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Sunday, October 31, 2010


It used to be my favorite holiday. Christmas couldn't hold a candle to it.

One year I saved a large appliance box and it became a "shoe" for The Old Woman (me). "So many Children" (dolls) peeped through cut out windows and swung from the eaves. I won first prize in the costume contest.

I was a ballerina, a gypsy, a cat, a ragdoll, the Snow Queen (my year of being enthralled with Hans Christian Anderson--no one had a clue who I was--I was assumed to be some sort of glittering ghost), a hobo, and of course, a witch. All my costumes were designed by me...

...and made by my mom.

She would always tell me my costume couldn't be made in the way I conceived it; then she would make the impossible happen. Halloween is inextricably entwined with my mother.

My mother has always loved Halloween. She carved pumpkins, read us special spooky stories, made caramel apples, hosted parties, and took us trick-or-treating. She also made taffy or some other specialty candy each year. And she dressed up. I don't remember her characters, but I remember being in awe of her ability with make-up.

And after my twelfth year, I stopped celebrating Halloween in the same way. I didn't wear a costume again, ever. I wouldn't attend parties. I said the holiday was stupid.

When my children came, I tried to enjoy Halloween with them, but their costumes were usually purchased on clearance the year before, any parties they went to were hosted by their schools, and Darrin took them trick-or-treating.

This year, as always, I will not wear a costume. We've made no special plans for celebration. I have a rehearsal tonight.

However, this year is different. For the first time since thirteen-year-old Samantha began the process of blocking out anything connected with her mother, I am remembering. I'm remembering my mom sewing a blue tutu for her three-year-old ballerina; spending hours spray-painting, and cutting, and taping, and gluing a box into a shoe; stuffing a cat's tail and pinning it to my behind (reminding me not to swing it too hard or I might lose it); painstakingly putting green paint and blackened eyes on my face as I wiggled and sighed and wished for the make-up session to end; helping me learn to pull taffy; reading my favorite scary poem for the thousandth time; sorting through my candy to be certain it was safe...

And through it all, I remember her laughing, happy, clearly enjoying herself. I remember loving her.

My mom has continued to celebrate Halloween each year. Her celebration was smaller last year, and this year, as she has battled breast cancer and recovered from two bouts of chemotherapy. But she still puts out her decorations, wears her Halloween sweat shirts, and fills her enormous Halloween basket with candy (most of which she will eat, herself).

Someday, maybe I will celebrate again, and I will remember without tears.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So Now What?

It is the nature of PTSD to undermine the security and self-worth of the host.

Yes, I know it's a mental disorder, not an assailant. I maintain my belief in that first sentence.

One of the most pernicious effects of PTSD, in my case, is that is permeates my interactions with people I care about, reminding me that no one can be trusted, and balancing that belief with potent memories of countless moments when my worthlessness was screamed at me by my mother. It confuses me; cripples my ability to sort through nuances, sending doubt raging to the surface when positive comments are directed at me. I'm distracted by my need to disregard the denigrating thoughts and memories, while simultaneously trying to ascertain if those positive comments are authentic, or some weird sarcasm I do not understand.

I remember a time when I was trying to explain to someone I loved, why this process is exhausting and why it wears me down as nothing else can. I recalled how for brief moments, I sometimes cannot separate reality from fantasy, and memories feel more real than anything that is currently happening. I talked about how fear infuses my closest relationships, often blocking my ability to accept or feel love for people I adore. I told of my constant vigilance, how I am constantly assessing my interactions and length of contact with other people so that I won't become bothersome or too needy. And I ended by explaining how all this serves to undermine my self-confidence, and sometimes wreaks havoc on what should be stable healthy relationships.

My friend responded by telling me different ways I could circumvent the process, and let me know that I'm certainly in control of all this--I just need to be stronger (my interpretation of, "...I'm sure, in time, you'll learn how to stop feeling all those things")...

I don't try to explain anymore.

There are few things worse, in my opinion, than reaching out to someone, allowing them to know of the things that ache, hoping for support and understanding, only to have confirmed that, yes, I am a freak and this is all getting in the way of having anything close to a "normal" relationship.

I don't have normal relationships.

Therapist is trying to help me figure out how to approximate "normalcy" in my relationships.


I told him I am hurting no one. I have no co-dependent relationships, my marriage is solid and healthy, and I'm comfortable with the level of contact I have with coworkers, friends, and family, for the most part. He said I was lying (my interpretation of, "Sam, I think there's more--and it's based on your feelings about the relationships, not on what those relationships look like to other people.").

My feelings about the relationships...

I don't even know what that means.

My feelings change based on the number and intensity of PTSD symptoms I'm feeling. One day I may feel comfortable and safe in a friendship, and the next I'll be aggravated because I haven't had an opportunity to talk to the collaborator of that friendship for...oh...I don't know...two hours? There are times when I feel loved and valued, and a moment later I'm horribly afraid of the person I'm with and I don't want to talk to them ever again. There are days when I'm so bereft of self-worth, certain I cannot be loved or valued by anyone, when a friend will contact me online and I sit, weeping, because I'm an idiot like that, but also because in some inexplicable way, that person just saved my life.

And I can't figure out how to think rationally about this whole process because, clearly, I'm irrational.

How can I possibly be expected to interact in healthy, normal ways with people when I can't even figure out what's going on in friendships I've had for over four years now?

This is going to drive me crazy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It seems, after digging for four years, we have reached the dregs.

Therapist: So--you don't believe the problem is a control issue.
me: Nope.
Therapist: Well, it seems likely, to me that it is.
me: I know. But it's not.
Therapist: Why do you think it's not?
me: I don't try to control my relationships--any of them. Ask Darrin. Ask my kids. I state what I think is correct. I tell people if I believe there is a problem. But ultimately, I acknowledge from the beginning that people belong to themselves, not to me. Sometimes they do things that make me unhappy, but that's a risk everyone who has relationships takes. 
Therapist: So, what do you feel, exactly, that's making you want to pull away from people.
me: I told you--I feel that I'm harmful. Me. Something about me will hurt them. I'm not good for people. That's the core feeling I can't seem to squash away anymore.
Therapist: What does your head tell you?
me: That I'm crazy.
Therapist: What else?
me: know, once there was a person who trusted me to spend time with her children. They were lovely--I adored them. They spent time in my home. We went shopping and on trips and made dinner and talked and went on walks. Their mother told me she loved letting her kids be with me. She said I "build them." Those were her words. I can't tell you how much it meant to hear that from someone. I am a person who builds--not one who tears down or harms in any way--that's what I'd like to think of myself. 
Therapist: So now you know what at least one person thinks of you.
me: Yes. But then she ruined it.
Therapist: How?
me: She wrote me a note. She listed all the things she admires about me. Then she said in her mind, I'm almost perfect. I knew then that she doesn't know me. She doesn't see me--and she doesn't want to. I'm not a real person to her. I don't trust people who fabricate things they wish to see in others.
Therapist: She went over the top?
me: A bit. 
Therapist: Do you still spend time with the family?
me: No.
Therapist: Why not?
me: I don't want to.
Therapist: Because you no longer believe you "build"? You're afraid of harming them?
me: Probably.
Therapist: Sam, this is old stuff you're feeling.
me: I know.
Therapist: When was the last time you purposely hurt someone?
me: I'm not sure. It was probably Darrin. Sometimes I'm not careful because I assume he has to forgive me when I behave badly. I'm certain I've said things calculated to hurt him when we've had disagreements.
Therapist: Does that happen often?
me: Not really.
Therapist: Do you remember the last time you did that?
me: No.
Therapist: Probably because it's a very rare occurrence. 
me: Well, maybe. I don't like hurting people. It's ugly.
Therapist: Sam, here's what I think--feel free to disagree with me (I said that because I know you'll let me know if you think I'm wrong):  I think these feelings are a) stemming from a long time ago when you didn't receive feedback from your parents letting you know you were amazing and worthwhile and they loved you unconditionally, and b) defensiveness/insecurity within your relationships. 
me: The first I agree with. The second...well...I'm not seeing the correlation.
Therapist: It's a form of subconscious sabotage. If you allow yourself to feel those feelings that you're "bad" for people, if the relationship goes south, you have a built in reason for that happening. You place the responsibility for the failure on your shortcomings and absolve the other person of all guilt.
me: Okay.
Therapist: But you're forgetting that relationships are the responsibility of both parties. You can't just decide that a relationship will fail because, ultimately, you're not healthy for another person. That person might disagree with you. In the other person's mind, you might be someone who brings joy and unconditional love they rely on. They might need you when they're feeling down, or want to spend time with you just because it's fun. No matter what you believe about yourself, there's another person who is building his or her own beliefs about you and about being with you.
me: I know this. I just don't know how to make the feelings go away, resolve them, understand them.
Therapist: Well then, I guess it's time for a therapy assignment.
me: I hate therapy assignments.
Therapist: I know. You're very good at them, though.
me: You're hilarious.

