Category Archives: Resilience

Fell like sand through the fist that I made

(Beauty From Pain – Superchick)

 

I was watching a video that showed up on my facebook feed. In the video, the girl said “everyone was telling me to celebrate that it’s over, aren’t you so glad it’s over, yay it’s over…and I felt so much pressure to be like I was before…and I was like what do you mean it’s over, what do you mean?…no one seemed to wrap their head around that my entire worldview had been shifted.” That is what graduation felt like and that is what getting the job I have now felt like. I was supposed to be thrilled, but there was so much else going on. Things didn’t magically go back to the way it was before as if the pain never happened. The pain is real. The abuse was real. The betrayal was real. It was all real. It is hard to celebrate when it still feels like the world is an ocean of shattered broken glass. Broken. It’s how I felt. Damaged goods not even really worth the salvage rack. Everything I once knew was slipping out of my grasp. This supposed ending marking “over” felt like a magnifying glass illuminating everything I’d lost.

 

I also saw recently that people think the first year after a loss will be hardest, but in reality that first year you are often a lot more numb than you realize so it is really the second year that is the worst. Obvi, everyone grieves differently. I think I am really overall doing WAY better than I was at this point last year, but it was validating to hear that it is okay and normal to still feel intense pain at this point. I feel like I should be better by now than I am. It can be frustrating. And I guess add to that the post referenced singular loss and mine was more of a complex series of losses, which also can be harder to handle. Sometimes instead of one loss teaching enough coping to make each successive loss easier to handle, when they come too close together, each one adds on to the next making it even worse than it would have been alone, and sometimes not even additive but multiplicative.

 

But I am healing. I am surviving. And no one can take that away from me. I am strong.

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You’re the best believer in me

(Believer – Kristene DiMarco)

 

A few weeks ago I was looking through my journal. I clearly don’t use it nearly as much as I used to considering I am still on the same one I started in September 2015, but there were a couple things that I noticed that I think are really good things for me to remember now. So I am going to re-type them to get those things in my head…

 

“My life is worth too much to waste it hiding and being scared of M” Okay, so this might have been followed with something along the lines of oh cr*p she decided to hang out right in front of where I am sitting and I don’t know if I can escape…but still, I love the idea of the sentiment that my life is worth too much to let M continue to control it. While I was still in school there was a huge power differential between us that gave her the ability to do pretty much whatever she wanted while I was always walking on eggshells just trying to get to graduation, which obviously did give her some control over me, but now that I have graduated she shouldn’t get to dictate anything about my life…

 

The other thing was a page titled “I am Resilient.” The first section was labeled “She called me” and “But I am/was.” Here is the contents of that section. But first, just a side note that my journal is not usually intended for sharing…I am writing this for me, not for you…I need these truths in my life right now. I am not trying to sound conceited or whatever…this is purely to fill my own needs, because it is a lot harder to believe the lies is I am focused on copying out these truths. This was a super challenging activity when I wrote it originally for my journal. I had written out the negatives and was just going to find some way to artistically say this is not who I am. These are just words or something like that, but then I got the idea to talk back to each and every one of those negatives. It felt impossible at first, because these things still felt so close to truth, but slowly I filled in all the positive rebuttals. I’m not sure if I let myself delete some of the harder negatives to negate, but I think it was a really good healing activity and I think re-writing it out will maybe help me continue towards healing.

 

Rude – Quiet, quick to offer assistance, a resource for everyone, extremely cautious and thoughtful with my scarce words, ready to give away whatever I had regardless of the other’s relative need.

 

Stupid – Getting a few bad grades mostly b/c of the stress she created, but mostly getting fine grades.

 

Condescending – Uplifting, positive, bubbly, and wearing myself out people-pleasing.

 

Inconsiderate – Neglecting my own needs and wants trying to jump through the hoops of what everyone else wanted

 

Disruptive – Quietly minding my own business most. Occasionally my music got a little too loud drowning out the inappropriate conversations that were going on around me, because I don’t really need to know the personal business of other students that others were sharing, but even then I was quite amenable to turning down the volume and just walking away for a while.

 

Not trying – Working my hardest to help her and me at the same time

 

Not wanting to get better – Desperately trying to pull myself up while she keeps trying to push me under

 

Immature – Dealing gracefully with far more responsibility on my plate than should have been placed there.

 

Hopeless – Being continuously refined by a loving, caring, and patient God

 

Out of touch with reality – Not as clueless as she thinks – just unable to tattle on her and trying to make her happy

 

Narcissistic – Prioritizing others above myself and thinking pretty lowly of myself, especially the further time progressed, but I am working on un-learning that, because God doesn’t create mess-ups and failures; He creates masterpieces.

 

Dependent – Strong for realizing my need of some assistance and asking for help yet trying not to add undue stress to my extremely accommodating friends, but very willing to talk to someone else if only I could find the opportunity.

 

Disrespectful – Not the one texting in session, always late, ignoring confidentiality, and manipulating.

 

The next section was labeled “She made me feel” and “But I am.”

 

Worthless – I am so valuable to God that he sent his only son to die for me so that I might live and be adopted into his family. I am chosen. I am God’s girl. My eternal daddy loves me so much and will never let me go. He loves me not because he has to, but because I am worth so much to him.

 

Helpless – Do I sometimes need help? Yes, but were we made to live life alone? No. God created us for community so that we could be supported when we were falling and support others so they don’t have to stay stuck at the bottom of the pit.

 

Hopeless – Capable of improving, and I have improved SO much. Am I perfect? No, but am I better than I ever believed I would be? Yes yes yes!

 

Isolated – She might have taken away most of my friends, my safety, my freedom, and all the places I liked to study, but she didn’t take away my ability to create community in whatever ways possible, and cling to that community with everything I have.

 

Alone – NEVER ALONE (per Plumb).

