Trauma And Love 💜

Great article from Psychology Today, 10 Research-Based Truths About People in Love.

People who endured childhood trauma, neglect, abuse, or other experiences that threaten secure attachment may have a harder time switching off the “fight-flight-freeze” system—or feeling safe enough to love. This reticence can be overcome with therapy or, sometimes, by a partner who repeatedly demonstrates trustworthiness and care.

True friendships are as good as a partner as well, IMHO. Oh, and #thankGodfortherapy.

Other immediate pieces of wisdom :

Love is not unconditional.

You can increase your capacity for love through mindfulness.

Check out my art and follow my journey on Twitter, Instagram., and in my Etsy shop.

Why!?

A new (and very supportive) Twitter friend of mine, the @RealMattEaton, and I have an unfortunate common bond: childhood abuse by our family. Matt and I “met” in a Monday night #sexabusechat and have shared a few meandering conversations since.  For some reason, he always seems to be around in the Twitterverse and responds at just the moment when I need to be tweeted off the ledge. After my last therapy session, I was processing a few of my thoughts via Twitter and definitely needed to talk to someone who *gets it.* There was Matt again, ready to lend an ear. I am in awe of and very grateful for his repeated selflessness.

Anyway, as we messaged about my past and my tumultuous relationship with my parents, he asked me a question that, while I have certainly pondered in general terms, have not really been asked or asked myself so pointedly:

Why would you want to remain in a relationship with them?

I don’t know, friend. I don’t know. Except, how could I not? This is my mother and father we’re talking about, after all.

Everyone wants, needs, craves a supportive, healthy, functional relationship with their parents. I, like Matt, and like an unconscionable number of other child abuse survivors, however, have never had real parents. Sure, we might have had adult human beings who cared for us, that we loved deeply, that loved us back, that we shared good (even joyous) times with.  But when adults abuse an innocent young human being, they simply don’t qualify for parenthood anymore, IMHO. Parental status, revoked.

The parental absence and abandonment leaves a void, an emptiness, a wanting, a lacking in the abused child’s heart that will be present with them for the rest of their lives. The abused child is left confused, stunted, and reckless. They desperately try to fill the chasm in their souls with addictions to mood altering substances (in my case food – dessert especially), anger, cutting, crime, anything that makes them feel something other than that sheer desperation or simply helps them forget. Without hard work, grit, and a little luck, some never make it to the other side of their grief from the ultimate betrayal by the adults in their lives.

Why do I want to keep them around? Why!?

Some days I really don’t. I have wished they were dead, just so this internal struggle, this insatiable desire for an impossible and unattainable functional relationship with them would be over (and I feel incredible guilt because of it).  I’ve gone through periods of no contact. Right now, in fact, we’re back to not speaking while they decide if our relationship is worth the effort of individual and family therapy. With the distance and time away, my heart usually softens and I welcome them back, hoping for better. Hoping for what I’ve been missing. It’s hard not to.  My real hope this time is for the strength to maintain my bottom line. It’s the only way we can ever achieve something close to normal.

Even Matt recently admitted that all the “child support” he needed was for his parents to be together as a unit rather than fighting over him and the money he generated in child support payments for his mother. He has chosen to cut the dysfunction from his life completely and I respect, understand, and applaud that, but I haven’t fully been able to. I may never fully be able to.

I don’t want to get married without my dad to walk me down the aisle. I want to have my mom there to help me through child birth. I want to be able to have dinners, share laughs and conversations. I don’t want to miss the last years of their lives and carry guilt for the rest of mine (like I do about my Gram) because I wasn’t capable of being the bigger person in the moment.

Despite everything, I love them, I miss them, I continue to want actual parents. I have seen the potential for greatness in my relationship with them and hold out hope that we can make it through this season in our lives better people, together. It would be easier in many ways, to turn off the switch, to forget it. But I’m kind of a hopeless romantic about life (I had to be to survive) and I just can’t let them go yet. Call me naive, a fool, whatever you like; I just can’t.

Check out my art and follow my journey on Twitter, Instagram., and in my Etsy shop.

