THE UNKNOWN

It’s finally caught up to me. My failure to nourish myself; to take care of myself. My doctor finally took notice of my extreme fatigue and sent me for a battery of blood work and an EKG. I don’t get to go over the results with him until the 9th, but I was able to get them online. Not looking too good. Red blood cells indicate there is inflammation somewhere, and liver enzymes indicate that is where it is. Been doing some reading on the potential outcomes of what that means. Anything from non-alcoholic fatty liver to liver cancer. Obviously. Everything on-line these days is cancer. But the fatty liver is a definite possibility. I eat a diet heavy in red meat and carbs, and very low in fruits and veggies. Most of what I’ve read indicates that the results can be changed by diet. So that is good. Also, my blood sugar count and A1C were high. Indicative of diabetes high. Now that being said, the inflamed liver could be causing artificially high results. So it’s a waiting game. I’m not changing anything major until I talk to my doctor and we figure out exactly what is going on. My therapist noted that I’m not beating myself up about it. I figure it is what it is. I can’t do anything about what I’ve done to my body, the only thing I can do going forward is take better care of it. Now if only I could apply this the trauma stuff.

This came just at a time when my therapist was really starting to address my disordered eating. I started writing down everything I eat, just to get a benchmark of where I’m at. And that benchmark is very poor. Very poor. One vegetable all week, and that was corn, the worst vegetable ever. My therapist asked me what my self care plan was for the week. I’ve already given up pop mostly, so now it’s time to had a few more greens to my diet. And drink more water. Coffee is not a water substitute. The caffeine negates the hydrating effects of the water. I jokingly said I was going to make a coffee using a Monster Energy drink instead of water. She jumped all over that and told me to stay very far away from them. Well, suggested very strongly. She no longer couches things gently. We’ve been working together too long for her to tiptoe around.

A BIT OF A WOW

Had an interesting weekend this week. Thursday, my therapist suggested I investigate something called Yoda Nidra. Found one my a woman, Jennifer Piercy, on DoYogaWithMe. Had the best sleep I’ve had in a very long time. So that was a cool start to the weekend.

Celebrated my poetry being published on Friday with some of my closest friends. Went to my buddies cafe after, ostensibly to do some writing. But inspiration is a fickle mistress, and so I started cleaning up old emails. By old I mean back from 2014 to the present. When I got to February of 2016, I opened one that was just titled WhatsApp chat. I didn’t recognize it, so I opened it. And there, in is full shirtless glory, was a selfie of the rapist, with the accompanying chat where I told him not to contact me anymore. Instant trigger. Immediately brought me back to that dark place, with his forearm on my throat, knocking me unconscious. I go home and create a nest out of my two king size comforters and five pillows. Freaked right out, I start grounding. Touching my books, reading their titles and authors (I keep a small pile of books beside my pillows). My therapist is always saying, “Do something different.” The purpose of this directive is to let yourself know that you are no longer in trauma time, that you can escape, that things are different right now. I struggle with this. My trauma responses are fairly hard-wired in my brain. It has taken many years of therapy so that my first response isn’t always to self-harm. Glad to say this weekend that wasn’t even an issue. So what did I do that was different? Put on my new found sleep friend, Ms Piercy, and guess what? I fell asleep before she was even finished. Woke up sometime late Saturday morning. Feeling fine.

So fine, that when I went to visit friends on Sunday, I had no residual effects. I was able to go to an antique market with them, without taking any tranqs. Which in itself is amazing. To do so after a trigger response, well, to quote my therapist, “It is a bit of wow isn’t it, Squirrel”.

SO IT’S NOT BIPOLAR…

I guess I should have read the second part of the last p-docs report a little more closely. She says it’s not bi-polar, but Persistent Depressive Disorder. I’ve never been manic and the hypomania symptoms I’ve experienced are common with Borderline Personality Disorder, especially as one comes out of a deep depression. So the official diagnoses are as follows: Borderline Personality Disorder, C-PTSD, Persistent Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. What I’m really curious about is how, if I’m not bi-polar, the atypical anti-psychotic is working. I’ve done some research into it, and as best as I can figure, it acts as a mood stabilizer, even in the absence of bi-polar or schizophrenia, as an adjunct to the anti-depressant. Which may or may not work without it. I’ll find out soon enough. My GP has a referral in for me to talk to the p-doc about lowering my medication. I’m on 20 mg of escitalopram (Cipralex), 20 mg of aripiprazole (Abilify), 4 mg of prazosin, and 1mg of clonazepam (Klonopin) as needed. The prazosin and clonazepam I’m fine with. I enjoy my nightmare free sleep. And I only use the clonazepam once in a while. I’ve been using a lot of it for my dentist appointments, but now that I have my partials, I only need to go every four months for cleanings. It’s the aripiprazole that I’m mostly concerned with. It’s a strong dose to be on, especially if I’m not bi-polar. I’ll probably need to be on an anti-depressant for the rest of my life, I can understand that. But if possible, I’d like to minimize the doses. The longer I’m on the aripiprazole, the more likely I am to get Tardive Dyskinesia. I’m already starting to get very slight hand tremors. Not bad enough that my doctor is concerned, but they’re still there. We’ll see, I guess.

