I finally got the assignment at work that I’ve been fighting for since October! The only reason it fell to me is because the coworker who usually does that work is doing a lot of business travel right now, but the circumstances are not important. I’m just happy to be working on something that I find interesting and fun, with minimal micromanaging, and just in time.
I also recently met with a different therapist, one who practices EMDR, and the session was far more dynamic than the majority of the sessions I’ve had with the hippie-woo-woo therapist. I also learned that hypersomnia is a symptom she’s seen in other patients who’ve experienced trauma. I thought there was a link! A fuzzy link, but a link nonetheless. Unfortunately, this new therapist doesn’t have the availability necessary for optimum EMDR treatment, but I like that she was upfront about that. So now I’m being referred to yet another therapist. Fingers crossed it’s a good match. I’m hopeful about this treatment, especially if it can produce a trickle-down effect of alleviating the hypersomnia, gastritis, and spastic colon. Am I not the most fun person on the planet? Gassy, crampy, sleepy, and occasionally weepy for no clear reason. Party animal!
The weather has been pretty darn delightful lately. I’ve embraced the joy of evening strolls, since I don’t fully trust my GI tract to behave itself for an entire run. But here’s hoping that by the end of the summer, my body will be cooperative and I’ll be back to my crazy running self.
I spent the majority of the past two days asleep. I’m beyond frustrated by my inability to stay awake when I need/want to. But I don’t really want to talk about that right now.
This evening I went to an art showing by my last-school-year-counselor’s wife. I’d met her a while back when I ran into my counselor at the grocery store, and since then, I’ve been following her website and digging her artwork. When I found out earlier this year that she was going to have an exhibition at the art school near where I lived when I first moved here, I was excited. And nervous.
My former counselor had done a good job of blurring the boundary between professional and friend, and since I grew up in a family where boundaries either didn’t exist or simply weren’t respected, when my counselor graduated (and for the most part cut ties), I was a complete mess. He was the first person I’d ever told so much of my icky past to, and he was the one who started labeling things for what they were: abuse, physical assault, not normal. It took a huge leap of faith for me to believe even a fraction of what he was telling me, but those little nudges, coupled with the more firm pushes of my summer counselor, gave me the momentum and strength to give myself distance from the physical reminders of my traumas and to allow myself to hope for better days.
My mom was convinced that I’d developed “feelings” for him, but the feelings I’d developed weren’t the ones she was implying. I don’t know that I’d ever blindly trusted someone quite that much (even though it took me three months to start really talking about things), and I definitely didn’t realize that feeling safe was something that everybody deserved. So yes, I developed deep feelings of safety, which was foreign to me and frankly, kind of terrifying. I’d spent my life having the rug of safety yanked out from under me, and I’d gotten used to bracing myself for the inevitable pain of the abrupt disappearance of that safety. Feeling safe after not knowing that feeling for so long? That’s some addictive stuff.
So back to this evening (sort of). I’d hemmed and hawed about attending the opening, worried that my former counselor would feel awkward or uncomfortable, or that I was overstepping what’s allowed of former clients. But I reasoned with myself and decided that if I abruptly stopped counseling someone (especially someone teetering on the edge of a big life change), I’d be curious to know how they were faring. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen him. He and I had discussed my post-grad dream locations (Portland versus Vermont), but at the time, I was doing battle with my grad school advisor and my family, and my mood was circling the drain more than ever. I was in a really bad place. And when he graduated, I turned some of my anger and sadness toward him for abandoning me. (I was seriously elbow-deep in the psychological crap I’d been muddling through, and losing that sense of safety that I couldn’t sustain on my own sent me into a tailspin.)
So, this evening. I showed up, and my former counselor was right there when I walked in. And he smiled when he saw me, saying, with a tinge of incredulousness, “You’re in Portland!” We chatted for a while, catching up on the general changes that have taken place over the past year, and he was happy to know how I was doing and what I’d been up to. And I chatted with his wife for a while (she still doesn’t know how I know her husband…ha), and she was so much fun to talk with. (We briefly lamented the lack of Jeni’s Ice Cream in Portland, declaring it one of the few “major” drawbacks to the city.) In my typical museum-going style, I spent a ridiculous amount of time taking in her artwork, studying the process and marveling at the existence of a professional field that seems an awful lot like playing. (I like to play. I miss being creative.) There were hugs all around when I left, and as I got back into my car, I felt tears coming. I haven’t cried in a long time, and I always laughed in my counseling sessions about how I could not cry there, even when I was talking about really awful things. But tonight, I am crying. I am crying with relief at the safety I rediscovered this evening, and at all that has happened since that day in October of 2010 when he and I met for our first session and my life began to shift for the better.
