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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Setting Boundaries

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When my last relationship ended, it ended very badly. So badly that I had to get the legal system involved. I am not one to expect pity from anyone, least of all my family. However, I have finally come to expect that if someone can’t be supportive that they keep it to themselves.

I have worked very hard on setting boundaries with everyone in my family. And I have also cut out everyone that does not respect them. Friends, family, everyone. Except my mother.

It is a hard decision to become an orphan. My mother was very abusive growing up, but she was also the only parent I really had. It is no exaggeration to say I grew up in a single parent home despite the fact that my father came home every evening.

I do not share any of my issues with my family. Mostly because it is safer for me to keep it private. Anything said in my family can and will be used against you. Forever. It can be very lonely, but I would rather be alone than hurt.

When I told my mother that I was going to therapy she immediately showed an interest that aroused my suspicions. There was an eagerness that felt unwholesome.

She began asking for all sorts of details about my therapy sessions. What did I talk about? Did I ever talk about her? Didn’t my therapist agree that I had Autism (as she had always maintained)?

I told my mother that I had no interest in discussing my therapy with her. But she would not drop it. She began calling me a few times a week, trying to get me to tell her. And I realized that it was time to set boundaries with her.

I told her that I would not be telling her about my therapy. When she wouldn’t drop it I gave her a choice, we could either change the subject or I was going to hang up on her. She continued to try every time I spoke to her unless I made the ultimatum.

So when I told my mother about my ex and I breaking up, she had no idea what had gone on in our relationship. She never liked him. In fact, the only boyfriend she has ever liked was the physically abusive ex husband.

Despite not liking him, she immediately informed me that it was my own fault that our relationship had ended. I couldn’t argue with that. It was my fault. I had decided to stop being abused and ended things.

But, then she went on to tell me that it was my fault for being with someone abusive. This is a sticky point for me. Yes, it is my “fault” in that I chose to date him. But I don’t feel I should take responsibility for my own abuse. He chose to abuse me, I did not choose to be abused.

And I left as soon as I could. It took me longer than I would have liked, two years. But the important thing was that I left. I realized what was happening. I ended the relationship, and I got help by beginning therapy.

But instead of being supportive, she began to tell me that I was at fault for every bad thing he did to me. Because I had stayed too long. Because I had moved in with him too quickly. Because I let myself be abused. This is coming from the same woman that stayed with my father for 30 years and is now married to another abusive man.

I did not choose to mention those things. I don’t think it is fair to blame someone for the abuse done to them. I don’t believe in blaming the victim.

That is when I knew that not only was I right in not trusting her with the details of my therapy. But that she would never respect my boundaries. I am not even sure she believed I deserved boundaries.

The last time we spoke she was particularly nasty and accusatory with regards to me being in an abusive relationship. And I hung up on her. That was over a year ago.

Since then I have spoken to her three or four times. Very cordial, very short conversations. To tell her Happy Birthday, Merry X-Mas, Happy New Year. Nothing more.

But lately, as I have progressed through recovery and healing, I feel my attitude towards her softening. I wonder if a year was long enough for her to learn her lesson. To know that I am serious about having my boundaries respected. I don’t know.

But I think I want to try…

Versatile Blogger Award

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So, Avalanche of the Soul nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I would highly argue with this nomination. But I’ll take all the love I can get. So, thank you for that.

I guess I am supposed to tell 7 random facts about me. I don’t even know what to say here:

1. I have many many things wrong with me, but I am beginning to think they are all just a component of my PTSD. Which is exciting because it means I may actually be able to work through all of it.

2. I am obsessed with “fringe science.” Tarot cards, palmistry, crystal healing. I don’t even really believe in any of it. I just love it!

3. I have another blog that is actually pretty funny. I mean, I think it is, anyway.

4. I was married for 6 months.

5. The first time I tried Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Peppermint Crunch, I ate the entire pint in one sitting.

6. I am a huge nerd in every sense of the word.

7. I hate telling random facts about myself. I don’t want to share too much or too little.

And now I am supposed to nominate 7 people. But the pressure is so much! I love everyone I follow. Just read everyone that comments on anything I ever write. They are all amazing, lovely people.

