Thank God I took today off.
Real freedom through thoughtful planning, in this case, this day, keeping my time for myself and limiting my interactions. This took courage to clear my schedule of places to be, things to do, and people to see. I realized that it has been over thirty days since I was alone and I will lose my mind if I don’t stop to rest. This is huge given that that I spent nearly 3 1/2 years retreating from life and here I am now so busy that I need a break from it. Recovery is possible. Time to balance back out letting my instincts be the guide. The only human being I can handle everyday is my own child, everyone else I need a break from or I get over-whelmed. I felt enormous relief upon waking and remembering that I don’t have to deal with anyone today. This is made possible by the day off work, letting my exercise class know I would be absent, and there being no social engagements on the calendar. My few pals were forewarned that I would be unplugged today. Although, I don’t think it is “unplugged” really, I think it’s just a “no demands, please” day.
I need an emotional break from human interactions for twenty-four hours to “re-set”.
My biggest fear right now may be committing to the rat-race again, or to the Treadmill of Life. I get exhausted to the soul and want to wither away after long periods of “doing” and interacting. I want to live as a human being, not a human doing. As it is, I live most of the time feeling blue in a fog of grey, pretending that I am okay with this running to work, school, family things, social engagements, the gym, the business of life, and fun; like other people, chasing success and happiness. Truth is, I suck at it, and I don’t like it at all. Maybe most people don’t like it either, they just do it because they know no other way. Maybe others do like I am doing and pull back to rest, I think this may be what they mean by “vacation”; although usually I hear about needing a break after vacation, so I think even vacations are just more running. Anyhoo, I can’t wait for a real vacation so this is a one-day version.
I also woke with the trippy sense of having had dreams within dreams.
When I first fell asleep last night I think I began to dream right away. I awoke in startle response and physically felt something heavy on top of me. At first I thought it was big, bigger than me, and holding me down. My mind raced, my heart braced for violence, maybe death.
I thought, “Well, this is a big city, people kill people, someone came in my window and this is it, Matt will be devastated and everyone will know that big cities are dangerous.”
Then I thought, “No, the windows are closed, the air is on. Oh, I left the keys in the door again and this time I won’t be so lucky….”
Next I realized the thing on me wasn’t that big. It was small and mostly on my shoulders and neck. It was moving, slowly, sort of gently. “Wait, there is a sound, low, steady, slightly rumbly-scratchy sound, and it is occasionally rubbing against me. Oh! It’s head-butting me!”
In my sleepy fog I identified this weight as a cat. A cat had jumped on me and was purring and butting into my shoulder, neck, head, and face for attention. I could clearly hear its happy throat, smell its hot feline scent, feel its wet kitty nose and mouth. I remembered how loving a creature a cat can be, and all the cats we’ve had over my life. Okay, a cat I can handle.
Concern suddenly hit me as I tried to rouse to deal with the situation. “I love cats, I want a cat, but I am allergic to them. This is the biggest reason I was sick most of my life. I didn’t know I was allergic to them. SHIT! I am well now, I so will not go back to constant “kill me now” sharp headaches, nausea, swollen glands, and tiredness with confusion! This cat has to go!”
” Bummer, I was enjoying the attention.”
I finally managed to move, as I opened my eyes I found nothing. In disbelief I jetted my eyes around not wanting to disturb anything. Then I turned my head and looked around. Nothing. Absolutely nothing was different from when I went to sleep. No open window or door, no cat. I shot up to a sitting position and began to shake. For probably five minutes shook, and quivered, and writhed a little. I realized that it had all been a very elaborate dream. Then I realized that it was probably my body working on trauma. THEN it hit me…
“That was trauma physically working to the surface and leaving. Very cool.”
I went back to sleep grateful that I had taken the next day off. I continued to dream but sort of realized they were dreams within dreams and life was okay. When I woke up for real and got out of bed this morning, I felt this powerful sense of okayness. I felt a re-appearance of confidence in my mind’s abilities, and the same confidence in my place in this world. I had lost these friends for a very long time, I am glad they are back, if only for the day.
O Happy Day.
Walking home from church in the brightness of early afternoon, I inhaled deeply as I reached the street corner. Looking up, it was green for me to walk and I slowly exhaled as I did so. Checking in with my body, I found it relaxed, spent, almost sleepy. Inquiring further north, my mind was quiet, nothing in particular rattling around stirring up expectations, no dramas being hashed through, no critical voice demanding forward action. Nothing. Blissful peace of mind.
Recently I have come to realize that my studio door is really a time portal. Going out of it reminds me of the realities of the ever faster moving bit world beyond it’s sturdy frame. Coming back in is like stepping back into the seventies when my physical needs were met, I was safe, life was fairly quiet, and there was a dim hum of some future; but no one was home.
To this day, when I am alone I often have the sensation of being small and waiting for my mom to come home. As I enter my living space, I feel like I am eight coming home to an empty house, save for the cats and the dog. The silence is loud. My entire life I have paused to listen to the openness of that silence. My eight-year-old self had no comfort that the time alone would be brief. The expectation that I would soon be swept up in my parent’s love and attention was unrealistic and usually not met; but it didn’t keep me from hoping, dreaming, trying. When connection was not available and time stretched on, the silence would fill my head. Suddenly I would be void of thoughts, urges, movement. It was like someone took an eraser to the chalkboard in my brain. All that was written upon it was gone, no longer important. I remember moving with stealth through the empty house. Until the dog woke up, I was a prowler. Over time, the void permeated most of me. By the time I turned nine, I felt void of my body also. I existed outside myself most of the time, returning now and then out of the old hope that was once there.
We had moved yet again. This time it was with a man and we all lived in the same house. This was good because it meant that my mom would be home with me and not at her boyfriend’s. It was also good because it was almost like we were a family. My mom cooked, cleaned, ran things, and looked after me. It didn’t last long. Despite the structure, there wasn’t connection between my mom and I. It became clear to me that the house was his, she was just staying there, they were them, and I was just there. School was not going well for me. It was my fifth school and I was only in 4th grade. I was forever going to be out of the loop of kids that knew each other since kindergarten, I wasn’t from around there, hell I wasn’t even from that region of the country. That year I didn’t connect with my peers. Last Sunday while cleaning, I came across a diary from when I was 7, 8, 9, and 10. The entries were few and far between, hence covering four years, but the content was consistent. Beyond the normal angst whether a certain boy liked me or if a friend would betray me; there were entries voicing continued disconnect, hope fraying, and death talk. Of course there was the “I’ll just die/kill myself if such and such happens,” but there were also precursors to suicidal ideation. One entry sent me to the floor when I read it. I remembered it.
