Survivor and Overcomer

Greek yogurt with raw honey and fresh cut strawberries – that was me doing something nice for myself, something kind to myself tonight. I just spent the last hour on Twitter reading posts from #rapeisnotokay and #sexualassaultsurvivor. Before that I attended my first group therapy meeting for survivors of sexual assault. The group wasn’t as intimate as I had hoped it would be. Instead of the 6 – 8 women I was expecting to see, there were 12 women and two female facilitators. We went over the group guidelines about confidentiality, respect, and setting boundaries. Then we introduced ourselves. We went around in a circle and I volunteered to go first. I said what I was hoping to get out of the group, which is healing, and that I was terrified of showing up today. I wasn’t the only one who was scared. Other women shared my sentiment.

It was amazing to see how these women, one by one, opened up about their sexual assault and sexual abuse stories, as discussions were held after the introductions. Someone is in trial to lock away her offender. Others have never spoken about it before, this being the first time. When I introduced myself I managed not to cry, but the next person did and then so did two people after that, as we went down the line. I lost it. I cried too. There were tissues readily available on the tables. We all sat in a circle. It was so sad to hear everyone talking about their stories. There are young women and older women. Every story of sexual abuse you can imagine came forth between these 12 women, including me.

I had kind of an emergency therapy session with my individual therapist yesterday in the middle of the day. I took time off of work to go. I was experiencing panic in relation to the therapy group I attended tonight and he was able to reassure me that ultimately, this will be healing, and that other women are surely afraid as well. He reassured me that he will help me, the subtext being that he will not leave my side and that I am not in this alone. He will monitor my mood and my progress throughout the weeks and I will try to pay attention to how I am doing as well. I am seeing him again tomorrow night and I am so indebted and lucky to have an individual therapist that I get to see. Many of these women in the group are on waiting lists to get into individual therapy. I am so goddamn fortunate.

Sad news came into my email inbox last night and I have been feeling disappointed and let down. I received a message that I was not selected for the group interview at the MFT graduate program which I was hoping to attend. “Everything happens for a reason,” a couple people told me in sympathy. “They are missing out on having someone great in their program” another person said. He was sorry for them, not for me. It was good to have another perspective to brood over.

This must just be a bump in the road. I studied for the graduate record exam for about six months. It was very challenging and I invested a lot of money into the prep courses. It looks like I will not be attending a state university. It was the most competitive program to get into and I thought I had a good chance of getting in. In fact, I was confident they would accept me into the program. Instead, the email notification said I can try to apply again next year.

There is a private university which has a 24 month program with year-round admission. One has to pay up front for each class every month and I believe each class is around $2,500. I suppose that is what loans are for. It’s significantly more expensive than the state university’s program, but not the most expensive. Other private universities are offering the same degree at a cost of $50,000 in tuition alone per year. That’s $100,000 for a two-year program. This field that I am going into is not a high-paying profession and if I were to be that much in debt, well, I have no idea when I would be able to pay that off. It looks like I am just going to have to start my MFT program later in the year. Maybe I wasn’t quite ready to start; May is just around the corner. Perhaps that would have been too soon.

I’ve written about having difficulty with getting motivation to shower. Last night I was supposed to shower, but after the bad news of not getting admitted to the program which I had been counting on, I went to sleep abruptly on the couch because I didn’t want to deal with the sadness. This is day number three that I haven’t showered and as much as I would rather not shower tonight, I have to go to work tomorrow and it doesn’t look good (and it’s not normal) to show up to work with greasy hair. Damn it. Damn it all. I’d like to end this blog post on a positive note, but life just isn’t all that sometimes. I just have to focus on what needs to be done in the immediate future: shower and then study, sleep, go to work, attend therapy, write out my feelings in another blog post, study, sleep and do it all over again. Luckily I am seeing my therapist more than once a week these days.

