The Strong One

Why do I take on this role?

Why do I feel that it is my job to shield others from the pain that I know they are feeling because I am feeling that pain too?

This week has been exceptionally difficult.

We found out Monday that my grandma has 10 tumors in her brain that are threatening her survival. I'm not really sure how much worse it can get. They started her on radiation on Tuesday, to which they told her she will almost assuredly be burned by the process and will lose all her hair. If they can shrink the tumors with radiation (and keep her from having seizures from the increased pressure) then she will still need extensive surgery and chemotherapy to take care of the tumor on her liver.

The vastness of this situation has hit me little by little, and the only reason it hasn't fully hit me yet is because I have thrown up my shield and put on my cape and am carrying the burden of being "The Strong One."

When my mom calls me on the phone delivering more bad news, I listen to her cry. I hear the pain in her voice at the thought of losing her mother. I want to cry too. I want nothing more than to release the pain I feel inside so it can stop eating me alive. But I hold back. If I start crying too, that will just make it worse. I tell her I don't know what to say. Instead, I try to be positive. Focus on what we can control and work towards. Be practical. It seems to help my mom gain some control on an uncontrollable situation. She seems less devastated. More hopeful.

I keep my shield up and my cape on until I walk into A's office Tuesday. Last week all I knew is that my grandma had a tumor on her liver. What a difference a week makes.

What was planned to be our focus that session quickly turned into feeling everything the last week has brought on me. What I hadn't let myself fully think about.

I spent a long time crying. At one point I felt this tsunami of emotion push itself and almost spill over. I barely held it back. I really wish I hadn't, because it is going to manifest itself in other painful ways: panic attacks, SI desires, etc. It was nice to be able to work my way through what I was feeling without worrying that I wasn't being strong enough for someone else.

I'm trying to let the emotions work their way through when they do surface, but it has been hard. It is not my norm and it is leaving me feeling extremely vulnerable.


I don't think I've ever been this busy during the summer! I am loving it because I am meeting some great people and really challenging myself to trust others.

Here's an overall snapshot of the last week:

Good - I started my first Bible study ever on Wednesday. The 6 girls that I sat with seem really great. We agreed to sit together again next week!

Good - I started Jenny Craig on the 19th and had my first weigh in on Thursday. I lost 2.3 lbs!

Good - I had a follow-up with my family doc Thursday about continuing my meds for the time being. She was so excited to see me smiling. I was happy that I could make her smile, too :)

Good - I got an iPhone on Friday!

Good - I saw Toy Story 3 and got to hang out with my best friend (with no kids!) on Saturday.

Good - I spent Saturday night out with my new friends from Sunday school celebrating one of their birthdays! Not only that, I also didn't give into temptation and fall off my Jenny Craig plan!

Good - I spent the whole afternoon today with my Sunday school class (and another class) at a pool party. I had an absolute blast and feel so blessed to finally have found people who I know God has given me to learn from and connect with. I cannot wait to continue building these relationships I have started.

Bad - I took my grandma in for more tests on Friday and watched the doctor deliver the news that the cancer has already metastasized to her brain. A memory I wish could be erased...

No amount of good things can balance out the bad this week, but that doesn't make me any less thankful for them.

The "C" Word

Just when I was ready to start being more focused on myself and the things I plan on approaching in counseling with A, life happened.

My grandma was diagnosed with liver cancer on Monday.

With me being off all summer, it will be the easiest for me to be her "caretaker", to get her to and from the hospital, CAT scans, and chemo so my mom doesn't have to use up all her vacation days and get her pay docked.

Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful I can be there for my grandma the way I wasn't able to be there for my grandpa when he was sick.

I don't want to let this be a reason I don't put my full effort into the harder things I am inching towards with A. But after my grandfather died in October 2008, I regressed hard. After a few weeks of trying to get through it on my own, that's when I started seeing A. I'm worried that the fear of losing her is going to push me backwards. When my grandma dies, I don't know what it will do to me.

The Physical Conundrum

I'm back from California! One family reunion and two earthquakes later (one was a BIG one!) I am safely back at home :) I had a great time and got tons of pictures. 4 generations of my family all in one place. I love them so much!

