The highs and lows of my Tuesday

Yesterday was such an emotional day for me.

I had very little sleep…two hours at most.  I actually woke up for work at 4 AM and knew I wasn’t going to make it, so I went back to sleep and ended up taking a cab to work, just so I could get that little bit of extra time.  I don’t know how I made it through the day, but I did.

I went to my job interview right after work and…I GOT THE JOB!  It didn’t even take much effort on my part.  I look great on paper and apparently I present myself well.  I was hired in less than five minutes.  I wanted to jump in the air and yell with excitement, but then I remembered that I’m still nursing a fractured foot and that probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  Instead I decided to go to the mall and buy myself a treat to celebrate.  I had time before the bus was coming anyway, and I hate standing around doing nothing.

I stopped at a pretzel stand to get a drink, and the woman at the counter asked me if I went to the gym there.  I said no, but that I probably should go.  Then she told me how she sees me walking by a lot and how much better I’ve been looking.  I have lost some weight, but I didn’t think some random people at the mall would notice.  I thanked her, and we engaged in conversation until another customer came by.  It was nice talking.  It was nice being noticed.

On the bus going home, there was a woman in her late thirties, asking the bus driver a few questions throughout the trip.  It was her first time on a bus.  She was so anxious, she didn’t want to do anything wrong.  I remembered how I felt first being on a bus by myself.  I thought I was the only one, but here was this woman, obviously older than I, having the same experience.  When we got to the final stop and got off the bus, I told her “you did a good job.”  It was so odd for me to talk to a stranger like that, but I did it.  And then she thanked me told me about what happened that made her take the bus.  Then she asked me my name, and she told me hers.  We shook hands and wished each other a good day.  It was nice.

When I finally managed to get home, I went to the bathroom to…go to the bathroom…and I just started crying.  Not crying out of sadness.  I was just overwhelmed with everything that was happening to me…everything I went through life being told would never happen.  Here I am, living by myself, now working three jobs, managing to get to therapy at least twice a week, trying to make myself better in the best ways I know how.  I’m doing it all on my own.  But I’m doing it.  My mother may have tried to raise a weak little girl, but I persevered.  I do what I have to do to survive.  I did it as a child, and now I’m doing it as an adult.  The difference is that now, I have choices.

Despite all of the positives of my day, my night was shaken up as my PTSD kicked in.  I was startled awake by what I thought was a knock.  Before I could process anything, I started to panic.  I thought for sure my mother had finally found me.  She had gotten the police to help her.  She was coming to kill me.  I was done for.  I started to cry and hid under the covers waiting for her to come get me.  But she never came.  Because she wasn’t there.  No one was there.

Even though I am protected by distance, my mind still believes I am in danger.  I check the locks ten times a night.  I look out the windows to make sure she’s not outside.  I still lock my bedroom door up even though I’m home alone.  I watch every car passing by to make sure it’s not my family.  I look over my shoulder constantly.  The fear is still there no matter how far away my family is from me.  The fear will always be there.  She instilled in me since childhood that she knows everything that I do…she will always find out everything.  And part of me still believes that.

Eight Weeks

It’s been eight weeks now.  I’m still free.  I’m still alive.

I have bad days.  I have okay days.  I never really have good days, but that’s okay; there’s still time for those.

Physically, I could be better.  I’ve lost over 30 pounds.  I know it’s from a combination of not eating enough and being sick.  It’s not that I can’t afford to lose it, because I can, but that’s a lot to lose in a short period of time.  I’m trying to make a conscious effort to eat, but it’s difficult.  My roommate does her best to try to get me to eat.  She’s even tried to memorize the foods I eat and the foods I absolutely will not touch.  The other night, my roommate’s boyfriend asked if I wanted a garlic knot.  I reluctantly obliged.  He was so genuinely happy that I wanted to eat something that he shouted out in celebration.  Small steps.  I also made a promise to my therapist that I would at least start taking vitamins.  She actually found a vitamin for me that was chewable and non-fruit-flavored, so I have no excuses not to take it.

My foot is feeling a little better.  I’ve been upgraded to a space boot that goes up to my calf.  I’m supposed to wear the boot for at least two more weeks until I go back to the orthopedist again.  I’m also supposed to use crutches, but I was a little rebellious today and decided at the last second to go without.  I did fine.  I walked a lot slower than I would have if I used the crutches, but that’s okay.  But I didn’t fall.  I’m still standing.  The orthopedist mentioned I had quite a few old fractures show on x-ray.  All I could think was yea, I’m sure there are old fractures all over my body.  It’s probably why I have so many issues with bone pain now, and why I have random bone spurs throughout my body.  I guess my body wants to remind me of that pain again.

