Current State of Affairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Another Day

I’m sitting upright on my bed with my back supported by a pillow as I type this. Piano music is playing from my phone. Ah, the wonders of modern technology where things like surreptitious music are but a finger swipe away. Some kind of Nocturne is playing and I’m wondering if it’s Chopin. It’s a familiar melody as I’ve listened to this Pandora Radio station many-a-time. My bedroom isn’t my only sanctuary. My home and private space extends into the kitchen which looks out onto the dining nook, filled by an upright piano, and the spacious living room of which a $3,500 couch takes up a copious amount of space because it boasts a queen pull-out bed. Behind the light moss green couch, a colour which I specifically selected, are a couple of dark bookshelves packed with books and my cast iron teapot set which I use once a year for fun. I would never again spend such money on a couch, of all things, but at the time, I was not worried about money. These days, worries of money pass in and out of my consciousness like an ever-present cloud of rain.

This is the life I have made for myself, chosen for myself, won for myself. This is not the life I had on the other side of the state, where I was far from family in a place I had forced myself to call home for over fifteen years, working several underpaid jobs, stressed out by the workload, underappreciated and torn by the remnants of post-traumatic stress disorder and severe clinical depression. I would say that I still suffer at times, but much less so. Torments of the past and extreme states of emotional distress have left my life almost completely. My depression takes the form of entire weekends spent in bed, whilst still managing to feed and walk my dog, a necessity of the life of being a dog mom. When I adopted him five years ago I committed myself to the responsibility of taking care of him. Though he is aging, he is still a spry 11-year-old chihuahua mix and at 10 pounds if he doesn’t listen to me, which is often the case due to poor training and a diminished sense of hearing, I can pick him up and bring him to me. Last night he had his monthly bath. He hates baths but oh, I am such a proud dog mom to say the least, as he is finally clean again! What a wondrous sight and smell. He was beginning to smell a bit like wet dog smells when he wasn’t even wet. I can’t manage to bring myself to bathe him more than once a month due to my depression. If I were a good dog mom I would bathe him at least twice a month due to his consistent allergies. Now he has arthritis to add to the mix, for which he will have to take special medication, hidden in between a “pill pop” flavoured like chicken that I got at the vet’s office today. Dogs are expensive and any pet owner can relate. Vet visits add up quickly. He’ll have to have a chest x-ray due to his heart murmur before we can decide whether his little body could tolerate the anesthesia required to get his teeth cleaned, for he has also been diagnosed with mild periodontal disease. 

Friends of a distant past have moved from my former home to Bali, Indonesia, where the wife of my photographer friend awaits giving birth to their first child. This friend sent me a photo and a video of her engorged, naked breasts. They were very tastefully and artfully depicted in the images. While this may not be a “normal” sort of thing for friends to exchange, I once posed nude for this photographer. We created a collage of artful and very explicit nudes of my then 115 pounds of flesh. I weigh much more than that now and would never get in front of a camera like that again. But in those days I was not afraid of nudity, nor was I a stranger to sexual escapades while I was being taunted by a narcissist who sexually exploited me to a degree which to some, would be unfathomable. I am happy for this couple, my friends of a still-distant past. It’s strange that I’ve remained in touch with them in spite of leaving everything else from that time period behind.

I’ve often dreamed of a different life for myself. Not the life of the 25-year-old new bride who dreamed of being a mom with two children behind a white picket fence. But a life which includes the trauma, now healed, and of being of service to others. I tried one semester of graduate school only to discover to my dismay that it was not good timing. When will it ever be the right time to go to school to become a psychotherapist? Perhaps never, perhaps, one day, when I am fully healed and suicide attempts are a thing of my distant past.

My last suicide attempt was in January of this year. I was so sure, absolutely certain, that killing myself was the right idea. I had come up with a brilliant strategy to complete my impending death sentence, one that I had never thought of before, only to chicken out at the very last millisecond. I ended up hospitalized for the requisite 72 hours, which were torturous because of the way hospital staff treated me, or should I say, county mental health staff. County mental health is notorious for being bad. After I got out my brother took care of me for two days and those days were lovely. It felt nice to be cared for, before I had to submit myself back to the daily grind, sometimes excruciating grind, of being at work five days a week and “pretending” to be okay.

