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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.

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.

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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.

Freaking out a lot less

So, the part of me that was worried about ‘getting in trouble’ has been satisfied.

fee49380de0dc4f6_teacher-previewAs always happens in dysfunctional families, people reacted badly to my backing away from sole financial responsibility and I had a truly horrible FB exchange with my ex’s partner about money and their clear expectation that I should still be in charge of it and magically come up with more. It was unpleasant and infuriating and I stayed up until 4 am churning with rage over it.

And now I am no longer worried about being punished!

Yaaaaaaay!

(Also: no actual real-world confrontation is nearly as scary as my childhood fears, except that time the cops let loose their terrified horses onto us protesting the first Gulf War, and so it’s never as awful as my childhood self was expecting. One good thing about having truly terrifying parents: nobody else holds a candle to them.)

Also, I had lunch with my soon-to-be new supervisor and I know know KNOW I have made the right decision, and I am at peace with giving up this putting-my-earnings-ahead-of-all-other-considerations thing. I mean, at the moment.

After reading my last post a friend of mine suggested that I was needing to process a memory from when I first started the self-inflicted/anxiety-related pain thing, and both my therapist and I think she is right (“Your friend is very VERY insightful,” she said to me).

So next week we’ll keep trying to uncover what the 12- or 13-year-old me has to say, and in the meantime keep telling her that we’re on it — we’re looking out for her.

I’m still doing the strange thing to my hand but I’m not as upset about it anymore. It’s a coping mechanism and my body is trying to send me a message and I’m not actually hurting myself in any lasting way.

Healing is lopsided! But it is still continuing.

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.