Monthly Archives: September 2017

Just Hold On

(I’ll Find You – LeCrae)

I’ve moved approximately 10 times in the past year (not an exaggeration at all), and before that when I was in school I was back and forth for Christmas/Summer break between home and school. And each time I made sure not to lose this piece of paper. I was going to take a picture of it, but decided that was dumb because by the time I covered up all the identifying information you’d practically be left with a blank strip of paper which seemed kind of pointless. So anyway, I had this paper that I was protecting because way back when in high school I tried to use my debit card at an ATM one day I didn’t know my password and guessed too many times and my card got locked for two weeks until a new password came in the mail. This password is the one that was on that piece of paper that I was protecting…good idea, right? Well, except that the card that password goes to is the one my bank cancelled pro-actively when the news came out in 2013 that Target had credit card information stolen for a lot of customers.

 

See, I guess I kinda missed that part and just kept making sure I knew where that important piece of paper was at all times. It is important because I almost never use ATM’s and therefore have no reason to keep good track of the number inside my head. Social anxiety has always made paying for purchases at a store using cash a scary hard thing. My mom was always talking about how you should never have more than a few cents in change because it is so easy to just use the change you have to pay for whatever you are buying, but I always had so much change the wallet barely closed because the least scary way to pay was to give the biggest bill I had that would cover the purchase and then whatever was given back hold in my hand until I was outside then attempt to shove in the wallet and sort it out later when I got home. Even if I knew down to the cent what the price was going to be, paying with coins just seems too hard so I mostly didn’t do it. And then I got a debit card which I called a credit card because in my world they are both pieces of plastic that buy you things and are therefore the same thing…anyway, that solved the problem and I now almost exclusively pay for anything with that magical piece of colored plastic. I pretty much just use cash if it is the only option and checks the rest of the time when plastic doesn’t work (rent, DMV…). And even though my mom says you should never go anywhere without at least $20 with you, in reality I usually carry more like $0 and like right now I think my wallet has 75 cents in it and my ID case maybe has between 25 and 50 cents. I will use change in the self-check at Cub as my candy purchasing money, but otherwise I pretty much just don’t spend cash so it doesn’t make sense to carry it around. And it’s not like it accumulates or anything because my paychecks go directly into my bank account, and when people owe me money I generally encourage a check because I can also put that directly in my account. A couple pictures taken with my phone and the money goes into my bank account to be spent using my pieces of plastic. Easy peasy.

 

So yeah, when I needed actual money a few days ago I had a problem. At first I was like oh c**p, I don’t have time to drive three hours to get to the bank and then get back to my apartment before work. Then I remembered the existence of ATM’s…and then after determining that the stupid find an ATM site on the internet I was using was definitely not working and locating an app on my phone to help me figure it out instead, I located the paper and the card and was ready to go…until I compared the numbers on the paper identifying which card it belonged to with the numbers on my card and they were definitely not a match. Hashtag fail. Hashtag look how perfect I am. (That second one is a reference to a WhatsUpElle video…every day’s a gift 🙂 ). So I figured I had four guesses what my password might be and I’m pretty sure you get at least three guesses before you get cut off…no pressure or anything that if you get it wrong you are going to be pretty much SOL and without a debit card for a while.

 

Then I remembered that I got a pile of paper in the mail from the bank about changes to my account as I age out of one of the accounts I have and figured maybe I should know what my ATM fees are before I go. That took another diversion: a call to my mom and then to the bank to figure out whether the “first 6 transactions” was lifetime (if so starting with the beginning of the new account or starting with my first account with them) or if it was per year? Month? Day? They should really specify these things…

 

Well, knowledge is power, so armed with the knowledge of what the fees were I took myself to the ATM. And was greeted with another wrench in the plans: a sign that all transactions were subject to a fee in addition to any charge of your bank at the discretion of the owners of that ATM. But by this point I was kind of committed and I didn’t come that far just to fail, so I figured it was time to just go for it. I tried really hard…After about the fourth time shoving my card in the machine and getting frustrated when I couldn’t figure out what to do and taking my card back out, I decided it was time to ask for help. I didn’t want to, because I felt stupid and didn’t really know what to say, but I knew I needed to do it and promised myself a treat for successful completion of the task. I went in and explained what I wanted. To my delight, instead of having me wait and then sending someone out to help me, they just took a copy of my driver’s license and took a look at my card and gave me the money right there. That was awesome. If I wasn’t so overwhelmed and scared they had free drinks and suckers in there. I might be back someday if I ever need real money again. (Okay, I WILL be back someday if I need real money).

 

So you might wonder if I consider myself pretty much over the social anxiety why I still rely on plastic…well…the way I got over it was the insane amount of time I spent on the phone the summer after third year and the first semester of fourth year. It is pretty much a miracle I was still passing all my classes that semester when I was spending so many frustrating hours on the phone. I don’t know how people do it if they actually have an urgent mental health issue and need a GOOD counselor ASAP. I was really just looking for SOMEONE. Good obviously preferred, but beggars can’t be choosers. Most places don’t have email or other online scheduling methods. Most places don’t answer their phones regardless of time of day. Most places don’t ever call back if they even have an answering machine on which to leave a message. Most places even if they do call back are essentially calling to say they have no openings for the foreseeable future. The one place that initially was reasonably promising and got back to me quickly did the intake I think within a week of my first call, but somehow managed to lose my information twice between that and matching me with a counselor and when they finally found it the second time I got a message from the director that they weren’t able to help me and gave me (useless) resources…see dude gave me the phone number of a college counseling center that made it very clear on their web page that they served only their own students. I did not attend that college. So I learned to talk on the phone, and I desperately needed friends so between the conversational skills learned on the phone and the work I had already been doing to learn to communicate, I gained passable social skills. But you know what is a mostly unessential skill that I never had any reason to learn: paying with cash. I went grocery shopping about once a month or so and that was pretty much the only shopping I did in school so it wasn’t like even if I wanted to practice there were even any opportunities. And I already had that magic plastic in my ID case, so yeah, I never learned that skill and in my opinion someday cash will be made obsolete so I don’t see any reason to force myself to learn that skill.

 

If we are talking about ways I have failed recently, I have plenty of other stories.

 

Like how occasionally this senior center that I walk past sometimes has community events and I see the signs and plan to go. And I walk over there on the correct day at the correct time. And I don’t go. The first time I got close then did my “this is so not happening” speed walk past the place and on to the grocery store instead. Today I got a lot closer. I got as far as the door to the building. I opened said door. I looked around while still standing outside. I got overwhelmed, turned around, and went to the grocery store instead. I felt so frustrated with myself, but I am trying to look on the positive side and remember that I did get a lot farther than last time, and chances are they will have another event and maybe next time I will get even closer. I tried, and that is worth something. Everyone has their own strengths and I can’t force myself to be good at something that I am most definitely not good at.

 

Or like my attempt at making homemade vanilla pudding today. The internet says that it is super easy. Reality says, umm, no it most certainly is not. I followed all the directions (except to use a metal whisk because I don’t have one and was using a non-stick pan that isn’t suppose to have metal utensils used on it), but at the end I did not end up with pudding. I ended up with liquid with burned bits and a scraped up pan. Apparently glass stir rods are also not good for nonstick surfaces. I probably should have known that. So plan B is attempting to freeze the liquid and see if that turns it into something pudding-like. The worst it can do is completely solidify in which case I’ll just melt it again and have cold liquid to eat like I already do. It tastes okay, but definitely not like pudding and the texture is obviously even less pudding-like. Oh well…it was worth a try. I need to use up the milk I bought and the internet says to freeze it, but that sounds like a good way to create frustration so my next experiment will be copycat starbucks bottled frappuccino. Of course I can’t completely follow directions for that either – even though caffeine does bind to calcium I am pretty sure that I can’t handle the amount of caffeine that would be left with regular coffee so I already have to substitute decaf coffee. The brand I have doesn’t have on the packaging or the internet the amount of caffeine in it, so I also plan on making it a lot weaker than the recommendation so I don’t have to worry about how much caffeine I am getting.

