It gets better, but never really goes away...

For many reasons, winter is a hard time for me. I do believe I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder to some degree plus all my prior breakdowns have happened during the winter months so that makes me absolutely dread this time of year.

I've added a new trauma to contribute to my stressors during this time as well: the dentist.

After a very traumatizing appointment this summer that resulted in a 20 minute episode of hyperventilation followed by my body finally shutting down and passing out, I have had some issues these last few weeks with nightmares and flashbacks as my upcoming cleaning approaches. 

Already being at a greater disadvantage this time of year plus dealing with a new issue has made it extremely challenging to stay on top of my moods. I had a couple days last week where, for the first time in years, I thought about suicide. Not as a means to an end but more as a means to let everyone know how done I am with this struggle. 

It's so frustrating because even as good as things are, it appears as though these issues are never going to go away. It's like cancer. Sure I'll go into remission, but it's only a matter of time before it comes back right? 

I haven't needed to meet with V much at all over the last 18 months. I see her maybe every 2 months unless something pops up that needs to be dealt with. I met with her last week after a series of nightmares that left me reeling. I was barely keeping it together at school and was a mess thinking about my upcoming appointment. As always she keeps me grounded in reality and helped me come up with a plan for next week but no matter what I do, there are always side effects of situations like this.

My anxiety was triggered to the point that I was staving off panic attacks for a series of 4 days. Aside from the dentist experience, I haven't had a panic attack in almost 18 months. When I get this upset, my past always slithers back in. Right on cue, I've been fighting some triggers and feeling the weight of shame return. 

It's so defeating to feel these things again. It's a lonely, horrible place to be stuck in your mind. Stuck in the past. Remembering why you are different than most of your friends. Why you can't be in relationships. Why you can't trust men. Then it makes you view life differently. Suddenly all you see are the people around you in love, the babies being born, the lives being lived. The flip side to that is then all you see is references and triggers to rape, abuse and fear. It's an awful way to live day to day. 

I toggle back and forth between keeping up the fight against letting this consume me (it's exhausting to constantly battle) and giving into the demons. So far they haven't won. We'll see if it stays that way. 

Good Luck With That

I know myself well enough to know when my body is telling me to pay attention to something my mind is ignoring. I get tense. I get anxious.

My body is screaming at me. I logged on tonight in search of relief but I feel as though the opposite is about to happen. I'm holding my breath. That only happens when I'm reaching the brink of a panic attack. It's like I'm afraid to move, lest breathing throw me over the edge.

I'm not good enough. I'm just not. Why did I ever think I would be good enough? Like if I worked hard enough it would erase who I had become? Yeah right. I'm always going to be just as messed up in the future as I was/am... pick your tense. Past? Present? FOREVER.

I laugh at myself. Silly, stupid girl. You think you can do this? You are but a child yourself. You still view yourself as a 13 year old. You still seek approval in the most pathetic of ways. You still carry the black mark of abuse. You struggle with depression. You struggle with intrusive thoughts. You struggle with self-harm.

And you want to be someone's mother?

Yeah. Good luck with that.

What Now?

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

I spent my first Christmas in my new house with my mom, sister and soon to be brother-in-law. I spent all morning cooking up a yummy Christmas lunch and then we spent the afternoon playing games and decorating gingerbread cookies! It was the perfect day :)

The last 6 months have been so wonderful. I decided last summer that I wanted to buy a house so my path since June has been focused on learning everything I could about the home buying process, researching loans, realtors, cities, etc. As October and November rolled around I started touring houses in my area and fell in love with a house not 5 minutes from where I work. 2 weeks after my 30th birthday I closed on my house! Over the past month my focus shifted from house buying to moving to unpacking to decorating/preparing for Christmas.

As I closed the door last night and walked into my living room alone, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of "What now?!" With no more packing, moving, decorating or hosting to distract me, I suddenly realized I had no clue what to do. Buying a house was a huge step in the right direction for me. The whole process brought me such comfort and strength because it was a goal on my life's list that was going to be/is crossed off.

But now what? Where do I go from here?

