Tag Archives: PTSD

Removing triggers

A year ago this month, I was filling in my family on my childhood trauma. A story I’d held inside for over 30 years. A story that shaped every aspect of my being, without me even knowing it. A story I turned around in my brain all those years to make it more bearable, without even knowing it.  A story that guided my actions, my choices, my partners…without me even knowing it. A story that I was terrified to tell, ashamed to tell…yet knew I had to tell, all at the same time.  A story that, once told, left me in pieces. Broken, jagged, seemingly irreparable pieces. It’s funny to read that, because I was obviously broken and jagged well before telling. I just didn’t notice. Well, no, that’s not true, either. I always noticed I was broken, I guess I just didn’t know why. I never knew how to connect the dots.  Now I know.

I grew up inherently knowing I was damaged. I knew I was not like other kids. I knew that joy, popularity, adoration, attention, love and the like went to other kids and didn’t come to me. I think it’s a little strange now, but I never wondered why it didn’t come to me. I just knew it wasn’t in the cards. It wasn’t my lot in life and I sort of accepted it as “It is what it is”.  Wow, writing this now, and knowing a child felt this way is actually quite sad. I still have a hard time connecting that child to me. I wonder why I wasn’t sad about it?  Maybe I was and I don’t remember. It’s easy to block things out that don’t feel good, especially being a kid like I was. I can remember trying to be invisible… a lot. Whether it was around kids I knew I didn’t belong with, or at family gatherings, or even when I was by myself…I tried to be invisible. Maybe it’s because if I became invisible on my own, it wouldn’t be as sad as the reality of being invisible to others? I know I always felt like a burden, and being invisible is probably the best way to not be a burden, right? I can’t say I’ll ever find the answer to that one…

I carried that inherent knowledge of being damaged right up to adulthood. And when you know you’re damaged, you are ashamed of it. Not sure why, but they seem to go hand in hand. Not fair, but what is?  By then, I had learned how to character play. From the outside, it looked like I had it going on! Friends, outgoing, social…complete opposite of that invisible girl.  Just on the outside, though. Hell, I carried that shit right up until last year. I dropped the charade and was honest about who I was for the first time in my life. It wasn’t pretty. But it was real. God, it was downright ugly. I can vividly remember people’s look of disgust when I got to the juicy part. Not so much my friends, because they didn’t personally know the players, but definitely for my family. It was like a “shock and awe” campaign.  Most of them looked down and away, with what looked like a slight wave of nausea across their faces. Geez, no wonder I felt ashamed. They only had to hear the story…I had to live it. Makes sense, doesn’t it?  I can remember waiting, terrified, to hear what they would say. Waiting for them to judge me. No one did. At least, no out loud. I’ll never know for sure what they think inside. The looks on their faces, though…

Everyone seemed pretty supportive, which helped ease that heavy load of shame. How one can spend their entire life carrying that shit around and not know it, I have no idea. But you sure as hell notice when it’s gone! The more I told the story, the more it became just that… a story. I was eventually able to tell it without crying, without trembling, without fearing being judged, without feeling nausea. I removed thoughts, scenarios and people from my life that triggered me and things started falling into place. The shame and doubt slowly became replaced with feelings of worth and confidence. I became empowered. I accepted things for what they were. No one was ever going to make me feel used or unworthy again! It suddenly seemed easy. And there, my friends, lies the mistake….

The problem with my technique is, you can’t remove thoughts, scenarios and people who trigger you. Sure, you can temporarily avoid them, but you can’t remove them. And when your triggers involve family, forget about it. And when your triggers involve family, you might as well forget about it. They find their way back, in one form or another. Some are more camouflaged than others, but they all find their way back in, eventually. Sometimes, they hide in people you would never guess. Removing the triggers is not what’s easy at all. It’s them sneaking back to you, that’s what’s easy. I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening. How could I not realize it? These feelings of angst, shame, rejection, fear… they are supposed to be gone. Empowered people don’t feel those things, right? For me, emotions almost seem like a trigger. When people or scenarios result in me feeling a certain way (typically unworthy or unimportant), I start to spiral. Weird, isn’t it?

I had a nightmare last night. The first one since last summer. I was home alone and I was getting robbed. Masked men were at each window. I can usually tell when I’m dreaming, but not with this one. Just like the ones I had last summer. Scary as shit and so freaking  real. In the dream, I knew they were going to kill me. I could see a scene of my father’s house, and all of my family was over there for a birthday party. I was trying to figure out how to get out of my house before the men got to me, and I could somehow hear my family talking at the party at the same time, about how dramatic I was being. Even though I was scared to death of these men about to attack me, I also questioned myself. “WAS I making too big of a deal about this?”  Jesus, I was embarrassed and ashamed, at the same time I was about to get killed. Sounds about right…

So, now I have to figure out how to get rid of this stuff….these feelings. I don’t want my head to be swirling anymore. I did enough of that last year. Intellectually, I understand all of this. I understand that I need to reduce my expectations and learn to accept things for what they are. I need to learn I can’t make people act or feel the way I need them to. That sounds easy enough. I actually have been able to do that for most of the past year. Suddenly, though, I’m finding that talent to be missing. I DO have expectations. I DO need people to treat me the way I need to be treated. It DOES affect me when they don’t. Shit. How do I get back to where those things don’t happen? I don’t want those needs. I had acceptance, and it’s gone.  I felt lovable and now it’s gone. And it hurts. And it’s confusing. And it’s scary. And it’s sad…

And the most ironic part of all this? If I heard this story coming from someone else, I would have the answers. Why is it so much easier to heal others and not myself?

 

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Spirit animals

The hawks have returned to my life.  I haven’t seen them since this summer. They first came to me when I was in the deep hole of PTSD. They say hawks are messengers, that they arrive to remind you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I felt they came to me to support me in my decisions, as I had so much self-doubt. I think I saw at least 2-3 a week…swooping down right in front of my car. One time, as I was crying after bearing my deepest childhood secrets to a friend, a hawk barreled down the road right next to my car. It was flying in a perfectly straight line along the road, as if it was leading me home.  If it was someone else telling me this was happening, I wouldn’t believe them. It was just crazy how they were making their presence known to me. Once I cleared those major life hurdles, they were gone as quick as they came.

