I mean, you have to write stuff at work-- lesson plans, email, shopping lists. But all the things I've been doing here for more than a decade, I stopped. I wanted to understand why I kept coming back. I wanted to know if it was helpful, or cathartic, or just a place for me to be moody and brooding and maudlin.

Also, I got to a place where functioning at all was nearly more than I could manage.

It's not easy to teach 500 students weekly when you're tapped out. I did it, but probably not very well. And there was this weird social need to make sure no one really knew how badly I was doing. It wasn't pride. It felt like, if anyone knew, that would be the end. I'd give up. As long as other people thought I was doing okay, I would be.

But I would look in the mirror and not recognize the person at all. And I lost so much hair because of the stress of being ill and trying to be okay. I would pull my hair back in a ponytail to go to the gym (because why would I stop trying to keep running when I had no energy?) but the ties had to be looped again and again; the small ones I had bought because they would only have to be looped once when I was healthy and had hair.

One day, my nose began bleeding. I'd had small bleeds in the preceding days, but this one didn't want to stop. For three hours. The blood was going down my throat even as I leaned over the sink. I was vomiting it up. I guess stomachs don't really like to have blood in them. And it was filling up my sinuses and ear canals. So Darrin took me to an urgent care clinic which sent me to the ER where they shoved six inches of dry packing up my nose because they said they couldn't cauterize it.

I tried to laugh it off. I told jokes about it. But it wasn't funny. I mean, it probably was, but the PTSD the process triggered was more than I could manage. I was reduced to sitting on the couch and trying not to hear loud noises or talk to anyone. I couldn't sleep at night unless Darrin held my hand. I was, in short, pathetic. Because of a nosebleed.

I didn't cry. Not ever. I didn't cry when the nightmares came or when the pain of the packing being shoved inside my head had me writhing in the stupid ER chair. I didn't cry when I had to go to the ENT who said, "What did they do to you?" then took out the hateful packing and carefully, gently, stabilized the bleeding so he could cauterize my nose. Which all hurt nearly as much as the ER visit did, but not emotionally. And I didn't cry when I went to talk to Therapist about how I felt.

I'm crying now. A month later. Because, finally, I have the physical and emotional strength to allow it. Yes. I'm crying over a nosebleed. And hair loss. And being ill for a year. And having to look for a job again. And Darrin having to look for a job again. And having to live with my father-in-law still. And living in a place where the air is poison to me.

All of it. I'm crying over all of it.

And did I mention that it's 99.9% certain that one of the people I love most in the world is moving far, far away very soon? Yeah, that's happening, too. But I'm not insisting that we spend every free moment together until he leaves, mostly because he would say no. Also, it would make me crazy because I don't like to spend every free moment with ANYONE. But still, I'm not insisting. I believe that shows great restraint.

So I'm back here, writing, because I have a tiny hope that if I leave some of it here, the crying will stop someday. I think it will.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Two Months

That's almost how long it's been since I came here. I have a number of reasons for staying away, the first of which being that I just became exhausted.

It's been a very long time since I've been so sick for so very long. I lost interest in most everything. There were mornings when I was sorry I was still living. Some mornings I thought about ingesting everything prescription at once. That would have included prescription decongestants, cough suppressants with codeine, narcotic pain meds for my tooth extractions...

When that happened, I convinced myself I was being melodramatic and probably I'd just end up nauseated and vomiting. Then I got dressed and went to work.

Five months of nearly nonstop illness. That's actually not terrifically long, but it felt endless.

At this point, I've had about four weeks of feeling well. Then last week I contracted another virus.

The diagnosis: My immune system is compromised. I have asthma which puts me at high risk because I live in a polluted environment. Probably, as long as I work in a place where I am exposed daily to different germs from more than 500 students, my life will be like this.

You know that natural happiness that has always been mine? That wonderful feeling that bubbles up even when I've been at my lowest? It's gone. It's been a very long time since I've been happy at all.

In the meantime, PTSD has nearly eaten me alive. I've tried so very hard to maintain relationships and stay in touch with people I love. But it feels impossible.

A bright spot. My sweet sister, K, with whom I work, knows I'm struggling. Every day or two she pops into my classroom to give me a hug or just check in with me. She doesn't say anything about noticing that I'm not doing well; just says she missed me and wanted to say hello. I need that. I need people to smile back at me while I'm trying desperately to look as though I'm okay, walking through hallways filled with students I teach, smiling, talking with them, all the while wanting to just go to my classroom, lie on the floor and sleep.

I'm not sleeping at night lately.

I had this conversation with Therapist:

Therapist: You mentioned you feel that people love you, but try very hard to maintain distance between you.

Me: Yes.

Therapist: What causes that feeling?

Me: I don't know. It just feels like people want to talk with me, but only if they have something to tell me. They're not particularly interested in me, personally.

Therapist: Do they ask questions?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: That might indicate concern or caring.

Me: It might.

Therapist: Do you believe they're concerned?

Me: Not really, no.

Therapist: Why not?

Me: I just don't see why they would be. Here's our conversation: They ask how I'm doing. I say, "Still sick. They say, "That sucks. I'm really sorry." I say, "Yeah, it does. Thanks." The end.

Therapist: What do you want them to say?

Me: You know, it's not really what I want them to say. And it's not really about being sick for a long time. I used to spend time with people. More than that, people wanted me to spend time with them. Now I go places and see people I know, and I understand that things have changed. It's not that I'm unwanted. It's just that I'm no longer an integral part of anyone's life. Except Darrin's. Yes, I knew you were going to mention him. And that's great. I love that after eons of time, he's still in love with me and I, him. That's not what I'm talking about.

Therapist: You're talking about friends.

