Tag Archives: writing

Well, finally

Well, I finally received the print copy of my article. I started this whole “getting something published” journey back in the spring, and it’s kind of like waiting for a baby to be born. No, not really. Bad example. It’s more like waiting for a vacation you planned well in advance. Yes, that’s a better comparison. You plan the trip, and once you book it, you’re PUMPED. You tell everyone you know about it, you are so freaking excited to go there, and then you kind of have a let down, as you realize you have to spend the next several months just living your ordinary life until the day rolls around. Kind of like the trip I just took to San Diego. I bought it LAST November on cyber Monday (BEST day to purchase online trips, FYI….$600 for round trip airfare and 4 nights in a hotel ON the ocean). We were so excited when we bought it, then had to face the reality of a New England winter and spring (basically just one long cold shitty season), go through the summer and then get excited again as the date finally neared. We just went last week, and it was amazing. And the day I returned home, the paper copy of the American Journal of Nursing was waiting for me. Perfect homecoming after a perfect vacation.

And, I read a book on attachment relationship types on the plane, and it allowed me to let go of the angst which had been building up inside me regarding yet another failed relationship. Sometimes, just having the answer to “why” is good enough.

Well, I am happy again…finally. Feeling at peace and ready to conquer the world again. Thank God….


 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Oct. 14/17

 

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J spells my name

Last month, I took a girls weekend to Connecticut. We specifically went to go on a river cruise to look at American Bald Eagles (which was SPECTACULAR, by the way) and ended up hiking through a couple of really cool state parks. It was dinnertime by the time we headed back to Massachusetts, so we made a spur of the moment detour into Mystic for some pizza. You know, “Mystic Pizza”…the Julia Roberts breakout film…

Mystic is a pretty cool town. It’s quaint, on the water, with a charming main street filled with various shops and eateries. Everything was named “Mystic” something or other. Mystic Pizza, Mystic Army Navy, Mystic Florist . As we neared the public parking lot, I noticed “Mystic Psychic”.  It was an unassuming little sign, tucked in between the touristy shops and bars. I normally wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in psychics and mediums and the like, but one called “Mystic Psychic” just sounds gimmicky, right? Well, after about 10 seconds, I just knew I was going in there. It was so weird…I had no idea we were even going to Mystic, and once we decided to go, all we had planned was pizza and maybe stopping in a few of the shops. I just could not shake the feeling of having to go in there. We parked the car and I told my girlfriends, “I have to go to that psychic”.  We rounded the corner and came upon the cutest store filled with unique trinkets and handmade items…totally up my alley. As we looked around the store, I realized it was time to go. “I’m going to that psychic now”, I told them. I was so nervous that if I waited too long, I wouldn’t get in. I ditched them in the store and headed down the road.

As I opened the door to the psychic, I felt a little confused. It was an apartment. I could see baby toys in the living room, and a kitchen off to the side. I was beginning to think I accidentally walked into someone’s home and was about to sneak back out when she came out of the room. A young girl, with dark  hair…some type of accent I can’t even begin to guess… maybe Greek? I dunno. Anyway, she takes my money for a palm reading and gets to work.

She starts by telling me I’m an old soul, that I’ve lived other lives before this one…yada yada yada. Two minutes into it and I’m thinking I’ve been had, when suddenly…her expression changes. “What does the letter J mean to you?” I tell her, “It spells my name…it’s the first letter”. I didn’t want to feed her any extra information, you know? She continues, “You do know you are creative, right?” I said, “Well, sometimes…”. I was thinking of how I’d spent a few nights at the local art bar over the past year or so, but also thinking of how the art gene sort of skipped over me. She interrupts my thoughts. “People are going to know your name. They are going to know your name in three to five years.” She kept studying my palms, almost squinting, as if there was some faint writing on them that was difficult to see. “I see these hands writing. That’s how people will know your name. You aren’t writing for money, but the money will follow. You are writing because you’ve been through an awful lot in the past few years, and writing is how you heal yourself. You will write to help heal others, and they will know your name…in three to five years”. Holy crap! I looked over at my friend, Tracy, and we just stared at each other in amazement. Anyone who knows me knows that I write, and it’s only started last year because of what I’ve been through in my healing process. My therapist suggested a journal, and things just took off from there.  I’d never written a single thing before last year…and now I’m in the process of sharing my stories in the hopes it will resonate with others and help them learn to tell their own. Damn, this girl was good.

Around two weeks later, I received a letter from the “American Journal of Nursing”. They are going to publish one of my essays on the back cover of their journal this fall. And last week, I was notified by another nursing journal, “Nursing 2017”, that they plan to publish a different essay of mine.  Needless to say, I’m pretty damn excited about this…my first publications and I’m two for two!  I can’t help but wonder, if it’s this exciting now with these two stories getting published…what will happen in “three to five years”?

 

 

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Apr. 22/17

 

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Admitting I have a project

For the first time in years, I have down time. My divorce is moving along, I’ve finished up most of the work that’s left after selling my company (doing dreaded taxes next week, ugh) and my new job allows me to be all done by the afternoon. It feels weird to not have tons of work looming over me, to not be connected to my cell phone 24/7 in case of a work emergency…to just go to work and come home and be done. It also feels weird to not have the need to write, every spare moment. I filled up a good dozen journals over the past year, processing my childhood and my current life problems. I had no control over it, like smoking cigarettes. Now, I pretty much just write in this blog, maybe once a week. I don’t have the need to go to therapy that much anymore, so when the kids are at their dad’s…I’ve got down time. I’d heard it existed, but wasn’t sure if it was a rumor or not. It’s true. There really can be time in the day when I don’t HAVE to do something! So, this week, I’ve finally started tackling a project that I’ve been thinking about for a year…. I started writing my book.

