Depression? What’s That?!

Sunday evening and I’m settled in for the night. No, that’s not exactly true. I have been settled in all day. Instead of going to church for the second time this year, I slept in. I then hand wrote some already-composed poetry into my hardbound sketchbook where I keep the master copy of each poem I write. Then I composed a new poem, which took about an hour. By now it’s 1:30 pm in the story and food happened somewhere in there, but not enough. I went to take a nap and cuddled up with my dog in bed in a half-conscious state for an hour. Then it was time to photograph my poetry, so I can have more material to post on my social media pages. Somehow now it’s 5:00 pm and I am really hungry. Organic crunchy peanut butter and organic raspberry preserves sandwich with amazing and expensive bread. The sun is starting to set in this side of the globe and I finally start doing the laundry I’ve been putting off doing all weekend. It has been a couple of weeks since I last did it, and last changed my bedsheets. Now my bed is a messy mountain of creased, dry cotton items and my dog is having a heyday in the pile. I made sure to take out my underwear because that’s the only thing I don’t want his paws on. The hot cocoa milk I just consumed is but a memory. I have knowingly switched between past and present tense throughout this paragraph and it has become a long one. Time to move on. Better check to see what my dog is doing in the other room.

This day has been a mixture of mindful self-care and hard work. My back has been hurting a lot and crouching down on the hard floor in order to take photographs of decorated verses of my poetry for an hour didn’t help. I napped when I needed to and ate when I remembered. Even now, as I prepare for slumber time, I am working by practising the art of writing in spelling out my thoughts. It never ends and I never want it to.

My trip to Italy is coming up in about a month. I’m not doing the touristy thing. I’m just going to live there for a couple of weeks while staying with my friend. I plan to pop over to London from Bologna to see some old family friends. While I am away I hope to write every day. If I can manage to do it, my ideal vacation will be one thoughtful poem a day and one blog entry. I might have to take a day off here or there. Writing takes concentration. It’s kind of ironic that I cannot for the life of me sit down to read a book for more than 20 minutes before becoming distracted, which is why now I only listen to audio books. Then I can pay attention to the words being spoken when I want to, and when my focus of attention goes elsewhere, I can return to the story at any time. But when I am writing, now, that’s a different story.

When I write, I can write for an hour uninterrupted. I think it has to do with the art of creating something. The screen or page is white and blank, and then little characters of all shapes and sizes which comprise the English language appear, and fill the tabula rasa (blank slate). In between sentences I’ll find myself unconsciously rubbing my skin as in a nervous habit while trying to think of what to type next. The skin rubbing is more of an OCD thing, although I am not diagnosed with that disorder. It has a long history and is a long story, so I won’t go into it now. It has to do with trying to get the dirt off of me, because subconsciously I still feel dirty from all of the dirty things which were done to me in my past.

About 40 minutes have passed by since I started writing this journal entry. Amazing that I have spent that time doing something I like doing. I had gotten the pile of dirty dishes in the sink under control earlier today, thankfully, and now I have a couple more “adult” obligations I have to take care of before going to bed. That is, putting three loads of laundry away and showering. I still haven’t been to a pet store to buy Samuel’s soft carrier for the airplane trip next week, and if I don’t do it, then he will be staying behind with my roommate. Luckily she loves dogs and is great with Samuel. I hate it when people try to abbreviate or give him a nickname like “Sam” or “Sammy.” No, you fools, it’s Samuel. Get it right.

I still have to pack my suitcase later this week. I haven’t put it away since my last trip in December and that black box of a thing has been standing on its heels in my room the whole time. It’s not like it’s an eyesore though, as one quickly forgets its existence. Funny how you can live in a mess and get so used to it, that it becomes your normal. I’m not saying I live in a messy home, it’s just, stuff like that happens.

Depression? What’s that? I still take my medication diligently, day and night. The last time I had a suicidal episode (which for me entails an emergency happening in my mind) was several months ago. When it is happening, I see no alternative other than killing myself as the best idea. It usually lasts for a couple of intense days and then subsides. After the episode, I wish those wouldn’t happen to me. It happens less and less these days. My therapist had reminded me that for more days than not, I used to live in that emergency state of being all the time. Things have changed since then.

I think I am done. I have satisfied my craving to write, and although I could write some more, I find it best to wrap things up. Really, it was an indulgence, because I don’t often feel as if I have the time to write so often. Other times I don’t want to go into the depths of what is in my mind because it is too overwhelming, so best to stay away from the blank slate during those times. If I can just sit here, in the silence, as I have been doing, minus the sound of fingers tapping away on the keyboard, then I can gather myself and some courage to do those adult things I need to do next.

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Self-Soothing and Learning to Say “No”

No, no, no, no, no. Today was not a therapy day. I give myself permission to say “no” again. No! It’s not that I didn’t go. But it’s that I chose to leave early, halfway through the session. What I’ve learned is that I am in charge of my own life and responsible for my own feelings. If something doesn’t feel right then I don’t have to be doing that thing. Twenty minutes into the session I abruptly said that I needed to use the restroom. Now, I actually did have to pee, but it’s a self-care tool that I have learned to use in therapy. When I need a break, to stand up and walk away for a few minutes, I can do just that. When I got back I told him that this has been an incredibly long session and that I didn’t think I’d make it to the end. My therapist was very supportive and allowed me to, and guided me along the path, of deciding to leave. We talked about it for five minutes before I finally exclaimed, “I don’t want to be here!” So I paid, and I left.

The instant I left his office I felt better. I had forgotten to have lunch, as my days on weekends are quite unstructured, and it was already mid-afternoon. In session, while we were talking about things that were tough for me, my hunger took the forefront and was distracting and causing me to feel irritated. I think that I would have been able to tolerate the other feelings had I not been hungry. The most important lesson here is of my independence and control in leading my own life. I have permission to leave. I give myself permission to leave when things get uncomfortable. Only, I wish I would remember this when in dating situations. I forget that I can say “no” and I forget that I have the ability to leave. It’s going to take some practise and today was a great way of practising that very skill. By the way, I didn’t spell “practice” incorrectly. I prefer using the British spelling.

Now I am at home. It’s wet and rainy outside and I am inside with the heat on. I did some photography for my ongoing poetry project today, and my back had already been hurting. Crouching down on the floor with my large Nikon D5000 and taking pictures of verses of my poetry which I had decorated with paint, was even harder on my back and I am recovering from that. Now I just have to go through the photos and figure out which one is the best shot, edit the saturation and contrast and brightness, and then put them in a folder to post later. I don’t have editing software such as Photoshop, so I have to get the photo perfect, because I won’t be editing it later. I then post my poetry on my social media sites that are there just for my poetry and my few loyal followers can then hit the “like” button. It brings me a smile knowing that other people are getting to enjoy my poetry.