It has been very unsettling to feel this sense of confusion again. I feel very lost and when I am lost, I tend to revert back to what I know will always be there: my past and my trauma. Last night I spent an hour or so reading through my posts from when I first transferred to V to the present day. Time had dulled my memory of a lot of interactions early on with V, but not the experience of hitting rock bottom. Re-reading all my words and emotions were compounded by the fact that it is almost 3 years to the day that I walked into V's office, disclosed the true depths of my depression and was escorted to the hospital. Even now, it's hard to think about. There is a strong sense of shame there still. But as hard as it is to think about, in a twisted way it brings me some comfort because it gives me direction. I know no matter what, that path of my past is always there, lying in the shadows waiting to pull me under again.

Compelled To Write

It has been a while since I've felt compelled to write.

I have been living a "normal" life for the past couple years. I have actually enjoyed waking up every day. My job, my friends, my family, my entire life. College was the last time I've felt this weightless feeling and even that wasn't true freedom. It was just freedom shrouded by denial. This is probably the first time in the last 15 years that I have had moments of real happiness. It has been amazing. Something I thought just a few short years ago wouldn't be possible. 

Writing here (or anywhere really) has always been a really healthy way for me to organize my thoughts and regain control in situations where I felt little to none. It has been a long time since I've felt the need to do this, but it's calling me tonight.

In my path to "normalcy" over the past few years, I've mimicked what I think to be normal behavior; namely dating. While much of it has been faking it til I make it, there has been one guy that seems different.

We met last year and went out a few times but fell into more of a friendship. We started things back up this last winter but things fizzled out again. I was really disappointed when he kept cancelling our plans then made no effort to reschedule them so I just assumed that meant he wasn't interested. We still talked quite a bit but I struggled with accepting what I thought to be the truth... that he just wanted to be friends. But I never asked him. Why? Part of me thought I knew the answer and part of me didn't want to hear what I thought he'd say. So we just kept doing what we were doing, casually talking via text and Facebook as friends. 

Imagine my surprise when he sends me flowers this week and asks when he can see me.

Ummm, I'm sorry, what? 

I was completely thrown off guard and to be honest, I was pissed.

SERIOUSLY? NOW? I have been off of work for 3 months (summer break) with absolutely all the time in the world and you pick now, the busiest and most stressful time to spring this on me? 

Dating is not an easy thing for me. It takes a LOT of energy out of me and requires a lot of mental preparation. It is not something I can just up and do on a whim. ESPECIALLY when I have no clue it's coming. I spent most of my summer coming to terms with the fact that I was going to need to move on from him and eventually try again. 

And then he blindsides me like this? WTF man?!

He's probably thinking he's doing this sweet thing by sending me flowers at work, but to be honest it sent me into a tailspin. I felt all this pressure I had never felt before, even when we were going out. Then it was still me trying to figure out if/how much he was interested. This obviously meant he was and that scared the shit out of me.

I suck at communication period, but it also wasn't the time to unload this baggage on him so I was my normal sweet self and thanked him for the flowers and we decided on this morning to meet for brunch. 

I was TERRIFIED. Which in my bouts of lucidity and normalcy I found utterly ridiculous because had I been the one to pursue setting up plans with him and him agreeing to them I would have been excited. But instead, the tables were turned and I was not prepared. Me not being prepared = terror every single time. Especially with dating. 

We had brunch this morning and I tried my damnedest to enjoy it. If I was not in this terror/pissed mindset I would have 100% enjoyed it. He's so easy to talk to, has a great personality, makes me laugh and is pretty much 100% my type. I tried to push out any negative feelings and just be in the present moment. Most of the time I was able to do that pretty well, but I could feel myself getting annoyed a bit (hopefully it didn't show) and just wanting to get out of there. Not because I wasn't interested in spending time with him, but because I had met my threshold for being out of my comfort zone and I needed to decompress and have some time with my thoughts.

What do I want? How much am I ready for? How much and/or what do I tell him right now to get to a point where I can take a leap of faith? 

I have all this swirling around in my head and I don't have any answers. My inner voice is telling me I need to let him know that I was completely blind sided by this because I thought he wasn't interested and that I'm just trying to understand where he's coming from. Why now? What changed? I feel like he also needs to know more about me and my fear of relationships but that is such a huge door to open and the poor guy does not need to be avalanched with all my baggage. I need to figure out the right way to let him know to tread lightly. That I need to be handled with kid gloves... but I suck at speaking up for myself so I'm stalling. I'm great at that. 

