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Sunday, January 23, 2011

What I haven't been talking about

During the four weeks when the PTSD symptoms were gone I had relief--a lot of relief. I felt more energy and I accomplished things I'd been putting off when I was too overwhelmed to address them. I also experienced a complete lack of connection to people I love, including Darrin and my children, and I felt no depth of feeling for anything in my life. Everything was just...fine.

It was unsettling and a little frightening. I don't like being overwhelmed by emotion, but it's nice to feel positive things. Places I go to find joy and peace ceased to exist. I saw gorgeous sunrises and was unmoved by them. I couldn't even be excited that it was Christmas Day and my pansies were blooming, which they have never done before. I would get up in the morning and feel no excitement for my morning run, no gladness at greeting Tabitha and Adam, nothing.

After about three weeks I asked Therapist about it. He believed it to be temporary, perhaps triggered by my fatigue and stress. So I waited.

PTSD symptoms returned about a week ago. All my negative feelings returned with a vengeance. There was a slight return of positive feelings, but nothing like what I normally experience. Friday I felt a release from the symptoms. Today they are gone. I've returned to the state where there is little feeling, little caring.

I do feel a loss. I feel sad that I can't feel as I used to. I don't feel love piercing through me when I'm communicating with someone close to me. I don't feel absolute joy when I see something beautiful. I don't feel delight when something surprises me. I just feel sadness. I know what I'm missing. I don't know what to do about it.

Therapist says to be patient. He says to keep trying to allow feeling to happen--but it doesn't. He says he believes my body is learning how to manage PTSD feelings so that they can occur with less intensity and frequency. He says not to panic.

I'm not panicking. I'm not...anything, really.

But it will be nice to have relief from the PTSD symptoms again. It will be good to rest. I can't deny I'm grateful for that.

I hope Therapist is right. He says he knows he is, because I'm the one who proposed the possibilities in the first place--he just agreed with them. And he says when it comes to things like this, I am rarely wrong. It's good to have someone who has faith in my self-diagnosis. I'm just not sure what to do next.

Make cookies, maybe?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"...why the sea is boiling hot -- And whether pigs have wings..."

I usually get up in the mornings between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. Then I put in some work hours, go running, and make sure the kids get to seminary/school. Between nine and ten o'clock I start feeling tired, but I hate naps so then I'll go practice or switch jobs, or clean. Yesterday I couldn't do it--I needed to sleep. So I set my alarm for an hour and crawled into bed at 9:30 a.m.

And I couldn't sleep. I waited and waited, but sleep did not come. I was aggravated, but I waited some more.

Then I went to visit Darrin's aunt who lives on the East Coast. Turns out she has a mall mansion. We shopped a bit and she pointed out a person at the ATM whose card number was being stolen by two lurkers who took pictures of the card and then filmed the pin number as it was being entered on the key pad. I asked why we didn't report the incident. Darrin's aunt solemnly told me that the theft was being committed by members of the mafia. I looked back and one of the scary card number stealing mafia people made eye contact with me.

Fortunately, at that point we reached the secret invisible wall entrance that led to The House part of the mall. Darrin's aunt showed me to my spacious room, then let me know that my roommate was Paula Abdul. 

Paula was taking a bath. She called that I should come in and chat with her so we could get to know each other, so I did, fully expecting the tub curtain to be closed, which it wasn't. So I sat and chatted with naked Paula while she finished bathing. 

After she was dressed, Paula decided we should do a little shopping in Darrin's aunt's mall house, so we left. While we were on our way to the secret invisible wall exit from The House part of the mall, Paula let me know that I really need to expand my circle of friends to include more ethnically diverse people. Then we went to the ghetto so I could find more ethnically diverse friends (Paula's idea). I suggested we could find ethnically diverse friends outside the ghetto, but Paula wanted to show me the house where she grew up which apparently is in the ghetto.

I never did get to see the house because then my alarm rang. I sat up in bed, still aggravated that I never got a nap...then realized what I had been dreaming. 

I hate naps.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Preamble to a New Day

So--yesterday was a complete and utter failure in pretty much every way. This doesn't happen to me often.

1. I made a mistake in one of my jobs that had me sifting through previous work for nearly two hours trying to fix it.

2. A client texted me and I didn't have her number in my database. She's not from the US, so her text sounded very much like a spam text. Fortunately, I sort of recognized the number so instead of texting back: "STOP SPAMMING ME! YOUR NUMBER IS NOW BLOCKED!", I sent this message: "I don't know who you are." So she reminded me and I felt incredibly foolish because she's been my client for six year now. Not good for client relations.

3. I ate something that made me feel ill. I'm not sure what it was, but it kept me from being productive as I was emptying the contents of my stomach every half hour for much of the afternoon. Thank goodness I work at home.

4. I forgot that Adam was returning from All-State and I was supposed to pick him up, so when he texted that he'd be home in ten minutes, I was just out of the shower and blow-drying my hair. I did a record-breaking straightening job (13  minutes--dang! all ready late!), flew into my clothes, and ran to the car--only to find it covered in ice and snow. I scraped and brushed it and got in to drive, accidentally hitting the wiper lever in my hurry. The wipers flipped up and down, and I couldn't help but notice one of the blades was gone. I am not good with wipers...well...with anything car related, for that matter (I know what to do, I know how to fix, I just hate doing it, talking about it, thinking about it...). So I fixed the blade and headed out, fifteen minutes late. Fortunately, Adam was sleep deprived and numb and didn't really notice he'd had to stand in the cold for a long time. He just wanted to go home and sleep.

5. I forgot that I was supposed to go to New Beginnings to help welcome the girls turning twelve this year into our young women's program. I took Adam to his class (he's taking classes at the university at night--WHY??? He doesn't graduate until next year! There is something wrong with my children), flew back home (did I mention the roads are covered in black ice?) and into my dress clothes, and Tabitha and I went to our meeting.

6. Tabitha needed to go to the store. At this point bedtime was eminent, so I said we could go before we picked up Adam from class. She didn't realize I wasn't planning to go home and change out of our dress clothes first so when that became clear, she had a temper tantrum. Yay. Not willing to press the issue (translation: tired beyond all reason), I drove home changed clothes again (needed something to do while Tabitha changed) and Tabitha and I drove to pick up Adam.

7. For some reason, while Tabitha gathered her school supplies at the store, I decided we needed chocolate covered popcorn which I purchased and ate on the scary, icy drive home. This was a mistake (see number 3). I went home, tried to get the kids into bed (not successful), and worked (half-heartedly) in between sessions of bathroom time necessary to empty my stomach of delicious popcorn.

