Musings from a darker side

This post is from a darker and murkier place where I seldom venture much less blog about, and the content may be upsetting and triggering for some who read. Not sure how long it will stay posted, but consider this a warning label for any other survivors who may happen upon it.

I have been seeing my therapist, TM, again on a fairly routine basis. Part of it was just an annual tune-up, because I value his professional expertise in guiding me through the emotional lumpies in my life. When friend J died so unexpectedly, I needed some hand-holding in coping with my grief.

For me, grief is a box that should stay sealed. Forever. It brings out all sorts of infinite emotions I am incapable of coping with in the period it occurs. Which is why TM and I have our annual routine. The box labeled childhood is always leaking something that must be cleaned up and put away in more orderly fashion.

Being human is a messy business. Being human and me is not better or worse than anyone else. Our experiences are unique and there is no basis for comparison. I don’t even want to admit how many years and how much therapy of various stripes it took me to accept that reality.

Yet this is part of why I am back in TM’s office a couple of times each month, discussing acceptance and my perception of reality. For the most part, my view of reality is like a clear pane of glass and the only distortion is what I manifest onto the view from my personal biases and experience. The view is not different for any stranger standing next to, yet our interpretation of what is or is not occurring could be very different.

My better health efforts are starting to show on the outsides as well as on the inside. Yay me, right? For the most part, yes. The rest of it – it’s complicated.

Self-image and self-esteem are things I have battled and struggled and labored feverishly over my entire life. Those who are important to my own worldview, their opinions mean a great deal to me. I value their esteem, and I work hard to earn and retain it. The rest of the population, sure it’s more pleasant if we can get along and interact in a civil and polite manner, but I could honestly care little about what they really think or feel about me. From a public relations perspective and as it may benefit me or my goals and objectives, the effort I put forth to maintain good rapport and friendly interactions varies. But since I am generally a decent, thoughtful person, it costs me little to nothing to be nice to others.

My own sense of self is warped. In my own view, I am an invisibly average sort of person, going through and living my life among the rest of the beings in the world and doing nothing particularly exceptional or worthy of much praise or correction. I have a good work ethic; I try hard to meet or exceed expectations attached to the responsibilities and requirements. In the work I’m doing right now, what my clients think about me personally matters more because I work directly for them, and accounting is not so complex that they could not find someone else as competent. However, my niche market seems to be more in the personal touch I bring to the work. I routinely remember and track significant family members’ birthdays, anniversaries, children’s events and have had success with suggestions for gifts for all occasions. While I myself dislike (and therefore suck) at party planning, I can put together something if called upon to do so. I have attended enough wing-dings in the past that I have a sense of what happens at corporate parties and retreats and can seek out appropriate resources if needed. Thing is, these are small details that may matter to a client and not a big deal for me to make note of and track.

But that’s work. It’s imperfect yet far easier for me to accept a compliment for a job well done than it is to have someone say nice things for and about my efforts in the gym or to overhaul my diet.

A standard disclaimer for me is that I am not model pretty, because it’s true – I am not the stuff even gracefully aging conventionally pretty women are made of. I also tend to discount the importance of physical attractiveness, gauging this as only that I have good personal hygiene and be well groomed when going to work or into most sorts of public forums.

Herein lies the big issue that has me back in TM’s office: I’m reshaping my shape into something more conventionally nice. Good even. I mean, I look okay in my gym leggings and capris. I can wear a racerback tank top and not be self-consciously freaking out on the inside. I actually have some muscle peeking out after too many years of fat slabs over my whole body.

People notice my effort. They say kind and complimentary things, or they say things that sound kind and complimentary with an overlay of snark so it comes out sounding like the opposite. I try very hard not to discount or pooh-pooh it. I am working at upgrading my gracious acceptance.

Mostly, I do not want anyone to ever know that it freaks me out and frightens me when they say nice things. Because it’s not ever that I want them to stop, or be afraid of complimenting my hard work and effort in this regard. If that were the case I’d be wearing baggy sweats and oversized t-shirts down to my knees. And I never want anyone to judge me as so very vain that I brush off their kindness as “I know, and I deserve all your praise and admiration.” Because that’s not me either. I am horrified at the idea anyone would ever perceive me that way.

The fear and the ensuing anxiety is real, though. And even though I know it’s completely irrational, I cannot make it stop.