I have ginger-flavoured kombucha and a dog in my lap. I would say that life is pretty good. My Mum bought me the audiobook of “Achtung, Baby,” an account of a woman raising small children in Germany. So for the last two and a half days I was immersed into dreaming of moving to Germany. Only, then I would have to leave my Samuel behind with another family, and my German isn’t fluent, that’s for sure. I understand about 70% of the language, I would say. That’s pretty good, given that I haven’t practised speaking it since I was 12 years old. So, in dreaming about the possibility of moving abroad, I also am realising how good I have it here in the USA, and in particular, the spot in which I reside. I have a great job and I can see working there for the next 20 years if I don’t change my career. It’s just that kind of company, where people stay there for decades. If I were to leave, even if only for a year, I would have to leave that job. I really don’t think I’m ever going to find a job to top the one I have now, it’s great. I have so much independence and flexibility there. It’s astounding. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. But that’s exactly what my therapist explained to me, that sometimes when we dream about doing other things than what we are doing now, such as moving to a new home, moving to another city, changing jobs, then we realize sometimes how good we’ve got it now and our perspective changes. It’s all about perspective, baby.

I’ve got three drops of lavender oil on my sleeve end so that I can smell it whenever I want. All I have to do is lift my wrist to my nose and breathe in. It’s great. I have been using lavender a lot lately, to calm and soothe myself, even if I am doing fine. It doesn’t matter how I’m doing. The scent of lavender oil always makes me feel better, even if I was fine before smelling it. I used to wear the stuff All. The. Time. Literally. All the time. It was a self-soothing tool I used when I was very mentally ill and boy, did it help.

Now my dog is lightly snoring, just the slightest of sound. I find it to be so comforting. Every time I have to get up to pee, I apologize to him, because he is sooo comfy in my lap. I wouldn’t want me to get up either. And then I say to him out loud, “I have to go, I have to go,” and that motivates me to get up. Talking to yourself or to your pet can do wonders. It has been quite enjoyable lately and I’ve been doing more of it. Maybe I’m also practising for my future baby. Even though babies cannot intelligibly reply with language, the communication is very important. Babies communicate in other ways, and they are incredible learners.

Okay, I’m going to go now! It is decided. I am officially going to stop writing for the moment, to be resumed at another time, likely in an hour when I choose to work on my poetry. I have been writing a lot lately. I’ve been very prolific and the amount of production blows my mind when I look back on what I’ve written in the last two weeks. Luckily my pace has slowed down and I’m spending three or four days on one poem, instead of writing a poem a day. That’s an insane pace, because my poetry is always very intricate and thoughtfully written in order to be thought-provoking for the listener. My poetry was not made to be read. It was made to be listened to, read by me and me only. For only I can give each line the character that is needed for the impact to be communicated, emphasizing a word here and there. I’m signing out before I get distracted again by initiating a new topic. Until later! Think of it as a continuation, not an ending. That’s another concept I have learned recently in therapy.

Motherfucker

There are so many things I could be doing right now. I have an hour before I have to get ready for bed, so I thought I’d write. It has been a while. Well, not really. These last two weeks have been a prolific inspiration of intricately woven words into poems. I have been writing about a poem a day, which is a lot. Each poem is about four pages long, with shorter lines of course, not in paragraph format but in stanzas. I have finally slowed down. This is the second day I have been working on the same poem, and I’ll probably finish it during my lunch break tomorrow at work.

I finally realized that I don’t have to share my poetry with everyone right away. I have a handful of people I send my newly created masterpieces to (for each poem I love dearly and find meaning in its existence). I send them to my Mum, my therapist, my brother, a few friends, sometimes to my psychiatrist, my former massage therapist and a former professor. I’ll only send my poems to people I know will read and enjoy them. Otherwise, what’s the point? I know that my therapist reads every single word that I send him, even if it’s five emails in one day because I am not feeling good. It feels good to know he’s always with me, even when I’m not in session with him in his cozy office.

My dog is in my lap, snoring, and so, as usual, my computer is resting on the flat arm of my modern couch. It’s a lovely couch and I am emotionally attached to it because it’s the first piece of real furniture I bought for myself after I left my ex-abuser. This couch has seen me through a lot. I never thought I wouldn’t mind a dog walking all over it, but hey, I could care less now that I have Samuel in my life: all 12 lbs of his adorableness.

As you can tell, I’m in a pretty good mood right now. And, well, it just feels damn good. I mean damn good. Fuck yeah! I’m not that hepped up on the fact that I feel good, but I have to emphasize this fact to myself, because it’s good when I can focus on the good times and good feelings, instead of bad ones when I am angry or sad, or even lonely. Lonely doesn’t happen often, but earlier this week I was feeling lonely and texted my roommate to see when she was coming home. She’s often gone, and not around much. I’m pretty used to it but would much rather she be home more. I like having her company. I guess I’m pretty lucky to have someone like that as a roommate! I can’t believe it has been almost half a year since she moved in. Roommates in my life come and go, and sometimes I stay friends with them, sometimes not.

This last weekend was an emotional roller coaster for me. I felt wronged and shame and anger and indignation. I had been involved in an intense romance with a man who lives in a city a few hours away. This was for two weeks. We talked on the phone, Skyped, and text messaged each other during those two weeks. We talked about deep stuff. We spontaneously decided to get together on a Friday night for a breakfast date in the morning. We met halfway, each driving just over an hour. It was nice. I mean, I really enjoyed the date. But then later that night I spoke with a friend of mine who is Catholic. Or rather she spoke to me. She pointed out all of the “red flags” about this guy and made me cry. “What happened to you?” she cried. She believes in things like no sex until marriage and I don’t think that’s quite me but I value her opinion and she is close to me.

So the next night I told this man that I was not going to see him again. He was naturally surprised and asked why. I proceeded to explain to him that I don’t owe him an explanation, and that I didn’t want him to get defensive. So he agreed to not get defensive and I acquiesced to tell him the things he did wrong, in my opinion. And then, guess what? He got defensive. I felt like crap and I feel eternally grateful that I had already scheduled a therapy session with my psychotherapist the very next day. Thank God, seriously.