Me: I suppose. Except, if you look at what's happening, I have tons of friends. Those are the people who know you, who make a big deal about wanting to see you but are too busy to actually do it-- and they're okay with that because when you finally do get together for an hour, it will be very special, like no time has passed since you were last together, and you still love each other madly, because that's the kind of friends you are!

Therapist: I take it that's not what you're interested in.

Me: I'd really rather have no one.

Therapist: What have you done to keep your relationships close and less like those casual friendships you just described.

Me: Not a lot. Sick, remember?

Therapist: It sounds like you wish someone would take care of you a little.

Me: Not a chance. That would make me nuts.

Therapist: And also make you feel loved, needed, and cherished.

Me. I don't think so.

Therapist: Well, I could be wrong.

Me. Yes.

LONG PAUSE

Me: Actually, I think the people in my life are sort of afraid of me.

Therapist: Why would they be afraid?

Me: I'm an intense person. I'm not afraid to say I love you a million times and mean it with all my heart. I don't get tired of the people I love deeply. I always want to spend time with them. I'm happy to hear all the things in their lives from the really momentous to the mundane. I often try to dig deeper, to know them better, to find out more. I don't think most people like that. I think I make them uncomfortable.

Therapist: Maybe they want the same thing.

Me: Do you? How many people outside of immediate family do you have who feel that way about you?

Therapist: A few.

Me: And how often do you see them?

Therapist: Not often enough.

Me: Which means what? Monthly? Annually? Every decade?

Therapist: Probably a couple of times a year.

Me: And do you call them in between?

Therapist: Sometimes.

Me: Often?

Therapist: Usually every few months, yes.

Me: That's not often.

Therapist: For me, it is.

Me: That's what I'm talking about. If someone contacted me every few months, I'd be fine with that. I'd let it happen. But I wouldn't count them as close relationships. And probably they'd die out because I don't have the ability as of yet to trust people who walk in and out of my life every few months or years or whatever. That's why I think people are afraid of me. I want them. I want them in my life often. I want to know about them, lend support, touch them sometimes. I'm scary.

Therapist: Sam, you're not scary. And I don't think they're afraid. They're just busy.

Me: Yes, they are.

Therapist: That's not a bad thing, you know.

Me: Nope. It's a healthy boundary. It's living life and allowing people to have a part of that life. It's how real grown ups interact.

Therapist (laughing): I'm not sure that's what I meant.

Me: No. But one thing is very clear. I'm a three-year-old in my heart.

Therapist: I think that's understandable, given your background.

Me: Maybe, but not socially acceptable. And I realized something this week.

Therapist: Yes?

Me: I was at a dinner for staff appreciation week. I was with colleagues I meet with weekly for meetings. We work together, sometimes teach collaboratively. And I like them. I think they like me. But that's it. I don't belong. I never have. I probably never will. This is not me asking for advice as to how I CAN belong. It's just an observation. And because I like my colleagues, I find myself wishing sometimes that I did belong. Except then I remember-- I've never belonged anywhere. Not ever. The closest thing I've felt to "belonging" is when I was alone in a practice room playing my guts out. I belonged there and on stage. And with Darrin.

Therapist: There have been other times, Sam. You've told me about them.

Me: Yes. There have. But always with people who feel the need to put up those "healthy boundaries." And you know what? That's wasted effort because I would NEVER trespass. I would NEVER insert myself where I was not needed or wanted. And I would NEVER put someone I love at risk physically or emotionally. But still, they seem to need to warn me about all the reasons they can't spend time with me or communicate with me or whatever. As if I wouldn't already have thought of all those reasons because PTSD reminds me constantly that I am unfit for human company.

Therapist: They tell you they don't want to spend time with you?

Me: No. They tell me they do. And then they tell me why they can't. And it's fascinating to me. Because if I want to spend time with someone, I make time. I schedule it. It's a priority because THEY are a priority. I never want anyone I love to believe they're not important to me or are less important than another social engagement or work or the weather. But I think they're afraid I'll think they feel the same way about me. And for whatever reason, there has to be a boundary that makes certain I'll never believe that.

Therapist: You've been feeling pretty down lately. It sounds like you're emotionally spent and a little bit angry.

Me: Anger is a secondary emotion.

Therapist: That's my line.

Me: And now it's mine.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018

Sometimes you celebrate the demise of a year quietly. Outside there were fireworks. Some felt a little too close for comfort as the sparks hit our window for about 15 seconds. But inside was peaceful and calm.

2017 was yet another difficult year in many, many ways. There were troubling and frustrating things, but also triumphs and growth. 2018 will bring the same, no doubt.

I do not love my current job. I've vacillated between wanting to find a new job right away and feeling that I need to complete the school year. I'm currently at the halfway mark. I believe I may have stayed too long. However, the final decision will be dependent on my interactions with one of my administrators. I have some consulting to do with district personnel, at which point I will figure out the proper course for my future employment.

The situation at home with my father-in-law is one of détente. He was gone for about three weeks while he had a couple of surgeries and spent time in a care center, receiving daily physical, occupational, and emotional therapy. There is no question that he is lonely and bored at home. However, his desire for Darrin and I be the sole people who can fill those needs is misguided and unhealthy. I've told him we won't do that for him. Prior to the surgery, at the insistence of his primary care physician, he visited a nearby senior center and loved it. I'll be encouraging him to go back frequently. In the meantime, Darrin and I have enjoyed some peace at home during his absence and that seems to be continuing now that he's back.

And how am I doing?