 

Attachment

My TalkSpace therapist has suggested, in other words, that I may be too attached to my main therapist. He is on vacation this month and I have been distraught at not seeing him. Literally, in tears, a mess, depressed, unwilling to get out of bed on the weekends. In my defiance and I suppose as a way of punishing myself for feeling this way, I say, “fine. If I cannot see him then I won’t live. I won’t get out of bed. I won’t do anything until I get to see him again.” Who does this hurt? Not my therapist. It hurts me. But that’s just what I’m used to doing: hurting myself and punishing myself.

Why would I feel the need to punish myself just because I cannot see my therapist? Maybe it’s the defiance. That if he won’t let me see him then I won’t do anything. I don’t know if this makes sense to another rational being but it makes sense to me. Perhaps I feel like I am already being punished by not getting to see him, so that I need to continue that punishment further.

By the way, he did reach out to me, after five emails, two text messages and three voicemail messages later, on Monday during business hours, and I am seeing him this week. So, I do feel relieved. He is on vacation but in town and I desperately feel the need to see him. I know I have a very strong attachment to him, and also that I depend on him to be there for me every week so that no matter what emotional turmoil the week may bring, I always have him as my balance and equilibrium. He is my zen. He is my safest of safe places and I can cry and smile and do whatever I need to do in order to be fully me. He accepts all of me, non-judgmentally. There is no other person like him in this world. No other person has the sort of connection with me as he does. No one can replace him.

I know it will feel nice to see him. It’s two days away but that couldn’t be soon enough. I know I should probably apologize for all of the messages I left him to schedule this meeting but somehow I just know he is okay with it. He can handle it. He can handle anything when it comes to me. And yes, I do believe that I am special, when it comes to him. I am special to him and he is special to me and we have a very special relationship. The relationship is complex and I have gone in and out of various levels of dependency on him. I have been angry, upset, sad, mourning, in grief, happy, okay, content, suicidal and everything in between. My therapist has seen it all, has dealt with it all, has helped me through it all. For eight years. How could I not be attached to him? I won’t always be so needy, but I realize at the moment, it’s just where I’m at. I need him and that’s it.

Other people, to soothe me, have said, “you don’t need him.” “You are strong enough on your own.” “You can manage.” But the thing is I don’t feel as if I can manage without him and feelings are like facts sometimes. Feelings are very real and they are not unimportant. They carry great weight in the decisions that I make. I make most decisions based on feelings rather than facts. If I feel good about something, then I can do it. If I don’t feel good, then I know it’s not a good idea. My therapist always validates my feelings.

I used to be so hurt from the pain of my former abuse that all I could manage to say in a session is “I hurt” over and over again. I couldn’t put any other words to it. And my therapist, he would just sit there with me and listen, and make eye contact, and just never go away. He has always been there for me. Other times when I wasn’t able to utter a single word, I would motion for a pen and paper and I would write “I hurt” on the paper. Other times I needed to do sand tray therapy, creating a scene of the bad wolf eating the helpless baby chickens, to express my feelings because I was mute, unable to talk. It’s just that, he has always been there for me. I cannot imagine a time in my life without him. I cannot imagine ever parting from him, although I know there will be a time that I won’t need him so much. I don’t know. I just know that I need him now.

Have I made my point? Did I feel the need to justify my thoughts and actions? I suppose I did. I don’t like being told that I’m wrong, and if someone suggests for me to do something differently, like attach myself to someone in my personal life rather than to my therapist, I feel as if they are telling me that I am bad, that I am doing something bad and wrong, and that feels awful. I need to take things at my own pace and not be led to think that I am bad, because that is where my mind goes a lot of the time. I am not bad. I am just a swan with a broken wing, and that wing is mending, and before long, I will be able to take flight with the rest of the flock.

A different kind of life

I wanted to take the time to write. Just write. Writing is healing, writing promotes reflection, reflection promotes deeper thoughts and contemplation, and sometimes contemplating feels good.