The things he did wrong. He kissed me on the first date. Not only did he kiss me on the first date, he kissed me within the first half hour of our date. We had never met before!! Wtf. And then, he proceeded to kiss me for the next hour and a half of our date at his leisure. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the kisses. But I never initiated. Couldn’t he get a hint? Then he wanted to put the blame of the situation on me because he told me I should have said something in the moment, as if I am supposed to take responsibility for his actions. All of this my therapist explained to me. Otherwise I would not have a clear understanding as to what happened.

What else did he do? Well, he spanked me on the bum. That’s an even bigger wtf. He thought he was being playful and I felt violated but was so surprised I didn’t know what to do in the moment, so I did nothing. And then, he blatantly disregarded my “no” to some aspect of our conversation, and even contested me on my very clear “no.” Plus, I’ve discovered that a woman is allowed to say “no” even at the last minute. She is allowed to change her mind. She is even allowed to change her mind after the fact. That last one blows my mind as a revelation and I’m not sure I fully understand the impact of that statement. I can decide I didn’t like it after it has happened. Now, we were in public, so there was no sex involved, thank God once again, but we were in each other’s arms at the beach, just beyond the train tracks, and exchanging conversation.

I am feeling a little bit angry at him in writing about this. Those old feelings pop up again. But I have discovered and learned over the years that feelings come and go, and I remain. Feelings don’t last forever, even if it feels really, incredibly intense and real in the moment (such as feeling suicidal). They always pass. They always go away and equilibrium always finds its way back into my life eventually. I also know now that I don’t have to act on my feelings. That’s a bit harder to grasp. I understand it intellectually but not quite emotionally. My emotions or my brain doesn’t want to believe me and the impulse to act on an intense emotion is strong. The last time I slid a sharp object across my inner forearm was last Fall when I was feeling suicidal. I even took a picture of the scissors with the light red marks (I didn’t even come close to drawing blood) and posted it on my Twitter account. I was desperately reaching out for help and I have a Twitter community called #SickNotWeak which is very supportive, especially in times like this. It’s a really great thing.

I kind of need to go now and stop writing. I need to go do some self-care. I didn’t know that writing about what I wrote about was going to get me all worked up inside, but a very faint alarm bell is ringing in my mind and that means, I need to calm myself down. Stop the flying of my fingers and do something soothing for the next half hour before I shower and then get ready for bed. Okay, I can totally do this. I am a real expert on self-care these days. Lucky me. Well, it’s not luck. It has taken a lot of practice and hard work to get to where I am today. I just farted and my dog looked up from his napping. I guess he isn’t that hard of hearing after all!

Self-Discovery: I am a Powerful Being

I have been spending a lot of time with myself lately. It’s good. It’s really good. It’s healthy. I don’t feel lonely. For the most part I feel at peace with myself. I have been making huge strides with my healing progress. Yesterday in therapy we went for a short while to a place that is painful to me. I cried and experienced the pain, and then I was able to bring myself out of it. Knowing when I’ve had enough is a skill which I have had to develop over time. The ability to bring myself out of dark places is an even more advanced skill, and it is one that I am still mastering.

Today, Samuel, my dog, and I went out to the cliffs. After a long and slow walk while listening to Dan Siegel in one ear and the ocean waves in the other, we stopped at my favourite spot. It’s at the end of the cliffs area right where the buildings start on that side of the road. Along the building wall are some stairs cut into the rocks which lead to another, larger rock. For the most part it’s pretty secluded. Every once in a while when I go there, some eager young couple will go past me where I am seated and jump the mid-sized wall. I guess it’s a spot they know about and are agile enough to get to.

While I was sitting there in the silence of the waves at low tide I came to a realization that I feel safe there. For the most part, I don’t have to worry about people behind or around me, although I sometimes look over my shoulder just to make sure. But I had a peaceful sensation of just feeling safe there, in the outdoors, and with myself. Feeling safe with myself is one of my greatest accomplishments. I have discovered that no matter how intense my feelings can be, I can get through it and I don’t need to go to the hospital.

Earlier in the week my feelings had been so intense that I decided to take a half day off for my mental health. I saw my psychiatrist two days in a row, and my therapist the next day. During those two days there were moments of what I call an “emotional emergency in my mind” and I thought I was going to have to take myself to the hospital. I wasn’t exactly feeling suicidal, but I was out of my mind, literally. It was just too much to handle. But my mental health care providers were able to help me get through those harrowing days. And in the end, all that matters, is that I got through it. I can look back and say, “I am the shit” because I’ve been through so much shit and I’m still thriving and fighting and living my life, every day, in spite of what I have experienced in my past. I am a woman warrior; there’s no doubt about it.

I notice right now that I am allowing myself to look away from the screen and take a deep breath, because writing about what I just wrote about was getting intense in my mind. I could feel my heart constricting and my head was spinning just slightly. It is nice that I can take myself away from that. I can choose to focus my attention on other things. It is a very powerful skill to have.

My therapist loves me. There’s no doubt about it. This is what I want to focus my attention on right now. Thoughts which will warm my heart and make me feel good and calm me down. Well, I love him and I know he loves me. I’ve never asked him if he does, but I’ve told him before that I love him. I did recently ask him if he likes me. “Well, what do you think? Or, it’s something you know. What do you know?” he asked me. I loved that. He went from asking me to think to a definitive sense of knowing. Of course I know he likes me but I just needed reassurance that day. I needed to hear it. Only, he didn’t actually say the words, “I like you.” Therapists have a cunning way of getting you to solve your own problems. As we talked about whether he likes me, I started to feel better, and was able to answer my own question. Brilliant. Just amazingly brilliant.

I have just five minutes to wrap this up and write a conclusion paragraph, because my phone date is coming up. I’m not going to continue and pay for the dating app, but I did meet someone online who seems so in tune with himself, so eternally balanced and at peace with himself, that I am intrigued and want to talk with him some more over the phone. We exchanged numbers. I just ate a bagel which I had warmed up in the oven and I have fresh, organic blueberries waiting in the fridge for me for the morning, to go with my yogurt and granola. I am learning how to take better care of myself. I take a little more time in the mornings to prepare and eat my breakfast, rather than taking a breakfast bar to work and eating at my desk. It literally only takes five extra minutes out of my morning and it’s so worth it.

I think I am ready for the week. I know that tomorrow is Monday and I will be going to work like I do every day of the week. I’ve had this job for two and a half years now, and it’s the longest I’ve ever worked in one place. It is a stable job and I have job security because they rely on me and I’m the only one who knows how to do what I do. I would not be easily replaceable.

