A part of me drowned that day in May

When I was 6 years old, I watched my three younger brothers play in the lake by myself. My dad told my mother not to worry because if anything happened surely I would scream for help. They were inside the cabin not too far away. I’m not sure how long I was left alone. It could’ve been two minutes, it could’ve been twenty. But I don’t remember that.

My youngest brother just turned two. He went deeper into the water until it was almost over his head. He started to choke and flail about while my 3 year old brother thought he was swimming. My brother Matt who was 5 is autistic and he was oblivious to the whole situation. I really was left alone to deal with something I was too young to handle.

I was so afraid that my body froze. I couldn’t even scream for help.

The memory is always the same. I almost watched my brother drown and did nothing to save him. If my mother hadn’t checked on us, he could’ve died.

My husband asked me if I ever thought I could’ve died that day. He asked what would’ve happened if I jumped in to save him when he started to struggle. Maybe he would’ve pulled me under. We could have all drowned.

I never considered that before.

I think a part of me died that warm day in May. If you could imagine a 6 year old watching her three younger brothers in the water with no one else around. Debatably if I had any childhood up to that point, it was gone on that day. Who even knows what other responsibilities I had on days disaster didn’t strike.

I never was a carefree child. It seems like I was a careworn old woman all my life. I missed the time of magic and wonder. My imagination didn’t wander. Maybe that’s when my life started to be ruled by logic and structure. One part of my brain overdeveloped while the other part didn’t develop much at all.

I became this way before my brain developed enough to give me adult reasoning. I became advanced in rules, structure, routines, and control. If I couldn’t control my circumstances, I could have super human control over myself. Or I could feel like I had some control over things that no one cared about controlling.

As I grew older, I noticed there was a chasm dark deep and empty. There was a void inside of me bigger than a black hole. I longed to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted to be spontaneous and carefree. But would I have to exchange my hard earned grit for feelings and fluff? I couldn’t see two opposing traits rule inside of me at the same time without causing a war.

I mourned for the child I never got to be. I don’t think I was supposed to be the person I needed to be to survive. The seed was planted and the tree grew tall. It’s too late to cut it down and start all over again. The tree didn’t get watered enough but it got used to the soil it was in. I always wondered what the tree would’ve been like if it was nourished properly.

Maybe a part of me did die on that warm day in May. I feel like a part of me is missing. It was the part of me I wanted to be but never took root.

At this point, it is too late to chop down the tree. But I can prune away the old unhealthy branches to make room for new growth. That I still can do.

What could’ve been

Last month someone close to me attempted suicide.

Maybe you noticed I didn’t write much during that time, maybe not. It’s been easier to write about crusty old scabbed over wounds than the ones currently tearing open my flesh. But now I’m ready to jump back into the flames of the fire that consumes me and threatens the very walls of my foundation.

Part of it I blame myself. I was where I spent most of my life, in survival mode. I was consumed by everything going on with my dad. It’s very bad and it sucked every ounce of energy, joy and peace out of my life. I thought about it every day and every night much like we are thinking about the corona virus. There is not a day that goes by we can completely purge this crisis from our minds.

I didn’t notice anything was wrong. If I did, I dismissed it as superficial (not as bad as what I was going through with my dad). When you are drowning, you tend not to notice if someone else is going too deep.

This person took a handful of pills and settled into bed for their last peaceful slumber. But it wasn’t like that, peaceful. Their life passed before their eyes taking a nightmarish turn. What have I done? Terror coursed through their veins as they struggled to purge the pills. Then they reached out for help.

When I found out, I screamed wildly with rage. I kicked the garbage can and assaulted the contents within. I wanted to put my fist through the wall, but restrained myself. For a few days after, my logic brain shut down. I forgot what day it was. I couldn’t process things in my mind that before I did with ease. My strong suit of structure shut down. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. Fear coursed through me day and night making it nearly impossible to sleep.

