Tag Archive | guilt

Timeline

Last week’s homework for therapy was to create a timeline of my entire life including anything major, stressful, traumatic, or highly memorable.

Umm yeah this was not fun. I went back through forty years, year by year and filled in the events. It left me feeling drained. And sad. So much pain there.

We started going through the events together, and my counselor asks questions or for more details about certain events. So far we made it to age 5. I was already tired going into the session. This format is particularly troubling. I feel like I can’t hide anything. Like every secret is coming, and that timeline is the roadmap of doom.

We spent some time discussing the molestation by my brother when I was 5, he was 12. Counselors have never focused much on this, because of my dad’s abuse taking center stage. But it seems I have considerable amounts of shame and guilt surrounding what happened with my brother. I think I have not been able to shift blame onto him like I did for my dad, so I still feel responsible or accountable. We were both kids, more equals than with dad. It is not simple. I want to forgive us both. But I don’t. It makes me feel like a bad person.

So yay, we uncovered the next topic for cpt retelling exposure. I am not sure if I should post that story once I write it. I feel much more protective of my brother than my dad. Or is it my own shame that makes this feel wrong? Have to think about it. 

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Letting go of Guilt – Telling my truth

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Guilt is heavy and can squash us. I carry so much of it for a multitude of reasons, many that are not my guilt to carry. I have been carrying this guilt that I was unable to visit my mom while she was sick, before she passed away. I wanted to. I tried so unfathomably hard. If you don’t understand, then you don’t you understand how one tries and fails at seeing someone. But I did. I didn’t have enough time to work through the anxiety, the deep dark hole of depression I was in at that time.

This is so humiliating to describe how I existed after my release from the psych ward. I was completely agoraphobic. I had complete and total social anxiety. I did not speak to anyone other than my husband and children and some days even that was difficult and I barely made eye contact with them. I did not make phone calls, could not call the pharmacy or order a pizza. I did not answer phone calls, texts, or God forbid, knocks at the door. I hid while panic flooded me. The panic that would rise in me was overwhelming at the very thought of any human interaction and I went numb, disappeared into myself. The world was terrifying to me.

I was alone. I was broken. I could not think or function. Light and sound hurt me. I spent my time in a darkened, quiet room unable to concentrate. Not really living. Partially from the severe migraines, partially from the terrible pain in my back and leg, partially from the severe anxiety and depression from PTSD and a total nervous breakdown. I generally did not move. I remember this, sort of, it is blurry though, like that year was a nightmare, not my real life.

I was in that state when my brother texted about my mom’s surgery and cancer. At first it did not sink in. I did not know what to do. I froze. I wanted to move, to act, to call her, to drive up there, but I was stuck. I had not spoken to her in so long, maybe over a year at that point and it all seemed impossible.

I finally was able to tell all of this to my oldest brother. I went to his house for the first time in years. They accepted me and understood. They did not hate me or think I was a horrible person. They could see my pain and let me cry –  many times. I was given kleenex and ice water and allowed to talk.

That may have been enough to let go of some guilt, but there was more.

My brother deemed me strong enough to fill me in on some of the story I missed while I was mentally away. He tried to contest my dad’s will on my behalf, saying it was cruel and that my pain and suffering was costing me all these medical bills and that I deserved some of his estate. He said that he contacted the lawyers and that I would have had a case. He said he wrote letters detailing what he knew about the abuse, my pain and suffering, and my medical costs to the lawyers and my dad’s siblings, the other heirs.

The lawyer told him I would have a case if others were willing to support me as well. If my mom and other brother and my husband were willing to support me.

If.

Yeah well they would not submit statements to the lawyer on my behalf. They all said no.

So I took that part in and he added another level. He said he could have built my case without that based on the police report or records from when I accused him and moved out when I was 16. My brother checked the records and did some digging and could not find anything. He asked my mom what year that would have been and she told him she never filed anything, she never pressed charges.

My head was spinning at that point as I tried to recall being 16, being interviewed by child protective services. I guess it stopped there, nothing criminal, nothing public.

Then there was more. Another punch in the gut.

My mom and other brother said they never believed me. It wasn’t that bad. My mom and other brother had actually supported my dad all these years in telling everyone I was a liar and a troublemaker. I always felt that…I always felt that in my heart but to hear this as fact was something else.

She never pressed charges. I always thought there was at least a ding on his record, some little bit of my voice saying what happened. I had no idea. I am betrayed by her all over again, that she would not stand up for me – ever, not then, not a year ago.

I have never cared about money or attention. But oh my god does this hurt. That this other brother got over $50,000 reward money for protecting a pedophile, and I think he thinks he has done the right thing, because mom told him I was lying. Why should he believe me? Well why shouldn’t he? Why would I tell these horrible stories, what benefit has it brought to me? It does not get me attention when I am isolated in my dark, quiet room. It does not get me fame, glory, money, or anything that anyone would desire. It is difficult to get angry with him when he was a victim in my messed up twisted up family too. It really just makes me sad. It is so effed up.

So my oldest brother wants me to speak up now and I am going to. I don’t think it will get me any money, but I feel it is time to insert my own voice and detail the abuse I endured from this ‘generous’ man. My brother is going to help me write a letter to that lawyer stating that I have been so disabled and dysfunctional that this is the first time I have been able to contact him since I received the will. I want to notify the other heirs, my other brother, my aunts and uncles, that I stand firm on my ‘story’ because it is my truth and it has devastated me, and nearly taken my life several times. I thought it was better not to bother anyone. Now I’m thinking they all need some bothering.