Emotionally, not well. I've been seeing Therapist fairly regularly. He's not thrilled with my quest this year to "normalize" all relationships. He said that's something he encourages clients to do because many of their relationships are unhealthy or dependent. Mine are not. My desire for normalization is based on my feelings about the relationships, not on the relationships, themselves. Because I experience intense feelings that are difficult to moderate, I have concern that I need to make changes or strictly control my interactions with other people. Therapist says this is probably unhelpful. It simply serves to make me even more hyperaware of myself and less likely to connect with anyone.

Also, he points out, my attempts to normalize probably weren't even close to normal.

So I'm left with that. Therapist has provided a lengthy list of things I can do to help alleviate my stress in this area, but they all involve cooperation with my relationship counterparts. He assumes they are all perfectly willing to work with me on this. And I think they are, as long as the work is short and sweet. None of this will be short. As for the other, well, I'm guessing it won't be that either.

Physically, I've been better. 10 weeks of pneumonia has certainly taken its toll. There were times when I was ill that I have no memory of things I said or did. Then there was the broken tooth thing. That was painful. I now have no tooth and am waiting for an implant to heal enough to be capped. It was also during that ordeal that I realized I've shut off pain again. There's a lot of numbness going on, I suppose. It's hard to feel things when I'm very sick. 

Currently I'm battling another virus. It seems mild and I don't expect it to develop into anything horrible. But I'm concerned about a couple of things:
1. I go to school on Tuesday and there's a whole host of bugs there. If my immune system isn't up and running, I'll be sick continuously.
2. I can't be vaccinated against the flu, and it's here. I survived H1N1 about seven years ago, but I really thought I might die. I'm not being melodramatic. I'm pretty sure, even in comparison to the two times I've had pneumonia, H1N1 is the closest thing to death I've ever experienced. There were a few times when I stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. It was scary. I'd rather not do that again.

Also, there's a good chance that my left hip is dying. I was told that whatever caused my right hip to die was not something I needed to worry about, but I'm having similar symptoms on the left. I'll be seeing a doctor this month to determine what needs to happen next. I'm hoping for a verdict of more weight loss and physical therapy.

But this is a new year. I begin each new year with a list of pieces I want to learn. I haven't had time to compile one yet, but Beethoven figures prominently. I've been spending time with Mozart and I'm ready for a change. I also have an insanely difficult Prokofiev Toccata that I've been wanting to finish. Between those two, that might be my complete list for 2018, and if I finish them, it will definitely be enough.

Other things I would like to do this year:
1. Hike more places. I need to do this in June before the heat hits. Hoping my hip cooperates.
2. Read more books (Duh! Always!).
3. Write more in this blog-- but positive, or maybe even creative stuff. I'm finished whining. 
4. Start cooking again. Real cooking. And maybe I'll document it in my cooking blog. My kids have been asking for recipes which I'm bad at creating, but I could make the attempt.
5. Redirect my PTSD. I need to stop being overwhelmed by it. It's impossible to live with anything approaching joy when I'm preoccupied with painful symptoms that distract and detract from the things that make me happy. 
6. Decide what to do with people. I know that sounds weird, but it's become very difficult for me to talk about what I need from people which, in turn, makes it difficult for me to support them or even just spend time with them. I suppose the time has come for me to figure out how to meaningfully have people in my life, or stop going through the motions altogether. I need to take some time to think about what both of those scenarios look like. Therapist says I don't get to make decisions about this on my own. But, honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who cares about it. Everyone else seems fairly comfortable with the status quo and I'm not sure I want to upset that. Also not sure I'm strong enough to deal with rejection or rebuff from people I love right now. It's sort of an ugly place to be, but I'm bent on being more positive about everything. 
7. Let things go. I've been hanging onto some events, thoughts, dreams, and relationships for far too long. It's time to move on.
8. Face failures and redirect myself. There are a number of things that have been pure failures. Usually, when that happens, I look at the data, figure out what went wrong, and decide if I want to try again or move on to something else. Lately, I've just been allowing the failures to sit and eat at me. It's time to deal with those, as well.
9. Sing. Not at school or in my job, but when I'm alone and I want to. It's been awhile since I've sung simply for the joy of it. It's time.
10. Dance. Because I need to. Because it's good for me. Because. 

And now it's two hours into the new year and I need to sleep. Happy New Year. May your 2018 be everything you wish. Consider yourself kissed for luck. 


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude

Gratitude is a funny thing. I talk about things that make my life better. I remember people who have helped shape my life and who continue to do so. I think about ways I have grown and opportunities before me. And I think those things are gratitude sometimes.

Today, though, I think it's something different.

Today I believe gratitude is the ability to wake each morning prepared to live the life I've been given. I believe it's allowing for the mistakes of other people and being forgiving of my own. I believe it's a willingness to accept whatever I have. I believe it's living without malice or scorn toward others because life without people, with all their flaws, would be joyless. I believe it's allowing those slights that will to slip away, while working towards the day when the more stubborn ones that wish to stick around will lessen to the point where they are unnoticed.

Today I believe gratitude is showing love regardless of whether or not it's reciprocated. I believe it's speaking to those who make my life better, telling them exactly why my life is better because of them. I believe it's remembering people who are no longer with me. I believe it's not worrying about whether or not I'm appreciated or wanted because I'm so busy appreciating and including everyone else.

Today, for me, it's about going to a family gathering without spending the previous month wondering if I am happy enough, skinny enough, talented enough, or beautiful enough to spend time with my relatives. It's about looking in the mirror and seeing a person who has flaws and difficulties and accepting that. It's about knowing how far I have to go while recognizing how far I have already come.

Today I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving.
So much on my mind today.

I stopped writing after my last post. Not just here. Everywhere. I have other blogs where I'm not anonymous and still others where I write really awful stories and poetry. But a number of things happened to me and I saw no purpose in writing anymore. That hasn't really changed. I'm not sure why I'm here today, but I think it's because one of the things that changed is that I don't feel I can talk anymore about anything important. To anyone.

