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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Waiting for Therapist

I have a very good therapist. I know there have been times when I've poked fun at him, or been angry at him, but I'm aware that he is probably the best fit I could have found when it comes to therapy.

I've also come to understand in the past couple of years that he cares about me and he admires me for taking on the task of healing, sorting through all the yucky stuff, and enduring and growing beyond much of the aftermath. It's weird for me to think of him as a person with feelings. I have a very clinical view toward him. He serves a function. He gets paid. It is in his best interest for me to make progress. That he can feel emotions about me, or view me as more than a statistic or just another client, has been beyond my understanding.

This is partly because of my own social interactions. I have students. I have clients. I care about them. I'm interested in them. And then they go away and I don't really think about them anymore. At all. I suppose that's how I've believed that Therapist thought of me.

When Therapist took a different counseling position two years ago, he was required to refer all his former clients to another counselor-- which he did-- except for me. Therapist asked for, and was granted, an exception and allowed to continue working with me. Therapist told me he asked for that exception because:
1. I was no longer meeting with him frequently so my needs would not exceed his ability to provide therapy as needed.
2. He felt that, for me, having to find another therapist when I was fairly stable and self-reliant would be either completely overwhelming, or I would simply decide I no longer needed therapy. And he said I could be right about that last thing, but he was concerned that I have a therapist should my PTSD become unmanageable for some unforeseen reason.
3. He said it's actually kind of rare for clients to do the things their assigned. Many of them simply want someone to talk to, and they leave each session feeling stable, so they see no reason to do work that might make them feel worse. He said that working with me was good for him. It reminded him that some clients will work hard. Some will experience healing. Some will learn to thrive in spite of curve balls and stressful situations.
4. He said he'd miss me. Which, he added, is not a reason to continue therapy, just a personal reason he wished to continue as my therapist as long as he was needed.

I have worked with Therapist for almost 10 years.

When my life became unmanageable this summer, a number of things added to my stress. Key people who have been supportive during the past decade of my life, also encountered things that needed their undivided attention. They had to take care of what was going on in their own lives, and they trusted me to take care of what was happening in mine. Which should have been fine. I'm fairly resilient and even when I'm knocked down, I usually find a way to get up again, with or without support from them.

Except this was more knocks than I could handle. Major surgery (weakened physically), combined with encountering by crisis after crisis as I tried to prepare for teaching classes in the upcoming semester (weakened mentally), while being confronted with having to talk about being raped by my cousin in an official capacity (thus, weakened emotionally)-- I just didn't have what it would take to continue once the semester began this fall. I became very unstable. I have been unable to manage PTSD at all. I'm experiencing severe panic attacks that leave me vomiting and exhausted. And I have been severely depressed and suicidal.

Therapist, aware that I was in extreme distress, turned the tables on me the first week of September. Knowing that travel added to my stress, he drove the seven hour distance to see me, rather than vice versa. He met with me on his own time (Sunday evening), for more than two hours. He helped me put a plan in place-- asking people to check on me fairly frequently for a couple of weeks. And we talked about strategies I could use to cope with my stress load.Then Therapist continued to check in with me, himself, during that time period.

That was about four weeks ago. Things haven't gotten better, but they haven't really become worse, either. I'm still experiencing debilitating panic attacks, but I'm learning the best places to stop and puke if they happen while I'm driving. I don't really sleep because continuous nightmares are not pleasant, but I take 20-minute naps during the day when I can. I've not been able to sort through dealing with the changes in my personal relationships yet, but that's not really an optional thing because changes are happening regardless of my ability to deal with them. At some point I will figure out how to manage the feelings that arise because of those situations.

I don't know what will happen with the case against my cousin. I realized I'm still afraid of him in some ways. I don't want to be a witness at a trial, should that become a reality. I don't want to answer questions or be put in a position where I feel I have to defend my story. I don't want to think about this at all.

Things at work are stabilizing, but I still have a great deal to do to catch up. I normally have all my lessons planned out before the semester begins. Because of what happened with a bogus textbook and sound equipment woes and unexpected, time consuming distractions, I didn't have those prepared this semester. I'm slowly getting ahead, though. At some point I'll be able to take a weekend off.