I called child protective services to get my records of my accusation and interview, and basically hit a dead end there. They could not guarantee the record still exists after 24 years, and if it does, since no criminal charges were made and nothing in the court system to make it public record, I would need a subpoena to release the file that may have been destroyed. I don’t think I will be pursuing this. A quest for truth is one thing, but spending my money on a wild goose chase seems silly.

But I do feel ready to do something more. I figure my parents are gone now. I am safe to speak up publicly, and my brother already started it for me. I am so grateful to him. He also lost his inheritance, as punishment for sticking up for me. Because in my world, the good, the kind, the ones who tell the truth are stepped on and spit on and ridiculed and hated.

As hurtful as all of this information was to learn, it has lifted some of my guilt and grief, validating me for where I was and how I got to be in such a state. I know I tried and that has to be good enough. Knowing that I tried so hard for all of them. Knowing that I loved all of them. And now knowing that even when I begged them for help and thought they did the right thing, they did not. Of course not. How stupid of me. That story would have gone public. How shameful. How could mom deny it if she pressed charges? Much better to say her daughter was insane. It actually makes sense now, for the type of counseling I received when I was 16. I bet mom told them I was a liar and needed ‘help’. I never got counseling for the trauma, help with processing, only stress management and relaxation and it was so patronizing.

It all makes sense now.

Of course I am still grieving her loss, but somehow knowing mom never believed me and would not speak up for me has lessened my pain. I was torturing myself thinking I was horrible to stop speaking to her, horrible to not make it up to see her before she died. I don’t feel so horrible now. I can see the events with more compassion as they actually happened and know I was struggling and doing the best I could. And that my best never intentionally was trying to hurt anyone, which I cannot say about her actions. She knew her actions were hurtful and chose to do them anyway. I think I understand why…but that is for another post.

Sadly, Hubby was also not willing to stand up for me last year when my brother asked for his help. I am still processing this information. I confronted him about and it was not a pretty conversation. I asked why he refused to talk to my brother? He said he didn’t want to cause me ore stress. I said how would him talking to my brother cause me stress? I think he didn’t want to cause himself stress, that he was avoiding the situation, that he didn’t want to deal with it. Like with so much of my illness, it is easier to pretend I am fine, and not sitting alone in my room with suicidal thoughts. It is easier to take no action or yell at me for being frustrating than it is to comfort me, offer a strong shoulder to lean on.

I am feeling like he turned his back on me when I needed him the most, when the darkness was swallowing me up, when I believed I was unlovable, that he was fine with my public shaming and felt no need to stand up for me when I had no ability to do it myself. This is no longer a man I feel good about. I have asked him for an in house separation, to leave me alone, give  me peace while I work through all of this. He has not even been acting as a friend to me, let alone a husband. Although sad, this distance has made me feel stronger. If I am released from obligation to keep trying to be a good wife, to fix a broken relationship day after day, maybe I can use my teeny bit of energy I muster up for each day more wisely.

 

Nothing is right, fog, dropping balls, melatonin, letting go

NOTHING IS RIGHT

“Nothing is going right for you today, woah”

That’s what Hubby said during breakfast this morning, after my 100th edgy, irritable, or critical commentary about this or that.

I said “yes, now you get it. It’s been like this all week and it is terrible in here”

I’ve been edgy, irritable and generally not content with anything this week. I hear myself voicing complaint after complaint and yet bite my tongue for most of them, only 1/1000 make it to my lips. The pace my brain hurls problems at me is mind boggling. I dodge, parry, evade, duck, squash, divert, redirect, ignore, and then I can’t, and it slips out.

“This coffee is not as good as I hoped.”

“This show isn’t as funny tonight”

“this room smells funny”

“My chair is hurting my back”

“This isn’t the right kind of candy you bought”

“You shouldn’t spend so much money on . . .”

“People at work have no clue”

“The dishwasher isn’t cleaning well enough, I should just hand wash”

“I can’t remember what I need to do”

“No way I can complete these jobs on time this week”

“These pretzels have too many calories, I thought pretzels were safe”

“The dog smells really bad, when was his last bath”

“The tub won’t drain”

“That song is terribly whiny, how can you stand it”

“stop touching me, no I don’t want another hug”

“The kids aren’t doing any chores”

I keep trying to remind hubby that when he hears the negativity spill outward, it means I can no longer contain it, and the storm is full force.

Luckily the storms have been intermittent, but fairly wild this week.

 

FOG and DROPPING BALLS

I took Monday off work to recover from the weekend visit of the ‘triggerers’ (Thanks Jim for that word :)), but I really thought jumping back in to my routine would be better than licking my wounds too long.

I didn’t actually decide to take Monday off, It took itself off, since I was unable to focus and think. I got the kids to school and went right back to bed. I checked in around noon, but the fog and noise in my head preventing any actual work to come through. So grateful for my flex schedule.

But then Tuesday started with meetings that needed more meetings, that required more meetings and so many to-do’s that I was losing track from call to call. I started a new system in my notebook, write down everything, but highlight action items to find quickly through my notes later after 4 more back-to-back meetings made me forget the topic of the 1st.

I have dropped more balls this week than ever. Partly due to my foggy brain, but I think, mostly due to so many balls being thrown at me. Like the batting cage machine has been switched to pro. Someone put it back on novice! please!

