(Dear Me – Nichole Nordeman)
So this post (or maybe just the first part of it…) is kind of embarrassing and different from what I usually post, but there has been a little voice at the back of my head telling me to write through it. I’m not sure whether there is someone else who needs these words that God wants me to reach or if I need to be writing it to learn something for or about myself, but I’ve avoided it long enough and it is time to just go for it.
So the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, around 2:30-ish, I thought I heard four gunshots. Looking back I still have no clue what it might have been, but awake brain recognizes the lack of any identifiable police involvement means it is unlikely to have actually been a gun, and the lack of voice or static negates any possibility of a neighbor watching something on TV or listening to some kind of recording.
Terrified, I decided to close my bedroom door (for extra seconds of notice) and get under my bed. I barely fit, and was cold and squished, but leaving the pillow on the bed, I laid under my bed with my sheets pulled off and against at least one side of the bed for “protection.” Besides, there are clothes and jackets on the floor so it isn’t that out of place and if by chance my feet aren’t showing it could like the apartment was deserted.
At what I found out was about 3am I reached for my phone. I guess to try to put it on speakerphone to 911 if I knew it was the end since I definitely wasn’t making any extra noise so maybe I’d save someone else.
My original plan was to not get out until my alarm went off, but since I naturally start for real waking up around 4, it was about that time I realized it was increasingly painful to stay under the bed, and also I was no longer as hidden because my stomach was making hungry noises. I was cold and scared and decided at this point I’d been under there for a long enough time that maybe the situation was controlled, but if it wasn’t I still was going to need to be at work in the morning if I was still alive, so I needed some better rest.
Getting back out is rather challenging for an adult sized human, but I did that, took my glasses back off, typed on my laptop that I had been under my bed “in case I died and no one knew I tried,” and went back to sleeping ON the bed.
This whole situation was so out of character for me. Sure, my comfort zone is pretty much 39*75 (the size of a twin sized mattress), but while I have had problems with anxiety, it has never been like that. I am a girl who blatantly ignored all the rules about where you should and shouldn’t go in St. Louis, partly because I had no idea where these places were and weren’t, partly because if I need to go somewhere no one is telling me I can’t, and partly because I really wasn’t afraid and felt that mostly people were just being scaredy-cats about something that really wasn’t going to happen if you used your noggin as something other than a hat rack. I had no problem with wandering around in the dark or in the light or in the rain or by a train…okay, not by a train, but you get the gist. So I guess with this being so weird for me that there must be either something fueling it, or something I am supposed to have learned from the experience (besides the knowledge that I have no intention of ever sleeping underneath my bed).
So I guess most obviously, is there somewhere in life I feel threatened? I mean, physically, no, I do not fear for my safety. And actually, even if I were still in the area where my abuser lives, I am no longer afraid of her. She no longer is in a position of power over me, which has been huge for my healing. I feel safe from her. Actually, over the past few weeks, when I have imagined visiting people in the city where she lives, when the what if of her showing up appears, my response is no longer to yearn to get away and to put up a mental fence of protection around myself. Instead, my response is to politely excuse myself, calmly approach, and sometimes in my imagination my words are a request to please leave me alone, but other times the words are simply a quick “I forgive you” followed by calmly returning to my friend. It was actually really empowering the first time that happened to realize I was no longer kept captive by fear of her. Anyway, all that to say physically I feel safe. I guess sort of in terms of my career I do feel threatened to some extent. I am in a position that I do not like that is really not a very well-respected position. I also know that the longer I am out of school the harder it will be to convince any residency program to accept me. And I know that in the course of surviving (and having nowhere to use them anyway), I am most likely losing knowledge and clinical skills as I fail to keep up to date which will make residency harder if I ever get there. I feel trapped and frustrated. I want out, but with an impossible to use PTO system that requires one know when they will need days off a year in advance, I don’t see how it is even possible to interview without lying about being sick which is obviously something that would be wrong and not something that is even an option for me. I can’t do that. And in an interview, how do I explain the years off? How do I explain the holes and complete change in path? How do I even get that far when I have nothing to offer anymore? How do I find any relevant reference writers without announcing that I desperately want out?
Next Saturday will mark one year since I failed to match. I guess it is the one year anniversary of the trauma. Or is it? I mean, is it really that well defined, or do we mark time starting at midyear, or submitting the application, or the first interview, or the phone call from my advocate friend, or from the email from the abuser that was the beginning of my escape, or from my first session with her, or from her first day at school? Or we could start even younger and blame the change of churches as a teenager that stole away my identity as the beginning since without that I probably would never have gotten involved with my abuser and even if I had may not have been as vulnerable since I would have had a stronger, harder to break, confidence in my identity and worth. But that one year mark since the first match day does feel like a big mile stone. It seems insane that it has been nearly a year. In some ways it still feels like match day was yesterday. In other ways it seems like that was forever ago. It is hard, too, because as long as I stay in the pharmacy world I am constantly going to be confronted with the perennial cycle of resident interviews and the match.
