Monthly Archives: May 2017

Rise above the hurt and listen to these words

(Beloved – Jordan Feliz)

 

Recently I have been re-listening to the awesome books “The Essence of Resilience” (Kathleen Parrish and Tanya Laurer) and “Resilient Grieving” (Lucy Hone). TBH mostly I’ve been re-listening because I needed something to occupy my brain during my breaks at work and I still had a few days left of those book downloads and don’t have any more downloads left until June, but they are really good.

 

There were a couple quotes from “Resilient Grieving” that I heard the other day while driving home (yes I was listening to a book and the radio at the same time in the car…if one thing is good, two is better).

 

“Let me not die while I am still alive”

The idea behind this quote being that while Trauma or grief events often completely change our lives making us a distinctly different person in the before than the after, it doesn’t have to mean that the rest of our life is not worth living. Although I do still believe that death would be better than this, it does lead to the next quote…

 

I have wanted one particular job and had one particular career path in mind since elementary school. The story I tell says 4th grade, but in reality I am pretty sure it was sooner than that, but the story was altered at some point because I was told it was more realistic that way. Anyway, the quote is:

“Option A is no longer an option, so let’s kick the s**t out of option B.”

I would say that I am a lot further along than option B. I think option B would have been getting a different residency in phase I (and we could probably break that down further to particular programs being B and others being other letters, but that get way complicated way fast)…Option C would be getting a pediatric PGY-1 in phase II. Option D would be getting any PGY-1 in phase II. Option E would be, well, there at least being a pediatric residency to which to apply in the scramble. Option F would be getting one of the residency programs to which I applied in the scramble…I don’t really know what letter I am on at this point, but like I mentioned previously, I am learning not to let go of my dream, but to let go of some of the pain. It is a very slow and non-linear process, but I know that someday this will not be the all-consuming factor in my life. I still remember the pain of changing churches on August 10th 2008, but I don’t think about it every day anymore. Most of the time if I do think about it, the thoughts do not lead me to feeling pain, and if they do the pain goes away quickly and most of it is more remembered pain than acute pain. I have to believe that someday that will be true of this situation and of my abuse…I think both of them are pretty well tied together right now, so they’ll have to be disentangled before one can be healed without the other.

 

After the first match, I wrote that I planned to get another residency and be the best resident they ever had and exceed expectations so well that other programs were jealous they didn’t have me. My mom saw it and wanted me to delete it, but I refused. Maybe that plan didn’t work out, but now I can be the best clinical pharmacist ever instead…there are some things I am giving up. Among other things, I am giving up staying close to my friends, I am giving up focusing on pediatric critical care, I am giving up teaching opportunities, and I am giving up being able to commit to leading my 0-3 year old VBS class. There is one thing that I gain though…I don’t have to do a residency project or a bunch of presentations this year. TBH, the residency project thing is the one part of a residency that does not sound at all appealing to me…well, that and some residency programs require going back to midyear, but it is possible that this job will also require that, so before I get too excited I’ll have to find out whether that is an expectation (or a strong suggestion…) or if I really do get to skip it.

 

Oh yeah, I wanted to wait until I’d actually been officially offered the position, because I unfortunately know that seeming promises of employment can fall through, but now I am ready to announce that I have accepted a full time pharmacist position. I was kinda hoping for a pediatric position (especially the NICU position to which I applied) and I was kinda hoping for a schedule with longer hours (like 7 on 7 off or 10-12 hour days) because I prefer having a lot of time off a few days than working a few hours every day, but I think I will like this position. I have very little adult experience, but that will make this a good growing experience, and my preceptor on my acute care (which I’ve been calling adult care) rotation at least got me to a point where caring for adults is still not my forte but isn’t so scary anymore. I know that I can, it might just take me a little longer to get to the right answer, and that is okay…and really, although it isn’t the path I wanted, I think getting adult experience will be good, because I definitely still do avoid checking prescriptions for kids who are starting to become adult sized. For NICU that is no problem at all, but for my other dream of emergency and because you can’t really only be competent in one area and make it as a pharmacist, it will be good for me to gain some confidence in treating adult sized patients.

 

And I have realized that while my heart is in pediatrics, I really do love pharmacy. Someone texted me yesterday with an adult pharmacy question, and I loved problem solving. It was a question that played well into my pediatric knowledge since it was a formulation question, but it was for an adult patient, so I guess maybe it also showed me that some of the things I love about pediatrics will make me a valuable resource in an adult setting.

 

So with the exposure I was working on…it actually went okay. It was really hard, and definitely intensified the pain that I still feel every day, but by the end of Monday it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was Sunday morning to be walking around in a logo shirt. I could definitely feel how much extra emotional energy I was using to make it through the day, but it will be worth it if the end result is after the down-trending now that I will have a few days while the shirts are in the wash is better desensitization and numbing to the pain. It might exacerbate the pain for a little while, but if it works how I want it to, it will be worth it in the end, and right now I have enough distraction in my life to be able to handle a little bit of exacerbation and stay relatively safe. I slept nine hours last night without even waking up at 2am like I usually do to get a drink…it makes it a little harder to get up in the morning when that happens since I’m too dehydrated to feel totally awake, but sometimes I guess my body needs that sleep because the emotional energy leads to real exhaustion. Post-exposure, I am doing really well. I did cry today, but I also had some moments when the pain was less crushing than it has ever been since the first match failure. I am really thankful for that. Right now I am struggling, but even a few minutes of not feeling so bad is a good reminder that maybe eventually this won’t be so all-consuming. Someday this will just be the way it is and I’ll be able to talk about it as if it is no big deal (even though it kinda is).

 

One last thing from Resilient Grieving that I missed the first time and I think is really relevant here is about Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG). Growth doesn’t have to mean that you are a better person or that life improved after loss or trauma; The growth might simply mean that your path has changed and you are now going in a different direction. We are different people after grief has re-written our stories, but if all you know is PTSD you will live a self-fulfilling prophesy and your grief will spiral into PTSD. If you understand PTG or even if you have a spiritual background you are more likely to recover more quickly. The implication that loss could be beneficial is a painful thought, but the fact that it can change one’s direction is less threatening.

 

I liked that imagery, and agree that the idea of loss making me a better person is something that is like salt in fresh wounds. I like the idea that growth can occur but that it doesn’t make it okay that the pain happened. I don’t like when people try to minimize big losses with but look now you have this good thing…sure, but now you are essentially asking me to value whatever good you see that I have now over the good that I had before and value it as worth the pain it took to come to this place. I don’t like that. Given the choice, I don’t know that I would necessarily value these things more highly than what I had before or highly enough to suffer as much as I did for them. On the other side, it is undeniable that grief, trauma, and loss have changed not only who I am, but my direction in life…beyond the fact that there are still people who probably think I graduated from Drake University…To allow the concept of growth as a shifting of paths allows me to acknowledge that yes, I am growing without discounting that this isn’t what I wanted to happen and that the pain is still very real and very relevant. I am resilient and I am strong, but that doesn’t mean that I think being hurt is okay and it doesn’t mean that I never experience pain.

Even through the midnight hour the engines never rest

(Night and Day – Thomas and Friends)

 

Yesterday I changed the category title on my budget from “residency” to “job-getting.” Does it really matter when all of the money is coming from the same place anyway? Not really, but somehow it feels good and productive to attribute the expenses to getting a job rather than having to put them in the more specific categories and feeling like it’s just a waste of my resources…’cause that last $25 dollars was totally going to break the bank…lol..jk…it kinda hurt a little at the same time to let go of one more little thread connecting me to my dream, but I did it. Yeah, when the only therapy method with which you are super comfortable and understand well enough to perform on yourself is exposure therapy because you are a pharmacy grad and not a counseling grad, everything looks like an opportunity for exposure…Is exposure the right way to deal with grief? IDK, but it is what I’m planning on doing…I’m making this stuff up as I go. Someday I’ll even start adulting and update my linked in page…

 

I figured it was time to start getting a little more intensive in the recovery process because I wasn’t spending so much time just trying to be okay and make it through life anymore. I definitely am still fighting every day, but it is more internal pain that doesn’t spill onto the outside as much anymore.