My mom and her boyfriend broke up and we spent the summer camping. It was a blast. My mom bought a blue 1967 stick-shift Ford Ranger, put an over-the-cab camper on it, loaded three cats, two dogs, and me up, and off we went. This was the best summer of my entire childhood. Three of the best months of my life. We got back right before school started, she married before the year was out, and I disappeared again. Her absences this time were just weekends away, but the new for sure, gone all night, rattled me as much as the gone-more-often-but-maybe-not-overnight behavior from before. It didn’t matter, I didn’t matter, she just wasn’t interested in me. Eventually I came to not mind, even look forward to her weekends away. It became a badge of honor that I was so responsible. I was eleven.
It has been nearly four decades, yet I still trip over time’s threshold walking into an empty home alone. That is, until I remember that the time is now. Real time is living in this world-class city as a grown-up with grown-up privileges and a bank account. Real time has me connecting with co-workers over new jobs, weddings, babies, funerals, and fundraisers. After six years, I am a vital part of a core group of eight at a 12-step meeting on Mondays. I am now in my first “clique”. At church I have a regular seat, regular peeps to sit with, and regular activities to attend with them usually riding shot-gun. I am a “regular” at a bar (I so never saw that one coming! I am learning Backgammon.) I belong to a “neighborhood” – these people are amazingly tight and interested in each other! I no longer have to wait on someone to come home to comfort me, to give me value, to direct me in the ways of the world. I have what I need right outside my door-portal.
Right here, right now, alone for hours in my studio choosing to write despite it’s risk to my bliss; I remain at peace. It is an absolutely beautiful, warm, sunny, spring evening; I think I will treat my amazing eight and eleven year-olds to a hotdog and chocolate shake at Superdawg.
12 step, acceptance, addiction, adult children, anxiety, co-dependency, confidence, counter-dependency, depression, development, fear, freedom, gratitude, grounding, harmony, mental health, peace, ptsd, re-parenting, recovery, respect, self-esteem, shame
Today, I awoke profoundly happy. Last night I slept more peacefully than I have in years. It wasn’t that I didn’t awake or toss and turn and destroy my bed; it was that last night, life felt okay. This okayness was a direct result of a great previous 36 or so hours. It had been a wonderful Sunday filled with a dead-on-for-me message from my awesome minister; a productive afternoon re-installing, “updating”, and managing home IT; a brief walk outside between raindrops; then a cozy social evening of beer, burgers and conversation about God and the role of play in our lives. For me, a well rounded, balanced day is Nirvana. I felt complete. I felt like my needs had been met. I felt the increase in my functioning. I felt normal. I could let go and let myself rest.
The clock read 9:30 pm by plumeria candle-light as I slipped into my bed sans feathers, but accompanied by a glass of Spanish wine. My body was willing to co-operate with the early retirement because my mind was blissfully quiet.
Saturday had even been a good night at work. As usual it wasn’t worth it to stress about achieving or to worry about the state of affairs on my unit, because as usual, the powers that be have no concern for those things; so I didn’t. I got floated to a totally chill assignment which enabled me to do things at work that I never ever do. After a couple of hours I was able to check my work and personal emails and go online. I had two hours to read up on WP blogs. I was able to respond to those who sent me “likes” and comments. I was able to read their posts, their bios, their struggles. From a dark, cold, institutionally lit room; I was able to connect via invisible radio waves sending and receiving digital data across my continent and possibly “the pond”. (I think radio waves is correct.) In those moments I was totally loving technology. Although such connections are not as fulfilling as connecting with someone ten inches from me, I am growing to look forward to checking in on this online community of fellow travelers.
As I left work (early even) I was pumped about the blogs and those who wrote them. I felt a new surge of energy and interest. Once home, I messed with IT and wrote most of the night. At 5 am-ish I was happy enough with my work to take a nap before rising for church. Little did I know, I had just written the jist of the coming sermon. I love it when that happens because then I KNOW I am going in the right direction.
WP blogs provide a relatively safe place to drop our masks. While I am mostly “out” in my world, this blog is anonymous and no one who knows me in person is privy to it. However, this is beginning to fray. My closest pal/friend wants to read more of my writing and usually wants to read as I post. I am hesitant to direct them to my WP blog because of the freedom of expression that it affords me. I can say anything I want on my blog and it doesn’t impact anyone around me. It is a space that I am free to be me. I’ve never had this before so it is beyond special and I want to protect it. What if I want to write about them? What if I want to explore my tendency to hang out with married men who have crazy wives?
A few people from my Monday night 12-step group have asked how to find my blog. When asked this I say that I am sorry but that I want to keep it anonymous. This is in part because I am protecting someone that I did write about and I don’t want to out them. But a large part of not wanting my fellow 12-steppers reading my blog is that I feel it would impact their growth. Some will feel less than, and unintentionally my blog could pressure them where there is already too much pressure. Some will get all ADD. My writing could influence them to stray from their path to investigate something on mine. Some will get compary. They will compare their writing with mine, their journey with mine, how I manage things with how they manage things, their life with mine. A few will be better than me in some areas and will either want to tell me so, want to critique and fix things, or improve how I do something. At least one will push me to improve the appearance of my blog, how it functions, and it’s exposure. I don’t want the stress.
Then there is the humany stuff. People will gossip, bitch, tease, compete, compensate, disengage, placate, and worry. It will be like high school.
I am beginning to think that thinking of groups of people together all the time, over a long period of time, is like high school. Silver lining: I am also beginning to think that my natural order of development can be recaptured in the HERE and NOW if I can learn to navigate my thoughts, feelings, behaviors, instincts, dreams, and the ethereal things that happen, right in my current environments. That is, I have high school all over again to finally grow-up! Now, we all know that in high school, the less said, the better.
