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-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.

Things I Think About When I am Feeling Good

My dog. My dog. I call my dog “my dog” so much, he probably thinks it’s his name. I just love saying it to him. Who rescued who? I can say that he does have a really good life now, especially in comparison to what it must have been like on the streets. He is definitely my dog and our attachment is incredibly strong. All we want to do is be together, all the time. I didn’t want him to be alone the other night so I took his fluffy bed with me to the gym, only, he didn’t really spend any time on the bed. He just sat and walked around and waited for me to finish. But at least we had each other’s company. By the way, this is a little gym in my complex that no one goes to, which is why I could bring him. Did he rescue me? I would say so. Every night when I get home he comes to greet me (now that he is feeling better) and we make sure to reconnect before doing anything else. It’s what you do with your child. You’ve been separated all day and you need to make that extra effort to reconnect and remind your child that you love them, constantly, continuously.

It’s late morning and I have the heat on unnecessarily. It just got fixed and so I am indulging in extra coziness and warmth. I have my ocean waves app on in the background and I like to imagine what it is like walking by the ocean. Samuel (my dog) and I watched the sunset last night. We got there just in time to find a spot on the cliffs where we sat down. There were tons of people out, doing the same thing. It was very chilly and windy. Samuel was shaking and there I was feeling bad for him, wishing I had thought of putting on his sweater before we went out. What did I do? I took my sweater off and wrapped it around him. I would do that for any of my children. Yes, I was cold. The wind perused through my thin, long-sleeve shirt and the cold air bit my ears. But all of it was worth it in the end.

I’m not going to pay for the MeetMindful app subscription. It’s a dating app I just discovered. I met someone who seems really intellectual, intelligent, spiritual, and kind. But he lives three hours away. There just aren’t enough people in my city signed up for the app, it seems. Back to the drawing board. I’m thinking of trying to not date, because I really want to spend at least another six months working on myself. I have had mental emergencies lately, too many than I care for. And remembering that I was seriously suicidal twice last semester reminds me that I still have a lot of work to do in therapy. I told my therapist yesterday that I am never going to say goodbye to him, and that even when he is gone one day, he will still be with me, always and forever. It’s a concept he has been teaching me. That even when I am not with him, he is in my mind and my heart and he is always there with me. It’s a very comforting feeling.

My psychiatrist, Dr. D., reminded me that ending our therapy session is more like a pause than an ending. Because I really hate the end of sessions. I don’t like saying goodbye. It doesn’t sit well with me. It never has. It makes me uncomfortable, I think. But if I can see it in another light and a different perspective, then maybe it won’t seem so awful any more.

Listen to me. Just listen. Don’t I sound not stressed? Not stressed at all! Today is a nice day. I like to think of it as a “normal” day, where I am “normal” and not stressed or depressed. But I do realize that everyone’s “normal” takes different forms. My “normal” used to be reliving my trauma as if it were still happening, every day, and struggling to stay alive and fight the urge to kill myself every day. For years. It was like that for several years. Every day was an emergency in my mind. I was constantly in and out of the psychiatric hospital and emergency rooms. I became familiar with the inside of ambulances. I had mental emergencies, and then I had physical emergencies after an overdose. Of course, those never killed me and I’m really glad that I am still alive now. I thank my lucky stars.

I credit my therapist a lot with the reason I am still alive. I know I did the hard work myself too, but he was always there for me and always has been. He held hope for me when I had none and he has always believed in me. He has never given up on me. It takes one person, just one person, to make a difference in someone’s life. And he is that person for me. I explained it to someone new yesterday in terms of attachment theory. There are four types of attachments which you can form with your primary caregiver when you are very young. It’s either secure, insecure avoidant, insecure ambivalent, or disorganized. I really don’t know which attachment described my relationship with my mother when I was young, but it definitely was not secure. It was probably a bit of every one of the others. It’s not anybody’s fault, it’s just how things were.

Generational hurt passes on to the next generation, unless a person has made a concerted effort to heal those wounds. My mother had me when she was very young, and went directly from her overbearing father’s home, to getting married and living with my father. It was a limited world view and she did not know of any other way of raising children than what she had experienced. I’m sure she tried to not be like her father. We all do that. She still exhibits those features, in not wanting to “bother” us when she calls, since her father was always intrusive and poor boundaries and a lack of communication of feelings set up for a very-far-from-ideal relationship between my mother and her father. When I was growing up we weren’t close to her father. We also happened to live in a different country.