I had a bit of a meltdown last night.  I had this weekend off of work (which never happens, and will likely never happen again for a long time), so I was planning to go back and visit my very good friends back home (Is it really home?  I don’t know what to call it.).  I had mentioned it to my therapist in yesterday’s session and told her that I worked out all the possible scenarios in my head and it still seemed like it would be more of a positive thing for me.  I miss them more than anything.  Aside from my therapist and my roommate, I am alone here.  I told my friend and he seemed happy.  Then I text my other friend about it.  She said that was great, then she said “so are you visiting your parents?”  My heart sank and I became overwhelmed with emotions.  Why would I visit the very people I ran away from?  It’s not like my friend is not aware of the situation; she knows, though not in detail, what my mother has done to me.  Is that not enough of a reason for me to leave?  Does she not believe me?  I don’t understand it.  I shouldn’t have to justify why I want nothing to do with them.  I feel like she is on their side and not on mine.  I also felt, at that point, that by visiting her, I could be risking my own safety if she told my mother I was coming.

I had so much running through my head last night and couldn’t get myself together, so I e-mailed my therapist.  That in itself is a big step for me, because I rarely if ever reach out when I need it.  She e-mailed me back in the middle of the night.  I checked my e-mail around 3 AM and read her thorough response, and I knew that going back wasn’t the right thing to do.  Ultimately, she said if I had any doubt in my mind about my ability to trust these friends, that it is most important to protect myself and my new life here.  Unfortunately, when I hear/read comments like I did from my friend, my ability to trust that friend becomes damaged.  There is a disconnect somewhere and I don’t know how to fix it.  I can’t make someone understand something they are choosing not to accept.  My therapist told me I need to advocate for myself if this friend continues to play devil’s advocate; if that doesn’t work, the relationship may just not be worth the effort.  I have to put energy into my new life.  I don’t want to have to waste energy in unnecessarily deflecting dangers from my past when they can just as easily be avoided.  It’s sad.  It makes me cry just thinking about it (I’m crying as I type this damn sentence).  But I have to do what’s best for me for once.  It just bothers me that in the end, I’m once again going to look like the shitty person.

It just sucks because I feel alone as it is.  I can’t afford to lose more people.  While I have made a couple new friends, it takes a lot of time and effort to build strong relationships.  I turned down spending time with a friend today because I thought I was going to visit back home, and instead I ended up by myself.  Maybe I needed it.  Who knows.  I’m not really sure what I need.

I’m still having trouble coming to terms with my diagnosis.  I mean, I’m getting there…slowly…reluctantly.  My therapist told me that my prognosis is good.  She could have just been trying to make me feel better.  Who knows.  She said I’m intelligent and functioning; I guess that plays in my favor.  It’d just be so much easier if I didn’t dissociate.  Most ‘normal’ people don’t even understand dissociation.  How are they going to understand me?

Progressing in therapy

I sat here debating whether “progressing” was an appropriate word to describe my experience in therapy.  I’m still not 100% sure, but I’m going to go with it anyway.

I look forward to therapy, while at the same time have some fear about what might happen.  Sometimes our sessions are an hour.  Sometimes they are a couple of hours.  You can never really tell how it will end up.  I’m still going twice a week; that won’t change any time soon.  I also e-mail my therapist between sessions to check in; sometimes she even gives me homework (I’m making a face right now just thinking about it).  But it works for us.

My therapist is amazing.  I’m pretty sure she gets me.  Sometimes she doesn’t know whether I am being genuine or sarcastic – I consider that my talent (with anyone, not just her).  But she’s really smart and knows her shit, even when it’s random shit.  I e-mailed her last night to tell her that I had eaten a potato (it had been three days since I had eaten) and she e-mailed me back this morning comparing my choice of eating a potato to Carol Rogers’ description of human actualization, in which he compared the process to that of a potato, which will strive to grow in the most unfavorable, sunless, earthless conditions; with nourishment and sunlight, in the right environment, it can become what it is meant to be.  While some people might think that was weird, I quite adore Carl Rogers and I am a psychology nerd, so I enjoy random facts like that.  It made my day.  She’s also very in tune with my needs and knows my limits.  And she gives me a hug after every session and tells me all the positive things I’m doing, even though I don’t believe all of them.

