I choose crutches

I’ve been struggling in therapy the last few weeks. Topics come up that I don’t want to talk about, things that I know will make me dissociate. I don’t want to go there, so I shut down. Then my therapist gets frustrated, and brings up intensive outpatient, because that is what is in the contract I agreed to in July in order to avoid hospitalization. Then I get frustrated because it seems like she just wants to send me off to IOP.  It makes me feel like she just wants to give up on me. It makes me feel like I’m not good at therapy.

It happened again during Thursday’s session. Her mentioning IOP just made me shut down more. I was hurt. I was angry. But I couldn’t voice any of that.

I ended up writing my therapist an e-mail early Sunday morning.

Sometimes I get frustrated whenever you bring up IOP. I know that’s what we agreed on, but I didn’t know that any time anything goes wrong, IOP was going to be brought up. It just further solidifies my belief that I’m not good at therapy. And I know you said not to judge myself, but that is how it translates for me. That I’m not doing this right. That this is just another of many failed attempts at therapy. And then the others think the same, and then it becomes a battle just to go to therapy. It doesn’t help me. It just makes me shut down more.

I know I can be frustrating. I know you have to repeat things a bunch of times because they don’t get through to me. There are times I really don’t understand what’s going on. There are times I don’t feel like my brain is working. There are times when I am sitting there, but I am not there. I’m sorry for that. I am trying, but I’m not perfect.

Sometimes I don’t want to talk about certain things because someone is telling me not to, or because I know I won’t be able to stay present, or because I am afraid to feel. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s that I can’t.

I’ve made progress. Maybe you don’t think it’s enough, and maybe it’s not enough on paper, but I think it is. Because I live it. I could be so much worse than I am right now. I struggle, but we figure out how to work through it. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do.

I’m sorry if this didn’t make sense. I just had a lot on my mind that I’d never be able to say out loud.

She didn’t reply back. I actually told her not to. We were having a session the next day, anyway, and I just wanted to get it out there because I knew I wouldn’t be able to say it out loud.
When I walked in her office this morning, she told me was that she got my e-mail. I immediately apologized. I regretted sending it, because I was afraid it was mean, and that she was going to be mad at me. She assured me that she wasn’t angry, that it wasn’t mean, and that I didn’t need to apologize.
My therapist asked why I couldn’t say the things I wrote in the e-mail to her in person. I told her it wasn’t because of her. I am just so afraid of people sometimes, so scared to communicate. I still feel that talking is wrong. I still feel unable to speak the thoughts in my head. Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t. I can’t explain it.
She told me IOP isn’t a punishment. She’s not sending me off to Shady Pines. She doesn’t want to pass me off, she wants to help me. She thinks the program will help with some of the basic things I still struggle with, like eating, daily triggers, and handling my emotions. I know how hard it is for you to get through each day. I know how hard it is for you just to get up in the morning. I see it in you every time you’re here.
Then she started with one of her metaphors.
“Let’s say you broke your leg. Luckily, your insurance covers everything and you have to choose between a wheelchair and crutches. Which do you choose?”
“I choose crutches.”
“But why? Choosing the wheelchair will help you recover faster and easier. With crutches, you’ll still be struggling, and you’ll risk falling and making your leg worse.”
I understood her analogy, but I still insisted on the crutches. I can’t do as much in a wheelchair. Sure, I may recover faster, but at what cost? I won’t be able to do my job in a wheelchair. I won’t be able to get around everywhere I could if I were walking. Half of my ability will be gone.
But with crutches, I can still walk. I can still get around. Sure, I will struggle to keep myself upright. And yes, knowing me, I’ll probably fall over quite a few times. But I’ll still be functioning. I can still hobble around and do what I need to do. Even if it takes me longer to heal, I’d pick the crutches.
In a deeper way, crutches are a less obvious sign that something is wrong. When someone sees someone in a wheelchair, they know it’s serious. No one uses a wheelchair for minor things. When someone sees someone using crutches, they assume well, at least they’re still walking. They’ll be fine. Maybe it’s just a sprain. Maybe you just need a crutch for a little stability. Nothing too serious.
Let me stumble through life on my crutches.
I don’t want to admit that I’m too broken to need a wheelchair.

The future

For the first 29 years of my life, I never envisioned any kind of future. I spent every day wanting to die, because I believed that death was the only chance to escape the hell I was living in.

Then I managed to get away, and I didn’t have to die.

I finally started to envision a future. I was going to be someone. I was going to make a difference. I was finally going to have the life I wasn’t able to have for 29 years.

And then reality hit, and that future started to dwindle away.

The reality that my mental illness will never be accepted. The reality that no matter what good things I do, no matter what I accomplish, my DID and PTSD will put everything into question.

The reality that, even though I’ve escaped physically, my mind has not escaped the terror. I still live in fear every day. I still carry 29 years of hell inside my mind.