 

So yeah…we’re just gonna stop there before I embarrass myself 🙂

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I’m falling on my knees…and so I’ll wait

(Hungry – Joy Williams)

Sometimes I make bad choices. Like walking in the middle of the street in the dark. Sometimes when I stop distracting myself from my loss and actually talk about it (and sometimes just totally randomly) the pain significantly intensifies. I know if I can push it away before it becomes all-consuming it won’t hurt as much. I know it isn’t the “right” way to deal with it, but it is what I am doing to make it through. Being in motion seems to help me feel at least a little better. So Thursday evening I grabbed my apartment key, put my shoes on, and as an afterthought took the bag of chocolate that I was really hoping I would eat and I went outside to walk. I would have rollerbladed or biked or something, but I knew I didn’t really have time to get any of those things ready. I just needed to go. Clearly I wasn’t thinking super logically…so I figured I wanted to be on the other side of the street so I crossed…not at an intersection…and not straight across…just diagonally from one side to the other…in my defense, I was at least wearing a brightly colored shirt…in the dark. When you don’t feel like you have much to live for though, what motivation do you really have for crossing the street safely? I haven’t been praying recently for God to take me home, but it is not because I have plans to take things into my own hands; I know that it is God’s job to decide when I go home. At times like that I am not sure whether to be proud of myself: I prevented a total meltdown, or angry: I should have been careful. What I do know is that God must have some sort of plan for my life: I am still alive. Of course, the next day I was crossing the street the right way and actually did almost get run over ’cause someone wasn’t paying attention…and okay, so I wasn’t doing it completely right since I didn’t attempt eye contact with the drivers near the intersection before starting to cross…

 

Because of my history of anxiety…and especially because the vast majority of my work was self-initiated, I have a very exposure-therapy based mindset to life. If it is scary and uncomfortable I tend to think I should probably make myself do it…clearly the exception is with processing the grief and stuff because I don’t think I am ready to handle that on my own yet. And recently I was watching a video that had a side note about the resiliency zone. I think that kind of gave credence to the way I am handling things right now. The resiliency zone is the range of emotion intensity that we have the coping mechanisms to handle and stay present. Above the resilient zone we fight or flight and below the resilient zone we freeze. We can only process and handle things in the resilient zone, but after a trauma or other stressful situation our resilient zone can be extremely narrow, and it takes a lot of time and work to be able to expand the resiliency zone and until it is wide enough to stay in the zone we can’t really work on re-processing whatever has happened.

 

Anyway, new things are scary, so Friday morning I went to Aldi because I saw that it was open. I wandered around for a few minutes and got overwhelmed because it was a very different atmosphere than any other grocery store I’ve gone to and there were a zillion people there like you had to wait for people to move to get through the aisles…but milk to make pudding has been on my list of things to buy for a long time because non-cow milk makes glop, not pudding because it doesn’t have the casein to hold the pudding together…but I don’t drink cow milk so it seemed so wasteful to buy a carton just to throw away the leftovers…enter Aldi where milk costs like half as much so it doesn’t seem quite so wasteful. So I will go back on Tuesday morning because it sounds like there is some kind of event then which sounds terrifying but exactly where I need to be.

 

You don’t make friends by being a hermit (That’s the right word for someone who never leaves their home, right?). And lol…speaking of making friends, someone randomly started talking to me yesterday as I was walking down the sidewalk.

 

Wait, I should back up. Second year when I was terrified of the interview into third year (even though it was pretty much common knowledge that if you show up you passed), my counselor asked me what I would want to do if I didn’t pass, like what other career I could pursue. That was a really hard question because there was only one thing I had ever been interested in doing ever: pediatric clinical pharmacy. Never had I wanted to do anything else. It took months, but eventually I determined that I would like to be a social worker…of course I was still thinking with that career option that I wanted to work with kids and families. Lately I have been frustrated because I don’t feel like there is any way for me to get from where I am to where I want to be. I know it would be throwing away the degree I fought for, but I’ve been thinking that while bachelor’s programs for social work are generally not conducive to holding a job at the same time that maybe a higher level program would be more able to accommodate a working adult schedule with asynchronous learning needs. Maybe if I did that and started over with a new career I would be happier and be able to find a job that makes me feel good.

 

It would definitely be a challenge – I am not an awesome reader and not attending lectures probably means an increase in the amount of reading and reading comprehension required. And most higher level programs are going to want prerequisites that I really don’t have, because hello, pharmacy graduate here. My psych classes included intro psych and abnormal psych. The only psych class I didn’t sign up for was psych of personality – it was a writing intensive class and I really had no reason to take it and I had a friend who took it and didn’t really enjoy it. I mean, technically my school also offered social psych which I did not take, but the reason I didn’t take it was that I signed up and then they cancelled the class. So anyway…most programs want like child developmental psych and family structure classes as prerequisites and I definitely have nothing like that unless you count the hands-on experience of the children that I work with volunteering in child care. I think hands-on experience for that type of subject matter is probably just as valuable as textbook learning, but something tells me that an admissions person would not be impressed.

 

So anyway, this guy starts talking to me, and you know someone most likely has special needs when he enthusiastically says hi to a stranger (me) and after being acknowledged says that he is so glad to have someone to chat with. Internally a part of me was going what did I just get myself into, because it was in the 90’s and I was so hot, but most of me was not just doing “the polite thing” but actually trying to really engage with this guy, because I really care about people. I know that someone like that probably gets rejected by people a lot, and that makes me really sad and ache for him, because I know how rejection feels, and to experience that constantly day after day is hard. I know that everyone has their own challenges and I really want to make people feel heard, because even if you can’t really change anything, it is really powerful for someone to be willing to step into your world and try to understand and acknowledge what you are going through.

 

And the more I talked with the guy the more I really wished there were more I could do, and he was super sweet despite definitely having some special needs. At one point he expressed that he was getting frustrated trying to get a new job and he was just looking for anything like maybe a store might need help taking out the trash and cleaning up. I remembered that Aldi had signs out that they were hiring and suggested he head over there to apply. He explained that he doesn’t fill out applications and he used to just ask to speak to a manager and he’d get hired that way. I kinda wanted to be like well that’s not how it works anymore and to consider you they need you to fill out the application, but with someone I just met I wasn’t quite sure how to express that respectfully, so I kept listening as he went on to say that now if he talks to a manager they tell him if he can’t fill out an application then the only other way to be considered is to go through an employment agency, but he’s tried seven different agencies and didn’t like any of them (I wonder if it is because he wouldn’t fill out an application?). By this point I felt really bad for the guy, because I totally understand the frustration of the job search and how eventually it just seems like everyone is telling you what to do and how easy it is to get a job and it just is SO NOT EASY and no one even seems interested in you.

 

People have always told me about things that aren’t safe…and from my perspective, to take it from them, the only way you can really be safe is to never ever leave your apartment and if you must, go directly to school do not pass go do not collect $200…but one thing people say isn’t safe besides a random assortment of basically every street ever, is talking to the weird people on the sidewalks. The advice is to just ignore and keep walking, which in my opinion is super weird and rude. I have always rebelled against that stupid advice and used my common sense. If it feels safe, it probably is, if you have that feeling of something is wrong and it isn’t just OCD telling you it is contaminated, then it probably isn’t safe and you should re-evaluate whether you should be doing it. From that perspective, I felt pretty safe with this person. The only moment where I really wondered if I should have ignored and moved on is when the guy started telling me that he will never go to Walmart because he got kicked out of there once because (in his words) they thought he was a retard. I was pretty sure there was more to that story, because stores don’t kick people out for being dumb…there are some pretty stupid morons in the world that are still able to go to the grocery store and buy food and go to wherever else and buy stuff…but by that point even though that put me on alert, I was pretty well stuck there because you can’t just walk away from a conversation…or, well, maybe you can, but I can’t. So I weighed my options and figured it was the middle of the day and we were on a sidewalk bordering a parking lot. If anything were to really go wrong, I might be able to scream and if I could scream then I could most likely garner enough attention to get help…the being able to scream part is where my safety is always going to be a little bit sketchy…that and the fact that I really doubt I could fight back not for lack of skills but for inability to hurt anyone or to repay evil with evil.