 

I see recover as three stages. Stage 1: learn not to cry in front of people. Stage 2a: learn not to cry constantly when alone. Stage 2b: learn not to cry very often when alone (because never is hard to define…). Stage 3: learn to keep the pain away for most of the time most days (again, because never is hard to define, and for big events probably not a realistic OR desirable goal – it is okay to be sad about the big things that have hurt me in life. While stage 1 and 2 can usually be measured in months, stage 3 is measured in years. Okay, and if I am being super honest, it is definitely possible to fall from stage 3 back to stage 1 briefly since my primary mechanism of progression is numbness, so if the numbness fades I can end up where I don’t want to be – crying in front of people. I work really hard on becoming as numb as possible. I don’t really like being numb, but I like it a lot better than the alternative. Eventually I can usually gradually reduce the numbness and localize it to something that can be turned on when triggers might be present but turned off other times so that excitement can trickle through more easily other times. I am currently hovering between stages 2 and three which is why I decided it was time to start using exposure to conquer recovery. I am so excited to be hovering at least close to stage 3. I hate crying. The pain is so intense sometimes, but not crying is a good step in the right direction…even if it is 95% because the dehydration is a little bit out of hand right now…

 

This might be a stupid way to do things, but it is my way and I am going to do my best with what I have. In retrospect I perhaps ought to have waited until I wasn’t using dehydration as an important emotion-management tool, but that thought didn’t come until I was too far into this to give up…

 

So yeah, I really haven’t had trouble eating at all in a few days (okay, yeah, I really didn’t think this one through and should definitely have given it another week or two before trying this)…I am still struggling with fluids, but I am doing my best…besides, I know from that first week when I was on spring break that I can make it on minimal amounts of fluid, especially because I then drove all day and had only a couple sips of water which definitely was not nearly as much as I was losing through sweat…not to even mention insensible losses…

 

Because until last night when I was still working harder than usual because of that first intentional exposure I’ve gotten pretty close to back to a normal for me sleep pattern I’ve gotten at least the 16.9 ounces of water that my water bottle holds pretty much every night at 2am I am not too concerned because that means anything I am getting during the day is in addition to that. I know that is not really enough so I’ve gone back to drinking water mixed with apple juice. That was my saving grace in getting what I needed in my body every day at school…juice is usually a special treat that at home has always been limited to only one cup per day and I almost never buy for myself when I’m on my own, but desperate times come with desperate measures. The best ratio in my opinion is about 1\3 to 1\2 apple juice to 2\3 to 1\2 water. Filling my water bottle that way in the morning meant that I could get the fruit group for lunch without any extra work than just getting the liquid in my body and making it something fun made it a little more rewarding to drink it…and last evening I was back to using the juice and water technique to get myself to drink more because I knew I had been gradually getting more dehydrated, and I know that when it is starting to make me feel dizzy that it is time to get serious about fixing it.

 

But because I am stupid I still decided that today would be a good day to try wearing a logo t-shirt. I am still deciding whether the t-shirt is going to stay on all day. I know it is best in exposure to wait until the emotional pain is down to a 7 out of 10 (okay, so the real goal is probably 2-4, but ain’t no one got time for that). I also know that it isn’t that safe to drive at a 10 or more out of 10. Also, I know that it will feel like failure to not make it through the day which also isn’t ideal, but on the flip side I also know that I have definitely been just fine driving at like a 50 out of 10 when I could barely see through my tears…yeah, I probably should have let my friends help me figure out safer alternatives, but that’s not who I am. I wasn’t going to worry anyone and I wasn’t going to ask for help that would inconvenience anyone…especially with a situation that didn’t in my head have any practical solutions…My car couldn’t legally stay parked where it was the next day. My clean clothes and other basic necessities were not with me or in my car. There were probably homework things I needed that had been forgotten that morning in my room. I had my nightlight, but my alarm was still set to go off in the morning. I had pretty much my entire breakfast and lunch leftover but was going to need a refrigerator to keep it safe to eat the next day. So basically, the only solution was that I really needed to be able to drive to church to be with my friends and I really needed to make it back to my room for the night…and hey, I made it alive so it worked out fine! Like they always say, you need to learn to drive well and how to handle your car not for you but to avoid the other people driving poorly on the road. They just don’t say that sometimes that person driving poorly will be you.

 

I got up this morning not interested in eating bread, but very interested in cooking it and bringing it to work to share…luckily I realized in time that I didn’t have any evaporated milk. There are directions online for making it from regular milk, but I’m not sure how that would work with the choices I have: vanilla and light vanilla soymilk. It also would bring into question how much vanilla and sugar to subtract. The sugar wouldn’t be bad to calculate using the calories from sugar and googling grams of sugar per 1\4 cup, but the vanilla doesn’t have that kind of information available…and my guess is that both ingredients would be in higher quantities than I wanted in the first place…it is an interesting phenomenon that I’ve read about that when people aren’t doing well with eating or drinking that they take joy in feeding other people. I don’t really know why it happens, but I’ve definitely heard that it is common, so my experience of wanting to make bread seems to fit into that pattern…

 

There is always a fun quote written somewhere in the homecare pharmacy where I work. The other day I saw “When life gives you lemons, say YAY!! Free lemons!!” I really liked that. And that reminds me that I should probably stop writing and start packing my lunchbox.

The battle that you’re fighting makes you feel so all alone

(Ordinary Angels – Karyn Williams)

I have experienced a lot of side-lining, exclusion, and isolation in life. I was someone who really only had circumstantial friends until one particular person changed that in high school. I will be the first to admit that although I have found my voice, everyone else had enough of a head start that I still feel lost in the world of friendship. Making and keeping friends is something that I still approach tentatively. I strongly desire close friends, but don’t really know how to obtain them. I don’t want to impose on people, offend people, or bother anyone…I don’t want to be weird and awkward when I’m trying to be friendly. I am so thankful for the people I do have as friends, and many of them go far beyond the call of duty to love on me, but I wish I were better at the friendship game. I’ve always expressed interest in a guidebook for communication skills, but I do realize that it isn’t practical or probably even possible to create a comprehensive book for that…plus even if it did exist it would have way more words than I would probably be able to sit still long enough to read, and it would be so overwhelming that IDK if I’d even see it as worthwhile when I can stumble my way through figuring things out without all that work…

So yeah, all that to say I am used to being an unintentional loner, but grief is a profoundly isolating experience. It is like being inside a translucent hamster ball trying to understand the blurry shapes and fuzzy sounds and trying to interact with a world that you can’t really control or even touch while watching everyone else walk around in complete freedom. No one can really understand what it is like to be trapped in that ball and it is so stuck closed that no one can really free you from the prison of grief. It’s just you and the hard walls around you. The walls keep the world out and you in so your pain can’t hurt anyone else, but you keep running into those hard walls, and it gets frustrating that you can’t escape, and really without control your ball is also running into things.

My grief is getting a little better. It still hurts, and I still cry sometimes, but I am learning to ignore it. Tuesday since I was driving about 500 miles, I had a lot of driving time…driving all day can be less than ideal since there is not a lot I can do to entertain myself which means I am alone with my thoughts for a long time without much in the way of distraction…sure, I have the radio and a notebook in my lap, but that is often not enough. We aren’t going to talk about how dangerous driving can be when deep in the emotional pit, but yeah, driving can definitely underline the pain in life. And that is what emphasized how much progress I’ve made. Sure, by the afternoon I definitely had cried, but I actually did pretty well in the morning. I was annoyed when I realized one of the unmarked roads a few miles ago was the one I should have turned on and I was a little frustrated when my phone told me I should go 10 miles south then make a U-turn and go north when I could have just gone north in the first place, but it wasn’t that big of a deal (and on that second one, I should have just followed the directions I wrote down, but I wanted to believe that my phone was taking me on a shortcut…)…I made it.

I heard a lot of really awesome things on the radio. One of them is that when you’ve been supporting someone and they become able to be responsible for themselves, you don’t let go of them, you let go of control, and you don’t step out their life, you step out of their way. I really liked that. I have some friends who have done that well. When I am falling I might need help, but if once you have caught me you just notice that I am not in free fall anymore and let go and don’t help me get my own footing then I very well may start crashing down the mountain again. Grabbing me and letting go gives me hope for a minute, but it’s a false hope that doesn’t really change anything if I still don’t have any way of clinging to the mountain after you let go. Friends who leave me a rope, connecting me to the top in case I need it again, giving me space to climb but not be totally alone are so valuable…and leaving the rope out isn’t just hey let me know what you need. That is an awesome start that I really appreciate, but when I am deep in grief, it is really hard to figure out what I need. Let me know if you need anything is better, but still not totally there…it takes away the required need to know what I need, but leaves behind an implied fill-in-the-blank requirement that someone like me is usually going to not ask at all rather than leave the line blank. It also puts the responsibility on me to ask, and when I am using all the mental energy I have into keeping up with the more primitive responsibilities of life like eating, going to bed, and dressing myself, clearly that ask is beyond my every day ability. While it might be a frustrating approach when what used to be an easy answer (more skittles) is no longer a reliable solution since at times I wasn’t even eating candy, the best thing anyone can do if you really want to do something tangible is to tell me what you want to do and find out whether it would be helpful or just add more stress. Side note also that you should probably make sure that what you are offering is something you actually have the ability to make happen, because when you are already living minute to minute holding on for one more minute at a time, the disappointment of something that should be of marginal importance can be magnified. For me anyway, something tangible that was really helpful was people texting or otherwise contacting me even just liking a post on facebook in a way that didn’t require a response so I didn’t have to feel rude or extra stress if coming up with words to respond was way over my head, but I could still have the benefit of connection and someone reaching in to my lonely world. I eventually figured out how to ask for that, but I think I kinda failed on the follow up to make it happen…but anyway, I recently saw on one of the sites I follow a comment along these same lines…side note that everyone is different…the person in the quote below only cried like three times a day, and for a long time I cried pretty much any time I was alone and sometimes even if I wasn’t alone…although I suppose some days three might be right because that could also mean I only stopped crying twice…there were and are a lot of tears shed in my life…on a less surface level, for me, surprises are not really my thing, so while I might appreciate you just showing up, it would be more meaningful to me if you asked me first is it okay if you come over. If my world feels out of control, then even more than ever I want to feel involved in the choice. I might not have the mental capacity to actually choose, but at least letting me rubber stamp your decision is good for me…and okay, let’s be honest, I might be making bad choices because I don’t have the ability to reason logically, and I might be refusing help I might need because shaking my head no is the only control I can have in the world…but I might also be making a different decision than what you want for me because I am scared and because I don’t want to burden more people and because I learned shame and most importantly because back in March and April and May I knew I wasn’t supposed to do anything that could put graduation at risk and I knew that without full executive function I could easily say too much and break the rules by sharing about the abuse, and so some things just weren’t safe options for me. Yes I needed to talk, but no, I wasn’t going to let my guard down.

