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Monday, July 29, 2013

Sometimes the sunrise is pink.

I'm much better today than I was a year ago--in every way.

That being said, I still struggle throughout each day to stay on top of the emotions and other symptoms brought on by stress and PTSD. And I've not successfully been able to manage the nightmares that keep me from sleeping at night. 

For awhile now I've had difficulty with nearly every relationship in my life--and I've lost closeness in some of my most important relationships. I think this is partially because I'm unpredictable, emotional, and moody. No one likes spending time with people like that. 

I tried to mend some of the relationships with mediocre success--then I wallowed in self-pity while I missed the things that I could not mend. But I think I'm finished with that.

This weekend was very difficult. I realize as I write this that pretty much every weekend for many months, has been very difficult. And the days in between, too. But there were extenuating circumstances that made this particular weekend difficult. 

I awoke this morning, exhausted and frustrated--definitely not ready for a day of wrangling with investment companies who made mistakes on tax documents for my client; and not ready to talk to student loan companies for another client; and really, really, not wanting to do the online work waiting for me.

As I waded through piles of paperwork for a client, called an attorney, met with the client, and made more telephone calls, I left 10% of my brain thinking about me. That 10% made some a decision.

I don't believe anyone would argue that my life has taken a turn into desperately trying circumstances over the past two years. That being said, I've spent a great deal of time being angry about this. I've ranted and wept and said it's not fair. And it didn't make me feel any better.

Today when I went to the gym I saw a blind man swimming. I'm not blind. He noticed my presence, smiled, and said, "I hope you're having a wonderful day." I thought for a moment; my body was in pain, my tendon was screaming at me, and I was dreading work. But I can see. I told him I was and wished him the same.

The decision made by the 10% of my brain which was thinking about me, was this:  It's time for me to look for the good things. 

I've lost closeness in some of my relationships. But I HAD those relationships and they were joyful and delightful and I learned a million things about love and trust and life while we were close. 

I've lost financial security. But I've never been without a job or a way to get a job. I've gained new students, I'll be teaching at the university in the fall, I have my online job and finance/tax clients. I have debts that need to be paid--some have been sent to collection--but in time, I will pay them. I have a ruined credit rating, but I have nothing I need to buy right now that requires a pristine credit rating. I have all my needs met. 

I'm still struggling with physical problems in my leg. But I can walk and run (on a limited basis) and I'm healthy in every other way. I've always been able to manage pain. This is something I can work through.

I'm not sleeping well at night, but my job allows me to take short naps during the day in a sunlit room which inhibits nightmares and allows me to continue working. And someday, if I'm able to access the tools I put in place a few years ago, I'll be able to manage the nightmares and sleep better at night.

I have difficulty maintaining friendships. But I think lots of people encounter this problem and I've decided not to blame PTSD--or just me--for this. Friendship is a two-way street. I can only take responsibility for me. Being my friend is not an easy thing. I ask uncomfortable questions, discuss topics that others might avoid, and I'm honest about what I'm feeling--even when what I feel is not what someone else might want to hear. But at least they don't have to guess. And I suppose it's a positive thing that I allow people to go when they're ready. Maybe. I mean, I try to talk things out, but if it's clear that I'm the only one talking, I understand when it's time to say good bye. I guess I'm saying, I really do try to accommodate the feelings and schedules of people I love, even when that means things don't work out as I might hope.

It's time for me to read more books about magic and adventure, play more pieces that make my heart sing along, invent recipies with beautiful food, smell more roses, take more walks, and drown myself in the sky. Circumstances, peopole, and PTSD aside, it's time for me to live in the Happy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sometimes I don't like how I feel after a conversation.

I'm here tonight because I need to talk to myself. If you're not me, feel free to leave the conversation at any time.

I left a chat with Tolkien Boy tonight feeling deeply disturbed and sad. I need to figure this out.

A while ago TB told me that I was part of his life. He's said it before, but in my head it doesn't compute.