 

So the interaction with that guy made me want even more to see if I could get into social work. I really wanted to be able to help him, but couldn’t really figure out how. I think maybe the social work curriculum would teach me how to help people and connect them with resources to help them figure things out. And even if it didn’t, I know almost for sure it would help me learn better communication skills which would be helpful even if I never used the degree and just continued to be a pharmacist.

Sometimes in my tears I drown

(One Day – not gonna even attempt to sound out the name of the artist…so we’ll just say from my friend’s facebook page…and plus apparently the “real” version has a lot of beat-boxing so really I probably like my friend’s ukulele version better anyway…)

Sometimes…it implies there are times I am still swimming…or at least treading water and keeping my head up. It is definitely true that there are times I am drowning, but it is important to acknowledge there are definitely other times when my hard work is paying off.

Today I made a new friend….scratch that…today I told myself I made a really close friend…and then I realized that my perspective on friendship is still a little skewed sometimes. I am not ashamed to admit that I at least formerly had social anxiety…I think when there is the question of whether you might be selectively mute you can no longer deny that you are definitely socially anxious. Yeah, one reason this girl was so upset about not being allowed to speak about what happened (besides that gag orders for victims have only been shown to make things worse…) was that she had fought so hard to have language skills and her ability to communicate was being taken away. No fair!! So anyway, I was wandering because my goal was to not get home until dinner time because that would make it a lot easier to eat and while I am doing a lot better with eating, there are still days I struggle…and I am starting to get frustrated because I feel like I try so hard to shove enough food in my face and no matter how much I eat I can’t seem to gain back the last few pounds…and then the frustration just creates more stress which, ironically, can make it harder again to eat enough. As I was walking, some random guy started talking to me…and because it was more than just hi, I concluded that we were now very good friends…and then I realized that while I do have more stringent criteria now on the category of friends, that sometimes my definition is still a little too loose. I may not anymore consider friend to mean someone I can say hi to about 50% of the time if I saw him/her in the hallway, but now I don’t have a good definition…I could say it is someone I care about, but that doesn’t work well, because I care about pretty much everyone – how much I cared about my abuser was why it was so hard to escape – I didn’t want to hurt her or anyone else…and clearly just having a one-time conversation with someone doesn’t make us friends…I would say it is having a conversation that includes exchanging names, but considering how lousy I am at social skills, that is a less than ideal definition, because I can go a long time without ever knowing people’s names, and it really isn’t the end of the world for me…names are helpful but not required in my world…

But maybe the random dude outside could be my new friend…I am craving friendship and community…I feel lonely. Maybe I could go wander around again and find him and we could order a pizza…who cares that I just finished dinner…if I had someone to hang out with it would totally be worth spending some money to buy more dinner. But that might be desperate and weird…and I don’t wanna be the weird kid…

Also, I listened to the book “The Hardest Piece” by Kara Tippetts today. There were a few things that I really liked. “We want grief to be like a pregnancy having a distinct end, but it is never ever pretty…It is a gift; the gift you never wanted; the gift of perspective………still is a life-saving word. There are still parties, still laundry.” I thought that first comment really hit the nail on the head. Grief is hard because there isn’t a clear, visible, tangible endpoint to wait for. There is no guarantee that in a certain period of time the hard will be over and the joy will come. In some ways it may never end. Never will things go back the way they were before, and that broken and empty place can continue to be a reminder of what will never again be. It will always be a marking of pain and loss. And there are pieces of pregnancy that are beautiful, but grief does not share this beauty. That gift thing…maybe when I’ve healed a little more I’ll be able to see a useful perspective from grief, but right now I want to believe that there is a hopeful truth in that, but right now that is not my reality. Right now the only perspective grief has given me is that the world hurts and I want out. And I just liked the way still being life-saving sounded.

Here’s some pretty pictures from my walk home:

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Side note: the people conducting exit interviews should probably be told WHY the person they are talking to is no longer employed prior to getting on the call…that was painful. I can’t help but think that perhaps she’d have been a bit more gentle in questioning if she’d known upfront that losing my job wasn’t my choice. Maybe not though considering that even after finding out she was still kinda not making it easy…although maybe it is my fault since I have become skilled at hiding how I feel and acting like I’m cool with whatever when really I’m dying on the inside…I got off the call and ran across the room and threw myself on the floor to cry…I can be your sunshine girl, but once I’m alone, hiding is so much harder.

Comfort sings a siren tune…bring us back to life in you

(I can’t find the name of this song on the internet and it was months ago that my PCO access was cut off, so I don’t really have a way to find it out…)

 

The week, my church (and the other churches in the network) met at one time in one location as One Church. I was unable to be there, but I am in the process right now of watching the livestream.20170917_133032.jpg  

One good quote so far that I would be remiss to neglect mentioning: We begin with tears.

 

It was a really cool idea, but I’m not so sure that having the four services of my church plus all the services of the other churches all meeting in the same place at the same time was the most thought out option as they talk about how there are people standing and sitting in any open spaces and the pastor joked about how they caused so much traffic that they basically shut down a freeway without even protesting. I love it online though. I am thrilled to see the familiar faces of my church family even if I can’t catch up with them or hug them or anything. And to be honest, as thrilled as I would be to attend in person this morning, I have to admit that the it is very possible that the environment there would have been something that wasn’t good for me…without being there, it is hard to say, but if it is an arena or mall atmosphere then it could easily be too much for me. (And lol, yes I do also attend a church in a mall right now…it makes me miss my other church, because being on the greeting team I could start church with wonderful music (worship team practice), then small group social time, then saying hi to “all the people.” After that depending on how I was feeling I’d either ask someone if I could sit with them, or go upstairs and sit by myself kinda alone. The service happened, and a lot of the time after that I’d be in the volunteer room either journaling or doing homework or basically just using time and/or processing. After that, a lot of people would be gone and with fewer people there I was ready to have some social time or at least smile goodbye to my friends as I left. I miss the people, but I also miss the environment that fostered my ability to communicate).

 

I really like the service. I definitely appreciate that they started by acknowledging that we might not all agree with each other, but that we will respect and listen to each other to be the church to each other. There certainly were people with whom I did not agree, but you know what I do agree with? I agree that every human has value and should be respected. I agree that it is important to listen open-mindedly. I do not have to agree with what you are saying, but I do have to listen and realize that your value as a person is not linked to how appropriate I think your opinion is. Making people feel heard is a priority for me…and if you can’t do that then I don’t think you will really learn the real meaning of community. Community is people who care about each other. Caring about people doesn’t mean agreeing on everything; it means loving on them even when you disagree with them. Like someone said, we need the church to be diverse because we all know a piece of God and we need the people who know the parts that we don’t so we can see the whole picture of God. I loved that…if you only include those who are exactly like you then you will miss the pieces that others hold. You might disagree with 99 or even 99.99% of what someone is saying, but if that last 0.01% is a piece of God that you don’t have then you’ll be missing out if you don’t take the initiative to listen fully. We can’t write people off just ‘cause we disagree.

 

Totally unrelated, but I met the best grocery store employee ever today. I don’t know if this guy is just super helpful or if he somehow noticed that I’d been to the grocery store every day and left empty-handed, or if it was totally random or what, but I was walking down the frozen vegetable aisle and he was like hey can I help you find anything. I answered with what I came for, acknowledging that the shelf was empty. This incredible employee responded that there was more in the back and he’d go get it now…and then he did and he didn’t just fill the shelf and then let me get what I wanted, he got me what I wanted first and THEN set to work re-filling the shelf. That was awesome. I finally had a successful shopping trip.

