Safe at shore after the storm

I had just clung to a lifejacket that was thrown in to help me out. Getting used to living with childhood trauma was not living for me. But I was being dragged underwater again. Were all my efforts up to that point for naught?

I was drowning but I didn’t know if I wanted to swim any longer. It took too much effort. The ocean was too wide, too deep. I lost the lifejacket in the waves that slammed down on me. I couldn’t see beyond the next wave that hit me taking away my breath leaving me gasping for air. I was frightened this time it would kill me but part of me didn’t care.

I was pulling you down trying to stay afloat with the weight I was carrying. Maybe it would be easier if I didn’t fight against the chains of the anchor that bound me. Why keep struggling with not even a rescue boat in sight, not to mention the safety and calm of a lighthouse ashore.

I didn’t care. I went back into the safe place of old inside of myself where there was no joy but most importantly no pain. I was so drenched and shivering that I didn’t notice your tears for me. I didn’t notice as you tried to set me free from the chains that shackled me. People marveled at how I was entrapped so. But their kind words and murmured whispers did nothing to set me free. They couldn’t help you help me.

If you couldn’t help me you might as well drown with me in the drink. Your cries never reached my ears in the eye of the raging storm. Yet somehow I remembered how to keep safe like I did so many years ago. Though trapped, the wall I built around myself was high enough to keep the storm surge out. Yet the water trickled in around me reminding me I couldn’t stay safe inside forever. I kept sheltered in its womb until I saw the clouds part. When I trusted I was safe enough, I pulled myself out of it.

You were waiting for me in your boat. The water was littered with lifejackets surrounding me. I knew how hard you were trying to reach me but I could not see it then. The sun shone on the distant lighthouse as we slowly made our way to shore.

Gratitude week 48

  1. I finished writing the census series. I did forget a couple of stories. I was required to wear a mask, but one day I forgot. I had to cross a busy street in a downpour to go to an apartment complex that was always locked. But that one time the door was open. I went upstairs and knocked on the door. It sounded like someone was home. I was mortified because after I knocked I realized I had forgotten my mask in the car. That was a time I was thankful no one answered. I’m grateful to be able to share my stories with you.
  2. I’m grateful that I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving this week with my best friend and her family. Apparently she called her parents to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and found out that her siblings were invited over for the holiday but she was not. She works at the hospital and her parents consider her high risk for COVID so she is not welcome for the holidays this year but her siblings are. They didn’t even tell her. I’m grateful that we could get together to celebrate. I feel hurt by my mom as well. She considers us high risk but she still gets together with other people. We could really use her support right now. I wonder how many other families are dealing with this.
  3. I am glad that I have 2 days left on my detox diet. I am saving the pumpkin pie my friend made for the morning I am done. I told my daughter Angel to please not make deviled eggs otherwise I would crack. We’ll save the devil for Christmas.
  4. Yesterday my husband and I found the perfect Christmas tree. Every year I try to pick a theme. It has been difficult this year because we aren’t in any shows. Sorry, but quarantine is a sucky theme. In a couple weeks, it will be the 20th anniversary of my grandpa’s passing. This year I decided to dedicate our tree in tribute to him. If it wasn’t for my grandparents there is a good chance I wouldn’t be telling you my story today. I put 20 candy canes on the tree and decorated it with the pine cones my grandfather made many years ago. I feel like I was directed to the perfect tree in remembrance of him. I’m grateful I have some good memories to pass on to my kids.
  5. My daughter Arabella is in the hospital again. This is the third time in the last four months. She has been diagnosed with Major Depression with Borderline traits. The suicide rate for Borderline is 10%. I can’t imagine what it is combined with depression. I’m grateful that for now she is safe. This year has been hell for a lot more than COVID. I am going to start a new series tomorrow that will explore this past year.
  6. As I was decorating my tree yesterday I was very dismayed by the selection of Christmas music, so I made my own Christmas playlist. It includes both sacred and secular songs. I have over 8 hours of playtime and have hit every single genre from opera, traditional, rap, reggae, polka, pop, rock, metal, instrumental, funny….
  7. We have entered the season of light. This has been such a horrific year that I decided to decorate my house with every single strand of Christmas lights I own. I am going to be grateful for Christmas this year even if I can’t leave the house.
  8. I am grateful I was able to see my craniosacral massage therapist this week.
  9. I’m grateful for the classic Christmas movies. Last night we watched It’s a Wonderful Life. It makes me wonder how I have impacted other peoples lives. What would the life of others be like if we were never born? Wow, that is deep. I really should watch a comedy or something.
  10. Yesterday I cleaned out Arabella’s frog cage. I’m not sure how it even happened but her frogs escaped in her room. I asked Angel to help me catch them but she is afraid of frogs. She just ran around the room screaming. I’m grateful I caught them. The cage is clean and everything turned out alright.
  11. My son and I ran into his old piano teacher at the grocery store. She was a very instrumental person in his life throughout his difficult teen years. It was wonderful to see her again and find her well.

