Category Archives: counseling

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?

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…

I am fearless…well that’s not me

(Cage – Plumb)

I will find out tomorrow if I have a job next year and if it is the one I wanted, but in the meantime, I am really proud of the work I did to get this far. Bravery isn’t lack of fear. Bravery is doing it, scared.

In the month of February, I was on 10 planes. I hate the airport. I hate the complete lack of control…and to be honest, being inconvenienced by people who think the world revolves around them is something I can deal with and brush off when at work, but that really annoys me when it involves other people. I suppose it mostly goes back to the fact that I don’t always value myself as much as I value others so I’d rather take the beating in order to keep it from affecting anyone else, and don’t want anyone else to have to be hurt. Like dude, you booked a flight with American Airlines so the United Airlines gate agent is not going to get you on a flight for free because you changed your mind about when and where you wanted to go. No one cares that you flew with United Airlines last week, but you’ve been talking to this person 45 minutes and they have other things to do to keep people moving in other areas so that we can all get on the flights we paid for…

I made a lot of connections and did a lot of other Big Girl things at the airport that made me proud of myself…and it wasn’t all bad, because on one of my flights there was a really cute baby in the row across from me (which does mean I got exactly zero homework done because that kiddo was so cute!)

I also stayed at a hotel alone for the first time. A hotel alone is definitely a lot more pleasant experience than with three other girls I don’t know well who are LOUD and omnipresent, but is definitely still something that I wouldn’t necessarily choose on my own. It was kind of awesome to be able to call a phone number and have a cookie delivered to my room though.

I booked four AirBnB’s and stayed at three of them. Slightly less scary than a hotel, but still a social experience that was totally new.

I rode a couple buses in Chicago. I may have used GPS on my phone to figure out when to get off, and the prices posted online were wrong which made for an embarrassing first ride when I had to dig through my bag to find more money, but I did it!!

I rode the metrolink near school twice and taught someone else how to ride. Finding it was probably the hardest part for me since that is a task I have done numerous times between school and the other airport terminal…I definitely did consider taking the shuttle to the other terminal so I didn’t have to keep looking for the metrolink platform at the terminal I was at, but I didn’t and I eventually found it.

I used both Uber and Lyft. It is unfortunate I didn’t know how to use new rider deals until after I had used the app and wasn’t eligible anymore, but whatevs…it still got me from point A to point B.

I also paid tolls for the first time. It was terrifying at first, but by the time I got to the last one on my way home it wasn’t scary anymore. If I had it to do again I would have practiced with fast food drive thrus where handing money to a person in a window earns you treats before I had driving in a completely unknown area to contend with in addition to the drive thru without any treats, but I made it…and made a wrong turn shortly after that last one that took me on a detour through downtown Milwaukee during rush hour, but it’s over.

Oh, and I had a wonderful time “sightseeing” in St. Louis…it may have been my version of sight-seeing which mostly involved walking past an intersection and being like HEY I totally recognize this place! It is where I got lost last year!! And ooooh, that is really pretty trash on the ground!…but it seemed dumb to me to get on the metrolink for the sake of going only one stop so I walked. Yes, I do feel safe in St. Louis. My opinion is that it is just as safe as anywhere as long as you have your brain turned on. Not turned on like be jumpy and critical of everything, but turned on as in treat people how you’d like to be treated and if someone is holding a gun then probably you shouldn’t provoke him or her…(not that I remember ever seeing anyone with a gun who wasn’t in uniform…but…it is also a REALLY good idea not to bother anyone in uniform if you value your life…just sayin’)

Only moderately related, but whoever designed the keyboard to have m and n next to each other was not thinking of the consequences…lol…so one of the blogs I follow is The Great Umbrella Heist. To navigate to this page I type Um and the down arrow and enter and am brought to the homepage…unfortunately, this morning my fingers were a little off and I typed Un…and instead of cute kids on the top of my screen I was greeted by something completely different that made me mad.

Moderately related again: pinterest found some cool things for me…I know better than to pin them, but I’m pretty sure my blog has become safe again…so yeah…these quotes made me smile…

“Abusing someone then telling them not to act upset is like stabbing someone and telling them not to bleed.”

Laughing SO hard…this is currently on my desktop and makes me laugh every single day. So like I know it is kinda rude and derogatory but that’s what makes it funny…anyone who knows me knows that I would never intentionally hurt anyone…which is probably why I am an easy target and also why I love the bold statement this meme is making – it is so not me, but starts to break down my walls of I’m fine.

“Rule #1 for helping a victim: believe her. Her description is only the tip of the iceberg.”

