24 weeks (and a trip back to that place I came from)

I survived Christmas.

I worked Christmas Eve morning, left at 10 AM and caught the train up to that place I came from. I wasn’t alone, though. Courage (the stuffed lion my therapist gave me a couple of months back) came with me and was right by my side through the entire train ride. I didn’t care how weird it looked. I needed him.

Then I thought to myself, if I can handle this train ride, I can handle anything. So I went to my old neighborhood. Then I went to my old workplace. With Courage riding on my back and a hoodie hiding my face, I walked into the building unsure of who would be there. I went to the back where I could hide in safety. I felt a rush of emotions, both good and bad. I saw my old coworkers, my old friends. I realized how much I missed them.

So many people were excited to see me. They were shocked at how different I looked (my hair is now black and I’ve lost 60 some odd pounds over the last six months). Even more noticeable was my demeanor. I was happy. I wasn’t stressed. Everyone could see the difference. I was a different person now, not only in physicality but in emotion.

One of my coworkers commented how I didn’t lookvstressed at all, and that time away from the job must have been good for me. Before I could even answer, my friend (whom I’ve written about before, about her not fully understanding why I cut contact and left) said “it wasn’t the job that was doing it to her.” In that moment, I felt like maybe something had finally clicked with her. I think she was starting to understand. It took her seeing the changes in me in person for it to click.

I was treated like I had never left. They welcomed me and gave me food. They hugged me. Most importantly, they respected that I needed my mother not to know that I was there. I had people protecting me there regardless, but there was no need. I didn’t even have to see that woman’s face. Instead, I could enjoy the dozens of faces of people I hadn’t seen for half a year.

Christmas day was simple and relaxing. My friend and I cooked a nice dinner in our pajamas. We watched a marathon of Catfish on TV and took a lot of naps. It was enough just being together. Neither of us were alone. I went home later that night (as I had work early the following morning) feeling validated in my decisions – my decision to visit for Christmas, and my decision to move away. Even though I miss people up north, I’ve changed for the better since I’ve been here. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this had I stayed. I wouldn’t be smiling. I wouldn’t be healing.

I’ve changed.

For the better.

23 weeks

How did I end up here? What forces have driven me to be the person I am today?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past week. Like nature versus nurture, I wonder how much of an impact my experiences have had in shaping the person I am today.

If I was never told I wouldn’t amount to anything, would I still have striven for academic excellence, or would I have been complacent with being average?

If I never had to endure physical or emotional pain, would I still be working to alleviate this pain in others, or would I just be focused on my own needs?

If I never had to muddle through 14 years of therapy and a failing mental health system, would I still find it my purpose in life to become a therapist, or would I have ended up being a (much more financially stable) businesswoman?

If I never grew up being hurt by the very woman that gave me life, would I still be fighting for the countless others that have been abused by women, the countless others that have been ignored and disbelieved because our society doesn’t want to believe that women have the capacity to be abusive?

In many ways, I’ve beaten the odds. Despite being raised by a psychopath, I’ve developed a strong capacity for empathy. Despite experiencing abuse and violence, I’ve chosen to stop the cycle. Despite being programmed not to talk, I’ve become a voice not only for myself, but for others.

Perhaps innateness and experience aren’t that separate. I truly believe there had to have been something in me at birth that allowed me to survive. I know my DID helped me survive, but it had to be something else.

How did I learn what goodness was when my own parents were the complete opposite of goodness? How did I develop morals? How did I know that violence and abuse were not acceptable behavior?

During our last therapy session, my therapist and I talked about the role of my father in the family dynamic. I have realized in the last few months that, as a child, I idealized my father because he was the least horrible of my parents. I modeled some of my behaviors after him, especially the aggression and the physical violence. That probably explains why I never got along well with girls as a child. My rough nature fit in so much better with the boys. Then I guess there came a point when I realized that being like that wasn’t socially acceptable, so I changed.

My therapist asked what role models I had growing up. There had to have been someone positive in my life, someone that I modeled myself after. She asked if I remembered any television shows or movies that had an impact on me. I couldn’t think of anything. Truthfully, I can’t really remember a lot of my childhood. I wish I did.