But nothing will change the fact that she yelled at us when we were young, and as school-age children hit us (it never left bruises but it hurt and made us cry and was startling and unexpected every time.) As a teenager I held a lot of resentment toward my mother for her having hit us. She stopped hitting us the day my twin brother hit her back and almost broke her nose. He held a lot of anger within him, for a long time, even throughout his twenties. But he and I have both healed from our childhood wounds, at least for the most part. The person who was supposed to be our rock, our safety base from which to explore the world, our nurturer, was also the person who hurt us.

Being yelled at hurt my feelings. She was never the huggy type, not from my recollection. So when I was eight, for example, I remember her apologizing with words, but not with physical affection. I think a nice, tight hug along with “I’m sorry” would have had more impact and been more meaningful to me. I don’t want to get deeper into these memories because they are in the past now and not pleasant. I have the power where to focus my mind, and when I know that something is too much, I have the power to shift my attention.

Yesterday during therapy I took a bathroom break. I never used to want to take bathroom breaks during a therapy session because I thought I would be missing out on something if I were gone from the session. Over a long time, I learned that taking a bathroom break is helpful for many reasons. One, I get to be comfortable, because I don’t have to hold my pee, which can be distracting and hinders being fully present and concentrating. Two, it’s a break. It’s a break from the subject matter at hand. Yesterday I could have waited. But I took a break at the exact moment when I felt like I was going to mentally explode. I was holding it all in while my therapist was explaining something. I was assertive, and proud of myself for it. I said to him, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to go to the bathroom.” He stopped in the middle of his sentence for me to say that and as I walked by him he said encouragingly, “good self care.” I loved it. It was perfect. It was a good reminder that taking mental breaks, getting up and moving, those are all good things.

It’s good reinforcement, a good reminder that self care is important and that I am in control, and I have the power to direct my life in the way I want it to go. If something is happening that I don’t like, I can always walk away. You’d think that would be intuitive, but I never used to know that. I never knew you could walk away from something you didn’t like. I never even knew I had a choice. I felt like I had to be there, and endure the suffering, the abuse, the pain, that it would never end, and that the only way out was to kill myself. I now know that there is a different way of living, and I am grateful for it. I want to share this new way of living, the peacefulness, mindfulness, self-compassion, self-kindness, I want to share all of this amazing new knowledge and experiences with other people. That is why, one day, I want to become a therapist. Only, not now. That is something for the future, I have decided. In the meantime, I can still make a difference, still model an emotionally balanced and healthy way of living, for my mother, and for others around me. Just by being in this world, I know I already make a difference. That knowledge is profound and gives my self-confidence a boost of power I never knew I had before.

I love being a puppy mom. I am the best puppy mom ever! I mean, I know I’m great. I just got up to pee and he came into the restroom area from the living room just to check on me. Just to see that I’m okay and that I’m still here and that I didn’t actually leave. It makes me think of the concept of object permanence, which I know he has mastered. But it reassures him, I think, to check on me and follow me around the house. Sometimes when I am sitting on the toilet with my pants down at my ankles, he licks my bare leg. Any dog parent will be familiar with this, and in terms of a concept, any parent in general would be familiar with the concept of “no privacy” from your children, even when you are going pee! It’s like peeing becomes a family event or something. You sit on the toilet and your toddler is there, ready to hand you toilet paper so you can wipe your bum, and then the father comes in to wash his hands, and the dog is just hanging out, and all of a sudden, the whole family is in the bathroom. It’s a family event! At least, that’s what I’ve heard how it can be. I don’t have a human child, just a dog child.

I just titled my blog. I always choose the title when I am done writing. Based on the last paragraph I could have called this piece, “no privacy in the bathroom,” which sounds funny, but which doesn’t give credit to the rest of the piece before that. So, skimming these paragraphs, I realize I have written and reflected on the past. And that’s okay. There’s nothing not okay about it. The difference is, I am feeling happy and balanced today. It has been a good weekend even though my therapy session yesterday was very challenging and I cried. But even if we go into deep, uncomfortable material in terms of our conversation, I always pull myself out of it when I feel done. My therapist helps and supports me with this, and I always feel better when I leave my session than I did when I went in. I always leave with more clarity and understanding about things that have happened in my life, whether they happened last week or a lifetime ago.