Yes, one more downer post. It’s PTSD Awareness Day (and Month)! I never realized before how it coincided with the annual “Dark Days” — the last few days of June and first few days of July, when it seems like my subconscious wants to observe a big trauma anniversary that I don’t want to. Over the years as the traumas accumulated in the summer (all three grandparents passed away during the summer months), I began to notice a shadowy sense of dread hanging over me from early June to late August. I’d brace myself each summer for whatever devastating loss life was planning to throw at me. But it’s the weeks around July 4th that get me plumbing the depths of my depression and feeling so anxious, I want to crawl out of my skin. I don’t know why I don’t remember this ahead of time and set aside a big chunk of time to ease myself through it. Instead, I’ve been fighting it, which only makes it worse. (Frank seems to sense this and has been a champion snugglebunny lately. I love that kitty!) Part of my awareness during this time relates to the genetic component of my depression and anxiety. Both sides of the family have more than their fair share of mental illnesses, some of which have been exacerbated through environmental factors. But just because a great-great-aunt and two great-uncles on the maternal side committed suicide didn’t mean my mom had to try, too.
So, we’re at the halfway point between Christmas and Christmas. It’s hard to believe how quickly the six months have passed…and also how slowly they’ve passed. I’m frustrated with how little progress I feel I’ve made. But then I have nights like last night, where I found myself lying awake and thinking about last Christmas. Remembering my mom yelling at me after she told me that she’d disclosed everything I’d told her to my dad, particularly after I’d begged her not to at the recommendation of last summer’s therapist. Remembering her yelling at me like I was a friend who’d betrayed her, or some former acquaintance who’d done something unforgivable. “What do you want me to do? Divorce him? Pack my bags and leave him? He’s my husband!” Last night I found myself wondering why, as her daughter, I didn’t deserve the loyalty and protection she showered upon the man who abused me for years, the man who radiated such joy while inflicting pain on me. So many instances over the past thirty years where I shouted and cried for help and was told to quiet down, to stop screaming. And even if she was going to defend him, regardless of what had happened, why couldn’t anyone in my family support me in the aftermath of the sexual assault and abuse by my ex-boyfriend? They pretend that none of this happened, that I made it up, and any fraction of these events that they’re willing to acknowledge, they acknowledge only as something for which I’m responsible. I should have fought back harder, defended myself better, or just accepted their excuses for their behavior.
I’m not looking forward to this Christmas.
Well! It’s been a couple of weeks now. A blurry, tired couple of weeks.
A summary of events, in list form:
- Frank had to go to the vet for an itchy bottom. I expected an anal gland issue. It ended up being constipation. The vet bill was stupidly expensive, of course, but I’m okay with paying someone else to give my cat an enema. I also had the vet check his eye that has teared off and on since I adopted him. I expected a blocked tear duct. It ended up being mild conjunctivitis. VET, I KNOW NOTHING. I had to stick ointment in Frank’s eye twice a day, and after the first application, he was walking around with a half-closed eye, behaving as though his eye hurt. After a couple days of that, I called the vet and was like, “Why are you trying to hurt my sweet kitty with your evil eye ointment?” and she said, “Let’s wait a few more days, as long as he’s still playing and eating like normal.” So I held Frank over the bathroom sink and flushed his eye with water, and you know what? His eye is back to normal. (Normal being occasionally teary.) VET, I DOUBT YOUR EXPERTISE.
- My sister finally got engaged. There are no additional details. I cannot accurately express how glad I am to be thousands of miles away from all of that. If that makes me a horrible sister, so be it. I don’t need no stinkin’ wedding drama!