I got back last night and made it an even later night due to a hair nightmare. Long story short is the salon coloring I got ended up turning maroon, so I decided to try a home remedy to release some of the red. Well that left my hair jet black (it's normally a light reddish brown). Two failed attempts at lightening it with store bought dye and I finally gave up at 1AM. Headed to Sally Beauty right at 9AM to get dye stripper to take out the black, turned my hair traffic cone orange (which is what it is supposed to do so you can re-dye it). Finally started re-dying it at 10:30 with my normal hair color, but forgot that stripping your hair makes it hold onto dye quicker and more deeply, and that I needed to cut the processing time in half. So my hair came out a deep chocolate brown with reddish tint as opposed to a lighter brown. It doesn't look bad, it'll just take some getting used to (and highlights once my scalp has time to heal from the massive doses of chemicals it received in a 12 hour period, LOL).

Oh, and of course I had a session today with A and had to be seen in public. I finished up with my hair at 11:40 and had just enough time to get dressed and gun it to her office for my appointment at 12.

She commented on how much she loved my hair. I chose not to elaborate on the craziness that was the entire process of this hair, but said something to the effect of "It's a little darker than I wanted, but thank you." LOL, if she only knew.

I didn't really have a clear picture of what I wanted to talk about with A today, especially given the fact that I was so far removed from my normal routine/thoughts/actions for the past week. We bounced around on a few things, cutting being one of them and how I'm still having desires to do so. I don't want to result to hurting myself as a means to cope, but in one form or another I have always done that. The first 8 years after the abuse I used food to harm my physical self. When I kicked that, I turned to cutting. I have always had a physical outlet for my pain.

She asked me what pain I am trying to compensate for. I have been having obsessive thoughts lately about a memory that is bothersome to me. This memory involves me being alone with my abuser. It is constantly on my mind. I told her I didn't feel like I should be bringing up something that we had already worked on, but that these recurrent thoughts/dreams were upsetting. I always hesitate bringing up the abuse with A, because after spending time on it already I am worried she'll be thinking "Oh gosh, this again. Doesn't she know that this is not the only thing she needs to work on?!" I started crying because I was frustrated with myself for thinking this. I told her it made me think that because I keep coming back to this that I think I'm never going to get over this or feel like it isn't this huge weight that is following me around.

She challenged me to think about whether or not that was me, the 13 year old saying that or me, the adult saying that. To which I replied, I have no idea. I feel as though I quit maturing at age 13. I feel like I am no where near where a girl my age should be emotionally.

Somehow we got on the topic of touch. It started with me obsessing over these memories, constantly replaying all the times M touched me. I happened to mention the horrific sunburn I got a few weeks ago playing into my still very present fear of touch because I wouldn't allow anyone to touch me to apply sunscreen in places I couldn't reach. I freak out at the prospect of going to the doctor because it leaves me in a very vulnerable place. Will they touch me or not? It's gotten better as I have established long lasting histories with my OB-GYN and family doctor (who just in the past year learned of my abuse), but it is always in the forefront of my mind. As for anyone else, the only safe place to touch me is on my hands or feet. Anything else and you have inadvertently triggered internal reactions and thoughts so shaming I can't even write about them.

And yet, as much as I freak out at the prospect of physical contact, my body is craving it. I think that is partially why I cut. It gives me such a deep physical feeling and reaction. It calms me down. Think of it as a big hug. A big hug that scars you. I notice that when I get really anxious, I become extremely tactile. I always start pinching myself or scratching myself to stimulate some sort of physical feeling. As a kid, I started suffering from trichotillomania. Even then apparently I wasn't getting my physical needs met and started producing them for myself. I still to this day suffer with trich.

I am being pulled in two directions. The idea of anyone touching me anyplace from knee to shoulder is terrifying. I have been my own source of touch for so long I have tainted the idea of anyone else ever doing so in a loving/healthy manner. Yet, I crave it so much that I am finding more extreme ways to produce the physical feelings that my body desires.

And I am now without that physical aspect of my healing. Ever since A's ultimatum, I haven't cut. And ever since my anxiety has been steadily increasing. It's all starting to make sense. But what isn't clear is how things will end. No, that would be too easy.

Westward I Go!

Heading to California for the next 7 days. Probably not a lot of relaxation, but guaranteed laughter during this family reunion at my dad's!
See you next week!

Not Every Day Is Good

Not every day is going to be a good day. I could hug my doctor for telling me that last week, because in my mind, if every day is not a good day that means I am not going to get better.

Today was not a good day. I woke up hideously anxious, which generally does not progress well because the events of the day tend to ramp me up even more.