THE PAST CIRCLES ROUND AGAIN

Mom had her first round of chemo Wednesday. It was an incredibly long day. A doctors appointment and then three hours of infusion. It was very weird. I couldn’t concentrate, but was bored out of my tree. The incongruence of this made my therapist go hmmm. This is not a common phenomenon.

The reason it came up was Wednesday night I had a complete and total need to flee my house. I don’t know what happened, but I was laying in bed, looking for something to read. Stopped on “Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation” by Suzette Boon and others. “Don’t you think when you’ve been through something like you were with your mother, you should read something NOT trauma related?” “Ninety percent of my book shelf is trauma related.” “Then you need to expand your bookshelf.” So that happened. The other theories are that I’m empathic and picked up all the energy of people around me, the six people and their care-givers, all getting cancer related treatment, and it hit me when I finally had a chance to unwind.

Likely, though, it was a somatic flashback, harkening back to a time when I felt trapped. Only this time I wasn’t trapped. So I grabbed my bag and bugged out. But it wasn’t a thoughtful, I’m leaving because I can, it was a mindless flight. Which is not good. Fortunately, I had enough sense to go someplace safe, which was my friends cafe. Straight to the basement. Where I just typed up the last of my poetry. We had a mis-hap a few weeks ago, where I didn’t realize my poetry was only on the cloud, with links on my desktop. I deleted everything off the cloud, only to watch in horror as my files disappeared one by one. By the time I had finished that, I was feeling somewhat human again. It’s very frustrating how the past keeps circling round, often in unexpected and out of the blue ways.

Sitting with mom at the hospital was a very intense experience in a way. You’re sitting there, with people in very stages of cancer, at different points in their recovery. There were tears, there was laughter. For me, it was an uncomfortable reckoning, coming face to face with my own mortality. I have been suicidal many times, have attempted once. Suicidal ideation is a near constant companion. But this was different. The facing of a slow, painful demise. And everyone there is facing the same thing. The cancer centre has everyone in what they call pods. Six people to a pod, with a number of nurses in each one. Each person can bring one person with them. So twelve people, plus nurses. All cancer patients. All receiving treatment. A lot of energy in the air. A lot of energy. I hesitate to say it’s negative, because it certainly isn’t all negative, but it’s very charged.

I guess my system was over-charged and went off the rails on Wednesday, and then again on Thursday. Thursday wasn’t as bad, I had the presence of mind to email my therapist, and I made the decision not to run, but to stay put, to prove to my system that it was safe, there was no danger, that we didn’t have to leave. My friend helped me over text with some flashback protocols, and then I was able to ground myself by touching each book on my bookshelves and saying the author and title. I did it under my breath, but the act really helped me calm down.

Last night I went out with the girls, and then went home. I had a small feeling of panic, but was able to breathe through it. Things never last forever.

AND IT BEGINS…

So much to write about. Not sure where to start. Since Mom’s cancer diagnosis, I’ve been avoiding thinking about it. I had no choice but to face it dead on today. Mom had an appointment with her oncology doctor and I had to go with her to take notes and make sure she doesn’t forget anything or get confused. She starts chemo next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

She is easily discombobulated these days. And dad just gets frustrated with her. If she is developing dementia, I worry about how dad is going to handle it and how the chemo is going to affect it. There’s a lot of good reasons for them to move to P.E.I. once mom is better, but my reasons for wanting to stay behind are just as, if not more, valid. So in a year I’ll be homeless with my boys. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into subsidized housing before then, but the wait lists are huge. I need to stay in my city because I likely won’t be able to afford a car, and my therapist, my psychiatrist, my GP, my youngest sons ADHD specialist, and my older sons therapist are all here in the city. The mental health support down east is even worse than it is here. At least I’ve been able to get the help I need. And all my friends are here. How is an anti-social introvert with mental illness supposed to make friends? It’s not like my sister and I get along very well. More than a week together, and things get really tense.

