What I Can Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I Have Skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Final Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

Love letter to my dear friend

To my dear friend,

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

Reaction to “I am Jane Doe” Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remediation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Out the Day

To my therapist,

I do not want to repeat a day like today: it was too perfect. Days like today cannot be repeated. I relished every moment of it. The Italian word is “godere,” and according to the dictionary a form of that word is to reference “gustare spiritualmente” which I will indirectly translate to be “tasting spirituality.” (It actually translates to “tasting spiritually” but I like my translation better.)
I did everything I wanted to do today. Every moment of the entire day was directed entirely by me. And it was just me and Samuel time together, all day long. I slept in, I took my time petting and fondling my dog’s furry little head and body this morning in bed. I ate throughout the day. We went on little walks through the housing complex where there is grass and dirt and other things to sniff. I spent some time with Irvin Yalom through his writings. I drank loads of tea all day long. I spent several hours doing laundry in the afternoon, after leisurely reading my book “for fun!” I didn’t turn on my computer. I vacuumed the corners of my room, which is a rare occurrence. I bathed my dog (he needed it). No one called me on the phone and I rarely spoke unless speaking to my dog. Most of the time that I did spend on my phone was listening to Daniel Siegel talk. The two authors I mentioned are pretty much my favourite authors right now. I’m glad I discovered them (one through you).
All day long I have been writing to you in my mind. I have been composing sentences to you, and thinking about how I would phrase certain things when it came to the end of the day and that it would be time to write to you about my day. I suppose not much else needs to be said.
Thank you for you.

Reflections: Part of my Therapy and Healing

Sometimes all I want to do it to write a blog. You know, just write. For me. I put my heart into it. All of me. My whole being. What I write is the epitome of me, my existence, who I am. Writing defines me. It helps me express my feelings and organize my thoughts. It solidifies the experiences that I have had. It gives me space to reflect. What would I do without writing as a part of my life? I don’t know. Writing has always been a part of my life. I know I kept a journal as a kid but I have no idea where that journal ended up. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is the process of writing. I don’t always go back to read what I have written. I don’t always want to. The act of writing in and of itself helps. I cannot bring myself to throw away the old journals which contain accounts of the horrors I have lived through, because they are a part of me. I know that if I were to read them, as I have done to myself in the past, it would have a negative effect on me. It might not retraumatize me, but it would certainly bring back the nightmares and a flood of tears.

Writing to my therapist by email daily is a part of my therapy. I need to connect with him daily. I need him, someone, to know how I am doing and to be a witness to my experience and of my innermost thoughts. I need him to know when I am not doing well, how that is for me, and I need him to know about the beautiful moments in life which make my life worth living. I want him to know it all. The act of writing it down is therapeutic.

I just had my morning weekend coffee. It’s past 1:00 pm (aka 13,00 hours) and I am sitting on my patio with new and old plants in pots, enjoying the song of birds and indirect sunlight. This is good for me. In less than two hours I have a Skype date with my aunt in Australia which I have been looking forward to for more than a week. We had to reschedule but I am okay with that. My afternoon is her morning and so it will be her Monday morning.

Three and four years ago, I had a garden of my own. I lived in a one bedroom apartment on the second floor and my balcony was filled with beautiful ceramic pots and soil and plants which I had grown from scratch. I didn’t even buy starter plants; I planted my plants from seed. I kept that garden. It was a part of my self-therapy. In tending to those plants, I was nurturing myself. In watching those plants grow, I was watching the act of life itself happen. It was helping to keep me alive. My life the way it is now? I could have never imagined such a life. Because the life I live now is not filled with nightmares and dark spaces and suicidal thoughts. The life I live now is just full of… life.

