Scared

Things have gotten bad enough that V had to escort me to the hospital this morning. I'm being admitted to the PHP program for women.

Lots of unknowns right now. How long I will have to take off of work, if I will qualify for paid leave, what treatment is going to be like, etc. I sure could use some prayers... Life is really scary right now.

Fact or Fiction?

I'm so glad I have another week off. Don't get me wrong, I loved flying out to California to see my dad and actually had a really fun Christmas with my mom and sister, but I need some time for me. Doing things I want to do, not things I feel obligated to do.

I've had 3 bad nights in a row stemming from a conversation I had with my little sister on the plane home from California. V had been talking to me about possibly talking to her to see if she could help fill in some holes I have in my memory immediately after I was abused. I don't know where the courage came from, but I asked her about things I never thought I would. What happened after I came out of the bedroom? What happened when we got home? What did Mom say/do? What did I say/do?

Some things I had snippets of, other things I had completely out of order in which they actually happened, other things I don't remember at all. My sister was so helpful in telling me what she remembered, which is a blessing since she was only 10 years old at the time. I told her I worried about her having to go through the same thing I have over the past few years. She asked me if I had PTSD, to which I told her the truth; yes. I asked her how she was able to go through life without having the abuse affect her as much as it did me. She talked a little bit about her own abuse, which she has never done... at least not since that day that she disclosed her abuse to me and my mom. She was spared the invasive nature of abuse that I suffered, which explains to me a little more about how she can shrug it off so easily.

She and I are so different in how we react to things. She blows up immediately and then is basically over it, I am extremely sensitive and hold things in. I think she really began to understand why I have had such a hard time with this. Why I'm afraid to be in a relationship. How hard it is to feel the pressure from our family to get married when they have no idea what it's like to carry this burden.

After we got home Thursday night and I laid down to go to sleep, I was inundated with flashbacks and vivid replays of things that were brought out and dusted off from that conversation. They invoked physical reactions and sensations that make me want to vomit. I've been so confused. Am I remembering actual events or is it my mind projecting things with this new information to fill in the blanks?

I may never know...

Finding Joy and Peace

It has been hard to find the joy in anything lately. Life has been one hard confrontation after another. One painful truth after another. The holidays have compounded my normal depression and anxiety having all these new emotions on the surface that have rarely, if ever, been a part of my daily life.

It's very hard to not let these new emotions consume me. They are very powerful and I have no experience in allowing myself to feel them when it's safe to, and turn them off when it's not. It is scary to feel like you are being dragged around with no control. It makes me want to run back to my "comfortable" place, where emotions are pushed under the rug and life is just about going through the motions.

I find myself praying for peace more than anything else these days. Will it ever come?

Busy

I have been extremely busy lately. Family parties, church parties, work parties, school, therapy. Jeesh. It's the last week of school before winter break, so my kids are falling apart at the seams. They are burnt out and need a break. As does their teacher. But we have finals to prepare for which means no down time :(

I have been approaching some hard topics in therapy with V. None harder than the one we just touched on last night, and after 20 minutes I was curled up in a ball, fighting off a panic attack and flashbacks that left me in a daze the rest of the night. I am so freaking exhausted of not being able to approach therapy the way I want to or think I need to because my body can't handle it and shuts down. It's frustrating to feel like I have to work at a snail's pace when my mind has made the decision that my body has just not caught up to yet. V says I need to be more patient with myself. That I put way too much pressure on myself and that I have got to focus on the baby steps as my victories for now.

I went home last night and tried to calm myself down, but ended up sending myself into another panic attack thinking about how I didn't plan ahead with my cutting and will have to work extra hard to cover scars while I'm visiting my dad out in California. They just got a new pool installed and he is so excited for me to enjoy it. I CANNOT get into a bathing suit. Oh my gosh. There is just no way... and I wasn't thinking about that over the past 6 weeks. The scars on my thigh are mostly healed but you can still see them in direct sunlight. The ones on my calf are fresh. I just wasn't thinking that I normally don't start cutting there until I get BACK from California... so now I'm stressed out about what I'm going to say to get out of swimming in their new pool. I'm not going to be able to wear shorts at all like I normally do there (it's winter and cold here so I wasn't thinking about that either!). Ugh.

Lots going on in my world right now... I can't wait until I can get to a point where I actually enjoy the holidays again. Right now they are nothing but a source of stress and anxiety.

Lots of Pain, Lots of Tears

It has been a rough week. Lots of pain. Lots of tears.

Excerpt from an e-mail to V last night:
"I didn't realize how much of me could hurt at one time. And as stupid as it sounds being 27 years old, I just wish my mom was someone I could go to. I wish I could drive home, crawl into her bed right now and just cry. Cry and tell her how much I hurt and how I want her to make it all go away... to tell me it'll get better... that she loves me and is sorry I'm hurting.

Yet, I'm here alone. Even when she was physically there when I needed to be told these things before, she was never really there. I was still alone. Nothing's changed.

Maybe this is what a broken heart feels like."

Too Much, Too Fast

I was not looking forward to my session at all yesterday. After the hellacious aftermath of Thursday's session I was about ready to kiss therapy good-bye and welcome back my good friend denial.

So as I settle into V's office last night, she asks me to update her since I last talked to her (which was on Saturday). She had offered to see me Saturday morning, but I declined because I just couldn't imagine trying to process more when my mind was struggling to sift through the overload from Thursday. I was more specific with her about how horrible Friday was, and how it carried over into the weekend but that I was feeling better. I told her I was worried about coming in that evening because I didn't want to leave feeling so unhinged and fearful. I thought about cancelling, which I never do.

What happened next was something I was not expecting. She apologized. Huh? I was confused. Why in the world was she apologizing to me? I was the one calling and e-mailing her when I couldn't keep it together. I should be apologizing for bugging her so much. Yet she apologized for pushing me to confront too much, too fast. She said the way she worded the comment that totally unraveled me ("He could have killed you," see last post) was too harsh and she felt like it was her fault for putting me in a place that forced me to confront some scary feelings that I obviously wasn't ready for (as per my physical and PTSD reactions over the weekend). I hadn't really thought about that, but her comment definitely threw a huge kink in my otherwise very fluid system of fake truths and quasi-denial. Coming to terms with the truth of that statement was extremely unsettling (for obvious reasons) but even more so because it completely shut down the belief system that I have been relying on for the past 13 years. How in the world am I supposed to adjust to that? Apparently I wasn't ready. At all. I guess that's why she was apologizing. I know she did not mean to affect me in that way, nor could she have known I would have reacted as intensely as I did, but she was worried that I was going to be afraid to commit as much and hold back more because of how much it hurt me. LOL, was it that obvious? I didn't even have to say it for her to know that's what I was feeling.

I already hold back a lot when I'm in session. I still have not gotten to the point that I can let something in and immediately react to it. I don't feel comfortable showing raw emotions in front of people. I will go home, process it, go through a whole cycle of emotions by myself, then be ready to talk about it later, still keeping the emotions out of the mix. V and I have talked about this already. I am completely honest in telling her when I am holding back emotions that have been brought up by questions she asked or things I've talked about. But I've also told her I want to eventually be able to react to something initially, without holding anything back. It's exhausting to have to wait to be alone, try to understand a whole slew of confusing feelings, then shove them back down for the sake of feeling safe. I don't want to do that, but right now it's the only thing that I know how to do...

So after talking about all of this, V made sure to let me know that she would not push me as hard as she did Thursday, not because I can't take it (because I could, it would just suck 24/7) but because she wants me to feel safe with her, and does not want to hurt me. That was so comforting to hear, for so many reasons. Knowing that she really does care about my well-being is probably the biggest thing for me, but also knowing that I didn't even have to say anything about this for her to know that it was too much for me to handle. That just blows my mind. I'm so grateful for her.

The rest of our session she lead me back to what we were talking about Thursday, carefully. She asked me more about my reactions to what we talked about as opposed to taking me back to that moment in time. I got upset and teary-eyed a few times when her questions got me thinking about all the emotion that was brought up as I was processing alone. I am horrible at putting what I'm feeling into words, especially emotionally charged things. It was frustrating for me to be so upset and not be able to explain why... and that is basically where I am all the time now, it seems.

All in all, I left Monday night feeling much more stable and safe than I expected. I'm interested to see how tomorrow goes...

Revelations

My session with V on Thursday was intense. My body has responded by throwing me in a tailspin of uncontrollable panic attacks and horrible mood swings. I had to leave work Friday because I couldn't get myself under control. I can't even begin to wrap my head around how much I am going to have to release to heal. God help me.

