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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.

Officially Freaking Out

I guess since my mom isn’t around to punish me for looking out for myself and taking a lower-paying job that will make me happier and be more interesting, I’ll do it myself!

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  • Deleted FB account because I wanted to cry seeing other pain and because I was fighting with my partner on chat
  • Have done seriously weird shit to my hand that I guess I won’t describe that I used to do in Jr. High and I can’t stop
  • Walked off the temp job for a while without even checking if I had meetings
  • Made my partner so miserable she can hardly get through her day
  • Punched a puppy in the face

Maybe not that last one but it feels like I have.

But you know what? I’ve had too much therapy to turn back. The only way to move is forward and through.

PS ha ha ha my sister just posted something that made me realize that also it’s the 12th anniversary of my dad’s death so yeah that also prolly was part of it

Healing is Lopsided

Notebook with the words: "Perhaps, we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us, they know exactly how it should be done." == Rudy Francisco

Isn’t this such a great sentiment? Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.

Perhaps we should.

And I am trying. But oh it is a hard slog.

Last week, I did something for myself that goes completely against everything I was raised to believe I was FOR.

I took a huge financial risk to start a new career, mid-life. I have accepted what amounts to a very well-paid internship, but it is still not enough to support two households. My ex has a part-time, seasonal job with no offer of anything else that I am aware of.  I am leaving a very very lucrative contract job that was for an evil bank and was wasting my energy completely.

I was brought up believing I was responsible for my family in all kinds of ways. I handed over my paychecks to my mother no matter what our financial situation was (during the time she was taking all of my pay, we were actually living a fairly middle class life. She didn’t need it, but she made a big deal about how I was paying for the family’s groceries).

Throughout my marriage, I always made more than my spouse. I feel enormous financial responsibility for him, and for my children.

As a child of alcoholics, I do not like depending on others for anything. I believe I should do everything, especially when it comes to support. And I am just letting go and assuming he will do the right thing and get a job, although I have no way to control that or cause it to happen.

There is absolutely NO WAY I would have had the courage to do this without all of the EMDR I am getting. So I credit my therapy for this huge leap. In my relatively sane moments which are so so few and far between, I am proud of myself for doing this.

But the therapy hasn’t gotten me all of the way. I am now struggling with HUGE self esteem issues. I have started a form of self-inflicted pain that I haven’t done in ages. I wake up every morning filled with utter self loathing.

And I am, of course, terrified that I won’t be able to learn this new field. I won’t be smart enough. Quick enough. Hardworking enough. The organization that hired me is a dream come true; they win ‘best small business to work for’ awards year after year in my area and I have wanted to work for them for YEARS. They hired someone with only 4 months of experience and took a risk on me, and I am terrified.

  • I am afraid my children will lose the home they grew up in.
  • I am afraid I will fuck up this job and be a disappointment to my new employers and to myself.
  • I am afraid I will lose my partners. (I have NO IDEA why this is connected to this job; neither of them depend on me for a cent.)
  • I am nebulously afraid: I have broken the taboos. I have not put my ex ahead of myself. I have depended on him to also support the children. I have put thought into my work and done what interests me instead of just what pays the most. All of this breaks everything I was taught. Shatters it.
  • I feel like I’m about to be in trouble, like a little girl who has done something Very Wrong.

I imagine that will be the EMDR target next week, and I’m afraid of that, too.

But I’m sticking with this fucking plan if it kills me. I have a great opportunity to change my life. I am allowed to change it. I will keep moving forward with this, damnit.

And that’s what therapy has brought me, so far. I am terrified, and I hate myself, but it has finally become possible for me to take risks in order to change my life.

We need each other

group-hug-tbI was at a local SF/F convention this weekend, on a panel about managing PTSD symptoms at large cons.

The panel worried me; several of the people on it were still very focused on their trauma and were quite intense, and I could feel the anxiety and panic in the crowd rising. (And the crowd was large: overspilling the room. Because so damn many of us are traumatized.)

There was no psychology professional in the room, and I was worried we did more harm than help. Lots of people cried and I dispensed a lot of hugs after the panel. Some people had to leave, and I worried that we’d triggered or tweaked them.