It’s been about 4 months now, and they are back.  A few weeks ago, my friend Paula was reading my post on here about my butterfly party. She attended the party, and felt as though something spiritual had happened that night.  She was hesitant to comment about it, though, as she wasn’t sure about my spiritual beliefs. She was speaking to my friend Tracy on the phone about it, and Tracy was telling her I was very spiritual, both with church and with the universe. Just as Tracy told her about my experiences with the hawks (and deer), a hawk startled her as it swooped in front of the window Paula was looking out of! She couldn’t believe it! It landed on the tree in her yard.  She took a picture of it and sent it to me (see below). She felt it was significant that the hawk was facing away from her, but she didn’t know why. I instantly knew what it was. I knew that hawk was for me. I knew it because the week before, someone I love in my family started to slowly turn their back on me about my childhood abuse. Not really about the abuse, but about me talking about it now. And by him starting to turn his back, it made me question if I was making a mistake about my decisions this year. I started to feel self-doubt again. So, the hawks are back.

Just yesterday, I was riding in the car of the nurse who is training me at my new job. It’s a bit overwhelming to be training 40 hours a week, while continuing to run my company until it sells, while having two boys on four different basketball teams, while getting ready for Christmas, while getting divorced. And during all of this stress, one of the toxic family members I removed from my life is not going quietly. And the one who is starting to turn his back on me is not stopping her. And even though I want her out of my life, I don’t want to make a big spectacle out of it, so I’m letting him not stop her. But it still hurts…that he’s not stopping her.  It still hurts that he’s not supporting me. But I get it. The adult me gets it. The adult me gets that people cope with whatever coping skills they have. The adult me gets that I have more coping skills than I used to because of all the therapy I went through this year, and I get that not everyone did that kind of work. I get it, but it still hurts. And when it hurts, I start to doubt myself again. Because I still have that inner child in me, the child who feels nothing but neglect. And as hard as I try to validate and nurture her, she’s still seeking it from the ones who could never give it to her.  I think it’s going to be a life long struggle, balancing her and me. Anyway, I’m riding in this car for work, on a busy road through town, when she says “What the heck is THAT?!” and points ahead of us. There, in the middle of the road, just in front of us, swoops the biggest red-tailed hawk I have ever seen. It was massive, and flying so low and so slow, right in front of us. It was a weird place for a hawk to be flying…with all the traffic there. I smile excitedly. “It’s a red-tailed hawk!” I tell her. She asks if that means something, and I say “yes”, but I don’t want to make her think I’m crazy my first week of work, so I don’t elaborate. We turn left at the next set of lights and travel about a mile, and another damn hawk flies over our car! Not nearly as big, nor close as the other one, but quite obvious. I had adrenaline running through my body…this was something special! I wished I was with someone who could understand the significance of it. I knew it meant something was going to happen in my life. I also knew that something was going to be a struggle.

I went home after work that day, and found out the family member I removed from my life (not really removed, as she doesn’t see us but once a year) had called my soon to be ex husband to invite him and my boys over for Christmas. That caused an uncomfortable conversation that confused my boys and ended up making me feel horrible for them even being involved. Once again, I started doubting my decisions. I went and got the mail, and found a thank you card. It was from a friend I had mailed a Christmas present to a week earlier. I had sent her a hawk ornament, as she has a relationship with them, too. In the card, she said I had touched her heart. I stood there for a few minutes, piecing it all together. My entire process this  year….speaking my truth, doing the work, making tough decisions, validating myself…I’m doing this all because I can’t connect to anyone, not even myself. Do you know how painful it is to not be able to connect to anything because of trauma? Very. So, the hawks are here because I’m doubting myself, doubting my decisions. They are telling me to take a step back…a step back from the family drama, and look at the big picture. I touched someone’s heart. And she touched mine. That’s why I sent it to her. The people who don’t touch my heart don’t have a place in my life. At least not right now. Not while I’m healing. The hawk in my friend’s back yard was telling me that I’m on the right path, even if it seems people are turning their backs on me. Speaking my truth does not make me a bad person, and them turning their backs on me does not make them bad people. I am doing the best I can with what I have…and so are they.

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I was a bully #SOCS

Somewhere between the ages of 12-14 or so, I was a bully. I was one of those kids who made a few other kid’s lives miserable in school. Not a lot of kids, just a few. They were actually friends of mine, that I “sprung” being a bully on.  They never saw it coming. Neither did I.

I hated that part of me. I never knew why I was doing it. It made no sense that I could be walking out to gym class with a friend and just punch her for no reason. I actually did that…we were walking and talking and I punched her in the cheek. I instantly said “I’m sorry” and acted like it was no big deal. What the hell? And she stayed my friend. She was a quiet, meek sort of girl. Just like me. Except I hated that part of me, so I guess I hated it in her. And because she was quiet and meek and didn’t have a lot of friends (like me), I knew  I could get away with it. I didn’t understand why I needed to do that, it’s just something that erupted from me. I felt guilty afterwards. Shame.

I did it to a few other girls. I can remember starting a fight with a friend of mine in 9th grade. I made up a lie that I had heard her talking about me, and I punched her. We had been friends for 3 years, and I spring this crazy shit on her. Just awful.   There was another girl who was new and befriended me. She would come over my house sometimes. No one really did that, so you think I would have valued the crap out of her. Nope. This one day, I decided to become really angry at her and chase her out of my home with a big kitchen knife in my hand.  How scary must that have been for her? I can remember thinking to myself “why am I doing this?” as I chased her, scaring her… like it wasn’t even a really me. Like I was harboring a wild animal inside me and it would just break free on it’s own. I really had no control over it….or at least, that’s how it felt. It was sort of like watching a movie of it happening. When it came out, I think I felt a little powerful, or maybe in control…both things I never had in my life.

Over the years, I felt terribly guilty for how I treated them. Still, I never knew why. I just chalked it up to me being a bad person. I had always inherently known I was “bad”. I was never really sure why this was so…it’s just how it was.  I think I must have thought I was bad since my mom decided she didn’t want to live with me anymore. And I must have thought I was bad because my dad would keep reminding me that he offered me to her and she didn’t want me. He must have offered me to her because I was bad? Is that what I thought? I’m not sure I consciously thought those things, but looking back, I can see that I felt them. You don’t always have to put words or labels to feelings, or even understand what they are. You still feel them, and they define you.

I continued to do “bad” things, because that’s what “bad” girls do. That’s how I made sense of it.  When I was molested at 13, that was me being “bad”.  I figured I had “let” that happen to me because that went right along with me being “bad”. So, it only made sense for me to have sex with other guys when I was 14, because I was already so “bad” for doing what I did at 13. Even though I told those boys no, and looking back now I can see that what really happened is they raped me…I thought I was just “bad”.  I had no control over it. It was just who I was. It was me. I was bad. Not even just bad…I was a whore. But hey, we all know whores are bad, so really, what’s the difference?