Liebster Award

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PTSD-from the inside out nominated me for the Liebster Award. Which I really appreciate. But I feel kind of weird about it because I really don’t feel I deserve it. And there are so many wonderful bloggers out there that do. But I also don’t want to seem unappreciative, so here we go.

1. Who do you write for?
I write for me. I have always been a writer. I began a journal from a very young age and only quit during bouts of serious depression or when I was in abusive relationships. My blog has actually, until very recently, been entirely made up of journal entries from the past year beginning when I started therapy last January.

2. What type of blogs do you like?
I like all kinds of blogs. I think my favorites are blogs about people with similar issues to myself. It makes me feel less alone to see other people feeling and thinking the things I do. I am also a big fan of funny blogs and am lucky enough to read some hilarious blogs.

3. What do you wish the world understood about PTSD?
That I am not choosing to be this way. I hate it! I can’t just “get over it” or “snap out of it.” If I could choose to stop suffering, I would. We all would.

4. What would you say is the biggest passion in your life?
Reading. I would rather read than eat. Books have made me who I am. If someone wanted to truly know me, all they would need to do is read what I have read. But it might take a really long time to get there.

5. What are you most proud of?
The progress I have made in the past year in therapy. It is so obvious to people that are close to me, and myself. It makes me feel like there will be an end to all this someday.

6. What activity makes you feel the most like yourself?
I guess anything I do when I am not at work. My job is not who I am. My pastimes and passions are.

7. If you could have a dinner party with 10 famous figures dead or alive, who would they be?
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Issac Asmiov, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Stephen King, and John Snow. I don’t know what we would talk about but it would be very interesting.

8. If you could choose a different profession for this life what would it be?
My life isn’t over yet, so I can still choose a different profession. I think being a therapist would be amazing. I would love to help others and see them progress the way I have.

9. Describe your personality in 3 words:
Smart, creative, kind.

10. Name a person who has made a significant impact on your life.
You didn’t specify for good or bad. Many people have made a significant impact on my life. My most recent ex is the person that inspired me to go to therapy. He resisted me going every step of the way, but I knew I had to go if I was ever going to stop the cycle of dating abusive men. And I think he knew I would leave him if I started getting better (which I did). And therapy has made a bigger impact on my life than anything else.

I know there are more things I am supposed to do here with this award. But it is honestly causing me a lot of anxiety. I hope nobody minds if I just leave it at this. Thank you for reading.

Visualization

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I recently finished reading a book about PTSD. This book had many visualization techniques for working through issues, calming yourself down, and dealing with anxiety. I have been in therapy for a little over a year now and I have never tried a visualization technique before.

I have tried to do guided meditations before but I found them to be both annoying and distracting. And I kind of assumed visualization exercises were similar. At best ineffective and hokey and dumb at worst.

But I was really upset a few weeks ago at something a friend had done. I was so upset I tried to call my therapist and book an emergency appointment. But she wasn’t answering.

So I decided to do the least hokey visualization to try to calm down. And that was imagining that my emotions were on a dial from 1-10. First you decide where you are on the dial and why. Then you decide if that’s an appropriate emotional response. And if it isn’t, you try to figure out how to change or lower it.

I decided I was a 5 mad at my friend for what he did and I was an 8 mad at myself for allowing him to do what he had done.

But then I started thinking about all he has been through lately. And I decided being a 5 mad at him was a little too harsh. He has had a tough time. So I lowered it to a 3. And I imagined physically rotating the dial from a 5 to a 3.

So then I started wondering how much sense it made to be so mad at myself when I didn’t even actually do anything wrong. Except give someone a chance. So I decided I couldn’t be MORE mad at myself than I was at him. So I imagined physically rotating the second dial from an 8 to a 3.

I was shocked at how much better I immediately felt. I don’t know if it was because I was logically picking apart my feelings which helped to calm me down, or if it was the visualization.

But it was one of those things I also didn’t want to try to examine too closely. If there was magic involved I didn’t want to see the explanations behind it. It worked and that’s all that mattered.