 

Unwanted – Sought after and definitely wanted. Everyone at Karis is super appreciative of everything that I do, teachers and students appreciate my assistance and dedication and passion towards mentoring students towards success. People want me not just out of charity to make me feel good, but because they know I am reliable, and jump in heart first to do my best. At work they always beg me not to go back to school. A few even suggested that I apply to be the manager. Everyone is super happy to see me there…and at church where I am essentially the nursery director when I am home and the director of Children’s Ministries considers me more in charge than the actual nursery director.

 

Like a burden – A value-added member of society. I care. I do more than my part to help and protect others.

 

Useless – Making a difference. I might not be able to change the world, but even if I had only made a difference for one person, that is one person who wouldn’t have been impacted without me, and it all counts. Every life matters.

 

Unworthy of love – Probably not worthy of love, because we are all fallen sinners unworthy of love and grace, but the great thing is that God loves me anyway, and I have SO many friends who also love me.

 

Not enough – Doing my best and learning every day. I am not perfect, but that is okay…sometimes I felt not enough because I couldn’t meet her ever changing expectations, but I don’t need to live my life the one-year-old playing monkey in the middle with baseball stars.

 

Shameful – More than a conqueror through Jesus Christ though I don’t feel like a conqueror tonight. Sharing burdens makes them lighter, not heavier. People want to help if you can let them in…and in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense, because shame is part of what kept me from speaking up and letting anyone in about what was going on behind closed doors when up until that point people could get a play by play of what was going on if they asked me in a way I could answer.

 

Confused – Able to push everything about her into a dusty box in the attic most of the time so I can live my life…sure, sometimes I have flashbacks like last weekend with me reading her email in May that we work really well together superimposed upon her words mere weeks later that we couldn’t work together anymore, but most of the time I have set that chaos aside because I am hashtag strong.

 

Wrong – Now aware that this was gaslighting, no matter how close to perfection I got she wouldn’t be pleased.

 

Stupid – Not stupid according to other people, but sometimes struggling to believe it b/c the voice is too loud.

 

Not safe – Protected by my God at all times. He walks through it all with me.

 

Hurt – Resilient, strong, flexible, beautiful, awesome, innovative, and an overcomer.

It’s been one of those days for a lot of days now

(Not Done Yet – Superchick)

Today four years ago my world was falling apart. My attempt at fixing things had ended with my email and moodle and pils accounts not working and no one telling me anything and being fed lies all day until someone finally called late that day. She wanted to know what happened. I was still too scared to tell anyone about the abuse. As much as I hated MRH and as much as she had hurt me and continued to hurt me, I still couldn’t shake my protective nature. I knew what MRH had done was very very wrong, but I had learned to mostly blame myself. The situation with MRH was the first time I truly wanted to die. I cried a lot when I was alone (and sometimes when I wasn’t alone) except when I was so low emotionally I couldn’t cry. MRH had been teaching me all year that I was worthless and stuff, and although now I can recognize that what happened to me wasn’t my fault, at the time I was desperately seeking a way to die without it being a suicide because I felt like that would be the best answer for everyone. I wanted to get accidentally run over by the metro. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t fix MRH. I had tried so hard and failed, so this must be my fault. I didn’t yet understand that sometimes people make bad choices and hurt people and it isn’t my job to keep that from happening.

 

I am sure I was super frustrating to work with, because I think my advocate knew there was a lot more to the story than I was telling, but she couldn’t make me tell any more than I was willing to share. It was months later before I felt safe enough…and had had enough and was ready to drop the protective act…to share little pieces of what had been going on. But gaslighting and other emotional abuse techniques are powerful and combine that with the people pleasing personality I started with, and you get a girl who will stand up for people no matter how badly they hurt her.

 

Anyway, that summer I was in limbo. MRH I guess maybe realized she might lose her grip on me so she put in a complaint that I was too stressed out to go back to school. Umm, yeah, I was having a pretty good summer and wasn’t really stressed out at all until this issue and the possibility of me not coming back to school was mentioned. I was given enough access to complete my summer course, but didn’t get the official okay that I could come back to school until the day before school started. It was hard preparing to go back to school not knowing whether I’d actually still be a student when I got there. There was a cru retreat before I found out. I quietly cried most of the night and struggled to focus both because of lack of sleep and because of the uncertainty of whether I’d even still be a student while these activities we were planning took place. And on the first day of school I was stopped by some security chick who didn’t believe I was supposed to be going to class because I wasn’t a student anymore. I could barely stop crying long enough to go to my first class of the semester and on break I was on my phone crying. I bet my teachers were wondering who this girl is who sits in the front row and mostly looks engaged but is periodically losing her ability to hold back the flow of sadness (and fear and stuff).

 

But I survived. I mean, I don’t think at the point I came back to school I would have really minded *that* much if I died and could have the whole thing be over, but I was doing a lot better. Slowly I started to heal…

 

Then the whole residency thing happened. The lies that had been so deeply engrained during the worst of the abuse came roaring back into my mind. No one would ever want me. I’d never be a pharmacist. I was worthless, unlovable, value-less, stupid…I had been counting down to graduation when I would finally be free of the gag clause keeping me from telling anyone anything and I would be, like I misheard the lyrics of a Zoegirl song “free of Michelle.” Moving from being continually exposed to M’s abuse (because it didn’t end that day in July) to an exciting residency at one particular institution was supposed to be the bright light at the end of the tunnel I’d been trying to get through for years. It was the prize waiting for me after enduring so much. It was the proof that I really did have value and really could be a good pharmacist that someone wanted. And it was taken away. I had nothing. The light at the end of the tunnel was gone and I had nothing left except the lies I now believed. I had nothing left to live for and felt that the best plan would be for God to take me home to where it wouldn’t be so intensely painful. It hurt too much. Sometimes it still hurts. Sometimes it still feels like my heart has gone through the shredder. That residency was the only thing I had wanted since elementary school. I kept trying to find other options only to be faced with continued rejection.

