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.

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Wishes Beyond Trauma

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as PTSD, can strike at any time, especially when you least expect it. I haven’t had flashbacks in a very long time. This morning I woke up almost two hours early to memories of things that my ex-husband did to me. They weren’t merely memories, but sets of visual images in my mind, playing as if projected onto the wall, and I was in that motion picture and those things were happening to me all over again. It was scary, frightening, and exhausting. My mind and thoughts were racing. I knew I needed to get out of it, but I was somehow drawn to it, trapped in the cycle. I would close my eyes and try to think of puppies, but that only lasted two seconds before the images came back.

Panic and anger ensued. I imagined scenarios that didn’t happen, which could have and should have happened. I should have run out naked on to the street after having been sexually abused, and cried for 9-1-1 and I should have been questioned by the police. He would have been arrested then. There would have been evidence. If only I had done this at the time, in 2008 and in 2009 when things were at their worst, when strange men would come over at night. There would have been evidence. Cash exchanging hands, illegal prostitution. How else could those strange men prove that their semen ended up on me? I would have been swabbed and have had a thorough physical exam in an Emergency Room. Police would have gone through the home and found the two external hard drives with illegal underage pornography on them. The old email accounts that were used to pimp me would have still been active and accessible. Cash negotiations for sexual acts, all written by my abuser. Explicit and tarnishing photographs exchanged. There would have been evidence.

But I didn’t. I knew it had to be kept a secret. I loved my abuser. I loved him, who he used to be, not what he had become and the abuse itself. I knew that his life would be over and his pristine reputation tarnished had I gone to the police, had I involved law enforcement. I knew I couldn’t allow that to happen, because we had a future together, no matter what else happened, and because he claimed to love me back. If I loved him, the theory went, then I would be willing to do anything, and I mean, anything, for him.

I am having to take some deep breaths. Focusing on my breathing calms me. I live a dual life. I have the one life in which I was tortured and abused and every sexual injustice was committed against me and I was traumatised enough to try committing suicide multiple times and then subjected to a long series of Electroconvulsive Therapy treatments, thereby losing years of memories, in order to not kill myself. The other “me” goes to work five days a week, smiles at co-workers even when she is not happy and distracted by traumatic and anger-inciting memories, gets along with everyone, services customers with an upbeat and professional voice, feeds herself, showers regularly, remembers to take her psychotropic medications because without them she knows that she would end up in an abysmal pit of self-destruction including financial instability and possibly institutionalization.

The two “me’s” exist and I don’t know how to integrate them. I am both and I am neither. I don’t want to be either of them. I just want to be me, as a whole person. I want to be me without the trauma. I want to have a job that I love. I want to be excited about life, and I want to look forward to the next day, the next week, the next year. I want to travel and to have wonderful experiences and make fulfilling memories. I want to have a close relationship that is trusting and secure and in which I can open my heart fully. I want to be able to share sexual experiences with one person exclusively, to devote myself to that individual whilst being my own person, to have sex be beautiful and not about control. I want to have consensual sex. I want to be able to say “yes” and agree to making love. I want to be able to appreciate my whole body instead of looking in the mirror and being dismayed each time. I want a life not filled with despair and fear and anger and panic. I want a life outside of work where I do things on the weekends instead of living my life locked inside the four walls of my dark bedroom where I know that I will be physically safe. I want to be motivated to exercise, to increase my natural mood-lifting endorphins. I want to be surrounded by people doing pleasurable things like eating and hiking and sitting down for coffee instead of surrounded by doctors and nurses in intensive care units. That last one I do have. All in all I want to have more of a life that is worth living.

Triumphantly I Cry

I walked into my therapy session today feeling content and mildly happy. I left feeling very content and definitely happy. In between coming and going there were tears and emotions felt. The tears were from sadness. That elusive word “trigger” came up again today. It’s a tricky word for me because I constantly need the reminder that I actually have “triggers”. As a concept, it just hasn’t registered in my mind yet. I know what my extreme triggers are, and how to stay away from them, such as watching self harm videos on YouTube, but the subtle ones are difficult to catch.

We started talking about my day. I told my therapist that my bosses at work are putting pressure on me for a project I’ve been neglecting. That project encompasses about 20 boxes of client files, actual physical, non-digital paperwork, and it is my task to scan in all of the paperwork so that we can become paperless. Among my other daily duties. This is a collection of over a decade of client files. I’m allowed to start by scanning five files a day. That is certainly doable. My therapist explained to me that this is what we do, we make it a bigger project in our minds, we tell ourselves it’s overwhelming or “too much” or “I just don’t want to do it”. But the task itself is not difficult. It is the stories we tell ourselves.