I would call it a very imperfect panel, and I will be suggesting instead a workshop lead by a professional or professionals next year.

Even so, the rest of the con people kept stopping me to tell me that ours was the best panel they’d attended, and I administered more hugs.

This tells me that even when we kinda mess stuff up and even when we don’t have very good answers for people, so many of us hunger for a place to unashamedly discuss our management of trauma.

So I’m glad I was on that panel that worried me. And I’m glad people got something out of it. I hate that I have to keep this blog anonymous for now, but I will continue to speak out about my PTSD in public to destigmatize and to hold up a banner: I am here. I understand. Let’s talk about it. (Or just cry and hug.)

We need to speak out when we are supported and feel safe enough, and we need to connect with one another — even if we think we are screwing it all up.

Solidarity, my traumatized compatriots. And also big hugs, and I am proud of you.

Repressed Memories

downloadI have only uncovered one truly repressed memory (I’ve looked back on memories I had with a horror of dawning understanding about what was actually happening, but this is different).

The memory was of my mother hitting me in the head with a skillet and giving me a concussion. I recovered it when I was looking through an old journal and saw strangely shaky handwriting and wondered: “Was I drunk at 17? I never drank as a teenager,” and then a little voice in my head said ‘no no no’ and I slammed the old notebook shut but the memory rose from the pages before I even read the entry and hit me in the head like the pan and down I went, on the basement floor, and completely relived the experience.

It was unpleasant. To say the least. I do not want another one. I’ve reassured myself that I was prompted to remember something with my old journal, and that I repressed it especially easily because I had head trauma at the time, and probably there are no more memories like that lurking that I will accidentally uncover.

*

This week I continued  last week and the week’s before target. I felt like I was done with it after my triumphant finish, but when I thought again of a woman or a child screaming ‘no, don’t,’ my jaw tightened.

We went through the beginning questions again, which I won’t bore you with. Last week’s session was very powerful, though, because I went from a level of disturbance when thinking of the memory of eight to a two — and from completely not believing a statement that I have some control and the power to change to almost fully believing it (a 1 to a 6, for those number crunchers.)

So — my jaw tightened a little (which is completely different from the outright panic I’d felt last week when thinking of the memory), so we went back in again.

And the series of images and memories that my brain paraded before me all had the same theme.

It’s two words, maybe three, to name the theme. And I can’t type them. WOW.

I will say the nature of the images (they were all pulled from headlines or movies) tell me that if I am forgetting something from my past, it is probably something that I witnessed rather than experienced.

Or I am just freaked out by this type of trauma because I am a mother of boys? I doubt it, based on how far back my complete horror at this particular trauma goes — since before I had children.

“I am so afraid that I saw something terrible and did nothing about it,” I said to my therapist after the session was over. “Do you believe in repressed memories?”

My therapist looked down for a few moments.

“I believe we repress memories,” she said. “But I think we repress them for a reason, or that we just forget things, and I have to say that in my practice I have not come across anyone recovering repressed memories spontaneously. I had one patient who was really hoping EMDR would uncover something she’d repressed, but it never did.”

Honestly I find this reassuring. Uncovering that one memory was hideous, and if I have a memory of finding out someone was hurting a child and doing nothing about it? That is so much worse than being hurt myself.

Would I die if I uncovered this? Would I discover the source of my self loathing and thus be able to address it? Would I be utterly paralyzed? I don’t know.

And I don’t want to find out.

Absolutely not helpless

Content Warning: vivid description of drunken, out of control parent and some hitting. References to reactions to childhood sexual abuse but no description of any.

It’s been a difficult time. A dear friend may be dying. Another dear friend’s mother just died suddenly and far too soon. When I called her she said, through tears: “I’m so glad you called so I can say to SOMEONE ‘it should have been your mother!'” And we sort of laughed.

But I spent as brief a time as possible talking about those heartbreaks last night because there isn’t a goddamned thing I can do about those, and we dove back into another EMDR session on my last target.

As soon as we started the pre-questions I began to feel sick. My heart began to pound, my breath came shorter. I became nauseated.