Shit Is Getting Real

After seeing the nutritionist for my last medically supervised diet appointment with him on Wednesday (one more with the dietician on July 1, then it’s on to the surgeon!), I decided I had to get into my PCP to get my pre-op tests ordered yesterday. EKG,  chest x-ray, blood work (plus clearance letter and progress notes) and then I’m ready to sit down with the man who will slice me open, take most of my stomach out, and change my life forever. What?!

I thought my PCP would just give me referrals for everything and I’d be on my way, free to plan it all out for next week. Nope! Having the EKG at his office, right then and there, was totally unexpected. I’ve never had one. I didn’t know he’d even be able to do one in his office. And it turns out that it was not a good day to wear a dress. Since I couldn’t just take a top off, I was down to nothing but my underwear in the exam room (couldn’t even keep my sport tank on). My boobs were flailing, my rolls were all over the damn place, and I was sweating just enough for that godforsaken crinkly shit on the table to get stuck all up on my back and my butt and the back of my legs (it was 108 degrees out yesterday, dont judge).

Awkward.

I was surprisingly not self conscious, though. As I laid there on the table, getting wires taped to every extremity and right under my left boob, I kinda had to laugh. I’m sure this is not the last time I’m going to be all boobs and rolls and butt hanging out in all my fatty mcfatterson glory on this journey. Might as well get used to it, right?

With my EKG done and my clothes back on, my PCP came in and we chatted a bit about law school and being a lawyer, since he’s trying to help persuade his step daughter to go. He’s been all for WLS for a while now, but always in a gentle way that made it up to me no matter what. I think being able to have those non-judgmental conversations with a trusted physician really helped me move forward (among so many other things) on this journey. Anyway, before he gave me my referrals, he was really sweet and said that I’m going to have to fight the guys off once I’m down my 100 lbs. I reminded him I needed to lose a lot more than that, and he said it didn’t matter. Sometimes I wonder if he thinks a huge part of this is about my physical appearance for me.  That’s really not even the half of it; this is as much a spiritual and emotional awakening for me as it is a physical one. Anyway, it was a nice compliment and I took it. :)

He suggested we could have everything together by Tuesday if I got my chest x-ray and labs done this weekend, so hell yeah I tore my ass over to the nearest radiology place to get this shit done. Chest x-ray, check! Labs this morning (fasting and all), and I’m on my way.

Like usual with all things WLS, I’m super excited at first. Pumped. Ready to go. Then I get nervous as shit and my anxiety goes crazy. Because I freeze and shut down when my anxiety is triggered, I went right back to my comfort (though it’s none of that word anymore) last night and almost sat down and ate enough for four people to push the feelings away. “Fuck it,” I thought.  The audacity! Actually, I may have said that out loud, if I’m being honest. Oops. Thank God for a #wls instagrammer posting something that legit snapped me out of my food stupor.  But then I was left with the feelings. Suck.

Having these tests means this is really going to happen. This is it. I’m afraid of the tests themselves, because I’m worried they’ll find something awful that’ll be devastating to me, or hold up my surgery. Anxiety.

I feel like shit and worry because my support system is wonky. I don’t have a boyfriend or husband I know will be there by my side. The people I should be able to rely on for medical things like this (my parents) I can’t even bring myself to tell. I’m having to rely on my friends, imposing myself upon them and their families in order to get through this and that is fucking hard. I feel so guilty, so unworthy of the love and generosity they’re all showing me. This is next level vulnerability for me, relying on people to uproot a portion of their lives just for me and my bullshit. I have to get used to it, though, because it’s the only way I’m going to make it through.

Ugh. Brain, stop thinking!  Shower time, time to get poked. In the arm. Pervert. Have a great day :)

Check out my art and follow my journey on Twitter, Instagram., and in my Etsy shop.

Learning, Moving On

I have had some really dark days the last month or so. It was taking everything within me to function as a human being and, honestly, I failed at even accomplishing that much for a solid week in the worst of it.  Then, because I’ve been away from you so long, I started feeling anxiety about where to begin, what to say. That anxiety only perpetuated my absence here. It’s a sick cycle, anxiety and depression. Sick, indeed.

