Current State of Affairs

Re-invigorated by the overwhelming positive response from my last blog, I shall attempt to humour you with some fanciful details of my current life as it stands, which is not so unlike my blog from last week. I had a mostly soporific weekend punctuated by a lovely dinner with friends. (Yes I do have some friends here in this not-so-new area of the world… it will soon be almost a year since I moved here). I have a new four-legged trailer, literally, attached at my hip (okay, figuratively); this creature wants to make sure I’m not out of his sight at all. I’m surprised, as I would deem him to be slightly neglected due to my depressive sleeping activities, but he seems to want to beg to differ. It’s as if he’s just begging to be petted. And so, the petting shall commence shortly.


In the meantime, I realized that whilst one of the hundred or so residents of my complex is using the gym, I might best make use of my time by doing some much-needed laundry. I seem pretty level-headed as of late. That means that my emotional state-of-being is even-keeled and I even feel invigorated today, which is surprising, it being a Monday. I’m impressed with myself. In fact, I’m doing so well that I’m seeing my therapist in two weeks rather than weekly.


“You’re only going to harm yourself, and then pass out,” the employee of the county mental health ward said to me, as I had barricaded myself from intruders into the room, only to wrap a towel around my neck in defiance of the insidious beasts that ran the ward. Did this have to do with my post-traumatic stress disorder? Probably. It’s a memory that popped up from January in the aftermath of my suicide attempt. Evidently I am still processing this memory. Healing from PTSD is not linear. No one can claim it to be so. Trauma memories pop up time and time again as intrusively as salty anchovies on a pizza… Can you tell I’m about to eat a pizza? 

I don’t know why that memory popped up but I’m not opposed to it either. It brings no significant feelings of remorse, more of disdain for the staff at county mental health. 

Before dinner on Saturday we stopped by FLAX art and design, a fabulous art supply warehouse where I dared to purchase a whatchamacallit… one of those things that you mix paint on to then apply haphazardly, in my case, to a canvas. I also spent $95 on stickers, gorgeous fake tattoos, a fancy set of colouring pens, and a mindfulness colouring book, among other things, which are intended to be gifts to a certain someone down the road (for her birthday). Hint: she’ll be 9 years old in a few months, must be a pretty special someone! I’m just delighted that I even have a gift for her this year. I’m pretty adept at getting birthday cards for special people but not so practised at buying gifts.

A little whiny creature is reminding me that dinner is sitting on the counter and has yet to be eaten. It’s cooling down from the oven. I am also reminded of how fortunate I am to have my very own apartment… that I don’t have to share it with anyone else. My dog can whine and I can talk out loud on the speaker phone without having to apologize to anyone.

The pizza was delicious and the scraps went to a certain someone who was begging for them. What would we do without our furry or feathered beings? I am reminded that I have to do better by him in the form of more frequent baths and medications to be dispensed daily instead of merely when I remember. He is truly a pleasure to come home to, lest the turds I find because he couldn’t wait to go outside.

All in all, things are well. Isn’t that great to hear? I couldn’t have imagined this being the case five months ago. Thanks for being a part of my journey and I look forward to checking in with you again soon. Peace.

My Dirty Little Secret

I have a secret that I keep hidden from most people. The secret is that I am dirty. I am being completely honest. When I rub my skin, just so, little remnants of dark substance come off of me and I rub it in between my thumb and forefinger into a little ball of… dirt. My aunt, whom I love and trust, tells me this is normal. It’s basically dead skin. We are human, and our body replenishes itself, including our skin. Our skin sheds, and new skin cells are formed. If we get a cut on our skin, our body heals itself. So I am not dirty, she says. I am just human.

I met my abuser when I was 12 years old. We had a class together. He was two years my senior. We reconnected after he graduated high school and started dating. The fact that my Mum didn’t like him made me want to date him more. The fact that I didn’t have a father after the age of three made it to where I didn’t know what a healthy relationship with a male counterpart should look like. I wanted to wait until I was 17 before we had sex for the first time, and my first time ever. He had other plans. Some might call it statutory rape because the age of consent is 18 in the state of California.

Many years later I fantasized about going back to that year and having him committed to jail for the statutory rape. Many years later I fantasized about having taken the external hard drive from our home that we later shared and giving it to the police, as it would have him committed to jail for possession of child pornography. Many years later, after undergoing years of sexual abuse, I fantasize about getting a gun and shooting him. Rage could define where I am at right now with my understanding of what has happened to me in my life. But many years later, I also still think that I am dirty, because men had sex with me while I was drunk and not able to consent to sex. Not once, but for six years.

