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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I hope someday you have a child just like you!

I remember my mother saying this to me. I remember thinking, "I hope so, too." I wasn't being nasty. I just felt there was so much that was good about me--things that needed to be nourished and acknowledged. I knew I wasn't perfect. I was very aware of the things that made me a very bad person. I just thought, if I had a chance--if someone would just believe in me--maybe I'd just be a sort of bad person.

But I didn't get a child like me. I got three beautiful, unique individuals who brought unforeseen joy and challenges. There are times I believe I will go bald with the stress of being a mom; there are also other moments so incredibly beautiful I want to freeze time so I can live there a tiny bit longer.

DJ's two best friends are engaged. Suddenly he has found himself alone. Making new friends is never easy. I'm watching his loneliness and frustration grow, understanding that he's an adult, wishing I could help, knowing I cannot. He wants to go back to school--but he's not excited about any type of major. He's decided a business degree will be best, but wants a higher paying job to help with school expenses. He tries to save money--then he finds something he cannot live without. He lives with abnormally high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as thyroid problems. He's not thrilled that he has to take "old man" medication. All he really wants to do is open his very own flower shop.

Adam can't decide if it's nice or horrible to be graduated. He's lost his routine. Routine is paramount to him. He feels insecure and grouchy when he doesn't know what will happen next. He wanted to apply as a med tech at the hospital, then found out that one of his certifications was not correct; he needs further first aid training. The mistake was the fault of his EMT instructor's and she'll be rectifying it at no cost to him. But he must wait two more weeks. The waiting is not making him happy, nor is my suggestion that there might not be a job available at the hospital and it would be prudent to find any job while he awaits final certification and application at the hospital.

Tabitha continues to battle chronic depression and anxiety. If she attends school for a full week, that constitutes a miracle. We've pulled her from all her advanced courses and her dream of graduating a year early (for which she was on track 18 months ago) will not happen. She'll be lucky to graduate with her class unless we're able to get her stabilized. She's trying desperately to do the things that will help her, but each morning constitutes a battle with real life and she feels she's losing.

In the midst of all this, DJ continues to spread sunshine wherever he goes. People light up when he walks in the room. His smile and sense of humor are contagious and delightful. I have no doubt that whatever he chooses to do, flower shop or something different, he will succeed.

Adam is trying to learn to cook and clean and take care of himself in preparation for moving out when he goes to college in the fall. He constantly distracts me with his need to have deep conversations and ask questions I cannot answer. He told me last week I was one of his very best friends--then said, "Is that okay? I know you're my mom, too." I just laughed. He'll have to figure that one out for himself.

Tabitha grows more beautiful each day. Orthodontics are  her next birthday present--she's stressed and excited about the prospect. She's been "dating" a sweet young man who treats her with respect, warmth, and friendship. They're friends, she insists. I'm fine with that. The relationship at this point is innocent, comfortable, and healthy. I love spending time with my daughter. She's creative and funny and I adore her.

Do I hope my children have sons and daughters that mirror their personalities? No.

I hope my children have the strength to grow through the difficulties and mistakes and sadness they encounter. I hope they recognize how amazing and beautiful they are. I hope they understand that they are loved every moment that they breathe. And if they have children, I hope they enjoy and agonize over and pray for them, in the same way that I have done from the moment my children were born.

An maybe someday one of my children will have a child just like me. :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?" ~Spencer Johnson

There have been a few times in my life when I have found myself in a place, emotionally, similar to that in which I now find myself. In the past I have chosen different ways to cope with the difficulties--some have been healthier than others. Regardless, at some point in each of those situations, I have made the decision to dig myself out of my current mucky hole, change my attitude and perspective, and cling to the things which bring me happiness.

It isn't easy; and I don't believe everyone in the world can do this. I'm able to because:
1. I'm not clinically nor chemically depressed.
2. I don't suffer from serious emotional/mental disorders such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.
3. I understand my limitations (which doesn't mean I don't try to reach beyond them, just that I'm not devastated when I fail completely at being a superhero).

I do experience depression sometimes. I believe that's a normal state of being for most people when they encounter difficulties which feel overwhelming. I have PTSD and an anxiety disorder (did you notice? Three words in a row beginning with "an"). I do not take medication for these, mostly because I react badly to medication. Even Ibuprofin, as I found out after my recent surgery, causes my body extreme distress. Sometimes it's best not to play the crap shoot of taking psychotropic drugs when the odds are stacked against  one.

I've been experiencing a downward emotional spiral in my life for nearly three years now. There are valid reasons for this. I've had a lot to deal with, probably more than the average person, but most certainly there are others whose lives have more stress and sadness than mine.

It's time to stop.

I've been lying low for about a week now. This is crucial for me right now. I've limited my exposure to most of the people in my life for a few reasons:
1. I needed a moment to step back and regroup.

2. People, for me, are unpredictable and I often misinterpret their words and intent. I needed a break from that.

3. I had begun to feel that if I needed someone I had to track them down, beg for a moment of time, and convince myself it was okay to take that time if it was offered. I hate feeling that way. When this situation arises in my life it usually means I'm not coping well with the social intricacies of maintaining relationships. It has nothing to do with the people, themselves, and everything to do with how I interpret their words and actions--and my interpretation is almost always incorrect.

4. I'm tired. There are people in my life who feel like a haven most of the time. When I stop feeling relief when I'm with them; when chatting and phone calls become work; when I feel that everything I say is wrong--that's when I know I'm overwhelmed and I need to take care of some inner emotional messes before I can continue interaction with people. Occasionally a friend has talked me through this, or just stayed with me while I've sorted myself out. I'm not sure how that happened, as I usually don't allow anyone near me in those times. Interestingly, this time I've longed for that type of company as I go through this nasty but necessary transition, and I've felt sadness when I could not bring myself to ask a loved one to lend me a hand. I don't understand this new development and I'm not at all comfortable with it.

5. I've been having disturbing dreams involving people who are close to me. It's difficult enough to try to sort through reality without mixing in the emotions stirred up by illogical and upsetting dreams.

6. I don't really know what how I wish to proceed in my relationships with people.

I suppose that last part is really the bottom line. I'm confused. I feel inadequate. I'm too tired to figure out what to do next.

