Pardon the mess

I am at a functioning level right now.

When I say functioning, I mean I am able to get out of bed and go about my life in the most minimal ways.

I’m back in graduate school. It’s been a little hectic. With a professor missing in action for two weeks (due to a death in the family), it’s now a rush to get three weeks of work done in the next week. I was a little overwhelmed at first, having never used SPSS analytical software at all before, but I am getting the hang of it.

I’ve also been co-authoring a book on DID. The rough draft will be finished in just a couple of weeks, so it’s crunch time to make sure everything I want to say is included. Some of the chapters are intense. While writing about my abuse and struggles is tolerable in small doses, writing with deadlines on specific topics that I can’t avoid has sucked some of the energy right out of me. I’m well passed the halfway point now, so I’m not giving up.

I am going through some physical health issues. I should be used to it by now, but I am not. It’s anxiety-provoking. I have been fortunate enough to find a primary doctor that understands my PTSD and anxieties. Even though it takes me hours in travel just to get back and forth to her, no other doctor was willing to work with me, so I endure the trouble. I’ve got a lot of specialist appointments in my near future, and that scares me. We are taking it one step at a time, but even that one step seems like a leap across two mountains.

My mental health is shit. I’ve been managing to stay out of the hospital, but it’s been difficult. The only thing keeping me in check is all of the other shit I have going on that I won’t be able to complete if I’m in the hospital. That’s probably not the best motivator, but it’s working for the moment.

I have a lot to write about, a lot that’s on my mind. I just wish I had the energy right now to do it.


Falling apart

Do I exist? Do I matter?

I feel invisible. Just like I did before. I ran away. Different surroundings. Same feelings.

I quit my job. I didn’t want to. That job was everything to me. It was my safe place. It was my family. It gave me a purpose. But it was too overwhelming. I tried voicing my concerns, but no one would listen to me. I asked for help and didn’t get it. I spent day after day struggling to get my work done, all the while watching other coworkers get away with doing next to nothing. I must be invisible. It feels like I’m invisible again.

I’m weeks behind in my work. It bothers me, because I strive to be the best. But I can’t work miracles. I blame myself for my inability to get my work done, even though on some level I know that the problem doesn’t lie with me. I’ve been going to work every day stressed out before I even walk through the door, because I know the piles of work that need to be done and I know it’ll be another day that it won’t get touched. I cry in the bathroom. I talk myself out of bashing my head against the wall. I contemplate walking out of work and running into the highway. Because I am a failure. I can’t even work right. So I gave my notice, because I would rather leave than be told I fail at my job. And no one said a word to me about it. Because I’m invisible.

So I no longer have work to lean on.

Home. I can’t lean on that, either. I don’t want to be home as much as I don’t want to be at work. It’s a consistent source of frustration. It’s a home full of triggers.

I try to be reasonable, but I have limits. I don’t need to be talked to like I’m dumb. I don’t need to be called retarded. I endured that long enough from my mother, and I couldn’t say anything then, I had to just absorb it. But now that I am free, I try to stand up for myself, I assert my needs. I asked her to stop and she just kept on, and then I had to deal (and am still dealing) with the emotional backlash. It may have been a different person talking to me, but it sent me right back to being at home with my mother. Why can’t people just stop when I ask them to stop? Why does no one respect my boundaries? This isn’t even the first time. I must not matter.

And then I go to eat dinner, my only meal of the day, only to find that my food has been eaten. Three days worth of food gone. So I sit and cry, because no one realizes the amount of effort it takes me just to get to a point to want to eat. No one realizes how complicated food is for me. They don’t understand that I eat an entire plate of food in minutes not because I am hungry, but because I am afraid my food will be taken away. They don’t understand that my mother took away my food because I didn’t deserve it. They don’t understand that she would take the food that I bought away from me because she said it was selfish not to share with the family. They don’t understand that I still struggle with food every day.

