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Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Our choices in life are made according to our sense of our own worth." Kaylan Pickford

Tabitha gave me a new bathrobe for Christmas. She's been telling me for years that my former one was "so big you can swim in it, Mom, and not soft enough for someone like you." I'm not sure what the last part means, but she's right--my former robe was one I stole from Darrin years ago when he left for the summer to work in New York. It smelled like him and made me miss him less. I've been balking at replacement because:
1. I rarely wear my bathrobe.
2. I like the association with Darrin.
3. I didn't feel a need for a new one.

However, my new robe is soft and very warm, and since it was made for someone my size I don't have to keep tightening the belt to keep it from falling off. The old bathrobe was made of heavy terry cloth. The sleeves were cavernous and I could wrap the robe around me twice. Most annoying was the tag at the back of the neck which chafed. I would fold down the neckline so the tag faced outward to avoid the rough tag, which made the robe even more ungainly.

When Tabitha would say, "Mom, you need a new bathrobe," I would remind her that I have a bathrobe, and I was unhappy with spending fifty dollars for something I wear about 15 minutes daily. Her reply was that I could shop around, find one on sale, spend less, and find something more comfortable that wasn't enormous on me and was less ugly. I'd mumble something about replacing the robe when it wore out. She'd counter with the fact that something as hideous and huge as my bathrobe would never wear out. She's probably right.  And when I finally wore the new robe for the first time I felt completely silly for waiting so long to find something that fit and felt better.

I have a number of uncomfortable habits and coping devices I've been holding onto for many years. I keep them around because change requires investment of time and sometimes money--and I don't know if the result will be any better than what I currently have. For a time, those habits brought me comfort when I had no other options. In my head, I hear Tabitha saying, "Mom, you need new ways to deal with things--some that will fit better and feel better in the long run."

And she's right. It's time for me to make some changes. My fear is that when I do, I'll end up more stressed and less able to cope with life, and ultimately more lonely and sad. But the truth is that the end result will probably be more like this lovely new bathrobe--softer, more comfortable, warmer, and tailored to fit who I really am.

I realized as I discarded the old robe that it's incredibly heavy. I would wear it only briefly because of the discomfort it gave me, and it ceased reminding me of Darrin long ago--which is good because Darrin is here with me now and I don't really need a reminder of him. There is nothing I miss about that old raggedy thing I've clung to for so many years.

Once again, I feel silly.

So I will begin with just one change for the better. I made a list of habits and disorders that need work when I last visited with Therapist, and we came up with some healthy strategies to loosen their hold on me a little at a time. When I got home I felt overwhelmed with trying to stick to the list we made, so I'm releasing the list and choosing one thing only. When I'm able to successfully do that one thing, I'll add the next item and I'll keep doing this until I've made it successfully to the end of our list because I'm tired of wearing the old, heavy, worn-out habits. It's time for something new--something better. And Tabitha would remind me, as so many other loved ones have, that I'm worth the cost because I'm someone wonderful.

And now I will shed this lovely new bathrobe so I can go to the gym and work up a sweat. Lounging time is over.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"...comfort was allowed to come to them...rare, welcome, unsought; a gift like joy." ~Ursula LeGuin

I am spending limited time online for the next little while. I'll be working online, of course, and checking email periodically. And I can't allow Scrabble games to lapse. :)

I am overwhelmed. I spent a very lovely Christmas yesterday with my family. It should have been idyllic. Instead, for me, it was a bit nightmarish. I spent the day fighting panic attacks, unexpected bouts of tears, and trying to manage pain. As a result, I put myself to bed for "naps" throughout the day. I wasn't actually sleeping, but trying to gather myself so that I could go back and be with my family. It was frustrating. My daughter is here for the first time in four months and I'm falling apart because I'm not managing any part of my life successfully.

Except for this one, I've closed all my blogs for a short time. It's not helpful right now to write about the things that are troubling me. It's not helpful to do anything, actually. I just want to get through the holiday, allow Tabitha to enjoy her time at home, and move on.

My father is fatalistic. He takes no position on whether or not my brother abused my daughter. Instead he says he loves them both. He's supportive of Tabitha and concerned that she receive help and healing. He is, as I am, waiting to see what my brother's reaction will be when DFS contacts him in a week. Above all, my father wants to wait as long as possible (forever, would be his choice) before my mother is told. He believes that with her now non-existent social boundaries, coupled with the emotional stress the information will bring, she will talk about the situation on Facebook, with strangers, nonstop in her home, in email and chat messages--in short, there will be no privacy for either Tabitha or my brother.

I have talked about the situation with a few trusted people, some of whom have access to Tabitha when we visit her. I have spoken to no family members other than my father. This does not include my sons. Adam is having a terrible time dealing with the information. He has always looked up to my brother and people have sometimes told Adam he is like his uncle. For the record--he is not. Regardless, I'm watching my sweet son struggle with a great deal of stress. He adores his sister, but he wants to disbelieve her which makes him feel disloyal. I wish I knew how to help him.

In the meantime, I'm not sleeping again even with medication. I received a cryptic message from my cousin, Jeff, in response to my "Merry Christmas" text. It made no sense and contained the words, "I'm so very sorry. Good-bye."

I texted back a question, "What does that mean? I'm not sure what you're telling me." Then I ignored it. He sent no reply.

I can't play games with him. If he needs help, I'm here. But communication such as his last one causes me a great deal of stress and I don't have energy to decode or guess what he needs. It's all I can do to figure out what I need.

Today I will finish work. Adam and Tabitha (and maybe even Darrin) will join me for an hour at the gym. Then I am going to clean up the Christmas joy spread all over my living room and kitchen, make something fun to eat with Tabitha, read some of the new book I received for Christmas, and work my tail off to get out of this funk I'm in.

It's really difficult, and I'll be honest: All I really want to do is lay in my bed and cry because I don't know how to manage all the scary, awful, things in my head. I won't--but I want to.

In the meantime, if you're someone who reads this blog, regularly or occasionally, send me good thoughts. I'll get through this, of course, because that's what I do, but I can use all the help sent my way. And feel free to let me know if I can do the same for you. I don't have a great deal to give, but I'd love to send a smile and a prayer your way.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in..." --Abraham Lincoln

Tabitha is home for about a week. I'm so glad. I cannot imagine spending Christmas without her. Today she'll help me go through her clothing to give away the things she has outgrown or no longer wishes to wear. We'll decorate the tree and make dinner. And we'll play games with Darrin and Adam and DJ. All this will happen to the tune of carols we've listened to year after year.

In just over two weeks I will become a guinea pig as my doctor tries to decide if my tendon and leg can be salvaged and mended. I'm anxious to get on with it. I want an answer. I'll participate in an experimental study and I'm very hopeful that by May I'll be running again.

Darrin and I are planning mega travel in June. If all goes well, we'll be seeing family and friends and we've even reserved a romantic night in San Francisco for just the two of us. This was our Christmas gift from Adam and DJ. I love my sons.

I passed my IRS exam yesterday. It was two hours of boring questions about tax preparation, deductions, investments, IRA and other retirement plan distributions, and ethics. I've been studying for about four weeks--which is the amount of time that's passed since I decided maybe I wouldn't retire my tax preparer shingle. I'll admit, I was worried I wouldn't pass. I've had difficulty concentrating, and watching my performance at my last job decline to the point that my contract was not renewed was not good for my self-confidence. But I'm doing better, and clearly I know what I'm doing in the tax prep industry. This is a good thing.

Tabitha gave us an unexpected early Christmas gift a couple of days ago. She admitted that she was a victim of sexual molestation. She believes it happened between the ages of 6-8 years. This information explains so many things pertaining to her behavior over the past decade. It also contributes to her anxiety disorder and helps explain why the bullying at school affected her so drastically. We're grateful that she'll be able to work on a core issue and perhaps heal from many of the other things that have been bothering her.

The down side: the perpetrator named is my brother.

Some day, I would like to spend a day resting--really resting. And I would love to have a whole day when my guts can relax and I can smile with my whole being.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This post will be ambiguous, maybe. If it seems that way, it's probably because the things I'm discussing are still a bit unclear to me, or I haven't yet made up my mind how I feel about them. So this might be a post to be skipped--it's not really fun and the purpose is to help me understand some things, to resolve some feelings, and to lay some parts of my life to rest.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, life turns you upside down. Lately it seems that just when I've righted myself, Life tips me over again. Perhaps the solution is to stay overturned. Then when Life drops the bomb on you, you end up right side up because you were previously upside down. Not sure how all that would work, but I would really like to stop getting hit when I least expect it.

Sometimes a person shares sweetly vulnerable, intense feelings with another trusted individual--not because they wish for the logical conclusion of that sharing (which could be love, life experiences, or other intimacies)--but because there is in that moment, no other place to share those insistent emotions begging for a safe place. And when the time is appropriate (or the appropriate person makes an appearance), those feelings are transferred. It constitutes a gain and a loss simultaneously. The person who gains continues, unaware that the transfer has occurred. The person who experiences loss, if they truly love the other, walks away from the experience, not painlessly, but with a greater appreciation of the trust granted to them, the beauty of being momentarily important to another, and honoring--perhaps even cherishing--the experience as they allow the evolution, or possibly dissolution, of the former relationship.