I need background here:

When I first met TB, I had no problem with spontaneously chatting with him at any time and about any thing. In my mind it didn't matter because, while I liked him a great deal, I knew that four years from then he might think of me occasionally, or phone me every couple or years, or send me a post card when he went to Great Britain, but I wouldn't really be in his life anymore so what I did while I WAS in his life had little significance.

But then four years went by and at some point he said something about "best friends", and continued our endless conversation, and visited me, and called me sometimes, and suddenly I had no frame of reference for what was happening because I don't do long-term relationships unless they're contractual.

So my response was to become freaked out in a very large way. I began to suspect that my presence was bothersome to him, that he tolerated me, but didn't really want to talk to me unless he was bored at work. And that feeling began to increase exponentially. I thought it was PTSD. I blamed it on PTSD. But maybe it was something else.

I talked with TB about what was happening. Because he's lovely and sweet, he reassured me again and again and again that he cares about me and enjoys spending time with me. It didn't help. I blamed PTSD. I don't think it was PTSD. I think it was something else.

Recently we talked about "being" in another person's life. I told him how difficult it was for me to understand that sometimes I'm thought of or spoken of by him. While I understand how truly uncomplimentary it is for me to believe TB has no connection with me unless I'm somehow present (because I think of him frequently--especially when I see something that reminds me of time we've spent together or something he cares about or just get the picture), it's still nearly impossible for me to think of myself as a key person in another's life. But I decided I needed to try to think differently and I needed to stop feeling like I was an intruder when I initiated a conversation or phone call, and I needed to be "in" TB's life, just as he is part of mine.

I did a number of things to try to revamp my thought patterns and TB responded in ways that were loving and validating, but my response was to become more and more stressed. I blamed a million other things (because I have a smorgasbord of stressful things to choose from right now), but those weren't what was causing my stress.

So then I tried to talk about it with TB tonight. That was sort of a disaster.

However, in the process of the conversation I recognized a few things:

1. I don't have context. I don't know how to have loving, close relationships with people outside of Darrin and my children. This is because, as a child, closeness and affection were rare, and they ceased completely after I turned seven. But I didn't stop loving my parents. I loved them so much it seemed to consume me--and this included the mother who abused me physically and emotionally. I loved her--deeply and with my whole soul. I remember when I was nine, lying in my bed one night, feeling how very much I loved my parents and wanting desperately to be held and told that I was loved in return. I finally ran downstairs, distraught and weeping, and nearly shouted at my parents, "Mom! Dad! I love you so much!" and then I hugged them. Their response, after the initial shock, was to return my hug rather embarrassedly, then remind me I needed to be in bed.

I wanted them to ask me to sit with them for a few minutes. I wanted them to tell me I was valued and special. I went to bed instead and cried very softly so that I wouldn't disturb anyone. What I learned from this was that my love is uncomfortable and embarrassing--and definitely not desirable. I learned that people will respond if I enthusiastically declare my love, but only because response is expected, not because it is felt. I learned I needed to keep my effusive show of affection under wraps and that I needed to never reveal how deeply I might love another person because they would find it uncomfortable and embarrassing.

2. I have internalized some things without realizing it. As part of my therapy, about four years ago, I was to talk with my mother. I was supposed to ask her how she felt towards me. I think Therapist, because he really does believe I'm awesome, believed my mother would help me understand that she loved me, she just wasn't good at expressing this, and that she was proud to have me as a daughter. However, the conversation took a turn for the bizarre when my mom let me know how glad she was to have me as a friend--she counted me as one of her closest friends--but she never really thought of me as her daughter.

