Trigger Warning & Discussion Guidelines

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kitten 1I am devoted to this blog being about healing, not abuse porn. That said, sometimes to talk about healing I will have to talk about hurting. Please consider this sticky post a trigger warning for every entry for childhood abuse of all kinds. If you are having a difficult day, this blog will still be here tomorrow! Consider looking at this picture of a kitten, instead, for now. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.

Also, be kind and compassionate to ME. If you want to stroll by and attack me when I fuck up (which I’ve done, and I write about it) or because you don’t like queers or what-have-you, or if you want to fight about the psychiatric profession or EMDR or anything else, please know that I screen all comments and I just won’t let them through. This place is not a debate page. It’s a personal blog, and I’m blogging for connection and support.

More parenting excitement

Last night, my ex apparently tackled my son over a roll of toilet paper (my son’s assessment; he might have just grabbed at him or something — either way it was a fucking ROLL OF TOILET PAPER) and my son punched him in the eye.

He’s no longer welcome in the ex’s house until they have a plan for him not to have to ‘live under the constant threat of assault.’

Apparently my kid has been getting physical with my ex routinely and no one told me. So much for coparenting.

I think it might be best for my kid to live with me exclusively just for a few months if not longer, but we’ll see. We have a meeting with his therapist tonight.

I am so, so, so, so tired and dispirited. I feel like I’m stumbling along in the dark, my feet slipping out from under me at every step.

My kid won’t do his homework. He won’t communicate. He won’t go to bed or shower or brush his teeth when he needs to. He is late to school every single morning. I feel so helpless. I’m sure his dad does, too. But the way I deal with my helplessness does not result in fistfights.

Having him with me full time will be exhausting, but I don’t feel like I have any other choice.

PS I was the one who had run out of toilet paper and asked my kid to grab a roll of his dad’s on his way over. I am trying so so so hard not to blame myself for the blowup but I am wishing I’d never asked him SO HARD.

roll_2586757b

*

Friday evening I e-chatted with a friend who is going through a divorce. I told him I was struggling with a lot of regrets and wondering if I wasted my youth with this guy.

He suggested I focus on what I’m missing right now.

What I’m missing: a peaceful, loving family. I’ve never had one. Ever. And except for very few, ver brief moments, I don’t have one. I don’t think I ever will.

Dealing with difficulty

panic-attacks-symptomsI discovered last night that my kid has been lying to me again about his homework and his grades. He has two A’s and three F’s. Typical of him: only full effort or none.  It seems he is not college-bound, but he has no ability to manage his life in any way that makes me convinced he will be able to ever manage it, and he’ll be living with me forever.

I feel completely helpless to do anything about this.

My combined checking account with my ex is overdrawn by nearly $1,000.

I feel completely helpless to do anything about this, either.

In the past, I would have yelled at my kid, sent my ex angry texts, and stayed up all night freaking out, texting my partner doomsday scenarios.

I stayed calm with my kid. I did not contact my ex about money. I DID text my partner with doomsday scenarios but then I realized this was making me feel worse so I stopped. I actually went to sleep after a while.

I woke up in the middle of the night having a panic attack things: sweating, flailing, heart pounding.

For some reason “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” was stuck in my head on repeat.

I started doing square breathing.

For a long time, when I’ve been in a panic attack this profound, I’ve been unable to do square breathing. I give it up and pant and pant and just think I hate myself over and over. I’d lie in a fugue state, not really sleeping but not really awake, pounding the self hatred message into my subconscious with a jackhammer. I stagger around, gagging and panting some more.

But last night I did it. I stuck with the square breathing until my pulse slowed and my mind was relatively quiet.

I started to berate myself, saying: “Ah! You can be so great and serene and cool when everything is going well but as soon as something bad happens you fall apart,” but then I quickly interrupted that thought with “This is very very stressful, and you’re actually doing the calming techniques you’ve learned! Money and parenting are both terrible tweaks for you as is lying, and of course you are incredibly upset. You are learning something about yourself. This is all genuinely upsetting. You’ll figure out how to deal.”

And then after about an hour or two I promised myself that I would do things differently with the kid this year, that I would give to my ex whatever I could afford but no more, and then I FUCKING WENT BACK TO SLEEP.

In the morning, I slept in because I needed more fucking sleep.

BOOM. MORE PROGRESS.

PS I am still freaked out about money and my child’s dim future and the thought of screaming at him every night to do his homework do his homework do it do it do it makes me want to crawl into a hole and die but so far I haven’t done it.

Internal voice: profound changes

I recently had an email exchange with someone who has CPTSD from childhood trauma who referred to “that constant inner voice denigrating me. My, ‘Mom voice,’ I call it.”

I understood exactly what he was talking about, because until VERY VERY VERY recently — like a month ago, anyone looking at me would see a tough, butchish, cheerful Mom Getting Shit Done, Kicking Ass and Taking Names, Being Employed, Laughing With Friends, or even Scratching Her Butt.