We proceeded to go through the steps of what it will take to scan this mountain of files. You start with one file. You pull it from the filing cabinet. Open it up. Start removing staples and binding. Start scanning. The scanner is of great quality and scans both front and back at once. I save the PDF file of the scanned document. I repeat this process. Then I upload the digital documents to the client file, collect the paperwork, place it in the pile of documents to be shredded. We have a shredding service which comes once a week for pickup.

See? It’s not that difficult! It’s like washing the dishes. My therapist uses this example often. You start washing the dishes. Then you think, “why isn’t he doing the dishes? He’s just sitting there watching TV. Why doesn’t he do the dishes?” Then you build up resentment and all the while you could have just been washing the dishes without the burden of these stories.

Where did my therapy session progress to next? Oh, yes, we talked about the weekend. I actually did something for the Fourth of July. I got out of my house and spent time with people I value. It wasn’t difficult being outside of my house. I enjoyed my time. I did not feel stressed. I got to do everything at a relaxed pace, in my own time. There were no expectations of me from anyone. Again we went through the steps. I open my front door. I close it. I turn the key and lock it. I walk to my car. I open my door, climb in, put my foot on the brake. I start the car. When you break the action down into small steps, not one of those steps is actually difficult. Why, then, is it difficult for me to get myself out of bed on the weekends? It’s not difficult, he says. “Is it because I don’t think I deserve to be out enjoying my weekend, or that I think I am not worthy?” I ask. “No, I don’t think it’s that,” my therapist replies. “I think it is because you don’t give yourself permission,” he continues. “You haven’t had enough practice yet.”

So I need to continue practising being kind and gentle to myself. And slowly allowing myself to do things on the weekend, getting out of my apartment, going for that walk by myself. I have thus far relied on external motivators, invitations out from other people, and the motivation has not come from within. This needs to change. It won’t change overnight.

“In your marriage you weren’t permitted to do the things you wanted to do.” You weren’t allowed to be yourself. My trigger point. My lower lip starts to quiver and I look away to the side. My brow furrows. I start taking shorter breaths. Before I know it my face is turning a shade of red, and the first tear trickles down my cheek. Followed by another. And then it’s difficult to hold a straight face any longer and my lips turn downward. I start to sob and little noises escape from my vocal chords. I am crying. My therapist speaks soothing words to me. He allows silence to let me cry. He always asks when this happens, “do you know what is happening?” It takes me a while to process that he asked me a question, and then more time to be able to find words to attach to this process. “You talked about my past,” I whisper. “Yes, and I triggered you when I spoke about it.” He states gently. “You feel sad?” “Yes.” I sob. “It was sad, what happened to you,” he emphasizes, “but it is no longer happening to you. These are just the memories.” He rephrases that same last remark. These are just the memories and it is no longer happening. I feel more reassured, and I allow myself to cry some more while he waits for me to do what I need to do. I wipe my tears with the back of my hands. My cheeks are wet and my lips taste salty. I take a tissue from the Kleenex box and hold it in my hand. I stare at it for a while. Then I wipe my lips, and then my cheek, and one eye, and then the other. I crumple up the used tissue and hold my fist closed over the ball of tissue. I am ready to move on.

I am no longer experiencing trauma. It has been a long time since I experienced those things, the oppression, the suppression of who I really was. At times the memories come back, usually prompted by a trigger. “I have a red scratch on my arm. I ran a knife on my skin. I wanted to see how sharp it was, the knives my roommate got. It didn’t hurt.” I tell him. He doesn’t say comment on this revelation because he knows it’s not necessary for him to say anything. I know I must not do it again, he knows I keep my promises to not harm myself, and I know it wasn’t a healthy thing to do. It was a curiosity, and I experienced it, and it’s over. It’s important to remember that the memories are memories, and that nothing bad is happening to me right now, in this moment or the last. I am safe and okay and I am allowed to be happy. I will practise giving myself permission.

A Happy Fourth

I saw fireworks tonight. It was actually wonderful. Once I managed to get myself out of bed at noon, I engaged with life. I made two coffees in an unhurried fashion. I did two loads of laundry in the middle of the day instead of late at night at the last minute (no, I haven’t put it away yet, it’s just in a big, clean pile!), and then I went over to my friends’ house to spend the fourth of July with her other friends, their children, her fiance. It was just so lovely. I actively engaged in my life. Having two days of hibernation and difficult days this weekend were worth it, because today made my whole weekend and being alive still, just worth it. I feel loved and these friends are my chosen family. My friend is teaching me first hand how to be a mom just by mothering her own child. She has healthy boundaries and sets limits and negotiates with her child and honours him at the same time. There is love in the family.