 

what to say

 

Back to the point, I will also be the first to admit that it is probably hard for people to know if they should leave the rope out for me, because I am protective of other people and don’t want to burden them so to the extent it is possible I tend to pretend I am okay so they don’t have to feel bad for me or feel pressured to do more than is comfortable for them, and I am used to having to figure things out on my own while pretending everything is fine…Unfortunately, I’ve had way more experience with that than I would have ever liked to have. I went into third year doing reasonably well. I really did at that point primarily just need a steady accountability partner, which is another reason it didn’t seem like THAT big of a deal to be working with someone bad. I’d been bullied so much in the past that working with a bully didn’t seem like a problem. Yeah, I was wrong. It was a gradual enough change that I didn’t really notice it much myself and blamed what I did notice on other (moderately legitimate) circumstances (like new classes, my first apartment, etc) even though other people did notice that I had changed even though I wasn’t talking about what was going on. Looking back, by the end of third year I was probably in crisis mode more often than I wasn’t. Things that would have made me cringe and then go back to normal life became situations that threw me into a day or more of freaking out. I couldn’t handle the stress of the abuse and the germophobia grew into what I guess was maybe partly a mental distraction to take away from the pain of abuse…I don’t really know a lot about how these things work, but I know that regardless of the exact mechanism at work it isn’t the expected outcome to go into counseling close to ready to “graduate” from counseling and after a year be fighting to get through the semester even if there were other things like difficult teachers and deaths to contend with at the same time. (But don’t worry, according to my abuser, I was not grieving…lol…it is kind of scary that this person is still allowed to interact with and even “counsel” (those are definitely huge exaggerated finger quotes) students on campus. I worry about the other students she is hurting. I know I was an easy target and hope because of that I got hurt worse than other people, but that is small consolation, and I don’t have any proof there aren’t other people, easy targets or not, who were being treated just as badly as me.

I work hard to remind myself it is not my fault. It is never the victim’s fault. The victim never really chose to be abused. Being an easy target doesn’t mean it was my fault. It means I was taken advantage of. Someone whose job it was to protect me instead used her power to hurt me and that is not okay. Yes, being protective of others, being excessively quiet, and being very obedient made me an easy target because there was an almost non-existent chance of me spilling the beans, especially when told not to say anything, but that doesn’t make it wrong for me to have those attributes. Being protective of others is problematic in this kind of situation, but it isn’t wrong to want protect people. I know life isn’t all about me and value other people’s experience and perspective. Being quiet is something I’ve always hated about myself, but it doesn’t make being abused my fault. It also isn’t all bad. Someone told me once that not being good at speaking makes me good at listening. I’m not always totally convinced of that because sometimes the worry about if I am going to know what to say next takes away from my listening and also without having something to say in response makes me feel like I didn’t do a good enough job listening, but it is true that I am very willing to take the time to listen when people need to talk. And as much as being obedient has hurt me, I certainly cannot endorse being disobedient to avoid being hurt…I think being disobedient would likely bring its own problems. Following the rules doesn’t make it my fault. Not knowing when or how to question authority doesn’t make me a bad person. It is easy to blame myself because like why didn’t I tattle until months after the dust had settled when tattling even a couple months sooner could have spared me and other students a lot of hurt, but I have to remember that I was doing the best with what I had. My protective personality hadn’t yet let me let go of that protection. I knew tattling would hurt my abuser. I knew it could cost her a job which would also impact her two young daughters who hadn’t done anything wrong. As far as I knew, her husband was unemployed, and the stress of living in a family without steady income wasn’t something I wanted to be responsible for in those girls. I don’t know if she treats her daughters right, but I do know she is manipulative enough that it would be hard for social services to rescue those girls if she wasn’t treating them right. Even when I was ready to let go of protecting the mom I wasn’t ready to let go of protecting the girls.

Also heard on the radio: “I entertain suicidal thoughts.” I heard that and said to myself, yes, yes I do, because I am a fun person. Those thoughts are so entertained…lol…you just wish you were as entertaining as I am. Then I started laughing which was awesome, because I had previously been crying. Also, I LOVE being graduated and free!! Now I can talk about stuff like this without risking anyone taking it out of context and taking it to someone in authority to get me in trouble. Is it stupid that I had to worry about stuff like that, umm, yes, but this was a for real problem. There were people looking for any opportunity to try to say that I wasn’t stable emotionally and should be kicked out of school or at minimum be punished for it…One of my friends asked me to think about the counselors I’d seen…I think the goal was for me to find one to go back to while I was grieving, but considering that over the course of my first 7 semesters of college I’d had sessions with 7 mental health practitioners, to me it was more of a game, and the eighth box on the grid was labeled “FREEDOM.” Not all of my experience was negative, but a lot of it was, and on top of that the last people I saw was, from my perspective, solely a check box of yes I did show up…and the last person even wrote her notes to school that way as a check box yes Wiggle Worm showed up and yes she participated on these dates. There was really no reason besides the stupid contract for me to be there. I saw it as a waste of my time that could be better spent studying and a waste of the money for the sessions and the gas to get there, particularly when I had no interest in being there and knew that even if I did need help that change wasn’t going to happen if I wasn’t interested. I think if the first person and people I saw that summer and fall after the slammed down phone had been more positive experiences that maybe my opinion could have been drastically different, but that isn’t what happened. Instead, being in counseling felt like serving my time, and I was thrilled when that was over. I do recognize that counselors can do a lot of good and I do recognize that in every occupation there are people who are bad at their job, but my experience left me with such a bitter taste that while I am happy to have a counselor as a friend and meet new ones without fearing them, I am not interested in having a counseling relationship with anyone. That ship has sailed. Besides, when you told me back then that part of my punishment for finally breaking under the abuse was going to be counseling, it is hard to in turn break the association that formed between counseling and punishment. I strongly believe that counseling should NEVER be used as a punishment. There are a lot of reasons for this belief. Among other things, it isn’t really fair to anyone involved including the counselor who might not have even done anything wrong – why should they have to use some of their time they could have used to have a session with a legitimate client to have a meeting with someone who really has no reason to be there aside from needing the sign off to stay in school? Why should they have to get into the middle of the web?

The waves crash hard into the harbor…hit the ground in a pool of grace

(That’s Why God Made Tears – Matt Hammitt)

 

I don’t know where to start.

 

I still feel like I’m drowning, but I also feel so grateful for what I have.

 

I’m falling, but knowing there is a safety net below me of people who care.

 

Most days eating is absolutely no problem…not that sugar is a good way to tell since that is what I am most likely to be interested in ingesting, but I was thinking a couple days ago that the phrase “would you like a cookie” is kind of silly…the correct question is how many cookies would you like, and the answer is I would like to take a 15 right now and eat as many cookies as I can shove in my face in 15 minutes while messing around on my phone. Sometimes I pack and eat a meal like a normal person (or as normal as my meals ever are). Other times like this evening I had to admit that the best I was going to be able to do was a chocolate granola bar, a bag of butter popcorn, an orange, and skittles…yes, the protein group was missing, but I worked really hard and got at least the carbs, fruit, and calories in. That is still a lot better than some days earlier in this grieving process. Plus, I am weight restored.

 

On the positive side, I haven’t cried in front of people in a week…and that last time barely counts because it was my parents so I think it really has been 9 days. I still occasionally cry in private, but I don’t even do that every single day anymore. I KNOW that it isn’t “bad” to show emotion, but that doesn’t feel true. Being someone who has never wanted the spotlight and who would prefer to be as much a chameleon as possible and who avoided situations requiring communication like the plague, I learned to keep my emotion well-hidden to avoid stares and inquisitive comments. Although now I crave connection, community, and caring people with whom to share the burden, after spending way too much time with my abuser who made it very clear that showing emotion was something I definitely should never ever do, it became even more second nature to do whatever was in my power to hide what was going on behind the mask. I became even more fully an always okay person. Additionally, not being allowed to talk about what happened or the fallout and not being allowed to tell anyone I wasn’t allowed to talk, I further refined my hiding skills as those years ago I was so upset and there was so much chaos in my life yet I couldn’t let anyone find out because if anyone asked any questions I’d be stuck in the trap of not even being able to say that I couldn’t talk about it…and I’m not a liar so I couldn’t say I didn’t want to talk about it, because I did want to talk about it. I wanted that so much. I hated that my voice was taken away…so even the get out of jail free card people sometimes offer of just suggesting one may not wish to speak about something was an out I couldn’t accept for fear of losing the coveted prize of graduation, and without that, all the struggle would have been in vain…although it still kinda is since I can’t find a job anyway. But anyway, yeah, showing emotion wasn’t safe for a long time. It wasn’t safe because it intensified the abuse and then it wasn’t safe both because it gave her ammunition (not an emotionally stable student…not able to control herself…etc) and because it just wasn’t safe for anyone to know I wasn’t always happy all the time. I’ve always been sunny, but now it was survival.