Big changes at work, and insane deadlines, and everyone is crabby and lost. I don’t think I’m just projecting that. And I’m starting to think I’m not the only bigwig at work with underlying mental health issues – but I do think I may be the only one actively trying to work through them. (zing!)

 

MELATONIN

I decided to try something new this week, which I did by accident.

That night I went out for a sugar run, I was also having one of my typical irritated bladder days and added more cranberry pills to the list. The cranberry pills take away the urgent feeling I get pre-infection and prevent the infection from starting I swear by it. Anyways I head over to the vitamin section and see my cranberry pills are BOGO today! Score! and right next to them , also BOGO, is melatonin.

I’ve read all the pros and cons of melatonin supplements. I had decided not to try them years back when still on SSRIs, not wanting to confuse the whole serotonin/melatonin system. But I’ve been med-free for many years now and simply forgot about it. I thought why not? I’ve never tried it, and it helped me sleep maybe I could get out this funk and crabby mood that is irritating to me and everyone subjected to me.

I took the first pill, which is a dual formula of instant release and extended release, 5mg, in same pill, and shortly I felt something so wonderful I can’t barely explain. I felt my brain calm down. (placebo? perhaps some, but I’ll take relief in any form) It was not like a sleeping pill or like the haze of cold medicine. It was a distinct – slowing down. The pace of the thoughts in my head slowed and slowed until I could hear no thoughts at all. I felt the tension melt away. For a moment, I felt content. And then I lay down, fell asleep, and what? Next thing I knew it was morning.

It scared me at first. My nights are usually VERY long. I struggle to fall asleep. I struggle to stay asleep. I have wild dreams that I remember disturbingly each night, often many a night. I was so confused. I heard birds singing, and saw the sun peeking up outside. I had no recollection of the night or any dreams.

Next night I took a melatonin pill the same time of evening, around 10 pm. This time I didn’t feel the calm set in, but I wasn’t so agitated to start with. I feared placebo. I geared up for a restless night. And instead fell right asleep again and awoke in the morning again. Really this is freaky. Do most people have the night time disappear? Like it doesn’t happen? I have only had that experience before with surgery, where the time leaves my brain. It is really odd. But I woke up, and completely woke up. No fog. still some negativity – because even placebo isn’t that strong – but I felt something new. Rested? Refreshed? It was so puzzling. So I got up early and just started working, because my brain wanted to work and my body wanted to move. And it wasn’t the caffeine forced type of movement – it was like the music has a good beat so you find yourself moving without thinking. I was doing and not thinking, and it was freaking morning!! I wasn’t forcing my sorry butt to move and rub 2 brain cells together to spark 1 measly thought as morning usually are.

And so her I am, night 6 and I am so looking forward to my melatonin and to my morning. I got up today, whole fam went out to IHOP, ran some errands, then spent 4 hours organizing my basement. My freaking basement! We have been unable to walk into most portions of our basement for a decade now. It was an OCD nightmare and a hoarders dream. boxes, bags, bins, toys, holiday decorations, outgrown clothes, old curtains, old blankets, old photos, books – so many boxes of old books, art supplies, college textbooks, college reports, filing boxes, Rubbermaid bins,  . . . you know the stuff you accumulate after 15 years in a house without even knowing it. Kids helped me sort old toys – we filled 3 giant storage bins and 3 garbage bags worth of toys to donate to goodwill. We bagged 6 bags of trash. We tossed out old lamps and rusty fixtures that we once thought worth repairing but that now looked sad and worthless. We swept, we lysoled, we pried open the stuck window to literally breathe new life into that room. We purchased 2 shelving units and pushed shoved and labored until I can say that we can walk through that room, and I now know what is down there. It certainly isn’t done, as far as organizing goes. But today was amazing. I found an old table I forgot we had (not an end table mind you, a full size dining sized table that would seat 6) buried in the junk. I found a closet with old shelves waiting for some paint to be useful.

 

LETTING GO

I threw out items from my childhood that I had only held onto out of guilt. Hubby held open the trash bag and encouraged me to toss them. One item, was an enormous handmade latch hook rug. the kind that comes in a kit with the squareholed fabric and the tiny yarns. Usually people do small ones and turn them into pillows. this was a 3x4ft long jobby that represented HUNDREDS of hours of mind numbing yarn latching. Why did I spend so many hours on this project you ask? I didn’t.

Back story. I loved painting tigers in high school. I doodled them everywhere, fascinated by the strength and beauty and intricate patterns. And the eyes, the glowing powerful eyes. So my Mom (you guessed she was involved in this, right?) bought me this latch hook kit as a gift my senior year in high school. I had just moved in to her apartment and away from AF and we were trying to play house. This rug kit was a jungle scene – zebra, elephant, giraffe, and even though it was in my hands todays, I can’t actually recall if it had a tiger or not. But I know it had animals that would only live together at a zoo, not together in a jungle, and it bothered me. So trying to be the good girl and show my gratitude for such a thoughtful gift, see she knew I loved jungles! So I started working on it, and when I saw that 2 hours filled in 2 zebra stripes of this massive project, I set it aside and forgot about it. I mean I was 17, had 2 jobs, a boyfriend, volunteered at the hospital, had perfect grades from community college courses, and more. I was trying to heal from the past 16 years and get myself a scholarship. Crafting was not remotely on my list.

