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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sometimes things actually work.

This will be brief because I'm tired and I need to sleep; but I want to record this because it's new and I think it's important.

About three days ago I was feeling overwhelmed. There were a number of side issues contributing to that. It's not unusual for me, in this situation, to be hit with PTSD symptoms which I'm unable to manage. I end up feeling helpless and miserable and playing the waiting game while I try to figure out which of the emotions I'm feeling are real and which are artificial.

However, when the symptoms hit and the destructive thought processes began, I found myself thinking almost automatically, "This is PTSD. It's not real." And to my amazement, the symptoms began to subside. Within minutes I was no longer troubled by them. I've been able to reproduce this reaction almost every time the symptoms have been presented for three days.

I'm not sure what to think. It seems almost too easy--but then I remember I've been working toward this for nearly five years now--constantly working. I've researched and experimented and built emergency preparedness kits (translation: I've had people I love write down reasons they care for me, and they've answered specific questions about their feelings toward our friendship and interactions, and I've internalized them as well as made them accessible for reading in difficult moments) and meditated and prayed and built positive switches into my brain to be used when negative thoughts become unmanageable. To say this was easy would be incorrect. It has been one of the most difficult things I've had to learn--and I know difficult intimately.

Certainly this isn't the end. I'll have to keep practicing and no doubt there will be colossal failures in the near future. But everything aligned somehow, to make the things I've put in place suddenly begin working. The key word here is "begin." It's a place to start. I've mapped the conditions under which this took place, and I've noted what was going on in my life. I'm not sure those things are relevant, but if I want to consistently reproduce this reaction, I have to remember all the details.

The really amazing thing for me is that this happened when my life is emotionally in disarray, I'm as weak as I've ever been, I'm unsure of people and life and relationships right now--but still I was able to manage PTSD symptoms with amazing success. This is good.

And I think this blog is a key player. Having a place where I can say whatever I want is incredibly helpful. Then anything negative or scary or sad gets out and those things, when trapped inside me, seem to feed the symptoms until I can do nothing but wait until they subside. It's good to have a place to talk.

Okay--going to bed now. Good night.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost." ~Marion C. Garretty

Therapist believes my problems have innumerable roots, but I told him of one experience he believes is pivotal. I've not been able to record it until now. I don't know why I'm finally able to write it, and I don't really want to delve into the why. I can--so I will.

I've spoken of my "foster" sister before. She was never officially my foster sister. I brought her home from school. I knew she was sad. I thought I could make her happy. I was eleven. Eleven-year-olds believe things like that.

Because of her home situation, S was allowed to stay with us. Her home situation: Her parents were alcoholics. S refers to them today as "pickled". Both are now deceased. S was often left alone as a toddler and preschooler while her parents went on drinking binges. A neighbor sometimes noticed she was alone and took care of her until her parents returned. When she was eleven the situation was finally reported to DFS and S came to live with her grandmother who lived in my hometown. At that point in her life, S had suffered abandonment, neglect, and numerous forms of abuse from various people. She has never shared the details of this with me. S doesn't talk about her life before she met me.

Grandma was an invalid. She could barely walk and was hardly able to care for herself, let alone an eleven-year-old granddaughter. S became the caretaker. She learned to cook and clean (to Grandma's standards), buy groceries, plan menus, care for plants, grow a garden, and care for an invalid. The life had far too much responsibility for a child, but it was immensely better and more stable than what she had previously experienced.

When S was invited to be with my family, Grandma agreed. She had been concerned that S didn't interact with other children and was consumed with caring for her grandmother. S needed a family--siblings--parents--and so she came to live with me. The two of us visited her Grandmother daily to make sure she had all she needed. Grandma was a retired school teacher. She loved my thirst for reading and sent me home with classics and poetry in which most 6th graders would have no interest. I was intrigued by the language, rhythm and stories. Always Grandma would discuss them with me--talk about literary devices and unusual words--and make certain I was comprehending what I was reading. Her home was filled with books and she was delighted to loan them to me, provided I would report back to her what I was learning. It was like having my own personal library. Heavenly.

Having S in my home changed the dynamic of our family. She was sweet and funny and helpful. My mother became calm when S was around. The screaming fits and physical abuse became nonexistent. It was as if she realized S was someone who needed nurturing and healing and any abuse would devastate an already wounded person. I watched my mother cuddle my friend and as I wondered why S was allowed the hugs I craved, I did not begrudge the fact that she received them and I did not. S desperately needed to be held by a mom and a dad.

I watched her smiles become more frequent. S was my constant companion in whatever harebrained scheme I concocted--but she was sensitive enough to let me have alone time for reading and practicing and any other activity requiring solitude. S was the perfect daughter. She allowed my mom to teach her to sew and bake and preserve food. She was immaculately clean. There was a long space in the upper level of our home which had been divided into two bedrooms. I shared one with my older sister and my two younger sisters shared the other. S moved in with my sister and I. There were three twin beds along the east-facing wall. S's bed was in the middle. The space around her "area" was flanked by the mess created by my sister and I. S never complained. She simply made her bed and straightened the part of the room that was hers every night and morning. We were often compared to her unfavorably. For some reason this never troubled me. S was a clean freak. That was just fine with me.