Writing out these words, letting my fingers flow and typing, is self-kindness. Letting me experience my thoughts and feelings on virtual paper is soothing and calming. I didn’t have to be afraid of writing in my virtual journal, although I was last month and earlier this month. I was afraid of what I might discover. What I have discovered through writing is that I am an incredibly powerful being. And that knowledge will carry me through the bad times, when I am not feeling well. It’s inevitable that my mind will go to dark and painful places in the future, but it is important to know that I have the power to bring myself out of those dark places too.

A Comforting Evening

For a while there I was afraid of writing in my blog for fear of what might be discovered. I didn’t want to write down my thoughts and my feelings. I was just living my life! I didn’t have time to talk about the things I have been doing and experiencing because my life is so full it doesn’t leave me with time or energy to do so. Now I am balancing things out. I am taking things slow. I made sure to fully enjoy my Saturday. I did a lot but it did not feel like too much and I made sure that I never felt rushed. I practiced patience and was mindful of my actions. I may have even been mindful of my self-talk, but I’m not sure how that went. That task takes a lot of guts, looking at yourself.

I am going to describe what my life looks like in this very moment, what it feels like and what I am experiencing. I am sitting cross-legged at the edge of my light green suede couch where I always sit. My white blanket is luxuriously sprawled out over my lap. On top of that I feel the weight of my 12-lb dog snuggled up, napping, with his head buried under part of the blanket. I have eaten dinner and so my stomach is full. Before that we had ventured out into the cold afternoon weather to watch the sunset. I can smell lavender, which is coming from the diffuser my roommate lets me borrow when I am not feeling well (which was earlier this week).

I have two delicious candles lit: vanilla and the other, some kind of flower aroma. There are the Christmas tree twinkle lights that we hung along the top of our wall, and having them lit feels like elegance. I am in a romantic setting with myself and I am loving it. I feel calm and a sense of peace because I saw my therapist today. We had a difficult session and I worked really hard. I am feeling proud of myself for making it through the session and I always find my sessions very helpful in terms of how I feel about myself and my perspective on the world and others. Things which were not clear to me become clearer.

I just ate a piece of dark chocolate (I have discovered that I prefer milk chocolate… I must remember to tell this to my Mum). I can hear my dog’s breathing and the light hum of the water in the diffuser. The heat is set at 75 degrees and it’s early enough in the evening that I am not yet feeling tired. This is really wonderful and I am celebrating this experience by writing about it.

I signed up for a dating app called MeetMindful. It has a really unique name which is pleasant. The idea of mindfulness caught my attention right away. I had never heard of this app but was scrolling through my Facebook feed while at work yesterday and saw a promoted ad pop up. I clicked on the link and fifteen minutes later my dating profile was complete. I get two or three free days of messaging ability, and then I have to start paying for it, which I think I will. It’s a great marketing ploy, to give someone a taste of how good something is, and then threaten to take it away unless they pay for it. I already have two telephone dates set up, although these men are not exactly in my city. Having a relationship with someone who lives 3 hours away is doable but not exactly ideal. I would rather have a twenty minute drive between myself and a prospective lover. Lover… lover. I really like the sound of that word. I had a sexual partner for a month last year, but he wasn’t what you would consider a lover. The passion just wasn’t there.

In the background I have a packet of paper with the title, “how to start a non-profit corporation.” I got the information from a local non-profit organization which offers free mentoring to individuals looking to start their own business. The mentors are retired businessmen, former CEO’s, and the likes. I’m glad I found them.

I want to start up a non-profit to help at-risk teens build confidence and emotional resilience through creative arts workshops. My target population would be foster youth, low income, and those diagnosed with mental illness. I think it’s going to be a small program for the first few years, but I do hope to expand it so that we can serve more people. The tricky part is going to be getting funding. I already have plans for marketing on social media and I bought the .com, .org, and .net URLs. I don’t have a business plan on paper yet, and need to apply for the 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

I have one board member, who is a friend of mine. I am hoping to recruit a former professor of mine as the second board member. Apparently board members are supposed to help with fundraising, but I’m not sure how that is going to go. I have to learn to trust other people, that they will get the job done. I need to learn how to delegate. I would like to be able to lower my expectations in terms of perfectionism because I know that another person would not do as meticulously detailed of a job than I would, no matter what the task. I also have very high expectations around professionalism, which I think I will keep.

The creative arts workshops are going to include the following: performing arts (acting), art therapy, music therapy with a drumming circle, and creative writing. For those who find that they can express themselves better on paper than out loud, the creative writing workshops will help. For those who might be uncomfortable performing around other people, this will push their boundaries to a level which they are still comfortable. The number of students in each workshop will be limited to 8 – 10 to keep the therapeutic personal attention and environment present. The workshops would take place for a couple hours on a Saturday late morning, say from 10:00 – 12:00.

There is a lot to take into consideration. There are a lot of things I will need to learn, such as business and management skills, as well as how to be around teens. The agency where I volunteer with the kiddos in the adoption support services program is allowing me to also start volunteering with the older kids in the foster youth program. They get together on the last Monday of each month in the evenings. If this goes well and I like it, I will want to find a way to spend more time with the foster teens. I am lucky that I excel in the arena of customer service due to my career, and that I have quite a bit of knowledge around marketing. Those are areas in which I am comfortable.

This whole non-profit thing, it may or may not work out. Like my roommate pointed out, the idea isn’t going anywhere, so what’s the rush? It will always be there. I am taking things very slowly, talking with a lot of people about my idea and getting some feedback. I will give myself a year and a half to put this idea together into an actual service/program/entity. I want to start the program at the beginning of a school year and there’s no way I can do it by this Fall. So I am aiming for Fall 2019. I think that sounds reasonable.

My telephone date is coming upon us, and so, I will close out for the night. The sweetness of my coconut water is carrying me through the time in this relaxing environment. I will have to move and stretch a little lest I become stiff. My muscles are starting to ache a bit. I’m young, but not that young. It’s all about perspective. Deep breaths and self awareness bode for great self care, which I am actively practicing. I know that I am going to enjoy sleeping with my dog curled up under the covers tonight, as we do every night. But it’s the weekend and so I get to sleep in tomorrow and stroke his fur and hold him tight for cuddles after we wake up. I am finally living my life the way I want to live it. This is my life and no one will ever be able to take that away from me.

The Aftermath

To my Therapist,

My dog has his face buried into the couch. He looks just like I did today when I was waiting for Dr. D. (my psychiatrist). Only, he’s more relaxed and he’s not about to cry.

I feel devastatingly sad today and my heart aches. If there were actual, physical pain, then I could grasp it. I could hold onto it. I could say, see? But you can’t see. No one can actually see my pain. It’s invisible to the naked eye. My past symptoms of PTSD, they were all in my head. It may have been real, but now it’s surreal and I can’t stand this feeling of emptiness filled with pain and sorrow and the longing for a better life, the longing for a life without those painful memories.