Hence my back to therapy. My only consolation for being this type of nutball is that there are worse reasons to be in therapy.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I am a sexual abuse survivor. From the time I was 3 until about 12, I was regularly molested, then raped, then sodomized. I was a chunky kid because of it. I would rebel against washing my hair or even taking a bath because of it. I felt ugly then because of the abuse. The fear and self-loathing, the inability to control anything that happened to me or my body – it was real and impacts my life decades later. Those impacts are all but impossible to erase, and the best I can do is mitigate their influence and my reactions to triggers.

So, here I am – back in TM’s office talking about it. I am not going to stop trying to reshape my eating habits so I make better, healthier food choices, nor am I going to stop going to the gym and working as hard as I work to become stronger and burn away the excess fat from my frame. These are really good, really positive steps up, steps forward for me, and I do not want honest efforts that I should be proud of to be tainted by fear of physical improvement and anyone taking note and complimenting me on my efforts.

While I frequently wish myself into a mental and emotional foot-stomping tantrum about not wanting have to have these fights with myself, it’s not something I can change. I comfort myself that my scars are part and parcel of who I am in the here and now. And despite everything, I’m not too bad.

The war for my healthiest sense of self continues, one battle at a time. But I’m winning.

Coping and listening to reason

It has been a good day. I enjoyed a nice work day at the office, got several productive emails written and sent, acquired a tax-related client today that will need a lot of help with getting his entire 2015 books done for taxes, and even got some of my other client stuff handled when I finally got home from the office.

All wonderful stuff, that.

I have been contemplating weighty matters related to diet and eating and such today. I am not sure if I am wigged because I agreed to do food diary for at least 5 days or if I feel as if this is an opportunity, but it’s definitely something on my mind. Monday has been designated as my start date, and since that switch has been flipped, that decision made, I have the next few days to really wrap my head around it as well as obsess about it endlessly every waking moment (maybe some sleeping ones as well) between now, then, during, and after.

It’s little things, like making sure my counter is clean so I don’t look like the terrible cooking slob I can be while preparing food. Or how do I make the bland stuff I tend to eat look attractive? Will I remember what it actually was later when writing it down for the diary?

I think it’s easier to obsess over something like that than other thoughts trying to take over in my head. Or fighting the voices and their crescendo of negative messages trying to harsh my buzz on a very good day.

I rowed awhile tonight after dinner to feel physically tired enough to sleep without sleeping aids. Tomorrow is training Thursday, so I would like to not be the groggy zombie I felt like this morning. It was somewhat helpful, but again it feels like I was rowing faster and faster in an attempt to run away from the stuff inside my own head. It is an impossible task sometimes.

So I’m hashing out those thoughts and my on-the-brink-of-meltdown discussion with M. My thought paragraphs start with the bold, my recap of M’s voice of reason start in bold italic. Apologies in advance for sounding like a broken record.

The food diary feels like a failure waiting to happen. Is this registered dietician (RD) Someone I respect and wish to work with, or is he just another person in a long line of professionals who have disappointed me with their clinical, cut-and-dried, cookie cutter pronouncements on the ways I feed myself? I am still uncertain; the jury is still out whether or not he will be someone I will want to work with on this thorny problem. I don’t want to discuss nutrients; I do not want to talk about breakdowns in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, sodium levels, etc., etc., etc. He at least seems genuine enough, clear and direct enough to gain my attention, if not yet my respect. I will do this because he vibes like someone who genuinely wants to help me, not like someone killing time and trying to meet his patient quota.

The RD is trying to help, and I am under no obligation to heed his advice. As far as the diet and eating goes, he does not imagine the RD doing anything radical or extreme like putting me on a soy-based program or turning me into a quasi-vegetarian as the last one I engaged tried to do (and at which I failed miserably). However, suggestions and enhancements could be helpful, and stop looking at this as a pass/fail exercise. If I do not like what the  has to say after I put this list together, start dodging the messages and mailings and do not go back. M reminded me again that I am a well-controlled diabetic who has completely turned it around, so obviously I am doing a lot right with my eating habits.

