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Dear Tempurpedic™,

These past two weeks, I’ve spent more time in an intimate relationship with you than I have in a year. My hip bones have made a permanent crease where typically my shoulders lie.

I look out my window at the world that goes weirdly on, as the world in my head swirls like the season of hurricanes hitting the south. I want to sleep so badly as I’m desperately exhausted, but when my eyes close, they can’t stop moving.

Your support has moved into just a container for my body to be while my mind quickly falls apart.

I get glimmers from the outside world while leaning against the back, my head with imprints of the columns of the headboard.

  • An email from my mother about hanging pictures on her wall (sure, let’s do that next week; defer.)
  • A Facebook message from a friend about Anderson Cooper (Yes, still sexy as hell; this is making me seem totally stable right?)
  •  A text from my husband that my child got the winning goal at his soccer game just now with 5 seconds left in the game.
    • Brain path:
      • –> I’m so proud.
      • —>Wow that’s great.
      • –> I wasn’t there.
      • –> I am in this bed right now instead of at his soccer game.
      • –> Watching fucking House of Cards.
      • –> What the hell am I actually doing?
      • –> I am failing at mothering and adulting and wife-ing.
      • –> I am failing at life.
      • –> (I fall apart at this moment.)

My place of solitude and refuge now becomes the place that has a grip that prevented me from participating in life.

The fingers of PTSD have me trapped in your expensive mattress.

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“You’re So Brave.”

Brave: having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty; making a fine show 

“You’re so brave.”

When people say this to me in regards to my story, my go-to outer response is “thank you.” My inner response is “I have no choice, so it’s not bravery, it’s survival and even that isn’t always a given.”

The past two weeks have been full of the bravery of a different type, simply figuring out a way to stay alive. I walked among the living, not feeling a part of them.  I smiled and joked, and played the part of the living, but was not one of them. I am around people, but alone.

PTSD is a Liar.  Anxiety is a Liar.  Depression is a Liar. Trauma is a Liar.

As someone aptly mentioned, trauma is like “my neighbors who not only play their music super loud but have extra bass that you can feel from across the apartment.” Wednesday night, that music brought me to the brink after a full week of operating at emergency trauma level, and I took a handful of pills on top of my typical nighttime medication.  This was brought about by quite a few of events involving a mix-up with a member of my care team, a person from my past coming up on Facebook surprisingly, and continuing feelings about the friend-breakup from the prior weeks.

 

My thoughts were scattered when I made this choice.  I can’t describe it.  I didn’t want to die.  I just didn’t want to live.  Or didn’t want to feel.  I’m not sure, maybe both.  Trauma is a liar. You can’t escape your brain, it’s always there.

So I talked about it.  First in a terrifying text to my therapist- where I downplayed exactly what I took.  Second, to my husband when “the story in my head” told me that likely my therapist would call the police to do a wellness check (which didn’t happen.)  Third, I reached out to my sister-wife, Diana.  Fourth, to Katherine.  Fifth, made a small circle post to my trusted people.  Oddly enough, the scariest reveal was to my bodyworker, as I was totally feeling very vulnerable about sharing this very deep scary part of my soul.  With previous attempts, I kept silent.  This time needed to be different.

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I was talking with a gal on Insta today about how she was worried about her mental health stories being depressing.  And maybe they are.  Maybe we ARE telling the depressing stories.  We talk about clawing against the walls to get out of the well.  We talk about the awful side effects of medication and how we want to crawl out of our own skin with it, and without it. But here’s the thing, these stories HAVE TO BE TOLD.

Mental Health HAS to be talked about.

Suicidality has to be talked about.

I can appear at a mom’s group at 9:30 AM on Wednesday looking perfectly functional, joking, and at 5:30 pm try to end it all.  The person right next to you could be struggling with trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, all sorts of things and we AREN’T talking about it.

This HAS to change.

I’m not brave.  I’m alive.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts.  This week, despite my best efforts.

Bravery, in this case, is “Making a Fine Show.”

 

 

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When Anxiety Isn’t In Your Mind

As I’ve become more open to vulnerability, it’s dark sidekick, anxiety has come along for the ride.  When I talk about anxiety, I’m not talking about the basic worry of “did I get milk at the store?” I’m speaking about debilitating “I am not sure if I can leave the house today, and I’m pretty sure I can’t breathe.”

