Friday, December 21, 2007

Pajama Day

Today is my first pajama day since I came home from treatment three and a half months ago. After 20 days of getting dressed and showered I figured why break my record? Before treatment, pajama days were often a sign that I was disinterested in life around me. Since good self care is my first defense against relapse, showering and getting dressed motivate me to stay sober and abstinent. I was hesitantly open to the reality that good self care might one day be wearing my pajamas all day although I was scared to contemplate it. The day has come. Today's the day where good self care means I got up and showered only to slide back into my new fleece pajamas. I'm finding them warm and wonderfully comforting.

Yesterday I was up and out the door early after a night of little sleep. The kind of night where sleep comes an hour before the alarm goes off. It was still dark out when I pulled up in front of the sexual abuse center. The center is in a run down building in a scary part of town. Normally I park down the block and around the corner, praying between my van and the door not to piss someone off or get in the wrong person's way. On the sidewalk and parking lot across the street I often see people who make me really uncomfortable as I make my way into the building and they're still there as I make my way back to the van. I heard enough in treatment first hand from ex drug dealers to know there's good reason to be leery and alert as I walk in that part of town. After my last appointment I realized there were parking meters right outside the door and decided from then on I'd park as close to the door as possible. So yesterday I pull up in front of the building, knowing I was the first appointment of the day and there were 5 to 10 minutes to wait until I could be sure of an open office door on the second floor. As I was waiting an SUV pulled up a few parking spaces behind me and a young woman got out. With her hoodie pulled up around her face she came up to my passenger window and motioned for me to open the door. I rolled my window down a little bit and she asked in a voice edged with toughness, "What's up?" I thought to myself, "No, I don't want to buy drugs or anything else." I told her I was waiting for an appointment at the sexual abuse centre. She nodded and turned without replying. I watched in my rear view mirror as she got back into the SUV. I was feeling pretty vulnerable at this point so I decided to take a chance that the office would be open or at least the building would feel safer than my van. My fingers were a little shaky as I plugged the meter with quarters. As I type this I wonder what her story is that led her to be out on the street knocking on a stranger's window, under the cover of darkness.

Thankfully the office door was open and my counselor was ready to see me. Trust is an important issue in any relationship and I haven't been sure I would continue with this counselor. She is very young and I'm darn near old enough to be her mother. There are other counselors available who have 20 more years of life experience behind them and to tell the truth, I haven't been keen on her cutting her teeth on my healing journey. Yesterday I finally trusted that that she is who I need to see.

In the past several months I've remembered several more sexual abuse incidents. Or more accurately, I've labeled certain incidents as sexual abuse that have previously flown below the radar of my definition of sexual abuse. What the hell was I thinking? That an adult groping a minor was somehow normal and okay? That being shoved in a corner at school and groped by several people at once was normal and okay? That being asked as a 12 year old to sit on a grown man's lap (my mother went ballistic at me for complying after he left for reasons I discovered years later.)was normal? In the retelling of these incidents yesterday I started to physically shake. For the first time I connected the uncontrollable shaking as body memory. The fear and anxiety rising to the surface instead of being held in the very cells of my body. A good thing. With time I hope to honour the necessity of that happening instead of trying to squelch it. Previously I viewed getting these shakes - they only happen in counseling - as something to deny or try to stop. I hate how out of control I feel when they happen. Now I know my body is trying to tell me something I need to pay attention to that will aid in my healing. I need to let the shakes rise so that they can have a chance of disappearing for good.

At one point in our conversation we went off on a tangent and I told my counselor that I had been a responsible child. She looked at me and said, "That's an interesting way of putting it. I see you more as a child who took on responsibility that wasn't hers." At this she drew a diagram.

She drew a circle around the control 0 and told me that in every abuse situation I had told her of I had zero control. She then made a line from the zero in control to the 5 in responsibility and said, "Yet you took on all the responsibility." I started to shake. She then drew a straight line from the zero in control down to the zero in responsibility.
"This," she said, "is reality."
I covered my face in my hands and started to sob. She listed the ways in which I took the responsibility and then she placed the responsibility where it truly lay. With the abuser(s). Gently she added, "My hunch is that you have taken on responsibility that's not yours in other areas of your life as well."
Oh, God - the grief that rose up inside me. I still have tears to cry over that. A deep well of sadness for willingly yet unknowingly taking into myself the blame.

That sadness stayed with me as our session ended. With 12 minutes to spare plus a drive across town to my next appointment there really wasn't time to deal with it right then.

I don't know of many people who look forward to their annual physical checkup with their doctor (you are getting yours aren't you?). Especially with a familial history of premenopausal breast cancer (my mom twice and recently a first cousin) I take my obligation seriously to get the necessary tests done regularly. There was one aspect of my checkup that I was looking forward to (oh, that lovely pap smear. NOT!) I didn't wait for the nurse before I got on the scale and started sliding the weights. I slid the weight into the 100kg slot. Thunk. What a beautiful sound. For the first time in several years I slid it into the 80kg notch and started playing with the sliding counterbalance. I refrained from jumping up and down on the scale itself as the nurse punched the numbers into the calculator on the wall above the scale to reveal that I've lost 40 pounds since I stopped binge eating. Maybe now when I put on regular sized clothes I will relax into them instead of thinking there's no way they can be fitting. Seriously. Last night I put on a brand new pair of fleece pajamas and they felt the tiniest bit snug so I thought I must look like I'm poured into them. I turned to look in the mirror only to find I look normal. The pajamas look just fine.

Confirming my weight loss with a concrete number was the best part of the appointment.

The last time dearest one gave me injections for the calcifications in my shoulders it was such a negative experience - culminating in me begging him to stop - that I haven't had any since. Yesterday the doctor did them for me. It involves breathing like you're in labour to get past the pain. By nighttime I was in acute pain from the tiny muscle tears that getting the solution broadcast into an area of muscle involves. By tomorrow I should be pain free for another 6 or 7 weeks. But today I'm not.

And so I knew when I got up this morning that the most caring thing I could do for myself today was to let the cozy warmth of my pjs comfort me and stand as a reminder that there was nothing I needed to do today other than stay in the day and acknowledge the the pain.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Hope. Isn't it amazing how physical it can be to do emotional work? I'm so very happy for you. It is good. Self-care.

Grace, Every Day said...

Hope, sitting quietly in front of my tree, trying to learn to do my own self-care, I cried for you and with you. What a moving tale of recovery.

Thanks so much for gathering the courage to share your journey. And congratulations on fitting into those snug pjs! Enjoy, girl - and celebrate what God has led you to lately! You rock!!!!

Anonymous said...


Love you. Snuggle into those jammies and breathe.

Steve F. said...

Oh, need to email me with your "home" email address. I have a comic image for you that will make you smile...

Sister, frequently not getting dressed is the norm - I sometimes don't even have to get dressed all day (working from home can do that to you!). But true "pj days" for me are days when I have these flannel lounge pants and top, and I get under a warm Vellux blanket with a cup of flavored coffee and a really good book, and just relax. "Let the world turn without you tonight," the old song says.

You are discovering so much about yourself, and undoing so much. Like a bonsai, you are being pruned and shaped in new and powerful ways. But no one ever asks the bonsai tree if the pruning and trimming hurts...

Today, as I sat in our Christmas morning gratitude meeting, I though of you, and how grateful I am to have shared the journey with you. Though we are miles apart (ok, kilometers apart, for some of us!), we are as close as a prayer.

Merry Christmas, sister.