I'm not going to say what the assignment is. I've spoken to one person about it--Ambrosia. She gave me some amazing feedback and food for thought, and taught me a new perspective that's much less self-centered than my original one. But the assignment makes me want to throw up. I don't like it at all, and I'm even more upset that Therapist named names and gave me specific tasks linked to specific people. He's always allowed me latitude to choose the person I'll work with, if that's required by the assignment, and let me decide how I'll go about eliciting the help I need. Not this time.

When I protested, Therapist just grinned and said, "I think you'll do just fine." NOT HELPFUL!

Sigh...but I know I need to do this.

I think I'll go to bed now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Carving Pumpkins

I detest this particular festivity.

Conversely, Darrin loves it. He loves scooping out the pulp, separating and washing the seeds, and baking them while he carves the pumpkin. Therefore, if it happens on Halloween, it is exclusively Darrin's job.

This year Tabitha decided she was the most deprived child in the United States because her mother has never carved pumpkins with her. So Darrin took her shopping and he and Tabitha brought home two good-sized pumpkins and announced we would be carving them for Family Night.


I blame DJ. He has purchased his own jack-o-lantern fodder each year since he gained a disposable income and this year was no exception. Two weeks ago, his latest creation found its way into my house, inspiring Tabitha's deprivation complaint. Darrin was only too ready to find pumpkin-carving solidarity.

I took a break from work, made dinner and did not complain.

I also did not join the carving people.

Adam was intrigued. He and Darrin began scooping out the stubborn pulp. After thirty seconds Adam exclaimed, "There has to be a better way!"

Darrin assured him there was not. Adam tried an ice cream scoop, a melon baller, six different spoons, three sets of tongs, and my pastry blender before he conceded that Darrin's way was the best. They finished cleaning the pumpkins, then Darrin worked on the seeds while Tabitha and Adam designed their masterpieces. I wandered about the kitchen creating a new chocolate-type treat in order to avoid looking like I was dodging the pumpkin activity. I'm certain I fooled no one.

Tabitha marked a face on her pumpkin and began slashing. In moments it was clear that the intended face was going to become something different. She didn't care and continued hacking the squash.

Adam disappeared to his computer, searching for something unique. I followed him, vetoed several patterns, and finally said, "Just choose one--it's getting late." He chose one.

I finished the experimental chocolate treat and wandered into the pumpkin art studio which used to be my dining room. Tabitha was finished. Two gaping holes made huge eyes in her pumpkin, while the mouth curved across more than half the width. She was laughing. I left her to find a candle and joined Adam by his pumpkin. He had drawn an intricate design across the front, hollowed out some small holes for the eyes and a slim slashed mouth. He carefully finished carving the openings, then decided he wanted "teeth" (basically, he wanted to carve off the orange layer of the pumpkin skin, leaving the white part for jagged teeth). He couldn't figure out how to do it, however. Once again, a pile of my cooking utensils began to appear on the table--used once and discarded.

When Adam disappeared into the kitchen to search for yet another selection of possible pumpkin peelers, I took a discarded flat serrated knife, scored around one of the teeth, and began to remove the orange part. By the time Adam returned, I had finished the top teeth and was beginning the bottom row. He yelled at me to stop before I ruined his pumpkin, then watched for a moment, then collapsed into his chair, laughing, because he'd not even tried using the knife. I handed it to him. He grinned at me and handed it back, saying, "You finish. You're the genius."

I ignored his gibe and made twelve more teeth for him, removing a small portion of my own skin in the process.

This was Monday. Yesterday afternoon, Adam spent an hour posing his pumpkin and taking pictures. Eventually, he cut out two of the teeth so he could fit an apple in the mouth--more pictures, naturally. His next step in the scenario is to buy a miniature pumpkin, put it in the mouth and call it a cannibal.

I had no idea there was such endless fun connected with this activity...nor did I know Adam could be so easily entertained. He's never shown signs of this before. In the meantime, I'm still cleaning up the carving party aftermath. I'm quite certain I'll never find half my kitchen utensils. They've been eaten by the pumpkins.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays

The past few days have been rainy and blustery--good autumn weather, I suppose. But we've had glorious weather throughout most of October which has allowed our leaves to deepen in color before freezing or blowing away, as often happens.

My crab apples have darkened to a deep red and the leaves are intensely gold. I found DJ sitting on my porch yesterday when I came home from church. He stopped by to join us for dinner and decided to spend a moment just looking at the tree. This is truly my son.

When DJ lived with us, his bedroom window was level with the top of the crab apple tree. It was an annual event each spring for the two of us to open the window, breathe the scent of the blossoms, listen to the humming of bumblebees, and watch the fuzzy insects as their bright yellow and black striped bodies moved about the fragile white blossoms. DJ said yesterday that he's never seen the tree like this. Usually the apples blow down in a fall windstorm and the leaves freeze before they can completely finish turning. I sat with him for awhile, quietly looking at the tree.

My life, lately, has seemed to be comprised of accepting truth. Each day I discover more of who I am and watch changes take place based on that discovery. Some of what I find brings me shock or shame. Other discoveries bring relief. Still others are agonizing; painful to the point that I cannot breathe. The life changes I've experienced during the past four years have been rapid and numerous. There are moments when I'm unsure of who I'm becoming--who I am. I have said repeatedly, "I'm still me." I don't know what that means anymore.

I have finally admitted to myself that most of my days are overshadowed by fear. I'm afraid of the future, of the changes inside me, of the discoveries I find. But I'm also afraid of people, and relationships, and loving. This doesn't mean I will turn from those things. One thing that has not changed and probably never will, is that fear does not dictate my actions. It lingers in the background causing discomfort and insecurity, but it's just a part of the scenery, not a driving force. Still, I don't quite know what to do with it. I find that fear particularly bothersome when I'm unable to manage PTSD symptoms successfully (love that word--triple double letters).

Therapist warned me this would happen. He said I was moving rapidly through stages that perhaps ought to have more resolution time, and eventually the "structures" I have come to rely upon would feel unstable and perilous. Of course, he was correct.

Not quite a year ago I asked Therapist to do some self-identity work with me. He told me no--and for good reasons. I was too worn down and I was not eating or sleeping as I should. I'm still tired and not doing well in the eating/sleeping department, but I can feel things changing. I will see Therapist in December. I think I'll ask him again--and I think this time he'll say yes.

In the meantime, I've been asking a lot of questions to those stalwarts who seem to love me no matter what I'm feeling; the people who forgive me when I'm confused or sad or angry or just grumpy. There are moments when I'm talking with them and I wonder why they're still here--and not just here, but still caring and close even when I feel all I ever do is repeat myself, throw pity parties, and grind through life joylessly.

