To my Therapist,
My dog has his face buried into the couch. He looks just like I did today when I was waiting for Dr. D. (my psychiatrist). Only, he’s more relaxed and he’s not about to cry.
I feel devastatingly sad today and my heart aches. If there were actual, physical pain, then I could grasp it. I could hold onto it. I could say, see? But you can’t see. No one can actually see my pain. It’s invisible to the naked eye. My past symptoms of PTSD, they were all in my head. It may have been real, but now it’s surreal and I can’t stand this feeling of emptiness filled with pain and sorrow and the longing for a better life, the longing for a life without those painful memories.
I didn’t choose to be abused. I didn’t choose this life. I didn’t choose to be brought into this world full of pain, awful, heart-wrenching pain.
I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I don’t want to live this life. I don’t want to feel pain. I don’t want to feel memories of the memories of the pain. Why is this happening to me? Why did I make that stupid decision yesterday to plug in the hard drive? I thought I could just copy my current stuff onto the drive without opening a folder. But it didn’t work that way. That’s not what happened.
I can’t not be triggered by what I did. I’m not there yet. I’ve worked really hard in therapy over the last years. You yourself said that I kept coming back. That means I didn’t give up. I never actually gave up no matter how hopeless life seemed at the time. I kept coming to see you and I let you hold the hope for me until it could slowly be transferred over to me.
I know you’re not worried about me. I know you think I’m going to be fine. And the truth is, I probably will be fine. Later tonight, I will go to sleep with my dog by my side and a new day will be gone. The horror of today will be in the immediate past, but still, in the past.
My dog has seen me cry a few times in the past couple days. I think it is confusing to him. I would be confused if my mom were crying desperately whilst at the same time petting me with a calm and steady hand.
My roommate put out her diffuser by my side of the couch and it has lavender oil in it. There is a mile high and wide pile of dishes which are mine and dirty. I have neglected them completely. I took myself out to lunch today and had a nutritious and very filling salmon burrito. But then all I could manage for dinner was a plain white bagel with cream cheese. I’m not even hungry now.
Yesterday I was going to starve myself. So I didn’t eat lunch but then finally decided to stop punishing myself for awful things that weren’t my fault, and I ate something. I’m sure I told you about it in an email last night, but I tend to repeat things and not remember that I already told the story to you. And you listen to me with patience, curiosity, and insight each time. When you ask me if you’ve told me the story about the little girl in Kindergarten who was able to understand math with visual objects, or stories from the farm, or when you found the kittens freezing at Christmas by a manhole in front of your home, how you put them on your stomach to warm them up and how some didn’t make it, and I say, no, I’ve never heard that story before (because I genuinely don’t remember) then you tell it to me again as if it’s the first time you’re telling me about it. I also love when you tell me about making the special bread rolls at Thanksgiving and watching them rise in the oven and that they don’t always turn out perfectly because it has to be timed just right.
Look. See what I did for myself. I just used all of the coping skills you’ve ever taught me. Well, not all, but I used the skills I have learned. You see, all this time, you have been telling me that I have a choice. That I don’t have to act on my feelings. That feelings are there to inform us, to give us information. That anger isn’t a bad emotion, it’s just an emotion. Dr. D. told me that I have a choice in how I feel, even though it feels like I can’t control my feelings and that I am having an emergency. But that things don’t have to be urgent and I guess I don’t have to have mental health crises and emergencies.
I really want to learn how to control my emergencies. I don’t want to live through another day like yesterday and today. While leaving Dr. D.’s office yesterday I thought about stepping into oncoming traffic, but I knew it wouldn’t kill me because we were downtown and they weren’t going fast enough. So I didn’t do it. I guess it was really an emotion that told me to step out into traffic and I didn’t listen to that inner voice. But you know, it’s really hard to separate yourself from an emotion that you are experiencing. Is that what all psychotherapists are able to do? Because it’s God-awfully hard to do. I told Dr. D. there’s no way I could or would want to do what he does every day and deal with people like me. He said, well then I guess it’s good that you’re not in the program. Maybe in five years I will be ready for this and I can try it again when I have worked hard to build up my emotional resiliency.
I really need to shower tonight because I tell myself that, even though I don’t like showering, I need to do it every other day so that I don’t show up at work with greasy hair.