I feel tender and wounded as I come out of the bleakness of the past weeks, but I hope coming back out into the world will help me keep turning it around. It’s certainly worked in the past. I need to release things, but I’m afraid of overwhelming people with my sadness, with my shit. I have a lot of it, and it’s really heavy sometimes.

I’ve missed writing you, though. So, here goes.

For the few weeks after she showed up at my house unannounced and uninvited, I couldn’t bring myself to speak to her. What could I say? Her visit triggered my anxiety like crazy. I had flashbacks of exactly what I feared most when I was in the deepest chasm of my psychotic break.  Before I could begin to say anything healthy to her, I needed to talk to my therapist about it. I needed his help to figure out how I even felt about the situation, figure out what I wanted to say, figure out how I wanted to move forward.

After talking with him, I felt more confused than ever (like that’s never happened to anyone in therapy, right?). I knew I didn’t want to keep going through the dysfunctional rollercoaster. I knew that I still so desperately wanted my parents in my life. I knew I had to set boundaries.  On this last point, I really thought I had. I mean, changing my locks, telling her not to show up at my work without telling me, I can’t specify every single fucking thing. Come on!

During the three or so weeks of not talking to her, to them, I started to have these intense waves of anxiety, sadness, anger, depression, deja vu symptoms like I hadn’t felt in over a year. I didn’t connect the dots that the situation with them was why I was having those feelings at the time, but I should have.

Anyway, I didn’t know, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for contact. When she called out of the blue and left me a voice mail saying that she wanted me to call her and not say anything, to let her know I’m alive, I didn’t know what to do. Her tone of voice was what got me. It was an attempt at nice that turned sour at the end. She’s always that way and it gets under my skin in a way that you wouldn’t believe  (or maybe you would, I don’t know). Either way, I was really tempted to continue to ignore her, make her worry. But, that’s not what I’ve learned to do in therapy, and that’s really just not me. I had to rise above it. Again. Such is life, people. It’s the only way to grow.

I knew I couldn’t risk a call. I still didn’t really know what to say, much less in the way that I needed to say it. Plus it felt like a bit of a trap. I’m pretty sure she’d answer and, although she’s no danger to me now, I still freeze around her, when talking to her, when thinking about her.  She’s my childhood boogeyman, after all.

So I texted her, “I’m alive.”

I had initially meant it to be just that. Leave it, done, call it good. But once the door was open, it couldn’t be closed. In a series of texts, I set my boundaries in the most loving and accountable way I possibly could.

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I almost ended it there, but felt like I wanted to keep the line open, even still.

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With that, it was done. I said my piece and put the ball in their court.

I wasn’t at all prepared for just how hard it would be on me to say those things to her, though.  The next morning I was absolutely sick to my stomach and for the four days that followed my texts, I quite literally couldn’t make it out of bed. Looking back, it seems so obvious why I froze, why I went to my darkest of dark places, but it still took me another three days until therapy and a semi-major meltdown at the office, before I figured it out. Oops.

After sending those texts (which my therapist applauded me for, btw), I felt like I had given up the power to her. She had it all again, all the power I have been working so hard to reclaim for myself. I still can’t quite shake the feeling, because now it really is up to them whether or not we continue forward. That’s a vulnerable and scary place to be in any relationship. The feeling is only amplified when it’s your own parents and you have the sordid history we do. So yeah, I knowingly walked into a place of extreme vulnerability with the people in my life it’s hardest to be even remotely vulnerable with while keeping myself feeling safe. The anxiety hit me like a freight train.

I also felt an intense sadness that it had come to this point again. We were making progress. Slow, but progress. I thought we had hit a major milestone during my trial. But her invading my private, safe, space was more than I could bear. I really just can’t deal with the dysfunction while I put myself first and focus on my weight loss surgery journey. That comes with a whole host of emotional issues in and of itself and my progress is only going to continue being impeded if I’m having to deal with their shit on top of it all. So, yeah, what I said had to be put out there and I didn’t  (don’t) regret it; but, oh, the depression.