My therapist has given me a half price discount on my counseling so I can start saving and clearing up my debt. She’s wonderful. I love her so much. As my therapist. Yes, there is some transference going on, but it’s nothing I don’t recognize for what it is and can handle. It didn’t help at the beginning that she is my perfect fantasy. A petite pixie with silver grey hair. The type I would spend all night in the corner of the bar trying to muster up the courage to buy her a drink. Once in a while I get distracted by her attractiveness, but I can cover it up with my dissociation. Fortunately for me, she maintains such tight boundaries that there is no room for me to mistake anything for more than professional concern. I mean, after three years I still don’t know if she has a partner. I only know her potential orientation from the name of her partner in her father’s obituary (which I found when digging around the internet for her). Her mother’s obituary listed no partner, but Fariya, a couple years ago said “they” like to go skiing up north. So there was one. There was a picture of a kitten on her desk, so I assume she has a cat. That’s the sum total I know about her.

She starts next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

So our lives are about to turn upside down for a while.

AWESOME NEWS!!!!

I’ve slowly, tentatively, been submitting my poetry to a few publications. After a couple of no responses, and one very nice, personalized rejection letter, I am going to be a published poet. Poetry Quarterly is publishing a poem I wrote called “Empyreal”. This is virtually unheard of. It usually takes hundreds of submissions and rejections before you get accepted. But it happened. I’m so stoked. After the last few months of things being generally, all around shitty, this is a much needed boost.

Things actually got a little too heady. My mom told me she’s proud of me, for the first time ever that I can remember. Then she told me to post it. So I did, and she publicly told me she’s proud of me. And my dad showed a bit of interest, which he never does, so I was totally overwhelmed with that.

I’ve still been struggling with being present ever since that horrendous dentist appointment which triggered me huge. To cope, I’ve been overdoing it on the benzos. I’m allowed two a day, twice daily, as needed. I’ve been taking double that, and mostly all at night, to help me sleep. Which is leaving me out of it the next day. Which adds to the dissociation. My therapist was like, “maybe you should talk to the doctor about reducing your tranquilizer usage”, and I had to tell her I wasn’t taking them as prescribed, so yeah, that stopped. Back to normal.

I had a very bad flashback, but I knew where I was, so it was more like a remembering than a full flashback, but I was in it and couldn’t get out of it. Absolutely was there, being gang raped again, and again, and again. Over stimulated, over tranqed, overwhelmed. So I cut myself. Just a small mark on the inside of my ankle, small enough that it looks like I scratched a spider bite, but large enough that I had to disclose to my therapist. Who responded kindly. I emailed her, again. Third time in three weeks. The first about wanting to do some scarification on my calf. The second, I had to share with her that my poem got accepted. She replied to that one, and reminded me of my contract, so that was her way of telling me that scarification is a no go. She also said it was a wow moment. Which it definitely was. Then I had to email her a third time, to say that I self-injured. She thanked me for letting her know, and had some upbuilding things to say. Needless to say, I had some trepidation when I saw her this week. I really don’t know why. She truly is the embodiment of compassion.

There was no processing this week, but lots of talking. Lots of her reinforcing that I made a choice, but it doesn’t invalidate all of my work. And we talked about the trafficking, and about how I was having a hard time staying present, and how I was so up and down, flying high and crashing low with no in between. I have to work hard at “applying the brakes”, staying in that window of tolerance. Not too high, not too low.

MED COMPLIANCE

At night, the monsters come out. Since my dentist appointment last week, I’ve been having dreams of disembodied hands. Creepy and unsettling. I wake up in a cold sweat, and don’t want to go back to sleep. So I stay up and read. Or listen to books on Audible. I’m acquiring a collection of un-listened to books that will rival my to be read stack of paper books. But that’s ok. Somethings to look forward to.

Am struggling with med compliance again. I’m tired of feeling flat and numb, and blame it on the Abilify. I’ve been reading up on it, and apparently it’s a common side effect. Right away she was concerned that I was still taking them. She was genuinely concerned that I would quit it cold turkey. Given my history, I would have to say that her questioning me is warranted. I started at 2mg, and now I’m up to 20. That’s a big dose. Especially since the last p-doc I saw stated that I don’t even have bi-polar. I understand that I might need a mood stabilizer, as anti-depressants alone never work properly. I do question, however, the need for an atypical anti-psychotic. At such a high dose. The last p-doc I saw was just a consult, but she said I could see her in a year if I wanted to discuss a med change. So I need to call the hospital and find out if I can make an appointment through them, or if I need to go through my doctor. My therapist is all about getting it done. I hem and hawed and will be doing it in the new year. I may bite the bullet and call this week, so it’s not hanging over my head. But I hate talking on the phone. I have real anxiety about it. So much so that even my therapist only contacts me via email. Even if it’s the day of an appointment, she knows I’m on my email, but if I don’t recognize the number, I won’t answer the phone. I’m so glad she’s willing to work with my limitations and foibles, without making them a focus or a big deal.