"He could have killed you." It's scary how true those words are. If he wanted to, he could have killed me. No doubt. He was so much stronger than I was. To hear that I possibly saved my own life by not fighting back is a double-edged sword. Horrible to think that I could have ever been in that much danger, yet good because for once I can sincerely acknowledge that I did not and could not have had as much control as I pretend I could have. That throws a kink in my belief that I could have done anything to stop him... something I've all but convinced myself was true. But seeds of doubt are growing and I'm beginning to see that for exactly what it is: not true. As scary as it is to ponder what my reaction would be if I was placed in the same (or worse) situation now, overpowered by someone bigger than me, terrified and hurt, I wouldn't think my reaction would be any different. I would do what I thought would be safest for me and not fight back; live to see another day. Being able to identify this for the first time ever is already making it harder to blame the 13 year old for doing the exact same thing. Yet, I'm stuck in a place where I don't know what to do with that. So much focus and thought has been spent on the "what if's" that I started taking on the blame. If I suddenly don't acknowledge them anymore, where does all that emotion go? I can attempt to throw it all on him, but it's like two opposing sides of a magnet; no matter how hard you keep pushing, it'll keep getting bounced off or thrown back. Why can't I feel ANYTHING about him? There literally is nothing there. It just doesn't make sense. I wish I could understand why, that of everyone in my life at that time, he is the only one who never got any anger. Everyone else has, either directly or indirectly. I have hated them all for lesser things. But not him. Why have I made him immune to my emotions?
-- Journal writing from Thursday night, post session

Manipulative

Such a vile and nasty word in my book. Something I wouldn't ever think of myself, until this weekend.

I had a session with V on Saturday which I really enjoyed (yes I know that sounds strange). Over Thanksgiving break I was feeling very negative and "poor me" so I decided I needed to do something to remind myself just how blessed and lucky I am. Not to minimize anything I was feeling, but rather to keep myself from drowning in self-pity. I decided that I would make some digital scrapbooks to share with V of childhood, family, friends, college time and travel. It was so fun to go back and look at all the happy moments (because who takes a picture of something sad/not fun?) in my life. So often I tend to completely shrug off all the good things because I spend so much time in therapy trying to heal from the bad. We spent the whole hour going over important things, details, people, etc. I left feeling pretty good. I went home to take a nap because I hadn't been sleeping well at all and when I woke up I felt like crap. Like the bottom had been pulled out from underneath me. As the afternoon and evening wore on, my mood and thoughts got darker and darker. By 2 AM I decided that maybe I'd feel better if I e-mailed V just to let her know where I was at emotionally, sort of a release to just get it out.

I told her that I was having a very bad night, complete with some suicidal thoughts, wasn't able to sleep, etc. I made sure to tell her that I wasn't at a place where I was going to act on anything but just that I was having a hard time. I also mentioned that because I wasn't sleeping I decided to take a larger dose of my sleeping pills than I would normally. I finally was able to fall asleep, only to be woken up by my crazy aunt calling at 8AM asking for my mom's number. Geez. I checked my e-mail from my phone before I rolled back over to go to sleep and saw that V had e-mailed me back, wanting to know how I was and how I slept. At that point I wasn't done sleeping but the thought crossed my mind that if I didn't respond right away, maybe she'd think the worst. So I went back to sleep and woke up to a second e-mail at around 11AM. Basically saying the same thing, that she was thinking about me and wanted to know how I was doing. Feeling solace in the fact that she was thinking about me/worried about me, I decided to not respond again. By 5 she sent me an e-mail telling me she was getting worried that she hadn't heard from me and that if I didn't respond she was going to have to find another way to check in with me. Just being able to read that she was worried about me was enough to make me e-mail back at that point, but the next few exchanges of e-mails proceeded to scare me a bit. She said she was about an hour away from calling EMT's to come to my house and check on me. Good Lord. If she had done that I would have been absolutely HUMILIATED. Just thinking about it made me feel so shamed that my actions could have lead to that. Then I started feeling horrible that I intentionally manipulated her to get what I wanted out of the situation; knowing that someone cares/worries about me.

So when I went in to see her on Tuesday, I told her I didn't want to talk about this weekend, but figured I wouldn't get away with that. Overall she just wanted me to know how she perceived my e-mail Saturday night to explain why she chose to react the way she did/planned to react. Not having any history with me in this area, she said she didn't know if my e-mail was a way for me to deflect attention away from the fact that I was planning on killing myself or if I was sincere in what I said. Not being able to determine that, she had to do what she is sworn to do to protect me physically, which would have eventually involved "the authorities" if I had never responded back to her. Feeling so guilty I just tried to deflect the conversation away as much as I could. We moved onto talking about my "safe box" which I finally finished decorating and filling with the things that I wanted to put in it.

Inside were some statements about myself that I wrote 2 years ago for one of the first homework assignments I had with A. I didn't really read over them in depth, but just tossed them in there. So of course when V opened the box and started going through them, the first one she pulls out says "No one makes a big deal out of me. It makes me feel loved and important when people worry about me." God. Can we just light up the big flashing arrow and point it right on me? MANIPULATOR! *flash flash* I wanted to crawl in a hole. I felt like an absolute idiot, she probably saw right through me.

As we were wrapping up, she asked how I was feeling and I told her I still felt horrible about this weekend. I mentioned that I think I used this weekend as a way to test her, to see if she really would follow through on the fact that she says she cares. I also said I was worried that she was mad at me or that she thinks I'm ungrateful since I "snapped" at her about the EMT comment and told her how humiliating that would have been and how upset I was that she would even think about that. I told her I felt like all I did was waste her time this weekend and that made me feel awful. She looked at me and asked me "Did I say you wasted my time? Or that I thought you were ungrateful? Or that I was mad at you? Of course not, because that is your perception, but it is not true. I know I could tell you a million times it's not true and you still probably wouldn't believe me. I was just worried about you. No fine print attached."

*sigh* I left feeling like I had just run over a litter of puppies. I decided I would e-mail her and apologize (probably for the millionth time) and attempt to "come clean" so that I could try and put this behind me. Here's what I sent:

When I got home tonight, I re-read the communication from this weekend and can see even more so how my actions were a way to test the validity of your word, even though you have given me no indication to believe that you are anything but trustworthy and honest. The "ego" side of me is constantly whispering in my ear that you couldn't possibly care enough to do anything for me, outside of our interactions in your office or via e-mail. And it became clear to me that after you read that paper from my box (the one about not feeling important unless someone is worried about me) that our sequence of e-mails this weekend was a way for me to see if you'd follow through with what you have been saying. And boy did you surpass anything I ever could have imagined. My freakout was largely based on the "severity" (not the right word, but I can't think of anything else) of how you responded, but also the fact that you responded at all. I wasn't expecting anything aside from a "We'll talk about it Tuesday" or "Go the hospital if you can't stay safe" reply. I never really expected genuine concern.

It was never my intention to turn our communication into what it ended up being, I hope you know that. I honestly was just trying to get out these thoughts to hopefully ease my mind and also to let you know what was going on. It's much easier for me to start that conversation by writing out what I feel as opposed to speaking it out loud. I just can't imagine walking in your office and being like "So I thought about killing myself this weekend." Uh, no.

Any step back this weekend was as a result of my actions, not yours. If anything, I feel like you helped me trust you a little more, I just hope it wasn't at the expense of you being able to trust me less.

Can I Just Hibernate, Please?

Man I wish I was a bear. Sleeping through the winter sounds like a really good solution. I'm starting to find that with each passing year, I dread the holidays more and more. The few family members I was close to have all died in the past couple of years, leaving me to try and look forward to fending off questions about my constant single-ness and underhanded comments by my mom about never having grandchildren. That's Thanksgiving in a nutshell. This year, to make it worse, my mom invited her dad and stepmom, who just recently moved back to the area after living 23 years in Oregon. I have seen them maybe 5 times since I was born.

He scares me. After all the stories I heard of how mean he was when my mom and her brother and sisters were kids, it is hard to want to get to know him. She is nice enough, but has brain damage from a very bad bout of pneumonia that left her without oxygen for too long. She is unpredictable in a childish way; lifting her shirt to show me a scar (god help me) or bursting into tears when talking about her nephew that died. They aren't my grandparents. I don't even consider them family.

It pisses me off that I have to pretend to want to get to know them (as I would never be blatantly disrespectful to them or my mom). I had grandparents. Ones that took care of me, played with me, talked with me, loved me. And now they are both gone and I am not looking for replacements.

Thanksgiving was so uncomfortable. I did anything I could to avoid being in the same room with them, only to be cornered by my aunt who succeeded in calling me a "titty baby" a few times for not getting plastic surgery to fix the after effects (loose skin) of losing so much weight. The only time I actually enjoyed myself was when I was with my sister, her boyfriend, my cousin and his girlfriend. We are all about the same age and it was nice to be able to sit and chat about things that we wanted to; movies, sports, school, etc. We sat down and played cards for almost 2 hours as well. I enjoyed that, but couldn't wait to leave.

And now that brings me to Christmas. Something I dread as well. First and foremost, I enjoy Christmas for the ability to celebrate the birth of my Savior and give back to the community. The thing I enjoy second most to that is being able to go out and see my Dad. With my work schedule, this is one of only two times a year I get to see him. I struggle with everything else.

Christmas with my other family makes me defensive. I don't want their obligatory gifts. The fact that you are buying me something to show me you care just because the date is December 25th ticks me off. You don't show you care any other time, so I don't want you to even bother now. Save your money, it'll just be wasted on someone who can't appreciate your half-hearted attempt "showing love." It's a lose-lose situation, because my family has always worked on the belief that you show how much you love someone by how much you spend on them. I wish every year that my desires of just a small gift card or maybe a new Vera Bradley purse were honored.