I cannot get the Very Bad Incident to leave my thoughts for long. I find myself dwelling on that other woman and wondering if ignorance is bliss in this instance. The very spare description of her injuries had me waking up gasping for breath or screaming throughout the night, and I am even more fearful and anxious now. I close my eyes and I see that knife again, now knowing it has drawn blood, and my mind projects all the bleeding, gaping wounds I could have be coping with right now. It feels so selfish to be thankful that it was not me, yet I am grateful it is not me. I hunker down wherever I am when those thoughts come unbidden and wish her healing and peace.

Of course I am still upset; M would be worried if I were not. It was terrifying and has now mushroomed into a cautionary tale of what could have happened to me if I did not think quickly and react the way I did. If I had not been making strides toward better health, could I have gotten behind that dumpster? Could I have seriously contemplated running away? Yes, that other woman did not deserve what happened, but I am not the one who hurt her and I am as deserving of my safety as anyone else. There is not good person versus better person in this equation. And I am also the only person on the planet who has expectations of me being “over it” by now. (For the record, it’s not expectations, it’s a really strong and fruitless motivating desire to be over it by now.)

Work is going really well, and I suddenly feel anxious about it. Every time I open a client email I hold my breath about what they might say. Am I about to be fired? Have I done something stupid? Are they going to yell at me? It’s never that, at least not yet. I have always been good at my work, but now that it is just me, it feels like a big giant anchor has been strapped to my back and it gets heavier with each new client I acquire. I like the challenge. I feel good about it when I meet or exceed a client’s expectations. But in the back of my mind the whispers are that this time could be the one where I falter, fail, and am found out. Found out what even I don’t know for sure; I just know the inferiority coms on strong sometimes and brings me way, way down.

Work is work, I have superior instincts and perception with clients, and I would know if something were wrong. I have always been extremely disciplined and demonstrated great instincts about work – finding it, maintaining it, doing it well. My anxiety probably has more to do with other factors in our lives right now than my falling down and failing clients.

The exercise and my march toward better health – could it be a fluke? I went through my practice this morning on autopilot and find there is very little in my mind about it, an unheard of before now sort of unusual occurrence. I do not want to shortchange anyone on their efforts with me on this, from J and his relentless teaching and good cheer, to M and his unwavering support and belief in my ability to do well in this realm. Yet … my doubts are flaring brightly right now. Maybe I have reached the end of my ability? Maybe I can go no farther? Maybe I should just back away slowly while I still can?

I have worked very hard at being consistent about regular exercise and great strides are real.  M is very proud of me for the health achievements and breakthroughs I have made thus far. Not just with resetting things internally, but for my ambitions and ideas about where I might want to go next are broadening farther than M’s ever seen or imagined me progressing toward new milestones. That I have been getting up and going to the gym every morning for nearly 4 months, not missing practices, not cancelling appointments with trainer J, and talking about weight lifting with our friends who have interests and pursuits in that regard has been an entirely different direction than where he ever thought I might proceed. It’s  not a fluke. I have worked hard at it and for all I have achieved thus far. And I will continue to improve and make additional strides into the undiscovered country that is fitness and good health.

Sometimes I hate it when M is so calm and so reasonable and so right. While under the negative influence, I do not necessarily want to hear it. I want him to nod gravely and agree that I am a disingenuous poser who does not deserve to live. Put that way is the gentlest bitch-slap back to reality anyone can provide.

I worked on my breathing exercises TM is teaching me, and they help with getting myself calm. The voices? I am just going to have to accept it is an ongoing 2 steps forward, 3 steps back process. But I will keep trying. There is a day in the future where I will be further along in reprogramming the soundtrack in my head. Until then, just grit my teeth and try to turn down the volume.



What else shall we talk about today?

This morning, I was pondering all the little things to talk about today. I imagined a short post with the 2, 3, 4 items on my blog agenda for the day, none of which seemed weighty enough for a full post.

That was then, this is now. I’m searching for the light-and-fluffy, but there is a severe cotton candy shortage in my household and M refuses to give in to my whining demands requests that he rectify the situation. So this is a mishmash brain dump of everything going on in my head during the last 24 hours.

