Hopeful

Today, I feel some hope.  This is as surprising to me as it probably will be to you, dear readers.  I’m cautious in my hope, though.  My brother-of-choice pointed out that I seem to have ‘time warped,’ and he is absolutely right.  This helps my perspective.  I can see the old tapes for what they are:  the thoughts that were meant to hold me down.  My living situation complicates things, but it doesn’t make life impossible.  I need to remember that.

Tomorrow is my job interview for the part-time position that I *really* want to get.  I tried not to get my hopes up, but they are.  To some extent, this is a good thing.  I didn’t think I’d feel hope again any time soon.  Hope I shall, though, that this job works out, that life outside of my house happens again, and that reconnecting with myself is an attainable goal.

Lessons Learnt

I was arguing with a housemate this morning and thought of the lessons learnt by children of abuse.  In response to the housemate’s anger, I immediately started putting myself down and raising him as the superior person.  His anger cooled as I made myself lower and lower, and my shame rose.  Just like old times, eh?

As children of abuse, we learn the rule that secrecy is of utmost importance.  In fact, secrecy is needed for survival.  Without the sacred secrecy of our dysfunctional families, the world as a whole will fall apart.  Keeping the secret becomes a physical ache.  But keep it we do.  Why?  Because they told us to.  And because by the time we find out how different our lives are from those in ‘normal’ families, we are too ashamed to admit what’s going on in ours.

We learn to feel what we are told to feel.  Mum is sad today, so I’m sad too.  Why?  Because she will only tolerate sadness when she feels that way.  Any other emotion is wrong and is an affront against her.  We learn to hide how we truly feel.  Eventually, we learn to stop feeling any way at all unless we’re told to do so.

We learn that, no matter what, it’s our fault.  We may not remember what we did or when or how.  It might even seem impossible that we did *anything.*  But we know we did.  And if we forget that, our abusers are quick to remind us.  We take it to heart, and it becomes another secret.  We spend our lives terrified that others will see what our abusers saw, and they will hurt us, too.  We learn that everyone will desert us in the end.

*Un*learning all of that takes a lifetime.  I’m not sure it’s ever entirely possible.  We *can,* however, discover ourselves.  It took years, but I can now state my emotions clearly.  Sometimes I can even do it without fear.  I have a favourite colour that was not chosen for me.  I have my own likes and dislikes, and even if I worry about being ridiculed, I’ve been known to share them from time to time.  I have grown as a person through the love and patience of my family-of-choice.  They’ve taught me other lessons.  I still doubt their truth sometimes, and the child of abuse within me argues against them.  But I know deep down that they love me, even if I don’t feel worthy and can’t imagine how they could.

We learn lessons as children of abuse that are meant to break us.  The hard work comes in learning lessons as survivors that help us fly.

Here

I came home unexpectedly today.  A few nights ago, I woke up unexpectedly in hospital after having taken what I thought was a fatal overdose.  The combination of a lengthy depressive episode and a bad living situation that I can’t escape got to be too much for me, and I attempted to end my life.  Yet now I’m here, typing a blog post I never thought I’d write on a day I never thought I’d see.

Even though the attempt didn’t work, I hurt a great deal of people.  Most of all, I hurt my FOC.  These are the people who taught me family and who expect me to be there for them.  I let them down, and I’ll have to live with that.  How do you apologise enough?  How do you win back the trust of those who never deserved to be put in this situation?  How do you learn to live with the guilt?  I’m wrestling with these questions now.  Nothing I can do will make up for what I put people through, but I’ll do my best.

There’s also therapy– loads of it.  I’m having daily sessions, at least by phone, and working hard at setting things right.  It will take a while; I’m not completely happy to be here yet.  I can, however, say that I’m not a danger to myself.  My therapist told me to hold on to the feeling of pain brought on by putting my FOC through this, and that is a great motivator for staying alive.  In the past, it’s always been enough to see me through.  This time, however, my current situation won out.  My FOC do *not* deserve this.

I’m not sure how to move forward from here.  Slowly, of course, but the path is unclear.  I’ve given my word to two of the most important people in my FOC for the first time, and I keep my word.  Suicide is no longer an option.  In a strange sense, that leaves me feeling helpless.  What can I do if things get to be too much again? That question might well go unanswered for a bit.  Much therapy yet to come.

So I’m here.  And I’m working on it.  For now, that’s all I can do.

A Tribute

For some reason, I have  been missing my mother terribly over the past few days.  Grief for all of my lost loved ones comes and goes, of course, but it’s been a decade since my mother died and it feels new now.  I know it will pass.  Just quite painful in the meantime.