In spite of all this, I made a decision last night: It's time for me to move forward again.

I watch the sun rise nearly every morning. I can't help it. I wake up and wait until it begins, then I move to the window and watch. Every morning I'm fascinated by the changes in the lightening sky. Sometimes the colors are breathtaking. Other mornings the sky simply lightens until the sun bursts above the golden horizon. I have no preference--I just want to see it happen.

Today I found moments to laugh--I consciously sought them out. I went to church and thanked The Big Guy for the opportunity to take that moment for meditation, singing, hearing words other people speak, and listening to the voice of my own soul.  I played with my kids and Darrin. We made new, unusual food for dinner. I read a book I'd been wanting to read, and wrote a rather terrifyingly awful poem. I played Facebook games.

I know there are some people in my life who have been worried about me. There is a part of me which feels a bit rebellious about that. No one is allowed to worry about me because I'm always okay. I land on my feet and carry on no matter what happens. If someone worries about me, that means I might be vulnerable, I have the possibility of failure, and then I have to acknowledge that people, occasionally, actually think about me. Those things negate my illusion that I'm invincible.

There is another part of me--a relatively new part--which feels grateful that someone might be mindful of me. That's the part that wishes to be cherished and important and involved in the lives of other people. I hate that new part. It's uncomfortable and confusing and ultimately joyful. I would very much like it to go away. I also want it to stay forever.

So--if you are one who has thought of me in the past few months, worrying a tiny bit as you've watched me deteriorate--thank you for thinking about me and lending support in whatever way you have chosen. I'm certain I didn't want it. I'm more certain that I desperately needed it.

Nearly every evening I watch the sun set. I can't help it. I notice the waning light, go to my window and watch. Every evening I'm fascinated by the changes in the darkening sky. Sometimes the colors are breathtaking. Other times the sky gradually dims until the sun disappears beneath the horizon and the sky becomes my favorite shade of blue--so deep it is nearly black. I have no preference--I just want to see it happen.

Tomorrow I will watch the sun rise again. I'll find more things that make me laugh. I'll be grateful for the many wonderful things and experiences and people in my life. I'll go to work with a smile and hope for the best when I attend my physical therapy appointment. I'll spend time with people I love and make time for meditation and reflection and gratitude. When the time comes, I'll watch the sun set once again.

I will become strong again. I will smile every time the opportunity presents itself. And even though I know it won't be easy, little by little I will make the changes necessary for me to feel less lonely, less frustration and anger, and less sadness.

And just as an aside: probably this is going to be miserable and really, really hard. If someone happens to feel a desire to extend a helping hand to me--I'll probably take it.

There. First change goal accomplished. I just asked for help.

I'm amazing. :-)

Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm going to bed soon. I did a lot today and it's time. I was supposed to go on a date with my favorite person--but I thought staying in tonight was a better idea. The weather helped me decide. I'm usually cold when I'm in my house--going outside when it's colder than freezing is intolerable right now. We'll do something tomorrow.

I am okay.

I know--that's a silly thing to write, but it's true. There are many things causing me pain right now, but pain is part of life. I am often angry or sad or confused right now, but so are a lot of other people. I don't know how to feel much of the time. There are times when love or humor seems to be an appropriate emotion but I hit a brick wall and feel nothing. I tell myself it's a process and one day I'll move beyond it. I don't necessarily believe this in the moment, but it's something to cling to when I feel discouraged.

I suppose what I'm saying is that I'm no different from anyone else. My experiences are different and my perceptions are often inaccurate, but everyone experiences times of difficulty. It's silly for me to spend time wishing I could make the things that ache go away. I can't.

I realized today that a large part of why I spend time with people, part of why I bond so deeply with them is because they distract me from what hurts. They offer me relief for a moment. But I always have to go back to real life because at some point I have to face the things that cause me pain, and for whatever reason, I feel compelled to face it alone.

I think I hoped when I met with Jeff that we could join forces somehow; together we could work through the things that were done to us. That can't happen. His experience belongs to him just as mine belongs to me. The difference is that he's comfortable walking alone. I continue to look for a hand to hold or even just someone to walk beside me. Jeff has courage and grit. I don't.

Today I had a long talk with myself. I decided if I have to journey alone, I need to enjoy my own company. Sometimes I do. I think about interesting things and I have a large library of stored music in my head. I can always think of poetry, of books I've read, and sometimes I even venture into my imagination--something I rarely, if ever, share with anyone else.

I am okay.

I sort of hate "okay," but it's better than "not okay."

Someday I'll make it through all the stuff I've been working on. At that point I'll have rehashed everything so many times that no one will need to have live conversations with me--they'll know exactly what I have to say, how I feel, and what I'll do at any given time because I'm predictable. But when I'm finished, I believe I'll have new thoughts and feelings. I'll be too old to share them with anyone at that point, but it will be good to move on.

Today I waded through panic attacks, and sadness, and stress tremors. I spent some time weeping over nothing. I wished for things to change so I could have peace.

Then I told myself some jokes (they weren't funny--I'd heard them before), and read a lovely poem, and sang Italian art songs far too loudly (followed up by terrible renditions of pop songs). I practiced Bach, Debussy, Chopin, and Prokofiev. I drove my car through a heavy snowfall to the place I used to run and I thought about the time when I will run once again. I watched the snowflakes diminish, the clouds part, and noticed the sky in a million shades of blue.

I am okay.

I'm still lonely and I can't stop being sad...yet. But I'm also me. No matter what happens, I like the person I am and I'm okay spending the rest of my life with her.

Good night.

Pick yourself up; dust yourself off...

It's Friday. I need it to be Friday. This has been a rough week. Without going into details, let me just say I'm very glad it's over.