 

Today last year was my first day at the job that finally accepted me. I don’t really know if they were just super desperate for *someone* to fill their position and just feeling lucky to find someone they could get for cheap or if they actually wanted me, but while I did appreciate having a job, feeling wanted was not how I was feeling. I was so thankful that finally someone was willing to give me a chance, but overwhelmingly I was feeling grief. Starting this position was a very tangible reminder that I didn’t have the future I’d been working towards for my entire life. Since early elementary school I’d had one goal and this marked the end of the possibility of getting anything remotely close to that goal. I sat in orientation activities about how excited we were to work at this institution and about well-being and all sorts of things where I had to pretend that I didn’t want to just go home and go to sleep and never wake up. I was so exhausted in every way one can be exhausted.

 

But I survived. I am still here. I am doing better. The more I worked at this job the more I’ve found that what I was told about in the interview is not the job I came into, but I am still alive and not crying nearly as often and aside from the issues that come with shift work, I am getting decent sleep. I am eating and drinking well. I am not happy, but I am getting up every morning and going through all the motions.

 

I guess looking back I have to admit that I have faced a lot of battles that I shouldn’t have ever been placed in. And I survived. Maybe I am strong. I wish life could have been different, but wishes aren’t real and I have to live in the real world.

So the sun can burn you up and wear you out; it’s an angry summer; there’s no room to smile

(Break your knees – Flyleaf)

About a week ago people were posting about their first days of their PGY-2 residencies. Tuesday this week last year was my first day at the job I am currently with. That was a hard day. It was another punch from reality that my dreams were dead. It was one more thing making it even more real that I was never going to get back what I’d lost.

 

And now people are posting stuff like “Getting into Harvard? It’s not like it’s hard.” It hurts. They treat it like it is so trivial. I wouldn’t even really be interested in specializing in palliative care at Harvard, but it feels frustrating that someone else gets to do it who doesn’t even get how hard I’ve worked and still don’t have anything to show for myself. She has a PGY-2 residency and I have tried and tried and tried and still don’t even have a PGY-1. I am no quitter, but I just feel like no matter what I do it’ll never be good enough. Maybe I’ll never be good enough to go from dead end to following my dreams.

 

It is so hard and frustrating. I have always been someone who worked harder in school and life than most of my peers, but in the academic realm I always had something to show for it before. Now I try and try and try and all I get is failure. I feel discouraged. I feel left out of the club. It feels like everyone else can find a job and I can’t and I don’t understand what is wrong with me. Why doesn’t anyone want me? I just want to be good enough for once. I’ve always been on the outside looking in wanting what seems to come naturally to other people. And I can’t figure out how to crack the code.

 

I figured out enough social skills to limp along and not even have people notice right away that I am lacking, though over time it probably does become a little more obvious there is something different about how I communicate…and a lot of the time I am not sure if what I said was right or wrong, but there definitely are times that I understand based on the reaction that what I said was evidently not an appropriate response. I try, but I still am working hard trying to keep up. Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to get a residency someday, but right now it feels so totally out of reach and I am so frustrated. I am tired of never being enough. I just want to figure out how to break the glass ceiling and enter the world it feels like everyone else lives in where friendship and communication is natural and getting jobs is just routine. I’m tired of looking on without being able to join the party. I don’t even like parties, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be invited.

 

And I think this is why I haven’t seriously started looking at residencies yet even though I told myself I was going to whatever I could to get a residency this year. Back when I was “supposed” to be looking at PGY-1 programs, I was well on my way to completely certain to which programs I was and was not applying. I don’t remember for sure if I still had 10 plus a maybe or if I was actually down to for sure the 10 I ended up actually keeping in the yes pile to apply and interview, but I was definitely a whole lot further than right now where I don’t even have much of an idea what I am looking for. And I feel discouraged because I have tried so many times and failed and I don’t want to be that girl who just keeps trying even though it should be obvious the answer is no.

 

I just want someone to give me a chance. I don’t understand why no one wants me. I get that my communication skills have room for growth, but there are so many other things I am good at. I know realistically nearly everyone I have worked with has loved me, because I am efficient and get things done quickly and accurately and once I understand the workflow I will find what needs to be done and get it done without waiting for someone to expressly ask me to do it. But no one cares what skills I do have, because they are stuck zeroing in on the skill I don’t possess. Like the song from the sermon on the mound says, it takes a team; every member has a job and that’s a team. Pair me up with a good communicator who can either teach me skills or do the communication role while I do the clinical and operational role, and I will excel. And I CAN learn. When I started at my previous job, I absolutely did not answer the phone, and rarely talked to customers. (In school we learn to call them patients, but my opinion is if you are purchasing something you are a customer…and besides, working in pediatrics, the person with whom I often needed to communicate was not the patient anyway, but a parent, so it doesn’t even really make sense to call that talking to patients. Also, I just hate the “new terminology” that my school used, so if they love it I probably don’t). Gradually through observation I learned first to talk to customers. For years though, my coworkers watched closely and any conversation I was starting to struggle with they took over. During that time I also started answering the phone occasionally. By the time I left, I handled the phone and talking to customers independently just as well as anyone else. So yeah, it’ll take me more time to learn, but I will learn. And people say that I am easy to train. I pick most things up to at least a working knowledge very quickly. I might not reach expert level immediately because that isn’t really possible, but at my current job, for example, training period is usually 4-8 weeks. By the end of the first week I was pretty comfortable and confident and could do my job independently. I couldn’t legally be left completely alone until I was licensed and the government isn’t exactly known for being speedy, but really I was only using my trainer for policy questions by the end of the first week. Could I have probably looked up policies instead, sure probably with 90% success, but I had a trainer doing nothing right next to me who was a lot faster than looking it up…and besides, when you try to learn based on written policies you will fail more often because they are often not what actually happens in practice, so it is often better to get the information from a real person.