I have a feeling, since last week we didn’t really touch on anything big, as I’ve been pretty stable, we’re going to do some EMDR on Thursday. Just in time to do three weeks before she takes her two weeks off over Christmas. She is also planning on taking a week off in the middle of January. I’m just glad she’s not taking all three weeks off at the same time. Three weeks is a long time when you’re used to weekly sessions. She asked me how I’m feeling about the two weeks off. I replied, “Besides feeling abandoned?” Then I laughed and told her I was joking. “You’ll be holding seminars on how to yank your therapists chain.” I have mixed feelings about starting EMDR again. I’m scared of how it’s going to go now that I’m having visual flashbacks. My flashbacks have always been somatic, meaning feelings only. Recently, I’ve been having some pretty severe visuals. Not just feeling his hands around my neck, but seeing them. His cold, cold eyes. The collapse when I tried to stand up and he grabbed me by the neck and threw me back on the bed. Instead of just feelings of dread and sensations, I’m full on remembering. Which sucks.

I have my protocols. Babette Rothschild has saved my sleep. Her “8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery” has provided some very solid protocols on dealing with flashbacks and nightmares. So much so that I wrote them down for easy access at night. And I’ve passed them onto friends. They’ve been so helpful. I recommend that book to everyone I know with a trauma history that impacts their daily lives. Even if only sometimes.

YOU KNOW IT’S GOOD WHEN…

You know it’s good when your therapist pinches the bridge of her nose and says, “Oh my God.” I didn’t think it warranted that kind of response, but then, what do I know. We were talking about early development, and how girls and boys get sexualized very young. “Who sexualized you?” I thought about it for a minute, and then told her how my dad was embarrassed by my developing body and made me wear baggy clothes. To which I got above reply, followed with, “He has a lot of problems”. I could only nod. Her reactions are usually not quite so abrupt: a sigh, a squeak, a gesture. But this must have really caught her off guard. I guess because my dad never sexually abused me. Mental, emotional, psychological, yes. Bare assed spankings with a belt, yes. But there was never a sexual overtone to it. It was about humiliation, not being sexualized. So it may have seemed out of character. But then, what IS in character for a narcissistic, over-bearing control freak? Other than the odd flashback, I’ve been having a fairly good week. Maybe because I’m relying on my tranqs more, I don’t know. Which really isn’t good, but it is what it is. I mentioned it at the end of my session Thursday, to say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed this. I’m not abusing them, but I’m using them more than I’m really comfortable with.’ So we’ll see if she brings it up next week. Poly Vagal Theory is the next thing we’re discussing. How the Vagus nerve effects our affect and works with the sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems. I’ve just started reading about Stephen Porges, the father of the theory. Sounds fascinating so far. As I slowly start to get more and more control over my dissociation, we explore more and more things. My therapist knows I’m a reader, and that I really enjoy reading about neuroscience. And anything that helps me understand my body’s response to all it’s traumas helps me heal my mind and conquer my C-PTSD. I am sure that re-commencing EMDR is just around the corner. Just as soon as I can stay more connected. Which is happening, incrementally. The process is so slow, and it’s easy to feel discouraged. But this time last year, I was dealing with repercussions of self-harming from the memories. This year, I made it through intact. Which, if I’m being honest with myself, is huge. Every time I get stuck on how slow the progress is, my therapist helps me see just how far I’ve come. I’ve always described it as a spiral staircase, where even when it feels like you’re going backward, you’re still going up.

YOUNG ONE

As most people who have done trauma work, my therapist and I do extensive parts of self work. I find this awkward and, at times, makes me feel crazy. Yet there is no denying the fact that I do, indeed, have different parts of self. The twins, Young One and Angry Dude, two sides of the same facet, one with the anger turned outward, and one with the anger turned inward. I had a bit of an epiphany regarding that this week, when I wrote Young One a letter. I don’t cry easily at all, but this brought tears to my eyes:

Young One. I know you’ve been neglected. More than neglected. Blamed. Held responsible. Mistakenly so. I can see that now. With all that was going on in our life, how could you ever have had the ability to say No?

I wasn’t your fault. Vera and I have talked a lot about being groomed.

