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.

 

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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!

From Time to Time I am Not Okay

I have been sobbing uncontrollably for the last while and the only thing I can think of that will make me feel better is to write. I have to write to get my emotions out. This is a desperate call of self-help. You see, it feels as if I am having a mental health emergency. Everything is on fire and the sirens are ringing and I am trying to drown out the sorrow with music that I like, but the sorrow and the pain is still there.

Hours have passed and the sun has gone down since I wrote that first and last paragraph above. I am still sick and my body is somehow holding me up. I have been in bed for the last three days with the flu, unable to work.

New Year’s Eve was wonderful. It really was. In spite of what happened. I went on a date. I really like this man. Only he took me to a club downtown. It was my doing. I had the option of changing plans entirely. The book was wide open and I closed it shut the moment I stepped into the Uber. Why do books always seem closed when in reality they are always wide open? I could have stopped at any point. I could have said, “No, stop, that’s it, I quit.” But I didn’t.

We were a group of five and a table and bottle service had been ordered in the “hip” club I had never been to. Meeting at my date’s friend’s home was okay. The host offered me anything but water and I took the water option anyway. I don’t own a TV. My back was deliberately placed facing the television so I would not have to see it. Who knows what God-awful images might appear and trigger me.

Conversation ensues as does the drinking. One round of shots. Two. Three. My date had warned me in advance that they drink. He wasn’t kidding. This was before the bottle service table, which would inevitably include drinking alcoholic beverages. “Keep them away from me!!” my mind is screaming. Just the slightest bit of alcohol could trigger me at any moment. When it hits me, and I can feel the effects of the alcohol doing its’ thing to my organs and obscuring my mind, add to that an environment where I don’t feel safe… and there you have it. Only, I didn’t drink alcohol. Not one bit.

Because he used to get me drunk, and then do things to me. That’s why it’s triggering. Who wouldn’t be triggered? After what I’ve been through? Only, they don’t know. They, the other people. They don’t know about what has happened to me. I am healed enough to know it’s not okay to tell strangers about my past traumas. It’s just not necessary and once it has been said it cannot be taken back. I used to spit details of my traumas out like a firehose. Not any more.

It was the loud music. It was the dark, flashing lighting. But most of all it was the outfits, the things that women choose to wear which do not cover their bodies. I didn’t look at anyone and kept my eyes averted, focused on where I was going. But from the corners of my eyes, it was inevitable. I couldn’t not see what these women were wearing. It’s the kind of clothing women wear who don’t respect their bodies. Who shamefully display all of their private parts out in the open. Those are the kinds of clothing I used to have to wear.

A bonfire would have been better, but I threw all of the awful things away in a dumpster. I hope the reds and the slinky blacks are rotting with rats in the filthiest of sewers, because that is where those things belong. It was everything combined that triggered me, but mostly the outfits those women wore.

Immediately after I sat down I started to cry. I had been crying in the dark car on the way over whilst keeping my head turned so that he wouldn’t notice. I told him in the car that I was scared of going downtown. “Really?” he asked in surprise. He didn’t know. I didn’t realize what was about to happen, but it was happening already and I tried to pull myself together.

He offered his hand to me. There were hoards of strangers on the streets pushing by, going here and there and everywhere. I said, “no” but immediately took his hand. He led me through the crowds and I felt safe. Well, safer. Safe. As safe as can be. I don’t know what safe is any more. I create my own safety. My safe is different from other people’s safe.

I turned to him with my screwed up crying face and said, “I can’t stay here.” He took one look at my face and said, “then let’s go.” He told his friend that we might not be back and he led a crying martyr out of the craziness and back into the world of reality. We kept walking hand in hand and I felt better every block we advanced. For what I didn’t know was that he was leading me away from the crowds. By then I had expressed my needs and he knew for a fact that I don’t like crowds.

“I have no backup plans for the evening,” he said. I suggested we go to a little coffee shop and that we snuggle in the corner. “Will they be open at this hour?” he asked. I started to stay something and from the corner of my eye I spied an awning which said “Cafe and Wine Bar,” kitty corner across the street. Perfect, just perfect, I thought to myself. And it was.

“It’s not a secret, you can ask me questions,” I offered. “You don’t know what’s going on in my mind unless you ask. You’re not a mind-reader.” That was after I had told him I would tell him the reason for my reaction in about 10 years, maybe five, and no less. We were seated in the corner of the outside patio. Everyone else was inside but I didn’t feel too chilly and I needed the quiet. I had my back to the bush and the wall because I needed to know what was behind me for safety. He isn’t used to not facing out to the entryway but willingly conceded to the positioning.