Except...that's not true.

I have moments, certainly, when I feel blackness and pain, but most of the time my life is filled with depth and beauty. I'm filled with wonder as I watch my daughter become a lovely young woman, as I see Adam absorbed with his next computer project, as I sit on the porch with DJ, just looking at the gold leaves dotted with dark red, overripe crab apples...

At some point I will figure out who I am. In the meantime, I think you should stick around to meet that person. I have a feeling we're going to like her.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

About Movies

Okay-- I understand all the reasons why people love the movie, Inception. And I didn't dislike it. But I also didn't walk out of the theater with my mind blown. Nor do I wish to see it repeatedly. Once was plenty. 

Now, please remember I'm not mocking anyone who adores the movie and wishes to see it a thousand times. That's your prerogative. Given that, please don't press me for all the reasons I'm not in love with it because I think it's lovely that you find the movie fascinating, and anything I might say that isn't devout praise will be construed as criticism--not my intent. 

It's important to note that when I go to movies I'm never drawn into them. I'm very aware there is a screen and I'm often distracted when the actor's name keeps insinuating itself on my brain each time the character name is spoken instead. I'm sincerely impressed with a fine acting job--but always completely aware that it is acting. This does not decrease my enjoyment in any way, it simply means that my experience is different from yours, and therefore I will not react as you do.

Also, I hated Dead Poet's Society. I know, that has nothing to do with this discussion, but as long as I'm talking about movies, I just thought I'd mention it.

Oh, one more thing: If you drag me to Inception a second time, and I've been working from 5:30 a.m. - 1:00 a.m. for the past five days, please do not act amazed if I sleep through much of the movie. It's dark and I'm sleepy and I've seen it all before. 

The end.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Conversation with Therapist

me: Before I go, I need to tell you something and you can tell me what you think if you want to, but I don't want to do any assignments in conjunction with this. I'm just telling you.

Therapist: Okay, what's up?

me: Something is happening with my feelings about my mom. Remember how I said every time I think of something good about her, I follow it up with memories of how she messed me up?

Therapist: Yes; that's a normal thought pattern.

me: I know. But lately that's changed. I've been remembering the good things...and that's all.

Therapist: For example?

me: My mom read to me every day when I was little--sometimes several times a day. When she noticed I was reading on my own, she took me to the library a couple of times weekly. 

Therapist: How old were you?

me: It was the summer before I turned four. I thought if I could read I should be able to go to school. It didn't happen. I was heartbroken when my sister got to go without me for one more year. But my mom made worksheets for me with counting and addition games, and crossword puzzles; and she bought me a word search book.

Therapist: And she read to you every day?

me: Every day.

Therapist: What else?

me: She wanted me to have her wedding ring. I don't know if she still does, but I remember one time we were alone and she said, "Sam, do you like my wedding ring?" I told her I did, and she said that when I was very small I would sit in church quietly looking at the ring, sometimes touching it and moving it so the stones caught the light. Then she told me when she died she wanted me to have it, and asked if I would like that. I think I was ten. I said yes, but I was more preoccupied with the idea of her death which I hadn't really thought about before, than I was with the wedding ring.

Therapist: Why do you think she chose you, out of all your siblings?

me: I don't know. 

Therapist: It's a good thing to think about.

me: Maybe. But the reason I'm telling you this is because I'm remembering lots of things now, but the memories of my mom are no longer followed by sadness or resentment. She did some reprehensible things. She did a great deal of harm to me. But that's not the complete picture. I know it was hard for her to hold me or touch me, but she did other things that were helpful and caring. I think she wanted to love me. 

Therapist: I think she loved you.

me: Well, you can't really know that.

Therapist: Actually, I think I can.

me: Why?

Therapist: I know you. I've known you for more than four years. I know her, too. I think the timing of your birth displaced a whole bunch of natural emotions. I think she knew she should feel more for  you, and she tried. She just had too many needs of her own that weren't being filled, she was grieving, and she grew up in a situation where physical nurturing and love just didn't happen. She didn't know how to recover from that, and you bore the brunt of it. But Sam, most adults are very much like the children they used to be. I'm guessing you--at the core--are still the same person as the little girl your mother didn't know how to love. People are naturally drawn to you, and I'm guessing they were when you were a child, as well. I think your mom loved you. I think she grieved because something not only stopped her from expressing that love, but drove her to mistreat and abuse you. It's inexcusable, and hard to understand, but it happens.

me: I don't know. I think maybe you're right, but I don't want to spend time on that because I'll talk myself out of it. Instead, I think I'm just going to let the memories happen. I'm not going to dwell on them or try to insert meaning into them. I'm going to experience those memories, appreciate what they tell me, and not weigh them on any values scale. I think this is important. And when I'm ready, I think I'm going to tell my mom what I've remembered.

Therapist: Why will  you tell her?

me: I need to thank her. 

Therapist: Samantha, this is why, even if you're thirty minutes late for your appointment, I'll make time for you.

me: Because I'm going to tell my mom about my memories?

Therapist: No. Because you allow yourself to heal, and you share that process with me. You've done it many times in the past few years. But then you take it a step further. You allow others to heal with you. Do you understand how your gratitude and acknowledgement of the good things your mother has done for you will help her heal, as well?

me: But that's not why I'm doing it.

Therapist: No. Which makes it authentic and believable. You're doing it because somewhere inside you believe it will be helpful to you. But some of my other clients believe it's more helpful to be confrontational, to repay hurt with hurt. You, on the other hand, wait until you can repay hurt with dignity and kindness. And because of this, I believe you will be completely whole again--soon.

me: I can't think about that right now.

Therapist: Someday, Sam, I hope you will. When you can recognize you're rather extraordinary and someone who will go out of her way to help others--especially when you've been hurt by them--not just because it's the right thing to do, but because you care deeply about them--I think then you'll start to understand why those feelings that you are ultimately "bad" for people are not accurate.

me: Well, for now, I just want to remember. I don't want to figure this out yet.

Therapist: Did you hear what you just said?

me: I know. It's not what I normally do. I would usually be trying to research and write things down and scrambling to understand everything. But this was a little bit unexpected. I don't remember a time when I've been able to think about my mom without feeling pain and resentment. I think I just need to sit with it for awhile.

Therapist: I think that's a good idea. And don't try to figure this out either: I'm proud of you. 

me: Okay.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

There is no logical progression to this post, and yes, it's all about me.

I've always had a tradition of making time for people. Even when I had a pressing obligation--people came first. Therapist believes this was my way of compensating for not having something similar in my life. He believes many of my habits are in place to negate needs which weren't met or nurturing which was not received. He keeps pointing out that those habits won't solve any of my deep-seated issues, but rather, serve to build that delusion that I am not like my mother. So...I am protective of those I love, I try to help those who seem sad or lonely, I will often put another person's needs before my own, and I avoid sharing my problems...which all seem like very good qualities.

Therapist says they are, but I use them to avoid what I really need. When I immerse myself in those habits, I don't address the fact that I'm giving what I need to receive--thus the deficit inside me increases. I pointed out that if I choose wisely, what I give will be reciprocated and he conceded the fact. But, he said, even if that's so, I'm subconsciously aware of my ulterior motives and also understand that it's a trade-off, I'm simply maintaining the current imbalance, not feeding my needs.


I think they're stupid and I should not have them. They're inconvenient and painful and I don't like it when Therapist tells me the consequences of not addressing them.

When I was staying with Tolkien Boy, I told him I had not had any night terrors for a few days. He said, "That's wonderful! I think it needs to be celebrated with a hug!" (I'm not kidding--he really said that.) I remember feeling astonished and having this lightening-fast inner interrogation:
"Why would he want to hug me?"
"Wait--why does this make him happy?"
"Do people hug spontaneously like this?"
"Do I even know how to do this?"
"Someone cares that I don't have night terrors?"
"How can I make this make sense to me?"
Then I agreed, stood up and hugged him, hoping he didn't notice that something so NORMAL was causing me to have a tiny nervous breakdown. The experience has been been bothering me now for nearly three months.