 

I will be the first to admit, too, that not crying doesn’t exactly mean a lot…I also haven’t brought a water bottle to work which means that I am always dehydrated which is a skill I learned in high school to decrease the chance of crying. And the reason I don’t have a water bottle is two-fold. First, there definitely is the component of not wanting to cry in front of my coworkers again, and then there is also the comfort issue – bringing a water bottle exposes said water bottle to germs and also means that I’d have to be more careful with the headphones in my lunchbox. I also am working full time on top of trying to catch up on sleep, unpack, get all the proper forms turned in to take my licensing exams, applying and interviewing for jobs, and stuff. Staying busy with work is so good for me. Although wearing logos aside from the ones on my nametag still is outside my comfort zone, it doesn’t hurt so much to come to work anymore, and I do honestly still LOVE my job and my coworkers. It will be really hard to leave someday. I don’t want to ever have to leave. I want so badly to have the job I have been working towards since fourth grade. I know that ship has already sailed, but it hurts so much to let go. Right now I am able to mostly compartmentalize though, and come to work and pretend that everything is awesome, pretend that nothing has changed…until I take the licensing exam and become a licensed pharmacist the game of pretend continues to work.

 

When does this end? I still feel so hopeless. I want a job because having a job is what people say comes after college, and I do want to be responsible, but it seems like getting a job just makes things more complicated, because it is one more thing to deal with in the process of trying to get my life back on track and I don’t think any job will really satisfy me. Nothing can really offer what my dream job could, and even if it could, that wouldn’t take away the pain of the betrayal and loss. Will life ever feel okay again? Does the pain ever go away? It clearly isn’t as intense as it was, and I am learning to function better despite the pain, but I am so exhausted. I don’t want to live this way. It is so frustrating. Everyone says I am a strong candidate and then they don’t hire me. Don’t lie to me. Either tell me I’m great and follow through by hiring me or don’t bother getting my hopes up.

 

I had my first non-residency interview (in my life…) (okay, not true…there was also the scholarship interview at Drake way back when…and the interview into third year that barely counts since showing up meant success) on Thursday. It was okay…but I don’t feel like I have much of a chance against the people who actually have experience. They have a residency program and most of their pharmacists are those that stayed after completion of residency…why would they pay me as a pharmacist when (if I’d applied) they could have me for half as much as a resident, and why would they choose me as a pharmacist when they could choose someone who actually has experience? The position does have a lot of the things I want with the biggest negatives being not being the one job I really wanted and not being pediatric, but it is hard to be excited about a position that one I probably won’t get, and two even if I get isn’t really what I wanted in the first place. It feels like my whole life was a throw away if after all that I can’t have the one thing I wanted. It hurts so much.

 

I wove a really good network of support back at school over the past couple months and then I went home and I know I still need help putting my life back together. I still need people to speak truth into my life, people to encourage me, people to just let me coexist. I don’t really have that anymore. I really only have one close in-person non-circumstantial friend in this state. And mostly at this point everyone everywhere expects me to be over it and moving on. Grief lasts a lot longer than does the support even without moving across the country. I call this state my home, but heaven is my real home and I am so homesick for a home I have never visited. I still struggle with why my eternal daddy doesn’t want to bring me home and hug me until the pain goes away. To me love means wanting to be with someone and it feels like rejection by the one entity who is supposed to love me no matter what. What could possibly ever make this feel okay? Haven’t I been through enough yet? I want this to end.

A fight was all she needed – And through her tears she laughed

(She walked away – Barlow Girl)

So yeah, I am now officially allowed to say whatever I want. That is something to which I have looked forward for a long time. I didn’t really care anymore when I didn’t have a job and graduation just seemed like a mocking of my previous dreams…but at graduation, when the freedom became real, it became exciting and amazing again. I still certainly am grieving, but I am able to be super excited about my freedom…

So now that I am free there are so many things that will be so much easier to talk about. No more talking around the point or alluding to things I can’t say. I don’t have to walk the line anymore trying to be honest without breaking rules. I have always been a rules-follower…and especially the last few weeks I have wanted to desperately to be able to talk about my failure in job hunting, but some of the pain and shame was tied too closely to the abuse. Talking about it was dangerous because if I slipped and if anyone found out I could lose graduation. That was terrifying. So I was stuck. I needed help, but I couldn’t afford to let anyone in. I had a few friends with whom I felt safe, but they were all busy, and some of them always wanted a group meeting which further decreased availability…and probably also decreased the amount I was able to say. I do still have some elements of social anxiety when stress is very high. I love people and I often value other people above myself, so despite my thoughts that separately I could have almost twice as much support, I wasn’t going to complain. They already were giving me far more than I felt like I deserved. I super appreciated so much what they did give me. I am so amazed at how awesome these people are. I don’t know how I found such awesome friends.

So anyway, it might seem weird knowing that I was in counseling with my abuser for a year, why I stayed so long. There were a couple people who tried to get me out sooner and I refused. There are a variety of reasons I stayed…and as much as I retrospectively want to hate myself for it, at the same time, I know that in the moment these decisions made a lot of sense.

In some ways, I felt like I had no other option. I knew I needed support, and didn’t really know yet that sometimes something isn’t better than nothing. I didn’t yet understand the importance of being selective in choosing whom to use for support. At the end of second year my counselor tried to warn me about my abuser and dissuade me from further engagement with her. First, once I have made up my mind it is hard to change, but more than that, the option she suggested was going to her school to continue to see her. She did her best to persuade me and even endorsed willingness to sometimes meet at my apartment, but I was scared, and my fear kept me from making the decision that could have put me on a better life path. New things are not my favorite. I didn’t know how to get to this place. I didn’t know where it was. I wasn’t sure about the parking situation. I didn’t know about the waiting situation. There would be lots of people around that I didn’t know. It was a social anxiety and OCD nightmare. On top of that, school remained my primary concern. I didn’t feel like I had the luxury of time to devote to driving somewhere else. That was probably a very real concern since that next semester I was sometimes hoping to fit counseling into a 70 minute break in my schedule. That semester there were days that my day started at 7am and didn’t end until 7pm with only ten-minute breaks most of the day before you even add in student organization and social events. In reality, the amount of time I was losing was greater than the amount of time I thought I was saving. And academically, the abuse probably caused more issues than less time would have caused. I certainly could have done better academically if I hadn’t had to deal with my abuser at the same time. I can think of a few times when one of the worse problems with my abuser coincided pretty well with my exams. That made it super challenging to study and to think well enough to do well on the exams. Considering despite the circumstances I was never more than like a point away from the next grade up, there could have been a real impact on my gpa. Hindsight is 20/20. I was very protective of my study time and I wanted to hold on to that time. Someone else tried to help me get out when she saw how bad it was by the end of August my first year (As in I had barely started and it was super obvious to this person that I was in a bad relationship). The alternative she suggested cost money though, and I could do it for free at school, and I never would have even started counseling if it hadn’t been free. I don’t know how much the option she suggested would have cost, but I can almost guarantee it wouldn’t have cost anywhere close to as much as the fallout of the abuse cost…not to mention there was also the time factor…Yeah, so short-sighted former me made some mistakes.

If you couldn’t figure it out from that previous paragraph, I am pretty change-averse. Structure and routine makes me feel safe. Expectation management is very important. (Lol, my parents warned me on the way home on Sunday that there is a graduation gift in my room that I was probably not going to like. With that warning I didn’t freak out when I saw it in my room). I don’t do change well. Even positive changes are really hard for me and I will at first probably seem just as upset about a positive change as a negative one because change is so hard for me (the difference being that a negative change will continue to feel bad whereas a positive change will switch over to excitement soon). I knew my counselor second year was not planning on having hours on my campus after that year, and I knew that going into it, so I had been planning all year what I was going to do next, and the fact that my abuser was the only one I knew for sure was going to be there again the next year, that was what I centered my plans around. Was it a good choice? No, but with my social skills the way they were, a known person who was not kind was still someone with whom I was a lot more able to communicate than with someone I had never before met. And in my head, she couldn’t be THAT bad, because she did let me play with her child for like 5 minutes during winter break second year…so yeah, my baby love and my lack of social skills made that decision. Even as evidence built up over the year that this was a bad choice, I was still afraid of change and didn’t feel like I had any other options. Then when I started with her, that became the routine. I got used to being hurt. I got used to being torn down. I got used to being yelled at to go away and banned from telling anyone and then going back a week or two later. I got used to being told verbally I might need a hug while she was physically creating more distance and her expression was one of disgust. I got used to assuming my opinion was wrong and shouldn’t be shared. Don’t worry, I wasn’t grieving after my classmate died. She told me so. Unfortunate that I started learning this, because one of my goals first year was to recognize that I have opinions that matter and I was pretty much there when she took that away. As much as I hated it, change was going to be really hard. That’s how my week was supposed to be set up with getting hurt one day a week and using the rest of the week to try to calm down and then to try to catch up on homework once I was calm enough to even start with the homework. That year was the first time I ever missed a deadline…the first week of school I forgot to take an online quiz. Luckily so many other students also forgot that the quiz was re-opened for us, but that is just one more piece of evidence that I want to say I should have picked up on sooner that there was a serious problem. I had previously been a student who had everything done early, did all readings twice, was very prepared for everything. It was easy enough to blame being in classes that weren’t just repeats of high school and that I was no longer living on campus and things like that…but in reality, I should have known that such a huge change in how I responded to school was not a normal reaction. I wish someone had been able to see the problems and make me see what a big problem it was. There certainly were people who noticed, but no one was able to provide me the evidence strongly enough or in a way that connected with me well enough to make the change…besides, there were also people telling me it was normal in college to start doing less well.