When I had to move away from that home I had spent two years building, because my alimony was ending and I couldn’t afford it any longer, I was devastated. Absolutely devastated. I got rid of all of my pots, along with other things, and life as I knew it was over. I stopped doing everything creative and sunk into an even deeper depression. I stopped painting with acrylic on canvas. I stopped making homemade paper and candying orange peels to eat. I stopped preparing fresh foods for myself. No salads, only frozen foods. I stopped writing poetry and playing the piano. It was the end of my gardening days as I knew it. I no longer sewed and knitted. I got rid of all of my extra, unused rolls of yarn to Goodwill. I stopped seeing people. The priest I had been friends with had moved away to another state on the other side of the country. I survived the entirety of 2015 by sleeping. On weekends I would stay in bed 22 hours a day. It was a miserable year and although I was not often in the mindset of wanting to end my life, the depression was absolutely crippling. It is a wonder that I was able to hold a job and start my career in finance again starting that August. But I did it because I am fucking amazing and because I am a warrior woman.

In December last year when my Mum came to visit, I had her buy me some plants from a nursery. Keeping those plants alive, albeit barely, brought me to this point. It is now well into Spring and my life is full of life. I still sleep a long time on weekends, sometimes 12 hours as I did last night, but I do things that people who don’t have depression do. I am living my life as best as I can, and I would say I am doing a pretty darn good job at it.

Friday night was revolutionary for me. Why, you ask? Because I was inspired! I was inspired to start my garden! I went on Offer Up, a site that I had just found out the day before from my friend at work. I’ve never bought anything via that site before. And I found a lady, Lily, who has a home business selling pottery. I made sure she was a woman, by asking her, because it was Friday night and dark outside and I didn’t feel comfortable having to deal with a man at that hour, under those circumstances. I drove the 25 minutes to her home. She had me park in her driveway and she was waiting outside for me. As she led me through the wooden gate to her large backyard, I noticed and pointed out how beautiful it was, with well-kempt bushes and flowers and lush grass. There was some lighting coming from the trellis which covered a part of her patio and she used the flashlight feature on her phone to show me the beautiful ceramic planter pots she had in her inventory. There must have easily been 100 pots to choose from, all different styles and sizes, but most in pairs and matching.

I chose three bright blue matching pots and a pot on a pedestal which was beige-coloured with the image of a sun with a face on it painted orange on the sides. I am phenomenally pleased with my selections and they are so much nicer than any pot I could have gotten at a hardware store such as Lowe’s or The Home Depot. I had to go to a pottery store, or in this case, a pottery home-based business. Lily explained to me how she had fallen ill at the end of last year and had to be bed-bound for three months, so she was just now starting up her pottery-selling business over again. She gave me her business card and I am keeping it for the future.

I have a few lettuce seeds planted in one pot. I planted green onions in another. In the third matching blue pot I planted cilantro and Italian parsley. I tried to only plant things that I would actually eat. I used to grow my own zucchini but I have decided for now that I don’t like zucchini. Probably because I am not very big on cooking still these days. Homegrown zucchini is really wonderful though, I must say. I wanted to plant mint but I couldn’t find the seeds for it and I don’t want to buy a starter plant, but I might just do exactly that. In the pedestal pot I planted morning glories. I find them to be really beautiful. I had forgotten that you have to nick the seeds with a knife and leave them to soak in water before planting them. I did that and I was so pleased to see the seedlings already bulging with life the next morning. The miracle of water and life. Water is life.

I have another large pot that I had stored at a friend’s house for the past two years. I finally picked it up last weekend. I bought sunflower seeds. These seeds are actually for growing gigantic sunflowers which will supposedly be a foot in diameter when the bloom is blooming! I wanted to maximize my space, and so I planted most of my seeds, well, all of them, too close together. Closer than was recommended. We’ll have to see how that works out. My little seedlings are already an inch tall and they are just a week old! I had planted them last weekend. They are pushing their way through the surface of the soil and spreading their first little leaves. Unfortunately, I have roly polies. Apparently another name for this bug is a “pill bug” but I have always known it as a “roly poly”. That’s because when it is under threat (I had to look this up) it rolls its little crustacean body up into a ball. My pot, which spent two years in an untended location, is full of these little bugs. I didn’t think anything of it, but when my seedlings were beginning to sprout I noticed the bugs congregating around the baby plants. Apparently they are harmless in gardens because they decompose old plant matter and eat their own poop. But when there is no decomposed matter to eat, they will eat sprouting plants. They won’t eat established plants. Now, several of my baby plants have half-eaten leaves and whenever I see a new roly poly that was previously hidden, I toss it out of the pot onto the grass beyond my patio.