I used to think I had to record the sessions. In fact, I started clandestinely recording our therapy sessions with my recorder turned on in my purse, which just isn’t right. It’s just not something you do, not informing the other person. It’s not nice. I felt bad about it but I was afraid to tell him. Then I finally did tell him. But I still hid the recorder. I felt like I had to secretly record his voice so that I could have something tangible to hold onto after the session ended (since I hate endings) and so that I could listen to his voice when I wasn’t with him. I stopped recording a long time ago because I finally realized, after all of these years, that he is indeed never going to leave me. I was always terrified that he might leave me. Nothing he could say or reassure me with would have made me believe otherwise. But now I know for a fact that he will always be there for me, and never leave me. It’s a relief, knowing that. Such a relief, you have no idea. My wounds are slowly healing and I feel as if I am already far into my recovery, even though I still have a long road to traverse ahead of me.

 

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.

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.

My Final Goodbye

After seeing my psychiatrist today during a session in which I felt extremely nauseated due to the conflicting feelings of sadness, anger, shame and guilt, I decided to take a different route home. Usually I go on the freeway but I decided to drive by the local park instead. When I say park, I mean, it’s a really really big park spanning perhaps ten blocks. In doing so, I came across the street where I used to live. I decided to do a drive-by. Serendipitously there was a parking spot open right in front of the building. It was dusk and the sun was setting on the building in a beautiful deep yellow reflection. This isn’t the most beautiful street. In fact, it’s close to downtown and it’s also not the safest neighborhood. The apartment is on the ground floor and has bars across windows with a metal gate locked in front of the front door.

This was the first apartment I lived in after I left my abusive relationship. I have a lot of bad memories here, including the cops picking me up violently and aggressively after I had called the suicide hotline telling them I was cutting on myself. Apparently a knife, even a small cheese knife, is considered to be a weapon. The PERT team never comes because that division is always understaffed.

Why was I sitting in my car staring at this place? I was feeling even more sad and dejected by this time, and I called three close girlfriends in succession. The third picked up and I was ever so grateful. We immediately made plans to meet up and I was able to leave the sorrow behind for the most part. As I was leaving the answer dawned upon me: the reason I came here was to say goodbye. I was saying goodbye to my former life. I am saying goodbye to the abuse and the sexual trauma.

Why? Because I met a man. I am infatuated with this man. He is kind and gentle. The kind of healing I am doing now was not going to be possible until I met another man. We have been intimately involved sexually for the past two weeks. After over five and a half years of abstinence, and an overarching fear of anything to do with sex, I am discovering how much I enjoy having sex. It’s an amazing feeling. I can have sex in a carefree and loving manner with a man whom I have chosen. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know what he wants in terms of any commitment or relationship. It’s all so new. I have spoken with a lot of people about this new development in my life and I have decided to just have fun and take it week by week. I am not the one calling him often. I am going to leave the pursuit up to him and mirror his advances. I was advised not to give more than he gives. This is a dating game, but I can play this.

He is my lover. I have a lover and we make love. We also have plain and simple sex, and sometimes it is aggressive or vigorous sex. I have been able to communicate to him two things that he did which I did not like, which included having a hand put tightly to my neck. I have been strangled before and I don’t want it to be perpetuated by any man. I don’t find it exciting. I am learning about my sexuality and I am on a sexual journey. I realize that everyone’s sexual journey is different, and I am just so glad to be able to start my journey of self-discovery in this realm.