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Also unrelated, but I discovered this morning that sanitize plus heated dry was maybe a little too much for this lid…yeah, I had a minor freak out last night and ended up staying up late loading the dishwasher and pressing whatever buttons would make it get as clean as possible. I am now thankful that there wasn’t much in the dishwasher so I didn’t destroy more dishes. But look how cute it is…totally nonfunctional, but cute.

I wish I could be so much more

(Broken Things – Matthew West) 

Before I even knew the name of this song, I really liked how it sounded. Now that I know the title, I like it even better. I feel broken sometimes. 

Today (Saturday), I learned something really important. Do NOT paint on both sides of a page in a notebook. It is a good way to wreck three pages of pictures (and/or words, but all there was on the pages I messed up were pictures…)…I suppose an alternative is not to use water soluble colors on your pages…I learned that painting this picture…which was also frustrating because it isn’t anything like the picture inside my head.

 

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Castle (grace) with gate. Girl, sad, standing forlorn behind gate. Standing in a puddle of tears.

Anyway, I certainly do wish I could be so much more. There are so many ways that I look at myself and feel frustrated about how I am not good enough. I am trying really hard to reframe these things, but the reality is that there are a lot of things that have been hard in my life, and that colors my experience. Someone recently commented that some people think their stories are boring, but other people wish they had that kind of story. I really connected with that idea. I would be thrilled to have a boring story. My story is more like rollercoaster meets tangled up ball of yarn meets train wreck. I don’t want all that “excitement.” I didn’t want to be separated from everything and everyone I knew to go to a new church part way through high school…especially not a church where there wasn’t a choice what class I wanted to take and my assigned class was a clique that didn’t include me. I didn’t want to be abused in college…and I definitely didn’t want to be forbidden from talking about it or letting anyone know that I couldn’t talk about it. I didn’t want to end up at the end of school without a residency. I didn’t want to lose my job…I would be thrilled to have all these things taken out of my life. Boring would be so much better.

But I decided this morning (Friday) I am ready to hope again. Not a lot, just a little, but that is a really big, really scary, step forward. Hope is terrifying. Hope means opening yourself to vulnerability that can allow deeper hurt. When you’ve been living with deep grief for months and have been fighting to get through day by day, allowing the possibility of further hurt is one of the scariest choices you can make…but it is also something I know is probably really important to really healing.

There are a lot of things about my life that have made the grief more devastating already. It wasn’t *just* the loss of everything I had wanted and planned and it wasn’t even totally about being in an unknown. A big part of the loss was that it made me feel unwanted, rejected, alone, worthless, like a failure – the same things that had been drilled into my brain via the abuse. I had worked through some of that stuff before, but this situation was so difficult that I believed those lies were true. It didn’t seem like a feeling anymore; it felt like truth. It felt like identity. It made me think that maybe instead of abuse it was just someone being brave enough to tell me the truth – that I really don’t matter and would never be worth anything no matter how hard I tried. I know now that isn’t true, but it has definitely been a journey coming to this place of understanding, and even though I am here today it doesn’t mean I will feel the same way tomorrow. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was good enough and instead it felt like I did the opposite; I showed everyone how unwanted and worthless and stupid I really was. 

But I am not a worthless failure. Sure, I have lost almost everything that mattered to me, but all is not lost. The same day I hit send on an email to my best friend that I knew I so desperately needed a friend but I don’t really know how to make them without a place to volunteer and I have neither a place to volunteer nor a schedule that lends itself well to volunteering…and not only that, but no one would want to be friends with me while I am struggling so hard to make it and therefore even less of a good friend, God sent someone to be my friend. That is huge. That is God showing me that I really am good enough at communicating to make friends. That is God showing me I am worthy of community. That is God showing me that I do matter to him. 

It doesn’t mean that life magically became awesome though. It is still hard, and I can still definitely tell that I am working harder than I should be to get through each day. For example, yesterday (Friday), I went to the grocery store because I had maybe like a tablespoon of frozen peas left and then would be out of vegetables and the only fruit I’ve had in weeks was juice…but the grocery store was out of the bags of frozen peas that I was going to buy, so I got overwhelmed and gave up and went back home…yeah…I am not so stupid that I couldn’t figure out that there are other vegetables or other brands I could buy, but in that moment the one thing I needed to get done just seemed impossible and there didn’t feel like there were alternatives…this is what happens when so much brain space is taken with struggling that there isn’t space left for processing and responding to practical situations…so I’ll go to the store today and try again…or maybe I’ll find an ATM and then try the farmers market…or maybe I’ll order a pizza and call it a day…we’ll see…like the song Piece of Heaven by Go Fish says, “sometimes it’s hard; sometimes it’s the middle of the night.” I’m learning to give myself grace and celebrate the successes in this period of grief, because being angry with myself was adaptive at first to get food and fluids in and keep going through the motions, but now I am doing well enough that anger just uses up energy that could have been used for something else…and energy is certainly at a premium…it’s not as bad as it was in March/April, but it definitely is still something that isn’t completely back to baseline. 

Y’wanna know what excess stress sometimes causes in my life? OCD resurgences. Right now, it luckily has not reached crisis mode, but there are definitely some thoughts in my mind that shouldn’t be there. I’m scared of the world because I read a news article about enterovirus D68 and how it is causing a lot of respiratory illness this year, and I also read that the flu is predicted to be worse than usual this year…not is worse, just predicted to be worse…and that was one more reason to not travel over my birthday weekend.

 I hadn’t announced it yet, but I was strongly considering road-tripping over my birthday weekend to say hi to friends, especially since I didn’t go over labor day weekend like I originally planned. If I was going to go, this weekend was the cutoff I set for myself to ensure that I had enough time to plan and let friends know I was coming. And so today I decided the answer is no. I want to explain it away as being a combination of little things that make it not the greatest time to go, but if I am being really honest with myself, it is mostly that I feel like no one really wants to see me and would just be inconveniencing themselves to be polite to me by trying to make me feel welcome. I know that is not true, but knowing and feeling are different. If I were having an awesome day today, the story would probably be different and I’d probably excitedly be packing my bags way too far in advance…but the story my life is writing right now is one of being so used to rejection that I can reject myself before anyone else does to save them the time and me the pain of being rejected. It has been really hard because of some things I have seen on facebook. In March and April it was sometimes really hard to be on facebook because everyone was announcing how excited and hashtag blessed they were getting their first choice for residency. Their excitement at getting something I could not even have a tiny piece of was in painful contrast to the sorrow that swallowed up my world. As much as I wanted to be happy for them, it hurt and was a reminder of what I didn’t have…and the whole hashtag blessed thing was really bad for me. I didn’t really believe God was good and I didn’t really believe God cared anymore. I guess I had a pretty skewed view of God through the lenses of my pain, but from my view, if being blessed meant having a residency then clearly I was not blessed and God didn’t really care about me. No one wanted me, not even God. It was painful. It still is painful. 

Now people have started complaining on facebook about their residencies. Oh, how I would LOVE to have a residency to complain about. I would do almost anything to be in their places. I did everything in my power to get myself a residency. I paid application fee after application fee. I traveled to interview after interview. I prepped and interviewed and prepped and interviewed. I tried so hard, and no one wanted me. They just wanted to use up my time energy and money so they could crush me later. It might have been easier to be rejected upfront and not be driving all over the place and buying plane tickets and staying at hotels and airBnB’s than to be given the illusion of opportunity and be strung along. They didn’t care about me, they only cared about themselves and their own enjoyment laughing about me later…okay, so maybe that isn’t exactly what they were going to do, but after the large number of residencies I applied for and interviewed for and was told I was a strong candidate for just to still not have a residency, it sure does feel like perhaps their goal really was to see how high they could get me in order to see how crushed they could get me later. No one wants me. Especially when the whining is all stuff like OMG they made me work the 9-5:30 shift on Friday and it is not fair because I wanted to get out of work sooner to hang out with my friends. I just want to comment look at how blessed you are to have a residency. You should be thankful. There are a lot of people who would be thrilled to be in your shoes and would gladly work 9-5:30 and wait a little longer to see their friends if it meant having a residency. 

