That which sustains me

To my therapist,
You are my healer. Actually you are my helper and I am my healer. Actually love and time and patience and resilience and strength and understanding are my healers. You have done and continue to do so much for me. I’ve also been wanting to thank you for making therapy affordable for me. It really helps. It’s so important that I am paying you now and soon it will have been a year that I started paying you. When you first decided to take me on as pro bono I had no idea. I just kept paying you my copay and assuming you were charging my insurance and it was only much later after my separation that I discovered you were doing this. You mean so much to me that words will never adequately describe the feeling I have for you. It’s attachment. You have taught me about attachments. They are so powerful. So powerful. I remember telling you at one point that I wanted to get rid of all the money my ex-husband was giving me for alimony. I wanted to spend it. I thought it was dirty. Little did I realize then that it would end and I would have to be healed enough to finally get a job to sustain myself. I think that having this job and the challenges I have been through in it have also helped me to grow and heal. And financial independence does a lot. I would be doing very poorly financially had I not received the unexpected extra alimony as income earlier this year.
I can’t believe it’s almost 2017 and that’s the year that I start training for my professional career. Actually I have been training for it all my life. I am ready for this and I am ready to truly and effectively pay forward all of the help and love and effort and dedication you have shown me. I definitely have faith in humanity and I have faith in myself. Nothing will ever stop me from achieving my goals of becoming a professional helper like you. And I happen to know for absolute certain that you will never leave me and that you will always be by my side. You saw me yesterday in the middle of the day even though you hadn’t planned on it originally. We don’t live our lives for each other, I know that we have our own lives. But the time that I spend with you, and all of the time in between, is, well, meaningful beyond belief and healing. Now that I have healed so much, even though there will be more work toward that ahead, now the real learning gets to start, and that’s now the fun part! When I was going through trauma I was numb, then I was in denial, then I was in pain beyond comprehension. And all that while I wanted to kill myself. But now that the fog of depression has lifted and the crippling desire to be dead is gone, now I have space to learn. I can absorb information more readily and what I learn now I am able to recall. You have patiently repeated lessons and phrases and concepts to me endlessly until it was no longer necessary, like the concept that the pain will one day end, and my favourite phrase “not yet”, and my even more favourite phrase that “feelings come and go but I remain”. I’m still actively learning about that last one.
You know, the promise and agreement for me to one day write you a handwritten letter of how I am doing has had some of the biggest impact on me, even though at times I have fought it. When I wanted to die you reminded me of that promise. And you always are able to find angles that I can relate to and that eventually speak to me. Like if I don’t care in the moment about not having had my own children yet, that I haven’t yet experienced being an auntie to my brother’s future child or children, that that got to me earlier this year. If you call my ideas brilliant sometimes, like my idea of going to the jacuzzi instead of writing about my past trauma, then, well, you are brilliant too. I know that you are human which means you aren’t perfect and that one day your physical body will no longer be with me, but you are everything to me. You are my world, or at least for a long time you were the only attachment I had to the world and to staying alive. At times I didn’t even want to stay alive for my mum but I knew that I had to stay alive so that I could see you again, and I lived off of each of our meetings, from one, which sustained me, to the next. There was a time when I was doing so poorly that you were seeing me every day. I don’t actually remember that time but I wrote about it and recently read about what I wrote. There are some things that I have forgotten or that are buried so deeply in my psyche that they are almost unreachable, and that that is a very very good thing.
You sustain me, and you always will. But I know that I will have other things that will sustain me, like my dedication to my future patients, and a child of my own to whose wellbeing I will dedicate every ounce of my being.
With that all said, I want you to know that I love you and I am looking forward to my future and to our future, you and me, and how our relationship will continue to evolve. This isn’t “the letter” that we know I will one day write to you, but I feel that it comes very close to it and that it’s good practice. And I also believe that it will not be just one letter that I write to you, but a series of letters.
I’m very glad that I didn’t die each time that I attempted suicide. And I know that you are very glad that I am alive as well.
Thank you for you, for being you, for dedicating yourself to me, for everything that you have given to me, your time, your emotional being, your efforts, your healing words and constant and consistent presence, for showing me what an authentic connection can be, for letting me become incredibly attached to you, which sustained me, for showing me your love and care through your words, your facial expression, your consistency, your actions, your body language and even the way you sit, for our silence and the necessary space you always give to me.
Grazie and happy new year.
~ Your dedicated patient and fellow human being.

