I’m Angry at a God I don’t believe in

People like to say that God won’t give you more than you can handle.

But that’s just not true. People are given more than they can handle every day, burden after burden. Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be an end.

I need to know when it ends, because I’m not really sure how much more I can take.

I’m 31 years old. I should be thinking about my career, about getting a place of my own, about starting a family. I should be excited about life, planning ahead for the great future I will have.

Except I’m not thinking about any of that. Instead I’m thinking about how long I can make it before getting sick again and ending up in the hospital. I’m thinking about CAT scans and surgeries and oxygen tanks. I’m not excited for life; I live in fear of death.

What did I do wrong? How did I end up here? I don’t understand.

I stand here, day in and day out, hanging on by a thread.

And she doesn’t have to struggle at all. She spends her days free of guilt and shame. She fears no one. She worries about nothing. She gets to live in peace. She gets to live without sickness.

And that angers me, too. Why hasn’t God punished her? Why hasn’t anyone punished her? She commits sin after sin, crime after crime, and still she can sit at home and eat her cake. It’s not just. It’s not fair.

She has spent 61 years of her life in freedom, while taking away that freedom from her own children. And we are the ones who pay for her sins. Not her. Us.

This wasn’t supposed to be this way. I spent 29 years of life trapped. When I ran away, I was supposed to be able to experience life for the first time. The struggle was supposed to be over. I was supposed to be free.

Instead I’m faced with reality. The reality that my mother will never be punished, that I will never have justice. The reality that I will always be sick. The reality that I will have spent the majority of my life trapped in that hell.

I know I’ve made mistakes. But I did not deserve this. I’ve had to handle enough in my life, more than any person should ever have to handle. I just want it to stop, but I can’t. Because I am powerless. I’ve always been powerless.

I spend every night crying. I’ve been holding in the anger for so long, and now it’s starting to creep out. I want to scream. I want to hit. I want to destroy something. But all I can do is cry. And I am tired of crying.

I am angry at God. I am angry at my mother. I am angry at the world.

But I can’t be angry at my mother. I didn’t make her stop.

I can’t be angry at the world. They are not responsible for my pain.

I can’t be angry at God. I don’t even think I believe in Him.

So I keep the anger inside, tucked away, hidden from view.

And that anger is killing me, too.

Pink Puffer

I spent Thursday night in the hospital.

I was having a hard time breathing since Monday. I ignored it, because I didn’t have time to be sick. So it lingered and lingered.Then it got worse. But I still ignored it. I don’t have time to be sick. I have to go to program. I have to work. I have chapters to read, papers to write, articles to publish, people to help. I am not sick.

By Wednesday, it became an effort just to take each breath. I went to program despite my exhaustion, but I couldn’t hide my cough. I started running to the bathroom so no one would see me struggling to breathe.

I heard the nurse calling me on my way back. She seemed concerned. She said she didn’t even need to listen to my lungs to know that something was wrong; she could hear me breathing feet away. I told her I was fine. I’m not contagious, it’s probably just a mild pneumonia. I talked about it like it was a cold. Nothing major. I promised the nurse I would try to make it to the doctor, even though I didn’t really want to.

I wasn’t planning to end up in the hospital, but after three nebulizer treatments with no improvement, I knew I wasn’t going to make it through the next day. They started breathing treatments as soon as I got to the ER. No change. I ended up on a magnesium drip with IV fluids and Solu-Medrol. Blood tests, nasal swabs, and x-rays all came back clean. It wasn’t an infection. It wasn’t pneumonia. It was COPD.

I spent most of the night crying, eventually falling asleep only to wake up and cry again. I managed to get myself together enough to make it to PHP Friday morning. I made it through most of morning session just fine. Then I took a conscious breath and it all went to shit.

I don’t know if I can quite describe what it feels like. You take in a breath okay, but then it can’t get out. You feel like you’re drowning, but not in water, in air. I hurried out of the room to run to the bathroom again. I saw the nurse out of the corner of my eye, but I was coughing and wheezing so bad I couldn’t talk.

I spent several minutes in the bathroom trying to get back to normal. Shallow breaths. Just take shallow breaths and you’ll be fine. I went back to my group. A few minutes later, my therapist came to the door and pulled me out of group. Great. What did I do now? She took me to the nurse’s office and closed the door.