When Facebook came on the scene, I found a few of those girls and apologized. They had moved on, of course, but seemed genuinely happy to hear me say I was sorry. I apologized for ruining what should have been the best years of their lives. I couldn’t give them an excuse, because I didn’t have one. That was 7 years ago, and I hadn’t started therapy yet. I was still bad.

Fast forward to now. I’ve been in therapy for a year now. And I don’t mean “just therapy”. I mean deep, painful, hard work therapy. I was going twice  a week for most of this spring and summer. Writing up to 10 times a day in my journal.  Peeling off those 30 year old layers resulted in PTSD…nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, confusion, panic…really life changing stuff.  I describe the whole therapy process as a giant jigsaw puzzle. After I process a few layers, I’m usually able to put a few pieces together. Last week, the pieces that seemed like they just might fit was the piece of me being a bully and the piece of me being sexually abused. I wrote to one of my victims and asked her about the timeline. She remembered it vividly (which sucks, because I know she remembers it because that’s when her life was hell because of me). It was right around that time. I’m still not sure if it was right before the sexual abuse started or right after. If it was right before, it must be related to my mom leaving. If it’s right after, it must be related to the sexual abuse (or maybe the physical and emotional abuse of my stepmother?) Either way, in the big picture, the point is moot…. it’s not going to change what happened. I have my answers….I was a bully because I suffered trauma. Does it really matter which trauma caused it? No, it doesn’t.  Trauma is trauma. Which one is minor details. All I need to know is that my trauma caused someone else’s trauma, and that sucks. We are in our 40s now, and they have all moved on, and even consider us “friends” now, so I am grateful for that. And hopefully, by me making amends, maybe when they think back to those awful times, they might not be so awful now. I’d like to think their memories sting a little less now that I’ve reached out to them, but I’ll never really know.

One thing that does not make this whole question moot is… most bullies do what they do because something bad happened to them. Well, I can only speak for myself. Maybe some kids are just born bad, or just have bad role models… but I really don’t think that’s the answer for most of them. I love that schools and society are addressing bullying now. Back then, it was brushed under the carpet as “kids being kids”. That’s wrong. Kids kill themselves from bullying. It needs to be addressed. But I also wonder…if someone had dug a little deeper back then…if they had found out why I was acting that way…do you think I could have been saved? Saved from 30 years of carrying that heavy load of guilt and shame inside me? Saved from making lifelong bad decisions because that’s all I thought I was worthy of?  I’m not going to wonder too much…it’s a moot point. The past is the past. I can look back at it, but only for so long. I need to look forward, because I’m not going back. I’m moving on. All I can do now is try my best to add happiness to the world, including to myself. I hope by doing so, I might reduce the amount of bullies in the world…even if just by one.

 

This post is in response to the prompt “moot” in part of Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. It’s  neat way to stimulate writing. It’s organic…we can’t edit it. So, what you just read is raw…straight from my brain to yours….

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Dec. 17/16

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Superhero-ish #SoCS

I don’t want to brag, but I just changed the world. Not kidding. I know, I know…one person can’t change the world, right? Well, that’s sort of right. I mean, what can one girl do? The world is so big!  But you know what? I might not be able to change a whole lot, but I can change some. A little. Even one single thing. Change one person’s perspective. Yep, I can do that. I know this, because I just did. And that’s how you change the world, right? One person at a time.

In a recent post of mine (Post Election Triggers), I talked about how, as a sexual abuse survivor, I was triggered by the audio tapes of our president elect, describing how he can sexually assault women because he’s famous. Most people don’t understand this. I can see that. If you haven’t been sexually assaulted, you can’t understand. Even for many women who actually have been sexually assaulted, they don’t understand, either. These women I’m referring to have fascinating, intricate brains that changed thought processes after the abuse as a coping mechanism…essentially numbing them through denial or self blame.  I know this because that used to be me, until I was lucky enough to find myself on a path of healing. I performed exhausting work on rewiring my brain, and people like me are fully aware of the effects of trauma. Just because I’ve rewired some of my thought processes, doesn’t mean I’m immune to triggers.

I have to say, listening to the actual tape was not the worst part for me. Sure, hearing him talk stirred up emotions of fear, shame and anxiety. Worse, though…it was the response of much of the country that hurt. It was listening to people minimize, dismiss, laugh at, demean and criticize my feelings. It was listening to people say they didn’t care about what he said or did. It was listening to people call the accusing women “liars”. It was listening to people compare his words to “50 Shades of Gray”. It was listening to people say they were fine with what he did, because the husband of his opponent did the same thing. And it wasn’t just people…it was my friends. It was painful to listen to people that are supposed to care about me, not care about me. I listened to them say that his abuse is okay because other people have done the same thing. Crazy.

I did my best to explain that I was not criticizing people for their political choice…we all get to choose who we want. My problem was with people choosing him and not calling him out on the hurtful things he said. Whether it was about sexual assault, racism, mocking disabilities….I have a real problem with people not condemning these things…not so much politically, but on a human level. Yes, you can stick to your political party AND call these people out on their hate. You can do both.

I lost a few friends over this. They couldn’t get past the political part, and were not going to bend for anyone. They didn’t care who got hurt, as long as Clinton did not win. One girl, who had been my friend for 30 years, stuck to her political guns and stood by her comment “Adult women have a responsibility to report sexual assault at the time of the event, or they are just as guilty as the one who assaults them” (referring to women who wait years to come forward). Well, I waited 30 years to tell my story…

I let my emotions get the best of me one day,  when I posted a quote on Facebook about many women watching the equivalent of their abuser being elected to the presidency, and to be kind to them…as chances are you know multiple. Obviously, the post was referring to me. The first comment was from a male friend who said “…and 4 brave men in Benghazi were unavailable for comment”. This was a perfect example of how crazy this election was. Here I am, putting it out to the world that I am hurting because of sexual abuse, and a man minimized it, because of what happened in Benghazi. Don’t get me wrong, I feel horrible about what happened in Benghazi. I hate that those men died. It was truly awful. But what the hell does that have to do with sexual assault?! It’s OK for sexual abuse to occur rampantly in this country because people have died elsewhere? I should shut up about my pain and not care about Trump assaulting women because of what happened in Benghazi? I don’t matter because of what happened in Benghazi?

I told this friend to “eff off” and deleted him…along with a few others who chimed in. One of them said “Whoa! So you think rape is worse than murder?” …like it’s even appropriate to compare the two things. Rape is OK because murder is worse?? It made no sense, and was so cold and hurtful. I really struggled the week of the election.