Knowing it never works that way, I'm stuck with trying to balance gift giving for everyone else in my family. My sister I tend to spend a little more on because she's still in school and has no money, but I do not want to go overboard on her. The bad thing is, she has experienced much more of the "I love you this much because I bought you this much" message since that is how my Dad is with her. I can see the disappointment on her face when I give her just one thing, or maybe two when she was expecting more. To her, it means I don't love her. Then she goes and spends money she doesn't have on things I don't need to try and show me she loves me. It's a freaking great situation we've got going on. >:(

As far as my mom goes, I'm to the point that everything I think of getting her is so lame (slippers, gift card, etc) that it hardly seems worth the effort. I'd rather find something that we can DO together as opposed to something I can just give her. My sister however, always goes overboard. I swear she spends at least $500 each year on her and wants me to go in on everything she buys. I just don't see the point. My mom would be just as happy to spend time with us as she would with whatever crazy contraption my sister has decided she needs this year. So this year I'm taking my mom, sister, and two youngest nieces to an art studio here in town where they let you paint ceramic plates, bowls, coasters, ornaments, etc and they glaze and fire them for you. My godmother used to have a store like this when we were kids and she would always let us paint something for Christmas. My mom used to do this very often as well so I thought it'd be something fun for all of us to do together. She was so excited about the idea, especially being able to bring the girls and starting a fun tradition with them. My sister on the other hand was like "That's it? What else are you getting her?" *sigh*

All of this "fake" love and obligatory actions tends to put me in a very depressed, somewhat passive-aggressive mood. It doesn't take much to trigger me into a deeper depression, where I fall into the traps of old habits and thought processes and re-route all my pain, anger, sadness, everything that the holidays brings me into myself, where I hold onto it and let it eat me alive. But I'll always put on the happy face... until the holidays blow over and I'm left with a dark cloud of depression and anger that will take me months to get out of. Yay, Christmas.

Finding Calm Among Chaos

I've been praying a lot lately. Praying for strength and guidance to do what the hard work ahead of me. Praying for humility to be able to ask for help when things get to be too much. Praying for faith. Above all, I want to know that God is there for me. That in the midst of all the chaos in my life, He will be there for me.

Today was hard. I ended up going in to see V even though I wasn't scheduled today. We talked a little bit about our last session (resulting in a panic attack with some things that she is bringing out of denial with me) and how I went home and coped with it. For me, coping is cutting and because I didn't do that last night it manifested itself in other ways. I didn't sleep well... and when I did, it was riddled with horrible dreams. V discussed the importance of me finding a way to relax so that my body doesn't hold onto all the bad feelings I am constantly processing. Somehow we got on the topic of ego, and how she thinks that mine has completely run away with me.

Everything that I process gets a negative spin put on it, regardless of whether or not it actually was negative to the objective viewer.

"They just did that because they felt obligated. They're only your friend because they want something from you. Why bother, it's not going to last. Asking for help just means you are weak."

The list goes on and on. And on and on. For whatever reason, somewhere down the line I decided that it was safer to view things negatively and it has spread like wildfire. V asked me to come up with some positive things about myself, to which I had almost nothing. Everything that popped in my head felt contrived and cliche. I told her I didn't really have anything that felt like it separated me from anyone else. Then she asked me to think of myself at 13 (pre-abuse) and describe positive things about myself. That was much easier. I had a whole list of things that V wrote down, all positive things that even put smiles on my face while recalling and remembering how happy I felt. From there she asked me to take each one of those things and try to connect it to me now. The few things that were constant were being active in church and enjoying service/volunteer work. She scribbled a few things on the paper then handed it to me.

Down the center of the paper was a line, splitting the two parts of me in half and on it were the words ABUSE, ADDICTION, DIVORCE.

"Look at those two parts, Lily. The person you are now is not who you really are. That line that is drawn down the middle are the things in your life that are not your fault. Even though I know you don't believe it, you are not to blame for your abuse. Your parents divorce was not caused by you or anything you did. Your dad's addiction is a disease, which again cannot be your fault. All of these things you did not cause, but you are holding onto the blame and punishing yourself for them. And all of that punishment has changed who you are. That list on the right (of who I am now) is a cover-up of who you really are. Who you are supposed to be. Who you are not allowing yourself to be."

I lost it. It took everything in my power not to weep. To feel like you are two different people is one thing, but to be given proof of that and to feel acknowledged, validated and understood all at the same time brought on this rush of emotion that I could not have prepared for. The little girl inside of me is screaming "Finally! Someone else knows I'm here! I can't be ignored now! She knows I'm here! She's going to get me out!" I just sat there and cried, trying to take in everything she said, all the crazy thoughts being thrown around and then trying to verbalize what I was feeling physically and emotionally once I calmed down. That didn't work too well. I don't have words for this. I tried to start, but the tears just took over again. All I was able to get out is that the tears I was crying were sad tears, genuine grief. I could feel it. Like I felt with my grandma. That tearing pain inside, the one you think will never go away.

After what seemed like hours of me just sitting there crying, V jumped right to the chase. The only way I am going to get a hold of who I really am is to go back to what I did at 13 and do what I know made me happy. Would I be willing to sign up for service projects? Sing in the choir again? Play? It seems so absurd. I'm in my 20's! I don't play! I haven't sung in choir since right before I was abused, then being the center of someone's attention like that became the worst thing I could ever think about doing!

V gave me a lot to think about. She even joked about how she sends me home with more to process and think about than anyone else. I took that as a compliment, maybe that means I'm working harder than everyone else? She suggested that because it was so nice outside, I don't go home and hide, but go to this park that is near her house. It has a huge lake and fountain, park benches, a walking trail, and fishing docks. I absolutely love the water and find solace in the sounds it makes. I left her office and drove straight there. The sun was beginning to fall behind the hills and houses, but the atmosphere was perfect. I just sat there and listened to the life around me. It helped clear my mind and control my emotions. Things suddenly felt less out of control, more doable. God answered my prayers and showed me that He is here, giving me the calm I want so desperately in the midst of all this chaos.

How Big Are Your Rocks?

V had me do this activity yesterday that I really enjoyed. One it let me learn a little more about her, and two it helped me pinpoint some of the specific things I am carrying around with me.

She handed me this backpack and told me to hold it out while she asked me a few questions. It was really heavy. I asked her what was in it, but she said I couldn't know yet. She asked me various questions, all fun/happy things. It was harder to concentrate on what she was asking the longer I stood there because the heavier the bag felt. Apparently that's exactly what is "supposed" to happen. The bag represents me, what was inside represents what I carry around. Everyone has their own bag, their own weights. The longer you hold onto them, the heavier they feel, even though the weight itself hasn't changed. People often do unhealthy things to temporarily forget their weights (maybe even convince themselves they completely got rid of them) but eventually they return to reality to find out that nothing changed. Quite possibly, these unhealthy things could have created new weights. V thinks my cutting has gotten to a place where it's starting to add weight. When I was younger, self injury was an unhealthy coping mechanism, but it got me through harder things that I had no clue how to deal with. At some point, however, it went from denial of my weights, to contributing to them.

We sat down, she opened the bag and pulled out a rock. It was painted with a word on it. SCARED. She told me that we were going to go through and pull out a rock, one by one, and discuss how big of a weight this was in our own bags. V doesn't strike me as anyone who gets scared a lot, but I was relieved to hear her say that she gets scared at night when her husband is gone and she's home with her kids, or when she's walking to her car alone at night. Thank God I'm not the only one who thinks this!

My first rock was WORRIED. This is a pretty big rock for me. I constantly have to (or attempt to) plan for escape routes and back-up plans when I am doing something outside of my normal activities. I can't ever be taken off guard or surprised. I never get to enjoy myself when I'm doing something different because I'm worried it'll take a turn I wasn't expecting.

V's next rock was ANGRY. First we talked a little bit about why anger is an appropriate emotion for anyone, but that the unhealthy side of it comes out in how people choose to respond to that emotion. She gave me two examples that make her angry. One that doesn't really weigh her down all that often, but she can't stand when she's not being heard. Meaning she is trying to explain or compromise on something, and another party is just not open to it or trying to understand. The second she says weighs on her more. She gets really mad when children get abused. In her line of work, especially working with children and families a bit more than adults, she sees this often and it makes her so angry.

My next rock was HURT. Physically I have been lucky. Never broken a bone. Up until May I had never even had to go to the hospital. Emotionally, that's a little different. I gave her an example that stood out in my mind. My dad was commuting back and forth from where my sister and I lived, and where he lived with his new wife, a good 10 hours away. He'd always come home for our visitations, but didn't live in the state any other time. When I was getting ready to graduate high school, I asked him if he was going to come and he told me no. High school graduations aren't that big of a deal. He'd come when I graduated college. That hurt. A lot. V asked me if I wanted to add anything about cutting with that rock, and I didn't. I don't view cutting as hurt. I view it as relief. She nodded and agreed.

