Category Archives: Therapy and Treatment

Facebook Memories

If you’re on Facebook, you’re probably familiar with how Facebook likes to share memories, showing you pictures and status updates that you’ve posted on any given day in years past.  It is mostly really fun to see what was going on in your life.  I, personally, love seeing old pictures of my pets and my friends, and thinking about the fun nights I had over Facebook in law school (without Facebook, lawyers from the class of 2011 would not have made it).

But there are times when I don’t necessarily want to remember, Facebook.

On January 23, Facebook reminded me that it had been 3 years since my Gram passed away.  I had a good cry, I posted a sappy post, went on a walk to process my sad feelings and saw a hummingbird in the desert (which I’m currently convinced is my Gram’s way of saying hello these days).  It worked.  Remembering my Gram’s passing was bittersweet; full of missing her and wishing she could see me now, but remembering how much of her lives on in me.  Okay, so Facebook memories can remind me of my Gram any day.

I still wish I could be selective about what I’m reminded of, though.  Maybe Facebook could come up with a shitty life events filter or something.  Of course, it may not have even helped with this next one considering that I had intentionally, selectively, mostly forgotten about it.

On February 4, I was reminded that around this time in 2014, I had a second weird psychotic episode that I’ve hardly discussed with anyone, even though everyone basically saw it happen this time.  After quitting my job at the big law firm, going on my round-the-country road trip, and pouring every bit of myself into launching my new law firm at the end of 2013 and into the new year, I lost my mind again.  It was maybe a period of about 48-72 hours without sleep, endlessly searching the internet, convinced I had broken it, writing this crazy manifesto that I still can’t bear to read, and sending “coded” messages to all the friends on Facebook that I felt close to at the time.

Yep.  Facebook memories reminded me that I sent a bunch of psychotic messages to my friends.  Lovely!

I posted a status update blaming it on Facebook, which seems to have gone over okay with most of my friends (except maybe one).  But it was me.  I was only about a year and a half into recovery from my childhood trauma, burned out and running away from myself on my road trip, I came back and immediately poured myself into my work and avoiding everything rebelling, but then I caught up with myself again and lost my mind.  No wonder my business failed didn’t go so well the first time I tried it.  No wonder I could barely motivate myself to get off of the couch for months after.  I have so much shame about it, and Facebook reminded me.

Thankfully, Facebook also reminded me how much I have grown since.

I honestly feel like such a different person than I was those two years ago.   I have worked really hard in therapy to move beyond so many things and it is paying off in my life.  I not only AM lighter (if you didn’t read my post yesterday, though currently stuck in a stall, I am -105lbs now!), I FEEL lighter emotionally.  My spirit is freer these days because of all of my hard work.  I am freer.

I do still fear a return of the psychosis, though.  Even though this second time around was far milder and far less damaging, it still sucked; a lot.  I’m still incredibly embarrassed and and carrying some pretty intense shame because of both of the times that my brain short circuited.  If it happened twice, it can happen a third or fourth or fifth time.  I fear being permanently disabled by my mental health issues.  If my brain can fail me in such dramatic ways, how will I ever be able to be a successful human being like I want to?  What if I’m not cut out for being a lawyer?  What if I cannot actually be a business owner?  I could go on, but I don’t need to.

Definitely some things I need to talk about in therapy.  I have so many good things going on and, despite the bullshit thrown my way this year so far, I feel pretty good emotionally, so I hate to get too much back into the serious stuff.  Finally telling you is pretty helpful (and remarkable, especially since a year-old blog post about the same subject sits in my drafts), but I’m sure telling Sam will help me tie a little bow on this and put it up on a shelf.

No more shame, damnit!  Well, at least a little less shame for now.  Thank God for therapy this week!

Negative Self Talk: Perfectionism

I touched on an important idea in my first therapy session of the new year.  Plenty of my shame-driven negative self talk (and I have a whole lot of it these days) isn’t even my own.  It dawned on me in a way that it hadn’t before: a whole lot of the bad things I throw at myself in my own head began with someone else’s shame (my mother’s mostly), which was was transferred to me before I ever knew what to do with it, and I’ve now adopted it as my own.

The negative messages began early; perfectionism, especially.