I spent the last week with family. It was a time of celebration and a time for silence and mourning and mutual support. I got to bond with my youngest cousin who is almost three years old, and that time spent was healing to me and a positive distraction. The fact is, as I must tell myself, I have family. No matter how much I feel as if various family members haven’t been supportive, they actually care. They occasionally send me reminders of this by reaching out to me, a text here, and email there. It’s hard to reconcile. Most of my family members, actually all, live far away, some further than others, and I didn’t grow up knowing them intimately. We’re all not that close, but we get along. I have family. I must remind myself of that when I am feeling lonely. I have work and family. They keep me going. Must hold onto this… hope.

 

There is a fact: I like attention. I think everybody wants to have attention from another person in some form. We are social creatures and those interactions we have with other people mean that the other person is paying attention to us. But, I got used to an unhealthy kind of attention. I used to have to act out and do extreme things just to get the approval and attention of my ex. It got worse as the years went on. He was so self-absorbed in his own life, separate from me, that I was not nurtured with any sort of loving attention. It was very unhealthy.

Over the last few years the type of intensive attention that I got was from doctors and nurses every time I tried to hurt myself. It feels very wrong now, not hurting myself, because I am lacking that attention from others. Of course I can’t afford to have medical staff tending to my every need each day, but that is how it used to be. And I got accustomed to it. It was my modus operandi, my way of being. Part of the emptiness I feel is getting used to not receiving that kind of attention. If I express suicidal ideation and send messages out to people they usually want to put me into a hospital. I can’t help it, when I feel suicidal I just do, and I have to wait until it goes away, and it’s very difficult to live through those hours, sometimes days. When it’s over, it’s a big relief. I haven’t been suicidal for a week now. I am in recovery.

It’s uncomfortable, sometimes, letting the minutes pass by. I really enjoy silence. I don’t like music to be playing and I don’t like watching television. I like just sitting in silence. Sometimes when I get to work I think, how is this day ever going to pass by? But sure enough, the end of the day always comes, and that’s how it is, day in, day out. Although I spend the vast majority of my time alone, I’m not always comfortable being alone. I find ways to distract myself from the awkwardness by writing a blog or watching a video online, or eating food or sleeping. Those are my main distraction techniques. For the most part it works, although it still leads to a bit of an empty feeling inside. I don’t feel complete. There is something missing in my life and I cannot fill that space with self harm like I used to. What to do then?

A lot of times being with someone, spending time with them, can feel overwhelming. If it’s someone I don’t know well, I am constantly worrying about what I should say next to keep the conversation going. I worry about what I’m going to wear, and then while wearing it, worry about how it looks, always thinking I should have worn something else. I constantly am thinking that I don’t have enough clothes to wear, though that may be typical of women. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to have silence in between conversation, and often there is. Sometimes I worry so much about what it will be like in anticipation of seeing someone, that I end up canceling the get-together at the last minute. That never feels good or reflects well on me as a person.

I have a whole weekend coming up. I could be out in the sunshine, going for a walk or a hike, eating a nice meal out, getting coffee. I could go to the mall and people watch, or make a purchase, or go to the movie theater and watch the latest production. I could do laundry and go to the grocery store. I could shower. I could eat food. But chances are, I’ll be in my bed, sleeping, pretending that the day isn’t happening, holding my stuffed animal for comfort, in my pajamas, not eating a regular meal, not treating myself to a cup of coffee, not really wanting to live, because an empty existence full of not doing things is pretty “blah”, not good, bad. It’s not the vision I have for myself and my life but it is what my life looks like right now. I don’t have much going on in my life outside of work and because of this I don’t feel motivated in my life to do anything. I still don’t like waking up every day for work and wish I could just stay in bed. Although I am relieved when my paycheck comes in every two weeks. I couldn’t do without it.

I am in recovery but I feel rejected by myself and I don’t give myself credit for all of the progress I’ve made. All I see is the negative, and envision what I could be doing but not having the courage to do those things. I wish I had more fun in my life, more reason to live, more something. I don’t exactly know what is missing, but I do enjoy taking care of others, so a dog could be a good answer. I just don’t feel that I’m responsible enough to take care of a dog, and it would be home alone all day while I’m at work. I could pick up a volunteer job and do that on the weekends, or an actual job for which I have to get up. But I don’t act on those possibilities. I don’t know what to do with myself. Time just keeps on ticking.