8. Talked with three friends online. Ended up feeling like I said everything in the world wrong and knew this was entirely my fault and I should not EVER talk with people when I'm having a day such as this (No Therapist, you are completely wrong about this--I really should not talk to people--stop telling me otherwise).

9. At midnight I concluded that there was no way I could ever make this day better (mostly because it was over and it's impossible to improve something that has disappeared), so I said a graceless good night to my last unfortunate chat buddy (seriously, if you talked to me yesterday, I'm so sorry!), brushed my teeth, talked to the Big Guy (who fortunately does not mind when I'm a conversational mess), kissed Darrin and crashed.

Today is not starting out well, however, we have lots of sunshine and I am going to go run right now. That's a step in the right direction.

P.S. To the telephone person who does not read my blog but keeps calling me even though he knows he's dialing a wrong number: I'm sorry. Probably it was out of line for me to suggest that the phone book would be a good place to spend some reading time, and I know you're not illiterate. Again. Sorry (but honestly--you called me FIVE TIMES which would even try the patience of a not-sick, sane, rational, normal person).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

This morning I took some time to be alone. I read a book I've been putting off. I ran a few miles. I cleaned. I went for a walk. Our weather decided to try all its options before settling on one condition today. It began early this morning with rain which turned into a five-minute blizzard which dissolved into sunshine and periodic gusts of wind. Fortunately, my walk took place when the wind was calm and the sun was abundant.

PTSD symptoms returned a couple of days ago--but not with overwhelming force. I find myself wondering where I fit in this world full of people, and being grateful for times when I can be alone and quiet. Therapist would tell me this is when I need to seek people out. I can't do it. 

I told Tabitha that even if the symptoms came back--even if the flashbacks began again, I'd still feel that I'd made progress. In a couple of weeks I'll be at month seven without flashbacks. Seven months. That's a very long time--and nearly a whole month free of PTSD symptoms--that's amazing, as well. But when the symptoms actually did return I felt defeated. I was very angry. 

Today I'm not angry anymore and the symptoms are slowly subsiding. Sunday was difficult, but it's over. Tomorrow will hopefully be better. Therapist checked in with me today. He reminded me that talking to someone is better than being alone. I told him I don't have anything more to say. He suggested I make a list of things to talk about when I have nothing to say. I understand the worth of this and also why he urges me to find someone to talk to. Sometimes, though, I just don't want to--and sometimes, too, I can't always find someone. I told Therapist that people have lives and can't always be available. He asked where Darrin was. Darrin works odd hours now. He's asleep in the morning and works from about noon till midnight. I don't see him very much anymore. 

Therapist asked me if I was feeling depression. I'm not. He asked if I was getting adequate sleep. I am. He asked when I last made cookies. I don't remember. He said that was unusual. I think there are a few unusual things happening to me right now. Cookies are the least of my worries. I told Therapist things are fine, and thanked him for checking in--and I told him it's okay if he doesn't check in for awhile. I'm okay.

I think I was more disappointed than I thought I would be when the symptoms returned. They surprised me. I was feeling very much like life was going in a positive direction. The lack of symptoms had allowed me to explore some feelings I've not been able to before and I had discovered some wonderful things happening inside me. Those are all gone now. Therapist would tell me they'll come back, and I'm sure he's right. It's just that right now I'm feeling sad that the progress had to stop so I could deal with the nastiness PTSD always brings with it. 

I suppose I'm wallowing. Therapist says I'm not the self-pitying type. Tonight he is completely wrong. 

However, now I'm going to bed. Tomorrow I've made a list of things to keep me busy when I'm not working. I'll run again and I might take Tabitha to a movie tomorrow night. And maybe I'll take a walk again. And there's always something to read. I'm going to work on managing the symptoms and hopefully they'll be in control in the next couple of days and I'll be better again. 

One month of completely managing the symptoms--to the point where I didn't even feel them at all--that's a good thing--something I need to remember. 

Six months without flashbacks--that's amazing--something I need to cling to.

Tomorrow I think I will write a happy post.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This sentence does not count as a title--notice the incorrect capitalization and the period at the end.

There are many conversations I have with Therapist which I do not post because they expose parts of me I do not like--at all. They showcase weaknesses or dependencies I wish were not mine. And the thought of putting those where they can be seen does not appeal to me in the least.

However, there is sometimes of sense of closure when I write about challenges which once troubled me but have now become background noise. Most of the time when I get around to posting them I no longer feel embarrassed or shamed by them. They're just things that happened or emotions I felt. What I am posting today however, still feels uncomfortable. The knowledge that I have tendencies which weaken me or are unhealthy frustrates me. I'm not talking about wanting to be perfect--I'm talking about wishing I was normal. While I understand the impetus behind those tendencies, the experiences and drives which cause me to feel things with abnormal intensity, such understanding does not negate the desire to have healthy relationships untainted by my past.

I talk a lot about relationships. Those entities are my Achilles heel. I want them, I work for them, I spend time analyzing, regrouping, making certain I'm feeling the things I should feel in order to keep my part of the relationship healthy and fulfilling and I definitely enjoy them. But if I am completely honest I have to admit that even my closest, most joyful relationships are fraught with stress and the fear that something obsessive or emotionally unhealthy will creep in, unnoticed by me, and undermine or destroy those relationships I've worked so hard to maintain. This is not about having faith in the participating parties. This is about understanding my own weaknesses and tendencies and knowing I don't always have the strength to manage them competently.

I suppose that's where my need to write about this comes from. If I hide it, it exists but even I avoid looking at it. If I expose it, I can look at it along with anyone else who happens to see. I can apologize and move forward instead of living in fear that someone else will discover and unkindly point it out. I don't know how much sense this makes but I understand--and as this is my blog...  :-)