Sometimes there are no words to describe a heartache.

Sometimes life defies explanation.

Sometimes there is no room for even one more emotion.

Sometimes you cry, not because you feel pain or joy, but because in one brilliant, breathtaking moment you suddenly understand a concept you've been working at for a very long time. And the answer doesn't bring peace or catharsis; it doesn't answer questions or help all the different pieces fall into place--but instead, with intense clarity, you understand all the nuances and layers of truth that have been nagging your brain, sometimes for many years.

Sometimes sleep is elusive.

Sometimes you wish you hadn't eaten a brownie at 11:30 p.m.

Sometimes your feet are warm but your shoulders are still cold.

Sometimes you push forward even when you wish to run away. You allow relationships to continue even when they lose emotional intimacy or vibrancy. You push to the end of a run when you want to collapse on the ground. You eat because it's an important thing to do (and you hope it will help you get warm). You get better because that is the only acceptable option.

Sometimes mint ganache tastes exactly right.

Sometimes you have to use the bathroom before the blog post is finished--so you stop writing and publish it right now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Yesterday a few people tried to talk with me about the outrageously tragic shooting in a Connecticut elementary school. My responses, in general, consisted of three word or fewer. This is not because I'm not touched by the event, nor because I'm callous. What it means is that for someone with my background, discussing the tragedy before I've had time to process it privately translates into panic attacks and horrible distress.

Some might say those are appropriate responses given the level of loss. Some might say that I need to allow myself those feelings because to shy away from them is unhealthy. Some might say that if I talk through what I'm feeling with someone safe, I'll be able to process everything more quickly and with fewer residual results.

I say: You do not know what you are talking about. You are not me. You do not have my experiences, my years of therapy, my knowledge of self. And regardless of your training and background, you still are not me.

I have had one day to think on what has happened. I haven't yet delved into the investigative reports and when I choose to, I don't know how deeply I will do so. I have not yet wept for the loss of life and grieving parents, families, and friends. I will wait until I know I can cry without being overwhelmed. And some day I will talk about this outside my blog--but not today.

You see, for someone like me, an event such as this has the effect of convincing me that people are inherently harmful; that no matter how we strive to protect ourselves and those we love, there is someone who wants to cause harm--even, in this case, death. And when I go to this place it affects the level of trust I have in others, it transforms all my relationships into platforms of fear, and I find myself fighting the impulse to cut off all communication and just hide.

I know--extreme and unreasonable. Welcome to my world.

So yesterday I chose to read the Facebook responses of grieving and angry friends. I chose to briefly scan the news reports. And then I chose to let everything lie. After all, one needs to be able to sleep at night or processing all of this can become impossible.

Today I am accepting that something horrible happened to innocent children and the people who wanted to protect them. I'm not just talking about those who were present at the shooting, but people everywhere who would keep children safe, but who could not help those who were killed yesterday. And in that acceptance I want to make the following statements:

1. There are moments which make life seem ugly and monstrous--when we realize that one person can spread violence and evil within a matter of minutes. But there are also moments within those moments when we watch people reach out to one another because grieving alone feels ugly and monstrous, as well.

2. I love Mr. Rogers's mother who told him, "Look for the helpers." All of us will need helpers to make our way through this tragedy. Those who have suffered devastating losses will need help most of all. They'll need monetary help to provide for the days when they must leave work to go home and cry, or to provide therapeutic intervention for themselves and their loved ones. Or maybe they're already stretched beyond their ability to cope, financially, and don't have the means to provide for their loved ones' burials. Regardless, my hope is that those who can, will share with those in need by donating to reputable sources. And for those who cannot, I hope they will share prayers, hugs, time...any appropriate resource with the victims and with those who mourn with them.

3. Today I will have hope. Hope is often an elusive entity in my life, but I want to believe that, regardless of how it seems that incidents similar to the one that occurred yesterday are escalating, this is an isolated, unusual thing and that the majority of humankind is caring and supportive of one another. I wish to remember that in this world of uncertainty, I am safe because I have many in my life who love me. I choose to have hope that while we never, ever forget those who have been lost to the senseless violence chosen by a few, we will also continue to believe that life is good and beautiful and worth living every single day. And for those who died yesterday, I have hope that they are no longer hurting and afraid--that in whatever place they are now found, they are embraced and comforted and filled with love and peace.

And to every person touched by yesterday's tragedy--I wish you the same.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

'Tis the Season

I am drowning in rehearsals. This is a good thing. I have a huge concert Saturday evening and another on Sunday afternoon, at which point I believe my performances are finished until January. Maybe. Usually there are spur of the moment Christmas things that crop up between now and next month, but they're small and don't take a great deal of rehearsal time. And I like them.

Our Christmas tree and home remain undecorated. We decided to wait until Tabitha comes home to do this. It's not that decorating is her thing, its just that we want her here when we do it--sort of difficult to explain our motivation, but given my spare time level, I'm glad to put it off.

My new job is interesting and I like it, but available work is unpredictable and sporadic. I'm giving the job a couple of weeks, but I'm not able to get more time in I'll be looking for something else.

Yesterday at the gym I encountered a middle-aged man (older, even, than I am) running stairs. He was wearing obnoxiously bright patterned running shorts (which is fine, I don't really care what people wear), and no shirt. This is the first time I've encountered a shirtless person at the gym and I'm left feeling very strongly that people need to wear shirts. Please, please, please, wear shirts. I don't want to see your abundant, sweaty chest hair and bouncing pecs--ever--and all the other parts that wobble on your torso really, really want to be covered. I know this.

Yes. I know I'm being unreasonable. I don't care. I want that man to put his shirt on.

I would like to say I'm not traumatized by this, but I usually go to the gym between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. It is now 10:30 and I've not yet left. I'm ridiculous.

Maybe I'll nix my workout today and play Scrabble instead.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"All that we are arises with our thoughts." ~ Buddha

I've been sitting at my desk most of the morning staring at laundry I need to fold and thinking of my kitchen floor. It really wants me to clean it. But the sun is streaming through my window and I can hear winter birds on the other side, and I want to just play Scrabble.

I have a new job.

Also, I need to order carpet for my living and family rooms. I don't have any idea how to shop for carpet.

Two weeks ago I cut the tip off my thumb. It was very odd because while it didn't hurt at all, it bled forever. At one point I had five bandaids on it because the nurse at the emergency room told me not to take off the initial bandage but to layer on top of it until the bleeding stopped--which it finally did. Later that same night I noticed my small toe was wet. When I looked down I saw enormous amounts of blood coming from it. Somehow I managed to take off the tip of that toe, as well (note: "tip" does not include bone or sinew, just a lot of skin from the top of the digit). Weird.

I finished reading Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. I can't remember when a book has delighted me quite so much. I'm unsure why I love it but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story told in a unique way. I'm still smiling about it.

This year, because of the loss of jobs and hospital bills and other such nonsense, I've been scrambling for Christmas gift ideas. I'm thinking of giving kisses beneath the mistletoe and calling it good. So if you're on my gift list and that does not appeal to you, avoid me when you see me because I'm not kidding about this.

DJ made me cookies yesterday. is possible that those were the only things I ate. But I drank milk with them so probably that's okay--except I'm lactose intolerant, so maybe not.

Darrin and my father went into the mountains to chop down Christmas trees this morning. I'm fairly certain, given the states of their health, they will both die of heart attacks while searching for the perfect tree. Hopefully, I'm wrong, but I'm still waiting to hear from them. They were supposed to call about an hour ago to let me know they were still alive. I'm pretending they're just not in a place where they have phone service. It's more likely, however, that they're talking so much that they forgot.

Today I am singing Christmas carols as loudly as possible. If you have a favorite, let me know--I'll sing it for you. Adam told me my rendition of "Santa, Baby" is slutty, which is, in my mind, an appropriate interpretation of the song so I consider that a very high compliment. Never mind the fact that I forgot the words in the middle and just danced around my kitchen until the music got to a point where I could join in with lyrics. Adam also said he believes that if I ban "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" because I think it's tasteless and misogynistic, I should do the same for "Santa, Baby," for similar reasons. My answer was to sing "Santa, Baby" one more time. Adam has put on his headphones and is refusing to talk with me for at least five minutes.

The title/quote of this post has nothing to do with the content. I put it there because when I first read it I thought it said, "All that we anuses with our thoughts." And while I know that makes no sense, it still made me laugh--for about five minutes--because that's just how sophisticated my sense of humor is today. Also, it reminded me that my first experience speaking with Tolkien Boy happened because I similarly misread something he had written (he wrote "ennui", I read "eunuch"--it could happen to anyone), and he had a chat box on the sidebar of his blog where I shared my optical typo, not knowing he was there at the time, and he responded to my gleeful revelation with his belief that being a eunuch would not appeal to him. He took all the wind from my sails because I was planning to hit-and-run, but then felt it would be rude not to talk to him. So we had our fateful conversation and then never spoke again for almost three months, at which point we began an online conversation that has lasted nearly seven years.