Exercise and such. From yesterday’s training and new List was the hamstring curl on the stability ball, the alternative to the TRX hamstring curl. This morning I had planned to test drive both back-to-back, but it was crazy busy in my little corner of the gym world and that only stability ball I saw was a big gray one and it was in use much of the time. (I am apparently far too lazy to go seek out another one from the many other places another could potentially be found within the confines of the gym.) So I used the TRX for 2 rounds of this exercise, and I still kind of hate them. Something about the feet and the the wiggle-wobble of the straps. When I finally did lay hands upon the stability ball, I vastly preferred it to the TRX version. It just feels more solid in its wiggle-wobble solid squishiness beneath the feet.

This new list is also challenging. I mean, like being even more of a sweaty mess limping out of the gym after it’s all done yet without the angst and dread of other things we have done on occasion. Perhaps one more run at it tomorrow morning before Thursday’s training session. On the bright side, I am feeling much more positive about the TRX push-ups. Progress.

The Dietician. Yesterday I had my second visit with the dietician. He was dismayed that I did not appear with my food diary of what sorts of things I have been consuming in the interim few weeks. I reminded him that I am not a food tracking person, that I had told him I did not weigh or measure food I was consuming, track calories, or even write what I am eating down. How am I supposed to help you develop an eating plan, he asks? I sort of shrug helplessly, because I truly do not know and did not know last time I was here. He reviews his notes again and I can see the lightbulb going on above his head. Yep, I am THAT patient.

So we have another conversation about diet, exercise, calories, fat, weight loss, etc. I remind him that I am now, officially, a well-controlled diabetic. He reminds me that the docs would like to see a leaner me. I ask how we can do that without driving myself crazy try to calorie count, track food consumption, etc.? He frowns at me, and I frown back. He sighs, I smile ruefully. I am typically not this impossible to deal with.

From there we have a real conversation. We talk about food, diabetes, and weight loss. We talk about my exercise program and how I am so dead set against weighing myself or any food I am eating. Finally, after some back and forth and negotiating, I agree to track food for at least 5 days, and he agrees they do not have to be consecutive days. So for some 5 days in the next 3 weeks I have to track everything I eat and drink. He said I don’t have to weigh and measure, just write it down.

Le sigh. I am so weak and giving in to a very nice dietician who wants to help me to the best of his professional ability. Only 5 days; I can last with notebook in hand for 5 days. Right? If I am uber cranky next week you’ll know why.

Self-employment Tuesday. Before this morning’s first ever police station visit, I was scheduled to meet and lunch with a client I had to reschedule from last week. He is very understanding and was very concerned for my well being, so I am kind of glad I kept the lunch meeting appointment. While we did talk some financial stuff for his practice during our meeting, at least 60% was about me and the Very Bad Incident. I made a mess of a very nice salad by pushing the lettuce leaves around on the plate for an hour; there was a big, soggy-looking mess left on the plate by the time I was done and it was pretty obvious I barely ate any of it. The waiter was very concerned and asked me if it was not to my liking, which I of course then felt compelled to apologize for my mistreatment of produce and left him an extra nice tip because of it. I actually really love that salad under normal circumstances. Today is anything but that.

All afternoon I have been meeting with clients, picking up documents, catching up on what is new and exciting in their business and financial lives that I was previously unaware of from our phone, email, and text conversations. Work is keeping me busy and distracted from my other issues, so all is well on that front.

The panhandler meltdown. When I was leaving my last scheduled client’s office this afternoon to make my way to my therapy appointment, a woman approached me in the parking lot looking for a handout. Whether she was homeless or truly just in need, it scared me so badly when she approached I started trembling and nearly ran back into the building. I just shook my head and waved her away as vigorously as possible when she approached an started her pitch. I hurried as fast as I could to the safety of my car and the relief of being locked inside. If she had been one of those aggressive people who came up to my car and rapped on the window I would have reacted very poorly. As if was, I had to take a few minutes to compose myself to drive. I called M and told him where I was, what happened, and he talked me off the ledge. From there I made my way to TM’s office and sat in his waiting room for 20 minutes replying to emails until my appointment time. I am never that early for our meetings.

I suppose my sudden fear of transients and homeless people is understandable, but I was unprepared for how strong, how violent, how physical my reaction would be when our paths crossed. And this was a woman, not even a male homeless person.

