All posts by Wiggle Worm

Am I worthless? Am I filthy? Am I too far gone for a remedy?

(We As Human – Take the Bullets Away)

 

I’ve been living with the intense pain of grief for a long time…and before that the abuse…and long long before that the bullying. I know rejection. I know being unwanted. And so many other hard things life has thrown in my path. I am familiar with pain, but it seems to follow me and want cuddles like a small naughty puppy that I can’t get rid of. It doesn’t feel like there is a way out. I tried to create a timeline of when I could get back to my dreams. It was good to try to create an end to work towards, but even on the more magical completely unrealistic timeline, I still will be fighting through this for another year…and if we’re being really honest, even if we pretend this timeline is practical (it’s not) I am not naïve enough to believe the pain will completely disappear upon starting a new path. Sure, it will likely be super helpful, but it won’t be like flipping a switch. It won’t remove the previous rejection and wipe the slate clean. The more realistic timeline is a minimum of two years. The idea of holding on that long is overwhelming.

 

It is hard not knowing why no one wants me. It is hard feeling so much rejection. It is confusing to be chosen for a big girl position even over people with experience when I was rejected from all the transition roles I tried to get, especially when the same organization didn’t even give me an on-site interview for the residency to which I applied. It is hard hearing people tell me how great I am and then rejecting me later. I’d rather you were just honest and said hey we don’t like you instead of leading me on just to let me be crushed later. I’d rather instead of being polite you told me what was wrong with me so that I could change and improve. Am I so worthless that I do not even deserve the respect of being told the truth? Am I really so lousy that there is nothing I could do to even be close to good enough? And why doesn’t God love me enough to finally just say yes to one of my prayers and let me leave this pain? It is hard to reconcile this pain and God’s power with the goodness all-knowingness of God.

 

I’ve heard that when a Christian woman wakes up in the morning the devil says “oh no, she’s up again.” It’s not just the devil thinking that when I get up. It’s me too. God doesn’t seem to ever want the same things that I want. I keep crying and praying that God will take me home because I can’t take this pain. I can’t keep living like this…and God keeps saying no. I know God cares and I know God loves me, but it is really hard to understand how it could really be love to leave me here. It hurts so much. Why won’t God take me to forever home where I don’t have to deal with this? I have already struggled so long and I don’t want to keep fighting. I want to go home. When the bravest thing you do every day is get up and keep going, it is hard to keep up with life. I FINALLY got my authorization to test from the Board of Pharmacy…and I know that just trying to make it day to day has drained so much of my energy that I really haven’t put nearly enough into studying…and since it took so long to get the authorization, I probably only have one chance before my job gets taken away. I feel like I am probably going to fail…then I’ll have nothing but an expensive apartment in a city where I don’t have any close friends…

 

But I keep fighting. I keep trying. I get home and my ears hurt from the multiple media sources at full volume to which I am listening as I drive to minimize the tears so I can see where I am going to get home…because I can pretend life is awesome or at least tolerable when I’m with people…but put me alone in a car and it is very possible I will struggle – time alone with my thoughts and emotions, kinda trapped there. So especially if I’ve been reminded of the pain I am pretending doesn’t exist prior to getting in, I am likely to have a hard time. Grief doesn’t have a calendar. Grief doesn’t know that it has been over three months and is time to give me a break. Grief doesn’t have empathy. Grief doesn’t know I am exhausted and just want to be able to move on and have this whole thing disappear.

 

How am I? I’m doing the best that I can. I know the basics of life enough to know what I need…and God has been doing good things even if he didn’t give me what I want. I usually burn practically just by thinking about going outside, but I didn’t wear sunscreen and biked to my friend’s house and back last week and the burns were pretty mild. Yesterday, I did put on a little sunscreen but was outside about 4 hours (biked around 40 miles) and didn’t reapply…lol, you can look at my hands and see exactly where there was zero sunscreen on though…but anyway, last night I knew I was on the border of being too dehydrated (vs just dehydrated enough to mute some of the pain and tears as long as there aren’t any reminders). So I gave myself two choices: water or ice cream…I didn’t want either, but the trying to be a good girl half of me was stubborn long enough to win, and I did eventually pick one of the options…picking nothing seemed so much easier, but that wasn’t one of the choices. Protip: ice cream is always the answer. No, ice cream didn’t solve my problems and I was too far gone for the sugar to help pull me back in, but at least it did kinda sorta make me feel a little better about myself because I was also getting calories in at the same time…