Time to Update

To be honest, I kind of completely forgot about blogging.

Things have been going really well. Life has not been one struggle after another, but more of what I think it should be like. More fun moments than sad, more laughs than tears, more hope than despair.

I still have quite a bit to work out in therapy with V, but for once it actually feels as though this will eventually have an end rather than just feeling so overwhelmed by my issues that I couldn't find a beginning or end.

The biggest change in my life is that I've started fostering cats through the humane society. I started volunteering there this summer when I had to put my sweet 20 year old kitty to sleep and have gone up the ranks pretty quickly. I am loving it!

I got my first foster kitty by accident. She and her 4 sisters were abandoned because of some really bad circumstances with the lady who owned them. They were able to find homes and placements for all but Precious, who I ended up taking in somewhat of an emergency situation. She was about 8 years old and I had great luck in finding her a wonderful family in less than 6 weeks, which is almost unheard of given her age and her coloring.

My most recent foster kitty I got after Christmas break when her owners gave her back because they were going through a divorce (I don't get why that means you abandon your pet, but whatever). Caroline was very afraid (I'm thinking there was a lot of yelling in her old home) but warmed up to me and my kittens quickly. Caroline got adopted on Tuesday this week, which again was extremely fast! My supervisors keep asking me if I'm some sort of magician! ;)

Our adoption coordinator is setting me up with a new placement tomorrow. She often goes to the shelter and rescues the pregnant ones or others that are in danger of not being adopted and put to sleep. I'm getting a 5 month old black male and I'm so excited! Black cats are the absolute hardest to adopt out (which is crazy because they are just like any other cat) but I'm hoping that since I've had such luck that I'll find this little guy a home quickly!

My kitties just turned 9 months old this week. They are getting so big! I LOVE them. They both have such great personalities and are so laid back. They haven't had an issue with the foster cats coming in and out, they just go with the flow!

Women, Food and God

About 6 weeks ago V and I had a discussion about therapy and how I thought it was going. I absolutely love V and really feel as though she was the answer to my prayers, even though it took me a long time to find her! In session she really challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, but is also really good about picking up on when it is becoming too much for me. There have been times where I have ignored my own signals and pushed myself too far, just to suffer the consequences later when I leave the safety of V's office. We discussed all these things, but the main thing we focused on is what I'm doing outside of sessions. I always felt I needed to push myself so hard and fast because I only had an hour a week with her. That hour goes by quickly and I hated feeling so unproductive outside of sessions (even though she argued that most of the work I have been doing has been outside of her office, not actually in it!). I asked if there was a way she could provide me with things to do in between sessions, mainly articles or books to read, but also things like journal topics or homework. That way I felt like I had a hand in my own therapy while I was outside her office and didn't feel like I was just sitting around waiting for the next hour.

It has proven to be a really good thing for me. It has given me a path and purpose every week rather than just counting down the days, hours and minutes until my next session. Most of my work so far has been in the writing form, which is something I have really come to enjoy over the past few years. I find it such an easy way for me to get out what is inside.

Two weeks ago V recommended the first book as something she thought would be helpful for me. It's called Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. She was in the process of reading it and said that there were so many times she would read a passage and think to herself "This would be great for Lily to hear" or "This reminds me of Lily". I was a little hesitant when I heard the title because I have had such a huge wall up with my spirituality lately. I'm not sure what it is, but I know I don't want to talk about it. She still encouraged me to read it because there were many things in there that she thought would be helpful.

As I ventured out to return a book at the library I already had (The Red Pyramid, recommended by my kids and definitely not a therapy book! Haha!), I ventured in the non-fiction section to see if they had it. Sure enough, it was on the shelf staring right back at me. I grabbed it and went to the readers section to read a little bit of it to see what I thought. Before I knew it, I had read almost 75 pages and found myself chuckling and nodding at the things that she was writing about.

I don't have an ED, but I do have my struggles with food. After I was abused I used food to self-soothe. I went from 140 lbs my freshman year to 26o lbs when I graduated high school. Food was my escape. Fat was my safety. In November 2004, when I was a junior in college, something in me switched. I literally woke up on the day of November 29th and decided I was done being fat. By the time I graduated in May 2006 I had lost almost 100 lbs. I gained back what we teachers refer to as "The first year 15" but have comfortably stayed in the 173-185 range for 5+ years. That seems to be my body's comfort zone. I know if I worked out and didn't eat as much processed food I could get down to maybe 155, but right now I'm happy staying within this range.