OK, I’m sure you’re wondering where the hell the part is about me changing the world. Fast forward to last week: the friend who made the original comment, the guy who I de-friended on Facebook…he sends me a private message, wishing me a happy birthday, sending his love…like I didn’t just tell him to “eff off” 2 weeks ago. I was perplexed. I contemplated ignoring it, but I didn’t. I told him I was surprised to see his message, that it was as if he didn’t recall our interaction. He said he wasn’t going to stop loving me because we had a fight, and he apologized for hurting me and wanted to know what it was he needed to do to make things right with me. Damn. I’ve never had that happen before. That really happened!! I cried. Finally, someone validated me. Finally, I felt worthy to one of “those people” who were making me feel like I didn’t matter. And I didn’t just think of me…I felt like it was validating all women who were feeling this way. I ended up sharing my story of sexual assault and he was so apologetic, saying he wished he had known. I told him it’s too bad that people have to either be directly affected by this or have someone they know be directly affected by this in order to be mindful of feelings. It’s too bad we have to share our story in order to get people to understand, yet at the same time, we share our stories and people still don’t care. We shouldn’t have to work so hard to get people to care.

So, this guy now has a new viewpoint on sexual assault, and more so on people’s feelings. This may sound like a post on sexual assault victims (well, OK…it sort of is), but it’s more about a solution to much of the anger in our country. We need to care about each other’s feelings, even if we don’t understand them. When someone else is hurting, I am not the one who gets to decide if they should feel hurt…they are. If I ever hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally, I will always be sorry and ask what I can do to make it better. I will not make them feel small or stupid or childish for having feelings, whether I understand them or agree with them or not. I will not tell them that I didn’t intend to hurt them, therefore they shouldn’t feel hurt. This is not what’s been happening lately, in this country of ours. People are calling other people losers, whiners, “too sensitive”, drama queens….for having feelings. They tell people to “toughen up” when they are hurt. This makes the hurt person angry, too….which leads them to want to hurt the other person, and next thing you know, we have a country full of people hurting each other. We are all different. We all react differently to situations and trauma. Instead of being a divided country that hurts each other, we need to unite and heal each other.

So, that sounds like a great plan, but is that going to happen? Probably not. The anger runs pretty deep in America. But you know what? It happened between two people. It happened to me and my friend. I can bet the next time he sees a woman talking about feeling scared regarding our president and sexual abuse, he’s going to respond differently. And I’m pretty sure he’s going to come across this scenario, as there’s so many of us out there. So many of us that are speaking up and sharing our stories. Speaking up makes a difference. Calling people out makes a difference. Not to everyone, but to some. And if I can get one person to change their views and want to help heal a person, maybe you can, too. You don’t have to be a superhero and change the whole world. Just be superhero-ish … change one person’s world.

 

This post is a part of Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt was “SH”. I had to use a word that had those letters in it, and let it flow…totally organic writing with no edits.

 

 

 

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Dec. 3/16

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Crying

“You need to have a good cry. I mean the kind of cry where you are wailing, and it comes from deep within you. And after it happens, you need to set aside time to nurture yourself…take a bath, make some tea, be comfortable”. I remember my therapist telling me this back in February, back when I started therapy. Right away, I didn’t like the idea. I hate baths. And nurturing myself? That’s selfish. We had spent a few weeks trying to peel back the layers regarding my mom leaving me when I was 9 (a story for another day).  We had spent weeks on it, because it seemed like this was the unresolved trauma that was affecting me as an adult. I can’t remember crying much about it, when it happened…which is weird. What 9-year-old would just be quiet and go with the flow with  her mom moving away? Me. I would. I did. So, we started processing it, thinking that if I could get to the point where I could cry, where I could let out all of those pent-up emotions, I would start to heal the 9-year-old Jami. And if I started to heal her, then I could start to heal 44-year-old Jami and work on what was keeping her from not feeling anything in her marriage. Then she could become a better wife, the marriage would be healed and we could all live happily ever after. Just as soon as I fixed what was wrong with me.

The problem is, I couldn’t cry about it. Well, I could cry, but not cry…you know, like the cry she described. There was no wailing involved, which was strange to me, because I’ve always considered myself a crier. I tried channeling the old days, the days of me crying for weeks over a broken heart. I journaled. I talked. I remembered. Then I journaled and talked and remembered, again. Still, just some regular old tears…the kind that form so easily, because they are always right there, bubbling just under the surface. Just waiting for the slightest trigger. They are slightly cathartic, but not healing.I guess it’s like a volcano. You know, how they simmer and bubble, but you can’t really tell because it’s all under the surface. Every so often, they release a bit of steam, and that eases the pressure enough so it doesn’t erupt. I guess that’s the kind of crying I’ve been doing all my life…just enough so I don’t erupt.

A few months later, I let out a whole lot more steam. I guess peeling off that layer of Mom was just the beginning of this giant onion we call Jami. Turns out, there was a whole lot more than just her that I needed to process. My brain had hidden it from me. Not really hidden, as I knew it was there. Disguised is a better word. My brain disguised the other layers as a weird way of protecting me. Once we removed that outer shell, the next layer was suddenly right in front of my face. I don’t know how I hadn’t seen it all this time, but there it was… a raw, stinging layer, just ready to be peeled. I remember going into her office…crying, trembling…not wanting to tell her but having to tell her. I blurted out the story of my childhood sexual abuse, which turned into an epiphany, resulting in me tearfully asking her,  “Is this why I don’t like having sex?” I remember her staring at me, wide-eyed, nodding her head. It turns out, 13-year-old Jami needed a hell of a lot more healing than we could ever imagine.  I can remember her, a month or so later, commenting “you did not originally present as a typical abuse survivor”…referring to when we first started seeing her, for couples therapy. I said, “I know! My brain was so good at disguising it, even I didn’t know!”  It’s true…I had spent my entire life thinking I was a bad person. A month earlier, if you had asked me if I was sexually abused, I would have replied “no”, and that would have been an honest answer. I spent my life thinking I was responsible for all those horrible acts. Thinking I did bad things. Not once did it ever occur to me that bad things were done to me. It’s funny how the brain tricks you like that. I guess it’s much easier to blame yourself than to acknowledge the horror of what’s really happening to you.