 

There is a long road in front of me. Soon I will be moving a couple hours away and be even more alone. I am thankful that I make friends easily, but worried because I can’t exactly expect someone I just met to support me the way that the friends I have made over multiple years have…and I can’t expect to immediately be invited into other people’s circle of friends as the new girl. It is hard being new. Some people are willing to let you join their friend group, but other people are like the girls in my grade at the new church who never really let me join their clique. Sure, the moms sometimes tried to invite me, and sometimes I tried to push myself into their circle, but I wasn’t dumb, I knew that most of them really didn’t want me there and it was easier for them to preserve their little friend bubble by writing me off and keeping me out of the circle. I probably should have asked to join the girls in the grade above me who were a lot more welcoming and had already invited me in…but when I had the opportunity I was still in denial that I couldn’t just go back in time and make this whole nightmare end so besides the fear of using my words to ask or even of having someone ask for me, I denied that because I didn’t want to admit that I would be there long enough for it to matter. It wasn’t until almost my senior year when I finally let go and realized that this was for real and wasn’t changing any time soon…and by then the girls in the grade above me were graduating and moving on. They invited me to the grads group, but that didn’t solve the Sunday morning problem. (But the grads group was a lot better place for me than youth group ever was. Smaller and more inclusive was super helpful for me…no one cared that I was the farthest behind academically…it was awesome until the rest of my class joined and it gradually became more and more exclusive…a few years later I took my brother and he noted that every time he said anything it was as if he hadn’t said anything but the person next to him could say the exact same thing and people would respond. I hadn’t really noticed much because I didn’t talk much anyway, but it is definitely true. They would express excitement that someone new was there and then completely ignore whomever was not in their little friend group). Lol…all that to say that I appreciate however much my friends are willing to tolerate me while I am a lousy friend in return, and I do know how blessed I am and that having friends like this is nothing to be taken lightly.

couch

Speaking of my new place, last week I bought this couch (yes and the pillows in the picture)…might not have gotten the best deal of anything, but it is red and the place I am getting it from seemed to have a super flexible delivery plan which is helpful not immediately knowing when I’ll be available to receive the delivery…

You’ve gone so far keep going

(Here Comes the Comeback – Danny Gokey)

 

It was only a handful of months after breaking free of the abuse that I first wrote a note offering forgiveness to my abuser. I wasn’t allowed to send it, so it sat in my folder waiting for the day I graduated and could send the letter. It was edited a little over the years as my writing style changed, but despite the fact that I graduated over a month ago, it has not been sent. Why is it still there?

 

Well…umm…there are actually two reasons.

 

The biggest one is that at the point of graduation I was very strictly in survival mode. I am proud of myself that I got at least most of my thank you notes written and sent out…and TBH there are still a pile of them on the floor in my bedroom. It kinda feels less embarrassing to just skip some people than to send them this late…surviving and sending thank you notes to people I appreciated was more important to me than sending a note of forgiveness to someone who hurt me so deeply.

 

The other one is that forgiveness is a gift that the pain in my life made it harder to give. When an interview topic comes to difficult interpersonal relationships, naturally the first thing that my mind encounters is the abuse. Besides the fact that it is probably not recommended to identify oneself as an abuse survivor in the interview, I wasn’t allowed to talk about that situation. Before I could come up with anything else (also difficult to label a situation as difficult when compared to the abuse), I was swallowed up in the pain of the abuse. Definitely worst in the one-on-one interviews in a big room as that somewhat approximates the primary setting in which the abuse occurred and in which any pause on my part was going to be interrupted with an expression of disdain, leading to even more vivid memories. I do think this is something that made the interviewing process less successful for me. Secondly, once I put more thought into it I realized that although I felt like “everyone” thought I couldn’t be a pharmacist, in reality while there were a few others who were a bit negative, she was the primary person telling me I couldn’t do it, telling me I wasn’t good enough, telling me I’d never make it and no one would want me…She said so many hurtful things to me, and while I was for a while able to not believe it and defiantly continue to follow my dreams to prove to her and the world that I really was good enough, not matching made the make believe go away and I was faced with the reality that she was right – I wasn’t good enough. As it turns out, I did get a job that is probably more high level than what I was looking for which indicates that I am good enough…even though the rejection and failure to obtain one of the ones I wanted still makes me feel inadequate.