And I have things to say. I have questions to ask. They're all bottled up inside me. It's uncomfortable. So maybe if I write them, I won't need to say them or ask them anymore.

Tolkien Boy pointed out that our conversations often result in my need to analyze our relationship. He didn't say he didn't want to talk about it. In fact, he said he was fine talking about it. He just didn't want it to be our main topic of conversation.

Darrin said that talking to me is difficult. He said I wait until I feel something deeply and at that point, nothing he says will help. And he's right. I do that. Not on purpose. It just happens.

Therapist suggested that communication might be a good thing for us to work on.

I think if one of those things had happened independently I might have responded differently, but it's difficult to know. But all three things happened within days of each other. There are a lot of inferences my brain can fabricate, given what was said. And it doesn't seem to matter that I know those things are fabricated.

So I still talk. But I make sure I don't talk about me. Really me. Or relationships. Or what makes me happy or sad or upset or content or alive.

I'm not withholding. I understand it seems that I am. But it's not that at all.

I just get confused.

When I talk about a relationship with someone, it's usually because I've become worried or feel vulnerable or unsafe for some reason. There's a lot of guilt behind all that. The person in the relationship has done nothing to warrant my feelings. Often there's nothing that's triggered it. I'm just in a place where I need reassurance or I feel confused and am hoping for clarification. But a lot of times, I just need the other person to tell me the relationship is still important. I'm still important. WE are still important. And that's crap. I know it's crap. Real people don't have to be reassured all the time. They can be comfortable. They get to know one another and stay there because they like it. They don't have to be told repeatedly that things are fine and the relationship is good and they're still loved.

Sometimes I don't know things are bothering me until they build to the point where I have to say something or I'll explode. Especially when it's a repeated thing that bugs me or hurts me or causes me distress. And I don't know how to talk about it before that point. And I'm afraid if I say anything, I'll be accused of being hypersensitive or nitpicky or just wrong. So I don't say anything, hoping it will go away, which it doesn't. And I know that if I wait until I'm really upset, that's a mistake. I also don't really know what else to do sometimes.

And Therapist is right. I'm not a great communicator. But there is a part of me that wonders if people want me to communicate or if I just need to do what helps them feel most comfortable. I think if I never told Darrin the things he does that make me feel hurt, he'd be okay with that. He really doesn't like it when I talk to him about things that bother me. And I don't like it when he gets stressed because of me.

And things haven't been horrible while I've been not talking about relationships or asking for reassurance. Tolkien Boy and I still talk and I love that. And we spend time together, which I also love.

But underneath all of this is the person that still wants to be told I'm valuable. I don't really know what to do with her. What if I'm not really that important? Probably people will still talk to me and interact with me. I don't think Darrin will divorce me. I think people will still email and chat with me online. Life really doesn't change because someone says, "Hey, I love you. I'm glad you're here, and I want you in my life."

And the bottom line is this: No one in their right mind ever wishes for someone in their life who has PTSD. Because PTSD sucks and makes people crazy. People want someone who has hangups and quirks that are understandable and predictable and endearing. PTSD is not endearing. Or understandable. Or predictable.

And I just made PTSD the scapegoat for my failure to communicate. I'm not sure that's fair. It might just be that I'm a communication nightmare wrapped in a cloak of insecurity. I don't really know if I can blame PTSD.

What I do know is this: not talking makes me unhappy. I am unhappy. I am really, really sad. But it's only been a couple of months. I think it will get better. Things take time. I have to remember that.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

In spite of my better intentions, I have been disconnecting. It would be very easy for me to talk about all the reasons this makes me a terrible person, but the truth is, it's not intentional. I'd like to pretend I have a great deal of control over it, but I don't. This is a stress reaction that is nearly as old as I am. Have I been trying to combat it? Replace it with a healthier coping device? Choose a different result?

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

But sometimes, especially when one is very tired, the body and mind revert to what worked before. It's not about loving or not loving people. It's not about relationships. It's not about the importance of people in one's life. It's simply a need to to remove anything that causes stress because my ability to manage that stress has hit an all-time low. And people, for me, are stressful. All people.

I understand that's not fair. I have people in my life who do everything they can to be supportive and nurturing and loving. I have others who just settle for supportive. But it's not really about what they're trying to do or who they are or how much they love or support me. It's simply a reaction. And I react to people.

There are certainly other people in the world who have more intense stress than I do and who cope with it brilliantly. I would love to be able to do that.

That being said, the amount and types of stressors in my life are uniquely tailored to trigger me. And I'm not coping well. I've not been coping well for more than a year.

What this all means is that old habits have begun to rear their ugly heads. The ugliest one is the one that erases people, events, and time from my life. I don't even realize it's happening when it starts. Then one day, someone mentions a memory. "Hey, Sam, do you remember when..." And as they chuckle while the memory plays out on the flat screen in their brain, I'm experiencing nothing. Panic begins. I've not just forgotten, I've removed that chunk of life. And how much more is missing? What has happened? Why don't I remember?

So I laugh and nod, but say nothing. Because people will fill in the gaps for me. They'll recount what happened. And I'll file it away for later.

When later comes, I sit alone and concentrate. I do everything in my power to recall events, sounds, smells. And if that fails, then I commit the narrative I heard to my memory. My friend's or family member's memory becomes the one I rely on. It feels flimsy and fragile. If I'm called upon to provide details, I have none beyond what I've been told. The memory is not mine.