I’ve explained all this before. I didn’t think I was asking for much. But no one listens. Now I have to repair the damage yet again. Now I have to convince my parts that we deserve food. I can buy more food eventually, but that’s not the point at all. It’s hard to convince myself and my parts that we are safe and can have things if those things are taken away from us. My needs don’t matter. I don’t matter. I exist only for the use of others.

I wanted a different a life, not just different surroundings.

No job. No family. No purpose. No safe place.

I’m tired. I’m emotionally drained. I’m lost. I’m gone.

Everything is falling apart.

Can nobody hear me?

I regularly make excuses for the poor behavior of others in my life, especially when their behavior directly affects me.

I excused my father’s part in my abuse because I told myself my mother made him do it (as if she held a gun to his head). I excused my coworker’s behavior a few weeks ago when he called me a bitch several times, telling myself he didn’t know any better because he was raised to treat women that way. I excuse a close person’s consistently offensive behavior, telling myself she just can’t help the way she acts.

I do this not as a way to defend these people, but to defend myself. If I didn’t excuse them, that means I would end up angry. And I don’t want to be angry.

But making excuses only works superficially, because on an intellectual level, I know that my excuses aren’t viable, that these behaviors were/are wrong, and that I really should be able to feel angry and hurt and however else I want to feel. Eventually, my feelings come to the surface, and I can only push them back down so many times before they come out full force.

Last therapy session, I couldn’t push my anger down any more. We were discussing the aftereffects of the letter, about how it made me feel sad. Then my therapist asked what else I was feeling, because it seemed like more than just sadness. Without thinking, I said “I’m angry. All of those fucking idiots, why didn’t they do anything to help?”

I immediately felt bad for what I had said, and apologized to my therapist. When she asked why I was apologizing, I told her I shouldn’t have used those bad words. I said, “it’s not their fault. They didn’t know. I wasn’t their problem. I shouldn’t be angry.”

“Why don’t you want to be angry?”

“Because if I’m angry that means I’m like her, like my mother.”

“Anger isn’t the same as abuse. What your mother did to you, she didn’t do because of anger. Anger is something that everyone feels, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re going to abuse. It’s okay to be angry.”

I sat there for a minute, still trying to push down what was trying to come out. I looked around the room, trying to think of something else to talk about.

“No, no, I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can. It’s okay to be angry. Anger makes you human.”

I repeated what my therapist told me to myself a few times. Anger doesn’t make me like her. Anger doesn’t make an abuser. Anger is okay.

And then it erupted. Through tears and clenched fists, I let it all out.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why nobody helped me. I never wanted to go home after school, I tried to stay with the teachers but then the teachers sent a note home and said I couldn’t anymore and then I got in trouble. None of them ever asked why I didn’t want to go home. None of them asked why I wore so many layers of clothing to school, why I was always covering up. No one questioned why a six-year-old girl tried to drown herself. Children don’t just try to kill themselves out of curiosity. No one wondered why a girl would scratch off her own skin. No one questioned my injuries. How many times could a child walk into walls? I wasn’t clumsy. But nobody did anything! They just nodded their heads and moved on!

There it was. My anger. Finally free and out in the open. The anger that was rightfully mine to have. I was a child who had no other way to communicate. A child who was threatened never to tell. And I didn’t. So I tried every other way to speak without using my words.

I could see just by looking at my therapist’s face that she understood. She got it. And she was okay with my anger, and my hurt. “There were all these red flags, all these ways you tried to ask people for help…”

“And they still didn’t hear me!”

There were so many red flags in my childhood. So many. Yet no one wanted to see them. I could have set those flags on fire and waved them an inch away from their faces, and they would have just stood there and talked about the weather.

I am angry. I am angry that these people just perpetuated my hell by not intervening. I am angry that I spent my childhood thinking that it was just normal to be hurt like this, thinking that no one is hearing my cries so this all must just be normal. No one should ever believe that abuse is normal. It should have never had to be my normal.