When my cousin raped me the first time, I cleaned myself up, cried a little bit, and wondered what to do. Not coming up with any answers and not wishing to return to the bed where I had been painfully violated, I pulled my blankets and pillows to the floor near the bed where S was sleeping. I slept there the rest of the night, rose as soon as light began, made my bed and pretended to be sleeping in it when my family awoke. I repeated this pattern each time my cousin visited me. I don't know why S was my chosen "safe place". Today though, I believe if I had ever told her what was happening, she would have stopped my cousin. She knew about abuse. She hated bullies. She loved me.

During that summer, my mother made contact with the proper agencies to try to have S placed officially in our home. She was told our home did not meet the necessary regulations to have S placed there, and we were financially unable to make the required changes to our house. The agency people told my mom S would be well cared for in the foster system and advised her to encourage S's family to place her there. My mother said no.

While S and I continued to have summer adventures and build a solid friendship and sisterhood, my mother, S's grandmother, and her parents, arranged for her to go live with an aunt who would legally adopt her and finish raising her. I was not told nor prepared for this. In August my cousin left my home. In September, my best friend left me. The two events happened within weeks of each other. The emotions raised by them in combination with the emotions experienced by me as I was raped throughout the summer, were too much for me to process. Shortly after S left, my mother returned to her abuse cycle. I wanted to die.

S wrote me letters every week--sometimes several times a week. I didn't respond once. Part of me was angry at her. I knew she had no say in the plans made for her departure, but I was still angry and I was deeply sad. I felt I had lost my soul and my cousin and S had taken it from me. Part of me wanted to write to her, but I had nothing to say to anyone. I didn't talk for a very long time.

Therapist believes conflict of this type would destroy any normal eleven-year-old's ability to understand relationships and trust and boundaries and friendship and love and families...

Years later I reconnected with S. As an adult, she is an integral part of my family. Her children consider me their aunt, my children are their cousins, my parents are their grandparents. She is my sister. Time helps heal the hurts of the past, but sometimes S will ask me why I stopped communicating with her. She tells me how hurtful that was, how lonely she was, how she felt she had lost everything she loved and her best friend in all the world would not talk to her. I feel guilt and shame in those moments, and sometimes I still feel a bit angry.

I don't tell her the ways my own world was destroyed. I don't talk about how, for a little while, before my cousin arrived, I felt happy. I don't tell her how much I adored her. I don't tell her the ways she saved my life...because later, without even meaning to, she took my life away when she left.

Therapist says one day I'll learn to sort through it all. He says I'll figure out how to feel the emotions and understand with empathy the things those adults went through as they tried to find the best life solution for an incredibly special, beautiful little girl. He says I've already begun the process as I speak of S as my sister and keep her in my life.

She'll be visiting me tomorrow. I still feel sorrow and pain when I'm with her. Therapist says one day that will pass and I will only feel joy.

I hope he's right.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It just takes practice...

My mother has anxiety disorder.

I know. Shocking.

However, compared to hers, my anxiety is Whoville in comparison to Horton. One might even say I have no disorder at all when our anxiety is seen side by side.

Interestingly, my mother's anxiety was only recently diagnosed when she had thousands of neurological tests done and spent time with a psychiatrist. My mother's psychiatrist believes that she focused her anxiety on me, became combative and aggressive because she felt no relief, which became a recipe for daily abuse in my life. It doesn't really matter to me. I'm not looking for answers anymore in this particular aspect of my life. Answers will not change what was nor will they make anything go away. There is a reason my mother abused me...and while I understand that, I don't really care.

I watched my mom have multiple panic attacks during the weekend. Then I found her Saturday afternoon, sitting in a chair looking unhappy. When I asked what was bothering her, she told me she was angry with herself because she had panic attacks. Tabitha was with me. She said, "I have them, too. So does Mom." Yes--but no one knew we had them, we could control them, we weren't destroyed by them.

I said, "Mom, there are times when I'm unable to manage panic attacks. In those moments I go home and wait. You can't do that right now. But there's nothing to be angry or ashamed or embarrassed about. You're having stress. This is how your body reacts. You're uncomfortable, but you're not inconveniencing anyone. Give yourself a moment to relax and the panic will subside at least a little bit."

So she did. And she felt better.

And then she thanked me...sort of.

She said it was difficult to have a daughter like me. Everything is easy for me. I'm very talented and smart. Many things she wished she could do, I do effortlessly. I don't even know how blessed I am. She's not smart. She's not good at things...