I know I’ve been focusing a lot on my blog lately. That’s because I’ve been through some difficult things in the past few weeks, the past months, heck, the past years, and writing about it helps me to bring some equilibrium to the equation. If I write, then I know it’s real, and I haven’t imagined it, and I get to validate the experience that I am having, unlike in my past when I wasn’t valued as a human being, but as an object, and my needs and desires and feelings just meant nothing. I had learned that I was worth nothing. My friends’ fiance told me today candidly that I am beautiful, and I took it as such a compliment, coming from him, because he has no interest in me other than friendship. I don’t often get complimented in that way. I have a pink sticky note on my mirror in the bathroom that says I am worthy and I am beautiful and that every day I live is an accomplishment. I need it there because I forget those things all the time.

On my 40 minute drive home all I was thinking about was my therapist and how I get to see him in two days. I can’t wait to see him. I need to tell him about my experience this weekend, every part of it. He is witness to my life, and I need him and want him in my life. I’m sure I could do without him, right? But my life is so much richer because of him. He makes me think about things from a different perspective, and he reminds me of the things that are important.

Tomorrow will be no surprise. I don’t have any variation in my days and weeks. I know what to expect. Sometimes this is a blessing, and sometimes I want more. I just have to take things day by day, week by week, and see what I can take on and manage. I do know though, that if I want change to happen, I have the ability to make it happen. I have a proven history of that in my short past of four years of freedom. I can do this.

Reaching Out

I’ve been suffering inside my mind for the last nine hours since I’ve been up. Sometimes staying in bed with the blinds closed is a more preferable option. I’ve been connecting with people and chatting via text message. I had a strong desire to get alcohol but resisted and overcame. I spent an hour chatting with a counselor on the crisis text line until they told me it’s not meant for ‘talk therapy’ upon which I immediately cut the conversation off for having been apparently rejected (my own perception, thus my own fault). I’m not blaming myself but I can hold myself accountable for the actions that I do take. Even though it doesn’t feel like a choice, staying in bed all day long, it is actually a choice and I find that shameful to admit, so I don’t admit it and continue to let it seem like the nebulous faraway insurmountable mountain that I cannot attain nor reach.

The truth is I want more people to read what I write. I’ve gotten some family members and some friends to read my blog. I find it has been really helpful. Then there are those who just don’t care. That is a let-down although I shouldn’t be expecting too much, because if I set any expectations I’m doomed to be let down.

I haven’t had much to eat today. Although hunger has not stricken me once today, I’ve been forcing myself to eat, which is why at 22,00 hrs I cooked up a whole frozen pizza just for me. Now I have food in my stomach and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to have my regular poop tomorrow morning. It always feels good to be regular about that. Things that people don’t talk about?!

Earlier I was feeling suicidal. But it only lasted for a few hours so I’m not going to track it in my digital notepad, or maybe I should. I talked about jumping off the popular suicide bridge in town. I reached out to my theatre friend, who used to be there for me last year, but now that he has a girlfriend, we’re drifting away. Maybe it’s for the better since we had sex during my traumatic years a long time ago, and he was initially intrigued to stay in contact with me because of the immense guilt he felt for having been a part of my instability. The fact is, all I knew at that time in my life was to act out with sex. It was how I got people to like me. It was how I had been trained. I needed to connect with people, but I had been highly sexualized by my abuser, and relating to men in a sexual way was the only thing I knew by then. Luckily I have grown out of that.

My roommate has had a busy and apparently fulfilling day. She has been in and out, church in the morning, church at night. I just can’t imagine being that active, having the desire to be out practically all day. I don’t know how people do it. I don’t know how people manage to have businesses and families and children. I don’t know how other people manage to get up every day, without a second thought, and continue on, perhaps even with gusto, or at least, not with the dread that I feel at the beginning of each day. Some people even like their jobs, or at least don’t mind it, and see it as a means of supporting the life that they love. Yet I do not enjoy my job and I do not enjoy my life. Some day that has to change. It’s not going to happen overnight. It has been an upward battle for the past many years. And so I continue, to struggle.

I am still alive

It’s Sunday afternoon. Sometime in the last two hours since I’ve been up I’ve managed to have cereal, make myself an espresso with my moka, sweetened with cane sugar and dressed up with soy creamer, and pluck my chin hairs. Chin hairs are an inevitable fact of many women, but it’s not often talked about because people are embarrassed or it’s somehow a taboo subject. But it’s my blog and I’m free to talk about what I want here.