I didn’t choose to be abused. I didn’t choose this life. I didn’t choose to be brought into this world full of pain, awful, heart-wrenching pain.

I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I don’t want to live this life. I don’t want to feel pain. I don’t want to feel memories of the memories of the pain. Why is this happening to me? Why did I make that stupid decision yesterday to plug in the hard drive? I thought I could just copy my current stuff onto the drive without opening a folder. But it didn’t work that way. That’s not what happened.

I can’t not be triggered by what I did. I’m not there yet. I’ve worked really hard in therapy over the last years. You yourself said that I kept coming back. That means I didn’t give up. I never actually gave up no matter how hopeless life seemed at the time. I kept coming to see you and I let you hold the hope for me until it could slowly be transferred over to me.

I know you’re not worried about me. I know you think I’m going to be fine. And the truth is, I probably will be fine. Later tonight, I will go to sleep with my dog by my side and a new day will be gone. The horror of today will be in the immediate past, but still, in the past.

My dog has seen me cry a few times in the past couple days. I think it is confusing to him. I would be confused if my mom were crying desperately whilst at the same time petting me with a calm and steady hand.

My roommate put out her diffuser by my side of the couch and it has lavender oil in it. There is a mile high and wide pile of dishes which are mine and dirty. I have neglected them completely. I took myself out to lunch today and had a nutritious and very filling salmon burrito. But then all I could manage for dinner was a plain white bagel with cream cheese. I’m not even hungry now.

Yesterday I was going to starve myself. So I didn’t eat lunch but then finally decided to stop punishing myself for awful things that weren’t my fault, and I ate something. I’m sure I told you about it in an email last night, but I tend to repeat things and not remember that I already told the story to you. And you listen to me with patience, curiosity, and insight each time. When you ask me if you’ve told me the story about the little girl in Kindergarten who was able to understand math with visual objects, or stories from the farm, or when you found the kittens freezing at Christmas by a manhole in front of your home, how you put them on your stomach to warm them up and how some didn’t make it, and I say, no, I’ve never heard that story before (because I genuinely don’t remember) then you tell it to me again as if it’s the first time you’re telling me about it. I also love when you tell me about making the special bread rolls at Thanksgiving and watching them rise in the oven and that they don’t always turn out perfectly because it has to be timed just right.

Look. See what I did for myself. I just used all of the coping skills you’ve ever taught me. Well, not all, but I used the skills I have learned. You see, all this time, you have been telling me that I have a choice. That I don’t have to act on my feelings. That feelings are there to inform us, to give us information. That anger isn’t a bad emotion, it’s just an emotion. Dr. D. told me that I have a choice in how I feel, even though it feels like I can’t control my feelings and that I am having an emergency. But that things don’t have to be urgent and I guess I don’t have to have mental health crises and emergencies.

I really want to learn how to control my emergencies. I don’t want to live through another day like yesterday and today. While leaving Dr. D.’s office yesterday I thought about stepping into oncoming traffic, but I knew it wouldn’t kill me because we were downtown and they weren’t going fast enough. So I didn’t do it. I guess it was really an emotion that told me to step out into traffic and I didn’t listen to that inner voice. But you know, it’s really hard to separate yourself from an emotion that you are experiencing. Is that what all psychotherapists are able to do? Because it’s God-awfully hard to do. I told Dr. D. there’s no way I could or would want to do what he does every day and deal with people like me. He said, well then I guess it’s good that you’re not in the program. Maybe in five years I will be ready for this and I can try it again when I have worked hard to build up my emotional resiliency.

I really need to shower tonight because I tell myself that, even though I don’t like showering, I need to do it every other day so that I don’t show up at work with greasy hair.

You know what I hate? When I’ve taken off a mental health day from work and then the next day my boss says, “you look fine.” Well, screw that. I can lie and tell her how nauseated I felt at the time, but my personal life isn’t hers to know. Who is she to ask questions about things that are private? I don’t have to tell anyone any longer about my traumatic past because I am leaving it behind.

Which brings me to my main question I have to figure out tomorrow with you. Do I erase the hard drive and all of the bad along with good things or will I one day regret it? Dr. D. said there is no urgency and I don’t have to do it now. I can wait. I thought it was going to happen today, but maybe it’s better to not act impulsively, even though the friends whom I’ve asked have all agreed I should delete it all and that I can make new memories.

I have to go now and take care of myself.

 

Thank God I am Alive and Fuck the Stigma

I literally just said those words out loud with a big sigh: “Thank God I am alive.” These last two days have been challenging. I describe those moments like “an emergency in my head.” It’s as if the alarm bells are ringing and my mind is all over the place. Everything seems urgent. Every emotion is tearing me in different directions. I am in desperation. It’s a panic attack without the physical symptoms of sweating, shaking, or hyperventilating. In fact, if you were to have walked by my desk you wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual, except for the fact that I was on my phone, frantically texting people for help and support.

This morning I had an emergency in my head. I had to leave work early. (Let me rephrase, since everything is a choice, I decided to leave early.) It lasted between 60 – 90 minutes and it was intense. I was messaging my #SickNotWeak community on Twitter for support as well. It wasn’t so bad that I would have had to call the crisis line but I was considering driving myself to the local psychiatric hospital for an evaluation.

It’s all because of what happened yesterday. Yesterday was President’s day, which is a banking holiday, so my office was closed in observance. The night before I had been cleaning up piles of paper in my room to make it look more livable and neat, when I came across my old external hard drive. I had been meaning to backup my computer months ago and had pulled out the hard drive from its box. It never made its way to the living room. Not that I don’t have a portable laptop, but the bedroom is for sleeping only, not hanging out.

I had fretted about this the night before, on Sunday night. You see, this hard drive is a backup of my old computer before it died a year ago. There were a lot of files on it. In fact, around 800 GB of things. In those files, there are some good things and some bad things. I found a song in an mp3 file which I hadn’t listened to in years, so I played it and enjoyed it. I also found some photos that had my Mum and brother in them. But there were some #notokay sexually explicit photographs in there as well. From my past. From the days of my coerced/forced prostitution by my ex-abuser/husband. Why had I not deleted these images years ago so I wouldn’t have to come across them?

You know what else was triggering? The fact that I weighed 100 lbs in 2009. That is sickly thin and he used to put me on diets to make me skinny like a little girl because he was into that stuff. Pretending he was having sex with little girls.