My mother was an enigma.  Due to her multiplicity, she could be sweet and loving or dangerous and angry and everything in between.  I played many roles for her.  At times, *I* was the parent to her younger alters.  At other times, I was a friend to teens or older alters.  Rarely did she seem like my mother, and rarely did the person who claimed to be my mother spend a significant amount of time out.  For as far back as I could remember, our relationship hadn’t been the typical mother-daughter paradigm.

She brought some amazing things to my life.  It’s through my mother that I met the first person who became part of my FOC and taught me what family was about.  She taught me patience and how to be accepting of others’ difficult circumstances.  She taught me respect.  In those ways, she shaped who I am.

She also scarred me physically and mentally to the point that my therapy sessions sometimes remind me of Freudian satires.  Through those injuries, though, I have learnt strength and endurance.  I’ve learnt to guard myself, even to an unhealthy extent, but self-protection isn’t always bad.  I try to draw strength from the dangers she sometimes posed.

My mother died in mid-Spring, just when everything was in full bloom.  Winter is here, now, but I think about the promise of Spring and the promise of her life at that point.  She was finally coming to the place where she might have had a chance to heal, but she decided to end her life instead.  I will never understand that decision, even as I work to accept it.

There are so many things I miss about her and so many questions I have for her.  I miss her both as a child misses her mother and as an adult who misses her friend.  Her life ended much too soon.

Listening

The seventh of this month marked the 13th anniversary of my sister’s death.  She has now been gone one year longer than she lived.  The thought is devastating.  There are no words to describe how much I miss her.  She dances through my mind all the time, and she is a constant presence in my life.  Unfortunately, she also left a constant and suffocating absence.

I had the chance to visit my far-flung FOC earlier this month, which provided me with the strength to get through that day and will surely help through the upcoming holidays, as well.  The night before the anniversary of my sister’s death, I talked a great deal about her with my brother-of-choice, and that turned out to be one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had.  That’s the focus of this post– help for those grieving losses that have never had a chance to heal.

The week of my sister’s death anniversary, I play through the events over and over in my mind.  I look for any sign from that week, trying to figure out what I missed.  My mind holds the false hope that maybe this is the year I’ll be able to stop her going through with her plan, even though I know that will never be a possibility.  I have nightmares, flashbacks of the day I found her body, and a general haziness to my thoughts.  It is a horrible week.

In our conversation, my brother-of-choice simply listened.  He provided excellent advice without trying to ‘fix’ the problem, and he listened.  He listened to me talk about her death, as well as her life, which was essential to me at that time.  I needed to get the negatives and positives of her existence out of my mind so that the space I keep for her was calm again.  I also needed to share her with someone who feels a closeness to her, even though they never met in this life.

If you know someone in a similar circumstance– someone grieving the loss of a young person or of a suicide– you might well feel helpless if they turn to you to talk.  You might feel a need to shield from the harshness of the death, as well as distance from the fact that the person lived.  When you are feeling most helpless, though, the way to help this person will likely be simple.  Just listen.  Let the person tell you about their loved one’s life and death.  Let them get lost in the wonder of their loved one’s existence, and be there to help them stay grounded when memories of the death start to cloud out the present.

By the same token, you must take care of yourself.  If you do not feel comfortable listening to such details, speak up.  You will hurt yourself, as well as your relationship with the person, if you push yourself beyond your own limits.  If you can, though, just listen.  Don’t feel the need to solve the problem of grief.  No one needs that responsibility.  Grieving people *need* to talk about their losses, particularly when the losses leave behind so many questions like suicides do.  By simply listening, you can do wonders for helping your friend or loved one heal.

I will be forever grateful to my brother-of-choice for helping me mark both my sister’s life and her death.

First Thoughts

My housemates are out of town, leaving me alone in the house for the first time in ages.  My first thoughts?  That it would be so easy to simply step out of this existence and in to the next incarnate.  I imagine what it would be like to do as my sister did and die with blood pooling about me, warm at first and cooling as it dried.  I think about how easy it would be to swallow a few too many pills and slip in to a never-ending sleep.  These things are, truth be told, like siren songs.  Dark, seductive voices that draw me toward an unknown destination that seems preferable, sometimes, to this one.

I know what it’s like to lose someone to suicide, and the thought of how my death would affect those I love is truly the only thing that keeps me here.  Over the years, my best friend has become a means of survival for me.  I look at him and think of what he would lose in terms of our friendship.  I’m not the most confident person, and my self-esteem is almost non-existent.  However, my FOC tell me they enjoy having me in their lives, and I owe them any amount of joy I can give.  My first thought when I’m alone, though, is how I can end my existence or cause myself pain as penance for something I can’t even describe.