V's next rock ended up weighing on me, a lot. It was GUILTY. I learned a lot about V through this rock, some of which I knew a little of already. V was a teen mom. She grew up in the city. Her parents immigrated from Mexico before she was born. She is Catholic and apparently they feel guilty about everything (she jokes). When she got pregnant at 17, she said telling her family was really hard. She is still married to her high school sweetheart, and their son is 14 now. They also now have a daughter who is 14 mo. old. She told me a few weeks ago about being a teen mom, which I couldn't believe. She volunteers for the advocacy center, leads trainings for other therapists on addiction and abuse, and works with our local school district to provide support for other teen moms. I have so much respect for her beating the odds and making something of herself, when most people would use it as an excuse. She said that when she had her son, something clicked in her. She was not going to be another statistic, especially being a minority. She wanted to be a good role model for her son. Her drive is amazing to me. Anyway, in her story she was telling me how other people tried to make her feel guilty. A girl called her and commented on how she couldn't believe the rumors were true, that SHE was the one who was pregnant. Her response to that girl: "What? So I had sex..."

The normalcy of that statement affected me greatly. It took me a while to recover and I know I missed out on what she said right after that. It pains me to think that most people are able to view sex as anything but a terrifying occurrence. It pains me to think that at 17, I could have been as blase about it, too. But instead, I'm in my 20's and can't even let a man touch me let alone go that far. There's no way she could have known something so little could affect me so greatly.

My next rock was CONFUSED. It took me a while to connect something with this, but I finally identified my spiritual side. We talked a bit about this, but she said we'd go more in depth when we had more time.

Her next rock was EMBARRASSED. Again, V seems someone who is very comfortable with who she is, but she told me a funny story about how she and her husband went out with some friends a few months ago and he congratulated them on being pregnant. They were not. LOL I couldn't help but laugh. I could tell she was still mortified!

My next rock was SAD. This has been a big weight for me lately with the deaths of my grandparents and Tayler, all in less than 2 years. I talked more about Tayler than my grandparents, because her death still affects me. I never have understood why. She was not the cousin I was closest to, but I feel like I lost a sister at times. It confuses me. V asked me some questions about her and was shocked to hear that she was 13. She looked at me and said "My God. How much horror can you take at the age of 13? For you it was abuse, for Tayler it was death. I wonder if her death affects you so much because of that. Or if part of you feels like you died at the age of 13 as well." We have talked a bit about how different I became after the abuse, so she might really be on the right track there.

The next rock she pulled was DIVORCE/ADDICTION. She handed that to me. Cheater, LOL. I identified that the divorce itself wasn't that big of a deal for me, since my life up until that point was mostly a one parent deal, but for me it was how my mom was affected by it and the parenting choices she made that made that rock a huge weight for me. As far as addiction, I know it contributes weight to my bag, but I am just coming out of denial about that so I couldn't really say much.

My turn was next, even though I had just gone. I had avoided picking up this rock that my hand touched next, but went ahead and pulled it out. ABUSE. Crap. I told her I didn't want to talk about that, but recanted and said I would at least acknowledge that it is a weight in my bag, and that it is not just sexual abuse, but emotional abuse and neglect as well.

Two rocks left. V pulls out JEALOUS. She tells me she sometimes gets jealous of people who have "easy" lives, those who don't know what suffering really is. That's understandable.

The last one for me, I pull it out and it says SECRETS. I laugh and tell her this game is rigged. She laughs and agrees. She knows what the rocks were and therefore, which ones to stay away from pulling herself. I look at the rock for a second and tell her this is probably the biggest one for me. It is connected to almost every other rock in my bag, which messes with my mind even more. My whole life has centered around the fact that I couldn't ever say or feel things in front of other people. So the other weights in my bag became secret too. Hide the weights. Pretend they aren't there.

I learned a lot about what I'm carrying around inside of me yesterday. Just acknowledging that was a huge step for me. I left V's office still reeling over her statement to the girl on the phone. I tried to sit and journal to see if that made me feel better, but ended up having a panic attack. I decided that I needed to e-mail V and let her know just how much I was affected by that (and those conversations in general) so that she would know and not accidentally trigger me that way again. As always, she was so gracious and understanding. I am so blessed to have found someone like V.

Don't Feed the Monster

The more I work with V, the more I am finding that God has lead me to her because she is so experienced in the fields that I need; trauma, first and foremost, and as I'm finding out, addiction. Partially for my own struggles with cutting that in my opinion are borderlining on addiction, but more for my family's addictions. I've never told anyone, but my dad is an alcoholic. I hesitate to even say that because my idea of what an alcoholic is is what you see on Cops; messy demeanor, stumbling over, slurring words, etc. That's not my dad. My dad is (and always has been) well kept, clean and high-functioning, so I never really thought there was a problem.

Today in our session, V and I began by talking about the cutting, since I had e-mailed her about it yesterday and she wanted an update on things. She is very realistic in her expectations with it, not expecting me to quit just because it's unhealthy, but rather she is trusting that I will make strides to include healthier choices for coping as they reveal themselves through my work with her. She will allow me to talk about it whenever I need and will make sure that she does not excuse or condone the behavior, since it is not healthy, but will not make me quit for her. I know that once I make the decision to quit, she will be so vital in me being able to do so. I'm just not there yet.

In part of our discussion with the cutting, she asked me if I use it as a mechanism to feel pain, and I told her it is basically the opposite. I cut to take my mind off the pain that I feel like I carry around all the time. The pain that is too great to acknowledge full on, so it backs me into a corner. She asked me the last time I fully acknowledged any feeling. I had to think hard about it and the only thing I could come up with in the past 5 years was my grandmother's death. The day after her funeral I was so overcome with grief and instead of holding it back, I let myself cry. And cry. And cry. I cried for 8 straight hours. That was really scary for me, for more than just the obvious reasons. I didn't think her death would affect me that much, so to be so shut down by that grief was very hard to accept. I have things that I know have affected me greatly that I haven't processed or felt completely. How in the world are those things going to affect me if I acknowledge them?

She asked me if I have ever acknowledged the abuse. Big fat no. She went on to say that not acknowledging those real feelings basically planted a "monster" inside of me (LOL, I told you she works with kids a lot, but this analogy really helped me to understand) that lived off of that expectation that I'd never pay attention to the real feelings and keep feeding it lies. The longer I neglected the real feelings and continued to feed it lie after lie, the bigger that monster came and the more it took over my life. And right now it's gotten to a point that I've built up so many walls to keep that monster in but it's gotten so big with all these lies that it is just consuming my mind (which is true). I feel like the abuse is the source of all of my issues and the sole reason for all of my problems. I've always felt like that and never understood why it seemed no one else (A mainly) felt that way, too.

We talked a bit more about why I chose to ignore what I was feeling and "feed the monster". My family was far from supportive. We were a put-on-a-happy-face type of family. Never let anyone see anything is wrong. So knowing that it wasn't OK to ever talk about things, I stuffed my feelings. And even now I am continuing to do that because I'm afraid of what acknowledging those feelings will do to my (already rocky) relationships with my family. What happens if I start processing things and it changes how I interact with my mom, or my sister, or my dad? I can't be the one who changes the dynamic. Don't rock the boat.

V had this smirk on her face when I was talking about all of this and I couldn't help but laugh. I've noticed she gets this look on her face when she has something pop into her head that she wants to tell me.

"You want to know what I thought of when you were telling me all of that?" she asks.

*laugh* "That's what I'm paying you for!"

*laugh*"That is a classic underlying theme for a child of an addict. Don't rock the boat. You're messing with our system. And even though your abuse rocked your world at 13 years old, I think that the fact that your foundation was laid with the unhealthy messages of a family of addicts set you up not only to be taken advantage of by your abuser, but to also not be able to cope with it. In my opinion, that has affected you more long term than you can even begin to understand. And it's my hope that we can begin to process and work through some of that."

The last few minutes of our session she pulled out her laptop and showed me a powerpoint that she uses when she leads trainings on these topics. She went through the slides that focused on the common feelings/rules/thoughts/beliefs of children of addicts. I said yes to about every one of them and was shocked.

I think V could even tell I was shocked. She looked at me and said, "Sweetie. You are a child of an addict. It is as clear to me as anything could ever be. Some people like the label, it gives it more of a realness. Others hate the label, they don't want anything to do with being seen as "this" or "that". How do you feel?"

In all honesty, I told her it scares me. I don't like feeling like I have this label of a child of an addict because it sounds so horrible. And in that awfulness it could make me think of my dad in a bad way. I don't want to think of him as bad. I love him. I've worked really hard to accept him for who he is, and throwing this into my mix is not something I planned.

Something she told me as we were closing up tonight I don't think I'll ever forget. She said "You don't have to think anything bad about him. You don't have to hate him. Hate the addiction."

The Reflection Doesn't Match

V works with a lot with children. Her office is covered with pictures, toys and games. At first I was a little worried about working with her as an adult because I wasn't sure how much she'd be able to help me (definitely not worried about that now!). As we get deeper into things, I'm finding out that the little girl inside of me that stopped growing and maturing as a result of the abuse is about to claw her way out.

On Saturday, V took me to a separate room that was wall to wall figurines. Little plastic ones that you get in doll houses, kids meals, cereal boxes, etc. There had to be at least 5,000 things to choose from. And then there was a sand tray. A place for you to arrange the ones you chose, forming a snapshot of something. I had heard of this form of play therapy before, but wasn't expecting to ever participate. When she told me what she wanted me to do I was immediately nervous. The adult side of me was off to the races in making sure I didn't set up any snapshot that I wasn't ready to talk about. I was 5 steps ahead at all times, not really following my intuition or instincts. Knowing that I couldn't possibly plan for all the interpretations she could come up with made me so scared. What if she saw something that I didn't think could be interpreted that way? For the most part her interpretation was exactly what I set it up to produce, but there were a few things that she noticed that were eye opening for me, if not even a little hard to hear. I left feeling like I had opened a door to something, but there was nothing there. At least, nothing visible.

