Thursday, June 27, 2013

Forgotten Shadows

Tues Oct. 31st—Halloween
Yesterday I forgot Jen had Writers’ Club and would be at the school at 4. I didn’t get home until 6 and it was 6:30 before I found her—still at the school—crying. I felt so guilty and sad and hurt for her and mad at me and despairing over my mind. . .
I want to stay home tomorrow and read my book—no more pressures, expectations or pain.

I remember that day. One of the few days from this whole period of time that I remember well. I didn’t remember that it was Writer’s Club that kept me after school, but I remember waiting to get picked up. When I realized she wasn’t in the parking lot, I walked around to the street to watch for her car. Other cars came and went. The sun was hot, but the weather was pretty fair. I walked around on the grass. I sat. I stood and shook out my legs.
A car stopped and some other student’s mother offered to give me a ride. I thanked her but said no, my Mom was on her way. That was at about 4:30.
The sun started to creep toward the mountains. The temperature dropped, as it does in Colorado once the sun weakens. I wasn’t dressed for hanging around outside at night; I would get far too cold. My throat swelled up and my eyes started to leak.
One of my teachers saw me as he walked from the outbuilding to his car. He offered to drive me home, too, or call someone, or bring me something to eat. I thanked him but said “no.” I said that she’d figure it out, that she had forgotten me, and she’d race here first before checking messages or anything, so the best thing to do was wait. That was probably after 5 o’clock.
I thought about walking home, but I had just made that walk a few months ago, and it had taken me 5.5 hours and I was severely dehydrated. It’s farther than it looks—about 10 miles as the crow flies, but more than 20 by road. In reality, I was 4 or 5 miles closer to my house than I had been that other day, but I didn’t know it.
I sat down, pulling my extremities close to conserve body heat. The sun was settling in behind the mountains. I don’t even remember if I watched the sunset, but I probably did in order to distract myself.
To keep myself from wondering if she’d tried to kill herself again.
Maybe no one was coming for me. Maybe she’d succeeded this time, and no one would realize what was wrong until tomorrow morning. I’d be here all night, then. There are no taxis, no convenience stores. There are houses not too far away. I could knock on doors until someone could let me use the phone, but I didn’t know my sister’s number, only my mom’s.  I don’t think I even knew my soon-to-be-boyfriend’s phone number by heart back then.
And if my mom hadn’t tried to kill herself again, and had just forgotten me, what was that about? Does she *ever* think of me? She didn’t when she ran off, that’s for sure. And she didn’t when she laid around the house for days on end, not going to work. It was always so hard to get her attention, even when she was awake, and it was nearly impossible to wake her up if she was sleeping. What if she’d gone home and taken a nap? I wouldn’t see her until tomorrow then, either.
Perhaps it was time to trek those 10 miles again.
I was taking my time deciding, wondering if I could make it through the pastures in the dark, or if I would tick off the bulls by trying, when I saw her car. I ran out to her.
When I opened the passenger door, all I could smell was KFC. Mom had stopped on her way to get me. As much as I recognize the gesture now, at that point, I wished she would have skipped the KFC or waited until she got me. That was 10-20 minutes of waiting and feeling abandoned that she could have spared me.
She apologized, but in a way that said that it wasn’t her fault. So it was never a real apology.
Unfortunately, this episode wasn’t the last time she forgot me. It definitely etched itself into my mind. Whenever someone is supposed to pick me up, but is really late, I am 15 years old again, stuck, abandoned, wondering if anyone will notice I’m stranded and alone. Now, I start walking home after about a half an hour of waiting. But I still cry.
It’s silly, because now that I’m older and can afford to call myself a cab, I still cry. I hate that feeling of abandonment. I hate it. And I felt it so acutely my whole life. I’m happy to be alone, but extremely unhappy to be forgotten. Perhaps that’s why I developed a wild personality—so people wouldn’t forget me, or couldn’t forget me.
But if your own mother can forget you, so can everyone else.
Mom, I don’t want to seem overly harsh, but that was coming just 6 months after you really abandoned me with your suicide attempt. I did not make a lot of trouble for you, contrary to your beliefs. I was almost self-sufficient and about 8 months away from my driver’s license, which was when I became completely self-sufficient. But when I needed a mother, you failed. Over and over again.
I know you know you failed, since you asked me if you were a bad mother last year. I told you no. I know you tried. You didn’t intentionally forget me. But you also didn’t consider me. I was a burden to you. Over and over again, in your diaries (and I know I felt it in real life), I was a drag to you. Do you know Dad told us that it was our fault you tried to kill yourself? Yep. And I walked around with that.
For twenty years, if I didn’t hear from you, or if you were late, I wouldn’t know if you’d finally offed yourself for real this time or not. I lived with this fear of suicide over my head. That part was relieved when you passed, because you couldn’t do that to me anymore. It sounds terrible, I know, but it hurt, Mom. It hurt every day. You can’t undo trying to kill yourself.
You complained more than once that no one ever forgave you for what you had done. But the truth is, you never stopped doing it. Every day you died a little death. You chose to hide instead of confronting your fears. You chose to lose yourself in things instead of thinking about your family.
That day became a poster of every day. You were hardly present; either sleeping or just not around. And I was perpetually abandoned. Not just once, not just that one time you forgot me, but every day.
I know you tried.
I tried, too. And we survived it. We are haunted by these moments that seem to sum up our life experiences. You, as the little brown girl. Me, as the girl pacing in the grass of her high school, waiting for her mother who never seems to arrive.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blanking Out