Anyway, speaking of facebook, it is often a place where I have to remember that I don’t need to agree with people to be friends with them. It seems that recently a lot of Christian’s have forgotten the command to respect those in authority over you. Even bashing people who kind of deserve it sometimes bothers me because I know how it feels to be bullied and excluded and don’t want anyone else to feel like that, but bashing people who are doing everything they can to advance society, keep us safe, and protect justice is something appalling to me. It has been rampant on facebook people bashing other people and talking about how wrong they are and how unfair it is. Unless you were at the scene of the crime, you do not know what happened. And a jury is for the benefit of the defendant. If the defendant does not feel he (or she) needs a jury then it is perfectly legal to forego that right. The evidence that I have seen does clearly point to innocence. While I am the kind of person who would be more likely to let someone beat me up than to fight back and defend myself, police officers certainly have the right to use force when necessary to protect themselves from a real threat. Someone reaching for a gun is a real threat. People are even speaking as representatives of the church bashing authority. I don’t think God said that we should respect those in authority over us unless they acquit someone the media portrayed as guilty. I am pretty darn sure that last half of the phrase wasn’t in the Bible last time I checked. And someone posted a long story about how the police are so awful. He describes going into a park after it was closed and the police coming and questioning him and his friends before letting them go. He repeated over and over how they weren’t doing anything wrong, but the police acted like they were being kind by giving only a verbal warning not to do it again…my thought is no, the police are not so awful; you were breaking the law and they could have imposed fines or written you up, but instead chose to show you grace by letting you walk away free…and the way you reward their kindness is by bashing them on the internet. 

We live in a strange political climate right now. That strange climate is one of the reasons I have given myself as a “real” reason not to travel. Because my license expires on my birthday, to travel then, I would be traveling on a temporary license. In this political climate, it is not very safe to be white in St. Louis. To be white is to have a target on your back that says protesters, please attack me. I firmly believe that rioting is NOT an appropriate way to express your opinion. If you can express yourself using your big boy or big girl words then go for it, but to use violence to express yourself is wrong. I don’t understand how you can claim racism if a white police officer shoots a black person who was threatening him (or her), but think it is okay and not racist for a group of black people to vandalize an innocent white person’s home and injure multiple innocent white police officers who are simply doing their job of trying to keep EVERYONE safe. That is disgusting. Y’all, we learn in elementary school that humans are different from other animals because we work together to accomplish great things. If you are gonna act like toddlers and throw a tantrum when you don’t get a cookie you didn’t earn, then maybe you need a reminder of what makes us human. So yeah…driving through St. Louis as a white person sounded like a bad idea if it wasn’t necessary, and doing it on a temporary license sounded like asking for trouble…it might be better to wait until people screw their heads back on a little straighter before I go. It seems like the more news I read, the more ashamed I feel of the people I share the world with…

 

I had some other things to say, but I feel like I’ve probably already said too much…

 

So I’ll leave you with this incredible youtube video from Inside Out

Painting on a smile like it our covers our need, no thank you I’d rather bleed

(Almost 17 – Stephanie Pauline)

 

God is always working things for good. Even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

 

I try to pretend that I am okay, that I am moving on with life, that this doesn’t really bother me. I paint on a smile in hopes of it hiding the gaping holes in my heart and cover the tears that have so recently fallen and will yet fall again.

 

On Thursday, one of my friends emailed me something that really spoke to me.

 

I have tended to be more of a Stand in the Rain kind of girl (Superchic[k]). When hard things came my way I hid away the pain in a box and put the box in its little cubby in my head and tried not to let that box spill over. Tried not to let that box by seen. But sometimes I can’t stand up when it’s all crashing down, and if I stand in the rain, I will drown. Some days my anthem has to be “No, we’re not gonna die tonight, we’re gonna stand and fight forever.” (Not gonna die – Skillet). Standing and fighting in that sense isn’t standing in the rain; it’s continuing to eat sleep drink breathe. “I won’t give up I refuse.”

 

One email. It wasn’t a long email – one line intended to show caring but not to change my life or anything…but it made an impact. A big impact. My friend gave me permission to be upset. I’ve been trying to hold it together for so long. It was freeing. I might not be comfortable just crying openly at work or church or really anywhere, but her words let me know it is okay to hurt. It is okay to grieve. It is okay to not *really* be okay. If where I am is crying almost every day, it isn’t a failure. It just is. That felt really good. It was validating and comforting to know it was okay and that I wasn’t inconveniencing everyone when I couldn’t (can’t) contain the pain and tears. Letting go is hard, and that’s okay.

 

It is such a different message than I’ve gotten in other places. In the abusive counseling relationship, the one time I slipped and cried in session I earned myself extra hurtful words and actions. I got the message loud and clear that crying was unacceptable and bad and something I should definitely avoid. I learned that it was wrong to hurt and no one would want me if I showed any signs of pain. Even elsewhere in life, society has shown me that crying should stop, preferably before being seen. I mean, how else can you interpret being asked to go on break (alone) that first day back when I started crying…or that day on rotation being asked to take a few hours off to calm down before being given alternate activities that kept me away from the students…okay yeah, partly the goal was probably intended to be caring, but the point is, what this friend said was so other to the message I had been living and believing for so long. I had struggled to hide my pain. Felt like even more of a failure when it overflowed, but I don’t have to do that. She doesn’t need me to throw a smile on to hide the storm inside…and neither does God. She wasn’t condemning me when the tears overflowed and the pain stole away my voice. She didn’t see me as the failure I wrote myself off as.

 

It’s okay. I don’t have to wear the Christian ‘I am so blessed’ mask. It is exhausting to keep that mask on. Does that mean that I will suddenly feel totally comfortable walking around town crying…umm, I doubt it…but maybe sometimes with one or two friends I can stop painting on a smile when I’d rather bleed. My really close friends kinda saw through some of it anyway – it was never a very well-maintained act even when I wasn’t crying. And I don’t have to keep putting on that play. I can stop trying to hide away from all the pain that [I] feel…maybe making me bleed will be the answer that could wash the slate clean (When She Cries – Britt Nicole). Maybe slowly letting people in and talking about the pain will not make it more real than either of us could bear but instead be an avenue of healing. Maybe facing it with a friend by my side will make the pain more manageable. I am so glad for permission to hurt. I have been frustrated with myself for the breaks in character where people saw the pain underneath, but these simple words gave me permission to live in the pain and really feel it without worrying about it being not what others want.

 

That is such a huge relief for this girl who has been running a marathon with a backpack of concealer on her back, berating herself for being too slow and for sweating off the makeup and letting her true feelings show through. It is such a burden to be able to let go of for this people-pleasing girl who just wants to make everyone genuinely smile and know how appreciated they are for putting on a bubbly smile to not be an essential part of the role anymore. It is “living life with a different set of rules” (Rebel – LeCrae), and these rules make the game so much less overwhelming, and more fun.

 

Also, another friend who doesn’t know much of my story yet told me a few weeks ago that she was praying for bravery for me…I don’t really know where that came from, but it reminded me that bravery isn’t being unafraid. Courage isn’t not being scared, it’s doing it, scared…which reminded me of the Mary Kate and Ashley song, bravery…which I drew out the last line from today…because when you live alone and don’t spend 85% of your waking hours at school anymore, and no longer have homework to fill your time, you start realizing that the majority of the inside things you can do are either getting old (trying to find something to entertain me on the internet) or are a lot more fun with another person (playing games)…and sometimes the effort of putting on sunscreen and stuff just feels like too much so outside isn’t an option.

 

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It’s a sand pail sitting in the sand, but filled with bravery. It says “I’m brimming with bravery. It’s scary.”

But today I did find a video with which I connected.

