Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There's One Tiny Running Tip Near the End

Near the start of all this therapy crap, I tried to think of something that gave me pure joy to do, and came up with: concerts. At a good concert my forebrain shuts its judgemental trap and my hindbrain just does its animalistic thing. I decided that to reward myself for doing therapy, whenever I had the opportunity I would buy tickets to any band on my running mix.*

Well, there have turned out to be so many opportunities that for my own health I’ve had to pass up a few. I’ve now seen about half of the artists on my current mix­—several of them twice—and a bunch whose songs have rotated off. I knocked off a few of them at a music festival where my forebrain switched off for three days straight, which was almost frighteningly divine. If it were possible I might just live there.

But I need to live “there” no matter what I’m doing, right? So I plod on.

It would seem that just about everything you all told me about therapy is true. It’s a rollercoaster, a slog through mud, frustrating, enlightening, frightening, boring, encouraging, too slow, too fast, all of that.

Right now it’s going well. I’ve divested myself of a massive amount of guilt. I’ve discovered how much I’d restricted my emotional range, and I’ve made (baby) steps toward opening that up, without turning into the crazy person I thought I might. I’ve discovered a lot of triggers and some things finally make sense. I’ve told secrets that I’d never told a soul and I didn’t burst into flames like a Spinal Tap drummer. And I’ve finally, finally started to address my habit of reflexively beating myself up about being upset over something I should “just get over.” But I have a long way to go still.

It’s a bit hard to open up when you are brought up to believe that mentioning anything bad is dangerous, that being upset about anything is feeling sorry for yourself, and that feeling sorry for yourself is by definition a bad thing. Add to that decades of insisting to myself and others that I was not a victim of anything at all, and, well, I suppose it makes sense that I move rather slowly through all of this. And: a major component of my abuse consisted of the abuser cajoling me into telling him shameful secrets and then, if I rejected him, using them against me. (A highlight of one of my therapy sessions was my usually measured, calm, and mild therapist bursting out with “he was a fucking sadist!”) (Okay, maybe that sounds weird, but it was apt at the time and to me it was tremendously reassuring.)

Through it all everyone has been beyond great, my husband most of all. He somehow manages to say the exact right thing to everything.

In other news, our exchange student has flown home, which was sad (and which I let myself be sad about!) but also freeing­—turns out teenaged girls can be a lot of work, who knew? The job is insane still but I have terrific people to work with and have not had to have dealings with the icky guy, and I am shedding my guilt about not working a zillion hours a week. Also my boss said nice things about me in my annual review, which doesn’t hurt. What else … my on-the-spectrum brother is getting married, which no one EVER thought would happen, and to an awesome woman. (He’s usually had terrific girlfriends, but he always kept a very separate life. This one he moved in with a couple years ago. She even got him to quit smoking.)

And running, ah running. Summer running is the best. Well, up till about 95 degrees, maybe a little hotter if it isn’t too humid. Here’s the running tip I promised: before you head out in hot weather, run a cloth napkin or kitchen towel under water, wring it out slightly, and leave it curled on a plate in the freezer in the shape of a large croissant. When you get back it will be the perfect shape and temperature to wrap around your neck or forehead. (Try to do this in private unless you are a Brett Michaels fan.)

*Aside: my new favorite running song is Joseph Arthurs “Saint of Impossible Causes.” “Harper Lee” by Little Green Cars kind of cracks me up because it reminds me so much of therapy. And the pomDeter mashup “Call Me A Hole” never fails to make me give up any grumpy thoughts.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Running Away Is Still Running

Yes, those tired jokes: The only time you'll see me running is if I'm being chased, etc.

Well you know what? It's okay if you're running because you're running away from something. In a metaphorical sense, at least.

Jennifer posted on the Facebook page:

I read some of your blogs & I'm gonna try for 2 months. I used to run..... It's what got me through my divorce. I loved it then but now when I think about it I think Yuck!! I think now I'm just lazy.

My reply:

I don't know about lazy. I definitely love running MORE when I really need it: after a bad day, during a stressful time, etc. - so during a divorce it would likely feel heavenly. I wonder, though, if part of the "YUCK" is that in your mind, running is now associated with that bad time? If so, doing it a little bit - slowly! - now may unhook it. (Also, if you're a stress runner, you might try it on days that are sort of sucky - you'll probably like it more.)

One of the best things about running is that it makes you feel better. And sometimes the worse you feel, the bigger the benefit.