As I get further in honesty and respect for myself, I am realizing that a lot of what my hands do is out of feelings of fear. I am often fearful of the not doing, so I do to ward off fear. Not doing a thing makes me question what I should be doing instead. I have the urgency to rush to do something else then, if I can’t do the other. Yes, I get that priorities could be discussed; but I want to stick with the idea of not doing and the mind’s scramble to understand how that could possibly be. I am going to stick with not warding off fear by doing. Today, the not doing, the not running, will have to be okay; although I am still doing my doing something else probably out of at least a little fear. Darn it!
After grounding in the sun against the refrigerator, it occurred to me to look again at the previous week. I had to think all the way back to the 25th to get a handle on today. Well, duh! It had been nine days since I could really rest. Okay, I require down-time after six days. I was three days overdue being left the heck alone by outside forces. Now, I did have days off work, so I wasn’t super tired or murderous. I think this is partly how I missed just letting myself chill for the day without internal drama. I was busy everyday even without work. Oh, yeah, I was, wasn’t I? This is normal life for most people. Not so for me over the last three years. I have posted before that I suck at remembering what I have just been through. Yup, extreme ups and downs, already forgotten. Duh, you are worn out. The body remembers, but the mind does not. WTH? (Well, unless it is huge or repetitive, then ya, I don’t forget even when I should.)
I am going to briefly back up to Tuesday, January 26th. I promise to get back to why what my hands do is so important to my survival. This part is foundation for that behavior. In this case my body and my mind were screaming bloody murder: silently.
I have had my job for 14 years. I have known almost everyone I work with for that long. When I came to this place of employment I was not super forth coming about myself on personal things. I was not, had not, been married nor had any children. I presented younger than I was and never indicated my educational level nor my aspirations. I had recently relocated to the state to care for my grandmother.
Almost nothing that people thought about me on personal things were true. I had been married. I had a child. I was much older than I looked. I was educated and my grandmother wanted to keep an eye on me. I was full of shame, pain, fear, loss, and doubt. The worst was that I had left my child behind. I wouldn’t have let him, given safe options, but there weren’t any. To this day, close to 14 years later, neither my child nor I see how I could have done it any differently.
About three years into my time there, I brought him to see where I worked and introduce him to everyone. Literally EVERYONE I could find that I worked with. He met maybe 100 people that day. My co-workers fell over seeing me coming toward them with a 10 year old looking exactly like me. Yes, I was divorced and this is my child.
There are still a few who give me the business about that. Over the years as relationships developed they learned why I kept it secret. Until a few years ago, like 4 or 5, they were gracious to not ask or talk about him much. I was fine to talk divorce, but not children except for theirs. My recent history came to light little by little with a few here and there. My education came out somewhere along the line. After my grandmother died I opened up about my aspirations.
Then came cancer. I was in my current position about nine months when the diagnosis came. Let me tell you, was that divine intervention. No doubt about it. God gave me the family that I would need for the next 7, 8, maybe 9 years. My co-workers saw me through all of the cancer stuff, a year and a half of schooling, and then a mental health break down. I am emerging from a three year recovery from the biggest crash of my life. I’ve been difficult. Letting loose of the things that can kill you almost does.
My last secret was innocently outed on a celebratory bulletin board. I was horrified. I almost removed it. I hoped no one would notice. I hoped no one would make anything about it. I cursed myself for not taking time off. I considered calling in sick. I nearly WAS sick. I didn’t sleep the night before. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. It took all I had to get in the shower. I cried loudly in the shower. I howled. I begged for something to happen. Me liquefying and going down the drain, a migraine, a fire, a bomb scare, a call-off, dying would have worked.
None of these things happened. I sobbed my way out of the shower, into clothes, into the car, into the garage, into the building, into the locker room, into my work space, and looked a wreck all day. Everyone went out-of-their-friggin-way to be absolutely wonderful. My mobile pinged all day from comments on social media. Pink flowers, cards, gifts, food (in the form of ordering out just for me), cake, hugs, and meal sharing were bestowed upon me. I nearly died a thousand deaths.
Maybe those thousand deaths did really occur. Maybe they needed to. Maybe my birthday got outed so that I could have a major freak out with nowhere to go and have to verbalize that I am not entitled something so nice, that is was dangerous to want to celebrate me, that is was bad to expect or hope for such attention, and certainly not every year, or just for me. How dare I. I was terrified for days. I still feel a little shocky and I cry as I type.
Everyone was wonderful. I hope their affection worked to break this horrible terror, acute sadness, and soul-murdering shame I feel on this day every year.
I do my best to write 1000 words, so at 1400 I knew I needed to post in two parts.
I am convinced that for me, all of life is a message. I am also convinced that my body knows what it needs, it expresses itself through my hands (where I put my attention), and that if I follow it when well grounded; life improves. I am determined to heal myself with the help that comes my way. My guiding principle the last year has been to pay attention to what I am actually doing. Not what I think I am doing, not what I lie to myself and say I am doing, not what I am outwardly pretending I am doing; but what I am doing for my body.
I am basing this post on the physiological consequences of growing up in a dysfunctional home. In homes where there is intentional/unintentional neglect, abuse, inadequacies, and/or extreme stressors; the pain felt by the child remains in the child. Trauma lives inside me, always. My struggle to function with my pals of dysthymia, generalized anxiety, PTSD, narcolopsy, and suicidal ideation; are also accompanied by fabulous survival skills, decent intelligence, massive curiosity, quirky creativity, and an innate ability to heal myself. I want to think this is how all living things are created. I have already survived many things. I can do this. I also plan to write it down.
So, what I mean by asking myself what I am actually doing, is this: Physiologically, what is happening inside myself? What am I physically doing for my own self’s survival (this includes comfort, rest, defense, and energy)? What is my body trying to say by what I am actively doing? How is my behavior keeping me alive? How is it maintaining what I know? (To see this, stop doing something you “have” to do, then check in with your feelings about yourself or your body’s sensations.) If you begin to freak out, then maybe you aren’t doing what you think you are doing. I just went through this at work this week. It was a real eye opener! In the name of behavior modification, I am assuming ALL my behaviors are there for survival in some way.