When he asked me what had happened to me, all I could come up with before was that “I have had bad experiences in those kind of places and I got triggered.” I repeated it again while we were seated on the tall stools. I couldn’t conjure any other words and so he offered some: “Were you attacked? Did someone slip a pill into your drink?” That was helpful to me. I bit on to that trail. “Let’s just say, it’s something like that,” I said between tears. “Did it happen just once or more than once?” “More than once,” I replied again.

He had moved his stool closer to mine and put his big, comforting arms around me. They fit all the way round. I buried my face into his neat blue shirt at his shoulder and sobbed. When I was done sobbing I looked up into his eyes and he had to say this. Why did he have to say this? He said, “I’m not going to hurt you.” Big, loud sobs all over again. I had never before heard these words uttered from a man in a romantic setting. No one. No one has said this to me. Maybe they have and I have forgotten, but keep in mind I haven’t really dated much in the last five and a half years since I left the terror I used to call home. Terror used to be my normal.

Six years ago my only safe place was my therapist’s office. It was not safe to go home because then he would get home from work and find me sleeping and berate me for wasting the day, wasting my time, and wasting his life. I dreaded the moments of his homecoming. I was desperately depressed and unable to function, let alone have all of my wits about me. My therapist had a small side room which was a play therapy room at the time. After our therapy session I would sheepishly ask if I could stay, which meant curling up on the floor of that safe, dark room, and sleeping for a few hours. He never once said “no” to me and must have planned his time around seeing me. He almost always let me stay to sleep, because that was the only safe place for me to get rest.

That room is now gone and so is my need for it. I no longer need that room and I no longer need the soft,  forest green blanket, although sometimes I feel like I need it. But it isn’t there any longer. Those things are gone and I am safe. But at times I get triggered. There was no way for me to know that that was going to happen. It was severe, upsetting, dramatic, traumatic, and all in all not good. But the man who was with me made it okay.

I have been sick in bed for the last few days. The flu has reached epic proportions in plaguing our population at this time. Or so I have heard. More documented cases than ever before. Are there three strains of the flu virus going around this winter? Either way, all it took was me kissing someone on the cheek who wasn’t sick, but whose child was sick. And Voilà. There you have it. There I have it. There it is.

So it’s Friday, after a long week of still being ill, and I decided to take it upon myself to call my insurance company. Bad idea!!! On the second of what was going to be several frustrating calls, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I was being told that all of my claims for the last several months have been denied because they needed a verification of student enrollment. WTF?! I thought I took care of this last month. They other people said I didn’t need it. That my student status was verified. And now I’m being told this is not the case. I don’t know who to call or where to go with any of this and I just hang up the phone while the representative is in mid-sentence and start sobbing.

The last time I cried was on New Year’s Eve and it was for having been triggered of things in the past. I cried for a solid hour today. It literally felt as if I was in crisis. Alarm bells were ringing and the sirens wailing and my body sweating and noises coming out of my gut I didn’t remember I could make. I sent text messages to a few people letting them know I was in crisis. One of those people was my therapist and without fail, as usual, he was able to come through for me. I am seeing him in about an hour from now.

Feelings come and go but I remain. I remain. I remain. I have to remember that. I need to remember this. Tattoo it on my arm, in my veins, do something! Help me! God, help me. I’m supposed to know this, that a crisis will pass. But when I am in the moment, it’s just too real and I had images of being caught up in a hospital with white bedsheets and white walls and white outfits on doctors. Am I going crazy?

But I didn’t go to the hospital today. I haven’t been in quite some time, in fact. I have managed to stay out. My roommate reminded me it would pass, and that I would feel better later. Dreams of lavender bubble baths entered my mind and it was the music which distracted me and made me feel better.

Also, I didn’t strangle my dog. While I was in crisis he was irritating the hell out of me and I thought about kicking him, throwing him on the floor. He just kept coming back to me, and licking his paws, which he knows he is not supposed to do! Thank heaven for the option I didn’t realize I had, which was to put him in the other room and close the door. He must have been so confused at the wailing sounds which were coming out of me.

When it was all over I brought him to me and layed on the couch. I stroked him tenderly and apologized to him. Really, I should apologize to myself. But not apologize, just empathise. I need to have more empathy for me and hold space in my heart for moments in which I am inevitably from time to time not going to be okay.

A Musing on Whether I Deserve Punishment

I wish I could take a picture of my life as it is now. Snapshot, and I’m done. I could post a photograph of me sitting in my teak wooden chair on my patio with my dog curled up in his bed in front of me and green plants growing in pots, the warm air filling my lungs in the evening light, but that mere description wouldn’t do my life justice. Or, would it? Instead, I am going to write. I am going to write more and I am going to write like I’ve never written before. Because really, it has been a couple months since I last took the pleasure of writing down my thoughts and feelings in a proper blog entry. That is, what I consider a proper blog entry.