Love Heals All

To my therapist,

My tummy is full and my mind is quiet. I feel content. I took advantage of the holiday sales and went clothes shopping. You see, I was holding onto all of my clothes that were too small for me. Four years ago I was an extra small, and then I became a small and now I am a medium. The clothes I wore three years ago no longer fit me. I probably bought 10 new tops. I even got some low cut not so conservative shirts so that I can wear them when I go on a date. They are definitely not shirts for work. Ever since that marriage ended and I threw out all of the skimpy and “sexy” clothes I have wanted to be totally conservative. As things began to not fit me I kept wearing them anyway. I’ve only been wearing tshirts on weekends or pajamas but now I have some elegant tops. See, on weekends and before I worked, all I did was stay in bed and sleep. But now that I am doing more things on the weekends I actually have a need for things that are not tshirts and work shirts. I just went through my closet and probably took out about 20 shirts that are far too small for me. I have to donate them but some I will keep to give to my younger cousin like how I gave her my really nice but too small winter jackets last week. I think this change will feel good. I often didn’t ever really know what to wear over the last two years but now I have choices from clothes that I picked out. I think it feels good. Even some of my old dresses are too small but I am not ready to say goodbye to those ones yet.
I feel more at peace. I’m so glad you agreed with me that going to the jacuzzi the night I got home from my trip was a brilliant idea rather than writing about and therefore focusing on trauma from the past.
It feels nice to be earning money and then to have money to spend to basically buy a new wardrobe, because being in clothes that flatter me and fit makes me feel good and is therfore good for my self esteem and confidence. I actually rather like being a size medium rather than a small. It means I have grown into my beautiful, curvy, womanly body and that is how a woman’s body is supposed to be. Women, people in general, are not supposed to be like sticks. I never ever want to go on a diet again. And no one will ever be able to force me or pressure me to go on a diet because I like me just the way I am. I could lose a few pounds but I don’t need to. I just need to focus on being healthy, my mental health being the most important. I am about 138 pounds and I have weighed that same weight for over a year straight without gaining or losing much. It is the first time in my entire life that my weight has remained constant. Since I was about 17. It would go up and then drastically down and because that whole time I was with my ex-husband and under his influence.
I like my life right now. I drink tea all day long, mostly at work. I have given myself permission to enjoy tea. I am motivated to do these classes early in the year and it will be a preview of what grad school will be like. I am going to become a professional person, and I am going to have a real career for the first time ever and be doing work that is going to be meaningful and that I enjoy. I can hardly believe it. My life is so much better than it used to be. It just keeps getting better and my life is more full, even though there are always challenges along the way. You have helped me so much and I’m so glad that you continue to support me. I want and need you in my life. Today talking with you was really helpful. I feel as if I can learn more when I am not being held hostage by intrusive memories of pain and fear and anger and trauma. Earlier this week was so scary for me because I was remembering painful memories. But then things got better. The feelings came and went and I remained.
I really love you and I’ve never asked you but I know that you love me too, and that last little bit is everything to me. It’s how I have healed so much. Because of love.

Sentimental Time of Year

Today is Christmas Eve and it is still light outside. I have Christmas music playing. I am in very comfy clothes with my legs crossed on a couch with my laptop in my lap. Emotions come and go, but I still remain. I must often remind myself of this imperative phrase. My therapist taught it to me.

Last night I cried. For good reason, I think. I want my Mum to see a therapist. I want her to be able to live her life fully and for her to heal the hurts of the past as I have done and am doing. But therapy isn’t for everyone, and the person has to want it themselves. So, I won’t go into it. But it still makes me feel sad.

Two of my friends from Switzerland sent me Christmas greetings in the physical mail. I only got around to sending out cards to people locally in the U.S. I will have to write them nice emails some time. Luckily they speak English as I have forgotten much of my German.