Let’s take something easy to start. There are reasons for the coffee break. I love coffee. I live coffee. Pretty sure coffee runs through my veins. It’s an addiction. When I am jonesing for coffee, if I don’t let myself have that coffee because of money, time, availability, or weaning; ALL I think about is coffee. Why? Because coffee for me is comfort. I need comfort just like anyone else. It is liquid calm. It is a moment of happiness. It is love in a cup. But mostly, sitting down with a cup of HOT coffee, especially at work, means to me, that I deserve a moment of rest, peace, and comfort. I get seriously bent if I can’t have just 3 minutes of quiet with coffee. If my hands are searching for coffee, I am stressing and need to ground or I need to rest and gear up again.
Today I had a bunch of tasks on my mind. All these pressures, outside interests looking at me, actual needs to meet for my next few days to run well. But I was slowly moving from one small household annoyance to another. I was fussing over planning accomplishing things that required me to leave my studio. I have noticed that what my hands do generally bring me feelings of satisfaction, calm, comfort, and control. What my hands are up to usually give me a sense of self, self-worth, meaning, and place in the world. For today, I think I was slow because I needed to slow myself down. I needed to resolve annoyances and restore control in my environment. Fussiness is resistance. I wanted to stay home to empty my mind into my blog so that I could track my progress, and know I’ve gotten somewhere before adding more.
In my previous post I wrote that while in the bathroom it occurred to me that I didn’t want to do anything. For myself, checking in on what is normal and what is questionable mental health worries, requires constant surveillance. Okay, I am not depressed, I am not completely broke, it is not -10 outside, and I was not alone in the world today.
Enter conversation with myself:
So what’s with the not wanting? I just don’t. I’m pooped.
What’s this not “do” about? Be, not do, I want.
Okay then, Yoda.
The decision was made to let go. Don’t just do something, sit there. I am a fan of this kind of Mindfulness (Sylvia Boorstein). However, at times, I am still stressed either way. If I give in to my body’s need to rest and write (hopefully posting); then I am a bum for letting other things go. If I tell myself no, that I have a gym membership to utilize, I need quarters, I have a camera to finish, and that good weather and momentum are good for me; then I am not sticking to my “program” on my wall.
Today, after cleaning the floors, shoes, and counter space, I only took out the trash. As the sun moved across my south windows into my “livingroom” I moved with it. I bit the frustration bullet and started up my IT. As my laptop booted up, complained, poked my cellphone, complained more, and my router blinked unsteadily; I brewed my own coffee, lit candles, and organized my work space. I had nine days of hard work to share.
The mess I need to clean up is the mess in my mind.
The good, but infrequent poster is back. I tend to experience a boatload of life, fill-up a 100 page composition notebook plus scribble on other things both with pen and keyboard, then, generally process said experiences, and finally worry that I need to stop and post before there is too much to post, to get me to post. The point of this blog is to share my struggle with adulthood built on tide-washed sand.
It has been nine days of extreme ups and downs. They have been that bitter-sweetness of necessary pain for growth and joy, mixed with both accurate and inaccurate criticisms that scream for behavioral change that I may or may not want or be able to change. They were also full of that confusing word: love.
This will have to be a series of posts because of the length, depth, and the many topics covered. Most of what I have written in the last nine days is specifically about processes. I am all about behavior modification as goal of recovery from addictions and I am my subject. This is how I am changing my life.
As usual, it was 2pm and I was deciding on what to do with my day. I had completed my rising tasks, met friends for lunch, and checked my calendars. As usual, I was beginning to stress that I was not going 100 miles an hour and “doing things like other people”. I was stressing over dirty floors, dishes, laundry, and pet biffies. I was concerned about my surveillance camera project, pending possession replacements and repairs, and demands from snail mail, email, my calendar, and a few people. I felt like a slug for not swimming for quite a while now, and for my lack of enthusiasm finding additional employment. Got the picture? My head was swimming, The Committee was gathering, and my anxiety was rising.
I noticed what I was actually doing with my hands. My hands were picking up my rubber boots and cleaning them off. I saw that they are cracking in places and that my feet were going to get wet if I didn’t apply duct tape. I was chuckling to myself that they would match my brand new yellow rain coat that already has torn pockets, because I was planning on duct tapping them too. Next I saw my hands picking up and cleaning my black leather dress boots. Later I would buff out the saddle soap from it’s creases. One by one my foot attire was cleaned and put away or moved temporarily. The large rug just inside my studio door was also picked-up, shaken out my bedroom window, rolled-up, and tucked into a laundry basket. I fetched a small hand broom to sweep, my swiffer to mop, laid a clean rug, and reset my shoes.
I stopped to admire my now clean “livingroom” floor. It had been bothering me for several days, that as I came in my door I walked into a dirty mess. (Part of the mess is from drilling through my wall to set up a surveillance camera and the disintegration of a shelving unit next to the door that organized my possessions.) Chaos when I stepped inside was bothering me. My thoughts were on taking care of something that was driving me nuts. I was not necessarily “cleaning”, I was clearing the space, and yes, wiping away dirt, salt, and cement dust. Underneath it, I think I was afraid of tripping and falling over my shoes, and losing an allergy battle with the cement dust.
Without planning, I went into my bathroom, removed everything from the floor (mostly laundry), wiped it, shook the rug out the bathroom window, and cleaned out the sink. It was in the bathroom that it occurred to me that I didn’t want to do anything*.
Moving to the kitchen, I cleared my minuscule counter space, washed it, rinsed the side of the sink sans dishes, and contemplated washing my hotplate and the inside of my microwave. Then, BAM!!! My mind began to go a little nuts, but through practice, recovery kicked in and the grounding began.
In thinking about cleaning the hotplate and microwave, The Committee tried to start yacking. Right away they were all about how messy my whole studio had gotten in the last week, the dishes, the laundry (what a loser I am over my laundry issues#), how dirty the inside of my car is, and the rabbit biffies. They tried to continue on to plan out the route I would have to drive to obtain quarters (maybe swim too), or not swim but still get quarters and use the laundromat instead of the building washer (yes, ONE washer for the whole building). They said to purchase a recording device for the camera, and oh, ya, get a new shelving unit to restore order by the door. They were all over criticizing what I wasn’t doing. Now, I am beyond sick of The Committee hijacking my emotions, energy, time, and money. I told them to shut the hell up.
