Monthly Archives: December 2017

I can’t promise to take the pain away, but you can know I won’t stop trying

(Angel by your Side –Francesca Battistelli)

 I saw this quote in a youtube video a few days ago.

support

The part I covered up isn’t bad or wrong or irrelevant, but I covered it up because there is more than one life event that could cause someone to need a support system. In fact, I think having a support system doesn’t have to be limited to times surrounding negative life events. Life is so much better surrounded by a community of friendly faces. Community and support is so important that I thought of four other titles for this post before deciding on this one…

When she’s all alone feels like it’s all coming down
(Stand in the Rain – Superchick)

But I know that you came
(Thank you – JJ Heller)

Thank you for never giving up on me
(The Reason – Lacey Sturm)

I don’t think I can live without you
(Don’t worry now – Britt Nicole)

I am so thankful for the people who have supported me. It is an enormously important role. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am now if I didn’t have that support…Y’all are so so special to me.

…in like June I made some bread to give the illusion that I was okay, but in reality I was still hardly eating anything…yesterday I made bread and was excited to eat it…sure, time is a great healer, but support is still a very important part of the equation. I still struggle with what happened, but I am doing so much better!

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Still I’m living like a prisoner…Yeah, I did it ’cause I didn’t want to hurt no more

(Heart of Stone – Britt Nicole)

 

I am absolutely loving this song this season. I do like Christmas music…year round…but I do not like all Christmas music all the time. I prefer just a little bit of Christmas music all year complemented by non-Christmas music.

 

I love the raw but hopeful message in this song. I love that the song seems to understand that hard things in life don’t just disappear. I have actually read a lot of blog posts along those lines recently and it is SO validating. It really helps to hear that other people also struggle with after effects of abuse (or other hard things like a difficult diagnosis or a major loss), still living in fear and shame and self-worthlessness and captivity when the chains have been released. It’s kinda like a caged animal that stays inside the cage once the door is open choosing the uncomfortable over the unfamiliar. I am free, but I don’t always live that way. When I became free I was fighting so hard to just to make it through that the excitement of freedom was lost. I had been looking forward to it for so long, but that light at the end of the tunnel had gone out and what should have been thrilling fell flat like a deflated helium balloon. I had been told so many times that I couldn’t do it and would never be good enough that when I faced so much rejection I believed it again and that was the thick fog separating me from most anything else in the world. I was broken and not so sure anymore that what I experienced was abuse and not just the hard reality that I was really not worth it.

 

I have worked really hard at overcoming those thoughts again and re-learning my value, but there are definitely days that those thoughts and feelings sneak back in and I feel completely worthless. The past couple days I have been back there and praying for God to help me write the truth in my heart again. I definitely am feeling a sense of alliance with the other people who are struggling to reconcile the joy of the season with the pain seasoning our lives. It is the time of year when we are expected to live life with a smile, but sometimes by the time I can curl up alone in my room, the smile melts into tears. The coming of the holidays doesn’t mean that the pain never happened. And grief has no calendar. People expect you to get over it and move on in some timeframe, and maybe you will feel a little or even a lot better at the end of that time period, but it isn’t over, and grief isn’t a straight line from point A to point B. I might feel on the top of the world one day and be struggling the next. And I have been lucky enough to have incredible friends who supported me for a very long time, but it is definitely true that the support runs out long before the deep well of grief dries up. Yes, if I expressed a need I could most likely find someone willing to at least attempt to fill it, but when I am the most broken I am the least able to access help. When I am doing well I can most likely explain a very reasonable contingency plan, recite a list of potential resources, and be confident in my ability to get my needs met. When I am struggling I lose a lot of my communication skills and critical thinking abilities. My fear brain dominates and that cute little emergency blueprint is about as useful as the fish and bread in the child’s lunch before Jesus multiplied it for the thousands. It would take a miracle for it to be worth anything. I might know I am not in a safe place, but my drive to protect people as a protective mechanism for myself keeps me from sharing too much or from being completely transparent about where I am. I have always been protective of people, but learned to take it to more of an extreme level when I quickly figured out that CS was less hurtful when I put my developer strength to use. Developers can see the teeny tiny bits of good in people and are willing to invest significant energy into helping people recognize those areas and growing them. That does not mean that it is my fault that I got hurt because I didn’t do a good enough job, and it also doesn’t excuse her behavior. Another lesson I had to learn…

 