When she asked how distressing I found the memory, this time I said 8. I was MORE upset.

When she asked me my questions, I said: the worst part was my helplessness and fear. When you say you have some control, she said, how true do you think it is on a scale of 1-7 where 1 is completely false and 7 is completely true?

1, I said. I cannot control my reactions. I’ve never made the screaming stop.

Then I took the paddles and we began. I focused tightly on my panic at the woman/child screaming. My brain took me through some more examples of being beaten or hearing my sister screaming and not being able to help her.

My sister’s night terrors
My sister, having night terrors. Screaming: “I’m gonna die I’m gonna die” and running around the house in an absolute panic. (To this day she remembers it. She asks me to change the subject. If she thinks about it too long, she says, she fears she will die again. RIGHT THEN. Which is what she was fearing in the moment as she screamed.)

My father, well before we knew that this was how to calm an autistic person, grabbing her from her frantic running and holding her still, tight: arms to sides, legs pinned.

My sister fought him as hard as she could, but she was very little and he was enormous. She could do nothing.

He was instinctively doing the right thing, but the memory is still horrifying: my sister, screaming and utterly helpless, while my father calmly pinned her down and squeezed her tight.

After a while she could calm, she would hold him back, she would stop screaming. She still remembers it was the only thing to calm her. He was being a good dad.

But it was horrible to watch.

My Sleep walking
I focused on the words: “No! Don’t! Stop!” That had freaked me out before. They kept ringing and ringing in my head and I found myself curling down on myself, hands creeping closer to my crotch.

This is not a memory, of course: I was asleep. But now I am watching myself pace back and forth in the hallway, muttering: “No; don’t,” over and over, my hands held protectively over my crotch.

I know I said this (along with the deeply creepy: “The wolves are coming,” which NONE OF YOU GET TO WRITE ABOUT BECAUSE IT’S MINE MINE MINE SOMEDAY), because my mother told me.

I would say this, she said, and then go pee and then go to bed.

“Perhaps I was telling myself not to pee?” I asked her. (I peed the bed nearly every damn night until I was 12.)

“Oh, no,” she said. “It was definitely sexual.”

“Um,” I said. “Did this not concern you?”

“It was the 70’s,” she said.

It was. The 70’s.

Stopping the screaming
At first, I had no idea why the next memory popped into my head.

My father, holding my cousin Shannon by the ankles, laughing as she screamed.

There was a game my dad used to play with us when he was sober that we loved. He would hold us by the ankles and make us walk on the ceiling, the whole time soberly scolding us for being very naughty and walking on the ceiling. We would giggle and laugh and he would tell us that we were NOT ALLOWED TO WALK ON THE CEILING and we would laugh some more and he would continue our walk across the ceiling by our ankles. When he was sober, it was a fun game.

This time, he was not sober. This time, the kid was afraid, but he didn’t notice.

Shannon screamed and cried and said: “No, stop! No!” and he laughed and gave the speech about her being naughty as if she was having the time of her life and all of his stupid drunken siblings laughed, too and I ran into the kitchen and screamed: “She doesn’t like it! Stop it, dad! STOP IT!”

He ignored me.

So I punched him in the stomach as hard as I possibly could, with all of my 11-year-old might.

I was actually very good at punching. And I was very strong for my age and size. And he was completely unprepared, so my fist seemed to sink into his backbone and he whoofed out and dropped Shannon on her feet and then he looked at me and the light went out of his eyes.

He looked like a rabid animal.

I turned and ran as fast as a could, but not before he got a glancing blow off of my hip that was bruised for weeks afterward, and he began to chase me.

I fairly flew up the steep, carpeted steps of my grandparents’s house behind the kitchen in my terror of him and was halfway around the landing toward the next set of stairs when I heard him fall heavily and sloppily on the stairs.

“Sh’ gotchya good, John,” his sister Ann called out, laughing. “Letter go.”

He was too drunk to keep running and came back to himself, I think, so he stumbled back down the stairs and I avoided him for the next few hours.

But what my memory showed me was this part I had forgotten: me, leaning my elbows on the banister: listening to him stumble away, listening to their laughter — and no more screaming and crying. I’d stepped in and I’d helped her.

