Fear

Repercussions of my ugly reality

I smoked my first cigarette when I was 15.

I had this friend, her parents smoked and she would sneak a few away and hide what became a habit for her, and as it would turn out, for me as well.

When I was fifteen, I went to this high school football game to see the guy I was starting to date, it was a small town in the deep recesses of Georgia and high school football was where everyone gathered on a Friday night.

The popular kids, who were my friends from church, invited me up to their section in the stands. My smoker friend was excited for this, getting an invitation was the first step, so I went.

In the stands on that football field, the guy I was dating, and the girls I was friends with from church seemed thrilled to have me with them, I had this warmth in my heart that I was being accepted, when only moments before I had been scared that the guy I was seeing wouldn’t want to see me since I had confessed to him that I had been raped, but everything seemed so good in those first few moments.

Knowing what I know today, I should have known that they weren’t thrilled, the smile that Lizzy had on her face wasn’t excitement, it was treacherous and manipulative, but I was young and naive. I wasn’t prepared for her to come at me with a full blast of accusatory statements, there was no time for me to get a word out of my mouth. I was embarrassed, humiliated, horrified that everyone knew now and then they all turned their heads away from me. I reached my hand out to touch the arm of the guy I was seeing and he jerked it away, not even looking at me. I burst into tears and he moved past everyone to get away from me.

In shock, I walked down the stairs to leave. I found my smoker friend, she asked me what was wrong but I had already pulled back deep into myself to keep the wounds I felt inside from bleeding any further.

I was broken, she took me to her house, we sat on her bed and she lit a cigarette. I didn’t say anything, I just took it from her, I coughed, choked, but the pain that it caused made me feel better. It took my mind off of the destructive abuse of rape, the searing pain in my lungs momentarily made me forget the humiliation of being shunned by my peers, the high of it – that sharp pain it causes in my brain – filled the void that had been left behind when I felt like I had been stripped and beaten from the inside out.

Today

More than fifteen years have come and gone as a painful blur. I dissociated to save my thoughts from the pain that my body went through, even though the emotions live inside like a black mold eating my body from the inside out. I blocked and blacked out in order to try and survive just one more day.

The healthier the people I surround myself with and the healthier my life gets because of therapy, the more it hurts and the more I hurt myself.

When I would dissociate, I could have an argument and I wouldn’t be present for it, I would go to an inner place in my head while my mouth spewed words that I would later be sorry for. When I am present and I have an argument, the adrenaline spikes and the trigger that it is, causes my face and body to ache in the locations where I have been hit. These areas on my face, my neck, my back, my stomach, my arms, they ache with the hurt of the past.

The monsters of my past haunt me every day and without realizing it, I’ve been helping them.

I felt like I was the worst kind of garbage after years of rape and abuse. I became so broken that deep down I believed I deserved to be treated this way, even though outwardly I was smiling and telling people that I was strong enough to stand.

The repercussion of the physical and psychological monstrosities is that I treat myself like garbage.

I hide from people I love in order to sneak cigarettes because the pain I feel when I smoke fills an ache of pain from my past and I think I deserve that. I drink too much at night in order to make sure that I won’t lie awake in bed terrorized by memories of my past, the headache the next morning … I think I deserve that.

I have stomach issues, lactose intolerance, GERD, and an ulcer, but I don’t stop eating food that is bad for me, because the pain it causes affirms that emotional feeling that I deserve to feel bad.

As it is every day, my vision isn’t clear because I have headaches that build into migraines. My stomach is burning with pain from eating. My neck tension is so severe that when I turn my head I hear cracking noises and pain reverberates, shuddering through my brain.

I panic that every day will be my last because of the amount of stress and pain I feel. I used to think that I was going to die from this pain, suddenly and swiftly.

I think about stopping all of these vices. These vices which have not helped me, but have only monumentally added to the pain I feel. My inner struggle is worry, that without these vices and bad habits – I am afraid I will feel everything. Is the pain from these vices really worse than the ugly reality of what happened?

Is the pain worse than finding out I’m a terrible at keeping a clean house and it isn’t just laziness?