I remember feeling devastated. I think my mom believed she was paying me a compliment. She had no idea how hurt I was. I was cordial and civil through the rest of our visit. After she left, I think I cried for days. I think this experience explains my animosity toward friends and friendship and my antagonism toward the institution, as a whole. Those are undeserved, but I have difficulty being grateful for friendship when I wish to be a daughter. I learned from this experience that my mom is happy to associate with me as long as no one knows I'm her offspring, that she's ashamed of me, somehow, and that she's comfortable with the limitations and boundaries of friendships when it comes to our relationship. I learned that I'm fun to be around, but I don't deserve familial intimacy. I learned that even my mother does not want more than a distant tie to me--so how can anyone else wish for closeness with me?

And so, as TB and I try out the "being in each other's lives" thing, all I can think about is that this is an impossibility. I'm not really loveable. I don't belong in my blood family, so belonging to people outside of that entity is not something I really comprehend. And trying to become something different is causing me a great deal of pain.

I suggested to TB that people like me should probably just be "apart" from other people. He asked me if that means I want to stop being a part of his life. I don't even know how to answer that question. Do I want that? No. If I did, I would never have tried the "being" in his life in the first place. I wouldn't be talking to him nearly every day for the past seven years. I wouldn't ask his opinions and advice. I wouldn't miss him. But I don't have any idea how to feel about this. It makes me hurt inside.

My head is saying, "Sam--this is a good, healthy relationship lots of people wish they had--and you have it. Why are you feeling pain about it?" And my heart answers, "I don't know."

I'm going to bed now. I can't figure this out at all.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I've been reading tiny articles sent my way from Google+, Linkedin, and Facebook, that tell me my mood/happiness/success/motivation/whatever are completely mine to own. And I believe that.

This is not a post in which I state that those articles are simplistic and misleading--even though they are. And it's not a post in which I decide to climb on the bandwagon and just get over everything that seems to be dragging me down.

I'm guessing, if you know me personally, you have not seen me sad very often. And if you have, I'm guessing that if we talked about it, I made you laugh. It is not natural for me to be gloomy or grouchy.

That being said, I also know that while we choose, to some extent, to linger in sadness or to do something different, there is value in allowing ourselves to process difficult experiences--and sometimes that means we won't be happy for a little while. So the "15 Things Happy People Do Differently" lists, don't really apply in those times.

I struggle often with the feeling that my life is not shareable--that it's filled with ugly events, the knowledge of which causes other people discomfort. I've lived with knowing members of my family do not believe the things I have told them--and that disbelief continued until my cousin, Jeff, corroborated my story by telling his own. That same disbelief is now leveled at my daughter as she allows others to know of her abuse experience at the hands of my brother. I understand disbelief. I felt pangs of it myself when I first heard the abuse story. I clung to disbelief as a means of survival, in regards to my own experiences, for many years.

Disbelief is one thing that keeps abuse and rape survivors in the victim mode and in the end it is irrelevant. It cannot erase events. Eventually the survivor moves forward, discarding those who cannot lend support, and clinging to those who will give support and accept it, as well, in times when their lives feel vulnerable.

I woke with the sun this morning--which is normal for me. Saturday = sleeping in for everyone in my family except me. For me, sleeping in = at least three days of insomnia. And I don't love sleeping anyway, so it seems silly to do it just because it seems to be a tradition for people who work nine to five, Monday through Friday.

Birds sing differently as the sun rises. This morning the sunrise was gorgeous and unusual. Rain was falling softly, but the sky was only partially cloudy. This happens often in July. I watched the sun color the rainclouds until they finally dispersed. The birdsong increased in volume as the clouds lifted, then became quiet background chatter.

I have much to do today; things I have left until I felt able to manage panic and PTSD problems. Today I can do those things. I've missed deadlines and put off clients, and I have yet to finish my syllabus and make the Power Point slides for my classes. Laundry is piled high and I'm pretty sure I didn't clean the kitchen last night before I went to bed.

But the point is, I'm finally ready to do those things.