Food is amazing. It nourishes us and keeps us alive just like water does to plants. Plus, water is life too. Water is even more necessary for living creatures than food. We can only go three days without water, but longer without food. I just ate a peanut butter protein bar. It was delicious. Of course, it has a certain amount of sugar in it. It’s like eating peanut butter fudge, as my roommate put it. The bar is called a Perfect Bar and they are sold everywhere but they are cheaper at Costco. Costco was having a sale on them a while back and I bought six twelve-packs of bars which come in three different flavours. There are easily ten or fifteen different flavours of the Perfect Bar but Costco has a limited selection in their twelve-pack: peanut butter, peanut butter cranberry, and almond with sesame seeds on the outside. They are all really good. I discovered them when my former roommate bought them back in September and I have been eating them daily for breakfast for the last six months and I don’t intend to stop any time soon. The bars are packed with superfoods and nutrients and are really good for you.

I have been spending a lot of money. I spend much more than I make every month and if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to get a settlement of a last bit of alimony last year then I would be completely broke with only a thousand dollars left in the bank, which is nothing. Scary little. But I’m doing okay even though I haven’t been saving money. I have been spending it. About a thousand has gone toward travel last year and then another eight hundred to new tires in December. Read: tyres, for those British-spellers. This year I have spent about a thousand on new clothes and shoes over the months. I am working on a new and better wardrobe for work, and looking toward my wardrobe as a therapist in my future career. It’s expensive to build a nice wardrobe. I have also gotten rid of small clothes which no longer fit me, which is a big deal. Now they aren’t taking up space in my closet. It feels really good to have clothes which actually fit me.

I also recently spent five hundred dollars on a laser hair removal package of treatment series. In 2009 I started a series of treatments and it significantly reduced the amount of hair I have on various parts of my body but it isn’t completely gone. It has been on my mind in the last several months to finish those series. I finally got up the courage to do some research on it, and I didn’t look very far. I actually went with the first place I found on Google. They were having a sale and it was meant to be! I have to wait several months before my first appointment because they don’t do Saturdays and the weekday evening spots are the most popular and always taken. I’m good. I can wait. This would have never been possible without the alimony I got last year. I am visiting my Mum for mother’s day weekend and there is no way I could have been able to afford the cheap plane tickets without the extra alimony I got. Money makes so many things possible and opens up opportunities. I feel fortunate to have just enough. Not a lot, but enough to be able to have luxuries in my life. There are many people who don’t have the nice things in their lives that I have and I am truly grateful.

I have been writing now for over an hour and my Skype date with my aunt is imminently around the corner. We always talk for an hour but I want to not be limited by time and I hope to get to have a couple hours with her, so I have to go microwave that sweet potato that I baked the other night so that I can have food in my stomach so that I can remain calm and centered during my conversation with my aunt. All this stuff takes planning. I learned about “HALT” while listening to Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson’s books. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Those are risk factors for being unable to cope emotionally. In the books it applies to parenting, but I can parent myself and pay attention to those risk factors too. I have to make sure that all of those aspects are taken care of so that I can remain calm and centered. So, I am going to eat something right now. Cheers!

Babysitting Adventures, Equality, and Saying No

I put my friend’s five-year-old to bed last night. It was quite precious. I was babysitting while my friend was at a concert and surprisingly, it was my first time ever alone with him. I used to help with the bedtime routine when he was one and two years old back when I wasn’t working and in addition to being therapeutic for my friend because of the negative household environment that her now ex-husband brought into the situation, it was therapeutic for me. I used to watch her breastfeed her baby and I read stories and played with this child while he was taking a bath. He still likes baths to this day.