At times I keep my fingernails long enough so that when I am in the shower, the seldom miraculous occurrence of a shower a week that happens, I stand there under the hot water scraping off the dead skin, off of my inner thighs, my chest, my neck, my arms, my bum, wherever I can reach, just scraping off dirt from my body, as it catches and collects under my fingernails. It’s proof to me that I am dirty, the fact that dead skin that looks like dirt, accumulates under my nails. I wash it clean and do it over and over again. I am dirty. I am dirty. I am dirty. And no matter how long the shower runs, wasting hot water, no matter how much dirt I get off of my body, there is always more.

Imagine how much dead skin needs to be cleared off of your body if you don’t shower more than once a week. I dread showers. I dread the nakedness, my fat, ugly body, appearing in front of the mirror as I make my way to the shower stall in my bedroom bathroom. I dread having wet hair for a night. I have really really long hair, it goes all the way down to my bum. Why don’t I get my hair cut? Rebellion! My abuser would always come with me to my hair appointments and tell the hair dresser how to cut and style and dye and highlight my hair. Never again! I get to have my hair as long as I damn well please. And it’s going to stay long, thank you very much. I’ve also thought about chopping it all off, which would be the polar opposite of what it is now.

So that’s my secret. My secret is that I am dirty. I can’t get off of my psyche the memories of decrepit man after sorry man raping me, not knowing even that I was not able to consent. He would always get me drunk, my abuser. “You’re more fun when you’re drunk” really translated to “I can get you to do my bidding.” My abuser? He’s alive and well, I would assume. There hasn’t been any contact since I left him nine years ago. I left him but he filed for divorce. Thank God! But really, he should be getting ass-raped in prison at this time. One can only dream and fantasize.

Trying to Figure Out My Worth After Sexual Abuse

What am I worth? Am I worth a $90k a year job when I’ve been working very underpaid jobs for the last six years? Before that, I couldn’t even hold a job. I was so broken. Broken down from a relationship that exploited me. Some say I was sexually abused. I say I was sex trafficked. I was only worth what someone would pay to have sex with me in a hotel room or at home in our living room with my malnourished, anorexic body.

My tears are still dripping as I type this. I’m too dumbfounded by the realization that I’ve undervalued myself for so many years to wipe the tears away. Wet, shining, they caress my cheek as they find their ultimate resting place. What am I good at? In my opinion, not very much. I don’t have much to speak for myself. Yes, I can write a mean poem and then recite it wholeheartedly. It takes everything out of me to perform my poetry. I need an entire day of rest before and after if I’m the headliner for the open mic show.

I’m on my sixth interview with a company. It’s scheduled for Monday, in just a few days, with the founder of the company. I guess they want to make sure that I am the right person for the job. If I get the offer, the numbers in the approximation of $90,000 will be stamped in black and white. Of course, in that area of the country, the living costs are very high. Rent would be around $40,000 a year, so that brings the number down a bit, and with taxes taken out, well, I would still be able to save a bit of money. I want to go visit my aunt in Australia one day. That will cost a bit of money.

When I think about my malnourished self of around the age of 24, that was in 2008. It’s when I started seeing my therapist, who hasn’t left my side in over a decade. I call myself malnourished because my abuser, who was also my husband and pimp and sex trafficker (the pimping out started only when we had gotten engaged)… let me side track for a minute. I remember an attorney over the phone exclaiming stupidly to me: “You married your pimp?” I’ll never forget those words. To an outsider who doesn’t know my story, it may seem like that. But no, I married my high school sweetheart. Only, he wasn’t so sweet. I didn’t know what narcissistic personality disorder was back then. I didn’t know that people who are sexually abused as children either become abusers themselves, or they heal from it. He was the first of those two options. We dated and the screwed up sex stuff didn’t start until he “owned” me by putting a ring on my finger.

In 2012 when I was 28 I left that relationship. I had been seeing my therapist for four years. I couldn’t take it any longer, the abuse, that is. Don’t get me wrong. There was a part of me that didn’t want to leave him. I was trauma bonded to this abuser and thought that I loved him. I grieved that loss of relationship for many years. It was a long time before the anger came. I still feel angry now and then. The anger rears its ugly head in the form of suicidal ideation. When I’m furious, I think about ending my life. At times, this is really intense.