One of my kitchen walls is made up of south facing windows. My kitchen is also painted yellow. In the height of the afternoon, I might as well be on the Sun Itself. Turning from my hotplate and microwave, I stepped into this Great Ball of Fire. I closed my eyes from the white brightness, leaned on my refrigerator, concentrated on the amazing heat radiating to my body, and smiled in gratitude for my glassy apartment with it’s warmth from the cold, arranged for maximum light enjoyment, and it’s affordability on just one job for now. Capitalizing on this gratitude, I felt peace. In that moment, my current small sustainable firm life, built over three years, enabled me to IMMEDIATELY ground myself.
A key technique that has been working for me for about a year, is calmly asking myself, “What are you actually doing?”
Then I look at what is in my hands.
My mind was weird this morning. I didn’t have the normal dread or anxiety of facing a new day. I was not super lazy, yet I didn’t move very surely. After a while it was like ADD smacked into me, my thoughts all over the place, fast, fleeting, urgent yet indecisional. Like the Tolls on Charmed, they were so fast that prioritizing and planning to carry out a single action was beyond my grasp. I felt confused. Uncertain from one second to the next.
I have trained myself to focus through coloring. I grabbed my Color-by-Numbers from my bed and settled at my kitchen table to calm down and see what was really going on in my brain. After a few minutes I booted up my laptop to write what came out. Here it is.
Can’t alight on a thing. Criticism and judgment picks at me. I can’t do anything in peace because of nagging to do something else. No one seems to be in charge. Doubt prevents efficiency. A good decision cannot be made.
Uncertainty, life’s pause button. Stop. Check-in. Feel. Assess. What is irritating you? What issue is still in your mind from yesterday, the day before, or the week? What have you accomplished that has you on a roll? Should you still be on the roll? Pace yourself. Pace your energy, even good energy. Pace your money. Stay on budget in all things. Stop. Assess your expenditures. Plan your spending. Remember shopping is an addiction for you. Crap.
The addicted mind. Oi!
I have to watch the anger. I will strive to “make deals” with myself because I’ve called myself out. My addiction will argue good points. The healthier me will be tempted to allow addiction it’s “deal” because there is some truth to the argument. Shame will echo addiction’s reasoning. Shame wants to remain covered up, prompting addiction’s nagging. My parenting style is to say “yes” where possible, with limitations. Through poisonous pedagogy, I have also learned that true needs are met with anger and resentment. I will do to myself what was done to me. In this case, I may allow myself this purchase, but it will come with a, “There! Now shut up about it!” Guilt will be attached to the item because of the associated drama in acquiring it.
Shame will play both sides. Deprivation is shameful. Yet meeting that deprived need pokes at that deprivation. The self-acknowledged pain that I have let myself go without meeting true needs, tends to call forth my history of such denials either purposely as now, due to my strict budgeting, or not, directly out of my own failings, or in addition to someone else’s. Deprivation because it was “only you” (me, that is) seems to unleash a particularly frenzied addictive behavior. It is likely that shame will be standing next to me in line to pay for my purchase reminding me I am not functional enough or that my budget is so tight or that the addictive power of buying something is so dangerous that I can barely buy a bra.
Got it! I was still on a shopping high, distracted by very real accomplishments, yet my addiction was screaming for more, as addictions do. Like other addicts, there must have been some residual relief that I wanted to maintain, thus I was focused on how I was going to get my next “fix” rather than engaging in the real morning unfolding in front of me with my safety intact. Instead of reveling in the joy of the new comfy bra I had washed and was now on my body, I was scratching for another, immediately! Instead of washing the new sheets I got at the same time as the bra, putting them on my bed, removing the brand new set currently on it; I was cruising online for a new body pillow so I could throw mine away. Instead of being grateful for the gift card from my co-worker that enabled me to get a new planner, a Dot-to-Dot, three adult coloring books for myself, and one as a gift; I was plotting how to get still another tiny adorable purse sized color book as well.
It is never enough. As an addict to the exchange of my money for items I truly do need, objects and services that make my life better, and such for others, because I have a generous heart; I must forever reign in all thoughts regarding spending. Apparently, I now also have to reign in all thoughts the next day as well, to check on addiction’s agenda. Perhaps my shopping addiction has plans that it has not run past the daily planner, the bi-weekly budget, and oh, the actual person that makes any spending and very life itself, possible.
A drill down into the issues surrounding the addictive process in my head to go spend more today, yielded more than one post can contain. Each item that I bought, how I bought them, and the reasons for their purchase, turned out to be a snarl of behaviors in and of themselves. That I am on a roll in some areas is great news. That I am determined to alleviate a huge irritation is fabulous. However, I have a long history of destabilizing myself due to poor money management. It stinks that for the millionth time I have had to spend my day off protecting myself from myself.
I think it wasn’t just my shopping addiction that got me today. Yesterday I also journaled previously uncharted territory prompted by my reading on men and shame, furthered by the genesis message at church. Then I shopped, then I had a social engagement that I attended and left alone, at night, leaving me wide open to an angry 7 year-old. Perhaps I should have known I had tackled too much in one day when coming in last night, I never turned on a light, I stripped off my clothes, and fell onto my bed at 9pm totally overwhelmed.
A month ago I wrote that while I was out-of-state, I was pulled over for speeding and in the process learned that my driver’s license was suspended. Immediately I was incredibly grateful that this occurred in the state that I was visiting, while someone was with me, while I was on a short get-away with vacation pay, and that I had sufficient money to begin with. Normally I am terrified of police, but in this case I was at ease. This was a good start to a big mess.
The officer was polite, even slightly embarrassed as he apologetically informed me that my license was not valid. Of course I was all like, “What the hell?” We bantered back and forth that it had to be a small, weird thing that could be easily cleared up. Included with the ticket for driving on a suspended license he had written the phone number to call to get a fax number to send documentation to not have to pay the second ticket. This officer was unbelievably kind. Fortunately, my son’s girlfriend was with me possessing a valid license, so we were able to switch places at the officer’s request. To me, it felt like the Cosmos did It’s best to protect me from harm.