I had a phone session with Therapist this week. He told me some things, some of which were helpful, and some of which were just sort of interesting:
1. He was surprised, given what I've been through in my life, that the severe panic attacks had not been an issue before now. He says that speaks of my ability to manage stress, my emotions, and use positive coping measures when difficult things happen.
2. He said I am capable of rising above whatever is happening right now. We talked about worse-case scenarios. Therapist said there is really nothing that can happen that I do not have the ability to sort through and deal with on my own terms. I may not like it, but my capacity to find joy regardless of my situation, surprises him constantly.
3. He said I see myself as dependent on others, and that might happen sometimes, but for the most part I am able to take care of myself independently. I don't always choose this, because I enjoy the people in my life and I like inviting them to be involved with me, but I don't need them. I just want them.
4. Therapist promised me that the depression and suicidal thoughts are temporary. I'm already seeing a lift in that they are no longer constant and I have fluctuations of happy and sad throughout my day. He said those fluctuations will feel less extreme as time passes and soon I will feel level and lucid, once again.
5. He said he would continue to check in with me until I am no longer "at-risk". I asked what that meant. Therapist said it means "until you know what the outcome of the investigation/case is." He said at that point everything else is just life, and I'm very good at dealing with life.
6. Therapist told me that no matter what the people I care about choose, in regards to depth of feeling toward me, frequency of contact with me, and amount of involvement in my life, I will be okay. He reminded me that for a long time I didn't have people who were close to me, and while that's not optimal, I know how to manage that situation, and further reminded me that this is something over which I have no control. Again, I would be okay.

Therapist is right. Most of the stress I feel is because things in my life are not as I wish them to be, but not because I can't manage what's happening. I don't want the difficulties that have cropped up in my classes-- but I do want to teach the classes. I will cope with the difficulties and I will teach.

I don't want to answer questions or be interviewed about past events that still cause me discomfort. But I want to tell the truth, and if it's determined that telling my story is necessary, I will cope with the discomfort and I will tell my story.

I have worked through a great deal of anguish as I've allowed people to become close to me. It has been exhausting at times, and painful, as well. I don't want to let those people leave to take care of the stresses and demands of their own lives. I wish them to remain connected and involved with me. But I also want them to be happy, and if happy means that they need to step away from our relationship in order to cope with what's happening in their own lives, then I want that, too. Because really, the reason I wanted them in the first place is because I love them deeply and purely and honestly. They need to do what is best for them. And I will be okay. Therapist has promised me that I will always be okay. It's who I am. It's what I do.

So right now I'm dealing with a whole bunch of I-don't-wants. Today, as with many days before, is daunting and a little bit overwhelming. I'm feeling some things I don't want to. I'm currently immobile when it comes to doing what I'm supposed to do for work. But Therapist will check in with me in about three minutes. He'll remind me that I'm very good at what I do at work, and when I'm finished with my to-do tasks, I'll feel better. He'll assure me that I can contact him if things escalate and I feel out of control. He'll remind me that he cares about me, has faith in me, and admires my ability to deal with difficulty. And he'll say something to make me laugh.

I'm very lucky to have him in my life. I think he'll stay awhile because, after all, this is his job and I am a golden client. Even if his life gets busy, his involvement with me helps pay the bills. I'm not being cynical, just realistic. People stay with the people who benefit them the most. Right now, for Therapist, I'm beneficial. I think he'll stay.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bowing Out

I need to take a break for awhile. People who know me personally, know where to find me. But before I go I need to say just a few things:

1. I have deepest sympathy/empathy for victims of violent crimes who have to testify against, or even just issue a statement against the perpetrators. Unless one has been in such a situation, it's sort of impossible to gauge its emotional and mental impact. Please, if you know of someone who has declined to confront a person who has harmed them, don't judge. I can't describe the physical, emotional, and mental anguish my current situation is causing me.

2. When someone you care about-- even remotely-- is going through something like this, reach out if you feel you can. Let them know you care and that you'll lend strength when theirs is gone. When their world feels like it's falling apart, tell them it will be okay. Let them know they're safe. Love them.

3. If it feels they lean too heavily, or ask for more frequent contact, or cry a great deal-- forgive them. The pain-filled moments they are being asked to recount are most likely times when they were very vulnerable and alone. No one wants to recall such moments in detail, let alone have someone ask question after question after question. Any safety net they may have woven over time is systematically being unraveled. They need you. It's okay to establish boundaries, and if you're unavailable, be very clear about that because waiting for you when you won't be there is almost as painful as everything else they're going through. A simple statement that you are not the one to rely on in this moment is much better than uncertainty.

4. If that person feels depressed or panicky or anxious or even suicidal, these are normal reactions to the very intense, scary situation they're currently facing. Please be patient. Please be gentle. They've probably already experienced enough harm and pain. Don't add to it. Encourage them to seek help from qualified professionals. Check on them occasionally. Be clear about time limits when you do so. If you can't spend a great deal of time with them, it's okay to say that. Just let them know you're thinking of them and you love them.