Saturday, Oct. 28th,
Today I had an anxiety attack. I had watched the John Bradshaw tape and he said a suicide attempt was not an adult acting but the inner child reacting to a previous hurt. His speech was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I don’t know if it was that or what he said or if the anxiety was covered up before but I suddenly wanted to “black out” or “blank out”. I wanted to take pills to forget—forget what? I wanted to lay on the carpet and be numb in the bookstore, but I didn’t. This afternoon I cleaned house and tonight I took Jen and Asia to “the Scream” –a fun house for Halloween. I went to the bookstore and got Rosamund Pilcher’s new book-Coming Home. . .
I’m feeling, again, like I don’t know why I’m living and I would like to be someplace quiet with very few demands. I forget a lot of things. I wonder if my mind is fried or if this is depression or stress doing this.

Dear Mom,
You are someplace quiet with few demands now. I don’t know if you got there by your own hand, or if God just brought you to Him (super) naturally, but I do remember the “good-bye” dream I had, of walking through dogwoods and cherry trees, the petals falling on us like velvet rain. I remember the sense of peace, of you telling me that you were “really OK.” I remember you smiling, and I remember thinking about how long you wanted exactly this, but couldn’t have it.
I wish you didn’t bury your anxiety here. Of course you were anxious about a lot, but did you not see the synergy here? If God Himself were to say, “Yo, Elaine, how much clearer can I make it?” Would you turn to Him and say, “Make what?”
A suicide attempt is the inner child reacting to a previous hurt. You know my theory, but even if my theory weren’t sound, I *know* you felt unloveable and plain. I *know* you never felt good enough or accepted. I *know* you felt you were never getting enough of the right kind of attention. And then the divorce comes, and you lose your safety, your sexuality, your loveability, your attention, your everything. And the inner child cries, and cries, and cries, and feels unwanted. And if the child is crying because her basic trust is betrayed, well, that makes sense, too.
It wasn’t the location: although that should have clued you in to listen.
It wasn’t anything else that happened in the day.
It was the statement “I don’t want to remember” that you made.  What don’t you want to remember? If you had remembered it, you might have healed.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Comfortably Numb

Friday, Sept. 15,
…Yesterday, Jenni said, “You’re supposed to be taking care of me, but I’m taking care of you.” It is true-I feel so fragile at times. I’m trying to get better. Some days I drop back almost to the starting point again. I get mad at myself when I feel so afraid that I want to get in a fetal position and pull the covers over my head. What am I so afraid of? Pain? Painful thoughts? Ends of dreams?  Right now I feel full of dread. I’m so tempted to take a lot of pills (Xanax) and just numb out –of course that doesn’t stop the pain—just delays it. This whole past week I didn’t hardly do any work. I want to pull my weight but I feel nervous, extremely tired, and afraid.
I feel like I just keep repeating cycles—so that I feel like I fall back. Jen said she and Cathy have had this discussion and even though you cycle you do one thing differently each time.