However, I think I'm going to talk a walk first. It's a beautiful day. I plan to enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met. She's now in a maximum security twilight home in Australia." ~Dame Edna Everage

There are a lot of changes going on in my life right now. People with PTSD don't always deal well with change. I've been experiencing panic attacks at a rate of every two hours, approximately. When they pass I feel weak and stupid. But while they're in force, I am at their mercy. You can't really say to a panic attack: "Go away. I don't have time and I don't want you." It doesn't listen.

So I have the option to go back on medication that causes me more side-effects than I want to think about (including insomnia, nausea, and weight loss), or trying to find help elsewhere. A few nights ago, unable to sleep, so tired I was crying, and feeling incredibly silly that I'm me, I went to a PTSD forum and signed up. Then I went to a PTSD chat room.

The forum has been a nice, slow-paced, constant reminder that I'm not alone. It's easy to feel very alone at 2 a.m. A few people have responded, letting me know that I'm okay. They don't understand my unique physiology and reactions to drugs, and have suggested several helpful ones. I've thanked them but I'm not ready to discuss why I don't take PTSD medication in that place yet. I've found that there is a great deal of judgment--people often believe I don't wish to be helped, that I'm choosing to stay in a state where I'm a victim of PTSD symptoms. Why they believe that of me, I don't understand, especially those who know me well. I sort of work like a crazy person to get better and if I could take a pill every day that would ease my stress without creating a dozen other symptoms, I would.

The chat room has been immediate balm to my soul. There are people from all over the world--so for some who are speaking, it's morning or afternoon while I talk in the middle of the night. One woman in her fifties, has been waiting for me, wanting to see how I'm doing, checking up on me...she calls me "sweetie." She's not living in the U.S. and she uses her iPhone to log into the chat room, so she's always talking about how small the print is, but the voice enable function sounds creepy to her. She's told me a great deal about herself. I haven't really said that much--just that I'm having panic attacks and can't sleep. Another man is often present. He's a vet with PTSD. He says I'll make it. He tells me at some point I'll sleep. They both tell me they love me.

I know. They can't love me. They don't even know me. But at 2 a.m., while you're breathing for a moment and waiting for the next panic attack to hit, love, concern, and reassurance from any source is welcome.

I think I'm going to stay in these places for awhile. I'm needing immediate and certain support at unpredictable times. The people there could be axe murderers. I don't care. They help me right now.

Don't judge me. :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nothing special--just what I'm thinking about tonight.

One of the side-effects my tendonitis problems is that I developed a rather pronounced limp. This happened because of uneven muscle development and because I didn't respond as expected to any of the physical therapies. At this point I've used all the therapy my insurance will allow for this particular malady and I'm sort of on my own.

I worked with three physical (they worked as a team) and one massage therapists. They were very careful to let me know what was going on with my body, why it was happening, and what I could do to help heal. My last appointment was two weeks ago. I left with a directive to call if I stopped progressing, and to continue running as tolerated, combined with pilates which, three years ago I loved, and now I hate because, let's face it, doing pilates with uneven muscle development hurts.

However, it also helps a great deal. Today my limp is less noticeable, I'm sleeping better at night because the pain is decreasing and my hips are staying in place like they're supposed to. My muscles are also responding better. It's rare that they spasm (and it used to be rare that they were NOT in spasms) and the strain on my knee is imperceptible when the spasms occur because they're pretty minor. All in all, I feel confident that I've learned what I must do to return to complete recovery.

However, I also have to say that I don't love the effort it takes and there are days when I feel sorry for myself and I just want to be able to run effortlessly again. When that happens, I take a day of rest, wallow in self-pity, and play Facebook games.

Adam and I made incredibly delicious peach cobbler tonight. He's a lot of fun, but I would like it so much better if he'd stop declaring random "sit around in your boxers" times. It's a little disconcerting to walk into the house in the middle of the day to find your grown up child sitting on the couch in his underwear.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Therapy: The Beginning of the End

This all began in February 2006. I didn't start blogging about it immediately. My first therapist had me write bunches of stuff, some of which was helpful, some of which was not. But then I discovered if I posted my therapy assignments online, I no longer felt I was writing secret things that I could only discuss with my therapist. It was out there. No one read it, but someone could if they wanted to. And that made a large difference in how I felt about myself and my therapy journey.

