Not So Secret Admirers…

Am I imagining you? Is this paranoia? Am I mentally breaking down? Am I crazy?

To the man who followed me home from my therapy appointment. I saw you. To the same man who followed me while I drove my children to school. I SAW you. To the SAME man with dark hair and glasses, driving the white Honda Pilot. I SEE you. I see you when you drive past my home. I see you in the parking lot at church. I see you everywhere you try to pretend you are not. I have dozens of pictures of you. What are you learning? What is so interesting about me? What are you doing to me as you follow me around??

To the person who calls my home and rings my phone three times and then hangs up. I hear you. To the person who calls my cell and leaves voice messages I NEVER listen to. I see you. To the person who texts me about things you know I’m researching. I SEE you too. Why are you so interested in me? What do you want to know? What are you trying to say to me??

To my husband. Stop asking me where I am. Stop trying to track my phone. Stop asking me if I arrived at my destination. Stop texting me all day long to “check in” and see what I’m doing. Stop asking me what I am typing. Stop telling me to share what I talked about in therapy. Stop finding ways to be in charge of our kids so I am trapped at home doing chores for you. STOP trying to anticipate, see, and control my every move. You do not own me.

To the voice in my head telling me to run. I am aware of you. To the other voice telling me to self destruct and self harm. I am aware of your existence too. To the voice of evil that harasses me in the night…I hear you. To the voice telling me it’s time to go home. I am fighting you. I will never go back.

To the woman who sent lily of the valley flowers to my bible study. Thank you for invading my space and triggering me. To the man who stared me down in Target and followed me out of the store. The image of your face is burned into my brain.

None of you own me. You may succeed in pacifying me. You may access and flip my progress and healing upside down. You may confuse me and renew fear inside. I must be pretty important to your game. I must know too much. Do I talk too much? Am I remembering too much? Am I too awake?? YOU WILL NOT WIN. I will kill myself first before you ever take me back. That is a guaranteed promise. You’d probably prefer that, wouldn’t you?

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The Girl In A Cage…

A little girl talked to me yesterday. I was sitting on my bed deep in thought and was surprised by her presence. I wasn’t sure what to do or say so I lay there silent, with my eyes closed, and listened. She told me a story of something that happened to her. This is what she said…

“In the underground there are cages. It is dark and cold and scary there. It is sad and painful. I cried a lot. Not out loud though, because if you do, that is bad and you get in trouble. You can only lay down with your legs curled up to your stomach. You can’t talk to the others who are next to you. If you do, they will take you and do things to you. They burn you. They eat you. They cut you open. They tie you up and put things inside of you. They scream in your face. They hit you and don’t stop until you stop making noise. I don’t like it here. I can never leave. They will chase me and take me back. I have to do what they say or they will cut me. Or burn me. No one will help me. Everyone forgets about me. I try to tell them what’s happening but they all stop talking to me. They are too busy.  I don’t think they believe me “

When she was done talking, she cried.

This story took the little life that I had left out of me. It has frozen me in a way that I have not felt in a very long time. I feel stuck in that cage again. With no power and no will to fight for freedom. I can only sit there and obey. It is the safest thing to do. I want to help her but I don’t know how. I want to save her but I don’t know who she is or why she came to me. I want to talk to someone about this but no one is there.

Stop the Train…

Depression is ugly and invasive. It robs you of your sense of self. It makes you feel like a failure. It prevents you from growing and moving forward in your life. It creates feelings of distress and overwhelm. It steals your energy and motivation, leaving you exhausted and unable to move. It scrambles your thoughts, causing confusion. It tells you you are worthless, meaningless, unlovable, and unworthy of anything good. It keeps you stuck in a fog, feeling forever lost and with no hope for  escape or freedom from it’s feelings of oppression and shame.