A mini crisis just swept over me. I saw my neighbours walk by me with glasses of wine in tow. No, it wasn’t just one person. There were six ladies talking and laughing, each with a glass of wine in their hand. I had an intense craving for wine. This whole episode lasted less than ten minutes but it was an obstacle to surmount, for sure. I talked it through with my roommate. I’m lucky I have her. She said that if she ever gets a craving for something like that she eats a piece of sweet fruit. Luckily I have some perfectly ripe summer peaches in the kitchen and I ate one, dripping over the sink. It did help. It helped.

Sometimes I wonder if I am intentionally thinking about hurting myself. I wanted to drink wine just now, but over the last weeks I have been obsessing about reading some of my old journal entries, emails, and poems which are full of pain, hurt, and suicidal ideation. It would be catastrophic to my current state of equilibrium. I would feel awful and I’m sure I would actively want to kill myself again. That feels awful. It has been two or three months since I last thought about planning a suicide. God, I’m so brainwashed that I always initially think of the word “committing” suicide as if I am “committing” a crime. It’s planning. It’s completion of the suicide. But it is not something that someone commits. People die of suicide. Suicide is not a diagnosis but it is because of a mental health condition, a verifiable illness of the mind and of a chemical imbalance in the brain, that a person would even think of planning a suicide.

I just picked my nose. And I must say, it was incredibly satisfying because I sucessfully extracted some hardened mucous, which I then tossed with with the aide of my forefinger and thumb to the side. It was a good distraction. Anyone who tells me they don’t pick their nose from time to time is lying. As children, we are taught that doing so is not appropriate to do in public. But in private? Hell yes! Plus my dog doesn’t care. He licks his ass and poops in front of me. He doesn’t even care if I’m naked. He accepts me as I am. I want to metaphorically be able to lick my own ass and have someone love me in spite of having been witness to such an act.

It’s half past seven and the sky is getting a little bit darker. The shadows are long and the reflection of the sunlight off of the white buildings is a deep, golden yellow. My roommate has miniature pots with plants in them lined up on the stone of the patio wall in the following order: catnip, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, spearmint and thyme. She has them labeled and in each pot there is a small bit of green sticking out of the soil. Growing plants is a beautiful thing. It is a lovely past-time. One must be consistent to water the plants on a regular basis just as it is important to shower one’s soul with self-love in regular doses.

I moved into my home and am sitting on my light sage green couch on top of a white blanket with my chihuahua blend dog right next to me. I didn’t feel like eating a real dinner so what I have eaten is a peach, a banana, sweet potato chips, and my new favourite Noosa brand yogurt. I’d say, healthy enough and definitely satisfying to the taste buds.

I suddenly remember a friend of mine from over five years ago. I don’t remember why we parted from our friendship. We had been friends from 2009 – 2012 and when we parted I was at one of the peaks of my journey with mental illness. I must have really not wanted to contact her again, because I deleted all of her contact information, including her address. I know what city she lives in but I cannot send her a letter. I was there the day after her baby was born. I documented her child’s first years through photographs and I made her an album. And now, we have no contact and I have never met her twin daughters.

I think I’m ready to go back to the hard stuff again. Why do I self harm? Why do I want to self harm? My therapist suggested that when things are going really well for me I seem to want to do something to sabotage it, so that things aren’t going so well any longer. “I know you’re doing your job to point out patterns,” I told him in a brisque manner. “That sounded angry but you look sad,” he replied. Yes, he was right. It made me sad to think of this topic. I wasn’t angry, nor was I annoyed. But somehow it came out that way.

I’m not a bad person. I am absolutely in no way a bad person. Then why do I treat myself as if I were bad? As if I need punishment? I seem to want to punish myself. But why? What have I done that has been so wrong? Weren’t those things done to me? I am not innocent but I certainly wasn’t the perpetrator of all the hurt and harm which happened in my life. At least not initially. I was treated so badly for so many years that I came to believe that somehow I deserve to be treated in that way, and that that is the only way to live. I even thought I deserved to die. That the only thing I deserved was to die, and it would have been a release from the pain and the ultimate expression of self-hatred. But just this past Saturday I decided that I love my life.

Things are good right now. Summer school started yesterday. Grad school begins at the end of August. It’s a three-year program. I am in process of applying to volunteer my time as a mentor / tutor to a child in a county-funded program for at-risk youth. I also plan to help out with marketing events for my local psychological association which I just joined. I want to get hooked into the local scene with psychologists and MFT’s. I want to get to know people and I want others to get to know me. Last night I had a long, private conversation with my professor after class and we walked to the garage together where our cars were parked. I believe she enjoyed my enthusiasm for pursuing my future helping career.