Often those who haven’t experienced full out trauma based anxiety can’t imagine what it is like to live with chronic and unpredictable anxiety. For a more lengthy glimpse into my personal brand on a single day, feel free to visit here.

What is particularly frustrating is when anxiety takes up residence both in the mind and the body.  Anxiety for me has raised shoulders, tensed muscles, intense heat and right now a very sharp stabbing pain when I breathe in right in my Solar Plexus.  Breathing is apparently something people do on a regular basis, so not being able to take full breaths is very frustrating, which in turn raises my anxiety.  It’s a never ending loop.

Nothing brings more attention to my body than massage/bodywork.  This week was a really dichotomous week for me.  Wednesday, I experienced a huge breakthrough of the best breathing I’d had in years.  I felt like a weight had lifted off my body and when I took in air, I could feel it filling up all the way to the top of my lungs, something I never do when I breathe.  I recall sitting down after the session and crying from just pure relief that I actually could breathe, as I didn’t know it was possible to take in that much air.  However, on Friday I felt trauma’s grip on me again, wringing my insides

However, on Friday I felt trauma’s grip on me again, wringing my insides and after session, I sat there feeling nauseous and defeated.  Part of what frustrates me so is this never ending orbit of trauma, one day doing fantastic, and the next feeling like total shit. Today I’m in trauma hangover, and I feel like I’m living in adrenal fatigue.  I feel as though each time I take a full breath, I’m stabbed, so I breathe more and more shallowly, leading to the sense of panic, which of course reinforces the loop.

Do I take a Xanax?  Am I “bad enough” to medicate?  It feels like such a failure to take a pill to “human.”

The Body Keeps The Score.

The Cycle Of Trauma.

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Vicarious Vulnerabilty Victim

This week I attended another Authentic Relating Event, Circling, this one much smaller than the first with only 8 people in the room.  While the setting was different, the content was focused on authentic relating.

My main worry was having nowhere to “hide” with the smaller crew.  I felt… vulnerable. (So I suppose I was right on track.)  Tuesday was a day full of anxiety, and this event was mere hours after.  I thought of canceling, but I had already paid and had bailed from this event two weeks prior.

Admittedly, I enjoyed this intimate setting much more as I was able to settle in and learn more about each member of the group rather than mingling with 20 others.  I was quite nervous to attend this particular “circling” event, however, due to an ominous review from a person from the previous larger event.

Circling is formatted around two “circles;” conversation sessions that happened among the eight of us over 45 minutes with a break in between.  The first circle was dubbed a “birthday circle.”  Birthday circles are focused on one person, where the conversation organically moves around this person topically.  Due to confidentiality, I will not mention what we talked about specifically.  However, broadly, the topics involved how this person reacted to insight given by the others in the group and past experiences.

Though this circle was directed and focused on this one individual, I noticed that I was internalizing a lot of interesting facts about myself.  How would I react to certain situations that were brought up?  How would I feel if I were asked this question?  How would I react if I were asked this question in that particular way or tone?

When this truth bomb was so casually thrown out in the middle of the circle…

“Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.”

I mean, holy shit.  Prepare me next time, Y’all.  I don’t know about you, but I can count on 1845493 hands how many times my self-care has looked like just me retreating into my soul in an unhealthy “omg just leave me alone I’m dying here but save me but leave me alone but help me” way.  However, I label the retreat as “self-care.”  Dude, get over yourself.  Sometimes needing to be alone is self-care.  Totally.  But if you are unplugging from the people you tell when you are having a hard time… if you are running away (especially if you are running away from yourself), first off, good luck.  Second off, let someone know that you are struggling and let them know that you are going to wade around in the shit for a day.  Then do it.  Go ahead.  But then plug back in.

Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.” 

Okay, back to the night. More broadly, once I got comfortable with the questions being asked, I started to probe my ideas about the askers themselves.  What about their experiences brought them to this space, and why did they think what they did?

All this thinking, of course, led me to be quite quiet during this circle. I asked a couple of questions to appear engaged (though I was DEEPLY engaged internally), and then we went to break. During break, it became apparent that several of the people in attendance were friends, and they started to speak with each other.  I noticed that I started to feel left out.  I tried to engage by eye contact with the story and laughing when there was something funny, but there was still a level of disconnect.