This is me, stuck in depression. I have fought SO unbelievably hard not to get to this place. I have been here before and I never wanted to return. I have done everything I know and have learned to keep me from landing here again. But depression’s grip is STRONG. It pulls me back whenever I make a move forward. It holds me tight and will not let go of it’s grip. I can’t get free.

I sat curled up in my bathroom this morning sobbing into my knees. My daughter was 10 feet away from me on the other side of the closed door and in that moment I loathed her and her presence because I had to hide what was happening to me. I felt frantic and trapped because today I didn’t have the time or the space to feel this way. I felt confused because ten seconds earlier I was fine. I woke up to her sweet voice say “I woke up Mommy.” I smiled at her and said “Good morning! What should we do today?” I got up to get dressed and everything fell apart in an instant. I don’t know why.

A feeling of heaviness has been culminating inside of me for weeks. I’ve been inundated and flooded with memories from my childhood. I don’t even know what many of them mean or what they are. It’s just a reel of pictures and flashes, feelings and anxiety come and go and pictures of situations that are horrific, ugly, and frightening. I find them unbelievable and have fought hard to ignore and dismiss everything as an overreactive imagination.

But the fog sticks. Then anxiety joins in. And insomnia also decides to hop onto this emotionally distressing train. Full speed ahead, they barrel down the tracks of my life, tossing and turning me, scraping and mauling me as I’m dragged along, bumping and bouncing on the tracks from behind. I don’t want to be in this place anymore. But I can’t keep up, the train is too fast. I’m too tired to run and try to get ahead. I’m too damaged and bruised to move anymore. It’s like quicksand, swallowing me up. I wish the grip would release me. I feel likeI have lost control. I feel like I can’t be helped. I feel like I will never be free from this nightmare.

A Slow Suicide…

The self harm game is strong right now. It’s fighting a fierce battle to take me down. I’m spiraling. It was a subtle swirl that started a few months ago. I didn’t notice or recognize it at first. But in hindsight, I see it rearing it’s ugly head. Tightening it’s grip. And somehow, just like that, it’s programming has taken over and I am it’s prisoner trying fiercely to get free.

I had gained a lot of headway in my life last fall. I had taken control of my health. I had reversed illness that had plagued me for years almost to the point of complete body failure. My anxiety was under control. My body was the strongest it has ever been. Emotionally, I was steady and grounded. Therapy was productive and introspective, hard, but tolerable and progressively helpful. I was taking steps forward. So I thought. But somewhere in that process of healing, things went awry. My healthy habits of eating well and exercising turned compulsive and into an eating disorder with a frightening diagnosis of atypical anorexia nervosa. Exercise turned into an addictive drug and eating became a punitive practice, a means to relive past trauma in a covert way.

Feelings that had been stuffed and buried under the guise of my new leaf on life began leaking. My body is trying desperately to purge the memories, to make sense of them, to bring them to my awareness. I don’t want to see them. I’m scared of what I see. I don’t understand. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel in control. And the more I try to “be in control” the more out of control I become.

In therapy a couple months ago, I began moving my fingernails back and forth on the top of my hand. Digging deeper as the distress and memory erupting from inside intensified. I was completely shut down as I recounted what happened with my therapist and after I got into bed later that night my husband pointed out the cuts across the top of my hand. Like a perfect four lane track…bloody and raw. I had no idea I had done that. I didn’t feel it. I was still numb. And then it happened again in therapy a few weeks later. This time, my therapist caught it, but not before I had dug so deep into my skin I now have a scar to remind me daily of the turmoil that brews inside of me.

I haven’t cut myself since I was a teen…over 25 yrs ago. Now, I have to fight the automatic response to do so when I feel overwhelmed and go numb. Is it a way to try and ground myself? To feel something? A punishment I inflict on myself for telling secrets I’m not supposed to reveal? I don’t know. But I want to stop doing it.