8 months later, and we can see the game plan has changed. I went into therapy to try to fix myself so I could become a better wife and save my marriage. Turns out, I did fix myself..well, some of it, at least. And I probably am a better wife now, except we’ll never really know, because I left my husband. Come to find out, I couldn’t save my marriage and save me. I had to pick one, and I chose me. The thing is, this work is never done. I am going to need to work on saving myself for the rest of my life. If I stop working, I stop healing, and I turn back into 13-year-old Jami. I’m not going to be her again. So, I’ve been using my voice. I’ve been speaking out, standing up to comments that perpetuate this awful rape culture our country is so accustomed to. The problem is…not everyone likes what I have to say. In the past few months, this election has brought sexual abuse into the spotlight. I have been made extremely uncomfortable by the words of friends, strangers, media, politicians…and I have made others uncomfortable, too. I’ve called them out on comments made about “locker room talk” and “fake Trump victims”. I’ve lost friends over it, though most probably weren’t really my friends. Though this evening, one of them was. As I typed out to her how her words made me feel, how they triggered deep emotions of fear and  shame, and while I told her how people not caring about any of this reminded me of feeling like I didn’t matter…it happened. I erupted. I cried, and cried and cried. I wailed. I shuddered. It was loud. It came from my soul. I heard myself talking out loud through the sobs, “Please help me”. I was talking to God. I was talking to my angels. And, I think maybe…I was talking to me.  

I think it lasted at least a half hour. It ended with a yawn, which for some reason, I found funny. I thought back to that day in Susan’s office, when she perfectly described this cry. Ah, Susan…you’re always right. I wish I would just do what you say the first time you tell me…I could save so much time! I know how she would reply to this…”Trust the process”. I heeded her advice. I’m going to nurture myself.  So, I made myself comfortable. I put on some comfy clothes, made myself a cup of raspberry tea in my new butterfly mug, cuddled with the dog…and told my story to you.

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Post election triggers

I cried today. I haven’t cried in weeks, maybe longer. There was a period of months this year when I was hard pressed to find a day where I didn’t cry. I’m not like that anymore. I’m better now. I’m stronger now. I’m out of my cocoon…aren’t I? I thought I was. I peeled off those painful layers and processed each one…sobbing, aching, fearing…I did that already. I’m all done with the part of therapy where you physically feel your emotions and memories. I’m all done with flashbacks, nausea, hyper-vigilance, insecurity, depression…fear. I made it out to the other side. I found my voice. I told my story. I released my shame. I became confident. I became me. Right? Isn’t that what I’ve been telling you all about? About finding me? Becoming the butterfly? I’ve been admiring my wings for weeks now. That part was over….wasn’t it? I’m confused. Why would I start crying today? Why would I feel nauseated, nervous, and small? Because someone I didn’t vote for was elected president? That happens all the time and I just roll with it…that’s how democracy goes…you can’t win them all. No, it’s not because my choice didn’t win. I knew my choice wouldn’t win. I voted 3rd party. What the hell was going on?

It started this morning, driving to work. My eyes started stinging and a few small tears rolled down my face. Where did that come from? I rubbed them away and went into the office. Coming home a few hours later, it happened again. I went inside and it just flowed. Sobbing, I started to release pain I thought I had already released. Wait…why is this still here? I already did this. I spent thousands of dollars on therapy this year. I’m better now….aren’t I? As I realized those emotions were real, and I was turning into an earlier version of me, I panicked and  I stuffed them down. I stuffed those emotions back into that box that held on to them for so many years. I had to sit on the lid to make them fit, but I did it. Snap out of it, Jami. Stop being such a baby. You’re acting like a drama queen. I scolded myself, which I’m not supposed to be doing anymore, but it worked. I proudly pulled myself together, pulled up my big girl panties,  stopped crying and went back to work.

As I went about the rest of my morning, I held the lid to the box down pretty good.  I could tell it was trying to open, so I had to be vigilant. I kept busy with work…my go-to distraction. Still, in between those distracting work thoughts and chores, I did my “other” work. You know, the thinking work. The work you do during therapy to process everything that’s happening. The work you don’t really want to do, but you have to do. The work that comes with the package of opening up that damn box.  I kept thinking about why I was so tearful. What was it, exactly, that was making me so….so what? I couldn’t even come up with a word for it. Sad? Angry? Scared? Disappointed? Sort of. I did feel a little bit of all of those things, but that wasn’t “it”. I started to judge myself. I mean really, how would I feel if she had won, instead? I know I wouldn’t be happy then, either. I hate what happened in Benghazi. She’s politics as usual, and I hate politics as usual. So, what the hell is wrong with me? I thought of all my friends who voted for him, along with half of the country. Oh. Wait a minute. I think I’m on to something. As soon as I started to think of his supporters, I started crying again. Weird. What is it? What is THIS feeling? Oh, I’ve got it….abandonment. Of course! This is triggering feelings of abandonment in me.  That’s why I was feeling so small, so invisible, so…unlovable. So similar to the feelings I had when I was being abused and the people who were supposed to support me, supposed to nurture me…looked the other way. I know, I know…the people who voted for him weren’t knowingly telling me my feelings don’t matter, they weren’t intentionally telling me I’m not worthy, but that’s how it felt. Intent or no intent, feelings are feelings. Ha! And here I was, all cocky, saying things like, “Back when I had PTSD”. I just figured I had conquered PTSD because I went to intense, frequent therapy. I worked at therapy like it was a full-time job, and I was successful. I crawled out of that hole and the PTSD was gone. Poof! So easy, really. All you have to do is put in the work. Symptom free for months now. Ha ha. So not true. I  haven’t been having any PTSD symptoms because I had removed the triggers. I removed my husband, I removed my toxic family members, I spoke up for myself, I gained confidence, I spoke up against misogyny …all was well. But only because I removed my triggers, and I never even realized that was what I was doing. Then, the election neared. Yes, he was a giant trigger. But somehow, he seemed so distant, and by speaking up against sexual assault, I felt powerful. No way would America choose someone like this, someone who likes to intimidate people, speak down to people, mock people…just because of their race, gender, religion, disability or country of origin. No way would they choose him, especially with Republican women like me speaking up. No way.

But choose him, they did. And that is hard for me to handle. They are just words to them. Words said 11 years ago. No matter that those words were him admitting he sexually assaulted women= No matter that those words were him admitting he entered the dressing rooms of 15-year-old girls= No matter= No matter that it bothers me= No matter that I’ve been sexually assaulted= I don’t matter. Intellectually, I know that is not true. I know I matter. But, that’s the thing with trauma. It doesn’t really give a shit about how intelligent you are or what you understand about trauma. It bypasses your intelligence and hits you where it counts…in your soul. You can’t just talk yourself out of that shit. You just can’t.