The words went on and on. Finally I said, "Mom, it's not true, you know. I work very hard at most of the things I do. Some things come easily, many do not. I just don't tell you when I'm not able to do something or when I'm having difficulty. And it's not just you--I don't talk about it to anyone, really. But I think it's time you stopped comparing yourself to people and started finding out who you are."

I know. Harsh.

I don't care.

The truth is, she sees me as a person who has lived a charmed life. Anything I want, she believes I get. She has no idea what I've been through--what she's contributed to. And she doesn't want to know.

There is a slight chance I'm feeling a bit bitter tonight.

Still, I'm glad she told me how she feels. I have no idea why.

This blog post has turned into a tirade about my mother. That was not my intention.

I will practice a piece of music for a year sometimes before it's ready to perform. I need all the details in place. I don't want memory lapses. I want the music to be a part of me. I have incredible patience as I work through the drudgery of learning every note, internalizing it, deciding how I wish to treat it. I do it because I know the outcome is worth it.

I'm learning...

There are many aspects of my life that still need practice; stress management and panic attacks are among those. PTSD frequently changes how it presents itself. I'm not always able to notice it before it builds into something difficult to deal with. That will take practice.

I'm not good at building and maintaining relationships. I can do it. I can initiate, foster, and nurture the relationship, but I'm not good at trusting other people, learning how to accept love, and allowing change within the relationship. I'm not good at remembering some things are temporary. Sometimes I'm not good at letting go. Just as often, I'm not good at holding on. All this will take practice.

I'm not good at becoming the person I truly am. I still cling to the belief that I'm invincible, incredibly strong and independent, and that I can do anything I wish. None of that is true; but each time I discover one more truth about myself I want to run away screaming to my bed, cover my head and sleep for the rest of my life. The truths require me to be honest about who I am. This will take practice.

And I'm not sure I want to practice this. It's not fun and I'm very tired.

It's possible I've chosen repertoire exceeding my ability.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adam = Impossible

Our mini-vacation has been so much fun. We visited a bajillion amazing people and ate good food and slept in a tiny room--all four of us. Today Ambrosia and I went to an Asian market which is always a Bad Idea for someone like me because I'm very curious about foods I've never tasted. I ended up spending money I wasn't supposed to and we had a fun tasting party in the car which was supposed to continue at Ambrosia's house after Tabitha and Adam had their date at the movie and we ditched DJ with his high school friend and I finished with my business dinner...except...

One of the fun foods we bought was a package of candlenuts.

Adam ate one and said, "Those taste like crap!"

So naturally, Tabitha and had to try them. I put one in my mouth, chewed it, and was suddenly grateful for the stash of napkins Darrin keeps in the glove compartment. Tabitha and I dispensed of the chewed nuts and scrubbed the inside of our mouths. They taste like what I imagine the bottom of my shoe mixed with gun powder and ashes tastes like. Then we laughed and thought what a fun trick it would be if we could get used to the taste, eat one nonchalantly and offer some to a friend...well...we were thinking of AtP...don't get mad if you read this, okay? Because I know you'd think it was funny, too, if that was the end of the story, but it's not.

Adam decided he needed to get used the the foul taste and promptly choked down four more of them.

Fifteen minutes into his movie, Adam felt incredibly ill. He ran to the bathroom to be violently ill, several times. Not wanting Tabitha to miss the movie, he waited until it was finished to call me and let me know he was sick. I picked them up and we stopped at a fast food place because Tabitha was hungry and I bought Adam some Gatorade.

Then I Googled "Are candlenuts toxic?"

And they are.

So I called poison control and was told that at this point the toxin would be spreading through Adam's body. We just needed to let him keep puking, watch for mouth sores and diarrhea, and take him to the ER if he got dehydrated.


I love vacations with Adam.

P.S. We nixed the funny joke idea and I called Ambrosia and told her those nuts in her cupboard might be something good to throw away.

P.P.S. Adam wants to keep the nuts and ignite them later. Apparently, they actually do burn...and make good furniture polish...and you can eat them if they're not raw...I think we'll skip that last thing...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Okay--I admit that my current emotional disaster is my own fault and if I'd stop working like a crazy person I would be able to regroup and live.

Yesterday's adventures:

6:00--Ran 5 miles, took a shower, made myself as beautiful as possible and drank 24 ounces of water spiked with protein mix, multivitamins, 4000 mgs of vitamin D-3, time-release iron, and joint supplement fortified with vitamin D-3.

7:30--Worked online for 2 hours.

9:30--Prepared taxes (March 15th = filing deadline for corporations).

11:00--Took a tax-prep break and taught piano lessons.

1:00--Finished tax returns I worked on during the morning, faxed a bunch of documents, went to the post office to mail stuff to the IRS and various other places.

3:00--Worked online for two hours.

5:00--Went to the store to buy yellow tomatoes and broccoli.