- I’m on yet another new med to try to fix my 14-year-long sleep issue. The theory is, if I manage to get good sleep, my depression and relentless fatigue should go away, or at least be minimized. Sounds like a dream! The med is actually for hypertension, which I don’t even come close to having, so now I have to be careful about my blood pressure dipping too low. It’s also used for PTSD to cut waaaay back on nightmares. I guess that having at least one nightmare every night isn’t normal? Blah. So far I haven’t noticed a reduction in the crazy dreaming. Last night I had an absolutely terrifying nightmare, and I’d be surprised if my screaming in my dream didn’t happen in real life, too. Luckily, it was followed by a really strange but pleasant dream involving Richard Gere (and no hankypanky). I need to watch some schmoopy Richard Gere movies now. *sigh*
- I have visitors coming this week and it still looks like I’ve been squatting in my apartment. As of last week, I have what essentially amounts to a poolside lounger in my living room, so you can tell I’ve really been classing the place up. ACK.
That’s it for now. Gotta go try to make my apartment presentable…
I remember my high school Spanish teacher warning us that for each month we didn’t practice our Spanish, we’d lose about 10% of our language skills. I feel that’s the case with the progress I’d made in therapy before I left for Oregon. At first, I practiced what I’d learned, and in talking with friends around Christmas, I summoned the courage to share some of the things I’d disclosed in therapy. I was half afraid that my experiences would be invalidated (as they have always been with my family), but also afraid that the response would be more along the lines of the folks in my therapy group and a couple of my therapists (that reaction being something to the effect of ‘that’s so wrong’, without the minimization I typically apply to the stories). At any rate, as the months have ticked by and I haven’t been talking about this stuff in detail, not even with my hippie therapist, I find that my former near-fluency in the language of ‘this is not right, I deserved so much better’ is nearly lost. In the past couple of months, I’ve convinced myself that my perception of everything has been wrong for so long, and I must really be the crazy one in the family. I’ve been talking with the folks with some frequency over the last month, and oh hey, they’re still pretending that nothing happened. Not decades ago, not recently, and certainly not when I divulged the traumas to my mom and sister. I hate that I require so much external reassurance that this stuff did happen and that it was wrong. Library books and Google searches will only get you so far. The notes that last-summer-therapist had me take – so that I could reassure myself when necessary – aren’t as effective as we’d hoped they’d be. The words of last-school-year-therapist are simultaneously helpful and unsettling at times: ‘There’s nothing that you could say or do that would make it okay for someone to physically assault you. No one should ever touch you like that.’ This is all well and good until you convince yourself that you did deserve that, that you have always been a frustrating, difficult person, and the only way to get you to behave was through fear and pain. The group therapist encouraged us to stop falling into the comfort of the fantasies we’d created to survive the abuse, but I really, really miss that comfort. And I’d like to continue working through the emotions and events that I’d tried to block out for so long – maybe hippie therapist will help. I’m half-tempted to ask the last-summer-therapist to provide phone or Skype therapy for me, because in the end, he was the most straightforward with me and the one who advocated for me with a passion that scared me. I think I need that kind of intensity for this work.
I can’t figure out the source of my reluctance to take care of myself. Is it cultural, peer pressure, some psychological remnant of my past? I stayed home from work today because the exhaustion I’m experiencing from whatever ails me is unreal. I slept for about 15 of the past 24 hours. I feel like a schmuck for taking time off when I don’t feel well, because even though I clearly am not feeling well (wanna check out the perpetually swollen glands in my neck?), I feel as though I don’t feel sick enough to have a legitimate reason to call off sick. Pinkeye? Legitimate. High fever? Legitimate. GI issues involving one or both ends? Legitimate. Feeling as though you’re drowning in a deep pool of exhaustion? Eh, tough it out. Last Wednesday through Sunday, I was barely able to stay awake for 10 hours each day, and since returning to work, I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. I went back to the doctor today since, well, I still feel sick, and my latest diagnosis is a sinus infection. Here’s hoping that antibiotics are key to returning to the land of the (alertly) living. ‘Cause right now, I’m avoiding taking deep breaths to avoid coughing to avoid back pain and spasms. And not taking deep breaths while being a mucus machine provides a greater chance of developing pneumonia (an undesired legitimate reason to stay home from work). So keep your fingers crossed that I’ll finally be on the mend!