It is hard when something happens that completely changes your world and no one really even knows enough about your world to know the true extent of what happened. I was allowed to tell people that my lifelong dream had died and the light at the end of my tunnel burned out. I was not allowed to tell them about the abuse and how this pain was intimately linked to the time I spent being told I wasn’t good enough and would never be wanted. And to be honest it wasn’t *just* the actual abuse making me feel worthless. At school there were also people who thought that because I didn’t handle escaping from the abuse in the most responsible way possible that maybe I didn’t really deserve to be a pharmacist. That also hurt. I was never told who voiced those opinions, and to be honest, I am not sure I want to know, but I wish I could sit them down and help them understand what they were doing. They were essentially engaging in victim blaming. Yes, from the outside it does seem like there were more responsible ways to handle the situation, but when you are in an abuse situation, you are not your best self. You are not thinking clearly. You need a way out, and when you get desperate you might take off running in the first direction you see without really thinking about where it might take you. That is why so many people stay in abusive relationships. They might be terrified of escaping and what that might mean (raises hand). They may have already tried to escape but the attempts failed (raises hand again). Escaping is a brave bold act that will be wonderful in time, but in the shorter term can also bring a lot of loss. At a time when I was broken and scared and hurting and in need of support and encouragement, these people were critiquing my escape attempt and pointing out how it could have been enacted with more finesse. I needed someone to listen to me and to believe me. Instead people blamed me for being hurt. For some people at school that meant sides were chosen because the princess told her friends they couldn’t be friends with both her and me so if anyone was seen being kind to me it was socially unacceptable, so for most people any small act of kindness had to occur in secret which was really hard when these people were the ones with whom I had previously had tightly knit relationships. That hurt. For one mental health “professional” in particular it meant not being willing to believe that a counselor could be abusive and instead choosing to believe if I thought that then there must be something wrong with me – but he couldn’t figure out what it might be. This is why I became so vocal about victim blaming. Victims are people with feelings. We have already been trampled. We need your support, not your scorn.

 

Like some more of the lyrics in the song say “I may be safe, but I’m all alone.” Abuse can be isolating. Escaping can be isolating. Silence is exactly what the abuser wants…and silence was mandated as a condition of remaining in school. I understood that the silence was mostly to cover their butts which was ultimately supposed to be good for me because graduating from a school with an awful reputation makes it hard to get a job, but to be honest my school already had such an awful reputation that I don’t think it was going to make much of a difference. I was never really sure whether to be offended or flattered when people interviewing me expressed surprise about finding me a good candidate considering my school. Yeah, I wasn’t too impressed with my school, but I still didn’t necessarily want outsiders dissing my school…Anyway, the point is that silence is incredibly difficult. We were not meant to live this life alone, but forced silence effectively kept me from going out and finding community to be able to share the burden. Imposing silence took away any possibility of obtaining support if I was going to follow the rules. I wouldn’t have wanted to risk having to start my education over by fighting against the rules, but of the many oppressive ridiculous and unfair rules and restrictions placed on me, I think one most definitely worth pushing back on would have been that gag order. Knowing me, they would have known that giving me the ability to share wasn’t going to make it headline news or anything. I am not one to shout *anything* from the rooftops. It would have allowed me to access support. It could have helped prevent someone else experiencing what I did, or validate their experience having already gone through it. I was already very alone and had lost almost all my close connections at school and the silence served to separate me further. But I was scared and the only option seemed to be to sign the papers as is (except for the typos I insisted on correcting). I wish when their end was changing I had pushed harder for mine to change too, but I’d been pushed down so many times that I barely asked before I just accepted the no and mourned more loss.

 

I don’t want this post to be a pity party. I don’t want this to be about poor me. I think I wrote this because I have experienced how much it really helps to read other people’s vulnerable stories. It is so validating to hear about other people who have gone through or are going through painful experiences. Even if the experience is not identical, the shared similarities have value. It is a wonderful reminder that I am not alone. If I can give that same comfort and validation to even just one other person then this was worth it. And I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. I really am doing a lot better. Again to quote the song, “Life ain’t been a bed of roses,” but being completely separated from school for the past 7 months has been really helpful in my healing experience. I haven’t had to worry about CS’s interference. I haven’t had to wonder whether this person with whom I am interacting is treating me differently than he/she otherwise might because he/she is one of the ones who didn’t want me to return to school. I do really miss a lot of people, especially my advocate, and the group of teachers/staff members who might not have known what was going on but took me in and gave me a safe place and the support and encouragement I needed, but to be honest the separation from certain someone is probably more healing than having support but having it with the risk of her presence. I am hoping that I will be able to make a trip back to that city someday, and I think that after this separation that I might even be ready to face her without running away in fear. For a long time I really wanted a reconciliation meeting, and I really thought that would help me heal and probably be very good for her as well. When everything fell apart I lost that desire, mostly because I was very obviously in no condition for that kind of meeting to be successful. Now that I have had this time of separation, I think that a reconciliation meeting would be too little too late. I don’t really see a good reason to stir that pot and rekindle those memories now that I have been healing on my own. I am not scared of her anymore because she doesn’t have power over me anymore, but I think even if she initiated that I would be hesitant to agree even given the presence of a neutral party to ensure my safety, because I would have trouble believing this wasn’t just an attempt to get another chance to break me. I know people can change. I know that God wants us to be people of the second chance and extend grace and forgiveness to those who have caused us pain, but I give out so many second chances that I feel like maybe this is a time I should say no and protect my heart.