Is the pain and fear worse than tossing and turning for hours, trying to shut out the monsters that haunt me in the dark of night, when the world is silent, but my mind is screaming?

Is it worth the pain and fear of dying sooner in life due to my vices and habits, because they help me dissociate from the agonizing terror of dying at the hands of someone else?

With these vices of mine, I have perpetuated and continued the feeling that I deserve to be in pain and that I deserve to feel bad. As the black tar of cigarettes coats my lungs with every inhale and the bottle of wine half finished is poured into another glass, I tell myself that I will get better, that I will do better, ironically, that is the same thing I used to say when I was being abused.

It is stunningly clear to me today, that the monsters of my past have evolved into new monsters in my present, in the form of things that I can become addicted to.

My addiction is clear for me, I am addicted to not wanting to feel, not wanting to remember, not wanting to look at myself in a mirror and seeing who I have become.

I did not want to acknowledge how I felt about myself, my face, or my body. So I embraced vices and habits that made me numb to everything but the pain that they themselves cause.

I have come to a place in the last few weeks where the vices and habits are making life harder, the purpose they served in the past is missing.

I have nothing to give this world but who I am, if I am numb and my eyes are vacant, I am not living. If I am in pain from a hangover and smoking, giving my body and mind less oxygen than it needs to function, I am only hurting myself.

There is a great quote, unknown to me who said it first, but it goes … I will remember and recover, not forgive and forget.

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I miss the person I once was, I sometimes dream of the person I had hoped to become. This life, with all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, is my reality and I think it is time that I confronted it.

I think it is time I fight for me, for who I want to be, and for what I want out of this life.

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A confrontation of sorts

I used to be unafraid. I remember that. I’m trying to keep that thought present so that I can logically move through the things I face today. Although now, since I know evil personally, I understand the difference between having a lack of fear and being brave, strong. As so many speeches start…. “Webster’s dictionary defines the word ..” brave – as ….. ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

It was less than five years ago that I thought I recognized someone from my past, someone that I knew was volatile and slightly fucking crazy. I didn’t want this person to know I still existed, much less that I was living back in Seattle. Looking back on that day I realize I did not need to be terrified, but I was. We were in a crowded Starbucks in the middle of Pike Place in Seattle, yet, I still snuck up to the barista making my coffee and waved her over urgently. I whispered to her that someone was in the shop that I couldn’t have hear my name, so could she please just hand me my cup when it was done instead of calling my name.

I remember the look on her face when I begged this favor of her. I know that my chest and neck had broken out in hives and that I was sweating and obviously, I looked panicked, but I could see understanding and sympathy in her face. She handed me my drink with a look that spoke of wishing me good luck and I hid behind a group of guys that were leaving on my way out.

Now, that was years ago, but I still avoid certain areas of Seattle and the Eastside based on when and where I know my abuser will be. Yet, when I drive down the interstate near his ext, I panic, I can’t help it. I can be focused on happy thoughts and when I see the turn in the road .. suddenly I can’t breathe and I feel that my death is impending.

All that to say, today, when I went to my regular gas station, I saw a vehicle exactly the same color, model, and year of his. My heart dropped and I expected the panic to hit me, but it didn’t, in that moment I only felt calm. I could see myself clearly, if he were to walk out and confront me, I wouldn’t run, I wouldn’t faint, and I certainly wouldn’t die because he was confronting me.

Do I know what I would say? No. Have I rehearsed it a million times? Yes.

I have run into this man a few times since I left him. An unfortunate circumstance of working in the same city and having to frequent many of the same businesses (incidentally, how we had met in the first place). Running into him after the breakup was a nightmare. I could feel the bruises that were no longer visible in my face and throat when I saw him, I felt the terror in my stomach. Those times that he came up to me, I forced a smile, I hid my shaking, and I stayed civil. He would smile his sick smile and I would count my breaths in and out waiting to escape the office and get to the safety of my car, with my locked doors.

Today was different though. It wasn’t him, no, but I didn’t have a panic attack when I thought it might be. That is huge for me. I feel stronger tonight for not having panicked, I feel that not only will I fight for myself, but I actually can. I wouldn’t classify myself as brave, but I’m a step up from hiding in a corner, so I’ll take it.