Therapist TM appointment. Despite my trauma drama, I am actually doing pretty well with the primary objective with this year’s personal navel gazing. Before the Very Bad Incident last Thursday, I had been feeling more confident, upbeat, positive about future outcomes based on my own efforts and abilities. I was much less inclined to not shred myself in fits of anxiety or listen to the negative, destructive voices inside my head. Even now, after the Very Bad Incident, I am holding my own, albeit with shaking hands and queasy stomach. I had been handling things pretty well, sleeping 2 nights in a row without sleeping aids, and finding new ways to cope with the quieting my mind before trying to fall asleep.

Now, I am a wreck again.

TM suggests we meet weekly for at least a few weeks, until I get my life-legs back and am not feeling so fractured and fragile. I agreed, because I have so much new and free-floating anxiety that I am finding it difficult to sit still enough to concentrate when not actually engaged in doing something. Monday – was that only yesterday? – I had spoken to J about additional exercise in the evening, trying to physically tire myself out to be able to sleep. He agreed that it’s a good way to keep my brain occupied, but exercise may inhibit the ability to fall asleep. Instead he suggested something low intensity like yoga flow for unwinding. I am not sure how that qualifies, because I think everything exercise is high intensity for me. But I respect his thoughts and opinions and will give it more thought and experiment.

I have been jumping on my arc trainer or rower to physically tire myself out before bed, reasoning that if I feel physically tired I will go right to sleep. There have been many mornings where I felt well-rested and fine arriving at the gym, worked really hard, and then really wanted to come home and take a nap before work. But cardio is so damn BORING anymore. I looked around and asked friends and cobbled together a schedule of yoga or yoga-like classes I could attend in the evenings when I need something to help quiet my thoughts and make me feel physically fatigued enough to sleep. I was going to try it tonight, but now I am feeling scared about going somewhere new after dark. Maybe being bored before sleeping is not all that bad?

TM agrees exercise is a great outlet for nervous anxiety and strongly encourages me to continue my practice and even taking up a second practice if I am feeling that climb-out-of-my-skin sort of anxious nervousness. Eliminating all forms of caffeine and any remaining sugar in my diet is probably a good idea as well. While I have not been slamming donuts with my one cup of decaf coffee per day, I do enjoy a single piece of dark chocolate a few nights per week. The last of my vices is now going away. Maybe I need to take up booze for its medicinal properties?

Today we worked on breathing exercises and started exploring meditation and how it can help get me through this. I am very anti-drug use for my particular neurotic strains, the remaining valium my only concession to the Very Bad Incident. TM agrees that right now it does not seem additional medication is necessary, because he is going to provide me some new tools to get through the day-to-day business of living my life without fear of breakdown. I have a book on medication on my Kindle that I need to settle down and finish, because I am going to become one of those truly annoying fidgeters if I do not get myself under control somehow. Today in his office I was foot-twitching and uncomfortable much of the hour, and I was actually eager to see him and be psychically repaired. Unfortunately his magic wand for such miracles was left in some other suit.

I am kind of disappointed that my primary objective of positive self image is kind of taking a backseat, but if I cannot leave the house because of anxiety then I cannot see myself feeling a whole lot better about my outlook.

Today it weighs on me that I require the influence of a stable of coaches of different disciplines to get me where I am going next. Personal trainer, dietician, therapist, doctors, and I now work for bunches of lawyers. I’m still not sure what a life coach does or I might be contemplating one of those as well. Still, if it takes a village to get me through I will be grateful for the income to afford such luxuries.

Tomorrow will be better. I hope. Or do I decide? Something else to consider.


Recovery road – feeling blessed, lucky, and intensely sick

It feels as if this Very Bad Incident will never leave me, and yes, I know it has not even been a week and I should be patient. Poor M about got his head handed to him this morning (in the police department’s visitor parking lot no less) for very kindly and gently suggesting I try to cut myself some slack on putting this behind me. My relief at knowing the bad men were jailed on another offense has turned to horror today.

Today I had an appointment downtown to see if I could identify the men who accosted me. Having never before had a reason to visit the local police department, I was not sure what to expect and was rather relieved to find it was nothing like what you see in the movies and TV. The police department seems very much like any other government office with uniforms everywhere. From the security staff on everyone we met was very courteous and kind to us, although I did wonder if my fidgeting made me look guilty of something. M had to finally hold onto both my hands to keep me from shredding my cuticles in my fit of nervous anxiety.