I have never been helpless. I wasn’t helpless at age 11. I can make the screaming stop. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.

My heart was pounding and my breath was ragged and my hip was sore, and I was grinning.

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Sadness

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Today, I was unable to do EMDR in therapy. I had to talk about Orlando (for those of you who read this and don’t know me, I’m queer, and so is one of my kids. That last part is not for repeating, those of you who know me. He’s not ready to come out). I had to talk about a job interview I have coming up that is really fucking with my head.

And I had to talk about Orlando some more.

And about how sad I am, and angry. And how I don’t question those feelings.

But when I’m profoundly sad after an EMDR session in which I dealt with many, many memories of those were supposed to protect me hurting me instead, I think something has gone wrong with the session because I feel sad for the rest of the week.

No flashbacks, no hair-trigger overreactivity — both of which are signs that I didn’t put away the memories well enough. Just sad.

It’s okay to feel sad that my community was so viciously attacked, but not sad that I myself was so viciously attacked?

Oh, Moxie. Honey. It’s just SAD.

So, in fact, the fact that I was willing to be just plain sad all that week is a good thing. I need to feel the fucking sadness.

Sadness over my own past seems so self indulgent to me. And as a child of alcoholics, I have trained myself to always think of other people’s emotions before I think of my own. Sadness over your past seems suspiciously like Feeling Sorry for Yourself, which is bad, bad, bad.

But of course it’s even more than that. My therapist pointed out that I am used to anger. Anger sometimes protected me. Anger made me feel tough and cool and strong. Anger is exhausting me, but I am certainly accustomed to it.

Sadness, now — that is a much more vulnerable emotion to allow myself to feel and show.

So that, dear friends, tells me that I don’t need to box up the box more thoroughly. The EMDR is doing what it is supposed to. This sadness is all just a part of the process.

Some of what I’ve been dealing with

(I’m done keeping a second anonymous journal for reasons I outlined in my last post. This is from that one, which I’ve deleted.)

tumblr_m3914fwg1a1qcla2no1_1280“Fuck off,” my son says as soon as I walk into the ER.

“Get the fuck out of here. Go fuck yourself.”

I’m here to see him because he just assaulted his father, a psychiatrist, a perfectly innocent computer, oh and also a police officer. So the cops put him in restraints and onto an ambulance and then he was here, in the ER.

His father is standing there with a security guard and they are trying to get him to relinquish his shoes.

“Hi, honey,” I say.

“Fuck off,” my son says again.

“Take off your shoe,” his exhausted father says furiously. “I know you’re just taking that shoe off as slowly as you can.”

“Why do I even have to take them off?” demands my son.

“It’s policy,” says the security guard, which is the worst thing to say to a kid who needs to know the reason for everything that you could possibly say.

“What are you fucking doing here, cop?” My kid snarls. “Aren’t you going to beat me? Isn’t that what cops do?”

“I’m not a cop,” says the security guard.

“Well, then quit dressing like one,” says my son. “Fucking cop.”

The security guard stares at me with drowning eyes.

“You need a break,” I say to my coparent. “I’ll take over.”

He leaves and I start asking the security guard about himself. The weather. The security guard keeps standing there with his plastic bag but he starts to relax. We both ignore my kid who then removes his shoes and wordlessly hands them to the security guard, who fairly runs out of the room, mouthing ‘thank you’ to me as he goes.

“Fuck off,” the kid says to me again.

I look at him. “Are you scared?” I ask. “Do you want a hug?”

And then he is my little boy again, sobbing in my arms, and I want to kill everything and everyone and I want to cry, too, but I don’t because I’m supposed to be strong and stuff.

We then wait for 24 hours for a bed in the local adolescence psychiatric floor.

*

I just started a new contract job at a bank. I didn’t expect to find kindred spirits here.

But everywhere I turn, there are other parents of kids with special needs or trauma or who are just plain assholes. And we always find each other and bond.

Because my son was just hospitalized and I had to tell people and I am not interested in contributing to stigma by pretending it was for pneumonia or something, people in my office know that he was nearly expelled for telling his principal to fuck off, calling her a bitch, and walking out of school.