5:20--Went to a different store to buy jeans, a bra, and feminine supplies for Tabitha. The cashier rang up the jeans, then turned to a nearby trainee and told him he had to ring up the other items. The trainee cringed a bit and was told to "suck it up! You have to do this if you work here!" I do not like Original Cashier. This has nothing to do with the fact that one of his nostrils desperately needed a tissue to remove debris from it.

6:00--Made dinner.

6:20--Ate dinner, then worked online for 2 hours.

8:30--Practiced piano for 2 hours.

10:30--Worked online for 2 hours.

12:30 a.m.--Finished online work and went to bed.

I refuse to tally the work hours. I also think eating only dinner is not a good plan. Today I'm scheduling a yogurt-for-breakfast break.

Also, Adam loaded the dishwasher, and I'm very grateful but I think a total of 15 dishes made it inside before he deemed it "loaded", then he pushed every button (soak cycle, pre-wash, high-temp wash, sanitary rinse, hi-temp dry) and turned it on. Three hours later, the dishwasher was still trying to get through all those options. I eliminate all except the sanitary rinse and the relieved machine finished the cycle in 45 minutes.

Also, Adam's plans to move furniture were realized while I was at the office. I came home to find my treadmill in my workspace where Adam's desk used to be, and he had brought a large wooden desk downstairs from my former office and rearranged my basement to make a workspace for himself. I'm not saying anything as long as his chair does not block the walkway. I'm hoping his furniture wanderlust allows me to stay in my current bedroom. This could get ugly.

Also, and in conclusion, I will address an email received yesterday:
1. Please remember that this blog is used as an emotional dumping ground and might not present a complete picture of what is happening in my life, nor does it always adequately express my mental and emotional state of being.

2. My marriage with Darrin is wonderful and there is nothing wrong. I rarely discuss that part of my life here--well, anywhere. It's no one's business. I want my marriage and all it entails to be a private matter between Darrin and me. Should I need to discuss it I will do so with him. We've been married a very long time. We're pretty good at being married. Currently Darrin is teaching night classes which means he sleeps late in the mornings and usually comes home just in time for us to go to bed. I'm missing him, not divorcing him.

3. I'm feeling alone. This is something I believe everyone feels at times. My capacity to feel alone-ness is possibly greater than normal. I can feel alone when surrounded by people I love or when intimately engaged with one of them. It has nothing to do with my feelings for, or relationships with other people. It has to do with the fact that I spent my childhood being abused, isolated, and demeaned. It has to do with the fact that when I was raped, I felt I had nowhere to turn and I was left to clean up mysterious fluids, blood, and myself with help from no one. It has to do with the fact that I've not yet learned how to accept and remember that I'm loved--but I am still trying to learn that skill. It has to do with the fact that sometimes PTSD sends one message through my brain while reality sends another and I'm momentarily confused while I try to sort out which one is real.

4. Your words are judgmental and not helpful. I'm not answering you privately through return email because I'd rather talk about blog stuff here, on my blog. And I sort of feel that contacting me privately instead of leaving a comment (unless, of course, you want to talk about personal stuff you'd rather not have broadcast in my comment box--or if you want to say nice things--which would constitute a completely welcome and appropriate email) for everyone to see, is passive aggressive which is why I'm answering it here. Notice--I'm respectfully not reprinting your initial email--just putting the answer where it belongs.

5. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I'm overly melodramatic and maudlin. Sometimes I say things I will recant later. Nothing is black and white here. I'm an evolving creature and I reserve the right to be sad, rant and rage, cry over nothing, and change my mind frequently. Nothing you say will persuade me to do otherwise.

6. This is my blog. This is my blog. This is my blog. This is my blog.

On a more pleasant note: I made cookies last night. I'm thinking of making Nutella cheesecake and taking it with me on my trip tomorrow. Also, you can do the actions to "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" to the Macarena. You should try it.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I've been told by friends and therapists that this is an important step in healing. By less sensitive friends, I've been told it's an important step in "putting this all behind [me]."

Putting everything behind me...laying it to rest...moving on...

This is what I should want, I suppose. In a way it is what I want and I have definitely worked on acceptance.

1. I have accepted that I was a victim of rape and that I will live my life as a survivor. I did not want this. I wanted to change it. I cannot. I have accepted it.

2. I have accepted the fact that my mother will never see me as her daughter. I'm a friend, a convenience, a scapegoat, someone to ask for help--but I am not her daughter. She feels detached from me. She feels no loss when I'm unable to attend family events or when I must leave early. She acts surprised when I arrive and, as if she doesn't quite know what to do with me, alternately ignores my presence or begins giving me things to do--usually things that someone else is doing so that they can be relieved of the duty and go visit with her. I've learned to draw lines, to say no, to refuse the caretaker role. I've learned to be pleasant, funny, self-possessed when in her presence. I've learned to avoid personal conversations which become sessions for gossip. I've learned never to confide in her. I've accepted what is and learned to be happy with whatever that means.