On the deepest level,  the level that my therapist really had to help me get to, I am questioning questioned my own self worth. I wonder, am I good enough?  Do they love me enough to make this work? Do they love me like I hope they do? If they say no, if they balk, I can’t help but feel like I’m not worth the fight. Like I’m not worth it. If I’m not worth it to my own parents, I’m not worth anything. How could I be?

Really. How could I be?

Thank God for therapy, let me tell you. It was an intense session last week and I’m definitely still recovering. I still have more to flesh out next time (an hour goes by way too fast), but he helped me see some light where there was none. I’ll say it again, thank God for therapy. 😌

Check out my art and follow my journey on Twitter, Instagram., and in my Etsy shop.

Knock Knock (Trigger Warning)

Suicide is coming too close lately. I hear it’s death rattle knocking at my door.  No, I’m not suicidal; but it wasn’t that long ago that I was.  So when the news of suicide comes into the little bubble I occupy in our vast universe, it has an effect on me like never before.

A couple of months ago, a person sadly took their life by jumping into morning traffic from one of the higher freeway overpasses in town. That overpass is such a familiar part of home and it instantaneously became the site of an incredibly tragic moment. I pass by that overpass on my daily commute. I have passed by that same overpass so many times in my 32 years of life, that I can’t even count them for you. I was a barely permitted teen that white knuckled through rush hour traffic in that portion of the freeway, terrified of the towering levels of vehicle filled concrete and the median whizzing by immediately to my left, with my dad sitting to my right (probably even more scared). It happened so close to home.

I learned about the suicude before it hit the news because one of my best friend’s husband’s watched it happen on his way to work.  Of course, it wasn’t long before reports spread like wildfire.  The comments on social media varied wildly between understanding and compassion, insensitivity, and obnoxiously offensive and callous (from good riddance, to attention grabber, to should have thrown themselves off the Dam, with a side of eff you for ruining my commute folks – yeah).  The suicide was shocking enough, but the responses from people in my home town were worse (way to further stigmatize mental illness, Vegas). While I was shocked and saddened by it all, the day moved forward. 

The next morning, shock turned visceral and physical as I made my way to the office.  I took the same route as always, on auto pilot as I mentally prepared for the day.  I was not prepared for the way that my breath caught in my throat as I rounded that short stretch of road and imagined a body falling from the sky.  I was not prepared for the overwhelming anger as the vilest of the vile comments came flooding back to my mind. I was not prepared for the incredible anxiety and sadness that I felt being so close to where that poor soul left this Earth. I couldn’t help but weep for them, their family, and myself.

More recently, a very dear friend of mine reached out to me as she dealt with a mixture of shock, grief and guilt after a high school friend’s husband committed suicide. I didn’t know the gal that well, but my friend and I are soul sisters; we have known each other for 20 years; I came back to my relationship with God in the small church she planted in Delaware; we have shared our darkest demons with each other; and I just plain love her.  So, her hurts are my hurts and she’s been going through a lot as it is.  While I have not had the same reaction I had to the last suicide, it’s still too close to home because of how it affected someone I care so much about.

I never thought I would be able to relate in an almost intimate way with a person that ended their own life.  But as my life fell out from under me a few years ago, I became quite familiar with the level of sheer desperation and despair it takes to legitimately contemplate suicide.

When I had a psychotic break after the fraying rope that held my sadness and terror at bay for 29 years finally gave way, when I relived all of the abuse in vivid detail for the first time in my life, when I finally realized that my own mother molested me, I wanted to die.  When I also lost the two most important and supportive people in my life at the time – my boyfriend who I thought I was going to marry and my best friend – because of how I acted as my mind failed me in the worst way, I simply couldn’t stand the thought of being a part of this world anymore.

As I sat for what felt like hours with a steak knife to my wrist, all I wanted was for the memories and emotions to stop. I needed relief, peace, an escape from all of the pain. I had tried everything, I thought and I just couldn’t see any other way out. 

Thankfully, I had hastily saved this adorable little fur face from the pound in a brief moment of (slight) sanity that month.

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Okay, so getting her was also kind of an eff you to the ex boyfriend, because we had talked seriously about getting a dog when he moved in, but I digress. 