Next week is filled with rehearsals and performances. The following week will be filled with baking and more Christmas carols. The next week I retrieve Tabitha from the managed care facility and we get to have her home for Christmas and New Year's Eve and Day.

December is a good month.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Playing "Therapist Says" once again (also, this is a whiny rant--you have been warned)

I think it's normal to feel disconnected from people sometimes. We become overwhelmed with the struggles in our lives or very busy or we feel drained in a number of ways and emotional connection with loved ones becomes difficult rather than joyful. I've been in this spot for awhile now.

Several people in my life have told me it will pass, and no doubt, they're correct. There is a difficulty to this prediction, however: When the lack of connection has lasted for quite awhile, I become accustomed to it. The feelings of loneliness and longing subside. Eventually I find my desire to connect with anyone has diminished to the point where I find it bothersome to even make the attempt. I'm irritable when emotional intimacy is initiated by anyone in my life and I just want to be left alone.

I'm managed to circumvent this process several times over the past few years because I understand it's not healthy nor does it help me as I work toward managing PTSD on a regular basis, and as I try to understand how to have lasting, rewarding, joyful relationships with members of my family and other loved ones to whom I might not be related. It is important for me to avoid the "please do not ask me to feel anything for you because I don't want to" place inside of me because while arriving at that point takes little effort, leaving it behind is enormously difficult for me.

That being said, I'm there again. I've been approaching this place for at least a couple of weeks, and in my defense, I've tried to avoid it. I've tried to talk with people and spend time with them. I've made time for meditation and relaxation. I've tried to incorporate moments of closeness in my personal interactions and invited the same from others. So I've tried. I just haven't been successful.

Naturally, there are a million reasons for my arrival in this spot. I've been a bit stressed about people and relationships and other such things lately. I think, too, I've been feeling a bit like I'm not needed by anyone (yes, I know that's not true--still the feeling persists), that I'm a casual convenience for some (yes, I know I'm not cheap entertainment created solely to alleviate another's boredom--again, I'm talking of feelings, not reality), and that no one really feels anything about me other than passing interest followed by nothing at all.

I told Therapist that it's clear I'm just feeling sorry for myself. He asked me why I thought that. I didn't have an answer--because I don't know.

Therapist says I'm not feeling sorry for myself, I'm just not having my needs met by the people I love. This is completely unhelpful and I don't really agree with him. I don't think I really have that many needs to meet. People talk to me and they treat me nicely. I'm unsure what other needs he believes I have.

Therapist says that above paragraph is me being defensive--in essence, I'm saying this, "I don't know how to meet my needs through interaction with other people, therefore I refuse to acknowledge those needs so I cannot be disappointed or hurt."

He's probably correct. At this point, though, I'm not sure I care. Where is the good in telling people, "Hey! I need this from you!" and then they give it to me, but not because they want to. Maybe they do it because they feel sorry for me, or because I'm more annoying than I suspect and I'll go away if I don't need things from them anymore, or because they're just really nice or non-confrontational...

And anyway, isn't that a form of emotional blackmail? Find people just because they can fill needs? Isn't that using people? And why would I do that to someone I care about?

Therapist says those questions are defensive, once again. He says I'm processing the fact that I rarely had my needs met as a child and I found ways to fill the voids those unmet needs created in my life. I became unhealthily self-reliant. While it's good to be self-reliant (says Therapist), to never acknowledge the fact that I need people to spend time with me, touch me, express love to me, is an extreme form of defensive self-reliance. In essence, I convince myself that I am the only person I really need, which forms the initial disconnection with loved ones, which escalates into isolation, blah...blah...blah...

I find it fascinating that Therapist says all those things, but never seems to offer any suggestions of how to remove myself from my current state. It feels like I'm being accused, tried, and sentenced because I'm a lost cause--there's not really a way for me to bail myself out and express to people I love the things I need from them.

Therapist says that's not true. He says I'm not listening yet, so talking about helpful strategies right now is probably not going to have good results. Then he says he cares about me and he's sure I'll get to a point soon where we can deal with the current difficulty and continue to make progress toward managing the stress in my life.

I feel a great deal of antagonism toward that man right now, and part of me wants to scream that he doesn't care about me and I want him to stop saying that because it hurts.

But there is another part of me that desperately wants to hear that from him--from anyone.

I think it would be prudent for me to go to bed now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." ~Lao Tzu

About a month ago, when I was least expecting it and definitely not strong enough to receive it, Therapist sent me an email letting me know his job was changing. He was being transferred to a place where he would be working with a select group of clients and his supervisor expected him to transfer his current clients to whomever would replace him at his current job.

In 2006, when I first began seeing Therapist he worked as a satellite therapist. He traveled to various areas in our region to serve clients who didn't have access to mental health providers as they might in larger communities. A year later, Therapist was offered the opportunity to transfer to Utah for a more stable job--and he took it.

When Therapist told me of the upcoming transfer, he asked if I would like him to recommend me to a different therapist in the area or if I'd like to seek one out on my own. I thought for a moment, mentally reviewed the amount of progress I'd experienced in the last couple of years, and decided it was enough. Therapist had been incredibly helpful and the level of emotional healing he'd helped me achieve was enormous. I smiled, wished him well, and thanked him for his help.

Three weeks later I was in the mental health ward of the hospital on suicide watch. Apparently I was wrong. It wasn't enough.

I tried counseling with a couple of local therapists with fairly disastrous results. There are many reasons for this, but I finally decided I needed to track down Therapist and finish what we'd begun together. I knew it would be difficult to make the long trips, but I also believed the time and expense would be worth it. I contacted Therapist, told him I was coming to Utah and asked if he had time to see me. He said yes.

I think Therapist thought I was just checking in or visiting him socially. He seemed very surprised when I told him I wished to continue seeing him as a client. He mentioned the distance and cost of travel. I said I was prepared for that. So Therapist told me he'd love to continue our work.

That was many counseling sessions ago. I'm incredibly grateful for friends who have housed and fed me to help defray lodging costs. I've put more than 100,000 miles on my car and I don't even want to think about how much I've spent on fuel. In spite of that, I have no regrets. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

During those years I've threatened several times to fire Therapist. I've been incredibly angry with him. I've sometimes even made fun of him as I pretended to know what he might say to me, or predicted his response to the newest predicament of my life. There have even been times when I thought maybe he wasn't helpful anymore, or I no longer needed him. In the end, however, I've always been sane enough to recognize the help I was receiving from Therapist, I've been grateful for his willingness to let me call or email when life felt overwhelming or too stressful to manage, and I think I've always known that Therapist cares about me a great deal.

Knowing that your therapist cares about you--authentically, not just in a professional sense--is empowering. I've made harsh statements about Therapist, pretending that the only reason he cares is because I pay him to do so. I knew I was wrong. He's told me often how much he enjoys working with me, how glad he is to see me when I come, and he's even said that he feels happier after our sessions. That's a nice thing. I don't make my therapist crazy.

So when I began reading Therapist's email last month, my heart sank. I was worried. I didn't want to begin again with another therapist. I felt that I was so close to the "maintenance" part of my therapy, that to start over would set me back in many ways, and I did not have the emotional energy to work through that.

There was a part of the email, however, that I want to put here:
"... I don’t start there until January. There is a chance that I could, from time to time, continue to meet with you.  I don’t have an answer back on that, yet.  I’ve only asked for one exception and that’s you.  J  Do you feel special, yet? You should. After all, you ARE Samantha Stevens!"

Being Samantha Stevens really isn't anything remarkable, but I was grateful that:
1. Therapist had asked his superiors to approve his continuing to work with me
2. Therapist wasn't simply letting me know he was leaving and I was on my own
3. Therapist seemed to understand that this would be a big deal for me, and was willing to ask for an exception for the client who would travel more than 600 miles round trip just to see him.

I replied to Therapist's email, congratulating him on the promotion and letting him know I wished to continue as his client if the exception was granted. His response:

"Thanks, Sam.  I’m impressed with your ability to be flexible with all of life’s changes.  Hearing that your therapist is perhaps becoming unavailable is not one of the things you probably wanted to hear today.  I’m so sorry for the craziness.  I have an appointment this afternoon with my ‘current’ boss where I’ll ask her again what can be done.

"I believe in you, Samantha– you’re an amazing person.  I’m impressed with all that you’ve been able to accomplish.  I hope to continue being able to work as we’ve done to this point."

I spoke with Therapist a couple of weeks ago. He says the exception has not been approved, but his supervisor seemed in favor of it. His plan is to proceed as if he'll be continuing to see me, as needed. I suppose I'm thinking about this today because I'm realizing that Therapist did not have to make accommodations for me. He could have cut me loose, or referred me to his replacement. It feels nice to know that I'm important, in a way, and that Therapist understands how difficult such a change would be for me. And I'm glad he cares about me. A couple of years ago that would have felt strange; today it feels nice.

What this means to me is that I'm learning to accept that it's okay for people to care about me--and many people do--and some people might even love me as deeply as I love them. Someday I think I'll not only know how to accept this, but I'll do so without feeling stress or guilt.