But the worst was yet to come. I came across some PDF files. In those PDF files were copies of some of the Craigslist ads he had posted, which I had gladly forgotten about. He used to pay between $300 – $3,000 cash to girls to do kinky sexual favours for him. He went through money like it was water. He went through my money as well. Not to mention we had had an $80,000 wedding. But that was a long time ago.

The kinds of phrases that got seared into my head were sexually-implicating terminologies that I would never use, such as “creampie” or “water sports.” It’s really disgusting, you can just use your imagination. He had all these terminologies, I know there were more but I don’t want to even try to remember them. It’s all fucked up.

So seeing those ads really fucked me up yesterday and I was still recovering from it today. I left work early today going home with “nausea” because one of my bosses, the CFO, doesn’t believe in mental healthcare. She shared with me once that her mom had mental health issues and in therapy her mom just kept getting worse, and that’s why she doesn’t believe in that “crap” (my inserted word, not hers.)

You know what I really hate? When you take a mental health day off of work and the next day your boss says, “oh, you look fine today.” As if I should have been fine yesterday, or that it was a surprisingly quick recovery from the supposed physical health issue. Well, Fuck That! Fuck it. Fuck that there is stigma around mental illness. Fuck society who thinks healthcare for the mind should be valued less than healthcare for the body. Fuck President Trump, and Fuck everyone who has ever judged me for having an invisible illness. Well, it sure isn’t invisible when I go “splat” on the pavement from jumping up high or passed out and getting my stomach pumped because of a prescription medication overdose. Do you think that is invisible? Can you still ignore the thousands of people in the United States who kill themselves every year?

Rant aside, now I can focus and calm down. I just had to get that out. No, I chose to get it out. Everything is a choice, right? We can choose how we feel. Well, that’s what my psychiatrist was reminding me of today, is that they are feelings. And I know from my therapist that feelings inform but you don’t have to act on them. So if my mind-emergency happens again, which inevitably it will at some point, I need to remember to remind myself that they are feelings, not facts. It doesn’t have to be an emergency and my desired self-destructive urges don’t have to be acted out on.

I stopped and my mind went elsewhere for a minute. I had the thought that I want to call the crisis line even though I know I am no longer in crisis. I want to tell them what happened today and that I wanted to step out into oncoming traffic yesterday. Then I want to tell them what that ex-abuser fucker did to me to mess me up. Only, I’m not messed up. It just feels that way, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

I have to say, I don’t practice the art of using curse words often. In fact, rarely. Seldomly will you hear me say something other than “Scheiza” which is “shit” in German. It somehow has less of an impact or seems softer if you say it in a foreign language that the other person doesn’t understand, but they can imagine what it might mean.

My roommate is really sweet. She put out her oil diffuser and humidifier right on the side table of where I sit on my couch. It was there when I got home. I plugged it in and now there is smoke coming out of it. Vapour smoke. And the thing changes colours which is fun. I microwaved the leopard print shoulder beanie thing to put around my neck. Now it’s back to room temp and needs to be microwaved again. I had cream cheese and a plain bagel for dinner, along with guava kombucha. I love that stuff. Earlier I took myself out to a hearty lunch at Rubio’s. I got what I always get: a grilled salmon burrito. It comes warm with guacamole inside it and some kind of sauce, and grilled corn and some plain and dry coleslaw stuff. God, it’s good. But I could have eaten half the thing and been perfectly fine. Only, I forced myself to eat it all because I don’t like to waste and I didn’t think it would taste good when it’s not fresh.

Self care. I am practicing self care now because the emergencies are over now. Yesterday I went to bed at 7:00 pm because I couldn’t bear to be alive, to be in my mind, and I forced myself to stay asleep for the next 12 hours. Why does my life have to be so difficult sometimes?

I told my psychiatrist that it’s not fair. It’s not fair that I have to live and other people get to die. He said what my therapist has said as well, which is that we all die eventually. So why not make the best of it now? That last part my therapist didn’t say, but he does things differently than my psychiatrist. I love them both and I never want them to ever leave me. I always get nervous at the end of a therapy session, especially when there is only 5 – 10 minutes left. It’s the anticipation of things ending. I hate when things end. I hate endings. I’m always watching the clock when in therapy so that I can call the time. I hate being told it’s over. I hate it.

I have a plan tonight. My dog is napping in my lap and I told my psychiatrist that he needs his mommy. My doctor agreed. Samuel came to my therapy session with me and I had him in my lap. He is my therapy dog, and a good one too. My plan is to finish watching the movie I started last night on my computer. It was pretty good. It was about a writer writing about a writer who stole another writer’s writing as his own and got famous off it. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

My roommate is so tolerant. The sink is piled high with my dishes, especially when I am mentally not doing well, and she never complains. I regularly apologize and the last time I said sorry, she said, “well, eventually you’ll run out of bowls, and then you’ll have to do the dishes.” That was a great response.

My two awful days of emergencies are over. By the way, I was going to delete that entire hard drive and wipe it clean. But my doctor said there is no urgency. That I can do it if I want to, but I don’t have to do it right now. So I think I am going to wait. Because in addition to really awful, horrible, triggering stuff, there are some good things on it too. Literally thousands of files to go through one day, if I ever decide to. But anything I would not want my future child to see has to go.

We are going to have a bonfire. My friend has a fire pit in her backyard and I am going to invite a few close friends and burn my old journals. I am finally ready to do this. I never want to read them again. Never. Ever. Ever. I think it will be cathartic and I know I won’t regret it. The hard drive, well, I can never go back once I hit the delete button. But my journals, this is more of a physical manifestation of getting rid of my trauma. I asked my friend if I needed to bring a kindle wood and she said we can use the journal pages as kindling. Wow! What a revelation!! I didn’t even think of ripping up the books. I was just thinking of burning them, but now I can rip them up AND burn them. It’s amazing. It’s fabulous. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m kind of glad I’m waiting on the idea of erasing 800 GB of my past. It’s good to wait. It’s good to not act impulsively. My back is hurting and I have to change positions now. It’s because my laptop isn’t in my lap, but off to the side on the couch arm, because my dog gets my lap. Which doesn’t always make it the best for long-term projects on the computer. I have one last thing to say:

KOMBUCHAAA!