3. I've accepted that I'm a survivor of physical and emotional abuse. I understand that many of my perceptions about myself are flawed and unkind. I understand that I sometimes perpetuate the emotional abuse toward myself because I was trained to do so and I've not yet learned how to stop. I know I have spent my life sabotaging relationships because I didn't have enough self-worth to believe I deserved love from anyone. I'm learning not to do that. It's difficult. Even in my most cherished, closest relationships I do not know how to believe that I am valued. I think I am. I don't know how to believe it. No one I love has struck me in anger or an effort to control me since I was 16 and that will never happen to me again. That part was easy. The wounds on my heart and soul are much more difficult to heal. I accept that the abuse happened. I accept that it will take time to negate its affects--but I don't know if I'll live long enough to overcome it, and I plan to live forever.

4. I've accepted that touch aversion is a by-product of abuse, and perhaps it sprang up because of the rapes, as well. I've accepted that there are ways to hide it, and I'm very good at utilizing those ways. I've accepted that no matter what I've done to overcome it, I've failed. Touch confuses me. I've been known to misinterpret it. There have been times when I desperately wanted to be held--but when that need was filled, I was left feeling guilty and miserable. I worked to overcome those feelings, and I think to some extent, I did. I no longer feel guilt. I no longer feel miserable. I also no longer feel a desire to touch or be touched by anyone. I accept that.

5. I accept that the person I am is no worse than any other person on earth. Nor am I any better. Each person's life is remarkable in its own way. I would love to have a life remarkable because I was a brilliant scientist, or an amazing mother, or a marathon runner. I would like to be remembered because I was kind to others, or because I grew beautiful flowers from seeds (not my method of gardening in which I buy all ready growing plants, dig holes in my garden plot, put them in the ground and spend the summer replacing the ones that die with newly purchased ones), or I wrote hopeful, inspiring words--even if only one person was inspired.

Instead I will be remembered as the person who thought she could make all the hurts in her life go away in three weeks, and instead spent the rest of her life fighting all the demons she had been ignoring; never winning, just keeping everything at bay. I will be the person who talked about PTSD and flashbacks. I'll be the child who was unwanted and abused, the adolescent who was raped, the suicidal teen who lived. Some people who have spent personal time with me will know I play the piano well enough to earn three music degrees. Some will know I'm a brilliant teacher of many topics. Some will know I love to giggle, and read, and sing, and dance. Some will know I love with my whole soul, even if I don't understand how to be loved in return. Some will know I joined MENSA on a dare--but I keep renewing my membership because I like to play the games on their website. Some will know that sometimes I'm funny and sometimes I cry.

I'm learning how to be me. This is not what I planned, nor what I wished for. Each admission of something I cannot change or overcome leaves me feeling helpless and beaten. With everything I accept, I feel more isolated and alone and there are times when I wonder if that is the ultimate acceptance: To accept that no matter how hard I have worked, no matter what I have done, no matter how strong or talented or capable I am, I will never know how to not be alone.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I believe I will serve fish on Friday.

PTSD Day Three.

I'm taking my kids on a mini-vacation next weekend. When I planned this a couple of months ago I was going to tuck in a visit to Therapist while we were there, but I've been feeling like I want to wait until May. I'm not sure why May has become the magic month, it just is. Yesterday though, I started thinking maybe I needed to see him now.

But I don't want to. And I keep coming back to this:
1. Why do I want to see him? Answer: Because I feel miserable.
2. What do I expect from him? Answer: I want him to tell me I'm not crazy. I want him to remind me of what I need to do to make it through the PTSD episodes. I want him to tell me all the reasons I'm still okay. I want him to make this feel better. And he will. He always does.
3. If I go see him, does that mean I'm depending on his help when I should be using all the things I've learned both from him and on my own, to get through this independently? Answer: Yes.
4. Do I care? Answer: Yes.

So--not going to see Therapist--I'm waiting until May. And while everything in my life right now feels painful and impossible and sort of sucks, I'm not dead nor dying.

I was going to get retested this morning to check my Vitamin D and Iron levels, but I had a meeting I couldn't cancel. And Tabitha needs a blood test, as well, so I think we'll do it next week. That was random. Not sure why I just wrote that, but as this is my blog and I can be random if I want to--I will.

And as long as I'm being random, I had this text war with Adam recently:

Adam text: Hey, i've got a quesrion. would an allergic reaction to my shampoo cause arash on my hands? (Obviously he didn't inherit my need for correct spelling and capitalization--which is good. This way he won't be ostracized by his like-minded peers.)
me text: Not sure. I'd have to see it.
Adam text: K i'll show you when i get home
Adam text: i just remembered i have a camera. it looks like this
me text: If it gets uncomfortable or you need to come home let me know.
Adam text: Well, it started itching yesterday, but it wasn't a bige deal til i realized that it's spreading on both my hands now.
Adam text: It's starting to burn a bit now. do you think it's an alergic reaction, or something else?
me text: I don't know.
Darrin intervention text: Adam, stop texting your mom. She's loaded down with work right now and doesn't have time for this. If you need help go see the school nurse; otherwise, stop worrying about it and get on with your day!
Adam text: K

I came home from a rehearsal around 1:00 to find Adam sitting on the couch.
me: Did you check yourself out of school?
Adam: No. I forgot
me: Adam, you can't just leave without telling anyone.