Friday night I went to bed at midnight and I spent the entirety of Saturday in bed. I didn’t want to face the world and I didn’t want to be living. Staying in bed, holding my teddy bear tight, drifting in and out of sleep in my darkened bedroom alone, is one way I avoid the world. It’s not that I don’t feel like I deserve to live. This time it has nothing to do with deserving. I just don’t feel alive, and I self-perpetuate the cycle by actually staying in bed with my eyes closed, doing nothing but thinking and sleeping and having nightmares all day long, which reaffirms that I’m not really alive because I’m not doing things that “normal” living people do, like being upright instead of vertical, talking with people, making plans, going out for hikes, making coffee.

It’s a big deal that I made myself coffee today. I love good coffee. Most days I make do with the crappy coffee that’s free and made en masse at work, but on weekends I deserve more. I dream of getting up at a reasonable hour every day of the weekend, say, by 10:00 and making myself coffee with my newly purchased Lavazza coffee grounds which for some reason need to be refrigerated. I bought a whole thing of cane sugar just for that purpose. I bought the soy creamer, because it lasts much longer than regular dairy creamer. Yet it was already 2:00 in the afternoon by the time I got around to making my coffee. Still, it felt good making it, pressing the coffee grounds down in the metal container of the moka, smelling the coffee grounds, preparing my large coffee cup with cane sugar, waiting over the hot stove for the first of the espresso liquid to boil up. It made me feel alive because I was doing what living people do. I was doing something I enjoyed.

I think my armpits stink because I sweated under my big down comforter yesterday, though we had the air conditioning on. My long hair is greasy on the top because I haven’t showered since Thursday, and it’s now somehow four days later. How did that happen? How is it that I have to endure this weekend for a bloody third day because of the holiday tomorrow. How is it that I despise weekends because of this cycle of not-living-but-sleeping-all-day-instead and then I don’t enjoy my weeks either because I don’t find fulfillment in my job. Yet I am still here. Still on this earth. Still breathing. And I am privileged because I am a citizen of this country, I have access to clean, running water, I am in good physical health, and I am not homeless. Still, knowing those things don’t help with my depression.

It’s my depression and I’ll do with it what I want! You say ‘action before motivation’? I don’t think so! Says my depression. You’re not doing anything today, it says. You’re going to stay in your dark room and deal with the nightmares, which usually have to do with the sexual trauma of my past, and you’ll suffice to eat once a day, and miss taking your morning medication that is supposed to stimulate you, because you’re confined to your bed. You’re going to stay there all day, says my depression, and pretend you’re not alive. If you’re not going to give in, not going to kill yourself, you can punish yourself in other ways.

Shoot. Am I punishing myself by staying in bed all day? I didn’t realize it until I took on the voice of my depression. It’s a form of self-punishment. It’s definitely not ‘lazy’. I texted my younger but adult boy cousin that I slept all day and his reply was “bum!”. I couldn’t help but replying: “I’m entitled to my bum days. By the way, bums actually work hard to earn a living collecting recyclables to turn in for dollars. They’re not all lazy. Most homeless people have severe mental illness.” No response. What do you say when someone comes at you with hard truth like that? Most people don’t want to think about the other people suffering out there. But what can I do about it? The best I could do would be to stay awake and study, although the motivation isn’t there, pass this exam and go to grad school where I can learn to be a therapist and then help the underserved populations of my community. That would be community service. And when you’re in the helping profession, it’s inevitable to do some charity work on the side. My therapist took me on as a charity case for years. How could any conscientious being not want to give back somehow? I’ve been seeing him for eight long years, and that time hasn’t flown by. It has been arduous and challenging. It sure was hard to stay alive, but he helped to keep me alive, along with other supportive people, and here I am today, alive even if I don’t exactly want to be. I’m alive for a reason. That reason is to help people. To do good in this world.

Money matters. To say otherwise would not be true. You have to have enough money to live. My girlfriend who is a psychiatrist, was recently interviewed by some students who asked her what motivated her to choose the profession she is in, among other things. “Don’t believe anyone when they tell you that money doesn’t matter. It does.” She helps people every day, but it also pays enough for her to pay rent, to send her son to a private school where he can get more individualized attention because he has ADHD, to pay back her student loans, to fight custody battles with her ex-husband. You need money to do all of these things and more. She takes her son on vacations and he is the center of her entire life. Yet she accomplishes so much. “I see the strength of the human spirit in each and every one of my patients, in the adversity they endure and how far they have come,” she says. She admires her patients. She helps them and gives all of herself to them. She doesn’t hide her tears if something comes up that elicits them during a session. She is very emotional and thinks with her heart, and is emotionally connected with her patients. She has seen them grow and become more stable during the treatment period. That makes a good helping professional.