If this had happened in my state it would have cost at least $1000 and been a totally traumatic and disastrous event. At home I would have been alone without anyone to witness excessive force or legally drive my car to safety. At home the opportunity for discussion and infractions treated as unknown or oversight, is nearly zilch. Also, many cops where I live don’t believe anything you tell them. They are right you are wrong, period. I have in fact been wrenched from my car, cuffed, and thrown into a squad car over absolutely nothing. So this is likely what would have happened. As I later discovered, I was in the wrong, so an arrest would have been correct, but hopefully it would have been by respectful cop. Also, my car would have been impounded for several days costing me as much as my rent. I would have had to employ the assistance of a relative for a ride to it and the funds to release it. Still, in this moment, I feel I was sparred something horrible.
I was up all night searching online as to why my license could be suspended. Did I have red light violations? Did I have unpaid tolls? Was it something with my insurance? Nothing. I clung to the two years of really hard work I had dedicated myself to, my Wall, and my Core Values (safety is first). (When I began to feel unsafe, I used imaging to ground myself. Me sitting on my bed at home looking at my Wall which is two years of Work.)
Then I went into truly frightening scenarios. The biggest was fear that a creditor appealed to the state to suspend my driving privileges over unpaid debt. In my state that can be done. In governmental wisdom, apparently it makes sense to not allow someone to drive to their job if they can’t pay certain bills. Also, some occupational licenses can be suspended for certain bills, although this one I didn’t find in my state. So, the inability to pay certain bills, can lead to job loss which of course is how one generally pays their bills. This would open the flood gates to suicidal ideation for me. I was fighting BIG FEAR.
This is what I meant in my post “Finding Solid Ground when the Earth Shakes” by large, nearly unmanageable, restrictions put on me because someone or some institution wants what they want regardless of my needs or abilities. I ask that if you are reading this, stop and think on this. How have demands of others impacted your life, especially those you were in no way able to meet? For me, when I was small, it was that I meet the emotional needs of my mom, or at least meet her need to not be bothered by my needs. Right before I left my marriage, my mantra was “Work like Katie Couric, live like Laura Ingalls”. Literally. My husband was angry that I left a professional job a short time before, yet we did not have plumbing, refrigeration, heating/air conditioning or a telephone. And no, we did not have cell phones. I have more examples, but I am sure I made my point. Specifically, I have a couple huge debts I cannot pay and I am fearful that they will make me homeless. I really want to be able to pay my rent.
My first call to the state simply yielded that I did not have an SR22 on file and that my driver’s license would remain suspended until one was on file. Dial tone.
Next I called my insurance agent, filled them in on the events of the previous day, and requested they file the SR22 ASAP! They assured me that they would file it pronto and that probably the next day I would be able to legally drive. It was okay to have to wait two days to drive again because I still had two days of vacation with pay. To me, I felt like the Cosmos was arranging the whole thing to reduce my stress. I mean here I am, unable to drive for two days, and I still have two days off with pay. I didn’t like $250 out of my bank account, but at least I was not missing work and income at the same time. I am super grateful for a good job with benefits.
I called the state again and this time got someone who didn’t just hang up after one question. They further informed me that this suspension had been in place for the last 9 months. Yes, NINE MONTHS. So, I was driving on a suspended license for 9 months and had no clue. WHAT? WHY? They informed me that the state automatically requires an SR22 to be on file for three years in the event of being found guilty of not having car insurance. Ok, now that totally sucks!
Nearly a year ago I got ticketed for expired plates. My plates are due in January with ton of other bills (not holiday spending), and often I just can’t swing it until the last minute or into the next month. I live in fear the entire month of not being able to pay the $130 and getting ticketed. My fear showed up and I did get ticketed. In addition, I couldn’t find my insurance card, so I got ticketed for that too. I had hopes of taking care of the plates and verifying my insurance and being just fine. No go. The plates yes, but unknown to me, my car insurance had been canceled. At this I was crazy upset. I should have been covered. To this day I am super mad at how my account was handled with the acknowledgment that I should have kept better eye on the account. (This year I did not trust them, and I’ll be damned if the same thing didn’t happen AGAIN, but this time I caught it). Anyway I reinstated my coverage, went to court, got the registration thrown out but was found guilty of not having insurance the day I was ticketed. I paid the $300 fine, retrieved my license, and thought I was done.
When I got home from my mini vacation there was all kinds of drama with my insurance agent, changes to my policy, and documentation for a paper trail and proof of things being resolved to carry around with me even though an officer likely wouldn’t listen. My insurance agent sticks to not knowing about the need to file the SR22, that there was no miscommunication about my policy and it was my fault that it was canceled, and oh, here, lets’ ADD this and ADD that! They wanted to sell me more things as I am stressed out at my cost DOUBLING and driving illegally for 9 months. Unbelievable. I ended dropping down to liability. This adds a new problem- no money to replace my car in the event of total loss. I resolved to have very little contact with that office. Further, I bookmarked the home website log-in page to check my account monthly and I got the name and extension of the customer service person that untimely set things up for me to be able to follow account activity. She also listened to my drama which I needed. I don’t want any further drama.
I called the state yet again to ask how I was to know that I needed to file an SR22 and pay double for my car insurance for three years. I tend to be most worried about how I miss something. Despite this being a hellatious depressive episode fraught with PTSD bombs; I am generally responsible about vital things like car insurance. Also, when I believe I was not informed of something and I should have been, I will hunt down the notification like a blood hound. It I am wrong, I am wrong and I will admit it. If I am not wrong, yet penalized anyway, then this is especially something to remember for the future. No more being a victim of my own or anyone else’s making.
This time I got a super nice person who explained that the state sends out one notice, via the US Postal Service, that an SR22 needs to be filed. They additionally explained that the notice doesn’t say that very clearly. She said the letter says that by law in this state, one must carry automobile insurance. She went on to say, “People like you and I who have insurance, read it, say ‘I have insurance’ and toss it.” She told me that when she got this letter, she had someone else read it with her because she works for the state and knows no one understands the letters. In short, if one is EVER found guilty of even one day without car insurance, even with 20 years of previous coverage and current coverage, one is treated as if they never had car insurance. Nice. Oh, and no there is no copy of the letter sent or any way to find out when it was sent.