5. Expect that when this is all over, your loved person will do what's necessary to heal and move forward. Know that they will want to support you when something stressful pops up in your own life. Believe that the current need will evolve into strength and that the person you have enjoyed will be back again. Don't give up on them.

Don't give up on me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act." -- Dr. Seuss

I haven't been able to talk for awhile. There's too much going on inside. Overwhelmingly too much.

Last week one of the officers who took Jeff's and my statements called. He told me that he and the sheriff (who happens to be a friend from high school) visited with my cousin, David. They had interviewed him, told him of the charges against him, and taken his statement. The case is now with the district attorney who will decide what happens next.

And I've been a mess since then.

I had another can't-breathe-throwing-up-hurting-everywhere panic attack Sunday morning.

You see, I don't want this to go to trial. I don't want to talk about what happened anymore. I don't want to accuse or testify or see justice done. I just want it to all go away. And I know that makes me a coward. I know this. I don't care. I don't ever want another of those panic attacks. I want to feel in control of my life again. I want to stop being afraid.

I thought I wasn't afraid anymore, but I am. I hate afraid.

I REALLY need hugs right now. Except I don't want to be touched by anyone.

For the first time in my life (change of topic) I find myself missing people. This is not the former, "Wow, I'm thinking of someone. I wonder how they are. I would love to talk with them again. And now I'm going to go clean my bathroom," type of missing people. That was how I used to experience it. And it never went any further because if they weren't here, then probably they weren't missing me, so I needed to expend my energy on something else. Missing people was pointless.

This is new. It feels like a physical yearning to be next to another person-- to feel them sitting beside me, breathing-- to hear their voice-- to inhale their essence and know who they are. I don't remember ever feeling this before. It makes me feel like laughing and crying at the same time. I'm very confused by it. I think it means something, but I don't know what. Except maybe I'm losing my mind? I'm caught up in a great deal of stress so maybe my mind and body are trying to distract me? I just don't know.

I went to physical therapy today. I'm cleared to run as I choose; outdoors, on different terrains, as long as I wish within reasonable limits. My flexibility in my bionic hip is as it was four years ago. I can sit cross-legged, do cartwheels, stretch my foot over my head, do infinity squats... I'm better. I need new running shoes. Right now.

Tabitha purged her room this week. I have three bags of clothing sitting in my living room and she has more to go. It's amazing to watch her grow up, to let go of things that have been unhealthy and damaging. We're looking at a new therapist for her; one who will help her finish and maintain the things she learned in treatment. We've been very blessed. Two years ago I did not believe Tabitha would choose to live.

Adam has started working full time and going to school part-time. He's still in therapy to recover the memories he lost when he was taking medication to rewire his brain and stop the migraines he was experiencing 3-4 times weekly. He feels better. His personality is back to normal. I have my son back.

DJ is still at home while he pays off knee surgery. He goes to school for awhile, loses interest, works for awhile, then returns to school. He has no burning desire to do or be anything. But he's delightful. Adam and Tabitha are very happy to have him close by. The three of them disappear upstairs to play games or listen to music or just talk together. Sometimes they invite me to join them. I have amazing kids.

Now, if I could stop having crises at school, if I could get the right materials for my classes, if I could stop needing to think about what will happen as the case against my cousin progresses, if I could stop having panic attacks, nightmares resulting in being drenched in cold sweat and throwing up, I think my life might feel manageable again. But at least I'm talking. That's a step in the right direction.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thought Processing Life Choices About People and Relationships

Today was difficult. Without going into details, I'll just say that I've had days when I was happier.

That being said, I decided that it's high time I stopped waiting for some interrelationship things to happen. Waiting makes me more stressed. That's not something I can afford anymore. So I tied up some loose ends, said good-by to some things I'd been hoping for, allowed myself to wish things were different, acknowledged that they were not and I could no longer wait for whomever was involved to decide whether or not those things were important to them, as well. They're not. I've made the decision.

Ten years ago this would not have brought me a glimmer of pain. This is because I never would have allowed the waiting time in the first place. I would simply have moved on. Tolkien Boy says this is because I was afraid I would be hurt, but it's not. It's because I could see no plausible reason to believe that people might wish to have the same things in a relationship that I did. I was very aware that I was different, so I assumed if I had a want or a need, probably it was bizarre and impossible I chose not to dwell on it. No one wishes to feel like the crazy person in a relationship.