When I have difficult weeks there are times when I feel overwhelmed to the point of being nonfunctional. Those are the moments when loneliness sets in and I wonder if anyone knows I'm alive, and I'm fairly certain that even if they do, it doesn't really matter. Then, of course, I launch into my normal logical thought progression:
1. People know Samantha is alive and they care about her.
2. People have lives of their own and those must always take precedence over what is happening in Sam's life.
3. It doesn't really matter how Samantha would deal with or lend support to people she loves, because she's weird and it's important to acknowledge the sane approach which is normal and appropriate.
4. Ultimately, Samantha is responsible for what is happening to her and how she responds to it.
5. It's ridiculous to feel lonely because no one can change what is currently happening anyway.
6. Therapist has suggested I ask people for support or just a listening ear when I go through this type of episode. I feel worse (more insecure, guilt, shame, weakness) after I do that, therefore I am disregarding Therapist's erudite counsel.
7. If Samantha waits long enough this will all go away in some fashion, so there's no reason to take up anyone else's time by talking about it--the end result of which will be that Sam will cry while someone else is listening and that's never a delight.
8. Vitamin D helps.
9. Sunshine helps.
10. When Samantha feels able, she will eat, and food will help a little, too.

I talked with Therapist about a phone consultation. Probably that will happen in the next few weeks because I refuse to travel right now. I was stranded three times last year, resulting in loss of work, a great deal of stress, and unforeseen expense. I can't deal with that right now.

In the past few months I have tried to put some safety barriers in place so that I could stave off or manage PTSD symptoms as they cropped up or in situations that might potentially trigger them. Being alone is one of those potentially triggering situations; so is being in a crowd. So these are the safeties I've attempted:
1. If I am alone more than two hours, I need to call someone on the phone. The call need not last long and will help me balance reality with any extremity I begin feeling.
2. I am to seek sunlight whenever possible. Because I work in a garden level basement, this is important.
3. I am to plan meals and eat away from the computer to help me remember that mealtime is pleasant and an essential break from work.
4. When I begin to feel isolated and forgotten, I am to find someone to talk with online, on the phone, or in person. Should that not be possible, I am to look at previous chats, emails, or other saved correspondence and remember I'm not invisible.

There were more but I'm not listing them because I only got as far as number one. It was difficult enough that I didn't even attempt the others. But I can't even do that anymore. I'm too tired. I understand that I'm the one who has stewardship over me--no one else--but sometimes it seems that this is the way it's been since I was born and I'm tired. I'm embarrassed to admit that there are moments now when I wish I was accountable to someone; I feel the need to tell someone about my day, my stress, my needs, my joys, my fears...

Maybe I never really grew up.

The point is moot, though. I remember as a child, trying to tell my parents something I thought was very important. It wasn't. We were taking a walk and I was just noticing that if you open a snapdragon and brush your finger along the center, yellow powder clings to your finger. But they were talking with my older sister and when they finally noticed I'd been talking, they realized I'd picked flowers from someone's garden and I was in disgrace.

I've never forgotten that moment. It crops up again and again. I have something to say that feels profoundly important but I have to vie for attention, try repeatedly to make my voice heard, and in the end I realize what I had to say was overshadowed by something I should or should not have done and I wish I had said nothing. And now I'm too tired to find an audience anyway. Even if I found an empathetic ear, I don't believe I have the stamina to say anything--and I definitely don't have the strength to listen to all the things I'm doing wrong right now. I am doing the best I can, given the situation in which I find myself.

I feel like a coward. Some of my Facebook friends, however, have been circulating a Monson quote today. I believe, for once, I will buy into it: "Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, 'I'll try again tomorrow.'"

And I will.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adam is determined to beat me at Chess. He's been trying since he was ten years old. Years ago, I'd play with him each weekend. I never explain my moves, nor do I give hints. I think it's much more fun to learn on one's own. Darrin disagrees with me. He thinks I just enjoy winning. He doesn't seem to understand that winning against a child is not really a victory.

Adam and I played tonight for the first time in a couple of years. He's been practicing with other players, playing online, and reading tips and I have to admit, he's getting better. Our game lasted ten minutes this time. Adam is very bright, he just doesn't think ahead, and he forgets to use what he knows about his opponent to help him predict which moves might be played next. Admittedly, the last part wouldn't help him in our games. I start one strategy, then make a few random moves (when I know he's feeling frustrated and distracted) and change to a different one. Adam does not adapt well.

I am not an amazing Chess player. I like to play. I think it's fun. If I play against a stranger I win sometimes. Adam believes I'm the best player ever born. He will remain convinced of this until the day he finally beats me--and it will happen. He cares more than I do about winning, so it's inevitable that eventually I will lose.

I don't necessarily know why I'm thinking about this tonight.

Friday marked one more angry time. I hate those. Anger is uncomfortable. It seems impossible to wade through past without feeling it, though. I suppressed the emotion throughout the day, then when Adam went to work, I sent Tabitha and Darrin on a date. I told them I needed alone time (which was true, in a way). I tried writing about the emotions. I tried working, cleaning, practicing, reading. Nothing worked. The anger was going nowhere.

Finally I called Tolkien Boy and wept and ranted at him for the better part of 45 minutes. I do this type of thing with TB more often than I ought, for the simple reason that he allows it. And when I'm finished he doesn't hate me. I'm guessing most of what I say makes no sense, but he pretends I'm speaking intelligently anyway. I'm fairly certain I sound insane and hysterical. Fortunately, he interacts with me in that state often, so it probably just seems normal to him. Someday he and I should have a conversation when I'm not overwrought, just to allow him a basis of comparison.

Often, following my tirade to my innocent bystander friend, I feel guilty relief and the anger goes away. Today it's still lingering. The anger is centered around my cousins, Jeff and David.

When Jeff called me in September, for the first time in my life I stopped feeling crazy. Because no matter how deeply I knew that my memory was authentic and real, having someone else corroborate it validated my story. However, to have it validated by finding out that someone I cared for deeply had experienced the same pain and violation as my own was devastating. I can't seem to stop being angry about this.

When Jeff provided details which proved the things David had done to us were not only calculated, but that he had tried to prod Jeff into participating in raping me--and to repeat that treatment on one of my sisters--I became more angry; I also felt a great despair. Part of me has always hoped that what happened to me was just some weird, random, depraved act of an oversexed teen. I wanted it to be opportunistic. I don't know why it seems so much more heinous to know it was planned carefully, carried out on both Jeff and me, and then the plan was to encourage Jeff to perpetrate similar acts on my sister and me. I can't seem to stop feeling that the acts have now become even more deeply painful. I can't stop being angry about this information.