Little did I know, my crazy freckled dog would save my life that night.  I’m convinced that, even as young as she was, she picked up on what I was feeling because right as I intended to dig the blade into my skin, she forced her little muzzle between my hands and sat at my feet, insisting that I love on her with an immediacy she had never shown before. The debilitatingly dark trance I had put myself in was broken just long enough for it to dawn on me that it really wasn’t just about me; I had a responsibility, if to no one else, but that little face, not to kill myself. 

I put the knife on the table.

The feelings I had been having that night didn’t go away automatically. I still struggle with all of it, and will continue to struggle. But had it not been for The Spotted Freckledog, I would have given in to my demons.  I would have, in an instant, become an (unreported) abuse statistic.  Though life really is worth living, I was immesurably close to being the jumper.  I was this close to making my own friends and family experience the unfathomable shock, grief and guilt over my death.

I’m eternally grateful that my dog saved my soul. 

Nowadays, when my darkness resurfaces and interferes with my life, even a little, I’m terrified of returning to that hell.  It’s why I stick with therapy, why I write, why I create.  It’s why I have finally decided to have weight loss surgery to free myself of the chains of morbid obesity brought on by the abuse. It’s why I’m here sharing this with you right now. I’m afraid that if I don’t let it out, it will consume me again. 

I know this post might make you uncomfortable, and I’m sorry for that, but I was truly lost and felt like I had no one to turn to (I wish I had been a part of this wonderful blogging community at the time). My hope is that if someone chances across my blog in their own desperation and sees that, although it’s not always easy, life can go on, that there can be joy despite suffering, and that they are not alone in this world, it will break their dark trance just long enough that they, too, put down the knife. Maybe my suffering won’t have been for nothing.

Maybe no one will ever needs my words in that way (I certainly hope that is the case).  But if you happen to be that person, please know that you are not alone.  I am here thinking of you and I am here to talk to.  I can’t make it all better, but I can listen without judging. Please don’t give in. Please keep fighting. Please reach out, spill your guts, and live this oddly magical life with me.  It’s worth it.  You are worth it. 💛

Check out my art and follow my journey on Twitter, Instagram., and in my Etsy shop.

Motherhood, A Series

The celtic knot with two hearts intertwined symbolizes the unbreakable and everlasting bond between mother and child. Each piece is printed/hand painted on vintage sheet music and reflects a different mother figure in my life.

M-O-T-H-E-R, A Word That Means The World To Me, c. 1915.  I see every supportive woman in my life in this piece. It pays homage to every woman (myself included) that has helped carry me through life when my own mother couldn’t.

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My Mother’s Rosary, c. 1915.  This knot was painted with my best friend,  and new mom, in mind.  “Ten baby fingers and ten baby toes…”

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The Songs My Mother Used To Sing, c. 1914.  This is my own mother. Like our relationship, it’s upside down and filled with darkness, but an unbreakable bond nevertheless.
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Check out my art and follow my journey on Twitter, Instagram., and in my Etsy shop.

Shut Down

I feel empty.  Like I’m nothing but air and cotton inside.  I think this is one of my my versions of dissociation. Or is it derealization? I can never remember the difference.  I feel lost; I don’t know how to get back to myself.

I’ve been out of it for a couple of weeks on and off.  Beating myself up about my eating issues.  Replaying parts of the abuse in my head again and again.  Tripping out about her invasion of my privacy.  Triggers everywhere. Angry for no reason. Not engaging. Not reaching out like I should. Not being creative like I love.  Shutting down.

I try not to let others see it, because I don’t get it myself. So I put on the smile, wear the many hats I’ve got to wear in life, and do what I have to do.  All just to get through the day, the hour, the minute. It’s exhausting.

A high school friend’s husband committed suicide last week.  A friend at work just found out her husband has a brain tumor.  This kind of news all affects me in weird ways.  I take the news hard. It shocks my system.  I lack the ability to process it, so I just take it in, absorb it, and let it stay in my body.  No wonder I ended up over 400 lbs.

I know this feeling is temporary, or at least it ebbs away like the tide eventually. Soon, I hope. Until then, someone call me the wahmbulance; and thank God for therapy tomorrow.

Check out my art and follow my journey on Twitter, Instagram., and in my Etsy shop.