I emailed my therapist today. I had a check in with her a few weeks ago after my husband moved out. Nothing major, just checked in. I’ve been kind of proud for not needing to go there anymore. I’ve been feeling like the badass, appliance fixing, independent single mom that I became over the past few weeks. Today, while I was crying, and not crying, and stuffing emotions back into that horrible box inside my soul, I wasn’t badass anymore. I was ashamed. I felt ashamed for feeling so emotional about something as routine as an election. Do I need more therapy?  I felt like a failure. How could I have gone through all of that intense therapy, done all of that work, felt so damn good…fixed my damn washing machine TWICE… and be right back where I started?! I sent her an email, just looking for validation, I guess. Honestly, I don’t really know what I was looking for. I asked her if I was normal. I asked her if this was what all women like me were going through today. I asked her, “It’s going to go away, right?” I figured I would get a response tomorrow morning, as that’s when she seems to check her emails. So, when she called me, I wasn’t ready. I already stuffed the damn feelings down, Susan…I can’t talk about them now! I stared at the phone, deciding to let it go to voicemail. I just couldn’t bring myself to answer. I felt ashamed for feeling ashamed. God, I hate this. At the last second, I answered. She asked me if I was OK. I started crying, but I didn’t want her to know I was crying, so I kept my answers short. I was embarrassed. I was driving and hoped the sound of the car would hide my cracking voice, but we both knew better. I said I was fine, just surprised at the emotions I was having. She let me know I was not the first one to call today, and that a lot of her clients were upset and crying. I said, “Oh good, that makes me feel better”. But I was lying. I’m sitting there crying, listening to her tell me that there’s other women doing the same thing, and a voice in my head is calling them whiners. And that voice was calling me a whiner, too.  Jesus, what the hell is wrong with me? She asked again if I was ok, if I wanted to come in. I’m fine. Just surprised.  I think I said that phrase 3 or 4 times, acting as though she’s the one who initiated contact, not me. We hung up. I went in my house, flopped on the bed, and let it out. I mean LET IT OUT… crying like it was last February and I just told her about my abuse for the first time. Crying like it was this summer and I was confronting my husband with things I can’t share with you right now. Crying like I hadn’t done a damn bit of therapy. Like I was still “damaged goods Jami”.

I posted a tweet on Facebook about asking people to be nice because many women are going through what I was going through today. The first comment was from an old coworker, saying something about the men that died in Benghazi. His comment totally dismissed what I said. I told him to “fuck off”. I never do that. I always try to be respectful, even when I disagree. But you know what? Today, I just did not have it in me to respect people who would cause me to feel this way, specifically after I asked them to be nice.  I did not have it in me to be respectful to people who only respect things that are convenient or easy for them.  I have no problem respecting people who vote for Trump, when they acknowledge how horrible his behavior is. I get it. We had two shitty major candidates to choose from, and you have to choose someone. I get it. What I don’t get is choosing one and not acknowledging the horrible things, and only acknowledging the horrible things the other candidate has done. Not fair. I told him that Benghazi has nothing to do with sexual assault. I am sick and tired of people justifying bad behavior simply because other people have demonstrated worse or equal bad behavior. Like saying Trump’s “words” are not as bad as Clinton’s “actions”. Bullshit. They are both bad. Both Trump and Bill Clinton sexually assaulted women. One is not worse than the other. Why can’t they both be denounced? Benghazi is bad. The emails are bad. It’s all bad. How can they decide which “bads” to dismiss, and which “bads” to be angry about? I don’t get it. I don’t want to get it.

So, that’s my vent today. I can’t be badass every day, you know.

 

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Brag about Jag

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I’m attending a Halloween party tonight and bringing my signature party dish, Jag. I love bringing this to parties because I can  be pretty sure no one else will be making it.  I cringe when I show up with something that someone else brought…it always makes me feel bad for the other person, like I ruined their contribution.  I don’t like carrying that kind of guilt around all night. One time, I brought a Mexican dip to a party and sneaked it back into the car, because I didn’t want the owners of the two other Mexican dips to feel bad when they see no one eating it.  With this dish,  I know I’ll never hear, “Oh, you can just put it on the table next to the other Jags”. More often than not, I have to explain to the guests just exactly what Jag is. I live on Cape Cod, home of clam chowder and lobster rolls. Jag is a Cape Verde beans and rice dish, though often thought of as Portuguese, as it’s full of delicious linguica.  Everyone’s recipe is a bit different, but it really doesn’t matter, because on Cape Cod, in my circle of friends, you can be pretty sure no place I’m going to has even heard of it.  Mine is full of bacon, linguica, butter…(do NOT tell my cardiologist I eat this stuff!) I’m not the type to brag…unless it’s about my Jag. (Damn, the poetry just kinda flowed right there).I’m sorry, but my Jag is the bomb! My friends at this party are expecting it. I can’t show up with paltry cheese and crackers anymore. That’s so beneath me.  People are depending on me! Tonight, as I walk in, the crowd will part to create a path for us.  “It’s here” they’ll whisper. I’ll cradle the pot in my arms, smiling… holding it out towards the food table like Rashiki holding up baby Simba in the Lion King. “Behold…the Jag!” Yes, that’s right…my Jag is as good as a royal newborn son.

I wrote about my Jag once, in my journal. I know I’ve mentioned in my other posts about going to therapy.  My therapist got me started on writing in a journal as a way to process things when I wasn’t in her office. Most who know me know how fortunate I am to have found the perfect match in a therapist. Let’s be real here… she is the best therapist on Cape Cod. I know, I haven’t actually been to any other therapists on Cape Cod… or anywhere, but it’s pretty obvious. Her name is Susan and she is a compassionate, badass, confident, empowering LISCW. She’s the kind of woman who’s not afraid to tell you when you’re off track, but also the first to validate you when it’s right. She has a way of planting seeds in my insecurities that grow into confidence. It’s really hard for me to give an accurate description of her, other than to say that I am 100% sure I would have ended up stuck in that dark, uncomfortable, cold cocoon for the rest of my life if I hadn’t met her. I wouldn’t have even known I was in a cocoon. I just would have died in there, never knowing  I could have fought my way out. She’s given me the tools I needed to chip away at my shell and progress in my transformation to the butterfly. I always kind of feel bad for people when I hear them say they are going to therapy. I think, “gee, it’s too bad they are going to such a mediocre therapist”, which is funny, because I have no idea who they are even seeing. All I know is it’s not Susan, so they must at least be a little sucky. Even when they talk about how much their therapist has helped them, I think “Aw, poor thing. It’s too bad that you think this is good help. Imagine how much better you would be if you went to Susan”. If Susan ever retires, I’m screwed.

Earlier this year, as I started to peel off the layers of trauma, I started to have a spiritual awakening. It’s really a whole other story for another time. Though one interesting part of it was the synchronicity I suddenly  became keenly aware of. It felt as if the Universe was trying to show me that I was on the right path. Coincidences and signs everywhere I turned. Some major, some small, but they happened all the time. Even Susan noticed it. Guess what her signature party dish is? Yep….Jag!