When I was a child, food was both restricted and tightly controlled. It was also offered as a reward for compliance. Eating became a confusing practice. I was punished and food was withheld if I did not obey or if a lesson needed to be learned. But I was rewarded with food of I did obey or my training was successful. It was used as bribery to do things I did not want to do. It was used as bait to lure me into vulnerable situations where I became trapped and used. When I realized my eating was becoming an issue I sought out help and the anorexia diagnosis followed. I agreed to more therapy. And I started. But then something weird happened. I did a full 180 and self-sabotaged/self-harmed again. I stopped exercising. I stopped all self care. I stopped eating well. I stopped every “good habit” I had put in to place and went backwards. I stopped restricting and ate everything. I ate all the foods given to me to lure me into abuse. Ice cream, candy, fast food…whatever it was…things I have long avoided and refuse to even look at, I eat and relive my trauma. I also suspect now as I contemplate this, I was trying to regain control. Trying to prove there was no eating disorder, I got this, I’m not wasting away, I’m not restricting on purpose, I’m not punishing myself…

I’ve made myself sick again. I’ve spiraled down fast and furious, after I swore I would never go back to feeling that way. Every day I subconsciously look for something to do to hurt and punish myself for being so awful, for failing, for remembering, for telling my secrets. I don’t know why I do it and I don’t even know I do it sometimes. It happens automatically. Like a different person has taken over my body. I don’t feel like me anymore. I’ve lost myself. I feel so much shame and guilt. I feel like a failure. I feel small and vulnerable and afraid. I’m afraid of myself and what this might escalate to next. I’m alone in a darkness I haven’t seen in a very long time.

One Stormy Night…

Thunder is rumbling and lighting flashing outside. As a little girl, I was afraid of storms. My father came into my room one night and sat me on his lap as the winds howled and the sky flashed it’s smile of wrath. We looked out the window together as he told me an elaborate story about God and the angels bowling in the sky. As the story unfolded and the storm raged he began to rub my back to try to console my fear. His hand moved down and over onto my legs. As my heart began to pound and a lump formed in my throat, it moved back up my back and landed, cradled, around the base of my neck…the touch that I know means business…no more sound or movement.

He placed my small body back onto my bed. He kissed my forehead and moved his hand up under my nightgown. My eyes drifted up and I stared up at the corner where the pink checked wallpaper met the ceiling…I drifted away to a world of darkness where I no longer see or feel when the pain settles into my body. It’s my escape, my secret hiding place, where I become nothing.

I’ve been returning to that dark hiding place in my head often lately. My husband turns over and touches me in the middle of the night, pursuing his own release…I shut down and hide in my darkness until he’s done. Nightmares harass me and I see the horror of my life in flashes. I curl up and cover my head and think about that corner I would hide in, the safe dark place that became my refuge. I re-enter it’s familiar walls. As I remember…I sat in the chair, wrists bound, needles and wires piercing and prodding my body, I would look up to the long windows near the ceiling and drift away into the dark world of my mind. When he hits me and pins me down and threatens me for daring to try to speak up against his cruelty, the pain in my face and the warmth of the blood dripping from my nose lures me back to the dark and numb, just like the little girl in the past, who stared into the corner of the ceiling to enter the darkness and hide.

I look into the mirror and I see a stranger. It can’t be me. Who is she? She looks strange. Empty. It must be the woman who lives in the darkness of my mind…she’s been in there a long time. Hiding. Silenced. Hurting. Afraid of the storms all around her in her darkness. Nowhere is safe anymore. The storms rage everywhere. There is no escape. She shatters the mirror in shame and fear. She shuts down and slips back into the darkness of her mind, her secret hiding place, hoping the storms blow over so she can remain hidden, isolated, and silent…unbothered and free of pain…the only safety she knows.