However, I might need Therapist to help me get to that point. I think I won't fire him, after all. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I haven't been writing for a little while because recent days have been unusual and unpredictable, and quite honestly, I just haven't wanted to. So I'm writing just a bit tonight while I try to decide if I want to delve into anything in greater depth later.

This week I applied for a job. I'm going through training and testing right now and on Monday I should know if I'm hired. While I need the job, I'm okay if I don't get this one. Quite honestly, I'm just happy that I've finally found enough emotional stamina to apply. That's a big step in the right direction.

Last week was very good. I even had some days when my hip was functioning normally and without pain. However, there are always reminders that I'm still recovering. I found that reminder when, on Saturday, I spent two hours at the gym and came home to find a message on my phone reminding me that I was supposed to be judging a music festival. It was 10:00 a.m. I was to have been there at 7:45 a.m. Somehow, I forgot. These are the kinds of things that let me know I still have a ways to go before I'm myself again.

In two weeks we'll visit Tabitha again. Adam and DJ are planning to join us for this visit so we can have Thanksgiving together. We'll be staying with my cousin, Jeff, and his family--partly because we enjoy spending time with them, but also because Jeff is not doing well. He had his first flashback last June and has had difficulty staying sober since then. I don't know how I can possibly help, but I'm hoping it will be comforting, at least, to know I understand much of the pain he's experiencing. We'll see how the visit goes. I'm wishing there was more I could do to help Jeff. Then I remember how, regardless of the help I've received, I've had to do the majority of healing work myself. I also have to remind myself that I'm still healing after more than seven years of therapy. It's a very long process.

In the meantime, my time is filled with rehearsals and performances and the unending work of trying to put my life back in order. Some days are better than others. And now I'm going to bed. Good night!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I frequently have days when I feel this. I used to believe it was a unique personality flaw--an inability to accept human companionship on a casual level, and move through life without constantly yearning for deep connection with people I love.

I don't believe that anymore. I think most people have moments when they feel invisible; when connection feels impossible, and when making the effort to build that connection feels too difficult. I think others have days when they are certain they've been forgotten by the entire human race, and no amount of social interaction seems to make a dent in that belief.

This does not mean that I'm waiting for someone to contact me--to assuage my loneliness and disprove my assumption that I have disappeared. It simply means that my life feels distressing right now and I've not yet figured out how to change that. I know that I will figure it out eventually, but it might take awhile and in the meantime, I feel lonely.

A couple of years ago, when this feeling began lingering, I would immerse myself in something: work, exercise, meditation, cleaning...

I've been to the gym this morning. Two hours of expended energy has had no effect. I'm a bit baffled by that.

I have a list of things I need to do, so I will start on that next. But before I do so, I'm allowing myself five minutes of self-pity because being lonely feels really sad today and I'm sort of tired after my gym time and besides, sometimes I think it's okay to just sit for a moment and feel overwhelmed by all that "stuff" inside.

Also, if you're someone who loves me, it would be okay to tell me that today. And if you're not someone who loves me, it would be okay to tell me you do anyway. I'm not above believing falsehoods if they make me feel happier. :-)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A few weeks ago my father asked me if I would be willing to drive my mother to Utah. She wanted to attend "Time Out For Women" which is a conference intended for LDS women (one which, for reasons of my own, I abhor). I didn't want to, but I understand the risk of allowing my mother to drive by herself. So I said I'd be willing to do that. My mother offered to by me a ticket to the conference but I said I'd prefer to spend the weekend with Tabitha. Darrin and Adam were planning to come, but had to work. My sister-in-law also wanted to go, but called me the day we were supposed to leave to let me know she was ill. So it ended up being a road trip with just my mother and me.

Talking with my mother is challenging. Her memories have merged and she has no concept of time. A story that began in 1995 might combine with events of yesterday. In her mind we have always had cell phones and  her grandchildren morph from childhood to teenagers in moments--and some of those grandchildren aren't yet in their teens. However, I allowed her to talk without challenging her fantasies and she rambled on for hours.

My mother has spent the last decade denying that she was ever abused. As she wandered from one topic to another with dubious chronology, moments of terrifying violence at the hands of her father slipped out. She told of his abusive words and punishing hands. She talked of seeing her sister beaten for defying that father. She told me that she was never allowed to have an opinion and there was no such thing as conversation with her father. Today my mother will have no memory of our conversation. Sometimes I think that's okay.

I left my mom with my eldest sister and went to a friend's house for the night. The next day I picked up Tabitha and we went to the airport to get my youngest sister (my mom had invited all the sisters in our family to join her at the women's conference). We joined my family for lunch--my mother, five sisters, three nieces, Tabitha and me. Then we took my youngest sister into the city to see a friend and rejoined everyone at a restaurant for dinner. Finally, Tabitha and I went back to my friend's house for some quiet time before I had to take her back to school.

I spent the next day and Sunday morning with Tabitha, then my mom and I went home. Another long trip with stories filled with startling honesty and false fantasies. At one point my mom mentioned one of my brothers. She feels slighted by his attitudes about mental health. He believes anyone who must rely on drugs or therapy to counteract the effects of depression is weak--not trying hard enough. This particular brother is so messed up mentally that most of us just ignore whatever he says, however, it was clear that his words had been hurtful to my mom who cannot function without antidepressants and anxiety medication.

I said, "He's very certain about his opinions, but please notice that his personal life is horribly unhealthy and he, himself, is emotionally unstable. I think you should consider the source."

My mom nodded, then said, "Do you think I take too much medication?"

I thought for a moment, then said, "Mom, can you imagine if you'd had access to that medication when your kids were small?" I began to list the benefits, the types of relief she might have felt, but she interrupted me and said bitterly, "I wouldn't have been such a horrible parent."

We've had this conversation before. My mother admits that she did awful things, that her parenting and discipline skills were often lamentable. I've accepted her words which are always accompanied by apology and requests for forgiveness, and pointed out that her life now is different--that she has grown past those things and become a very lovely person.

This time I stopped her. "Mom--that's not what I'm talking about." She looked at me blankly. I said, "You were in an incredibly stressful situation. You had eight children--plus extended family who often dropped in for visits--plus whomever I felt like bringing home with me. We lived in a four bedroom home with one bathroom. You were expected to cook three meals daily, keep house, care for children, work in a huge garden, sew clothing, do laundry, entertain whenever necessary, make certain homework was finished, and do whatever else might pop up. Add to that the fact that you were deeply depressed due to a chemical imbalance, you had no examples of good parenting in your past to use as a resource, and you suffer from an anxiety disorder. Without that last part, your life would challenge anyone. When you put it all together, I'm guessing your days were filled with stress and sadness--I know they were. I saw you crying."

I looked over at my mother who was weeping uncontrollably. She whispered, "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm crying now," then made a quiet comment about how helpful it would have been to have the relief of an antidepressant and anti-anxiety meds. Then she said, "I can't seem to stop crying."

I said, "Anyone would cry, Mom. It was a sad, impossible situation. I think it's okay if you cry about it."

But I think more than sadness about her past, she wept because for the first time in her life I showed her compassion. I didn't just accept her apology and acknowledge that she was a pretty awful parent--I let her know that I understood. And while I don't believe that abuse is ever an acceptable coping mechanism, I do believe that sometimes good people are put in positions where they simply do not have the skills to cope with the stress presented to them, especially when they, themselves, have been abused.

I think my mom cried because for the first time I offered understanding and empathy rather than judgment and condemnation.

And maybe she cried because she knows that in spite of everything, I love her.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


We all make them. Sometimes we're correct, but often we're not. A couple of days ago, due to some assumptions he's made about Josh Weed and the organization, North Star, Mitch Mayne made the decision to be absent at this year's Circling the Wagons conference.

Before I continue, I think maybe it would be good to introduce the characters and organizations in this post:

1. Josh Weed: You can read his own words about himself here. If you've read my blog(s), he figures prominently in those as Jason Lockhart, which was his blognym before he began his personal blog a couple of years ago. I retained his anonymity in my blog until he came out this year, at which point there was no reason to be concerned with people knowing about his friendship and association with me.

2. Mitch Mayne: His blog is here. I have not met Mr. Mayne, nor do I expect I will do so, as there is no real reason for such a meeting. However, he is a high profile person in the LGBT community, so many members of that community know him or know of him, especially those who are or who have been formerly members of the LDS faith.