GROOMED: PREPARE OR TRAIN (SOMEONE) FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR ACTIVITY

As far as dad was concerned, we were to be obedient and obey him without question. Lessons we didn’t learn easily and rebuffed at every opportunity. Oh but Young One, the fear of the consequences of disobedience was very real. It didn’t stop us, though, did it. Incorrigible. Defiant. Even when we knew it meant bruises coming our way. Not that it mattered. There were enough times the “discipline” wasn’t even understood.

DISCIPLINE: 1) THE PRACTICE OF TRAINING PEOPLE TO OBEY RULES OR A CODE OF CONDUCT OR BEHAVIOUR USING PUNISHMENT TO CORRECT DISOBEDIENCE.

Harsh, cruel discipline disguised as love. We never were very disciplined, were we? Do you remember a time we never feared dad’s wrath? Discipline, in and of itself, isn’t bad. We need discipline every day. It was the punishment, the abuse, that led to so much fear. The arbitrary rules, with the over the top consequences. Groomed to fear displeasing. Groomed to associate the lash with love. Oh Young One, did we ever stand a chance with Michael? How often were we “disciplined”, not even for breaking some rule or other, but simply because he didn’t like/was unhappy with our behaviour?

Conflict led to abuse-even if it was just a back hand across the face. Or, if not physical, than emotional and mental. Oh Young One, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to understand just how groomed and conditioned we were.

CONDITIONED: TRAIN OR ACCUSTOM (SOMEONE OR SOMETHING) TO BEHAVE IN A CERTAIN WAY OR ACCEPT CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES.

Conditioned to accept abuse as a consequence of conflict. Conditioned to accept abuse as a demonstration of love. Michael was the first. There was so much we could have done had we not been so conflict avoidant. Our first. Vera likened it to an emotional marriage. And the honeyed words after.

Oh Young One, so naive. So empty. Made us believe it was our fault. That we deserved it. That we wanted it. Natural consequences for coming home with his wife. One thing to disobey father, another to disobey this stranger, standing over us, naked and torn.

Oh Young One, we were so lost. So starved for affection. And Michael provided that. Brilliantly. The kind words with the abuse. A perfect fucking storm.

And the perfect rationale: DISCIPLINE = LOVE DISCIPLINE = ABUSE ERGO LOVE = ABUSE

Oh Young One. I finally understand. Today, as an adult, even in a safe environment where there is trust, NO is still not an option. If NO is not an option today, how the hell could it have been an option for us back then?

Young One, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for failing you and then blaming you. I’m trying to make it right.

ONE ROUGH WEEK

It’s been a while since I’ve written. So much has happened. We almost lost my mom after her cancer surgery. She had two blood clots, one on each lung. And no one wants to tell me anything. I talked to my mom in the morning, and she was coming home the next day. An hour later I talk to my aunt and find out mom’s staying for a few more days. When my dad and my sister come home, I talk to her. Find out what’s going on. Also that my dad has a leaky liver, that’s why he quit drinking. My sister tells me that no one wants to tell me anything because they’re afraid of setting me off. Which means setting my anxiety and depression off. Like I have no coping mechanisms. It’s so frustrating. Mom could have died, and no one wants me to know. Sigh. It’s better to know where I stand, I guess, so I know to ask more direct questions.

Moms surgery was also the anniversary of my most recent sexual assault. The struggle not to self harm was so very very real. And then I found some sharps. Tucked into the staple box in my art kit. My world reeled. Fortunately, I have some very good friends who were able to talk me down from it. Three different text conversations with three very different foci, but all with the same outcome: I stayed safe. Something even my safety contract couldn’t guarantee.

It is so hard to articulate exactly what goes through my mind when the urge strikes. Relentless begging for release. But release from what exactly? Too many feelings? Not enough feelings? Release from memory, from thought? From the too too much. It all gets to be too much. Existing. Being. Living. Breathing. Feeling trapped in a mind that is malfunctioning. Emotions hi-jacked all the time. Never being 100% present in my own life. That’s the hardest part, I’m coming to realize. The fact that I zone out all the time. I don’t know if I’m zoning out more, or if I’m just more aware of how often I do. Vera, my therapist, says it’s fine tuned to happen so often, and that I’m just starting to notice. So I take her word for it. She’s the expert on all things dissociative and traumatic. And, more importantly, I trust her and what she says. It’s been a long time since I could trust someone so implicitly to always do what they honestly believe is in my best interest.

HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND

I don’t know if things are settling down, or if I’m just getting used to it. It’s like that Simon and Garfunkel song, “Hello Darkness my old friend”. Or Gordon Lightfoot, “Sometimes I think it’s a shame/ When I get feeling better when I’m feeling no pain.” Or maybe I’m just numb to the pain. Either way, I still am fighting the urge to self harm. I had a cigarillo Friday, and another one Monday. As my friend comforted me, “Whatever it takes to get through this.” Three more weeks, if past experience tells me anything. I don’t think I can survive three more weeks. I saw my therapist on Thursday. Got into a disagreement about self harm. Of course, I lost, and have a fresh copy of my safety contract in my bag. My work this week is to update it, since it still has my ex girlfriend as an emergency contact, and we broke up in April.

How to update my safety contract when four out of five of us don’t want to be on it anymore. I remember when she first mentioned it. I ignored her the first time. The second time I said I’d consider it. The third time, I said to her that since she’s mentioned it three times, she must feel it’s important, so we signed one. Did I mention this was all on my first or second visit? She knows it’s a valuable, strong tool. And I’ve proven to her again and again that it works. Many times it’s the only thing that has kept me from self harming. This week, if I had the means in my room to do it, the contract wouldn’t have mattered. But the only thing I have in my room is an art x-acto knife, and they aren’t really very good at deep, clean lines. I have disposable razors in the bathroom, but the act of pulling it apart gives me too many opportunities to really think through what I’m doing and stop it. Or deliberately chose to go through with it at each step of the way. It’s different when you’re desperately searching for something and you find something you missed in your last sweep. But no such luck. I purged very carefully last time.

So I sit in my bed, my safe zone, and try to keep my hands loose, so the nails don’t dig into my palms, which seems to be the thing I do these days. Ugh. My mind and body conspire against my brain.

ON MY KNEES

This time of year is so hard. I feel ready to throw in the towel, crawl into bed, and never come out. The siren song of the razor blades is strong and sweet, necessitating bringing my thoughts back to my safety contract over and over. My eyes are permanently on the verge of tears, watery and weepy. That one man can bring me to my knees in despair. That the memory of one man can bring me down, leave me curled on the floor, shattered and broken.

The memories come fast and thick. Leave me whirling in confusion as to where I am in time and place. The nausea and the disorientation. Rock is huge, always, these days. My mom is going for cancer surgery next week, so I have to hide how bad I’m feeling so she doesn’t worry. I’m not doing a very good job of it, but she isn’t getting the depth of my shadow self.

Shadow self. My being crawling to The Pit. The body tremors as I fight it. As I fight the flashbacks, the memories of violence done to my body; to my being. Knowing that I can’t let him win. But the body, the mind, wants to cave; to collapse in a puddle of blood and tears.

The days long, the nights longer. Soaked sheets as the body remembers the torment; wakes in a frozen panic. “Just move one finger, just a little bit,” encourages my therapist. So hard. So hard. But I do it. Then the next one. Defiance that he hasn’t completely broken me. My body comes back to me, sore and achy, but mine.

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.

ABANDONMENT ISSUES

It’s the eve of my last therapy session for three weeks while my therapist takes a well deserved vacation. After tomorrow, I will not see until the first week of October. My last sexual assault occurred the end of October three years ago, and I still start having issues around this time of year. Tonight I even coloured my nails as a distraction attempt. So she’s going to know tomorrow that I had a rough night tonight. And she’s going to think it’s partly because of her, and, honestly, I don’t know right now.

I understand she needs her time off. She’s a trauma therapist, so she deals with horrible horrible scenarios every day. But part of me still feels abandoned. Which is a very vulnerable feeling. I hate feeling vulnerable. Absolutely hate it. And if she asks me, I’ll lie. Because I know I’m not being abandoned. She’ll come back relaxed and refreshed and ready to dig back in. And maybe by then I’ll be holding myself together better and we’ll be able to start EMDR again.

We haven’t done EMDR in months because I’m so fragile. I suffer from major depersonalization and I zone out a frequent amount. As my hourly mindfulness checks have shown me, more often than anyone realized. Yes. Hourly mindfulness checks. I have a timer set to go off every hour. When it goes off, I ground myself, take a sip of water, and notice something I can hear. There are many, many times the alarm gently brings me out of the zoned state I’m in. Years and years ago, I used to come to in a totally different place than I “zoned out” in. The worst time was when I was at my friend Josh’s house, and next thing I know I’m down by the lake, in a city twenty minutes away from his house, down a busy highway.

Fortunately, those days are gone. Hopefully for good. Every day I feel a little stronger, a little more together. Eventually, we will start the EMDR again. Sooner, rather than later, if all goes well.