Another issue is that one of my strengthsfinders strengths is Developer. That means that I see ways that people could improve and what is probably holding them back, and I deeply desire to help them improve. I am a caretaker. I want everyone to be the best they can be. So, even when someone is hurting me, I can identify reasons why they might be doing it, and I can identify areas that they need help, and I feel like I need to hold on so that I can help them. I let myself get hurt so that I can stay in the circle to help them change and improve. In this person, I saw a lot of things. A few examples, someone who didn’t believe in herself. Someone who had experienced failure…some other things I noticed that she probably would prefer weren’t shared even though from my eyes it was super obvious…I wanted to help her. I wanted to encourage her. I guess I wasn’t ready to understand that some people are not interested in changing. They are happy staying stuck. I think she tore people down because she didn’t know how to not do that. She hurt me because when I started anyway I was a threat because I believed in myself. She made sure I felt like a failure and she taught me shame because she saw I had potential. She made sure I was going to fail so that I wouldn’t be more successful than her. She was hurting so she used her power to make other people hurt more than she did. She felt like the world revolved around her. I mean, I totally have at other times worked with people who were hurtful, but this is the first time that the hurt went beyond at least marginally acceptable to the level of definite abuse.

I know she was being disrespectful to other students. I do not know if her actions towards them rose to the level of abuse, but I really want to believe for their sakes that it only got that bad for me. I was an easy target. I am a protector, so I won’t usually tattle on people. This is probably part of why the fall out was so bad. No one knew why I acted out because I was still protecting my abuser. As far as they knew it was totally unprovoked because they were only hearing the other side. It took months before I was willing to share what was going on behind closed doors, because I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble…and I have now learned my lesson that there are some times when watching out for people isn’t the best option. Also, I was a lot more talkative than when I started college, but I still came to her a girl of few words. All she had to do was make sure I stayed that way and it would be virtually impossible for me to come up with a coherent enough message to let anyone know what was going on. I think that is also why she continued to be abusive after that year and brought her husband into it. She could see I wasn’t a quiet little lemming anymore and that I was going to be talking with the one person with whom it was allowed. She needed to assert her power and make sure the power differential was strongly enough in her favor to keep me trapped and preferentially to also keep me alone. She taught me during my time with her that I should feel shame…yeah, most mental health practitioners argue that we should not feel shame, but she taught shame. That served a couple purposes. First, it made it easier to teach me that I don’t matter and I am not good enough and no one will like me and I am never going to make it and I am a failure. Second, it stops people from tattling on her, because to do so would be to let people in that you were in counseling which she had taught you was shameful. I know for sure there were other people with whom she used this tactic. She used gaslighting and so many other things to make sure if we (I?) did say anything that it would be easy to make it seem like I didn’t know what I was talking about and make even me question what really happened…now I have learned enough about that to know that what I remember happening is really what happened despite the constantly changing stories she weaved to the contrary. Anyway, because of the shame and learning I wasn’t good enough, I felt trapped. I couldn’t go to anyone else, because they wouldn’t want me. No one else would accept me. She would ban me from talking to anyone else, but explain that was because no one else would be willing to talk to me anyway…so I couldn’t escape because I needed support that I as believing no one else would provide…in reality she wasn’t providing support either, but the limited knowledge I had said that if X then Y, if you have anxiety find a counselor. I did, so I did, not understanding that what this person was doing was unacceptable.

So yeah…kinda convoluted…but that is a picture of some of the reasons why I stayed so long in a relationship that was so obviously hurtful…but I am not going to sit in the corner feeling sorry for myself. I escaped, and now I am free. Abuse hurts, but freedom helps to heal the wounds. Now that I am not bound by so many rules, the power differential is gone and I don’t have to live in fear of what is coming next. Before all this happened, I had child-like trust. In the middle of it, my trust was shattered and I trusted almost no one outside of myself. Now I have been re-learning trust. I want to be able to trust people, but after what I have experienced, I jump to false negative conclusions. When being nice used to mean making sure that the next attack would hurt that much worse, I sometimes have struggled with learning how to be in a positive supportive relationship. Similar to what the CSO guy said in his speech at graduation, we don’t go through Trauma without being changed on the other side. Some of those changes are good – I learned that I need to stand up for myself and my rights, but some of the changed are less positive – I had a strongly negative visceral reaction for a long time to finding out someone was in any way related to the mental health professions, and I still am cautiously guarded when I meet new people in that area. Luckily I know so many amazing people that I am learning how to more correctly put people in boxes realizing that some people in every job are just not good at their job or choosing to not do a good job and that not everyone is like that, but it is a slow learning process when the pain has gone so deep for so long.

…and there is so much more I want to write, but I don’t even have time to edit what I already wrote, because my mom is going to kill me if there isn’t some significant progress made in putting away the piles of clean sheets, clothes, and towel in the entrance of my room before I go to work…

Excuse me, but I’ve got a request, could you please take the gag off my mouth? // Today I am graduating

(From End to End—Relient K)

Today I am graduating. Today I am free. No, not of learning and books and schools, well okay, yes of those things, but more importantly, free of the gag that has been placed over my mouth and bound my fingers and tongue from sharing my story. No longer must I live drowning in an ocean of isolation, unable to scream for help. I signed early in fourth year that I wouldn’t speak about the abuse that I had endured at my school nor would I tell anyone that I couldn’t discuss the fall-out from the situation. I later learned in law class that the contract was not valid because I didn’t have the capacity to contract as it was presented to me as sign this or go home and throw away the past three years of time and tuition from your life…but I knew that legally binding or not, my life would become even more a living hell than it already was if I was found in violation of the “contract.”

Today I am graduating. Today I know my rights and will not allow anyone to abuse me or force me to give up my personhood again. I can and will fight for my rights. I will not be silent about the pain of abuse. I am still learning how to let people get close to me again. It still feels safer to just shut everyone out so they can’t hurt me, but I can and will learn how to live safely in community.

Today I am graduating. It is freeing, yet it is a little scary. The pain I have walked through for so long doesn’t evaporate overnight, yet, does anyone care about the ocean salt I will be washing out of my hair and clothes for a long time in order to heal? For years the salt has been rubbing into my wounds, and that doesn’t end overnight. The tide has gone out again, but in its wake has been left years of damage that can’t be mended overnight.

Today I am graduating. I can talk, but can I really? The story wasn’t linear at the beginning, and now, nearly three years from the forced silence, unwinding the tightly twisted story seems nearly impossible. I want to share, but I don’t know where to start, what direction to go, how to share an experience so extended yet so acutely deeply painful.

Today I am graduating. Today I can tell you the biggest hard thing I have overcome—and it is not OCD. So…long story short…I was abused by a counselor at my school. In retrospect, I should never have gotten more involved with this person than was strictly necessary. It was quite clear that she was not ethical nor caring quite early on. For example, first semester of second year she told my counselor that I had been listening in on another counselor’s sessions and needed to be talked to and punished for it. There is absolutely no way that I could have done that, never mind the fact that I had no reason to do so. The counselor in question was only in the office until 11. I was in class until 10:50, then went directly to the cafeteria where I received my hamburger plain, banana, and vanilla milk at approximately 11 each day, then to my dorm room to eat. Anyone who knows me knows that there is no way I would ever skip class, so I definitely wouldn’t have skipped it to listen in. Next issue: even if I had wanted to listen, I definitely wouldn’t have heard anything. Finally, why in the world would I even want to listen? I can’t think of a single situation that would lead me to want to listen in. My counselor was, understandably, not happy with me. After hearing my perspective the next week, she admitted that ABCD had told her to talk to me about it and she trusted me that it wasn’t true, but the accusation hurt me and caused a division between my counselor and myself that week. Also, ABCD violated my confidentiality prior to my getting overly involved with her. Funny how she told my friend that “SOME people have thought that I was sharing about them, but that is not true, and I would never do that.” Umm, nice story, but you left me COPIED IN when you violated my confidentiality some of the times, so clearly I didn’t just THINK you were sharing, I KNEW. Also, in my record which I have a legal right via HIPAA laws to see for free once per year and for a fee after that though you tried to keep me from it, you documented some violations of confidentiality, so umm, yeah no. I am not picking up what you are putting down; I’m not buying that you would never do that. Aside from strange stories and complete and utter lack of confidentiality, I was also torn down emotionally, and made to question my experience of what had occurred. It is unfortunate that I have good memory, because it hurt that much more when her version of events continued to change. Respect was also an issue. When you are talking to me, you shouldn’t be texting your BFFs, for example. I understand we live in a busy world and have a high tolerance for other people being distracted, but sometimes enough is enough and she was past that line by leaps and bounds constantly. Additionally, timeliness is next to godliness. I am patient and will let you waste my time and not show my annoyance when I am standing right there and five minutes after we were supposed to start you engage in a lengthy conversation with someone else, but how dare you have the gall to ask me where your client is when you were supposed to see her two hours ago and were too busy chatting it up with a friend? Keeping track of your clients is not my responsibility. There are many things I am happy to do, but client management and tracking is not one of them and it is inappropriate to suggest that it is. I shouldn’t even know who your clients are, much less where they are.

