Friday, September 9, 2016

Looking back to move forward...this is just the beginning.

I have been on a journey of healing for the last 2 years.  Trying to undo a lot of the damage that has happened to me over a lifetime.  Damage I've done to myself and damage inflicted upon me by others.  It has been a painfully slow process at times; yet sometimes happens so fast that I fear I'm going to get whiplash.  I've had to learn to be vulnerable and ask for help and that means I had to learn to trust.  For someone like me, that is nearly impossible, but when you are tired of being able to feel your body and soul die a little more each day, you'll find that sometimes you can pull off the near-impossible after all.

My latest endeavor was to write my younger self a letter; to pick any point in my life that made an impact on me, and write THAT me a letter.   From the get-go I was apprehensive.  I don't like to think about the past much.  Too much has happened.  I'm 40 so there's a LOT of past to weed through. Thanks to some lovely "quirks" my brain has, once I start down the path of remembering, I can't always stop it and that's never good.  For me, remembering the bad stuff is like an alcoholic taking that first drink.  I never know how long the bender is going to last, how badly it's going to hurt, if there's going to be collateral damage, or how long it will take me to recover afterward.  My body remembers trauma VIVIDLY and when triggered, it feels like I'm right back in the original situation.  Not only does my mind remember what happened, but my body FEELS it.  The sights, the smells, the physical sensations...all of it.  You can probably imagine why I avoid going there if possible.

That being said, I'm at a point in my life where the fear of NOT getting better, far outweighs the fear of staying the same, so with tentative steps, I moved forward.  I clarified the assignment, figured out the parameters I was working with, and went back as far as I could the first impactful memory that always stands out.  Back to when I was 5.
Dear 5yr-old me,

I see you sitting in the back seat of Betsy’s dad’s car chattering away on the way back to their house after another outing with their family.  You were so happy and excited and when you got that way, you talked.  Bill was driving and I’m assuming Sandy was in the front seat and Betsy was most likely in the back with you, but you don’t notice because you are too busy going on about whatever it is that has your mind and mouth going a mile-a-minute.  I wish I could stop the clock for you right here for just a few minutes.  Just a few minutes to let you talk and talk until you wear yourself out.  Things are going to start to happen to you and it’s going to change you and steal this bubbly innocence away from you and I just want to let you hang on to it for a few more minutes.

“You talk too much.  Can you shut up for awhile?  We’ll like you a lot more if you just don’t talk.”

I see your face drop as Betsy’s dad, Bill, says that to you.  Bill, who was always kind and joking and fun to be around, just changed the rules.  He made it not ok to be you.  As you slump back into the seat in silence, I wish I could tell you not to take it quite so personally.  I wish I could make you understand that sometimes grownups get short-tempered just like kids do and say mean things just like kids do too.  He wasn’t trying to be hurtful.  He just wanted a little break from the conversation.

Thirty-five years later, I still don’t know why this affected you as deeply as it did, but hang on, because here’s how it’s going to affect you.  “YOU TALK TOO MUCH.”  You start trying to talk less.  It’s a struggle, but you start to learn to fight what feels right. “WE’LL LIKE YOU MORE IF YOU JUST DON’T TALK.”  Every kid wants to be liked more; I was no different.  Go against what feels right for you, and you’ll be rewarded.  That’s the lesson I was learning.

And over the next month, when you are sexually assaulted by the teenage boy at the park while Betsy and her mom are just on the other side of the building, you will tell no one because “YOU TALK TOO MUCH” and “WE’LL LIKE YOU MORE IF YOU JUST DON’T TALK.”   And the next day when you BEG to not have to go to the park again, but can’t talk your way out of it without telling them what happened, you’ll finally just stop talking and go, and he’ll be there again, and he’ll hurt you again, but worse this time, and you’ll keep your mouth shut for 10 years because the boy said if you don’t, he’ll do the same thing to Betsy and you’d rather die than let him do that to your best friend.