Though highly intelligent, my brother and school were like oil and water and never really worked.  He acted out a lot and hated authority (gee, wonder why), and was regularly abused by my parents for that and his bad grades.  I was powerless to do anything about anything that happened growing up, but I got a big message loud and clear: imperfection could be very dangerous.  My good grades, staying squeaky clean, being naive and innocent, over achieving, it all kept me safe.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be any surprise, then, that one of the first panic attacks I remember having came after I got my very first B in second grade.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be any surprise, then, that my anxiety goes crazy and my negative self talk is at its most nasty and vile when I feel like I have failed in even the most minor way.

It can be debilitating, constantly berating yourself at every turn for every little thing.  I am continually working on it in therapy, but lately if I’m not beating myself up about something I think I’ve somehow failed at, how I’m not perfect at whatever it might be, I stop myself only to beat myself up about beating myself up.

Today, for instance.  Since it’s a federal holiday and the courts and 98% of law firms in this town are closed, I’m trying to give myself the freedom to take an additional day off from working to process my life, to write, to do laundry, to enjoy my family, to clean my room, to eat well, to maybe get creative and/or take a walk.  I have incredible amounts of guilt and anxiety over it, though.  I have guilt and anxiety about taking good care of myself on a day when I have the actual ability to take care of myself.  I have to repeat it because it’s so clearly illogical – I have guilt and anxiety about taking care of myself.

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I am not an idiot (that was my favorite self-insult this last therapy session).  I am not dumb either (what I was just calling myself for feeling guilty about taking the day off to continue to care of myself).  I am not a failure at business (like I constantly tell myself I am or will be).  I am not failing at weight loss surgery (appx. 90 total pounds down).  I am not failing at exercise (I got 5 miles in over the last week).  I am not a failure.  And I don’t need to be perfect.

Now how do I let that go?  How do I embrace the idea that I don’t even NEED to be perfect in the first place?  Perfectionism doesn’t serve me anymore; I don’t need to be perfect to stay safe, but the message is still there.  Still loud, still clear.   I suppose I may fight against the message of perfection for the rest of my life (in all kinds of ways), but at least I’m fighting.

Let me try to keep this in mind today as I continue to allow myself the freedom to take care of me before all else…

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Coming Out of The Fog (Again)

I have been in a quagmire of funky emotions.  Dealing with the adjustments of forming all new – lifelong – eating habits, hormonal changes that come with surgery (didn’t know this until after) and rapid weight loss, getting used to my family being here all. the. time., trying to run a business, and working through the suffocating depression that has followed me around like a lost puppy dog the last three months (since I had to defend my decision for surgery to the one person I never wanted to have to defend it to).  I have been so exhausted and unable to function on a consistent basis.  But I’m finally coming out of it (again).

I guess this is the cycle of life, my dears.  Up and down and sometimes in between.

I think my body is finally adjusting to the decreased caloric intake.  The tiredness lingers and I’m super emotional at the most randomly inopportune times (my brother and I have had multiple fights over cheese), but I’m able to have a good solid, productive, 5 or 6 hours of work done now.  I just didn’t realize how difficult the first few months would actually be after this surgery.  Physically, emotionally, mentally, it’s been very challenging and often in ways that I was not expecting.

My social life has been nonexistent.  I’ve been wanting to join my friends, networking buddies, and colleagues for their many holiday soirees, but I’ve only been able to make it out to a couple of things.  Some days I can do it, other days, I hit a wall and have to rest.  I suppose if I paced myself, instead of trying to hit three things in one week (hey, when you’re feeling good, you gotta take advantage, amiright?), I’d be better off.  Either way, I’m hopeful that everyone understands and I’m trying not to be hard on myself about it in the process.

I’m really grateful that I have my own business, so that I have had an opportunity to recover in my own way.  Sure, it’s been a hard transition and a totally different kind of stressful, especially when recovery brought my business to a screeching halt, pissed off a couple clients, and killed my finances, but it’s temporary.  Now that I’m finally getting around to feeling more normal, life and business can resume (mostly) as scheduled.

Having my family here has been a real blessing.  Getting used to living with an entire family after being by myself for seven years has been quite a change, but they help out so much.  I barely have to do anything around the house and it’s such a relief.  I was praying for quite a while for someone to come swoop in and help take care of me for a while, and having my brother and his family here has been an answer to that prayer in so many ways.