I felt angry with my dad. After what he did, I didn’t think I would ever smile again. Did this person think I was angry with them because of my reaction to my dad? I pushed everyone away. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize they needed help until it was almost too late.

I’m not going to lie, this past year has been tremendously difficult. What little joy remained within me was destroyed after the suicide attempt.

I feel like the mistakes of others are ruining my life. My childhood was ruined and is not salvageable. I tried really hard not to let the things other people do ruin my life, but it is easier said than done. If I am going to wallow in despair my whole life from the mistakes of other people, I might as well just screw up my life myself.

I can’t bear the weight of this anymore. Have it back. I don’t want it. Call me selfish, but I just want to worry about myself.

Thankfully this person realized they made a mistake to try to end their life. They are now getting the help they need. But still my mind wanders to what might have been. What would life be like if this person was not around? It would be horrible to find them dead.  Gone forever. There is much sorrow in thinking of what might’ve been. Thankfully this is not how their story ends. If nothing else, I can take comfort in that.

Gratitude week 9

  1. And still more compliments about my hair from strangers.
  2. February is over! It was a really tough month and my husband was gone half the month.
  3. Spring is in the air. The sun is shining. The temps are above freezing. A fly just buzzed by me. I’m excited for what is to come.
  4. My daughter will be spending her college spring break here. I miss her so much.
  5. We will be taking our family road trip to Florida this month.
  6. I finished the book Complex PTSD and learned a lot about myself. I started a new    book called Childhood Disrupted. I am now healing with mindfulness.
  7. My husband started reading Complex PTSD. He is working hard to be supportive.
  8.  I am in a pretty good mood today.
  9.  This morning my husband and I watched 7 deer walk through our yard.
  10.  I feel like there are brief periods of time I have a reprieve from my stress.

Gratitude week 8

I’m not going to lie…this past week has been the hardest week of the year so far. But, well, gratitude..

  1. And multiple more compliments about my hair. Really?
  2. Watching my daughter’s choir perform.
  3. Clara and Arabella making it to state.
  4. Surviving this past week.
  5. The guys returning home from an extended weekend fishing trip.
  6. Something to laugh about. My mom went along with Paul on the road trip to visit my brother. On the way back, my mom sat on a fish hook. My husband stopped at a Kwik Trip with a pliers to pull the hook out of the rear of her pants. She didn’t get hurt. I can just imagine how crazy that must have looked.
  7.  I had a long talk with Arabella about the trauma in my life and the things happening with grandpa.
  8.  I also talked to my best friend Cindy about everything happening with my family for the first time. She wondered how I remain sane, but I swear after this week I am losing it.
  9.  I met with our pastor’s mom over the weekend. She wants to mentor me. The funny thing is I had a dream one night that this was supposed to happen which makes me feel better about possibly trusting her. I don’t really know her well.
  10.  My cousin and I decided to do another 50k together.

Losing my reality

I felt good for about a half a day this week. I told my husband to enjoy it while it lasts.

It’s been a rough last couple of weeks. It’s that time of year again where I am reminded of the anniversaries of the deaths of three loved ones. I especially remember my grandma who seems so far removed from me now that it is hard to believe she even existed.

In this past week I’ve heard about the deaths of the wife of a friend and the daughter of an acquaintance. Both died unexpectedly, tragically. They were both young, upper 20’s and lower 30’s. They both left behind families, very young children.

Then there was an acquaintance this week who told everyone via Facebook he was going to stop kidney dialysis. He is in his 30’s, had a failed transplant, has no family, and can barely make ends meet because of this. I have to question, is it suicide? I want him to want to live, but would I make a different choice in his circumstances?

Death is in the air and the sorrow of it is making me sad. So I gladly breathed in a reprieve from the anxiety I was feeling if but for a few hours. I thought just maybe I would sleep for the night but to no avail. It’s been almost 3 weeks now since I slept a full night. The exhaustion of it is almost relaxing to me.

