Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The What Goes Where?!

Friday night was like a cosmic test. HB suddenly wanted to know exactly how a P can fit in a V (he had realized that although he knew where babies come FROM he did not know how they GOT there ... "how does the sperm …?" and he got tearful when I tried to put him off). I started worrying I was going to give him a complex about it being shameful so I tried to launch into it but my explanations (and demonstrations with a toilet paper tube - what? I was desperate!) were going nowhere, so I went looking for visual aids. CAN YOU IMAGINE TRYING TO FIND THOSE PICTURES ON THE WEB IN ANY REASONABLY APPROPRIATE SETTING? With a kid trying to get squeeze behind you to see the screen - "Why won't you let me see?" "Because ... some of the pictures ... are ... silly"? All I got that I thought I could show him were those weird sliced in half drawings that even I can't make sense of and I was resorting to pictures of ultrasound wands in use (imagine highly puzzled, half embarrassed squinting on the boy's part - with me thinking yeah, that's how I felt at the time). So my husband entered the fray. He thought he'd found something that was clinical-ish and not disturbing but of course HB immediately read the caption on the top that TH hadn't noticed: "My husband with another woman!" - Oh. My. God.

We got through all that with everything seemingly fine, but my nerves were shot. Then as I was trying to get the kid into the bath I noticed the exchange student lying on her bed weeping. So I went in and spent an hour trying to talk her down from a pinnacle of teenaged angst (unrelated to the creepy situation from before). By the time I went to bed I was about five exits past Done.

I think I passed the test Friday, but the days since have been particularly tough in terms of it all being on my mind almost all the time. This PTSD crap is just bizarre. Denial was a pretty nice place to live until I got evicted. Although the landlord was becoming a little hard to deal with over the past few years.

Reading and rereading and rereading the comments, I realize how many incredibly good friends I have, IRL, here, and crossover - people I feel I can confide in and trust. Many many more than, say, fifteen years ago, when I had approximately - let me think - one. And she lived in another city. I can't imagine having to do this then.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Like Trying to See the Back of My Head

If you need to be shamed into running (slowly!), check out the Facebook Maggot Award someone just got. If you saw the pictures she sent me, you'd know - the girl is committed.

Aaaaannnnd another update. I have printed out your comments, highlighted parts (what? highlighting is ... necessary!), and been carrying them around to sneak a look at now and then.

I am constantly being surprised at the amount of stuff I don't know about myself. Quite humbling. So much of what you have written has made me feel like, have you been following me around? How do you KNOW this?? E.g., Blue's comment:
I felt paranoid for years that if people knew about my past, that it would mean all the horribleness I had inside me would actually be true. That I really was just an impostor, faking being awesome (and doing a poor job of it mostly) ... I thought that if my past were true, (ie: if I acknowledged it), I would be worthless and no one would want to be friends with me. I didn't want to be labeled as a "victim". I didn't want to hang out with victims and be in that "group". I didn't want it to become my identity.

Yes, yes, and yes.

When JB said "I guess it just shows how our perceptions of things so close to us are sometimes skewed," all I could think was, yep, skewed, right here! (And yes, Alexicographer, I too figured there would be at least one troll saying something mean, but I actually wasn't concerned about them; it's that I really believed that good people might tell me I'm full of it.) I have gotten some lovely support and very helpful tips privately too (thank you, B).

And Ewan's comment made me laugh out loud, which is always a good thing. When my sense of humor deserts me, all will truly be lost.

It shocks me how the mind can commandeer the body. I mean, I knew that sort of, but paying attention to the moments of panic/dissociation and then tracing back what just happened is, among worse things, fascinating. There is a guy at work I couldn't bear to talk to and would do anything to avoid, and I realized during a meeting that, well, he is very like the abusive guy - one of them, anyway (ugh - I'm sorry to be vague, but I'm learning that you all understand). So I went over this with my therapist and get some strategies for what to do in the next meeting. (This person was suddenly given a lot of power at work and is trying to gut some - actually, ALL - of the projects I've been working so hard on. Making more sense that this has all started coming to the surface over the past few months, eh?) (If you want a description of this person, go here.)

There continues to be some fallout for the exchange student, though her story is hers to tell; she is overall doing really well. She is, fortunately, a talker, so at least there aren't two of us walking around the house saying "Fine!" to anything my husband asks. (I have my husband read my posts - and your comments - to bring him up to date. It's not that I don't WANT to tell him.)

I have been trying to figure out how to help myself get some of this out in therapy. Just changing where I sit helped: I have one much weaker eye and if someone is to my right I feel vulnerable. Something that has been recommended to me by several people - therapist included - is some sort of "comfort object" (sounds a little sketchy, no?) to have at sessions and during stressful meetings, etc., but I have been racking my brain and can't come up with anything. If I could bring my cat I'd be set, but aside from that I'm stumped. What would you use? Maybe if I heard some possibilities I'd figure something out, because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that I can be blind to the obvious, and you're not.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Grateful Update

Another non-running post - if you're looking for inspiration, head over to the Facebook page for a humbling/inspiring video.