It’s an anger I am not sure will ever go away.

Daddy’s gone and he took my hope with him

Fuck you, grief, and your shitty timing.

I finally managed to quiet the internal chaos sparked by my father’s death. There’s no longer any fear that the police are coming to get us, there’s no more thinking that we caused his death, and thankfully, no more asking to be with daddy in heaven (because that was hard for me on multiple levels). So all is good, right?

Wrong. I sat down the other day to write an article that was due the next morning, when I was suddenly overwhelmed with grief. I couldn’t stop crying. I tried to distract myself, but it would only work for a few minutes before I would start crying again. I was a mess. At the most random, inconvenient time, my mind decided it was time to grieve.

But why? I don’t miss my father. I hadn’t seen him in nearly a year, and for good reason. He was an asshole. A fucking asshole. I don’t care that some think it rude to speak ill of the dead. I am speaking the truth; a person’s life status does not affect that.

I brought up my emotional struggle to my therapist on Thursday. She assured me it was okay to grieve his death, but I was sure I wasn’t sad about his physical death at all. I was starting to get frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how to put my thoughts into words (another problem I will write about later). My therapist encouraged me to just say what was inside.

After a few more moments of frustration, I stomped my feet on the floor, and through tears, shouted, “I’ll never know why he did it. Maybe my mom made him do it, maybe he didn’t want to. Now I’ll never know because he’s dead.”

That was the loss I was grieving. Not the loss of my father, but the loss of the truth. The loss of knowing why. The loss of the hope that maybe, just maybe, my father loved me. Maybe he just hurt me because she made him do it. Maybe he really didn’t hate me. Maybe he was just doing her bidding because he had no other choice.

I will never know anything. That is why I cry. I want to believe that if my father was alive, he would be honest about his role in the abuse. In some way, I want to believe that knowing would make a difference, that it in some way would change something.

I know it doesn’t change anything.

But there is a part of me that has spent decades holding onto hope that my father loved me. A child needs someone to love them, and I knew from very early on that person was not my mother. So I put all of my hope in my father, even when his actions showed the opposite of love. I needed to hold on to that possibility. I needed that to survive my childhood.

But do I still need that hope now?

I am that little girl, and that little girl is me.

When my therapist asked me last week to write a letter to my younger self, you would have thought she had just asked me to write a dissertation on behavioral neuroscience. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Actually, at that moment, I probably would have rather written that dissertation. Or stuck my head down the toilet. Or both. I didn’t want to write about feelings. I didn’t want to acknowledge any reasons for having any feelings. Blah.

But I knew I couldn’t get away with not writing it. My therapist and I have worked out an agreement so I could stay out of the hospital, and it requires that I participate fully in therapy. I waited until the night before our next session to write it, not expecting that it would turn into the letter that it did.

While I was writing it, I did get emotional. But it was a different kind of emotional. I felt genuine empathy for the child who experienced this pain. I felt the anger she felt. I felt sad for her. But there was a huge disconnect between me and this child. In my brain, we were two different people. I wasn’t yet connecting that we were one in the same.

My therapist asked if I would be comfortable sharing the letter with her in our session on Monday. At first, I was afraid. I didn’t think I did it right. I asked her if she was going to be mad if it was wrong. She explained that there wasn’t really a wrong way to do it, so I said it was okay. She asked if there was anything I needed first. Needs. What are those? For the first time, I did ask for something. I asked if she could sit next to me instead of across from me in her usual spot. It would make me feel less alone. And she obliged.

I started to read the letter. It had been the first time I read it all at once, and the first time I spoke it out loud. As I was reading it, I started to realize that this wasn’t another person. The words on this paper, these words I wrote to this little girl, those words were written for me.

I was the confused little girl who didn’t understand why mommy and daddy kept hurting her.

I was the little girl afraid of her own parents, with nowhere to hide because mommy blocked all the closets and underneath the beds.