It’s hard for mentally healthy people to understand the “divergent”, or the Neuro Atypical. In my family, we refer to mentally healthy people as Neuro-typicals or NT’s. 
NT’s look at us funny if we say something like ordering take-out is “hard” today. They look at us funny if we say that a certain word has been resonating with us today, or we’re stuck on a thought, or characters are talking to us. My mother crossed the line into mentally ill, obviously, but prior to being mentally ill, she was just atypical. Words had flavors and colors (they do for me, too), concepts can be bright or dark in our minds, regardless of what the concept was about.  For example, the concept of mutilation, say, could be “bright” in our minds, meaning it had focus and a strange type of beauty, even if the subject was abhorrent. Think of a painting: it can be beautiful and you can flood it with light, even if it’s depicting something gruesome.
My mother was going through a period of difficulty, where everything was “hard”. It means there’s a chunk of Slow-time, or of inertia, around an activity, and it is very difficult to break through. Difficult mentally, emotionally. For me, ordering take-out is “hard”. I know the steps are easy, but motivating myself to call, instead of pawning it off on someone else, is difficult. Overcoming my fear and dread of the task is difficult.
I don’t know when the illness took over, but I remember you before the illness, and after the illness, when you were NA like me. I remember how the illness robbed you of the best bits of being Neuro-Atypical.
I know what it’s like not to be able to do something. The ability is there, but not the oomph. I know what it’s like to not just feel apathetic, but antipathetic, toward an activity.
I wish I could feel bad about my younger self calling you out on not watching over me, but you really weren’t doing your job. I wish, in some ways, you could have stayed in the hospitals a little longer, learned more skills. I wish I could have been older and been better able to take care of myself.
But what you were afraid of remembering was happening to me. I wish you could have seen that I was being exploited and abused by people, sometimes not much older, and sometimes more than a decade older, than myself. And I didn’t even know that people shouldn’t treat me this way, because it was how I was treated my whole life.
Mom, I wish I could feel sorry for you. My heart aches, and I wish you didn’t have to go through this, but damn it, woman, some people have had so much worse. Worse than I had, which was worse than what you had. 
I know you were sick, then. And the helplessness and fear you felt was all a part of the illness. But the more I read, the more I truly believe that your brain was trying to help you, and if you had just let it help you, you would have been better. It would have sucked to know what you’d have found out—what I suspect—but at least you would have known, and you wouldn’t have had to hide. You used to say I was stronger than you, and I think I know why now: I face things. I admit they suck, I face them, and then I just go on. I don’t think it’s strength, but I think you did. And, ultimately, I think your hiding is what killed you.
You were never the same, once you got on the medications. You took a permanent vacation. For almost 20 years,  you were like a zombie. You’d drift off mid-sentence. You’d stare vacantly. You’d lose track of where you were or what you were doing.
Perhaps you got what you wanted, in those drugged-out 20 years. You got your numbness. Only I think I would have rathered (and you would rather, if you were alive), you lived two real years, knowing whatever it was your brain wanted to tell you, than 20 years of the half-life you led. You weren’t you. We were scared all the time that something would happen to your meds and you’d kill yourself. You weren’t sad, but you weren’t happy, either. You were numb, dead.
Which I guess you never stopped wanting.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Something's Coming

Wed. Sept 13th,
Last night I went to the Divorce Recovery Workshop. I cried when the leader read the story about the wooden dolls who got stars or gray dots*. . .
I finally got the oil changed in the car! Yea! Yesterday I felt about 80% here and 20% apart. I told Dr. H about that and he said I had feelings or issues about to surface—and I was afraid of them—well, afraid of the pain—and it would be good to be prepared by [upping] the Paxil. He said I was still in the acute phase so don’t worry about having to increase the medication. . .
I sometimes feel I have seen some woman being beaten by a man. I also have those strange “dreams” of feeling someone is coming over to sit on my bed and who touches my arm and I am very scared & throw the covers over my head& try to scream but I never can go more than AAA! Then I wake up. I had one when I was pregnant w/ __ and alone in bed with Sandy, the dog, lying on the end of the bed. I had the same dream when I was poisoned by the Calan after the suicide attempt. I didn’t think the person was good (like coming to tuck me in) I though the person was evil.  I also feel like I “lost” someone when I was young. Did I fight with them and then they died? I just don’t know who I lost. But I always feel if people go away then they don’t love me anymore.  The leader last night said that a scar not only reminds us of pain but of being healed, too.
* “You are Special” by Max Lucado.
Dissociating. I wonder how many people live with this? I’ve done it my whole life; I think it’s partly responsible for creating an active imagination. I know for sure it is one of the few ways we survive the toughest things in our lives. When Mom and I took our vacation to Austin, TX one year, we had a discussion about dissociation. I was relieved that she felt it, too, because I was young and afraid of what I was experiencing: as if my life were a movie I was watching, and I wasn’t “present” in it to make decisions or do anything else. The episodes would last anywhere from a few minutes to over a day. I had one while we walked on the Riverwalk, and when I told my mother about it, she knew exactly what I meant. That was after I told her about the rape when I was 11.
Of course, knowing what I know now, I’m not relieved. I wish my mother had never gone through something bad enough to make her “break” like that. But I was a child.
Dissociation is often, often, often, often related to sexual abuse in childhood.  Often. Not all the time, but often enough that it is a HUGE red flag.
As in, if you feel this way, please talk to a psychologist. Now.
And my mom felt this way. And I felt this way. The dreams, the memories, the dissociating, the loss of someone. . .Mom, you lost yourself. The person you lost was you.  Could you have lost someone else? Of course, but this sense of loss, the low self-esteem, the sense of betrayal that eats you alive, and that sense of mourning your youngest childhood: red flags.
Mom, I don’t want to tell you that you were abused. I don’t. I don’t want to speculate on who could have perpetrated the abuse, if you experienced it. But if half a dozen councilors could look me in the eye and say, “Who molested you in your childhood,” long before I ever knew I had been molested, can I do the same to you?
Something was coming up, Mom, something you would have rather died than face. But did you have the courage to face it?