To Believe in Myself

How is it so early still? I have over an hour before bedtime. Today marks my official vacation from school. Call it a vacation or a leave of absence or a break… call it whatever. The point is that, I’m free. Free to do whatever the hell I want without actually having to study! I’m quite happy about this and not being in school right now is a great decision for me. I have a feeling I’m going to be writing a lot in the next weeks…

Therapy tonight went really well. When I am really excited and I want to say something, sometimes I just open my mouth really wide and smile with my eyes, mouth, eyebrows and face wrinkles. My whole face lights up but I can’t get the words out, not just yet. So my therapist said, “It’s okay, you can say it.” A couple more hesitations and I am able to speak. I have been writing poetry!

I have written five poems in six days. These aren’t just little poems, they are well-thought-out compositions of a sizeable length in terms of stanzas. There’s rhyming going on as well as alliteration, one of my most favourite literary devices. “Haunted House” was the first alliteration example which popped into my head when describing this to my therapist. At first, when I was trying to think of the literary term, I thought of onomatopoeia. But that’s like “plop,” “swoosh,” or “drip.” We came up with these examples together today. It was so much fun talking with my therapist.

When I brought up the name of a person I hadn’t talked about in therapy before, it was hard. Difficult because I was trying to explain that she likes me, as a friend, and wants to hang out with me. She’s a classmate and I just don’t know why she likes me so much her face lights up when she sees me. She gives me the best greetings and there is so much positivity.

I think there is this part of me that doesn’t think I am likeable. Like I’m not worthy of her attention, maybe because she seems so wonderful and is so beautiful that I cannot measure up to her. I barely know her but she has been lovely so far. I emitted some tears in therapy while talking about this, without articulating out loud the self-deprecating parts of my thoughts. Why would I be loveable? How could I be loveable and likeable when for so many years I was put down to the ground and had my ego, pride and heart stepped upon so heavily that I became damaged.

I am no longer damaged. I am whole again. I have a life worth living. I have people around me who do love me, who want to be around me, who care. The fact that I add to the lives of others is huge. If I can effect positive change, even just to change someone’s moment (not even day) from negative or neutral to positive, well then that moment was worth being alive for.

This has been the main theme (German: Hauptthema) of my poetry this week: my strength and my resilience. Today during my lunch break I went down to my car, sat in the front seat with the windows rolled down (it was quite hot, surprisingly) and typed into my phone notepad an angry poem direct at my ex-abuser called “The Peace You’ll Never Know.” It was incredibly cathartic and I wrote it in a way in which other people could relate.

I love getting feedback on my poems. I write my poetry based upon my emotional state and it expresses exactly how I am feeling in that given moment. It is very therapeutic. That is why I also like to immediately send out my poems and share them with key people in my life so they can know how I am doing. I blind copy everyone. I always include my therapist, my mum, my brother, and a few friends. Sometimes I will also send it out to my psychiatrist, a former professor, my aunt in South Africa, and now I’m sharing with my massage therapist. See, the thing is, I like feedback. I crave feedback and validation. Of course, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t respond, and simply reads it, or maybe doesn’t read it. But if I get a response, I know you read it, and the fact that you had something to say about it even if it’s a monosyllabic “wow” or “beautiful” really means a lot to me. Thank you, friends, for validating my creative art, which is so personal.

My dog is napping by my side. He is so sweet and snores and I love it. I go to bed every night hearing his breathing and it is so comforting to me. He’s all of 12 pounds and a lovely older dog who isn’t very active and just likes to sleep and cuddle. For me, it’s the perfect fit. Normally I would be laying with him right here on the couch. Falling asleep on my comfy couch is one of my favourite things to do. But right now, I am just feeling so alive. I feel so engaged in my life. I feel motivated to write, to share, to express, to articulate, to pontificate, to feel, to reflect, to absorb, to listen. I just want to write and then read what I’ve written and process it, reflect on it, let it sink in.

I want to know that I am doing okay. I want to validate that I am okay. I want to write poetry and journal entries and in writing them, I have given of myself in a very personal way. It is my way of giving back to the world, what the world has given to me. It’s a way that I contribute for the betterment of humanity. Writing is my gift, my desire, my passion, and I want to put it out into the world. I want to share this part of myself, because I live and breathe my poetry and I can’t help it. One day I’m going to publish. This I know, this I want, in this and in myself, I believe.

What I Can Do

I have to come to realize that I do not need that master’s degree in marriage and family therapy in order to do good in this world. I already do good in this world, and I can do so much more. I can raise a child to become a kind, forgiving, generous and respectful individual who will, as I have, contribute so much to this world, to our community, and add to the lives of others. I have a calling to become a mother. That is what I am choosing to focus on. I am going to start dating again, and even if I do not find a partner to raise my child with, I am going to have a child. I am 33 now and in the first part of next year I will be 34. Give me two years of building resilience and additional healing, and you’ll have a strong mother who can give of herself even in her worst moments. It might not happen in two years, but that is the hope I am holding onto. This is the future I choose for myself.

My leave of absence from the MFT program starts next week. I can take up to 12 months off while still retaining my enrollment place in the program. I could start up again in January 2019 or sooner. After that I will lose my place in the program and if I want to return I would have to reapply. I’m okay with that.

I have two dreams in my life. One is to become a therapist. The other is to become a mother. I see now that I don’t have to make all of my dreams come true. My strongest calling is to have a family and to become a mother. I can fulfill that dream first, and maybe when the kids are grown, I can go back to school and fulfill that second dream. It doesn’t mean I can’t listen to and read books about therapy and psychology. I am still fascinated by the human mind, the human psyche, and always will be. That will never die. Passion fuels my will to live, my will to achieve higher heights, and my desire to bring meaning to my life.

Life now has meaning, and I am building upon that. I am so worthy of this life. I am fortunate to be alive and to be able to wake up every day even if I don’t feel like it. I am fortunate to have my brother and my mum and my therapist in my life. They are the three most meaningful relationships I have. Nothing else matters, truth be told. I will always have those connections, no matter what, and there is not even the remotest possibility of experiencing abandonment from either of them. A part of them will always be with me, even when their physical bodies are gone. They will live within my heart.

I spend a lot of time daydreaming about being pregnant, and of having a small child in the home where I live now. I have truly made this into a home. It doesn’t matter if I cannot afford much, or afford to have the whole place to myself. It’s okay to have roommates. It’s okay to do what you need to do in order to live and get by. As long as those things you do are lawful things. I truly have a home. I have a place to call home. I have built my life from the inside out, and this home is the physical manifestation of all of the hard work I have put into my mind and my body. I have invested a lot in myself and it shows. The truth, the fact that “I am okay,” is resoundingly clear. I am safe now and no one can take that safety away from me. No one.