I realized during my therapy session that it bothers me because it seemed completely foreign. It's not like I've never been hugged before, or shown affection. I have a couple of friends who often hug and kiss me unexpectedly. I think it was linked to the fact that my flashbacks/nightmares/night terrors belong exclusively to me and I have a firm belief that I am the only one who actually cares/obsesses about them and my loved ones tolerate me when I talk of those things, but they don't really understand why it's such a big deal to me.

I've tried to explain that when I have a flashback, it feels as though I'm actually experiencing whatever occurs in that moment. I feel that I've been raped once again. I feel the physical pain as if it actually happened, and the emotional trauma, and the horrible, aching loneliness...and my body still bleeds sympathetically for no explainable reason. I'm a medical mystery. Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to regroup, to not cry, to continue whatever it is I was doing before the flashback occurred. But even in the explanation, I feel that I'm imparting trivial information. I haven't been raped again--this is all in my crazy head, and I assume my listener is bored or even aggravated that I'm talking about the same thing again.

To have no night terrors for a few days, when I had been bothered by them for months, was a beautiful relief for me, because I alone know what they are--what they do to me. To have it seem joyful to another person was incomprehensible. I didn't know how to react. Part of me still does not.

The funny thing about all this: I've had no flashbacks now for two and a half months. None. And Darrin tells me I've had nightmares, because he's had to calm me or wake me up, but I don't remember this which means the dreams might be terrifying, but they lack the real-life quality which triggers pain and intense sadness. For me, this is a huge victory. And I've been marking the time, hoping this will last, but in the process I've been wishing for someone to say, "That's wonderful! I think it needs to be celebrated with a hug!"

Maybe this is me acknowledging one of my needs? I need to know this is important to someone besides me? I need to know people understand that the aftermath of rape is significant and painful? I need to know it's okay for me to grieve when I experience a flashback?

I don't know. Maybe I just need a hug.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today we have sunshine--that's a good thing.

Yesterday was... bad.

I haven't had a really awful day for awhile; long enough for me to have forgotten what it feels like. Here on my blog I'm fairly blunt about the things I think and feel, and I believe it presents a rather dark picture of who I am. If you've met me, if you know me, you also know I'm prone to giggling (even when inappropriate), I'm a fairly positive person (even about the most negative things), I rarely wallow in misery (and if I do, I don't stay very long), and I expect the best of people and situations (but I do maintain realistic perspective).

However, it's good for me to have a place to think about difficult, sad, or serious things I encounter. And I have to be honest; I have bad days sometimes, I feel sad and lonely often, I don't always bounce back from difficulties as I'd like to.

Yesterday was packed from 5:00 a.m. until I finished work around 11:00 p.m. I didn't even have time to run (which may account for some of my difficulty in managing PTSD symptoms). I began working at 5:30 a.m. I went to a meeting for Tabitha at 8:30 a.m., then I took Adam to the dentist following that meeting at 9:30. Adam's appointment was over at 11:00. Adam and I ran to the store to grab some necessities (I was gone over the weekend and Darrin's idea of necessities, and mine, do not always agree), and met Darrin at noon. He took the kids to lunch while I worked a couple of hours. I had a finance meeting at 2:00 p.m, another meeting at 3:30 p.m. and then returned home to fix dinner with Darrin at 5:00 p.m.

Tabitha and Adam had a concert. Around 6:30, Tabitha began to show signs of panic. She and Adam were to be at the school by 7:00 p.m. Tabitha's hair wasn't perfect, her uniform skirt didn't fit correctly, she couldn't find her stockings, the cummerbund kept slipping, the bow tie was too small for the shirt collar, she hated her teacher, the choir sucked, she was 7:00 it was obvious that the signs of panic were escalating into a full-blown panic attack and nothing I could say or do would avert it.

Adam and Darrin left for the concert. Tabitha and I stayed home and discussed options:
Mine: It's still early--Tabitha could finish getting ready and go to the concert.
Tabitha's: It would take at least two more hours to fix her hair and make-up, and she's ugly anyway. She would like to punch her choir teacher. She should just go to bed for the rest of her life.

In the end, Tabitha admitted that she didn't hate her teacher, nor wish him bodily harm. At that point it was 7:45, and beyond any hope of performing in the concert. I told Tabitha to put on her pajamas, make some popcorn, and find a video she wanted to watch while I finished work. She chose Scooby Doo, so I spend the next hour and a half working to "Zoinks!" and "Jinkies!" and groovy cartoon from the 1960s.

Darrin and Adam came home around 9:00. Adam and Tabitha were in bed by 9:45, and I worked another hour and went to bed at 11:00.

Throughout all this, I was alternately crabby and frustrated and weepy as PTSD symptoms washed over me. I have to say, helping Tabitha through a panic attack is difficult when I'm at my best. Last night I wasn't sure I was going to be able to help her. The result of all this is that I was left feeling drained and exhausted, emotionally. Today I'm still tired.

Today I must address more of life's little curve balls. I am a financial advisor--and I'm very good at what I do. My own finances and credit rating are a mess. How can this be????

Well, one can't pay bills if the money isn't there. And while I've been working extra hours to help us through the loss of Darrin's income, I couldn't cover what he was making, so for nearly nine months I've been juggling the decision of which bills to pay and which to skip, which ultimately led us to a debt settlement company. However, debt settlement is a gamble at best--and we're not having great luck in that department either.

What this means is that my scarce spare time is eaten up with negotiations, paperwork and applications to help find a financial solution which will allow us to continue to pay rent and buy groceries. Fortunately, I do make enough money to cover most necessities--just not the debts we accrued when we gave birth to three premature babies, the price tag of which would buy us a very nice home with lots of bathrooms and bedrooms.

Today I will contact yet another debt collector who will tell me he needs to be paid now. This is in reference to our student loans, which a debt settlement cannot touch.

Darrin has been offered another job teaching business classes. The job pays very well and has great advancement and benefits. Ultimately, I don't believe he will get it. They do a very thorough background check, and companies routinely include a credit check when those are done. Ours, naturally, is shot. They won't consider that until January of 2010, I never missed a payment or paid late. They won't consider unemployment and loss of finances/benefits. They will simply look at the rating as it now stands, decide that Darrin is fiscally irresponsible, and therefore not fit to teach business courses at their school.

I have to go to work. Another day, another dollar...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Therapy: The beginning of the end?

The six weeks I alloted myself for therapy expired years ago. In fewer than five months I will have finished five years of therapy. I have decided this makes me an expert therapy client. I have no idea what that means, but I believe that much therapy deserves some sort of title. Perhaps I should post a contest to name my new designation. The winner can come with me to my next therapy session, meet Therapist, and go to dinner at Zupas with me. I'll buy.

I did not know:
1. I was so messed up.
2. Therapy hurts worse than I ever dreamed.
3. I'm great at finding answers, but I suck at knowing how to use that information in my life.

I know now.

My last visit was actually very productive. Therapist understood why I wanted to face withdrawal and drug dependency without his help. I was honest. I told him I still want to take the pain pills. I also told him I won't, which is also true. We talked about it for a few minutes, and Therapist pointed out that my decision to tune into pain was timely. Had I been in the place where I was able to push pain into the background, numb it, and ignore it, it's possible my back injury might have become serious. I would have continued running and doing other things would would have exacerbated the pinched nerve. I had said at my previous session that one reason I wished to feel pain was because I knew it signaled when the body was in distress or danger and needed attention. He reminded me of this. He also told me he believes I won't take steps to procure more pills, but insisted that if the need for those became overwhelming, I would promise to call him and alert a couple of other people so I could get the help I would need. I promised, but I won't need to call him.