Sure enough, by 10AM I was so anxious I was tipping on the edge of hyperventilating. I had made an appointment to go back to the chiropractor since my upper back has been bothering me since the surgery. I figured it was because I had been walking through the halls of school somewhat hunched over and guarding myself from the hundreds of teenagers not paying attention to where they are going/running in the halls. That shame voice immediately sprang into action and made me feel even worse about going. "You don't need to go, you're being dramatic, you just want attention, you're only wasting your money." So of course that made me even more anxious, fighting with myself basically. (I did go and after one adjustment I do feel better!)

I got home and toyed with the idea of going to go workout, but having taken 6 weeks off for surgery, then re-starting this Sunday and working out for 3 days in a row, I was feeling very sore. I know my muscles needed a break. Cue shame voice. "You're getting ready to go on vacation, you won't be exercising a lot, you're going to gain weight, you're being lazy." So I grappled with this and ramped up my anxiety even more. I ended up taking a nap with the option to revisit when I woke up... but apparently I was tired and slept til almost 5!

I was supposed to take my cat to my mom's house tonight so she can watch her while I'm gone, but she ended up working late and asked me to do it tomorrow before my flight. Not really a problem, but I immediately started thinking about all the things I have to do tomorrow before I leave and I started adding to my already peaked anxiety. Enter shame voice again. "You should have done your laundry earlier. Now you can't go work out in the morning because you have to drive to (hometown). You haven't even cleaned up the apartment yet. Way to wait til the last minute."

My cousin (K) called to confirm my flight info and we started talking about what the schedule looks like for the next 7 days. Her first question for me was if I wanted to go to a nightclub with her tomorrow night for a few hours. Holy crap, bells, whistles, steam, anxiety x 1030835. My social anxiety has gotten increasingly worse since starting this medication and the idea of being in a room full of drunk strangers touching me is enough to put me in tears. I told her I didn't want to do that. Thankfully she knows quite a bit about the past two years of my life (the only one in my family who does) and she is caring enough to even ask! I am so thankful for that. The more we talked though, the more anxious I got because I have so little control over the next week.

I know everything is going to be fine, and that in the moment I'm going to be having so much fun with my family I won't be feeling all of this... but the fact that it all is racing through my head now is just fueling my anxiety. Shame voice and no control makes for a night of panic attacks. Ugh.

Hidden Thoughts

My session today focused mainly on my near constant shame based thinking. We discussed all the great things that happened this week; the things that I have wanted for so long, but never really had. Real connections. But I have had to fight the voice in my head trying to convince myself that I am going to do something to mess it up. It is a fear that has often kept me from letting people in. I can't mess up if no one is there.

I'm leaving for California on Thursday, and while I am excited, I always get very anxious before I leave because I have to put on a different front and be "happy" Lily. My dad and stepmom don't know my struggles the past two years with depression and the confrontation of my abuse. It has been well established with A that it is probably a good thing that I keep it from them, as they have both proved to be unhealthy people to confide in. It is just a lot of pressure to keep so much of my life "hidden" and (sometimes) pretend that everything is okay. A made sure to remind me that this shame I am putting on myself because I act like a different person is because my thoughts are misguided. Instead of viewing it as a negative thing, I should be proud that I recognize who in my family is trustworthy and safe to share things with and who isn't. And not only that, be strong enough to keep myself safe.

The hardest thing for me lately has been the pressure I feel around the group I have met through church. I live in constant fear that someone is going to find out that I question my faith constantly. That they'll find out how little I know about the Bible, Jesus and Christianity in general. I sit in a classroom with this group of 50 people and they all appear to be so sure and established in their faith. They don't appear to have doubts. They believe with all their hearts and do amazing work in spreading the word and helping others to believe too. Then there's me. I feel like I've swiped a sweater and shoved it in my bag and am looking around for security. I feel like I stand out like a sore thumb. That it's painfully obvious to everyone that I have doubts.

Going to church has always been a struggle for me, or rather, organized religion has. The rules, the pressure, the judgement... it has always been a horrible deterrent. But when I sit down and pray, I have no doubt. When I sing worship songs, I couldn't feel closer to God. When it's Him and me, everything is fine. When it's Him, me and other people, I start getting confused. And the thought of anyone knowing that about me scares me to death. I have never taken these thoughts out of my head and put them anywhere.. paper, computer screen or out in the world.

