Without Notice

This time of the year is probably the hardest for me.

I’ve written before about the significance of April 25th. It is the most difficult trauma anniversary for me.

It’s been ten years now, and yet the pain still remains as if it happened yesterday.

It’s a different kind of hurt. A worse kind of hurt.

Of all the things my mother did to me, all the pain she caused, none of it hurt more than what she did (and didn’t do) that day.

I almost died. To this day, I still don’t know why I didn’t. But she knew what happened. She knew I overdosed. And she did nothing. She didn’t take me to the hospital. She didn’t call 911. All she could say was how could you do this to me? And then she went back to her normal daily life, as I sat alone, suffering in the worst way, physically and mentally.

I’ve racked my brain trying to understand what happened that day. I’ve tried for years to understand how anyone, especially a mother, could leave her child to suffer. There is no understanding it. She didn’t care if I died, because that meant the truth would die with me.

It still hurts. It still makes me cry. I still feel the pain in my heart, the hopelessness. A part of me still wishes that I died that day. It would have saved me from seven more years of abuse. It would have saved me from living the same pain over and over again.

I am still grieving. I think I will always grieve that day.

I hadn’t handled it well in the past. But I was going to do better this year.

I told my therapist in the beginning of this month that the end of April was going to be a difficult time for me. I didn’t go into the details right then, but I let him know I was going to need a lot of support. I told him then because I knew as the date got closer, I would isolate and shut down.

Then last week, the night before my therapy appointment, my therapist text me to let me know he would not be returning to the practice. I knew he was planning on taking a within the next couple of months, but this wasn’t a temporary leave. This was a permanent one. Without notice.

I couldn’t believe it. I had already made a mental list of everything I needed to talk about that next day, and here I was, left with no therapist, heading into the most difficult few months of the year. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

I scrambled to find someone, but there was no one I worked with previously that was available. It was difficult to find ANYONE who was available. It was hard enough finding this last therapist. Many places around here have waiting lists, and because I don’t have any money to pay out-of-pocket, I have no choice but to work with therapists who take insurance. And those are the ones with waiting lists miles long.

I thought about the next couple of months. Even once I manage getting through April 25th, I still have Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day has always been difficult for me, for obvious reasons. Last year was probably one of the worst in terms of how I coped with it (because I didn’t cope with it). This year will be even more difficult, because I won’t just be grieving for what my mother did to me, but also grieving for the loss of my own motherhood. Things are more complicated this time around. The loss is more complex.

As much as I would like to say that I can handle things on my own, that I can cope with my losses without being drowned by them, I know that’s not the truth. I can’t do it on my own. I need help. I need support.

Even though my life is shit right now, I have 47 cents in my bank account, I’m failing school this semester, and my health has been horrible, there is a part of me that doesn’t yet want to throw in the towel. That’s why I made the decision to reach back out for help.

I called the PHP I was in a few months ago. I felt ashamed. I had spent so much time in the program that I shouldn’t still be this fucked up. I shouldn’t need this much help. Clearly something is wrong with me. But then I remembered the psychiatrist tell me it’s okay to come back if I need it. And I think I do. I don’t have many other options at this point.

My intake is tomorrow, and I don’t know how to feel.

Abort

So many times in my life, I’ve told myself “that’s not going to be me”, as if I were somehow immune to the effects of my decisions and experiences.

But every time, life catches up to me and kicks me right in the ass. Perhaps it’s karma. Perhaps it’s just the result of being human. As much as I try to hide it, as much as I try to manage it all on my own, to suffer in silence, it wears on me.

I wrote this status Tuesday morning, the day after I made one of the hardest decisions of my life.

I keep doing this to myself. I keep telling myself that somehow, it’s going to be different for me. And it never is.

I make bad decisions. I don’t think of the consequences. I used and told myself I’d never be an addict. I drank and told myself I’d never be an alcoholic. I smoked and told myself I’d never be sick. And yet I am all of those things.

I get involved with people I shouldn’t. I do things I don’t really want to do, but I don’t know any different. I don’t know how to say no. I’m not sure I’m allowed to.  So I do it and convince myself that nothing bad will come out of it.

Until something did.

I tried to ignore it. I hoped that somehow, I would wake up one day and everything would be back to normal. But that wasn’t happening. And I didn’t know what to do.

I wanted to die. The sadness, the hopelessness, and the shame were damaging me from the inside out. I wanted someone to know, I wanted someone to help me, but I couldn’t find the words to say what I had done. All I could say was I don’t want to live anymore.

I hid my reality for weeks. I battled with myself, trying to stay alive when part of me just wanted to give up. I wanted someone to tell me it was going to be okay, yet I was so afraid of telling the truth. But it became too much to hide. The weight gain. The nausea. The emotional clusterfuck I had become.