Therapy has been a little slow because I’ve had so many issues come up that we haven’t had much time to begin to process the MDSA.  Yesterday was the first time we actually started.  It wasn’t much; we watched the first part of a documentary (less than 10 minutes) and then stopped it to discuss.  Before we watched it, my therapist prepared me for how we should deal with whatever would happen.  If I needed to take a break, to tell her I needed a break.  Then she asked me if I were to dissociate, did I want her to bring me back right away or could she keep me in that state?  My mind just went blank.  I’ve spent years learning about DID and dissociative disorders.  I never once thought I would have to be making these decisions for myself.  Everything is different when it’s something you experience.

The documentary part wasn’t anything tremendously difficult.  What stood out to me the most was one of the women in the documentary saying how her mother made her out to be the crazy one.  That was just…exactly my life.  Then talking about that progressed into my use of the word crazy, and how my mother liked to use that word to describe me to everybody…and here I was using it myself.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

I’m not entirely clear on how the rest of therapy went.  I remember my financial issues being brought up again.  I remember mentioning how I didn’t want to turn into my parents, depending on others for support.  I really don’t remember much else.  I came back from a long dissociation wrapped in a blanket, holding a stuffed lion, with my arm red and bleeding.  I don’t even know how I ended up there, or what happened while I was out.  She just told me I was hurting myself.  All I could do was apologize.  Why can’t I have happy dissociations that are all about sunshine and rainbows instead of bouts of self-destruction?  It also sucks that I can’t remember.  I just want to remember.  My therapist insists that I’m making progress and taking steps forward.  I just don’t know.  I see dissociating as a failure.  I guess I got by before because I wasn’t so acutely aware of it as I am now because now I have someone pointing it out.

I was feeling a little down about what happened in therapy.  I feel like we hugged forever because I didn’t want to let go.  As I was writing her the check, I asked what the date was (I am horrible about keeping track of the date).  When she told me, I remembered that the date was also my parents’ anniversary.  Without thinking, I said “Oh, that’s my parents’ anniversary.  I hope they die in a fire.”  I realized what came out of my mouth, but before I could feel bad about it, my therapist actually validated what I said.  She didn’t tell me what a horrible thing it was to think or say; she sort of, indirectly, agreed.  What a great feeling that was.  For once, I didn’t feel bad about wanting those evil people to die.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they died in a fire.  Yet.  There’s still time.

When I got home last night and melted into my bed, I looked at my arm where I had scratched myself hours before.  Then I realized something.  This was something I had done before.  I remember as a child, I would scratch my skin raw.  I had to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t a contagious disease; it wasn’t contagious…it wasn’t an obvious allergy…the doctors weren’t really sure what caused it.  It happened regularly throughout my childhood and even as a teenager and occasionally as an adult.  Sometimes I would wake up with my skin like that, so I assumed I would scratch in my sleep.  No one ever really made an issue out of it.  And now I’m sitting here wondering if there is a connection.  Could I have dissociated that young?  And why the hell would I scratch my skin off?  What is wrong with me?

How my mother portrays “reality” versus actual reality

Sunday afternoon, I received a text message from a friend back from my old life (one of only two that I remain in contact with).  At the end of the text, she asked me if I had called my father.  Apparently my mother had told my friend how my father was oh so worried about me, oh so concerned, and how he was counting the weeks and worried that I wasn’t going to be coming back home.

There were so many things wrong with this situation.  In fact, let me use bullet points.

  • Why is my mother mentioning my father’s worry and concern and not hers? Answer: Because my mother knows that I know she doesn’t have feelings.
  • If my father was so worried and concerned, wouldn’t he have reached out? Answer: He has my cell phone number.  I haven’t blocked him.  I have not once received one phone call or one text message from him in the six weeks I’ve been gone.
  • Why is my mother telling this person this? Answer: Because this is the one person she has continued to manipulate, despite my efforts to show this person my mother’s true colors.  My mother also more than likely knows that this person keeps in contact with me, and knows it’s her only way to get through to me to try to manipulate me still.  Even a distance away, this woman will still try to fuck with my life.  She knows what she is doing.  She has been doing this for 29 years of my life.  She lives and breathes manipulation likes it’s necessary for survival.  My friend is just an unfortunate pawn in my mother’s game.