Next week, instead of that, he’s graduating from middle school and I’m going to go to the ceremony and Coparent and I will take him out to lunch after. So I had to cancel some meetings and I explained to my coworker why.

She emailed me: “Congrats on your damn kid graduating from middle school! I feel your pain/relief. These people with perfect kids have no idea. I always tried to really, actually feel proud during those moments. No matter how much they’re acting out, they need validation and support, too. You’re a good mom.”

First: calling my kid ‘your damn kid’ is awesome.

Second: I decided to try to actually feel proud instead of stressed out and guilty toward the teachers, especially the one who had to ban him from his class forever for something terrible he said that I still don’t even know what it was.

A few days ago I found myself muttering to a dear old friend who was proudly posting about her daughter’s very high academic achievement rating in her state (3% in the entire state) and her volunteer work and the Ivy she’ll be going to: “No one gives a shit about your perfect kid,” even though _I_ give a shit about her perfect kid!

I’ve never felt this hostility toward other parents. This is not me. I needed to focus on the pride.

Last week, for instance: My Damn Kid had a band concert and the kids all got together ahead of time to collect money for the band director’s program, and to buy fun t-shirts with his face on them. They announced this at the concert.

“Did you give Our Damned Kid money?” I whispered to Coparent.

He shrugged elaborately.

Afterward, I went up to my son and told him how great the band was and asked which kid I should give money to.

My son looked surprised. “I gave him money,” he said. “I have my own money.”

And I was so proud. So proud.

*

The morning of Kid’s Middle School Graduation, ready to be proud, I was completely unprepared for what happened.

“I’m not going,” he said. “Also, you’re not going,” he said.

He refused to get up. He told me that we were too embarrassing. He told me I didn’t know what was going on; no other parents would be there.

I cajoled and I reasoned and I asked him what was up with him and if he was anxious and he just dug in his heels and then The Scary Mommy Voice came out of my face but he continued to refuse.

“Okay,” I said, because I’m sorry to say that sometimes treating an autistic teen like a three-year-old is what works. “I guess I’ll take your little brother to school. Bye.”

Suddenly he was dressed and drinking his morning hideous glass of pop.

“Dad will be really disappointed,” he said.

“Yep!” I said, and headed for the door as he frantically started putting his shoes on.

That’s when his dad arrived, ruining my careful manipulation, and started dispensing threats and demands and wanting to know “What’s embarrassing about us?”

I took a deep breath, did not scream, and left my apartment to take his little brother to school. When I got back to my apartment the van was gone.

I drove to the school, parked seven hundred miles away, and crutched to the building.

Then I sat and watched an interminable slide show (it was literally TWENTY MINUTES LONG) showing all sorts of fun activities and friendships all the kids except for mine had engaged in, and the tears I’d been holding back would not stay back.

I sat in silence with the hot tears pouring down my face and listened to a list of students with high GPAs that our kid was not on, despite his scores in the 99th percentile on all standardized testing, and then we sat and listened to the list of awards for being good people and kind to others which of course he was not on, and then instead of heading to the park with all of the other parents and kids we headed for the cars because my son certainly doesn’t know anyone in the school and I don’t know any of the parents because I can barely wipe my own ass let alone get involved at the school.

The kid’s counselor gave me a hug on my way out to the car and looked at me with profound worry. Our entire family radiated misery. He asked about our son’s day treatment, which is starting Monday. He talked about how much he remembered giving us the tour of the middle school and the great questions my son had asked three years ago.

I cried some more and he gave me another hug.

Brunch was nearly silent. I managed not to cry. I asked things about what he would miss about Middle School and what he was proud of that he’d done and what he was looking forward to in High School.

He grunted sometimes in answer. He complained about his award-winning band teacher because he yelled a few times over the past three years.

I excused myself, give him a kiss and told him that I loved him, and went home instead of to work and cried myself to sleep, which I did for a foggy hour. I was 20 minutes later than I’d said I would be and logged into an online meeting late.

I have to keep going, with this and my EMDR, but I have no goddamned idea how.