The reality that my physical illness will shorten my life considerably. I’ll never have a family. I’ll never enjoy retirement. I’m going to die a lot sooner than I deserve to.

And that makes me angry. It makes me angry that I spent what will be the majority of my life in a prison.

It makes me angry that my mother may very well outlive me. Actually, I think that angers me more than the diagnosis itself. I can accept that I am sick, but I can’t accept the idea that my mother, of all people, could outlive me.

My therapist and I have talked about it a few times. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything for me, which I appreciate (most times). But I’m not so sure she understands the degree of anger and disgust I have over this.

My therapist tells me that yes, it’s possible that my mother will live longer than me, but it won’t be a good life, that my mother doesn’t experience joy and happiness, that her life is and will be empty. Even in a shorter life, I can still experience those things, things that my mother can’t.

But damnit, she still gets to live. I’m not even sure she deserves to be living now, and she sure as hell doesn’t deserve to live longer than me. How did this happen? For all the wrongs she has done, she is rewarded with a life longer than the one I will see. What did I do wrong?

It doesn’t matter that she can’t feel those good things. She can still experience life. She can still wake up every day and not stress about anything. And I get to spend the rest of my life struggling. I get to spend the rest of my life in fear of her, because I will never be not afraid until she is dead. I just want to know what it’s like to not live in fear. What if I never get that chance? What if I die before I know happiness? Then I really will be just like my mother.

My therapist envisions a future for me that I don’t see. To her, these existential circumstances don’t matter. She still believes I can do great things. She believes I can have a better life, and that I can heal.

But all I see is loss. I lost everything before, and now I’ve lost my future.

He’s not there

Many times over the past few weeks, I’ve seen my father.

It’s not really him, of course. He doesn’t know where I am. But my mind seems to be playing tricks on me to make me think that it is him. I’ve seen him on the bus, at the mall, and on the street. Different men, each strikingly similar in appearance to my father.

It happened earlier today, as I was walking through the mall to get to the bus stop. I could have sworn I saw my father sitting in a chair in the middle of the mall. The man had the same hair cut and color as my father, the same weird slouch, the same sunglasses. I scurried past and continued to look over my shoulder, making sure he wasn’t following me. The man, a total stranger, but in my mind, he was my father.

Each time it happens, I go through a weird back-and-forth reaction process. I  panic on the inside. At first, I let myself get lost in the panic and let it simmer, leading to inner chaos and unsafe feelings. Now, I try to immediately reassure myself that it is not him, that we are safe here and no one can find us. It’s not a cure, that’s for sure, but it keeps me from totally withdrawing or dissociating out of fear.

On the other end of that fear, is the desire to run up to these men and ask them if they are my father. It is something I have (thankfully) not managed to give in to doing, but the want is still there.

It doesn’t make much sense to me, simultaneously fearing someone and wanting to approach them. I don’t understand where that impulse is coming from. It feels like a confused child’s way of reaching out to her father. And I am a rational, 30 year-old adult who does not want to speak to her father ever again. What a contradiction.

Is it paranoia? I don’t know. Maybe there are just a lot of men that look like my father. He’s not atypical in the least, so it’s not a stretch to say there are many other similar men out there. But why haven’t I noticed them before? Why is this happening now, all of a sudden? And why do my reactions have to be so complicated?

The loss of safety

I am still living my life as a runaway.

I am still living my life in constant fear.

Every time the doorbell rings, I panic. Sometimes, I freeze. Other times, I barricade my bedroom door and hide in the closet. Never I am able to just see who is at the door. The thought alone is terrifying. Why? Because I am so afraid that my mother will be at the door. I’m so afraid she will find me and take me back to prison.

Many times I go to therapy in fear that my mother will find me there. I’ll sit on the chair at the farthest end of the waiting room. I’ll sit on the farthest end of the couch in my therapist’s office. The farther I am away from the door, the more time I have to hide.

Every time my phone rings, I am overcome with panic. She’s found out I told. I’m in trouble now. I worry that any number that appears on my phone could be hers, so I don’t answer. I never answer.

Every time someone calls me by my birth name in just such a way, I am filled with fear and anxiety. Nothing good ever came from being called in that way. It has always been a precedent for pain.

Every bump in the night startles me awake and I freeze with fear. She’s coming for me. I’m never safe. Because I never felt safe as a child, and I’m reliving that still as an adult. I am still, in many ways, a scared child living in an adult body.

I thought it would get better by now, but it hasn’t. I live on high alert. I never feel safe. I have never felt safe a day in my life. Why can’t I get past this? I am in a better place now, but am I really? My feet are in safe zone, but my mind is still locked away in prison, and my mother holds the keys.

I’ve been trying to work through the fear and safety issues in therapy, but they are still coming up. My therapist wrote me a note to help me remind myself that I am here now, and away from that hell. I carry it in pocket everywhere I go.