 

So yeah…I really just want to be good enough. I want a residency. But I feel stuck. I feel frustrated. I feel hurt by the people talking as if this is something easy when for me I have worked my butt off just to fail over and over again.

I’m Still Here

(Sound of Surviving – Nichole Nordeman)

 

They told me I’d never get to tell my story, too many bullet holes, it would take a miracle…trying to steal my hope, silencing my soul. This is the sound of surviving…I’m still here. I’m still here….I’m still here – say it to the tears, say it to the ache.

 

I’ve felt lately like “I’m still here” is my flag. But I’m not sure if that is a resilient proud “I’m still here,” or a resigned defeated “I’m still here.”

 

Some moments there is a sense of accomplishment that I am still here. Still alive and now feeding myself appropriately, sleeping, trying to make a life from the ruins even if it kind of mostly is hard and frustrating and lonely and disappointing. I don’t cry all day every day. I go to work every day and am the pharmacist I was told I’d never be. Maybe not the kind of pharmacist I want to be, but nonetheless, a pharmacist who made it through school, and was hired into a full time position.

 

A lot of times though, it is more of an expression of defeat. After another year I am still stuck in a dead end. I am still struggling with the pain of loss. I still feel alone, especially now that I am not the new kid that everyone needs to meet. I don’t want to be here anymore, but I’m still here.

 

I don’t really know what to do. Last year I learned to be active to make the pain go away. That stopped working. For a long time there was a direct correlation of movement with how I was feeling, but somehow eventually it stopped making a difference…maybe because I am so active that it doesn’t really matter anymore…idk…I tried again today. Walking the mall sorta kinda gave me purpose, but that’s about it. It kinda also reminded me of the time spent walking around and around the block last year in my free-ish time during that last rotation, which caused a reflection of that pain, which was not helpful.

 

But whether good or bad, I’m still here…like the quote in one of the books I listened to said, “I’m not trying to save my ministry, I’m trying to save my life.” My focus needs to be on doing whatever it takes to continue to survive.

I Wish Wishes Came True

(I Wish – Point of Grace)

 

Last year on the fourth of July I was hard at work moving into my new apartment. That was painful both physically and emotionally…physically because of the fall on my rollerblades. I’ve realized that since then I have been over-cautious, not ever going down even hills that I probably could handle and taking everything at a very slow pace – not as much fun…but I’m afraid of falling again since it hurt so much that time. And it hurt so good because the physical pain covered the emotional pain. And so I kind of want to make an effort to really rollerblade for real again, but at the same time I don’t know if that is a good idea when there is still so much pain in my life. I know I am doing SO SO SO much better than I was last year, but there is definitely still a lot of pain.

 

Today I had a busy day which helped a lot in covering up some of the pain that very easily could have been there. I biked somewhere around 10-15 miles to somewhere to lock up my bike then walked maybe a mile-ish to the parade line-up area. I wandered around the block listening to a book on my phone until other people were there. I helped decorate the truck. I put my phone and watch in the plastic bags I packed in case it started pouring. After we finished the parade I started back-walking the parade hoping in the process I’d get some candy, but in reality I am too shy to get any, because unless it is handed directly to me I won’t be one of those obnoxious people who ask for candy, and I won’t reach out for it. There were too many people to really bike, so I had to walk a lot of the way until I got to the highway where I had to ignore the signs because the bike path was underwater and I didn’t know another way home and didn’t plan to go for a swim, so I was going to use the road whether the signs said that was okay or not. On the way home, the sky quickly turned from sunny to a downpour with extreme wind and some small hail…and I couldn’t see where I was going and it hurt and I was holding on to the handles tight to stay upright. I saw a building and honestly even if I’d known with certainty it was my abusers house I would still have approached the building. At first I just went against the building which blocked some of the wind and rain, but there was still so much wind and rain, so I tried to see if there was a possibility of locking up my bike and getting inside. I was in luck. It was a gas station with double doors, so I stood with my bike between the doors. It was awkward, but it gave me somewhere safe to stand. It was still raining when I left, but not nearly as hard and the wind had died down enough that I was able to not struggle so hard to stay on my bike on the road and get home. I was muddy so all my stuff went through a quick wash cycle to get the mud out. It wasn’t an awesome day, but it was so much better than I could have been.

 

I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I am glad that life is getting easier.

They don’t know the real you. All the rain in the sky can’t put our your fire

(Gold – Britt Nicole)

 

Today I had some hard moments including some of the OCD fears coming back briefly. Sometimes I feel like a loser or a failure when that happens, but I realized this afternoon that I really have overcome a lot and I have beat the odds, and no one can take that away. Sure, I certainly had a lot of help along the way from people who really cared about me and wanted the best for me, but I can’t forget to give myself some of the credit.

 

This past week I’ve had more difficulty sleeping than usual and had some of the overwhelmed, defeated, trapped, frustrated feelings re-emerge. I cried last night and this morning. Then at church someone mentioned the V-word (vomit) and externally I rocked it (no washing, still touching things), and even internally I wasn’t completely flooded with fear, but there was definitely some very real fear threatening me. Because of that fear I felt angry that someone would enter the room I was in who had been near someone who felt sick. It is probably worth mentioning at this point that I don’t even know if this person ever actually threw up or just felt bad…and considering I can sometimes feel pukey just from my normal hormones and usually can hold back from actually vomiting, I do logically understand that feeling extreme nausea doesn’t even necessarily involve any threat of contamination. The OCD is going too fast in analysis to entertain the possibility of non-contagious nausea and the train going full speed ahead can’t be stopped. And I refuse to believe that once vomit has happened that it is not an infection hazard. Airborne saliva is infectious in my book, and vomit is even more airborne and even more infectious whether it comes from an infectious cause or not…which is why it was not at all reassuring when someone told me one day that I shouldn’t be scared because someone’s vomit was because she was pregnant, not because she was sick…umm, yeah, I had already figured out the cause of the vomit thank you very much, but that didn’t alleviate my fear, because the vomit still happened.

