Depression? What’s That?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Self-Soothing and Learning to Say “No”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motherfucker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Discovery: I am a Powerful Being

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

To Believe in Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Can Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Have Skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.