I saw this and was like “oh my, I totally understand now.” And that is why pinterest can be a good healing activity.

And the last words you’ll hear tonight will be ‘I love you.’ Love takes us all of a lifetime to tell

(For he grants sleep to those he loves—Michael Card)

(written at church as an excuse to stay where I feel loved a little longer…posted at home after using the drive time to make sure I wasn’t posting something that was going to get me into trouble later)

I’m not as think as you dumb I am…lol

So last night I wrote on my to do list, “directions.” This morning I saw that and was like no problem, I totally know where I am going, I probably just was super tired and needed to remind myself to bring my directions notebook to my car in case I need it.

Lol, story of my life, as it turns out, I remembered why that was on my list about the same time that I noticed the “road closed” sign. Oh no…so yeah…and that is how I got lost…and how I ended up running down the sidewalks as I realized that I had parked a mile away from where I was currently sitting and could not apparate into the drivers seat…

Luckily, I miscalculated how long it took to get to church from where I was parked, and it worked out. All is well that ends well.

Except, now I should leave church, but leaving is hard because I have friends Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday, but Sunday and Monday and Wednesday and Friday I am alone. I know that changes starting tomorrow, but that is more stressful than a relief of stress, because I tried really hard to be an adventurous eater, but the most adventurous I got was mandarin oranges. And even that was still a challenge as of last week when I was eating them not to cringe each time one went in my mouth.

And then in a week I will be driving to another state where there aren’t any days that I have friends.

I get to have a million friends here at church, and I never want to leave, because I go home to no friends.

In the past, I was still going home alone but it was a needed break after having friend time all day 6 days of the week and I was totally ready to go home and have Sunday all to myself. But then I became a big girl who doesn’t spend all her time at school anymore. I don’t like the real world. Actually, I probably do like the real world—I don’t like moving every five weeks and therefore not having friends at the place I spend most of my time. I miss going to work in the morning and having a million friends there and stuff.

Finally, two quotes that have been sitting on my list of ideas for a while.

“It’s like being on the 100th floor of a building with only stairs and needing to sign an important document. The problem is, all the pens are on the first floor. You know you need a pen, and you know how to use one, but when you’re up at the top, it’s difficult for you the access the pen and therefore, the skill of using it.”

I love this quote. I can’t remember where I found it or to what it was originally referring. I love the analogy. It is so true that sometimes I have the skills and knowledge but not the ability to use them. There are a lot of directions I could go with this. I think the biggest one that I run into on an unfortunately somewhat regular basis is in the arena of communication. Because I was a little late to the game in learning these things, a lot of the time I am completely at a loss as to how to handle things that are in that arena. I studied really hard on the mechanistics of conversation, but studying for one, didn’t tell me the details that I really needed, and two, flies out the window when I am faced with a situation that feels over my head, because I can’t really take five minutes working on my “correct response” to a friend’s wave or conversational comment. A lot of the time once the instance of needing to respond right now is over, I know exactly what the right thing to do would have been, but in the moment I was on the 100th floor, and the pen was on the first floor. I didn’t know how to get myself there.

“Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.”

This quote was channeled from Kati Morton youtube’s best online therapist and just a really awesome and caring person whom I would love to meet in person some day…not in the context of therapy, but she is actually awesome enough that I could probably feel safe in therapy with her without a warm up period to make sure she wasn’t another one out to hurt me. She got the quote from Mark Suster who has adult ADHD. And probably child ADHD he just didn’t know about it yet.

Oh yeah. I hate the term damaged people. I just think it sounds kind of derogatory. Damaged things get discounted because they aren’t worth as much—no one will pay full price for damaged goods. The pain in my life doesn’t make me worth any less than anyone else. Being hurt deeply by someone doesn’t mean that I deserved it or was less than in any way. Fighting my way out of severe OCD, and social anxiety that bordered on selective mutism means that I do some things a little differently in life, but different isn’t wrong. Experiencing how people responded to the girl who was often on the sidelines but not often by choice gave me a lot of opportunity to learn how to do the same for others. I might not reach everyone, but I can reach someone. Like that starfish story, I might not be able to make a difference for each of the millions of people who need someone, each one counts. “It made a difference for that one.”