Today I am graduating. Today I am finally free to talk about the pain that has permeated my life over the past few years. Today I can tell you as much as you want to know or I want you to know about the person who caused so much pain in my life that I truly wanted to die for the first time in my life. It is too painful and vulnerable to recount more stories right here, but the one I feel most comfortable sharing an abbreviated form of is the summer story. May 13th I received an email telling me how she really thought things were going really well between us. June 20th I left around 4am and drove across the country and that afternoon I went to see my file. When my time limit was up we briefly discussed phone meetings and meetings in the fall. On June 21st I went to immunization training and then directly from there to church. On June 22nd I left around probably 4:30 am to drive back home. At home I got a new phone that I was NOT happy about and declared that I was not touching it. June 23rd I was sitting on my bed trying to figure out how to explain to someone who I knew would ridicule me about it that I couldn’t make the phone meeting that day because I had no phone since I wasn’t touching new phone and old phone had no service when I got an email that she couldn’t answer the phone. Okay, problem solved. No suspicion yet, because chances are she is cutting the meeting to talk to one of her friends and at least she is telling me this time instead of just not answering. Well, a few hours later I get another email from her that we are done. This is different from all the other times she said we were done, because this time she doesn’t ban me from talking to anyone else. I ask why. She refuses to answer the question. Still upset about the new phone, she has added to the fire and I am now caught in a storm of so many negative emotion words. Confused. Betrayed. Hurt. Sad. There is a tiny sparkle of hope, but like a tiny flashlight beam in a dark stormy night, the hope is hard to see through the torrential downpour of negativity. I act out. I feel really bad about it and start trying to call to apologize. I finally get through and start to get the words out on July 10th. She cuts me off saying “this is why we can’t work together” and slams the phone down. I try again. No answer. I write an apology email. My campusweb and pils and password retriever stop working. I call IT and am told that the person I need to talk to is on lunch and will be back soon. I cancel my plans to bike ride opting instead to babysit my phone, so I don’t miss the call. Hours later no response. I start calling again. And again. And again. I leave messages. I call again. Finally I receive a call but not from IT. I am sort of in shock (not literally…I didn’t actually need ICU admission). I leave my laptop open and go to Bible study where I vent to my friends who are really caring despite the negativity I brought with me. I go home and am SO frustrated that my computer ran low on batteries and went to the password page which means it is now unusable. By morning the shock is wearing off and I am spiraling deep deep deep down. The little beam of hope has gone dark. I desperately wish to not be alive, and am afraid to tell anyone.

Today I am graduating. Today I can tell you that the abuse never ended. First it was stalking and trying to pit my friends against me. I sit down outside to talk to a friend, she shows up and stares. I go to the bathroom, she suddenly needs it too. I go get a spoon she walks past to fill her (already full) water bottle. I sit down at a table in the nearly empty cafeteria, she sits at the table right next to mine. I go to the parking garage, she follows me. She intercepts, reads, and shares faxes from my counselors. I don’t feel safe, yet she brings in her husband to accuse me of stalking her…yeah, me who has done everything in my power to hide from her. I step up the avoidance even more. She gets even more intrusive, standing right next to me to wait in line for a microwave when there is no line at the microwaves closer to her workstation and further from me. She claims she won’t even be at the event my club is hosting and then switches places with the speaker so that she is speaking at the event, not to mention intentionally moves her stuff after I sit down in the room so that she is sitting way too close to me.

Today I am graduating. Today I can finally explain as fully as I’d like without fear of repercussions the deep fear I have developed of people in the mental health field. See there was ABCD, and then as part of the terms of staying in school I had to waste a metric buttload of dollars and time with a bunch of other people, and I guess the reason these people had openings was because of how lousy they were. Let’s see…psychia #1: Diagnosed me within five minutes based on the title of my blog. Never mind the paperwork I filled out indicating that I had no current symptoms of the disorders he was diagnosing. I tried to question the one that was furthest out of line, and his justification was that I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt…umm, true, but 1) they were nice shorts and it was August, and 2) I don’t know of anyone who dresses up to go to an appointment, and the rest of the waiting room was filled with people dressed like me. No interest in listening to me, insistent that I was lying that I was not a special ed kid. I was not lying; I was an honors kid, most definitely not a special ed kid. I cried tears of angry frustration following that appointment. On to psychia #2: This guy is so weird. He spent almost the entire session talking to himself about whether or not he would write a letter to school—nevermind that I had made the appointment on the grounds that the only reason I was there was for a letter to be written. I don’t get a chance to say much as the vast majority of the appointment is him talking to himself. It was all I could do to not tell him to shut his trap and listen to me. He also tried to ask for more money than was originally agreed upon. Luckily I brought an exact amount of cash so he backed off. His retarded letter essentially said he couldn’t find anything wrong with me but would be thrilled to get paid a ridiculous amount of money weekly to keep looking! On to psycho #1: She is a lot older than her picture on the website, but she is really nice and during the meeting I actually like her as much as one can like someone whom she has just met and has just barely earned any trust or respect points. Life is going to be okay until she calls and leaves a message that she changed her mind and instead of writing that she recommends at most monthly meetings like we had previously agreed upon that she is going to write at least every other week. I cry tears of angry disillusioned sadness as I drive to the wonderful counseling center at which I volunteer, willing the tears to stop before anyone sees. These experiences prove to me that hurtful experiences are not an isolated incident with this one person, but are the norm. Meeting a new counselor is terrifying until they win my trust.

Today I am graduating. Today the light is finally the end of the tunnel and not a train coming at me with nowhere to run.* Abuse is a Trauma that hurts. Isolation hurts. Silence hurts. We were made for community. It is not good for girl to be alone, yet I lived since that stupid contract in silent isolation. At first it was wait a couple weeks. Then it was wait until next semester. Then next year. I learned to almost stop hoping because hope just meant more soul-crushing when I had to keep holding on in isolation. Inevitably, every time there was a teeny tiny sliver of light and I considered hope again, the hope ran away before I could shove it away and I was painfully crushed again. I never thought being numb was a good thing, but I learned that I’d really prefer if I could be totally numb and not have to care about anything. Getting rid of the highs felt worth it in exchange for getting rid of the lows as well. Oh…the contract and the agreement it replaced that were signed by someone whose name was not on the Word doc…yeah…so personal we got a form letter and filled in your name and our names…nothing says you matter like a form letter…why bother putting your name on it if you obviously didn’t write it? Why can’t we just tell the truth?

Today I am graduating. Today I no longer have to hear at least monthly about the wonderful “services” of my abuser. Like seriously people! Some of the people advocating those services are people who know how abusive she is yet continue to advocate people being in contact with her. That is so not cool. It is a forgivable offense if you don’t know, but if you do, it just makes me angry.

Today I am graduating. I have gradually healed over time, but the scabs have been picked off so many times that they have never truly gotten the chance to fully heal. Now I can really talk and write and process and heal, separated from the daily reminders like thorns tearing at my skin.

Today I am graduating. Today I am thankful to be done not just with academics, but with school. The cycle will stop revolving. No longer am I caught in the spiral of ABCD and Co. making school miserable which causes my academics to slip which stresses me out which makes me more emotionally vulnerable which makes the intrusions more painful which makes academics slip further…I should put a picture of my life cycle spiral here…

Today I am graduating. Today I can shed the stitches binding my lips closed. I can take off the chains holding me down. I can stop living in daily fear of what may be around the corner.

Today I am graduating. Today I am free.

(written in March 2016 in anticipation of my May 2017 graduation). Names and one paragraph removed later because retrospective me realized the need to be respectful. I also want to sincerely thank all the people who have gently created safe places for me. Y’all mostly know who you are and I am so grateful.

*Okay, not totally true anymore. The light went out in March. I am still grieving that loss, but I’m working really hard on changing the lightbulb.

I’m on my knees begging you please

(Alone – Hollyn)

 

Sometimes things don’t go well and you have to learn to just go with it.

 

If we want to stay super surface level, my mom and I are VERY different people and therefore don’t get along very well and also I find her extremely embarrassing. She likes to make a scene. I like to fade into the background. It isn’t a good combination…but I didn’t start writing to stay on the surface.

 

More to the point, last night was graduation rehearsal…that is something that shouldn’t have been a big deal for me…and it wouldn’t have been, except that the first thing we did was fill out a survey with a zillion questions…about the job I don’t have…thanks…can we rub it in any more that I failed? They are going to wish I didn’t fill out a survey when they see my answers. I’m kinda going to mess up the statistics they wanted to perform. Yep, lots of applications, no offers, no job. Yep, not only is there a line for what job(s) you signed on with, there is also a line for job offers…because some people actually have choices of where to work while I’m still over here rejected and unwanted. I almost cried, but I didn’t because I am not a baby.

 

I made it through the rest of the rehearsal. Once I got outside I wanted to run away. I wanted to hide. I wanted anything but to be where I was. Certain someone was there. Certain someone wasn’t supposed to be there. I haven’t seen her at previous graduation events, but there she was in the open area in front of the doors as if she’d just been waiting for me to emerge. That pretty much ended any possibility of having a positive attitude about being there. I found my parents and wanted to go home right then and just explain to the people I didn’t see that something came up (true statement – a bully came up). My parents weren’t keen on that idea…I don’t really know if there were other people I promised to say hi to and didn’t, but I found a chair in the crowd and wasn’t going anywhere.