I barely spoke to my mom that year, barely went ‘home’ as it never felt like home. And so by the end of that year, my mom was able to surprise me with what she thought was a perfect going away gift for college. She had completed the latch hook rug herself so I could display it in my college dorm. I was certainly surprised. What? She worked on that project? It must have taken forever. I remember feeling sad for her wasting all that time, so many better things to do, really. And so sad, because even the most beautiful latch hook rug is still a FREAKING LATCH HOOK RUG! It was ugly, blotchy, childish. It had nothing about those beautiful creatures that I adore. I was not interested in it. And now I had to love it. Her fingers hurt from the effort. She had done this for me. See how much she loved me? All those months when I was dying inside and wishing death would find me – all those months of working so hard to fix my life and get back on track – all those months with no guidance from her – all those months starving myself and working so hard to be perfect – she was making me this rug.

And so it became a THING that she would make sure the rug was on display, and remind me how many hours she worked on that out of pure love for me, and how her fingers bled and blistered and ached just to make me happy. Everytime I saw it I felt guilty for hating it and forced to say how much I loved it. And so for many years it was hung on my wall. The last 5-8 years it has been buried in the junk in that basement. And today? It is in a garbage bag on my curb.

And I feel some relief, but I have to admit, part of me wants to go out there and rescue it right now, wondering if I made a mistake. I feel guilty. Still. Stupid rug. Good riddance. Just wish it felt better. And since it doesn’t, must mean there is more work for me to do there. My entire childhood my AF said my mom hated me and I believed it. I was angry at her for making it back then. I felt violated and put upon. I didn’t ask her to make it. I had no choice. And now I wonder if this desperate gesture really was her attempt to win me over and show she cared? or an attempt to manipulate? Something to keep her busy while she had no clue how to reach her hurting daughter? I still don’t know about her. so much pain and mistrust. so much to let go.

One more triggering item out of sight, just not sure how long until it is out of mind.

(I didn’t even tell you about her emails all week after her visit, maybe next time. Classic and predictable, and yet so were my gut reactions. I want my therapist so badly, and I’m not pleased to have see someone knew. I scheduled the appt and will try to give it a chance but I am so doubtful someone knew can be helpful and I don’t feel like training her on what I need.  I almost want to prepare cliff notes to get her caught up. ha, that might actually be a useful exercise .. .)

 

 

 

so hard to go home – triggers everywhere

Holidays and dysfunctional families. It seems to me that every family has some level of dysfunction, but only a few are truly toxic or unhealthy. It impossible to have so many different beings, different ages, different personalities in one room without some conflict or clashing.

I am still working on enforcing my newly found boundaries and each holiday brings an onslaught of new decisions as I keep myself safe and also expand into the uncomfortable to keep growing.

I had a strained, but not terrible time at my inlaws for Easter. I had some honest conversations with them, which was nice, being able to be me there. I spoke of my AF’s poor health and did not have to feign much sadness over it. I only spoke of it because they asked about him. But some of the other conversations could have been from “Mean Girls'” with all the back stabbing and two-facedness going on. My FIL thinks my SIL kids are overweight, ridicule them and blame SIL completely. They offer all kinds of ways to fix the problem  – but not to her face. Then they attack her for making the family late to this gathering because she always has to go overboard with her baking. MIL said she doesn’t need anything fancy, just wants the grandkids to get together. She made her feel guilty for having to hold ‘dinner’ past 12:30. No time was ever given to us, no time is EVER given to us, but whoever is last is late and made to feel guilty. As soon as SIL re-enters the room, the topic is changed. I chose to stay silent for that one. (I did ask SIL later about the fancy breads she baked, they were all done the day before, and she was not the reason they came later, but that’s an entirely different story. I asked her why she worked so hard – did she enjoy it or did she feel she ahd to go overboard to be ‘supermom’ or get inlaws approval? She said she truly enjoys baking and feels happiest in the kitchen and the only time she allows herself to get creative is for holidays.)

I can’t argue every out of line comment. I’d wear out in less than an hour. Besides I needed strength to battle the next ones.

Next they asked about my brother, who has been in the divorce process for over a year now. His wife left him and the kids and is living with her boyfriend. They speak of her like a less than human whore. What she did was heartbreaking, but she does not deserve their judgment, they didn’t live with my brother or grow up in her shoes. MIL said something like, “well your brother better hurry and make that divorce final or she may decide she is bored with the boyfriend and want to come back home.” Then FIL said “can she go stay with her parents?” I said “no, she is happy with the boyfriend, and she would never go live with her parents, because she hasn’t forgiven her dad, and her parents are divorced, he was an angry drunk that used to beat her and her sister, and her mom is a messed up piece of work. I remember the bruises in high school, and she basically lived at my mom’s house all during high school”

Thinking that was the end of it, until FIL said, “Well you know some women like that. ”

The whole room was silenced and open mouthed.

“What do you mean?” I said. He said, “Some women get off on being dominated, some men too, and they do crap to get themselves beaten.”

I said, “you obviously don’t know what you are talking about, and should go read 50 shades to see how domination works. Her dad would drink and beat anything that came in the room, and then would hunt them down and beat them if they didn’t come in the room. He was mean and scary and hurt his entire family. No one wanted it or made it happen, he was out of control. None of those girls deserved what happened, it was not their fault.”