Therapist believes I'm ready to finish what I began. I did all the external work and some of the internal stuff, as well. We discussed remaining deep-seated feelings and beliefs I still carry. Many of those are rooted in the parts of me I dissociated, which have now become Me. As they are part of me daily, I must now address those issues. They include the following:
1. Fear of gaining weight (even the smallest weight fluctuation sends me into a panic attack and I sometimes cannot eat for a day or two--which takes care of the problem but is unhealthy).
2. Belief that my presence is not good for people. This includes physical proximity, as well as verbal exchanges or simply personal association with me.
3. Inability to stop equating life changes with abandonment.
4. Inability to incorporate logical thought patterns into stressful situations which involve loved ones.

I'm amazed that as I type that tiny list, I suddenly feel exhausted.

I asked Therapist what friends do when they're both emotionally depleted and in need of support. He said that's why people usually have a fairly large pool of friends and family members, and why codependent relationships can become dangerous. The codependents end up draining each other of energy and joy, and do not have the reserves necessary to recover.

Therapist believes I will be able to overcome each item on my list, and more. I feel too tired. And the things he's asked me to do serve to increase my vulnerability to others. Should I ask the wrong person for help and receive an answer which further fatigues me, I'm not sure I'll wish to continue trying. I'm not even sure what I'm saying here. But I pointed out to Therapist that I'm drawing close to my fifth year of therapy. The friends who have been supporting me have been there for at least four years. That is a very long time to be a support person for someone who is needy. I think they're tired, too.

Therapist wanted to know if I'd asked my friends if they were tired. I haven't. I'll admit, I'm not excited to hear, "Yes. I'm a little tired. I care about you, but you're sort of high maintenance, and it doesn't seem to end. Ever." No one wants to know they've been sucking the life out of people, regardless of how pop culture currently reveres the vampire effect.

This was only one of a list of things Therapist assigned me to ask. And he assigned specific people to each question. I said this could take awhile. He shrugged.

I left my appointment a little bit concerned, but mostly feeling good. Three days later, I'm feeling too tired to even think about it. Maybe I'm finally getting old?

I suppose it could be the grey day we're having, or my horribly busy schedule, or the fact that my husband and kids are fighting the fall illnesses and seem to need more care than usual. Also, Darrin's been gone a lot lately.

I don't want to admit that I need support, either. Do I know I need it? Of course. But I still would rather not admit I need it.

Today I feel defeated. I don't know why. I think, maybe, it might have something to do with the fact that my rapist cousin sent me a friend request on Facebook over the weekend. I don't know why this upsets me. I'm not invisible or anonymous. I'm friends with many family members. If I'm on Facebook, he can find me and ask me to be his friend. It's just....I didn't think, even if he found me, he would send the request. He knows what he did to me.

I've been advised to get off Facebook, to remove myself from the Internet completely. I don't want to. He can't hurt me and I'm finished being afraid of him. I'm not going to allow his actions to dictate mine.

Still, I'm puzzled that this upsets me so much. I think part of me wants him to be sensitive to the fact that he nearly ruined my life. Silly. Why would I think someone who would spend three months raping an eleven-year-old would feel any sensitivity to me? I don't know what I was thinking...what I'm still thinking...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things I learned this weekend:

From AtP:
1. I miss him.
2. Probably the man with knee-length hair wasn't really wearing an emerald green graduation gown--but I think he was anyway.
3. I miss him.
4. Cookies are more fun to eat when I'm allowed to blow the powdered sugar on top at the person across the table.
5. I miss him.
6. Some friends will spend all day with me, but still come to visit me again the next day (I know, Ambrosia, they came to see you, but I'm pretending otherwise).
7. I miss him.

From Ambrosia:
1. My phobias are sort of ridiculous and funny.
2. It's okay for me to sit at the table and do nothing while someone makes me delicious brownies.
3. When I say I'm going to bed, I should do so, or I will start talking and not be able to stop--and 2:00 a.m. is too late for me to be up at night.
4. I don't always share how I feel about people and our relationships, and I need to if I expect the same in return.
5. It's okay if I don't consider her a typical girl--because she's not. She's extraordinary.
6. Everyone seems to have flawed parents. Imagine that!
7. I'm allowed to disagree but still discuss. It's lovely.

From Therapist:
1. I'm so much better than I was six months ago.
2. It's time for me to start doing assignments again.
3. Most of the assignments I have to do are the ones I've avoided because they make me feel uncomfortable or vulnerable or just stupid.
4. Even though I've done a ton of work, I still have a ways to go when it comes to my perception of myself based on words said to me during my childhood.
5. People care about me--it's time for me to allow that to feel positive and healthy.
6. Darrin is amazing and tolerates things which would frustrate or anger many people--and he must love me a great deal.
7. Appointments with me are a bright spot on Therapist's calendar--I think that's funny.

Also, I drove past Edgy's house and almost stopped to knock at his door--but I think he's not a just-drop-in-on-me kind of person. However, next time I might not care. I miss him, too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One day you wake up and realize you've been living life all along...

My home has changed dramatically in the past six months, and I'm not talking about the laundry mountain which seems to spawn itself since I began working a zillion hours weekly.

DJ and I had a heart-to-heart a few months ago. I told him he doesn't need to worry about me. Even when I'm in trouble, I'm still okay. I reminded him that I've been taking care of myself since I was a small child and that I'm fairly resilient, even when life seems to be sending challenges to me with every breath. He said he knew that, but that he wants to take care of me. I told him he can't. He walked away from our discussion, shoulders sagging, and I knew he was crying a little bit. I called him later, told him how much I loved and appreciated him--and hoped he understood that I need him to be independent, to take some time for himself. He said he knew that.

About a month later, DJ told me he had found a place where he wanted to live. He talked to me in an unfortunate moment when I was trying to manage stress from overwork and PTSD. I let Darrin give all the answers and continued to work. DJ moved out the week I was in Seattle. Adam and Tabitha both called me. Adam asked if it was okay if he cried. I said absolutely. Tabitha said nothing would be the same again. I said that was true, but it would be okay. I'm not sure she believed me.

Adam mourned more than I thought he would. I could hear him pacing the floor at night between his room and DJ's. I let him pace. A few days later he moved into DJ's room.

When we moved into our current home, Adam and Tabitha were 5 and 4 years old. Both were tiny kids and Tabitha refused to sleep alone in a bedroom. We put them in a room together, a toddler bed on each wall, and they stayed there for a couple of years. DJ took a small bedroom adjacent to Adam and Tabitha, Darrin and I slept on the lower level of the house, and we had a spare room that was extremely large and carpeted in the ugliest shade of orange I have ever seen. I used it as my office/work-out room.

When Tabitha turned 7 we decided it was time for her to stop whining about being alone. We moved Adam into my office--letting him know he would have to keep it clean because he was sharing it with me, and turned Tabitha's room into a girl haven. At this point, DJ had the smallest bedroom. I had offered to let him move; he declined, stating that he had plenty of space.

Eventually I moved completely out of Adam's room, leaving him with the most spacious bedroom in the house. Therefore, when he moved into DJ's empty room, I was surprised. In the process of moving, Adam threw away loads of stuff. He knew there would be no space in DJ's room (half the size of Adam's), and he was determined to move in there. He told me it made him miss DJ less to sleep in his room. Personally, I avoided DJ's old room. It reminded me he was no longer there and I was not planning to miss him more than I had to.

The orange room has remained empty. This has allowed us to make room for company when they drop in, but still feels odd. DJ comes for dinner a couple of times weekly, and sometimes takes Adam and/or Tabitha to lunch or shopping. He relies on me for nothing. I commented once that if he needed anything, we would be happy to help him. He laughed and told me I'd raised him well enough, he was pretty sure he'd be okay on his own. And he will be.