Then there is the emotional separation. That one is worse because I do remember. I remember how it felt to really connect. I remember feeling intense love for someone. I remember wanting to be with them. I remember how my whole body relaxes when I'm touched by that person because there is relief and sanctuary in loving and being loved in return. This is not "in love" that stupid romances depict. This is not me finding my one and only. This is what others would call friendship, perhaps, although I'm certain what I'm describing is not what other people feel for their friends. I have often speculated that I am broken when it comes to feeling what other people feel.

Regardless, the memories persist, but the ability to actually FEEL what I remember is gone. I try. I touch. I interact. I concentrate. Nothing happens. What I end up feeling is that I am hopelessly wrong in every way. Which increases the stress. Which increases the detachment. Which increases the feeling that I can't ever have healthy, strong relationships. Which increases the stress. Which increases the detachment...

In the midst of all this, my strength has slowly been returning. I have to remember that I've had some pretty serious physical problems in the past five years. I have to remember that I've had equally difficult emotional setbacks and life changes. That's a lot for anyone to deal with. Add to it the fact that I have PTSD and have been dealing with past trauma, especially during the past six months, I think it's understandable that there would be some things that might spiral out of control.

Back to therapy? How I would love to say, "Nope. I've got this. I know what to do. I have the tools to repair and rebuild. Everything will be fine." But I don't and I can't. Not alone. And I'm so desperately tired of seeing Therapist so he can tell me how to be a real human being. I want to be able to do this life thing and have a bit of success.

But I also want to reconnect with people I love. And I don't want them to be upset because the disconnect happened in the first place. And I don't know how to make those things happen. I don't really have any control over the second thing. If they're upset, I can only hope for forgiveness. But it seems unfair and stupid that I have to apologize over and over again for something I never meant to do in the first place. Which isn't to say I won't apologize. Just that I'm really tired of having to do that, as well. I'm tired of always being the one who is wrong.

That's all. I'm just facing some yucky realities today and wishing I didn't have to. I need so much help. Someday, I would like to stop that.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Two things:
1. I'm exhausted.
2. PTSD is big tonight.

Most of the time I wait to write until the worst is over. And I really believe that's the best course of action. Tonight, however, I'm not sure what I'm feeling.

I was out with friends tonight. It was fun. Part of me enjoyed it.

Another part, however, kept questioning why I was there. I didn't belong. I couldn't connect. And words came out of my mouth that were not what I meant. Still, I said them. When I'm tired, I sometimes say things that come out wrong. There are people among those I know who would tell me that the words that come out when I'm too tired to control them are actually what I believe. I'm too tired to mask those truths in those moments. Freudian. And that's not true. Mostly what comes out are words that partially convey what I wanted to say, but not in the way I meant to say it. And that's all. The end.

I didn't belong. Well, that's a given. I'm a decade older than those I was with. I usually don't belong, really. It shouldn't be bothersome anymore.

I couldn't connect. That's a big one. I tried. I can't connect when I'm having PTSD crap. It negates any closeness I might feel.

Also I was the only female. But, again, that's not unusual.

On the way home I was overwhelmed with two simultaneous feelings:
1. I was certain I was not really wanted tonight. Why? I do not know.
2. I was certain that I didn't want to be with anyone tonight. Why? I do not know.

It's very confusing. And frustrating. And I want to talk about it.

But I don't really. Because people will say, "That's understandable. It sounds frustrating."

Thank you for validating my feelings. I appreciate it. What I really need, though, is someone to say, "Sam, I know those feelings seem real and intimidating, but they're not. They're PTSD. You don't have to buy into them. And they'll go away."

And now I'm tired so I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Every once in a blue moon I do something despicable. I don't know why I do it, and it usually involves someone I care about deeply. Like share a confidence that has been kept for years. Or throw them under the bus. Or ignore a plea for help. I am, in short, not a safe person.

Therapist would tell me I do these things because I still have trust issues. I'm sabotaging. I'm not sure he's correct. I think I'm just really a despicable person at the core. I try to be otherwise. Then I find myself doing something awful to someone who doesn't deserve it, often when they're not there. And usually it's a person who is a key support to me. 

The whole time it's happening, my brain is instructing me to stop, my heart is demanding that I make a different choice, and my soul is screaming. To no avail. Nothing has the power to stop me. Not even me.

I need a neon sign that blinks every time I meet someone: DUPLICITOUS.

I had training last week with new teachers and instructors at the school where I now work. We went to lunch. I was told I was one of the nicest people they had met. Likable on sight. Energetic. Upbeat. They were looking forward to being friends. They should not be my friend. I am not trustworthy. They will tell me things. People seem to want to do that. They will trust me with their confidences. Then, when they least expect it, years later, I will betray them. That is who I am. 

I need to understand why I'm doing this. It needs to stop. But until it does, people need to not be close to me. I am carbon monoxide, gently lulling and lethal.

Moral: If you know me and like me, stop it now.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

July is almost finished. I haven't written because I don't really know how to express what I've been feeling. Lots of things have happened. Lots of almost bad things, but they're tempered, so they're only sort of bad.

1. Adam found a flat tire when leaving for work. We changed it to the spare and found that the belt was coming through. It sliced up my hand nicely. We knew we needed to replace the tires on the car, but not how badly that needed to be done. This could have ended in a very bad car accident had the flat not happened. I'm grateful for Adam's safety. But it's still costly. Adam paid for half the bill since he uses the car the most. But it's my car, so I foot the rest of the bill.

2. We then drove the car to Laramie where it broke down in my parents' driveway. It refused to start. The battery was fine. There was no sputtering, just silence. We determined the problem to be a bad starter. Darrin and a friend replaced it. When they went to buy the new part, the owner recognized Darrin and reminded him that we'd purchased a new starter less than two years ago. So it was still under warranty. Result: free replacement part. I cannot complain about this. But I wish the breakdown had not happened.