I sat there, surrounded, trying not to panic. The nurse sat across from me; my therapist sat on the floor. Oh, we’re all sitting. This can’t be good. Someone asked what was going on, if I had gone to the doctor. I told them I went to the hospital; that counts as the doctor. I tried to make it seem not-so-serious. They asked if it was pneumonia.

Before I could answer, I broke down crying. All the emotions came back to me again. The anger. The sadness. The hopelessness. I would have rather had pneumonia.

I didn’t want to cry. My tears did not feel justified. My pain wasn’t valid.

This diagnosis, it’s nothing new to me. I’ve known about the COPD for a while now. So why does it hurt every time I hear a doctor say it? Why am I still grieving? I should be over it by now.

It’s not fair. I went through hell. I got out. This was supposed to be my better life, my life without hurt.

Instead I ended up with this. I didn’t get a break. I got a punishment.

I could sense the concern in the room. I pushed aside my anger and stopped crying. They told me there were options. The nurse handed me a paper with quit assistance programs. My therapist said we could work out a plan. It doesn’t always have to be this way. It doesn’t always have to be a struggle to breathe. You are strong and resilient, she said.

I’m tired of being strong and resilient. It was the truth. What’s the point? Look where strength and resilience has gotten me. Look what I’ve become. A mess.

You need to take time for yourself. What’s that? I go to PHP from 8 to 3:30 every weekday. Then I go straight to work at 4. By the time I get home for the night, I have just enough time to put together a cohesive assignment for grad school. Weekends are full of more work, school work, articles, and errands. I don’t have time for myself.

I just want it to all go away. I want an easy life, even if it’s just for a little while. I don’t want to have to go to a program every day. I don’t want it to hurt when I breathe. I don’t want to be so tired all the time. I don’t want to struggle.

I want to pretend that I am healthy. I want to pretend this diagnosis doesn’t exist. I can breathe. This is normal. There’s nothing wrong with me. This has all been a mistake.

I managed to push it all away for a while. I can smoke a cigarette, nothing is wrong with me. My lungs are fine. My denial was fully engaged, and no one was around to tell me otherwise.

Later on that day, I sat across from my psychiatrist as he waited on hold to try to change my prescription at the pharmacy. I felt the tightness in my chest again. I took a breath and started drowning. I leaned forward and tried to get the air out as best I could.

As I sat back in the chair and tried to compose myself, I heard the psychiatrist say so, you’re a pink puffer. I looked at him, a bit confused. I never in my life heard of a pink puffer before. I asked for clarification. Your breathing, he said. That’s a classic forced expiratory wheeze of emphysema. I don’t even need a stethoscope, I can hear it from here.  Doctors would call you a pink puffer.

I don’t know how much longer I can deny the truth.

A place to sleep

Here I lay again, at 2 AM, wondering what it must feel like to sleep.

I’m kicking myself right now, because I actually thought about renting a motel room yesterday, but I told myself it wasn’t going to be bad. I told myself I was going to be able to sleep. But I lied to myself. Why would tonight be any different from any of the other nights?

I imagine this is what it’s like living in a frat house. I did once say I wanted the experience of a real college life. Maybe this is it. Trying to study when you’ve got no sleep. Writing a paper and struggling to keep your head up. Getting no sleep because of the loud music, random yelling, and nonstop activity throughout the night when normal people would just be sleeping. Like I should be sleeping.

I’m fucked again. Do I go and sleep outside? Can’t. The cops will surely stop me, even though I’d be on my own back porch. I had already taken enough Ativan to knock me out for the night, but clearly that’s not strong enough against my current environment. By the time I get to a hotel and settle in, it would be time to start the day.

So now I just lay here. Awake. Pissed off. Trying my very hardest to suppress my rage, because it is growing so much right now that it scares me. I’m back to level 1 again. I can’t even meet my basic needs. This is not a home for me. This is shelter in the most technical sense of the word, but nothing more than that. I’m not living here. I’m just existing in this space.

