THIS THE WINTER OF MY DISCONTENT

I’m sitting here at my friends cafe, drinking a latte, feeling lost and bereft. I met with great friends on Tuesday, with whom I really feel connected. We all had shared an “A-ha” moment, comforted each other, supported each other. It was a beautiful thing. But tonight, I’m feeling particularly lost. Maybe it was the lack of therapy yesterday, or the fact that I have no plans this weekend, I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m feeling disconnected from people. This has never bothered me before, but it’s bothering me today. I was going to go to bed early, in hopes that tomorrow will be better. Instead, here I am, people watching at a board game cafe. I should be working on my writing, instead I’m whining about these weird feelings of discontent. It might be the weather, as it has been grey all day today and I haven’t been using my therapy light. Maybe I should be. Chase away the sleepy feeling I have been living with; maybe reset my circadian rhythm.

And every night brings me one day closer to D-Day, dental work day. I’m in a panic every night, and I’m missing my therapist terribly. There isn’t much she could do, it’s not like she could come to my dentist and hold my hand. Oh that would be wonderful, wouldn’t it.

DISSOCIATION: A POEM

I feel the breeze kiss my skin
As it gently blows
Yet I am not present

I smell the pungent aroma
Coming off the lake
Yet I am not here

I taste the raindrops
Warm on my tongue
Yet I remain absent

I know I am here
Aware of all I hear
Sense, see

Yet I am away
Shut off from the world
Around me

Conscious
Not there
Not fully aware

I go through the motions
Like a machine
Robotic answers
That have no meaning

I know my heart is racing
I feel the blood surging in my veins
The nails digging in my palms
The pain a sharp counterpoint
To my lack of being

So distant
Watching myself
An odd sensation
To see yourself
As you really are
Not the facade you front

Not integrated
Knowing it’s not a good thing
But not sure
I want to come back

To the pain
The agony
The hurt

Alone in the Dark

Fortunately, most nights the prazosin does its job and my nights are nightmare free. Which is a relief after years of constant bad dreams and terrors. Unfortunately, it can’t stop the terrors. Or the somatic memories. Which are coming in full force. I always forget the body keeps track of the changing seasons, and the associated traumas that come with them. I ignore the tightness of the chest, the trouble breathing. The tightening of the body that indicates a collapse response. But to what? There is no reason for this sudden onset of dark memory. Until I look at the calendar, and realize this is the time of the great uncollaring. Two years a sex slave. There is no way to soften those words. The acceptance of the reality of the years I spent from 15 to 17 has been hard to swallow. The depravity, the cruelty, the bones of affection that kept me coming back. The collar that was supposed to indicate a commitment from him to me, me to him. In some ways, that collar was more symbolic than a wedding band. It meant my total submission to him. My mind, my heart, my soul, my body. And a promise to take care of all of me. To cherish that submission. Instead, I was trafficked, used, abused, and, jsut shy of my eighteenth birthday, he took the collar off. “You’re too old. There’s nothing left to teach you,” summarily dismissed. No contact ever again. Thirty years later, I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that cold abandonment. So much of how I see myself shaped by those cold, calculating hands.

And I lie awake at night, woken up by the spectre of his presence. Even now, there are times the agony of the missing collar hurts worse than the missing wedding band of a failed marriage. I swallow hard, expecting to feel the hard leather around my neck. It’s absence a hard thrust into reality. A reality where I feel my failure keenly. Even though, really, I didn’t fail. I was trapped. And even though the method of my escape was brutal and cold, I did. Not unscathed. Not whole. But free.

And yet I wake at night. Cold sweats. Rapid, shallow breathing. I feel his breath on the nape of my neck. The touch of the lash. The cuffs. As I type this, I need to practice my grounding techniques. The touch of the floor on my feet. I’m safe. I’m where I chose to be. I can leave. I’m alone. That’s the big one. I’m alone. I’m all alone. By choice. No one around to hurt me. No one to pin me down. I’m free to be the best self I can be.

SOMATIC MEMORY

The past couple of days have been really really tough. Stuck between hyper and hypo arousal constantly shifting back and forth. Moments where I’m overwhelmed by fear and can’t breathe, and then moments where the slightest sound makes me jump. Even though my mind finds no connection between the here and now and this feeling of doom, I have a full blown fear reody response. My therapist did get back to me today, (YAY!) and she said it sounds like I’m having somatic flashbacks. I should have recognized this right away. What is a somatic flashback? It’s your body remembering, not your brain. “Memory is reminding you about the state of your being all those years in childhood and adolescence when you were in danger” is how my therapist worded it in her email to me today. I lived in fear growing up. Beatings from my father were a daily, consistent thing with him. The only thing that was. And I had a real rough session this week. Last week brought up a lot of history, how no one noticed the sad little me acting out and begging for attention. And this week brought more of that to the fore. And just like I did in adolescence, I’m living a double life of sorts here at home again. My parents don’t know about my cousin molesting me. They don’t know about the abusive relationship I was in at 15. They don’t know about my sexual assault three years ago. They don’t know I’m living with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. They think my therapy is for my anxiety. I have to keep so much hidden, while living in the house where I grew up abused. They say you can’t heal in the environment that broke you, but I am. Granted, things are different now. I’m a grown woman with a voice. My body and being are different. It’s now 2019 and I am no longer in danger from anyone.

So I orient to the here and now. I’m in my room, the room I grew up in, focusing on what’s different. My bookcases, the books in those cases. My bed. The decorations on the wall. The flooring. The sheets on my bed. All things that are from the present. Nothing in my room remains from the past except my bear, Bettina, who has been with me since I was six months old. She has been the one constant in my life. I have been struggling with the desire to self harm this weekend. That, too, was a constant in my life for many years. It had its purpose then. But things are different now. I need to remember this with the very core of my being. All my emotional parts need to recognize that we are no longer trapped in trauma time. I have so many new coping tools and a great support network. Parts of me may be trapped in the past, but I have the strength, courage and determination to show them a better future.