3. My hospital bill in Laramie was denied by my insurance resulting in a $50,000+ bill. I was told my monthly payment would be about $4,000. That's not really in my budget. So I applied for financial assistance, hoping the monthly payment might be lowered to something more manageable. The hospital forgave half the debt and lowered my payment to $400 a month. I'm feeling very grateful for the forgiven debt, but stressed because $400 is still a hefty monthly payment.

4. Because of the above thing, I owe the surgeon in Laramie $15,000. They're not forgiving any of it but said as long as I pay monthly, I can determine how much that payment is. So I can pay as little as $50 and be fine. But $15,000 is a lot of money to owe.

5. I have a medical bill here in Utah for an ER visit. It's around $5,000. They would like me to pay $250 monthly. I applied for a lower payment but my request was denied. These monthly bills are rapidly becoming unmanageable.

6. I've interviewed for quite a few jobs. I'm still jobless. I'm pretty sure that's not because I'm unlikeable or unhireable, but it's difficult not to lean in that direction. Still, I'll keep applying.

7. I didn't pay the final bill on our apartment, partly because I forgot, and partly because I'm a little upset about the things they're charging for. But I also have zero stamina for contesting the charges. I already have to muster up the energy to contest the health insurance company's decision to deny my claim. Two contests are too many for me. So I need to pay $650 by July 31st. My brain just exploded.

I suppose I'm in the place now where I'm simply surviving. My brain cannot conceptualize a way for me to pay my bills, and I'm swiftly moving to the mental place where I will not and cannot ever be hired. Anywhere. Overwhelmed I am, I suppose.

I don't feel desperate, though. Or sad. Or depressed. I don't really feel anything. I can't. There's too much. Darrin suggested he could go without his medication for a few months. I think that's not going to be happening. We're cutting back wherever we can, and Adam helps a lot. Father-in-law continues to coo about how lucky he is that the VA charges him next to nothing for his medical care, and he makes enough from his retirement to pay all his obligations and still put $400 away monthly. That's helpful. And empathetic. He's lovely.

I make that observation without bitterness. He is who he is. We had no illusions about that when he asked to come live with us. Well, maybe Darrin did, but he's entitled. It's his father. I think most people want to believe their parents are not passive aggressive narcissists. The disillusionment has been palpable.

I'm looking out my window right now. There is a Japanese maple showing bright red leaves in the bottom left corner topped by the deep green of the tall tree across the street. The rest of the window is filled with clear blue sky. And I wonder, on a day like today, how can I possibly feel sad? For lunch, I believe I will take a walk. That will save on my food bill! :)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

There have been a lot of days during the past couple of weeks when I have wanted to come here. But I'm working on something.

I am trying to teach myself to recognize temporary.

Hmm. That's not precise enough.

Okay. Long, long, long explanation:

Sometimes I come here simply to release stress. I say whatever is on my mind. Sometimes it's extreme. Also, extremely inaccurate. Not reality.

Well, it's my current reality when I say it, but it's not going to be reality in a day or two.

So I'm trying to see what the difference is when I ride out the storm without writing out the storm.

Also, a long time ago, I had this conversation with Therapist:

Th: What happens when the symptoms increase. Can you describe it? What parts of your life does it affect? How does it feel? How long does it last?
me: It feels miserable.
Th: Why?
me: Because I start to imagine stupid things about people who love me. And I end up convincing myself that they don't love me anymore. Or they won't very soon.
Th: Can you give me a specific example?
me: I don't know.
Th: Well, if you can think of an example, maybe we can decode exactly what's happening.
me: I know what's happening. And I know I'm being stupid. Which doesn't make it less real.
Th: I think it's very real. However, I also believe you can circumvent the process.

So I provided an example which basically goes like this: Person in my life is close to me. That makes me feel vulnerable. PTSD symptoms target that vulnerability and make it feel unsafe. Then I feel unsafe with Person. Then I feel guilty that I feel unsafe with Person because they have done nothing to make me feel unsafe. Then I decide that the only way to feel safe again is to stay away from Person. Then I feel guilty because I'm avoiding Person for no real reason. Then I decide Person probably needs a less complicated life and will go away shortly because that's logical. The end.

But then, when the symptoms subside, I feel compelled to go to the person and try to reconstruct the closeness so we can be "us" again. It's a little bit exhausting.

Continued conversation:
Th: What if you didn't wait? What if, when the symptoms began increasing, you went to the person right away, told them what was happening, and expressed what they might do to help you through the process?
me (sidestepping the question): There's really not a process.
Th (ignoring the sidestep): Well?
me: I don't know if I could do that. I don't think linearly when PTSD begins. I can't see logical steps. Everything just feels like a big pile.
Th: Okay. But what do you think would happen?
me: I don't know.
Th: What do you need from that person?
me: Reassurance, I suppose.
Th: Specifically, what type of reassurance:
me: Verbal.
Th: What do you want to hear?
me: That I'm not a freak. That I'm loved and needed. That we're okay even when I'm not okay.
Th: What if you asked them to say that?
me: I don't know. How would you react if someone asked you?
Th: I would be deeply honored that they would come to me when they felt weak and vulnerable and overwhelmed.
me: I don't believe you.
Th: No. It's true, though. And I would tell them that they're important to me, that I love them, and that I'm here because I want to help them through this.
me: How many times would you do that? Because this is a pretty common occurrence. I could ask every week for a year.
Th: That's only 52 times. Not really that many.
me: You'd get tired.
Th: Possibly. But tired doesn't mean you stop loving or wanting to help someone important to you.