You are safe now.  You got out.

You survived places and people that were physically and emotionally dangerous, and it made you feel that the whole world was dangerous — that you would never be free. 
But with your adult understanding and resources, you proved that philosophy wrong.  You escaped, and you are now free.

Those who harmed you are not here.  You are separate from them.

If they were here, you could lock the door and tell them to leave.  If they didn’t listen to you, you could call law enforcement and they would make them leave.  You have power now.  You get to make the decisions.  They can’t hurt you anymore.  
You can find safe environments and surround yourself with safe people.

You can care for yourself and protect yourself.  And you should.

Every day, you can choose freedom again.
When the world feels frightening, remind yourself that you got out.  And you are safe now.

How can I feel safe when they took that sense of safety away from me? They stole it. I need it back.

 

Welcome to the closet

I woke up early this morning and found myself snuggled away in the closet, with blankets and a pillow.

I don’t remember a lot of yesterday night. I spent most of Tuesday night crying, which carried into Wednesday morning crying. That was followed by work and intermittent crying, followed by leaving work early and more crying.

Then I found myself wandering the streets crying in the rain. Rain is good for hiding crying, because everyone just assumes it’s the rain on your face. I mean, you can’t really tell tears from raindrops. So I just let it out and no one noticed a thing.

And then I found my way home, feeling completely broken. Took a shower to get rid of the chill in my bones, and ended up holding myself up against the wall of the shower, crying.

I managed to eat, despite feeling like absolute shit. And then I retreated to my room, where my thoughts were going to horrible places. 

I thought about going home. My place of origin home. I didn’t think things could get any worse, anyway. I didn’t see any options left. I wanted to go home because I secretly wished that my mother would kill me. It would be much easier that way. I wouldn’t have to do it myself. What else do I have left? Nothing.

Later on, I heard knocking at the door. I started to panic. I locked my bedroom door and pushed my punching bag over in back of it, barricading myself in. The fear that my mother had found me was overtaking me. Then I started to lose it. And then the next thing I know, I’m laying in the closet.

The closet is not a comfortable space for a 30 year-old. But my other parts aren’t 30 years old, so they don’t know that. They just believe it’s safe in there, or safer I should say. I don’t believe they or I will ever feel completely safe anywhere we go.

Now I’m dealing with absolute chaos on the inside. Fear and panic have set in. Parts are scared that we’re going to see our mother. It’s absolute fucking chaos.

I’m running damage control and trying to convince everyone that we are safe, which is hard for me to do because I’m not even sure that we are. And even though I’m present, I’m still struggling with having a foot in the past. Any little noise or startle and I start to lose it again.

I’m exhausted.

Layers of Protection

No one ever asked why I wore a bathing suit under my clothes. It was quite visible through the white polo of my private school uniform. I wasn’t going swimming in the middle of winter. But for years, I would wear a bathing suit over my underwear and under my clothes, and no one ever questioned it.

Why? Because it helped me feel protected. In my child mind, I foolishly thought these extra barriers, these layers of protection, would prevent me from being abused.

So I stuffed myself with wads of toilet paper. That toilet paper was going to protect me. She can’t put anything inside me then. She’s not going to be able to hurt me.

And then I’d wear two pairs of underwear, sometimes three. Then, my bathing suit. Then my pants. Then two or three shirts. I needed all of that to feel protected. I needed to be covered. I never wanted to be without my protection.

But those layers didn’t work. She still hurt me. It just took a little more effort.

I never gave up trying, though, even to this day. I always wear two pairs of underwear. I always wear at least three shirts, no matter if it’s the heat of summer.

And when I am feeling vulnerable and afraid, I go right back to my childhood methods of protection.

Since I’ve been struggling with this memory, I’ve found myself reverting back to childhood a bit. I’m teetering in a place between being a free, 30 year-old adult and being a scared child. As weird as it is, I feel like both at the same time.

I know I am an adult, but I am also living in fear of my mother. I check my bedroom door ten times to make sure it is locked before I go to bed. Why? Because I don’t want my mother coming in and hurting me. Adult me knows my mother isn’t even here, but the fear is still playing out actively in my head.

And as I’ve gotten ready for bed each night, I have created a protective cocoon of clothing: extra clothing under my pajamas, a sweatshirt with the hood over my head and closed tightly. Throw blankets wrapped around me like I am human burrito.Why? Because I need to protect myself from my mother. My mother, who is nowhere near me anymore. My  mother, who doesn’t even know where I am. But that knowledge doesn’t matter because I am living in a state of confusion, a mixed state of past and present that has become my reality.

I’m not sure what is worse: living in fear and not knowing why, or living in fear, totally aware of the irrationality of it all, but not being able to control it.

Why?