SAFETY CONTRACTS AND SELF HARM

I’ve been with my therapist for about three years now. One of the first things she did was put me on saftey contract. I am proud to say, in that three years, I have only intentionally violated it once. I say intentionally, because the things she considers to be self harming behaviour are myriad. Not using my seatbelt in the car, driving too fast on the highway, not eating right, even not maintaining good sleep hygiene. All of which I’m guilty of at some point. I’m finally at a point where my med compliance is no longer an issue, just a struggle. When I’m feeling good, I don’t think I need them. When I’m not feeling good, I feel what’s the point. So it’s a constant struggle. But the main focus of my contract is the obvious, direct ways I harm myself: drinking and cutting. And after yesterdays session, the struggle is real. I even reached out to her about it last night. She didn’t respond, but as I was in no real danger, I wasn’t really expecting her to.

Self harm. Two little words. The act of hurting oneself. Doesn’t really sound too bad, does it? I even managed to inflict a bit on myself while in her office yesterday, squeezing my hand too hard and leaving deep imprints of my fingernails, took a bit of skin off. She commented on how easy it is to fall back into old ways of coping. It left marks which still are there, though faint, today. It’s so deeply imbedded in my pysche as the only way out of emotional distress, be it feeling too much or too little. And right now I’m feeling too much. Way too much. I can’t even define all that I’m feeling. I tried to in her office yesterday, and last night when I was dying for a sharp to drag across my skin. Lost. Alone. Sad. Melancholic. Overwhelmed. Not present. Broken. Hurt. And a multitude more floating through my brain and body. And that’s what’s so damn hard about this. The feelings are so strong, they’re painful. My body hurts from carrying them. The release of a little blood seems a fair price to pay for the relief. But one of the last things she said to me yesterday was, “Remember your contract. A promise.” A promise to her as well as myself to stay safe. And there are days I curse that contract. That promise. If it was only with myself, it wouldn’t be so bad. I could live with that. But the shame I would feel going into her office next week, and having to say, “I fucked up,” keeps me strong. That and the fact that there are no readily available sharps that I can access. I have a disposable razor in the bathroom, one I keep for emergencies like this. However, the fact of the matter is, I would have to dig it out, dismantle it, and then carry through with the very act I have sworn not to. Many opportunities to pause and think things through. Which she would not hesitate to point out. Something I really value in her is her refusal to accept bullshit answers and provide clarity when things are muddy to me. So rather than face that, I stayed in bed, my safe zone. Except when it isn’t. I try hard to keep my bed a safe place. Injuring myself in the bath, where it’s easy to clean up, or on the floor of my bedroom. My bed is sancrosanct. Not to say I haven’t used an x-acto knife that I forgot to put away while sitting there, focusing only on the imminent relief. That pressure valve which causes immediate and tactile release. But word is my bond. So I suffer. Like Tennyson wrote in Ulysses, “All times I have… suffer’d greatly, both with those/That loved me, and alone… One equal temper of heroic hearts,/Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

It’s time to say goodbye. To say goodbye to the old me. The stuck me. The unmotivated me. The me that sits on the couch all day, thinking about all the things I’d like to do, if only I could get up of the couch. The habits formed while in a severe depression slough slowly, not wanting to be given up. They certainly don’t go without a lot of will power. Something I have been short of my whole life. I have started seeing a Feldenkrais practitioner, who has done wonders for my extremely bad posture resulting in bad knees and a bad back. I’ve also started Qi Gong, which is also helping with my posture and joint issues. My therapist states that Qi Gong is all about fluidity, something my body is definitely lacking. It’s a Chinese standing meditation, so it’s good for my mind as well as my body. I’m not up to practicing it every day, but I’m up to three times a week. My goal is to make it to every day. I’ve started doing it twice a day on the days I do it. I tend to go back to bed after the kids have left for school, but my therapist wanted me to try to practice at that time instead. My circadian rhythm is completely out of sync. I tend to stay up into the early hours and sleep during the days. I’ve always been a night owl. No one there yelling at you, or hitting you, telling you what a screw up you are. Reading in peace. The world is a calm place. Something my young self needed desperately.

It’s time to embrace the daylight. And with it, life again. Spring is just around the corner, an excellent time for new beginnings. I never understood why we celebrate the new year in January, when everything is just cold and dreary. The spring equinox makes much more sense to me. The earth is waking up from it’s cold slumber, and everything is fresh and new. I always feel more energized in the spring, and this spring more so, as I have been in the depths of soul destroying depression. Thoughts of suicide have been a daily companion for so long that I now only notice them in their absence. The only down side is that with their disappearance, the sirens call of self harm gets louder. It has been months since I caved to their voices, and I don’t intend on doing so again. I quit smoking just after Christmas, now to give up vaping, the lesser of two evils. I am slowly decreasing the amount of nicotine in the juice I vape, so it will only be a matter of time before I completely nicotine free. Another step to the new me. Saying goodbye to old habits.

A BLACKNESS DARK

In the dark
Defenses are thin
The monsters howl
Begging to be let in

The rain falls down
A staccato beat on the roof
Echoing the tears in my heart
That will not fall

Access denied
Feeling aloof
To the pain in my soul
A blackness dark
Coats my very existence

The monsters wail
Begging to be fed
Promising light after the blood
To slumber in the post pain haze

I know the truth
Of their existence
Never sated, always begging for more
The cravings deep

Alone in the night
With the monsters in my head
In my heart
In my soul
Filling the cracks with blood
In the place of tears