Back to the beginning of where I started out. I’m about to get or not get a really good job offer that no one in their right mind would refuse. But it would mean leaving a city that has been my home for so long, and leaving my friends behind, even though I don’t see them often anyway. Taking this job would mean delaying my dream of going back to school to become a psychotherapist. But am I ready to help others when I am still healing myself? A therapist who helps suicidal people not kill themselves and yet experiences suicidal ideation on her own terms?

I really don’t know what to do. What am I worth? Does my $22/hour job define my worth? I’ve wanted to take a $15/hour job as a mental health worker, but that would mean I would be using a minimum of $10,000 a year of the nest egg I got from my divorce, because yes, everyone, the narcissistic man who sex trafficked me was a promising young CEO of a technology company. That’s the only reason I can afford to work such low paid jobs in the first place is the “savings” that I have which aren’t savings but divorce severance from the profit of a company sale, a company which I, in a way, helped to build, because I was married to the man who was a founder. Enough technicalities. I’m being completely open and honest here, and I have no idea who is going to read this, or what you, reader, are going to think. Of me. Of my story. Of my latest conundrum.

Really my focus should be on healing. I should keep my underpaid job that has good health insurance, whilst using some of that nest egg every month to make ends meet, and heal, heal, heal. I need to heal and figure out what defines my value. God defines my worth. Not a job. Not the status of my mental health. Not my depressed thoughts and feelings which tell me lies. Not my trauma. Not my history. God defines my worth and I define my worth. That last one is tricky, because whilst God may value my existence and my soul, I do not. Whilst at the moment of creation, God knew that he was creating the makings of a masterpiece, here I am years later still wishing I were dead because the trauma in my mind won’t leave me alone.

Images and memories pop up constantly, uninvited and intrusively pushing their way in to my present moment, making the nine years in which I have been safe from my abuser seem like the blink of an eye, and I am being raped, in my mind, in the present, by men whose faces all blur into one unpleasant, gruff essence of “man” and “abuser” and “rapist.” What I need to find out, before I start graduate school, again, is what I am worth. The truth is that I am worth my weight in gold. Gold is the word that God gave to me when Ruth and I were praying together.

First Day Back in the Intensive Care Unit

I feel like shit. I didn’t eat breakfast and I’m hungry. I ate a whole think of bran flakes. Now I feel better. Group is about to start. I went to group for ten minutes and then walked away. I put a phone chord around my neck. They took me into a back room and said I need to make better choices. By the time I got back to group it was over. My back and neck and head and arm are in the hot sun. Another patient is asking if everybody is going to kill or poison her.

Afternoon, shift change. My one-on-one has been very nice to me. A few times earlier today she had to take the telephone chord away from me because I was wrapping it around my neck. Here is an imaginary conversation:

Dr.: Why do you do those things?

Me: I don’t know. I want to hurt myself.

Dr.: Yes, but why?

Me: I don’t know.

Dr. Are you looking for attention?

Me: Maybe.

The truth is that I do want attention. I also want to hurt myself. I want all of the attention I can get when I want it. If I have a need which needs to be communicated I am most likely, at this time, to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Maybe I just needed attention earlier. Maybe I needed to be verbally reassured that I am safe and the primal emotional id part of me took over before my ego could stop it. In many ways too, misbehaviour is a choice. I have a choice to engage in unhealthy behaviours, ones which harm me. What do I gain from it? Love and attention? Or at least the latter, minus the first.

When I was a child I learned that love included anger and the only way to get physical affection was to act out, even if the attention was negative and the physicality punitive. So why is this behaviour showing up again 25 years later? I’ve felt like I have been punished so much in my life by the bad things which have happened to me and so I have to continue this cycle of abuse and punish and hurt myself. Don’t I deserve better than that?

From one perspective, acting out on my impulses, testing boundaries, and finding out the consequences within the boundaries of a controlled hospital environment is safe. Out in the real world if I were to exhibit any of these behaviours I could lose friends, lose my job, or lose my life. Then who would take care of Samuel?