I sat down with the nurse at PHP. I told her there was something I needed to tell her. I handed her my heart medication, which I had been hoarding. But that wasn’t all that I was hiding, and the nurse knew that. I tried to hold it in, but she kept pushing. Then I finally uttered the truth I tried so hard to deny — I’m pregnant.

I couldn’t look her in the face because I was so ashamed. I wanted to run away. I wanted to take back the truth. You can never unsay what’s been said. It took everything in me just to mutter those two words to her. I sat there begging her not to tell anyone. But part of me knew that she had to tell my therapist. And she did.

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. Anger. Disappointment. Frustration. Judgment. I sat there shaking, afraid of what my therapist was going to say. But she wasn’t mad. She wasn’t disappointed. She wasn’t even surprised. I think she already knew.

I thought telling someone would make things better, but I was still a mess. And I was running out of time. I didn’t tell anyone how far along I was. I knew I had to make a decision.

I knew logically I could never have this baby. I have COPD. I have a heart condition. My body can barely handle taking care of me. I can barely handle taking care of me. I have no money, no job, and no sense of how to be a parent. I smoked. I drank. I starved myself. I took medications that shouldn’t be taken while pregnant. I did all the wrong things in the worst ways.

But this baby would have been my chance at having a real family. Someone who shares my blood, my genes, and my biology. The connection I have been missing since I ran away. A reason to live. And yet the fear of being a mother, of being my mother, is strong enough that it overrides any benefits of having a child.

I didn’t expect it to be so hard. I wasn’t attached. I knew it was for the better. Yet hours before my appointment, I broke down. I started to doubt my decision. I started to doubt everything. Why am I crying? My therapist sat me down and told me it was okay to cry. She told me it was okay to feel however I was feeling. The decision was mine to make.

So I went through with it. No one outside of therapy knew what was going on. I went home and pretended like everything was okay. I did laundry. I cooked dinner. I baked dozens of cookies. I went to therapy. I acted like it was a regular day. And yet, at the same time, I was losing my baby.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried more than I have this past week. And I can’t understand it. They say it’s grieving. But how can I grieve something I caused the loss of? How can I grieve someone I never met? How can I grieve what I knew I could never have?

All I can think is how I’ve done what my mother should have done to me. I spared a child a life of misery and pain. I saved her in a way I wish I would’ve been saved.

Trapped

I can’t talk about anything.

I can’t write about anything.

Everything is trapped. My words, my thoughts, my emotions. In the prison cell that she created. And I don’t know how to get any of it out. It’s suffocating me.

I’m still afraid. Afraid of her. Afraid of the truth that I will never be free.

She speaks inside my head. She reads my words. She is everywhere, even when she’s not.

Fired (Up)

I came home Monday afternoon expecting to enjoy the rest of the day — the anniversary of my freedom.

I checked the mail and saw a letter from my employer. I opened it. There was a piece of paper with my name and information on it, with directions for filing for unemployment, with a permanent separation date of June 6th.

I never quit my job. I wanted to go back as soon as I could. I never wanted to be out in the first place. When I passed out at work that day, the manager told me I would not be able to come back until I had medical clearance in writing. I told her it was going to take me awhile to get it, and she said that was okay — that my health was first priority. And I have been trying ever since to get a note, but because of my history of heart issues and fainting, no one wanted to take on the liability and told me I needed to see my cardiologist.

So I planned to wait until my next appointment, which was then cancelled because my cardiologist decided to leave the practice on short notice. I rescheduled with my original cardiologist, but the earliest appointment I could get was July 11th. Fine. I figured everything was okay because my manager told me to take all the time I needed.

When I got that letter, I didn’t understand what happened. No one contacted me before this. No letter, no phone call, no e-mail, nothing. As far as I knew, everything was still okay. I had no idea I was going to be let go. I never lost a job before — not like this.

It was hard enough for me to leave the job I had for nearly two years, the job I got just weeks after running away. But that was a choice I made in order to have a better, safer life — and a place to live. I was in control.

But this was not in my control. This was not a choice to leave. This was being fired. Through the mail. On the day I was supposed to be celebrating my freedom.

I tried to suppress my emotions, I tried to push it in the back of my mind, to try to think about it another day. But that didn’t work out so well, because I ended up in tears. I was angry, frustrated, and upset. What did I do wrong? I didn’t abandon my job. I was good at it. I performed well even in the few weeks that I was there. And I did everything I could to try to get back, and I was still trying. But it wasn’t enough.