I’ve used this technique a few times to calm myself down when I am upset. It has actually worked every time so far. It’s making me start to realize how useful visualization can be in recovery. Maybe I should give one of those other ones a try…

Closed Doors

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I don’t know where I want this blog to go. I didn’t start it for an audience and I didn’t explain anything because it was always for me and I already know the stories and the background. Having said that, there is value in writing this stuff down. I was able to cry about it for the first time in my life. And I feel, in getting it out and sharing it, I am lessening the burden of remembering. And I don’t want to carry it around anymore. So there will probably be a lot more of this type of thing to follow. Fair warning.

I’m going to share another personal story on here. There was no awful backlash from the last one. Thanks to everyone for being so supportive. Your comments mean a lot.

I was 15 or 16. It was right before I got a job and had my own money and started saving up for my first car. I was still sharing a room with my sister.

My sister and I had always shared a room. My parents used to promise that when my older brother moved out, I would get his room. But when he finally moved out, my mother decided to keep it as her sewing room. Because “everyone deserves to have their own room” except, you know, me.

My sister and I could not have been more different growing up. She was outgoing and popular. I was shy and reserved. I was an OCD neat freak (due to my mother’s negative influence). My sister once left a cup of water in our room for so long that it grew mold.

And I liked to sleep with the door shut while my sister always wanted it open. My sister wanted it open because our house was stuffy and it improved air circulation. I wanted it closed because then I could hear my parents opening the door.

The latch turning was loud enough to wake me up in my heightened state of awareness and exaggerated responses. It gave me the few seconds I needed to prepare myself for whatever was coming instead of being surprised by it.

My sister and I were having a heated argument about whether to leave it open or closed. I guess we got too loud.

Suddenly my father was in the room. He ripped the door off it’s hinges. My sister and I were immediately struck dumb. Violence has a way of catching the attention of a room.

I was older and the responsible one. I protected my sister. I was always willing to suffer extra to spare her some of their anger and abuse. But she wasn’t on his radar this time.

My father immediately turned to me. He grabbed me and yanked me out of the bed and my mattress off the frame. I quickly stood up and moved away from him. I was taller and faster than him and could sometimes stay out of his range. But he wasn’t letting me go.

He pushed me out of the room. My sister was already crying by this point. But I wasn’t. I was too busy trying not to lose my balance and fall. Falling was unsafe.

I looked down and behind me, then I looked at my father. I had the presence of mind to know his intention seconds before he pushed me. It possibly saved my life.

He pushed me hard down our stairs. I fell only for a few steps. I had been ready for it. I caught myself on the railing. I landed hard and caught myself hard.

But he was angrier now that I hadn’t been hurt. I had thwarted his plans. That wasn’t safe either. He came for me again. I hurled myself down the remaining steps and out the front door into the night.

And I ran as fast as I could. I was a good runner. I still am. I thought for a minute about my sister. But I couldn’t go back. Not yet anyway. His anger was still too fresh. She was safer there than I would have been.

I had nothing on me. I was only dressed because I slept fully clothed. I didn’t have a dime on me. I was barefoot. I didn’t have a cell phone or even a jacket. It was after 10pm on a school night.

I didn’t know what to do. I ran for several miles. Just trying to put some distance between he and I. Watching traffic, searching for his truck. Wondering if he’d come after me, try to find me.

Luckily, it was a pretty safe town and a mild night. At one point a cop drove past and I hid in some bushes. I didn’t want to get picked up. They’d be obligated to take me home. My father could fool the police. He’d done it before.

I wandered around my home town that night for hours. I finally decided I had no choice but to go home. All of my friends lived miles and miles away. None of them knew about any of this stuff anyway. And I couldn’t call them for help even if they did. I was stuck.

When I got home, I saw that it was 2am. I didn’t even have a watch to realize I’d been walking around for four hours. I was exhausted. The next day at school my friends and I joked about my tiredness. My insomnia, always keeping me awake.

Nobody had been looking for me. Nobody was waiting up for me. At least they left the door unlocked so I could get in. I never cried during the whole experience.

My sister and I never fought about the door being open or closed. He didn’t fix it till after I moved out. Our fighting had lost us our right to the privacy of a closed door.

Using my voice

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One of the most important lessons that I have been trying to learn (over and over like bashing my head into a wall) is that people don’t know where I am coming from.