 

Imagine if this video were real life…but instead of the lies and hurtful words happening on the internet it is happening via email and verbally between people when you aren’t around. It is a big, but not very well-kept secret. I might not have been around to hear it, and obviously I didn’t tend to be included on the emails, but I knew it was happening. I guess it is kinda like during the times at the beginning when the girl in the video was without her laptop but we both knew there was stuff going on about us that wasn’t positive. Other people knew and heard it, but I didn’t. I just knew it was there. Anyway, this in a lot of ways was a really good image of what life was like after I broke free of the counseling relationship with my abuser. A lot of broken relationships with people who didn’t want to be my friend anymore – or only wanted to be my friend when no one would see them. A lot of relationships strained nearly to the breaking point when I was hurt so badly that I couldn’t be a good friend anymore. I didn’t attempt suicide, but I did hurt deeply. I am thankful though, for the people who saw through my pain (both the I’m fine façade and the pain-induced responses) to the girl underneath who just needed someone to acknowledge that she had value. Abuse is really painful. Stalking isn’t a victimless crime. I am totally serious when I say that there were times I kept the alarm at the place I volunteered right next to me because I was terrified of how far my abuser would go to find me and hurt me. Eventually I determined she wouldn’t come find me there and it became my safe haven. The one place I could go and know I wouldn’t be followed and watched. Anyway, I pushed away the hurt and most of the time I was okay…but when the profound loss came this spring, it brought with it the pain of the abuse. The words came back just as vividly as when it was happening. Worthless. Stupid. Never going to make it. Unwanted. Annoying. Not good enough. Failure. Loser. That is just a sampling of how I was feeling and what I believed about myself. Abuse doesn’t go out like a birthday candle. Neither does grief. But I don’t have to be a happy plastic person…with smiles to hide [my] pain. (Stained Glass Masquerade – Casting Crowns).

 

I leave you with the closing lines of Stained Glass Masquerade, when the song slows to ask these very real questions that hurting people are subconsciously asking when walking into the church room where everyone seems to joyful and perfect and like they have it all together living in paradise, or at least a lot closer to paradise than I am…Sometimes the happiness everyone else exudes makes me feel even more like an outsider. I knew no matter how hard I tried that I couldn’t match their zest for life. I was the black cloud in a cotton ball sky no matter how hard I tried to scrub off the color to match everyone else.

 

Is there anyone who fails?

Is there anyone who falls?

Am I the only one in church today feeling so small?

She Wonders Why

(Britt Nicole – When She Cries)

 

So, being real honest here…today was an especially rough day in my world, and I told myself I needed to communicate somewhere instead of just living inside my head…so I decided blogging was easiest…

 

I know I need to trust God’s plans, but sometimes it is hard.

 

Sometimes when I’m struggling I start to isolate myself because despite how deeply I yearn for community, it feels so hard sometimes to do anything but just get through the day.

 

I’m a fighter. I will get through it.

 

There’s that phrase I heard somewhere a long time ago, if a tree falls in a deserted forest does it make a sound…I mean, considering the laws of physics, I would have to say yes…but anyway, yesterday I accidentally cried at work, and was wondering if no one was around to see does it really count as crying in a public place?

 

Sunday is world suicide prevention day. Sometimes I wish I believed in suicide, because that would be so much easier than continuing through all the pain…but I don’t believe in suicide, and I have to believe that God will help get me through. It may be true that prayer changes people more than it changes situations, but even if I am stuck here, being more able to cope with it emotionally will still be good. The residency cruise ship has sailed, and I have to learn how to live on this rowboat in a stormy ocean that God put me on instead and just hold on, trying not to go under.

 

Most days I am doing a lot better…okay, all days I am doing a lot better…but some days are a lot better than others. Today was another day I was struggling to eat dinner. But I am strong. I asked myself what I wanted to eat and the resounding answer was nothing…not even skittles sounded good…but I knew nothing wasn’t a dinner option. It took all evening, but dinner was eaten. I did it. I have to remember, like in Estherday, “the very last minute isn’t late when God is in it.”

 

You don’t know you’re a ghost

(Christa Wells – Life Costs So Much)

A lot of the time I write because it is how I can process situations…sometimes I can’t write because I haven’t processed far enough to even have written words to express myself. I guess you can probably imagine that there’s been a lot going on in my life right now.

Seeing my coworkers again and saying goodbye got re-scheduled again. As much as I really really don’t want it to be over, I also just want it to be over immediately because being excited to see my team and being devastated at the loss is such a confusing combination.

And now it is even more confusing.

I don’t know how to write about it yet.

I am fighting so hard to recover from the abuse and the grief. And I am so afraid to hope. Every time I have tried hope again I’ve had more loss and more hurt. I don’t know if I even want to try to pursue or even think about the next little bubble of hope that came floating through today. I am terrified that if I reach out with any hope that I’ll just be crushed again. I don’t know if I can handle more loss. I feel lost in the web of ambivalence. I want to know if there really is hope but I don’t want to open up my arms and expose myself to vulnerability to be hurt more deeply.

No one tells him company’s coming use your fork and spoon

(No one tells the president – Mary Kate and Ashley)

 

Today I got a feeling that I’ve never really felt before in this sense…I cleaned (not sanitized) my apartment. It feels successful. Like hey, I’m winning at adulting. I vacuumed, mopped, cleaned the sink/shower, did the dishes, wiped down the counters, did the laundry including the towels/sheets/pajamas…and an extra load for the one towel that hadn’t been unpacked yet…and even took out the trash. Taking out the trash is still a hard task for me, but I told myself that we either have to consider whether OCD is back or we have to take out the trash, because normal people don’t wait until there is a box of bags of trash in the corner to take it out so just because you happened to make an online purchase that came in a nice box doesn’t mean you get to revert to filling it up like you did as a third year. So that is a success, but the bigger success is that I cleaned without sanitizing. With all the stress this year it would have been easy to stress-clean which for me means stress-sanitize. Instead I did it the normal people way. Yay!!

 

I also mostly finished unpacking and decided that it is good enough for the foreseeable future. It isn’t perfect, and that’s okay.

 

Speaking of cleaning up, I came across this today. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting having read the title and preview, but it definitely gave me something to think about…and not just that barbecue chips smell bad and I don’t think I could have a useful therapy sessions with the smell of barbecue chips surrounding me…although where I am right now I’m not sure I could have a useful session regardless of the situation…but anyway…I would most definitely not be interested in eating chips that had been on the floor in a public place. Perhaps at my own apartment where shoes are not worn past the doorway and I know exactly when it was last cleaned, but certainly not in a public place that is rarely if ever cleaned. Is that a problem? I don’t mind throwing away a chip or two that fell off my plate…now if it were skittles, that’d be a different story. Skittles, are able to be rinsed off and I also value them a lot higher than a chip…

 

And speaking of OCD, see the remnant of OCD leftover here? (Not my hands…)

 

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Yep, the marker and cap are labeled dirty. I’m guessing this marker is from first or second year and was brought into the bathroom to mark off the chore chart and even just going in and marking the chart and leaving again was enough for this one to be clearly segregated. It is incredible how different life is now…a LOT more functional!! I mean, first and second year except for when there was some kind of trigger, I was usually just barely on the clinical side of the line, and even like that I was marking things dirty that were hopelessly contaminated…

 

Things haven’t just changed in the OCD realm…unfortunately…I am still really struggling with the loss of the possibility for residency, the loss of my dreams, and most recently the loss of my pediatric job and all the things that come alone with that. Today I got a text from my now-former manager. I was so happy to be included and re-connected with my coworkers. The ecstatic thrill was awesome while it lasted…and then I was crushed and running across my apartment trying to outrun the tears…I don’t know why I do that…but anyway, I was crushed because I am not *really* part of the team anymore and the reminder became too much to handle. I don’t know how I am going to get through Wednesday without crying in front of my coworkers who are also some of my best friends in this state.