The awakening came at a time when I was doubting so much in my life….doubting myself, mostly, but also the entire process of my therapeutic journey. When you start peeling off those layers you’ve been carrying around all these years, it can get pretty ugly. You begin to wonder if you are doing the right thing. “Hmmm…I’m paying Susan one hundred dollars an hour to make me feel like I’m dying inside?” It seems like the process is taking forever and you begin to think that this might be as good as it gets.

It was an emotionally charged day when I had finally mustered up the courage to tell a friend for the first time about my childhood sexual abuse. I had only told Susan and my husband, and never imagined telling another soul. I honestly couldn’t even believe that I had told them about it. I thought I was taking that shit to the grave. You don’t just go around sharing your shame with people, you know? That’s the whole reason I kept it inside me for 30 years….if anyone ever found out, they would know how dirty and disgusting I was, and realize I was a fraud. As I pulled up to her driveway, overflowing with anxiety and considering turning around and going home, a family of four deer walked out of her back yard, crossing my path on the street. NOT a regular occurrence around here! I’d never seen anything like it. I couldn’t stop thinking about those deer, and how they appeared as I was about to share the most shameful secret of my childhood. Later that day, I looked up the meaning of a deer visit. It symbolizes “the innocence of the inner child”. Whoa. I told my husband, in disbelief.  He was not impressed. How could he not see the connection between the innocence of the inner child and me telling the story of losing my childhood innocence? Come ON!! That man just does not get anything about me. Those next few weeks were dark for me. There were way too many puzzle pieces swirling around in my brain. I was confused and depressed, for sure.  I had been working hard on figuring out how to forgive 13 year old Jami (I was 13 when the sexual abuse started) and I just couldn’t find a way to do it. I thought 13 year old Jami was shameful, dirty and disgusting. I just couldn’t shake it. I was discouraged and felt like giving up on all this therapy. It wasn’t working. I was more miserable than when I started. I remember lying on the couch one day, staring at the TV. My husband and youngest son came home. I could hear my husband say something to my son about “tell Mom what happened this morning”. I pulled myself up to a sitting position for the first time in hours. I knew I was just going through the motions for my family, but it was the best I could do. I looked over at my son, who was just 3 days shy of his 13th birthday. His face lit up as he started to share with me…“Mom, I was getting ready for school this morning and I looked out the window in the back yard and there was a deer looking at me!” I stared at him. It was like I had cleaned the dirt of my glasses and could see clear, for the first time in weeks… no, months. As I stared at him, it happened. I understood the significance of what was going on. God, it was right there, in plain sight, this whole time! It just took the coincidence of the deer to get me to notice. My son was turning 13. My sweet, innocent son. The son who still gives me tender kisses goodnight. The son who plays video games and hasn’t even gotten his braces yet. The son who feels excitement about a deer being in our yard. My inner voice spoke loudly, “He’s 13, just like you were. If that happened to him, would you forgive him?” I got up and went into my room so he wouldn’t see me crying. He’s only 13. If someone molested him, he wouldn’t be dirty. He wouldn’t be guilty. It wouldn’t be his fault. I would not think he was disgusting, shameful or unworthy. 13 year old Eric is pure. So why do I feel those things about 13 year old Jami? And just like that, the dark cloud lifted.

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I just might wear this costume all year long.

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Bully in my brain

bullyWhen I was first diagnosed with PTSD (and really, even now), I punished myself for having it.  I guess that’s pretty common for people like me. As I journaled through the influx of emotions and hyper-vigilance of those first overwhelming weeks, I wrote and said some pretty nasty things to myself. Stop being such a drama queen! You’re such an attention whore…these things happened YEARS ago! Get over it!” It was pretty ugly, but I was ugly, so it makes sense. I was a bully.  I shamed myself for needing to go to therapy twice a week. I shamed myself needing therapy at all. I shamed myself for being dramatic and sleeping with a knife by my bed and one eye on the door. I shamed myself for how I felt when I was faced with a trigger. I shamed myself for even having triggers. I shamed myself for my nightmares.  I shamed myself for not being a good enough wife. I shamed myself for spending so much time writing in my journal.  Yeah, I shamed myself for just about everything. That’s PTSD for you. It’s a self-centered bitch that likes to be in charge. Oh, you’re planning on spending time snuggling your husband on the couch tonight? I don’t THINK so! You’re going to have tachycardia and nausea instead, loser!”  My life was like a giant puzzle tossed in the air…pieces flying everywhere and nothing seemed to connect. I couldn’t put any of it together to see the bigger picture, or even a fragment of the picture. Pieces would fly right in front of me, and slip away before I could make any sense of them. Even a four year old can put together a puzzle. What the hell was wrong with me?

Somehow, I managed to keep it together enough to continue raising my kids and keep my business running. It took every ounce of energy and concentration I had, because what I really wanted to be doing was lying under my blanket in my locked bedroom. I spent most of this year like this: kids, therapy, journal, work, bed…kids, therapy, journal, work, bed.  Unfortunately for my husband, there was no room for him. Journaling was a tool my therapist gave me. She gives me the tools, and I have to figure out how to use them to fix my problems. At least, that’s the plan. Anyway, I just so happened to have signed up for a four week course to become a Certified Alzheimer’s Case Manager, right around the time all this PTSD shit hit the fan. “Great”, I thought. “I have to learn about dementia right now?!” She started the lecture by discussing the brain, specifically the limbic system. I dreaded where this was going, but once we started,  I actually found it to be a welcome distraction from my flashbacks and paranoia. But here’s where it gets exciting… I actually learned about something that was directly related to what I was going through…the amygdala.

In a nutshell, the amygdala ( pronounced “ah-MIG-dah-la”) is a section of the brain that is responsible for emotional responses, including detecting fear and preparing for emergency events. Any physical or psychological threat activates the amygdala. When this happens, the pre frontal cortex part of the brain activates. It assesses the situation and decides whether the threat is real and what to do about it, then shuts down the amygdala. Like when someone startles you…your amygdala reacts with fear, and the pre frontal cortex realizes it’s someone you know and shuts down that fear response. Pretty simple, right?  However, chemical and biological imbalances can present after trauma, resulting in an over-stimulated amygdala. So, instead of the quick “fight, flight or freeze” then relaxation, sufferers often find themselves without the relaxation part of that process. Basically, the amygdala holds on to that trauma…and won’t let go.