 

So the grief is intertwined with the abuse, and the grief is something I still experience deeply. It is difficult to forgive when the wound is so fresh – like I saw on a quote somewhere once, “stop asking me to forgive you when I am still coughing up water from the last time you tried to drown me.” Actually, I think the quote used the word trust rather than forgive, and I think that is where I am getting stuck. I am so low on trust that forgiveness feels like trust even though I know that forgiveness does not mean that you ever have to trust the person again…I found a couple blog posts about forgiveness recently, and they spoke some truth into my heart…here are some key concepts. Trust is earned, but forgiveness isn’t. You can forgive without trusting. Forgiveness comes with healing. It is hard to heal in a warzone, so the first step towards healing is to run away from the pain. Forgiveness does not mean that others are not accountable for their actions or lack thereof, and it doesn’t mean we should let ourselves be abused again. It doesn’t mean that we have to take a victim role, nor does it mean that we ever have to get along with someone again, but it means that we are giving the right to take care of justice back to God, the only one who really ever held that right. Forgiveness doesn’t mean denying the reality of continued offenses, is not based on other’s actions. I don’t want to stay stuck in hurt and resentment, so it was a helpful reminder to read that forgiveness starts with a mental, not emotional, decision, doesn’t mean forgetting, and isn’t based on pressure to create acceptance. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the victim, which is why it is perfectly okay to not even share the forgiveness. Grace and forgiveness do NOT require remaining silent about the bullying and abuse. This is super important. I don’t think hiding the abuse as a secret does anyone any favors. Pretending it never happened just makes it easier for other people to get hurt. It is the powerless who need protection and defense yet too often it is the powerful who receive that defense and protection. This was the primary response that I experienced. I was powerless and expected to play the role of a lemming keeping my mouth shut and following along with whatever while the person who had so much power was treated like royalty. There was someone trying to reach me, but one against many is an uphill battle. Forgiveness does not demand superficial reconciliation and preclude justice. Superficial reconciliation brings only superficial healing, but true healing is messy and hard and may include the justice system and punishment depending on the transgression.

 

My mom recently reminded me of when I was a teenager who when told to call for a ride home from school when I was ready said I couldn’t possibly do that because I wouldn’t know what to say. Even when given one sentence to use I screamed and cried that I couldn’t do that and it was too hard…that is how bad the social anxiety was…I honestly don’t remember it ever being that bad even though I definitely can imagine how that must have felt…my memory of phone fear starts with only being okay with calling my parents and only when I’m alone and not being watched (yeah, my first cell phone could have been just as effective as a long-distance walkie talkie for the first few years I owned it)…but considering I was someone who by college couldn’t always use her words to say hi to her friends, I don’t doubt that it was true that I couldn’t call home for a ride…(although it is very possible that there are also other components of that story that my mom is leaving out such as the real reason I was struggling being that she wanted me to ask to borrow someone’s cell phone for that in which case knowing what to say to her on the phone was the least of my concerns…)…anyway, the point of that story is to say that although I have grown a lot in my communication abilities, there is one other much smaller reason I haven’t sent the note…when my stress levels are very high, my comfort with communication is decreased, and communicating with my abuser is one of the last things I am interested in doing, so actually sharing that forgiveness was a final stumbling block in the way of reaching the ability to forgive…it seems so silly to have written that note so long ago and not to use it, but forgiveness is not words on a page.

do you see a rescue or a deeper kind of hurt…just when you’ve lost the will to live

(drifting – plumb)

 

Life is still really hard. I still want to be done with life. I have been telling God what day I thought would be best for me to die, but on the somewhat positive side, I have also resigned myself to the fact that God is most likely going to say no. And I will have to deal with that. It is hard when my whole life I have been working towards one thing and that one thing is gone. Everyone told me I wasn’t good enough and it feels so much like they were right. I realized to have any chance I probably have to wait at least two years before re-applying, because besides not being at all in my personality, it probably isn’t kosher to be like hey, I know I started training like two days ago, but would you like to be my reference for the job I actually wanted more than this? That was a really hard realization, but it also really helped because it put a timeline on getting back to my dreams.

 

I recently read this article about helping people in crisis. The author’s explanation of each concept wasn’t necessarily exactly in alignment with my opinions (though some weren’t far off at all), but the concepts themselves seemed pretty good.