Therapist: So--a breakthrough, sort of?
me: I don't know. I'm not happy about it, but I guess so.
Therapist: Sam, everyone has moments when they understand that the reality of a relationship is not what they had thought or hoped.
me: I know.
Therapist: So what bothers you?
me: I should have known before.
Therapist: What makes you think you didn't?
me: I'm not sure what you mean.
Therapist: You're pretty aware of what you're feeling in any situation. You monitor yourself closely and you work on directing your feelings if they seem inappropriate or unwelcome. You don't feel sorry for yourself when things don't work out exactly as you'd planned and you're good at allowing others to have autonomy in your relationships with them.
me: I'm not sure you know me well enough to say that.
Therapist: Really? How long have you been seeing me?
me: I mean, you only know what I tell you. I could be lying.
Therapist: Actually, Darrin has accompanied you to several of our sessions, and so has Tolkien Boy.
me: Twice. Tolkien Boy has only come twice.
Therapist: Really? I thought he'd been here more times than that.
me: Nope. And he doesn't say anything when he comes.
Therapist: True, he doesn't say a lot, but you talk to him, and talk about things that have happened that involve him, and he corroborates all you say. And I learn a lot about people by watching how they interact with friends and family.
me: Okay, I've been seeing you for a few years, and I drive hundreds of miles to do so, so obviously I have confidence in you as a therapist, but still--I don't know...
Therapist: What's on your mind, Sam?
me: What can you tell when you see Darrin and I together a couple of hours a month?
Therapist: All right, here's what I've seen: You and Darrin care deeply about each other, you have good communication skills (but I'm guessing you have your share of disagreements), you enjoy being together and are good at supporting one another. You converse well even after being together for many years (not something every couple can say). You make each other laugh. You hold hands and touch each other often. Sometimes you aggravate each other. You worry about one another. You're in love.
me: Okay, that's all true. What do you see when Tolkien Boy comes?
Therapist: That one's more difficult because when you're in therapy (and you've actually said this), it's all about you. You're very focused. You do talk to Tolkien Boy, and ask him questions, but it's clear that you have a purpose and you want to accomplish it. Tolkien Boy respects that and seems unoffended by your need to concentrate on therapy tasks even when he's present. There is a deep sense that the two of you know each other well and enjoy the friendship that you share. But you also have a connection many friends don't, that's deeper and more affectionate. Tolkien Boy watches you, takes cues from your body language, responds to you empathetically. You, on the other hand, rarely make eye contact with him, but you seem to have an awareness of where he is and what he's doing. I'm guessing this is the case with all your friends--little eye contact, but intense awareness of physical proximity. You have clear boundaries you don't wish to be trespassed and they know what those are. I'm guessing from the way you and Tolkien Boy understand each other, that you talk often and about many things. I also believe that some of the deep bonding the two of you feel stems from his accompanying you to have lunch with your cousin (an emotionally dangerous situation), and your allowing him to stay with you afterward when you were extremely vulnerable and in need of some care.
me: He didn't have a choice, you know. We took my car and I was in no condition to drive him home and then go back to my hotel.
Therapist: Well, there are other ways to get around. He could have called a family member to come get him, or taken a bus or cab, I'm guessing.
me: Maybe.
Therapist: You still haven't told me what bothers you about this latest revelation of yours.
me: I don't like the fact that I wasn't realistic about my friendships.
Therapist: How were you unrealistic?
me: I guess, simply put, I wanted more.
Therapist: "Wanted more"?
me: Yes. I'd like to say I was completely healthy and balanced and all my current friendships have evolved naturally and beautifully and, in spite of any difficulties, have been just really great relationships.
Therapist: You don't think they are?
me: Not if I'm honest, no.
Therapist: Okay, what's out of sync?
me: Me. I wanted more. I wasn't satisfied with the friendship "norm". I wasn't happy with being someone people thought about every once in awhile--someone convenient who just happens to be online all the time because that's where I work, or who is fun to visit once or twice a month, or who you go to when you feel lonely but no one else is around.
Therapist: Sam, I don't think that's how people perceive their friends.
me: No. I'm sure they don't. But it is what happens, even if no one thinks about it in that way. Friends are the people who are around when you need someone--but you don't usually seek them out just because. There's a need of some sort.
Therapist: I'm still not sure I agree with you, but tell me what "more" you wanted.
me: I wanted to be someone special.
Therapist: Everyone wants that, Sam.
me: I know. But I'm upset that I wanted it. It's not appropriate. I'm someone special to Darrin and my kids. I know that--and that is appropriate, but I wanted to be someone special to other people, too.
Therapist: Why isn't that appropriate?
me: Because it's friendship. And I'm not saying friends aren't special, but they're not like family, and everyone seems perfectly fine with that--they don't want to be family, they just want to be friends.
Therapist: Sam, I think this is old stuff coming back to haunt you.
me: Say more?
Therapist: Well, other people grew up in an atmosphere where they felt unconditional love from parents--which doesn't mean it was perfect or that they never felt rejected by their parents. But they had many moments when they felt accepted and loved--you didn't. I think you're trying to recreate that type of love and acceptance in the friendship venue.
me: Yes.
Therapist: And--you just agreed with me. Scary.
me: No. That's exactly it. That's why it's inappropriate--why it embarrasses me--why I'm ashamed of myself. That shouldn't happen. I was twisting something normal and healthy (or trying to) into something warped and misplaced. And the people involved in friendship with me deserve better.
Therapist: Are you sure this isn't another level of your feeling that you shouldn't be with people?
me: I'm sure. I actually want these relationships. I just feel badly that I can't seem to navigate them without allowing my past to creep in and make things complicated and wrong.
Therapist: Sam, have you discussed this with any of your friends? or with Darrin?
me: With Darrin, yes.
Therapist: What does he think?
me: As you said, he's in love with me. He thinks anyone who has the "privilege" of being my friend should be aware of my past, understand that I'm working through a lot of stuff right now, and just enjoy the fact that I love them and want to spend time with them. He's not impartial--and that's a huge understatement.
Therapist: Well, he's also correct. Those things are true.
me: I don't think so. I think people have the right to expect that their friendships can be simple and uncomplicated. I want to be able to offer that.
Therapist: I'm not sure you can do that without staying emotionally unattached. Human bonding is complicated for you. You're trying to learn, as an adult, what most children learn over the process of many years, and you're trying to learn about love and relationships with people who feel safe. Don't you think your friends are aware of that?
me: Yes. But that's the point--they shouldn't have to be.
Therapist: Sam, you can't really say, "This is how it should be. I'll make it happen."
me: I know. And I won't. But it's still an uncomfortable realization when you wake up one day and say, "Oh--how about that! That friend I've always been afraid of--the one that's needy or maladjusted--I'm her!"
Therapist: I don't think your friends see you as either of those things.
me: They probably don't. They are very forgiving. But here's the thing: I'm finally there. I'm finally to the point where I can accept what friendship is, what it has to offer, and be okay with it. I'm fine being the online friend who helps pleasantly pass the time, but isn't really more than that. It used to make me sad to know I was an interim person. It doesn't anymore.
Therapist: Interim person?
me: You know--the one you have lunch with and maybe talk about some of the things on your mind, but then you go home to the real relationships; your spouse and your kids, maybe your parents, too. And the friend people are just fine being friends and not trespassing that boundary. I'm okay being that.
Therapist: Ah--I think I finally understand.
me: Good, because I'm getting tired of trying to explain.
Therapist: You used to want to be more--to be the one the people you love went home to.
me: Yes.
Therapist: And you understood that was not the expectation nor the desire of your friends.
me: Yes.
Therapist: And  you were embarrassed because you didn't understand why you wanted those things, and you didn't know how or where to redirect those feelings.
me: Yes.
Therapist: Sam, for someone who has experienced the things you have, those feelings were not inappropriate or abnormal.
me: They were.
Therapist: No. They were completely understandable.
me: Still--misplaced and inappropriate.
Therapist: Did you ever talk to your friends about them.
me: Sort of. I tried to. I always ended up ranting about how much I hated friendship. I called it the F-word. I think, once or twice, I told people I hated friends or that we were something different from friends--something better. It was pathetic, I admit.
Therapist: How did they respond.
me: They're very sweet. They humored the crazy person.
Therapist: What do you suppose has happened to help you accept the friendship boundary, finally?
me: I grew up. I recognized the impossibility of getting what I wished--especially because I still don't know what that was. I have no idea what I expected, I just know I wanted something more.
Therapist: You know, this isn't the end.
me: What does that mean?
Therapist: You say you've accepted the friendship boundary. You've analyzed past feelings and labeled them as unacceptable. But the truth is, you still need those bonds with people that signal unconditional love, constant welcome, and a place in someone else's life. And you need more than just Darrin. People need more than one person, which is why we have parents and grandparents and sometimes really close sibling relationships--and very special people who are sometimes more than just friends.
me: I don't want to hear that last part. In fact, I'm ignoring it. I've worked very hard to get to the point where I wouldn't want more, but the yearning is still there. I don't want to engage it.
Therapist: Sam, maybe talking about this with people you're close to would be a good idea. Let them know what  you've been feeling. See what they say. I'm proud of you for trying to make sure you don't monopolize, or use emotional blackmail, or do anything possible to garner attention or bind people to you unhealthily--which is sometimes what happens when people have attachment issues. But I think it's always a good idea to see how other people are feeling in relationships instead of just determining that you're making all the mistakes and trying to fix everything. You might not be making any mistakes at all. There might be a friend who welcomes that closeness you crave and who can offer it to you in healthy ways--whether that means calling you fairly often, or putting an arm around you when you sit beside each other, or giving really great hugs, or waiting for you to come online because they just love talking with you. Sometimes closeness it not an intrusion--often it's not. But you can't know unless you talk about it.
me: I might.
Therapist: That means you will, right? when you're ready?
me: Probably.
Therapist: Sam, I'm going to give you an assignment.
me: I don't know that that's a good idea. I'm already a year behind on my assignments.
Therapist: Fortunately, there's not a deadline of any kind on my assignments.
me: Okay.
Therapist: I want you to try to view yourself as someone people want to have in their lives--someone they think of often and maybe even plan to spend time with. Someone who offers them a great deal of love, compassion, and joy--a person they can laugh with and someone who makes them glad to be whomever they are. Because I think you are a person who allows people to be completely themselves. You are someone to be sought after and valued.
me: That assignment is too long.
Therapist: Which means it seems overwhelming?
me: Yes.
Therapist: Spend some time thinking about it. Ask for help if you need it. Take your time.
me: Okay, I'll think about it.
Therapist: And Sam, you really don't need to feel embarrassed about wanting more. There is no shame in wishing for deep connections that are reinforced often and are enduring. And quite honestly, I don't believe you were out of line to look for those things in the friends you feel closest to.
me: I'll think about it. But I'm not backtracking.
Therapist: Agreed--no backtracking--but entertain the idea of tweaking things a bit?
me: I'll think about it.
Therapist: You're repeating yourself.
me: Yes.
Therapist: Okay, I'll let it go for now.
me: Thank you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One should never experiment on oneself--the result is dreadful.