Overall I felt better after this third call to the state. A letter was likely sent to me to file an SR22. The letter likely didn’t look all that important and likely wasn’t clear to me upon a brief reading, that I had more to do regarding the cancellation of my car insurance months ago even though the requirement had been taken care of.
I write about this because traffic tickets, the cost of those tickets, resolving the issues that the tickets are about, going to court, interactions with law enforcement, state laws, car insurance and their agents, maintaining employment, proper notification, individual rights regarding these issues, and possible other scenarios; can seriously harm people who have mental health or cognitive challenges. This could have been detrimental to the progress I have made in the last two years. I also understand that it is even more challenging for others who may have fewer resources than I do.
I write about this because I want to share my journey out of depression as true as I can. Because of PTSD, because of crazy-out-of-my-mind-fear, because of more being asked of me than I could give, because of trying to avoid suicidal ideation, because of refusing to lose a roof over my head; I developed a horrid fear of white envelopes. I literally could not open mail for like a year. In that mail was a cancellation notice on my car insurance. Even though I had a verbal ok that I was paid through April, I should have opened the envelope, gone online, or called the company headquarters sometime prior to the renewal date. There was a serious mix-up that caused me to not be paid up to the date I expected thereby resulting in the cancellation that led to the ticket that led to the SR22 that led to another ticket and possible risk to my life.
I write because I want to lay out the unpacking of the process. I want to lay bare the root problem and repair the false and harmful teachings entrenched in my thinking so I can stop them and quit hurting myself. The root of this was fear of the onslaught of bills that I could not keep up with. In actuality I probably could have paid what was due, but another part of it was frustration with the bills coming and coming when in my mind I was paid up. I didn’t calm down and ask the question, “Why do they believe I still owe them when I believe I am paid up? What is going on?” I didn’t ask because I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to put gas my car. I wanted food. The electric company was turning off my electricity. My car was soon to be parked unless repaired to be safe to drive. I was completely overwhelmed.
I can never get so overwhelmed that I hide from my bills, especially those tied to laws or that could cost me my job. With the law, no one will be left alone. It will only get worse. In this case I really hurt myself. It could have escalated to crisis and tragedy. I am incredibly grateful that it unfolded as it did. I have less money than I planned to have right now, but at least one more truth has been told.
The point of setting up my blog was to utilize a world-wide public platform to share and explore my own journey out of depression. I have not kept up with my original vision of weekly or biweekly postings. A large part of not posting as I had envisioned is due to the ACOA trait of perfection. A million things had to be “just so”. My studio had to be clean. It had to be a day off work. I had to have brilliance just rolling down my fingers. My mind had “to be in the right place”. Blah, blah, blah….
Good bye, Perfection. You are in my way. (At least to blog).
Another stopping point was that I had to always have something stellar to share. My obnoxious inner critics dissect everything I think, say, and feel seven ways from Sunday and quite often what I want to blog about doesn’t quite measure up to their standards.
Shut the hell up inner critics! The whole point of sharing a journey is sharing the ups, downs, struggles, misses, gaps, and that failure happens. The point of journaling is to develop the habit of letting things that bother us out so that we don’t keep them bottled up. Journaling records our successes as well as our failures. It is a place to figure ourselves out, make peace with our needs, and to laugh at the things that used to bother us now that we have overcome them. Most of the time my daily pencil written entries on paper is acceptable. Adding to the “wall” above my bed is okay. A “blog” is a “web log” so why can’t I use it the same way? (Yes, I know it is public and not retrievable.) If what I write is not good, useful, enough, or simply the same song just a different voice; then the reader can ignore it. Their choice does not have to infuse me with doubt.
Time. Like most people “I don’t have time”. This one is pure BS. I have time I just suck at allocating it well. This factor may be the most important one for me in terms of recovery. One thing I know for sure about myself, is that if I don’t make time for myself, if I don’t take at least an hour daily to check myself, I will get into trouble. It can be fifteen minutes in the morning, fifteen minutes during the day, and a half hour at night, it just has to me intentional time. On my non-work days there is no reason to not sit and write a blog entry. If I post too much and readers tire of my journey, then at least I have developed a habit.
Very often I don’t keep up on something because my inner struggles keep me frozen. Since my crash I have had a nearly daily struggle with functioning period. PTSD has been an almost constant companion. Most people that I have spoken with about my crazy fear keeping me under the covers for days at a time, know exactly what I am talking about. I visualize myself melting into my bed, the sheets, the mattress. I liquify and disappear. Last year I could not stay away from my bed. I would get up, go to the bathroom, run back to bed. Then I would get a drink, feed my pets, back to bed. Get up, heat food, back to bed. I did get up and go to work. That was my life LAST YEAR. This year I do not do that as much. Infact, from June until now I have almost been a normal person at least with regards to my bed. But I am still frozen in many other ways and the pull of the “hide in bed” thing has just become a daily struggle again. As I write this the feelings are welling inside me to go hide. Nope. Moving on.
For me, co-dependency is the only life I know. For my entire life, my life has only been in relation to someone else’s life. My place was what I was given by them. My existence, my space, my own “stuff”, my own needs, wants, and dreams had to be eked out of someone else’s and with their approval. At the very core of it, I didn’t really exist. What I mean is, capital letter “I”. You see, it is our parents who create us (OK, God really but go with me here), our mothers who bring us into this world, and generally several people contribute to keeping us alive. Somewhere along the line someone or someones also give us a Self with a capital letter “S”. When reared well, a small child develops their own “will” and asserts that will regularly (no, I don’t want to put my shoes on, I want to go over there!). That same will and sense of self demands comforting when “scared to death”. Many, many times, my heard and unheard screams were shushed, ignored, or silenced through abuse. My Self and my Will was obliterated because someone else’s was more important.