You know what I hate? When I’ve taken off a mental health day from work and then the next day my boss says, “you look fine.” Well, screw that. I can lie and tell her how nauseated I felt at the time, but my personal life isn’t hers to know. Who is she to ask questions about things that are private? I don’t have to tell anyone any longer about my traumatic past because I am leaving it behind.
Which brings me to my main question I have to figure out tomorrow with you. Do I erase the hard drive and all of the bad along with good things or will I one day regret it? Dr. D. said there is no urgency and I don’t have to do it now. I can wait. I thought it was going to happen today, but maybe it’s better to not act impulsively, even though the friends whom I’ve asked have all agreed I should delete it all and that I can make new memories.
I have to go now and take care of myself.
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:
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.
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.
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.
To my Therapist,
Disclaimer: This is an extremely personal and private journal entry.
I have no words yet I must express myself after having experienced the film, “I am Jane Doe” tonight. Shock. Sadness. Fear. Terror. Disgust. Silence. These are the first words which come to my mind. These women had evidence in regards to what happened to them, and they lost their court cases but they didn’t give up.
I have no evidence. Nothing will ever make right what happened to me during my early adulthood. There could be so many “If only’s.” But I cannot dwell in that realm. What I can do is fight the depression. What I can do is to keep living and to survive every moment of suicidal ideation which comes my way. What I can do is to continue to see my psychotherapist who has, over the course of nine dedicated years, changed my life for the better, who has stuck by me through every setback and every frustration, and who helped me get through the pain and the tears just last week because of the memories of the life that I used to live.
The sexual abuse started in 2005 but he had been grooming me for it since the year 2000. I met him in 1996 for the first time in a physical exercise class where I was at least two years younger than everybody else in that class, save my twin brother. All of the girls had started to grow breasts and I didn’t even have a training bra because I didn’t need it yet. My chest was flat. Little did I know that I had met my future abuser who would later sell my body for profit on Backpage.com and on Craigslist.com, who would put me on starvation diets so that I would weigh not much more than a young teenager, who made me regularly get my vulva waxed so that he could enjoy “playing” with my hairless vagina, as if I were a child, who bought for me and made me wear children’s underwear and children’s two-piece bathing suits while having sex with me, who hated my big breasts, and who coerced and manipulated me into having humiliating “pee accidents” on the floor so that he could be sexually aroused. To be honest, the list and the run-on sentence could span many pages but the idea of the clear perversion is already there.
My fingers clutching my favourite pen, uncapped, hovering in the air like a pendulum stopped halfway whilst that same right hand takes a pause from the tension in my tendons and forearm muscles, propping up my bowing head. My eyes close and I take a breath. I open my eyes again to the reality of the safety I have created for myself which had been years in the making. This is my home and I am in charge of my life. I make my own decisions, I buy my own food and clothes, and I even have a say in what happens to the money which I earn. I wear my hair as I like, long and free-flowing with no product to alter its natural beauty and I no longer have to wear contact lenses for the sole purpose of making my eyes look blue or green, a stark contrast to my natural olive skin and the hazel eyes I was born with. I haven’t touched a straightening iron or curling iron for over five years, save the Winter Formal my company hosted in a ballroom last year, for which I foolishly and lavishly wore a $700 dress “just because I could” purchased by the unexpected alimony I had recently received by the sale of his company, whose beginnings I suffered through, and of which monies my ex-abuser thought I did not deserve a penny.
Here I pause because I am allowed to take respite from the breathlessly long sentences running through my hidden veins which want to be heard and acknowledged. I am okay. I am okay and I am always going to be okay no matter what may come, because I have learned how to take care of myself.
This piece which I am actively composing is not only dear to my heart, starkly honest, and telling of my vulnerabilities but also my strengths, it is so intensely personal, pivotal in this moment and important to me that I was compelled to pull out my personal journal and become a part of the process, fully engaged, where ink becomes shapes, which become words and finally, sentences. I am not typing these words on a computer keyboard or via my phone; I am creating strength and beauty which is taking shape in my own handwriting. How special is that.
I do not have the time or energy to continue this on for much longer because I now live a life that is full of things which living people do, as opposed to being oppressed by the grip of the death wish of suicidality because of the trauma which I experienced at the hands of an immoral man who is likely doing the same thing he did to me to someone else.