Breathless…

I can’t breathe. All life in me is gone. My heart feels nothing. Not joy or sadness or hurt. My body is numb. It can’t even feel pain. I’m completely shut down. I can’t react. I can’t fight. I can’t cry. How can I feel my heart beat again? I can’t breathe…

I look in the mirror and gasp at the stranger staring back at me. Who is she? Confusion and fear fills my soul. I don’t know what’s happening. I want to smash the mirror into millions of pieces so she disappears. Forever. I’m broken. I’m shattered. I’m not ok. How can I be ok? I can’t breathe…

I can’t breathe. Please, give me a place to run to, to escape from this place I’m in. This prison. This cage. This asylum. Everything is dark. Everything feels cold. I don’t know where I am. I am so lost and afraid. How can I find a way out of this place? I can’t breathe…

My head is filled with evil. Paintings of trauma. Pictures of death. Images of the unthinkable. My eyes stare at each in shock. My voice is stolen. No words can describe the carnage that sits inside of me. I can’t move. It’s impossible to think logically anymore. How will I ever regain consciousness? I just can’t breathe…

I can’t breathe. The weight, the heaviness, it sits on me…the heaps and piles of terror. I’m suffocating. I can’t catch my breath. There is no air left in my lungs. They have won. I have no control. I’m too weak to get back up. I can no longer breathe…

Zombie Apocalypse…

I don’t feel like myself. At all. But when I try to identify what’s off and what’s “me” I have no idea either so how can I even feel this way? It’s like I’m floating in an unknown world in my head. Super slow motion. Watching things slowly spin around me as I watch and wonder where I am. Nothing looks familiar but at the same time I know it’s not a place I want to go back to.

Today I was sitting with my therapist and my mind went down a path it has been avoiding for a very long time. I knew it as soon as the images entered my mind and I tried furiously to push it back away. I have been here briefly before. I was screaming and fighting three men who had me restrained. I was kicking and battling, trying to get away. I charged forward, they grabbed me. I dropped my body down and went limp like a toddler throwing a tantrum, they held on, their grip was so tight. I kicked my legs and flailed my body. They growled in my ears and held me tighter as I bucked like a wild bull trapped in a pen. I was trying with everything I could to not go through the doors they were leading me to. They commanded my obedience. I don’t remember what happened after that. It ends with the chaos of this incident.

My mind went from there to solemnly following a woman down a long hallway. I don’t remember what she looked like and there were no words exchanged until we reached our destination. She opened the door and pointed to a pile of neatly folded clothes laying on a bed with a metal frame. The sheet and the clothing were white. There was nothing else in the room except for a metal chair. I was instructed to put them on and sit in the chair next to the bed. I was left alone and went through this routine I feel I am very familiar with. I sat and waited, frozen, not daring to move a muscle. The woman returned and she sat in front of me. She asked me question after question and I had to answer them correctly or else I knew something horrible would happen. She left me alone again.

When she returned she opened the door and motioned me out to the hallway. I followed her to an elevator with a silver door and we went up several floors. I followed her out, turning right down another long hallway. It was brighter than the one below. She stood at a doorway and motioned me in to sit. In front of me were three men. Their faces were very stern and serious. I know these men but I can’t make out their faces in my head. They wore dark suits with white shirts and dark ties. They stared at me as I sat frozen in front of them. The door closed behind me and I was left alone with them. There were two large windows with black frames. One behind the men and one to my left side. The sky was white and there were trees in the distance. I felt very cold.

The man in the middle spoke firmly in what seems like a language I don’t understand but somehow I know exactly what is being said. I am given my instructions and asked more questions. I am to work with the babies. When the mothers give birth the babies are put into a nursery where they are tortured and deprived and trained. I don’t know how I know this or why I just wrote that. My instinct is to delete because I don’t understand it.

Tears are falling as I write but I feel nothing but confusion inside so I don’t understand their purpose. I don’t know what this is. I fear I have a mental illness. All feeling is gone inside of me. Something else has taken over. Something is horribly wrong.