I have to close the blinds right now because it has become dark outside and almost an hour has passed since I began writing this entry. My dog is snoring lightly. I think of it more like his version of a cat’s purr.

I took another break. I was still hungry so I ate some homemade black beans with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. It was good. Then I went pee for the third time in three hours, hand-washed the dishes as I always do, and petted my dog. Here I am again, at my computer and more time has passed. I’m not worried about the time or the impending, looming hour that says it’s time for bed. I could go to bed right now if I wanted to. But I don’t want to go to bed yet.

I just can’t do it. I can’t do it. I am unable to focus on things which are difficult to talk about, think about, write about. All I managed was a few paragraphs today amid some healthy fluff. I can’t talk about why I am triggered at times to think of harming myself. I don’t want to think about it. I’m done. I’m in control. I get to say when enough is enough. I want to process these concepts with the help of my therapist. It’s far too difficult to do on my own. But I did do it. I managed just a little bit on my own. And that is enough. If I can accept the idea that I want to harm myself with loving kindness, then I won’t have to fight it. I can just let it be and acknowledge it and not act on it.

Emotions don’t have to control. They simply inform. The fact that I wanted to drink tonight informs me that I got triggered by seeing others holding wine glasses, which immediately brought me to self-harming thoughts, because alcohol used to be related to self harm. I used to drink when cutting myself and I used to drink when I felt suicidal so that I would have the impaired decision-making to carry through with a plan for suicide, whilst I inevitably always called the suicide hotline.

I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. I can just keep telling myself that I am okay. Then, I will begin to believe it. The reality is that I am indeed okay, but I just wrote about some not okay things, things that are not okay with me and things that I am not okay with. But me, my person, my being, I am okay. I am really okay. Now, with loving kindness, I shall focus my attention onto my napping therapy dog. Because I have the power to choose where my attention goes.

I Can Do It: This Thing Called “Life”

I always have so many things going on in my mind: I could write about it every day if I had time. It’s really difficult waiting five days to see my therapist as I decided to not see him three times this week, only two. I have to practice my coping skills on my own. I can’t have him always there to help regulate my internal state of being. There are things I need to do that I keep putting off, like booking the car rental for when I visit my mom on mother’s day, and calling the collection agency that put a collection item on my credit report unbeknownst to me. I consider these to be unpleasant tasks and I have a mental block in my motivation to do them. The latter is especially cumbersome and complex emotionally, because of the bankruptcy I filed a year and a half ago. Anything to do with my credit report and so forth wears on me emotionally. But as my therapist had told me before, if I don’t do it today, it will still be there tomorrow. Meaning, there is no rush and I will get to it when I can get to it. To not worry. Because eventually, even if it takes me a year to muster up the courage, eventually it will get done.

I wrote the above paragraph in the beginning of the week. I was not having a good week. Monday I was busy straight from 8:00 AM to midnight, and the same thing on Tuesday. By Wednesday I was exhausted. Last night, Thursday, when I saw my therapist, the first thing I did was cry. And cry, I did. I let it all out until there was nothing left. Then, ever so gently, he asked me, “can you talk about it?” He had asked me at the very beginning of the session if I had had a difficult day, since he reads the emails I send him throughout the day. That’s when I started crying. After he asked me to talk about it I simply said, “No, I didn’t have a good day.” He nodded his head in understanding. Then, slowly, we began to talk about it.

He acknowledged and empathized with me about my feelings of being overwhelmed. When I was at the grocery store and the cashier was separating the cold and the not-cold items into separate bags, I said, “I just want to make it home. I don’t care how you put them away.” Another cashier heard this and commented, “sounds like you need a bottle of wine.” As a side note, I don’t like that our culture is so focused on alcohol as a solution to problems and stress. I don’t like it. “You didn’t tell the cashier to ‘hurry up and put it away so I can go home,’” said my therapist. “No, I didn’t want her to feel bad.”

Then, at work, I became inordinately angry at something that would normally have not made me so angry. I hate, absolutely hate, last-minute things. Ten minutes before our monthly strategy meeting was to begin, my boss told me that one of the dollar figures on the report was wrong and that I needed to fix it before the meeting began. I had already printed out 14 packages for each attendee, and at the last minute I needed to reprint one of the pages and replace that page for each packet. It was kind of stressful. I told my therapist that I had an angry face on during the whole meeting and that several people asked me what was wrong because apparently I was spaced out and not really present. “If an angry face was all you did, then that’s pretty good,” my therapist pointed out. I told him I wanted to cry, I was so angry. “But you didn’t.” Right, I didn’t. I wanted to cry but I didn’t.