Jeff was a rape victim. That was bad enough. But when David suggested that Jeff should rape me, Jeff became physically ill. I've never seen him so sick. His body temperature was 103 degrees and would not respond to Tylenol or Ibuprofin. He couldn't eat without vomiting. He stopped talking to anyone--even to me. Within hours of the onset of fever, Jeff was on his way back to his home in Utah. I was angry with him for leaving me. At the same time, I was terrified that Jeff, the family member I loved best, would one day learn what David had done to me and think terrible things about me. That thought has stayed with me through all the subsequent years. What I didn't know is that Jeff was terrified that I would find out he knew what was happening to me and rather than getting help, he got sick and went home leaving me to cope with David by myself. Those respective fears have impeded Jeff's and my desire to be a part of each others lives for many years. I can't even express how angry this makes me.

I suppose the thing which angers me the most is that I can think of no satisfactory way to deal with all of this. I can't make it better. It's just a frustrating, crappy, situation. Even appropriate punishment for David cannot compensate for what he took from us.

Screaming helps a little bit--at least temporarily.

The truth is, I'm going to make it through this. I'll probably do it with a great deal more grace and dignity than such a situation warrants. And I'll make the best of my renewed relationship with Jeff and we'll enjoy each other and make new memories. I'm going to be okay--and probably that's the thing that makes me angrier than anything else.

That doesn't make sense, I know. Nothing makes sense tonight, and I have an overwhelming urge to punch someone. I won't. I just want to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Friends are God's way of apologizing to us for our families." --Tennessee Williams

This is another very long, drawn-out post exploring my inner psyche, past memories, and inane conclusions.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post in my "Running With Butterflies" blog. I discussed how I had tried for the past six or seven years to understand friendship, and how I had begun an experiment to see if I could experience viable ones. The experiment was a colossal failure. What I learned was that friendship continues to be something that causes me stress and that I don't feel safe or valued within those relationships. The more I learned and experienced, the more insecure I became.

And so I ended my research and experimentation. This does not mean I ended my friendships. It simply means that I decided to stop trying to understand and instead, just allow whatever may happen. In the process of this, I've noticed a number of things happened very quickly:

1. Within a couple of days I noticed my need for people decreasing. I spent much less time online and when I was online I didn't initiate chatting with anyone. I made no personal phone calls. I declined three lunch invitations on the basis that I was too busy. I skipped the monthly meeting with a music organization to which I belong because the meetings are largely social and I didn't feel like participating.

2. I no longer felt lonely. At all. I found myself absorbed in reading, practicing piano, working, watching sunrises and sunsets, and cleaning my house. My thoughts rarely turned to another person. It felt as though I was alone in the universe and that was the way it was supposed to be.

3. I felt at peace. For the first time in seven years it made no difference whether or not another person reached out to me and I had no desire to reach out to anyone, myself. I felt a great need for privacy and alone time. I felt secure and comfortable.

This does not mean that I cut myself off from people. I continued to converse online when friends hailed me. I spoke on the phone when people called me. I spent time with Darrin and my kids. I smiled at strangers when I was shopping. Still, what I do is not always in alignment with what I feel.

Shortly after this transition occurred, TB caught me online. He had been gone for a few days and opened our conversation by telling me he missed me. In the past when something similar has happened, I've felt a matching response. This time I just felt confused. It had only been about four days since we had last spoken. How could he possibly miss me?

Then I realized how my life had been affected by my Friendship Experiment. I had changed from someone who used social interaction on an "as needed" basis, to a person with real relationships. I no longer endured parties and lunches and phone calls, but I sought them out, enjoyed them, and felt regret when I had to leave. I had grown into a person who wished for and needed other people. There had been days in the past few years when I wanted desperately to talk to someone--and most often I could find someone who would listen to me. I was treated with dignity, warmth, and kindness, and sometimes I felt loved and important.

The Friendship Experiment began in October 2005, and I kept it active for more than seven years. And yet, when I ceased my quest to understand and immerse myself in friendships, I reverted to my former state, mentally and emotionally, within a matter of days.

My conversation with TB happened about a week ago. Since then I've been wondering what to do. There is no question that I'm most comfortable not pursuing relationships with people. In the days following my decision to stop my experiment I've felt a great deal of peace. My interaction with people has become less frequent and this has not brought me loneliness. I've felt less overwhelmed and stressed...

When I graduated from high school I was an exceptional pianist. I knew this. I had been granted acceptance with scholarships to three notable conservatories. I ended up going to none of them because I was a minor--and my mother chose the university which I ended up attending. At that point in my life I no longer cared about her micromanagement of my life. The goal was to become completely independent of her, and going to college--any college--would help me on my way.

At the university chosen by my mother, I was placed with a teacher who disliked me intensely. I had experienced this type of antipathy from a teacher only one other time in my life. The previous experience was with my seventh grade English teacher and I had that teacher for two periods every school day. I made few mistakes in that class, but when I did, my work was displayed in front of the class and publicly mocked by the teacher. Given the fact that I was still trying to survive the recent rape and ongoing abuse in my life and I had no sense of self on which to rely, the English teacher's mockery, snide comments, and demeaning acts simply served to send me deeply into depression. It was during this time that I stopped eating and tried with all the energy I possessed, to die.

My first university piano professor treated me in a similar fashion. During my private lessons he told me repeatedly that I had no talent, that I was stupid to try to pursue a degree in music, that I needed to change my major immediately. We had masterclass once weekly. In those classes, before all the students, he would point out that I was wasting everyone's time--I didn't play musically, I couldn't count, I made mistakes. His behavior mirrored that of my 7th grade English teacher and had a similar effect on me. I was depressed. My eating disorder returned with a vengeance. Eventually I stopped attending masterclass and by the end of the semester my teacher got his wish. I changed my major. I completed three more semesters and then I dropped out of school.

The ending of this particular story is that I eventually found people who supported and encouraged me to continue pursuing a piano performance degree. Some of that support came in the form of full-ride scholarships which allowed me financial stability while I studied, and I ended up not with one music degree, but three. However, I was left with a very special endowment from that first professor: severe performance anxiety.

Before I attended college, performance was a joy. I loved every moment of it. I rarely made mistakes because I lived and breathed every note. That joy was effectively sucked out of me by the end of my first year of college and replaced by uncontrollable shaking throughout my entire body each time I performed. I was terrified to play in public. This was a terrible handicap when I returned to my music major pursuit.