Take a deep breath, dry your eyes.  Finish the car ride in silence.  Have dinner with their family tonight and enjoy your time playing with your best friend.  Things are about to get very dark for awhile and you need to hang onto whatever moments of joy you can right now.

After I finished it, I shared it with my most trusted friend M.  He read it and said, "What if the lesson you learned from Bill's comment was untrue?"  I thought about it and told him that had it been an isolated incident, I could perhaps concede, but it was something that has been reinforced throughout most of my life.  It's a pattern.  I am fairly quiet until I get to know you and am comfortable around you.  Once that happens, I am more open and talk more.  As we get closer, I feel free to talk/share at will and eventually the comment will arise in some form, "Man, you talk a lot."  So I stop talking and eventually the relationship falls apart because I know I have to censor myself in order to be accepted.  I know it is not ok to be me.

I have spent the last 3-4 years quite isolated other than the necessary conversations at work and at home.  Almost all other communication has been done online. Online, people have the option of not reading what I say.  I have the option of observing and not speaking at all.  Hanging out in the shadows is my comfort zone, but has its drawbacks.  I think I'd like to dip my toes in the pool of human interaction again one day, but first I have to finish looking back so I can move forward.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Eight months and counting...

One of you readers was kind enough to ask how I was doing after my last post in March so I figured it was time for an update.  I will work on a more detailed post, but I thought I'd get this one up to give you a quick idea of where I'm at.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Coming out to ensure a future.

Last October I made a decision to change my life. Things had to change if I wanted to see much more beyond the next 5 years. I couldn't pretend that I was ok anymore. It was getting too physically hard to live life in my body any more. On November 5th, 2015, I walked into the University of Minnesota Medical Center and admitted that I need help.

Four months, a half-dozen appointments, many dark moments, and many MANY more swear words later, I have lost 50 pounds as of this morning's weigh-in. I have lost weight, but gained so much more. I have learned that asking for help isn't the end of THE world, but it was the end of MY world as I knew it. I had to let go of the false notion that "I got this" (which obviously I didn't) and suck it up and let people see me vulnerable.

The mental work is SO MUCH HARDER than the physical work. Shutting down the negative crap in my head is so much harder than shutting my mouth and not putting food in it. Learning the difference between "I'm hungry" and "My mouth is bored" is something that I'll always probably deal with. Learning to let myself be brave enough to grab onto the tiniest sliver of trust in other people and hope like hell that maybe just this once things will work out for me...that is a life lesson that I have to relearn daily.

This is just a start. There are many more steps to take and many more life-altering changes coming in the near future. However, I am doing this one step at a time and trying to stay in the moment. Part of trying to ensure that I have a future is to learn to enjoy the present and to do THAT, I have to learn to actually slow down and experience what's going on IN THIS MOMENT. And in THIS moment, I'm thirsty. Off to find my giant glass of plain ol' water.

Friday, May 29, 2015

So you're not hurting anyone, huh?

When I was actively drinking away my youth, I always said I was never hurting anyone but myself. 15 years later (after 6 years of sobriety), another sober person slapped me in the face with the truth. He said, "You never hurt anyone, huh? That's bullshit. Your ABSENCE hurt people. Every time you were busy drinking instead of spending time with friends and family obligations, you were hurting them. Every day you were emotionally distant, you were hurting people. You think they weren't bleeding inside trying to figure out what was going on with you? You're fooling yourself." The truth hurt, but needed to be heard.

How easy it is to believe the lies we tell ourselves. How easy it is to not see the harm we may actually be causing.

May I never go back to hurting people knowingly or unknowingly.

Friday, May 8, 2015

So I guess I'm writing again.


Note | 1 Loves It | 
Tie me up to free me.
Make me scream to quiet me.
Spank me so I might hear you, and
Use your words so I might feel you.
Your warm touch sends shivers down my spine;
Your icy stare lights me on fire.
Overwhelm me until I am numb, and
Soothe me until I explode.
Test my strength until I am weak, then
Hold me close while I escape.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Coming out of the fog...I hope.