The piano music is still playing and my dryer from a load of laundry is humming in the background. My hair is so long and voluptuous that after a shower, the weight of my wet hair is not well-held-up by one single hair band. I am wearing a baseball hat, so-to-speak, to keep my hair up and off of my back. My hair stretches all the way down to my waist and I normally wear it in a braid to my side, with my hair parted in the middle. That is my “look” every day of the week at work. They rarely see my hair flowing freely at the office.

I had my obligatory weekly shower. I don’t know why, but showering for me is difficult. Survivors of sexual assault and chronic sexual abuse often find showering difficult and unpleasant. Once I’m in the shower, I’m fine, but it’s the “idea” of the shower which assaults my placid mind which makes me want to vomit. Something about being naked, in the nude, in the buff, whatever you want to call it, something about that gets to me and it’s not something I can take for granted as many people do.

Well, this is a window to my world. My therapist, who has stuck by me for over a decade of weekly sessions, five years of which were pro bono and unpaid, has been on vacation for a week. I will finally get to see him again this weekend. I’ve been doing so well that we will often skip weeks at a time, or at least see each other every other week instead of weekly. There was a time in my life back in 2012 whence I was so incredibly suicidal and unable to work, that I would see him three times a week just to keep myself alive and from killing myself. Because inevitably, as all my attempts at my life have been, another attempt would be unsuccessful and land me in the hospital for a number of weeks. I had so many hospital visits and bills that I filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Seven years have almost passed by since then and the bankruptcy will finally exit its doleful place on my credit score report. Maybe one day I’ll actually be able to buy a home: a nice little two-bedroom condominium where my mom can stay in her elderly years. That’s my dream. She took care of me for most of my life, still does to a degree, and I owe it to her to give back to her what she gave to me: self-sacrifice.

It’s almost bedtime now. I walked on the treadmill for an hour this evening. I manage to do that once every few weeks at best, given that one out of the hundred residents of my complex could be using the gym at any given moment as well, and often the treadmill is taken. Because of Covid, only one person at a time is allowed to use the tiny gym anyway. So it’s time to say goodbye. The effects of the red wine are wearing off and I occupied my mind whilst cooking dinner tonight by listening to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” It’s a book which causes me to reflect on my life as it stands today, and on my past. I am really enjoying the listening. I finally got a library card because buying audio books and Kindle books was becoming an expensive habit.

I am in rare form tonight. I actually have energy. Not the sort of boundless energy one could attribute to a 20-something-year-old, but energy enough to sustain me, rather than having to feel the need to go to bed hours before my necessary bedtime. My brother inadvertently mocked me for going to bed at 7 PM one night, asking if I was a baby. I quickly changed the subject but I was hurt and I know he will be able to hear my complaint one of these days, to repair that minor damage to our relationship. Does he not know that I spend entire weekends in bed doing nothing but sleeping?

I just got up to use the restroom as my bladder wasn’t having this typing anymore, and I was delighted to use my bidet. This is a bidet installation to a regular toilet that my brother so lovingly and painstakingly installed when I moved into this apartment almost a year ago. If and when I ever move, I’ll have to get him to uninstall the bidet, as I am not adept at such very specific manual tasks which require a lego-like minded assembly motif to the instructions that come with the gadget. Mind you, my Mum did buy me pink legos when I was young, and I enjoyed assembling those buildings, as per the instructions. But those days are long since over and my patience wanes.

“Pure Imagination,” which played in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is playing right now in the form of a piano composition. The melody is familiar although I haven’t watched that movie since childhood. I’ll get my obligatory eight hours of sleep tonight, though sometimes it wickles down to seven hours, in order to be able to function tomorrow. I can’t imagine functioning on less than seven hours of sleep though some people do it regularly. I don’t know how. Tomorrow I’ll send emails to clients, and be the detail-oriented me I know how to be. I’ll service the clients of our financial firm that were assigned to me, and I’ll prepare for upcoming meetings. I won’t call in sick, though I think about it almost every morning when faced with the prospect of having to go to work, particularly on Mondays. I’ll do my once-a-week grocery shopping trip to Trader Joes, get frozen meals for lunch at work and try to buy some fruit and vegetables since those are supposedly good for the constitution. And then I’ll have another mostly peaceful evening, perhaps punctuated by another glass of red wine, although I’ve been trying to curb my drinking habit as of late. But a bottle of red is open, so why not finish it off? And so the cycle continues. And so life continues, my life, specifically. I’m not dead yet and I am aware that death inevitably comes to us all one day. But for now, I am alive, and I’ll keep living until there is no more life to be lived.