I spent two years finishing what I had begun. During those two years I contemplated changing my major each time I performed. Many of my performances were awful, fraught with mistakes, stuttering, and memory lapses. I remained a music performance major, however, because I remembered the joy I had felt in the past and I wanted desperately to feel that again. I worked ceaselessly to block the anxiety which caused the shaking and resulting poor performances. Eventually I began to find glimpses of that joy--enough to carry me forward, but there were definitely times when I wished to give up and become a fast food worker.

While I was working toward my degrees, I never did find the joy I was seeking. But years later I was performing a recital and the thought struck me: "I love this piece." It was then that I realized it was back--all of it--all the joy and abandon I had experienced so long ago, and it remains with me today. While the performance anxiety also remains, it no longer causes me pain nor does it interfere with my playing. I don't know when the change occurred but I'm very happy that it did.

I'm retelling this because when I gave up my dreams of majoring in music I felt a great deal of relief. I chose a different major (actually, a few different ones), which I enjoyed and I was comfortable pursuing it. I didn't feel a huge loss as I had expected, when I filled out the paperwork which took me out of the music department and I was completely committed to finding something else. There was peace in knowing I would have more time for homework now that I wasn't required to practice 20 hours weekly. In short, I felt completely happy with the change. I understand now that the relief and happiness I was experiencing was linked to being safe from an abusive teacher and to not having to face the stress of performance anxiety, and really had nothing to do with the degree program I was pursuing.

I think, maybe, there is something similar happening in the Friendship Experiment arena.

Friendship = Anxiety

Friendship causes me anxiety because, for it to work properly and with greatest effectiveness, one cannot control it. I have no say in how another person will feel or react. There is always a possibility of abandonment. I feel that I'm not particularly good at sharing my feelings with others, I'm almost always afraid, I feel a need for abundant reassurance and nurturing (which does not make me one bit happy), and I am always vulnerable.

However, this is not the only side of Friendship. If it were I would never have sought it in the first place. That would be stupid. So...

Friendship = Joy

I can't deny that some of my most joyful moments have taken place with other people, some of whom have chosen to be in my life because they want to be there. While I don't necessarily feel this way now, there have been moments when I have longed to be with another person. I have felt happiness in their presence. There have even been a few times when I felt completely relaxed with another person. It's rare that I feel completely relaxed--ever. To experience that because I was with someone who was safe, for me, is monumental.

Therapist has told me that it's okay if I wish to stay in my solitary comfort zone. He suggests, though, that I continue to seek out people and further believes that my peaceful time will eventually disintegrate. Probably he's right.

I suppose I'm wondering if one day, just as it coexists in my performance experiences, the anxiety I experience in friendship can also coexist with joy, and perhaps the joy will expand to the point that the anxiety no longer bothers me. I wonder if the peace I feel now is a result of relief from feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty. It's possible.

The difference between this particular experience and my piano conquest is that when I decided to immerse myself again in my music pursuit, it was all about and completely controlled by me. Friendship requires mutual commitment. I will definitely need to think about this a little longer before I decide anything.

Still, in the process of thinking during the past couple of weeks, I believe there are few things I've made peace with:

1. People who care don't really abandon one another, but they have to live real life. Regardless of how much I rebel against this, friendship is a secondary relationship. I understand my antagonistic feelings because there is a part of me that feels disregarded when relegated to the role of "friend." It feels I have no authentic importance, I am a convenience, and no matter how much I am loved I will always be an afterthought. I further understand that this belief is a result of the treatment I received within my family, but it is also something I reinforce on my own and that is something I can change. It will probably take more years, but I can change it.

2. All relationships require consistent nurturing and mutual trust. I believe I've done well in the nurturing department, but I must give myself an "F" in the trust department. When someone tells me I'm loved and needed, or I'm important, or I'm a joyful part of their life, I need to learn to trust their words. Should they prove they feel otherwise, this is not a reflection on me. Sometimes it's not even a reflection on the other person. Life happens. My hope is that if I'm important, I would be informed of things that might cause absence, but if that doesn't happen it's still no reflection on my willingness to trust and believe. Again, learning this trust thing might take more years and probably it will hurt a lot. I'm less confident about my ability to learn trust and sometimes I believe I just can't. Still, I'll work on it.

3. The one thing that helped me move forward after I had been thoroughly thrashed by my piano professor, was the memory of joy. I have an abundance of joyful memories within my relationships with other people. And I have complete control over those memories. They're mine. So no matter what the future brings in reference to the choices of my friends, I'm keeping those joyful memories and I'm going to use them to move forward.

Therapist is right--what I'm feeling now is probably temporary and one day soon I just might find myself sending a chat message to someone saying, "I've missed you..."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Beautiful World Gets Political

Okay--anyone who knows me at all understands that I don't discuss politics. I don't debate, I don't ever tell who I will vote/have voted for, and I never talk about the issues or my opinions. There is a reason for this: It's none of your business.

However, today I have something to say.

First--the disclaimer: Nothing said here indicates endorsement of, or agreement with, any known political candidate including the current U.S. President.

I want to talk about flip-flopping.

I believe in it.

I don't like voting for people who have never changed their minds. I've not lived as long as most of the candidates, but I know I've changed my mind about major issues. My reasons for changing my mind had to do with personal experience, education, or just plain logic. Because I'm a skeptic, I'm guessing political candidates change their minds because they believe it will procure more votes, but I'm also an optimist, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt at least 10% of the time and assume some of them changed because of a shift in personal beliefs.

So I suppose what I'm saying is this: I don't trust politicians who have never flip-flopped on the issues. If they don't ever change their minds about anything, they aren't listening to the changing needs of the public they represent, they don't notice the diversity in our world, and they're unlikely to choose what constitutes the most good for the majority of people and will instead remain mulishly convinced that the beliefs they formed decades ago continue to be applicable in any situation.

Therefore, when I go to the polls in November, I will certainly vote for a candidate who flip-flops on the issues. It's a good thing I'll have a large number of people to choose from.

I must also point out that flip-flops are my footwear of choice at least four months out of the year.