I have dealt with depression the majority of my life.  Sometimes medicated for it, sometimes not.  Postpartum depression hit me HARD after I had 12.  Since 10 came along a short 17 months later, I never had a chance to recover.  Two months after 10 was born, I was again trying to figure out how to kill myself without it affecting my children.  Postpartum depression is an insidious bitch.  My doctor and I agreed (although begrudgingly on my behalf) that it was better to wean 10 and go back on my medication than to NOT wean her and play Russian Roulette. And so it began.

Fast forward 9ish years.  Earlier this year, I realized that my short-term memory was getting bad.  I was forgetting simple things. A lot. My memory had always been like a steel trap.  I was a bit like Cliff Claven.  I knew a lot of random stuff because I remembered nearly everything I had ever heard.  My memory has always been very important to me.  VERY important.  To have it start to slip felt like life was giving me a slap in the face.  I mean, even when things were really crappy, at least I could remember it.  But now?  Not only was I having to write everything down, I was forgetting to do a lot of the everyday stuff.  I'm pretty sure I went 3 days without brushing my teeth because I just forgot that was something you were supposed to do.  I would remind my kids to do it every  night before bed, but by the time I went to bed, the thought was no where to be found.

I mentioned to my therapist a few times that my memory was messed up and after ruling out the normal things, we thought it was perhaps because we were dealing with a lot of old stuff and learning new ways to handle it and therefore my brain was just working differently and missing some things that weren't drastically important.  As the weeks went by, it got worse.  If it wasn't written down, there was no way I was remembering it and even then, it was iffy.  You can write things on a calendar until your hand falls off, but if you forget to look at the calendar and the DO WHAT IT SAYS, it won't do you any good.  Again, I talked to my therapist about it and I started to wonder if it could be due to the medication I was on.  It dawned on me that I have been on it for TEN YEARS in varying doses.  I've never gotten off of it fully because the withdrawal effects are so rough on me and because I don't want to be a nutcase.  I told therapist I would mention it to psychiatrist when I saw her in a couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago I realized I was losing words. When you've always relied on words (especially written words) to communicate, losing them is scary shit.  If I was older, I would have assumed I was suffering from dementia.  Losing my memory and losing my words was taking such a toll on me that I didn't know what to do other than wait for the psychiatrist appointment and hope she would have an idea of what to do with me.  I assumed that it would mean weaning me off the Effexor XR and just trying to suck it up and hope the withdrawal didn't drive me to drink.  Turns out, she had another plan.  Instead of pulling me off the drug entirely, she switched me to a different brand in the same class in hopes that there would be little to no withdrawal symptoms.

Operation Medication Switch has been underway for 3 days.  The first day on the new stuff resulted in my being itchy from head to toe and nauseous as hell within an hour of me taking it.  Time to load up on the Benedryl.  Day 2, still itchy as all get out after taking it.  At least loading up on Benedryl helped me sleep through some of it.  Day 3, no need for Benedryl.  The itchies are there, but only slightly irritating.  I'll worry about Day 4 when I get there.

Ideally, this drug will be easier to come off of than the other.  In my research (while waiting for my psychiatric appointment), I found hundreds of thousands of people who had been on the same medication that have had horrible memory issues too.  In reading some of their other symptoms, it seems that I have gotten off easy by only having the memory issue be a problem.  It's too early to tell if this will help.  It will take a minimum of 4 weeks to get my levels stabilized.  In the meantime, I just hope my body can figure out how to let go of the old drug and hang on to the new drug without totally messing me up.  Until then, I will continue to write everything down and make my calendar my home screen.  I'm also leaving my toothbrush out in plain sight.  Just in case.

Friday, January 30, 2015

How do you know HOW you're feeling if you've never learned to NAME the feeling, much less FEEL it?