This realization elicited a long and forced sigh followed by putting my head in my hands and bowing forward. It causes me to feel much more deeply depressed. The consequences of my actions is that I am coming to some realizations which are sobering, as I apply and integrate my emotional growth with my mental intellect. These are things I don’t care to intentionally look at because the realization of the truth hurts like a punch to the stomach and reverberates for some time. There is a part of me which would prefer to continue to act out on my emotional impulses and behaviours without reigning in my cognitive functions.

I regress, literally. I received a phone call from my mother. Talking with my mother often causes frustration, especially lately. I don’t know how to express the anger in a healthy manner. It’s not something that she says, necessarily. It’s just her. She agitates me and I am realizing I don’t want to talk with her. I almost wrote that I “don’t want to talk with me.” Maybe she reminds me of myself. I doubt it. It’s more about the relational pattern we have established which has been developing since birth. And to tell you the truth I don’t have any bandwidth to deal with other people’s problems. So at the end of the call I was kicking the wall. Then I went to sit on my bed, hugged a pillow, and took deep breaths. I had to lay down for a while before I could continue to write. Writing is helping me processing. I’ve been up since 6:00 AM and I don’t like getting up that early. My hour-long nap before shift change helped.

The Aftermath

To my Therapist,

My dog has his face buried into the couch. He looks just like I did today when I was waiting for Dr. D. (my psychiatrist). Only, he’s more relaxed and he’s not about to cry.

I feel devastatingly sad today and my heart aches. If there were actual, physical pain, then I could grasp it. I could hold onto it. I could say, see? But you can’t see. No one can actually see my pain. It’s invisible to the naked eye. My past symptoms of PTSD, they were all in my head. It may have been real, but now it’s surreal and I can’t stand this feeling of emptiness filled with pain and sorrow and the longing for a better life, the longing for a life without those painful memories.

I didn’t choose to be abused. I didn’t choose this life. I didn’t choose to be brought into this world full of pain, awful, heart-wrenching pain.

I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I don’t want to live this life. I don’t want to feel pain. I don’t want to feel memories of the memories of the pain. Why is this happening to me? Why did I make that stupid decision yesterday to plug in the hard drive? I thought I could just copy my current stuff onto the drive without opening a folder. But it didn’t work that way. That’s not what happened.

I can’t not be triggered by what I did. I’m not there yet. I’ve worked really hard in therapy over the last years. You yourself said that I kept coming back. That means I didn’t give up. I never actually gave up no matter how hopeless life seemed at the time. I kept coming to see you and I let you hold the hope for me until it could slowly be transferred over to me.

I know you’re not worried about me. I know you think I’m going to be fine. And the truth is, I probably will be fine. Later tonight, I will go to sleep with my dog by my side and a new day will be gone. The horror of today will be in the immediate past, but still, in the past.

My dog has seen me cry a few times in the past couple days. I think it is confusing to him. I would be confused if my mom were crying desperately whilst at the same time petting me with a calm and steady hand.

My roommate put out her diffuser by my side of the couch and it has lavender oil in it. There is a mile high and wide pile of dishes which are mine and dirty. I have neglected them completely. I took myself out to lunch today and had a nutritious and very filling salmon burrito. But then all I could manage for dinner was a plain white bagel with cream cheese. I’m not even hungry now.

Yesterday I was going to starve myself. So I didn’t eat lunch but then finally decided to stop punishing myself for awful things that weren’t my fault, and I ate something. I’m sure I told you about it in an email last night, but I tend to repeat things and not remember that I already told the story to you. And you listen to me with patience, curiosity, and insight each time. When you ask me if you’ve told me the story about the little girl in Kindergarten who was able to understand math with visual objects, or stories from the farm, or when you found the kittens freezing at Christmas by a manhole in front of your home, how you put them on your stomach to warm them up and how some didn’t make it, and I say, no, I’ve never heard that story before (because I genuinely don’t remember) then you tell it to me again as if it’s the first time you’re telling me about it. I also love when you tell me about making the special bread rolls at Thanksgiving and watching them rise in the oven and that they don’t always turn out perfectly because it has to be timed just right.

Look. See what I did for myself. I just used all of the coping skills you’ve ever taught me. Well, not all, but I used the skills I have learned. You see, all this time, you have been telling me that I have a choice. That I don’t have to act on my feelings. That feelings are there to inform us, to give us information. That anger isn’t a bad emotion, it’s just an emotion. Dr. D. told me that I have a choice in how I feel, even though it feels like I can’t control my feelings and that I am having an emergency. But that things don’t have to be urgent and I guess I don’t have to have mental health crises and emergencies.