I gained fifteen pounds. On purpose. This sounds crazy, I know, but for about two months now I've been feeling like I'm finally in control of the anorexia, instead of vice versa. So--I decided to test that feeling. No, I did not consult Therapist.

First--gaining fifteen pounds is difficult. I don't love eating lots of food and I do like running lots of miles, so I had to stop running as much and eat more. I hated this.

Second--fifteen pounds on someone my height is a lot--A LOT, I SAY!!! I weighed as much as I did when I delivered my babies. It felt like I was whale-ish even though I probably didn't look whale-ish. Since I could still wear my clothes, I'm guessing I'm probably the only one who felt like I'd gained millions of pounds.

Third--I did this because I wanted to see if I had enough self-control to lose weight in the normal way (i.e., through sensible eating and an average amount of exercise), rather than not eating or being extreme in my calorie restrictions until I lost the extra pounds.

And as of today, I've lost five of the fifteen pounds and I took two weeks to do that...and I hate this. It's much easier to just stop eating. I find myself grinding through meals, hating every bite. I stop running before I'm ready, hating the fact that I've only run four miles when I want to run twice that. I'm reminding myself that this is the healthy way and I want to be healthy. I can't stop thinking about the fact that if I went back to my old habits, I'd lose all the weight very quickly. This is HARD!

But--I'm going to persevere. Two pounds a week--that's all I'm allowed to lose. So those fifteen pounds won't be gone until Valentine's Day, and then I will know I'm no longer at the mercy of Anorexia Nervosa. It's possible I'm crazy and this is not proving anything, but in my head, it is. No more starving myself--for any reason.


I'm walking in the mountain behind Grandma's house. Each breeze brings a shower of small gold aspen leaves, brushing my arms and catching in my sweater. I love autumn. Fat bushes have turned fiery red and orange, and some burn with nearly florescent pink. I want to gather every leaf, save them somehow... I hear a disturbance behind a nearby tree and pause, curious. A blue grouse struts from behind it, followed by her four nearly-grown babies. They cross my path, oblivious to my presence, and disappear into the the dense undergrowth. 