 

Changing gears a little bit, I will admit that I have too many treasure, so periodically I go through my treasures and try to find things I can let go of. In the process today, I have been feeling so loved. It is incredible going through the stuff I found in a file folder from 2nd year and realizing I don’t even know who some of the people are anymore who wrote those notes, but I made enough of an impact that they wrote me a note to let me know. What was even more amazing (And why I stopped to start writing this…) was going through a pile of things from fourth year. That year I was facing both the continuation of the abuse as well as the worst of the punishment and fall-out from the abuse. So much of that year was spent in tears as I tried to piece my life back together even though I’d been torn away from a lot of my friends and had started believing that I really was unlovable and unworthy. The summer prior to fourth year was the first time I had really believed that death would be so much better than life, and while by the time I got to the school year I was past that point and ready to rebuild and show everyone I was a conqueror, I was still certainly struggling, trying to learn how to cope with big problems at a time when this girl who previously trusted anyone and everyone could not trust anymore. And I have so many super sweet notes from people that year. Notes from every single person at the wonderful counseling center at which I volunteered, from other friends, from “anonymous.” It is a good reminder, too, as I am going through another big trial (and okay, still working through that one…) that even though I might feel really alone and it might seem like no one gets it, I am more loved than I realize. By other people and by God. I just gotta keep doing my thing and someday I’ll look back and have made it through and be even more able to see the people holding me up the whole way. I am so so thankful for all the incredible people God brought into my life. There might be people who don’t value me and even intentionally want to hurt me, but there are also people looking out for me who just want me to let them in so they can love on me. I really really really miss my counseling center buddies. They were the best friends that I had in that state. I would very much like to come back and just soak in their presence again.

 

Also, totally unrelated, but in the process of unpacking I found my adult coloring books. I have never done an adult coloring book before so I decided to try it out. It was super hard work. It took forever. It was kinda frustrating…but it also was kinda addicting…many many many hours later I have finished my first adult coloring book page…and started a second page.

 

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Okay, one more thing before I start picking up in preparation for bedtime…someone told me that after you graduate from college you aren’t allowed to buy ramen anymore. That is seriously crimping my style. It might have been cheaper to buy a loaf of bread and eat peanut butter and jelly, but I only did that as treats in college…which was dumb because twice my jar of jelly went bad to the point of being inedible and had to be thrown out…but anyway, the point is that I lived on ramen. I make regular ramen. I make peanut butter ramen. I make Japanese ramen. I make pepperoni ramen. I make stir fry vegetable ramen. I use ramen as the base for meatball soup…basically like 52% of my meals in college were ramen, probably 39% taco meat, 8% potatoes, and 1% other (chili, pb&j, pizza, macaroni)…so starting to take ramen off of the menu since I only had like 10 packages left upon moving into my apartment really takes away my meal possibilities…

My Soul is Gonna Get There One Day

(On the mountain – Christa Wells)

 

I recently re-discovered Christa Wells’ Frame the Clouds album…I am a little bummed I couldn’t find it on Spotify, but that’s what youtube is for 🙂 . Lol, a little throwback to high school…or college…or whenever it was that I first discovered it via (in)Courage (which no longer has the link to listen to the album for free…).

 

The grief is still an ever-present companion that makes life a little harder than it should be every day, but God is good. Even when it seems like God kinda forgot about me over here, I have to believe that he is in control, he loves me, and he isn’t making this happen just to make things harder for me. I have to keep believing that he cares and understands. It is hard, but I am strong and I am not going to be defeated. Things are a LOT better than they were though. Progress is slow, but not stagnant. That is an accomplishment to be proud of because especially with the continued big losses. Like that high school Bible study that I almost signed up for as a compromise between me and my best friend, Life Hurts, God Heals. I have to remember that God isn’t up there making me hurt for funsies, but instead he sees it happen and wants to be involved in the business of healing.

 

There has been a lot of hurt in the past few months, but there has also been a lot of healing. Someone said something recently about pain lasting only for a season…I’m kinda pretty sure that they didn’t mean that once fall hits it won’t hurt anymore, but I will admit that I got my hopes up for a few moments until I figured it out…but while one day to the next you might not identify the progress, it is there. I realized yesterday as I was walking home from work how far I’ve come. In the beginning I was lucky if I got more than a couple hours of sleep at night. Now most nights I am pretty much at baseline. My sleep is a little messed up still, but now it has more to do with the strange hours that I get at work. In the beginning I was doing whatever it took to get SOMETHING in my mouth, which usually meant hoping skating a few minutes balanced out that the calories and fluids in were greater than those out. Now I might still be careful to have three meals every day and that each meal consists of at least the four key components (protein, carb, fruit/vegetable, dessert), but it isn’t usually that hard to do anymore, and I don’t doubt that someday eating will be something that doesn’t really use much thought again like it should be. And I might still cry more days than I don’t, but it still is a lot better than it was in the beginning. It isn’t like I am holding back tears most of the day and almost certainly crying once I am alone. Considering it has only been a little over a week since the last big piece of the career-related loss, I am ready to be proud of that. I know that it all God. I couldn’t have possibly recovered this well without God on my side. I still have a long way to go. It still feels like I’ve been climbing forever and am still at the bottom, but I know that my soul is going to get there one day. Grief is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

I was working on getting rid of some stuff I don’t need anymore and came across some notes from one of my classes a few years ago. Some of it is definitely junk, like a list of updates we were supposed to sign up for and some things that we were supposed to follow on twitter. I might not have ever actually done it because 1) I don’t really *want* to blend school with my social life and 2) I didn’t then and certainly don’t now need more stuff showing up in my email inbox that I don’t care about and will just delete, and TBH, I don’t go on twitter often enough to ever even see anything useful if it was there…I like the idea of being connected on twitter a lot more than I like actually using it…especially since I prefer to use a lot more than my allotted 140 characters at a time.

 

Anyway, there was one page that I almost kept. It was the lesson about grief that most of the class either didn’t show up physically or showed up physically but not mentally because it wasn’t going to be on any of the tests…yeah, they probably shouldn’t have told us that in advance…but I did pay attention in case anything important came up, because loss is something to which I am no stranger. As usual on topics like that, it was mainly pretty self-explanatory material, but sometimes it is reminders of the obvious stuff that is important. Lol, so here are a few highlights.

  • We can’t really be present in life if we can’t accept death
  • There are four human conditions: freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, and death; Meaninglessness and death give life meaning.
    • This is one that I don’t really get…but I thought it kinda sounded interesting.
  • We are affected by loss because we are social creatures who need love and care and lacking those things our communication becomes feral.
  • We are affected by loss because we cultivate relationships and engage in communal living.
  • Grief is an experience. Mourning is a process.
  • Grief is normal and expected.
  • There are four responses to grief
    • Feelings: complex emotions can make it difficult because we experience negative but also positive emotions
    • Behaviors: withdrawal, isolation, impulsivity, erratic, denial (Yep, I have fought against most of these)
    • Cognition: numbness is common
    • Physical sensations: fatigue, tears, laughter, muscle cramps
  • We go through five stages of grief, recursivity is when we go backwards. (I would add that although this lecturer suggested that it was always linear that I believe it is also possible to skip over certain steps sometimes…)
  • Anger only exists because pain exists.
  • We attach therefore loss hurts.

 

So I was going to post this before church, and I can’t explain why I didn’t expect for that it was a God thing…God knew there was going to be another element of loss I was going to need time to process…

 

So the pre-communion message was about exclusion. And slowly I started to understand another element of the loss. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. In K-12 school it was because I was painfully shy (social anxiety/selective mutism??) and struggled to make friends. I framed my watching of conversations as observing for mimicking later to gain skills, and while that is true, it is also true that I would have loved to have been included. A lot of my friends were the ones who didn’t have any other friends…it meant that a lot of the time once they had the chance to make other friends they didn’t want to be my friends anymore. In college I started making friends. Then I was abused and the abuse itself made me feel like I didn’t deserve friends and no one would want to be friends with me. Then, after the abuse people started taking sides, and the people with whom I was most comfortable were reached by her first and they weren’t very nice to me. Over time they started to be more nice, but it was super hard to go to school every day knowing that “no one” wanted me there. I was already dealing with the pain of the abuse and the stress of the breaking of the relationship to get out. On top of that I was still being tormented by my abuser and the people who had been my friends were being hurtful. The people who were still trying to be my friend just didn’t really get it. No one really understood what was going on. I’d always been someone who was pretty self-sufficient because socially I kind of had to be, and now I was outside of my realm but couldn’t access help. And then the gag order came as I was slowly figuring out how to let people in and I was required to shut everyone out again. At a time in my life when I REALLY needed people I was threatened that my options were either no more school or no more people. I chose no more people because becoming a pediatric critical care pharmacist was super important to me.