Additionally, I wanted to call in sick to work and I have wanted to have alcohol for the last few days in a row, but I didn’t do those things. I didn’t do them because I have control over what behaviours I enact based on how I am feeling. This means that what I feel doesn’t have to dictate what I do. Feelings come and go, but I remain. Feelings merely inform me. It is up to me what I choose to do with those feelings.

I can do this life. I can do it. I am doing it. I am living it. I am living my life. I can do this. It is hard. It is really hard. Life is hard. But I can make it to the next moment, and then the next hour and then the next day. I can make it from day to day until that day becomes a week. No matter what life throws at me, I will always have life. Nothing can kill me. Emotions cannot kill me. I may feel very overwhelmed at times but it isn’t the end of my life. I can cope. I can do it: this thing called “Life.”

Anorexic Ideation

I started starving myself yesterday. It’s not a complete starvation diet. Since I managed to eat just 750 calories yesterday I’m going to restrict myself to 800 calories per day. I think that’s reasonable. I just got home from work and I’ve had a total of 515 calories so far. I’ve been constantly hungry for the past two days but I am able to sleep through the night and I think I have been drinking more liquids. That’s good, so I don’t get a headache from being hungry. I like the control this gives me. I have told several of my close friends. Some have responded with love and compassion and others have responded with insulting comments. That makes me feel bad and it is unfortunate. And I’m not going to eat because someone tells me to eat. I like the control I get over my body.

I don’t see this as a mental disorder because I don’t have a distorted perception of my body. I know I’m a bit fat. I’m about five foot, two inches and I was 139 for the longest time but in the last two weeks I’ve gotten down to 131 pounds and it is very encouraging. I would like to reach 125, then 120, and then we’ll see from there. A person I thought was a mentor and who used to be like my father responded “you can’t come visit if you have a feeding tube”. Can you believe someone would say that? Whatever happened to unconditional love? The best thing about this diet is that I can have as much tea as I want, which is soothing and comforting, and it’s not that I couldn’t have tea before, it’s just that I need the comfort of the hot tea more now than ever.

I told my roommate about my plan and she told me that is not healthy. That was earlier this afternoon by text message. Now she is sitting in the living room with me here, playing with her cat, and she hasn’t said a word to me. Just “hi” and that’s it. She probably just doesn’t know what to say. I have no idea what my therapist is going to tell me tomorrow night. Supposedly this is connected to the ending of my group therapy, because I decided to stop going. I started looking up things on anorexia last week and then by Saturday night I was so incredibly angry with myself that I was considering jumping off a bridge, but then I decided to go to bed. Yesterday I had no desire to live and I didn’t feel like getting up, and so 14 hours later when my mom called in the afternoon, I finally got up. I must admit I did feel better about life in general after getting up and being “alive”.

Did you know that a medium-sized apple contains 95 calories? Neither did I. But the internet has all sorts of information readily available. I used to think that anorexic people looked… well, far too skinny. But I was looking at images today while at work and I was thinking to myself that it looks beautiful. My friend whom I am seeing tonight said that women are meant to have curves and that my ex-abuser wanted to me to look like a little girl and that is why he put me on diets. He hated my big breasts and totally disregarded them as if they didn’t exist. All he cared about was my vagina and getting into it with his hands and other body parts as much as possible. And getting other men to use me too.

I have to go over to my friend’s house before it gets too late. She called me last night as soon as I told her what I am doing to myself and we planned to get together tonight. She wants to show me and remind me that I am loved and that her child loves me very much. He is five now and I have known him since he was born. She said that a child’s love, and a baby’s love, is pure. I couldn’t agree more.

When I’m Not Okay

This is what it looks like when I am not doing okay in the form of uninhibited stream-of-consciousness:

To my Therapist,

One of my blog post categories that I created is unsuicide. Tonight we talked about suicide in class. The local Bridge even came up. I was already feeling sad from earlier and had already had suicidal thoughts. I am angry. I am angry that the victims compensation board won’t grant me compensation. This is causing me undue stress. I need to just drop it. I need you to help me let go. I can’t do this any more. Not like this. By the end of class I didn’t feel suicidal any longer and I drove home and I ate a lot. I ate because eating helped me feel, especially since my tummy is very very full. I can really feel it. I needed to do something, so I ate.