I can’t relax. Depression is the closest thing to relaxing I do. My body resists all attempts to relax me. I sometimes wonder if local anesthesia doesn’t work for me because my body literally fights off all attempts of relaxation. Maybe it is just a crazy thought.

I was in hypervigilant mode for two weeks. It was awful. One day my daughter came up behind me unaware to hug me. I freaked out and screamed at her to get away from me. Later I talked to her in a general way about the trauma I experienced as a child and explained to her how startled I was by her unexpected touch. Even my husband tried to comfort me by touch and I told him not to touch me.

I tried to explain to my daughter why I had a hard time with touch and she got mad at me. She told me I was overexagerating and that her life is just as hard as my life was. I tried to give her the kind of life I wanted as a child and it is painful to hear her say that. It’s hard to have compassion for the trivial things.

Sometimes my autistic brother would attack us while we were sleeping. Is it any wonder that I cannot find sleep? My brother beat me on the daily and I was not protected or comforted.

Being physically abused wasn’t the worst. Even my dad’s verbal abuse wasn’t that bad. Being called stupid frequently didn’t end my world. What really hurt was the psychological terror. My dad seemed to have this innate ability to know what our deepest fears were. When we were little he would force us to do things we were afraid of. Then he would laugh at us when we showed fear.

My dad would torment us in the presence of our siblings. We weren’t allowed to be angry or cry, then we would get it worse. In fact, the more we laughed and taunted our frightened sibling, the better it would be for us. Compassion or kindness was punished.

We were terrified of my dad. My dad was especially abusive when our mom was not around. I don’t even think she knew about most of the abuse. At best, he would ignore us and watch TV. Sometimes my mom threatened to leave my dad. We were so terrified of being alone with my dad that it was my brother Mark’s job to beg her not to leave.

I built this wall of strength around myself. My dad robbed me of compassion, tears, and anything perceived as weakness. I can do anger, but I cannot cry. My mom cried and  was too weak to stand up to my dad or my violent brother.

But yet I am weak, yet I am vulnerable. In the whole healing process, I’ve lost a part of my knowledge of normal and real. Is this normal or is this normal to me? Am I not safe or do I just think I am not safe? Am I reading people right?

For example, I told you about the old man at the gym who complimented me on my running and looks. Perhaps it is creepy, perhaps he is just a lonely old man. He seems to know my patterns now. I saw him watch me when I was in my exercise class. When I am running, he gets on the treadmill next to me and starts talking to me.

I always wanted a dad who paid attention to me. I am starving for that. I am so hungry I might ingest things that aren’t safe for me to take in. Because of my hunger I reach for anything offered and I seem to no longer be able to distinguish if it is good for me.

I’ve seem to have lost some of my discernment.

That’s probably why I wasn’t prepared for what happened next…

 

 

Gratitude week 7

  1. Another compliment on my hair this week. Again, it was after I ran 8 miles and hadn’t washed it in like 4 days. Gross! The lady loved my hair and asked what color it was. I replied that my hair is gray. She thought I dyed my hair, but instead I am not coloring it anymore.
  2.  After spending the week in California, Paul passed the class he was taking. Not everyone else did. I am grateful for a smart husband interested in life long learning.
  3.  Due to stormy weather in Chicago, my husband’s Wednesday night flight home was cancelled. He rescheduled his flight for Thursday which also got cancelled. Thankfully he was able to catch another flight home on Thursday. Thankfully his trip was delayed on the back end so he didn’t miss any of his classes.
  4.  I was grateful to have my brother Luke and his family spend the weekend here. We haven’t seen them in two months and it was great to visit.
  5.  Paul and I had a double date on Valentine’s Day with Luke and his wife Emily.
  6.  I’m thankful I was able to have some deep conversations with Luke, Emily, and Paul.
  7.  I’m grateful my husband was able to make it home in time to meet up with a good friend who is moving away.
  8.  I’m grateful that I found a book on Complex PTSD. I started it this week and so many things are making sense to me now.
  9.  I am grateful to try another new therapy this week in hopes of additional healing.
  10.  I am grateful for a quiet week ahead.