I made a phone call for my truant son, then asked what was going on.

Adam: I just think I should stay home today.
me: Why?
Adam: I'm concerned about this rash. It's all over my hands and going up my arms.

I looked at the accused rash which consisted on a couple of spots on his hand--nothing on his arms.

me: Adam, it just looks like you've been exposed to a fragrance or something in a soap or shampoo that your skin doesn't like. It happens to me when I try samples from Bath and Body Works. It itches and sometimes tiny blisters form, but it only lasts a few days then goes away.
Adam: Are you sure?
me: Yes, but we can take you to the doctor if you think it's something else.
Adam: Well, I googled it. 
me: That is always a very bad idea. What did you find?
Adam: There was this page and the pictures of the rash looked just like mine and then after about a week of the rash the bones came through the skin.
me: See what I mean about "very bad idea"?
Adam: You don't think my bones are coming out of my hand?
me: I know they're not. Whatever you found--that's not a skin rash. It's some sort of rare and dreadful disease and only three people in the history of the world have ever had it and it can only be contracted through the bite of some now-extinct animal.
Adam: You're exaggerating.
me: Yes. You don't have whatever-it-is. You have a minor skin rash. We're going to put some cortisone cream on it and it will be gone before Friday.
Adam: You're sure?
me: Yes.
Adam: Well, if it's okay with you, I think I'll stay home from school today anyway. If my bones come out of my skin, I'd kind of like you to be around. 
me: Fine. You can clean the bathroom and do laundry while you're here.

Which he did.

And his bones did not come out of his hand.

And the rash went away.

I love Google.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wow--so incredibly sleepy right now.

Today was sort of ugly. I knew it was coming yesterday afternoon, and when bedtime hit I couldn't sleep for a long time. When I finally was able to sleep I had dreams I would rather avoid. So I wasn't surprised when I became angry for no possible reason very early this morning. By the time noon hit, anxiety was through the roof and one hour later panic attacks began.

I'm not sure anymore what I want to do with the PTSD symptoms.

Here is what I don't want:
1. I don't ever want to become dependent on someone to help me through them. I've been there. It's a beautiful place. It feels secure and safe. But it can't be permanent. While I would love to be able to call someone and say, "Talk to me, please--I'm not doing well right now," I can't always do that. I used to have a list of possible contacts. I've disposed of it. It's impractical. There may be times when I absolutely need to talk with someone, but I need to learn to take care of myself.

2. I don't want to waste time worrying about dealing with symptoms in "proper" ways. I want to be able to recognize and move through them. Sometimes just knowing they're on their way is enough to trigger them. I'm tired of that.

Okay, I was going to make a longer list but my train of thought has moved on without me, so I won't.

Tonight we took Tabitha to see Tangled for her birthday (her choice). It's a lovely movie--enjoyable and fun. But there is one part that's still in my head right now. At one point Rapunzel is about to have her lifelong dream fulfilled--and she's afraid; what if it doesn't measure up...or more stressful still, what if it does? Then what? Rapunzel's love interest tells her that if her dream is everything she had hoped--if it's fulfilled--she gets to have a new dream.

I've been there.

Not that my dream was fulfilled in any way close to what I wished, but parts of it were. I wanted to be able to be close to people, to connect with them, and to feel they reciprocated that connection. This has happened.

I wanted to be able to touch someone without being nauseatingly afraid. I wanted to allow myself to hug people--not because I was avoiding shaking hands, which would involve touching their skin, but because I truly wished to be held by them, and I wanted to hug them back. This has happened.

I wanted to be able to touch someone's hand without panicking. I wanted to be able to do it spontaneously, naturally, to reach out and shake hands with people like everyone else does. I wanted to allow my skin to be touched without wanting to run away, without shuddering, without feeling that I might scream or cry if the touch didn't immediately cease. This sort of happened. There are only a few people with whom I can accomplish this--but a few is more than only one (Darrin), so I'm counting it.

I wanted to be able to talk. I wished to be heard. I needed to tell my story over and over again until I could say it calmly, unworried that whomever was listening would never speak with me again. This has happened.

I could list more, but the bottom line is: I think it's time for me to have a new dream.

It's going to have to wait awhile before I can figure out what it is. Right now I'm a little tired. And today has been more than a little difficult. But I'm pretty sure it's time to switch gears. The truth is, my old dream was about capturing new moments, using them to help me heal, filling needs I've had for a very long time. But moments pass away, and once healed one must become strong again, and most needs change with time--or they should. Mine will, too, no doubt. Life remains in motion and nothing can stay. All dreams eventually fade and are replaced.

