PTSD

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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He traumatized the mundane.

I walked into therapy today not knowing what was on my mind, but when I sat down and opened my mouth there was a flood of words describing this feeling of hopelessness that I’ve been noticing, and sometimes, regretfully, am overwhelmed by. The feeling isn’t with me most of the time, but when it happens, I am undone by panic attacks and I feel depressed about it.

Through the intensive process today, it became stunningly clear where and when I started feeling hopeless about the mundane. You see, my ex, he liked things done a specific way and when I moved in with him he assigned me tasks around the house that were to be done before I left for work for the day. The reason for every day……… “Don’t you care about our home? Don’t you want to take care of our home to make it nice to come home to every day?” I said yes but I felt every day was excessive but since I was 20 I thought that maybe, possibly I didn’t know right from wrong. There was a list for me on the counter when I would wake up in the morning, my tasks for that day. Vacuuming, Clean the mirrors, Dust the insides of CD cases (which were never used), Dishes, and Floors. I would run around like a mad dog trying to get everything done before going to my job. I always felt like I accomplished what was on the list when I left the house, it was spotless, but when I came home, even that first day, there was a note of how I had failed at my chores.

I took the note to him and was laughing about it because I thought it was a joke .. until I saw the vacuum cleaner sitting out in the middle of his office. He told me to pay attention, that this was to help me .. and showed me how to wind the chord for the vacuum in a certain way so that the end with the plug was at the top – for easy access. Then he showed me how I had barely any lines in the carpeting, explaining that he wanted to see clean, straight lines in the carpet. The dishes I had left to dry in the drain, but that was wrong because of water spots, they have to be dried immediately and put away, did I think he would want to see my dishes when he came home? At least I did ok on the mirrors, that was my thought as I went to bed and resolved that I would be better, do better. It never got better, the notes became more aggressive, I was yelled at over lines in the carpet, and physically assaulted over crumbs on the kitchen counter.

At the beginning of therapy I felt awful, that the little things I do around the house have been making me panic and feel hopeless. I didn’t realize how much he traumatized the mundane for me until today. These little chores, these simple activities …. they have been devastating me because he abused me over them, emotionally and physically. Vacuuming wasn’t to clean the floors, it was to avoid being called a failure. Dishes done perfectly … to avoid physical abuse. At the end of therapy, I felt mad, it’s fucking bullshit that he destroyed me over mundane tasks. MUNDANE tasks.

I was driving home and was sifting through why I have panic attacks sitting in the car at a red light. The stillness of the car, but motion of others, the waiting for the green light to happen, waiting, waiting, I always panic, I feel faint, and I’m terrified that I will die. Still, to this day. So I thought I would put it to the test, what happens if I don’t use the avoidance measures that help me and just embrace the panic at a light – see what happens. I did and I panicked hard. I was dizzy and I could barely keep my eyes open from the pressure that comes on so suddenly, but then it passed and I was fine. 20 seconds later my heartbeat was starting to get back to normal. 60 seconds later my breathing starts to come back to normal.

It’s the waiting for the green light, not knowing when I can expect it. I have the same terrorized feeling that I did when I would be on my way back to that house. Not knowing what to expect but waiting for what would happen.

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.

 

Consumed

I turned 29 about a week ago. Leading into this birthday, I started focusing on the future, I felt like a switch had been flipped, I needed what has been my life over the last “few” years to change. Then I started counting the years it has actually been, it wasn’t just a few… it has been 9 years, 9 years since I had a nervous breakdown and since that fateful day I have been consumed. Consumed with the horror of what happened, the fear of it happening again, terror of the unknown, panic attacks, and an inability to move forward.

I need this to change. I need positivity, I need hope, faith, strength, endurance, happiness, life. I made a decision on the morning of my birthday to no longer keep focusing on the past, being consumed by it. That has to end, I don’t live there anymore.

I wish I could write about happy things, but what I know, what I have lived, is dark and ugly.

So, final post on the dark truth before I start to shape my writings into something more positive.

I don’t remember my exact age when I was molested, but I was very young, and he had been a trusted family friend who was morbidly obese and could barely move. I never went near him again after the first time he touched me, he did end up going to prison (for touching/raping other girls) and he died there as well.

11, the summer that I stayed with my Grandmother and in those fateful months I lost all of my trust and faith in extended members of family. My cousin accused me of stealing her things, even after proven innocent, I carried the stigma of thief with *most of my extended family. I was a verbal whipping post for my Grandmother and cousin that summer. My sister was taken 75 miles away and I was left alone with them. Slapped every time I objected to being called names, I started to spend all of my time hiding in a room in the attic or outside in my Grandfather’s barn. Years later, I was still the one to blame if something wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

15, when I was raped by someone I met only hours earlier. My best friends and peers shunned me. He threatened to kill me and my entire family if I ever spoke out about it. So I didn’t.

19, when I broke up with a boyfriend who would go on to attack me physically, punching a hole in the wall when I ducked, breaking into the bathroom while I was showering to grab me by the hair and slam my head into the wall, raping me for leaving him.

