Breathing in and breathing out. Opening myself to each day. There are times that I come to a point of complete exhaustion. When I become so tired and feel ready to be done. Days where I would welcome an end to the pain. Because to be honest there really are no pain free days. There are no days when the scars on my body do not hurt me deeply. I spent twelve years being systematically tortured, sexually, and physically abused and the remainder of my childhood dodging psychological and physical abuse. Those years have left many scars on my body.
For years I could go through the day without letting on to the pain I experienced. During the years of the abuse I learned that you kept going and swallowed down the pain that you experienced walking, sitting, or just moving. After repetitive times of having the soles of my feet beaten I struggle to walk with the support of shoes. Too much nerve and tendon damage. I dream of a day that I wake up in the morning and am not in pain. Those days of being able to hide the pain have left me.
Why am I writing about all of this? I would guess it is because I so very seldom talk about what happened. I do tell people the quick abbreviated version in which I say that I had a very traumatic childhood. How I walked out the other end in as good of shape as I have is sometimes a mystery to me. What I do know is that my childhood taught me how to fight back. I did more fighting back in those early years than I want to remember. Nor do I want to remeber the consequences that the fight brought me.
I have reached a time now when I am so tired. When I have given so very much to be alive and functioning. At one time in my life I had a great passion. I was filled with immense light that was generated from the bonfire that passion ignited. Now that fire has dwindled to a mere pile of ash.
I know that at the bottom of that pile of ash is a spark. Perhaps so small that it is barely there. But it is there. I can feel it. Somewhere in that pile it is waiting for me to find it. And though I feel so tired, almost to the point of exhaustion I know I need to find it. When I find that small spark I will blow on it and give it the nurturing that it needs to create a bonfire in my heart that none of the exhaustion of just breathing will be able to exist in its presence.
Even though I am moving through a very hard place I am still moving. Sometimes it feels like trying to walk through a wind that wants to rip and tear at you. The only thing to do is pull the hood tighter and keep my head down and move forward against the wind. Because if I stop that wind will blow me backwards. I do not want to go backwards. Even though it is hard to move through the wind there is the added bonus that perhaps that wind is blowing away the ash that covers my spark. And with a little kindling that wind could blow my tiny spark into a roaring inferno.
Now that I have finished with school it is time to figure out how I will pay back my student loans. I have been offered a job where I have been doing my internship. However, I am uncertain as to whether this will be a good fit. I have spent the last 11 1/2 months working somewhere while trying very hard to work within my limitations and not look like i have limitations. This has involved hiding in the bathroom and doing deep intentional breathing and simply smiling through the day regardless. It also involves trying to come down from a days worth of anxiety attacks that I have hidden deep down.
I finally lost it a few weeks ago and made some of my unhappiness known. There had been several ongoing things that simply made me feel not very valued. And they had never been addressed regardless of my hints. Apparently I needed to have a meltdown and spend my lunch hour crying in my car for anything to happen. And now with just 3 weeks of my internship left things are finally being addressed.
As I listened to people’s apologies I tried to follow my wise sister’s advice and look for sincerity. There was sincerity with many of those that have tried to make things right. I have yet to meet with one of those people who have inadvertently made it a hard internship. But I don’t think there will be a problem. They really want me to work there.
The real problem is that I have struggled for nearly a year and it gets harder and harder to get out of bed and go to the internship site and I am not sure this is where I can work. It is not because, or at least not only because, of the difficult time I have had. I have made it through because I have seen an end. There is a definitive time when this internship will end. I do not know if I can work somewhere full time where I cannot shave the corners to make my oddly shaped peg fit.
Making things fit my needs so that I can function in the world is something that I have become very good at. I have a safety list for things that I need to do that I struggle with. And protocols that make it possible for me to feel safe. Since feeling safe is something I did not have until as an adult I found ways to make it happen I am very aware of when I do not feel safe. For example: My tire went flat. I changed it and we got it fixed. However now I feel unsafe driving. I check my tires every time I get in the car or get out. At some point I will regain that safe feeling. It takes time.