 

Though the world doesn’t care it matters to me

(It Happened – Stephanie Pauline)

 

I’ve seen blog posts after the owner has not written for a long time that simply say something along the lines of “Y’all, I am doing so much better” and that is the end of the post and often the end of the blog. I don’t think I have been away long enough to warrant that and I think I want to keep blogging…and I feel like as a blogger I have always been way too verbose to have a one-liner post…but I am doing a lot better.

 

Four years (ish) ago I claimed that I had absolutely no OCD issues anymore. At the time it was true…but OCD is a sneaky beast. Since then there have certainly been times when the OCD came back…usually it’s just been a few hours or maybe a day and then it is gone again. Considering the sleeplessness and poor intake over the past months since not matching the first time, I probably shouldn’t be that surprised that a more protracted relapse entered my life even though I am doing a lot better with the grief than I was. My body and mind are still recovering even if I want to claim that I am fine. I still cry sometimes. I gained weight to my goal (not all of it back) and kept the weight on long enough to say okay unless there is a concern it doesn’t matter whether or not I keep this weight on. I did lose some of the weight again, but having a lower set point is okay as long as I am actually eating reasonable meals three times a day and not using up excessive amounts of energy without replacing it.

 

OCD makes it hard to be at work sometimes because people call in sick sometimes and the internet says shared pens are disgusting and dangerous and so are phones. OCD makes me vulnerable to computer viruses, because if I need to search the internet for stomach flu stories, I need to click on every single link…which means potentially clicking on dangerous sites…I am fairly certain that is how my yahoo email account started sending out spam emails on its own which I only discovered when it sent one to me…I was so embarrassed because I have no idea how many people it may have fraudulently sent emails to since the emails are not archived in my sent mail folder…and I don’t know whether proper etiquette is to pretend it never happened or to email absolutely everyone I know to make sure I don’t miss anyone in letting them know it wasn’t really me…but then that would be basically another pointless email clogging up people’s inbox…and I really hope they know it wasn’t really me. Speaking of my obsessive searches…I am very much aware that the more I search the more fear I feel, but when the OCD strikes, the need to know overrides all logic, and it *feels* like reading all the things will make me safer…luckily, so far, although I had a bit of a protracted relapse, it never got to a really bad point at all, more of just a very mild hovering just above a normal point for a long time. Just in case though, after getting home from Target to buy my Christmas tree, I allowed myself to wash my hands because I was at a point where I wasn’t touching things and I knew that if the anxiety didn’t calm soon it would be a lot easier to cope if I washed my hands and kept my apartment at least relatively clean than if I forced myself to horribly contaminate my entire apartment…shopping can be hard. Partly because the internet also says that shopping carts are dirty and because people on the internet admit to going shopping while sick (STAY IN YOUR HOME PEOPLE) so all the stuff in the store might be contaminated. Also, there are times when I want to buy bleach, and I know that I am not quite ready to be responsible with bleach. There have been times I would have been ready to go shopping but didn’t because I was afraid I might come home with a bottle of bleach.

 

Sometimes “just relax” or “what’s the worst that could happen” are unhelpful words that show a lack of understanding, because trust me, if I could “just relax” I would. But sometimes I have to remind myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect…case in point: Thanksgiving. It came into my head that I *was* bringing something to Thanksgiving, so I asked and asked until I finally became in charge of bringing rolls. Easy, right? Well, first I kinda fell asleep after lunch and woke up and realized I intended to start getting the rolls ready a while ago…then I realized the directions were super confusing/vague. As I finally get to the let rise at least 45 minutes I look at the clock and realize that I am falling hopelessly behind the timeline. Remember that not only am I taking extra time trying to understand, the area in which I still wash almost excessively is when cooking…washing your hands doesn’t take a lot of time but do it enough times and it adds up. And I am also realizing that even if I skip half of the rise time I still have nowhere near enough time to re-use the same pan for two batches and I only have one pan that is really intended for making rolls so I’m going to need to come up with a creative improvised solution ASAP to get everything into the oven at one time. So this is the perfect time to spill and/or splatter most of a stick of butter all over my microwave. I don’t know the importance of butter in this recipe – I might just try skipping it altogether next time and see what happens instead of getting stressed out. Trying to make up time while shaking from anxiety makes it hard to get a new stick of butter unwrapped. Just sayin.’ And of course I spill flour all over too. To speed things up I try mixing the bread dough with a mixer…and pretty quickly realize it is a bad idea but for a few seconds freeze which is long enough for the dough to get up into the holes to the point that the eject button doesn’t work and I have to yank the stick things off of the mixer base…so after skipping a few steps I didn’t have time for I tried all sorts of things to get the dough out of the inside of the mixer and am hoping it’ll work again next time I have an appropriate use for it. Anyway, at this point you have to either laugh or cry…so I announced to myself that I now have the most well-greased microwave ever. And as I am looking for more towels to try to clean it up because soaking up some of the drips before they got to the floor with paper towel and napkins was good, but real towels are the only match for the explosion in the microwave, I relax and realize that it doesn’t have to be perfect and my worth as a person is not dependent upon my ability to make rolls. I might feel embarrassed if they turn out bad, but it is not the end of the world if there aren’t rolls for thanksgiving. In fact, I have been at thanksgiving celebrations where there intentionally was not rolls.