Darrin's father is talking of spending four months each year with three of his children. Darrin has invited him to stay with us during one of those four-month periods. Our ugly orange room will have a new occupant--one who is congenial, but no substitute for my DJ. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but my father-in-law has been through some recent emotional trauma and he needs us. I guess that's the most important thing.

But I still can't help feeling that having children is some cosmic joke played on us by God. We fall in love with them, devote our lives to them, live each day trying to teach and provide and care for those cute babies who grow into adults--and the sole focus of this is to get them to the point where they can leave us. It seems unfair, somehow. And I don't want my children living with me forever...I just don't want them to leave me behind...actually, I'm not sure what I want...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OR we could do something different!

I don't soapbox often for a couple of reasons:

1. I prefer to hear the opinions of others rather than share my own, which doesn't mean I agree with those opinions, simply that I'm interested in hearing them.
2. Most of the time I don't feel like dealing with the emotions stirred up when I speak about things that bug me. Those who are my "venting" buddies understand that when I'm really upset or excited, I become impaired. I either speak using obscure words which convey my meaning beautifully but which sometimes cause my friend to roll eyes or stop listening, make alphabetical lists of adjectives which do nothing to strengthen my position, or lose the ability to drive my car without endangering the lives of any persons within it.

However, today I am dragging out my box, dusting it off and standing tall.

I can't stand listening to one more well-meaning person talk about "...hate the sin, love the sinner..." and the resulting lists of reasons why some person is "good" but their actions are bothersome/loathsome/reprehensible.

Stop it.

You're using it as an excuse to not interact with someone deserving of love. Don't argue with me about this.

I have listened so many times as a person has spoken to me about someone he/she knows, it might be a old friend, a family member, or a new acquaintance. The virtues are extolled, and then I hear the list of reasons why such a person is not a good companion. I hear about promiscuity, drug abuse, drinking, homosexuality, coarse language, off-color humor or stories...

"I know he's a good person, but..."

Don't say that phrase to me anymore.

Here's the thing:

1. If you care about someone who is doing something that doesn't tally with your life values or ideals, talk about it with that person. I'm not suggesting you attempt to correct them. It's your word against theirs--and their choice of a path in life may be the best one for them. You are only allowed to judge if it's right or wrong in your own life. But you can let your loved one know that there are certain places where you're uncomfortable and offer alternative suggestions for spending time together. If that person knows you well, it won't come as a surprise and will probably be a welcome relief. You still want to be friends/family, you're not isolating the person or trying to punish behaviors or beliefs that don't align with your own, you recognize that you enjoy the company and affection of a person you love.

2. Don't talk about the situation with everyone you meet. That would be defined as GOSSIP, and people usually indulge in that because they're embarrassed about the social situation with their loved one and feel it must be explained to other self-righteous, judgmental friends, or because it's simply a habit (and if that's the case, perhaps it's a habit one could replace with habitual discretion--I promise, you won't regret knowing you are a trusted confidante).

3. Stop looking for all the reasons you must grant exceptions for your friend/family member in order to maintain a relationship with them. Instead, focus on how many times you laugh together and how many memories you've made. Notice their goals for the future and understand that there are still things that cause joy and sorrow in their lives.

4. Be honest. If your loved one wishes to discuss something you aren't comfortable with--say that! Don't pretend to be interested or concerned, and then avoid the person because you don't know what to say, nor do you wish to discuss the topic again.

5. Enjoy each other. Relationships are redefined constantly. Allow yours to grow and expand because of your differences. Allow your loved ones to decide their own boundaries--and don't assume you know where those are. A brother or sister who is no longer a member of the LDS church might still wish to be invited to a baby's blessing, for instance. Or that event might be something they feel is an abomination and such an invitation would not be welcome. Find out where that line is drawn and respect the feelings and beliefs of your loved one--just as you would hope your own would be respected.

6. Sometimes a relationship becomes toxic. In such a case, I would hope honesty would reign. Let your loved one know mutual interaction feels harmful--don't leave that person guessing, wondering why you're no longer a part of their life. If you don't state your reasons for needing space, you open the door for speculation, and I promise, regardless of how petty or insignificant your true reason is, the speculated one will become even more petty and spiteful.

Please stop hating the sin and loving the sinner. Stop it.

Instead, might I suggest this: "As I have loved one another."

Notice that Christ didn't say, "As I have hated the sin, but loved you...hate the sin and love one another."

Just imagine how that would warp the lovely song we sing from our hymnbooks if those extra words were included.

I suggest that the very idea of hating the sin is judgmental, haughty, and lacking in charity, because in order to hate it, we must see and define it, and in that act we place people on a sliding scale of worth. Our thoughts turn to the idea that as long as that person has that sin, we cannot welcome them completely into our lives. We seem to forget the list of our personal sins, many invisible, that we ought to, perhaps, disclose to the sin-laden person in question. After all, they ought to have equal opportunity to hate our sins while attempting to love us.

My point--if you're busy seeing the sin, you're not really seeing the person you love. And such a comment, "hate the sin, love the sinner" indicates a need for justification--an awkwardness in admitting we care about someone who might live or believe differently from ourselves. Shame has no place in real love.

How about this: When we talk of those we love--even those living lives wildly divergent from our own, wouldn't it be wonderful if we speak of all the reasons they bring us joy? What if the perceived "sin" was never mentioned? What if it was never even thought of because we're so busy being in love with people we don't have the energy to be judgmental or self-righteous?

My proposal: Stop hating the sin. Stop loving the sinner. love, serve ye one another....

...please... one another...

Monday, October 11, 2010

What I'm thinking about this morning.

I'm not funny anymore. At least, not like I used to be. For many years my sole focus in any conversation was to find the hook--something I could grab and bring to the foreground, something out of the ordinary and humorous which would cause people to laugh and relax and not notice what I was really seeing or thinking. Laughter, to me, meant safety; no personal questions, no meaningful disclosures, no uncomfortable closeness.

I was never mean or scathing--I made certain of that. There was enough caustic humor in my home growing up. It served to tear down each child and destroy any vestige of self-esteem one might be lucky enough to encounter. My point was never to belittle or destroy--simply to make people laugh, point out things that were funny, distract them. I would leave each social encounter allowing people to believe I was carefree, and delightful, and witty.

I once had a Laurel advisor who saw through me. I had disrupted our class for the millionth time, leaving my classmates in stitches. She waited until class was over and asked me to remain with her. I did, knowing she would reprimand me, tell me how hard she worked on her lessons, let me know I was robbing the other girls of their opportunity to learn...but she didn't. She told me instead what a wonderful talent I had, how clever I was, how much she loved having me in her much she loved me. She said she had always felt a closeness to me, a kinship/sisterhood. No one had ever said that to me before. Under normal circumstances, and with anyone else, I would have sensed manipulation. With her, there was none.

My Laurel advisor told me that when I made a comment during class, she knew I was really listening. She said she prepared her lessons, often, wondering where I would chime in and bring a lightness and joy to the class. Then she looked carefully into my eyes, not allowing me to turn away and said, "Sam, I asked you to stay because I believe the reason you try to make people laugh is because you're afraid to think too deeply--but you do. You're always thinking. Someday, maybe you should share those deep thoughts with the class, along with your fun humor. I think they...I think I would benefit from many of the things you think about."

She was completely wrong, of course. In those days all I thought about was how soon I could leave my home and how much I hated my mother. I would ponder whether wearing a size one meant I'd gained too much weight that month, and set a goal in my Personal Progress to lose fifteen more pounds--after all, I'd broken triple digits. 101 was too much for me to weigh. My mother would definitely have something to say about that. I pondered how to avoid the young men at school, and wondered if I'd have opportunity to gaze at or even sit by, the beautiful young woman I was currently in love with. I despised God, and often spent hours being angry that such a being was a part of the spiritual construct imposed on me. I buried myself in archaic literature and poetry. And through it all, I pushed back feelings of intense loneliness, refused to cry--ever, and wondered how to sleep at night.