So for more than seven years I've been picking myself apart, looking at things I'd been burying so deep I thought they could never be found, and trying with every ounce of strength I possess to become more than the things that have been done to me. I've not always been successful. Even now there are days when I wake up and think, "I don't want to be the person who was unwanted, unsupervised, abused and molested by adults and raped by a cousin. I don't want to be her. I want to be loved and accepted and protected because people care about me and want me." But I'm not, so I wait until I feel strong enough to be the one I wish I was not, and then I get up and start my day.

I can do that now. I could not do it in February 2006. At that point in my life I would manufacture a scenario I could live with, I would become a fictional person who was strong, invulnerable, delightful, and funny and I would enjoy my day. I felt happy. I thought I was happy. I had no idea I was unhappy until my rapist cousin's wife killed herself. Then I couldn't stop remembering the things I had tried to zap out of my existence. Realizing my magic wasn't as strong as I had thought, was fairly daunting.

I made progress, but that brought an onslaught of feelings I couldn't manage. I ended up doing a stint in the mental health ward of the hospital on suicide watch. It was during that time that PTSD was diagnosed and I had a name for the monster that had become more and more powerful as I tried to heal from my past.


The monster remains untamed, but most of the time we coexist fairly peacefully. There are nights it robs me of sleep, and relationships it tries to destroy, and days it keeps me immobile, but I'm still working with it, trying to teach it who is in control of my life, trying to honor the emotions it elicits without buying into the ones that are from a long time ago, silencing it while trying to maintain communication in important relationships I'd like to keep healthy.

I never know what will pop up, but I'm getting very good at learning what to do with unpleasant emotional surprises. I've nearly finished all the therapy assignments I said I could or would not do. Most of the time I know who I am, and while I'm not what I would like to be, I think I'm okay. I long for a time when I won't feel that I am less than everyone who has not been abused or raped. I think that might happen someday. I wish the men in my life who make derogatory comments about women--their anatomy, their smell, their brains, their habits, whatever--could understand what that does to me. I'm hopeful it's not their aim to plunge me into the place where I am once again helpless, a victim too small and insignificant to fight against unfair or untrue words that hurt and demean. I think those men care about me until the words are spoken--then I am certain they exist only to hurt me. One day I will be strong enough to say I don't want those kinds of people in my life and I will do something about it. Maybe that will mean I have very few men, especially gay men who cast the slurs about the female body most often, in my life. Maybe that's okay.

I have everything I need to successfully live my life. This doesn't mean I always use those strategies successfully, only that I can if I choose to. I went through a period of time when I would rely on no one for many years. More recently I went through a time when I felt I HAD to rely on one or two people or I would not make it through the things that were happening. That feeling persists to a certain degree even now, and I'm pretty sure the people I've leaned on are ready for me to leave them alone for awhile. I can do that--I will do that. It's time.

During the next few years I believe I'll be concentrating on what is true about me now. I'll be identifying traits that are inherently mine, those that make Samantha the person she is. And I'll keep working on staying healthy emotionally and physically. I'm not sure what will happen socially. That belongs not only to me, but to the people in my life. On my part, I will always welcome them--chats, emails, visits--but there will definitely be times when the ball is in their court. I've found that when I'm the person who always seeks an audience, I begin to feel insecure and resentful. I don't like that and I definitely don't need that. Relationships in my life must be a two-way street; I wish to be loved and needed as much as I love and need the other person. When that no longer is in place, I'll probably become less available.

I have a great deal left to do in my life. I have a marvelous journey ahead of me. I hope there will be people who wish to accompany me, spend time with me, share my life with me, but if not, I still intend to live.