I did tell some of this to my therapist this morning. His reaction was strong and it felt as if he was angry and irritated with me. I felt immense shame for saying anything and an incredible amount of fear for speaking any of it out loud, like something awful was going to happen to me. I haven’t processed this enough to know what it even is. I feel like I don’t have any context for it, yet at the same time, other things fit into it that have never made sense to me before. I don’t know how these things could have even happened. I don’t know how I get to these places with these people. I don’t know who they are. I have no answers other than I am wrong. Something like this just feels like it can’t be real…I would remember. Wouldn’t I? What has taken over my brain? What is happening to me?  Is it even real? Am I sick? Like, literally, have zombies taken over my body and made me into some creature of hate who loves making up stories that isolate and bring me down to my knees or curl me up in a ball in fear? I feel dead. I know no other way to describe it. I am scared. I am worried I’ve lost it and am unfit to parent my children. I am so confused and lonely. I am living in a place in my mind that feels foreign and fuzzy. I’m trying to figure it out. I need help.

 

Push And Pull…

I’m in a great place of struggle right now. Trauma memories are flooding and they overwhelm me. I don’t understand them and I need someone to talk to…on a daily…hourly…minute to minute basis…not just the three hours a week I have with my therapist. I can’t get it all out even in that amount of time. I shut down. My brain goes wild but my lips become paralyzed. I’m unable to speak what needs to be let out…so many secrets. So much shame. So much guilt. So much regret. So much humiliation. So much hurt. I backs up inside of me.  Some has come out but a lot of it is stuck. I’m afraid to say it out loud. I’m not safe.

My marriage is in trouble. That’s not really a secret. Well, actually it is. No one in my real world life knows of the things my husband has done to me, and with others, except my therapist and a few women in my bible study, who are only somewhat aware and likely now think we have “worked it out” since I’ve stopped talking it about it. I’ve hidden it back away. My husband probably thinks the same thing, since I don’t really fight him much anymore. I don’t really know what he thinks, though. We don’t ever talk about it either. How do you work out the fact that someone betrayed you and rejected you and humiliated you so deeply? How do you?? I don’t know how. So I guess it’s been put away to be ignored. Swept under the rug. The pull I feel to just let it go and go back to what used to be with him is so strong. But when I get close I push him back away, refusing at the last minute to allow him access to my heart…he will never hurt me again. But I need someone to talk to. But I can’t talk to him…there’s no safety with him.

I don’t trust him. I can’t. I try to sometimes. I want to tell him everything that is happening in my head. Everything I have remembered from my past, everything that haunts me, everything that I know for sure happened to me. I want to show him my writings. I want to show him the pictures I have drawn of the images of abuse in my head. I want to every single day. He’s supposed to be the one I can tell. I need his support. I need his love. Yet, I cannot even get myself to love him anymore…and honestly, I refuse to accept any attempt of love on his part…genuine, or not. It’s too dangerous. He’s completely unsafe. I am afraid of him and how he will react…or not react, which makes me feel crazy. He sees me crying sometimes and asks what’s wrong. When I can’t answer he just walks away or changes the subject or leaves me alone. He doesn’t sit it in it with me. He doesn’t wait for me to get the words out. He has no compassion or empathy for me. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t understand and he doesn’t try to. I am a burden to him. He doesn’t have time for me or this process I am in. It’s too uncomfortable for him because it forces him to look at himself and his role in it all.

Sometimes I don’t know if what I am feeling is triggered from childhood trauma or the trauma experienced in my marriage. I sometimes can’t separate it out from each other. That makes me feel crazy, overreactive, and out of control.  It’s all so messed up. I’m messed up. Used. Abused. Traumatized. Worthless. This has been my entire life. Chaotic. Terrifying. Overwhelming. I need to get out. I want to get out. But I don’t know how. I don’t even know what to move towards. I don’t trust my judgement to make good choices. I have no idea where to go or who to trust. The pull to go is strong. I dream about it. I’m doing things to prepare for it. But when I try to put a picture in my head of what it could all look like I shrink into a crumpled up child who’s curled up in a corner afraid to look and see, to hope for better than this. I turn my head and close my eyes and push the images away. I negotiate with myself that life is not so bad. I don’t want to hurt my children and wreck our family. At least I know what I’m in the middle of. At least I know this. I know how to survive this.