 

A few hours later I am doing totally fine again, OCD thoughts dissipated, but it got me thinking. I am so thankful that a few tears that I was able to stop this morning, and a VERY minor OCD incident are the worst I currently have to deal with. At this time last year I was only a couple weeks away from the deadline I set for God to take me home. I was still fighting every day to get enough food and water in my body, and sleep was much improved from the worst, but still most certainly not the best it could be. I was hanging on each day just thinking if I could hold on second by second would turn to minute by minute and I’d make it through the day and soon God would take me home and it would all be over.

 

Obviously God did not meet that deadline I set for him. He kept me alive. If I could live through that for this long, I know I can continue to face the battles of life. I made it through a pumpkin phase as a baby. I made it through thinking I was the only kid in my kindergarten class followed by a falsified report to ensure I stayed where it was thought would be best for me and subsequently being kept from play and craft time instead being asked to write book reports*. I made it through a second grade where the timeout desk might as well have had my name on it because falling down earned you a timeout and I fell (or got tripped) a lot. I made it through a friend telling me her other friends wouldn’t be friends with her if she was friends with me so we couldn’t be friends anymore. I made it through bullying including being hit in the head with a rolling pin. I made it through a traumatic change of churches taking me away from everything I thought was a given in my life. I made it through changing my college plans only to find out the school I went to wasn’t fully honest about what credits could transfer in. I made it through not getting the RA position I wanted because “I didn’t think you’d want to be an RA” despite the fact I’d essentially been RA’ing without the title or benefits for the past year. I made it through being abused by a counselor at my school. I made it through ending that counseling relationship and the chaos and restrictive punishment imposed on me while watching my abuser receive the princess treatment and continue to hurt me and other people. I made it through failing to match repeatedly, losing my dreams for myself and any self-worth I had left.

 

I will survive.

 

I was going to end my post at that, but something was nagging at me to say one more thing. The counselor that abused me is still at my school and still in a position to continue to hurt people. My school also used mandated counseling as a punishment. I firmly believe that mandated counseling should NEVER be used as punishment. First of all, it will not achieve any real goals and will thus waste the counselor and the counselee’s time and effort. Additionally, for me since it was mandated to do it off campus instead of being mandated on campus like they usually do, it was exorbitantly expensive…for something I had no desire to do. Even if someone did have legitimate mental health needs, those needs are likely to go just as unaddressed in mandated counseling as punishment as they are with no counseling. Let me say that one more time. Counseling should NOT be used as a punishment. Okay, now that we are clear on that, one of my friends was mandated to I think it was 2 or 3 counseling sessions as a punishment. She didn’t know about my getting abused by certain someone because of the gag clause. I am so thankful she is very well adjusted and that she came to me. She was like hey, this is what happened, is this what counseling is supposed to be like, because it felt really wrong. I assured her it was totally not how things are supposed to be and totally not okay. She was given the option of seeing a different counselor for free, but I am so proud of her, because instead she decided that two could play certain someone’s games. She went back intent on trolling certain someone back. Oh, I wish I could have been a fly on that wall, because my friend could be totally sassy, and oh did certain someone deserve to be put in her place. I am still frustrated with my school because they continue to promote certain someone’s “services” despite knowing what she did to me and other students. It angers me that not only do they allow her to continue to be in a position to hurt more students, but they also continue to encourage students to engage with her.

 

Okay, rant over. I just needed to get that part off my chest.

 

*side note…also not originally intended to be part of the post, but just popped into my head as I was about to hit publish…when you are a kindergartner and therefore don’t really have much understanding of numbers with commas, your book about kangaroos (it was actually a book on Australia) becomes quite confusing…how do they not know if the population is 64 or 307 or 599?! I thought each set of numbers was a guess and they just had a bunch of people make up a guess…Lol…It is also interesting being asked to identify the plot points of a book of science experiments…and this is why you probably should at least help kindergartners choose their books…

I’m workin’ on switchin’ them letters

(LeCrae – I’ll Find You)

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Doodle in my journal in January to commemorate my goal for the year and try to make it fun instead of some kind of obligational burden.

 

 

They say don’t get bitter get better. I’m workin’ on switchin’ them letters.

 

I thought maybe it was time for reflection and an update. I still cry sometimes. I still mourn my losses, but I keep putting one foot in front of the other and slowly I am healing. I am doing my best to hold it together, and sometimes I am almost successful. Sometimes I am less successful. And that is okay. Like it says in one of the books by Sheila Walsh that I read, people may say there is no reason to be sad or angry because joy comes in the morning. I’ve told them it is still night. While I would love to have a button to press to magically turn off the pain of the abuse and of the loss, I don’t have that. Healing cannot be rushed. And because of that I am very thankful for people who have been willing to sit with me in the dark when I really couldn’t access the bright side.

 

If I remember correctly, my goal for this year, better not bitter, was not inspired by the LeCrae song, but when I heard it in the song a couple weeks ago, I listened closer to the rest of the song, and it’s been a really good song…

 

Last year at this time some of my favorites were Skillet – The Last Night, We As Human – Take the Bullets Away, and Skillet – Not Gonna Die. I do still love those songs, and not that they are bad songs or anything, but I’ll Find You has so much more hope. Last year’s favorites had some hope, but it was kind of buried. That was the most I could really connect with, because the totally happy life is awesome kind of stuff just felt fake or like a slap in the face that I was doing it wrong or like no one really gets it. I’ll find you still has some focus on how life is hard, but moves from that to holding on for things to get better.