 

Award ceremonies are already not really my thing. Ginormous social events are not my thing. I don’t like winning and I don’t like sitting still and watching other people win. Award ceremonies are pretty much lose-lose for me. So even without the situation I wouldn’t have wanted to be there, so you can imagine that my tolerance for annoyance was greatly decreased, particularly as the thing was going on super late at night. Like could we not do this at a time I wouldn’t rather be sleeping? It would be a lot more special to have a small group hang out time at a more reasonable hour than to force us to stay up late in a jumbo crowd. Just open a bunch of classrooms and enforce a maximum of maybe 5-10 people per room and then one classroom with bigger groups allowed to make sure people don’t make the hallway a hang out spot making it impossible to get from one room to the next.

 

The event ended with everyone having to hold a stinky cup of alcohol. I love the smell of cleaning alcohol, but the drinking kind is one of the smells that I can’t handle. I wanted to skip it but my parents wouldn’t let me. I stood there and by the time it was over I was SO done. My parents agreed that we could finally go home, but they just wanted to dump the nastiness out of the cup and go home that way. I said no and was again out-voted…but I did end up getting my way. I was so in over my head by the ridiculously late night and the earlier situation and having to be surrounded by that smell and it still kinda stunk in the car like the alcohol and I started crying and screaming and I half asked permission and half just did it. I pulled into a parking spot and went back inside and rinsed the gross out of the cup. My parents weren’t happy, but they should just be glad I didn’t throw the cup out the window. Besides, what is the point of a single cup? I don’t have any cups in that style at home so it isn’t like I can ever use it anyway. What a waste of my tuition dollars. A mug is something we could actually use. Speaking of my tuition dollars, we have a perfectly good auditorium and many other large spaces on campus but instead the school is renting another facility for graduation so that we all have to go to some random place downtown that we’ve never been before.

 

Also, why would you put something so disgusting in the cups? Fill them with lemonade. Everyone likes lemonade, and there is already as much free alcohol as you want at the event, so if it’s not like by filling the cups with something yummy you’d be depriving anyone of their opportunity to be even more over-served. Plus, like my parents noted, there are some people for whom drinking alcohol is opposed to their cultural beliefs and therefore not very inclusive to make us all hold it. Yep, my school found a way to make me hate them even more on the way out. I overheard when I was like a first or second year that the school doesn’t understand why their recent alumni are so angry…well it doesn’t seem like rocket surgery to me. Stop pulling this kind of stuff on us and maybe we will be more willing to engage with you once we have our diplomas and are no longer obligated to do so. I fully acknowledge that not all of the issues at school were completely the fault of the school, but I also acknowledge that there are a lot of things that once brought to their attention they could have quickly and easily remedied but chose not to, and many situations that they did directly create or were the primary contributor.

 

Speaking of diplomas, my school also plans to give diplomas to three students who didn’t even take most of the professional courses and certainly didn’t graduate. What a way to diminish the value of a diploma! I’d be cool with recognizing other students, but it is completely inappropriate and disrespectful to the work that the rest of us have done to give those students diplomas. If they can have them then I want some of my other friends to have them too. If all you have to do is make it to third year to get a diploma then I know plenty of people who also deserve diplomas. Why did I need to do six YEARS to earn my diploma when they get one for only getting 5-6 SEMESTERS through the program?

See the Sparrows in the Air; Not a Worry not a care

(Alright – go fish)

 

Actually, no I don’t see the birds in the air, I see the ones dead on the sidewalk. There are a lot of them. Maybe those birds should be a little more worried…but I do say hello and goodbye to all the dead birdies on the sidewalk. I might have a hard time making friends my own age, but I am good at making friends with the dead birdies on the sidewalk…they tend to be there for a long time and they don’t judge if I stumble over words and only use the same two phrases. Their expressive love language is quality time, my receptive love language is basically all of the above, so it works out pretty well (as in I tend to get a pretty even score across all five love languages…I just like being loved)…I wish I were better at knowing how to make people friends that were as good as dead bird friends…I do have some awesome people friends, but it certainly isn’t because of anything I was doing right.

 

Tuesday I got my first official NO to my applications since phase II. Sure, I had the passive no of positions that I hadn’t yet heard yes which essentially meant no, but this was the first actual emailed no. The first time that the no had been more than implied. It hurt. I mean, I already wasn’t doing awesome, but it definitely wasn’t a happy moment. It is complicated though. It confirms that no one will want me. It really hurt…and then I am not sure if I was numb or in emotional shock, but it is like the world turned off and it wasn’t like I had energy to do anything but at least the pain was less intense and I was able to go to bed and get some sleep. The past few nights, despite the crying and pain during the day, I have been getting a full night’s worth of sleep. That is super rocking awesome. Emotionally I am certainly struggling, but physically I am doing SO much better.

 

But yes, I have been posting random pieces of life on facebook…yes it is an attention seeking attempt to get little red notifications….no I am not ashamed of attention seeking…it is adaptive to seek attention when you desperately need people. My opinion is that as long as you are doing it in a way that is not hurtful to other people and not intrusive or obnoxious it is perfectly fine to use social media to help yourself. If a few little red numbers on the screen are what it takes to get me through the day successfully then I’m going to do it, and I really don’t see a problem with it. Attention seeking is certainly stigmatized in our culture, but it shouldn’t be, because it generally is something people only do when they legitimately need the attention. It seems to me that filling a legitimate need shouldn’t be scorned, mocked, or punished.

 

Although, maybe my opinion doesn’t count…I did show up to class after lunch break with a container of peanut butter, a spoon, and some bubble wrap…it might not be a “normal” way to get protein to eat peanut butter with a spoon, but if it gets the calories and nutrition to my mouth, it counts as a win in my book…and I might have popped some of the bubbles during class, but I did refrain from being obnoxious enough as to get told off or even get the stink eye from the teacher…that was not an attention seeking attempt though…that was just my impulsivity saying hey, there’s some bubble wrap, that looks fun! and not thinking about that people like to not listen to me pop bubbles in class.

 

After class, my original plan was to immediately heat up my dinner and then go walk to my happy place. That plan got derailed for a variety of reasons. One is that no one is going to fail because they didn’t have the appropriate clothing or the appropriate type of time keeping device…not on my watch!! I found some students who needed stuff that I had, so I ran to my room and handed out what they needed. I think it is utterly ridiculous that a teacher would fail someone over the way they keep track of time as long as they do keep track of time, and I really really think it is dumb that a teacher would fail someone over what they are wearing (within limits…clearly there is a problem if you show up without a shirt on or something), so I’m going to provide whatever you need to pass. No, wearing a student ID is not part of being a professional, nor is wearing a watch with a second hand or wearing a white coat…among other things…My opinion is that being a professional is about how you act, not about your appearance. My opinion is also that on a skills-based assessment your appearance should not be considered because the color of your shirt does not generally impact your ability to perform a particular skill. Not sayin’ just sayin’…okay, actually I am sayin’, ’cause this is important to me.

 

Once I finally did leave, I turned on an audiobook. It is pretty good. One of the first sentences of the book was: “routine teaches our brain that normal exists…whatever normal looks like in a life that has been changed forever.” That is so true. It isn’t just the busy-ness that helps me make it, but that I am doing things that seem normal. That is probably part of why Monday and Tuesday were hard when class was cancelled. I needed to be in class not because there was so much to learn (there certainly is) but because I needed life to feel normal. I mean, Monday was also hard because I was having a hard time with applications on Sunday and therefore procrastinated so much that I didn’t finish with enough time to really calm down before going to bed, but the lack of normalcy definitely didn’t help. It is also why I desperately need people, but while there are times I need to talk, there are other times I just need to BE so that life feels more normal.

 

The loss was more than betrayal. It was more than the loss of the plans for my life. It was more than not having income. The loss took away my identity. There is very little I am good at. I have been told so much I would never make it. The one thing that made me good was that I had known what I wanted to do since fourth grade and wasn’t going to let go. Then I didn’t get that one job that was part of my plan. If I’d gotten a different pediatric PGY-1 in phase I, I think I would have been a little sad but mostly okay, but without that particular job and then without a pediatric PGY-1 and then without any PGY-1 and then without any job, any little remnant of my identity was gone. There are so many ways that it hurts. I know I can make it through though. If I can get through what happened at school, I know I can get through anything. My all of me hurts, but I will be okay.

 

I have always needed like three times as long in the morning to make up for staying up late, which is almost exactly what I took this morning…I stayed up late trying to text my friends, and eventually after staring at the blank screen for way too long, I had to admit that I probably wasn’t going to come up with the words that night and it wasn’t an emergency. I don’t think it is JUST staying up late exhausting my body though…there are three things right now that help me dull the pain even just a little. Being with people helps, but I often don’t have the social ability to ask for what I need, and even if I did, the world doesn’t revolve around me and I can’t expect my friends to let me be with them all the time; that wouldn’t be fair to them. Eating (Especially Dominos or candy) also helps…but occasionally eating is still hard, and eventually you reach a point at which eating no longer feels good. That leaves being in motion. Someone commented on Monday that I must really like exercise because I’ve been walking a lot lately…actually, I do not like walking. I do not detest it as I detest running, but it certainly isn’t something I normally choose. When there isn’t a line you better believe I will take the elevator to get up or down only one floor. Being in motion makes the emotional pain hurt less…but most of the time when I am not grieving I spend 90% of my time laying on my bed in front of my computer. My body isn’t used to being in motion so much. It doesn’t physically hurt, but I’m sure my muscles are tired and needed some rest.