My brother and I talk a lot about growing up, how difficult it was, and how difficult it continues to be.  It’s hard for the both of us to relive the many terrible memories, but it may be even harder for him at times.  I forget that while I’ve been working really hard over the last few years to deal with my our past, he has mostly just tried to forget about it the last 20 years of his life.  He keeps bringing it up, though, so I keep giving him every ounce of knowledge and insight that I’ve gained about dealing with it now. I have certainly gained some perspective because of our conversations.  I hope he feels the same.

I’m taking a bit of a break from therapy until early next year.  It may not be the best of ideas, but life.  From finances, to getting back into the swing of business, to just not wanting to for some reason right now, I can’t bring myself to do it.  I feel like I’ve talked myself to death about my childhood and my mother, I’m dealing with surgery and post-op life the best I know how, and my energy is better spent on being with my family, working on business, and enjoying a little life for a minute.

I’m learning more and more that it’s okay to take a break.  As long as I’m doing something to better myself and/or my business every day, then I’ve got nothing to be down on myself about.  Even if I’m not as productive, not as busy, not as whatever I wish I had been on any given day, I’m still making strides toward some things that are incredibly important to me – a happy and health mind and body and a successful business.  With those as my requirements, today has already been a good day.

What They Knew (Part II)

Christie’s words have left me reeling.

What did she know? How could she know? Did I tell her? I don’t remember. I hope she does.  Because I want to know; I need to know.  It’s going to be hard to hear, but I need to know what it is that made her say that.

When I got to Tracy’s, I was about to boil over with tears. Tracy and I hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks  (my fault), so we had some catching up to do before I could get the words together. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I could barely choke out the words over my tears. 

Tracy of course, knew how difficult my week had already been before Christie’s bomb on my brain and her unadulterated response was, “Wow.”  I told her, “I’m glad I wasn’t overreacting about feeling how heavy this is.” I really struggle with identifying and trusting my emotions, so her validation was just what I needed. I love her for everything she does for me (which she totally knows). 💜

Yeah, so I had a really bad Friday/Saturday, but did everything I could think of as self care, including setting a mid-appointments appointment with my therapist. Talked to my close friends. Colored. Read. Distracted. Two days of no sleep.  Then sleep. Lots of sleep. The emotional hangover is real, people. I’m actually kind of proud of how I’ve been handling things, considering.

Anyways. I have yet to get the courage to ask Christie what she knows. It’s coming, though.

I often wonder…

Who knew? What did they know? That’s really all I need to know. 

With that said, I know of one cousin that semi-actively follows my twitter (the only place I share my blog now). I don’t want to call him out by name, but he spent a year of his childhood with us kids, and he should know who he is. While I don’t know if he’ll ever read this, if he does i want him to know: I don’t think I want to know what you knew, no matter what the answer is.  Not yet, anyways.

Ultimately, I know that anyone who may have known something will tell me as much just as quickly as the universe has planned for me to hear it. Asking Christie what she knew will also happen in due time. In the meantime, the emotional tornado somewhat rages on.

I’ll keep you posted. Because, #nomoreshame.

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

What They Knew (Part I)

Now twice in my recovery, I have been confronted with the reality that old friends (other than the one I knew for sure I had told) knew about what was going on in my childhood home.  My first ex boyfriend was first, right around the time of my breakdown (early to mid 2012).  The second was this past Friday night and came from a close childhood friend who I just reconnected with after 15 years.

My ex boyfriend reached out to me from out of the blue because his name was still showing on sone deep dark record on my bank account that we shared during our incredibly short stint of living together.  He just wanted to get it fixed because he was about to get married or something.  I was happy for him and of course agreed to do whatever needed to be done.

But I had, within maybe the month before, just had a nearly physical altercation with my mom and was in severe crisis mode after having really only just come to the realization that I was physically, mentally, emotionally abused as well as molested. I was in an endless panic attack rooted in my many layers of denial and self defense built up over 28 years.  The knowing portion of my brain was also desperately searching for all the answers I was afraid of consciously knowing the answers to.

The couple of times he and I talked again, we mended a few very old fences. During one conversation, I confided in him about what had happened recently with my mom; and I couldn’t help but ask him what he remembered. He was my first boyfriend and I do remember that his exit from my life was, well, pretty dramatic.  As it turns out, at some point during our relationship (I assume near/part of the dramatic end), she put a gun in his face and threatened him. Yep.

I think I already knew on some deep level that that had happened, but hearing about it as the veil of denial about my abuse was lifting from my heart and soul was beyomd heartbreaking, immensely validating, and something I truly had no idea how to deal with at the time.  The universe and it’s glorious timing.