3. Circling the Wagons: I admit to not being completely knowledgeable about this, not having attended a conference before, but this is a portion of their mission statement:
The goal of the Mormon Stories “Circling the Wagons” conference is to create a space where LGBTQ or SSA individuals and their families and allies can gather to acknowledge, explore and honor shared experiences.  No issues strike more deeply than who we love and how we understand and honor God.  These issues carry an especially profound weight in Mormon communities and have been the source of a great deal of misunderstanding, judgment and hurt.  Consequently, gay Mormons are deeply divided over how to address same-sex attraction and negotiate the choices they face.
The rest of the mission statement (which is a little longer than I wish to publish in my blog, but is worth the read) found here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

4. North Star: This is an organization with which I've been associated since its inception. I know, personally, most of the board members, and have friendships with them. This is their mission statement:
The mission of North Star is to provide a place of community for Latter-day Saints who experience homosexual attraction, as well as their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders. North Star serves those who desire the spiritual and social support that strengthens faith, builds character, and empowers men and women to live in joy and harmony within their covenants, values, and beliefs as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Values Statement:
North Star appreciates the importance of supportive fellowship and friendship with others who share their life experiences, values, and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. North Star seeks to facilitate these relationships and to create a community where individuals will find joy in the gospel, help one another more fully understand and apply the atonement in their lives, share their experiences and challenges without shame or fear, and discover ways to contribute their unique gifts and talents to the work of the Lord.
Recognizing the uniqueness of individual circumstance, North Star takes no official position on the origin or mutability of homosexual feelings and attractions but supports all efforts consistent with the gospel that help individuals live in more full harmony with their covenants and attain greater peace, fulfillment, and sense of individual worth, while affirming that the most essential and eternal growth and progress come through the power of the Savior and adherence to the teachings of His prophets.
North Star holds that the power and grace of Christ enables each individual to renounce behavior and manage thoughts that will prevent him or her from returning into His presence. North Star testifies Jesus Christ has the power to reach and transform every life and every individual can find genuine peace and hope in the promises of His gospel. 
In a recent blog post, Mr. Mayne makes the following assumptions about North Star:

1. "...North Star, an organization that positions LGBT Mormons as 'struggling with same-sex attraction' and encourages them to change or suppress their orientation."
2. "North Star encourages LGBT Mormons to view themselves as broken and afflicted..."

In the first assumption I am uncertain as to the source of Mr. Mayne's quote. Members of North Star's board have been careful to gauge homosexuality as a condition some members of the church experience which is unique and is frequently accompanied by feelings of loneliness, depression, and shame. The point of North Star's existence is to be a place of support for homosexual members of the church who feel a need to remain faithful to covenants and live the gospel. The organization is not for everyone, nor was it intended to be. However, there is no encouragement to change orientation. As for suppression of orientation, I suppose if one believes that not entering into a same-sex relationship is suppression, then North Star must remain guilty as charged. North Star has made no secret that the organization exists to support those who desire to remain faithful and active in the church, and at this time that does require abstinence from same-gender sexual relationships. Other than that, however, I am unsure of Mitch Mayne's meaning when he accuses NS of encouraging suppression, and as I choose not to make unfair assumptions, I will limit my comments to that which I have said.

The second of Mr. Mayne's assumptions is blatantly false. As one who has been a member of discussion groups and who knows well the purpose of North Star's inception, I can say without reservation that the opposite is true. Those who participate in the organization are encouraged to see the beauty of who they are, to seek for purpose in their lives as they live with same-gender attraction, to find self-worth, and to use their unique situation to help others. One of the attestations in Ty Mansfield's first book, In Quiet Desperation, which served to infuriate one or two leading reparative therapists of the time was his sincere belief that the Lord loves him as he is, and that his task in life is not to change his orientation, but to seek the Lord's will in his life, and follow it. Ty met with similarly believing people and in time, North Star was formed to help individuals who wished simply to follow Christ--not to agonize over homosexuality or feelings of shame.

The purpose of North Star has been skewed drastically by Mr. Mayne in his blog post. I am unhappy about this because I believe that the organization serves a genuinely positive purpose for many SSA men and women who find support and love there as they continue to serve faithfully in the LDS church. It has also been of great benefit as parents and friends within the organization learn of ways to remain close to their SSA loved ones, regardless of whether or not those loved ones remain in the church, leave it, or choose to seek a same-sex partnership. Those family members and friends are given a place to talk of their fears and hopes and learn from each other. As they feel supported, they are better able to love without judgment and continue valuable relationships with homosexual children, siblings, spouses, and friends.

In reference to Josh Weed, Mr. Mayne says this:

"Mr. Weed’s message is routinely co-opted by many within our faith as the preferred path for LGBT Mormon youth, despite his insistence that it may not be the path for everyone. "

Unfortunately, this is not incorrect. Many within the church, for countless years, have decided that the best way to "cure the gay" is to get married. This has had disastrous results for many who have heeded such counsel--but not all. Most of us who live happily within our mixed-orientation marriages say nothing. One reason is that we understand that this is not something that will work for everyone, and we don't want to fuel the currently existing misunderstanding within the church. Another reason is that we don't wish to have our marriages placed beneath the public microscope. We simply want to continue living with our spouses, enjoying them, fighting with them, sleeping with them, and basically just being married to them, without comment or judgment from people who know nothing about us. 

And finally, we say nothing because we're aware of the derision that comes to us from the gay community. We've heard all that "stuff" about not being true to ourselves, and living lies, and how our kids will turn out screwed up because of us. We're not immune to the hate-filled statements aimed at us, and while we understand that many of those come from spouses and children who have been deeply hurt by mixed-orientation marriages that have not continued, we would still like the opportunity to make our own choices without being called "evil" by those who do not know us.

So--while Mr. Mayne's assertion is not necessarily wrong, it is unfair to place a gag order on Josh because he chooses to speak about his experience with mixed-orientation marriage. My hope is that as he does so, he continues to caution church members not to assume his story belongs to anyone but him, and remind people of all faiths that marriage is always difficult (there is a reason for our rather high divorce rate).

But my problem with the blog post is that Mr. Mayne cites information about families rejecting SSA children and suicide rates and depression, as if he somehow believes that information is linked to North Star's representation at the Circling the Wagons conference, and Josh's speech, which Mr. Mayne has yet to hear. From my previous statements about North Star, it's clear that the purpose of NS is to prevent such familial rejection and help alleviate depression and combat current rates of suicide, and anyone who has been a reader of Josh's blog understands that he desires those same things--and in fact, once devoted more than one post to helping a suicidal young man who left a plea for help.

Mr. Mayne's assumption that including North Star and Josh Weed in the Circling the Wagons Conference will be detrimental to the inclusive and open-minded stance touted by previous conferences is premature and smacks of small-minded ignorance. Indeed, he is making assumptions of a nature similar to those in the church who lump all SSA individuals into one large group of "evil", or who assume they will molest their children, or who believe being gay is a choice...

Which brings me to my point, I suppose, which is that anyone, regardless of how free-thinking or progressive  he might believe himself to be, can be just as judgmental and bigotted toward any individual or organization who/which does not fit into his cookie-cutter mold of how life should be.

"Should" is a word which Tolkien Boy suggested to me, a long time ago, be omitted from our ideas about life. Instead, he believed we might simply look at what is. That takes a great deal of courage. I believe that's what those who are producing the Circling the Wagons conference are doing--looking at what is happening now, allowing those currently existing people and organizations a voice, and trusting those who hear to choose for themselves what best fits their lives right now. Some will reject North Star and some will reject Josh Weed, but they'll do so after hearing their voices and knowing more about them, and that's much better than doing so out of blind ignorance and fear.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"What the mirror presents as true has no authenticity." ~Sri Sathya Sai Baba

I'm a little bit surprised at myself.

I began this journey nearly eight years ago. I began chronicling my journey in a different blog about six months after it began. I'm not really sure why I ended that blog and began writing in this one, but I believe it had something to do with a subtle shift in my persona. I became someone I did not intend to be.

My life has been ruled by logic. This is not to say that I've not had emotions, but I am not an emotional person. I don't immediately feel empathy for someone or for a situation. I look at the facts, ask questions, then decide if the emotions I'm feeling are helpful or not. And sometimes I recognize that my involvement with a particular person or situation is counterproductive, so I find something else to do.

I have, in the past, been cast as unfeeling or callous. I am neither of those. However, I clearly see the difference between emoting for the sake of emotion, and genuinely lending support when needed. This means that I feel completely within my rights to walk away from a potentially emotionally dependent situation without explanation or apology.

However, about four years ago I lost all perspective. In the midst of reclaiming remnants of myself, I forgot to retain my customary balance of emotion and logic. Add to this the immersion of my life in Murphy's Law, and I was completely unable to maintain equilibrium. The result of this is that I became for a very long time, an emotional mess.

I tried to link my unregulated, intensely emotional reactions to my current situation, or my relationships, or PTSD, but although those things played a part, they were not the problem. The problem was that I was buying into the "feeling" part of myself for the first time in my life, and there was definite compensation in spending time there. But each joyful delusion was accompanied by insistent dark feelings, reminding me that something was terribly wrong.

I felt deeply connected to people in ways I could not remember experiencing. This was offset by a depth of fear and insecurity explainable only if one is strong enough to recognize that perhaps such connection is not intended to be a normal part of life. I was angry that friendships are allowed to wax and wane and no one seemed to care about that except me. Tolkien Boy hinted that I would eventually outgrow my anger and join the throng of mankind, recognizing that most relationships are not meant to be a daily thing; which naturally  made me angry with him, believing that he thought I was some freak of nature who had never gained the necessary maturity most adults enjoy.

I felt a depth of loneliness I had never before encountered. I supposed it to be recognition of my past deficits, of basic human needs left unmet throughout childhood and adolescence and then ignored when I reached adulthood. I believe now it was simply a reaction to losing that part of myself that brought balance and equilibrium; the part which allowed me to feel without being overwhelmed.