Tomorrow I will regroup. I'll remember what is real and what is fabricated by PTSD symptoms. I'll run again and meditate and pray and do all I can to replace destructive thoughts with more authentic, positive ones. I'll take deep breaths and concentrate on managing stress and panic. And I'll keep working. Hopefully by Thursday I'll stop feeling numb, I'll try connecting emotionally with people I care about, and the urge to isolate myself and abandon every part of my current life will have waned.

Okay, I need to stop writing because I feel an overwhelming desire to feel sorry for myself right now--and that feeling is spreading to a need to apologize for being alive which I refuse to buy into. I'm going to go sleep. If I spoke with you today, though, I will apologize for that. I was having difficulty focusing, I didn't really want to talk to anyone, and I probably don't remember much of what we discussed. My memory of a couple of conversations is that they were strained and difficult, but I'm thinking that might have been just my perception. Conversation was a chore today--as was any kind of social activity.

Ack! Stopping talking right now. Good night!

Friday, March 4, 2011

I feel compelled to keep talking about this:

Okay--that last post was very subdued in comparison to how I feel about what I wrote...the part about talking about the things that have happened to me.

I told Darrin this morning, and then I hugged him and cried.

Four years ago telling the nurse practitioner those particular personal facts would have had the following effects:
1. I would have started shaking--no telling when that would stop.
2. I would have left the appointment certain that I was some sort of ugly, filthy monstrosity and Nurse Practitioner would be very glad I was gone.
3. I would have gone home and hidden for at least three days while I tried to gather enough common sense to recognize my responses and thoughts were exaggerated and probably incorrectly assuming things about how others feel about me.
4. It's very likely I would have thrown up even though I would studiously have avoided food for at least two days.
5. I have been known to have a minor car accident(s) while panicking about sharing personal information.
6. I would be certain that when people look at me they were wondering why I ever allowed myself to be raped and abused--didn't I know better than that?
7. I would experience feelings of revulsion when my skin was touched by anyone.
8. I would feel panicky and faint for as long as a month.

And none of those things happened. Not one.

Did you hear me??? Not even one!!!


I won't. But I want to. And I want to tell everyone I meet: "Hi. I'm Sam. I have PTSD, but I did something I've never done before yesterday. What? You gave birth to healthy, full-term sextuplets today? Seriously, compared to what I just overcame--that's very nice, but doesn't quite bear the magnitude... I mean, you popped those babies out after nine measly months. I've been working on this for years--for YEARS, I say."

Okay, I admit it's not quite as amazing as full-term, healthy sextuplets (especially considering the fact that I've never been able to make even one of my babies stay inside for more than 35 weeks--not full-term), but for me it's fairly magnificent.

Today I feel real. For the first time in my life I don't feel that I have to apologize for being alive. I'm not less than anyone else. I'm not filthy or contagious.


That's right. Perfectly, beautifully, completely acceptable.

And if you happen to run into me today, don't be surprised if I tell you so. There is something wonderful about finally being about to say feel it...

On second thought, I just might go up on my roof today. There are some things that must be shared.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"...sometimes, when you fall, you fly..." ~Neil Gaiman

Tabitha's anxiety disorder has expanded into depression. It's not debilitating. It's not constant. But she feels the depression more often than is optimal. So at the suggestion of our pediatrician, I made an appointment with a pediatric nurse practitioner who also has a bajillion other degrees and specializations, one of which includes knowing which psychiatric medications work best for teens.

I've actually been trying to get an appointment with this person for two months. Not easy.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. She spent about an hour with us, asking questions and taking Tabitha's history. She asked me to briefly give my background, as well--trying to determine if Tabitha's anxiety and depression were genetic. And she spent about ten minutes alone with Tabitha, during which time she asked about drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, and any other situations Tabitha might not be comfortable discussing with me present. Tabitha answered her questions and said, "You didn't have to send my mom out. She knows pretty much everything that's going on with me. I tell her," at which point the nurse practitioner invited me back in.

The NP asked me how I was able to get Tabitha to talk to me so much. I've never really thought about it, so I couldn't answer the question. Tabitha said she talks to me because I listen--and I make sure we're in a place where we won't be interrupted (on a walk, driving in the car, in her bedroom...). Also, she said she's not afraid to talk about anything because I don't get angry or act shocked or disappointed (which isn't completely true--I do, Tabitha just doesn't notice). And, Tabitha said, she knows I love her no matter what, and I let her make her own decisions most of the time.

Interesting. I didn't know Tabitha felt that way about her relationship with me.

So that was a positive experience I had not expected.

Also positive:

1. When asked to talk about my past, I revealed that I'm a rape survivor. I used those words. I didn't flinch. My voice remained steady. And inside, I didn't feel that I was dying and somehow freakish and ugly. I'm a rape survivor. It happened to me. It is not who I am.