FIL said, whatever, MIL told him to shut up, he sounded like an idiot. I felt very sad.

What happened in that generation of men? FIL is a good man. He has never hurt his family. And yet he believes that most men hurt women ‘for a good reason’. I was done, I can’t change his mind. No more energy wasted that day, I went off to work on the computer and avoided any more conversations.

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Next day I was thinking it would be nice to see my own mother. I hadn’t heard if my family was gathering for Easter, they still keep me out of the invitations at my own request. I don’t want to feel obligated or hurt them when I’m not up to going. Not yet. So I called my mom in the morning and said we were going to a park near her house and would like to stop over for short visit. I told her what time and made sure she had my cell number.

Now it was gorgeous sunny, 70 degree day and we went to a state park with amazing cliffs, ledges, and huge stony outcroppings. I had not been there since I was a child on a school field trip. I could not believe as we pulled in that I remembered the path I took with my friends almost 30 years ago. It was such an amazing feeling reliving a HAPPY childhood memory. And even better seeing my kids having just as much fun being mountain goats, exploring mini-caves, crevices, and climbing the rocky path as I did. I was thrilled to discover I had enough strength in my weak leg to do some easier climbing along with them. I couldn’t keep up, but they would go ahead, find a great scenic spot to rest and wait for me. It was pure joy. Exhausting – yes for sure, we were all sweating tired and hungry at the end of it.

So we eat our picnic lunch, and head to my mom’s house. We get there and my brother that lives with her says she is not home, that everyone is having Easter dinner at my other brother’s house. So decision time. Do I go over there?

No one had called me. I later found out she had emailed me this information, even though she knew I was going to be out all day, not at home checking emails. I thought maybe I could do it and we started driving towards my bother’s house. As we got closer, the panic grew. I started shaking, and picturing the room and the lock on the door that used to hold in my AF. He’s only been gone a month or so. I did not want to gather in that house, see the marks on the wall where his scooter scratched everything, see the missing door lock, see any sign that he used to live there. I decided it was too soon and we headed home, knowing it would be impossible to make an escape with the kids with us. If they saw the cousins on the trampoline, how could we leave?

So I got home to another series of emails from my mom. Sigh. Old habits, she had to lash out a bit because she was hurt that I did not visit her.

First email: Sorry I missed you. (That’s all it said)

Next email: If you let me know you were there I would have driven to meet you alone.

Next email: We had a nice dinner at your brother’s, salmon and chicken on the grill. the kids all played on the trampoline and swingset. I got to see all of my other kids and grandkids at least.

Next email: Here’s a photo of my cousin’s Easter gathering, all of her kids came to see her.

I did not respond to any of those emails. They were meant to hurt me and cause guilt. I am the only child that did not come to see her. I’m keeping her grandkids from her. Even her cousins get to see all the grandkids. Yes I get the point. I felt a prick of pain, but I only allowed the point of the sword to touch me, I did not allow it to plunge too deeply, because I know better.

I think I need to start with lower pressure, non-holiday visits. It is just too triggering and difficult still. But I hate keeping my kids away from the cousins. One day, it will happen. I am not rushing this one.

I asked Hubby why my brother with schizophrenia is not given guilt trips for staying home. Hubby said, “He avoids all social situations, and for you it appears you are only excluding them, so it hurts them.”

OH! That made sense. I am functional in every other social area now, I only avoid my mom and brothers, and their houses. I feel afraid of them. Too much I can’t control. Too many triggers and memories still floating around. I do love them though, and I appreciate that they don’t hate me, and mostly support my decision to avoid them. They want me healthy, but they also want me to join in the family fun. And maybe these events are not scary anymore, without AF in attendance. I don’t know.

All I know is I’m all good, I think I made the right decision this time, and will take the next step when I feel prepared for it.

 

 

 

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Vivid Dreams, Familiar Territory

Good news is I slept, bad news is I had some bizarre dreams. Sometimes my dreams are like movies, or like memories perhaps, and I can recall every second of them, could even draw the images and scenes.  I had a particularly vivid dream last night, and I’d like to document it here for some analysis but also to stop it from replaying in my head.

doodley-doot, doodley-doot (cue fade to dream music)

I was in a mall with 2 small children. I was me but a bit younger, and it was before I had kiddo 3. My little girl was a preschooler holding my hand as we walked, and my son was an infant in a sling secured to my front. This mall was ritzy and glitzy, and though I have been there before in my dreams (usually I roller skate or ride my bike through it) I have never been here in real life, and I don’t know if it even exists as a real mall or is something I created. But in my dreams I know my way around it and where each store is located. (Usually a recurrent dream, odd to have something so different in the same setting)

Waterfall Fountain near Old North, UCO

my dream fountain was more ornate with statues and lights(Photo credit: rshartley) 

We were standing and looking at a fancy fountain with many layers, levels, and spraying arcs. I could hear the drips and splashes and oohs and ahs from the crowd. I let go of my daughter’s hand to dig out a coin from my purse for her to make a wish. When I went to hand her the coin, she was gone. Gone! I scanned the area and could not see her. I felt the jolt of panic, just like I do in real life when they are unexpectedly out of my sight. I tried to call for her, but my voice was gone. I could only make little scratchy squeaky sounds when I tried to speak loudly. I could however speak quietly, so I went up to each person and quietly asked if they had seen a little girl in a pink jumper. Everyone looked at me like I was a lunatic and disrupting their day, and silently shook their heads ‘no’ as they walked away from the whispering girl with scared eyes.