So I walked out of that therapy session dead set on never, ever taking that suggestion. The thought of saying, in essence, "Hey! I can't handle life. And when I can't handle life, I decide you probably don't want me anymore, our relationship is stupid, and I'm a pain in the backside. But just in case I'm wrong about all that, will you tell me? Because I need to hear it. Probably 52 times a year," makes me want to vomit. And how will I know if they're saying it because I need to hear it, or if they're saying it so I'll shut up and go away?

But I tried it. Years later. I tried it this week. And I think it was helpful. What happened is the symptoms stagnated. They're still hanging out, but they're not overwhelming me.

So the jury's still out. I haven't decided if I can make a habit of reaching out for feedback before the symptoms become horrible. But I tried it. So I have a small inkling of what it's like.

And now I'm really, really tired. Going to sleep now.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Working on the impossible



All quotes are from the National Center for PTSD.

"Trauma survivors with PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving."

Always. Always. Always. I'm so tired of this. And it's been the case for so long that much of the time I no longer address what's happening inside of me as it pertains to relationships. Everyone's tired of talking about it. I'm tired of talking about it.

"Survivors with PTSD may feel distant from others and feel numb. They may have less interest in social or sexual activities. Because survivors feel irritable, on guard, jumpy, worried, or nervous, they may not be able to relax or be intimate. They may also feel an increased need to protect their loved ones. They may come across as tense or demanding."

That first thing. I have trouble with it. Pretty much always. There have been moments when I've been able to escape it. Those have felt glorious. And then awful. The glorious is always followed up by guilt and fear topped off with an obsessive need to repeat the moments as soon and as often as possible. Which leads to the feeling that I'm using the person I love simply to get what I want. Ugly.

"Dealing with these symptoms can take up a lot of the survivor's attention. He or she may not be able to focus on the partner. It may be hard to listen carefully and make decisions together with someone else. Partners may come to feel that talking together and working as a team are not possible."

That's my fear, really. Dealing with symptoms often distracts me from conversations or potentially intimate moments. Dealing with symptoms keeps me from fully committing to what is happening now. And I'm pretty sure that someone on the outside, looking in, can only see that I"m not acting or reacting in a way that will foster closeness and trust in a relationship.

"Certain types of "man-made" traumas can have a more severe effect on relationships. These traumas include:
-Childhood sexual and physical abuse
-Rape
-Domestic violence
-Combat
-Terrorism
-Genocide
-Torture
-Kidnapping
-Prisoner of war"

Okay. The first two. Only two on a list of nine.That's less that 25%. So why am I having such difficulty? And seriously, genocide and torture would be so much worse. Except, clearly, my brain and body do not perceive it that way. Still, it does seem that I could manage a little better. Childhood was a long time ago.

"Survivors of man-made traumas often feel a lasting sense of terror, horror, endangerment, and betrayal. These feelings affect how they relate to others. They may feel like they are letting down their guard if they get close to someone else and trust them. This is not to say a survivor never feels a strong bond of love or friendship. However, a close relationship can also feel scary or dangerous to a trauma survivor."

They do. All close relationships feel scary and dangerous to me. But I still feel strong bonds of love and friendship. Which makes everything feel even more complicated.

"People with PTSD can create and maintain good relationships by:
-Building a personal support network to help cope with PTSD while working on family and friend relationships
-Sharing feelings honestly and openly, with respect and compassion
-Building skills at problem solving and connecting with others
-Including ways to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others"

Working on this. So much work. It's a lot of work to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others. It's a lot of work to figure out how to connect with others. It's a lot of work to share honestly and openly. It's a lot of work to find a personal support network. I'm sort of exhausted.

"What can be done to help someone who has PTSD?
Relations with others are very important for trauma survivors. Social support is one of the best things to protect against getting PTSD. Relationships can offset feelings of being alone. Relationships may also help the survivor's self-esteem. This may help reduce depression and guilt. A relationship can also give the survivor a way to help someone else. Helping others can reduce feelings of failure or feeling cut off from others. Lastly, relationships are a source of support when coping with stress."

Well, that's not really an answer, is it. It just tells me all the reasons relationships are important. The next paragraph talks about all the ways you need to seek profession (expensive) help. Yay. And I'm not blaming the information source. It's really, really hard to figure out how to help someone with PTSD. Everyone experiences it differently. Therapist keeps telling me to stop worrying about overtaxing the people in my life and bank on their love for me instead. Those aren't his words, of course. They're my interpretation of his words. Still, it does seem that he's asking me to do something impossible. That's just how it feels.

But I'm persisting, I think. At least for now. Until I completely run out of stamina. I want to be different. I want to stop being a afraid. I want to be loved because I'm worth it. And I want it to be less taxing to love me. 

But I've been working on this a long time. And I'm so tired.

Monday, June 19, 2017

How to proceed?

I gave myself a few days for everything to calm down. I told myself to stop being dramatic.

The result?

PTSD management isn't even a thing anymore. Today was rather horrible. I spent the morning dealing with nausea from panic attacks that wouldn't stop. And I locked myself in my bedroom until 2:30 in the afternoon when I finally went to work. And I didn't answer the phone. I turned it off.

I'm not really sure what's triggering all of this, but I think it's that I don't feel like I can talk about it anywhere except on my blog. And there's no feedback here-- no one to tell me it's okay or it's not okay. No one to say I don't have to be afraid of the mailman. No one to suggest that I use my voice and talk to a real human being instead of sitting quietly in my bedroom on my bed with the door locked so no one will know I'm there.

I went outside to run this morning. And I went right back inside. I couldn't do it. There were people outside.

This hasn't happened to me before.

It's all in my head, right?