I am trying my best to keep my mood afloat today. I want to feel happy, calm and content, and that means focusing on positive thoughts. I was reading some emails I had sent to my therapist earlier in the year and it is apparent that my mental health has improved a great deal. I used to cry a lot more, I used to choose to not get out of bed or eat or shower on weekends. I was much more depressed. Life was a lot more difficult to live.

The main part of my diet in the last three days at my Mum’s house has consisted of bread and brie cheese. It has been lovely. Since I drove here I was able to bring whatever I wanted, like my decent-sized and really soft teddy bear, which is actually an elephant, and I have been holding on to it to comfort myself, as I do every night. Mum took me for our favourite walk around a lake today and we held hands together and smiled and talked. I think she did most of the talking, and it was nice to connect. I know she actually doesn’t have a lot of people to talk to. Every time we walk around this lake, which is seldom, she tells me about my late father and about how when they were dating they used to take walks there, have picnics, and watch the sunset. Those are very sentimental and special memories and stories for me to hear.

I have nothing special to say. I have nothing else to share. I am simply writing to fill my life with meaning, my day with joy, and the world with words. Words can make a difference and they are worth writing down and sharing if it touches just one person. Thank you for reading my continued story, and Happy Christmas.

Looking for Peace

There are so many things I could be doing right now. I still have two more essays to write for my grad school applications. I could be writing in my personal journal. I could be writing my thank you cards to people at work who gave me holiday gifts. I am on vacation now. Staying with my Mum. It took nine hours to get here. The Christmas tree is lit and there is holiday spirit.

I have joy in my life yet my heart also lays heavy because I love my Mum so much. Basically I want her to move in with me and I want to take care of her financially so she doesn’t have to worry any longer. She works so hard and doesn’t earn enough and does a job that is far below her level of a Ph.D. just to have an income. Her husband has been unemployed for a year. He doesn’t contribute. He doesn’t do any chores. He doesn’t buy groceries or write checks for paying the bills and he doesn’t cook. She has to do everything for him. I know it would be a huge life-changing decision to make. She has been with him for 15 years. Not all of that time has been pleasant. Actually, I don’t believe most of it has been pleasant and plenty has been far less than pleasant.

I sent out some Christmas cards this year. I sent one to the victim advocate at the district attorney’s office and got a lovely email reply. She is so supportive. She calls me strong and inspiring. We are going to keep in touch. I sent a card to my psychiatrist and my former DBT therapist at the hospital. Occasionally I leave her voicemail messages every few months to give her an update of how I am doing. I remember telling her once that I am going to come back and take her job one day. She said she would love to give her job to me and she sounded sincere. She has a very important role at the hospital and if I were able to reach her level of accomplishment that would be a huge achievement. She wants the best for me.

I saw my psychiatrist last week right before I had gotten triggered of something from the past. I won’t go into it, but it’s basically a bill from the city saying that I owe them monies that I don’t think I should have to pay from three years ago and this bill was not a part of my bankruptcy. It brought up memories from the past and strong emotions. It was completely overwhelming. I felt very angry. In the past when I used to get angry, my mind would just straight to suicide as a solution. I went back to that old coping. I told my psychiatrist that I would rather be dead and that I wish I had died when I tried years ago. He asked me if I had any plans to go forward with a suicide. I said no. He asked me if I will stay safe. I wouldn’t answer him. I was so angry and I didn’t want to be safe. To be honest, it was shocking and scary that my mind jumped straight to suicide, but as my psychotherapist pointed out the next day, this happens with much less frequency than it used to. The last time I felt suicidal I believe was in the summer time. That is a long time ago. After talking with my therapist I decided to leave my psychiatrist a voicemail message letting him know that I will stay safe. We are seeing each other again in less than three weeks. I think he wanted to check in with me sooner because he was concerned, and with good reason. A professional in the business knows to not take it lightly when a patient says that they feel suicidal. Even though I occasionally feel suicidal I don’t think I’ll ever attempt suicide again. I think I have healed enough to the point where I am past having to go that far.