At this, I must conclude, because I simply can’t go on any longer right now. I must go heal myself so that I can face another day of the mostly and amazingly happy life which I now lead.
I haven’t even started my master’s program and I am already looking at Ph.D. programs. A year ago I wasn’t that bold. Two years ago, that would have been unthinkable. Three years ago I might have laughed and completely dismissed the idea with a statement like, “you’re crazy.” (Keeping in mind that the “c” word is not ideal because it perpetuates stereotypes and false societal perception of mental illness, as well as trivializes the experience of those suffering from mental illness.) A lot has changed in the last few years. I also never would have thought of myself as being a responsible dog owner and the fact that I just passed my two-year anniversary at my job is almost unheard of. Yet, it’s possible and it’s real.
I possess so much more stability that I used to. (Positive self-talk: “Yes! Own it, girl!”) The medications I am on not only “seem” to be working, they are working. I have certainly have had moments of extreme instability earlier this year including several bouts of suicidal ideation. But the frequency of those instances is decreasing and the buffer of my resilience is increasing. Just shy of a year ago I began seeing my therapist twice weekly instead of once, and it has served me well. I wanted and needed the extra support. When grad school begins in a month, I may even, at least sometimes at first, only see him once a week. A month ago I didn’t like the idea of not seeing him twice a week anymore, but I am getting myself used to the idea.
I have also been seeing my psychiatrist for almost a year. It took a long time and was harrowing trying to find a psychiatrist whom I liked, who was nonjudgmental (i.e. didn’t make me cry), less critical, and simply, accepting of me. A lot can be conveyed without words. Since I left my inpatient and outpatient psychiatrists in 2015, I spent a year and a half seeing people I didn’t like seeing. But I was too ill to fight for myself, that is, to expend the sumptuous effort it would have taken to find a new psychiatrist. My outpatient psychiatrist refused to see me unless I paid cash up front, rather than going through my insurance, because one of her bills was included in my bankruptcy. I was angry at her and I felt bad at the same time. I didn’t want to blame myself, but I did.
I have been taking a course called Psychology of Lifespan development. We have our final exam in four days and I haven’t really sat down to study yet. This was not a required course for my graduate program and I am glad I took it. I have learned a lot. I also finally started my new volunteer job a few weeks ago at a large county-funded organization that works with at-risk youth including those who are homeless. As a volunteer I am allowed to attend treatment team meetings. I will also be working with their adoption support services program and after attending my third movie night next week so that they can see how I interact with the children (or “kiddos” as they call them) I will be assigned a child to mentor on a weekly basis. I don’t know what age the child will be but I am figuring that it will be a younger child because in the movie night groups I have been assigned to the group with the youngest of children, starting at age two. My previous volunteer experience in the church nursery also lends toward this age range. The minimum time commitment is a strict six-month rule but I hope to continue with the child for much longer. I will simply need to see how my life and availability plays out. I want to be the best positive role model I can be, accepting, patient, and understanding.
My Fall classes include Introduction to Clinical Practice: Basic Skills, Theories of Psychotherapy, and Psychopathology. I am a proud new owner of the DSM-5, and each course has at least three required books. A few of those books I have purchased on Kindle, but there is something about physically holding a book under a reading light and being able to underline passages with pencil which isn’t the same as reading a book on the computer and highlighting passages with the click of the keypad (or whatever that area on the keyboard is called where I drag my fingers and click, since using a mouse with a laptop is so uncommon these days).
I have begun working on Saturdays to make time up missed at work during the week because of my volunteer job. It wasn’t easy getting approval to miss hours during the week for the volunteer job and then I had to be authorized to work on Saturdays. Once grad school begins I am going to have to tell them that I can no longer work on the weekend because of my school commitments. I also want to work part-time. I received more loan offers than I was expecting to receive, because of my bankruptcy, and I accepted most of them so that I would be able to afford spending more time on my school work and less time at a job. Only, I am afraid they won’t let me reduce my hours by very much. In the long-run, if I had to work 30 hours down from 40 a week, that would mean less student debt. However, I want to work only 20 hours so that my real full-time job can be studying. I feel that I need and want it. I am willing to train another sales assistant of they choose to hire one. The previous assistant resigned not too long ago because she needed full-time work in order to be able to pay her bills. I was sad to see her go because we had become friends. We are still in touch, only, I don’t get to see her any more.
