Tears on a Thursday

I cried a lot today.

I cried at six o’clock in the morning. I had just woken up and I already wanted to go back to sleep. The amount of effort and energy it takes for me to get out of bed and go to the bathroom is draining.

The pain in my foot is excruciating in the morning, to the point that I cannot put any weight on it. I cannot even balance myself without holding on to something; as soon as my foot touches the floor, I am hit with enough pain to topple me over. One morning, I fell over and managed to at least fall into the wall, so I was able to push myself back to a standing position.

Since then, I’ve managed to slide out of bed and onto my desk chair every morning, roll myself all of the way over to the door, open said door, and take about three or four minutes to pull myself up and slide myself into the bathroom and onto the toilet. Sometimes I don’t even make it to the bathroom on time. That is how pathetic I am right now. I am 30 years old and can’t even manage to walk to the bathroom on time.

I couldn’t tolerate the pain anymore this morning. As I rolled myself back from the bathroom to the bed, I just started crying. I couldn’t stop. I just wanted the pain to go away, but I knew it wasn’t going to. I just have to deal with the pain. It’s what I’ve been doing all of my life.

After a while, I managed to calm myself down and stop crying. Then my mind started going into anxiety overdrive. What if I go to the doctor and it’s not a simple fix? What if I’m not able to work? I’m really fucked. Then I started crying again. I called several doctors in the last week trying to get an appointment. Every doctor I was calling had the earliest appointments at over a month out, until I finally found someone who would take me next week. But I am still so afraid to go.

I feel that this isn’t going to be an easy fix. I’ve had some really fucked up foot issues, including massive multiple bone spurs at the top of my foot. This, however, is by far the worst foot pain I have had in my life. That worries me. I needed surgery for something that was far less painful than this is, so what does that mean? Another surgery? How am I going to live if I can’t work? Disability takes (in the shortest) a month to get. I can’t financially handle not working. So I just kept crying, imagining all of the possibilities, imagining all of the horrible shit that could come from this.

I actually cried myself to exhaustion. I tried to distract myself from the anxious thoughts and I ended up falling asleep, which was probably a good thing anyway. I woke up and still didn’t want to do anything, but I knew I had therapy in the afternoon and had to get moving. I took some more pain relievers, wrapped up my foot, told myself I wasn’t going to cry anymore, and hobbled my way to the bus stop.

My therapy session started out alright. I knew the focus was going to be on my graduate school conundrum. I told my therapist before that I was likely going to drop out, as much for financial reasons as for the drama surrounding the anonymous reporting. I told her again that I just didn’t think it was going to work. I didn’t think through all of the financial shit before I jumped into starting this grad school. It’s not cheap, and there are less expensive options out there, although the quality is likely lower as well. But I really don’t have any other options.

I don’t remember exactly what set it off, but I felt the tears coming. I tried holding them in and that lasted for about thirty seconds; then I just started crying. My therapist noticed and asked me what was going on, and how I was feeling right then. All I could say was “nothing”.

My go-to answer, as usual. I don’t have feelings. I’m okay. Nothing is wrong. Why can’t my therapist just go along with that? Why must she insist that I connect with these feelings?

Then it all came out. “I made a huge mistake coming here. Why did I think I could make it by myself? I should have stayed. I wouldn’t be in this mess if I had just stayed.”

“You’re not being physically and sexually abused here. If you had stayed…”

By that point I just started drifting in my own head. I know what I escaped. But that was my normal. When you’ve been abused for so long, it just becomes your normal. I’m not sure the damage could have gotten any worse had I continued to endure it. When faced with overwhelming challenges, we go back to what we know. And that home is what I know.

I started having short flashes of memories from the recent past, reminders of how I made myself numb to what my mother was doing to me. Then I started to cry even more. What is wrong with me? I know what I went through and yet I still ask myself why I left, I still want to go back in time and forget I ever left.

My therapist told me that if I had stayed, it would have killed my spirit. “My spirit is already dead. That wouldn’t matter.”

“I don’t think that’s true. I still see the spirit in you.”

That’s not spirit. I don’t know what that is. After all of the shit I have been through, how could I have any spirit left? Shit, I don’t even know how I’m still living.

I think I cried for most of the session. By the end, I had a hand full of used tissues, neatly folded into little squares. I’m not sure why I kept on crying. I really try to keep that under control.

Perhaps it’s the physical pain I’m in. Perhaps it’s the sense of hopelessness once again creeping up on me. I don’t know for sure, but I do think I’m dehydrated now.

Misplaced blame

Last week, one of my therapists gave me Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse.  I read through it rather quickly, as it’s a small book.  Parts of it were difficult for me.  The hardest part was on page 38:

“When children are abused, their ability to say no is severely damaged.  So even if the abuse continued into adulthood, you are still not to blame.  There is no magic age when you suddenly become responsible for your own abuse.”

I struggled with this most of my adult life.  I still struggle with it to this day.  My mother remained physically and emotionally abusive until the day I left home.  But that didn’t bother me as much as living with the fact that she sexually abused me until I was 28 years old.  And I let it happen.  Every single time, I let it happen.

The sexual abuse wasn’t consistent.  It stopped being consistent when I turned 14/15.  But every time I got sick, which unfortunately for me was quite frequently, it was like she preyed on that, and I became like a child too weak to say no.

“You can’t bathe yourself, I’ll do it.”

I didn’t fight back.  She’d undress me and make me stand in the shower as she washed me down.  Then she’d lead me into the bedroom and dry every last part of me.  Then she’d dress me.  I couldn’t go to the bathroom myself.

“I have to watch you.  Keep the door open.”

And she would sit right beside me.  I didn’t fight back.  Why didn’t I fight back?  My arms weren’t broken.  My legs weren’t broken.  I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself.  But I couldn’t say no.  Here I was, a mentally competent adult in my 20s, letting someone take advantage of me.  How can I expect anyone to feel sorry for me when I chose not to stop this woman from continuing to abuse me?  I made the choice to let her.  I had a choice.  I could have said no.  I could have stopped her.  I could have left.  But I didn’t.  All of those times it happened, and I didn’t.

My own bad feelings about the situation were magnified when someone who I thought was a friend blew up on me, and said I was a grown ass woman who could just leave, but that I was “scared of my mommy”.  She then continued to call me derogatory names for not leaving, and that I just kept letting it happen and so it was my fault.  It was one of the worst verbal attacks I have ever experienced in my life, made even worse by the fact that it occurred on a public forum.  I was ashamed.  I was already feeling like so much of this was my fault, and she only confirmed by beliefs.  I was acting strong on the outside, but on the inside, I was breaking apart.  What kind of person lets their mother abuse them?  She’s right.  I must have issues.  Something must be wrong with me.

Except not.  Why are we victim-blaming?  The person responsible in this situation is my mother.  Not me.  When she abused me all of those times in adulthood, I was not an adult.  I was a scared child, afraid to go against her mother for fear of being hurt or killed.  Same situation, just a different age.  How should I have expected my response to be any different?  For so long, I’ve blamed myself for letting the abuse happen.  I blamed myself for what happened in childhood, but I especially blamed myself for what happened when I was an adult.  As if a magical cloud of knowledge and responsibility appeared before me on my 18th birthday and gave me everything I needed to know any better.

I should have known better.  But I couldn’t have.  I never had the opportunity to learn what was normal.