Over time I have excavated either actual or just “body” memories of being crazy frightened and no comfort was given to me. I was always convinced I would perish. The coyotes would eat me. The shadow/noise was a man who would take me and kill me. I have wandered off again, I will not be found, make it home, or I will get hurt and die. It is literally so cold in here, hypothermia might take me in my sleep. And that’s just the crap I consciously remember. The subconscious memories are the real danger for me as I am discovering. For me, I think my subconscious memories are the memories of all the little kids in me that got stuck and didn’t finish developing. Whatever their needs were at the time, whatever job they needed to do at the time, still need to be met and finished. If I think I have lost myself in psycho-babble, if I think “I’ve got this”, or if I entertain my Cinderella complex; I only have to look at my behaviors.
My inner children are running the show. I have been keenly aware of them for a few years. However, I didn’t realize that even some of what I thought was positive behavior, was still actually either continuing to act out or simply not listening to whatever is adult in me. Motive is important. My newest questions are: “How will this actually play out given what I actually do and end up thinking?” And “How can I keep the good while hold firm on the not so good?” Remember, this is about making decisions, any decisions with the idea that kids are currently running the show, thus fucking up the adult.
Here is my example and I promise to wind up most of this post in the example.
Given the death hold resistance to unfreezing (part of me is convinced death is eminent), the fact that I failed to get up and go to work one days last week (a sneaky part of me that I didn’t know about), and that I know for sure from positive experience, that daily exercise at a gym is vital to my well-being; I should just bite the bullet and join the gym down the street. Sounds great right? Here are a bunch of potentials for self-sabotage.
The point right now is to stop freezing up. I can accomplish not freezing in bed by flinging myself out the door and working out. I will feel better. I will ruminate less. I will have more energy. My mind will sharpen. I will sleep better, eat less, lose weight, and become more attractive.
Because I am who I am, and that is currently wildly plural; forces at work will still try to keep the status quo. It is likely that the end goal will evolve from not allowing my youngest inner child to freeze me: to that inner child attaining a parent.
Translation: go to the gym to get physically healthy knowing that emotional, psychological, and spiritual health follow; NOT to get “hot” and remarried so you “have someone”.
See how motive matters? See how things can turn out depending on the maturity level at play? Maintaining the status quo of co-dependency is what my body knows. Even a positive behavior can be used to sabotage my emerging Adult Self. Played out this way, I get all wrapped up in some guy (only have a self in relation to another),
and let myself (I found it!), two years of hard work (down-play the last two years-you are perfect), and all the brilliant recovery blogs yet to come (you aren’t that special, you can’t write that well, this won’t go anywhere) go to be safe. Let. Go. To. Be. Safe.
Pretty sure that was then entire message of my childhood and I am wired to repeat it.
Another scenario this one. I join the gyms keeping the above in mind. When I go I don’t wear any make-up, I speak to no one, I don’t cash in on my emerging hotness, I do unfreeze thus slowly begin to have confidence in taking on my bigger problems. In getting the membership I have cashed out my tiny savings because, “I know this is important and I will just have to find a way”. Okay, this is my eldest inner child’s thinking. She knows what she needs and she is right, but she doesn’t do it in a safe manner. I have a long history of putting myself in danger to meet my needs. Once in a dangerous, precarious mind set, my inner workings keep me there. I will feel better about myself from the work outs. I will have more energy. I will feel more positive. I will CONTINUE to OVERSPEND (I did it to get the gym membership and I feel FANTASTIC). I will also over estimate my abilities like finding another job, budgeting that money appropriately, and keeping myself in line to live independently (for the third time). My you-don’t-deserve-a-self will emerge in debtedness, homelessness, and three generations of shame resulting in suicide, needing to be rescued by someone around me, or ending up back with the family that fucked me up in the first place. The need to meet my co-dependency addiction has been met!
Ok, no gym membership. No Cinderella act. No making lemonade from lemons- don’t go near situations where you may even find lemons if avoidable. Forget it. Stay home. Stay chubby. Stay self-conscious and wardrobeless because your clothes are size 4-8 and you currently are a size 12. This is better anyway. You don’t have to worry about a bright, busy, engaging future with big goals to accomplish. Just stay home with your books, your art supplies, your craft ideas, your pets. Just make yourself happy. Do only the minimal things to maintain your current life. Take care of yourself, play nice with others, don’t reach for much or be noticed. Find a routine, a safe, maybe sad routine and just stick with it. You don’t really need a gym membership.
Closer, but still self-sabotaging. This is clearly black/white thinking. All the other stuff that can happen is bad, so, no! This would be my inner six-year old. Not worrying about my future because I am convinced I won’t have a future, it is up to someone else anyway, or I have a long time before I have to deal with it, are other ways I have found myself maintaining my addiction to co-dependency. In this case can find other single women who are afraid of men. Throw the risk of pairing up again right out the window. Get busy with activities that bring other people into my life but keep it shallow. Dive head long into people pleasing but keep it small, simple, and cheap. I have noticed that if a person is pleasing enough, they don’t have to be attractive, smart, or terribly wealthy. People-pleasing is how co-dependents get around meeting their full potential. My inner six-year old running the show keeps me in the victim role. She really was a victim. My Adult Self gets sucked into this line of thinking because I have learned giving up often works.
This post has become way more than I thought when I first sat down to type. I am sure some inner workings kept me occupied with this lengthy examination of myself to not deal with something a grown-up would have dealt with today. I have to hope, trust, have faith that this is the most important thing up to this time of day. Since my complete crash a year ago January, and even since the diagnosis of breast cancer in 2009; I have been determined to beat suicidal ideation and live a healthy, happy, and even joyous life. After four years of reading, journaling, creating a “wall” of work, therapy, ACOA meetings, and a hospitalization, (minus time in school- major self-sabotage); my mind is there. There are times I know for sure I have successfully rewired something somewhere. This is great. Yeah me!
But missing work last week was a game changer. Somebody inside me scared Adult. Somebody was bold enough to threaten everybody’s roof. Upon examining what happened and finding no conscious reason; it likely was subconscious. I still feel betrayed. A bone chilling sense of unease that something I didn’t even know existed in me, will try to take me down from within. Or maybe it’s the sneakiness that has me rattled. Whatever is trapped inside me is freaked out by Adult making progress.
Inner Children, we need to talk.