The officers who spoke with us were very nice, explaining that my description of the men matched another report of 2 men arrested this weekend in the same general area. They showed me arrangements of photographs and I while I was pretty sure the ones my eye was immediately drawn to were correct, I looked at all of the photos carefully to be sure before making my final selection.

It was not until I correctly identified the 2 men in custody that they told me what they had done to warrant arrest. My description of the knife I was threatened with matched one found in the one man’s possession. That knife was also used in a rape and attempted murder of another woman on Saturday. She is still hospitalized because of her injuries, but she is expected to live.

The rest of what was said is kind of a blur and I am quite sure I was listening intently to what was said, but right now I cannot recall much of it. I know I read through the paperwork they presented, signed and dated where indicated, and thanked them for their time and the good work they do. Next I remember is passing a woman’s bathroom and bolting inside to vomit.

Sorry, TMI again.

Here I am, a couple of hours later, and I still do not know how I feel. Relieved? Lucky? Blessed? Laden with guilt? The last, definitely yes, and it is a type of survivor’s guilt. I have no idea what to do with it or how to deal with it. I am soldiering on, about to meet a client for lunch and act as if my mind is 100% focused on the business at hand.

No one deserves what that woman is enduring, and I truly hope she comes through this horrific experience okay. I know nothing about her and can find no reports in the local newspapers about what happened. What I was told about her injuries was very general, yet it is enough for my mind to fill in the blanks.

This experience is so horrid, and I feel … simply awful. And fortunate, lucky, blessed. I am grateful and thankful to be unharmed. If I truly believed in them, I definitely say I had some sort of guardian angel watching out for me. But then that opens the whole quagmire of why me? Why was I spared and another not? What makes me more deserving than someone else?

I do not want to go there, further open the confetti cannon of emotions that are now flying all over inside my heart and mind. Both feel like they are about to explode from overload.

No one ever says life is fair. I just happened to land on the side of good fortune this time. And the complexities of my thoughts and emotions are like a philosophical debate that could spiral on into infinity.

I was lucky, she was not. I need to just leave it at that right now. And breathe … just keep breathing.

So glad to be meeting with therapist TM in a few hours. Hopefully he has some wisdom or practical advice to help me sort out and make sense of what seems to be the unsortable.

Super Sunday

I do not follow football, so I actually have no idea when the big game is actually to take place. But I know it must be soon, with all the soda, beer, and snacks lining the entrances to every store I enter these days. So sorry, this post has nothing to do with the Super Bowl. Except I’m sorely tempted by the soda and snacks lining the entrances to every store I enter. But we resisted. No soda or snacks jumped into our cart and followed us home.

Today M and I went back to the scene of the crime as it were. I needed to return some documents and keys and M being M, he needed to see where the incident occurred and connect it to my description of what happened.

It was stressful to say the least, yet I am so glad I went and saw it through his eyes as I walked him through where they were, where I was, what I did, and how I did it. Looking at it now, with a couple of days between then and now, I see that I reacted pretty well under the circumstances. I moved a heavy, nearly full dumpster all by myself and did not even realize it until today just how heavy it was. In the heat of the moment, I just reacted with a very primal fight or flight type response.

I am apparently stronger than I realize. It alleviated my guilt for not being braver or more courageous in the moment. It also makes me realize I have nothing to feel guilty about and that they are now cooling their heels in jail and will not be able to hurt me.

Seeing it in the bright sunlight, it’s just a dumpster and a parking lot. The feral kitties are still there, but the bad men with the big knife and malice and ill intent toward me are gone. Being there, seeing the reality and how it is now just a benign place released the powerful, vise-grip lock the experience has had on my heart and mind the last few days. I walked away, physically unharmed, safe. Maybe I can let go of my irrational guilt and shame at not being braver or doing something differently.

I am not so naive to believe the nightmares will cease or that I can now return to my unaware and therefore mostly fearless state, yet I think the worst of the minute-by-minute torment of the last few days is behind me. Or I like to hope, anyway. We ran some other errands and got a few ingredients needed for the bulk cooking extravaganza presently underway in my kitchen, and I was calm and fine and normal throughout. No jitters, no trembling, no heart-racing panic building whenever someone passed me in the aisles. Okay, maybe a little jittery, but nothing like it was on Friday and Saturday.