I really do have a good life. I have a blessed life. I am grateful for my resilience at overcoming the most difficult of obstacles. I fought every day for my mental health, even on the days when I couldn’t (or “chose not to” as my therapist would correct me) get out of bed. When I was in bed, I was protecting myself from harm, even if those stimuli of the world outside of my bedroom were merely perceived threats, and I was preserving my well-being. It was mostly for protection so that I wouldn’t have to deal with “the world.”
Today is Saturday and I slept for eight hours the night before. I indulged in a lazy afternoon nap after work which ended up being a three-hour nap. Luckily I woke up while the sun was still out so that I could go for a nice ten-minute walk with my sweet dog, who napped alongside me on the bed (as usual). The weather is hot and I have the air conditioning on. Where I lived in 2015 there was no air conditioning. That was a miserable place to live, so I won’t think about it any more. I don’t have to focus on the bad things that happened to me in the past any longer. I can go into a bad memory, and experience sadness, but then I am able to bring myself out of it. Those dips into bad memories are less frequent and they do happen often in the realm of my therapy hour, which is a safe place to experience those feelings associated with the memories. Yes, I was raped, and that was the least of my worries in my old life. But no one needs to know that. Not any more. I don’t need to keep telling everyone I meet my story. I have managed to only tell two people at work whom I trust about my past, and almost none of my coworkers other than those two know anything about my past, the fact that I was suicidal for many years, that I hadn’t worked for a period of five years due to mental illness. I am okay now and I am resilient as shit and I am a fucking warrior.
I wish I could take a picture of my life as it is now. Snapshot, and I’m done. I could post a photograph of me sitting in my teak wooden chair on my patio with my dog curled up in his bed in front of me and green plants growing in pots, the warm air filling my lungs in the evening light, but that mere description wouldn’t do my life justice. Or, would it? Instead, I am going to write. I am going to write more and I am going to write like I’ve never written before. Because really, it has been a couple months since I last took the pleasure of writing down my thoughts and feelings in a proper blog entry. That is, what I consider a proper blog entry.
A mini crisis just swept over me. I saw my neighbours walk by me with glasses of wine in tow. No, it wasn’t just one person. There were six ladies talking and laughing, each with a glass of wine in their hand. I had an intense craving for wine. This whole episode lasted less than ten minutes but it was an obstacle to surmount, for sure. I talked it through with my roommate. I’m lucky I have her. She said that if she ever gets a craving for something like that she eats a piece of sweet fruit. Luckily I have some perfectly ripe summer peaches in the kitchen and I ate one, dripping over the sink. It did help. It helped.
Sometimes I wonder if I am intentionally thinking about hurting myself. I wanted to drink wine just now, but over the last weeks I have been obsessing about reading some of my old journal entries, emails, and poems which are full of pain, hurt, and suicidal ideation. It would be catastrophic to my current state of equilibrium. I would feel awful and I’m sure I would actively want to kill myself again. That feels awful. It has been two or three months since I last thought about planning a suicide. God, I’m so brainwashed that I always initially think of the word “committing” suicide as if I am “committing” a crime. It’s planning. It’s completion of the suicide. But it is not something that someone commits. People die of suicide. Suicide is not a diagnosis but it is because of a mental health condition, a verifiable illness of the mind and of a chemical imbalance in the brain, that a person would even think of planning a suicide.
I just picked my nose. And I must say, it was incredibly satisfying because I sucessfully extracted some hardened mucous, which I then tossed with with the aide of my forefinger and thumb to the side. It was a good distraction. Anyone who tells me they don’t pick their nose from time to time is lying. As children, we are taught that doing so is not appropriate to do in public. But in private? Hell yes! Plus my dog doesn’t care. He licks his ass and poops in front of me. He doesn’t even care if I’m naked. He accepts me as I am. I want to metaphorically be able to lick my own ass and have someone love me in spite of having been witness to such an act.
It’s half past seven and the sky is getting a little bit darker. The shadows are long and the reflection of the sunlight off of the white buildings is a deep, golden yellow. My roommate has miniature pots with plants in them lined up on the stone of the patio wall in the following order: catnip, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, spearmint and thyme. She has them labeled and in each pot there is a small bit of green sticking out of the soil. Growing plants is a beautiful thing. It is a lovely past-time. One must be consistent to water the plants on a regular basis just as it is important to shower one’s soul with self-love in regular doses.