In other news, my macbook pro is still under the weather and I’m slightly devastated by this. Off to the apple school of wizards this weekend we will go.

 

Get after it.

I woke up this morning and thought to myself … “Self, make today a great day.” I put the coffee on, made breakfast, and set out on a run. It feels great, my energy is high, I’m motivated to actually do something today. One part of this might be the colder weather, the approaching Christmas season, or perhaps, the wonderfulness that is Christmas music itself. Every year, Christmas season, I pull out the Christmas music. It makes me want to put on a frilly apron, wear cute shoes, and dance around my kitchen baking cookies.

Private victories precede public victories. You can’t invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve said it before and here it comes again, I really do need to read this book. I’m gaining momentum in this process of changing my mind every day to change my life and it’s getting to a point where those around me are starting to see a difference. My inward victory over the pain, depression, and panic will someday be visible outwardly, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to not dreading each day, to instead be excited for it. I’m looking forward to one day being able to say that I am living as my Dad lived, joyfully.

More importantly, I just wrote “I’m looking forward” three times in a row – Four weeks ago I was in a place where I could not look forward, so much was my fear of the past that I had to keep an eye on it at every moment. So raise your coffee cups, here’s to private victories!

The effect of one good-hearted person is incalculable. – Oscar Arias

I have good-hearted people in my life, and it’s true, their effect is incalculable. The problem is, the bad-hearted people in our lives, their effect is calculable, we can tally it. I can remember every single detail of the times when I’ve been torn down, ridiculed, humiliated, and beaten. Every. Single. Detail. I can’t remember even vaguely, what beautiful things that loving people have said to me though.

It’s one of those areas that we have to choose who we surround ourselves with. Who are your closest people? Are they positive, full of life, caring, respectful, loving? Or are they negative, bitter, resentful, disrespectful, and rude? I can’t describe the relief that comes from leaving relationships with negative people, but I can say that the sun shines brighter, the world is warmer, the trees are prettier, and your shoulders feel lighter. Obviously, leaving those relationships didn’t magically cure my depression or panic, but it did lessen the weight I was carrying around. I learned after many years that we can’t make others happy, we can only try to give ourselves a chance at a healthy life by removing the darkness that is negativity.

Keep a daily diary of your dreams, goals and accomplishments. Your life is worth living, it’s worth recording. – Marilyn Grey – To Your Success

Done, and done. Kidding. But seriously, in five words “Your life is worth living” – I know that I’ve been alive these last seven years, but I’ve been far from living. My Dad lived, my mom lives, but depression and panic kept me debilitated and holed up in a safe corner. At many points over the last seven years I couldn’t imagine even walking around my neighborhood because I was sure that I was going to faint and then something horrible would happen to me, so I wouldn’t go.

I changed that, I forced myself to get out, to go anywhere I feel like going. I suppose I’m not so much afraid of fainting anymore, I feel more like screaming “bring it on” and “do your worst” because at this point I’m mad that I lost seven years of my life to this panic and depression and I’m going to fight to make sure that I don’t live in fear ever again.

Sidenote: A huge part of deciding to stop being afraid was taking a five week self-defense course and I stopped saying I am a victim, I started saying I am a survivor.

SurvivorOh and because it’s awesome.

The moment I wake up

I had a song running through my head when I woke up this morning to the cooing of my alarm. Aretha Franklin – Say a little prayer. My humming of it is more along the lines of My Best Friend’s Wedding but all the same, it was an unexpected lift and brought a smile to my face before I had even crawled out of bed to make the coffee.

Put a smile on your face? It’s the gift that keeps giving, really.

We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behavior grows out of those assumptions. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I do. Does everyone? When I first got married I had the hardest time accepting that the way my husband saw the world wasn’t the way that I did. In certain cases he learned that the way I saw the world was true but I will admit that for the majority of our marriage, his view on the world was what I’ve needed to see it as.

I had a bad attitude in so many situations because I always expected the worst. There was a reason for it though – for example, when I was 16 or so, I had bought a CD burner at Walmart and it turned out that what was in the box was not what was on the box. I went right back to exchange it that day and the woman at the counter said that I had switched the item and that she could not approve a return.