While we were out it occurred to me that J would likely be texting me about tomorrow’s appointment – the one I hope not to be sleeping through the alarm on and am now 100% sure is tomorrow. I was pretty sure he was going to ask me if I wanted to review or add new stuff to the rotation, and I found myself smiling, maybe even grinning, as I thought “bring on the suck!” and meant it. Progress.

When I have thought about the last few days, I have felt poorly about my attitude and performance. Because, you know, I’m the only person in the world allowed to have a crisis and not struggle with everyday activities afterward. I am presently not-so-secretly feeling pretty damn proud of myself for sucking it up and going to the gym to practice when all I really wanted to do was stay locked in my house with the alarm armed and every single gun in the safe loaded and the safe door wide open. And I am pretty pleased that once I got to the gym, I did my warm-up and then 3 sets of whatever List I was working when I really just wanted to curl into a ball and not do anything at all. When Friday came, I sat and I went to my law firm office for a little while, until the partners got wind of what happened and insisted I go home. But I worked from home, on their stuff and other items on Friday’s to do list. I carried on and mostly did a good facsimile of normal behavior. Mostly.

I am not naive or unrealistic enough to believe this is not going to haunt me for awhile to come, that the nightmares are going to stop and I will never have to use another of the Valium tablets in my possession. However, I have had stretches of 3, 4, even 5 minutes today without the whole scene replaying in my mind along with the racing heart and the smell of my own fear as well as their own dark rankness. I’m grateful, so grateful for even that little bit of peace. It makes me literally sick to my stomach to endure those flashbacks, and I want to be able to just sit and be without them invading my mind and squeezing the living daylights out of my heart and lungs.

My anger at those men knows no boundaries right now. While M and I were there reviewing what happened, one of the management people from the other building saw us and came out to talk to me. He is someone I have met a few times while his firm was in the process of negotiating the building purchase. A casual acquaintance – a really stupid, thoughtless, insensitive and now former acquaintance – made the life-altering mistake of commenting that the bad men are homeless and desperate. I completely lost my shit, right there in the parking lot. I mean, screaming, rude, ANGRY lost it. Really? REALLY? So that gives them a free pass to terrorize women? To threaten with a knife? In that moment, the contents of my wallet or even my nice, late model car was not their primary prize, you f–king idiot! Try to take a moment put yourself in a woman’s shoes and imagine how that feels like, then come back and tell me how they are homeless and desperate. Better yet, ask your sister or your mother to imagine how that feels and then tell them that they are homeless and desperate. Yep, totally lost my shit.

And it felt really GOOD, so much that I am not at all sorry now. Usually I’m crushed with embarrassment when I am this rude. Not this time. Maybe progress?

That exchange had me shaking with anger. Old anger, new anger, a mixture of both. But it crystalized what I truly feared – that somewhere out there was some clueless chump that wanted to imply I was somehow at fault. M had to literally wrap his arms around me and lead me away I was so upset. He was pretty angry as well but I was yelling and screaming and pitching a perfect fit at someone other than him (for once), so his hands were full coping with me. It was kind of a refreshing change; it is far too often the other way around, although M does not pitch fits in the same way I do. Thankfully.

Today’s experience has been a painful reminder that there are incredibly stupid and insensitive people in the world. However, overwhelmingly, there has been so much support and encouragement and just … really good, graceful, tender, and amazing stuff from all corners, near and far. I really cannot adequately express my gratitude, but thank you.

I had/have been making positive progress on improving my internal dialogs, and come Tuesday and my next appointment with therapist TM my hope and tentative plan is to discuss with him more coping strategies for when things do not go my way. Granted, last Thursday was a big, unprecedented event that in fact truly did go my way, yet let a big chunk of me shattered and I am still trying to pull myself back together. And I will; despite my “woe is me” the last several days I have little doubt I will get myself back in order. Only I want it done yesterday. Nope, still not patient.

My thoughts have been swirling about how this incident impacts me, how I think, and how I feel. At my core, I have felt as if I deserve it for reasons well beyond my comprehension. Despite this setback, it is just that – a setback. I stayed the course with my practice and have not allowed myself to cancel sessions with J. I did not give in to the temptation of ice cream or other junky food. While I still believe I am right to not want to return to my former employer/client, even to train a replacement, more time and my misplaced loyalty makes it seem likely that I will soften my stance. Maybe.