Friday, June 21, 2013

Wish You Could Have Seen It

I don't have one of your diary entries for today; I've been busting my tail so hard getting the two books out.
But they're done.

Remember how I told you about Scales? I thought it would be a 3-book series, and it turns out, it is. I finished book one and got it out on Amazon and others.

I did it.

This year was supposed to be my break-out year. I suppose it is, but I wish you could have seen it. I'm sorry I took so long to follow my dreams that you only saw the start of the changes.  But I did it, Mom, and you would be proud. I did justice to the story. It was a little sexier/romantic than I had planned it to be, but it works out, I think. There's a dearth of Sci-Fi Romance out there, so I think it'll work.

I remember telling you all about it on the phone. I told you "This is the one, Ma. this is the one I *have* to publish. I *have* to do right."

And I did it.

Remember when we went out to Panda Express, and I got the "Everthing will soon come your way" fortune? I have it hanging up in my cube, right over the invitation I made for your memorial service. I didn't expect the "everything" to include losing you. I thought it meant that God or Fate or Luck or whatever would start to turn all of the terrible, horrible things into good. Maybe he/she/it will yet. I can't see what good can come out of losing you. Except it put a fire under my ass to "Get busy living or get busy dying," and I'm chosing to live.

I wish you could read it, Mom. I know Sci-fi isn't your thing, but you did like your romance books, and this was right up your alley that way. I wish you could have seen it.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Burning Down the House

Mother, your house is burning.

I'm almost relieved you aren't here to see this. I know that you sold the house twenty years ago, but it was a house you loved dearly. I think you would have been distraught to see it go. I will post pictures of whatever is left once it's safe in the forest.

So far, they've managed to save my elementary school. How many times did you have to go there because of me? How many times were you called out of work, or late for work, because I had some sort of disciplinary issue, or award, or something else?

I remember you got sick of it and told them they couldn't call you unless it was a physical emergency. And then one time, they called because I complained I was sick, but I only had a 99-point-something-degree fever, and you came from work to get me, because a 99-degree fever for me was 100+ for a normal person.

I still, by the way, hardly ever get above 97.4.

What used to be the General Store is gone, I think. They heard explosions when the gas tanks blew. A picture from an airplane showed how hard this is to fight:

There are a million fires, all unpredictable.

We knew the forest had to burn sometime. I wish it hadn't happened this year. It was like it was waiting for you not to have to see it.

Mother, your house is burning.

For you, did it ever stop burning? Has it always been? Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. No more reminders of what you went through. What we went through.

I'm still sad, though.  I'm sad for the good childhood memories of playing outside almost the whole day.  I'm sad for my sister.  I'm sad for you.

Mother, your house is burning.


Monday, June 3, 2013

The Beginning of Understanding

Sun July 25, 1995.

..The 5 yr. old me—

I remember I always wanted to hide like a missionary who had to hide from bad people. Even though I was in the open I would squeeze into a small place between the wall and the china cabinet—I never hid under my bed or in a closet—just in a tightly confined space.

I had an imaginary friend, a bird, who lived in the post at the end of the stairs. I used to feed him smashed bread which I stuck into the hole in the post.

I remember being sexually excited when I was rubbed with a towel between my legs by ___ after my bath. I slept upstairs in my bed by the windows—Pete slept in his crib on the other side—or maybe in a small bed. I was afraid of my closet—it had a curtain across it and I was afraid it moved at night.

…At some point (3, 4, or 5) my Mom burned up my lovey (a stuffed animal) and when I woke up I had a new rag doll but no lovey. I cried and cried and went around looking for it.