Feeling better

Weeks go by. I try to recognize my thoughts and feelings as they are happening. Days inch by slowly. I ride the slow waves of up and down. Hours go by and I live from moment to moment.

 

It’s hard to conceptualize time. It’s ever constant, always passing by. I don’t always like that it continues and time is not always my friend. I tend to see it as my enemy, as a pain in my back that nags with a dull sensation mixed between fear, anger, hate and dread. When I am laying in my bed doing nothing but spending monumentous amounts of energy just to stay there, I toss and I turn and check the time every hour or so. Time is not my friend. It’s against me. It mocks me. It wants me to run for joy but I run for fear. What is it that I am afraid of? I am afraid of living my life is what it boils down to. Because I’m still, still, still not used to a life without hurt and pain. It has been three years since I put that dreadful existence behind me, started new. But what does it all mean? Why am I here? What is my purpose in this life?

Since I wrote that last paragraph, I have been on a new medication called Wellbutrin. Within a week of starting this, I felt as if a cloud had been lifted from my being, and that there is some positivity to my life now. It is a drastic difference. And as much as I hate my living situation, I managed to go see a unit for rent. I applied. It’s a huge step forward. The place is not as nice as what I have lived in before, but it is suitable and it would work. I just want to live away from here and feel like I am independent.

I met a nice man. We are becoming friends, I think. I just hope he continues to be nice and doesn’t try to make any moves to move quickly before I am ready. I want to take this very slowly.

I can’t believe I am supporting myself, paying my own rent, going to work, possibly going back to school soon. I can’t believe it. It’s so much pressure so succeed and to keep going and at the same time it is amazing.

 

A better me

My grandmother who lived overseas isn’t alive any longer. Sometimes I think of her, and what a long, full, rich life she had. Her life was filled with people who loved her and who would help her. I want to be half as loved as she was. Sometimes I forget that I am loved. I spoke tonight with my Poppa, who isn’t my real father, but someone who adopted me as his daughter several years ago, took me under his wing. I had no idea that someone in his own family has depression. I did not realize it. Anyway, he reminded me that he loves me, and it was nice to hear. He has four sons and no daughters and it’s nice to think of me as his sometimes-daughter. We’re both not great at keeping in touch – he had to move away out of state. But the once-in-a-while phone call is meaningful.

I went to my support group tonight. As much as I think I’m okay without it, and not going, it does help to go. It helps to hear about other people struggling the same struggle that I have, and it helps to see familiar faces. And I get to see my therapist tomorrow night. It has been several weeks since our last meeting and I am very much looking forward to it.

No existential thoughts tonight.

New What?

I haven’t been around my computer for a week so I haven’t written a much-needed blog until now. It’s the new year and I’m not feeling new anything. I didn’t celebrate the holidays. I just stayed in bed. It’s what I do. I stay in bed. And I hate my life. I hate living. I wish I could just die somehow peacefully in my sleep. Yet, my mom fought so hard to give us a good life. I couldn’t do that to her. So what now? Go to work, a job that I hate, a job that I can barely tolerate to do what? Earn another days’ wages so that I can live independently and not off the state? It’s too hard to get government assistance anyway, and it’s not enough to live off of. Certainly not if I want to eat in restaurants.

I don’t know what to do with my life. That has been my conundrum for the last six months. Do I go back to school and do something I’m really interested in? I hate where I live. Do I move in with a 55-year-old male roommate who believes the 1930’s depression is going to hit again soon? Like this year. That’s who I recently interviewed with. I don’t know. It’s bad in my current living situation so I’m almost wanting to move anywhere. I don’t even have to be on the lease, which is good, because I recently filed for bankruptcy and getting on a lease would be hard. But then not being on the lease means I’m there not legally and he said nothing has to be in writing. That’s not good. I don’t know what to do! Help me!