Then my therapist told me “women who have experienced what you have end up in places like Chowchilla, but you haven’t.” (For background, Chowchilla is a women’s prison in California. The organization has worked with many of the inmates who were victims of mother-daughter sexual abuse as well as non-maternal female-perpetrated abuse). “I could have,” I responded as I thought about the countless times I imagined killing my mother and father, the countless times I researched how to kill a person without leaving evidence behind. I’m probably not that different from those women. The only difference lies in that I never carried out the action. My tendency to over-analyze and my anxiety saved me from ending up in a prison cell. Nothing more, nothing less.

This next week will surely be difficult for me. Holidays were a rough time for me before. I imagine they will still be difficult for me now, even though I’m no longer a prisoner of my own family. I’ve been trying to keep busy and not think about it, but that’s hard to do. I will get through it, though.

 

 

21 weeks

I’ve spent much of the last few days crying.

Not because I’m sad, but because I recognize where I’m at right now and where I’m going.

I received an e-mail late Wednesday that said that after reviewing my application, I had been invited for a final interview with the Psychological Counseling department on Saturday. I just assumed that everyone got a final interview, but when I told my therapist about it the following day, she said they only interview you if they are interested in you. Both therapists seemed more excited about it than I was. My therapist asked me in session if I wanted to go over some preparation for the interview, but I told her I would be okay. I wasn’t going to prepare. I was going to just wing it.

My anxiety started to kick in shortly after my therapy session was over. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for the next bus to come when the other therapist saw me and stopped to sit next to me. We talked for a little about my pink bag (because I mentioned that I hate the color pink) and laughed, and then we started talking about the interview. She told me what to expect, what questions they might ask, what questions I should ask, etc. She even shared some hilarious answers that she had people come up with during interviews. We ended up talking for almost half an hour, and she gave me a hug and reassured me I would do great.

I felt a little better knowing what to expect, but now I was anxious about needing to prepare. I had no nice clothes, no dress shoes, and no makeup. I had to make myself look presentable. I bought the cheapest drug store makeup I could find, bought dress pants, a shirt, sweater, and dress shoes (which I was sure I would never find in size 12). I definitely looked the part. Now I just needed to act the part.

I stayed up late looking up information about the program, how it ranked nationally, and how it was rated by other students. I made sure I got more than 8 hours of sleep, which never happens for me. I woke up early to make sure I’d be ready in time. I made it there a half hour early, which is always better than being late.

The interview was not nearly as bad as I expected. There were 10 people including me, with two professors leading. We introduced ourselves, learned about the program, and asked questions. Then we were split into two groups and had to discuss how we would respond to certain ethical dilemmas. I think I did pretty well. We then had a discussion about informed consent and confidentiality and I was the only person that mentioned mandated reporting when child/elder abuse is involved. I’m surprised that more people did not know that, as I thought it was common knowledge.

At the end, everyone had to write a short essay on a hypothetical situation while utilizing the ACA Code of Ethics. Once that was written, we were allowed to leave. There were no one-on-one interviews. I was nervous for no reason. I shook the professor’s hand and told him I hoped I would see him again soon. I will hear back within the next week if I have been accepted or not.

I e-mailed the therapist that helped me as I was waiting for the next bus. I told her everything that happened and thanked her for her support and encouragement. She e-mailed me back and mentioned that she was proud of me, and how she was really rooting for me, not only for this grad school stuff but in every area of my life. I started to cry again because I know her feelings and care are genuine. It’s difficult at times because I don’t have very many people on my side that I can count on (excluding online support). But she has been there, my therapist has been there, and my support group has been there for me through all of this.

I’ve accomplished so much in these 21 weeks. I have a job that I really excel at. I started this blog and have continued to write. I write professionally. I’m (hopefully) going to start graduate school next month. I’m getting more involved in advocating for mental health and other issues. I was recently invited by NAASCA to be a guest on their program and share my experiences recovering and healing from the abuse I endured as a child. I’ve also been approached about my thesis on mother-daughter sexual abuse, which I am currently re-editing for a more general audience.

I have so much going on, but it’s all good. I’m in such a better place right now. I could never be where I am today if I was still with my family. I made the right decision. For the most part, I am happy. So many people tell me how much better I’ve been looking, and how much happier I look. I’m starting to realize that they are right. When I take a picture, I no longer have to fake a smile. I’m struggling, but I’m no longer living in fear. I’m no longer waiting for the pain to come. I’m finally able to live. I am worth living.

20 weeks (and one day)

I…am exhausted.