I have to remember that my therapist cares so much. Of all of the humans in my life, he has been able to connect most with me. He has helped me through my most difficult times. He has never rejected me, never lied to me, never been judgmental. He has always been there for me. He always reads the emails I send him every day still, because I need that form of therapy, a one-way journal, a connection with the most important person in my life. He doesn’t respond to my emails, because that would take too much time, and because that’s not a part of the way we do therapy, it’s the face-to-face in person contact for 50 minutes a week which is the therapeutic process, but I know I’m special and that we have a special arrangement, and he doesn’t charge me for the extra time he spends reading my daily emails. I know he reads them, one, because he said he would and he always fulfills his promises, and two, because he references material I’ve written to him during our talk sessions. I am so lucky to have found him. It took trying about five therapists over the period of two years before I finally found him, yet, I persevered. I knew I needed help and no one, not even an abusive husband, was going to stop me from getting the kind of help I knew I needed.

After writing for an hour, I feel much more connected to the world and to myself. I don’t feel quite so empty as I did a few hours ago when I finally had the courage to get out of bed, to wake up, to face the day. Nothing about my environment has changed. I’m still sitting on my lovely couch, with the blinds open, and the sunlight spilling in from outside. Yet, internally, in my mind, a shift has taken place. Writing gives me purpose. It does give me a reason for living. I need to tell my story and I need to be heard. I want others to be witness to my life. My therapist is already a witness, and this means so much to me, but what if, by writing about my inner world, someone else reads what I’ve written and they somehow connect with something I’ve said? A few sentences. That’s all it takes to change someone’s day, to open up someone’s perspective of the world, to let someone know they’re not alone in their suffering and that the human spirit can endure in each and every one of us, if only we let it. When I’m at my lowest of lows, when I’m feeling suicidal, when I just don’t want to keep on living, there is always this small seed of hope within me, a minuscule inner voice that says, “don’t give up. It will be worth it one day. You are worthy of living. You are beautiful inside and out and you deserve to live. You have to live. You don’t have a choice but to live.” The truth is that I do have a choice. If I had really wanted to take my life, I would have done it. I wouldn’t have called the crisis line to have ambulances take me to the emergency room, or to have policemen beat me down just because I had a knife, which is considered a weapon, in my hand. All of these actions kept me alive and it’s because of me, ultimately, that I am still alive.

A rant

It’s just after 9 PM. Three hours before my average bedtime. Last night I was unable to fall asleep until 4 AM. Was it the heat or the two cups of coffee I drank or the fact that I slept for 33 hours this weekend or my anxiety? I don’t know which. I’m glad I don’t take ten different pills any longer. Trazodone just makes a person soo sluggish.

The evenings are dreadful for me. Is it because I have nothing to do? Nothing that motivates me, at least. It was difficult going to school at night after work, but at least that provided me with some structure. Now it’s summer and I keep telling myself I’m supposed to be studying for this big exam, and there is but a faint spark of interest in doing the latter work. I am in my head in the evenings. I spend a lot of time thinking. I don’t pay attention to the self-talk I create, yet it must be there. Eating, feeding myself is therapeutic. I cooked cheesy gnocchi from a frozen pack on the stove. Listening to the tiny bubbles in the sauce come to the surface like the pitter-patter of rain on a window. Doing normal things helps me. Yes, I dressed in gym clothes when I got home from work, instead of into pajamas, because I thought I might be motivated to walk on the elliptical machine, but no, I’m putting that off for later in the week.

Can I just be frank here? Can I just say that it pisses me off that some family members know what I’m going through and aren’t supportive? I’m talking about one family member in particular. I thought she would have been more supportive, but I was wrong. What did I ever do to her? This is my white American aunt, who married into our Indian side of the family. She and her husband even supported me financially ten years ago for a year of my college. I guess she can’t do the emotional stuff?? I’m so angry that I just want to delete her text messages. Her advice to me of “try to find a club or volunteer group” seems like normal advice but I take insult to it. She has no idea what I go through every day, just to make it to the next day. She doesn’t know that I suffer in silence on weekends when I can’t get up out of bed, and when I don’t want to live. That advice was given to me after I exposed myself entirely, by telling her that I told the DDA about my abuse story. Her only other reaction? “Oh.” It was a monosyllabic response. The monstrosity of the fact that I will not get justice and that my abuser will not spend one day in jail, gets an “oh”.