It bothers me. I manage to make it through the morning on extra large iced coffees and cigarettes, but even that’s a stretch because I’m not really managing at all. I had two meltdowns this week at work. I spent most of Tuesday at work crying and staving off a panic attack (which I eventually ended up having). Wednesday I got so frustrated trying to do something that wasn’t even that hard, but I’m just 100 hours behind on sleep and my mind can’t function. I look at what’s in front of me and it’s all jumbled up in my head. Can’t think. Can’t do. So I fuck it all up and end up crying. How much longer am I going to keep my job? I would have fired me already.

I have important shit coming up the next two days and I’m not going to have the emotional resources to handle them because I’m running on no sleep and a lot of suppressed emotions. I have an obgyn appointment this morning, which is difficult in itself for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain. But now I am going to go there already a mess, already full of emotions, already drained. How can I cope with what’s going to happen when I’m running on empty? How can I make it through my last therapy appointment this afternoon?

I’m not. It’s going to be a disaster, much in the way my life has been these last few weeks especially. A fucking shitshow disaster.

But that’s what happens, right? I can’t blame anyone for this. I made this choice. And look how great it’s working out for me. I’m in a place I don’t even want to be, looking for somewhere else to sleep that’s not my own bed because sleep is no longer available here. Barely hanging on to a job. Struggling to get through school. Stopping therapy because I’ve become such an emotionally unstable fuck that not even my therapist can help me. I have to start a partial hospitalization program next week, but hell if it will make any difference because no matter how much therapy I sit through and medication they give me, I’m still coming home to the same place every night and having the same issue. 

I thought about finding a man online. It’s quite easy to find ads on Craigslist for places to stay in exchange for other things (non-monetary). I don’t care what they do to me, as long as they let me sleep. I don’t care anymore at all. I’m already ruined. They’re not going to take anything from me that I’ve already lost. And I’ll get to sleep. So how is it any worse than the life I’m living now? 

I have a recurring daydream in which the house is burning down, but I don’t run out of it. I stay locked in my room, laying in my bed, waiting to burn down with the rest of the house. Because I have given up. I’m too tired to fight. Literally, physically and emotionally too tired for this.

But hey, I’ve got a place to live, right? How about a place to sleep?

The Cost of Silence, Part 2

I want to be angry. I want to hate the teacher that gave me that bunny. I want to hate everyone that turned their backs on me and stayed silent.

But I can’t be angry, and I can’t hate. Because I, too, stayed silent.

When I was in Catholic elementary school, students were encouraged to serve the church as altar servers (basically, assistants to the priest). I didn’t do it because I enjoyed it or wanted to be a good Catholic; by then I had already turned away from God. I actually did it for the money (altar servers were paid to serve weddings and funerals).

One day after mass, the priest told the other server I was with to stay back (we were supposed to go back to class), and they went back into the rectory. I didn’t understand what was so important that he had to go back to his room, but I shrugged it off and went back to class.

And then it happened again. The same priest, the same boy. At first I was mad, thinking that I was missing out on something. My instinct led me to follow them to the back, but the priest turned around and stopped me. I told him I wanted to go, but he said it was a special thing for boys only.

In that moment, I knew. Those words he spoke were words I had heard before. But I didn’t say anything. I left them alone and went back to class as if nothing had happened. I never told anyone what was going on. I stayed silent, just as everyone else had stayed silent. That boy was much younger than me and I failed to protect him, just like others had failed to protect me.

But how could I have known? I grew up in a family that taught silence. I was raised in a religion that promoted secrecy through its own action (and inaction). I attended schools where the tuition not only paid for education, but for silence as well. Speaking up would be too much of a financial risk. One allegation and the student gets pulled out of school, along with the thousands of dollars per year in tuition. It’s much better to turn the other way and ignore it. Just pray about it. Jesus will help.

Jesus didn’t help me, and Jesus didn’t help that boy. Prayers don’t stop abuse. Plush bunnies don’t keep children safe. Silence isn’t the answer. Yet people keep choosing it. I keep choosing it.

And now I am left with unresolved emotions.

I am left with anger I’m not sure I deserve to feel. How can I be angry at others for doing the same thing to me that I did to that boy? Every time any inkling of anger rises to the surface, I can’t let it out, because being angry at them means I would have to be angry at me. I can’t put someone down for the same sins I have committed. That would make me a hypocrite. So what can I do? I want to be angry, but I can’t. It’s not that simple.