 

And while school is talking about how everyone has so much access to XY and Z, they were telling me I was absolutely not allowed XY and Z. While they were inviting the whole school to an event it was understood that I was not invited. I was always excluded. While they were having discussions about how every student deserves the same rights and respect I was still being left out. I wanted to be involved on campus but when there was a prayer walk I was left behind alone in the stairwell trying to figure out where I could go without getting in trouble for no longer being with the group. When everyone was going to meet in the “special study space” I had to be the awkward group member pretending I didn’t understand the directions and joking that the cafeteria sure is special as a reminder to the organizer that I can’t go anywhere good for groups…I was effectively set apart as different in a negative way in group projects, study groups, student organizations, and anything else I wanted to do. What a way to show that every student is important and valued. It was very clear that some students were valued but I wasn’t one of them. I do understand that there were a few people on campus who were nice and cared about me, but the overwhelming message I got was that it would be easier for everyone if I had just chosen not to come back. It was incredibly hurtful to go from the promise second year that there would always be resources for me whenever I needed them to the decree fourth year that I had no access to any student services and better not create my own support network outside of the school’s system or else. Eventually I had to admit that the “next month” “next semester” “next year” was never going to happen. I just had to hang on until graduation. That’s why I was counting down days until graduation before I even reached spring break fifth year.

 

More to the point, when I was being abused I was being told I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t ever going to be enough, no one was going to want me. Getting the residency I wanted was going to prove to myself and to everyone else that I was good enough. It was going to prove that someone did want me. It was the only thing I had ever wanted and I had thrown all of me into doing whatever it took to get there even if meant living in painful silence for three years. Residency was when I was no longer going to be on the outside looking in. I was going to be included. I was finally going to be on the inside.

 

And then I didn’t get the position I wanted, nor did I get any position. Eleven months of applications and interviewing and I wasn’t wanted by even one position. I had so many friends, many of them on the residency panel at my preferred position and even they didn’t want me. No one wanted me. Like Dan Allender said in The Healing Path,”it is being used by someone who violates our dignity and then is unmoved by our pain.” No one cared about me. At every interview I was told that I was a top candidate…but I guess when someone better came along I was just a nobody that tossed aside like dross. Serious question: I have heard that saying before, but I don’t actually know what dross is…also, I apologize if that is a rude thing to say…sometimes I hear things and imitate what I’ve heard and it isn’t until people are shocked and mad at me that I find out that I am mimicking something that is a bad word. Yeah, I may have learned the B-word was bad by imitating it and being told off for saying it. Anyway, not getting a residency made me think that maybe it wasn’t really abuse but just someone telling me the truth that I wasn’t worth it. I do now have the perspective to know that it was abuse, but I think now that I understand 1) why the abuse was so hurtful and 2) why the failure to match was so hurtful. It all came back to exclusion. Another way to exclude me from the world in which I wanted to live when I so deeply longed to be included.

 

I am a fighter. Looking back I can recognize how strong I was. I might have been fighting to eat and drink and sleep, but I was still driving all over the country applying and interviewing for more positions in the next few weeks. I was still told how excited they were I applied and how I am such an excellent candidate…and then 5 days short of a month later was left completely unwanted again. And then the Scramble. And then eventually I had to admit that I had been excluded from the world of residency and had to settle for something else. So many positions applied for, most without even so much as a sorry you didn’t get the position.

 

Exclusion hurts. Isolation hurts. Add that to grief and no kidding it was (is) painful and hard…

 

Totally unrelated, but I try to avoid medical talk outside of work unless directly asked for my opinion…because I don’t want to be one of those people who is all up in your business. My opinion is that if you want me to know what kind of sick you are and how to fix it you’ll tell me and if not I should keep my mouth shut…(the exception being stomach flu…even though I am not struggling with OCD anymore, I do still tend to have a radar out for the stomach flu…). But here is one situation in which I am going to voice my opinion…so someone I know has been in the ICU because this person punched a window and somehow nearly amputated the arm. They don’t really know if it will ever be functional again, and for that matter even after a few surgeries keeping the arm still isn’t a guarantee, and there are a bunch of rules to follow to give at least a possibility for healing. My opinion is that it was a waste of resources to attempt to keep the arm…we’re talking things like no chocolate, no caffeine, no alcohol, no smoking, etc…umm, this is someone who didn’t have a driver’s license but thought it’s be a good idea to get drnk and go joy ride someone’s car…and then after being released from the hospital went home and was robo-tripping…seems to me that just taking the arm and promoting healing of the rest of the body would have been a better choice, because as it is it seems like they did all that work for an infinitesimally small possibility of it actually leading to saving the limb…I know that we are trained to heal, but sometimes you have to look at the whole patient and family and realize that there is a contradiction between what medical literature would give as the correct answer and what is really best for the patient. Obviously these decisions don’t happen in a vacuum and the patient and family need to be involved in the decision making, but I think sometimes in laying out the options we present it in such a way that people feel kinda forced or obligated to choose a certain option when it might not really be what they wanted…lol, maybe I am way off base or maybe I’ve done too many hospice and end-of-life CE’s, but I think part of empowering patients and families is giving them options without coloring those options through the biases of our own lenses and desires.

 

And yeah, I know that “patients and families” is really not the vernacular in the adult medical world…I have pretty much grown up in the pediatric realm (and really really want to go back to pediatrics). In pediatrics we know how hard hospitalization is on the whole family, including the siblings and caregivers, and we know the importance of the role the family plays in healing. We care about and have services for the families that are just as important as caring for and serving the patients. In adult medicine it is very clear that, as one of the logos of my employer states, “the needs of the patient come first.” No mention whatsoever of the family. That really bothers me. I haven’t seen research on the family in healing in adults, but based on what I know about pediatrics and adding that to the psychology that I learned in school and the basic skills of observation, I have to believe that family is still important in adult medicine. I know that the patient him or herself gets the final say if he or she is competent to make decisions, and I know that any sharing of medical information even with the family must be okay’ed by the patient, but I also believe the family should be included in the care decisions if the patient agrees and I think the family should be cared for. I’m not sure what resources are provided for families where I currently work, but from what I’ve seen so far, it appears to be precious little. It is a stress on a family when a member is hospitalized. It changes routines, it causes uncertainty and sometimes fear. It takes someone out of their home and leaves behind a hole. In some cases it takes away a source of income, or something else that directly impacts functioning of the household. I don’t think that is something that I can change though…and I should probably stop writing because I don’t really need more reasons to miss my friends at Children’s…

 

Wednesday is going to be hard. I usually kinda sneak out to avoid goodbye parties…now I’m having two goodbye parties in the span of two months. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate it, because I totally do. I really really love my coworkers, and I love that they show how much I matter to them, but I just don’t like being the center of attention, and I don’t like confronting the goodbye head on. It is really hard to have lost the one last thing that was really important to me. I know God cares, but it is hard to understand why he lets this happen if he really is omnipotent.

 

Also totally unrelated, but I recently did a CE on depression…I took the screening tests as if it were still March/April/May. On the first one if you score at least 3 points the pharmacist is supposed have you take the second screening. Even now I would hit three points. On the second one if you hit I don’t remember whether it was 7 or 10 points, the pharmacist is supposed to refer you for additional professional help rather than helping you with self-care…I would have scored something like 23 points…I was running short on time so I didn’t do the second screening again to score myself for right now, but I know for sure my score now would be significantly lower, and IDK for sure, but it might not even reach the cutoff for you shouldn’t be figuring this out on your own…that is kinda awesome. K seriously gotta do something useful with my life now…