Transforming performing

Every day I put a fake smile on my face. I’m probably not fooling anyone.

I sometimes wonder if it’s the reason my children like to perform. When I hear them play or sing something changes in me. I smile, a real smile. They know where they can find the real me, the happy me.

It was always a dream of mine I am living through them.

I wanted to play and sing too. I wrote music then. I wrote the lyrics, played a simple tune on the piano, and sang along. It angered my dad. He told me to stop that banging on the piano and caterwauling. So I stopped forever.

I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes, you see. I was expected to be perfect the first time I tried something or not to try at all. I was an embarrassment if I was not perfect. Even my choir teacher told me that I sucked the first time I ran through a song for solo and ensemble. I wasn’t allowed to go. I wasn’t good enough.

The first time I ever sang a solo in front of people I was so terrified my voice choked out a little croak. I didn’t know then that it was normal to have stage fright. I thought I was horrible. No one ever encouraged me.

For a very long time, I gave up the dream. I didn’t audition for jazz choir or even choir in college although I wanted to more than anything. Music was a stifled passion. I was convinced I sucked which is so sad to me right now.

Watching my children perform opens the door to true joy. They are what I could’ve been. For awhile, I’m able to put the fake smile aside. My eyes shine and my heart smiles at them with everything I have. Their performing is transforming to me.

It is never too late to rekindle a dream.

My salvation fantasy

I used to find solace in God.

I prayed and yearned for my whole family to seek serenity there.

Then a miracle happened. My dad really made a mess of his life. Before this every time he invoked the name of God it always had a damn after it. He laughed at my mother for her faith. He sneered at the very essence of God. He knew a lot about theology and always could find a loophole in our faith. It was easy to seek sanctuary in a place where my dad refused to go.

But then my dad sunk to the very bottom. It was the only way he could open his heart. He started listening to my mother’s words about God. He started reading the Bible. He shed a few tears. He said a few prayers.

Soon afterward, God sent old friends of my parents to their door. My mom didn’t recognize her old friend. They haven’t seen each other in 15 years. The friend said that God had my parents on her heart. She came over to invite my parents to a Bible study at their house. They knew my dad didn’t believe. They had several heart to heart talks with my dad and he was very receptive.

My mom even tried out their church which has a low sensory room for people on the autism spectrum to participate in the service. My mom could take my brother to church without worrying about whether he was going to act appropriately. It seemed like the hand of God was all over this.

It was everything we ever wanted. Right? Then why does it seem like the closer my dad becomes the further I am cast away? Seriously who wants their parents to go to hell if they sincerely believe in God??

But this was not how I played it out in my mind. I thought the first thing my dad would do once he became a Christian is give us a call and ask us for forgiveness. He would apologize for the abuse he heaped upon us. Then we would have a great father-daughter relationship. He would all of a sudden be everything he wasn’t. He would be loving, supportive, encouraging, and would want to get to know me and love me the way he never had.

But it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t even close. My phone isn’t ringing off the hook with his bright shiny new clean heart. I didn’t receive any handwritten letters in the mail. I haven’t even spoken to my dad in two months. I was deceived by this salvation fantasy in my head that if my dad accepted God everything would be perfect.

I know this is going to sound crazy because isn’t this after all what I prayed for. More than anything, I feel abandoned by God. This is not what I wanted, nor expected. I feel like maybe there is still a God out there, but he doesn’t love me.

All I wanted is one person to reach out to me. I, myself, am drowning in sorrow. Just show me God’s love, tell me he hasn’t left me. I sought but found nothing.

I just wanted a normal loving family. Is that too much to ask for?

