I’ve Worked Really Hard to Get Here

In about four weeks I will be leaving to go to Italy and England. I was so incredibly angry yesterday. In fact, I know I’m not feeling good about it still because my handwriting is all messy and I’m not making any effort to make it bubby and pretty.

My dog is in my lap. He is so cute and cuddly. I’m going to miss him when I am gone. His face is right by my left hand on the flat arm of the couch, while I am holding up the leather-bound journal I am writing in.

I thought I was going to want to write all about the drama of yesterday, how I felt suicidal for two hours, how I had gotten triggered. But the truth is that it’s over now. I focused solely and entirely on being with and on petting my amazing therapy dog. I thought I was going to write all about the experience, so that others might relate to what I was going through: my thoughts, my feelings. I even had a title picked out for my blog entry. It was going to be “To Die or Not to Die.” Pretty catchy title, isn’t it?

My tea is no longer hot and I accidentally smeared the wet ink at the end of the last sentence. There is no way I am going to type all of this up later. I might try the Google Voice function for the first time. I’ve never used it to recite a text, just a sentence here or there. Then I can go back and correct the mistakes.

My dog is white, like a creamy white, with an orange left ear and a right ear which is mostly white with orange spots on it. He has orange patches around his eyes, so it looks like he is wearing a mask. It’s really cute.

Notice how I am distracting myself? I’m not wanting to focus on what happened yesterday. But I’ll tell you one thing which makes me angry. I bet not one person out of the 350 people, who work in that building of the company I work for, have to deal with suicidal thoughts like I do.

Yes, they might have a bad day, but do they think about ingesting over 1,000 mg of ibuprofen or drinking bleach or jumping off the big bridge in town? I didn’t think so.

I had to calm myself down just now, out of instinct. I exhaled loudly and put my left hand on my left cheek and leaned into it, propping up my head. And I closed my eyes. It’s a form of taking a break. It’s a pretty useful tool to have under my belt. On top of that, my lower back is hurting at a 5 out of 10 pain level. When I wake up in the mornings, the pain has lately been a 9 out of 10, 10 being the worst pain.

I just took this incredible half hour cuddle break with Samuel, my therapy dog, and I feel so much better. I feel rejuvenated and no longer tired like I was earlier. My tummy is still full of the plain, creamy yogurt, honey, and granola mix that I ate just a couple of hours ago. Its 11:00 and I have to be sitting at my desk in two hours, but for now, I am at home in a comfy sweatshirt, sweatpants and no bra. It’s brilliant!

I was originally going to take the whole day off of work today in order to attend to business classes. But I’m holding off on getting my non-profit organization started (or charity, as they call it in the U.K.) and I don’t need to know how to create a “30-second sizzler elevator pitch” for my business just yet.

I had another brilliant idea today. I took out my cast-iron teapot from the top of the bookshelf. It has been sitting there unused for over two years. And I made tea in it! And it feels special and great to be using it. Years ago, back in 2013, I used to enjoy making tea in it a lot. And then I just stopped using it.

I probably thought of this because tomorrow night my therapist and I are going to be doing what has become a tradition. He has a cast-iron teapot made for two and he is going to make tea for us. Then we will drink it together. That is how we celebrate my birthday and I love it. We started the tradition last year and our therapy session was actually on the day of my birthday. I brought cupcakes and two candles, one for me and one for my brother, and I blew them both out after making a wish. Only I ate the cupcakes, however!

 

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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.

Self-Soothing and Learning to Say “No”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motherfucker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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!

Unsent Letter

To the CEO of the small company that I work for:

I don’t want to appear emotional so I am making the choice to tell you on paper rather than in person. I want you to know that I respect you as the CEO of the company I work for, as the “big boss” and as the one who makes the final decisions. The power differential between you and me is very clear and I want to respect that differential. But we are both human and I want to be honest with you and share some insight with you as to how I currently feel. My words just seem to come out better when I write them down on paper.

I think we can agree to disagree. That having been said, I did not like the way you spoke with me earlier. You may as well have been yelling at me, and in fact, that is my perception of what happened. I dare not speak of the “tone” of your voice lest that be perceived as disrespectful (which is the last thing that I want to have happen.) In fact, you are my boss, which would preclude and imply that you have the right to speak with me in that way, because you are the decision-maker.

But honestly, your conversation at my desk with me made me feel like crap. I understand that you are coming from an emotional place. I understand that you are not happy with how our program is doing, even upset, frustrated, and angry. I know that you probably don’t blame just one person, but somewhere, somehow, someone has to take the blame, regardless. When you were speaking one-on-one with just me, you were probably speaking also to the whole team, when you said that “you have to take responsibility and ownership” of the repapering.

I want you to know that I am doing what I can for the whole team. I am trying! If you want me to do better, than I need you to tell me how I can do better. It was obvious that my statement, “but we haven’t really had a program manager” made you angry, upset, defensive, protective, and possibly even offended. For that I sincerely apologize. It was not my intent to place blame. It was simply the first thing that came to my mind. But if you could just put yourself in my shoes for just one minute, knowing that every single day I strive to do the best that I can in terms of providing excellent, prompt, courteous customer service to our clients, as well as picking up the phone without hesitation every time an advisor calls in order to provide support to them. I answer emails promptly and I follow through on tasks. I struggle every week with staying on top of new referral calls and all of the follow-up calls. When I feel like I’m not making progress and when I am behind on calls, I feel down.

It’s not about whether or not we have a program manager – you are right. However, given that from my perspective I am doing what I can, I need someone else to come in and tell me how I can do my job better. I cannot do that on my own, with no feedback. And my understanding here is that we are all a team, which implies that we support each other. A well-oiled machine only works if all of its parts are working. So here I am asking you, or someone on your team, to show me how to help myself. The whole point of an annual review is so that we can recognize performance as well as seeing how it can improve and setting goals to make that happen.

As you may know, my annual performance review is very important to me. You told me during our conversation that S. is my direct manager and that I should be asking her on how I can improve my performance in preparation for my anniversary, which is coming up in about six months on August 3rd. As I told you today, my repeated requests starting at exactly this time of the year last year went ignored. At first I directed my requests to Sara and then when Jenna came on board I asked her to evaluate my performance in preparation for my annual review. My request landed on deaf ears because they were lost amid everything else that we had going on in the program.

Basically, I am simply trying to convey to you that I am trying. And if my trying isn’t good enough, then I need some direction. I hope that you can also see this letter as an attempt to not only communicate with you, but to let you know that I take my job very seriously, as anyone should. You chose me. You hired me for a reason. I want that reason to shine through. I am not the sort of person who sits back and lets life happen to them. No, I take action. I shape and form my destiny with careful thought, consideration, and planning every step of the way. You chose to hire me, hopefully, out of all of the other individuals whom you interviewed for this position. If you had not hired me, then you wouldn’t be getting this letter from me, because the essence of this letter is who I am and I can’t not be me.

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.

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.