 

They don’t know the battle I face; They don’t understand what I’m going through.

 

Oh, there is so much depth to the lyrics of this song. Because of the gag clause, most people didn’t know how much I was fighting against through school and how that impacted what I was feeling when I didn’t get a residency. Even the few people who did know couldn’t necessarily really understand what the loss was like. Time passes, but the pain doesn’t ever end. It can’t be totally fixed. Even if I got a call today telling me there was a mistake and I actually should have had a position last year and it is mine for the taking effective immediately, it wouldn’t totally erase the pain. But I am starting to see some positives in not going directly into a residency. There is the obvious that I will be a lot more financially stable when I do finally get a residency, but beyond that, I am learning to be a real adult. Real adults don’t eat ramen every day. Being a resident is essentially an extended student position, which is a role I enjoy, but I think it was good for my personal growth to spend some time as an adult before jumping back into a student role, and putting me in the sink or swim position being an actual pharmacist instead of a resident with a preceptor forced me to learn to communicate without someone at my side giving me words, or at least being there in case I get stuck. Sure, I am certainly a communication avoider, because I don’t feel like I know what I am doing and I don’t really get much of a chance to observe and mimic to really get comfortable, but the skills that I am learning will help me no matter where I go in life…not just in helping me someday get a residency…which was in my mind, the only purpose in staying in pharmacy rather than getting a job at Caribou.

 

I’m tryna remember the way; I’m tryna get back to my home, but I can’t do this on my own.

 

Figuring out how to navigate from completely devastated and barely making it through the day to actually surviving and maybe even sometimes doing more than just surviving is something I couldn’t do without support, but it was also isolating. Grief is isolating. Partly because you are a hard person to be around when you are grieving – people are uncomfortable with pain and unsure how to respond and want to make the pain go away to alleviate their awkwardness, but they can’t…and partly, because in grief you tend to lose the energy to make any real effort to be around people and it is just easier to be alone. Sometimes even people way removed from my support network can be incredibly helpful. I was reading a blog post recently by someone who experienced a loss 12 years ago. She still struggles emotionally particularly around the time of year the loss occurred. It was so helpful to read that, to know it is normal to still cry so much later, to know that someone else understands there isn’t a mark on the calendar by which everything will be awesome again. I do still cry sometimes. I still have deep hurts that resurface particularly around meaningful dates. And that is okay. It was helpful to realize that she mostly posts positive well-adjusted posts – she has moved on from experiencing the pain as regularly as I still do, and someday so will I. She does post maybe a couple times a year about her loss, but mostly she shares about the other things in life – at the beginning of her blog I think she was like 5 years out from the loss if I remember correctly, and it was mentioned maybe a little more frequently then. Seeing the post made me feel like I had a kindred spirit. I am sure most of the people in her life would be like why are you still bringing this up, how is this still relevant to your life now, but as a fellow loss survivor, I get it. I get that no matter where you are in life, you might be struck down by a memory of that painful time and no positive can ever completely cover up the pain. Sure, some details of the memory may fade over time, but it will always be there.

 

I’m smilin’ in everyone’s face; I’m cryin’ whenever they leave the room.

 

Once I got far enough along that I could hold in the pain, this was totally me for a long time. I’d paint on a smiles in front of people, but as soon as either something happened that broke through to the darkness hiding behind the smile or I was no longer around people, the tears poured down. It was kind of a problem, because when wake up in the morning and cry is your modus operandi, it is sometimes hard to turn that off to be ready in time to go to church or to work or to wherever else needs going. I am so happy to be past that point. I do still cry sometimes, but not every day, and that is huge.

 

When that ocean of doubt comes don’t let me drown in my sorrow.

 

For a long time it felt like I was drowning and suffocating. It is a painful terrifying feeling. I finally started getting moments of reprieve from that feeling eventually. It is only over the past couple of months really that the drowning feeling has become more of a once a month or so thing rather than a more frequent or even near constant experience. I am so thankful for that progress. My external situation might still be similarly hopeless, but my internal situation is a lot better. To be honest, although I would have been angry if anyone had violated my trust and placed me in any kind of mental health crisis hold center, but looking back, I can definitely see where they might have been coming from and while it would have been devastating, I don’t think it would have been a wrong choice. I wasn’t eating, drinking, or sleeping well. I was undeniably living in crisis mode, barely making it through the day. Something needed to change. I don’t think not forcing me into that was the wrong choice, and I am glad that it didn’t happen, but I also know I was dangerously teetering on the edge. I had zero desire to be alive and wasn’t doing a good job taking care of myself. If it hadn’t been for caring and compassionate and patient friends, my outcome could have been a lot different. I don’t know exactly what that outcome might have been, but it would certainly have not followed the same trajectory I ended up on. Now I finally feel okay or even good again a lot of the time. I eat. I do what I can to take care of myself…my job isn’t very conducive to getting good sleep and stuff, but I am doing a lot better than I was.

 

I’ll be there for you no matter where you go…Just fight a little longer my friend.

 

I feel like this post is a little bit all over the place, but long story short, I am doing a lot better than I was. Life can still be hard and painful, but I am so thankful that I am not in nearly as deep as I was a year ago. Last year at this time I was quickly approaching the deadline I set for God to please just take me home…but he didn’t. I kept fighting and I am still here. And God is with me even though life is hard and painful and frustrating. He is good. He is not good because I am doing better though. God was good when I was at the bottom. He was good when I didn’t match. He was good when I went through phase II and the scramble with nothing to show for it but a drained bank account and exhaustion. He was good when I graduated and was still crying every day. He was good when I lost my pediatric job with all my friends. He was good when I almost got it back then lost it again. He was good when I struggled through another residency season, and when I failed again. God’s goodness isn’t based on the goodness or badness of my life. He is good and that is a truth. It is hard to believe sometimes when life is so bad, but God is good. God understands and cares about what I am going through, and one day he will bring me to forever home and the pain here will make paradise seem even better by contrast, and it will all be worth it in the end.