I located a security office on the map, and ran there (I didn’t limp in this dream) but it was closed, dark, and had the chain-link security fence pulled down over the doorway. I saw an officer in there though, but I couldn’t speak up loud enough to get his attention. I felt the panic growing, and tried screaming her name with no luck. I started checking every store, one by one. There was a book store, a pet store, a candy store, an art store, a computer store, a clothes store and many more. The details of each shop I know so well. I could describe the lights, wallpaper, displays but I won’t do that here. I had to search each store and find someone to ask if they saw my girl. No one had – and each person was annoyed I had bothered them. And then I went back to the fountain to look there again.

Back at the fountain I did not find my little girl, but was shocked to see my Mom and brothers were there. My Mom

20120624 1325 - Farewell Springfield Mall bron...

(Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

started to say something to me and I told them my girl was missing, and my Mom tsked me for interrupting her. She said they had not come all this way to be treated rudely. She wouldn’t listen to me and started saying something about a party. I tried screaming “My girl is missing” but is came out like a hiss or a hiccup. I tried whispering to her, but she said we had to go. I walked away a few steps to continue my search, and my new angle revealed my daughter sitting by the fountain with my other brother, giggling and swinging her feet. Apparently she had seen him and walked over to him and they had taken her for ice cream. Without telling me.

I was sweating and my back was screaming in pain from carrying the baby around to every store in my search. I said, “you just came and took her for ice cream without asking me?” I thought she had been kidnapped. Mom said, “it is just ice cream dear, it won’t kill her.” She either had no idea why I was upset, or blatantly did not care, not sure which.

I hugged my found girl to me as much as I could with the baby in between us, and told her not to walk away from mommy like that. I said she scared me. Her response was to hide behind my brother’s leg and pop out and say ‘Boo’ to scare me. Such an innocent little angel. The relief after the panic made me feel dizzy and nauseous, and I needed to sit. Instantly my Mom was there telling me to get up, that we had a party to go to and can’t be late to our own party. I had no idea what she was talking about but went along with them, ignoring the pain in my back.

In this dream world we don’t always need cars, we just appeared at the next location. We were standing in front of an apartment building, and my Mom told me to get the keys out of the flower pot. She said I needed a better place to keep those and she got her hands dirty last time. I was so confused but followed her again. We went inside, and my memory started jogging. Wait, wasn’t this my apartment when we first got married? (hubby was not in this dream at all but I had a vague sense he existed some where)

Why are we here? Mom said she had to ask the Super for the keys to get the room ready since I never gave her a copy, and that they’ve been working all day on this surprise. She was visibly excited. We got upstairs and she looked impatient for me to open a door, but I had no idea which one. Did she think I still lived here?

She grabbed the key out of my hand and opened the door to my old apartment, from years ago. We had moved 2 times since then. Inside everything was decorated for a child’s party. It was wild animal themed, with zebra print blankets on the floor for the baby, and large stuffed animals every where. Streamers and balloons filled the ceiling. Everything was purple or animal print. Purple is my mom’s favorite color.

I was so confused. Everyone was looking at me to be happy, like they all did something wonderful. OK, maybe I could overlook that my daughter’s birthday was months away. But I could not overlook the fact that this was a stranger’s apartment. I tried to tell them I don’t live here any more, but no one listened. They turned up the music, served drinks and snacks and told me to relax. Said they went through a lot of effort to do this for me.

I was so afraid to get arrested, I went to downstairs to talk to the Super and see why he let them in here. I found the Super, and he asked if I was surprised. I said yes, very, because I don’t live here any more. Remember? I moved out many years ago. He was like a New York Super I’d seen in movies, wearing only a greasy white undershirt, fat belly hanging over his belt, shiny bald head with wisps of a comb-over. He looked at me sideways, studied me a bit, and said ‘your ma said you was hard to please’ and kinda whistled in disbelief and went back in his own apartment. I shook my head at the absurdity. I remember the feelings of this dream.

English: A Slice of Cake Made With Ube Ελληνικ...

purple cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went back upstairs and tried to hurry along the party and start cleaning up to get them all out, afraid to get caught by the actual owners. Then the door opened, and a bunch of young men, college boys maybe, walked in. I was waiting for them to scream or get angry, and instead they just said, “cool, cake!” My mom offered a slice and the real apartment owners ate cake with her. Then one said, “who are you? how’d you get in here? Did we leave the door open again?” And those boys started laughing, hysterically, like this happens all the time.

I told me my mom we had to go now, that these guys lived here. At first she said, “that’s nice I didn’t know you had roommates” but after explaining and telling, and re-telling – my mom finally understood that I did not live there. I told everyone to pack up and get out and we did. I tried to apologize, but the guys just said “thanks for the cake!” like we hadn’t bothered them at all.

Mom asked why I didn’t tell her I had moved. I knew I had, but she never listens, but I told her I was sorry. She said she was mortified for being in a stranger’s apartment, and it was all my fault. I was always putting her in these uncomfortable situations. Well, the party was ruined, and that was my fault too. She sighed and said she doesn’t know why she bothers, she can’t ever make me happy – never met anyone so ungrateful as me. They planned this for days and made the long drive and this is how I act. I wasn’t sure if I should say sorry or thanks and felt so confused and guilty. They all drove away and left me standing there, miles away from my actual home, with my daughter, baby in sling, and now armloads of gifts and party supplies too. The Super looked out his window and shook his head with a disapproving look. I held the keys up for him to see and tossed them back into the flower pot.