I was the scared girl who thought everyone was just meant to hurt her.

I was the empty little girl who believed the only thing inside of her was evil.

I was the little girl who felt so alone, even when she was surrounded by people.

I was the little girl who felt invisible, who tried so desperately to get someone to help her, but no one listened, no one cared.

I was the little girl who tried to kill herself at six years old because she had lost any sense of hope of a life without pain.

I started to read the paragraph about feeling hurt. I felt the heaviness in my heart. As I read the words “I wish there was a Band-aid I could give you that could make your hurt go away”, I broke down entirely. It was like I found out someone I loved just died. I cried so hard I was blinded by my own tears. I needed comfort. I reached out to my therapist and she allowed me to hug her. She held me as I cried (and covered her in tears, drool and nasal discharge), until I calmed down enough that I could see again.

I took a few more minutes fighting through tears, trying to catch my breath so I could finish the letter. After a few failed attempts, I picked up where I left off, and finished reading. I even managed to laugh at the part where I wrote that “something was wrong with mommy and daddy and I guess they missed that memo.” Something was surely wrong with them to say the least, but I know that they shouldn’t need a memo to remind them that they were supposed to love their children.

My therapist encouraged me to keep reading the letter. She said that younger part of me needs to hear all of those things, and that I need to hear it as well.

And as I kept reading the letter, the more I realize that everything she went through was real. The more I realize that everything that happened wasn’t fair. The more I realize that something could have been done to stop the damage.

The more I read, the more I realize I am that little girl, and that little girl is me.

I’ve been such an emotional mess these past few days because of this. I saw it as a bad thing, but my therapist did not. For the first time, I am letting myself feel. After a year in therapy, I am finally feeling sad about my abuse. Apparently, that’s progress.

Letter to My Younger Self

Dear younger self,

I’m so sorry for all the feelings you’ve been having all this time. I’m sorry no one listened to you. It must have been so hard to keep it all inside. But I want you to know now that it’s okay to feel. You deserve to have feelings. Your feelings are valid, and they are yours. No one can take them from you anymore.

It’s okay to feel confused. Mommies and daddies aren’t supposed to hurt their children. There’s nothing wrong with you. There never was. Mommy and daddy told you that so they could keep hurting you. It was all lies.  I’m so sorry they confused you. You may never understand why all those times, daddy chose to hold your hand instead of pushing hers away. He was wrong. She was wrong. But you were not wrong. You were just a child.

It’s okay to feel afraid. Instead of fearing monsters, you feared mom and dad. It must have been so scary for you. You had nowhere to hide. I’m so sorry you had to live in constant fear. But you were always so strong, even when you felt afraid. You are one brave little girl.

It’s okay to feel scared. Mommy and daddy made you believe that the world was scary and full of bad people who were going to hurt you. That wasn’t the truth. That’s what mommy and daddy told you to make you stay. The real scary place was home, and the scariest people were mommy and daddy. I’m sorry you feel so scared. It’s not fair. You don’t ever have to go back home again.

I know you feel empty. Mommy and daddy made you believe that you had no purpose, that you were worthless. That must have hurt your heart so much. I’m so sorry for your pain. But the truth is, there are so many good things inside of you that mommy and daddy never wanted you to see. Now you can let those good things free.

I know you feel lonely. Mommy and daddy kept you away from everyone. You were never allowed to talk to outsiders. Mommy and daddy told you that no one would ever understand you, that no one could be trusted. But that was all lies. I’m so sorry they lied you. It hurts to be alone. But there are people here to help you now, to help you feel less lonely. You don’t have to hide anymore.

I know you feel small. All of the bigger people around you didn’t help you. They didn’t notice you were desperate to be saved. It must have hurt so much to feel invisible, to have no one see your pain. I’m so sorry no one let you know how important you were. I see you, and you’re not small. You’re a little girl with a big heart, and you matter. You always have.