The End.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No Longer Avoiding Life

When I closed this blog last year I had some idea of why I felt that was necessary, but mostly I did it because I was having difficulty managing the stress I felt when I thought about people reading my words. That seems silly because my purpose in writing in the first place was to allow myself some privacy (writing under a pseudonym) while expressing things I have hidden for most of my life. The blog was to aid my therapy progress, to allow me a voice, to let me say the things I've felt were unacceptable, while allowing me the creativity to just be me and to talk about whatever struck my fancy. For quite a few years, the blog was exactly what I intended.

I suppose the problems began when I met some of the people who were fellow bloggers and who read my words. As time passed, I became increasingly aware that I was no longer free to express whatever came to mind. There was oversight, and people who have learned to care about me would follow up; I might have to explain myself or admit that the words spewed all over my blog had no concrete foundation, but simply expressed how I felt in the moment--and that moment might be completely PTSD induced.

The problem with this is that my feelings are misleading. They really don't represent who I am at the core, nor do they last forever. For instance: For three months I was convinced that DJ did not love me. I was a convenient dinner stop, but he had no interest in sharing his life or important people in his life with me, nor did he have any interest in what was going on in my life. And during those three months I built up wall after wall against my own son.

Eventually I reached a point where I began talking about it. I told Adam of my belief that DJ had no interest in me and that he really wouldn't care if I disappeared. At that point I spoke of these things with emotionless conviction--as though I was talking about the weather and this was just pleasant, meaningless conversation. Naturally, Adam was deeply concerned. He told me I was completely wrong at which point I played the, "How many times have you known me to be wrong" card. Adam believes I know almost everything in the world so he backed down immediately, but I could tell he was upset.

A few weeks later that particular bout of PTSD nonsense subsided. This was aided by a few visits from DJ where he simply spent time with me. Adam swears he didn't tell DJ of my delusional beliefs, but it doesn't really matter. The truth is, in the moment when Adam and I talked, I truly believed every word I spoke. DJ no longer cared about me, did not respect me as his mother, and had no interest in continuing a relationship with me. The scariest part is that I was in the process of protecting myself from the pain of those beliefs, which meant I was working on detaching myself emotionally, from DJ--and he had no idea I was experiencing this.

What does this have to do with closing my blog?

I recognized last February that I was feeling insecurity and stress every time I posted. The content of the post made no difference in how I felt after publication. I felt judged. I was certain the majority of people who read my words were inwardly mocking my failure at life and thinking it was high time I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I felt this in spite of the fact that some readers left encouraging comments filled with sympathy and kindness. I had no understanding as to why they would take time to do that, which seemed only to compound my stress and panic.

So one day I decided my blog was no longer serving its purpose. It wasn't reinforcing my therapeutic work. It was no longer providing a forum for me to talk without judgement. It was, in fact, a place which seemed to exacerbate my more irrational PTSD symptoms, leaving me feeling insecure, unsafe, and self-conscious. On that day, I wrote my final post and closed the blog. I wrote again on the anniversary of my one-year-with-no-flashbacks because I felt compelled to share that with people who had walked with me throughout the past six years. They had seen me fight those nasty episodes for a long time. It felt right to share with them that small victory even though I knew most of those who would be interested were long gone and wouldn't even see the post. Sometimes one writes a post not to current readers, but to those one wishes were readers--or perhaps I'm the only blogger who does this.

As 2011 came to an end, I found myself wishing to write in my blog again. Many of the paranoid PTSD symptoms had subsided. I was having moments that felt level and healthy. I wished once more for a blog where I could talk about the anxiety of PTSD (Running with Butterflies) and one where I could discuss everyday living--one which showed me to be a three-dimensional being who doesn't immerse herself in the emotional whirlpool of PTSD, but actually has a life which is rewarding and beautiful.

And so I began writing once more. I can't promise that shades of PTSD won't seep into my posts here, nor can I promise that I'll never be self-pitying or self-indulgent. I can't promise that the posts will always be upbeat or comedic or entertaining. But this is my blog. This is where I talk. Recently I've felt again that my voice--the audible one--is present too often; in short, I've begun to talk too much. So I think I'll save that for my blog. One doesn't have to watch as the listener's mind wanders, or hear the disinterest in the listener's voice. No one personalizes what I'm saying and in doing so, causes my point to be misconstrued. No one cares if I meander to different topics or speak too quickly or if I talk about something inappropriate. It's my place to say whatever I wish.

And the beautiful thing is this: No doubt, if someone passes through, I'll be judged and found wanting. However it's likely that whomever finds me thus will not comment about it, so I'll never really know. And as I'm writing once again only for me, it doesn't matter if someone finds my words inane or irrelevant. I need to talk; I need a voice; and if the words I need to say are distasteful or inappropriate in a live audience, I'll save them for my virtual world.

I refuse to be silenced by my past. I refuse to be valued by the abuse in my life. In the past six years I have recognized that I, Samantha, have always been someone delightful and aggravating and loving and annoying and conflicted and amazing. That's unlikely to change. I need to be the person I am. Those people who wish to keep company with someone like me will continue to do so, but even if that turns out to be no one, I will express myself right here--in the place where I originally stopped hiding and finally began speaking.

If you're reading this, I hope you'll feel free to speak here, too. And if you're not, well, probably you already know everything I have to say.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


It seems that I am.

I've never thought of myself in that way before. I am true blue, predictable, stick-in-the-mud, never varying Samantha. Except recently, I'm not.

I asked Therapist about this because I was sort of alarmed by it. He laughed. Although I do not hate him, I might never be in love with him again.

Here's how this works:

In the past, my heart has chosen certain people who belong in my life. They don't really get to decide if they like this or not and neither do I. It just happens. I fall in love. Of course, this happens on a regular basis, and sometimes I fall out of love, but that's rare and usually takes a long time. Occasionally, the person I fall in love with also loves me back and we become fast friends. This is a good thing.

Because I am human, I also choose favorites. It's no secret that there are a few people who talk with me frequently and with whom I spend time whenever I can. I unabashedly ask to sleep on their couches when I visit (although I often try to make up for my lack of manners by cooking dinner and helping with housework when I'm there). I have no qualms about stealing them from airports and not delivering them to their families, but instead, forcing them to spend the entire day with me (because it's my car and it goes wherever I drive it). I've been known to simply assume I have standing lunch dates with certain people. I feel no guilt about dropping by someone's home unexpectedly simply because I want to see them. In short--if you become one of my favorite people, I lose all sense of social decorum and treat you like family.