I really want to learn how to control my emergencies. I don’t want to live through another day like yesterday and today. While leaving Dr. D.’s office yesterday I thought about stepping into oncoming traffic, but I knew it wouldn’t kill me because we were downtown and they weren’t going fast enough. So I didn’t do it. I guess it was really an emotion that told me to step out into traffic and I didn’t listen to that inner voice. But you know, it’s really hard to separate yourself from an emotion that you are experiencing. Is that what all psychotherapists are able to do? Because it’s God-awfully hard to do. I told Dr. D. there’s no way I could or would want to do what he does every day and deal with people like me. He said, well then I guess it’s good that you’re not in the program. Maybe in five years I will be ready for this and I can try it again when I have worked hard to build up my emotional resiliency.

I really need to shower tonight because I tell myself that, even though I don’t like showering, I need to do it every other day so that I don’t show up at work with greasy hair.

You know what I hate? When I’ve taken off a mental health day from work and then the next day my boss says, “you look fine.” Well, screw that. I can lie and tell her how nauseated I felt at the time, but my personal life isn’t hers to know. Who is she to ask questions about things that are private? I don’t have to tell anyone any longer about my traumatic past because I am leaving it behind.

Which brings me to my main question I have to figure out tomorrow with you. Do I erase the hard drive and all of the bad along with good things or will I one day regret it? Dr. D. said there is no urgency and I don’t have to do it now. I can wait. I thought it was going to happen today, but maybe it’s better to not act impulsively, even though the friends whom I’ve asked have all agreed I should delete it all and that I can make new memories.

I have to go now and take care of myself.

 

From Time to Time I am Not Okay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love letter to my dear friend

To my dear friend,

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

Reaction to “I am Jane Doe” Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appreciation and Back To Who I Used To Be (Minus the PTSD)

It’s the dawn of a new day… no, no, no. It isn’t actually. It’s an hour before sunset and it is my privilege to be sitting outside under a blue sky on campus. I just got out of work and I have a half hour before class, so I figure I can make use of this time and have the luxury of writing a blog entry. I was elegantly dressed at work and I brought my bright pink duffel bag with gym clothes and flip flops to change into. It always feels great to not be in work clothes since I spend over 40 hours a week in them anyway. I wonder if in grad school I’ll feel compelled to dress formally as at work or casual as I am now. I suppose it will depend on what others do in my cohort. But this is undergrad and I totally fit in in gym clothes. I still don’t get the whole torn jeans thing. You buy jeans and other clothing items that look totally mutilated. I don’t get it. Not for me. Not of my generation or stylistic comprehension. But I will reserve judgement.

It’s just cool enough, 71 degrees and in the shade, to be wearing a nice, baggy sweater. I love covering myself up but letting my feet roam free in the air. I don’t like tight clothing unless it is black because then you can’t really see the shape as well. Even if I were super skinny… no, no, no. Yet again, no. I don’t want to be thin. I want to be healthy. I want to be as I am now.

I am so lucky to have been able to afford a new and lightweight computer. I look at myself out on this slab of a concrete bench with a laptop in my lap, typing away, and I think, wow, I am so modern. I have modern technology and my computer is portable. I can use it anywhere. I can connect to WiFi anywhere on campus. It just wasn’t like that when I went to college. I don’t even use a physical notepad any longer because I take all of my notes on a Word document. What ever happened to the buy-it-once computer technology. It’s because Microsoft can make more money off of an annual subscription fee. Plus the software gets updated automatically.

This morning was amazing. This weekend was amazing. It’s all because I have not been feeling depressed. I woke up before my alarm clock. Can you believe it? Me, of all people. Me, the person who used to have three alarms set on my phone with three snooze options per alarm. That’s an alarm ringing every 5 to 10 minutes for 45 minutes long. My first alarm would ring at 7:00 and my last snooze would be at 7:50 in order to make the short drive to start work by 8:30.

I woke up before my alarm because of a nightmare. But in that bad dream I was saying “no” to my abuser. I tried closing my eyes to think of something pleasant, such as imagining sitting in my therapist’s calming waiting room, but the visualization didn’t work. So I got up. I actually got up. I put my feet on the ground and slowly stood up. That’s all it took to get up. I am so amazed. Why does it feel insurmountably difficult to drag myself out of bed every single day, but today, for whatever reason, it was easy? I want more of these days!