The rest of my weekend was super busy (thankfully) and I didn't actually get to stop and have any time to myself til Sunday night. I was washing my face getting ready to go to bed and I looked up at myself in the mirror. Ugh. My first thought "Why do you look so old?" (I just turned 27, so believe me, I'm not). So I messed with my hair and tried to remove my eye make-up that I thought was contributing to the dark circles under my eyes. No luck. I took my wrinkle cream (yes, you read that right) and made sure to saturate my crows feet and laugh lines, not forgetting to get my chin, lest it sag down one day and make me a turkey neck. I am TERRIFIED of getting older. I am confused why I look so different than what I feel. I feel like when I look in the mirror I should see a younger version of myself looking back at me. My reflection doesn't match. And it wasn't until last night that I even made the connection.

That little girl inside of me, the one who quit growing at age 13, is starting to take over the adult side of me. Little by little she has gained ground. Enough ground to make it very hard not to acknowledge she's there or what she's trying to tell me, but not enough to take over. I still have the upper hand. I'm fighting it tooth and nail, but I can feel that I'm losing the fight. Over the past few months I have felt so much like I am just playing "dress up." That I literally am a 13 year old masquerading as an adult, doing and saying adult things but feeling as small and confused as a teenager. Wanting the things I never had as a kid; the freedom from responsibility, the naivete of any sexual immorality, the ability to live in the moment. Things that realistically I can't have, but WANT. God, this little girl wants this so bad.

Even V picked up on how much I squash that girl (based on some things from the sand tray) and decided that she needs to cater to that side of me today and help me learn how to do this as well. She went to Hobby Lobby and picked up all sorts of crafty stuff for me to create a box. On the outside I am decorating it so that it portrays the "adult me". What I let people see, my facade. On the inside will be the "little girl me". The one that no one ever sees. The one I never acknowledge. The one who has been stuck for the past 13 years.

I shared some journal writing with V tonight about my realization that I'm expecting a different reflection in the mirror and it's connection to that little girl inside of me. She was so respectful of my thoughts and has really given me the comfort to know that I can share just about anything with her without fear of judgement. I'm still a little worried about being left again, but I don't know if that will ever fully disappear.

Triggered

This is probably going to be extremely disjointed, so I apologize in advance.

I have had a week unlike many others. I had a panic attack in session with V on Saturday, which was completely hideous and vulnerable for me. When I saw her again Monday, she jumped right into some things that I wasn't prepared for. Things I have NEVER talked about, not even with A. Things I rarely even allow myself to think. I answered some of her questions, but she could tell it was too much for me and changed our path. I wasn't planning on seeing her again until Wednesday, but while I was at work Tuesday I had a panic attack come out of the blue in the middle of class. No warning. It lasted for a very long time so I called her and she talked to me for almost 20 minutes and asked me to come in that evening to see her again. I did, and she helped me process some of the things that might have attributed to that attack. She let me stay for an hour and didn't even charge me. I saw her last night and was feeling much better. Our session focused on "easier" things she needs to know, about my family history, family dynamics, etc. I was feeling great about going until Saturday without seeing her again. For the first time in a very long time I felt calm enough to actually sit down and watch some TV. I caught up on the Biggest Loser and started watching the new L&O:SVU for this week.

Bad idea.

That episode triggered more in me than I ever thought possible. I have NEVER had the feeling like I did last night. I completely dissociated. I remember sitting on my couch, hearing the words, understanding their meaning all too well, but not being able to see anything. Just darkness. My mind shielding me from the images that I so often see? Who knows.


I e-mailed V (who is freaking awesome with e-mails, she e-mails me to check up on how my days are going!) and explained to her what happened. She sent me the most wonderful series of responses, reiterating what I need to hear. She understands how hard this is for me and that she cares about me. I can't push her away with what we talk about. She's not there to hurt me, only help me.

I'm still afraid. Afraid that this situation is too good to be true, that I'm going to do something to mess it up, push her away, make her can't stand to look at me, etc. What would I do then?

You Passed The Test

I was not having a good night last night. I was dwelling with the rocks, the deepest of the deep. I wasn't suicidal, I just felt this overwhelming cloud of hopelessness. I took a chance and e-mailed V. Testing her commitment.

Me: I'm not even sure where to start... Panic attacks have a way of throwing me into a funk that is hard to pull myself out of. When I have multiple attacks per day of a multiple day period, it starts messing with my mind.

I don't feel safe. I have done nothing but sleep and kept myself locked in the bathroom since I got home from your office. I'm starting to feel like I did a few years ago; not sure how I'm going to get through my responsibilities of life and take on the level of commitment I need to actually heal. Something I thought I was doing over the last 2 years, but it's obvious to me that I never let myself fully invest in it. Right now I feel like I'm living for 2 hours a week of safety. 2 hours out of 168 a week is a crappy percentage. I'm already worried about going out of town next weekend. I know I won't enjoy it. The only thing I can focus on is that Wednesday to Monday is a long time to go without feeling safe.

I cut last night and for the first time ever, it didn't help. It scared me to think that I might have to "up my game" to get the results I was getting before. It scares me to think my back-up plan might be falling apart. How am I supposed to cope now?!

V: First of all, thanks for letting me know this. This is all very hard. I am here for you. Please don't give up on yourself. Your unhealthy side is feeling a bit of loss of control because your healthy side is wanting to come out. There is a battle going on inside you. Please call me if you need ANYTHING, even if it's the middle of the night. You deserve a great life. You are worth it!! If for ANY reason you are feeling unsafe and might need more support, it is OK to call me for help. If not me, it's OK to call 911, too. Let me know if I can do anything. Think positive.

Me: Well, I'll go ahead and tell you I will never call 911 for this. I don't need people thinking I'm crazy. If things get bad enough, I'll call you, but I'm not going to disturb you in the middle of the night. You have your own life and family to attend to, you shouldn't have to be on-call for me.

I just don't feel good at all. Like down to my core, I feel completely beaten down and unfixable.

V: Got it about 911, but I'd still prefer you call me if you need me. That's my job. It isn't special treatment or pity, I care about you and want to help. You just have to let me. I am so sorry you are having a hard time. You are fixable and have so many great things about you.

Is Michael Buble playing?? (We had talked earlier that day about how much I am in love with him) Where is that cutie when you really need him?! If you don't start listening to him, I am going to call you and sing it myself!!!

Me: LOL, Well played. You made me smile, even chuckle a bit. Michael is not on right now, but my DVR is being dusted off. I'm only about a month behind on my shows. I probably won't be sleeping tonight, so I figured I'd make a dent.

I'm not used to letting anyone do anything for me. It's against everything that seems natural to me. It floors me that you would even offer to have me call you in the middle of the night. Still something that I can't ever imagine I would do, even knowing it's OK with you. What happens if I push you away too? Then I'll have no one to help me, at any time of the day.

V: Keep pushing, I am still not going anywhere. I am not here to hurt you, only to help! I am VERY stubborn, for real, like I have developed this quality into an art form. Enjoy your DVR time. I personally love The Real Housewives and the Kardashians! I am here if you need me. Seriously.

I can't tell you how much this sequence of communication made me feel better last night. Something so simple as responding to an e-mail calmed my nerves and my fears and made me more level-headed. I feel so unbelievably lucky to have found someone that can do that for me only after one week.

Life Is Just Another 4-Letter Word

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever enjoy life.

It seems as if my life is nothing but impossible task after task, never getting time to stop and smell the flowers. Or even be happy.

I had a panic attack in session with V today. Freaking fantastic.

I know finding her was God's will. She is an amazing person. I have felt so supported and respected in the last week (today being exactly 1 week since my first session with her) than I can ever remember feeling with anyone. I truly believe her when she says she cares about me and helping me get better.

I feel safe when I'm with her, even if it is resulting in panic attacks.

Only problem is I am only seeing her 2 hours a week. 2 hours out of 168. The other 166 hours of the week, I'm praying for time to pass. Praying that it gets here fast so I can feel safe.

I am seriously considering taking time off of work and entering IOP.

I cut last night and for the first time, it didn't make me feel better. And for an instant I wondered just how much I was going to have to "up my game" to keep getting the results I wanted.

Life isn't supposed to be like this.

In Limbo

Loved the game as a kid.

Hate it (metaphorically) in my life right now.