The Visit that Suddenly Wasn’t

On the American television comedy Scrubs, a surly character points out that sometimes the word ‘hate’ isn’t strong enough.  In response, he creates the word ‘mega-loathe.’

I mega-loathe Greyhound bus lines.

A bit over three months ago, I bought my bus tickets for the 1000 mile journey to see my FOC.  This is an annual visit and has been for roughly a decade.  Being unable to find a ride to the nearest large Greyhound station (2.5 hours away), I had to leave from a tiny local station.  The fun ensued from there.

Greyhound is not known for punctuality.  In fact, one can almost count on buses being late.  I try to choose routes with that in mind and schedule transfers with at least a half hour’s lee-way.  The bus leaving the small station was roughly a half hour late, and the driver spent another fifteen minutes talking pointlessly with the ticket person.  By the time we reached the larger station, my bus had already left.  Mind you, if I *had* been able to find a ride to the larger station, I’d be spending time with the FOC at this moment.

Somewhat undeterred, I went to the ticket counter in the large station and asked what I should do now.  The nice lady behind the counter re-routed me, and I thought things were solved.  Upon reaching a seat in the station and reviewing the tickets, however, I noticed that the ticket up left me stranded half way on my journey.  How on Earth does one confuse ’round trip’ with ‘stop in the middle’?  Yes, the ticket lady reprinted tickets again.  After I signed a form saying I’d given her incorrect information.

Returning to my seat in the station even more tentatively hopeful and reviewing the tickets again, I noticed that my checked luggage was, in fact, scheduled for a different route than mine.  It was even making a stop in a city without me!  Being angry that the luggage was having more fun than me, I continued checking through the tickets and found an 11 hour layover scheduled in a city two hours from the next destination.  At that point, it was 2:00 AM, I’d been awake for 20+ hours, and I had had enough of the bloody bus line.  I marched back up to the ticket counter and demanded that the route be rescheduled.  Preferably so that my bag and I would travel together.

As it turns out, Greyhound wanted another $75 to place me on a schedule to my destination, but only $20 to send me back home.  This left me somewhat stranded, as I only had $30.  My trip to see the FOC ended very abruptly just then, and I found myself emailing my brother-of-choice from a bus travelling back to the small station so near my home.  We are all heartbroken about not having had the chance to see each other, and I am still furious with Greyhound.  The mistake was theirs, not mine, and three people ended up being hurt by it.  Unless Greyhound honours these tickets and actually works out the schedules, I will not be riding again.  And I don’t see them caring enough to even try.

On Robots, Knees and Empathy

I love my family-of-choice.  They have quite literally saved my life on more than one occasion.  Apparently, my body has developed a sort of empathy in that, hours after learning that one of my FOC suffered a leg injury, I promptly injured my knee.  The Universe has a sense of humour.  We’ll be together soon.  Hopefully, that will be enough to stop this chain. 🙂

Monday, I was helping a friend tidy up and slipped in some mop water.  My foot stayed stuck to the floor; my knee turned sideways and made a somewhat grisly pop.  For a minute there, I sat still on the floor and waited to see what might happen.  Soon enough, though, the pain made a decision for me.  My friend and her husband promptly pulled me up and got me to the hospital.

The hospital visit– which reminded me oddly of medieval torture descriptions– was quick and to the point.  I have a minor tear on the meniscus of my right knee.  It could have been quite bad, in that this is an injury that sometimes requires surgery to correct.  Mine tore in what the doctor referred to as the ‘good spot’ (I was not in agreement at that time) so it can be corrected non-surgically.  I left with a prescription for pain meds, a brace, and some lovely crutches.  On Monday, I have a follow up appointment and will get the further plan.

The brace is the aforementioned robot.  It provides nerve stimulation to help with circulation and pain.  It fits fine under trousers, but it seems a bit like something out of a science fiction novel.  Little electric pulses are given through four electrodes attached first to the brace and then to my knee.  The intensity is controlled by a button on the side of a re-chargeable ‘power pack.’  The buttons are accessible from outside the trouser leg, so I can discretely turn it off and on so the pulses are only delivered fifteen minutes out of every hour.  It actually does help with pain, if only because the pulses are bloody annoying.

All in all, I do feel quite fortunate.  Being blessed with all the grace of an elephant on roller skates, I could have done quite a bit more damage.  As it is, I’ll keep my bionic knee elevated and rested as it mends, truly happy that the injury is minor.