Gratitude week 44

  1. It’s been a stressful week. My daughter Arabella is currently in the hospital for depression. I’m grateful that as of right now, she is safe. I’m grateful that the doctor listened to the concerns I have and is willing to do extra testing.
  2. I’m grateful for a warm fire in the fireplace on a blustery November day. BTW, how did it get to be November already???
  3. I’m grateful that we have two more days left until election day. I am literally going insane with all the texts and phone calls from both parties. If anything, I am so annoyed I don’t even want to vote. I’m sick of the ads. I’m sick of fights and people unfriending other people because of politics. Enough already! I think most of us will be grateful when this is over.
  4. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan is learning to be an electrician. I’m grateful that he was able to fix the doorbell that has been broken since we moved in a couple years back.
  5. I met with my therapist this week. She jokingly said on the way out that my life certainly wasn’t boring. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for that or not, but I am.
  6. I decided to start the 30 day detox diet today as planned. My wellness nurse wanted me to start it when I am not under a lot of stress. The way things are going that probably won’t happen until I’m 6 feet under. I’ve been waiting to start this diet since January. So far I’m grateful I feel just fine. The hardest part is drinking half my weight in ounces of water. If it weren’t for all the damn pills I take I’d be totally dehydrated as it is on a normal day. I also gave up coffee and switched to green tea. I hope I continue to feel good.
  7. I decided to stay home and have a pajama day today. The pastor is having a sermon series on a blessed family. It was painful for my husband and I to go to church last weekend. Our kids are grown up now and have no interest in going to church with us anymore. Plus with all the struggles we are having with Arabella I felt upset. We tried to do the right things yet why is this happening? Honestly, I also thought I’d be feeling worse with the diet than I actually do.
  8. I’m grateful we bought a self-cleaning vacuum for our pool for both the bottom and the sides. It will save us a lot of time and work. It’s kind of cool to watch like when they came out with washers and dryers you could see work.
  9. Last night Paul and I finally were able to get together with our friends for supper. They are kind of mentors to us. It’s hard to find healthy older couples out there. I’m grateful for them and the other people who stepped into our lives and in return others we have helped.
  10. Today I finally opened my own YouTube account. Yeah, I know, I’m old. I’m grateful that I found another avenue to explore.

The missing piece to missing peace

I met with my therapist this past week. At the end of our session she asked me what I needed. I told her that I wanted more enlightenment on my path towards healing and growth.

Be careful what you wish for.

The next day I had the first appointment with my daughter Arabella to see a psychiatrist. She has been struggling with depression and anxiety the past couple months.

Honestly, I didn’t really understand why she was struggling. We tried to give her a wonderfully normal childhood, something my husband and I never had.

The doctor started with me asking about my family history regarding mental health issues. I probably rattled off a dozen close relatives that struggled with anxiety and/or depression myself included. After awhile the doctor cut me off and didn’t even bother asking for my husband’s family history of mental health issues.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression since I can remember. I always thought my struggles were caused from the childhood trauma I endured. I always had this fantasy that once I made peace with my past and healed from the trauma I experienced then I would finally be free from the chains of anxiety and depression. Poof! Gone! I would finally be the carefree person I always wanted to be and not the person I am and always was.