 

  1. Stay calm – so true, if I am already in crisis, I don’t need you to add drama to my life. I don’t need you to make life more difficult. I need someone to be an anchor in the storm. That doesn’t mean you don’t show emotion (also not necessarily good) but that you don’t freak out and make this about you rather than about me.
  2. Understand – no one (probably) wants to feel bad, but when we do it can feel very isolating. Grief takes a lot of energy that makes it hard to have anything left to do anything but survive. Crisis makes us less good friends as the primary focus is on survival. When it feels like no one gets it, especially when for a reason that feels shameful, I feel that much more alone. Taking a minute to listen and try to understand is a huge gift to me.
  3.  Touch them (if they’re okay with it) – I love hugs and stuff. In most situations, it makes me feel safe. It is a good way to help me feel less alone. IDK about this for everyone though since I know some people hate being touched.
  4.  Stay with them – grief is lonely and isolating. It is super awesome to be willing to come into my life and try to help me, but in my story of abuse and rejection, it isn’t just the loneliness and isolation that return when you leave again. Although sometimes I am so desperate for help that I want any possible thing I can get, but most of the time I feel like it might be better to have no one at all than people who leave again…but at the same time I know I don’t really want that, because I really need people even if they aren’t always exactly what I need. I know that studies show that support tends to last about a month and at most 3 months, but grief or other crises tend to last at least a year. That is a minimum of 9 months of isolation while the pain is still very raw and very intensely painful. I just need more hugs sometimes…or just a quick text hi. I finally figured out that was something that would help but then I never actually completely followed through on making sure it happened…I asked…a couple times…and then I ran out of energy to devote to a task that wasn’t as directly survival based.
  5.  Ask why they haven’t – so this is referring to why they haven’t hurt themselves in response to the negative emotion. While I am not sure how helpful this would be to me, I think it is a good question to ask to gauge safety. On a smaller level, eating and drinking was SO hard at first and such a chore (for that matter, even now sometimes I am okay in that arena and sometimes I am packing goldfish and skittles in my lunchbox and calling it a success that I am eating something even when half of that pathetically non-balanced lunch comes back home with me), but almost every day I tried really hard to get three meals into my mouth. Why didn’t I just do what was easiest and just not even try? Mostly because that might worry people and draw attention to me, and I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself and I didn’t want to hurt anyone. So, yeah, I am a major people-pleaser. I am pretty much always okay, especially when I am not. It is good when people can understand this and see through my mask to see that just because I am smiling and laughing instead of crying at the moment doesn’t necessarily mean I am not still fighting really hard just to make it through every day, and it is also good to realize that because of that, when I am in crisis, I might be a lot more sensitive to the perception of letting people down, so recognition is huge if I am doing something right. On a bigger scale, why have I not killed myself even though I want so badly to not be alive? Because I strongly believe that life and death are in God’s hands, and my religious beliefs tell me it is wrong to hurt yourself in any way. This probably makes me a lot safer, but also means there should be a big red flag going up if my faith becomes less important to me…luckily even when I couldn’t believe God cared or was even good, my faith was still super important to me.
  6.  Make a plan – consistency, structure, routine, and predictability really help me in life, and even more so in grief. Helping me know what to expect is really helpful. Waiting to offer something to me until you are pretty sure you can make it happen is awesome so the change in plans later doesn’t crush me. Remember that what seems small to you can be a lot bigger when it is the one thing that I am counting on to help me through the day, and when a minute is an eternity, the idea of a generic ‘maybe later’ is a forever that doesn’t even register on the time scale.

 

 

Moderately unrelated, but I also read this post recently where this mom claims she did a study and found out that she is invisible. Her logic is that she intentionally only wore one earring every day for six months and no one said anything…ummm…dude….what an idiot. First, if anything you proved that the earring, not yourself was invisible. Second, people are generally paying attention to YOU, not analyzing your attire. Third, your ears are on opposite sides of your head so depending on how good of eye contact you are using they might have no way of knowing that one of these things is not like the others. Fourth, people are generally respectful and mind their own business. Why should they point out that your appearance is less than perfect? And especially by the end of the six months if they had noticed they probably figured you liked it that way…yep, people be dumb…but using that logic, then I know that I am also invisible. I wore a shirt with a nice oxycodone stain on it a few days ago and no one said anything…I don’t know what bright drug manufacturer decided that oxycodone should be bright red, but I do know that whenever I spill it, particularly when I spill it on myself I do not appreciate the color…it stains…on the positive side, I mean, my shirt wouldn’t have been stained if I hadn’t caught the bottle that I lost my grip on. Because I did grab it, I only lost like a mL of oxycodone. I lost it all over my shirt and the counter, but at least I didn’t lose almost the entire bottle on the floor…

Like a warm waterfall wash over our wounds

(Safe Place – Kristene DiMarco)

I am more of a Caribou girl (especially because Caribou has a zillion more choices for caffeine free drinks), but I went to Starbucks today and got a Pokemon Go Frappuccino. The girls working there didn’t know exactly how to make it, but I showed them the picture on the menu on the website and they made something up that at least looked mostly like the picture. Sugar works pretty well usually to dull emotional pain for a while. Plus I was proud of myself for using my big girl words to ask for what I really wanted.