On to happier things. My roommate is home and is playing at being a homemaker, as I do sometimes too. She bought a huge watermelon and cut it up and told me to “not be shy” so that I can have as much as I want. The only downside to this is that her sharp knife set finally arrived today. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they are very sharp. “Why would that bother you?” my therapist would say. “Because I might want to cut myself,” I reply after a long hesitation about whether to reveal the truth, even though he knows that’s where I’m going and he knows I need to say it out loud. “You don’t do that any longer,” he would say, “so why would that be an issue?”

All of a sudden it’s 10 PM. My brother called and we talked for over half an hour. He calls me during his long commute time in the car coming home at night. We talked about my weekend of hibernation, and about how I’ve been doing that for the last year and a half, and that it has become more of a “habit” and that habits are harder to break as we get older. He said if I do anything, even watch YouTube videos, rather than sleeping, even if I’m not studying, is better than sleeping. If I find friends, meet a man, or want to do anything, those things usually happen on the weekends and I am confined like a prisoner to my bed. It’s as if I don’t have the courage to get out of bed and face the day when I don’t have to be at work. To be honest, I don’t know how I have actually functioned for almost a year, barely calling in sick. I actually get up in the mornings and make it to work. Work is another issue I’m having with myself. I’m terribly behind in all of my tasks and the weight of the load at work is just weighing on me like a bag of bricks.

I have all of these issues! But, there are things to be grateful for. I’m now aware of myself and my body. I don’t have to let people use or abuse me. I’m learning how to make my life a life that is worth living. I’m not there yet and I still occasionally wish “I weren’t here” (on this earth, meaning, alive). With that mindset every day seems oppressive. My emotions fluctuate and I have to learn to bend with them. Some hours of the day I will feel fine, and then all of a sudden I’ll be struggling, making it hour by hour through the day.

I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow. That’s always a saving grace. Because when I’m with him, I feel alive, more than any hour of the week, I feel alive for the 50 minutes that I’m with him, once a week. He has taught me how to live in a meaningful way. There’s still a lot I have to work on, but I get through my life from one week to the next with him as the marker, the highlight, of my time here on earth.

Shoulders slumped, head cocked to the side, listening to my upstairs neighbour pace across the creaky floorboards. Not feeling okay, not feeling like myself. Feeling as if this evening was surreal, somewhat disconnected, despite my attempts to connect by doing everyday things like feeding myself. I’m so lucky I don’t have to shower tonight because I showered yesterday. I still struggle to find showering a pleasurable activity. It’s worse than a chore and I’d rather not do it at all.

Pick myself up from focusing on negative things. On the outskirts of my mind, and somewhere tucked deep within, there has to be a reason for all of this. There has to be hope.

Another Day of Self Care

While skimming through some of my older blogs I began to feel overwhelmed, of which feeling was then replaced with a mute kind of inner strength. I have finally found my voice, after all of those years of not having one. This is me. I am allowed to be me. I can say what I want and it’s okay to feel up or down without having to put a mask on. It’s not “fake” to smile at co-workers when I’m not feeling good. It’s merely a social courtesy, and a gift to the passer-by, because if you smile at them you are giving them a sort of positive, momentary human interaction. The ones that bother me are those two people at the office who say, “Hi, how are you?” They ask every time how I am and it’s pretty obvious they just want me to say “fine” so I’ve been ignoring the last part of the sentence and just saying “Hi” back. They don’t seem to notice the difference.

I am sitting on my usual spot on my couch, upright supported by a pillow behind my back, my cozy white blanket over my cross-legged lap and a brewed chai tea to my right which is no longer hot. (I hate water so I drink tea instead). My phone isn’t blowing up, but occasionally there will be a buzz, and it’s usually my cousin who posts on Facebook 12 times a day, nothing directed at me specifically, so I don’t read those messages. My roommate has been gone all weekend, but we rarely see each other anyway. I quickly did the dishes in the sink so she will find it clean when she gets home. Her life-sized teddy bear sits lazily on top of the small, white bench we never use. It is still light outside although it feels dark to me. That’s the cloud over my mind. I have this habit of rubbing my skin with my fingers to find dirt, because I’ve often felt as if I’m dirty. It started years ago. I’ll rub the skin on my upper chest until it gets red and I’ve managed to scrape off a minuscule part of dirt combined with dead skin cells. I’ve read somewhere that this is a form of self-harm like self-scratching to an unusual extent, which I have done before too. I just see it as a formed habit and I only do it when no one is looking. Like picking my nose.