I feel so out of control, trying to adjust to so many changes in an area of my life where I want the most control I can have. I'm fine when I'm in V's office, talking with her is easy and she has some amazing insights that have helped me validate my own feelings more so than I ever had before. But when I leave, I feel disconnected. Like I have no home, no safe place, and it is causing me to be triggered at the drop of a hat it seems. I had two panic attacks Wednesday night (after coming home from an intense session with V) then had to ward one off Thursday night. Last night I went out with a friend from church and found out that she and the other girls I hang out with had all been invited to go out of town together next weekend to our college homecoming, but not me. I came home and had all sorts of things racing in my head. It shouldn't have even mattered, I already have tickets and plans to go with other friends, but it's the principle of the situation. They didn't even ask. I kept telling myself, maybe they didn't ask because I had already said I was going, but I can't remember if I did or not. I kept trying to tell myself I can't control what others do or think about me, that I am who I am and I shouldn't have to do anything special to be included. But it doesn't work. The same thing happened about a month ago (which was what triggered my relapse in cutting and the ultimate demise of treatment with A). They all went to the state fair one Saturday, posting on Facebook about the same time about how excited they were to go, and I was at home. No one even asked if I wanted to go, too.

It's stupid. I feel like I'm 12 years old. No one is inviting me to play. Poor me. But I'm finding that I have some serious abandonment issues and as much as I like keeping people at an arms length, I need to know I'm wanted.

And I'm just not getting that.

The "Click"

You know what I'm talking about. You meet someone; a romantic interest, a new boss, a stranger on the bus, or in my case a new counselor and you feel it. The "click." Like you've known each other forever, you have "everything" in common and being around each other is not hard work. In fact, it's EASY.

I walked into the new T's office Saturday morning, nervous of course. My nerves were not from fear of what we were going to talk about, but rather of this not working out. I had built up in my mind how I wanted yesterday to go, and I was nervous I had set myself up for disappointment. She came out to greet me and walked me back to her office. It was a small room, filled with toys and books, as she works with a lot of families. The windows were open, letting the sunshine in. Two huge, overstuffed leather chairs were against one wall, a little table and lamp (and of course your necessary Kleenex box) in between them. I chose the one that faced the window. In case I needed to avert my eyes to regroup my emotions.

I sat down and did a quick "once-over". The best way I could think to describe her would be Italian. She has the dark hair/brown eyes/gorgeous skin that most Italian's do. She's skinny and short, in fact probably a little shorter than me, which is saying something. LOL. She's young. I'd guess no older than 35. But what she's wearing is the best. Black yoga pants, a black concert T-Shirt (maybe Maroon 5?) and a oversized brown sweater cardigan. Her shoes? Pink glitter Converse. I immediately felt at ease. She looked comfortable and settled. Ready to sit back and listen. Her whole self emanating "laid-back". A was always dressed to the 9's, and I always felt as if I needed to do the same just to fit in. Dressing up is a very rigid thing to me, so the casual thing was a breath of fresh air.

Everything felt easy with her. I didn't feel scared to tell her the truth about my family, how I view them, my cutting, how I am not content with my life right now, etc. I even cried. Me?! Cry in front of someone I just met? That's saying a lot folks. Granted a lot of that progress came from hard work with A but the fact that I didn't feel compelled to hold back is indicative of that "click". She had some amazing insights to things that I never thought of as far as why I've chosen self-injury as a coping skill, messages that were sent to me as a kid that pushed me towards that, etc. Things that I would have never thought about in a million years, but all of a sudden, made so much sense.

We ended up talking for an hour and 15 minutes. And didn't even realize it. Her next appointment actually called her phone wondering where she was... we had lost track of time. We were just about to approach the topic of my abuse, but she said she wanted to wait for our next session to do that as she felt like beginning the session with that would allow me to process everything I needed to in a safe environment and not be thrown out feeling like I had just opened a huge can of worms with no escape from all the little buggers. We scheduled two appointments for next week (one Wednesday evening, one Saturday morning) and I walked out of her office, into a world that suddenly seemed so much brighter and so much more hopeful.

God had answered my prayers in a way that I didn't even think was possible. Deep down I knew that God had a plan for me with this, and that I just had to be patient and keep praying, but I still worried that His plan for me was going to leave me wishing for and wanting more. But no, He knew what I needed and He gave it to me. And I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue to heal to become the person I want to be, and the person He created me to be.

Too Good To Be True?

I have felt so abandoned over the past 10 days. As soon as I left A's office, knowing it'd be the last time I'd see her for a while I felt panicked. I had already talked to another counselor in my area about transferring, and we had scheduled an initial appointment for that Thursday. I signed a waiver so that she and A could talk. Everything appeared to be in working order. She could treat me 2x a week, was close and was actually going to charge me less than A. Then all of a sudden she calls me and says she won't be able to fit me into her schedule after all. Cue panic.

Over the next 9 days, I researched almost 120 counselors in the area, and narrowed my search down to about 20. I either contacted them on the phone or through e-mail and they all were either not accepting new patients, could only see me once a week, or wanted to charge me $130/hr. I met with two counselors, one that was a former co-worker with A (and a nice 45 minute drive away) and another who worked out of her home (that was weird for me, and had I known this I wouldn't have scheduled the appointment!). A's friend was even more opposed to cutting than A. I really liked her style and personality but I'm not about to put myself in a similar situation where I'm forced into quitting, then thrown out by myself to figure out what to do next if I slip up.

I was starting to panic even more because I was running out of options. I swear I could have shut down the Google servers with all my searches, but in my searching I stumbled across a name that hadn't shown up in my previous searches. I looked over her trainings, and approaches and decided to e-mail her. She got back to me right away, saying she'd call me the next day during my break. She talked with me on the phone for about 20 minutes, telling me about herself and her approach to therapy. I really felt comfortable talking with her and her approach really seems like something I will benefit from. I told her a little bit about why I was looking for a new counselor and the debate/disagreements we had with the cutting. She was really supportive and understanding. She said she would never recommend that anyone intentionally hurts themselves, but when it is established at such a young age (I've been doing some form of SI since I was about 10) it's not something that you can just quit doing because someone wants you to. That right there put me at such ease. With someone fighting against me with it, it almost makes me want to do it more. She stays home with her kids during the day, then works in the late afternoon/evenings. She can see me as many as three times a week and on weekends. She said she likes checking in with her clients throughout the week via e-mail or phone to see how things are going. To her, her job is not just caring about someone for an hour, but helping them to put into practice what is talked about in that hour and following up on it. Wow. Seriously? Was I hearing this correctly?

So I'm thinking, surely there's a catch. She has to cost like $150/hr, right? But no, I lucked out again. She works on a sliding scale and is only going to cost me $15/hr more than working with A, still well under most fees for counseling. And the cherry on top? Her office is less than 2 miles from my house.

I am meeting her tomorrow for an intake session. I pray that she is as amazing in person that she is on paper (and on the phone).

Changes

Today = FAIL.

I sat in A's office and heard exactly what I expected to hear. I am being transferred to someone else for more intensive counseling until I can get the SI dealt with. I knew it was coming, so it softened the blow a little bit, but when I was sitting across from A, like I've done hundreds of times before all I could do was cry. Thinking about all she has done to help me when I couldn't help myself, teach me how to grow during those good times and to keep from falling as hard during the bad. Thinking about how walking out of her office meant I wouldn't be seeing her next week, or any other week in the near future. Thinking that I've lost the one person who really and truly cared about my safety and well-being, even if it meant making me angry. The one person that I knew I could tell anything to and not be judged.

And now I'm alone. Stuck in the position of trying to put a positive spin on a situation that has so many negatives pulling me in different directions. I want to view this as something good, something that has the potential to help me grow in an area that I have not allowed much if any change in, but all I can do is think of everything I'm losing by not being able to be treated by A anymore. Right now the bad feelings are far outweighing the good.

And to prove to myself that I didn't sacrifice everything I had for one night of cutting with my dull little cuticle scissors, I went out and bought some new razors and really made sure I did this right. Go hard or go home right?

God, I hate myself.

200th Post

A few months ago when I was throwing around ideas of what my 200th post would be about, I would have told you it was going to focus on my 2 year anniversary with A (coming up in just about 2 weeks), the growth that I've made, how happy and hopeful I was, etc. I wanted to focus on the positives.

But the sequence of events that has been the last 6 weeks of my life has left me barely hanging on, dodging the potholes of depression, dealing with the death of my grandmother, the consequences of my actions at work, the upcoming anniversary of the last time my life felt like this and my birthday (which on any normal day is a huge trigger for me). I've been fighting social anxiety tooth and nail, having to force myself to go places and be around people. I have been having small panic attacks come out of nowhere and wrestle me to the ground for a few minutes, then leave me broken for the rest of the day. I have had a horrible time sleeping, and the times I do get to sleep I have been woken up by nightmares and panic attacks that make it hard to go back to sleep. The last week has been the worst. Ever since I called my pdoc and asked her to transfer care back to my gendoc. What a jinx that was. A and I have been discussing my absolute aversion to my birthday and how anxious it makes me to even think about. I left her office Tuesday feeling extremely agitated physically... very on edge. I had finally worked my way back to feeling a bit better, then Saturday happened. This stupid "seriously-how-much-of-a-dramatic-child-can-you-be" trigger sent me into an emotional tailspin and I resulted to purposely inflicting pain upon myself. No blades or razors, but I have a feeling telling A on Tuesday is going to result in me having to find a new plan for treatment. I figured this would happen sooner or later since I was "forced" to push it to the side and it never got dealt with. And now it's showing it's ugly head again and I don't even care. I WANT to do it. I want to have that power again.