I think it also had something to do with not really allowing people to know me well. I had no close ties to anyone, so allowing them time to decide if something in our relationship was important seemed rather pointless. That's not the case anymore. I have people I've allowed to know me and I've put a great deal of effort into trying to allow closeness. It doesn't translate well, though. I don't always understand why things are said or done. And I still feel guilty when I wish for more time or a hug or maybe just a brief text message. The guilt, I believe, stems from the belief that at some point we'll both discover that at the core of my being, I really am that person who wants nothing more than to get out of all my relationships and just be alone.

That's a weird thought, probably. But it's something I'm afraid of. When DJ moved out a few years ago, I allowed him a great deal of space. I didn't call or ask questions about his life. He didn't call or ask questions about my life. I thought we were being practical-- allowing him to grow up. What I didn't realize was that I was disposing of him. There's really no gentle way of saying it. In my head he was no longer my son. He was a person who had lived with me, and then he didn't.

Adam became aware of this about 2 years ago. I'm not sure how. It made him cry. I remember watching him weep and feeling completely baffled. I couldn't understand what was sad about the situation. DJ seemed content. I wasn't unhappy with the evolution of my emotions. Adam said, "I don't want you to feel that way about me-- ever. I love you. I want you to love me!"

So Adam equated my feeling of detachment from DJ as not-love. And it upset him. And I was even more baffled than before.

Therapist says that people who have been abused as I have must connect frequently with the people in their lives in order to maintain close relationships. We're capable of love-- intensely capable. We've been saving up for a long time, waiting for someone who will accept love from us. We also understand that being loved by us is not necessarily a highly sought after commodity, and with that understanding comes an acceptance that sometimes people will want us and sometimes they won't. There is a numbness surrounding the concept. We don't fight it. It just is. To wish for something different is pointless. It won't happen. When the time comes that we are no longer wanted, or when people no longer seek us out, or when our phone calls, texts, emails, or chat messages lie quietly awaiting a response that will not come, we understand that we've reached the finish line. We get it. And we make certain that the transition away from whatever person we've used up is seamless and clean. Emotions are confusing and overwhelming. We've been trained not to use them when they might cloud our logic.

But Therapist says this isn't a correct way to think. It's easy because then we don't have to ask questions that might bring answers we don't understand. And we won't have to question our motives or wish for different outcomes that might not happen. In ignoring the things we want and need, we allow the other person to move on and we do the same. It works out well for everyone.Except it doesn't. It negates every purpose for having a relationship with another person. It says that I like being with someone, but I'm also perfectly fine without them. A real relationships means that I'm not okay without the other person. I need that person and they need me.

I'm not sure I agree with Therapist. My brain doesn't work that way. My mom taught me that I was ugly, embarrassing, shameful, and unwanted. Today she says otherwise-- mostly in public. I grew up to be someone not ugly, not embarrassing, not shameful, and sometimes people like to be with me. It seems that she believes her former opinion is no longer popular, and therefore, she has realigned it. I know it's wrong of me to say things like this about someone with dementia, but it's how I feel.

It's really, really difficult to train one's brain to think about things differently.

So, in compliance with Therapist's assignments, I attempt to have conversations with people in my life-- to tell them what I need in order to continue supporting and building our relationships. I haven't talked with DJ. I probably won't. He doesn't need to know his mom is any more a of a freak than he's already aware of, and he definitely doesn't need to know that I can't seem to bond with him again. No child needs to know that. I'm speaking from experience. So I spend time with him, talk with him, try with all my might to feel what I used to for my oldest son. Maybe someday it will work. He's a good person - a loveable person. The fault does not lie with him.

But at some point one must draw a line.

For DJ I will never stop trying. He's my son. But I can't keep trying with people who don't need me as he does, or whose lives are too busy, or who cannot find a way to make a place for me. It's stressful and uncertain. I need more certainty, more people who will rely on me and allow me to rely on them. When that is no longer a relationship component, I find myself drifting away, tired of working so hard for something that only I wish for. That's not a relationship. That's me trying to normalify (I know-- not a word-- don't care) myself in my interpersonal interactions. It's sort of pointless.

So today I spoke with a number of people, and I thought about the concessions I have made, and I spoke of the needs I have, and I listened to the voice as it responded. If it was clear that there was condescension or pity, if it seemed that the person really would like to respond to me but just didn't have the emotional reserves or the time, if it was evident that this was a conversation where a rote response was being made but my words were inconvenient, uncomfortable, or meaningless, I knew that it was time to move on. In one case it was clear that the person with whom I was speaking really cared and wished to respond, but it just wasn't possible for that person to accept what I have to give nor to respond in kind. That's sweet-- but I don't have the stamina to wait anymore.