I don’t know why I am having such a hard time learning this. I have always disliked those girls that act like their boyfriends should read their mind.

For example:

‘I know I told him that my birthday wasn’t important and that I don’t care what he gets me. But he should really know that it’s actually a big deal.”

Ladies, no offense, but that is so idiotic and illogical. If something is important then you need to say it is important.

Another time my sister told me ‘It’s unromantic to have to tell someone what to get you.”

Really? Is it less romantic than being upset and disappointed and not getting what you actually want? You have a voice. Use it.

And yet, I seem to expect people to read my mind about certain things too. Like, people should know to not make rape jokes around me. But honestly, other than it being in extremely poor taste, why would someone know?

I’m not handing out business cards with it printed on them. I don’t have a ‘I was raped’ t-shirt or tattoo.

If someone does something that I don’t like, my first instinct is to ignore it. I figure if I let it go, they will just stop on their own. But why would they?

How can a man know I hate it when he kisses the back of my hand if I let him get away with it even one time? What part of me not bringing it up would ever clue him in?

I guess I think that I am so damaged that it is immediately noticeable to everyone I meet. But it really isn’t. My past is not written on my face, it’s not coded into my body language, it’s not a stone that I am dragging behind me.

Nobody knows my past unless I choose to tell them. Nobody knows my preferences unless I choose to tell them. And, most importantly, nobody can possibly know that they are doing that one thing that reminds me so much of one of my abusive exes.

And they don’t know that when they remind me of one of my abusive exes I totally freak out because I think it means they are going to turn out to be abusive too. But it doesn’t actually mean that. And I have dated so many men at this point, there is bound to be some overlap in some of their behaviors. The only true predictor for abuse is abusive, disrespectful behavior.

If a new guy likes eating pizza with ranch on it, it doesn’t mean he is going to turn out like the ex that also liked to do that. All it means is that he likes to eat gross things. Also, the fictitious new guy has no clue why him doing that others me so much.

And that’s why I need to start explaining to people where I am coming from.

Not Sleeping

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I’ve found that the more I work on my issues, the better I feel, the safer I feel, the less anxious I feel, the better I sleep.

Growing up I was like a giant knot twisted in on myself. At first, it seemed impossible to untangle. At first, it WAS impossible to untangle. But it has slowly progressed and gotten easier.

I don’t get the insomnia as often now. And when I do, I can generally point to something to cause it. Nowadays there isn’t any pressing danger to my safety. It is mostly all in my mind.

But back then, I never knew when one of my parents would come into my room in the night. Sometimes they just wanted to talk. Other times I would wake up to them screaming over me.

If my mother found one dirty dish in the dish drainer, she would wake us up and make us wash every dish in the house. Even if it was a school night. Even if it was 2am. I remember this happening beginning in elementary school.

I hated being surprised that way by them. I hate surprises in general. I hated opening my eyes to find them in my room. Sometimes hitting me. Sometimes being so frighteningly angry or verbally abusive. But I shouldn’t say just towards me. Because they did it all to my siblings too.

I used to sleep fully clothed; shirt, shorts, bra (when I finally needed one). I even kept a few dollars in the pocket of my shorts. Being dressed made me feel safer. I became a lighter and lighter sleeper over the years.

I was functioning on a heightened awareness. I was constantly on guard. Waiting for the next incident to get through. It was like being in a war zone. It was hard to know what would set them off.

I suspected my brother of intentionally misbehaving to give them an excuse sometimes. Let a little steam out of the pressure cooker before it exploded.

I wasn’t like that. I was quiet. Shy. I grew more and more removed from them and from my life. I was like a shadow. Always in my room. Hidden away in a book. Quick to please, always trying to keep the peace. But there was never peace.

I remember times when there was no pretense of an excuse. They just needed someone to take their anger and abuse. The violence was always there. A numbing dullness that pervaded my life. I never thought I would escape from it.

And I almost didn’t. I almost re-created my childhood with someone else. With several someone else’s. But I got away from them too.

I don’t generally post specific stories about my past. For a long time I didn’t think I could talk about them. But now I am beginning to wonder if I can keep NOT talking about it. I feel like this blog is so much about how I feel about what happened to me. Maybe I should also be talking about what actually happened. I don’t know.