I immediately became overwhelmed with feelings upon reading the text.  I responded that my father had my number and had not made an effort to reach out, so I doubt that there was any genuine concern for me.  I continued to tell her that I do not trust anyone in my family, that they haven’t cared about me for the last 29 years so why would they start now?  Her response showed me that she didn’t understand where I was coming from at all.  My heart sank.  I responded “they can find someone else to abuse” and I just stopped responding after that.  Now I’m left questioning whether the relationship is worth fighting for.  As much as I love her, she doesn’t see my mother for the monster she really is; she still falls for my mother’s manipulation.  I can’t risk all the progress I’ve made on a relationship that may put that in jeopardy.

It’s not like I blame my friend.  My mother is great at portraying her own version of reality versus what reality actually is.  To be clear, for my own sanity, I decided to verify with someone who had some inner knowledge if my father was indeed concerned or worried about me.  My suspicions of a complete lack of concern were confirmed.  The only thing my father is worried about is getting rid of my stuff.  So much concern, right?  It doesn’t sound at all like the father my mother was portraying in her story to my friend.  Maybe she just forgot to leave out a few (thousand) details.

My mother always has a story for everything.  When outsiders would question why I seemed so distant and unresponsive, my mother would tell them “oh, she’s just sensitive” or “fragile.”  The reality: I was a broken child, trained not to speak to outsiders and living in fear of nearly everyone and everything.  When doctors questioned why I had so many UTIs, she ‘d make up these elaborate stories.  The reality: things were in my vagina that should not have been there.  To add on to that, she’d also often switch doctors, to which she’d blame on insurance problems, yet I was the only one who had to change doctors so much.  In my adulthood, my mother would tell people I was Bipolar and had a lying disorder.  The reality: I was struggling with PTSD and beginning to open up about the CSA and MDSA, and she felt threatened.  By saying that I had a lying disorder, she protected herself by creating a veil of doubt over anything I said.

The scariest part is that she has always been so convincing.  Sometimes I wonder if she believes her stories are real.  She’s that good.  I can see why so many fall for her lies.  I think many in my own family have.  It’s unfortunate, but what can I do?  I guess the most important thing is that I know what reality REALLY is, and it’s NOT her reality.

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.

Meeting people

In general, I have a hard time meeting new people.  A lot of that comes from growing up and being conditioned not to speak to anyone outside of our inner family circle.  Some of it is this underlying fear that people can see right through me and know all of the disgusting truths that lie within.  And then a small part of it is just lack of social skills, which sort of ties back to my shitty upbringing.

Even though I’ve been down here now almost six weeks, I have, for the most part, actively avoided meeting people.  I haven’t really had the energy to expend on others because I have been so preoccupied trying to keep myself together.  Luckily, I haven’t been approached by anyone, so it hasn’t been an issue.  Until yesterday.

I clocked out of work at one o’clock and went to the lounge to grab my things.  I sat down at the table to make sure I had everything before I left to catch the bus, when a man’s head popped out from the couch in front of me to say hello.  I recognized him from having briefly been introduced the first day I started.  He immediately struck up a conversation and I found myself sitting there, listening intently.  Then he said “I don’t even know why I’m telling you so much, I just feel really comfortable talking to you.”  I get that a lot.  Which is weird to me, because I also have been told by a few that I am completely unapproachable due to my permanent resting bitch face.  Even so, most people have felt that same inexplicable comfort in coming to me with their problems; I’ve been “counseling” people since I was in high school.  I always found it ironic because my greatest desire was for someone, anyone to help me, and here I was helping everyone else.

Back to work guy, he started asking me questions. Not in a pushy way, just general curiosity.  He knew I just moved here (I had mentioned it in our brief introduction), and he asked me where I moved, if I had a roommate, etc.  I explained I had a roommate I just met.  He was a little shocked, so I explained that I moved here on a whim.  He seemed naturally curious and asked why someone would do that (which I should have expected, I didn’t think that through).  At this point, I’m playing out all of the scenarios in my head.  What do I tell him?  Do I make up a story?  Shit, I should have come up with a cover story beforehand.  I don’t have enough time now.  I can’t tell him the truth, these people won’t understand.  That’s way too much to throw on someone I just met.  My head was spinning.  I just went with what came out.  “Have you ever just been around toxic people?  I was, and I just got to a point where I knew I needed to make a change, so I did. And I left.”  I’m pretty sure I panicked the ten seconds between my last word and his response.  But he didn’t freak out.  He said “I understand toxic people.  That was a big risk you took.  I don’t think I could ever do that.”  Whew.  Crisis averted.