Among those people, however, I have found myself feeling drawn to one more than another. I would name that person, but this is where the "fickle" enters the stage. Recently (as in, during the past month and continuing to the present day), that person is whomever spends time with me. Ambrosia was my favorite person for at least a day, because she emailed me and said she wanted a phone call--huge points for her. And then she actually did call and she allowed me to gossip in the most wicked way, about her neighbor who abstains from vaccinating her children, and when they contract pertussis, she shares that delight with everyone at church, and continues her generosity in playgroup...

However, AtP dethroned Ambrosia the next day because he caught me at work and wanted to chat. And because I really did not want to work that day, I was happy to waste time instead.

A few hours later AtP was replaced by Tolkien Boy because I had a bee in my bonnet about a comment made on my podcast and I texted him to see if I could run my reply past him before I published it...and although he didn't reply right away (leaving me to contact the blog administrator instead--who became my favorite person briefly even though I've never met him), he called me later and allowed me to spout about people who don't know what they're talking about and who pretend they actually listened to my incredibly long interview (seriously, who has that kind of time?), but who clearly did not since everything he wrote is inane and has no relevance to what was discussed in the interview in the first place.

And then Jason made his move...

Jason and I have marathon conversations. We talk about every topic in the world and then we create new ones. Naturally, we spend time disagreeing and arguing and follow up by reminding each other that we are, indeed, the most intelligent, amazing people ever born and all of the earth is blessed by our presence. And then we laugh hysterically. Anyone previously in the "favorite" spot is automatically usurped when I'm having a three-hour long phone call with Jason. We don't stop talking until the wee hours of morning when we have no idea what the topic of conversation is and we're both dropping off mid-sentence.

So...somewhat alarmed at my inability to maintain some semblance of hierarchy among my friends, I chatted with Therapist. I thought he might have a few answers as to why I've recently become so disloyal.

He didn't. Instead he told me (in capital letters, naturally) that he thought the whole situation was HILARIOUS, and wasn't I lucky I had SO MANY PEOPLE to circulate through my "favorite" spot. I said it was NOT funny (one must communicate in CAPS when Therapist is talking online), and I needed answers.

So Therapist provided me with a most unsatisfactory answer: I have PTSD.


Oh, sorry. DUH!

Therapist elaborated. He believes that right now my emotions vacillate wildly because of the upheaval I have recently experienced. He further thinks that because I rebel against the idea that I need ANYONE (his caps, not mine), I allow my focus to move from person to person as they interact with me. Also, because I care deeply for all involved parties, I feel intense affection when they make an effort to spend time with me online, in person, or on the phone. He also believes the traitorous feelings will abate in a few weeks and I'll figure out which person I love best. Then he said he was kidding--what will really happen is that I'll have fairly level feelings, interspersed by moments of tenderness, for each person I care about, which is a perfectly acceptable emotional state of being in reference to close relationships with people.

Then Therapist said, "I think it's probably high time you experienced being fickle. I also have to mention that, in true Samantha style, you're doing it with people who have been in your life for a long time, are unlikely to leave, and who understand the motivation behind your unpredictable emotions. Basically, you picked a safe place in which to EXPERIMENT--which is something you do frequently, even if it's a subconscious impulse."

I have to add, the reason I'm unhappy with Therapist has nothing to do with his very logical assessment of the situation, but rather because he laughed at me. He was not laughing at the ridiculous situation, but rather, he thought it was funny that I was alarmed by it. I don't consider this an empathetic, nor therapeutic reaction (although, I have to admit, I don't even know if "therapeutic reaction" exists because I just made that up).

In the meantime, if you're feeling like you'd like to be my best friend for awhile, just catch me on the phone, chat with me, or maybe leave a comment here. For at least five minutes we'll be bonded for life...

Yeah. I know. That last paragraph makes no sense at all. Welcome to my fickle life. GAH!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I could be working right now. Instead I'm just sitting here thinking.

When I began blogging about six years ago, I worked about 20 hours weekly. This was by choice. Darrin had a well-paying job, my kids were younger and I wanted to spend time with them, and I had finally decided to seek out therapy to help me with some past trauma. I needed time for me.

A few months later, Darrin lost his job. I got another part-time job to help with bills, and for six months we lived on that and our savings account until Darrin found another job. The new job paid less and had expensive benefits. I kept my new part-time job.

Two years passed and found Darrin once again unemployed--this time he was a victim of an overzealous supervisor and a failing economy. I found two more part-time jobs. At this point my weekly hours were edging toward fifty per week, and Sunday was my only day off. This time it was nearly a year before Darrin was able to find another job. He took a couple of classes during that time, which was good for his resume and self-esteem, but bad for my budding addiction to work...I took another part-time job. I was now beginning work at 5:00 a.m. and finishing at midnight.

Darrin's new job came with a nice salary and benefits, but the the year of no income from him had hurt us. I convinced myself that we needed my new jobs to play catch-up and I continued working 50-60 hours weekly. Tabitha and Adam began to complain that I wasn't present even when I was home. I was either working one of my online jobs, too stressed to communicate with them, or too tired to do anything. I dubbed them ungrateful and continued working like a crazy person.

Finally, in February of last year, I recognized that I was in trouble. The real reason I had not stopped working so many hours was because work was the only thing I wished to do. I'd stopped all other activities. I didn't read anymore. I chatted with people, but rarely enjoyed it. I was cranky much of the time. I played games with Darrin and my kids occasionally, but I always longed for them to be over so I could go back to work.

I'm certain the work addiction helped fill some of the void created by my injury-induced inability to run or be active. I also believe it was used to help me avoid dealing with a number of PTSD related symptoms which were overwhelming and frustrating. By August I was feeling disconnected from nearly every person in my life. I took a few days and went to visit with Therapist, spent time with a number of friends, met Tolkien Boy at the airport and took him home with me for a couple of days.

The morning after TB and I got home, we slept in. We'd ended up driving until about 3:00 a.m. because we left Utah too late in the evening. We'd been visiting friends, some of whom TB hadn't seen for at least a year and lingered way too long.