It’s okay to feel angry. You can be mad at mommy and daddy. They hurt you, and you didn’t deserve to be hurt, ever. You can be mad at the other adults who didn’t listen to you. They should have helped you. You can be mad at world. You deserved to have good parents, and you didn’t get that. I am so sorry for all of the hurt they caused you. I’m so sorry for all of the anger you’ve had to keep inside. But it’s okay to be angry. You deserve to be angry. I’m angry, too.

It’s okay to feel sad. Mommy and daddy told you it wasn’t okay to cry. They told you that you had no reason to be sad. They hurt you. But they were wrong. I’m so sorry. It must be so hard to hold that hurt in your heart for so long. But it’s okay to be sad now. No one will punish you. It’s okay to cry. You won’t get hurt. You can cry for the childhood you didn’t have. You can cry for the mommy and daddy you wished you had. You can cry for all the times they hurt you. You can cry. You can be sad.

It’s okay to feel hurt. You were wronged, in so many ways you were wronged. The grownups in your life failed you. Your mommy and daddy hurt your heart as much as they did your body. You had to learn to live with the pain. You deserved to be comforted and supported and nurtured, and instead you were hurt over and over again. It wasn’t fair. I’m so sorry that you are hurting.  I wish there was a Band-Aid I could give you that could make your hurt go away. I want you to know now that mommy and daddy can’t hurt you anymore.

I know you feel hopeless. Mommy told you that you would never be away from her. You thought that she would keep hurting you forever. I’m so sorry that you were hurting so badly that you wanted to die. You were just a little girl, in so much pain. Someone saved you from drowning, but no one saved you from what led you there to begin with.  I want you to know that you are safe now. Mommy can’t hurt you. You don’t have to die anymore.

I know your heart is broken. My heart breaks for you. You are just a little girl. A beautiful, intelligent, strong, kind, amazingly courageous little girl.

I know you feel unloved. Children are supposed to be loved by their parents. But something was wrong with mommy and daddy and I guess they missed that memo. It’s not your fault they didn’t know how to love. It doesn’t mean you are unlovable. You are so loved. There are good people out there who want to love and care for you. You deserve love and care. You deserve to feel good feelings, too. You deserve so much, and I want you to know that.

Thank you for being so strong. Thank you for being you. Thank you for helping me get here. I love you.

The mug is broken

You drop your favorite mug. The handle breaks. It’s a clean break, so you grab some glue and dab it on, let it dry, and your mug is good as new again. You can’t even tell it was ever broken.

This time, you drop your favorite mug and it’s not such a clean break. Instead of just the handle, the mug breaks into four or five pieces. You try to glue it back together. It looks good, but it doesn’t hold water so well anymore, slowly leaking through the smallest cracks. So you repurpose it, you put it on the shelf so you can still admire it every day. It still lives on.

Now imagine that same coffee mug. It has taken a plunge from seven feet high onto the hard linoleum floor and broken into dozens of pieces. Chunks of porcelain here, flecks there. You can’t even tell where the pieces belong, they’re so broken. 

Some pieces have to be thrown away because they have been so damaged from the fall, they can’t be saved. That leaves empty spaces in the mug, holes that cannot be filled. That means the mug has lost its purpose, because with all of those holes, the mug won’t be able to hold any water.

You make a wholehearted attempt at gluing the mug back together. You take your time, you glue the pieces back with precision. But as you’re trying to fix it, it breaks even more.  As you focus on putting the pieces together on one side, the pieces you glued on the other side are coming undone. Nothing seems to be coming together right. None of the pieces are fitting back together like they’re supposed to.

Then you realize there’s too much missing, too much irreparable damage done. You can’t save that mug, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much time you take, no matter how much patience you have. It’s all a fruitless effort. You need to give up on it. It needs to be thrown away.

Because even if you spent all the time in the world gluing that mug back together piece by piece, there’s not any glue in the world that could ever make it whole again.

I cannot be whole again.