THE DANCE OF DISSOCATION

It’s a tricky thing, dissociating.  Especially when you don’t recognize that it’s happening.  One minute you’re listening to the conversation around you, and then you’re not.  Someone says something to you, and you realize you have no idea what the conversation is anymore.  Sure, this happens to everyone, once in a while.  Everyone zones out.  It’s the constancy that’s different.  The constant hijacking of the brain, where you no longer know where you are, or, even, who you are.  The black spaces where there is nothing.  Not knowing how you got to where you’re going.  Or why you’ve even gone there.

Then there are the triggers:  a touch, a frangrance, some random piece of conversation and you’re transported back to a not so safe place.  Staring off into space, in your own personal hell.  This happened to me at therapy this week.  We weren’t even talking about anything overtly triggery, and yet, there I was.  Gone.  And when I came back, my ability to talk was gone.  I couldn’t even really grunt.  My poor therapist.  I couldn’t even write down what I was suffering.  I could sort of draw stick figures, like a four year old.  Trying to communicate how lost I felt was impossible.  Fortunately, I had my art book with me, and could point out on my drawing of “The Pit”  who I was (which she had already figured out), and where I was in relation to everyone else.  Now comes the difficult part:  how to tell her one of my emotional parts (EP) self-harmed.  Not me, my skin is still intact.  But my EP did.  It’s a weird thing, to close your eyes to have a pep talk with yourself, and to see yourself with bleeding arms.  Obviously, this was very distressing to me.  But I had already gone over my session by forty minutes.  I wasn’t about to bring that up.  But I will this week.  Young One self-harming and Angry Dude drinking and smoking.  Sigh.  Doing what I really want to be doing.  It was so strong that Friday I even bought a pack of cigarettes.  Gave them to Josh Friday night, and was really craving them Saturday morning. So I’m glad to have given them up.

HOPE

Hope: n. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
v. Want something to happen or be the case

Hope is a very pregnant word. Pregnant with promise, with desire, with expectation. A feeling of better things to come. A small word with big meaning. When things are black and stormy in my life, I hope they get better. Sometimes I feel this hope is misplaced, especially when I’m deep in the pit; when it’s hard to reach out a hand and ask for help. It’s getting easier these days. When my therapist says to hang on, the depth of these feelings in transient, I have faith in her word, and trust and hope she’s right. And she always is. I always come through. And lately I can say I come through unscathed. Weary, oh gods, am I weary. But it’s been months now since I’ve self harmed. Even the most recent scars have faded to pale lines, no darker than the rest of them. She tells me that self injury had a place in my toolbox of survival long ago, BUT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW. And she is correct in that. I’m different in my body and being. I see the urges for what they are: lying monsters.

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

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.

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.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BORDERLINE?

I’ve been thinking about diagnoses and what they mean to the one receiving them. Usually they come with a sense of relief: I’m not crazy. These symptoms do mean something. But what happens when the diagnosis means you are crazy? What does that mean? I’ve been fighting the BPD diagnosis for years. Never had a therapist agree with it, though I’ve received the diagnosis from more than one psychiatrist. Recently there has been a movement in the trauma treatment community to change it to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My current therapist, who is a gift sent from wherever such things come from, explained it to me in a way that made me feel a lot better. It’s not that I’m not fixable, which is the prevailing feeling among most old school practitioners; it’s just that my brain needs a different way of fixing it. I’ll never be neuro-typical. But I can learn to adapt and rearrange the way I process information.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape. (wikipedia) The resulting symptoms closely mirror that of BPD. The key difference between BPD and C-PTSD is that symptoms of BPD stem from an inconsistent self-concept and C-PTSD symptoms are provoked by external triggers. The inconsistent self-concept happens as a direct result of the early childhood trauma or ongoing trauma with no escape. Combine the two, you end up with a very fractured sense of self. Typical therapies for BPD used are DBT (Dialectic Behaviour Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), neither of which address the underlying trauma.

I grew up always afraid of my father. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t. That’s how early the abuse started. He was never physically violent to my mother, but he was very much emotionally and verbally abusive. In typical abuser fashion, he never started until after they were married and she was “trapped” with a baby. My therapist explained to me that babies can pick up what’s going on around them, so if my mother was anxious, sad, or afraid, I would’ve understood something was wrong. When asked why she stayed, she recently told me she couldn’t admit to her mother that her mother was right. So her pride ruined my life. Well, my life up to this point. I’m taking charge of it now, and learning to say no to the shit I don’t have to put up with.

Add to the mix a cousin who taught me things no six year old should ever be aware of, a very abusive relationship at a young age with a much older man, and a more recent sexual assault, is it any wonder that my sense of self is fractured? I’m now learning that I matter, that what I want and feel are valid. Novel concepts to be learning at 45. I wish I had the confidence of my young sons. They know they’re important, they understand body autonomy, and while they may not yet know what it is, they live their lives with a purpose.