We started the second circle which was an “organic circle,” which was waiting to see what would come up.  One person talked a bit about drifting and spoke a bit about feeling disconnected from the group then hesitated to speak further because the topic would be dark.  This was REALLY interesting to me because the first circle was so light and I resonated with the disconnect.  Again, I won’t go details about the topic due to confidentiality.

We closed the circles and two of the people turned to me and said they wished that they had heard me talk more, and they wanted to get to know me better.  My immediate response was that I wish I had talked more as well.  It was an odd thing to come out of my mouth as I didn’t really even think about it.  I had just spent so much time listening to people be so brave with their thoughts and feelings that I just felt I was holding space to hear them.

I drove home feeling very warm and lovely.

 

When I walked in the door I sat next to my husband and told him about the event and I sensed a weird vibe.  As I talked more about the events, I felt a heavier and heavier cloud settling.  I had just spent 3 hours being in tune with people’s emotions, and I knew there was something wrong.

“Are you okay with me going to these events?” I asked (sensing there was something much deeper.)

“Yes.  I just don’t get why you go to them and share thoughts and feelings there.  I mean you have family and me for that.”  He replied.

I had an immediate thought that I couldn’t hold back, “Are you jealous?”

“No!”  He was so quick to reply that there felt like there was some truth there.

“Okay.  Tell me more about what you are feeling then, because I don’t understand, and it seems like you have some concerns.  Is it because there are guys at these events and I share these experiences with them too?” (Knowing that cheating is never ever a concern on either of our minds, I wanted to give him a starting point to work from.)

“Not at all. I guess where I come from is that the feelings and thoughts you mention are things that I generally share with you or my family.  I just don’t understand why you feel the need to seek these experiences outside of us for…”

And he paused.  And cried.

So I waited and thought. And got it.

“So what I’m hearing is that since your emotional needs are met by me and family, the only reason you’d do something like this is if those needs WEREN’T being met.  So, since I am doing this, you’re concerned that YOU aren’t meeting my needs as my life partner?”

“BINGO.” And he took a deep breath of understanding.

 

So then we hashed out how lovely our relationship is, and that the reason I do things like this is to be brave.  And I can be brave because I feel so secure in our relationship.

I married up, Y’all.

 

 

 

 

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Dear Anxiety,

Anxiety:

an overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs, by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

Dear Anxiety,

Hey there, old friend.  How HAVE you been?  Well, you should know.  You’ve popped up in my shower again this morning, and over my cup of coffee.  You’ve reminded me so about so many pressing issues this week that demand my immediate attention.

This morning I DID remember to press the grounding button on the hair dryer, as you taught me to do all these years.  The odds continue to be low for my house spontaneously combusting into flames due to this little step.  Thanks for that.

I DID, in fact, remember to pay for my child’s lunches for the next month.  He will not go hungry like I did when I was young.  He has new clothes that I didn’t need to buy from a second-hand store.   Thanks for that.

Midday, I managed to hide that I jumped a mile, no thanks to you, that a guy walked up behind me while I was walking back from lunch down the sidewalk with a friend. Convinced that he was my rapist, looked to the side… it was not.  Continued talking about Brene Brown as if nothing had happened while trying to see if my heart was physically breaking out of my chest.  It was not, but my memories were. Fast-forwarding through my brain were pictures of stairwells and crinkly paper, and polaroids and courtrooms and gavels and I could feel my ventricles pulsing lava so hot I swear I could see it coming out through my skin.  Thanks for that.

Sat in therapy five minutes later trying to explain why I couldn’t sit in therapy today.  Sat there for 40 minutes too long out of obligation because I was anxious I was I wasting her time.  Felt like I was going to throw up because of the rapist I didn’t see on the sidewalk. Thanks for that.   

Left 20 minutes early from therapy today. Drove three blocks, pulled over on the freeway, had a panic attack and threw up.  Feel like a failure for leaving the one place I’m supposed to go to deal with anxiety.  Recognize the irony in this, feel like a failure for feeling like a failure.  Laugh a bit about this.  Cry a lot about this. Thanks for that.