I experienced panic attacks and feelings of stress beyond that which I was used to. These did not wane with time, nor did they abate when I took steps to alleviate their intensity. I supposed they were side-effects of the difficulties I was encountering in my life--and perhaps that was part of it. But mostly I think those things became more frequent and intense because I could no longer do anything but feel. I could not think clearly, nor could I reason effectively. I was trapped in a whirlwind of feelings that could elevate me one moment and plunge me into despair the next. This is not healthy for anyone.

Last weekend I bottomed out. I lost the strength to manage any part of my emotional life. For days I wept and wondered why I was so terribly sad. Then I decided to take a deep breath and return to the person I knew I was--the one who searched for answers rather than conceding defeat--the one who could ask questions and look at situations and make decisions.

Today I finished my research.

I'm left a bit shocked because I never believed I could become "that person." I've always believed in my ability to act responsibly in any situation. I did not know that I could so firmly buy into the desire to feel to the point that I was no longer able to reason. And the thing that surprises me most is the length of time I've spent in this state.

Today I did not time my run. I simply ran until I was finished thinking. Ten miles later I finally remembered who I am.

I'm left in a bit of a quandary. If I am completely honest, I will admit to being a bit addicted to deep, unregulated, passionate feelings. There was something that felt liberating in allowing myself to yield with abandon to any emotion, buying into it, and remaining there indefinitely. I deluded myself, believing I was sorting through past emotions, allowing them expression, and moving on. But I was not moving on. So regardless of my wish to retain those emotional experiences, and even repeat them, it is time to move on.

Today at 3:15 p.m., I was able to eat for the first time in five days. I'm mortified that I had to wait that long before regaining control of my eating disorder. However, I'm also grateful for that horrible part of me, for had it not been for the triggering of the disorder, I have no idea how long I would have continued in my emotional dysfunction. I required some manifestation of that sort to let me know I was in trouble, I suppose. How odd that I was allowed nearly four years of turmoil before my body let me know it had had enough.

And so I am releasing my need to become immersed in feelings that are unnecessary and often invalid. It will take a great deal of practice because replacing a deeply ingrained habit takes time, but I am very good at practicing. It's time for balance to again rule my life and for me to rediscover the person I truly am. It's also time to regain management of nightmares, irrational feelings, fear, and my eating disorder.

I feel a bit as if writing in this blog has somehow figured into the development of the emotional imbalance. I'm not exactly sure how, but I plan to ponder the possibility. Should I decide this is a truth, I will likely cease writing for a little while. However, I may also feel that writing will be helpful as I practice becoming whole. Today, though, I'm simply enjoying the fact that I no longer feel insane and I do not intend to return to that state ever again.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"What wound did ever heal but by degrees?" ~William Shakespeare

In August, when Tabitha went to the managed care facility where she now resides, I told people I would need a couple of months to regroup and recuperate. I told those to whom I owed some responsibility that I'd be feeling better toward the end of October. They acted if they believed I was exaggerating my need, but said they'd check back with me then. They are going to be disappointed. I'm going to need more time.

I understand their skepticism. Most people have only heard of the difficulties I've been experiencing for about four or five months. They have no idea that the stress began about two years ago, and that for those two years my life has been one day of uncertainty and/or trauma after another. They don't understand living with the knowledge that at any moment there can be an eruption. In it's own way, the situation I've been dealing with is very much like that of a person who lives with an abuser and I've had no idea how to deal with it. The resources we turned to were lamentably unhelpful. We simply did not have what we needed to remedy the situation.

Some people have said they would not have allowed the situation to escalate as I did. I wish I could believe that their ideas about managing teenagers would have worked in our case. But I don't. I believe those techniques would simply have caused the situation to worsen more quickly, and I'm not certain, had I employed punishment and grounding and other restrictions which had nothing to do with Tabitha's behavior, that she would be alive today. I believe her self-esteem would have diminished, and depression increased to the point where her attempts to take her live would have become more extreme and more frequent until she finally succeeded.

Of course, we'll never know. I did the best I could as a parent and I'm willing to be judged by those who have never experienced similar situations for the simple reason that they do not know what they're talking about. All problems are solved quickly by dispassionate observers.

I had hoped that I would bounce back, that having a break from the constant daily stress would help me become myself again. I'm finding that the stress simply morphs into something else. Please don't misunderstand, there is definite relief in knowing Tabitha is safe and receiving the treatment she needs. But I miss her; and not a day goes by when I don't wonder what I could have done more--or differently--for my daughter.

And now that I'm focusing on the practical parts of our former hell, the financial stress seems too daunting to deal with. I'm faced with testing to qualify with the IRS to continue to prepare taxes and I don't even know, if I pass the tests, if I'll be eligible to prepare because I used the funds saved last year to pay our taxes, to pay hospital and doctor and therapist bills. The IRS lady was very sweet when I called to explain the situation (probably because it's difficult to be mean to a sobbing mother who explains that her daughter has become suicidal and all the money has gone to care for her needs), and gave me an extension until next month, at which point, if the bill is not paid, she will put us on a payment plan. However, in order to be cleared to register as a tax preparer, I'm not supposed to be in arrears on my own taxes.

This is just one example of the problems I'm currently wading through. I'm ignoring the other ones. My day consists of me looking at each item and then deciding if I can deal with it or not. If I can, I do. If I can't, it goes back on the pile to earn more interest or cause angry phone calls or just collect dust. I have never, at any time in my life, been in this situation, nor have I felt less capable.

For most of my life, I have lived a collection of wonderful days filled with minor ups and downs, interspersed with an occasional very difficult day. Now I have day after day of very difficult, interspersed with an occasional day of happy. On those happy days, I'm filled with energy, I get a great deal done, and I feel hope. But there are not enough of those days.

I read things about how one's outlook on life is simply a matter of changing one's attitude, or being grateful, or serving makes me feel sufficiently guilty that I wonder why I'm still trying. Except, sometimes when the world stops spinning so fast, I do feel happy and certain that somehow I'll figure out the impossible difficulties I"m now faced with. I'm not sure that I have a bad attitude and I know I'm grateful--the blessings in my life every day are genuinely beautiful. And I try to serve others. I try to help when friends are feeling sad. I do volunteer work a few times a week. I do things for my family and serve in my church.

I think everything is just going to take more time.

And in the meantime, I cry. A lot. I cry because I'm frustrated and stressed, and because I miss my daughter and this is not how I thought our life together would be. Sometimes I cry because I want desperately for someone to call or chat or just hug me, but then, moments later I don't want to talk to anyone and I feel there is no one I can trust and I'm pretty certain that loving me is impossible. And most of the time I cry because I'm just not managing PTSD symptoms well at all which leaves me confused and anxious.

I wish there was help for me, but I don't even know what that help would look like, nor would I dare ask for it because I'm pretty certain the burden of sharing my life right now is more than anyone should shoulder.

This is not a very fun post. But the good news is that I'm due for one of those rare good days and when it happens I'll talk about it here. Good things are meant to be shared.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Not Angry Anymore

My mother taught my siblings and I how to sew. It was required--and on my part, unappreciated. However, it became a means to an end for me. My mother taught us to sew with such perfection that, when entered in competitions, our finished products won prizes, and that meant money. I liked that part. I didn't love the part where we had to do live modeling of the clothing we made--walking, pivoting, posing, smiling...being graceful...but that brought more money and I was definitely willing to make more money.

My sisters and I began modeling when I was five or six years old. My mother was an amazing seamstress. She designed clothing and lingerie, then held sales parties to vend her wares. We modeled the designs while she talked about the details of each item, and then took orders and measurements. I didn't love it, but I did it anyway.

When I was nine, my mother decided it was time I made my own clothes. The sewing lessons usually ended in a power struggle and I remember doing things wrong just to spite my teacher, but in the end it suited my purposes to learn, enter the competitions, and pocket the prize money. I was very good at what I did--because my teacher, my mother, was, as well.

I suppose I'm walking down memory lane tonight because yesterday I went to my parents' home to do some work in my dad's office. I stopped in the living room. My mother had finished a quilt top. It was stretched between frames, waiting to be tied. I couldn't stop looking at it. The corners didn't match--some were lamentably mismatched. There were puckers and places where the bias was overstretched. The quilt top looked ungainly and amateurish.

My father stood next to me. "It's not her best work," he said. Silently I nodded. He added, "A year ago, she would never allow those mistakes to be made." Again I nodded. Then he said, "I suppose it's tangible evidence of her condition..."

Her condition.

My mother's brain is deteriorating. It's not a disease. It's not senility. In her early sixties, she is still suffering the effects of physical trauma from childhood abuse. The abuse caused tiny spots of brain damage which interfere with her memory, her emotional control, her judgement and logic, and now her ability to create. The dead spots in her brain are expanding.

For a very long time I hated her. I hated the way she physically abused my siblings and me. I hated her encouragement and approval as I was devoured by anorexia. I hated her inability to go through one day without screaming in anger at her children. I hated the names she called us, the ways she undermined our self-esteem, the sarcasm and negativity.

I remember, as an angry teen, fantasizing about my mother's death and wanting desperately for the things I imagined to come true.

And then one day I decided that I would not live with her anymore, and I left. I was seventeen.