…Friday, Aug 11th

I’m trying not to feel something tonight I’ve taken ½ a Xanax. I thought about taking 4. I feel very anxious but I don’t know what about. Is it about not being a couple anymore? Is it about my friendship with Kathy being less? Is it fear of being alone? …I don’t know—All I know is that I don’t feel really here and that I want to escape even more.
(we read Wed Aug 23)
Friday Aug 25


…about a week and a half ago I dreamed I was returning to college. When I got close I became afraid that I wouldn’t remember the locker combination. When I actually got there I discovered the locker was opened with a key, so I didn’t need a combination, and I remembered where the key was and was able to open it. Then I went to the apartment where I lived (I think with Ron) but he wasn’t there—when I opened the door I saw all my familiar tools laid out—they were all made out of wood—like rotor drill blades—and even though I didn’t know what I used them for I knew they were mine and they were dear and familiar and all in order. Then I looked out the window and the rope bridge that went over the swamp was frayed and falling apart. I felt really bad because that was the only way over the swamp. Then the apt. supervisor stopped by and told me that he had already called the workmen and they would start repairing the rope bridge tomorrow.

So this entry is a two-parter.
My mother was working though a self-help book in her journal. I'm not sure which self-help book, as several are mentioned in quick succession. But these entries struck me. The first set, about the 5-year-old self, I think are important. She does mention a happy memory (the stories are in My Mother's stories), about visiting her Aunt and Uncle in California and going to DisneyLand, but these stories are the most revealing, to me. They are the ones that provide some understanding. Firstly, the sexualized response to an activity, and secondly, the "trying not to feel something" and the hiding.

And never hiding under the bed, because that wasn't safe.

Mom, maybe it's my own history that makes me jump to certain conclusions, here. Or, not so much jump to a conclusion as to wonder if what happened to me happened to you. I know that children often confuse romantic love-gestures with other gestures, but sexualized responses/play are also a symptom of molestation. The wanting to hide, but not wanting to hide under the bed. . .

I know that, if you were molested, you didn't remember it. You would have told me, especially when you finally told me about how I was molested.  But it "snaps in".

Just like the day you told me about what you had seen happen to me, and all of the sudden, every suspicion of every counselor I ever saw snapped into place--because every single one of them questioned me intently about possibly being molested--just like that day, reading these pieces makes things snap into place for me: How you could have been in denial about my molestation for so many decades, why you feel so badly about yourself, how betrayed you felt about Dad, why you wanted to hide and why you needed approval so badly.

I know it was tough for you, even without the possibility of being abused that way. You felt shamed about your body your whole life, about dancing and the way you looked. Your mother was amazing in some ways, but completely lacking in sympathy in other ways, and she was so beautiful and so good at everything, and I think you felt you never measured up. But if this happened. . .

It would just explain a lot.

And I think, if what I think happened, it would explain why you'd rather have died than face it.

Because this is something big. This is something bigger than your friends being shallow flakes. This is something different than just being tossed away by a man who was supposed to have loved you. Whatever it is that drives you to kill yourself has got to either be something fundamentally wrong in your brain or something so terrible that you couldn't look at it.

And if there wasn't something fundamentally wrong with your brain (and I don't think there was), then I wish you could have looked it in the eye, and maybe talked to me about it so I wouldn't have felt so alone. Maybe you would have recognized the symptoms in me earlier. Maybe you wouldn't have denied what you didn't want to see.

Which brings us to your dream.

God, Mom, could you have had a better invitation from your subconscious? I mean, really, did you ever interpret this dream, or did you just think it was odd? Because when I read it, I see so much hopeful symbolism I can't believe you didn't march into your therapist's office and say, "OK, I'm ready for anything."  Your dream, as I see it, told you that you have the tools to be healthy, and you will remember how to use them. The bridge is being repaired and soon  you will be OK. You just have some work to do. But, Look! Everything's been prepared for you. And the things you've been worried about aren't really a problem after all (combination worry vs. key lock).

I wish, so dearly, for a Time Machine.  I'd kick your ass if I had to, Mom, and tell you that you had the tools you needed, you just needed to get to work. And the tools weren't Xanax and antidepressants. The tools were inside you.

But you buried this dream among other dreams, and hid it away in your journal. And hid from it, and hid from everything else. As you got older, you hid in your bed, even though you knew--at some point--that beds aren't safe.

You always said I was stronger than you, and I think, at this moment, I understand why. I hide, I deny, I do everything you did. But I do something else, too: I face it eventually. I get tired of running from horrible memories, and I turn around and say, "OK, let's do this." The beginning of understanding is facing what others have done to us, and what we have done to ourselves by running from it.