 

So yeah. The rolls weren’t perfect and some of them were falling apart. I ended up with a hard to clean microwave and almost every bowl in my kitchen dirty (thank God for dishwashers). I burned my serving tray by pouring the rolls from the pan directly out of the oven into the towel-lined tray. And I was still late to Thanksgiving…but I also still had a wonderful time. Thanksgiving can be hard for me because of my social skills or lack thereof, but I had such a good time. No one made me feel awkward for what I did or didn’t eat or for what I did or didn’t say. It was okay to just be me. I was accepted and included and LOVED it!!

 

Probably a week-ish later I had some time scheduled to hang out with a new friend. Maybe an hour or so before it is time to go I read a text from her that she hadn’t thought to tell me but her kids had been sick. And the way it was worded definitely sounded like the vomiting kind of sick. Full stop. This is basically how I lose friends. Anyone in the home sick pretty much means the person is going to be contaminated for a LONG time. I was determined not to lose my brand new friend. I was terrified because clearly if I hadn’t already been told this is not a contamination-aware home. I am strong. My plan was bring as little as possible in and only things that can be cleaned easily. In my car was a towel to protect my car from germs and spray hand sanitizer. Of course one of the first things that happens as I come in is she is preparing food that my passive can’t reject…and one potentially sick kiddo was helping. So, long story short, I ate throughout the day even with toddler fingers in the bowl. That is not something I really ever expected to be able to do. I don’t know if it would be a big deal for “normal” people, but it was a big deal for me. Yes, I did come home and wiped my flip flops with a sanitizer wipe, stripped all my clothes off into the washer with the towel and my watch band, ran a quick wash cycle while showering, found a new towel and clothes, ran a *real* wash cycle, and worked on cleaning my watch itself, my phone, and the floor where I walked before showering…yes, excessive, but after that I was totally fine again, and that is a huge accomplishment for me. I CAN challenge myself and I CAN do it without falling apart.

 

Do I still have OCD fears? Sometimes. Do I still at times struggle with the grief? Definitely, but I can live life okay with minor contamination sometimes and accept minor risks…and even challenge myself with big risks. And I no longer get up every single morning wishing I weren’t alive. I might not be thrilled with where I am in life, but I am doing so much better than before.

 

I don’t recall where this quote came from, but it’s been on my list of things for awhile… “I needed to live, not live better.” It is easy to be frustrated with myself and see all the perceived failure, but that misses the fact that one of my major success stories is that I lived. There are a lot of really hard things that I have faced in the past year, and even before that, but I survived. Sure, in retrospect it is easy to see how maybe there is some way I could have fought harder and lost less weight for example, but starving short term wasn’t going to kill me. I needed to live, not live better. It took all the power I had to get something in my mouth every day and to keep on making it through each day on almost no sleep. I did my best, and I survived. It really is only by God’s power that I am still here. Barely functioning I didn’t necessarily always remember even the basics of driving like gas vs brake, much less the intricacies…and I was often trying to get where I needed to be while struggling to see through the storm of tears. It wasn’t the best way to live, but I needed to live, not live better…

 

It is crazy to think that at this time last year I was finishing up and submitting the applications to the nine places I expected to interview including the one place I intended to end up. Now I am finally in a job that I do not like, but that I am learning to be thankful for because it pays the bills and has allowed me to grow not professionally, but personally as I learn how to make new friends and stuff…’cause as a resident in a lot of places you get a built in friend of your co-residents who also have just graduated and are in need of friends and with whom you will spend lots of time, so being a real pharmacist I skipped over that hand holding step into the real world.

 

I am really proud of myself. I might have challenges to overcome, but I am a fighter and no one will take away my shine.