Thanks for your comments to my last post. When I wake up in the middle of the night I furtively read them on my phone, and they help. Not sure what I was expecting - The End of The World As I Know It, I suppose - but I am buoyed by your kindness. Something like a thousand people looked at it and either clicked on by as instructed, read it and left no hurtful comments, or read it and left nice ones. I came very close to pulling it back down after I posted, but after the first couple of comments it felt right. Secrecy is part of the problem, and writing is often how I can best express myself.

I told my therapist I had blogged it and he looked a bit befuddled - like, you barely speak in here, and you blogged it to the world?! (Or that was my interpretation; in good therapist fashion he nodded and asked how it made me feel. I grunted something unintelligible.)

Some things are coming into clearer focus. I'm sort of believing that I do have a good life and a good marriage; this is not a lie. The lie is that the bad part that is there is my fault. It's like finally getting the code to an encrypted message that I'd given up trying to puzzle out. So many things start to fall into place. This is a relief, but also very painful, because the message is so ugly.

One thing the therapist said made me laugh out loud. I said I could absolutely see why so many people with PTSD become addicts, and that I sometimes wish substances worked for me, because I've tried and they don't much. He said, "Oh. Well. The people who get addicted are usually the ones who can't dissociate on their own, so they need something to help them do it. Since you're so skilled at it, drugs or alcohol wouldn't add much."

Hm. Maybe you had to be there. Then I asked how he knew that I dissociated so well, and he looked at me like, are you joking? Seeing I wasn't, he said, "You're doing it all the time here ... you know, the self-hypnosis and so on?" And I felt so busted. "Is there anything that would help you feel safer here?" he asked. All I could come up with was better tissues. Or just being able to talk WHILE dissociating - maybe to a warm beach somewhere?

Random people keep saying, "You look sad," and that's hard. I hate to go through the day like an Eeyore. (I can turn it on, though; a reporter came to see the big student project I direct and in the article called me "spirited," said I "get along with everyone," and that I am a "wise mentor." Spirited! Ha!)

I am trying really hard, and (as always) you guys help. Thank you.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Will the Exchange Student Fix My Life? (Not a Running Post)

If you're looking for running advice, poke around in the archives. Today I am giving a personal update.



Running-only people gone?

Reporting on the sex thing I referred to a while ago.

I will come clean: I have never told anyone the extent of my problems with the above. I've hinted, said some things to some very close friends & my husband, but never the whole story. Let's just say it's about as bad as it could be - as in, panic attacks at the very thought of ANY physical contact - FOR YEARS. I have been so ashamed of this I can't tell you. Why? I don't know. I guess it's because I felt like a fraud: how can I be a strong, has-it-all-together, feminist woman with a healthy marriage when this rotten piece is in my core? Because if it's not my husband (and trust me, it isn't), it's ME, right?

The other thing I have never told anyone is the extent of the abuse and trauma I went through as a kid. Again, I've told people bits and pieces, but I haven't wanted to even think about the worst of it, much less talk about it.

And connecting those two things? Didn't even occur to me until relatively recently. Why such emotional stupidity? Because I so desperately wanted to have overcome the latter that the thought that I maybe hadn't made it impossible to connect the dots. It didn't seem to bother me for so very long that I really believed it never would again.

I started to kick around the idea of therapy some months ago but made only token steps toward it.

This is where the exchange student comes in. She's a high schooler in my son's school whose original host placement wasn't working out. The stated reason for needing to switch families - an hour's commute to school each way - sounded plausible, but when I met her I could tell that something else was very wrong. What else could we do? We took her into our (rather small, one full bath) house, and it's been pretty great. She is funny, astute, enthusiastic, and cheerful.

But. Within a week the real story came out: she had been experiencing some similar things to what I had gone through. Nice, right? Welcome to America, teenager all alone who doesn't speak much English! Let's prey on you! So there was a pretty intense time during which I got to plunge into the subject much more than I had ever done. She felt very guilty about telling anyone about it - didn't want to get anyone in trouble, etc. So I told her that something similar had happened to me and I hadn't told, and I now very much wish I had. She asked me if and how it still affected me, and it was like a knife to the gut. I didn't give her details - didn't think that would be appropriate - but I did tell her that it affects me personally, and that although I am totally against the death penalty and pro-gun control and very good at controlling anger, if I were in a room with a gun and this person today I'm pretty sure I would shoot him. "Do you think there's any way you could help all that now?" she asked, and I said, shamefacedly, "Probably."

Within a couple weeks my husband and I were sitting with a therapist who specializes in such things (in the setting of marriage counseling), and after a few questions he was like, first, I have never in my whole career heard a husband say such supportive things (told you!), and second, PTSD much?

I came out of that first session feeling like I'd accidentally grabbed a Brillo pad instead of a loofah, and I was in a fog of pain and anxiety for days. I wasn't sure I'd be able to go back, but I also felt like there was no putting this back in the box.

The next time and the next were not quite as bad, but it is hard to go through my days with it so much on my mind. Not just the events (though that too, believe me), but the guilt, guilt, guilt that seeps into everything. (If you have had something like this happen, that guilt makes sense; if not, it's really hard to explain.) Running helps, just as it does everything, and I'm working on self-compassion, but geez, this gets old fast.

I filled my psychiatrist in (I mostly see him for med management), and after pointing out that I had told him my sex life was okay ("I know! I lied!") he actually chuckled a bit (in a good way) and said, "This exchange student may be the best thing that ever happened to you."

Fingers crossed.