I’m not sure what to do with myself for the next three hours before bedtime. I do have to shower, which as usual, I am not looking forward to. Tuesday is almost here. I needn’t ready because I already have sent to the DA’s office my 20-page written statement, which encompasses most of the horror story I lived through. I was abused, raped, tortured, manipulated, forced to drink, coerced, bound, kept, owned, encouraged to do awful things, received praise for doing those awful things, pimped out, prostituted, used, undignified, hurt, infantilised, objectified, put down, isolated, ostracised, stigmatized, hated, pressured, constrained, changed, ignored. I was all of those things and more. Those things defined me at the time, yet are now a part of an increasingly distant past, though the past is so real and often encroaches on my present healing. It is important for me to repeat to myself the truths of my story including, “I was raped” because it validates my past, which is a part of me. I’ve been repeating that one a lot lately, kind of like an unhealthy but necessary mantra.

I’m not feeling positive, but also not negative, but also definitely not neutral. I’m on both ends of the spectrum. I know that going into the interview on Tuesday will feel surreal and scary. I know that I will be mentally exhausted afterwards. I know that I have scheduled to meet with a friend afterwards to decompress and distract my mind of the difficult undertaking.

I didn’t go to the adult birthday party last night. Instead, I went to bed super early and stayed in bed for the next 18 hours. Pretty typical for my weekends. I would rather be in bed than be alive sometimes. I had some really vivid dreams, although I do not remember the content of them, just that at times my ex-husband was there and at other times my brother was present. I do remember dreaming that my ex touched my bottom with his hand and I smacked him hard. What I really did was reach out, extend my arm, and collide into the wooden frame of my bed. The pain on my wrist woke me up momentarily. I’m finally fighting back! Even in my dreams!! That’s great. Good for you. Good job. Kudos. You are strong. You can do this. You’ve got it. You’re good. You’re amazing. I’m so proud of you. I am in awe at what you’ve been through. Talking to myself in this way helps.

I ate half a bag of cookies for dinner. Earlier I ate cereal and soy milk for lunch. At some point I might microwave something a little more substantial, or not. It’s really up to me. I can do what I want in terms of self care. I am autonomous. Thank the Lord I did not choose to become institutionalized for my mental illness. My psychiatrist at the hospital, after my round of ECTs, gave me that choice. It would have set me back in my healing process. Or it could have helped me. But I think it would have taken me many more years to get back on my feet. I wouldn’t have the good job that I have now. At work, they have no idea what I’ve been through and what I’m going through, and it’s better that way. One day, though, I want to tell the world my story. This blog is a first step. And I’ll be known by my pen name. I want other abuse survivors to hear my story so that they know they are not alone.

A fly landed on my yogurt spoon

It’s evening time on a Saturday and I’ve only been up for four hours. The sun is still out. I went to bed at 7:30 on Friday night, which means I passed that twelve-hour threshold a long time ago. I was going to get up, have a cup of coffee, read a textbook, and then be on time to my therapy session. That didn’t happen. I startled awake a quarter hour before my appointment and raced at 80 down the freeway on my twenty-minute drive. So glad his office is close by.

I was so afraid that my therapist was upset with me from our session last week. His immediate answer was “no”. What a relief. He just has to be firm with me from time to time. He will not support self harm in any way. What kind of a therapist would support it? It was I who was angry with him for being so firm with me. I didn’t handle it very well. I realized that hurting myself because of anger toward another person only hurts me, and does not affect the other person directly. But it does affect other people. Most people cannot handle knowing about my suicidal ideation. It pushes people away. After a while they don’t know how to cope with that knowledge and then they stop communicating with me. It’s not my fault that it comes and it goes. I like my life better when I get to be me, and not bogged down by extreme suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Now that I broke our agreement from four years ago, he is going to trust me less. He said that’s a part of it. The threat, however, was that he might not see me any longer, particularly if I share with him that I have been self-harming. I just have to be honest with myself and with him, for effective therapy to continue.

Today we explored why my mind wanders into that dark space where I feel extreme emotions of distress. When I watch videos online or read stories of other people self-harming it is a conscious (more so than unconscious) decision to intentionally put my mind in that place. Is it because that’s what I’ve been used to? The drama of feeling suicidal and being hospitalized? There is a lot of extreme emotions and negative excitement around it. He likened it to an adrenaline junkie who gets thrills from doing extreme sports and only feels alive when there is danger involved, sometimes even the danger of death. It’s not an addiction but has been kind of an obsession, or a fixation. My stomach is uneasy and my breath short just thinking about this.