Hands Full...

Hands Full… (Photo credit: Keith Chastain)

We all started walking away, guessing to go to our real home, now carrying the party burden along with my children. No time to figure out what had happened, what I did wrong, it would be dark soon and I had to get the kids home. I was mentally and physically exhausted, completely confused, and had only eaten cake all day long. My limp returned here, of course it did. It wasn’t pathetic enough without the limp too.

Don’t you love what my brain dreams up for me? Seems absurd, but then does it? Seems familiar too.

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Afraid to Crash

I have been doing well. Better than I have in nearly a decade. Externally.

I have been doing better internally, but it certainly does not match my actions and productivity. It is coming with a physical cost. I have learned to ignore my brain when it says I can’t, or when it says to hide. I’ve pushed myself to work more hours every week than I have done in many years rather than calling off or working half days. I’ve pushed myself to attend many social events-some that are stressful, boring, annoying, time-consuming. I’ve pushed myself to try new things – put myself out there in the art world with huge risk of failure. I have not failed. I did not win everything, but I’m thrilled with the ones did. I won the bid for the biggest art commission I’ve ever tried to win. A huge project that will take about 6 weeks to complete. It is an outdoor project, so I need to work around weather as well as my own regular work schedule and my busy family life. I nearly passed out – literally – when I got the phone call. I wanted to win it, but fear attacked me and filled me with doubt, and I started internally telling myself I can’t do it and should quit before I start. Hubby is going to help, but I’m worried about that too since we have not been communicating well and I can’t paint while we fight.

I recognize this place I am in. When I was in high school and college, I used my talents to get me from one event to the next with such perfection that I burned out completely. I recognize the headaches, stomachaches, crazy nightmarish dreams, extra body aches, OCD mental loops, and general feeling of being spent. I recognize the skin issues and cold sores that plague me when I’m spent. I haven’t had cold sores in years, and now 3 outbreaks in the past few months. Huge, ugly, painful and embarrassing. One flared up 2 days after the big phone call telling me I got the art job.

I’ve gotten so good at ignoring the depression, forcing my body to keep going, that I have been ignoring my body too. I’ve been working past the pain and fatigue, and compensating by mindlessly over eating and over drinking. I’ve gained nearly 10 pounds without noticing.

The things I’m doing may not be too much for someone else, and it felt good to approach normal or feel normal and busy. But I need to be careful and reduce something before I reach overload.  (get ready for some extreme bitching and whining ahead)

And then, to top it all off, huge amounts of guilt from resentment I sense from Hubby. He wants to go to a huge camping event with 2 other families. I hate camping. I hate bugs. I hate bug bites. I hate feeling dirty, wet and sticky. I hate swimming in the lake – I imagine all the ecoli clinging to me. I hate outhouses. I hate fishing – I feel sorry for the poor fish we hook and sick for the fish that we actually leave hooks in and toss back. I hate that my allergies go crazy and I have to stuff my pockets with kleenex and my eyes burn. I hate the suffocating feel of the tent walls around me. I hate that I get all wet if I touch a tent wall and have nothing dry to change into because my backpack was touching the tent wall. I hate boating – I get motion sick easily. I hate the night sounds of animals around the tent, bugs buzzing, bats squealing. I hate not sleeping at all and waking up with a painful back and limping leg. I hate waiting on the other families to decide who is going for a walk, what to have for dinner, and all the other complicated social stuff that comes from camping together.

More than all that though – I hate letting Hubby down. He had some vision of family camping when he married me, and I feel like I tricked him. I didn’t tell him all those things I hated back then and went along with it because I knew it was important to him. We even went camping on our honeymoon because I was trying so hard to please him. But that was just us, no kids yet, no other families, completely different.

So I am not going on this camping trip next week. I’m planning to stay home alone and get myself feeling better and balanced. We just had our family vacation a few weeks ago, it went well, but it was difficult to be tuned into kids 24/7 like that. Hubby admitted he is disappointed and even a little resentful that I’m going camping. I’m glad he admitted it, but I’m not sure what to do with it now. I understand, it is a lot to ask him to be in charge of the kids alone and I think he feels hurt that I don’t want to be with them. I understand he has amazing childhood memories of camping with his family, and I am so happy that my kids will have those too. I don’t think it matters that I won’t be in those memories – I’ll be in so many others. I will help them pack and send them away with hugs and kisses. Hubby will have to understand, hopefully, eventually. And I need him to understand that this is me – this is not just for this trip. I don’t ever want to go. I think that is what’s hurting him the most. He sees me doing well and it doesn’t make sense to him. If I was visibly sick, it might.

I tried explaining my fears and feelings last night to him, and his response was “Are you really back there again?” He sounded so sad and disappointed and I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide my shameful existence. He’s been pretending I was normal right along with me. Encouraging me to do more and more, and so I do, so ready to please him. Old habits die hard. I want to be what he wants, but I also know I have to be true to myself, and gentle to myself. I struggle with which obligation is stronger in any moment.

Tents

Ooh! Camping in a book store, that’s more like it! (Photo credit: avlxyz)

I don’t exactly know why I dislike events that others find fun and even relaxing. I don’t know why I continually return to a point of overachieving to find my worth. But that is my reality, and I won’t hide from it any more, and I’m trying to not feel guilty about it too.