I’m exhausted, but I’m too scared to close my eyes. I’m afraid to go to sleep.

Last night was horrible. Nightmare after nightmare. At one point I woke up doused in sweat; my skin felt like it was on fire. It wasn’t even hot in the house. The heat was coming from inside me, like a fire burning whatever was left of my soul.

Whatever sleep I had was ruined by the nightmares, the memories, the pain. The day hadn’t even started and I was already drained. I cried walking to the bus stop. I cried at work. I cried on the bus going home from work. I cried at home. The tears don’t even help. They can’t take away the pain in my heart. They don’t stop the memories from invading my mind. They just give me a headache.

I don’t have time to cry. I have a job to do. I have essays to write. I have bills to pay, money to pull from the sky, and people to check on. There’s no time to cry. Suck it up.

Why can’t I just get over it?

Falling

For the last couple of months, I have had this terrible fear of falling.

I know it could be connected to many things. I have also read enough symbol psychology to know that there are meanings behind feeling like you are falling.

I know that it was a fall last summer that caused me to break my foot, a foot that I am still experiencing pain in nearly nine months later.

I know that I’ve fallen down (and up) enough stairs that it would be understandable to be afraid I am going to fall.

Sometimes I feel so weak that the wind could knock me over. There actually has been times that it has. My body and mind give in against the pressure. Instead of fighting back, I let it overtake me. I let the wind push me down, just like I let the people in my life push me down.

Feet are the roots that hold you down. They support the rest of your body. They keep you connected to the ground.

If my feet are my roots, I am fucked. They are so damaged. They have been damaged for a while, and they are only getting worse. Spurs, bone cysts, poorly healed fractures, arthritis, tendonitis…all afflicting the very things that are supposed to be my support and my foundation.

I’ve been trying to block out the pain for some time. I ignored the cracking of my foot every time I took a step. If a part of my foot hurt, I just put more weight on a different part. But then that part would hurt. And now I am at a point where it doesn’t matter where I put my weight; the pain is always there.

And now I spend my days walking so carefully, not just because of the pain, but because I am so scared I am going to fall. Sometimes while I’m walking, I imagine myself in a sort of fast-forwarded scene, taking a step and falling flat on my face, and being unable to pick myself back up. So I stay on the ground, and people just keep moving forward, not bothered by my obvious need for help.

Writing that all out, I can see the symbolism. My fear of falling is not about the pain in my feet. It’s about my fear of failing, about feeling unsupported.

I need to know that it’s okay if I fall.

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.

Four weeks

So, it’s been four weeks since my escape.  I’m still alive.  I’m still kicking.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t all over the place emotionally.  These last few days have been trying for me.  I had a lot of feelings about my family resurface after trying so long to keep them suppressed.  There are a lot of unresolved issues I have with people in my family that I just haven’t had the strength to deal with.  I still don’t have the strength now.  I don’t know if I ever will.  For now, my anger and sadness about it come out through my tears.

I have been on edge these past few days, and likely will be into this weekend and coming week.  As this is the four week mark, it is also the time I told my family I would be coming back home.  I haven’t had contact with my family since I left; the few text messages I received from my mother remain unanswered. I was actually relieved that her contact has been minimal.  With that being said, she hasn’t yet had the realization that I am not coming back.  People have warned me to prepare myself for her acting out.  When she realizes that she no longer has any control over me, she is not going to just concede; she is going to try to gain back her control.

While I have taken every precaution I could to make sure I am untraceable, I am still scared of her.  I am still scared she will find me.  It may be irrational, but to me, the fear is real.  The last couple of nights, I have barricaded my bedroom door before I go to sleep because I am scared she will somehow get in the house and try to hurt me.  I haven’t left the house the last few nights because I’m afraid she’ll be there, waiting for me.  I’ve had nightmares.  The other night, I became startled by a fight my roommate was having with someone.  Before I was able to process what was really going on, I began fearing that it was my mother coming for me, and I urinated on myself.  I haven’t done that since I left home.  I felt like a failure.

To add to my already increasing anxiety, I start work tomorrow.  Yes, I got my social security card just in time and was able to finalize the paperwork on Tuesday.  While the job is nothing I haven’t done before, I am anxious about being in a new environment with people I don’t know and who don’t know me.  At my old job, I often had days where I was not mentally present.  Sometimes, I was completely non-responsive, staring into nothingness; other times, I was in a child-like state.  Regardless, my close coworkers knew my situation and covered for me.  Now, I don’t have that.  What if I can’t focus enough to get my work done?  What if I break down?  What if I have a flashback while at work?  No one is going to understand what is happening.  I’m going to end up getting fired.

I really just hope I can get through these next few days unscathed.  I don’t know if I will ever get over the fear of my mother coming back to hurt me.  I can only hope that over time, the fear fades away.  I don’t want to live like this forever.