This little boy kept wanting me to call or text his mom. His excuse was that he wanted his “normal” pillow and that the pillow on his bed wasn’t his usual one. We went to his mom’s room together but the pillows on the ground didn’t have covers on them because the linens were in the wash. “Please call my mom so you can ask about the pillow!” he pleaded with me. “What would that accomplish?” I asked. “So then she would come home to me instead of in the morning.” My heart broke. I didn’t realize he missed his mommy that much. In order to distract him I said, “how about I tuck you in like a burrito?” “What’s that?” he asked intrigued. I said, “Well, you have to lay flat on the bed with your arms to the side and the covers pulled all the way up.” Then I proceeded to tuck the blanket around his entire body while repeating the words, “squish, squish, squish.” Apparently he thought it was a fun game because he had me do it again later and then asked me to show it to his mom so she can do it too.

When I asked if he wanted me to rub his back as his mom had told me he likes that, he said, “You’re not my mom!” “No, I’m not.” I replied. Later on when I asked if he wanted me to pat his back while he was going to sleep he said, “of course.” He kept fidgeting around a lot while trying to go to sleep. “Close your eyes,” I instructed him in the dim glow of the fish tank on the other side of the room. I had to switch hands from patting his back every once in awhile because the other hand would get tired. He also let me lightly stroke his head. It was very gentle and a special moment. He is five, but in those moments while he was falling asleep with his back to me as I was sitting on the stool next to his bed, he seemed like a baby. He is five but he is still that little baby I once knew.

Now I understand when mothers will say, “yes, baby?” to their elementary school-aged child. Because your child is always your baby, even when they are grown up. You gave birth to them; you helped give them life. They were born unto you as a baby. Life is precious and so are children. So in a sense, that makes everyone in the world precious, because we all once were babies. Of course, babies are so innocent.

Adults have a self-awareness and a moral conscience, and so, they are not really “innocent” human beings. I remember last December when a man on the roadside helped me change my tire. I did pay him royally for his kindness but even before I had offered him money, he told me, “you are someone’s daughter and someone’s sister. I would want someone to help my daughter.” We are all someone’s daughter or someone’s son, we are someone’s grandchild, and we could be someone’s sibling, aunt, parent. We are all neighbours in this world, yet there is so much prejudice and stigma and fighting. I want to do away with the lot and treat everyone equally. Everyone is equal and everyone deserves kindness. Every. Single. Person.

When my friend came home around midnight I recapped the evening, including when her son, who has some behavioural difficulties due to the divorce and verbal abuse from the father directed to the mother, tried to hit me. I had told him, “don’t hit me, I’m your friend.” “You’re not my friend!” he responded. “I am your friend.” “No, you’re not,” he insisted. “What am I then?” I asked. “You’re… you’re… nothing!” he managed to eek out. I said nothing but he did not try to hit me again. My friend called me the “child whisperer.” Apparently in all of her son’s five years, she has never had anyone put him to bed other than herself or her mom. She was very pleased and grateful and she came up with my reward (since I didn’t ask to be paid): fresh, homemade tortillas. I told her I want to watch her make them. I am much looking forward to it. She has offered to take me out to dinner as a “thank you” but she knows now that I much prefer homemade meals, and she is really such a good cook. Much better than me.

At first, when my friend had asked me on Sunday to babysit, I had said “yes” having forgotten that I had scheduled a Skype date with my aunt for that night a week ago. When I realized I didn’t have the courage to take back my “yes.” I have a really hard time saying “no” to people. I’m the person who can always do whatever is asked of me. That has gotten me into some difficult situations at work in terms of feeling overwhelmed. I talked it over with my friend at work yesterday and came to the conclusion that it’s okay to say no. I don’t have to say “yes.” I have a life too; I have things to do too. I had really been looking forward to my Skype date and felt regret at having to reschedule it for a later date. I felt angry toward my friend who had asked me to babysit even though this had been my own doing. I vowed to not let my friend know that I was angry, and to take this as a learning experience: that it’s okay to say no.

 

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.