20, when I moved in with a man who was so emotionally abusive that I would start my day by throwing up from stress, choked me and threw me into furniture when he was drunk and angry, and cheated on me with other men.

20, when I had a nervous breakdown. Which is ultimately what saved my life.

My life today is completely opposite of what happened over these years. My life is amazing, but I am only just starting to heal. That seems to unreal but at 22 I was safe and as each year has progressed I have made healthier choices for my life because I’m learning ….that I’m worth it.

Freshly 29, I see a future and I plan to focus on being the healthiest I can be for it, not on living in my past. Working through what happened instead of letting it consume me.

And removing my makeup every night. After all, it’s time I start behaving like an adult.

See no evil

The eyes are the window to the soul. – English Proverb 

Last Sunday, the Seahawks went to play the Broncos. Diehard 12’s, my husband, my family, and I were amped. At one point I really took notice of my husband’s face and he looked like a kid at Christmas, his whole face was lit up and his eyes sparkled. I took a close look at my mom when she came over and saw that her eyes sparkle too. These two people are the happiest and healthiest people in my life. They have a joy that they just wake up with every day, a great attitude, and a zest for life and you can see it in their eyes.

When I look into my eyes, I see pain, I see a vacant look on my face, and it feels so bleak. I don’t want this. I see bruises that aren’t there anymore and I see memories that I wish I could forget.

I want the sparkle, I want the inner happiness, and I am willing to fight for it, I just don’t know exactly what I am fighting. Fighting ghosts is what we call it, depression, PTSD, night terrors, an inner feeling of dread that something bad is going to happen weighs on me and there is a part of me that is trapped inside, screaming to get out.

Sidebyside

 

Matthew 6:22  “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

I don’t remember what day it was that the light left my eyes, but I know it was many years ago and I’m only just getting to a place where I’m fighting to get it back. I know what it has been like for me, but I am having an even harder time watching it happen to my sister. My heart hurts remembering that I saw the light and sparkle in my sister’s eyes leave on the day of her wedding. She carries the vacant look that goes along with the phrase “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Abuse sucks the life and the light out of us. With every fist and kick, the breath that is knocked out of you from a physical abuser can take away the sparkle and light that once was a part of us. With every tear that comes shaking out of us from the unkind words, slanderous speech, vindictive behavior, and negativity of an emotional abuser, our eyes cease to glow.

 

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

Drive

 

“I lost my drive.” That’s what I thought to myself this morning. I’ve known it for a long time and thought about it in passing over the last seven years, but this morning it felt real and it felt sad.

We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and understand that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

When I read this it struck me how awful the lens is that I see the world through. My lens used to be trusting, excited, and hopeful. When my world shifted, that lens got dinged up, broken, and stomped on. I see the world now through a lens that is scared, distrustful, panic-stricken, and depressed, but I get it. Changing the way I choose to see the world and those around me is something I can work on. Instead of thinking of the glass as half-full or half-empty…. I’ll just start focusing on what content is in the glass, not how much or how little there is.

If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one. – John Gale – To Your Success

True. One of the problems with my panic attacks was always that I couldn’t imagine a future. I felt that my death was imminent and I was terrified. I could not even consider having children because I had this fear that I was going to faint or die as I randomly walked down the street, how could I care for a child if I’ve passed out?  As I’ve started my climb out of panic and am working on moving out of depression, I find myself wanting things for my future, like this entire process. I want a better life for myself, my husband, and my family and I’m willing to work on getting myself into a good place, no matter how long that takes.

if you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true? – Faye LaPointe – To Your Success

I’m starting to have dreams. Happiness is a dream, peace from panic, nightmares to end. A day without pain. I have a million things running through my head, but I feel content that I am beginning to desire this. I had given up seven  years ago on having a happy life. I think that acceptance of my fate being out of my hands did more damage than I could have imagined.

Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future. – Marilyn Ferguson – To Your Success

Yes, YES, and YES! I want to choose to liberate my future! That is what I NEED. How do I tell the emotional side of my brain this? My past haunts me in my sleep and in my waking hours. How…do…I….choose…. to liberate my future? Why isn’t there a guide?

People who deal with life generously and large-heartedly go on multiplying relationships to the end. – Arthur Christopher Benson

I know those people.. I’m related to them. My folks, my husband, my siblings. All of them have this down-pat while I’m over on a life boat waving for help… yet hiding from brunch, while everyone on the yacht enjoys mimosas.

For the good of growth I’ll admit that I’ve had a hard time making new friends and multiplying relationships because I’m scared of rejection, terrified of making a fool out of myself, and worried sick that they’ll see what happened in my past and think that I’m as worthless as I feel. Phew. Breathe. That run-on sentence just needed to come out.

It’s Day 2. When I had a negative thought today, I paused. In that pause I thought back to yesterday – today I wanted to make the world more special by being good to those that I encountered. For instance, it was the first red cup day of the season at Starbucks. I normally just keep my “order-voice” terse and short so that I’m not inviting conversation, but today, when asked how my day was going I made eye contact, I smiled, and I said it was good. I asked the cheery barista how his day was going and found that I actually wanted to know.

I’m going to get my drive back, it’s going to happen.