That being said, you don't have to have an ED to connect to this book. You have to have had a bad day and gone to the pantry instead of feeling the stress or the pain. You have to have had times where you are bored and choose to eat because it's easy. I don't know of a single person who would not be able to connect to this book. It talks a little about trauma and how food is used as a means to avoid feelings, but it also talks about how you can learn to not let food control you which is something I struggle with. When I'm on the higher end of my aforementioned range, I restrict like crazy. No, you can't eat this. You are going to gain one more pound and be too fat. When I'm on the lower end, I overeat. You've got some wiggle room, go and eat that hamburger you want! Order that pizza! Don't workout!

She uses a type of no nonsense humor and her own struggles with weight as fuel for her thoughts in this book. I'm really enjoying it. I have my journal with me as I'm reading and am often stopping to write down tidbits that I find very profound or helpful. I've gone back to re-read the first few chapters again (it doesn't flow really well in my opinion, so it's harder for me to read and therefore commit to memory) but have already filled up a couple of pages just in those chapters alone.

I wanted to share this book with you all because I really do feel like it has a message that everyone can connect to. It's not preachy and really is more of a spiritual book rather than a "God" book. I'm looking forward to getting further into it and learning more about myself through what I eat!

What's The Worst That Could Happen?

I'm not sure if it is a personality trait of mine or whether it is a result of my trauma at an early age, but I tend to have an overactive, extremely imaginative "catastrophe brain". I always expect these horrible, extremely detrimental outcomes to things that almost never come to fruition. I know a lot of it has to do with my obsessive need for control and desire for preparedness, but I'm starting to wonder what purpose it is really serving me.

I had a very intense session with V on Thursday, which left me literally hurt. I could barely walk up the stairs to my apartment and every turn in bed racked my body. My normal outlet for my panic and anxiety have always been panic attacks. I can feel them building up inside me and when they erupt, it is not pretty. But lately my body has been venturing away from the "oh-my-gosh-I'm-going-to-die" panic attacks and routing that energy into my body. I have had horrible stomach pains the last few weeks during sessions, and Thursday that got completely bypassed and sent straight to my muscles. It felt like I had the flu x1000. I have never felt that much pain in my body before. I remember lying in bed thinking, "I wonder if this is what it feels like to have cancer." Even being still hurt. My whole body ached.

Thankfully I woke up Friday morning back to my pain-free self, but was left with the burden of trying to sort through all that was discussed with V. Part of it is still in the denial side of my brain. I talked about things that I have NEVER talked about with anyone. I can't believe I did it. So much so that my brain just isn't ready to call that reality yet. A few other things we discussed I don't think I can even write about here. Embarrassing... for me at least.

But one thing that we did discuss was how my overactive and imaginative brain is keeping me from having the things I want. It keeps me "in my head" too much. And when I'm in my head, I convince myself that everything is scary. That everything is going to hurt me. That I can only be safe if I'm alone. It keeps me stuck in my fear.

V said something to me during this conversation that provided me with an "a-ha moment"; something pretty rare with me.

She told me that the idea of something, whether it's an experience (having sex, being in a relationship) or a feeling (pain, fear) is almost always worse than the actual thing.

And especially with me and this dear sweet imaginative brain of mine, it's probably blown so out of proportion that it's not any wonder why I'm so afraid. I've had almost 15 years of convincing myself that these things are so huge and insurmountable that the idea itself has become it's own Mt. Everest.

So she asked me: "What's the worst that could happen?" and I laughed because I have all these horrible, improbable possibilities mapped out (and have had them for quite some time, I might add) for each of the things that have kept me frozen in fear for so long. I think she knew that I already had a response to her question, but we both knew it wasn't the answer she was looking for.

I was a little embarrassed to admit that I never really thought LOGICALLY about this. My mind has been stuck on irrational overdrive for so long (even though I am by nature, a very rational and logical person) that I never have really sat down to think about how reality is going to be completely different than what is in my mind. Can all these horrible things that I've conjured up in my mind still happen? Sure. But will they? Probably not.