At a time when I have had such little control and power over so many aspects of my life at one time, I can control this. And the pull for me to go buy some new razors (since I threw mine away in May to get rid of temptation) is intoxicating. *sigh* Happy 200th post, what great growth I have made...

Drumroll, please!

Burning question: Do I still have my job?

Yes.

I basically got a slap on the wrist, a mark on my yearly evaluation and the "privilege" of being able to weigh in/contribute to certain situations taken away, but aside from that I'm pretty much in the clear. This whole thing has left a very bad taste in my mouth, from the fact that someone I trusted had nothing better to do than to sabotage my job and private life and the fact that I feel that now that people know this happened, they don't trust my judgement or opinions. It's really frustrating... and being someone who obsesses over how people think of me, it's been a daily battle to not continuously let this bring me down.

My life has been a ridiculous blur of work. It has not been this bad in almost 4 years. I just cannot catch up. And if, for whatever reason I find that I am starting to get ahead something happens and I go right back to drowning.

My job is normally the positive light in my somewhat recently darkened life and this year it is causing so much more stress and pain than what I am used to. I've done a pretty good job "keeping my chin up" but I'm starting to feel the weight of it all. I haven't been sleeping very well unless it is medicine induced. I have been eating like crap because I have no time to cook (hello Chick-Fil-A!). My stomach has been giving me problems recently and I'm not sure if it's more from the crappy food or the stress.

I'm coming up on my birthday, which is always a testy time for me, as well as my 2 year anniversary with A. I have been slacking off with pushing myself in the area of therapy, but I just don't know how I can try to juggle one more thing.

I Think This Counts...

So 24 hours ago I posted that I felt like something big was coming...

Does being fired count?

Someone reported something I wrote on my Facebook to my bosses and because of it I could be fired. I have a meeting with HR on Monday. I have been hysterical since I got home. I just can't figure out why something like this is happening to me.

It wasn't implicating anyone or my company specifically, no names were mentioned and I was trying to be funny (although the undertone was my honest thought and frustration). But somehow someone who is not my friend (I have the privacy settings as high as they go) linked on from one of my other friends comments to that post and reported it.

Crazy thing was, I was warned about this by my boss Wednesday at a department meeting due to the nature of my job and I came home and double checked my settings to make sure they were as private as they went. I don't even have words to describe how devastated I will be if I lose my job.

Staying Above Water

Man alive, I have been so busy. Like barely keeping my head above water feel like I am drowning busy. Yay work. I am just now getting home after a 15 hour day. This is why I haven't been posting. I haven't even sat at my computer at home for at least a week.

Things are going better though. My peace is slowly creeping back in and I'm finding that I am happy again. I'm a little worried because I'm finding it harder and harder to want to keep going to see A when I feel so stable, but I know it is in my best interest to keep going and keep pushing myself.

I feel like something big is coming. Like God is preparing my heart for something. Just a feeling. Can't really describe it.

I promise I'll write more when things settle down.

So Long Self

My peace is gone.

Why has God teased me? Why did he let me feel something I have been trying to achieve for so long, just to take it away from me so quickly?

It feels like a dream. Like those few short weeks when I felt better than I have in years were just a figment of my imagination. In my mind I picture the evil one hiding behind the scenes, laughing that I ever held the hope that I was getting better. Laughing even louder now that it's gone and I am back to fearing every choice, feeling and thought. Laughing at my tears and my pain.

And I don't even have the strength to care. Why work so hard if it can all be taken away just like that?

Saying Goodbye

My grandma died this morning.

I watched her take her last breath. I know she is being welcomed in heaven by my cousin and grandpa. I am so glad she is no longer in pain.

I'm on my way to A's office right now. Don't worry, I brought tissues.

Peace

Lately I've noticed something. I am at peace.

Maybe not if you see me on the outside, as I have been running non-stop for the last two weeks... but internally. I feel as though the wounds that have been painfully opened the past (almost) two years are finally healing over. They no longer haunt me like they did before. They no longer completely control my life. There are still things that I need to work on, but doing that doesn't scare me anymore. I don't feel as though if I take on one more change that I'm going to crumble under the weight of it all.

This peace that has settled over me over the past month has resulted in me feeling more comfortable forging new friendships and being myself. My actual self. Not a facade of who I want people to see. It's resulted in me working harder to be a good friend to those that I have gotten to know at church, but have been keeping at an arms length. It's resulted in me having a healthier expectation of my family and not letting the fact that I can't change them upset me.

This peace has brought me a lot of internal dialogue as well. My inner voice has been dusted off, polished and is much louder. I still struggle with making sure that voice stays positive and doesn't return to shaming me, but that is one of the things I am working on with A right now. With this internal dialogue, I don't feel as compelled to come here and write.

Before I used this as a platform to put words to emotions that I couldn't get a grasp on and work through myself. It was my outlet. I depended on this like I depended on seeing A every week. I needed it to get through. It was crucial to me being where I am now. But I feel as though my relationship with my blog has moved to a different level. I no longer need to post to understand my own feelings.

In my world, that is a huge step of growth. I will still be posting (sorry if that scared anyone!), but I would expect that it will not be nearly as often as what some of you might be used to. My crazy schedule is part of that reason, but my hope and desire for increased growth and peace for me can only be achieved if I push myself to communicate with myself and others without a keyboard at my fingertips.

Busy

Unbelievably mind-numbingly busy. Opening a new location is a lot of work.

Grandma is not doing well. Just got a call that they are taking her into emergency surgery. They might have to amputate her foot. This will delay the chemo that she was supposed to start Monday.

No session with A this week because I had to work so much. Will report back when things calm down a little.

Identity

Man, I can't believe it has been a week since I last posted. This was my last week of break, but I was busier this week than I have been all summer! Two baseball games, one game night with friends, two sessions with A, planning meeting with my new partner, one follow up with the pdoc, Bon Voyage dinner for a family friend going off to college, paperwork intake and orientation for work and an additional 3-4 hours getting things set up at work before Monday. Sufficed to say, I didn't actually get much rest this week!

My moods have been very stable lately, which is helping me feel more confident about starting work again on Monday. I can't remember the last time I felt anything bordering on depression, which is so nice. My sleeping is still a little haywire, but I know once I put in an 8 hour work day for the first time in months that'll be easily solved. I'm nervous about going back Monday, but the closer it gets the more excitement starts to creep in.

A and I have been discussing identity a lot lately. Mainly how I allow myself to retreat when in the company of my family and conform to their ideals, opinions, expectations, etc. then let it affect my state of mind when I am away from them. I am a very different person at work, for instance, than I am with my family. Life for me is far less scary and confusing when I am connected to who I am away from my family. It is often why I grapple with guilt because I know this, yet I still feel that desire to connect with them. A calls it hard-wiring. We are hard-wired to rely on our parents and family to teach us, and therefore create an almost unbreakable bond regardless of situation. For instance, your dad beats the crap out of you, yet you still want and hope for that connection, however dysfunctional it may be. Although my situation is much different, the feelings are the same.

So what do I do with this? It's a very complicated dance between denial, loneliness, resentment and strength. Instead of pushing them away or pretending nothing is wrong (both of which I have done plenty of), I need to start letting little pieces of me return when I am in their presence. I don't have to act differently or even draw attention to the fact that anything has changed. This battle will be fought within me. I have to remind myself who I really am. What I believe about myself, not what others tell me should be true. Easier said than done, but as I'm learning more about myself and my strength, I'm finding it to be a little less daunting every day.

Tick Tock, Kill the Clock!

This very well might be the war cry of my household. TICK TOCK, KILL THE CLOCK!

Time for me is almost always anxiety producing, as it is one of the only things, no matter how hard I try, that I cannot control. So whenever there is something in my life that has a specific element of time attached to it, my mind commits it to memory and it is then used to constantly harass myself and take on unwanted burdens.

The biggest example of this in my life is my absolute hatred of age/birthdays. I can't stand them. To me it is just another reminder of being a year older and having gotten nothing accomplished. Sure I have a great job, home, car, etc. but the only thing anyone ever seems to care about is if I'm dating anyone. Truth be told, I care about that too, but just not as much as everyone else seems to. So adding another year to my age only reminds me of the fact that I haven't yet accomplished the burning question in everyone's mind. This hinting and prodding from my family my entire life has ingrained this idea that if things aren't done by a certain time then I'm just not good enough.

So in almost every aspect of my life, I tend to put these crazy deadlines on myself because I want to feel accomplished by completing them. Yet most of the time feel like a failure because I can't. I made a list of things about 6 months ago that I wanted to be able to say/do/feel by my next birthday (coming up in about 3 months, ugh) and I don't even feel close to getting half of them done. I'll be lucky to accomplish one. Makes me dread my birthday even more.

So with only about a week left of my break, I've been telling myself that I have to have everything figured out and "be better" by then. Whatever that means. I'm starting at a new location, with all new people and new responsibilities this year, which puts me in the dark about many things. Before I was able to go into work knowing who I could trust and rely on, who I worked well with, who to stay away from, what my schedule was, etc. Now I know nothing. And having that out of control feeling at work is not something I am used to. Work is my safe place. Knowing now that work is not going to be as safe as it has in the past, I'm using time to try and push my personal life into control by giving myself this deadline to "get better." Hah. It's been almost 2 years with A and while I have made such improvements, I'm not fully healed yet. What makes me think that I can expect that of myself by the end of next Sunday?