I also have the fantasy that if I had enough faith in God I would be free from this. But I kept giving it over yet God refused to take it away. I felt guilty because every time I tried to cast it off it came back. There was some shortcoming in me. I failed to have enough faith. But maybe some things cannot be changed. Maybe I just have blue eyes. Maybe I should not expect God to change them to brown.

I’ve seen all my children struggle with anxiety. We did everything we could possibly do to give them a normal life. I’ve watched my mom suffer from debilitating anxiety, panic, and insomnia. I’ve brushed it off saying she always had so much to worry about. I’ve watching some of her siblings struggle with anxiety. Anxiety almost seemed normal.

I’ve watched my dad struggle with depression. At times I have wondered if he was going to end his life. I saw his father and his father’s siblings struggle with anxiety and/or depression. His aunt on his mother’s side. I watched my own siblings struggle. This all seemed normal too.

Over time I learned how to outrun my demons. Being an extreme runner burned off the anxiety. Always keeping busy or immersing myself in work keeps my demons at bay. But that means I can never relax or they come back. Writing soothes my soul. But it never goes away.

Trauma and difficult live circumstances makes the anxiety and depression worse. But guess what? Even if I don’t have anything to worry about I create scenarios in my mind. I have to constantly fight this battle within myself.

This week I received a new piece of enlightenment. Even if I never experienced childhood trauma, I still might have struggled with anxiety and depression. In fact, if I didn’t experience trauma then maybe I would feel worse about myself because there wouldn’t be a logical reason for it.

We live in a world that constantly makes us try to feel worse about feeling sad. You shouldn’t feel depressed because you are rich, good looking, smart, popular, etc…… I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. Her life is perfect. What does she have to feel sad about?

What if it is simply and purely genetic like my blue eyes? What if it was a pattern of behavior passed down from my ancestors centuries ago? A genetic propensity paired with modeled behavior is hard to break. I could wear colored contacts but that wouldn’t really change the color of my eyes.

Even if I tried to give my kids a wonderful life, I still might have passed this on to them. I also have come to the realization that although I can manage it I will never be free from it. That’s the kicker. I thought if I healed I would be a different person. But the truth is, I am still going to be me.

Maybe growth and healing isn’t about changing into a different person. Maybe it is the freedom to accept myself and others the way they are. Maybe that is the missing piece to missing peace.

Reaching the end

I resigned from my census job today and turned in all my census equipment. I was expecting it to end, but I wasn’t expecting it to end quite as abruptly as it did.

In some ways I feel relieved, but mainly I feel sad. Strangely I feel stir crazy. I feel like I have cabin fever and man is it a long way from March. I have literally nothing on my calendar. If it was a normal year I’d almost have next summer planned already.

Work was the only place I went, the only thing I did. There are a handful of friends that I haven’t even seen since this whole pandemic began. When this whole thing is over will we start back up again where we left off? I miss being too busy, every weekend planned not a second left for spontaneity.

My daughter’s high school just went back to virtual learning. Apparently Wisconsin is a virtual COVID hotbed right now. Everywhere I go, everywhere I look people are fighting about the masks we are required to wear. I went to the store today and saw a guy wearing a Halloween mask. I’m just sick of it. I don’t even care anymore. I hate what we have become and there is no escape from it, from ourselves.

Once again everything is changing almost as fast as the changing of the seasons. I feel kind of blah about it. I don’t want to just accept it willingly. But the good news is that I should have time now to write about my adventures as a census worker and I plan on spending the next couple of weeks doing that. And I just sent out an email inquiring about another job.

The first few days at work

The morning started rough. I awoke bleary eyed. I haven’t been sleeping all that well since I started the census job. My body, always resistant of change.

I went to feed my pets which all mornings is rather uneventful, well except for today that is. I opened the lid of the cat’s food container reaching inside only to find a mouse feasting on the food inside. Freaked me right out. Not the kind of excitement I needed to start my day.