What they could not see was the constant refrain that rang in my head. I mean constant. Chugging, like a train. The words, over and over and over and over again during everything I did, the entire time I was awake: I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself . . . 

Visual description: Dark silhouette with the words "I hate myself" repeated over and over inside of it.

It was a neverending refrain. Behind my work as a copywriter, behind my work as a mom. Showering. Cooking. Riding my bike (sometimes it would stop a bit as I rode my bike, especially when I would exchange cheery greetings with folks).

Although I am naturally an extrovert, part of why I found being alone so excruciating was that when I wasn’t talking with others, I could not drown out this constant refrain.

I would interrupt myself reading with this i hate myself i hate myself i hate myself tune and be unable to concentrate.

I tried some pop psychology by contradicting the voice, but I wound up turning up the volume and repeating it longer, more constantly, more viciously:

Image of silhouette with 'I hate myself' repeated over and over, interrupted by 'I love myself?' Ha ha ha very convincing I hate myself" and then repeating I hate myself again.

I maybe tried this for a week or so. I was weak and useless in this area. There was no way I was going to silence this with a pathetic, unbelievable and whispered: “I love myself.”

I’ve been trying very hard to undo some of the damage in therapy with EMDR. I’ve been trying to work on a bit of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, but this constant constant refrain never seemed to change.

For a while, I’d berate myself even more for it. Or I’d yell inside my head (or out loud): STOP IT!!!

Sometimes the suddenness of the interruption would stop it for roughly three minutes, but it would always start up again:

Image of a silhouette filled with the words 'I hate myself' and then the phrase: 'STOP IT!!!!" followed by a brief blank space and then the repeating refrain of 'I hate myself.'

Those three minutes or so were such a relief. I didn’t imagine it was very kind to the part of me that was spouting these words (and obviously she needed some kindness), but I felt I was acknowledging it was going on and interrupted it, sort of like slapping an hysterical person always works in movies.

It would start up again, but not actually louder or anything. And I’d yell STOP IT and it would stop, again, for a few minutes.

Those minutes were precious, truly. And it was working for months. Maybe even a year. I mean, to give myself a few minutes of peace.

Meanwhile, I worked and I EMDR’d and I talked and I changed my life in profound ways I never could have before:

  • leaving a relationship that had become unhealthy
  • getting my own space and accepting generous help from my sisters and others
  • going for a job I cared about learning from instead of the job that would pay most
  • going on medication

All of these things were clearly steps forward. All of these things were and are clearly signs of growth.

But the weekend I went camping, I started doing something else to my internal monotonous monologue.

When I started to think: “I hate myse–” I would interrupt and say to myself instead: “I hate the way she’s speaking to me.”

When I started to think, again, “I hate myse–” I would interrupt and say to myself instead: “I hate the damage my mother has done to my sister.”

And after I interrupted that voice?

Silence.

An internal silence in my head. A calm, cool, hush that reflected the wilderness around me. That lasted for HOURS.

And you guys.

It’s still working.

This is what the inside of my head looks like, now:

Image of a silhouette with the words "I hate my-" interrupted with the words "this situation," and then an empty silhouette after that.

There is this amount of calm quiet in my head that I didn’t even know was possible.

As with all developments in my psychological state such as the vanquishment of dreams, etc. I will try very hard not to be crushed when/if it continues, because healing is not a linear process, but so far it has not — and in this particular case, unlike my nightmares, I have an enormous amount of control over it.

I cannot draw a straight line between EMDR and my sudden, overnight, newfound ability to silence that voice by directing the hatred to the situation instead of myself.

But I know it’s there, and I know that as much as it appears to have been overnight, the structure supporting my ability to silence this refrain was built over years: with good therapy, EMDR, and this blog.

I am still working. I still have so much work left to do.

But this is real, profound progress. And I am so grateful for it.

Unmaking Trauma, Reclaiming Yourself

This has been going around on FB lately:

traumabuildsaperson

I have to admit that when I first started EMDR this is what I feared: I was my trauma, and in healing from the trauma I was erasing myself: my spark, my fire, my suchness.

But as I have continued on in healing, I find that I passionately disagree.

I don’t see it as erasing myself. I see it as cracking the shell my abusers encased me in and coming out to be my true self. I see it as cracking the broken bones that set themselves all wrong and setting them straight. Leeching the poison from my system. It goes bone deep, yes. But it is not ME.

As much as my mother would have loved to tell me I was nothing but what she made me, she was wrong. I am a human being in my own right. I was twisted and prodded and broken and maimed as I grew, but those tortures are not who I am; they got in the way of who I was. And now I am clearing that shit away.

Trip

Life is so mixed up.

peace

I just had the trip of a lifetime in a wonderful wilderness, thanks to my sister. The silence was incredible. The peace was incredible. But she has NO IDEA that she is a nearly constant stream of insults. Truly none.