As March 17th gets increasingly closer I am starting to feel more of the pain again. It hurt so much then, but it still hurts now. I still cry sometimes. You know, I think my response to hide under my bed to save myself maybe is showing me how far I have come. Last year when it happened, I definitely knew I had no interest in being alive. I longed to go to forever home with eternal daddy. Gradually as I healed I started to reach a point where I was ambivalent towards life. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to die, but I also knew I wasn’t a super fan of being alive. I know that sounds weird, but I was and in a lot of ways still am just living every day for the sake of getting to the end of it even though I know inevitably the next day will come and I will have to start all over. My response kind of shows that I am reaching a point where I want to be alive more than I want to die. Maybe it is just a control thing, or maybe I just have enough good things coming up that I am living for those good things and will crash again when they are over, but I really want to believe that this is where healing begins and the light meets the dark. (Okay sorry, my brain really just is a messed up mp3 player sometimes). I am not where I would like to be, and I don’t have a lot to show for myself, particularly to anyone who isn’t privy to what was really going on last year (and even before that), but I guess I need to recognize that I have worked really hard to make it through this year. Pinterest told me that sometimes courage isn’t standing on the stage, but is instead the little voice that says I will try again tomorrow, and I have bravely tried again tomorrow for nearly 365 days since match day. Sometimes it feels like a knife is ripping me apart from the inside, but I haven’t given up. I’m still here. I’m not always sure I’d like to still be here, and it certainly wasn’t by choice, but I AM still here. I don’t know why God kept me on earth, but I am and I have to deal with it the best I can.
And that is certainly not to say that everything is bad and nothing is good. I have found some wonderful people. Also, recently I was watching a kid video that mentioned that kids or even adults who have been in hard places can sometimes be psychosocially still living at a lower age than their chronological age, because it is harder for them to grow past the age where they were hurt or missing something. As I mentioned above, changing churches was really hard for me. As a minimally social kid who really only fit in and had connections at church, being separated from that environment was a huge struggle in my world, not made easier by going somewhere that every other girl my age had been friends since early infancy. Most of them had no interest in inviting in another girl, and to be honest, at first I didn’t want to believe this change was for real and wasn’t that invested in trying to make friends anyway. Even when I realized I was stuck, and did want to be included, I was left out. It hurts when you go from somewhere you got to choose your Sunday school class to somewhere it is preassigned based on grade level and all the girls in your grade are a clique that doesn’t include you. It hurts when they frequently have parties that include every girl in the class except you. It hurts when going around the circle for anything intentionally skips you. It hurts when you aren’t even allowed a prayer request, instead being assigned the same prayer request every week from the other girls in the group. It hurts when you have no escape. Even when I signed up to lead my own small group, my assigned adult overseer was the mom of one of the girls. Anyway, last night I attended youth group at my current church. Yes, I know I am not a youth. At my old church at home there were a good number of college students and young adults who weren’t really volunteering as youth leaders, but kept coming every week basically never actually graduating from youth group despite their high school graduation. I always saw myself as being one of those people, because youth group was where I fit in. At the new church at home, that wasn’t something anyone did. Maybe because there was a college age ministry. Knowing that I wasn’t doing well in youth group and had connections in the college age group, I was allowed to join a few months early, and while a lot of the people were not actually college students and just hadn’t graduated from college ministry (I guess it was the holding grounds for people who still wanted something more the way youth group was at the other church) it was good at first…until the few college age people in the group moved on and the rest of the group would be excited you were there when you showed up and then ignore you the rest of the time. So anyway, this youth group experience was what I wish I had all those years ago. I didn’t fit in super well since I was an adult but not a leader in a room of mostly middle-schoolers, but I felt included and valued. The circle didn’t skip me. People acted like I belonged there, like they really cared about me. I wasn’t really ready to use a lot of my words yet, but I felt like it would be a safe place if I was ready to use my words. I didn’t actually intend to go to youth group – I have a bible study that meets at the same time – but a couple of the leaders asked, and I figured it would be a lot better than the bible study I had been going to. I always hear them happy and wish I were in a group like that. In my group, most of the people are really wonderful individually, but put them all together and it is a super negative group. I am very not a fan. Also, they are all at a completely different stage of life from me. They love having homework. I hate it. Okay, I said it. I’ve been pretending I don’t mind, or making excuses why my homework isn’t done, but in reality, I just got frustrated with the idea of homework. I want to be able to go to a group and have community, not just someone else telling me something I really should have done if I was a good little Christian girl. I get that if you are an empty-nester or a stay at home mom of school age kids you do have some time in the day you might like constructively filled with adult content, but as a single, full-time working, young adult who is also still just trying to make it day to day, I am not interested…especially since the homework is the kind of crap you get in literature classes and literature is right up there with history in my least favorite classes. You know, until I started writing this I didn’t realize how hard I had been trying to force a Honda key to start a Toyota. I joined the Bible study because I really needed community and decided there was some community, but I guess you can’t just make people your community.
So…TL;DR version: I had a weird fear response. I realized I want to live more than I want to die right now, but also that the closer March 17th gets the more the pain is resurfacing and strengthening. Also, I found out that I really enjoy youth group.