Self Worth

I am worthy. I am so worthy of life. I am worth something. I am worth so much. I feel it, right now, in this moment. I am practising self-kindness. I am being gentle with myself. I am not downgrading my self esteem with negative thoughts against myself. I embrace my body, almost every inch of it. I am allowed to cry when I want to. I don’t always have to smile if I don’t want to. I am fundamentally a good person. I forgive myself for those times that I was less than perfect. I seek good in other people. I am allowed to have a future. The future is mine and no one else’s. I can create happiness from within. I have the capacity to be at peace with myself. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay.

I don’t want to generalize and then jump into specifics, and therefore interrupt the idyllic nature of the above paragraph, yet I must. It is Thursday night. On Tuesday I am going to the district attorney’s office downtown. I will be there before 9:00. That’s when my interview starts. It’s not really an interview. I believe, officially, I will be giving my statement. I’ve been calling it a dissertation in my mind. Calm before the storm, only I hope there will be no storm. Biting my nails. How do I go on? It’s a statement. I will be telling them everything. I don’t know if I will be able to tell everything. They will be directing the conversation. It may be recorded. “They” refer to the district attorney and the sheriff. The two of them and the victim advocate will be there in the room. The victim advocate will be there for support. They are all female. I am so grateful for this. There will be no men in the room. I imagine the room is going to feel cold and stark with bare white walls and a table in a middle with chairs around it. This is where I am going to be spending up to three hours. I am going to tell them everything.

The district attorney’s job is to seek truth and justice. The justice part I may as well lay to the side because it is probably unlikely that this case will ever see the inside of a courtroom. The attorney has to be able to prove to the 12-person jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that these things that I am saying are the truth. The fact is that I have very little proof. I have some photos, some old emails, an old Craigslist account that I was able to log in to. But the valuable part of the case is me. This is all about me, not about a justice I cannot hope for. Without my testimony this trial wouldn’t stand a chance. There wouldn’t even be a trial.

I didn’t think that the DA would be willing to reopen the case. But she did! It was a surprise to me. I am therefore grateful that I get to tell my story to someone official in the justice system. Because that’s all I can do. I cannot do more than that. I am not the law. I can’t make someone go to jail. But I can bring light to what happened to me rather than keeping it in the dark. My therapist knows every intricate detail. He probably knows more than I know even though I lived it. That’s because I forget things because I compartmentalize my memories in order to live with the knowledge that these things actually happened to me. There are shitty people in the world but I am not one of them.

It’s next week. I have been fretting about this case since I first contacted the DA’s office two weeks ago. It has been torturing my mind. Often this week I have found myself at work staring at the screen, and in my mind I am somewhere completely different: I am in the room where I was gang raped, I am dressed up in nothing dancing on a pole at the Porn Convention, I am trying to fight him off and saying no and him climbing on top of me anyway to do his business (because I was an object to him and not a person), I am in a bar being fed more alcohol than I can handle. I am not at work concentrating at my tasks at hand and making the outbound phone calls I need to be making. I am pretty far behind at work, at least a week behind. On good days I am only two days behind, but not these last two weeks. My mind has been occupied with something else and it has been very distracting.

I keep wanting to tell people, and then reminding myself that they don’t need to know, and that it’s better to not know. Plenty, or enough people know already. The DA, the victims advocate, the sheriff, my aunt abroad, my new coffee shop girl friend, my therapist, my theater friend, my mom. They all are aware of what I’m going to be doing on Tuesday. It is a big day. It will be a marking day, a significant day in my life. It has been just over four years since I left. I walked out and drove away and never saw him again. The divorce was finalized a year later. Now I am going back to then, reaching back into my memory, and telling my story so I can find closure to this chapter of my life. I am not actively suicidal any more although the thought still crosses my mind briefly at times. I didn’t want to kill myself. I didn’t want to end my life at all. I wanted to end the pain and mental torture, and escape the mental prison that I was being held in. I didn’t want to leave him and I couldn’t bear what he was doing to me so the only logical conclusion was to kill myself. I fought that for five years, from 2010 to 2015. Now it’s 2016 and things are different. I know I can choose to live. I know I don’t have to kill myself. I choose life.