Lately I've been racking up more and faster miles than I have since, well, probably since I ran my marathon more than a decade ago. When I'm feeling mellow and happy (hey, it's happened), I sometimes have to force myself to run. Afterward I usually feel mellower and happier, but the absolute difference between before and after is a lot less. These days the delta is huge.

So my advice for today is: if you need motivation, think of something that gives you angst, and then go running.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Newest Recruit: My Therapist Is a Maggot!

I have recruited many surprising Maggots, but I think this is my biggest catch of all. I am drunk with power. Okay, maybe it had nothing to do with me, but let me think so.

Backing up: my therapist from time to time gives details about himself - very carefully, I'm sure; he does not say much that is not intended to further the therapeutic relationship. Some three months ago he mentioned that he used to run five miles a day but had stopped. Of course I couldn't help but blurt out "You should have only run every OTHER day!" He said yes, he knew that - his ex-husband was a running coach. (I'd already assumed he was gay - which made things easier for me.) Let me say, it is very hard to imagine my therapist running. He looks more like he was the kid who tried to get out of gym every day to play Dungeon & Dragons under the bleachers.

Last week as I waited to be called back for my session, I started feeling guilty about the fact that I am always the last appointment of the day, and therefore the one who extends his day (I know, I know, this is ridiculous, of course it would be someone else in this spot if it weren't me, but the time spent waiting for the session to begin is a particularly easy time to get lost in self-recriminating musings). Then I thought about how he should be spending his time instead of talking to me: running, of course!

When the session starts I usually say the thing that's uppermost in my mind, so as I sat down I said, "I was just feeling sad that you don't run anymore."

He gaped at me, then a delighted smile spread across his face. "I don't know what to make of you sometimes," he said. "How do you do that?" Then, at my evident look of confusion, "I just started running again this week."

I was so happy and proud - then promptly chided him for running every day again. Then he chided me for turning the attention onto him, and then we talked about how I am not in fact responsible for his long days or, in fact, for All The Bad Things In The World.

But let me think I'm responsible for some of The Good Things, including for him running, because every new recruit makes me feel great.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How I Became A (Slow) Runner

I don’t believe I’ve ever told the story of where I originally got the idea of starting to run by going slowly. In fact, it’s slightly embarrassing. But since I’m learning to tell the truth, I will admit it now: I got it from Jane Fonda.

This Jane Fonda:

As opposed to the Barbarella, Black Panther, Hanoi, Keffiyeh, Ted Turner, or Christian Jane Fonda. (I just learned that her given name was Lady Jayne Fonda. Could explain a lot.) (I like Feminist Jane Fonda, just for the record.)

Anyway, the year after I graduated from college was a not great time for me, and it occurred to me that getting fit might help things. I was not overweight, but I was definitely not strong. One day I found an old Jane Fonda book (not even sure which one) lying around my mother’s house. I briefly tried a few of the exercises, but they felt absurd and rather useless. Then one very small paragraph caught my attention: she mentioned that running is a good way to exercise, but that you should make sure you don’t run so fast that you have a hard time talking.

Well, I had always liked the idea of running, but whenever I tried it, I found it miserable. I was gasping, cramping, and unable to go for more than a few minutes. It had never occurred to me that running didn’t have to feel this way. So I put on some crappy shoes and vaguely exercise-appropriate clothes and went out the door. I was shocked to find how slowly I actually had to go to feel like I could still converse. (Mind you, I was not conversing. I made sure to do this someplace where no one I would know could possibly spot me.)

And this time, I could do it. I walked some of it, sure, but at the end of 30 minutes, I was exhilarated. I think by the end of that very first run, I was hooked. (Aside: I am writing this via dictation because I have a wrist injury* and it kept transcribing “f—ed” instead of “hooked.” Maybe I should have left that uncorrected.)

The rest was trial and error. I quickly figured out that if I ran two days in a row, something started to hurt. I discovered that running on a track gave me knee problems, probably due to running on a slant/turning corners constantly. I found that if I tried to track my time too closely, I ran too fast and burned out before the end, and that I shouldn’t speed up until the second half of a run. I learned that eating candy before a run was not wise. I figured out that I couldn’t run early as I was too stiff in the morning, even in my 20s.

And I got rid of my chronic headaches. I became strong. I found muscles in my legs I didn’t know existed. I was better able to manage my anxiety. But most importantly, I was a runner, and having that identity somehow made me feel so much more confident and able to face life.

So thanks, Jane!