Generally I learn from things that happen. I overreact to things and I see by the expression of those around me or from my own processing that what I did was an overreaction. I then learn how to react appropriately. It is always a learning experience. New experiences throw me for a loop. I know that this is normal. But I do not think it is normal to break out in a rash and not breathe as well as having your ulcer flair up when you have to fill out new forms. Once I do it however I know how to do it and the reaction is not the same.
What I am faced with now is how do I get my needs met, shave the hole to fit my peg and fit the needs of an employer? I am still looking for opportunities and also looking for ways to create opportunities. I just hope that through all this I can find a way to not hide my limitations but to make my experience something of value. Because I know that I have a lot to offer that is of value. I simply need to find a way to make a square peg fit in a round hole.
For the last few weeks I have been insanely busy. For those of you who have come by looking to see if there was anything new I apologize for the lack, and I will try to be more diligent in writing.
For the last year I have been pushing myself very hard. I have tried to accomplish many things that are difficult and all of them simultaneously. I have had amazingly good days and some that were not so good. I have stuffed down terror and anxiety as well as pushing through flashbacks in order to accomplish both my internship and my schoolwork. The bulk of the difficult emotions and the stuffing revolve around doing an internship. After almost 20 years of isolating myself I have had to be around people, a lot of people, more than was ever comfortable.
I have also met some of the most intelligent and creative people I could ever hope to find. They are dedicated and caring. And with the exception of one know very little about me or what I have been through. And that is fine. It has been difficult at times as I struggle through the panic. A part of me thinks that if I say anything about any of the struggles that I am having that they will not want me to be there. (The little child in me that was always pushed away still shows up sometimes.) I want them to see me as whole and competent. Even if inside I am struggling to do all the things that are required of me.
I spend a good deal of time reflecting on my actions and reactions. I spend a very large amount of time thinking about how I can turn my panic reaction into a viable response rather than the knee jerk reaction I want to give. I have done a lot of painful growth. Good growth, just very painful.
I also found out last week that there is a price to be paid for all the stuffing of emotions, the repressing of thoughts and the forced movement. My body simply did what it needed to and just shut down. My energy levels tanked. I had gone into the red zone of energy levels. For four days I could not do anything beyond moving from the bed to the bathroom, bed to the chair, and sleeping. I lost 10 pounds in 36 hours. And I am just now feeling moderately functional.
I am currently working on as course on mindfulness and that has been my saving grace. I breathe through the panic that comes when I think that I am getting behind. And I try very hard to stay in the here and now. One of the things that we do at my internship is a diary card. This chart helps me to see where I need to focus in order to maintain a balance in my life.
I am doing better. Life is good. I am learning to ask for help. The end of the semester is only two months away. And then I can get my brain back.
Lately I have been overwhelmed by stress and changes in the things around me. By the end of the day I am filled with extreme sensory overload. It sometimes reaches a point that the only thing that I can do is go to bed and hide under my covers for half an hour.
After one particularly hard day at my internship site I called home and told my family I would be home a few hours later than usual. I needed to decompress from everything that had happened that day. I went to a restaurant that my husband and I go to regularly. I sat at the table where we usually sit. I ordered something that I have had many times in the past. And I pulled out my kindle and started to read a book that I have read before. There was no new input. Everything was familiar. After about an hour I felt calm and a lot more peaceful. I was able to process the stimulus of the day.
I had gone to a place that was constant. There was nothing new to interfere with the processing of the day. Later I thought about how I was feeling and how I had decompressed in such a short time. And how it had been such a thoroughly relaxing thing. The thought that came to me was that I was processing in a place where there was continuity. A place where nothing new existed and nothing was competing for my attention. There was no new input.
It felt like a moment where a light bulb is turned on and you realize that the switch for the light had been there the whole time. And I was just noticing it. Having a space that is continuously the same and never changing or at least only subtly changing can be extremely healing for an over stimulated mind. I had heard of people having a meditation space where they would always go and thought that it was a very cool. I never felt that it was something that would benefit me.
Creating and having a space of continuity has now become very important in my self-care plan. It is part of the “what pleasant activity did you do?” section of my plan. Doing this helps me to work with my difficulty in dealing with change in general. I am finding a place in the storm of my life that is always calm. A place that is not overstimulating and whispers to me to come in and find peace.