There are a lot of things that are really really hard about everything going on in my life right now. Here are two of the things on my heart today as things that I am having to leave now that I have accepted a full time job away from the home in which I’ve lived since second grade.

First, I will be spending a LOT less time at the hospital at which I have worked since 2009. (I’ll find out tomorrow if I can stay at all). Besides how so many people there are my friends, I was really proud to work there. The organization has some really amazing caring people who do incredible things for kids and their families. I haven’t ever experienced another facility with the same level of care for and about each other. In fact, I’ve asked questions at interviews in which I didn’t get to experience interactions and had people respond as if I was crazy to think that an employee would stop to make a patient or family feel welcome and important or that there might be deep partnership and/or respect between employees in disparate departments. A couple weeks ago I was having a day where not a single person had insurance already in our system, and I’d had multiple frustrating conversations with insurance companies when I had found the information and discovered that the insurance company wasn’t covering the medication for a stupid reason that I couldn’t get them to change…and a foster parent came in with the children she was fostering without any insurance cards and medications that I knew we should absolutely not “pend” despite the pharmacist I was working with pressuring me to do it to get them out the door faster. Getting people out the door is not a reason to pend medications. I figured out what insurance company their coverage was through and called to get the information to get their medications covered. The mom was so thankful to get the medications covered, and I offered to give her the insurance information in case he needed it for another pharmacy before she could find the kids’ cards. She was almost crying happy tears when she told me that this was the reason she came to this pharmacy – “because you guys always go above and beyond to help us.” People recognizing how hard we are working to provide excellent care more than makes up for all the rude and entitled people that I also serve. I love being a part of an organization that provides care that meets more than just the basic physical needs.

Second, I will probs be leaving the church that I have been at since August 10, 2008. It is more than just holding little babies. I did absolutely love holding a 2 month old for a good part of the morning today while watching and managing a room of other kids of varying ages, and I could totally get used to doing that all day every day, but holding babies isn’t the whole reason I am there. It is about pouring into the lives of kids (including infants) and their families/parents. It is awesome to have found an area to use my leadership skills and childcare skills. Sure, that was one of the things I did at my old church, but this being a bigger church, there are more opportunities. I want to protect the privacy of the kids and families lives I am involved with, so I can’t share too much detail about any situation, but working with kids for a long time I have been involved in a lot of really difficult situations and had a lot of kids who really needed some extra love. Although there are a lot of them, it never becomes less heartbreaking to hear a crying preschooler confide why she didn’t come with her parents. It is one of those things you never want to hear but at the same time really want to hear if the kid needs to talk. It is a huge honor for a kid to open up, and to give kids in these situations a safe comforting place where it is okay to be sad and scared. Not going to lie, for some of these kids finding out whether directly from the kid or indirectly from a guardian definitely explains the behavior I am dealing with, but when you work with kids you pretty much have to have a thick enough skin to understand that most if not all little people are not trying to be difficult and are not trying to be disobedient. Their behavior usually has a pretty clear origin if you can find out (even infants though it is going to need to be a guardian telling you since they can’t use words yet). There are so many little kiddos stories that I hold in my heart. I wish I could make it okay. I wish we lived in a world where every child could grow up with their loving bio mom and dad.

I guess this should probably make me realize that the things that I am grieving are so stupid compared to the things some of these kids are facing, but while I can hold these kids’ stories in my heart and I can sit with these kids, it doesn’t really take away my personal pain. Sure, I am distracted from my own pain while holding their pain, but that isn’t the same as my pain going away…

I wanna go back

(Wanna go back – David Dunn)

 

I was rollerblading today and was thinking that I should be happy. I love my red skates, but they came in the mail shortly before the first match day. They became something I used for just a couple minutes during the day to induce enough motivation to get something in my mouth. Maybe all I’d end up with was a chicken strip, but it was more than the big fat nothing I was eating without that. It made it more of a chore than a fun activity even though the reason it probably worked is that I was having little fun…well, that and I found that if I could be in motion I could handle things better.