Let’s take a self-soothing break and breathe deeply. I am drinking lukewarm Earl Grey tea in a mug as wide and round as a bowl, but with a handle on it. It is white inside and green on the outside. One of my favourite colours. I can smell the frankincense incense that I was burning earlier on the kitchen counter. There’s a life-size teddy bear that my roommate put in the living room, and it has a permanent smile affixed to the face. I can hear birds whispering beyond the living room walls. My neighbour upstairs is watching television as usual and in a short while we are going to walk across the street to get Thai food together. Which means I have to put on a bra. The inconveniences of being a woman.

See? Those are self-soothing thoughts. It is anti-anxiety medicine, the natural way. I was messaging with an older lady friend in Italy who said to me that I just have to “get over” my depression and “be strong”. I know that most people don’t understand major depressive disorder. Especially in Italy. It is much more of a stigma there to have mental illness, and is just not talked about.

I treated myself to something nice today. I let my semi-healthy diet go by the wayside and stopped by a coffee shop on the way home from my therapist’s office. I had a medium two-shot vanilla latte along with a warmed-up chocolate croissant. It was buttery, melted chocolate heaven and for those few moments I felt really good. My hands got really messy and I realized I should have been less eco-conservative by taking more than one napkin. The more I have good, positive experiences in my life, the mo’ better I will begin to feel. Feeling good will become a routine rather than a sporadic medley of mixed moments. It will help me want to live, all of the time.

I am more into talking about positive moments right now rather than sinking into the insight and light exploration done at “work” today in my therapist’s office. He asked me difficult questions for which I didn’t have answers and could only guess. I could tell he had a clear picture of where he was leading me, and he always wants me to eventually come to my own conclusions. If I am not able to, he helps me by providing insight as to the “why” of the actions I choose to take. I had a habit of writing to him every day (he never responds only reads) in emails, but this week I took a break because I was upset with him. He also remembers everything I tell him, so he’ll reference things I’ve said in the past that I don’t expect him to remember. It always catches me by surprise.

As a child I got used to the volatility of intense emotions because my mother would often yell and get upset. It was scary. As young as the age of eight I remember yelling back at my mum in order to hurt her: “I wish I were dead!” She immediately welled up with tears in her eyes. But it has been since that moment that I have struggled with suicidal thoughts. They came to a peak when I was 16 and first attempted suicide. My mom wouldn’t let it go, that, in addition to the overdose, I had cut myself with a supposedly “rusty” knife. We were in conflict about the rust. I know it wasn’t rusty but she had me get shots at the doctor’s office nevertheless.

Then when I was married in my 20s, the emotions were equally as volatile. My ex was all about control and manipulating, and it was his own illness acting out itself upon others. If I didn’t do what he wanted me to do, I would be punished, emotionally. He was very good at doing that to me. So, most of my life I have known punishment and volatility. They have been constants in my life, and the challenge now is to break that cycle.

On a positive note, I might be making a new friend. I have a friend who is 62 and a semi-retired professor at a local community college in the child development department, where I took some classes several years ago. I had to withdraw from the classes due to suicidal ideation and being hospitalized. That was during the period of my life when I could not hold down a job due to my mental illness. This teacher stayed friends with me. He wanted to be a part of my healing journey. He calls me once a week and is very calming to me when he talks. In my psychology class on ageing, I have to interview someone who is over the age of 65, and then present it to class. My professor friend has a retired friend who is 85 years old and spunky, although he just had back surgery. I am going to visit with them both next weekend, and hopefully tape my interview on camera to present to my class. It should be a good experience.

My upstairs neighbour is very active. He works out six days a week and plays sports and still manages to work over full time. My roommate plays volleyball, swims, and works, and even has friends. She is always gone on the weekends, out doing things. She doesn’t have inhibitions about doing things that make her happy, as I have. I block myself from being happy, and stay stuck in that mediocre “okay” state. I don’t even have the energy to go to the gym once a week, although I had told myself I would start going more often. It makes me feel good and energizes me. This would be using the skill called “opposite action”. Hard to do when I can’t even get up in the mornings on the weekends to take my morning medication.

I’m going to an avocado festival tomorrow. It will be a completely new experience. I could never do it alone. I’m going with my upstairs neighbour. There will be wine and guacamole among other things, and the sun will be shining. It might just be therapeutic, what I need.