I don’t like living. I don’t like being alive. It doesn’t matter where I live. I still won’t like living. So what do I do when I am feeling like this? How do I keep living when I just really don’t want to? I can’t lose my job so I’m just going to go to work tomorrow, Monday. And the next day. And I get to see my therapist. Things have to get better, right? Today I am asking a lot of questions because I don’t have the answers.

I feel oppressed. I feel the weight of the world on me. It’s too difficult to drag myself out of bed. So I spend my days off in it. I don’t have any hobbies any more. I don’t work out at the gym, except once a month. I’m not an interesting person! No one would want to spend time with me. And those that do, it confuses me why they do it. What is wrong with me? Help me. Just help me. I am in despair and I cannot seem to pick myself up.

How to feel normal

What is my normal? I suppose right now it’s feeling slightly off. Lately I’ve been proud and possessive over my suicidality. Imagine if everything in my life doesn’t feel okay, and I’m unstable, but the one remaining factor in my life that is constant is that I sometimes want to kill myself. Then I would hold on to that fact. No one can take that away from me. It’s mine to have.

Someone from my support group recently went into the hospital. Last year I spent the holiday inpatient in the hospital. It’s no fun. I feel for her. I feel unstable, especially with a long drive coming up and at the prospect of seeing my family for a few days. I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know if things will go okay. My brother is very compassionate and understanding about my situation, where I am in life, and of my mental illness. Some things that I do depend on his approval, like his urging to have me get the oil changed in my car. Instead of being a $50 expense it was an unexpected $500 expense because there were several other fluids that needed to be changed. I guess those things cost a lot although I could have easily been talked into something that wasn’t necessary. I don’t know anything about cars.

I’m writing at work right now. I cannot go into my WordPress site at my work computer because they track every page you go to, and do periodic reviews. I don’t want my workplace to find out about this blog, because everything is public. I will post this at a later time, though generally, other times I post things immediately.

It’s hard to explain what I feel right now. I have this general vibe of uneasiness, stemming from my near-future obligations. I told a friend I would house sit for her, but that feels very upsetting and now I’m wondering why I was so quick to say yes to her. I only feel comfortable in my own environment and I don’t want to be in someone else’s home. I need my own bed and my own blanket, and my teddy bear. I don’t even like where I live, but that’s been said before. I have thought so many times about moving, but just haven’t found the right living situation yet. And where I am, although not ideal, it’s comfortable, for now. Ideally I would find my own apartment, a studio, where I could set up my piano keyboard and have peace and quiet from having to be around other people. Of course, when it’s raining outside like it is now, I’m just glad to have a formidable roof over my head.

I have to find ways to make myself feel good, which is my ideal sense of what is normal. I watched a movie at a friends’ house last night, and it was a scary movie, which contributed to my current state of uneasiness. But being over at the friends’ house, if even for a couple hours, felt good. We shared pizza and talked about his latest escapades, about our lives, about me not getting out of bed on the weekends and a little about the abusive past that I lived through. He says I am a strong person, but that is something I find difficult to acknowledge within myself. Why is it that I cannot see the good in myself? I need someone to reflect that for me. That is why, finding a healthy partner and relationship would probably do wonders over a long time period. I would like to find a sense of stability, a sense of wanting to be in my own skin, and wanting to live the life I am living. Stop fighting it! See, it has to do with acceptance. I still find it hard to accept that I am independent and that I support myself through having my own job. Each day that I go to work is a day closer to my ultimate goal of one day having a family. I know I can do it, if I find the right person.

There is hope, and I have all the time in the world to find peace with my life. Coming to a place of acceptance can be a difficult challenge for anyone, mental illness or not. I don’t like to think of myself as mentally ill, because it’s not my fault that I have depression. However, staying in bed all weekend, although it didn’t feel like a choice, was indeed a choice. My therapist tries to teach me that it’s probably just a bad habit, that I choose to stay in bed. I don’t even get up to pee, that’s how bad the staying in bed is. And I certainly don’t get out to eat anything. I need to find a way to motivate me to do something different.