 

P.S. Even if you don’t wanna listen to the song, I totally recommend just reading through the lyrics to “I’ll Find You” by LeCrae. So good, so powerful, so full of depth. K, I’ll shut up now.

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This is from my journal in early November 2015, written across two printed emails from people who were way nicer to me than I deserved and took time out of their busy schedules when I was supposed to be serving them to actually serve me in a big way. Just taking the time to say hello and include me meant the world to me, and these people did that and more. And there were so many other incredible people I got to work with there. I so miss that place and yearn to be able to go back and serve some more even though a lot of the people have left. Buying everyone there a starbucks treat for their Monday morning meetings is still on my list of things I want to do someday to give back to the people who gave me so much even though so many of the people have left in the past couple years…

Now things have changed, won’t stay silent this time!

(Not backin’ down – Blanca)

I feel like now that I *can* talk I don’t. I guess partly because it is less relevant now that I am both not living at or near school where the rules impacted my every day and no longer living under those rules. Partly though, because I got used to pretending nothing ever happened. And when the residency thing happened it was easy enough to act like that was its own issue, not linked to the abuse. And, okay, let’s be honest, also because communication is still hard for me so I’d have to be really close to someone and have the right situation before I’d be likely to talk about what happened.

I was working maybe like a month ago on a version of my story I could share. What I started with wasn’t something I was comfortable posting on my blog, because I felt like even attempting to hide some details it was just too personal…but then I was re-writing it again, and this version seemed like a good place to start. More may come later…or maybe it’ll open opportunities to use my spoken words to share my heart, but this is what I am ready to share right here right now.

For the entirety of my third year of college I was in a counseling relationship with a woman who abused me. Life was hard. I escaped the counseling portion of that statement after third year, but I never really escaped the relationship part. I was not allowed to communicate with her (among a large number of other restrictive oppressive rules intended to intimidate me, keep me powerless, and protect the college from anyone finding out what they had allowed to happen on their campus). She, on the other hand, had no restrictions whatsoever and no consequences for any of her actions. She would follow me around and try to get me in trouble claiming I was following her – interesting considering I was always there first…but she was the princess who could do no wrong, so no one really cared that her stories didn’t check out. I stopped using the cafeteria because I got fed up with her coming in and sitting at the table next to mine. Then she decided to hang around to use the microwave next to where I was sitting despite the three other microwaves without lines closer to her workstation. There was fresh running water in her office yet she came to walk past me to fill her waterbottle. I was broken. I needed the metaphorical heart and lung transplant that graduation would give me. My official count down started well before 400 days.

 Fast forward to sixth year. Working on getting a residency was hard and stressful. For this girl still learning social skills, an interview is a challenging proposition. For this girl who thrives on routine and predictability, travel and interviewing in new places with new people was also not my forte. The months leading up to match day were like finally preparing for that transplant. It was hard and scary but there was that light at the end of the tunnel that everything would be so much better if I held on just a little longer.

Then match day came and I didn’t match. It was like they took out my heart and lungs in preparation and the organs to transplant weren’t viable and the only option was to use ECMO for heart and lung bypass. I had a week to stabilize before I had to be ready to transfer back to school. I was struggling and hanging on for dear life. I was prepping again at the same time and the second match day came and went with more failure and disappointment. Another failed set of organs. Nothing to keep me alive.

 Somehow, gradually, my body healed a little. I was functioning a little better, but still in tenuous position trying everything to just hang on a little longer.

 Finally I got a job offer. A barely viable set of organs were available for me. They didn’t really fit. They weren’t what I wanted. But they were my only option. ECMO wasn’t intended as a long term solution. It was even harder when my body had to wean off ECMO and I lost my job working with kids because HR didn’t think I was necessary anymore. 

Now I am here. Still healing, but realizing more and more that the organs are not a good fit for me. At the same time I know a re-transplant surgery (applying or residency again) would be a risk. And at the same time I know these organs are just going to keep making life hard as long as they last. I tried prepping for another surgery; another failed attempt this year.

 I know even the perfect fit wouldn’t put me right back where I was before. Anti-rejection protocols take a hefty toll on the body and are a lifelong requirement regardless of how incredible the match is once they’ve been started, and the more transplants, the higher the doses may be required to be to successfully suppress an immune response against the new organs. Life will never be the same as it would have been, but I still am holding onto my tattered shreds of hope that one day I will get the residency experience and ultimately the pediatric critical care position that I have been working towards my whole life. It won’t be the same as if it had been that first year, and I won’t be the same candidate anymore, but I have to believe there is more for me than this.

 Praying for patience as I try to decide how to get on the waiting list and prepare to live out my dreams.

 

Safety is not for Sale

(in the end – JJ Heller)

 

Sometimes facebook sends me emails about people I should consider friending. I have always wished I could turn it off, because it drives me crazy. It is usually random people I don’t know and have no way of knowing – like not even someone I have mutual friends with or who lives near me. It has never been anyone I was actually interested in friending. If I don’t know this person then I don’t want to be facebook friends with them. If I do know them, there is probably a reason we are not facebook friends yet, and sending me an email suggesting them as a friend isn’t going to make me friend them. Most of the time people I know are not my facebook friends because of my social unsureness. I am afraid the other person won’t want to be friends and that maybe it will undo the hard work I’ve put in to find community in real life.

 

Anyway, that isn’t the point. The point is that recently facebook sent me a friend suggestion. It was my abuser. Or at least it was someone with the same name as my abuser. I was afraid to even open the email, because once you have been hurt as much as I have, you learn to be wary and wonder if you are somehow being tricked.