I can no longer find solace in God because now my dad is there. Spending an eternity in heaven with my dad sounds like hell to me. I can’t hide under God’s wing anymore. It is no longer safe.

I am not at peace. I have stopped seeking. I can no longer pray.  I don’t even want to go to church. I feel very confused and afraid. It’s strange, I never thought my dad finding faith would threaten everything I’ve ever believed in.

PMSing during the full moon

Yeah, if the title doesn’t say it all…it’s been a rough week.

It all started earlier this week. My daughter Arabella and our foreign exchange student Estelle got into their first huge fight. I could tell they were angry, but my daughter wouldn’t say anything and Estelle simply muttered that my daughter has issues as she stomped off to her room to go to bed.

The next morning they didn’t talk to each other, but spewed their hatred towards each other onto me. What is going on?

Later that morning Estelle texted me, we need to talk. My stomach dropped. The worst case scenarios painted their way through my head. Bang, triggered! Maybe my daughter smacked her one. My daughter just applied to be a foreign exchange student at Estelle’s house. Maybe they no longer wanted her there. Maybe Estelle no longer wanted to be with us. How was I ever going to fix this?

The negative energy was so intense like a couple warring black cats hissing and sending their razor sharp claws down the chalkboard while howling at the moon.

My anxiety went through the roof. I just wanted my depression to come back. Please stop.

The insomnia and nightmares are back. I awake at every little noise. When I do sleep, I wake up crying from the nightmares. I feel like a super caffeinated zombie. Anxiety on steroids. Tired, but on high alert. Restless. Fidgety. Exhausted.

The ringing of my phone startles me. I turn my ringer off. I’m afraid that someone is at the door, but no one is there. My skin crawls. I feel like I am being watched, but no one is there. Sometimes I turn around fast just to make sure. My back is better against the wall where I can see the whole room in case of an attack.

I startle as my husband placed his hand in consolation on my back. I jump not sure whether to fight or scream. Don’t touch me. Is there danger? Is there someone there who shouldn’t be? I know it is not rational, but I can’t stop feeling anxious.

I have to take my mind off of things. Is that picture crooked on the wall? No, a half an inch too high on the left. Is it centered properly? Is that a fingerprint on the glass? Is that dust? Is that dirt?

Estelle comes home and wants to spend the evening at her friend’s house on a school night. She doesn’t want to be here anymore. Maybe she will leave us? The girls still fight. They hate each other. Maybe it was a bad idea to take two extra teenagers into our house.

The next morning I miss a call from the school. Oh my, maybe the girls fought it out in their one class together. Culinary arts. Pots and pans hitting each other over the head. A knife fight, perhaps? Suspended. Expelled. Sent home. I feel like I am going to throw up.

Nope. Estelle comes home, bad cramps.

I told the girls separately they need to work through the issues they were having together. Then I left to run errands. When I came back, the girls were laughing and hugging each other. Sisters. The love and the hate. Fighting over friends. One blocking the other on their socials. No big deal but fighting like it was the end of the world.

But me, triggered, stressed out for days not even sure why. The minute my therapist saw me yesterday she knew I was not myself. She said if she didn’t think I had PTSD before she can certainly say I have it now. The conflict between the girls triggered me. In my house growing up, all of that negative intense energy meant someone was going to get hurt. It’s almost as if it triggered the fear response before the violence occurred and I got stuck there.

I felt a lot better after my appointment. I had a nice chat with the girls about PMS. Their fighting, their moodiness, their ability to fly from tears to laughter yet back again within a few seconds. Guys, sorry but hormones suck!

My mind goes haywire this time of month. I feel things more. EVERYTHING hurts. My skin itches. It is easier to be triggered. Everything comes out of my mouth in anger with what to me sounds like normal words. Anxiety. Irritation. Anger. Depression. PTSD. Oh my gosh, stay away!! Warning. I am totally crazy! This month so much worse than others.