I am left with tremendous guilt. I think about that boy, about the other boys that could have been hurt. All because I chose to be silent. If I had just spoken up, it would all be different. No one else could have been hurt.

I think about the children my mother could have hurt. If I had just spoken up about her, she would have been stopped. I wouldn’t have been hurt anymore. Others wouldn’t have been hurt. My mother would be sitting in a prison cell, unable to hurt anyone ever again. But I didn’t speak up. Instead I let my mother continue to destroy me. I chose silence.

And now I am the one paying the price.

Can nobody hear me?

I regularly make excuses for the poor behavior of others in my life, especially when their behavior directly affects me.

I excused my father’s part in my abuse because I told myself my mother made him do it (as if she held a gun to his head). I excused my coworker’s behavior a few weeks ago when he called me a bitch several times, telling myself he didn’t know any better because he was raised to treat women that way. I excuse a close person’s consistently offensive behavior, telling myself she just can’t help the way she acts.

I do this not as a way to defend these people, but to defend myself. If I didn’t excuse them, that means I would end up angry. And I don’t want to be angry.

But making excuses only works superficially, because on an intellectual level, I know that my excuses aren’t viable, that these behaviors were/are wrong, and that I really should be able to feel angry and hurt and however else I want to feel. Eventually, my feelings come to the surface, and I can only push them back down so many times before they come out full force.

Last therapy session, I couldn’t push my anger down any more. We were discussing the aftereffects of the letter, about how it made me feel sad. Then my therapist asked what else I was feeling, because it seemed like more than just sadness. Without thinking, I said “I’m angry. All of those fucking idiots, why didn’t they do anything to help?”

I immediately felt bad for what I had said, and apologized to my therapist. When she asked why I was apologizing, I told her I shouldn’t have used those bad words. I said, “it’s not their fault. They didn’t know. I wasn’t their problem. I shouldn’t be angry.”

“Why don’t you want to be angry?”

“Because if I’m angry that means I’m like her, like my mother.”

“Anger isn’t the same as abuse. What your mother did to you, she didn’t do because of anger. Anger is something that everyone feels, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re going to abuse. It’s okay to be angry.”

I sat there for a minute, still trying to push down what was trying to come out. I looked around the room, trying to think of something else to talk about.

“No, no, I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can. It’s okay to be angry. Anger makes you human.”

I repeated what my therapist told me to myself a few times. Anger doesn’t make me like her. Anger doesn’t make an abuser. Anger is okay.

And then it erupted. Through tears and clenched fists, I let it all out.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why nobody helped me. I never wanted to go home after school, I tried to stay with the teachers but then the teachers sent a note home and said I couldn’t anymore and then I got in trouble. None of them ever asked why I didn’t want to go home. None of them asked why I wore so many layers of clothing to school, why I was always covering up. No one questioned why a six-year-old girl tried to drown herself. Children don’t just try to kill themselves out of curiosity. No one wondered why a girl would scratch off her own skin. No one questioned my injuries. How many times could a child walk into walls? I wasn’t clumsy. But nobody did anything! They just nodded their heads and moved on!

There it was. My anger. Finally free and out in the open. The anger that was rightfully mine to have. I was a child who had no other way to communicate. A child who was threatened never to tell. And I didn’t. So I tried every other way to speak without using my words.

I could see just by looking at my therapist’s face that she understood. She got it. And she was okay with my anger, and my hurt. “There were all these red flags, all these ways you tried to ask people for help…”

“And they still didn’t hear me!”

There were so many red flags in my childhood. So many. Yet no one wanted to see them. I could have set those flags on fire and waved them an inch away from their faces, and they would have just stood there and talked about the weather.

I am angry. I am angry that these people just perpetuated my hell by not intervening. I am angry that I spent my childhood thinking that it was just normal to be hurt like this, thinking that no one is hearing my cries so this all must just be normal. No one should ever believe that abuse is normal. It should have never had to be my normal.

It’s an anger I am not sure will ever go away.

Why didn’t she just kill me?

Today was another long therapy session. I really just wanted a normal session. I think that’s what I want every time, and it rarely works out that way.