I feel tired but good. I have my drug back. Work. The days go by and I find I don’t think about anything except for what I am doing. I’m not overthinking. I’m not anxious. My mind almost completely void of troubling thoughts. Then after the day’s work is done, my thoughts turn to mush. No worries, no grand stories. Nothing much.

Not only do I have a greater appreciation of those who travel door to door, but I am now thankful of people who clearly mark their houses with their house number. You wouldn’t believe how many times I turn around just looking for the street address of one house even with the map app on.

For the most part, people have been nice. I appreciate that as well. I have been doing a lot of walking. It’s funny but the first couple of days my legs and feet have been sore and I am a runner. I have a new respect for people who are on their feet all day at work.

It’s nice to spend the day working outside on these warm summer days. I haven’t had to go house to house in a downpour yet. Then I might be telling you a different story.

Things at home have been piling up. The dishes have yet to be done and the laundry needs folding. But for a few minutes I thought I would slip away to let you know that as for today everything is okay.

Gratitude week 31

  1. I’m back after a short break! I’m grateful I didn’t fall off the side of the planet too. But isn’t the Earth round? Who knows anymore…
  2. Summer! I can’t get enough of it. Seriously, why do I still live in the frozen tundra??!?
  3. I’m grateful to have a wonderful spouse to enjoy 23 years of marriage with.
  4. I just started the census job yesterday. It feels good to be out working again. I’m trying to put in 40 hours a week. I’m hoping I can still find some extra time in the day to blog.
  5. I am grateful most of the people I’ve talked to have been nice for the census job. I have a new appreciation of people who go door to door unannounced, even more so now during the pandemic.
  6. I’m grateful that my husband and I were able to get away for a couple days of sailing for our anniversary.
  7. I’m grateful that my loved one ended up being released from the psych ward the end of last week. This person has some previously undiagnosed medical issues that may have been contributing to the depression they were experiencing. Not to mention this whole time period in general has been stressful. I am hopeful they are starting on their healing journey.
  8. It’s my moms birthday this week. I’m hoping I can talk her into a visit and maybe sailing.
  9. My daughter is visiting this weekend so I am looking forward to seeing her and can’t wait until she moves back home.
  10. It’s been over a year and a half since I worked so I am grateful to be contributing to the family income. Plus I have been feeling nervous/anxious/excited about working again even temporarily. A little excitement at my age never hurt anyone.

Gratitude week 30

  1. Summer! I’m soaking up the hot days as much as I can.
  2. I no longer have any drafts in my WP queue. I am happy to be done with the ultimatum series. I thought it would be healing to write about but instead I felt a tremendous amount of stress about it. I started it and then no longer wanted to do it, but I finished it anyway. I feel kind of burned out with writing in life in general right now. Maybe some time off would help.
  3. I took the little vacuum cleaner my daughter bought me for my birthday and thoroughly cleaned the inside of my car.
  4. I got a haircut this week. My hair is now 100% my natural color. I cut off the last remaining blonde ends. It feels strangely freeing to be myself.
  5. My loved one who is depressed ended up getting committed to the psych ward this past week. I have been overwhelmed with sadness about it. But I am grateful that for the moment this person is safe. I also feel like this person is finally asking for and getting the help they need.
  6. My husband and I are planning on getting away for a couple of days sailing for our anniversary. The weather looks perfect for it.
  7. I had my orientation for the census job this past Friday. Maybe I was too optimistic, but I was hoping to start the online portion of the training Friday afternoon and being done today. I didn’t even get the emailed link yet to begin the training process which has been incredibly frustrating because I’m afraid I might have to postpone some of the plans I made for our trip. But I am grateful to have a meaningful job, some extra income, and the opportunity to bury myself in work to get my mind off of things for awhile.
  8. Paul and I took care of the area coin shortage by taking in our jug of coins we have been saving for the past decade, $262.47.
  9. I was able to talk to Estelle via Facetime for the first time since she went back home. I’m grateful for the technology to be able to easily and affordably communicate with someone living in another country.
  10. I found a new author I really like. I’m reading Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. It’s a psychological thriller with relatable characters. The best part is that she has written quite a few other books.