I'm not a kid anymore. I know how to protect myself. I know how to listen to my instincts and trust their guidance. They've never really been wrong before (at least when it's counted). I have so much more power as an adult than I did when I was abused. I'm not going to ever be in that same situation again.

The fact that I can take all of that in and not fight against it tooth and nail is amazing to me. Not long ago I would have argued that because there was even a chance that something bad could happen meant that everything else didn't matter. But I'm taking it in. I'm pushing myself to be logical and really open my mind to the fact that even though I may still feel the things I did when I was a kid, that I'm not actually one anymore.

Can You See My Secret?

I had an interesting experience this weekend.

I am required to get a certain number of training hours outside of school each year to maintain my certificate. Most of them I get during the summer, but I normally don't knock them all out in the summer and have to take a Saturday to finish them all up. There wasn't a whole lot offered that really pertained to me, but I did see one that caught my eye titled "Addiction/Abuse". Of course it was to be centered on how to help students who are suffering or come from families who deal with that, but I thought it might be helpful.

Knowing that V has done trainings for my school district before, I figured she was leading this one too since it is right up her alley. I talked to her about it and sure enough, she was going to be the presenter for it. I asked her what she thought about me attending, and she said it would be totally fine. I did a little thinking about it before I signed up, but decided that since nothing else that was offered was really on target with what I needed professionally, that I could go see her presentation and learn things both professionally and personally.

We talked a little bit in my session Thursday about what to expect as far as how she would interact with me (basically she'd pretend she didn't know me, keep the eye contact at a minimum, etc) and an idea of what she'd be talking about to help prepare me for anything triggering. I left feeling a little nervous after hearing some of the things she was going to talk about, but knew it was because I heard it with my "therapy brain" and it would not be the same when I was hearing it with my "professional brain".

So Saturday I walked into the training and signed in, picked a spot to sit and immediately got so self conscious. I felt like I was hiding this huge secret and shouldn't be there. We went around and introduced ourselves and when she got to me, it was so strange knowing that we were both pretending not to know each other on purpose. She started her presentation and I was shocked to find that I was almost immediately withdrawing without even having anything triggering me. I struggled to focus on what she was talking about. I struggled even with looking up at the screen because it was too close to where she was standing.

I spent a lot of the presentation staring at the handouts, the ground, my table, my nails... anything to avoid making eye contact. I felt like I did for so long after I was abused. I couldn't look people in the eye for the longest time. It was like that simple act meant that everyone could see what had happened to me and what I thought. I haven't felt like that in a long time. Like I was hiding some secret that everyone could see on my face. And I was hiding a secret...

Not only that, but I felt like I was a fly on the wall watching V discuss all these things, many of which pertained to me and my life, with all these strangers. It felt like I was watching all these people learn about my deepest and darkest secrets thinking it was about random people, but I really knew it was about me. And hearing V speaking the words made it stir inside of me differently.

I never realized how much her voice is connected with feeling things for me. Any time I approach things that require me to feel anything, she's there supporting me, pushing me and talking to me. Her voice has become one of those things you don't even realize is so embedded in your brain. It's like how a smell triggers a certain memory, I found that her voice triggers certain feelings. It was all very overwhelming. I didn't really take much from the presentation because I had all of this swirling through my head.

V sent me an email today asking how I was after the presentation. She picked up on the fact that I was having a hard time and wanted to know if she could do anything to help. I basically told her what I wrote about here. I'll be interested to see what she says in response.

Weird weekend.


This might be the most amazing song I've ever heard. I hope it speaks to you the way it does to me.

8 Feet and 2 Tails of Joy

So as most of you know, I lost my sweet 20 year old cat this summer and it hit me hard. I never knew just how much I loved her until she was gone.

The silence was horrible. I hated walking into my empty house. I would lie in bed as long as I could because getting up would remind me that she wasn't going to be sitting by her food bowl waiting for breakfast. My heart ached for her companionship.

I gave myself a couple of weeks to mourn her and make sure that I wasn't rushing into the decision of adopting just because I wanted it to be like it was before, but rather for the right reasons.

I adopted two beautiful babies at the end of June and they have been a source of such joy in my life! They make me laugh on a daily basis and have nestled themselves permanently into my heart, all the while helping to heal the rawness of the hole left.