I'm not normal.  If you've been here awhile, that will come as no shock to you.  For various reasons (some of which I had no control over and some of which are due to my own choices when I was younger), I have spent the majority of my life walking a fine line between not wanting to be numb, but not wanting to feel TOO much.  Feelings hurt.  At least I think they do.  I DO know that I generally don't like them because they feel yucky and sit like a weight on my chest and make my skin feel too tight.  "Bad" feelings make me PHYSICALLY uncomfortable.  My head can't focus and things feel wrong.  My clothes will feel wrong, my hair will hurt, my head starts to hurt, my mind races, and I will do just about whatever I can to make it go away.

Last summer when UW left, I went into a tailspin.  All of those new feelings were too much for me.  Instead of running from them like I always have, I decided to finally address them and try to deal with them with the help of a professional.  Look at me trying to act like a responsible adult.

Working with her has been interesting to say the least.  She has teared up more than I have (my cold dead heart doesn't allow me to cry very often...either that or my pride doesn't), has told me she's never had a patient as blatantly honest as I am (which is one of the miracles of being in recovery), and at one point asked me if I have ever suffered a HEAD INJURY (not really, but that was funny as hell when she asked).

Here are a few things I have learned:

1.  I don't know what to CALL the feelings I'm having.   One day I was crying (let's keep that our little secret) and told her I couldn't figure out why.  Her brilliant revelation was, "Well you were SAD."  What?  Oh yeah, S  A  D. Hmmm...ok, I'll go with that.  Yes, I am THAT bad at feelings.  It took a professional to tell me that crying is a sign of being sad.  Seriously, I'm a 39 year old woman with the emotional skills of a child.  It's a little ridiculous.

2. Trauma victims have faulty "switches" in our brains that cause us to process incoming information incorrectly.  Where many people would rate "love" and "happiness" on the top of their lists for what they want/need, I rate "safety".  Living in survival mode means you're always on the lookout for the next unsafe thing to come your way so you better be armed and ready.  In fact, you probably should spend countless hours of your day trying to anticipate ALL of the possible scenarios you could encounter during the rest of the day/week/month/etc. and then take action to try and prevent all of those things that may or may not (most likely WON'T) happen in order to be feel safe every second of every day.  Yeah...that's a bit exhausting.

3.  My mind and body are rarely in the same place at the same time.  Therefore, my heart and my head rarely agree and are usually at odds with each other.

4.  When you are disconnected from life, it takes something pretty intense to register and etch itself in your memory.  Therefore, every day stuff doesn't get recorded and you become QUITE aware that even though you can remember every disgusting detail of your sordid past, you will now spend your days wondering why you can't remember things.  This will become especially troublesome when you were raised in an "If you don't remember it, you must be lying" or "No one else remembers it like that, you must be lying" environment.

5.  I either feel very little (feels like I'm watching a movie about life, not really experiencing it) or WAY TOO MUCH (flashbacks where I relive the event with all the sounds/smells/sights/touches).

6.  My constant disconnect will hurt people even when I desperately don't want it to.  I will be called a bad friend, a selfish lover, a mean mom, etc.  It will hurt people when I make comments about my lack of feelings or when I question my feelings for them.

7. If I say I love you, I really DO mean it to the best of what my understanding is of that word.  It means I am loyal to you and don't want to see you come to any harm.  It means I will crack jokes to make you smile when you are sad.  If I'm in love with you, I will twist myself into knots trying to be the best partner I can be.  I will forgive just about anything as long as we can communicate honestly about it.  It means that I will make space for you in my life, but will need reminders of your presence so I don't get disconnected and forget to reconnect.   When I get disconnected, it's not that I don't care about you, it's that I'm trying to juggle so many things at once that my focus shifts to deal with whatever is capturing most of my attention at the time.

8.  Adding Borderline Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to a trauma victim will exacerbate all of the above issues.

You know what else I've learned?  I've learned that no matter HOW bad things have gotten, my track record for getting through them is 100%.  Yes, I am hurting right now and my life was recently upended again, but I'll put my money on my track record.  This too shall pass and you can bet your ass I'll get through it.