2013: Looking Ahead

So we survived the Mayan apocalypse and are spiralling quickly towards 2013.  This year certainly brought changes for me in terms of mental health.  I started with a new psychiatrist and re-started with quite possibly the most amazing therapist in the US.  That took effort and financial debt I’m currently paying back through ‘volunteer’ work.  It’s been worth the difficulties, though.

Therapy took a few twists and turns along the way.  There were milestones; sharing the name of the cult that my family belonged to, exploring some of the darker SRA memories, expressing strong and open emotion.  There were also major setbacks; a relapse of bulimia, the ‘formal’ attitude to distance therapy, the consideration of abandoning therapy as a whole.  All of those, however, average out to what has probably been my most extensive and forward-moving therapy experience to date.  I’ll keep moving forward.  Very little has changed in other terms.

Friday was the Long Nights Moon, the most powerful Full Moon of the year.  During my rite, I considered what I might need for the upcoming year.  The answer was simple: peace, healing, and fruitful endeavours for myself and my FOC.  I need to focus more on physical, spiritual and mental health for myself, and I need to learn more about how to project energy to those I love.  We’re scattered about in two different countries, afterall.

Wishing peace and happiness to all of your for the upcoming year.  May we all work together with love and harmony as a global society.  We can still fix this bit we call the Universe.  It’s all in our power.

Memories

I’ve been thinking quite alot about my mother lately.  We’ve just passed her birthday, and, for some reason, I’ve missed her more this year.  It might well be because of losing the baby.  I would love for my parents to have met their granddaughter, and with her death, I just wanted my mother there to tell me what to do next.  That pain has led, I’m guessing, to the sharper pain I’ve felt this year about my mother.  My brother-of-choice says I raised her and she raised me.  There’s no better way to put it.  We were allies and enemies, friends and strangers.  She was violently abusive when I was a child, but I loved her completely.  I still do.  Just not in a way that can be expressed to her.

My best friend and I were talking about good memories Friday night.  Those little memories of fun things you do with your family when you’re a child.  Those memories are precious; when we fixate on the negative stuff, thinking about even a small happy memory can rescue us from the past, at least in my experience.  My best memory is very simple.  It’s from a time before my sister was born and before my parents divorced.  I was probably about aged four.

My brother had gone to school that morning, and I’m guessing my father was at work.  It was just my mother and me.  She was in the kitchen, and I was playing in another room.  She called me in, lifted me up on to the kitchen counter and pointed out a little brown bunny in our back yard.  I asked if we could have it for keeps, and she explained that it was our bunny to watch from the window.  A very simple memory, but very special to me.  At that one time, we connected as mother and child.

There were, I know, other memories like that in my childhood.  Still, something about that memory has stuck with me.  I can still hear the excitement in her voice and feel her arms around me.  At that one moment, I felt safe.  It didn’t hurt, as well, that I got to tell my brother about it.  He was in school and having great adventures without me, you know.  But this was my moment to share with my mother and no one else.  I treasure it more than any possession I’ll ever own.

That memory got me thinking about something very odd– I am the only person alive who remembers it.  In fact, I’m the only person alive who holds any of the memories from my childhood, good and bad.  That makes the memories feel like rare pearls.  I feel like I need to be the one who chronicles our family history.  The one thing I’ve told my therapist time and again is that I feel the need to write out my story.  Now I know why.  It isn’t just my story.  It’s the story of my parents and siblings, as well.  It’s the story they can’t tell.  If I don’t remember it and chronicle it in some way, those stories will remain unwritten.  And they are far too precious to be tucked away in the dusty corners of one person’s mind.

Over the years, I’ve ‘introduced’ my relatives to the special people in my life as best I can.  My brother-of-choice and I knew each other via email whilst my sister was still alive, but he never got to meet her.  Still, I think it’s safe to say he feels very close to her.  They seem to have an understanding, even though they never met.  Only two people in my life now have actually met my sister, and they are 5000 miles away.  My best friend did meet both of my parents, but there’s so much about them he didn’t know.  They died just three years after he and I met.  No one in my life now ever met my brother.

So, I feel like the Great Chronicler.  The one person who can keep their memories from fading in to oblivion.  It is a responsibility that, until Friday night, I never knew I had taken on.  I hold the memories of these people– good and bad– in my mind.  They can’t express themselves, and I can’t truly introduce them to anyone in my life.  I *can,* however, tell their stories and keep their memories alive.  I just have to figure out how to do that.