Because I am doing so much better in my life I have been able to do more things on the weekend… by choice! I haven’t had time to stay in bed with my eyes closed and sleeping for 22 hours a day on the weekend. I am doing so much better. Earlier this month I took a roadtrip with a friend to watch my second youngest cousin’s dance performance at her university. She is majoring in dance and minoring in English. I want to be friends with her and we have never really connected as adults. I remember when she was still wearing diapers. Now she’s going to be 21 years old. She wants to be a professional dancer in a dance company but her parents are not so supportive. I was glad to be able to visit with her today. We talked about her school and her plans. She was willing to listen for a while during which I gave her a lesson on investing and starting to save for retirement. I suggested she invest in a cd (certificate of deposit) at her credit union where she banks. I don’t know if she will do it but at least I planted the seed of thought and hopefully it can germinate. And I will certainly remind her. I feel like a big sister to her even though she does have two older siblings, a sister and a brother. I wanted to tell her all about my life and my plans for grad school. But just as a big sister does, just as a therapist does to her patient, I didn’t talk much about myself. We talked mostly about her for two hours and I was glad to do it. Even though I will be in school and studying will be intensive, I am going to try to go to some more of her dance performances next year and the year after that, while she lives within driving distance of me. Because the dance companies that she wants to work with professionally are on the other side of the country and I wouldn’t be able to just go for a short weekend trip.

Now that I am doing better, now that I am no longer in and out of the hospital for suicidal ideations, now that I have been able to hold a steady job for a year and a half after not having worked for five years, I am able to add positivity to other people’s lives. My mum no longer has to worry about me surviving and not killing myself. She knows I am doing well and we have been able to connect with each other and strengthen and repair and heal our relationship this year for the first time in my adult life. It took a long time to get here. She knows that moving in with me is an option, although it would be a huge life change. I don’t want her to have to work. I just want her to live a free life and have space to heal her wounds, her sorrows, her heart aches and her anxieties. She took care of me for the first 18 years of my life and I want and need to give that back to her. She hasn’t been able to save for retirement. I told her not to worry because I will take care of her when she is no longer working. I will take care of her when she is no longer able to take care of herself. Along with becoming a therapist and becoming a mother one day, my calling is to take care of my mum. It is the least I can do for her, and will never make up for the bad years of her life but if she can live a free life in the moment without having to look too much into the past or the future, then maybe, maybe she can experience true happiness. I want her to have peace.

After the hiatus

My life is really good right now. It’s balanced. I am happy. I actually feel happiness these days. Yes, it’s true! It has been a good stretch of consistent happiness too, for the past two months, despite some upsets here and there. But overall, I am content.

I am throwing myself a party tomorrow! The last time I threw myself a party was for my birthday in 2013. I had several friends over to my place and my mom came to town to visit. She’s coming again tomorrow and I’ll be picking her up from the airport. It’s just a two-day trip but it’s enough, and it’s important to me. I want her to meet my friends, the people that I talk to every week. There will be 15 of us in my small apartment. I’ve already done the shopping. It’s an afternoon event, so just snacks will be provided. I have tortilla chips and hummus and brie and goat cheese and crackers and fig jam for the goat cheese, carrots, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, grapes, banana bread. I have too much food and I think it will be lovely. My roommate said it all sounds healthy, but that’s the food that I would normally eat myself anyway. She is going to be making the guacamole from scratch – delicious!

I met someone who speaks Italian online today. He lives in the same city but we haven’t talked about getting together yet. We are just getting to know each other. I have big plans for the future! I may be planning a trip to Italy for next year! I just asked my boss today if I can take three weeks off and she gave the okay. I might want to stay longer but that would not be possible if I want to keep my job. I am very excited about this prospect.

I signed up for two undergraduate classes next year. The first is psychology 101 and it’s during the intersession, meaning a semester’s worth of work is crammed into four weeks. The next is child development 101 in an eight-week course. I want to get those classes out of the way before I travel to Italy, and I figure I should take them since I am going to be studying psychology in grad school. My first application is due next week and all I have left is to edit my personal statement which is a three-page essay.

I will be traveling to see my family for Christmas. I’m doing the eight hour drive to go see them. Hopefully I will stay at my brother’s house depending on his plans. My mom still is thinking of moving soon, but it hasn’t happened yet. Instead of a one-hour plane ride she will be a three-hour plane ride away. Still, it’s pretty close. I just don’t know how often I will see her.