So anyway, the point is, at first I looked at that and was like, what?! As I thought about it, it is true. I totally do know that I can survive. I can’t be destroyed by hurtful words and actions or other adversity because I know I have made it through some pretty tough stuff (things way worse than anxiety disorders). I know I can survive. Bravery isn’t not being scared, it is doing it, scared. Because I know I can, I have developed tenacity and resilience. I still see more trees than forests, but I know when I see the tree that a forest is out there. Lol, speaking of forests and trees, I can recognize first that my rows of straightened chairs have a little zig and zag in them, but I can also recognize that when I walk into church I absolutely do not notice the chairs that aren’t quite straight until I see someone straightening them, because I don’t come to church for the chairs, I come to church for the people and to worship my wonderful Father. Doesn’t mean the church should look like a tornado came through, because in the eyes of a visitor that would probably be super confusing, but also doesn’t mean that I am a failure of a volunteer because I can’t make the chairs look perfect like everyone else does.

They walked right through the door

(Noah took the animals two-by-two—the Donut repair club at the zoo)

On Friday my family got fast food for dinner. My parents were proud of me because I went into the restaurant when they got stuff wrong in the drive through. It is really cool, because I am so far removed from my years of silence that I didn’t understand at first what I did for them to be proud of me. Just a few years ago I would have cried and screamed until I got out of it if I was asked to go in. Now I don’t even really think twice. I just do it. It isn’t even the yummy food motivating me…it is just doing the right thing. I might be a little shy sometimes despite my extraversion, but speaking isn’t something that terrifies me anymore. I am still sometimes a communication avoider when I am overwhelmed, but for the most part, no one can even tell if they didn’t know me then that I ever wasn’t loud in most situations. Now I can talk to anyone, not just a few words sprinkled here and there with my closest friends. Starting with writing has helped me learn to use language, and now I can use language both written and oral. I feel like I can connect with people so much better now that I can use words because I am not limited to only the people who have the patience to sit with me until I can speak to them. I was independent before because I didn’t know very well how to get people on my team. I am independent now because I can do more things all by myself. It is less stressful this way.

Where there is a will, there is almost always a way. On yesterday that will was for ice cream, and that way was…umm…well, I expected there to be a bike rack outside Culvers. There wasn’t. My plan B was to park my bike at the pretty building across the street. I was like 99% sure there was a bike rack there. I was 99% wrong. So after looping around the block a few times I thought about going to the doctors office a few blocks away to park my bike…’cause I mean doctors want you to be active, right? Except if I parked my bike there it would be farther than I wanted to walk to get my ice cream and come back…so I found a light pole to lock my bike to…the lock might not have really fit on the right way, and it may not have been 100% legal, but I got my ice cream and my bike was still there when I came back outside…

Total side note, but the really pretty building says in big print on the outside “mental health clinic.” The majority of the walls of the building are windows without any kind of window coverings. That seems like an interesting structural design. There are definitely some times (especially with certain people) that the distraction of a window would have been highly welcomed to pull my mind away from difficult things…and I definitely asked a certain person a few times to please leave the blinds open and my request was denied…but sometimes having windows isn’t such a good thing. Sometimes counseling requires having a serious conversation—as in one not interrupted by my outburst about the pretty leaf I just saw outside…and having a serious conversation is highly hindered by attempting to have it in front of a window—hello distraction. Hi person walking a dog. Hi red car. Hi fuzzy bunny. Lol…I’ve never actually been inside the building, so maybe it is just waiting spaces around the perimeter of the building and all the real room are in the middle…IDK…the designer clearly didn’t consult me when she or he designed the building…

Truth is harder than a lie.

(If we’re honest—Francesca Battistelli)

Sorry if this is all over the place…I am all over the place…

So Thursday I forgot I was making oatmeal for breakfast (even though I do it almost every day now)…and pressed start on the microwave again and ignored it. Which led to looking over and giving the microwave the look of “are you even serious right now?” because it was boiling over…again…this is what lack of sleep does to me: make me forgetful and stupider than usual…my brother has always said I am the dumbest smart kid he knows…I don’t really think I am that smart, but I do have to admit that for my level intelligence, I sure do occasionally do some really dumb things and am sometimes found to be lacking in certain areas that might be deemed common sense…

20150924_071616

This is an easily remediable situation with napkins or paper towel and throwing way the cup when I am done eating, except that enter another problem: OCD. Yeah, what a perfect time for that old “friend” to make an appearance…see, brown napkins (and really any food service napkins) are icky to OCD…and paper towel especially from the new paper towel dispensers are also icky to OCD…and my lunchbox has been without napkins for the last month because I forgot to put new ones in since I almost never need them anyway…I cleaned it up because that’s what big girls and/or responsible people do, but it was very unfun…and my left shoe is kinda sticky from oatmeal drips…