I moved into my home and am sitting on my light sage green couch on top of a white blanket with my chihuahua blend dog right next to me. I didn’t feel like eating a real dinner so what I have eaten is a peach, a banana, sweet potato chips, and my new favourite Noosa brand yogurt. I’d say, healthy enough and definitely satisfying to the taste buds.
I suddenly remember a friend of mine from over five years ago. I don’t remember why we parted from our friendship. We had been friends from 2009 – 2012 and when we parted I was at one of the peaks of my journey with mental illness. I must have really not wanted to contact her again, because I deleted all of her contact information, including her address. I know what city she lives in but I cannot send her a letter. I was there the day after her baby was born. I documented her child’s first years through photographs and I made her an album. And now, we have no contact and I have never met her twin daughters.
I think I’m ready to go back to the hard stuff again. Why do I self harm? Why do I want to self harm? My therapist suggested that when things are going really well for me I seem to want to do something to sabotage it, so that things aren’t going so well any longer. “I know you’re doing your job to point out patterns,” I told him in a brisque manner. “That sounded angry but you look sad,” he replied. Yes, he was right. It made me sad to think of this topic. I wasn’t angry, nor was I annoyed. But somehow it came out that way.
I’m not a bad person. I am absolutely in no way a bad person. Then why do I treat myself as if I were bad? As if I need punishment? I seem to want to punish myself. But why? What have I done that has been so wrong? Weren’t those things done to me? I am not innocent but I certainly wasn’t the perpetrator of all the hurt and harm which happened in my life. At least not initially. I was treated so badly for so many years that I came to believe that somehow I deserve to be treated in that way, and that that is the only way to live. I even thought I deserved to die. That the only thing I deserved was to die, and it would have been a release from the pain and the ultimate expression of self-hatred. But just this past Saturday I decided that I love my life.
Things are good right now. Summer school started yesterday. Grad school begins at the end of August. It’s a three-year program. I am in process of applying to volunteer my time as a mentor / tutor to a child in a county-funded program for at-risk youth. I also plan to help out with marketing events for my local psychological association which I just joined. I want to get hooked into the local scene with psychologists and MFT’s. I want to get to know people and I want others to get to know me. Last night I had a long, private conversation with my professor after class and we walked to the garage together where our cars were parked. I believe she enjoyed my enthusiasm for pursuing my future helping career.
I have to close the blinds right now because it has become dark outside and almost an hour has passed since I began writing this entry. My dog is snoring lightly. I think of it more like his version of a cat’s purr.
I took another break. I was still hungry so I ate some homemade black beans with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. It was good. Then I went pee for the third time in three hours, hand-washed the dishes as I always do, and petted my dog. Here I am again, at my computer and more time has passed. I’m not worried about the time or the impending, looming hour that says it’s time for bed. I could go to bed right now if I wanted to. But I don’t want to go to bed yet.
I just can’t do it. I can’t do it. I am unable to focus on things which are difficult to talk about, think about, write about. All I managed was a few paragraphs today amid some healthy fluff. I can’t talk about why I am triggered at times to think of harming myself. I don’t want to think about it. I’m done. I’m in control. I get to say when enough is enough. I want to process these concepts with the help of my therapist. It’s far too difficult to do on my own. But I did do it. I managed just a little bit on my own. And that is enough. If I can accept the idea that I want to harm myself with loving kindness, then I won’t have to fight it. I can just let it be and acknowledge it and not act on it.
Emotions don’t have to control. They simply inform. The fact that I wanted to drink tonight informs me that I got triggered by seeing others holding wine glasses, which immediately brought me to self-harming thoughts, because alcohol used to be related to self harm. I used to drink when cutting myself and I used to drink when I felt suicidal so that I would have the impaired decision-making to carry through with a plan for suicide, whilst I inevitably always called the suicide hotline.
I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. I can just keep telling myself that I am okay. Then, I will begin to believe it. The reality is that I am indeed okay, but I just wrote about some not okay things, things that are not okay with me and things that I am not okay with. But me, my person, my being, I am okay. I am really okay. Now, with loving kindness, I shall focus my attention onto my napping therapy dog. Because I have the power to choose where my attention goes.