I’m Not Shy, I’m Bored and Tortured

I endured and survived another social event that was supposed to be fun. Key words – supposed to be. It was an outdoor picnic for members of the theatre group. I have never enjoyed parties or picnics and it seems that people plan them endlessly, because I assume, most other people do actually enjoy them. I hate get-togethers where the main purpose is just to get together. That means I am expected to participate in my most hated activity of all time – small talk. Chit-chat. Meaningless words meant to pass the time. Ugh.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy wasting time – I do. And I do that often. Not by talking though.

It’s not that I don’t like and care for the people I must talk to – I do. A lot.

It’s just that I don’t know how to hide the pain, boredom, disappointment on my face when they say the exact thing I expected them to say. Like a script. Or handle all of the input, or feelings I get from them that don’t match what they say. I go into system overload so quickly.

I love working with these people, painting scenery while the talking goes on around me, but not so much to me. But without a brush in my hand, and no project to protect me, I must endure the following conversation over and over and over and over.

“Hellooooo!” the women squeal this an octave too high. or “Heeeyyyy” From the men, acting cool. Then “How’s your summer going?” or “Aren’t you glad it didn’t rain today?” then “Are you working this summer? What do you do again?” then “How old are your kids now?” then “Pretty soon we’ll be getting ready for school again, where does the time go?”

So then I ask the same questions back, because when I bring up topics interesting to me, or ask what they think about something, I see instant discomfort. Like when I throw out ideas for helping our organization continue even though the director is retiring – no one wants to hear it, and has already given up. My ideas are “impossible” and besides, we’re here to have fun today. So then I give up too, and listen to endless stories full of endless details I don’t even try to remember of camping, potty training, vacations, house remodeling, employment or unemployment. Every few words I look away and make sure my kids are still alive – at least I have young kids and have that excuse to look away and roll my eyes. Then get to put on a smile as  I hear another story of where Fluffy likes to nap, and which type of sunscreen they like, or where they purchased shoes on sale. My mind starts whispering, “I don’t care” at first.But as time goes one, my minds is screaming, “I DON’T EFFING CARE, SHUT UP, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT, SHUT UP SHUT UP ALREADY!” And it’s not like I’m in danger of missing something, I already heard them tell this same story 3 times near me to other people.

No one is authentic in these situations. The friend with MS is in obvious pain, and yet plasters on a smile and asks everyone how they are doing. Her fatigue and sadness pierce me like an arrow. One Mom talks about how overprotective she can be while her 2 year old floats unattended in the pool with a life jacket suit. Another mom invites my girl over for a sleepover, never been to her house before ever and she wants to start with a sleepover. She has 6 kids she can barely manage, her tween girl is in tears from her mother’s harsh words – I don’t think she needs another overnight. Another complains of money issues and caring for elderly parents.

In just an hour, I an overwhelmed by everyone’s feelings, bombarded with life details, on edge from watching unsupervised children and generally quite uncomfortable. Make it to the food table and realize everything has been sitting out there too long, and it either cold when it should be hot, warm when it should be cold, and visited by multiple winged and many-legged creatures. All of my practice being mindful, and living in the moment actually makes these moments worse, so I allow my mind to wander away to interesting places instead of wondering why no one else cares the food is lousy and no one thought to cover it or insulate it.

Endure it for a few more hours, and try to round up kids before the mosquitoes make an appearance.  Fail. Kids are sad – they are having the times of their lives. Sigh. I want them to enjoy this. I love seeing them have fun, and that is the only part of the event that I do enjoy. We must stay a while longer yet, they have to have one more smore.

Hubby says “Don’t worry, it won’t be that bad” before we go. It was that bad. It always is that bad. And then  – wait for it – you knew it was coming – I feel guilty for not enjoying it, and so I stuff my feelings later at home by overeating and staying up too late with dumb TV to erase all the useless facts I acquired throughout the party. I managed not to get pulled down too far into guilt this time, and I think avoided a shame attack, but I’m very grumpy.

Feeling like Sheldon again. I don’t understand why they enjoy sitting around and talking about nothing, and then moving to a new group of person and talking about that same nothing all over again. I pick up bits of everyone’s conversation involuntarily and realize they all have approved, non-confrontational, pleasant stories they share with these not so close friends. I like talking when it is new ideas, or leads to new ideas.

I’d so much rather read a book or be teaching/learning/doing something. OK, I’d pretty much prefer to do anything except mingle at parties. Even washing dishes or going to the dentist is more enjoyable to me, at least those have a purpose and an achievable goal in sight.

So, I wonder. Do I have a social disorder or do they? Or am I just a bitch? Why can’t I find enjoyment in these parties and picnics that others plan and look forward to? Is there any way to make them more tolerable and still be polite? I like who I am now, and no longer have a desperate need to “fit in” but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings either. I’d be perfectly content to sit by myself and listen to the wind blow the leaves, and distant happy kid sounds. I don’t get bored or desire to escape or pluck out my eyeballs when alone, only when they start talking to me.

(If you suggest alcohol, yes, well, these family events typically do not have alcohol served, because that just wouldn’t be right.  I had 2 shots of whiskey before I left home to even make it there and survive it at all.  (Hubby drove) Tipsy helps me stay centered and not get overwhelmed – I think it actually dulls my hyperactive senses. )