 

I don’t have a scale, so I literally can’t use numbers talk right now to talk about how I am doing physically in terms of food, but I can say that my guess would be that I am doing well. I have been eating a lot of food…like three donuts and a chocolate chip panera bagel for breakfast yesterday…and eating dinner twice because food was available and I was hungry again…I have certainly been doing my best, and that is all that anyone can get from me.

 

Interesting story…so I was walking back to school yesterday and suddenly there were police cars driving erratically all over. I used my thinking brain and stood still well away from the edge of the sidewalk. There must have been some donuts somewhere because the cars were randomly driving down one street then parking then turning around and driving down another street, parking, and doing it again until they all chose one street and all parked their cars there, got out, and seemed to be having some kind of party…lol…once they were all out of their cars, it seemed safe to cross the street without being smooshed by a police dude not paying attention so I minded my own business and continued back to school. Maybe I should be a police officer so I could have donuts too. Plus, I am super indecisive also, so I could totally turn around like three times trying to choose where to park…although my parking ability is lousy so I’d need to do it a lot more slowly which would probably take away the thrill of slamming on the gas and steering like a crazy girl….

 

I also used my thinking brain before that. I ALMOST used my fingers to strain my noodles…I figured out just in time that I should probably not do that. My fingers appreciated not having hot water poured against them…

Do you reach out and touch them?

(Dreaming Jacobs Dream – Michael Card)

 

I am resilient. I am strong. I am brave. I am alive,..but I am so overwhelmed.

 

The continued questions about post-graduation plans are hard and don’t go away any more quickly as graduation comes closer. I have been holding on for graduation so long but the glow disappeared what is now almost two months ago. And applying is SO hard…and today was the first day there weren’t “normal life” plans. And that was hard too. Going through the motions of life gets me through the day. Sometimes I have to have life feel normal just a little bit. It is so hard. I need people so much.

 

In motion I am okay, but stopping I am not. It doesn’t hurt as much when I am in motion. So I was okay-ish most of the day until I had to sit still without music on to get more sunscreen on. Then I was crashing. I knew I needed to be in motion, so I didn’t even stop to get my shoes back on my feet. I just picked everything up and started walking. At this point I only had 20 minutes to be calm enough to use my big girl words with my friends. When there were five minutes left, I stopped and put my shoes on and like immediately got a text from my friends and could hold on for a few more minutes.

 

I did a really good job. I tried really hard to use my big girl words with my friends…It helps so much, SO much, but I was already so worked up that as soon as I was alone again I was back to falling apart and knew I couldn’t be safe going home. There are a lot of ways that going home could go wrong if I’d tried right then, so I didn’t.

 

And sometimes I’m a baby. Thumb in mouth, audiobook on my headphones, Sleep Sound in Jesus album playing on the laptop, skittles sharing the mouth with my thumb. In another hour I was okay…but so exhausted. There isn’t anywhere to sleep here. I looked. Well, okay, there is multiple somewheres I know about to sleep, but it would take too many social skills that I can’t access to go there.

 

But now IDK what to do. My thumb came out of my mouth like 5 minutes ago, so I can go anywhere without people finding out that I am not okay, but I’m so tired. I don’t really want to go back to school…partly because of the tiredness, but also because once I am back at school I will be alone again…but I guess without any other ideas I should probably go back…all I have left in my bag in terms of feeding my face is skittles and water, so it is probably time to head back to get some food. I will be okay. A few minutes at a time I will make it. I wish I could just go to forever home. Why does it have to hurt so bad? Why can’t it all end? Will anyone ever want me? Why did God take me to this place for the past approximately 15 years just to crush everything? Why is it so hard? I want so badly to go to forever home.

 

Lol yeah, so that was written maybe an hour and a half ago or so…I made it back…obviously…I did stop and admire the carseat graveyard, but I had enough sense to not try climbing the fence to get a closer look. I also apparently didn’t do a good job with the sunscreen and now have a beautiful imprint of my bra strap on my shoulder…and that is the real reason why your bra straps shouldn’t show…

 

Sometimes I wish people in this city weren’t quite so nice…so today someone stopped to offer me a ride when I was walking to the fancy gas station because I needed to go potty and didn’t want to have to have any conversations on the way and have to try to explain anything…and it wasn’t like I was dressed in such a way that I felt like I could get away with just wandering in anywhere and not being noticed…so anyway, single man in a car like I said yesterday is not something with which I am comfortable. Not to mention how awkward it would be to explain that I was wandering to go to the gas station…and given how I was doing emotionally, it was a really proud moment that I had words to say no thank you. It is great when my friends offer help, but random strangers on the street are a different story…plus I can’t apologize later for my poor behavior when it is some random stranger I’ve never met before.

Like Life is Only Pain

(Britt Nicole – World That Breaks)

Life still feels like I am stuck in a tornado holding on as tight as I can to keep from flying backwards in the wind. Everything still feels like it is spinning around me.

I tried something different this weekend. Usually I do applying for jobs on Sundays because it is so hard emotionally that I don’t want it to overshadow the goodness of being at church…not to mention that it is certainly an element of avoiding the excess of pain that comes with trying to work on applying.

Since the weather was nice. I decided to walk to church. Since walking has helped me a little in containing my emotions…not as much as rollerblading and biking did for me, but certainly something, I decided maybe the pain would be more manageable if I could break it up between both days of the weekend. So yesterday I worked on letters of intent, then walked to church to help calm down. Today I will do the actual application part. I think it helped so the emotion wasn’t AS overwhelming, but I can’t keep doing things like this. I really need to be able to study and do other things besides laying in front of the computer working on applying for jobs.

Speaking of walking to church, it was a bit of a wake up call last night. Physically so many things are getting a lot better…but certainly I am not out of the woods. I got halfway to church before stopping while waiting to cross the street and adjusting my sock. The sock seemed stuck so I pulled a little and it was itchy so I figured maybe there was a leaf or rock or something in my shoe or stuck to my sock…I checked and found that my sock was stapled to my foot. My best guess is that perhaps I had some staples in my pocket last time I did laundry and one got stuck in my sock and then stuck itself into my foot when I put the sock on my foot and my foot in my shoe. It is certainly not good if I don’t notice a staple in my foot before walking over a mile. I obviously took the staple out, and at least thought about a bandaid…it is frustrating that I can feel so much emotional pain that physical pain is covered instead of covering it up. Luckily, the bottom of my sock was stained enough that the blood wasn’t noticeable enough to make me feel like I need to wash the socks.

The end of last night’s sermon was convicting. He was talking about how worth is defined as how much someone is willing to pay, and so how much are we worth if God was willing to pay for us with his son, and he was recounting a conversation with someone who had survived tragedy and said “you made it because God has a purpose for your life.” I’ve continued praying for God to take me to forever home because this hurts too much…but I’ve continued to survive. It is hard to believe there is any reason for this pain. It hurts so much. It feels like I am underwater drowning every day trying so hard yet failing to get to the edge to be able to pull myself up and get another breath. It is a crushing pain drowning out the joy in life.

To be honest, I am writing right now because I should be applying and doing this feels like I am doing something kinda sorta productive, gives me a reason to not face applying, because that hurts so much. I know I need to do it, but just writing these words thinking about it makes the pain of loss so intense. It is so difficult.

But I do know how to take care of myself. On the way home, someone stopped, honked at me, and waved me over. I went to see what he wanted, and he said “Hey, come ride with me.” Although I was starting to notice that I hadn’t brought sunscreen with me and was starting to burn, I also knew that getting into a car with a man whom I had never seen before in my life and whom I had no context for meeting was not going to put me into a situation that made me feel comfortable. I said no thank you and I moved on.

I am proud. My roommates left me with an overflowing trash can that smelled awful. I left it alone a day hoping that someone else would empty it since I had barely used it, but it became obvious that no one else was going to take responsibility. Taking out the trash (even my own trash sometimes) is something with which I still struggle. To take out the trash I not only had to touch the trash bag, but also clean up the excessive trash overflowing out of the trash can. I was overwhelmed. Luckily, I was desperate enough to look everywhere first to see if I could find anything to help me…what I found was two gloves. I managed to complete the task one handed so that one glove could be preserved in case I needed it. I mean, I did not follow the direction of tying off the bag, because I couldn’t do that one handed, but technically the directions said to use a bag that could be tied, not that you actually had to tie it…semantics…I can and will use them to my advantage when in that type of situation. Now I feel frustrated, because to prevent having to do that again I didn’t put a new trash bag in the trash can, assuming that without a bag people would throw their trash into their own trash cans. Yeah, silly me. Instead, they are throwing disgusting trash into the trash can without a bag which will make it even more difficult to get rid of it. Luckily it is a trash can that belongs to the school that they forgot to remove when converting these rooms back from temporary offices to dorms and isn’t a trash can I was planning on bringing home, but I feel really frustrated. Your mommy doesn’t live here. Clean up after yourself. I mean, it is kind of like how between me and the two other girls in my bedroom, I was the only one who brought soap…like did you not think that you might need to wash your hands or body while you were here? Perhaps a little self-centered but instead of offering to share I suggested that they use their shampoo as soap. My guess would be that I am also the only one who brought cleaning supplies.

I think I probably can’t delay the inevitable any longer and need to start actually applying for jobs…