In conclusion, I know this post makes no sense at all. It's not meant to. As I mentioned in the title, this is how I move through thoughts and make life choices. And now you know.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


It's been almost a week since I finished talking to authorities and legal people about what happened to me many years ago. Jeff went with me. I'm still not in a place where I can talk about it. My dad called a few days ago to check on me. I let the call go to voicemail. I haven't talked to him yet. My mom came over today to pick up a package my nephew had left for her at my house. She asked how things went. I said, "Fine."

I don't want my parents to know that for the past three weeks I've been in emotional stress to the point that Therapist asked me to alert some people close to me. My therapist traveled six hours to meet with me because he was worried. On a Sunday. Darrin says that should tell me that I'm important and I should feel grateful. And I do feel grateful. I also feel like this should not be such a big deal. I've been working on things for a decade. Will there ever be a time when I have to look at what happened and I won't fall apart? I like to pretend I'm stronger than this. Clearly, I'm not.

I was supposed to report back to Therapist. I haven't. I don't want to tell him that I was okay after the interview. But after making the long drive back home, I got off the freeway and had the scariest panic attack of my life. My whole body was in pain. I couldn't breathe. I was going to vomit and pass out. I was drenched in cold sweat. And I was driving. Probably I should have pulled over and waited for it to pass, but I had students waiting for me. There was no time.

So I got home and ran to the bathroom where I was very sick. Then I brushed my teeth, wiped my face, and taught piano lessons. Because that's what I do. Life doesn't end just because your body reacts badly to stress.

The next morning was the first day of school. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I wanted to call in sick. I didn't. I went to class and taught. Because that's what I do. Life doesn't end just because you feel like you've been hit by a truck.

For two more days I woke up, felt horrible, and went to work.

Today I don't feel horrible anymore. I just want to cry for a really long time. I won't, though. I'll work on lesson plans, and play games with my family (because we're celebrating my birthday still), and work on more planning stuff. And tomorrow I'll go to work again. It's what I do. Because if I don't, sometimes I want life to end.

I know. That sounds really stupid. I'm safe. Just because I had to talk about unpleasant things is no reason to wish for death. But tonight I'm thinking that probably no sane person would ever want to talk about, or answer questions about, or live through the experiences I had many years ago. And maybe there's someone else who might feel a little sick afterward. Maybe they might want to cry, too?

People talk to me and ask me how I am. My brain makes me say, "I'm fine." It's all I can manage right now. If I say anything else, I'm not sure what will happen. That's scary to me.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Today is my birthday.

I believe I've written about this before, but usually the day after, because my birthday is usually a very emotionally stressful day.

I think it's okay to wish my parents and family wanted to celebrate my day each year, especially when I was a child and birthdays were a REALLY BIG DEAL.

I think it's okay that sometimes I felt hurt when they forgot, or when they remembered later and thought it was funny that my day was forgotten.

I think it's okay that I finally got to the point where I wouldn't talk about my birthday or tell anyone when it was.

I think it's okay that when I grew up I never celebrated my birthday, and that I tried to make believe that it was no big deal.

I think it's okay that one day, years later, I started believing that I deserved better, that it was okay for me be be upset with my parents for forgetting-- especially when I never forgot the birthday of a family member or friend. There was no mutual agreement that my birthday was meaningless and I wanted them to acknowledge me, to celebrate that I was born, to be glad that I was their daughter.

I think it's okay that little by little, I let people I trusted know about the day I was born. I think it's okay that I did so with no expectation that they would care. I think it's okay that I did it because I needed to talk about it and I knew they would let me.

I think it's okay that I blogged about all the reasons my birthday caused me distress. I needed to say those things. I needed to tell my parents that their behavior toward me was not okay or funny-- it was hurtful and disgraceful.

I think it's okay that today I can say, "It's my birthday," and I don't feel angry or sad. I think it's okay that Darrin and my children celebrate, and have celebrated with me for many years. I think it's okay that I have come to feel that my parents have truly missed out because they're very blessed that I'm in their lives. I'm a pretty great person; one who deserves a birthday celebration every year, just like everyone else.

I think it's okay that my children planned a birthday outing for me tonight, and that for the first time in my life, I felt I could (and should) go and participate.

I think it's okay that next year I will plan one myself and I will invite people. And it's okay if no one can come because the real triumph lies in the fact that I can finally do this. I've never been able to do it before.

And what this means is: I'm healing.

That's a pretty wonderful birthday gift.

Happy birthday to me.