*Said injury due to bad luck, not deliberate self-injury: I was trying to move a large picture when the frame fell apart and the glass slid out. Turns out if you slice the inside of your wrist open, the staff in the emergency department get quite worried. I also found out that showing up to your therapy appointment with a wrist wrapped in gauze can cause quite a stir. The receptionist couldn’t spot my name in the appointment book at first, and suddenly four people were running around reassuring me and chasing down my therapist (who was in the bathroom, poor guy). I didn’t even know that many support staff worked there. In the session my therapist asked what the heck THAT was that all about. I showed him my wrist and he was like, “Ohhhhhhh, right.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

May I Have a Copy of the Agenda Please?

This sure is some freaky, tiring shit. Bad week overall. Much crying (though I suppose that could be seen as an improvement as I had been well-trained not to do so?) and leaving of work.

It’s like a civil war inside me, and I don’t know who is winning at any given moment, or even always which side I’m on. So much smoke and fog and pain and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing and I just want it to stop.

On the one hand I’m thinking: I have achieved so much, I have such a great spouse and friends and kid, and I like myself. I’ve developed ways of living in the world that make me feel like a good and valuable person. Clearly whatever happened in the past can’t have affected me so much, right? Can’t I just forget it? And then I remember that I have nauseating panic attacks at the very thought of romantic physical affection, which, hm, seems odd and unfortunate, and even before that was true there were things I strangely hated (e.g. making out) and places that hurt, and I have spent years and years approaching a sense of being truly present in the world without consistently or even frequently achieving it and wishing I could be like other people …

Not that I have a choice at this point. There’s no un-knowing something. Once the connections had been made, the game was up. But I wish I had a schedule, you know? Like when you’re at a kid’s concert and you think you’re going to die from boredom interspersed with embarrassment but at least you have the program and can check off each performance and know that there will be an end to it.

I have the feeling that I have so successfully cut communication off between the bad bits and the parts of me I like that I might have, er, a bit of a struggle opening those channels back up. But in the meantime the tiny chinks that have broken open are leaking this noxious gas out and there aren’t any windows to open.

Work is, surprisingly, going okay, especially considering I’m giving approximately 50% effort. I see now that my need to keep constantly busy is likely not the healthiest thing, but I also become overwhelmed with guilt when I don’t work as hard.

My husband is being so great. Sample text exchange:

Ditto my friends, who in addition to supporting me in innumerable ways send me things like this:

I showed that to my therapist and he cracked up.

And you all. Thank you so, so much for listening and advising and not being judgmental. This blog is probably as valuable as the therapy. And a lot cheaper.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

If You're Feeling Anxious, I Probably Didn't Mean You

I am worried that I have set off a storm of self-recrimination among the mothers. Let me reassure:

When I say I "keep the house clean," I mean:

  • No one in the family has fleabites all over
  • I do not have to worry that my child will realize in the middle of the day that the cat pee smell is coming from his own shirt and spend the rest of the day trying not to sit near anyone
  • There may be dirty dishes on the table or counter or in the sink, but not in the cupboard
  • The washcloths and dish sponges are not usually rancid
  • There is never mold on the bread, cheese, bathroom, and dishwasher all at the same time
  • I don't yell "if I didn't have KIDS this house would be clean"
  • I don't leave cigarette butts and ashes all over
  • My eight year old doesn't have to wash and fold his own clothes if he wants to wear something clean

When I say "I don't freak out," I mean:

  • I don't start banshee howling when I miss an exit on the freeway
  • I don't break things when I'm mad
  • I don't jump in the car in a fury and drive away in a spray of gravel
  • I don't engage in road rage that ends in being pulled over
  • I don't shut down every tough conversation

When I say "I don't lose my keys all the damn time," I mean:

  • I am neurotic about knowing where my keys are all the damn time because I hated hated hated being stranded someplace while my mother did a banshee howl and turned her purse inside out and tried to figure out who she could call to get us
  • I can lock my front door because I don't lose my keys, which means my kid does not come home to interrupt burglars in progress (yes this happened)

When I say "making sure there is enough money," I mean:

  • The bank account is not overdrawn every month
  • Creditors are not harassing us all the time
  • The gas and electric are not shut off

These are not things that will individually (or even all together) ruin a child. Children are tough. These are things that made me especially upset given everything else that was going on. I overdo these things because I am so fearful of under-doing them.

(Giving physical affection, not hitting, and not routinely mocking or shaming a child for being upset? Non-negotiable.)

Monday, March 11, 2013


Getting a lot of testimonials on the video I mentioned in my last post. Check it out if you’re having running issues. One way I check myself as I run is to see if far-off objects are bouncing up and down, which means I am. A little bounce is inevitable unless you’re sprinting, but you shouldn’t be pogo-sticking.