Essentially, today I am pleased with my actions and reactions. It’s what makes me happy and excited about returning to the gym tomorrow. In this skirmish with my own psyche and sense of self I am winning. I am scarred, not broken, and I can and will continue my quest to be better. Not perfect, not heroic. Just better.

Or so I tell myself. Only this time, I actually believe it. An excerpt from a text exchange with J yesterday:

Screenshot 2016-01-31 18.45.19

Tonight, normalcy is closer than I realized. Bring it on.

The price of peace

I was chatting with a friend earlier who is having a tough time with counseling. In my experiences there comes a point when the therapist starts getting a little tougher, the questions harder, and the shit starts getting REAL. My pal is at that point, and she has my complete and total sympathy. At the same time, I urge her to not run away (change therapists) or quit because it’s hard. Peace of mind can take a lot of blood, sweat, and billions of gallons are tears. At the end of it all, the price of peace is worth it.

But in the here and now, it’s really hard to watch someone I love suffer.

She is feeling sick to her stomach and crying. She is angry and has already considered looking for a new therapist. In our conversation tonight I had to be the one to say it likely gets worse before it gets better, and to change therapists now would just be postponing and prolonging the inevitable. My friend says she must be near rock bottom, that she is exhausted and feels defeated, and she only wants peace. I sympathize and I hurt with her, but I also know that I must be honest in my assessment and based on my own personal experiences that she is starting to sink yet nowhere near rock bottom. In my experience, rock bottom is being terrified of returning to the therapists office, knowing full well that the painful injuries buried so deeply are going to have their layers of bandages ripped off and something akin to rubbing alcohol poured directly onto to them for a long, slow, never ending burn. When she is so scared of going back and feeling all those things that are going to come out and up and hurt so hard and so bad, then I believe she is approaching her emotional bottom.

When I was first in therapy as an adult, getting to the root of my issues was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was a new mother, had this wonderful, amazing baby at home that was so innocent and happy to see me every single minute I was with her. And she frightened me so much I was driven to seek out a therapist to help me cope.

The first few months were like the honeymoon phase -getting to know me, learning about my days and life and relationships. Then the probing started and the surgical precision of slicing away at the walls and safeguards I had built around my secrets. When I finally verbalized it, I thought the worst was over, that I would soon, finally be free.

I was so wrong on so many levels. I laugh at my naive assumption of release and redemption by simply admitting with the magic words.

Eventually I would be mostly free. But between that start and the day I finally felt relieved and functional at a more normal level, I had been through a kind of hell that still brings  nightmares if I have a particularly stressful day. Talking about my abuser and the things he had done to me was akin to having a root canal without benefit of anesthesia during the procedure or pain relievers afterward. To have to go back to that office week after week and relive it and feel it and process it … no one should ever have to suffer that way. It was like being raped repeatedly all over again, only this time is was a trap of my own self-protective making.

I think back on those years – because it took a couple of years for me to start exhuming the crap that was poisoning and crippling me – and I both cringe and feel enormous relief. It was the hardest work I have ever done, and I still feel like the weakest willed person on the planet for not coping better. I have to remind myself when I start that scorching negative thought process that this is not a competition, to see who can heal the best, the fastest, be labeled the most courageous in slaying her dragons.

My life now is better because of I did that work. I never judge if someone is not ready, if they must walk away from the tough stuff and put it back on the shelf for now. But I hope they pick it up again sometime, when they are feeling braver and more supported and ready to face their demons. I believe anyone who suffers from mental illness or has been affected by emotional trauma understands how impossible and how hopeless it feels at first and many times through the process of treatment and recovery. But you get up and get back on and try again until it feels right.

I know I cannot do this hard and painful work for anyone but myself, and the price of peace is high for many of us. We stumble, fall down, even wallow and whine. I was luck to always find the strength to get back up.

This is so not what I expected to be talking about tonight. Most of the day my head was composing the light and fluffy reporting on the food prep and associated shopping in our household. Then a short discussion with M in the car, a much longer discussion with my friend, and voila … here I am in a land so far removed.

The good news is there will likely be a lot more food prep posts coming. Hopefully without another kitchen accident and blood to share. With M and his adventures in cooking, there is rarely a dull moment around here.