Love Life

I am doing better. I am doing better than I was. I am better, more strong, more determined to live, more sure of myself than last month. And the month before that. I am doing so much better. With each passing month I gain more control and sense of certainty over my life. I know what I want. I know what I don’t want. Everything is under my control. I can choose to spend time with some people, and no time with others. What I want is within my grasp.

I cut myself on the plastic hummus container. It’s one of those hairline cuts that’s a millimeter deep and long but with the cold on my fingers and the dry air on my skin I can feel it and I keep wanting to nurse it by bringing it to my lips and instinctively slobbering all over the wound to keep it clean and protected.

I went to Trader Joe’s for dinner tonight. The bananas I bought at Costco are still too green, so I bought some reliably yellow ones at the health food store, along with a frozen pasta dinner. Frozen pasta is the best, because the sauce is already on it, it’s in it’s own disposable container so you don’t have to get a plate dirty, and there’s no mess in cooking it. Five minutes in the microwave oven and it was done. Brie and asparagus over shells of pasta. Ingenious, yet someone came up with the wicked idea which prompted me to open a bottle of a generic red blend, whatever I had on hand. Thank you very much.

Work was tolerable today. It’s always tolerable. Somehow I make it to lunch, then half the day is over, then two hours are left, and then, it’s time to go home. I don’t know how I do it every day. Luckily it’s a busy season, and there’s too much going on for me to finish all that I need to do in one day. I’m self-directed meaning that no one hovers over me. My work is driven by client demand on the phone, and by inquiries and tasks that I assign myself, as well as constant mailings that I have to manage. Right now, rather than a mass mailing, it’s individualized, one-by-one and tedious. Already, I’ve had a whole paragraph to talk about work which is more than most days.

I’m on my second glass and I’ve done plenty in one night. Right after work I had my therapy session. My glorious, thankful, rejuvenating therapy sessions which help me gain different and perhaps broader perspectives on my life, and what’s currently happening in it. Often, the content of my sessions are repetitive, because it takes more than thrice of repetition to really sink in a point. The fact that I’m okay right now, I’m going to repeat that to myself. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay.

I talked to my professor friend who called me while I was parked in the grocery shopping parking lot. I spent a full hour text messaging back and forth various supportive people, sharing my thoughts and a selfie. I look boastfully gorgeous in the photo that I took and I suppose it’s one of my few good moments whence I actually appreciate myself. After dinner I read a chapter of the seductively scary paperback that I picked up at work from the library of hand-me-down novels, right before I turned on my computer to type up this diary.

I am okay. I am doing better than I was last month, six months ago, a year ago. I am gaining more control of my life every day. I choose to go to work and I choose to sleep in on the weekends, and until I’m done with that, I’m going to continue to do that. But I know that going for walks, taking myself to the bookstore or a movie theatre, or to a restaurant, a coffee shop, even a museum, it’s all out there. It’s all waiting for me. Just waiting to be experienced. Maybe this weekend I will bring a towel to the beach (yes, I live by the beach and don’t go there enough) and my book and lazily dip my bare feet in the sand whilst I read outdoors. There are so many things I could do rather than sleep in on the weekends.

I still want to stay in bed every morning, call in sick, say I can’t make it, close to quitting my job. But I can’t do that. It’s under my control whether I keep my job or not. It’s under my control how I feed myself, how I conduct my day, who I spend time with. how I choose to live. I need to keep living. With all of my might, no matter how difficult a day might FEEL or SEEM, it might not actually be that bad. I have to keep perspective in mind. I have to keep fighting to live, because for too long, for far too long of a period in my life, I didn’t want to live. I didn’t want to make it to the next day. And I was desperate to die. And now? I said out loud to myself in my car, “I love myself.” I think that says it all.