My cousin from the city is making fun of us--hicks, we are. We listen to him, calmly allowing his jeers to float about us. Our clothes are unfashionable (well, yes, these are clothes we do chores in--our school clothes are fine), we eat stupid food (we eat what we grow--fresh strawberries, green beans, new potatoes...they're not Twinkies or Ramen Noodles, but they taste wonderful), we don't listen to the best music (we could, and we do when we choose--we just feel like making you think we only know about the Classical Masters, and that we believe Elvis is still alive); and then we invite him to go on a delightful horseback riding expedition. We give him the best horse (the one that bucks when it sees a pebble or a tiny bug on the trail), and the most comfortable saddle (the brand new one, stiff and shiny), while we ride bareback (allowing our legs and hips to conform to the horse's movement). We take City Cousin sixteen miles into the mountains, complimenting his ability to stay on the horse as it bucks and shies, telling him what a fine rider he is. When we get to the top, we encourage City Cousin to dismount, walk about, enjoy the beauty. He says he's hungry. We say we'll go home soon (after the muscles in his thighs have tightened and his rear end begins to complain about the bumps and bruises). We mount our horses. City Cousin shrieks as his body tries to adjust to the horse's back. We ask if he's feeling a bit saddle sore. He rolls his eyes. We begin the long ride home. Our mounts are old and staid, while City Cousin's is spry and skittish. Our horses know the way without guidance; City Cousin jerks at the reins, trying to keep his horse on the path with ours. We do tricks: standing on the horse's back, riding backwards, lying down (mostly because we're a tiny bit saddle sore, too, but also to taunt City Cousin). City Cousin dismounts and walks the final ten miles. We slow our horses to keep him company. When we get home, City Cousin is sore, grumpy, and hungry. He eats our stupid food. He notices that his fashionable pants have a large tear where a tree branch grabbed just as his horse bucked. We suggest a nice long bath. He accepts. We stream our classical music into the bathroom. City Cousin falls asleep in the tub. We only have one bathroom. This is a problem. Stalemate.

C tells me he wants the vine growing on the side of my house. I blink at him. He says it's lovely--bright green in spring, dark red in autumn. I pull off a small, leafy branch, and hand it to him. He says no, he wants to grow it by his house. I tell him I'll see what I can do. Then I give him a kitten instead. C strokes the cat and asks if he can take it home. I say, of course. We have lots of kittens. C names the kitten, Henry. I tell C it's a girl. He says Henry is a girl-cat name. Then he goes home. I notice C has left the vine branch I gave him. It's on the ground, uncrumpled and fresh. I take it into the house and place it in a glass of water. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I am neither illogical nor impulsive, I just like to read...and look at overnight bags.

me: You know how I'm always saying, "Stop buying stuff! It's just going to sit around and collect dust and add more clutter!"

Darrin: Yes.

me: Good. I need you to do that for me now.

Darrin: Really? You want to buy something?

me: Yes. And I need you to tell me all the reasons not to.

Darrin: What is it?

me: A subscription to The New Yorker.

Darrin: I didn't know you wanted that.

me: Are you serious? I used to check them out from the library and read them. You didn't notice?

Darrin: Sam, you used to check out everything in sight when we went to the library. There's no way I could tell if there was a New Yorker in that huge pile you brought home.

me: Oh. Good point. I'll bet you were glad when we got the internet so I could find a lot more information online.

Darrin: I don't know. I think you liked going to the library.

me: I still like it--I just don't have to bring as much of it home with me.

Darrin: So you want a subscription. I think The New Yorker is expensive.

me: Well, it's published weekly, so, yeah.

Darrin: Why do you want it?

me: It has fiction and poetry and politics and news and book reviews and music reviews and television reviews and cartoons... I just like it.

Darrin: You know, if you'd told me this before, we could have gotten you a subscription for your birthday, or for Christmas.

me: It's expensive.

Darrin: How expensive?

me: Well, the best price I've been able to find online is about $40, but if you subscribe for three years, you save $10 per year.

Darrin: That's not really expensive.

me: This is not what you're supposed to be telling me.

Darrin: Why do you suddenly want to subscribe now?

me: Well, they sent me an offer I can't refuse.

Darrin: What is it?

me: One year for $29.95.

Darrin: That's a good price.

me: It's a great price. Normally, I could say no to the great price all by myself, without your help.

Darrin: But?

me: They have an incentive.

Darrin: "But wait! There's more!!"

me: Yeah.

Darrin: And the incentive is...

me: This:

Darrin: You're kidding.

me: I know.

Darrin: You've resisted subscribing for years, but now you want to because there's a bag involved.

me: I know.

Darrin: Why don't we just go to the store and buy you an overnight bag. You don't even know how big it is.

me: I know.

Darrin: You want this one.

me: Yes.

Darrin: This is not like you.

me: I know.

Darrin: It's illogical and impulsive.

me: I know.

Darrin: I think you should get it.

me: What?

Darrin: I think you should subscribe. You never buy things for yourself. I wanted to get you something for Christmas but ended up spending all my spare time in job training and lesson planning so I didn't get you anything.

me: Yes, you did. You got me Scooby Doo videos.

Darrin: I wanted to get you something better.

me: Nothing is better than Scooby Doo videos.

Darrin: Well, anyway, I think you should get the bag...and the subscription, of course. Consider it your unnecessary bathroom shelf, made in lieu of housecleaning when my mother visits.

me: What?

Darrin: You're always telling that story.

me: What story?

Darrin: The one about how on my day off I was supposed to clean the house because my mom was coming to visit, and when you came home from work the living room was covered in sawdust and random wood pieces and I was nowhere to be found and then my mom and sister showed up, planning to stay for a week. So the house was a bigger mess, I hadn't started dinner, and you were completely ungrateful for the cool new under-the-sink shelving that I had built instead.

me: I'm not making the connection.

Darrin: You said I was completely illogical and impulsive. Then you ordered me to come home (when you finally found me) and help make dinner for my mom and sister. And even though you said you did, I don't think you've forgiven me.

me: I have, too.

Darrin: Then why do you tell the story.

me: Because it's sort of hilarious, and I have a brilliant sense of humor.

Darrin: True. Get the bag.

me: This is not what you are supposed to say.

Darrin: I know. Get it.

me: I love you.

Darrin: I know.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"We cannot change our memories, but we can change their meaning and the power they have over us. ~David Seamands

Therapist caught me online this week. We chatted for a few minutes. I told him I don't need him to check up on me--then I asked him a couple of questions that have been bugging me for the past two weeks. He said what I expected him to say, and ended up with the nauseating "Fake it till you make it..."

I'm very good at that faking part. I've done it most of my life. I try not to do it as much anymore--not because I don't want to "make it", whatever that may mean, but because I'm trying to be more honest, more authentic. I'm trying to acknowledge what is really happening, rather than just going through the motions of what I assume other people expect of me.

Still, I think what Therapist meant was, "Keep pushing forward, Sam." And of course, I will. 