::This was not only embarrassing but immediately slapped me back into a memory of my own extended family accusing my of theft and deceit when I was just around 10 or so years old. That story is for another time though.::

I went home, grabbed my mom and she took it in to return it, immediately they refunded the money and took the item back. From that day forward, even when something I bought was broken, mishandled, the wrong size, anything – I would not try to return it because I had been so humiliated in the past. My husband didn’t think that returning items was ever a problem until one day, we went to return a pair of heels that had said size 7.5, but were really an 8. He wanted me to be stronger and to experience that it isn’t always a refusal of a return and that customer service is supposed to be there for us, the customers. Unfortunately… when I tried to return the shoes with him by my side the counter girl said there was no way she could accept them, that they had been worn and were therefore mine and no refund/exchange/anything was applicable. My heart broke, I looked at him with this look that just said “see?” Now, I expected him to hold my hand, maybe rub my back as we would shamefully walk out of the store, but instead he held my hand, spoke up, asked for a manager who would actually do her job and successfully got the shoes returned and my money refunded.

I learned from him that I am not to be walked over by anyone. If he hadn’t been around, my attitude and behavior would never have changed, I would think everyone in customer service was mean and I would keep all items that I should return. My insecurity and self-worth would still be dictated by my past as I would continue to assume that every experience is going to be like the one before it, but they are all different. I need to remember to take a breath and reassess that I can’t base my self-worth on bad experiences.

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. – Dan Zadra

I have had the time, I just haven’t been thinking about anything outside of my pain. I have an unbelievably amazing husband, my family is award-worthy in their level of love and support – yet I pushed all of them away at one time or another, sometimes all at once. I have been thanking them slowly, I have been opening myself back up to them, telling the truth about what happened to me and letting them into my life. I just wish that at the time of the assaults, the abuse, and the loneliness – that I had reached out. My life would have been very different, I wouldn’t have been dealing with this alone, but I was so afraid if I told them the truth that they would be ashamed of me, angry at me, hate me, be embarrassed by me… the worst of anything and everything.

I know now, that when you’re raped, abused, battered – you take on the shame, the guilt, and all of the other feelings that are all sorts of disgusting that your abuser is incapable of feeling. I wish I had told someone. I wish I hadn’t tried to carry it all alone.

My family knows now. It hurt them to hear what had happened to me and although I don’t know when the feeling of devastation will go away.. we know as a family that we love each other and we are thankful that we have each other. I do need to speak it more clearly to them, to show them how truly thankful I am for them with my actions as well. That is a big part of why I am doing this new motivation every day, I need to get back to being the girl that was hopeful, joyful, excited and stoked for life.

Humanity cannot forget its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it knows them as the realities which it shall one day see and know. – James Allen – To Your Success

Dreamers, to dream, to have ideals, that should be all of us. We should all write down our dreams, chase after them, and one day – breathe them in. I am a massive fan of my football team here in Seattle. One of our Seahawks was in an interview and he explained how when he intercepts the football or gets a touchdown, that he raises his arms out and up to show that he did it, he is here, that he made it. His dream took a lot of hard work on his part, but he got there and he has faith that everyone else can do it too.

I’m in a place where I want to start dreaming again, I want to chase down my dreams and grab them out of the air, and I know that one day ::soon, I hope:: I’ll be standing on top of a mountain, at an art gallery, or even in my living room and I’ll know that I’ve got this. I can make it happen, I just have to work for it.

My interest is in the future, because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. – Charles F. Kettering – To Your Success

These quotes about thinking about the future, not the past, keep coming up. I get it. I want my future days not to be anything like the past days of the last seven years. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some great times in the last seven years but they were also downplayed by my pain, headaches, migraines, and the ever present feeling of dread weighing heavily on my body and mind. I am starting to imagine my future days as days without those things. When I have a migraine now, I treat it, get the ice, advil, lay in a dark room until it eases. I used to fight through them to keep going and I see now that it just made them worse. Taking care of me, my health, is the first step in moving forward. My future depends on me taking the right steps in the present, not blaming it on my past.

Amazing