I am pissed off at myself, not just angry. I think I am so stupid for carrying on like this. I hate myself for this. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand myself. Why am I so stupid? Why can’t I just let it go.
I was thinking about my ex earlier today and wondering what his life is like. I miss the things that were good between us. But there wasn’t enough of the good things and they always came with expectations or consequences. You said it was about control. It was a constant power struggle. I don’t even feel like celebrating my birthday any more. I hate the world. I wrote my mom a nice card for our birthday (since she gave birth to us, she gets to be celebrated too!).
I just want to quit everything and quit work and quit everything. I want to quit life. I want to quit like I quit the group. Just stopped dead. End it. Just stop everything. I just now took a deep breath. You point out when I take deep breaths. It helps I guess.
I hate something. I hate someone. I just hate. I hate I hate I hate. I don’t like it. I am angry. I am upset. I am angry. I wish I could see you tomorrow. I can’t believe I wasted 2 hours at work not doing stuff I should have been doing. I am so behind at work. Damn it. So behind and it’s all my fault. Even if I worked I would be behind.
Help me hate someone. I need to hate someone.

Suicidal Thoughts, OCD, and Mental Health Talk

Lately, I have been feeling stressed. Most of it is work stress. There is a finite level of the human capacity to tolerate stress, and I was close to that ceiling today. I took time off of work in the middle of the day to see my therapist because I needed to see him three times this week and that was the only time which was going to work. He helped me talk through the concerns which have been giving me anxiety at work in regards to my new assistant. I feel responsible for her progress because I am the one training her. However, I am not her supervisor and I do not have the authority to correct her behavior. I am worried that her motivation might not be as high as I hoped it would be and six weeks into the job I just thought she would get it by now. But I have to give her leeway because the learning curve in this industry is steep and she has no prior experience. I want her to be making more phone calls and taking on more tasks and I’m worried about not being able to trust her with projects to take on her own. She has been consistently late to work and she does not dress appropriately professionally. All of things are going to be looked at and handled by our supervisor now. What was hard was handing over that responsibility to someone else because I thought I could handle it. But my boss said she didn’t want to put me in that position. She’s right.

I just ate a chocolate that is at least three years old. It was Ghirardelli with raspberry filling, only the filling had sunken in on itself. It tasted okay though I was hesitant at first bite. People give me chocolates and I just don’t eat them.

I found a new walking path today. Because of the time change and the fact that it is lighter for longer in the evening, I had decided to go for a walk by my home. My neighborhood is not ideal for walking: there are long roads with only one sidewalk and cars which go by at fast speeds. I went walking along one of those roads. It crosses over a freeway. The bridge over the freeway is not very high, but I imagined myself jumping off the edge into the traffic below. I would probably only break a foot or leg, but the cars going by at 75 miles per hour in the fast lane would surely kill me. Only, if I survived, I might be physically impaired for the rest of my life and it would be very hard to kill myself then. I didn’t think about that at the time.

I thought about that if I survived, and another person died on the scene due to the car accident, then I would be convicted for involuntary manslaughter or some sort of charge and I would have to serve jail time and then it would be very difficult to find employment. If I had a criminal record I would not be permitted to work with children and the idea of my future career change would be out of question. I would be stuck in a minimum wage job because that’s the only type of job which would be willing to employ me and I would be on state healthcare and unable to travel or buy nice foods or do anything that costs money. So, I kept on walking, both times that I crossed the bridge, and I left my fleeting thoughts behind me on the bridge each time. I didn’t take them with me.

I had a nice dinner, leftover sweet potato curry from a restaurant, and it was delicious. Yellow sauce and whole pieces of soft yam and potato and some mushrooms, with rice on the side. I recently bought jasmine tea, which I haven’t had for some time in my pantry, and I am really enjoying sipping on it. I should be studying but I’m not. The cat is on the carpet right in front of where I am sitting and I had to reprimand him a few minutes ago for scratching on my cloth ottoman in the middle of my L-shaped couch. The couch is light green and I really love the color. My paperwork from school and job interviews and college applications have been littering the living room for the past month. I want it out so I can visually see it, and be reminded that, oh yeah, I still have that essay to write, or oh yes, there’s the New Yorker Magazine from the subscription my Mum got me which I never take the time to read. I told her not to renew it last year but I was too late. “They were having a discount,” she claimed.

Every day I catch myself rubbing my skin to get the dirt off of me. Only, it doesn’t consume my hours any longer, it’s just a little skin rubbing here and there. It’s part of the OCD category of symptoms, but doing it soothes me and at the same time it feels productive because I actually get dirt off of me. They come off in miniscule amounts which my therapist and my aunt have told me are dead skin cells. But I don’t believe it even though the rational side of my brain knows that they are right. I am still uncomfortable with the topic of sex and when it comes to my body, I don’t like to think about it. I feel fat even though I’ve weighed the same amount for the past two years, which is the first time in my life ever that my weight hasn’t fluctuated drastically. I used to be very skinny and it was absolutely unhealthy, but at least I didn’t feel fat (even though my ex abuser told me I was). I am supposed to look at myself as beautiful but the best I can muster is “eh, I look decent.”