2. I told her I was a survivor of emotional and physical abuse until I left home at 17. During Tabitha's private interview with the NP, she adamantly stated that she has never been abused by me in any way and that I've never even spanked her (not true--I've swatted her behind once or twice when she was a toddler, to get her attention--it was never enough to cause pain or make her cry). NP told me that's unusual. Many adults who were abused as children will perpetuate the cycle--even if it's to a lesser degree. She said it's common for most adults to resort to how they were treated as children when it comes to parenting. I said I'd chosen to parent differently and I had to do research and take classes and read and pray...and I still do. She said she was impressed with my efforts and pleased that I had the foresight to get help when I needed it.

She doesn't understand--there was no other option for me. I cannot cause harm to people I love. It hurts me in ways I can neither describe nor endure. This means I will initiate difficult conversations to find solutions which will help my relationships thrive, I'll forgive almost anything, and I'll try constantly to make certain healthy boundaries and mutual respect are in place and continuously fostered. However, even though I couldn't explain to her that, yes, it was a conscious choice to stop the cycle of abuse when it came to parenting my children, it was also the only possibility for me.

3. I talked about flashbacks and PTSD and my own anxiety, and answered all her questions without feeling attacked or less human because I have all those things. I told her I've had no flashbacks since August 2nd, I'm still learning to manage PTSD, I have difficulty sleeping when nightmares come, I have panic attacks which sometimes last a couple of days. I told her I'm unmedicated. NP said it sounded like there was no link between what I experience and Tabitha's symptoms. She feels, as I do, that my symptoms are situational not genetic and the fact that I'm able to function well without medication supports that supposition. But I talked about those things--and I was okay.

I know there are many people who have endured greater challenges and tragedies than I have. But for me, the things that have happened were daunting and traumatic. There have been many times in my life when I felt I could not live one more day knowing the things that have been done to me, understanding how helpless and aching I was left, recognizing there was no way to change that. In those moments I simply chose to not have those experiences anymore. I was not a rape victim. My mother did not mistreat me. I lived a boring, normal life, just like every other person on the planet.

Today I can say what happened. I can talk about it as needed. It no longer eats my soul. I am Samantha--entirely whole. I can be sad about the sad parts, but also feel joy as I recognize the depth and beauty I experience each day.

One day, a long time ago, I asked Tolkien Boy if he believed a person could be hurt beyond the ability to heal. I don't remember exactly what he told me but today I can answer that question. For me, the answer is that if indeed, people can be hurt to that extent, I am not one of those people.

I was raped and abused. I was hospitalized because I wished to die. I stopped eating in the hopes that I could discard the body which I believed had betrayed me somehow. And then, one day, I decided to live.

I don't know that I'll ever be completely free of the memories and aftermath of those experiences. Perhaps it's good that I remember. But remembering does not keep me from becoming lost in a sunrise or singing or writing terrible poetry or laughing just because I'm happy. It doesn't hamper my determination to grow and learn and overcome phobias and try new things. It doesn't isolate me from people I love or make me stop trying to learn about relationships.

Remembering helps me know I'm real. Knowing I'm real allows me to seek out people to love who will love me back. Giving and receiving love helps me remember that I am more than that which was done to me.

I am more.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Today I danced in my kitchen. And before you laugh at me, take a moment and admit that you've done the same thing--if not in the kitchen, then in some other room. I had a reason for my happy dance.

I've mentioned a few times that I hurt my knee last year during a rather disastrous fall while I was distracted by nearby wildflowers. The road curved and went steeply downward and I did a head-over-heels demonstration, ending up with gravel embedded in my knees and elbows and stomach. I finished my run (two more miles), ignoring the fact that my legs were covered in blood, because I was in the middle of nowhere and I never bring my cell phone with me (just imagine the Darrin lecture I got when I arrived at home). I noticed at the time that my knee wasn't working quite right. 

It's possible that everything would have healed up in a few weeks, but I fell again. And then again. And just for good measure--one more time. Yeah...I have some issues with blood sugar. The first fall was sheer idiocy on my part. The subsequent ones were the result of poor nutrition. Sigh...

So by the end of July it was clear that I'd done some damage. I researched all sorts of medical articles, trying to determine if this was something I could deal with on my own or if I'd really hurt myself badly enough to need a surgeon's help. And I pondered this for a good long time--about six months, during which I dealt with swelling and a great deal of pain. But since I couldn't decide whether or not I needed a doctor, I didn't go to one. 

Finally, last month I began feeling relief from the pain and three weeks ago I felt the knee start functioning as it should; no more pain or stiffness climbing stairs, no wishing I was dead after running, no more swelling. I think it's better!

Hence, the happy dance. And I'm not going to tell you that during my dance I slipped and fell. Nope, not talking about that part at all. Just glad the knee's all better. Yup.