I know I can't meet these crazy deadlines I put upon myself, but it doesn't stop me from making them. And with everyone one I fail to meet, it makes me hate time even more.

The Elephant On My Chest

Every heart beat feels like a challenge, like it takes all my worldly energy just to pump blood to sustain my life. Every breath feels hollow, as though I won't ever get enough oxygen to satiate myself. I have been walking around feeling this elephant on my chest for the past 3 days. The tattered seams that are holding me together are about to bust loose. I feel like I'm on the verge of melting down.

The ticking clock reminds me constantly that time is my worst enemy. My grandma is getting worse. Family is flying in this weekend. I have to be back at work full-time on the 16th. I have until then to "get better". Every day that passes with no improvement or even a decline incites even more anxiety that I am going to run out of time.

I would imagine some of this is attributed to the fact that I have slept about 75% less than what I'm used to during the last 3 weeks. My body doesn't even feel like my own. It hurts just to move. I shake with the slightest lift of my hand. My appetite is almost non-existent. I imagine some of this is grief as well. Knowing my grandma is going to die soon is weighing heavily on me. I'm taking on too much (false) responsibility in trying to take care of/protect my own mother during this time and I know I am causing myself harm. Some of it may also be medication induced. With so many changes, increases and reductions in dosing and scripts over the last 4 weeks, I wouldn't doubt that my body is on high alert for anything that appears intrusive or unusual... and it's fighting back.

And through all of this, I feel even more alone than normal. I don't feel God's presence. I don't feel the Spirit inside me. I feel as though I could beg and plead for Him to scoop me up in His arms and He will remain hidden, leaving me to suffer in the darkness.

Gimme the Drugs!

Got a prescription for Lunesta from my family doc, and finally was able to talk to my pdoc. She's switching me to a different medicine to use in conjunction with the Zoloft that just so happens to have sleep-aid uses. I took Lunesta last night about 7:30, fell asleep at 8 and was up at 10. I about started crying. I decided to take another pill and that seemed to do the trick. I slept from midnight to 9AM! Tonight I'm taking one Lunesta and trying out this new med, too. Hopefully the combination of both will knock me out for the night.

My kitty is sporting a nice war wound. They ended up removing the cyst with local anesthesia and stitched everything back up. They are always amazed how well behaved she is! They said she didn't even move or meow! That's my girl :) I've got to take her back in 2 weeks to get the stitches removed, but aside from that she's good to go! First thing she did when she got home is run straight to the food bowl, which allowed me to get this picture. Second thing she did was start scratching at the stitches so I had to bandage her back up.

If I didn't have enough going on now, my sister is going out of town and I told her I'd watch her puppy. I'm not really sure if that is the right word. She has a 4 month old German Shepherd and she is huge... and not graceful! The next few days will be interesting! My house is not puppy proof and my cat is not appreciating the noise and crazy behavior of this new furry creature. I hope my downstairs neighbor doesn't report me to animal control for housing an elephant in my apartment. I already feel like running down there to apologize. Should be an interesting 5 days! Tomorrow's plan is to go to the dog park! The high tomorrow is 107 (seriously) so we'll have to go in the morning. Should be fun!

Is She Crazy?

Not yet, but I'm damn well close.

I haven't slept in two days. I called my pdoc this morning (6AM) and left a message for her to call me back. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I hope I sounded urgent. The plan was to tell her the trial with the you're crazy so you need antipsychotic medicine mood stabilizer was a big time fail and that I was going to stop that and put my focus on the sleep issues. I planned to ask her for a prescription for immediate usage (Ambien, Lunesta, etc), and then later a transferral to a duplicate anti-depressive med that also can be used as a sleep aid. My focus right now is not long term. I don't care about what I'm taking to stave off something that might or might not happen in 6 weeks. If I don't get some sleep, I am going to go crazy.

So while I'm bumming around my apartment at all hours of the night, I was doing all sorts of random things. My cat was painfully aware that I was keeping her up well past her needed hours of beauty sleep, so she was very vocal about wanting to be fed for the inconvenience. While she was eating I noticed she had a small clump of hair sticking off her neck, so I went to grab her hairbrush and sat to start grooming her while she was eating. She's almost 20 years old so she can't bend and tuck as well as she used to and gets mats in her hair that I often have to dislodge and brush out. I figured this one on her neck was no different. I go to give a little tug to see if it has already been set free or if I need to settle in for work and it's pretty pliable so I tugged a little more (cat's still eating, not even paying attention to what I'm doing). Only then do I see this huge rush of blood come pouring out of a cyst she has on her neck. The thing gets drained every 6 months or so, keeps growing back but is always filled with this clear fluid so I was horrified when a little tug of her hair opened it up to a sea of red! I could see all the way into her neck. It was disgusting. So she's bleeding all over her collar, my hands and my kitchen floor, completely oblivious to my panic. She didn't even move from her meal. Of course it's like 1AM and I am freaking out! Do I take her to the emergency vet? Can I wait 6 hours for my vet to open? Ended up getting some gauze and that self sticky wrap and rigged a somewhat successful bandage of the wound to keep her away from it til I could get her to the vet. She's there right now getting fixed up. They are going to attempt to remove the growth, but they have to do it without anesthesia since she is so old. He said even if I told him not to remove it he was still going to have to stitch up her neck. Geez. He looked a little concerned when he saw her wound, but didn't say anything to me to make me think that I should be worried. I'm too sensitive. It's probably nothing. Well, not nothing. I'm guessing at least a $300 bill.

It's now 12 and still no call back from the pdoc. I am not having another sleepless night. So after talking with my aunt a little (she's a doctor and is always someone I can get advice from), she suggested just going to my family doc and getting the prescription sleep aid there. I got the last open spot at 1:30. Thank you, Jesus.

I am so deliriously tired I go from barely being able to focus, to swearing that thing just moved, to feeling as alert as if I had just woken up from 8 hrs of sleep. It's very disorienting. But even when I get so tired I don't know if I can stand up, I know if I went to lay down in bed I wouldn't sleep. I can't explain it. There is a switch in my brain that somebody kicked on to "AWAKE" and damned if my brain didn't do everything it was told to.

Talking and Crying

It has been a very challenging week. My session today with A reflected that as I spent just about the whole hour crying.

Monday I had my appointment with the new psychiatrist. It went much better than I could have ever expected. She was very personable and easy to talk to. I didn't have any anxiety answering her questions or offering extra information I thought she should know. That is night and day to my last experience with a psychiatrist. She is lowering the dosage of my current anti-anxiety/depression medication and added a mood stabilizer to help keep me from crashing as often. I'll go back to see her in a few weeks to make sure that things are going well with current doses before I head back to work. Tuesday was the day of my procedure, and while it was much easier than the surgery in April, it still took its toll on my body. I felt like the walking dead most of Tuesday and Wednesday. Having found out about my grandma late Tuesday, I tossed and turned most of the night, not getting much sleep even though I was exhausted. Same goes for last night. I couldn't turn my brain off. I kept thinking about how in just 3 weeks we've gone from hopeful to about 6 months to live. That 6 months from now will be right around Christmas. That more than likely my holidays won't include her anymore. That my mom is going to be so devastated by her death. That the realization of that makes me feel so helpless. That I want to spend time with my grandma before I go back to work in a few weeks, but I'm afraid to. That I want to hug her and tell her how scared I am and that I don't want her to die, but knowing that would only burden her more. That today my baby cousin would have turned 15, but will forever stay 13 in the eternity of heaven.

A just let me talk and cry today. Somehow I don't think that will be the last time that will happen.

Happy birthday, little butterfly.

I've Had Better Days

Yesterday could have gone better...

Got to the hospital around 8 and was wheeled in around 9. It's weird to think that because I had conscious sedation I was technically awake but just wouldn't remember anything. And that's true, it was like I had a nap I didn't remember taking. Weird. They took 3 biopsies from my stomach, which the doctor doesn't seem to be too worried about, but with the amount of cancer that runs in my family, I'm not blowing this off as easily as he is. I was discharged around 11 and came home to sleep off the anesthesia. Around 4 I started running a fever (100.2), but they said only call if it gets above 101. I felt crappy but the highest it got was 100.7. I ended up skipping my session last night with A to stay home and rest. I'm still a little tired this morning, but I am feeling much better.

My best friend took me yesterday because my mom needed to take my grandma to her post-radiation treatments appointment with her oncologist to find out if it worked, what the next step is, prognosis, etc. Bad news. The radiation did not work as well as they were hoping, which means that trying another round will not be successful. Apparently the first round of radiation is the largest concentration they can give you and if it doesn't work, lower doses won't do a thing. Not only that, in addition to being in her liver and brain, the cancer has now spread to her lymph nodes, stomach and spleen. She wants to try chemotherapy to slow down the progression of this cancer, so she will start that sometime next week. My mom pulled the doctor aside while my grandma went to have some blood drawn and asked him for a time frame. Best case scenario, if the chemotherapy helps, is about 6 months. Obviously if she doesn't respond to the chemo or if it makes her too sick and she stops, it will be much less.

I freaking hate cancer.