My children told me last night that when I'm in a hurry, I drive in the same fashion as I watch Jeopardy. I watch the show shouting out answers, then saying, "Why! Why won't you listen to me? I just told you the answer!" Under normal circumstances, I'm a very quiet driver. My times in the car are filled with occasional spontaneous singing, and conversations with The Big Guy. When I'm in a hurry, you'll find me alternately questioning why the person in front of me must drive five miles per hour under the speed limit, and pleading for him/her to take a huge risk and actually accelerate to 30 (or even 31) mph. Interspersed with my instruction/pleading are commands to please turn left or right onto a side street and get out of my way. And I continue the tirade until I notice that my children are staring at me as if I've lost my mind. 

I suppose if I can carry on intense, one-sided conversations with people whom I know cannot hear nor respond to me, Therapist is within his rights to instruct me to pretend I'm feeling certain things until such time as I learn how to do so in reality. It's just...difficult. In the meantime, no flashbacks and no PTSD still. I want to celebrate this, but it seems silly. Most people don't have flashbacks or PTSD and they don't make a big deal out of it. So--no celebration, but I'm still counting each eventless day with gratitude.

Today's memories:

I am walking with my mother and older sister. We're going to visit Miss. G. She has long white hair which she keeps in a bun, but sometimes she puts it in a ponytail down her back. She's very thin and quiet. I knock on her door. The hallway of her apartment building smells of stale cigarette smoke. I tell my mother I like that smell. My mother says it's awful, but it makes me think of Miss G. and to me it smells lovely. Miss G. opens her door and greets us. She leads us into her "sitting room." I sit on the stiff, uncomfortable sofa while my mother chats with our hostess. I wander to the shelf where the delicate pendulum of an anniversary clock twirls first one direction, and then the other. I think it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I decide that when I am old I will live in an apartment smelling of stale cigarette smoke, wear my hair in a long ponytail, and have my own anniversary clock. 

I'm sitting on the front porch with Mary. She babysits us and I believe she is gorgeous. She has green eyes and thick black hair and when she smiles my mouth has to smile back. My sisters are all in bed. Even the baby is sleeping. I'm supposed to be asleep, too. Mary arrived tonight to find my mother screaming at me and after my parents left I hid in my closet so I could cry without Mary noticing. She peeked through the doorway and asked if I was hungry. I said no. I stayed in the closet a long time. After my sisters were in bed, she took me by the hand and led me to the front porch. It's dark now. Mary points out The Big Dipper. I don't say anything. She picks me up and holds me on her lap. She talks to me about school. Mary is in high school. I'm only in second grade. She tells me about dancing in P.E. and singing in choir. She teaches me a song. I sing with her. Then we sing it in a round. She tells me not very many little girls can sing rounds. She says I'm special. We sit quietly, looking at the stars. Mary carries me inside and places me in the bed I share with my already asleep sister. She kisses me good-night.

My father hands me a paper grocery bag and leads me through tall grass. He shows me the thick stalk and nubbed head of an asparagus plant, cuts it with his scissors and places it in my bag. He tells me to do the same thing. I cut as many as I can find, then I decide to cut some of the grass, as well, and some nearby cattails, too. I find endless treasures to cut and keep. In no time my bag is full. I wander over to my father and tell him I'm finished. His look of surprise turns to laughter as he sees what I've put in my bag. He sorts the asparagus from the rest of my treasures, and explains to me that we only want the vegetable. I look at the assortment of plants, leaves, rocks, and the lone, tiny frog I've managed to catch--desperate, dry, and bewildered at being snatched from its mud puddle. I'm not sure my father is making the best choice. He bends down and nudges the frog. The animal squirms weakly away. My father suggests we find a place for the frog to swim. I pick it up and walk back to the puddle where I found it. My father shudders a bit as he gently introduces the frog into the water, sprinkling some on its back, and leaving it half-submerged. I don't think my dad likes frogs. 

My hair has been piled on my head, teased into a bun which will not last past lunchtime before deteriorating into a mass of unruly curls. I'm wearing a pink dress and trying to stay clean all morning. I hate picture day. A woman appears in our classroom door to let us know it's time for us to come. We line up. My friend whispers that she forgot it was picture day. She's wearing a stained denim skirt, long striped socks, and her fingernails are painted dark blue. I wish I looked like her. The photographer places us in rows according to our height. As always, I am on the front. I want to be a tall person in the back row. My friend sits next to me. The photographer walks toward us and tells us we're each to hold one side of the sign which has the year, our teacher's name, and our grade printed on it. We look at each other and giggle. We hold the sign as instructed. Just before the picture is snapped, my friend whispers that everyone will see her blue nail polish now. I look at her nails, then at my own. I tell her she's very lucky.

I don't like to write. I can't make the letters look nice. I've been reading since I was three, but I can't write. My teacher makes a huge red "S" through all my assignments. S means sloppy. She tells me to use my right hand. I don't know which hand that is. I'm frustrated. I'm trying. I hate having my writing book returned to me. I hate the color red. I hate the letter S. Miss Brown is our student teacher. She has me stay in the classroom during recess and tries to show me the difference between lower case b and lower case d. She talks about bats and balls and I become confused. I throw my pink eraser on the floor. Miss Brown picks it up and walks to her desk. She places the eraser in her drawer. I yell at her. I say the eraser is mine. I say she is stealing. I tell her I'm going to tell my parents and she will have to pay for my eraser. Then I put my head down on my desk before she can tell me to do so. I hope she doesn't know I'm crying. I hate her. After a few moments I notice Miss Brown sitting quietly next to me. I pretend I can't see her. She asks if I've had a bad day. I've had lots of bad days. I don't answer. She tells me it won't always be this way. She says if I keep trying I'll figure out how to make lower case b and d, and it will feel easy. She says I'm smart. I look at her. She has a tissue and gently wipes my face. Then she says she's only keeping my eraser until I feel calm enough not to throw it. I nod. She asks if I'd like it back. I say yes. She walks to her desk, retrieves the eraser and hands it to me. I ask her if she's going to yell at me. She says no. I say thank you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin." ~Barbara Kingsolver

For the past twelve months I have practiced remembering. I have rules for this:
1. The memory must be pleasant, or at the very least, mundane, and must not stray into areas of fear or pain.
2. There must be at least one sensory connection.
3. There must be no dedicated purpose nor morality in the remembering--no lessons to be learned and therefore no possible regret or guilt.
4. The time frame needs to center around my earliest memories to about age seventeen.

This exercise was of my own choosing. Therapist did not suggest it, nor does he know I've been doing it.

Actually, I haven't told anyone about it.