“Ahhh…so THAT’S why I feel this way”. It made sense. It was like I put at least 6 pieces of the corner section of my puzzle together. Validation! “So, I’m NOT a drama queen, after all…it’s just my amygdala”. I felt the heavy weight I’d been carrying around just lift from me. I felt…good.  I sort of skipped out there, humming U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” and replaced the word “beautiful” with “amygdala”. “It’s an amygdala dayyyyy…..” (yes, I’m that big of a dork). I felt free. Wow…I couldn’t believe an Alzheimer’s class cleared up my PTSD! So easy! Why didn’t my therapist know about this? We could have saved me so much angst…and so many co-pays!  I couldn’t wait to fill her in on the cure I’d just discovered. She was going to be so grateful to me!

Well, that’s kind of funny to read now, isn’t it? Yeah, that euphoria lasted a good 45 minutes or so, before I returned home to my trigger of a husband and learned my next lesson… just because you understand why you have these feelings, doesn’t mean you can control them. So, in perfect traumatized form, I beat myself up for singing that song… for thinking I was better. “You fool. There’s no fixing you. You’re damaged. The whole world doesn’t change just because you took a dumb class, you dumbass. You’re still scared. You’re still needy. You’re still worthless. What’s wrong with you?” God, I  hate that damn bully.

So here I am, 7 months later, still finding I’m beating myself up for my feelings, my needs, my expectations. Only now, since I’ve learned about why I’m such a bully, I’ve found I’m a little less mean. I’m slowly rewiring my brain to allow myself have these feelings and not judge them so harshly.  When I’m feeling sad or insecure, I allow myself to feel sad or insecure (well, sometimes). That in itself takes a boatload of work, but that’s what this journey is: work.  The rewiring work is a heck of a lot easier when you’ve got the right tools. Each therapy visit, each journal entry, each mediation, each yoga class…each one gives me a new tool. Now it’s up to me to remember to use them.

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Dare to dream

young-nana

This summer, as I was crawling out of the hole of PTSD and facing the brick wall of my husband not wanting to get divorced, I had a  dream. Calling it a dream feels like such an injustice. It was an experience…one that just so happened to occur while I was sound asleep. Yes, that sounds better.

It’s been four months, but I still remember it. You don’t normally remember dreams for this long, but like I said…I’m sure it wasn’t just a dream. Here’s how it went down: In between the hodge podge of me traveling to all sorts of places, staying in weird hotels, bringing the boys skiing, whatever (just a chaotic mix of running around), I come to see my Nana. My sweet Nana, my dad’s mom…the one who I stayed with every weekend after Mom moved away when I was 9.  The female caretaker who gave me the attachment bond I was craving after the bond with my mother was severed. In real life, I wear her wedding band. I have her rocking chair. I use her baking pans. I keep her memory alive in my daily routine as best I can. In the dream, she was there, right in front of me. Sitting at a picnic bench. So vivid. So real.  So beautiful.  I stop the chaotic running around and center myself to her presence. As it is in every single dream I’ve had about her since she died, I know it’s a dream. I know it’s not real, but I don’t care, because I’m just so happy I get to see her sweet face in front of me and not have it be a memory or photograph. Since I know it’s a dream,  I appreciate every second of it, and dread the end…the waking up. Every time I see her in my dreams, she doesn’t talk and I never touch her. That’s just the unspoken rule we both understand…until that night. I see her sitting at the table. She’s looking away from me, like she often does. I get up close to her and look at her face, her skin. It feels so good, so nostalgic, to be that close to her again. I’m absorbing every part of what I see…her cheeks, her neck, her mouth, her hands. She looks up at me. I’m standing next to her as she’s sitting, and she looks up at me, smiling. But unlike her other dream visits, she has tears in her eyes. At first, I can’t tell if she’s really sad or happy. As  I know it’s a dream,  I can appreciate that this is different than when I normally see her. Smiling,  I take her face and I cup it in my hands. I’ve never touched her in my dreams before. This was so special. I’m cupping her chin in my hands, with my fingers holding each cheek. I’m actually feeling my grandmother for the first time in 16 years. God, it felt so real.  Her eyes are welled with small puddles of tears, but she’s smiling. I know I can’t talk to her, nor she to me. That’s the rule.  Touching her grounded me. Amid all the turmoil in my life, touching her made everything bad stop for a few minutes and I felt lovable again. In my mind, I’m thinking “I miss you so much. What am I going to do when I wake up and you’re not here?” Wow, I’m crying as I typed that sentence. She looks at me, and doesn’t talk…but she thinks something, and I can hear it, in my brain. She thought “When you think about missing me, just think about the love you feel all around you. That’s me. That’s my love”. I could hear her think that in my head.I felt the emotion of what she was saying to me. I emerge from this dream hearing a sound emit from my body…like a start of a wail. I wake up to realize she’s gone. I’m in my bed, alone. Except, I don’t feel alone. I realize the magnitude of what just happened, and I feel lucky, because I know she just gave me such a powerful message, even though I’m not sure of what it is. I think that’s why she was crying. She’s sad for what I’m going through, because she loves me like no one has before, but she’s smiling to show me that love and to let me know that she knows I will pull through this and she knows I will be happy.   I’m not 100% sure, but I know it’s close to that. It has to be, because in just writing and remembering it, tears are flowing…and I feel  happy.

I often ask Nana to come to me in my dreams, because her unconditional love makes me feel safe. I want to wrap that love around me like a warm blanket and hibernate forever in it, but you can’t hibernate forever. That would mean you aren’t living.  She never comes when I ask, of course. She comes when it’s time. The week of that dream, I’d been using guided meditations of Lisa A. Romano on the Insight Timer app. They are all about healing the inner child, whether it’s from abuse or neglect or living with narcissistic parents. They are supposed to reprogram your brain to get rid of the thought processes that were created as a byproduct of the abuse. I think the dream was a direct result of  listening to those meditations.  Nana has probably been giving me messages in her dream visits all the time, but I never knew how to receive them or even notice them. I wasn’t open because my thought processes were all screwed up. I was in survival mode, except I wasn’t really surviving. I’ve spent my life sealed shut…my brain’s way of protecting me. But now I’m starting to open. Therapy,  yoga, meditation, exercise…nurturing myself and learning to love myself has cracked open my shell. Nana was crying because she loves me so much…I’m going through all this pain, and she’s feeling it. Except, she’s smiling, because she knows it’s only temporary. She knows. It’s funny how we always shielded her when she was alive. She was so pure, we didn’t want to taint her. “Don’t tell Nana, it would kill her”. She never knew of any troubles I had. Ha! We were so wrong! She knows…and she’s not tainted. She was a stronger woman than we gave her credit for. She was looking at me, though those tears, knowing…and smiling. And I get it now. I’m a stronger woman than I gave myself credit for. Now, I can look at myself, through my tears, knowing….and smiling.

 

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