Wow. I haven’t really admitted that to anyone, yet. It feels weird to say it… to read it. I started writing my book. I’ve told my friends “I’m transcribing my journals”.  That’s my way of tricking them/me into thinking I’m just writing them out on word docs for the sake of having them in one place. I don’t think any of us really believed me, though. They all have been telling me I should write a book, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually admit that this is what I’m doing. I think maybe I’m afraid. It feels kind of grandiose to announce, “I’m writing a book about myself“. What if people say, “Who gives a shit?” Hell, I say that to myself all the time. But then, I follow it up with, “I don’t give a shit if people don’t give a shit” and let it go. That’s the glory of spending a year diving head-first into intense therapy, yoga, meditation and writing…you learn to not give a shit and to let things go. It’s freeing. If something hurts me, I let myself cry and feel whatever emotions it brings up, without shaming myself for having those emotions and most of the time, without shaming the person who hurt me. Then, I just let it go….most of the time. Hey, I’m not perfect…

I finished transcribing my first journal into a word doc last night. Over 30,000 words. I’m using Dragon dictation software (something I highly recommend, if you have a lot of writing to do). It doesn’t really like swears, though. I keep trying to train it to understand I’m not saying “ship” or “flock”, but I guess it’s more pure than me.

It was interesting to read where I was exactly one year ago. Amazing how much a soul can grow in that amount of time. Who knew souls could even grow? I sure didn’t. I was full of despair and was so sure I’d end up a failure. I felt so broken and damaged beyond repair, like a seed cracked wide open. Little did I know, that’s what it takes to blossom.

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Mar. 4/17

This post was written in response to Linda G Hill’s Stream of Social Consciousness. It’s organic, free-flowing writing in response to a prompt. I like participating because it makes me write! I’m lazy!

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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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Love breakthrough

Emotional roller-coaster. That’s the best way to describe my feelings this year. Ever since that one ugly marital fight a year ago in September, I’ve felt it all. Well, almost all. Frustration and resentment stemmed from that day, and lasted through couples therapy. It  transformed into sadness and longing as I transitioned into individual therapy to process my Mom/abandonment issues. After I peeled off that Mom layer, all hell broke loose as I processed the sexual, physical and emotional abuse that followed. Fear, shame, sadness, anger, disgust, guilt, depression…basically months of negative emotions. It seemed as though it might never end, but it did. Little by little, I started having happy moments, empowered moments, fun moments. Like a pendulum, I would swing back and forth between the highs and lows, though luckily I could see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. I kept up my “work”… therapy, writing, meditating, nurturing myself… trying to love myself.  Sometimes, I was just going through the motions, but that’s just part of the process. The positive moments eventually started to outnumber the negative ones, and I turned the corner.  I started believing in myself. I started to feel a little less unworthy. I shed a lot of that heavy guilt and began to learn, appreciate and accept…me. Though, throughout it all, one thing kept bothering me. I couldn’t feel love. Through my painful, exhausting work, I rewired my brain enough to believe that the people around me loved me. I knew it to be true, in my head. I just couldn’t feel it. So many times, I would find myself nervously admitting to my therapist that I couldn’t feel anyone’s love or caring for me, not even my children. I was ashamed of this. It made me feel ungrateful to admit it, like I was not appreciative of the people around me. Especially when I said I couldn’t feel the love from my children. What kind of mother says that? This type. This mother who is nothing but raw, open and honest sitting on that couch. I give therapy…I give me…my all. I’m not wasting time playing games or pretending. I want to be “normal” so desperately, so I tell Susan everything. Everything. Each time I told her this, I looked down in shame, imagining her thinking I’m ungrateful or selfish or whatever it is I’m thinking of myself when I say it. She didn’t.  Each time she reassured me, “It will happen in its own time”, smiling. Smiling, like she knows. I never believed her, because I knew I was different from her other clients. She thinks she knows, but she doesn’t know.

Well, she does know. I’ll be damned if there’s a thing about the human soul this woman does not know. I’ve been not feeling love since…well, since…hmm. I don’t know. I guess that’s a long time. I’m sure I’ve felt it at some point in my life, but right now, I can’t recall. I can remember feeling it, but with conditions. Knowing it was at risk if I didn’t play by the rules, and is that really love? Anyway, it happened. It happened at my butterfly party (see last post). I wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol, or maybe the song, or just that I was with a fun group of people, or I was tired. I felt like I had to blame it on something, because I was afraid to let myself think it really happened. If it really happened, something else would happen to make it not real, or go away, and I would be left feeling empty. Feeling loss. Feeling that hole inside my soul again. It’s much easier to just set myself up to not let the things I want to happen occur, then I won’t be disappointed. But you know what? It happened. And it wasn’t the booze. And it wasn’t the song. I know this because it happened Saturday night, and each day since then, I’ve thought about it…and cried. Oh sure, I cry all the time, but not this type of cry. This one is hard to describe…a feeling of love, joy and belonging, mixed with the sadness of knowing it’s something I’ve been missing for so many years. As I was surrounded by that circle of friends, as I looked into each of their eyes as they smiled and sang to me, I felt it. I felt love and I cried, because I honestly thought it was just never in the cards for me to feel that…to have people want to give me that. This is what I’ve been working on all year.  I went from a girl who felt she didn’t deserve a damn thing in life… not love, not kids, not attention, not even going to therapy, to a girl who felt she deserved to throw herself a birthday party. A party to acknowledge her freedom from the heavy shame she’d been carrying around from her childhood. A party to acknowledge her bravery in getting divorced so she could preserve her true self. I stood right in the middle of that freaking love circle and accepted it all. I felt no shame. That’s when I realized I had accomplished my greatest feat yet…I had learned to love me.

“People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one….”

love-circle

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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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