Love letter to my dear friend

To my dear friend,

I am not going to ask you to write a love letter to yourself. I’m just not going to do that. What I am going to do and what I can do is to write a love letter to you from me. I am going to speak words of wisdom and courage into you. I am going to lift you up out of your anxiety. Why? Not because I care. That’s obvious. It’s because you deserve it. You fight so hard every day and your strength, the strength that you may not always have the perspective to see, is awe-inspiring. If there were to be any woman I would want as a role model, that would be you. Because guess what, we are not perfect. No one is. And sometimes we fuck up. But when justice comes into play, you don’t have to cognitively admit to yourself that you are right. You know it in your heart and your body knows it for you. That’s why somatic issues creep up and tears emerge and restless nights occur.
But you are not alone. If there’s one thing you take away from this letter, it is that you are not alone. It’s not that you’re amazing, and that the value that you bring to this world and my high opinions of your morality come into play. It’s that you are simply you. You deserve everything. You deserve justice. You deserve to have other people fight for you and to support you when you become weary and want to give up. You deserve to know that what you are going to do in trial is absolutely the right thing to do.
This isn’t just for you, you know. I know you want justice to be served, as much as a detriment this would be to the recipient of the consequences and possibly the short-term public opinion of you in the field. Notice that I said, short-term, because in the end, justice always prevails. The law and binding ethical standards exist for a reason. It is to protect the consumer from getting taken advantage of. Because in a therapist-patient relationship, who really has the power? It’s the person who is acting upon their professional license, the person getting paid for their service. The mere fact that you were paying for a service, for this woman to be your couples counselor, gives her a huge responsibility and those people who hold responsibility in their hands have power. She had jurisdiction over her ethical obligations to you as a couple and to not take sides and to not breach confidentiality. She made an active choice and an active decision to choose one party over the other and not just that, but to write a damaging letter which had detrimental consequences.
What were those consequences? I wasn’t the one living that life and going through the motions and trials and tribulations and heartache and shame and disappointment that you went through, but I can imagine the consequences you had to endure. Any compassionate, rational human being would realize that this letter had damaging consequences, but you are the only voice you have for yourself and no one other than you can say it on stand under oath. You are all you’ve got when it comes down to it. How do you want to look back upon this time in your life when judgement day comes around? Do you want to feel confident and relieved that you did everything in your power to ensure that this woman did not do damage to any of her other patients?
People don’t lie once. Because if they’ve done it once, and with such ease, the chances are they’ve done it before and they will do it again. Why would they choose to speak anything but the truth? That’s not for you to know and it is not for you to judge them. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. Of course it will. This event was the catalyst of a storm of events which occurred which then culminated into a tsunami. It could have killed you but it didn’t because you are resilient and strong and you fought for what you believed in, part of that which was believing in yourself as a mom and fighting for the custody of your child. If you didn’t fight, could you have lost your child, thus causing extra damage and trauma in his life due to your absence? Absolutely, but that didn’t happen.
What did happen is that your son suffered the consequences of an unfortunate series of events which weren’t his fault but which he probably grappled with in blaming himself for, which all children do. They blame themselves. The ripple effects of this one breach of confidentiality and smearing of your reputation reached far and did not stop for years because of the PTSD which you endured. No one should have to go through what you have been through and I want you to stand up for what is right and know that when you are on the stand at trial, you are representing all women whose voices go unheard and who get taken advantage of by “the system.”
Do this for your fellow women, and sisters all over the world who are moms. Do this for me. Do this for you. Do it for your mental health and for your future. Do it for the people who’s lives this woman will damage if you don’t tell your story. Do this for your son and for the pain you endured and the sleepless nights it created, the anxiety, the fear, the trauma you experienced. Nothing can make right what happened to you because of that letter, but knowing that you can finally do something about it, even all of these years later, can be somewhat of a consolation. And a confidence-booster. Knowing that the nights you spent feeling that the whole world was against you were not in vain and were not right. No one should be made to suffer so much. You can’t take back the suffering, but you can take back your life. You can take ownership of your past and rewrite your story. Write your story in a way that you would want to be remembered for the rest of your life. Let justice take its course. All you have to do is tell your story. Nothing else. The judge, the general attorney, balance of good and evil, and fate will take care of the rest. And God is behind you lifting you up because you are his child and were made in the image of him.
Lord, anything that is evil, I cast and bind it away to the foot of the cross, Amen. May my dear friend be protected by your ever-lasting love and be infused with the peace that passes all understanding. Please let the strength and the courage which are already within her shine through and give her a sense of knowing that standing up in trial and telling her story is the right thing to do. Please give her the wisdom to choose her words carefully and not let anxiety get the best of her. Please let her rest and prepare for this important occasion you have granted her and challenged her with. And please bless her for being just who she is, because who she is, is just enough.

Reaction to “I am Jane Doe” Film

Disclaimer: This is an extremely personal and private journal entry.

I have no words yet I must express myself after having experienced the film, “I am Jane Doe” tonight. Shock. Sadness. Fear. Terror. Disgust. Silence. These are the first words which come to my mind. These women had evidence in regards to what happened to them, and they lost their court cases but they didn’t give up.

I have no evidence. Nothing will ever make right what happened to me during my early adulthood. There could be so many “If only’s.” But I cannot dwell in that realm. What I can do is fight the depression. What I can do is to keep living and to survive every moment of suicidal ideation which comes my way. What I can do is to continue to see my psychotherapist who has, over the course of nine dedicated years, changed my life for the better, who has stuck by me through every setback and every frustration, and who helped me get through the pain and the tears just last week because of the memories of the life that I used to live.