PMS? The full moon? Fighting. Screeching. Scratching. Screaming. Howling. It’s a good thing my words don’t speak.

questions

It’s amazing how gullible we were as children believing the things we were told.

How could anyone believe that some fat guy in a red suit could get skinny and simultaneously go down everyone’s chimney with a bag full of presents that end up under a tree the next morning perfectly wrapped? Or that a fairy is going to sneak into your room at night to take your teeth once they fall out? Or that a bunny is going to leave a hidden basket of chocolates? But we do all believe it if that’s what we were told.

Then what about the other things we were told?

I was told that God loves me. If I prayed hard enough, he was going to send us the right doctor that would heal my violent autistic brother. Mile after mile, state after state, we trudged hoping we would find the right doctor.

I was also told my brother was violent because of the foods he ate. Or it was the east wind that blew auto fumes in through the windows of our house. Or it was the lady that was wearing too much perfume. The music was too loud. Just fill in the blank…

I was also told I was stupid, not good at anything, and that I needed to be perfect to be loved.

Why wouldn’t I believe what I was told as a child?

I’ve been cleaning out my closet and found that almost everything I’ve been told and believed as a child was not true. There is no Santa Claus. There is no tooth fairy. There is no Easter bunny.

I am not stupid. I am good at some things. I still fight the drive to be perfect. Thankfully, as an adult, I no longer believe the negative things I was told about myself as a child. It probably took a bit longer to realize that than a child who was told positive things.

But take it one step further, as an adult pursuing healing I am questioning everything I ever believed.

Do my parents love me? Is there a God out there that loves me? I want to think so, but God never healed my brother. I no longer believe God will heal him. But if I had real faith shouldn’t I believe it is possible?

I don’t believe reactions to the foods he ate or his environment caused him to be violent. He was just violent. There was no rhyme or reason. There wasn’t a way to control the unpredictable chaos in my house.

It took me longer to dismiss the beliefs of magical thinking and false hope. But isn’t false hope still hope? Didn’t even false hope help us cope?

Then is God real? Does he really love me? Our pastor spoke of God’s love being like that of a father taking his child in his arms and kissing him on the forehead. What is that like? Neither Paul or I knew. We’ve never been kissed by our fathers. Is that just more proof that a father’s love, God’s love, is meant for others, not me? Are some chosen and some not?

I still have the childhood belief that God loves me. But I’ve also built this big wall around myself that prevents his love from shining through. I can no longer accept this belief as truth, but I cannot dismiss it either as a lie. Some strange almost miraculous things happened in my life that I can only attribute to God. Yet sometimes I feel God answered my prayers with silence.

I no longer believe that parents always love their children just because they are parents. Yesterday while I was running an elderly man started to talk to me. I removed my earbuds and asked him what he said. He said I was pretty fast and pretty too. In just one sentence, a stranger said words nicer to me than my dad ever said. Sometimes the kindness of strangers hurts. Over the past 45 years, I’ve accomplished some amazing things. How hard would it be to say you are proud of me? Does a stranger have to take your place? Why would I think you care?

I want my world to be neat tidy black and white. I feel safer there. I want to be all in or all out. I seek the truth and find myself with more questions than answers.

I hate the grey areas. It causes me so much inner turmoil. I want to pick and choose what I believe. But I want that decision to be made realistically. I want to toss out the things that aren’t true. I want to fully embrace truth, not just what I want to believe is true. I hate this feeling of being in limbo. Not knowing. Not being able to distinguish truth from non-truth.

Can I even trust my own thoughts? Is truth absolute? Or can truth be different for other people, yet truth? Can some of it be truth and non-truth at the same time? Does God show me love by the blessings and good in my life? Conversely, is the opposite true too? Is God punishing me for the bad that has happened? Or does God take bad things and make them good? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why isn’t life always fair?

Aaaarrggghhh!! Here’s to overthinking!