Here we are, now 35 minutes into a conversation, still going well, still not needing an Ativan to keep it together.  Then he asked about my duck.  The duck I carry around to help keep me grounded.  The duck I held close to me that day like it was worth a million dollars because I was still so unstable from the day before.  Why did he have to ask about the duck?  I turned my head away from him and said “It’s stupid.  I’ll tell you another day.”  But he persisted.  “I won’t make fun of you or judge you,” he said, “I really want to know.”  There went my head again.  Cue hurricane of scenarios spinning in my mind.  I couldn’t be rude.  This guy seemed really nice and genuine.  But there’s only so much people can understand.  I know for sure he wouldn’t know about DID.  PTSD?  Maybe.  Let’s go with that.  So I told him I have PTSD, and I carry it around to keep me grounded in case I start having flashbacks.  His head dropped and he apologized, but he had nothing to be sorry for.  He knew what PTSD was; he knew a few people who had it.  He asked me what caused mine.  I said I had a really traumatic past.  At this point, I didn’t even hesitate or overthink on what to say.  My response just came out.  Then he opened up about his childhood and how he has dealt with his stress.

We talked about Superman (he noticed my bag), the movies (we both like going), about people who drink and smoke too much, and then about crazy customers.  Before I knew it, an hour had passed.  He was about to go punch in for work and asked if I was on any social media.  Fuck.  Everyone is on social media.  Unless you are in hiding from your abusive family.  FUCK.  The reality of my situation really set in at that point.  I realized that even though for the last hour I felt almost normal, I was still living the life of a person in hiding, because I very much am a person in hiding.  I said “Well, I did.  I do, but it’s under a fake name.”  I looked to the floor like I was ashamed.  He said “That’s alright.  I don’t know much about you, but from what I do know I’m sure you have your reasons for it.”  What is wrong with this person?  Why is he still talking to me?  And then…THEN…he asked for my number!  Even worse, I gave it to him.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  Fuck this human connection shit.

Superman

The other day, one of my therapists suggested that I buy a stuffed animal to comfort my child self.  I never had a stuffed animal.  If I needed to hold onto something, I’d use a pillow.  I’m usually compliant when it comes to therapy, so that night, I checked online to see if there were any stuffed animals that caught my eye.  After ten minutes or so, I came across the perfect bear – a brown teddy bear dressed in a blue sweater with a lightning bolt, red cape, and eye mask.  It was the teddy bear version of Superman.

I knew I had to have it, so the next day, I trekked to the nearest Toys R Us and searched frantically for over a half an hour for that bear.  I even went to customer service, who could only tell me that they had it in stock and that it “must be somewhere in the store.”  I was minutes away from breaking down and crying before I finally found it, stuffed behind a bunch of ballerina bears.  I hugged that teddy bear so hard, right there in the middle of the store.  No fucks given.  That bear was mine.

You might be wondering why it was that particular bear that I needed.  As a child, I would close my eyes and hope that Superman would fly down and defeat my evil mother and save me from ever having to be hurt again.  I would look out the window, just waiting for him to fly through, at the same time trying to distract myself from the pain of the abuse.  Superman never came.  But that never stopped me.  Superman gave me hope in a hopeless situation.

Now that I am older, I know that Superman can’t save me.  I have to save myself.  In a way, I had to become my own Superman.  I took on a Superman persona.  I wore my Superman pajamas every night to bed.  I wore Superman t-shirts all the time.  I even wore a cape (out in public).  People that knew me associated me with Superman.  During a group therapy workshop a few weeks back, we had a body image exercise in which other members and therapists wrote messages on traced images of our bodies; my therapist drew the “S” and wrote Superman on mine.  Among all of the messages, it stood out the most.  I knew I wasn’t Superman.  I just needed to feel like I was in a theoretical sense.

My coworkers used to call me Superman because I could do anything.  I could unload trucks, answer any question, and complete any task with ease.  Little did they know how weak I really was.  I could lift a 200-lb grill by myself, but I didn’t have the strength to fight back my abusive mother.  While I may be physically strong on the outside, my inside is completely shattered.  There’s no point in having physical strength without the support of an internal structure.

While I have escaped, I still don’t see myself as strong.  I didn’t confront my mother.  I didn’t stand up to her.  I didn’t stand my ground.  I left in a weak way.  There was nothing Superman about that.  I’m still so broken.  Why didn’t anyone save me?