I've found this to be an intensely emotional experience and one that binds me to my childhood and teen years in ways I had not expected. I suppose I have been learning who I was--and in the process I often forget who I am. The feeling of having no identity, or one which seems amorphous or ethereal, is uncomfortable for me. I have always had a very strong sense of self, as odd as that might sound to one who knows my background. The memories often leave me weeping for no reason. There have been times when I felt forcibly compelled to share them. I didn't, usually, mostly because in the telling it seemed as though the memories might be lost.

I'm not explaining this well, but after a year I find myself wanting to record some of the memories. They're meaningless. I know this. Still...they're mine and I want them right here. So tonight I will record a few. I need to look at them, written down, and in the process of reading perhaps I will find myself.

I am four. I'm wearing a sun dress--lime green with bright pink polka dots. I love this dress and would wear it every day if allowed. I'm barefoot, standing in a square of sunlight on our grey carpet. My older sister is trying to teach me to blow bubblegum bubbles. I'm fascinated and repelled. I don't like the way the sugary gum tastes. My bubble attempts fail miserably, ending with sticky gum on my chin. I watch as she blows bubble after bubble, popping each one and pulling the gum back into her mouth. Part of me wants desperately to be able to do that--while another feels slightly sick, watching her mouth form impossible shapes while her tongue darts into the center of the wad of gum to form the bubble origin. I run to the kitchen, spit my gum into the garbage, and run outside.

A clock in the shape of a cat hangs in a slim alcove on our kitchen wall. The eyes move from side to side as its tail pendulum swings back and forth. I'm sort of afraid of it, certain it's alive and very unhappy about being trapped on the wall. I ask my mother if we should let it down. She says no, and briskly adds that I am not to touch the clock. Every day I stare at the shifting eyes, the large numbers circling the cat's stomach, the rhythmic tail. One day I can stand it no longer. I climb up to the clock and pull it from the wall. My father is in the kitchen--he asks what I am doing. I tell him I don't like to see the cat pinned to the wall; it makes me sad. He tells me the cat isn't real. I point to the eyes. My father nods, takes the clock from me and goes to his bedroom. The clock does not reappear again in my memory. For most of my life I have believed my father set it free.

It is evening. The smell of watermelon and mosquito repellent, and the drone of adult voices mix with sultry summer heat. I'm sitting in a swing. My father calls to me, offers me a piece of melon, and shakes his head as I decline. I don't like watermelon. Mosquitoes swarm in the evening air. The adults swat at arms and backs and each other to kill the biting insects. I watch as one lands on my bare skin. It is fragile, fairy-like, with transparent wings. It crawls about, testing spot after spot with its slender tongue, then flies off, unsatisfied. My mother remembers she hasn't sprayed repellent on me. I protest that I like the mosquitoes. She tugs at my arm, tells me to close my eyes, then sprays me with the pungent liquid. I inhale the sharp scent and twirl in the misty spray as my mother's voice orders me to stand still. She finishes dousing me and hands me a small triangle of watermelon, then rejoins her chattering cluster of friends. I look at the bright red fruit, then I walk to the swing set, place the slice on the flat metal at the top of the slide and wait. In moments delicate mosquitoes land on the melon, walking about on their slim legs, testing it with their tongues. I watch until darkness reminds my parents that I must sleep.

My father is planting peanuts. He tells me they won't grow well, but he wants to see what they look like. I don't understand. He knows what peanuts look like. No, he says, he wants to see how they grow. So we plant them and we wait. Every day I sit on the warm concrete beside our tiny city garden plot. I pet my cat or read a book or just watch as the sunlight finds innumerable shades of brown in the soil. Weeks pass, but no green appears. Finally my father digs down to find the peanut seeds. He pulls them out of the earth. They're no longer smooth and whole, but jagged and covered in fine white fuzz. I ask what happened. He tells me the peanuts have molded. I don't know what that means. My father says we won't be making peanut butter this year, and laughs. I laugh, too. I don't like peanut butter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What is Real?

My mother's breast cancer is in remission.

Before the chemo treatments began nearly two years ago, I spoke with my father about my mother needing to have a number of neurological tests. I outlined her lifetime of irrational behaviors, discussed the years of emotionally and physically abusive acts, and talked about her current unexplained memory loss, inability to manage money (for the first time in her life), time incognizance, and her random inappropriate statements. He agreed with me, but wouldn't take the initiative to get the testing done when Mom finished her chemo and radiation. Part of this was because he was exhausted, but another part of it was because my mother experienced a complete personality change during the cancer treatments. He no longer knew who she was.

Fortunately, as her hair grew back and she lost the weight gained through prescribed steroids, Mom seemed to become herself again and life for my parents went back to normal. The memory lapses, however, became more frequent, and there was an inordinate increase in the number of fabricated realities my mother reiterated to any who would listen.

When my nephew was baptized in October, he asked my mom to speak at his baptism. My mother prepares for any speaking assignment with a thoroughness which includes memorizing scriptures, studying for weeks, and practicing the finished product in front of a mirror--many, many times. At the baptism, however, it seemed she had not even known she was supposed to speak (she had been asked three weeks prior). Her words were a listing of random thoughts as she moved between topics loosely related to baptism. Finally, she talked about how Christ was baptized in the River Jordan, paused for a moment, then said to my nephew, "You know, it's only been in the past few years that people have stopped being baptized outside in rivers and streams. Why don't you ask your Grandpa where he was baptized?"

There was a long pause after my nephew obediently asked the question, then my father said slowly, "Well, I was baptized in a baptismal font, in a church just like this one."

My mother looked stunned. She clumsily regrouped and finally finished speaking. It was obvious that my father's answer was not what she had expected, and that in her memory he was definitely one of those ancient river-baptized people...never mind the fact that his baptism took place in the dead of winter, in a valley which averages 4-6 feet of snow on the ground from November to April, all the rivers, streams, or lakes would be completely iced over, and just in case they were able to make some sort of hole in them, the lucky person who was baptized there would die of hypothermia.

I believe that was the first big wake-up call.

The second came a couple of weeks later. My parents were visiting a new grandchild when my mother had a mini-stroke. This finally catalyzed the long overdue testing I'd been begging for.

Today we know the following:
1. Alzheimer's cannot currently be diagnosed nor ruled out. She definitely is exhibiting symptoms, but if she has it, the progression is not to the point where a definitive diagnosis can be made.
2. She has sleep apnea which is causing some heart problems and also interfering with her cognitive powers.
3. The neural transmitters in her brain hemispheres do not align with each other, causing cessation or incomplete transfer of information, and inability to store memories which slip through the cracks.

Number three is the Big Deal.