But I’m dying. But I can’t go. I don’t know how.

The Burning Rod…

I feel nothing, I hear nothing. My arms are tied. My legs are tied. The room is dark. My body unclothed. My fingers linger and pause…afraid to say more.

“This isn’t real. Your imagination is wild and evil. Move on. Forgot about this. Move on. Don’t move your mind back into this space. You will fall apart. You are fake. Nothing ever happened to you…”

My body is overloaded with something. Feelings? Fear? Disgust? Shame? What is this? I’ve been fine for months. I’ve settled myself down. I’ve reclaimed control. Did I? I’m spiraling. I’m falling fast. I’m spinning. I’m sick. I can’t slow things down. Stay numb. Keep it together. There’s nothing going on. Nothing happened. This isn’t real. Do not enter this space in your brain.

My senses are awakening. My body feels cold. It’s trapped. Restrained. Held back. I see the shape of his unclothed body standing over me. I see the dim light. I see the glow of red held high above his head. I cannot scream. I cannot move. I follow the glow in his hand as he moves it towards my body and in between my legs. My mind goes crazy. I writhe in pain. Everything goes dark. I’ve died inside.

My imagination is wild and evil. This could not have happened. The feelings won’t go away. I’m sick and evil. Worthless. Disgusting. Just like they always say…

Enough…

I am not good enough.

I am not beautiful enough.

I am not smart enough.

I am not healthy enough.

I am not calm enough.

I am not sexy enough.

I am not skinny enough.

I am not brave enough.

I am not intentional enough.

I am not educated enough.

I am not engaging enough.

I am not happy enough.

I am not conforming enough.

I am not liberal enough.

I am not social enough.

I am not fun enough.

I am not wise enough.

I am not old enough.

I am not respectful enough.

I am not playful enough.

I am not helpful enough.

I am not experienced enough.

I am not kind enough.

I am not generous enough.

I am not compliant enough.

I am not steady enough.

I am not obedient enough.

I am not relaxed enough.

I am not quiet enough.

I am not bold enough.

I am not skilled enough.

I am not loving enough.

I am not important enough.

My voice isn’t enough.

I am never enough…

My “not enoughs.” I have lived with these shadows over me all of my life. One person, after another, placed these umbrellas of darkness over me, one by one, and I’ve believed them all. I’ve made decisions about my future and the paths I would and wouldn’t take in my life based on these “not enoughs.” This is the place where I have sat…and still sometimes sit.

I received an email from my sister this past week. It was horrible. It was mean. It was frustrating. I was told I’m the reason for all our family conflict. I opened up a Pandora’s Box and called out the abuse of my past for what it was. My parents have rallied the whole family together to rise up against me and shut me out. I’m an outcast. Standing isolated and alone. I’ve tainted the picture of perfection they try to maintain. I’ve crushed and ruined their lives.

I’ve received several emails like hers from my parents over the last year. I’ve been called a liar, a fake Christian, controlling, crazy, a terrorist, insane, ugly, troubled, that I’m not liked and don’t like them, I should be ashamed of myself, a seeker of a drama, horrific, a perfectionist living in a bubble of perfectionism, that I have no compassion or empathy, I’m hurtful, I don’t care….and on and on…

What do I do with this? How do I even respond? Should I even attempt to defend myself again?? Would they even listen to anything I have and want to say? Does it even matter? Why do I care???

I care because of my “enoughs.” I care because I don’t want to be those things anymore. I’m tired of others dictating who I am and am not. When do I get a say? When do I get to define myself? Who even gave them permission to speak over my life and dictate its direction?

These “enoughs” can not be my truths. They cannot be who I am. They’re someone else’s opinions I’ve held onto as my truths. I didn’t know any different. Not anymore. I want to be enough.