The ultimatum, part 9

I felt a lot of anxiety leading up to his birthday. He did it, Paul went without drinking for almost 2 months. He said it was a piece of cake.

He said he would try to quit drinking until his birthday.

But then it was his birthday. I was worried. Now what would happen?

That night we had a few friends over. They had pizza and he drank a bottle of wine. I felt a sense of loss. I didn’t belong. I felt like an outsider. I had been dairy free for over a month by that time. As they ate pizza and laughed, I brooded in the corner.

I felt triggered by Paul drinking again. I felt angry and hurt like I did on the night of our anniversary when he drank too much. Paul was in a jovial mood. He drank another bottle of wine out by the campfire while I sat inside.

He wanted me to sing while he played guitar. When he pushed close, I pulled away. He was gone and I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore.

What was going to happen going forward?

Slowly and steadily he started drinking more but nowhere as close to as much as before.

We got hit pretty hard in the next couple months with bad news about my dad. It will be a long time before I am ready to talk about that. I can tell you this, my dad struggles with addiction. My mom ignored it. She buried her head in the sand. I have to wonder maybe things would’ve turned out differently if she gave him an ultimatum.

I think I did the right thing. I never wanted Paul to stop drinking. I just wanted him to be in control of it instead of it controlling him.

I found myself triggered by so many things, not just Paul drinking. What happened with my dad threw me into a deep depression. I wish I could say that trauma only happens from your parents in childhood. Sometimes it tends to be a lifelong roller coaster ride.

Paul thought he was going to lose me this time. He was so stressed out that he started to drink more which stressed me out more.

Because of the ultimatum, he knew it was a problem he needed to address. In January, he stopped drinking for a few weeks in a time of prayer and self-reflection. Then he came up with a new plan.

The ultimatum, part 7

Paul said he was willing to try to stop drinking until his birthday almost two months later. He wanted to see if he could even do it. It was a step in the right direction.

What did that mean though? Could I still have a few drinks with my friends around him? I was willing to give it up too. His close friends asked if he wanted them to stop drinking around him. Some friends just stopped drinking with him when he stopped. I think everyone was a bit uncomfortable doing this new dance at first.

Paul said he didn’t want everyone to change the way they lived their lives. But they did. I really didn’t realize how much we influence other people with how we live our lives. When he quit drinking quite a few of his friends cut back too.

It changed the dynamics of our relationship big time. I was angry and we argued a lot at first. But after the initial anger wore off, I noticed another change.

His drinking gave me a lot of power and control. I didn’t realize it until it was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted him to stop or at the very least cut back. I nagged and nagged him to stop which didn’t work. It only made things worse.

Every time Paul and I got in an argument I would never look at my own negative behavior. I would throw back in his face that I would talk to him about my issues when he stopped drinking. I held the trump card of remember when you screwed up _____ with your drinking. It gave me a get out of jail free card that I used in almost every argument that wasn’t in my favor.

Now I could no longer avoid talking about some of my issues. Not only that but without drinking he now had the upper hand. He was working through his issues. That meant I had to work through some of mine too. I started seeing a therapist to work through my anxiety and depression.

In some ways I envied Paul. I wanted to leave my issues on a shelf, to not drink of that bottle and then they would be gone. But I’ve learned so much since then. Battling addiction is more than just leaving the bottle on the shelf. It’s the longing to reach for it like the embrace of an old friend in sadness and celebration.

I had to face the fact that my anxiety and depression also scared him. He’s had to reach into the darkness to pull me out many times. I can’t seem to escape the trauma I’ve experienced. At times it still threatens to drown me.

We both had to work on our issues. We were both broken people in need of a fix. It wasn’t just about him and his drinking. It was how we learned to cope with our trauma at our very core. It was exploring every crack and crevice that was tearing down our foundation.

We spent those two months rebuilding our relationship. We got along better than ever before. Then after that things went a little haywire.