I was pretty confrontational with them about my abuse during the breakdown; and I confronted her about the news from my ex boyfriend. Her response was to ask me why I’d believe him over her, say that he was a liar, and deny deny deny.  What, though, would his motivation for telling me that specific a lie about her be? He was a good guy, he cared about me, neither of us could carry the other’s baggage at that time, though. That’s just truth.

To this day, she denies and she lies.

Fastforward to last week.

The firm I’m at now does its fair share of criminal defense. Occasionally, we get retained on abuse-related crimes involving minors. I had already, sadly, learned I couldn’t continue representing children in foster care (most are abused in some way) because it was too triggering for me. Knowing a couple of the criminal cases would be bad for my mental health in similar ways, I had already expressed to my boss that I wouldn’t be able to work on those particularly trigger-inducing cases. Unfortunately, though, he had to fly out of town for business on a day that one of those cases was set for hearing; I had no choice. It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do as a lawyer, for so many reasons, and it left me feeling raw and sensitive.

Being a lawyer has given a few of my old friends reason to reconnect with me.  I absolutely love that my career brings old friends into the current chapters of my life.  Christie was one of those people that I missed and was excited to see again. She grew up down the street from me and we walked home together quite a bit from elementary school.  We grew apart a bit as life moved on and lost touch entirely after high school.  Honestly, I had forgotten how far back our history really went. As sometimes happens, she called me in a panic about something earlier in the week and I agreed to meet her Friday for lunch. I’m always willing, if I can.

She ended up running late Friday, so we just decided she’d meet me at my office.  She came around a quarter to four.  It was phenomenal to see her and to meet her young daughter.  Like I hoped, it was instantly like old times; she really was that kind of friend. We chatted for hours that flew by.

Early in the conversation, she started to share the bad and the ugly in her life. Hey, people typically don’t come to a lawyer unless they’re a little bit broken, after all. We’re “counselors” for a reason; I really don’t mind.  As we’re sharing, I of course mention the abuse and the breakdown, because #nomoreshame.  We’ve both been through a lot, the two of us, so it was shaping up to be a pretty triggering conversation.

My flashbacks were getting strong, when she says in passing, really,

I think I knew.

It didn’t even register at first, but it instantly sent me into anxiety/freeze/full crisis mode like I haven’t experienced in probably a solid year and a half.

I pushed it away initially, I had to finish the conversation professionally, on a good note. But as I drove away from Christie and the office, getting closer to home, the gravity of her statement started coming into soft focus. I was partially conscious that something was not quite right, that I was amped up, and probably shouldn’t be alone. Thank God for my friends, truly. :) I was able to invite myself over to my best friend Tracy’s house, because she’s super safe company. As I stopped at the house to feed Freckles and then made my way to Tracy’s, the fully reality of what Christie said was flashing before my eyes.

She knew.  She. Knew. I. Was. Abused.

That’s all I can get through right now.  More later.

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

Learning, Moving On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I texted her, “I’m alive.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really. How could I be?

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

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

A Little Peace

We had a breakthrough of sorts.  We showed each other mutual respect, she actually acknowledged a large chunk of things in a meaningful way.  I’m so grateful for it.

I told her something along the lines of, “I always respected and admired your career.” Totally true. Career and education she has been my 100% cheerleader for in so many ways. In many ways not.  But still.

She was successful.  She worked her way up from the very bottom to second in command of a local governmental body.  She had no higher education, her parents couldn’t afford it.  But she was smart, she worked hard, and she, well, she fought her way there (more on that some time later).  I idolized her in so many ways.  She took advantage of it.

Growing up, I was always telling her how proud of her I was, so she could succeed (it always should have been the other way around).  Not to mention, some of the lessons she handed down were sick and twisted.  She was severely abused herself and took out all of her anger and her feelings of inadequacy on us.  She also, as happens, reenacted a lot of her abuse with us.  But I digress.  You’ve read some of my story, so you know by now (I hope).

Anyway.  She actually said before I could even get it out of my mouth, that her “career came at a high cost.” An incredibly high cost.  She said so much by saying so little in that moment.

We agreed that we can’t change the past and we both want to move forward how we can.  I explained to her that I’m just starting to work through a lot of things and it’s going to be hard sometimes, but we’re on the right track. 

I’m still hella guarded,  but we’re willing to work on it.  That’s good. 

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