 

That paragraph there. It is a sign that I am beginning to learn how to live free. Until I graduated, I really avoided using that a-word, abuse. For the most part, if I was going to talk about myself I didn’t come out with the word abuse, and if I was going to use the word abuse I was going to avoid directly talking about myself. Why? Well, I was told that my abuser didn’t like when I insinuated that she had abused me. She had a lot more power than me, so I was instructed that it was best to keep from making waves. And I did my best…although it was hard to completely not make waves, because she would turn the tiniest ripple into a tsunami like wave. For example, one day I was blogging about music. I mentioned that everyone has their own opinions about music, but like here are some types of music I am not a fan of. She got all butt-hurt because she likes that kind of music and tried to use it as a reason I should be kicked out of school.

 

I am lucky to have had an advocate who realized how ridiculous that proposition was. She protected me. I had to lay low and be even more careful for a while, but obviously I ultimately didn’t get kicked out of school. So yeah, it was in my best interest to be careful with what I said. Rule #1: Don’t vilify your abuser no matter how much she hurts you.

 

It is probably partly my fault that she had so much more power than I did. Sure, she had some extra power because she was older than me and had a lawyer husband who is the stereotypical American: Sue Happy. But, it feels like my fault, because I am too overprotective of people. Despite what she did to me, I didn’t want to hurt her. Also, she had two daughters and I didn’t want to hurt them either. She probably still has two daughters…lol…but anyway, I know about how kids can sense stress and tension in caregivers and take it on themselves or otherwise be negatively affected. I also didn’t want to take away a stream of income and cause a period of chaos in their lives even if it wouldn’t be that big of a deal…so yeah, at first I kind of refused to tell anyone what happened. I pretended it was all pretty much okay and nothing really happened. Probably also didn’t help that she pulled her little fake crying routine to make people feel sorry for her.

 

Again, I am so thankful to have had an advocate who somehow sensed there was a lot more to my side of the story than what I was sharing. That woman must have had the patience of a saint working with me. It took a few months before I started opening up to what had been happening behind closed doors. By that point it was too late. The school’s minds had been made up that I was going to be punished for my immature attempt at escaping and she would get pretty much whatever she wanted without any punishment. It isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair.

 

She had the freedom to follow me around. To walk into the empty cafeteria where I was studying and sit down at the table next to mine. To follow me to the parking garage. To wait in line to use the microwave next to me when there were multiple other microwaves without lines equidistant or closer to her workspace. To intercept faxes from my counselors and read them with her friends. And she accused me of stalking her and threatened to press charges. I wasn’t allowed to say anything and wasn’t allowed to access student services. I was powerless. I could run, but there wasn’t anywhere to hide. I could *try* to avoid her, but wasn’t super successful. Sure, I knew she tended to work 10am to maybe 3pm or so, but when someone seeks to hurt you and knows the last thing you want is to see him or her, they aren’t going to make their schedule 100% predictable…especially since her office window faced the quad so really she had a huge home court advantage in actually having a pretty reasonable ability to track at least what building I was in most of the time, and with our very window-y buildings, maybe even more than that. That is why from my perspective, the abuse never truly ended.

 

But I am gradually learning that I really am free now. I can express myself without fearing consequences. There will not be retaliation if I say something offensive. Now that I have a diploma, she doesn’t have much influence over me anymore. Now, I can use the word abuse. It feels a little dramatic after years of saying I was “hurt” to say I was abused. But it also feels really right to give it that name; to acknowledge that what happened wasn’t just me being too sensitive, but was something legitimately wrong that should never happened. It feels like it gives me back the power I surrendered so many years ago. My voice is not dangerous. It is okay to express myself. It still feel a little scary and a lot rebellious every time I use those words, but “safety is not for sale, you cannot buy peace of mind.” It is something I’ll have to continue to get used to a little at a time.

 

To be honest, despite the abuse, I still care about her. I can’t help but see that she is still another human on earth who deserves love just as much as I do. I kind of want to click over to profile and try to judge any public posts or images to determine if she seems like she is doing okay, but at the same time, just seeing her name was scary and I have zero interest in knowing what is going on in her life. I just want to check the box okay vs not okay. A few years ago I longed for reconciliation. I still think that has some potential to be a healing experience, but I also think that it could go wrong because I am so terrified of her…and who is to say she wouldn’t use the opportunity to find a new way to hurt me? I think I have grown enough in my confidence that I wouldn’t let her put me down, but I worry that my strength in the moment might not be enough to protect me from sinking into those hurtful words when things weren’t going so well.

 

On Sunday it’ll’ve been a year since I graduated. It feels like an eternity since I was in school, but at the same time it feels like yesterday. I feel like I am living in limbo. Not a student, not on a path towards my desired career, but also not settled into a career. I don’t want to forever be longing for the job I don’t have. It is times like this when I start really wondering if there is any way I could make it work to go back to school for social work and just start over. I’ve at least gotten a year out of my pharmacy degree, so I mean I wouldn’t be totally throwing away my education. Last night wasn’t so bad though. If every night could be like last night I might be okay with keeping my job longer. Last night I spent quite a bit of time in the ED with an infant. Not a newborn, and not a very involved patient, but just having the opportunity to be around an infant again and being a part of the emergency care team made me feel like I was at least kind of sort of living out my purpose. I really wanted to call everyone at Children’s and be like hey, number one if this patient comes to you, please be careful because this patient (like all my littles) means the world to me, and number two, I miss you and wish we could have taken care of this patient together…but I mean, it wouldn’t have been very appropriate to call, because I really didn’t have anything to hand off…I miss everyone at Children’s so much!! I loved what I did there so much. And I need to stop writing so I can finish eating dinner, because, priorities.