I was surprised, however, at my Laurel advisor's repeated attempts to reach me. She shared much of her own life with me. She told me of joys and sorrows she experienced. She taught me to make Ukrainian Eggs, and asked me to accompany her when she sang. She called me her sister.

She was unsuccessful, of course. I wasn't ready to be seen by anyone. And quite honestly, I knew that if I told her any part of the things that made me ache, she could not help me. No one could.

And so, I continued to be funny, and happy, and delightful. And many people remembered me but never knew me, which only served to convince me that people don't really want close relationships, but are much happier entertaining one another and never connecting. But inside I knew I was dying. I couldn't decide if that was because of the things that had happened to me, or because I was floating through life alone, unable to let anyone close for fear of being discovered and rejected.

When I began seeing a therapist, I decided I wasn't going to do this therapy crap halfway. I'd read and studied. I'd learned about the importance of being nurtured as an infant, child, even adult. I had found information about the role of healthy touch in human development. I'd asked questions and researched human relationships and loneliness. And I had self-diagnosed myself as lacking in nurturing, touch deprived, and devoid of real human relationships outside of my relationship with Darrin. I had no friends with whom I felt I could just talk, none I could comfortably go to lunch with or ask to go for walks...which does not mean I didn't do those things, they just made me intensely uncomfortable and grateful when they were over.

I've made some huge changes in the past few years. I no longer feel intimidated about asking someone to spend time with me, and I'm okay if they're unable. I understand that they wish to--and that's important. The rejection factor is so far gone that when, occasionally, I'm made aware that someone really does not wish to interact with me, my only reaction is complete surprise--followed, naturally, by some regret and sadness, but I think that's healthy.

I've found places where touch does not feel frightening or intrusive, and I've purposely asked for or allowed that touch to happen. It's still not easy. I still have to remind myself no harm will come to me. There are still times when I don't want to be touched at all and the thought of it nauseates me. But those times are less overwhelming and I understand better why they are happening.

I've learned to speak of things that hurt or frighten me. I've stopped worrying if the person I'm conversing with is entertained or happy. There are times when I focus completely on me and what I need to say. That has NEVER happened before in my life. I don't know how this makes the people listening to me feel. I think, probably, my words feel self-indulgent and unnecessary. But I need to say them--I've needed to say them for a very long time--and now I do.

I no longer shy away from conversations which involve personal information. I answer questions about myself. I don't always volunteer information, but sometimes I do. I've become more interested in whether or not my interactions with others are balanced and healthy, than in how much information I can gather about the person with whom I'm speaking without sharing anything about myself.

All in all, I think I'm much healthier, emotionally, than I was a decade ago. But in the process of becoming so, I've ceased to be funny. I don't even care, really, about making people laugh. I don't think my Laurel advisor would recognize the person I've become. I know my siblings don't--and they don't really like the Samantha who no longer listens constantly or only entertains, if speaking. And this new position of balanced relationships, where others know as much about me as I know of them, feels precarious and temporary. I don't know how to change that.

I was noticing, as I read over my previous blog and even some very early entries of this one, that my writing, initially, was very concerned that I entertain anyone who might happen to land here. I don't seem to care about that anymore. Real is better than funny right now. I need this place to express what's happening to me, and I think it's okay if that's the direction this blog has taken.

I still laugh, although perhaps not as often.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My children are having a slumber party in my living room

Because they washed their sheets and they don't want to make their beds. So Adam is on one couch and Tabitha is on the other.

Tabitha: Are you so excited for our sleep-over?

Adam: Yes! We can stay up all night talking.

Tabitha: And I'll do your hair and you can do my nails.

Adam: I think I should do both your hair and nails.

Tabitha: And I'll do your make-up.

Adam: I don't need make-up. I'm just naturally beautiful...

(Tabitha and Adam lie on their couches and giggle)

Darrin: Be quiet or I'm going to send  you to your rooms!

Adam: You don't have any  room to talk. You're going to snore us awake tonight.

Darrin: I mean it!

Tabitha: He's grouchy.

Adam: That's because mom won't let him do her hair when they have sleep-overs.

Tabitha: They have sleep-overs every night.

Adam: Yeah...I think they're bored.

Tabitha: Maybe Dad would quit snoring so loudly if they had fun sleep-overs like us.

Darrin: Stop talking!

Me: I think I'll go make Adam's bed and sleep there. It's too noisy down here.

Darrin: I'll join you.

Me: No. You snore too loudly.

Tabitha: Could you two please be quiet? You're interrupting our "Telling of Intimate Secrets" time.

Adam: We get to do that?

Tabitha: No. I just want them to stop talking so we can sleep.

Adam: Me, too.

Me: Good night!

Adam: Did you remember to brush your teeth?

Tabitha: And put your clothes in the laundry?

Adam: And say your prayers?

Darrin: GOOD NIGHT!!

Me: It's your fault, you know. They were just fine till you came home.

Darrin: Good night.

Me: Good night.


For a short period of time during my late teens, I was a designated driver. My main group of friends were LDS, non-drinkers, straight-laced, short, I adored them because they were absolutely safe. But I had a subgroup of friends who were a bit different. In them I could find an outlet for some of the nastiness I carried with me even though I was a spectator, not a participant. I also found romance in that group, which allowed me to understand more about myself and what I wanted in my mate, and I probably won't say more about that.

The first group were my day friends. They all lived miles away from me and we spent weekend time during school trips, but rarely socialized outside school. The second group were my night friends. They made my parents nervous, so I often just didn't say where I was going or whom I was with, and let the parents believe I was enjoying the company of my first friend group. It was easier that way.

When with first friend group, I found myself watching every word I said, measuring possible responses, dressing carefully, being certain to say few things that might tell them about me. But they made me strive for excellence, challenged me, forced me to become more than I was. They recognized I was highly intelligent, they celebrated my talents, I felt supported and encouraged and included. Interestingly, my best friend was in that group, and I still stay in touch with more than one of those friends. 

When I was with second friend group, I felt at home. I was loved. They thought I was beautiful and sexy. I could say whatever I wished, wear what I felt comfortable in, and go places I would never enter on my own. We had conversations which challenged societal norms, dreamed of changing the world, and collectively hated our parents and God. They talked of things taboo in my structured, religious environment, and most were much older than I. They had graduated high school. Some were attending college. All were old enough to drink alcohol, and thus came about the happy arrangement that I was invited and included, romanced frequently, and asked to be the driver when they were all so hammered they couldn't even find their vehicle, which of course, was an old, beat up suburban.

This arrangement was fine with me, except for the fact that they all lost their minds when they were sloshed, and most of the guys in the group tried hitting on me or feeling me up while I was driving, and I had to make frequent puke stops. Occasionally, I would park the suburban a couple of miles from my house, leave the group in their comas, and walk home. Still, for me it was worth the pre-drunk time.

I was never interested in drinking with them, though they would have shared, regardless of my under-age status. Scent is something I register with intensity, and the smell of alcohol turned my stomach--especially the smell that emanated from the bodies of my friends after only one drink. I'm better about that now. I can smell a person who has been drinking without cringing, and if they've only had a couple of beers or some wine, the smell doesn't usually bother me. I can even sit close to them without feeling stress. 

Still, second group of friends continuously offered me beverages, seemingly unaware that they were illegally trying to get me drunk and in the process, potentially losing their chauffeur for the ride home. They never understood why I would gag when a glass was held to my face.