 

But I wasn’t happy. I was crying. No one can tell me what I did wrong in the residency search, so I don’t know that there is anything I could have done differently to make people like me, but I wish I could go back. It was really hard and stressful to do all those interviews, but at least then it seemed worth it. At least then there was some hope that this was simply a necessary hurdle on my way to achieving my dreams. I’ve had to jump over a lot of hurdles to continue running towards my dreams before my dreams disintegrated and the broken pieces were forced from my hands, the sharp edges cutting into my skin. The promise of my dreams in a few more years is what got me through the abuse and fallout throughout school and while I am now finally free of that, I am not free of the effects of being abused. Aside from that situation being raw in my mind when asked about difficult relationships and making interviews even harder than they should have had to be, it is also tied with this situation as it is a relationship in which I learned that I was never going to make it as a pharmacist and no one was going to want me and I wasn’t good enough and stuff like that. You can imagine that those beliefs about myself became more real when faced with the reality that it was true that no one wanted me.

 

It still hurts that no one wanted me. It especially hurts that the one place I had forever dreamed of working, and who had led me on as if they planned on selecting me said no. Sure, one place was finally willing to give me a chance, but I am still really grieving the loss of my dreams. All I’ve ever wanted was to do pediatric critical care in a dedicated pediatric institution, preferably one particular pediatric institution, and that dream had been narrowed to NICU or pediatric emergency care. Without a residency, it is difficult to get into pediatrics and is difficult to get into critical care. With a job I will likely have less flexibility to miss days to get to interviews. Also, with a job my contributions matter more, and missing days or leaving has a larger effect. I feel guilty thinking about trying again for residency next year. Also, I don’t know if I can handle going through the process and failing again.

 

So I have a basic idea of day to day life, but I don’t know where my life is going anymore. I felt like the only thing positive about me before was that I knew exactly what I wanted for a long time and was working solely toward that one thing. And I failed and now I don’t have that and there isn’t anything positive about me. If I couldn’t get a residency while I had something going for me, there isn’t really any chance now that I don’t really have anything special to offer. Why get me when you could get someone who isn’t such a failure, and who almost definitely has better communication skills than me? I don’t know if I should try again for residency immediately and feel disloyal or if I should stay a few years and get even further away from my dreams. I do know that I am pretty sure I won’t be satisfied long term having completely given up my dreams. I feel frustrated.

 

I want to go back to a few months ago before this pain, but I can’t. My only option is to continue to go forward. I still think the only satisfactory option would be for God to take me to forever home. It hurts so much to have to live this reality. If God can take me, but wait until after June 30, I won’t leave any holes in the schedule at my current job, and I won’t have yet started at my new job, so it’s not like they’d have lost that much on me. I wish I could just give up. I should be studying for the NAPLEX and MPJE, but the pain I still live with takes up so much of my energy and concentration that it still feels like too much to really study. I know it is very important, but important and having the mental ability to do it are certainly very different things.

 

It is very hard. The pain is a little better than it was, but is still very intense…but it has been long enough that the support ended. I need people, but I don’t have them. I’ve thought about planning a trip in the next few weeks when I have days off to the city where school is just to be able to see people even if not in the context of them being there for me. I think people wouldn’t want to see me though. At church they already turned off my access maybe like a week ago to the schedules and announcements. Being excluded hurts. I’ve been excluded a lot in life, and I’ve never liked it.

 

The book I was listening to today “The Night the Angels Came” by Cathy Glass mentioned that by talking about a hard situation, it starts getting easier…I think since for so long I’ve had so many things I wasn’t allowed to say, that I used writing in that way…but talking about it I feel like is probably so much better. (Oh, and if you are looking for books to read or listen to, I love the books that Cathy Glass writes. She writes stories about foster kids. Fostering and adoption are things that I would really like to do someday).

Rise above the hurt and listen to these words

(Beloved – Jordan Feliz)

 

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

 

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

 

“Let me not die while I am still alive”

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Even through the midnight hour the engines never rest

(Night and Day – Thomas and Friends)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

(Ordinary Angels – Karyn Williams)

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

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

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

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

 

what to say

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

I don’t know where to start.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

(She walked away – Barlow Girl)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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