I had coffee. I only make myself coffee on weekends when I sleep in and I have nowhere to be in the mornings. I purposefully don’t schedule my weekend mornings because I know just how difficult it is for me to get out of bed. But today, on a weekday, on a Monday, I made myself espresso in my stovetop moka. I even sat outside to drink it. I felt the cool air rushing over my skin while I was still in pajamas.

My patio is filled with a bag of potting soil, a new plant, and new pots. I have big plans for my patio. Two years ago, in 2013 and 2014 when I had my one bedroom apartment which I could afford only at the time, I had a potted garden on my balcony. I had the most beautiful ceramic pots of blue and other colours. I grew sunflowers and morning glories and basil and zucchini and mint and succulents and I still had my sentimental tree that I had grown since it was a baby tree for about eight years. I have since given that tree to my brother and his girlfriend and I’m fine with them having it. I can grow a new tree. Wouldn’t it be cool to grow an avocado tree? It takes years to finally bear fruit. I have only ever gotten a seed to grow two feet tall, but that in itself was an accomplishment. I used to take pictures of my flowers and send them to friends. All of this, I am going to do again. I am going to return to the person I was, the person who had hobbies and who did creative things, and filled her life with joy. It has taken a long time to come back to this place. But I did it. I am doing it.

Mental Health Recovery Day

I am kind to myself. I can be nice to myself. I give myself permission to practice self-kindness. I can be gentle with me. I can do this. I am doing this. I will keep doing this. I am strong, kind, generous, faithful, intelligent and beautiful.

I took the day off of work today. It was a mental health recovery day. These last five days have been hard and I just couldn’t see myself going to work today. I kept snoozing the alarm and I knew I just didn’t want to deal with life today. Instead, I slept for about 16 hours. I finally got up in the early afternoon, a couple hours before seeing my psychotherapist. I was originally going to see him after work, but because I took the day off and he had availability, I was able to see him sooner. I saw him yesterday and I am seeing him tomorrow. It’s Spring Break and he’s not teaching this week, therefore, I am taking what I can get. I’ve always dreamed of seeing him every day for several days in a row. I tell him by email all the time that I hate not seeing him and I hate having to wait five days to see him. Well, I can rest easy because I get to see him in less than 24 hours from now.

When I can’t cope, I can’t cope. It’s just a fact. I wasn’t okay. When I get overwhelmed my mind goes straight to suicide and self-harm. It makes sense. I wasn’t able to retaliate when I was being abused because talking back or acting out would only make things worse. So when I couldn’t control things in my external world, I turned to my inner world for a sense of control. In focusing in on myself, in exacting self-harm whether through restricting food, cutting on myself, drinking alcohol, having more sex with strangers, telling myself I wasn’t worthy of love, and in so many other ways, I was able to control aspects of my life. Unfortunately, the control seeped out into other parts of my life and I felt that this was beyond my control. I acted out at work and ruined my professional life by quitting my career job out of desperation. But after leaving the abusive situation I was in, I began to heal myself once the major PTSD symptoms had subsided, which took a couple years.

When I was growing up too, my external world was beyond my control and things were unstable, so I controlled my inner world by fantasizing about running away from home or sleeping out on the porch in the snow to hurt my mum by hurting myself. When I was eight, I remember yelling at her, “I wish I were dead!” at the top of my lungs, because I wanted to hurt her back so badly, and I knew because my father had died, that it would get to her. “No, no,” she had replied with tears in her eyes, and I knew I had gotten to her. It’s as if I had to go to extreme measures in order to receive unconditional love and attention.

Self-harm has always been a part of my life, but with the help of my psychotherapist over the last eight and a half years I am learning to find other ways to express my anger and to not direct it toward myself. Because I don’t deserve that. No one deserves to hate themselves and to hurt themselves. Everyone deserves kindness and compassion. Most of all, from me to myself. I am okay. I will be okay. I am going to be okay. I can do this. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. Just keep telling myself that and eventually it will be true. But the fact of the matter is, I am actually okay, it’s just that I don’t always feel okay. But I have learned that feelings come and go, and I remain. The emergency in my mind is no longer happening, and the noise and the chaos in my mind has subsided, and what is left is just me, without the state of emergency. It meant the world to me today when, at the end of our therapy session, my therapist said to me, “I’m glad you are feeling better.” “Me too,” I replied. Me too.