I hope everyone can find that place and visit it often when things in life become overwhelming.
One should never underestimate the importance of self care. Those words make a very important statement. It is something that I have been failing to do for some months now. I have not taken time to do things that are healing or nurturing for myself in a very long time. As result I have slowly stopped being there for people.
In my internship I show up and I am actually the most present with people that I am anywhere. But home life and personal life have been in a fog. I have dreaded getting up in the morning. And I have struggled to try to find some joy in the world. Things have been bleak. The funny thing is that I have also been thinking that it was not very obvious to others. My family however have been very much aware of how I have been unavailable.
Letting my self get into this state has also opened up old trauma wounds and anxiety. The anxiety attacks seem to get stronger and more frequent the less self-care I do.
Things are doing better. I have started to remind myself to stop and enjoy small things. Starting the process of self care with small things is important. Otherwise the act of caring for yourself becomes almost a herculean task. Little steps do the most. Recently I was told that I needed to take small things that give me joy and do them until they are large parts of my life.
I have been taking more time to spend with my children. I have been giving and receiving longer and more meaningful hugs. I have been petting and talking to my dog ( who has also felt my distance from others). Listening to music that makes me dance. I have been coloring in an amazingly detailed coloring book. And eating with more meaning and not just trying to fill some unattainable need. I have also begun to realize that I have a deep need to keep doing this. I am feeling the stirrings of peacefulness again.
So, today’s goal is to enjoy the day, the people I am with, and the time I can spend with my family.
During this past week I had a really bad day. I dealt with emotional vampires and people just trying to make trouble. At the end of that day I just wanted to grab a bag of Oreos and just hide under my blankets. The day triggered a lot of depression issues for me and left me struggling to find a safe place.
As I look back I can see that there really were a lot of other things at play that day. There were a lot of signals pointing toward a depression meltdown. I just was not paying attention. The days leading up to that fateful day were filled with signs like my wanting to sleep and not get up, not caring about certain activities that usually fill me with happy thoughts, and either wanting to eat too much or not at all. I was not paying attention and let my guard down.
I think everyone has those signs. The ones that alert us to danger. It would be nice if I had a soundtrack that played threatening music right before I had to encounter troublesome people or when I am not paying attention to my depression. But, alas, I do not have a soundtrack. I will have to play closer attention to the warning signs of impending depression events and try to guard myself more closely.
I have tried to create a ritual that will help me stay focused. I have a very small yoga practice in the morning and in the evening before bed. I do deep cleansing breaths (When I am not struggling to breathe from my asthma). And I have considered giving up chocolate. Although giving up chocolate is still very much being debated. The trick with having what feels like chronic depression is finding a way to feel as good as possible and take care of myself.
I am feeling trepidation about this upcoming week. Will I have to deal with the same people? Will there be more situations that set me off? Is there a way for me to “duck and cover” and still get the things done that I need to? My daughter gave me great advice this morning. She said, “Don’t over think it.”
This week’s goal is to breathe, stay present, and be courageous.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to be alive. How amazing it is to wake up in the morning Even with the nightmares and everything else. I still get to see the sun rise in the morning and set in the afternoon.
I am who I am because of the things that happened to me. Because of those things I am more empathic to people and their pain. I understand the overreaching sadness that come over people when depression claims them. And I know how to protect myself. Maybe not physically as much as I would like, but I know how to shut off the people who would otherwise suck the emotional life out of me. The ones that talk to you and demand from you your complete attention in a way that pulls out your energy. Everyone has experienced them before. And sometimes it is just a matter of walking away. Even when you think you might be hurting their feelings.
I am glad that I have learned who I am. That learning who I am is a process. And that I will continue to learn as I grow. I am thankful that I can experience all of the joys that I have in life now. That even though I have lost so much of my life to the apathy of depression, I am moving and growing now.
I have survived the dark room of fire and I have come out the other end. I am grateful that I have lived to tell the tale of my trauma and that the trauma did not consume me. Everyone has the potential to overcome the demons in their life and I am grateful that I have found that to be true.