So yeah, Thursday morning OCD made an appearance. It was really scary, because it has been gone for a really long time, and there wasn’t really a very specific trigger or anything. In the time since the OCD has been gone, I have only felt any OCD-like anxiety in the presence of a reasonable trigger such as hearing about someone throwing up from someone who was completely freaking out about it, or actually seeing someone throw up. Each time the anxiety quickly went away once the trigger was gone. Even those normal-ish things came only like 3 times over the past year. This time the anxiety lasted from Thursday morning until Friday afternoon. I think that a high-stress week (life?) combined with not enough sleep probably set me up for it, but I know there have been other times I was stressed out and under-slept and didn’t react with anxiety, so it is super hard not really knowing what just happened. It is frustrating, because we are learning inhalation devices right now in APP, and I was having a hard time even touching my inhaler, much less getting it anywhere near my mouth (what if inside the factory where they make them someone was sick so even inside the plastic wrapped ones it is not safe…plus as soon as I open it the whole school will contaminate it)…That was a problem—not to my instructors or anyone around me, but to me. I hate feeling limited like that…and then I looked at the clock later and realized that in the past two hours I had done absolutely no studying—all I’d done was wash my hands, take a break, force food in the mouth without touching it, and use hand sanitizer…not good…luckily later in the afternoon the anxiety went away as abruptly as it appeared and I was totally fine again, but that was kinda scary.

Should I get help for that? IDK, but I kinda think no, because I mean it’s less than 36 hours…and I can just envision that conversation: So what brings you here today? Well, I had OCD symptoms for a little over a day and I didn’t like it. Okay, so how do you want to change this? IDK I just don’t want it to happen again. Okay, fair enough, how will you know when you have reached the goal? I don’t know. Well, have you had any problems since that day? No. Well, perfect! I guess we are done here, because you reached that goal!…okay, so I hope someone in real life would put forth a bit more effort…and maybe not let me get away with IDK for like every single answer ever, but either way, that is kind of a nebulous goal, because like I tried to illustrate in that conversation, how exactly do you know if you have reached “never happening again.” How long is never? First year I defined never as 3 years for the sake of crossing goals off my list…but realistically, the fact that three years had passed was a pretty arbitrary line in the sand to reach…

It did finally make the concept of OCD with an on-off switch click though, so it wasn’t a complete waste…I have heard people talk about how for them OCD was like an on-off switch, one day totally fine, the next for absolutely no reason terrified. I didn’t quite grasp exactly what that was like, and thought perhaps it was a bit of an exaggeration or something. For me, either there was a distinct and definable trigger that caused a drastic problem in the case of the random attacks over the past year, or in the case of when I actually was struggling, falling into OCD was very much a gradual process with a dimmer switch that I just didn’t really realize was being pushed up until it was pretty late into the disease process and I was doing pretty poorly handling it…but this time there really was a distinct on and off, no exaggeration, with the onset and offset of symptoms. Now I get it…and I know how terrifying it is for things to be going fine and then suddenly for no recognizable reason, not. I went to bed one night just fine—licking food off the floor, and woke up terrified of the world, and just as quickly went back to wiping off a dropped pea on my shirt and popping it in my mouth.

Actually, now that I think about it, it is more like a pendulum. At first it swung very slowly from normal-ish to deeply entrenched and then back past normal all the way to licking the wall one day because I could (oops…that wasn’t a wise decision…but it did what is was supposed to and gave me a little on top of the world feeling which helped ward off the person soon after not listening to a single word coming out of my mouth) and then eventually settled closer to the middle. Occasionally a trigger would bump it and it would swing wildly towards afraid but then be gently placed back in the middle. Being tired and stressed out though loosened the pivot point and oiled the joint so that the normal oscillations went a little crazy and it swung a little too freely for a little while before calming back down, but it was swinging so quickly that it seemed more like an on and off because the dimmer moved so quickly.

This week we have had a disability awareness thing set up. I think it should stay forever, because it gave me a chance to be just a student like anyone else. Although I didn’t necessarily have anyone to talk to, it let me just go get a piece of candy without going to a vending machine or someone else getting it for me or just having to watch while everyone else got it and I pretended I didn’t really want anything anyway. You don’t know how good that felt. Inclusion is powerful. I also really liked the toy puppy with a button to make it make noise, and now I totally want a keyboard that pivots, and also I found that the idea I had a long time ago of something that would help me communicate when I had trouble is actually something that exists but in a way more functional form than the one inside my head!…but really the best part of the exhibit was the bowl of candy, because it gave me a chance to be like everyone else. It isn’t about the candy; it’s about inclusion…I don’t even necessarily agree with everything that they talked about in the exhibit/presentation, but I am allowed to have my own opinions and I don’t have to agree with someone to respect their right to their own opinion. Sometimes being just like everyone else feels just as incredible as I always thought it would…being just like everyone else has been a goal of mine for so many years, although in what aspect I wanted to be the same has changed over time…