The sexual abuse started in 2005 but he had been grooming me for it since the year 2000. I met him in 1996 for the first time in a physical exercise class where I was at least two years younger than everybody else in that class, save my twin brother. All of the girls had started to grow breasts and I didn’t even have a training bra because I didn’t need it yet. My chest was flat. Little did I know that I had met my future abuser who would later sell my body for profit on Backpage.com and on Craigslist.com, who would put me on starvation diets so that I would weigh not much more than a young teenager, who made me regularly get my vulva waxed so that he could enjoy “playing” with my hairless vagina, as if I were a child, who bought for me and made me wear children’s underwear and children’s two-piece bathing suits while having sex with me, who hated my big breasts, and who coerced and manipulated me into having humiliating “pee accidents” on the floor so that he could be sexually aroused. To be honest, the list and the run-on sentence could span many pages but the idea of the clear perversion is already there.

My fingers clutching my favourite pen, uncapped, hovering in the air like a pendulum stopped halfway whilst that same right hand takes a pause from the tension in my tendons and forearm muscles, propping up my bowing head. My eyes close and I take a breath. I open my eyes again to the reality of the safety I have created for myself which had been years in the making. This is my home and I am in charge of my life. I make my own decisions, I buy my own food and clothes, and I even have a say in what happens to the money which I earn. I wear my hair as I like, long and free-flowing with no product to alter its natural beauty and I no longer have to wear contact lenses for the sole purpose of making my eyes look blue or green, a stark contrast to my natural olive skin and the hazel eyes I was born with. I haven’t touched a straightening iron or curling iron for over five years, save the Winter Formal my company hosted in a ballroom last year, for which I foolishly and lavishly wore a $700 dress “just because I could” purchased by the unexpected alimony I had recently received by the sale of his company, whose beginnings I suffered through, and of which monies my ex-abuser thought I did not deserve a penny.

Here I pause because I am allowed to take respite from the breathlessly long sentences running through my hidden veins which want to be heard and acknowledged. I am okay. I am okay and I am always going to be okay no matter what may come, because I have learned how to take care of myself.

This piece which I am actively composing is not only dear to my heart, starkly honest, and telling of my vulnerabilities but also my strengths, it is so intensely personal, pivotal in this moment and important to me that I was compelled to pull out my personal journal and become a part of the process, fully engaged, where ink becomes shapes, which become words and finally, sentences. I am not typing these words on a computer keyboard or via my phone; I am creating strength and beauty which is taking shape in my own handwriting. How special is that.

I do not have the time or energy to continue this on for much longer because I now live a life that is full of things which living people do, as opposed to being oppressed by the grip of the death wish of suicidality because of the trauma which I experienced at the hands of an immoral man who is likely doing the same thing he did to me to someone else.

At this, I must conclude, because I simply can’t go on any longer right now. I must go heal myself so that I can face another day of the mostly and amazingly happy life which I now lead.

Remediation

I haven’t even started my master’s program and I am already looking at Ph.D. programs. A year ago I wasn’t that bold. Two years ago, that would have been unthinkable. Three years ago I might have laughed and completely dismissed the idea with a statement like, “you’re crazy.” (Keeping in mind that the “c” word is not ideal because it perpetuates stereotypes and false societal perception of mental illness, as well as trivializes the experience of those suffering from mental illness.) A lot has changed in the last few years. I also never would have thought of myself as being a responsible dog owner and the fact that I just passed my two-year anniversary at my job is almost unheard of. Yet, it’s possible and it’s real.

I possess so much more stability that I used to. (Positive self-talk: “Yes! Own it, girl!”) The medications I am on not only “seem” to be working, they are working. I have certainly have had moments of extreme instability earlier this year including several bouts of suicidal ideation. But the frequency of those instances is decreasing and the buffer of my resilience is increasing. Just shy of a year ago I began seeing my therapist twice weekly instead of once, and it has served me well. I wanted and needed the extra support. When grad school begins in a month, I may even, at least sometimes at first, only see him once a week. A month ago I didn’t like the idea of not seeing him twice a week anymore, but I am getting myself used to the idea.