But there was a second, more pressing reason why I never drank. It was simple: I wanted to. I wanted to join them in their stupor. I wished to let the feelings that ate me alive be put to rest for one night. I was dying for sleep. I wanted to be just like them. And so--I didn't drink even once. I knew if I did I would be lost. I'd not be able to stop. I would want to be drunk all day, every day, to save me from the monstrous reality I lived. And I knew I would drink myself to death. I would lose all inhibitions, place myself in eminent danger, and ultimately seek for my own death. I knew this.

There was also a sane, rational part of me which knew I wouldn't find happiness there. Relief, certainly; acceptance, without doubt; but no happiness. That sane segment of my brain was also the part that told me I was flirting with danger when I hung out with a crowd of people in their 20s while I was still in high school, I shouldn't be dating or romantically involved with people that much older than I was, and technically, I shouldn't be in places where alcohol was being sold and consumed, as it was sort of illegal.

Eventually, a number of things happened which let me know that the people in second group of friends were not headed in the direction I was choosing. I had a long talk with someone with whom I was in love, which revealed some dependencies on both our parts which I deemed unhealthy and consuming. A classmate of mine in a similar social situation, died in an accident while driving home with drunk buddies. And finally, I took a long look at who I was, measured my potential, acknowledged my desire to become a street person drinking from a paper bag for the rest of my life--then I went to my mother who had been pressuring me to go to BYU when I graduated, and told her I would do that. I figured, at least in that place, I'd have a chance to "detox" from the friends I loved, I'd be far away from them, and I would learn to think without being influenced by my attachment to them. 

My high school counselor was unhappy with that decision. He had helped me get a full-ride four-year scholarship with side benefits to a more prestigious school, but he worked his magic and I ended up with a similar financial deal at BYU. He told me I was making a mistake. I looked him in the eye and told him that was the story of my life--and probably would continue to be. He said he was serious--I was throwing away the chance of a lifetime. I told him I wasn't sure what my lifetime would be, so taking chances with it, however wonderful they might be, was not currently an option. He said I would regret this decision for the rest of my life. I said it would have to stand in line, I was already regretting most of my life decisions and I wasn't even 20. He gave up.

When I left second group of friends, I actually sat down with them during pre-drinking time, and told them what I was planning. They were quiet. Then one of them, the one who always loved me most, said I was doing the right thing. I was different. I wouldn't be happy living as they did. I needed to find out what I wanted from life. Then they all said they were not thrilled with having to find a new designated driver, and that was pretty much the extent of the conversation. And then I left.

I'm thinking of this now because as I go through the necessary steps to become independent of the pain killers I love so much, I recognize that my life could have been different. About ten days ago, my father-in-law sat on my couch watching the evening news. A woman was being interviewed. She talked of spending $800 daily to buy prescription pain killers to feed her habit. She told about how that particular obsession became her entire life focus. She was grateful to be arrested and incarcerated so that she could finally be in a place where she could get help. 

My father-in-law shook his head. How could that be? he wondered. He just didn't understand, he said. It seemed odd to him that any person could become so involved with, and dependent upon a substance which would take away their reality. 

But I understand. I will, always. Sometimes I feel ashamed that I completely understand the motivation which drove this seemingly normal, mother of two, professional woman, to throw away her sane life in pursuit of forgetting and euphoria. I wish I didn't feel the fantasy and desire for escape. I wish I could figure out how to live my life--my beautiful life--untainted by after-effects of my past. I wish I was stronger.

Then I remember I'm still here. I'm going through withdrawal because I'm choosing not to live the life that would simultaneously release and ensnare me. I'm choosing this because I want to keep living. There has to be merit in that. Still...the shame persists...I don't know what to do with it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Maybe I should just go naked.

I believe every piece of clothing I own is lying on my bedroom floor. This is not by design but I've been meaning to get rid of some of those items I never wear and use the storage space more productively, so it seems silly to put the clean clothes some place, if I'm only going to move them later--hence, they've found a new home on my floor. Because I made the decision to purge my wardrobe two weeks ago and I've not had time to follow through, there is nowhere left to walk.

I thought I would do this chore while Darrin was gone. He's not fond of my cleaning frenzies which usually infringe on his relaxation times and involve me asking for help (often because I can't reach the highest shelves and I'm too lazy to find a chair or stool). But so far my life has exploded and I've prioritized--and the clothing adventure is at the bottom of the priority list.

The good news is that I don't have to wonder where to find a particular shirt or pair of pants. The bad news is I have to sort through the pile to find what I'm looking for. One would think I could just walk into my room and deal with the problem. Instead, I'm here blogging about it.

I think the reason for my procrastination is that I'm not sure what to keep and what to toss. You never know, I might need sixteen sweatshirts and hoodies this winter. And even though I never wear a particular pair of pants, someday I might want to. And I find it difficult to throw out the clothing which is lovely, obviously expensive, but far too large for me, which my mother-in-law insists on handing down. I've never worn a size twelve in my life. I can't even imagine what that would look like...trying to imagine it now...wondering how much clearance my hips would have as I walk through doorways...thinking I might be as wide as I am tall...deciding size twelve on someone as short as I am is a very bad idea...

Also, it's time to weed out the shoes. I have too many. But I love shoes. One would never guess this, given the amount of barefoot time I expend, but it's true. Shoes are my nemesis. I did a huge purge three years ago, and found more than 25 pair, and 10 pairs of flip flops in addition to the shoe wardrobe. I pared down to 10 pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of flip flops. I'm fairly certain that by now I've exceeded the pre-paring-down number.

The problem is that I have feet most would consider very small. I wear a women's size five, which coincides with a children's size three. This means I can find clearance shoes everywhere. I don't usually spend more than $20 on a pair, and that would be an exorbitant amount for me. I average $7 to $12 per pair (and I'm not talking about cheap shoes--these are designer amazing ones). Consequently, it takes very little time for me to fill my closet with a variety of delights. Darrin pointed out, however, that I have about five favorite pairs which I wear regularly. The rest I wear infrequently enough that they still look brand new. Also, I don't like it if the bottoms of my shoes get dirty, so I clean them all the time. Darrin says that's a waste of time because I walk in dirty places with them. I can't help it. I like them clean. This has nothing to do with the volume of my shoe collection, I just happen to be thinking about it.

That propensity I have to choose only a few items which I love to wear, extends beyond my shoes. I have zillions of shirts, but for the past year, I only want to wear white ones. I usually pair them with a colored tank top, but still--I feel compelled to wear a white over-shirt most of the time. And I have a couple of pairs of jeans which are amazingly comfortable, and I opt for those over any other pair of pants. So there is no reason for me to own twelve pairs of jeans if I'm only going to wear two. I honestly don't know where all those pants came from.

One other slight drawback to purging my closets right now:  The lovely pain medication which is now luckily, but lamentably, all gone, took away my desire to eat. So most of what I own is sort of big. I don't believe that will last, however. I think I'll start eating again tomorrow. But it's difficult to make good decisions about getting rid of the things that don't fit me if nothing I own does fit. I do need some clothes.

Tabitha has graciously offered to let me borrow her clothes. She doesn't understand that I have no desire to wear the clothing of a teenager. Besides, I'm certain that if I decided I wanted to wear something of hers, it would be the same thing she wanted to wear that day, and if it wasn't, it would become so the moment I put it on. It's just a bad idea to borrow clothes from one's daughter.

Darrin comes home on Saturday. I'm thinking I should probably work on removing the clothing from our bedroom before he arrives. Probably I should just put everything into garbage bags and store them in my garage for two weeks. Anything I rescue from the bags during that time will stay--everything else goes.

Or, better yet, maybe I just need to go shopping. Anyone want to join me? I'm an amazing bargain hunter, and when we're finished we can go to a movie. Since I'll probably sleep through it, I'll let you choose which one. So... think about it...if you decide you want to come you know where to find me...I'll be right here...staring at the clothes on my bedroom floor...let me know...