I mentioned the incident that occurred a few nights earlier. My therapist asked me what happened and I explained in detail. I stared at the floor as I told her everything, still ashamed of my reaction that night. Just talking about it was difficult for me. This isn’t the first difficult situation I’ve been in at home. It’s been a concern for my therapist, but I keep insisting that I can make it through.

This was by far the worst yet in terms of the after effects. I was a mess for days. My therapist asked me whose fault I thought it was. I told her it was my fault. I left home. I came here. I moved into this house. Now I have to deal with it. My issues are not her fault. Everything is my fault.

I was struggling to stay present and my struggle was apparent, because my therapist said she could see that it was difficult for me to stay present and suggested we color some coloring pages. I obliged, of course. I noticed myself getting frustrated more than usual over the simple act of coloring. I couldn’t find the right color, so I’d sit there and stare at the box of crayons agonizing over what color to pick as if it were the most important decision of my day. Maybe I just didn’t want to think about anything else. I don’t know.

We started talking about my financial difficulties, and about getting into grad school to help ease the burden. Then she looked up the application on her computer and all of the requirements I needed: the four-question essay, the letters of recommendation, the GRE (which I never took). Nothing is overly complicated but I just don’t have the mental energy to deal with it right now. I don’t have much time (less than 6 weeks) before the application must be completed. My therapist asked if I’d want to take session time to go through some of the things and she can help me with getting everything done. I told her I didn’t know. I was really thinking that if I needed help just getting the application done, I probably don’t belong in grad school. Conflicting.

I was getting frustrated so I tried to change the subject. I talked about a recent conversation with someone close to me, and how it changed how it made me feel towards them. My therapist delved into it more, and started asking why I felt the way I did. I told her I didn’t have much of a choice; I need this person because I don’t have anyone else. I left my family. I’m alone now. Then my therapist tried to remind me that I left my abusive family, the people who hurt me for so long. I told her it wasn’t that bad. I told her I could have just been stronger. I abandoned them.

I started to feel anger building up inside of me. I stopped coloring, clenched my fists so tightly that my nails dug into my skin, and stared at the floor, trying not to think about anything. I didn’t want to feel anything.  Go away, feelings.

My therapist came over to sit next to me and asked me what I was feeling. I told her I was angry. Then she asked who I was angry with. I told her I was angry at myself. It’s a common theme for me. I turn my feelings inward. She told me that it was okay to be angry at the people who deserve it. I told her it’s not okay to be angry. She asked why. I told her that anger hurts people. In my mind, I associate anger with abuse. I don’t want to be angry with anyone because I don’t want to end up hurting them. I don’t want to turn into my mother. She told me that anger is a perfectly acceptable feeling; it didn’t mean that I was going to hurt someone, and it didn’t mean that feeling wasn’t right. She told me I have reason to be angry. I can still be angry at the people in my life who failed to protect me, even though they may have apologized for their wrongs. I can be angry at my family, at my father and mother. She tried to tell me there was nothing wrong with feeling angry.

By this time, the anger was building up even more. My hands were still clenched and shaking. My therapist insisted on holding my hand. I told her I didn’t want to hurt her. She said it was okay, she can handle it…to let her take on some of my anger. I just wanted to punch something. I needed a release. I don’t want to feel anger. I don’t want to feel anger towards my mother. But I felt some of my anger being redirected towards her and I couldn’t take it back. Then I said it. The question that has plagued me for years.

“Why didn’t she just kill me?”

“Your mother?” She asked, though it really needed no clarification.

I told her I didn’t understand why anyone would make someone suffer like that for so long. Why didn’t my mother just kill me? She wouldn’t have had to put any more effort into torturing me. It would have been easier for us both. I wouldn’t have to be suffering now. For so many birthdays, I wished for death. But not for her death, for my own. I was never so concerned with anger towards her as I was in ending my suffering.

I felt myself starting to cry, so I turned away until I could push my feelings back down. This is why I didn’t want to feel anger towards her. Once you open that box, it’s hard to close it back up. I don’t want to unleash all of that anger. I don’t have time to unleash all of that anger. I don’t even understand my anger. It goes against everything people are supposed to feel.  People are supposed to feel grateful to their parents for giving them life. So why am I feeling anger that my mother chose to bring me into this world? My feelings don’t compute. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. Feeling angry with her only makes me feel worse about myself.

I hate feelings.

I hate her.

I hate me.