I long for the day when I can live beyond the day to day, minute to minute, second to second it takes to survive sometimes. But everyday I’m getting stronger. A solid therapist with strong boundaries is key. I’m very fortunate to have found one. She holds the space while I try to feel whatever emotions are coming up. She holds it without judgement and without forcing it. Which is what someone who has suffered much trauma needs. I am doing EMDR, (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) along with a combination of other modalities. I take a mood stabilizer to boost the effect of my anti-depressant, and I take an alpha blocker, which helps prevent the nightmares. Being taught coping mechanisms (Babette Rothschilde is an amazing source for this), I can even manage my panic attacks and flashbacks. I’m in a stable relationship, I’m a pretty decent parent, and a damn good friend. None of which should be possible if I was truly only suffering from BPD.

So what does the diagnosis mean to the one receiving it? In my case, nothing at all. It bothered me at first, and if I had received it years ago, before I started working with my current therapist, it might have destroyed me; taking away any hope of ever getting better. Now, it’s a label that might help my disability claim, but that’s all it is. It doesn’t define who I am as a person. It changes nothing. My trauma work is the most important thing I can do for myself, and in doing it, I will free myself from the bindings of a difficult diagnosis with a less than helpful prognosis.

HOLDING MY OWN

How good it feels to be away from the edge of The Pit. Despite being mostly housebound due to inclement weather, I have been feeling pretty good. Maybe because I haven’t had to be social. Who knows. I’m enjoying it while it lasts. Can’t help but wonder, though, if this is a shift toward hypomania. the pdoc I saw didn’t see a bipolar diagnosis. Borderline Personality Disorder, Complex PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and, finally, Persistent Depressive Disorder. She said there is a lot of overlap with BP and BPD, so sometimes it’s hard to get a clear diagnosis.

A new year always brings with it some reflection. I’m not the type to make new years resolutions,; my goals change as I grow and change. And I wanted to take the time to give thanks to the woman who led me through the darkness to the light. I wrote a poem for her, and gave it to her just before we broke for the holidays. She never said anything about it, so I should probably not be embarrassed by it. I thought I’d share it with you.

A ship with a broken compass

Tossed on the waves

Hither and yon

Sinking slowly

Trying to find my way

By a North Star

Lost in a sky

Of darkness and despair

The clouds thick

Ever present

Blotting out the light

Along came a guide

Showed me how to mend

That broken compass

To fight my way

Back to the light

Behind the clouds

The siren song

Is still loud at times

But I have a gift

A toolkit

Cobbled together

Patiently guided

With grace and skill

To heal the wounded

Children within

TENDEREST TRUTH

It seems the creative juices only flow when I’m spiraling downward.  Maybe that’s not accurate.  I’ve been numb for months now, so there has been little to no creative output at all.  The meds I’m on, they dull all emotion.  I couldn’t even cry when my beloved Nanna passed away.  Currently, my new p-doc is changing my meds.  I’m on a fairly high dose of Abilify to stabilize my moods, and offset the hypo-mania that anti-depressants alone induce.  Hopefully this will allow some feeling other than the despair that I feel creeping over me.

A few weeks ago I had a trying EMDR session that left me stuck feeling like five year old defenseless me.  And it has taken a while to shake that feeling.  So much so, that I feel myself descending into The Pit.  I’m holding on tight to the edge, using all my tools to keep from following the siren song into Oblivion.

I was around four or five when my dad really started using corporal punishment on my tender behind and hands.  And being stuck, feeling like that defenseless little tyke again has me reeling.  I have to keep reminding myself that it’s 2018, almost 2019, and it’s been a very long time since my dad was violent toward me.  And I know he’ll never be violent again; threatening to call the cops the last time he hit me was fear enough.  He knew that there was no way I was going to be a victim any longer.  I was just shy of 18.  And yet here I am, almost 46, and feeling like a little kid again. 

Since I’ve been unable to write much, my therapist has been encouraging me to “draw it out”.  My drawings all look like they were done by a six year old, and I’m not sure how much is my lack of talent or if my art is being derailed by my inner wounded child.  Regardless, drawing some of it seems to have unlocked my ability to write.  It’s coming back slowly. 

The earth shatters

For a cold moment

No light, no sound

Caught in a void

Of time and space

Where nothing feels real

Then the pain hits

Sharp as a dagger

Finely honed

Soul shattering

Life defying

Trained to find the tenderest truths