I have the greatest friends ever. I posted something on facebook that perhaps I shouldn’t have, and one of my friends responded so encouragingly…I didn’t expect any kind of response, and definitely not a positive response…I wish I could hang out with all my friends all the time. That would be my version of paradise. I feel like I had something else I was going to say about my friends, but I can’t remember it anymore…

Isn’t it awesome when quizzes are only a few questions long and not exactly over the mainpoints of the course so that even one question wrong really destroys your grade? …yeah…I am kind of frustrated, because I know what I am talking about and yet can’t manage to make it show through my grades…I work so hard and all I get is frustrated.

On Friday I learned why I always go the same way home from the grocery store…because I am directionally challenged, and that short cut kinda got me a little bit lost and was a longer than the way I usually go…

Also, money can buy a lot of things that I think I want…but some of them aren’t quite as awesome as they seem…like a functional guess gauge…It is really awesome to look down and be like YAY! I must be driving efficiently because I still have a decent amount of gas left in my car…however it is a little less awesome to look down and realize that knowing pretty well what I have left makes it a lot easier to wait until the last minute which means that I am now trying to figure out how I am going to get to the gas station without running out…oops…overall it is a useful investment, but pretty much every good thing has a down side…

There are also some other things I kinda want to write about…but occasionally even I can figure out there are some things that don’t belong on the World Wide Web…

I’ll drown in the water if I listen

(Head Underwater–Flyleaf)

After volunteering at a counseling center* for about a year and a half, I have now fielded my first semi-crisis call…and because, of course, just my luck, I could not find the behavioral health emergency line phone numbers that I know I should probably offer…I did get as far as knowing to definitely not promise an appointment tomorrow although I couldn’t come up with the words “we are not a crisis agency” until after I hung up…but I think I got the important information out and did a good job…a lot better than the first few times I ever answered the phones there and stumbled through figuring out to identify where people had called, who I was…you know, all the things I should have learned way back when I was little and we practiced phone skills by calling daddy at work…those skills I should have remembered and developed with friends in middle and high school…those skills that I had nearly completely lost by college because the phone was the thing in the world I was most scared of, and mine was often turned off for days at a time because I’d forget about it since I had no use for it…

The voices in my head say I failed because I didn’t offer any other resources and because now my friend has to either call the person back or make sure someone else calls her back today…but I didn’t fail…I got enough information to make a call back possible, and at least to me if someone asks for a very specific time the next day then it probably at least isn’t an immediate crisis…I kinda thought about offering a link to crisischat since I didn’t have the a phone number to give the person…but sometimes IDK if it really is a good resource, because it does have potential, but there are just a couple issues…First, that sometimes it is pretty much immediate but other times there can be a multi-hour wait for someone to chat with…and that I do not know the quality of the person on the other side of the screen…I did it twice a little over a year ago, and one of the people I got was really incredible and helped me to sort through all the things going on to figure out what was the real problem, but the other one was pretty useless…so that makes it in my experience a fifty-fifty chance of being good, and in my opinion that is lousy odds if someone is really and truly in crisis…not gonna lie, although it is called crisischat, some of the survey options are for things that don’t really fall into the realm of crisis…I was not suicidal when I used the resource…which perhaps is why a few times I gave up after waiting for hours, because I really don’t know if they screen the surveys to get the most desperate people in first or if it just was busy and they go in the order that the surveys are received…

It was a good reminder though that I should probably ask about some policy changes, because I realized that there are a few things that have changed since last spring, and it would probs be a good idea for me to know, for example, what the new policy is for registration for example…’cause the two questions I have gotten most often in the past are people wanting to register, and people wanting to leave a message for their counselor…I still know how to do the latter of those things, but the former is something that seems to have changed…and obviously I am going to need to find the phone # for the crisis line…

*I should probably clarify that I have not suddenly forgotten that I am in pharmacy school…I still think that I have too much time committed with school to be able to take on seeing clients as a lay counselor, but everyone needs a break once in a while, so I volunteer there but I only do stuff like make copies for counselors, answer phones, shred stuff, and other tasks that it won’t be a really big deal if I have to take a week off for an event at school…so I might answer the phone and talk to clients, but I do not actually officially counsel anyone…it works well for me to have a role that is important but not so important to inhibit me from a day off…