I imagine my sweet little dog being sweet with my baby and cuddling with my baby on the bed. My dog is an older dog of about 6 years old, not too old, and I adopted him on April 30th of this year. He sleeps with me and we do a lot of things together. We are often next to each other in the home. I have a small home, but it is big enough for the two of us and my dear roommate. I have gotten very lucky with roommates these last couple years, but I can also attribute that to my wise choices and good judge of character.

I got a raise this year. I went from not being able to cover my monthly expenses to making being able to make ends meet. The cost of living where I live is quite high, higher than most places. I also have certain important expenses which add up, such as paying for psychotherapy out of pocket. Even though the therapy is on a sliding scale, it still adds up. It is not uncommon for me to pay $800 per month in therapy fees, although lately I have been able to stretch that over two months because I have been doing better.

A friend recently suggested I start a blog for a magazine. I think that isn’t such a bad idea! I would love to put my real name out there and express myself to unknown readers. I already do that here, but my blog is for the most part quite anonymous. I also have my poetry. I have several hundred poems, and I have to say, they are quite brilliant. My mum recently told me about Rupi Kaur and I listened to her first book of poetry called “Milk and Honey” on Scribd. It’s really good. Her book has been a best-seller. I tell you, my poetry is that good or better. I have a story to tell and I tell it in sonnets and run-on sentences broken into paragraphs of words which sing songs of my life story. I wish that publishing poetry wasn’t so difficult. I think that publishers think that poetry won’t sell, won’t make any money, and therefore they won’t take on authors and offer contracts. I want to record my poetry and put it into an audio book. I want to do so many things.

I would have never known that graduate school isn’t for me had I not gotten here. Don’t get me wrong: I think I would be an incredibly effective therapist. I would be good at the craft. I could heal people through talk therapy and I could do for others what my therapist has done for me. But I don’t need a degree in order to help others. I can do that as I live my every day. I can smile at my co-workers and add value to my office, work hard and be good at what I do. I can offer my rescued dog a good life, and live peacefully with my roommate and find a man with whom I want to raise a child and build a family. That’s what I can do.

I Have Skills

It has been some time since I have last taken the time to write. I write every day to my therapist, and that is a part of my therapy, but this here is for me. My friend recently got me into drinking kombucha, and so I have a cup of organic kombucha perched to my side with my usual white comfort blanket on my lap, my computer on top of that blanket, and my dog to my left snuggled up close to my leg, looking at me with his ever-present snoring-type breathing letting me know he is definitely there.

I have these tasks on my calendar that I keep rescheduling. One of them is to “renew my U.K. passport” which expired many years ago. There is a certain mental block I have about this task, along with other tasks, which is preventing me from doing it. In fact, it has been on my “task list” all year long. Something about taking the effort to research online how to go about doing this and then having to step-by-step follow that process, which may include going to an appointment, and/or going to the post office. Reality is the stories we tell ourselves and I guess the story I have been telling myself all year is that this is a cumbersome task that I “should” do one day but that is down there with the lowest of my priorities. After all, I have my U.S. passport which I did take the effort to renew.

I saw my psychotherapist today. I have never, ever, ever seen him on a Sunday (okay maybe once years ago when I was seeing him 7 days a week). But Sundays are typically a person’s day off. Yes, he works 6 days a week and his days are incredibly full. I don’t know how he does it. He is awake by 6:00 in the morning and sometimes gets home as late as 10:00 at night (that’s 22:00 for the Europeans). He says he paces himself throughout the day. That’s just unfathomable to me, although in the past when I started grad school I was leaving at 8:00 and getting home at 10:00 but that was only once a week and it wore me out!

I have decided to take a leave of absence from school. I haven’t been able to concentrate on my one grad school class that I stayed enrolled in this semester. I am going to finish out the semester until mid-December but then I can take up to a year off while still being enrolled in the program. That would mean I would go back to the program Spring 2019. But, see, I don’t know if that is going to happen. Because I don’t even know any longer if I actually want to become a psychotherapist. No one could have prepared me for how incredibly involved and difficult a graduate level class can be. To be honest, it’s just too hard. It takes so incredibly much in terms of study and training to become a therapist… I had no idea!! I takes a very special person to go through with entering such a career. Very special.

My therapist is very special. He is my therapist. I am proud and possessive/protective of that fact. He has always told me, from the very beginning of my journey to grad school a few years ago, that there are many ways to contribute (to society). I can smile at an old lady at the grocery store, or let someone in front of me on the freeway. Plus, I have to remind myself, that just by being me, I add to the lives of those I know and those who love me. I sometimes forget that I am loved and often feel unable to love myself. I would rather tell my therapist that I love him, instead of proclaiming that I will one day come to love myself. Love is a huge part of the therapist-patient relationship. A strong bond and connection develops and just the therapeutic relationship alone, not taking into account interventions, is a major contributor to the healing of someone who suffers.

Last week I was in a lot of pain. One thing that I still need to be reminded of often is that “feelings come and go, but I remain.” I didn’t come up with that, but it is a brilliant mantra. That’s something I want to hold onto.

This week I am taking a plane to go see my Mum and her husband in the little town they moved to earlier this year. They had lived in their previous place for 17 years. Imagine that. That is a long time. Now they have a much smaller place and most of my Mum’s stuff is in storage. Of course it’s going to be messy and packed, because my wonderful Mummy is still a hoarder. But there will be room on the twin bed in the second bedroom for me to sleep, and that’s all that matters. I would even get a hotel room if I had to, but that’s not necessary. We are both looking forward to seeing each other.

She wants to know what I am doing for Christmas, but I told her I don’t want to decide until the last moment. It might be best for me to stay local and take some days off just for me, to relax and to take care of my mental health. She is going to be driving across two states to where she used to live and stay with her dad. This is mainly because all of her precious photographs are in boxes and boxes at her father’s house. He let her store them there, but we don’t know how much longer he is going to live and Mum is afraid of what the brothers might do to the home when my grandfather is gone. She doesn’t want to lose her photographs. They are her most prized possessions. They hold evidence for the life she has lived, and they validate the past and everything which once was. In a way, she lives in the past as she often talks about my father, who died when I was three and a half. She has memories that come up, but of course she cannot discuss them with her current husband. He’s not a nice guy.

It will be two whole weeks before my next appointment with my therapist. That is because I am traveling this week, and so, it’s my choice. But you know what? I happen to know that I am going to be okay. I am going to be okay because even if my emotions soar to a height of an anxious emergency, feelings come and go but I remain. And I have coping skills. Over the years in therapy, I have learned how to take care of my emotional self, which also involves taking care of my physical self, such as eating. It’s all interconnected. I have the skills and I am going to use them.