I felt like a failure. I can’t keep a job. I can’t even keep myself upright. How am I supposed to get another job? How am I going to pay my bills? No one wants to hire someone who was fired, and surely no one wants to hire someone who passes out frequently. Not disabled enough for disability, but not able enough to work. It’s occupational entrapment.

I managed to stop crying for a little while, but any chance of enjoying the rest of the day was gone. I made it through dinner, but then I felt the same emotions coming back. I went outside. I wanted to badly to run away, to take my cigarettes and smoke my feelings into numbness.

And it took everything in me not to do that, because I knew it wasn’t going to solve anything. I knew it was going to affect other people, and affect me. So I sat with my emotions and a bottle of beer. I let myself cry. I let myself be angry.

Then I looked up at the sky. I watched the fireflies fly. I watched the neighbor’s dog waddle through his yard. I looked around me. Peaceful. Quiet. Freedom. For 29 years, the only way I could watch the sky was through my bedroom window. But that wasn’t my life anymore. This was my life. Full of feelings and losses, but also full of fresh air, fireflies, and the freedom to see life from the outside, instead of inside my window.

I was still upset, still angry, but it no longer overwhelmed me. I came back inside. I sat on the couch and watched TV. I ended up falling asleep there, with one dog sleeping behind my head and another sleeping right at my side. And I couldn’t imagine life any other way. Safety, a family, friends, a home, dogs, and freedom.

I’ll figure out the rest, somehow, some way.

This is not my family.

I still remember what my mother wrote to me

You made your decision to disown your family.

It wasn’t a decision to disown my family. It was a decision to save my life.

And I am reminded of that decision every day.

I left a life behind. A life I can never go back to. A life full of people I can’t see anymore.

One of my best friends graduated from college last week. I wanted to be there to support him, in the same way he was there to support me when I graduated college last year. But I couldn’t. I could only experience his moment through pictures he posted on social media. Because I can never go back to that place again. I can never take the risk of my mother seeing me, of finding me, of hurting me. I can never return to the only place I knew for 29 years of my life, my home, my friends, my family. And that hurts in a way I’m not sure I can ever explain in words.

For all those months after my escape, I went through my hardest moments alone. I spent holidays alone. I stayed in the hospital alone. I struggled to explain to every person taking down my information that I had no emergency contact, no next of kin, no person to notify. No mother? No father? No siblings? No one? They could never seem to understand how I had no family. Didn’t they hear? I disowned my family.

And now here I am, smack dab in the middle of a family that is not my own. I’m going through shit with people by my side from a family that is not my own. I am spending time with people from a family that is not my own. I am living in a house that is not my home.

Now it’s different. I went to the cardiologist appointment with someone by my side, someone who cared enough to take the time to come with me, because she knew I wasn’t going to speak up for myself. But she doesn’t know I don’t speak up for a reason. She doesn’t understand I’ve been trained not to speak up for myself.

I went through my surgery with her by my side. As the cardiologist stitched up my incision, she said “I’m going to go out and tell your mother how everything went.” In that moment I realized that’s who should be here: my mother, my family. Instead here was this woman, of no relation to me, standing by me through a hard time. She isn’t my mother, but she cares and supports me more than my biological mother ever did, strong enough that even my doctor mistook her for my own family member.

I always dreamed of having a real family, but I never knew what it looked like. I didn’t really imagine other people, I just imagined my parents being different. I imagined living a life with a mother who didn’t rape and abuse, and a father who hugged instead of hit. I imagined going out places instead of being stuck inside of that prison. I imagined that they would change, but they never did.

Thirty-one years later, I found that family. A normal family where I don’t have to be afraid to go to bed at night and I can eat food without being punished for it and I can go outside and see the world whenever I want. I found a family with a man who asks if I’ve done my homework every Friday, because he knows I have a paper due that night. I found a family with a teenager that asks where I’m going each time there’s a stranger parked outside the house waiting to pick me up for a date. I found a family with a kid I can joke around with so much, we both end up rolling on the floor. I found a family with a woman who tells me goodnight and gives me a hug before she goes to sleep. I found a family that makes sure I’m eating enough, a family that always makes sure I have what I need.

It’s a normal family. It’s a family I never experienced. And it’s not my family. Because I’m not sure I fit into a normal family. I am not sure it’s fair for them to have to deal with me. It’s not fair for them to have to make sure I am eating like a normal person. It’s not fair for them to have to hold my head off the floor every time I pass out. It’s not fair for them to care for me, when I can barely find it within me to care about myself. I am a burden. And they did nothing to deserve that.

As much as I’m included in everything they do, I still feel like an outsider. I feel like someone who doesn’t belong. Because I don’t belong. This is not my family. I am alone. In the middle of a room full of people, as crazy as some of them may be, I am the only one that doesn’t belong.