I’m also getting a lot of women telling me that they have some of the other kind of issues that I do. As I said to a friend: it may be the curse of the smart responsible woman – many of us were forced into this role in some ways (usually by insufficient – or worse – parenting plus something – or things – really bad happening). Not that I think my personality isn’t mine, but my overwhelming sense of failure and shame if I don’t take care of everyone and everything perfectly? That I could do without.

As for what exactly happened to me, I know I’ve been vague. It’s hard to spell it out (duh – it took over 30 years). Part of that is because my mother, whom I love dearly and who has grown into an amazing person, does not come off well. And part of it is because in some ways the exact things that happened don’t really matter.

But (some) of the story is: My brother and I were unwanted, to the point where my brother went 10 days without a name after he was born (because they hadn’t really believed it would happen, I guess?). My mother was immature, resentful, and lonely. My father was older, aloof, and moody. My parents took no pictures of us – I mean NONE. They rolled my crib into the bathroom and closed the door when I cried because I would wake my brother up (this is a “funny” family story). I felt amazed and lucky when either of them held me any longer than necessary. My father was sometimes fun and loving but sometimes violent, somewhat toward me but much more toward my older brother, who would have been diagnosed as being on the spectrum were he growing up these days. My mother was enraged by my brother too. I became hypervigilant and spent a lot of time trying to help him avoid punishment for typical Asperger behaviors. I tried to be perfect so as to avoid punishment myself. I drew picture after picture of a man spanking a child until my mother told me it was weird and I should stop.

That was the first 5 years. When I was 5 my father died in a motorcycle crash. Chaos of a different kind ensued, including a mother who intermittently did not parent and a tenuous financial situation. When I was 9 we moved to a new house where we were rather isolated. When I was 11 or 12 I was molested by a family member who was living with us for a time. I told my mother and the behavior stopped but she never discussed what she'd said to the person, nor did she discuss it with me any further. When I was 12 a boyfriend of my mother's moved in with us. He tortured and molested me over the next year and a half or so. He left and came back several times; I never knew when he would be there. I tried to tell my mother but she did not hear me. From the time my father died, I had been terrified of losing my mother too. I did what I had to do to keep the family from being broken apart.

My family was partly salvaged by my sane, responsible, caring stepfather, who entered the picture when I was 15. It took years, but my mother grew up eventually. She has apologized to me and my brother in a genuine way. She ended up caring for my grandparents despite having always insisted she couldn’t and wouldn’t, and she set out quite consciously to be a nicer person overall. I was very angry with her for a long time but when I forgave her, it was (and is) real. (Her ex-boyfriend I doubt I will ever be able to forgive. I do not know what became of him and it is probably best that I don’t know. He should be old enough at this point that no one else is in danger.)

Many of the things my mother did I liked. I kept a mental list of what I did and didn’t want to do like her. And in fact I have stuck to that list. The main things I do differently (aside from watching for abuse, obviously): giving my son as much physical affection as he wants; not saying “you’re just feeling sorry for yourself”; not spanking; less criticism of everyone and everything; not freaking out in front of my kid; being willing to talk about sad things (ahem - aside from my own); making sure there is enough money; keeping the house clean and vermin-free; and not losing my keys all the damn time.

If you look at the risk factors for and symptoms of “complex PTSD,” I can check too many off. But I have compartmentalized things amazingly well. My self-image in most areas is pretty intact. I have avoided most self-destructive behaviors (workaholism being the hardest one to kick). I did have severe somatization (aka hypochondria) for a while but running seemed to cure it. I can trust people - thank heavens, because I have to trust a lot of them/you. And all of the good changes that I have made over the past few years are robust.

Hearing how I have taught people to become runners makes me happy because I know running is partly why I am as sane as I am. It has been one of my lifesavers. That's why I'll keep saying it: get out there, Maggots.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Catching My Breath for a Minute

I finally found a video I like on improving your running form. I've gotten a lot of questions on barefoot running, and my opinion at the moment is that barefoot running probably forces people into better running form, but the actual barefoot state is not required. Some of us run the "right" way naturally, and running slowly is more likely to reinforce good habits, but take a look at this to check your technique.

In other news. The past few days have been ok. Whereas last week was AWFUL. So awful that I texted my therapist. This was not a big deal to him or probably to most people but the barrier of not wanting to be That Patient is huge to me. That Patient being the one who is so dependent and needy and unwilling to take steps to help themselves that you cringe when they contact you. I realize that sending one measly text in, what, a couple of months is about as close to being That Patient as sending a fan letter is to being John Hinckley Jr., but in my bad moments my ability to zoom out is harder to accomplish than it is on Google maps using 3G, and the bad moments were many.