I rub my forehead because I have a headache. “What’s that? Vanity? You trying to stop that line between your eyebrows?”

She blamed me for burning her own thighs because I didn’t tell her to put on sunscreen, and was vicious about it and would NOT let it go. She is 43.

She was abusive to my poor kid because he accidentally spilled food on himself.  She was horribly hateful and then if I so much as sighed in response she would freak out at me for ‘attacking’ her. Textbook PTSD Borderline Personality.

I could go on and on. Multiple times an hour, she would snap like an abused dog.

But she planned this entire trip, bought us all backpacking food, researched everything, and delivered us to this amazing wilderness. She managed to hide from me that she’d packed a gluten-free birthday cake (with candles!) and astronaut ice cream. She laughed with me and we enjoyed the Cedars and the lake and the islands.

She introduced me to this world I would have never ever had the fortitude to discover for myself, and she worked so hard.

I love her. I have to figure out how to deal with the horrible damage my mother has inflicted upon her without letting it hurt me. I need to figure this out.

And even though I never knew when she would snap at me, I still close my eyes and see that lake and think of the sound of the paddles dipping into the water and see my dear boy paddling confidently ahead of me, and I think of the night he and I sat in front of the glowing embers of the fire with his head on my knee and how we looked up and saw stars upon stars upon stars. And I take a deep breath, and I’m filled with peace.

She gave this to me. All of it.

Tired of PTSD

Heh. I’m sick of having PTSD. I wish I could take a break from it, and I know that I’ve made lots of strides but FUCK I am tired of it.

hudj6kp

I am doing well in the new job, I think. It still isn’t enough work for me to feel that I’m earning my keep but I am doing well with what I have.

I’m getting along with the child who had all those problems earlier in the summer very well, and we’re both anticipating/dreading school, but Pokemon Go has pretty much saved all of us this summer.

I’m discovering how much I love my partner in all kinds of new ways and I exchanged “I love you’s” with my beautiful girlfriend and life should be grand, right?

*

Except.

My mother went to ‘visit’ my little sister in the condo she owns, tore it apart, and drove my sister batty.

And I was so proud of how I handled the texts and phone calls — I didn’t get too overly invested. I said I was genuinely sorry but I gave no advice and I didn’t answer the phone if I was busy doing something else.

Good boundaries, I said to myself.

Then I started the nightly nightmares about my mom, again. Every fucking night. She controls a space I live in, or I have to clean up after a huge mess she made.

And the texts started to fly between me and my sisters. My mother demanded a visit with the baby sister, whose house is under major construction. The baby said no. My mom came anyway, and my sister — who is working, has two very young children, and whose spouse is out of town — had to relocate to some ranch to entertain our mother, while also still working full-time.

She made a funny checklist for herself, just to get through it: listing off all the predictable, bizarre behavior our mom would engage in: stealing things, saying terribly inappropriate things to her children, underminding her parenting by attempting to manipulate the kids, questioning my sister’s memory (one of my mom’s favorite refrains is, of course, how TERRIBLE her daughters’ memories are), trying to force her, a vegetarian, to eat meat by sneaking it into food, etc.

What she didn’t have on her list was ‘taking hashish from some random guy at the ranch and smoking it in front of the grandchildren and then freaking out.’

All along I feel like I’ve been doing good: listening, not yelling or heaping on, etc.

Then all three sisters acted shocked, shocked I tell you, and HORRIFIED, that she did this last thing.

And that’s when I overstepped.

“Why are you all surprised?” I texted. “She got stoned and drank in front of us all the time when we were kids.”

Stupid me.

We’re allowed to say she’s horrible NOW, within certain strict parameters, but we aren’t allowed to hint at how awful she was in our childhoods.

Listen — I realize this makes no sense. But I don’t make the rules, okay? I only break them continually like a goddamned fool.

Now the text stream has fallen eerily silent, and guess who is mere hours from my home?

The sister who was horribly abusive to me last Christmas, whom I had until now been looking forward to seeing because she is much better when camping and we’re going up to a well-known national wilderness for a few days.

Now I am watching the clock with dread.

*

Also: yesterday there was a very very minor kerfuffle in the grocery store. Two women, radiating tension, walked past me in a wide aisle.

I could feel their rage crackling between them. One said to the other: “I’ll get a ride,” and I could feel that there was going to be blows soon.

Then one walked away and I thought: Oh, thank god.

And then I came around the corner and there they were. One said to the other: “Don’t you start; don’t you even start,” and they were shoving into each other’s carts and one hit the other.

I froze. I shook. They went around the corner and fell silent, and I was shaking.

That’s the moment my partner decided to come up behind me and plant a smootch on the back of my neck.

I did not hit her or scream, and I am very proud of both of those things.

But I was still shaking a few hours later.

That part of PTSD can FUCK THE FUCK RIGHT OFF, you guys. I want to be over this shit.