It’s ironic. My own family treated me like the outsider my whole life. Yet the truth is I never belonged with them anyway, because I was nothing like them. And now, with a family who is treating me like I belong, I find myself pushing away.

I ended up crying in the corner of the living room yesterday. The family had a barbecue. Other family members were there. And for a few hours I felt okay. I talked, I listened, I even got dragged into a mini-trip with a woman who had just learned my name. And then right before dinner, something clicked in me. This is not my family. I do not belong here. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

They sat down together in the kitchen and I isolated myself in the corner of another room. I knew I was going to cry. I tried so hard to hold in the tears. I tried to look at my phone, act busy, but then she came over to ask if I was okay and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to hold the tears in anymore.

She asked if it was my heart. I knew she meant my arrhythmia, so I said no. But my heart was broken in a different way, a way that I can barely explain. A broken heart that continues to break each time I realize all that I never had.

She knew something was wrong and kept asking me what it was, and I kept trying to hold it all in. I’m fine. I finally broke down and told her, this isn’t my family, this is yours. I couldn’t hold in the tears anymore. She grabbed tissues and tried to comfort me, while blocking me from everyone else in the other room. She told me that I was family, that she adopted me, that I belong. She had told me it all before, but it still didn’t feel right.

I got what I always dreamed of as a little girl. Love, care, support, safety, and all of the things a real family should be. Yet even though I am the safest, happiest, and most balanced I have ever been, I am still reminded of what I don’t have: my family. They are gone forever. Some dead, some gone away, some too dangerous to recognize they exist, but regardless, still gone. I am one standing, both disowned by my family and disowned to them.

This is not my family. I don’t want to be a burden to them.

I don’t understand how I got here.

Dear K Explained

After I posted the letter to K last night, I was emotionally exhausted. It was the first time I read the letter in its entirety, and the emotions I had experienced during the last three days of writing it had hit me all at once. I wanted to write more, I wanted to explain, but I couldn’t. I ended up crying myself to sleep, hoping that would be the last time that I had to feel it. But it wasn’t.

I didn’t want to write a letter at all. How do I write to a stranger? How do I write to someone who I’m not even sure is there?  I didn’t even really want to talk about K, let alone write a letter to her. But my therapist encouraged me to think about writing a letter to K after session last week, and since my therapist has yet to steer me in the wrong direction, I followed her suggestion.

I’ve had such a disconnect from K for so long, partly to protect myself, and partly because of the guilt I felt about her absence. Her loss is connected with one of the worst experiences in my life, an experience I end up reliving each time I think about her and what she went through.

I never knew K. She took care of my parts before I knew I had parts. She was there, protecting me and the others, as I spent my younger years in blissful ignorance of my DID. K was the reason I made it through childhood. 

But then K went away, on the night my father attacked me, the night I got beaten for being depressed. I don’t know all that happened. I still only remember small parts of that night. But I do know that’s when everything changed. That’s when the voices started. That’s when Charlie came to be. That’s when my life became chaos.

I learned who K was over the years, and I was able to put all of the pieces of who she was together. I missed her. I never knew her, but I missed what she did for me. My life before that night was vastly different from my life after. The difference was her.

I also felt an immense sense of guilt. She disappeared because of me. I couldn’t fight back my father. I couldn’t stand up for myself. I wasn’t strong enough, and I let her take all of the pain. I don’t even know what happened. That’s the frustrating part. I don’t even know why she had to go away.

I just know that, if that night never happened, K would still be here. If I just fought my father back, K would still be here. If I would have just acted normal, K would still be here. If I hadn’t been depressed, K would still be here. K is gone because of me.

It’s why I never talk about her much. I feel at fault. She existed because of me. She left because of me. Why couldn’t I just be better, stronger, and more courageous? Why did I have to be so weak?

As I started writing the letter, all I could think about was how sorry I was. I was sorry she had to exist. I was sorry she had to work so hard to protect us. I was sorry she had to endure something so horrible that she had to go away. I was overcome with so much guilt that I couldn’t see anything else. The first sentence I wrote down was not a “hello” or “thank you”. It was “I’m so sorry.”

It took me three days to finish that letter. The emotions were so overwhelming for me that I had to step away several times so I wouldn’t break down completely. I felt sadness. I felt guilt and shame. I felt a sense of loss over someone I didn’t even know was there. I felt for my parts, too. They lost a mother. Really, they lost two mothers; one I caused to go away and one I took us away from.