Right?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I had a friend once who read my blog. This was back when I wrote things of substance that were upbeat and sometimes even funny. He would read something and then, months later, say to me, "Remember that post you wrote about [insert topic here]? I know someone who could really benefit from reading that, but I can't find it. Am I just searching for it incorrectly? Can you help me find it?"

No. I couldn't help him. Because from the time I began blogging, more than 10 years ago, I have written posts and then, later, removed them. My friend would get frustrated. Why would I do that?

I don't know. I just did. And I've done it again today. For some reason, removing posts makes me feel better.

My blog has been the place where I've not really worried about what people think or say. It's where I've felt ultimate freedom to speak or not speak, to publish or delete. My blog is and has always been for me. It has never been intended to inform or entertain or teach or, well, anything that would require an outside response. It was purely serendipitous that, many years ago, my blog was discovered by a reader who linked me and invited others to come. I did not do that.

And for a few years, people came and read and conversed. Some of us met and became friends. Some of us did not. But that's not why I wrote.

I wrote chiefly because for most of my life I have felt that my words were unimportant. I thought I would be mocked or disbelieved or, worse, ignored. I thought there was nothing I could say that was good enough for anyone else to hear. I thought I did not matter.

When I began writing here, I had one reader. He checked in with me every day for many months. And then he left. At that point there were others checking in and reading and talking to each other. Some of them told me they appreciated my willingness to share my story. They found it inexplicably helpful.

Probably they said those things because in those days I was not depressed. I was rarely sad. I was a fighter. I was delightful and funny. And then they left, too.

That was okay. My blog was certainly fun with their additions and their presence, but I never lost sight of why I was writing. I was proving to myself that even if my words meant nothing to anyone else, they were important to me. I had a voice. I was a person.

So when I became sad, when my life became overwhelming, when I was no longer funny or delightful or entertaining, I kept writing. It made me feel that I still existed, and I knew I did because I could come here and see that on a day previous to the one before, I wrote and published something. And it really didn't matter if anyone else saw it. I saw it.

I have been in terrible, deep depression for more than a year now. I talk about it here and nowhere else. I have learned that terribly, deeply depressed people repel others, even those who love them.

My friend who used to chide me for unwriting my posts has been saying for months now, "We should talk. We don't talk anymore." But when I send a text, pressing him to schedule a time, he responds with a heart emoticon but makes no commitment.

Another friend sent me a text on Mother's Day. My phone didn't recognize her number. I asked who it was. We texted back and forth for about an hour, then I said, "We should go to lunch! I haven't seen you in forever!" And the texting ceased. No answer. Nothing.

Jeff tells me he wants to spend time with me. I say, "Yes! When? Come to dinner on Sunday!" Crickets. No more messages from Jeff.

Three other people have created similar stories with me during the past six months. And I am understanding that lip service happens because they used to love me in the days before I was terribly, deeply depressed. They still want to love me. They still want me to remember who they are. They just don't want to spend time with me. It's hard to spend time with the terribly, deeply depressed person.

Even people who spend time with me regularly in spite of the depression, I believe, do not feel comfortable with me. Few people touch me anymore. Darrin say's I'm giving off the Keep Your Distance vibe again. I don't mean to. I would love to be hugged by someone because they want it, not because I seem to need it so badly. I would love to sit close enough to someone that they could put their arm around me or at least let our arms touch occasionally. I would love to have my hand taken and held simply because we care about each other.

The process of existing through terrible, deep depression has made me feel less than human in many ways. Today I saw a picture of someone I know doing something fun. Under different circumstances I think I might say, "Hey! That looks fun! We should do something fun, too!" Instead, my brain simply said, "That looks fun. I'm glad they're having fun." The end. No need for connection. No desire to reach out. It felt like looking at a page in a magazine, recognizing someone I once knew, and understanding that their life was no longer connected to mine. This is happening more and more often with more and more people to whom I used to feel inextricably bound.

Terrible, deep depression. I tried to talk with someone about it. Apparently, they have pills for terrible, deep depression. She said it like I would, of course, not know anything about medication. I tried to explain that I react to psychotropic drugs adversely. Well, clearly, she said, I haven't tried all of them. No. I haven't. But drugs belong to different families. I've tried something from most of the families. Well, was her simplistic response, maybe I just need to try something different.

She's right, of course. I do. But when one is already terribly, deeply depressed, dabbling with medication that could, and probably will, make me terribly, deeply, suicidally depressed seems unappealing. It's all in my head, of course. I'm just making excuses probably. Maybe I really don't want to get better.

Don't want to get better? Why would anyone ever WANT to remain terribly, deeply depressed? Why? It's not like I'm getting any mileage out of it. I don't talk about it outside of this place. I spend my life pretending I'm the happiest, most amazing person anyone could meet. How could I ever prefer pretense and solitary misery to getting better?

I know. It's a mystery. Probably I should just get better.

In the meantime, I'm finding myself becoming at peace with lack of connection. It's an inevitable consequence of being depressed for so long. For about eight months I fought against it. I reached out to anyone who would listen. I tried to talk about it with people closest to me. I devised ways to spend time with people, trying to create new memories, pretending all of that was helping. But what I felt was that I was doing a whole lot of work to be with people who were happy to humor me, but wouldn't really miss me when I was gone.

Feelings are not necessarily reality. But these feelings are very difficult to shake when one is terribly, deeply depressed. And, honestly, I don't know what to do anymore. I think, probably, anyone who used to love me doesn't know either, hence the lack of response when I request any interaction beyond a text or a Facebook comment. And I'm teetering here between wanting to weep at the sadness and unfairness of it all, and just letting it all go and allowing the chips to fall where they may. Am I worth fighting for? I just don't know anymore.