The therapist had given me homework (at my request): "Try to think about The Events for 60 seconds only, just once." Me, ever the overachiever, thought I'd push a little harder and - bam! I was thinking about it nonstop. Pretty much every moment of every day that my mind was not fiercely engaged on another topic, I was thinking about this. Waking up, going to sleep, running, everything. Monday I texted my therapist. Tuesday I saw him, after which he offered extra sessions and wondered if he should speak directly with my psychiatrist and whether I had any anxiolytics available to me. THAT PATIENT! was shrieking in my head. "I'd rather you didn't, though I'm not sure why," I said. "Because you don't want people talking about sensitive subjects and making plans about you behind your back," he said. "Oh. Well, yes, that," I allowed. I did, however, make sure to tell people (including my husband) about it. So I've got people watching my back. Which reminds me of the time I got hammered at a wedding and a group of us went out afterward and I insisted on going skinny dipping in a lake in the dark. My boyfriend at the time (a nice one) and one of our friends, who were not drunk, did not think this was a good idea, but they humored me and swam out in a protective circle around me. This is a lot less fun, though. (Though that turned into the worst hangover ever ... one of those Lesson Learned episodes.)

Oddly enough, Wednesday was much better. (Hmmm. Could it be - the therapy?) (And I texted my therapist that I was doing well, thereby to my mind bringing my tab back to zero in regards to my text of last week.)

I felt better even before getting through The Big Meeting Wednesday about the future of my projects where I had to talk with the CEO, the Dean, the Chief, the creepy guy, etc. etc. This meeting was such a big deal that I just sort of gave up. E.g., I thought about wearing a suit or some such, but realized that I wanted to dress the way I feel comfortable. Hello bright yellow Target dress:

Oh and, the outcome of the meeting - at least in terms of plans for the next year - was ... pretty good. !! This will not hurt my state of mind one bit.

Aside: One of the Big Wigs, Botoxed to a fine sheen, entered the meeting laughing merrily and said "This is so funny! We're renovating our vacation house and had to gut two of the bathrooms - we're talking 1980s bathrooms! - and they mixed up the colors. The funny part is that after they fixed it they left all the wrong-color cabinets and things at the house and said 'Sell them on ebay or something'! What on earth am I going to do with them?" (There were a few strained smiles. "Habitat for Humanity?" someone suggested. Fortunately most of the people I work for are not entitled idiots. But you can see why I feel nervous about my shabby but honest educational projects involving trainees working with the underserved.)

And, in line with his perceptiveness plus tenacity, HB finally insisted on me telling him what was wrong. "Mom. You have been distracted, sad, in a bad mood, and you keep saying you're fine or that it has nothing to do with me, but will you please tell me WHAT IS GOING ON?"

He knows that sad things happened to me as a kid - mainly my father dying when I was five, and having little money - that aren't going to happen to him. So I sat down and explained that sometimes grownups who had something bad or sad happen to them when they were kids for some reason get sad all over again for a while when they're grown up, and that was happening to me, but it would go away, and I was talking to a counselor about it. "Like when you lie on a couch and everything?" "Well, no couches, just chairs." "Ok then!" he said. "Thanks for letting me know. That's very helpful." (I don't know what I would have told him had he not had some knowledge of my crap childhood. That would have been a much harder discussion.)

In the midst of last week I couldn't see through to how this would ever get better. Just what the hell is going on around here? Someone needs to shape this place up. Jeez. My ignorance as to all of this is epic. I've been doing some reading - knowledge, power etc. - and have been startled by a lot of things. I did not know, for instance, that my episodes of overwhelming anxiety/fear/self-loathing/etc. are flashbacks. I thought a flashback was always visual like a movie, not just a feeling. Nor did I know what dissociation is (though that's not a simple topic, apparently). In general, I kind of thought no one else felt this way. And I couldn't understand how part of me can be doing so great and part ... so very not. Very black and white thinking, which is odd for me.

I'm both encouraged and frightened to think about the things I might learn next. The chaos state feels like wading in a river and slipping on a rock and suddenly being swept into a fierce current and thinking you'll never find your footing again and you're going under and you'll be over the waterfall in a moment. Then the current slows and one foot finds a little purchase and then the other does and you can stop and wipe the water from your eyes and catch your breath. For a minute.

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.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Too much pressure here and too little on Twitter; let's see if Facebook is just right.