My therapist doesn’t judge me. He doesn’t like to diagnose me and never tells me that there is something wrong with me. He guides me and makes gentle suggestions or gets me to think about a situation in a new perspective that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own. Therapists aren’t supposed to diagnose anyway, unless it’s for an insurance company. Having a diagnosis sucks, although some people find it useful to have a label for their symptoms, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or OCD, to name a few. Five years ago I met the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, and now I no longer do. So it seems to me that it must have been PTSD symptoms instead. Because, how does a personality inherently change? A personality defines a person. Labels don’t define me. And I don’t have BPD. I have major depressive disorder, but it’s something that I have but not something that I am.

The World We Live In

To my therapist,
I am supposed to be kind to myself. I don’t feel kind. I am supposed to love myself. I don’t feel love. I am human. I feel immense sadness. Some realizion of reality and terror just struck me and I am in tears. They feel like tears that come with the relief of knowing that the pain is over and I don’t have to feel it any longer except when the wounds will be torn open during group therapy for the next nine weeks.
I began feeling this apathy and dread at a social event earlier today. I spoke to the one person I knew there in order to distract myself. After many silent moments on the phone with a friend just now I hung up and started crying. I have now stopped and my tears are dry. I have no particular interest in reading my text book tonight. I have no particular interest on attending group therapy on Wednesday, the day before I am to see you next. I feel a moment of hatred for myself at the idea of attending this group. It was my idea. I’m supposed to attend because it’s supposed to help. But all of the women have experienced horror and terror and each of their stories weaves an awful story of a reality I do not want to bear nor live in. A reality where men take two year old girls to bed with them, a world in which men take women at knife point into the bushes to rape them with no regard to whether they are daughters and mothers, a world in which men sell their wives bodies to the highest bidder, in which men own human bodies, women’s bodies, and can do with them what they please and without consent. This is a world of evil, without humanity, without consciousness, a world that makes no sense to me.
In an enlightened age where modern technology creates feats of the stuff of miracles, connects one human to another from across the world, children are being sold on Backpage.com and trafficked, from a gutter and from one fancy hotel room to another with the establishments fully aware of the prostitution that goes on and to which they willingly, greedily turn a blind eye all in the name of making profit. There are men who enjoy torturing others, who get a rush from the ultimate violent act of raping a victim. This is the world we live in and most of us try to pretend that mysogeny doesn’t exist, that women have equal rights and are not discriminated against in fields of employment where they earn less than men.
I have to fight that world and to stand up to it and say no, but I cannot do it alone. I am fearful of what will take place in the 90 minutes of my group therapy session in just three days from now. Tomorrow will be a 13 hour day including class. I will get through the day just as I have fought so hard each day to make it through the last five years. In April it will have been exactly five years since the day I left, the day that my ex-husband and ex-abuser changed the locks on the door of my former prison and filed for divorce.
Help me please. Just help me and never leave me.

Four Words

“I will help you,” he stated simply. He said it clearly and with a calm voice. There was no urgency, no judgement, nothing but truthful intention. It was all I needed to hear. He had said that phrase twice: once at the beginning of our session and once toward the end of the hour. I know I will get through this because he is going to help me. He has a track record of over eight years of consistency in seeing me, week after week no matter the circumstance, and he has always been there for me. I have no reason to doubt him now. I would not want to do this without him.

Less than 24 hours away is the hour I have been dreading all week, panicked, and with preemptive flashbacks of horrible moments in my past. The feelings have been, at times, overwhelming. That is why I chose to see my therapist today. I needed his steadfast guidance and I needed to hear the confident tone in his voice. He believes in me fully.

When I feel overwhelmed, it feels like there is an emergency happening, but it’s all inside of the confines of my mind. I don’t hear voices. I don’t get headaches. But it feels as if my head is pounding and my thoughts are screaming out at me. My body goes into panic mode. My mind reacts as if there is imminent danger present. I don’t notice my heart rate increasing or my breaths becoming quicker and shorter. No, I don’t think that I have any physiological reaction other than wanting to break down crying. No, sobbing, screaming at the skies.

Yesterday, after a night of panicked tears and a morning of flashbacks, I was sitting at my desk in front of the computer. My fingers were furiously typing out an email to my therapist on my phone, which I had positioned below my desk as to not make it obvious. When no one was looking, I allowed myself to sink my head into my hands, my fingers sprawled across the sides of my head as if trying to stop it from exploding. I wrote several emails that day. The word “trauma” and “scared” came up frequently in my writing.