So having met these amazing people that I have spent quite a lot of time with, I'm afraid. I don't feel like I can ever ask anyone the questions I have for fear of being judged. I don't feel like I can ever confide my fears in anyone because they will look down on me. I about panicked when one of the girls asked me if I was going to start discipleship with them next week. How in the world can I tell them I'm not even sure enough about my own faith, let alone attempt to pair up and learn how to spread faith to others?

I did a crappy job of trying to tell A all of this. Again, I have never spoken these thoughts, and with A being a Christian, I find it extremely intimidating to talk about this with her. Towards the end of our session, A looked at me and commented on how proud she was of me for taking these steps outside of my comfort zone. She even commented on how impressed she was at how I jump head first into things that I know are going to help me when I am ready to do them. That I don't let excuses hold me back... but after we talked about how afraid I am to let people know the "real" (confused, questioning) me, she brought up one of my biggest goals: relationships. Part of having a relationship starts with trusting people with those things you want to keep hidden. Working towards letting those people you want to connect with on a deeper level know you on a deeper level.

And that is horribly scary.


Sorry for the lack of posting, but this last week has been absolutely jam packed!

My week was amazing. I look back on certain things and can see why God put it there for me. Getting past this setback is going to take work, but this week was a huge step in the right direction.

I have been fortunate enough to find a really great church group full of people my age and current stage in life (single). A lot of them I went to college with and knew as acquaintances, others I know from other walks of life. Since I have been going there, I have felt less lost. Like I have a home. And not only that, there are people there that are truly fantastic people. Sunday mornings have consisted of class with them. After class last week, I headed to a graduation party for a friend's daughter. This friend of mine is someone who I met through CR, and it was being thrown at the daughter's house of another friend I met through CR. Over the last 3 months, we have become extremely close. I have felt like a part of their family. And sitting at that graduation party surrounded by all their "real" family and a few very close friends, I realized just why God put them in my life.

I can be loved.

These people didn't know me from Adam a year ago. Through CR, we shared our worst struggles and demons, we laughed and cried and connected with each other. Even through all of that, them knowing my past, my darker thoughts and actions, they have shown me the type of acceptance and love that my family doesn't do.

Both of these women are older (a little above and below the age of my mom), so their kids are close to my age. I hadn't ever met the daughter who hosted the graduation party, but was nervous about meeting her. I didn't want her to think that my presence was because I was trying to steal the love and attention from her parents. But again I was surprised. This girl, who is only a few years older than me, is such an amazing person. Their whole family is. I look at all of them and wonder how people can turn out to be so wonderful.

So that evening we all made plans for Thursday. Her husband is the coach at the high school that my school feeds into, so he basically coaches a lot of my former students. Thursday night they were playing a 3-game series against the #1 team in the nation to try and advance to the state championship. Everyone got together again, went to dinner then to the ballpark to watch the game. Again, sitting there eating with everyone, I just sat back and thought to myself, God has given me these people to show me that I can be loved. That I am not damaged.

Oh, and by the way... our team won the first game 14-6.

So Saturday rolls around and it's time for the 2nd game. I was invited to drive with the daughter to the game (it was much further away this time). Since she's married to the coach, we got in free and got GREAT seats. Of course it's Te.xas and it's the summer. We were in the sun the whole time and the high yesterday was 102. I was so hot and sweaty, but it was worth it... because they killed them! 12-3! #1 team? Psssh. The boys are going to state!

We went out for a celebratory dinner, me, the parents, two of the kids, the daughter in law and one of the grandkids (The coach and the oldest grandkid went to dinner with the team). They put us in a private room (we joked because we smelled so bad) and again, I was hit with how lucky I felt to be sitting there, surrounded by people who have shown that they are truly accepting, regardless of my past, present or where I might be in the future. They care about me. Now.

I have had to work hard not to take this wonderful thing and let my mind turn it into something negative. My fear always is that I am going to run people away if they ever find out the "real" me, so that voice in my head has been working overtime. "You're too selfish, once they find out you are nothing like they are, they'll leave you." "You're not a good Christian, you question too much and don't always have faith." "You're eventually going to overstay your welcome and they will push you away." That horrible voice that has permeated my thoughts for a long time. That voice that showed up after I was abused.

A and I are working on that voice. My homework this week was to catch myself in those thoughts and counteract them. It feels fake and far from genuine, but it's going to take a lot more than a week to change. I'm just so thankful God has given me these people to practice with.