The doctors believe she has had more than one mini-stroke (medical term: TIA), but they don't believe the strokes have caused the disruption in her brain--rather, they believe the mini-strokes are a symptom of that problem. They also believe the misalignment of neural impulses has been a lifelong malady which is becoming worse. It could be a genetic defect, or have been caused through extreme trauma or head injury. I vote the latter.

My mother has staunchly denied that her father (alcoholic) abused her, but her behavior throughout her life is that of a severely abused child. Mom does not deny that her siblings were regularly beaten up. They say she was a victim, as well. Her body has signs of trauma which have developed into unusual back and joint problems, she has severe stress disorders, she cannot process emotions in natural ways. My mother, on her best days, lives in a fantasy world fraught with spiritual miracles, days where nothing goes wrong (even when it does), extravagant shopping sprees, and constant eating because she cannot remember whether or not she has had breakfast. In short, she creates her own reality so that she doesn't have to live with the pain of her past.

That last part sounds a tiny bit familiar.

My father and I are in the process of removing her name and ability to access funds from our business. He has given power of attorney to me and a couple of my sisters in the event of his death, rather than my mother. So far we've had little resistance from her. Right now she is docile and willing to work with the doctors, try medications, and learn more about what is happening inside her head.

Yesterday my mother remembered lovely experiences she and I once had...that never happened. I listened, smiled, nodded, and thanked her for reminding me. Part of me hopes that she will forget the ways she terrorized my young life. Those black memories leave her feeling monstrous, helplessly understanding that she harmed an innocent child. I hope, with all my heart, that she will forget, that she will create beautiful memories of sharing sunlit days with her small daughter. And however wrong this choice might be--I will help her do it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bringing in the New Year

I've been whining here for a very long time. It seemed the only place where I could talk about the things I thought sounded crazy, irrational, and huge--no matter how trivial in reality they might be. It's good to have a place to dump things.

Therapist spent a great deal of time during my last appointment talking about the ways I've grown and progressed. He says I'm someone he admires. I definitely don't see what he does, and when I went to my appointment I was at the end of a rather nasty, lengthy PTSD episode. I tried not to read negativity into his words ("If he tells me how wonderful I'm doing, I won't need to come back as often and he won't have to listen to me for awhile," or "He's trying to be positive because I'm always negative--I'm depressing," or "He's lying to me--I wonder why? What does he have to gain? Why would he do that???"), and for the most part, I succeeded.

Actually, I succeeded because I asked him what was motivating his comments. Someday I won't need people to spell that out to me anymore, I hope. And Therapist thanked me for asking, and for letting him know I was having difficulty hearing what he was really saying--then he explained that the words were exactly what he meant and assured me he was not trying to make me go away forever. I don't think I looked convinced because he laughed and said, "Sam, you're my only appointment today. It's the Monday before Christmas and I'm taking the whole week off. As soon as we finish here, I'm going home to start my vacation. I wasn't even going to to come in at all this week, but I told you at your last appointment that I'd be in, we scheduled an appointment, and I wanted to keep it if at all possible. You've never canceled on me--I don't like canceling on you. Does that sound like a person who's trying to get rid of you?"

No. It doesn't.

And we covered a lot of ground during the session--much of which I hated, but needed to talk about--and some of which I didn't hate.

That was almost two weeks ago.

And I've had no symptoms since that visit.

No flashbacks since August 2nd, and no PTSD symptoms for two weeks.

I'm not stupid. I know this is probably not going to last forever, but while it's happening, I just have to say how amazing it feels to know the emotions I'm experiencing belong to me and aren't tainted by unreality or extremity.

If I should have a flashback again, it won't feel like a defeat or a failure. I've been without them for five months. That's a victory no matter what happens in the future. And I've gone for weeks at a time without having overwhelming PTSD symptoms, but always within those stretches of time I've experienced small twinges or short spurts of the symptoms. This is the first time I've felt absolutely free of them (discounting the month of drug dependence in which the pain killers made the PTSD all go away--this time was drug-free).

I thought, with time, I would find answers to the many questions in my head. Instead I encounter more and more questions. It's possible the questions have always been in my mind and that only now am I finding the courage to ask, but I don't know.

I thought I'd understand how I fit in the lives of other people. Instead I find it more of a mystery the longer I remain in those lives. I don't know why I'm there. I don't know how they perceive me. But I also find my anxiety easing, especially concerning the possibility of those relationships relaxing or disappearing. If it happens, it happens. No amount of raging or stress will change that. And in my own heart things will never change. I know this because as time has passed--as I've become more and more aware that young Sully, who once loved me, no longer feels anything kind toward me-- I still love him as deeply and purely as ever. I suppose I could work on letting go or changing those feelings--but that is not who I am, nor who I wish to be. That love has nothing for which to apologize or be ashamed. I believe I will keep it, always, and I don't believe my love for any other person will go away either. This is my choice. Therapist reminds me that feelings are always in flux. I remind him that I choose to be different.

I have lost the eternal youth I used to feel inside. I don't believe anyone can accept the things that I have finally accepted and not be changed, worn, weathered by them. I have become ancient, quiet, less inclined to turn cartwheels or dance spontaneously. I find myself baffled by small talk, unlikely to attend events involving large groups, more wary of hugs and handshakes. I feel as though I began talking when the dam broke nearly five years ago and now the words have subsided to a trickle--a tiny, relentless repetition of the torrential phrases spoken initially and no longer of interest to anyone.

Recently I was interviewed. The topic was not rape and abuse survival, but I mentioned those two things. The interviewer mentioned he would be interested in hearing more. I assured him his interest was misplaced, and returned to the original topic.

I have survived. I did that years ago--I just didn't find out about that survival until recently. I believed my story would somehow help others. I don't know why I thought that. Perhaps it justified my need to endlessly repeat my narrative. I'm not sorry I spoke. I'm only sorry that my story is so common it is impossible to care about it beyond a momentary shock and short-lived, if heartfelt, concern. No one has the energy to continue caring--not even me.

I'm thinking about the words I've just written. They reek of depression and despair.

I am not depressed--I am realistic. This is my reality.

I am not despairing--Therapist has told me of the many ways I'm healing and progressing and I believe him. But this is acceptance, my acceptance.

Perhaps one day things will be different and little girls and boys will no longer be raped by people they trust.

Perhaps one day abuse by a parent will be unheard of.

Perhaps one day the emotional, physical, and psychological problems I experience will be forgotten maladies like polio or smallpox.

I don't know how that can happen, but I hope it does. After all is said and done, I still have hope.