Came home to the one place that feels safe, where my husband accidentally left the closet door open.  He knows not to do this because then someone could be hiding behind the door in my head.  I stop and look at the door, wondering… am I safer inside or outside.  Am stuck in indecision.  Since I can’t move, I decide that the hallway is where I will stay for the next half an hour, having a stare-down with the door.  Decide that the only breathing I hear is my own.  Kick open the door.  The only male clothes I see are my husband’s shirts.  Feel ridiculous.  You make me feel absurd, anxiety.  Thanks for that.

I have a pill that I CAN take to quiet your voice, but rarely do because it just dulls it like cotton balls in my ears.  That is to say, I still hear the fuzzy voice of you as it just gives me a false sense of ease.   Really, you just are on vacation where you have a good time and I just live a bit more like the rest of the people do for a few hours.  Or I fall into a fitful slumber where my dreams are full of running up the unending sidewalk that leads to the perfect house that is safe from everything that has ever chased me. But then I awake from the dream that never existed when you tire of being away, you come back, a little at a time until you hit me across the face with trepidation as you move right back into my soul. Thanks for that.

Hear the keys in the door, wipe my tears and know that I need to pull myself together.  I put on the wife eyeliner the mother hoodie and the human smile and jump into my life jeans.  Because I have to operate at least at a normal level to keep this thing afloat, this facade of commonplace.    I’ve tried so hard to keep it together.  Or at least let it fall apart in my guest room, not in the waiting room. Know your place, get it together.   I’ve made it so long since someone has SEEN me fall off the balance beam of my emotional well-being. I’m supposed to be better than this.  Thanks for that.

Sincerely,

Me.

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And Afternoon says “What’s Up?”

 

October 9, 2015, I penned these words into my journal:IMG_20170823_211324233.jpg

Less than a month away from the 15th anniversary of the rape, just coming out of a traumatic court experience and then just learning how to parent again after my broken body was knitting back together…

…I was drowning.

As women, as mothers, as survivors of trauma, we are expected to “have it all together” to live this life of denial of hardship.  I took this responsibility seriously.

And Silently.  As one does.

Sitting in therapy, 2x a week I felt like I simply couldn’t breathe for more than 4 days unless I had a place to expel the build up fear, anxiety and trembling that built up in my soul.  I experienced a full out panic attack.

A Panic Attack is the sensation of scalding water being poured up your spine spreading through all the capillaries of your lungs. Anxiety is the feeling of long spindly fingers grasping around your chest and squeezing gently, waiting for you to exhale, not allowing you to take the next breath while squeezing again.  Fear is another set of hands grabbing your skull and forcing you to watch films in black and white of every horror film of your past, present, and future (whether it happened will happen or not.)  Your heart starts to jump around like a caged animal, noticing all the chaos, trying to run from this terrible scene. Your mind mocks you the whole time telling you this is really happening, and you’re going to die.

“We need to have a plan”, she says.

I only partly hear her.  I’m preoccupied with making sure Ethan is being parented expertly, and that I am the best and most capable wife and did I empty the dishwasher? I’m managing the memories of trauma that even most of my closest friends don’t know that pop up while I brush my teeth.  I’m in the middle of analyzing whether or not Ethan will remember the few times that he triggered me enough into a trauma flashback that I reacted without knowing, enough to make me retreat into my room sobbing wondering if I should just pack my bags and leave because I’m sure there is a better mother out there who won’t react how I do when he throws his socks at me.  I’m busy managing my rapist who is on the other side of the door, comforting the sexually abused girl in the courtroom I saw a few weeks before, my present and future failure as a wife and mother, and why I couldn’t get my act together enough to tell all those people off who gaslit me for so long when I was younger.

Do you think you need to get away for a while?” She asks. (The story I tell myself is that she is going to take me away from my family. Which made no sense given the circumstances, but Trauma is a liar. Depression is a liar.  Fear is a liar. Anxiety is a liar.)

I start to plan my escape from this room. Can I leave?  What would happen if I just walked out the door?  I look at my purse, I slide my shoes on under the little ottoman and try to remember where I put my keys.  She notices I’m looking at the door.

At this point, I recall she just stopped talking.  This was an eerie thing because she typically has a lot to say, but likely she read that I was spinning everything she was saying into the web of doom.  So she waits me out.

Slowly the hands around my ribs loosened.

“I’m scared,” I say.  Likely the first authentic, raw thing I had said the whole session.  “I think I need medication to get through this.”

And Afternoon says WHAT’S UP.