I have also been seeing my psychiatrist for almost a year. It took a long time and was harrowing trying to find a psychiatrist whom I liked, who was nonjudgmental (i.e. didn’t make me cry), less critical, and simply, accepting of me. A lot can be conveyed without words. Since I left my inpatient and outpatient psychiatrists in 2015, I spent a year and a half seeing people I didn’t like seeing. But I was too ill to fight for myself, that is, to expend the sumptuous effort it would have taken to find a new psychiatrist. My outpatient psychiatrist refused to see me unless I paid cash up front, rather than going through my insurance, because one of her bills was included in my bankruptcy. I was angry at her and I felt bad at the same time. I didn’t want to blame myself, but I did.

I have been taking a course called Psychology of Lifespan development. We have our final exam in four days and I haven’t really sat down to study yet. This was not a required course for my graduate program and I am glad I took it. I have learned a lot. I also finally started my new volunteer job a few weeks ago at a large county-funded organization that works with at-risk youth including those who are homeless. As a volunteer I am allowed to attend treatment team meetings. I will also be working with their adoption support services program and after attending my third movie night next week so that they can see how I interact with the children (or “kiddos” as they call them) I will be assigned a child to mentor on a weekly basis. I don’t know what age the child will be but I am figuring that it will be a younger child because in the movie night groups I have been assigned to the group with the youngest of children, starting at age two. My previous volunteer experience in the church nursery also lends toward this age range. The minimum time commitment is a strict six-month rule but I hope to continue with the child for much longer. I will simply need to see how my life and availability plays out. I want to be the best positive role model I can be, accepting, patient, and understanding.

My Fall classes include Introduction to Clinical Practice: Basic Skills, Theories of Psychotherapy, and Psychopathology. I am a proud new owner of the DSM-5, and each course has at least three required books. A few of those books I have purchased on Kindle, but there is something about physically holding a book under a reading light and being able to underline passages with pencil which isn’t the same as reading a book on the computer and highlighting passages with the click of the keypad (or whatever that area on the keyboard is called where I drag my fingers and click, since using a mouse with a laptop is so uncommon these days).

I have begun working on Saturdays to make time up missed at work during the week because of my volunteer job. It wasn’t easy getting approval to miss hours during the week for the volunteer job and then I had to be authorized to work on Saturdays. Once grad school begins I am going to have to tell them that I can no longer work on the weekend because of my school commitments. I also want to work part-time. I received more loan offers than I was expecting to receive, because of my bankruptcy, and I accepted most of them so that I would be able to afford spending more time on my school work and less time at a job. Only, I am afraid they won’t let me reduce my hours by very much. In the long-run, if I had to work 30 hours down from 40 a week, that would mean less student debt. However, I want to work only 20 hours so that my real full-time job can be studying. I feel that I need and want it. I am willing to train another sales assistant of they choose to hire one. The previous assistant resigned not too long ago because she needed full-time work in order to be able to pay her bills. I was sad to see her go because we had become friends. We are still in touch, only, I don’t get to see her any more.

I really do have a good life. I have a blessed life. I am grateful for my resilience at overcoming the most difficult of obstacles. I fought every day for my mental health, even on the days when I couldn’t (or “chose not to” as my therapist would correct me) get out of bed. When I was in bed, I was protecting myself from harm, even if those stimuli of the world outside of my bedroom were merely perceived threats, and I was preserving my well-being. It was mostly for protection so that I wouldn’t have to deal with “the world.”

Today is Saturday and I slept for eight hours the night before. I indulged in a lazy afternoon nap after work which ended up being a three-hour nap. Luckily I woke up while the sun was still out so that I could go for a nice ten-minute walk with my sweet dog, who napped alongside me on the bed (as usual). The weather is hot and I have the air conditioning on. Where I lived in 2015 there was no air conditioning. That was a miserable place to live, so I won’t think about it any more. I don’t have to focus on the bad things that happened to me in the past any longer. I can go into a bad memory, and experience sadness, but then I am able to bring myself out of it. Those dips into bad memories are less frequent and they do happen often in the realm of my therapy hour, which is a safe place to experience those feelings associated with the memories. Yes, I was raped, and that was the least of my worries in my old life. But no one needs to know that. Not any more. I don’t need to keep telling everyone I meet my story. I have managed to only tell two people at work whom I trust about my past, and almost none of my coworkers other than those two know anything about my past, the fact that I was suicidal for many years, that I hadn’t worked for a period of five years due to mental illness. I am okay now and I am resilient as shit and I am a fucking warrior.