I thought I had got it all out. I thought that once I wrote those words down, the feelings and emotions would disappear. But they didn’t. As much as I wanted to read the letter to my therapist, I worried that speaking it out loud would make the feelings all come back. And they did come back, stronger than ever. Guilt. Shame. Sadness. Confusion. Loss. Hurt. Pain. I cried for her. I cried for my parts. I cried for me.

I didn’t understand why she left us. Why did she have to go?

I still need her. I can’t be her. I can’t love. I can’t nurture. I can’t be caring. I can’t protect anyone. I’m not K. My therapist says that I am all of those things. Those qualities were K, but they are me, too; they always have been. But I just can’t see it.

K was all of those good things. K got hurt and went away. I am not any of those good things. I wasn’t the one who got hurt.

K is not me, and I am not K.

I can’t be.

Dear Brother Explained

The other day, I posted a letter I had written to my brother: Dear Brother.

It wasn’t very well thought out. It was Sunday afternoon, and I found myself still struggling with my emotions about the situation that happened on Friday. I felt paralyzed by them, in a way. I couldn’t get anything done because my mind was set on thoughts about my brother. I needed a way to get my feelings out, because they weren’t serving me well by being bottled up inside.

I walked to the card store, still not set on what I was going to write. I walked through the card aisles, and came to the sympathy section. Loss. That is exactly what this felt like. My brother was still very much alive, but everything else about him was gone. My image of him: gone. My hope for him: gone. I lost him. He died in my heart.

There were only five or six cards dedicated to the loss of a brother. I picked up each one and read it. Unfortunately, none of them captured the type of loss this was. Then there was this card, describing the brother I always wanted: a brother I could depend on, a brother I could share good memories with, a brother I could love.

I started to cry as I looked through the card. I knew this was the right one. I put it in the envelope, wiped my face, and went to the register to purchase it. I left it in the bag until I got home, because I didn’t want to get emotional in public. Even so, I was already going through some of the things I wanted to write in my head. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I sat at my desk, pulled out the card, got my pen, and wrote what I needed to say to him.

Even though I knew this was going to be just another card left unsent, like the cards I wrote to my father and to my mother, I found it oddly therapeutic. I didn’t need him to respond. I didn’t need him to give me an answer. I just needed, for myself, to say what I needed to say in the best way I knew how: through writing.

I didn’t always feel this way towards my brother. In fact, I struggled with feelings of guilt over leaving him behind. Every so often, the guilt would come back full force. It got especially bad after my father died. I knew that with my father gone, my brother was the only person my mother had left. I was scared for him. But there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t financially help him — I am barely surviving myself. I couldn’t risk my own safety by directly reaching out to him, because his closeness to his mother made it too dangerous to even attempt. I was (and still am) a mess myself. I needed to focus on me. I didn’t have the energy to devote to his cause. And I felt horrible for it.

Then the situation on Friday happened, and everything changed. I realized he didn’t care about me at all. He never once called me, but he still had my number. He couldn’t even contact me himself to ask for what he needed; he had someone else do it for him. And he didn’t even need to do what he did. He wanted to trade that Jeep in so he could pretend like it never existed, just like my family pretended like I never existed.

He could have offered me back even some of the money I put into buying that Jeep. Instead, he used all of it to get something bigger and better. The money from my father’s life insurance? Nothing. My brother and his mother have kept it for themselves. Because that’s who they are.

I realized that my brother is just like her. He is an adult. He can make choices. He chose to spread lies about me after I escaped, just as his mother did. He could have denied it, but I know that would have been hard to directly defy her. He could have said nothing at all and been okay, but he instead chose to fuel the fire his mother set for me.

He could have reached out. He knew my phone number, and my e-mail address. His mother would not have found out. But he chose not to try.

My brother could have just paid off the Jeep. Money was not an issue. Instead, he chose to trade it in, and trade it in for something better. There is something symbolic in that. He traded in that Jeep just as he traded me in.

My brother could have gotten away. He always had more financial resources than me. He worked full-time for a long time. I figured out a way to get out. He could have figured out a way, but he chose not to. He could have taken my father’s insurance money and left, but he chose not to. He chose to stay with his mother.

Together, they have chosen to take what isn’t theirs. They are opportunists. They are takers. They are liars. They are users.

My brother is just like her. Her training didn’t work so well on me, but it has worked on him. I didn’t see it before. Well, no, I did. The truth is that I didn’t want to see it. I wanted my brother to be a true and good person. I wanted him to be the brother I needed, the brother I always wanted.

But I realized he’s not that person. He never was, he’s not now, and he won’t be able to be. I can’t change him. I can’t show him something he refuses to see. I can’t save him. So I have to let him go.

It’s another loss. But sometimes, losses are for the better.