When I had my first son I knew I was at risk for perpetuating the longstanding tradition of physical and emotional abuse. I took steps to circumvent that. I got help. I read books. But mostly, I remembered. I remembered how I felt when I was a child--how I was afraid of my mother. I remembered the feeling of humiliation and terrible sadness when the abuse took place. Then I held my sweet DJ and promised him he would not ever receive such treatment from me. I keep my promises. But I was very, very angry with my mother for instilling the impulses and setting the deplorable parenting example.

I worked very hard to be the best parent I could be. My children do not have memories of rampant yelling and constant physical punishment. Darrin and I have lived by a different set of parenting rules, understanding that while we need to allow our children to learn about choices and consequences, and to teach them self-discipline, there is no place for derision or shame and humiliation. We've chosen to exclude corporal punishment and while the alternative requires a great deal of self-control and ingenuity, I believe the outcome is preferable.

And in the meantime, my mother has found treatment for chronic depression and extreme anxiety. She has continuously begged forgiveness for her treatment of me while I was in her care. And when I told her that she was never to harm my children physically or emotionally, she has agreed and complied. I've watched her try desperately to change her behavior and I believe her when she says she's deeply remorseful.

Except, now she's disappearing. Three years ago my mother had a tiny stroke--the first warning that something was wrong. When the neurology report came back, all those tiny spots of brain damage were discovered, and no medications seemed to be able to stop their spread. And so as the spots grow by the millimeter, they take away pieces of my mother.

She tries very hard to pretend everything is okay. She smiles and chats and does what she can to maintain a semblance of herself. But she can't combat the mounting evidence--forgetting her way to Walmart in a town stretching less than 10 miles in any direction; imagining phone calls and emergencies which never happen; buying the same things several times in one day; repeating herself because she can't remember whether or not she said something or just imagined it; embellishing or fabricating facts about family members or, worse, talking about extremely confidential matters in public settings, often with complete strangers.

And finally, the tangible evidence in the form of a disastrous quilt top from my master seamstress mother.

The quilt is a graduation gift for my niece. She won't notice the mistakes, and she'll love it because it's from her grandmother. And I realized as I looked at the unfinished product in my mother's living room, that all the anger and resentment I've felt for my past treatment is gone. As pieces of my mother slip away, so does my desire to hang onto any rancor. Instead, I find myself feeling grateful for the skill she passed on to me, and I'm grieving her loss along with her.

My mother wanted lots of children and she wanted to be a stellar parent. But she lacked the tools necessary to parent effectively and instead, perpetuated the abusive childhood she, herself experienced. Probably the childhood damage to her brain, unnoticed for fifty years, had something to do with her inability to deal with the stress of raising children. And in this moment, when the anger has gone, I have to admit that, given her past, she probably did the best she knew how. Under the circumstances, it's likely she did not have the ability to control her behavior.

And so I will spend the remainder of her life remembering the things she did that were healthy and loving. I'll remember that she read to us nearly every day, and she loved to sing. She provided us with music lessons and taught us to draw and paint. She insisted that we learn to sew and cook and clean and care for ourselves and others. She taught us about God.

My father asked me why I was looking at the quilt top for such a long time. I shrugged and laughed and said, "It's just so unlike Mom. It's kind of sad." But that wasn't the real reason. The quilt top had portions that were neatly matched and lovely, surrounded by the ungainly, ugly portions. I thought how it was very much like my life with my mother. And while the quilt top is now finished, I am not. I can still smooth the corners and match the points and finish my life without the scars and wounds of abuse. I can concentrate on the beautiful parts my mother gave me and continue to make memories with her until such time that she no longer remembers me.

I'm not angry anymore. I suppose there will always be sadness and regret, but while I believe that's understandable, I'm also grateful that I can now choose where my emotions will dwell.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"...the farther you go beyond the appearance, the nearer you will be to the essence." ~ Meister Eckhardt

Darrin and I spent last weekend with Tabitha. She seems to be well and is working toward learning the skills necessary to cope with life. It was good to be with her again.

We were also able to spend time with some wonderful friends. We've not done that for awhile and it was wonderful to see so many lovely people. Darrin and I were given a key to the home in which we were staying and allowed to come and go as needed. This was hugely convenient because our schedule was changing constantly. I am forever grateful for friends who welcome me into their home and treat me as family.   We also got to spend some time with Josh and Lolly. I've not seen them for more than two years, and I think it's been almost four years since Darrin saw them last. All in all, it was a delightful visit.

As my therapy visits have become less frequent, so has my opportunity to interact with loved ones who live far from me. I've missed our monthly lunches and conversations and frequent hugs. Online contact is not the same. However, the long stretches of time between visits also mean that I'm learning to manage my life on my own--and I can say this with a great deal of confidence because in the past 18 months I've lived through some rather hellish moments, and while I may not have done so with a great deal of grace or dignity, I still did it without running to Therapist for help constantly. There were some brief phone calls and a couple of emails, but those were mostly just to update him on what was going on, or to make sure I was looking at things correctly and choosing proper ways to cope--reassurance is a good thing.

So while there are things I am celebrating about not having to make long trips to get my head checked, there are other things I miss a great deal. I'm realizing that so many things I've embraced and enjoyed are ending, and while I applaud change and understand the place it plays in our lives, I'm mourning some of those losses.

We are in the process of trying to procure more funding for Tabitha. The current source will run out this month. It has been recommended by her current psychiatrist and therapist that she remain in treatment for six to eight months. The funding source suggested she stay in treatment for two months, then return home for intensive therapy, including group therapy. The stipulations of her follow-up treatment are impossible for us to meet in our current location. So Darrin and I will once again be doing all we can to provide what Tabitha needs. Our first meeting is tonight. We'll see how things go. I'm desperately hoping we don't have to fight as hard or as long this time, to find funding.

While I am feeling better daily, I'm also feeling increasingly isolated, emotionally. I no longer wish to share feelings or ideas or anything, really, about me. The belief that no one can ever really know me--nor should they wish to--and why would they?--is very strong right now. It makes no sense if one compares what I am living with what I am feeling. The imbalance of those two things are causing me some distress. It seems I have forgotten, once again, how to connect with people and the struggle to find any semblance of emotional intimacy is too difficult.

Therapist reminded me that the state of emotional intimacy must be desired and created by all involved individuals. He suggested that perhaps it has become a struggle because it is one-sided--I desire it, but the other person is comfortable without it--and in such a case, it might be best for me to mourn the loss of closeness and move on. And he's right--and I will--but not today. Grieving is a process which requires more stamina than I now possess, so for a little while I believe I will just pretend that nothing's changed and when I'm stronger, I'll deal with all that I've put off.

The days have been glorious lately. We've had enormous thunderstorms, brilliant sunshine, and muted gray days. The leaves glow with color and my volunteer flower garden is spilling beyond its boundaries. Yesterday I found more volunteers growing in my lawn--which simply means I need to mow more often, I suppose.

Today I will run, attend rehearsals, teach piano lessons, and play with my uncooperative chokecherry jelly which wants to be syrup. I will read, talk with Darrin, spend time with Adam, and remember that life is beautiful.

Because it is--confusing and frustrating and sometimes lonely--but still, beautiful.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen." ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For the past year (or more), I've been feeling the weight of reality. The result of this is that my previously exultant view of life became nonexistent. My belief that I could accomplish anything (because I'm magic, of course), faded as I recognized the enormity of my life and my inability to alleviate the stress of it. Within a few months I became incredibly, undeniably, mortal.

There are advantages to being mortal. It allows one to admit failure, and weakness, and makes allowances for one to stop trying. After all, the human body can only withstand so much before it collapses. The human spirit sometimes follows suit...

I have mentioned how, in recent months, there have been days when I was desperately unhappy, when I felt I could not manage one more moment with my life in its current state. I've talked about how even taking a shower or getting dressed in the morning felt too difficult. I've mentioned that each night I was giving thanks just because I had made it through one more trying, agonizing day.

I did not know, until Tabitha was placed in a managed care facility, how worn down I was. In fact, I had become emotionally ill--to the point that life felt beyond my ability to live it. I was completely exhausted, emotionally depleted, physically weak, and hopeless. I was unaware that I had become so. I was simply going through the motions of life.

I lost a job--one I wanted to keep. I knew it was going to happen. I had not the strength to continue in my current state while meeting the expectations of the job. I watched as my performance slipped lower weekly. When I was notified that my contract would not be renewed, my only response was to apologize and acknowledge the need to terminate my services. I sent a very brief explanation of what was happening in my life, thanked my supervisor for the privilege of working for the company for two and a half years, and accepted the decision. To my surprise, after my termination was final, I received a personal email from that supervisor. She told me she was very sorry I would no longer be working for them, and said she appreciated my professional and graceful response to the situation. Then she thanked me for my service.

I've never lost a job before. Since that day, I've felt unable to seek work. That didn't stop me, of course. The day my contract was terminated, I contacted people who have known me for years, who know my music background, and I procured a couple of part-time jobs accompanying at the university. The pay rate is very high, but the hours are short. Darrin said I needed something like that. Then he told me how worried he's been about me--too many work hours, too much Tabitha stress. He said he felt that I've been slipping away.