My therapist allows me to email him at any time, and as many times as I want to. It’s important to me, and to my process of healing. I need him, and him alone, to know what is going on in my mind at all times. I usually write to him daily. I used to write novels each day, when I was entrenched in the after-effects of the recent traumas. There was an endless need for me to get out the words I couldn’t manage to say. I needed to tell my story over and over again, until, through the mess of the memories, some of it made sense to me, and the feelings began to fade.

Those feelings are not gone. They simply remain dormant in the background. It has been almost five years since I got out of that relationship. “I got out.” He had never hear me before say it in that way. I got out. I managed to get away. I escaped. None of that “he left me” and me wanting to get back together with my abuser. I hadn’t known much of any other life. Now I have the power to own my actions. I chose to leave, and what a fortunate and life-altering and gut-wrenching thing it was to do. I suffered for many years afterwards.

At first I was in complete denial and for over a year I had still wanted a marriage, but a different kind of marriage. That man, with that evil and ill mind of his, was not capable of providing any other sort of relationship. He needed to act out the trauma again and again that he experienced when he was two years old: the feelings of helplessness, the guilt, the shame of a child who didn’t have the words or mind to understand what had happened to him when his male babysitter made my ex-husband-abuser put his penis into his mouth. A grown man puts his penis into the mouth of a two-year-old boy. How fucked up is that? Yet it happens more than we know, today, in our society. A father is having sex with his young daughter and a neighbor is inserting objects into the little girl’s vagina whom he is babysitting. But instead of being told that it was “our little secret” I was told that it was my fault. I was to blame that he liked little girls. He dressed me up like a little girl, buying the clothes for me, and making me role-play. He got off on that and then blamed me for it.

He taught me how to have sex with a woman when I did everything I could to resist his control. But the manipulation and the guilt tactics and the pleading and the fact that I thought I loved him over a period of many months, with daily repetition of these behaviors, wore me down. I didn’t want to have sex with anyone but him. In fact, I wanted to make love with him. But he was incapable of making love. It was all about him, and the satisfaction of his needs, and the release he got. He had a sick mind. He still does, only he is no longer the perpetrator of abuse and trauma in my life. He will not change unless he seeks therapy and that is not very likely.

I need to shower tonight. Showering used to be such a struggle for me. I wouldn’t shower for days, and my hair got greasy and I would attempt to cover up my body odour with flowery deodorant. Only, there was nowhere to go anyway, and I would stay in bed for 22 hours at a time, getting up seldomly to go to the toilet. I probably spent over two years in this perpetual state of hibernation. Living was too painful for me and I needed to protect myself from the hurtful, dangerous world by staying in my bed with the shades of the window drawn closed.

When I shower I am going to imagine washing off the difficulties, no, the challenges, of the last days. Yesterday, while I was sobbing and wailing inside the confines of the safety of my car in the parking lot of my office building during the middle of the afternoon when I was supposed to be working – I felt dirty. It wasn’t just a thought. It was a feeling. Through the tears I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that my whole being was dirty. Dirty because of what happened to me for over a period of six years. Dirty because my body was sold to over two hundred men. Dirty because of the scant clothing I used to have to wear. Dirty because I was ashamed and horrified with myself at the same time.

I used to scratch and ferociously rub the dirt off of my skin. My dear aunt would tell me that it’s not dirt, but dead skin that is coming off of my body. Why then, is it a darker colour? Little miniscule bits of dead skin coming off of my arms, my chest, my neck, from under my breasts. It was everywhere. I used to spend hours just rubbing my skin. It was calming. It was satisfying when I got a miniscule particle of something under my fingernails. I would flick it to the hard ground and continue rubbing my skin red in order to find more dirt to get off of myself. Even if I showered, it was still there. Nothing could make it go away. The flecks of skin particles would collect on the hardwood floor beside me where I was sitting on the couch and I would have to get a paper towel to clean up the floor. I stopped doing that, for the most part. But sometimes I find myself rubbing the skin around my clavicle. There must be thoughts and feelings which trigger me to do it, but I haven’t figured that out yet. It still feels satisfying, triumphant, to rub my skin. Because it’s my body, and I have control over it, and I control what food goes into my mouth, and who touches me, who has sex with me. I have had sex once in the past five years and I do not regret it. But at the same time, I wasn’t ready for it either and I never saw that person again after that.

Over the next ten weeks during the course of this group therapy I am choosing to attend, a lot of feelings will be brought up. A lot of thoughts and a lot of emotions. But I must always remind myself that “feelings come and go, but I remain.” There is no emergency happening inside of my mind right now.