I awoke at 7:30, but opted out of going to church. I was tired and I had too much on my mind. Darrin and the kids left without me at 8:45. Tolkien Boy woke around 10:30. At that point I was an emotional mess. I'd had a late night and just enough alone time to stir up all sorts of PTSD symptoms, and I couldn't stop thinking about my conversation with Therapist. We'd talked about a number of things, but the bottom line--I was addicted to work and I wasn't going to feel better until I addressed that issue. Therapist said the first step was to quit one of my jobs. I didn't want to.

It seems like such a small thing...just stop working so much. I list this with all the other small things that bother me and seem impossible to overcome:
--just stop feeling miserable about things that happened a million years ago
--just stop agonizing over personal relationships and interactions
--just stop having nightmares
--just eat

So I decided to enjoy the one day of visiting with Tolkien Boy (since he was leaving the next day) and then I would work on that impossible list. And that's what I did.

I quit one of my jobs in September. Then I spent October and November trying to manage all the new symptoms that cropped up in response to not working. They were aggravated by the new revelations about Jeff's abuse by our mutual rapist cousin and the news that my hip injury would not be getting better with physical therapy but would have to have surgery.

In spite of all this, I've been working on the work addiction thing. I haven't talked about it very much because doing so gives me panic attacks. But I think I'm making progress in spite of that.

I won't be teaching at the university for the next three semesters. I've turned away all prospective private students and will continue to do so, keeping my private studio at ten students. Last spring I cut the hours for one of my jobs in half (which also involved a pay cut--a worthy sacrifice). I'm now contemplating finishing this year's tax season and retiring that particular shingle. I haven't yet decided if I'll do that, but it's a definite possibility.

For the first time in three years, I opted not to work on Thanksgiving and I took time off for Christmas, as well. I put off beginning the semester for my private studio until next week (it was scheduled to begin yesterday) because I felt I needed one more week to rest (this was actually based on the fact that I slipped while getting out of the pool last week and am now working with inflammation at the surgery site--that's another story altogether). And for the past hour I've been sitting in front of my computer...not working. Instead, I've been recognizing that many of the emotional difficulties I've encountered are linked to my addiction to work. There are other elements which influence the relationship insecurity, loss of personal self-worth, touch phobia, desire to isolate, and stress/panic attacks, but I believe if I can keep my resolve to pare back my work hours to forty or fewer per week, some of those symptoms will wane or even disappear.

So I'm not going to work anymore tonight. I'm going to bed early. I'm going to spend some time chatting and cuddling with Darrin. I'm going to read for half an hour, and I might even write a letter to a friend. And I'm going to do the same thing tomorrow night.

As soon as my hip is back on track and the inflammation is gone, I'll schedule another visit with Therapist. We're going to talk about all the things I've been processing since my visit with Jeff last month; and we're going to make a plan so that I can continue my work detox program without exacerbating my eating or panic disorder, and without an increase in nightmares or threat of flashbacks; and I'm going to beat this. I'm going to make money efficiently, with fewer distractions and greater return. And I'm going to schedule in rest time and time to remember how to do all the things I used to love--including playing games with my family and chatting with people I adore.

By the time I run my first mile I will no longer be dependent on work to help me manage stress. It's going to happen...because I said so...and I'm magic.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day

I'm posting this on both of my Samantha blogs because I think I need to remember it more than once.

I spent yesterday celebrating the end of a very difficult year. In all honesty, I hated 2011. So many things seemed to happen without breaks to allow recovery or rest. I became tired by the time February rolled around.

I went to sleep last night around 2:00 a.m. I woke a couple of hours later thinking. That happens to me often, so it wasn't extraordinary. But I want to record the thoughts that woke me for a few reasons:
1. I needed to recognize the truths in them.
2. I'm still thinking about them.
3. Those thoughts--those realizations--are why I am me.

Yes, there were some really awful times last year. Yes, I had some huge setbacks, physically, which affected how I manage PTSD and I suffered overwhelming emotional stress because of it. Yes, there were major changes in my support network upon which I have learned to rely, oftentimes too much. Yes, I was tired and aggravated and sulky on New Year's Eve because I did not like 2011 at all, BUT...

In 2011 we had one of the most beautiful summers I have ever experienced. There was little wind. We had an abundance of water which kept everything green and lovely through September. I wasn't able to run or walk in it as I would have liked, but I still planted my garden and harvested tomatoes and herbs and reveled in the riot of colors as my flowers bloomed.

In 2011 I enjoyed each sunrise and sunset with a depth of feeling I've not experienced before. Perhaps it's because I was still as I watched, or because I was allowing myself to just live in the moment. My heart responded to each colorful change, rejoiced when the sun finally bathed my world in golden light, and felt peace as the sun sank behind the mountains, the sky glowing a deep royal blue before it darkened and allowed the stars to shine.

In 2011 I was visited by loved ones, some of whom live very far away. The visits were brief but I loved each moment. I was able to return some of the visits and also spend time with friends who weren't able to come my way. We shared time, and laughter, and food, and love.

In 2011 I watched some of the people who are closest to me find new measures of happiness and love as they were married or found partners or had children. I was grateful for their opportunities to experience different levels of life and very happy for their newfound joy. I was also glad to be included, in a small measure, in the newest moments of their lives.

In 2011 I struggled--but I also laughed and played and meditated and prayed. I learned that my body is pretty amazing and while it doesn't always recover as quickly as I would like it to, it still mends more quickly than average and my expectations are unreasonable. I became grateful for health insurance and jobs. I learned to rely on people to help me when I was unable to get around as I was accustomed. I weathered emotional, physical, and spiritual storms. And I made it to 2012--I wasn't always certain that would happen.

Yesterday I celebrated the end of things that were difficult and sometimes agonizing. Today I celebrate a year that brought many blessings and beautiful moments. Those things are always there. Sometimes it takes me awhile to discover them, but I always do because that's who I am.

I am Samantha. My world, although sometimes touched by pain or difficulty or sadness, is filled with beauty and with remarkable people. And someday, because I do not avoid life, I will find peace.

With a grateful heart I say goodbye to 2011, and for each person I love, I wish your days to be filled with wonder and delight in 2012.