I dismissed his worries, saying I was fine.

Last week I began to be Samantha again, and in the process I recognized that Darrin (and every other person who has expressed concern) was right. I wasn't fine. I was slipping away.

Today, for the first time in more than a year, I found myself dreaming about my future. I thought of things I want to do, not with wistfulness because I knew they could not happen, but with the omnipotent certainty I've felt most of my life. I forgot for a moment, that I'm not twenty, I'm probably a little old to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics, and I might not be able to pass the physical test necessary for me to become a firefighter--yet.

My parents have a crabapple tree in their yard. The springtime blossoms are bright pink. This time of year tiny red crabapples cover the branches and the leaves begin to turn the same color. Last week I noticed that amid the autumn leaves and fruit, some very confused branches were pink with unseasonal blossoms. The larger than normal flowers bloomed right beside the apples--the scented mixture of ripe fruit and pink blossoms was beautiful. I need to take a picture. If I remember to do so, I'll post it here.

I feel a bit like that tree, coming unexpectedly alive with blossoms. The frost will soon nip the crabapple blossoms, turning them brown before they fall to the grass, but I have become impervious to the lifefrost that might try to stop me from returning to my natural state.

I am Samantha, and I am magic, and my life is incredibly beautiful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thinking About Tabitha

I realized yesterday that I don't want Tabitha to come home. I miss her a great deal, but the thought of dealing with  the a child who is unpredictable and extreme brings me nothing but dread. Adjusting to her absence was awful. I believe I cried for days. But now I have adjusted. Daily life brings an empty spot where Tabitha used to be, but it's sane and predictable.

My house is no longer covered with her messes..."Tabitha droppings," my mother used to say, for everywhere she went, my daughter seemed to leave a pile of unexplained "stuff." At some point I will have to clean her room. I'll probably do so this week. Before she left, Tabitha packed much of her clothing and belongings in boxes, as we had been considering relocation to a smaller home. That hasn't happened yet and Darrin has stopped talking of it. We'll see if it comes to pass in the next few months.

It's quiet here. Adam and I do chores, work, read. We are very much alike in our need for silence and solitude, but at the same time, we crave companionship from people who allow us to be ourselves. Adam now accompanies me to the store and helps with dinner, taking the Tabitha-time I allowed for my daughter when she was here.

I find myself avoiding television programs and movies both Tabitha and I enjoy. I don't go upstairs (where her bedroom is located) unless I have to. I try not to think of her or talk of her.

I think all this is temporary and part of learning to regroup and heal from the horrifying stress of dealing with a suicidal teen. I believe I probably do want her to return, but I don't ever want to go back to the situation that existed before she left.

This morning I was feeling very guilty about not wanting Tabitha, wondering what that said about me, as a mother and a human being. At the same time, I couldn't feel any desire to interact with her. I received permission to write to her two weeks ago. I've not done that yet. Last night I finally made myself sit down and write to my daughter. I sent the letter today--but I didn't want to. Part of me wants her to stay away.

The weird thing is, there is another part of me that still weeps because I miss Tabitha. Sometimes I want to hug her and laugh with her. I want to hear her singing. I still shop for clothes for her even though I don't buy anything. I find myself eating foods I don't really like because Tabitha enjoyed them.

So, probably I miss her. Maybe I miss her so much that the feeling of not wanting her is a defense mechanism to help stop the pain. Who knows? I feel sort of confused and messed up today, but better than I felt yesterday. I wish I had more answers.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I love to celebrate birthdays--

--just not my own. There are valid reasons for my distaste for my birthday, most of which have been explored annually on this blog, and the one before it, and the one before that...

The last birthday I remember anticipating was when I was five. I'd been riding a bicycle for more than a year, which meant I would steal my older sister's bike while she was at school. This created a number of problems my parents didn't want to deal with, so I'd been promised a bike of my own for my fifth birthday. And I got one. And it was lovely.

Then, for some inexplicable reason I still do not understand, my father switched the seat from my new bike, put it on my sister's, and fastened her old seat where the new one had been. I'm pretty sure it had to do with size, because I was tiny and the new bike came with a larger seat than my older sister's bike, but it still felt like I'd been given something amazing and then my father ruined it. I think I probably cried for weeks about it. And I continued to steal my sister's bike.

In subsequent years, the pattern of forgetting my birthday and remembering six days later when my sister's birthday rolled around, became set and predictable. By the time I was twelve, I no longer anticipated my birthday, hoped anyone would remember, dropped hints or wrote it on calendars. I was resigned to the fact that I would be forgotten. That's just the way it was.

Which doesn't mean it didn't hurt. I wanted my parents to remember. I wanted my siblings to celebrate with me. I wanted a cake that wasn't a mess because my mother remembered at the last minute and tried to throw one together with disastrous results. The disappointment was dreadful.

So I began to pretend my birthday did not exist. When I was asked about it, I would mumble something and change the subject. When the day was forgotten, I would console myself with a walk in the mountains near my home, or cuddle with our dog, or reread a favorite book while hiding in the hayloft of machine shed--making sure I could not be found just in case I decided to cry a tiny bit. I did not want anyone to know that I felt anything about being forgotten.

A few years ago, under Therapist's advice, I sat down with my parents and explained to them the reasons why it bothered me when they forgot my birthday. I told them I didn't like the oversight being treated  as the family joke and I thought it was disgraceful that they wouldn't celebrate the day their daughter was born. I explained I didn't expect anything special, just a phone call or visit (since I only live three blocks away from them), wishing me a happy day. That was all.

My mom felt incredibly guilty. My dad tried to brush it off. I didn't allow it. I told him it was hurtful that he made no effort to remember when I was born. I was his daughter. He apologized, but it didn't change anything in the following years. My mom tried, though. I have to give her credit. Usually she remembered around 10:00 p.m. on my birthday and I would receive a frantic phone call or rushed visit. And sometimes she brought me a card or small gift. But I still felt slighted. No one wants a guilt gift. I wanted her to remember because she was happy I'm alive, not because she was afraid I'd think she was a bad parent.

For six years I tried to stop hiding my birthday. I wrote about it in my blog. I told my friends the date. I celebrated it with Darrin and my kids. But I hated it, and I dreaded the day. I was always relieved when it was over.

This year, however, about a week ago, I was sitting outside in the sun and it occurred to me that my birthday was coming. And for the first time in my memory, I found myself looking forward to it. There was no reason. I had nothing special planned. I just wanted the day to arrive.

I wanted to have a birthday.

When I recovered from the weirdness of that sensation, I waited. I wondered if it would recede and be replaced by the familiar dread. It didn't. A couple of days later, I even told a friend about it, just to see if that would trigger the ugly feelings that generally accompany the realization that my birthday is approaching. The anticipation continued.

And so, two days ago my birthday arrived, and I was happy. It didn't matter whether anyone remembered or not--I was glad to celebrate me. Darrin got ready for work, kissed me good-by and wished me a happy birthday. A little later, two of my sisters texted birthday messages to me. Around noon I started to leave and Adam asked where I was going. I told him it was time for my birthday adventure. His eyes got very large as it dawned on him that he had forgotten (Adam has never forgotten my birthday before) and he apologized a bunch of times, then asked if he could join me. I almost said no, because I wanted to have an "alone" adventure, but I changed my plans and told him we were going to find a restaurant at which we have never dined and have lunch. In our small town, that's a very difficult challenge.

So Adam and I finally found a place and had a fun lunch and spent some time together. When we returned home, someone had posted a birthday message on Facebook (which does not advertise my birthday because I don't want it to), and several people had seen it and added their greetings, as well. Tolkien Boy even wrote a birthday poem for my Facebook page. He called me that afternoon and we talked for a few minutes before a neighbor stopped by unexpectedly. She brought me a card and small gift. It was very unexpected and sweet.

TB found me later online and we continued chatting. He presented me with a beautiful email and another, more serious poem which recalled one he had written a few years earlier. I was delighted, but when it comes to TB's writing, I'm easily won.

Darrin, Adam, and I had a nice dinner and a quiet evening. I thought about going to a movie, then decided against it. I just wanted to sit and enjoy the feeling of loving my day. There was something amazing about being happy to celebrate me. And there was no hint of defiance that has accompanied my determination to enjoy my birthdays the past few years. I felt free of resentment and anger.

Today my parents called. My dad said, "I think I missed your birthday again." I said, "You did." He said, "Can I take you and your family to dinner for a late birthday celebration?" I told him that would be nice. And it was.

I was born on September 6th. I had lots of very black hair, olive skin, and eyes so dark it was difficult to see the pupils. I weighed six pounds and was nineteen inches long. I was one day overdue. And I believe my birth--my life--is something to be celebrated. I know that I'm very happy to be alive. I believe others are happy to have me here, as well.

This year, the gift I received from myself was a release from my past. I cannot change the birthdays filled with disappointment and unfulfilled wishes, but I have many more to look forward to. I plan to enjoy each one. Perhaps one day I will heal enough to throw myself a party. Let me know if  you'd like to come. We might dance or play charades or just watch the sun set--but the food will be wonderful. I promise.