I’ve been working every day. In a way, it’s good because it keeps me busy. But I’m so drained. I haven’t been feeling well, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting sick, not sleeping right, or not eating right.

I’ve also gone a whole week without therapy. I haven’t gone this long without a session since I’ve been down here. I think I handled it will. I didn’t bother emailing my therapist, even though there were a few instances when I really wanted to. But she deserves a holiday and a break from me. I feel like I have so much to go over now, though. I had to make a list because so much has gone on since last week. Why is it that everything happens at the same time? I feel like I need therapy every day just to catch up.

I don’t even know where to start in writing about what has happened.

I will say that I did reach out to people before Thanksgiving. I text a picture of myself with the cat. It was a nice picture. I was genuinely happy and smiling. I sent it to people knowing that one of them may show my mother. But I was okay with that. I wanted these people to see how happy I was. I wanted my mother to see how happy I was without her. It was foolish thinking, for sure.

I managed to make it through the week.

I’ll make it through another.

It’s what I do.

18 weeks

I can’t believe I’ve made it 18 weeks.

This journey has been anything but easy. But I’m still moving through and moving on. Not everyone would be able to do that. I never thought that I would be able to do that.

My coworker has told me numerous times that I have “found a home here.” I know that he is referring to our workplace as home, and I agree. I fit in so well at work, even being the only female among so many men and boys. I can be myself…my sarcastic, funny, cursing-like-a-sailor self. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to put up a wall there. It’s okay not to be happy all of the time, and they accept that and embrace it. As much as my workplace is a home for me, I feel like I’ve also found a home here, in the city where I now reside. I’ve met so many people and done so many things here that I would have never done in my old home. Being free feels so different, so scary and yet so rewarding.

A friend of mine reached out to me yesterday. It was strange because I had just been thinking about her, realizing that her birthday was coming up and wondering what I could mail to her just to let her know I still care. My best friend showed her some recent pictures of me and she noticed how much better I looked. She said I looked good and relaxed. I thanked her and told her it’s still a struggle, but I manage. Then she told me she was proud of me. I put my phone down and tried to hold back the tears, but they came through anyway. Someone was proud of me. I know it’s such a simple statement, but it’s something I wanted and tried for so long to get my parents to feel towards me; of course, that never happened. I’ve recently heard it from other people in my life and rejected it, as I tend to do with positive compliments given to me. Hearing those words from her just…I don’t know how to describe it. It meant so much to me.

I’ve been working on acknowledging my denial of my DID diagnosis and trying to get past it. I think I am in a better place now – not all the way there, but close enough – to accept everything. I’m not going to lie, I’m still scared of what will happen in the future. As I get closer to my parts, I know that I will have to deal with new memories, and those memories will not always be good ones. I think I have a good support system in place to help me through it, though. I’m not alone. We’re not alone. We don’t have to feel like we’re all alone anymore. I don’t want my parts to feel like they have to hide anymore. They’ve been through enough.

There is a DID conference coming up in February through An Infinite Mind. I’ve thought about going to a conference for the last two months. There was a conference given by another organization just a few weeks ago, but it was on the other side of the country and just not feasible. This conference is probably the closest and most accessible to me, as it’s taking place in Orlando, FL. On a whim, I asked my best friend if he would go with me (the conference is for people with DID, their supporters, and therapists). He said he would. I feel so much better about going there with someone I know and trust. I think it will be a good experience for me. I still have to figure out exactly how I am going to manage it financially, but I’ll do what I have to do. I’ve already gathered some things to sell online to earn some extra money that I can put towards the trip. I think I deserve it. I know I deserve it. It will work out somehow.

I have a little more than two weeks left to get my graduate school application completed. I’ve ordered the transcripts, mailed out recommendation forms to be filled out by my professor, and filled out the FAFSA. All I have left to do is the essay. It’s funny how writing comes so easily for me until there is something that I need to write. Then I put it off for as long as I can because I feel that my writing will be inadequate, or that I won’t have anything substantial to write. I’ll get it done. I need to get it done before life gets so crazy that I just won’t have the time.

I felt a little guilty today because I had off from work and didn’t really do anything except wash my laundry. I haven’t really had a day off to myself in a while. I probably needed to sit at home and do nothing. I’m tired, physically and mentally. I’ve had a headache for four days. I need a break. But there’s really no time for breaks. I just hope I don’t burn out.