Saturday, December 12, 2020

Camped Out


 

I'm camped in my office while the cleaners are vacuuming and dusting and generally making our home shine. They don't know that Dearest One and I spent many hours this morning tidying things up so that they could find their way to washing floors and cleaning bathrooms. I hired them before I had surgery to take the pressure off Dearest One. Covid has been stressful enough without more on his plate. He has been in care homes all semester with students. It's taken its toll. And even though he normally does all the floors and I do bathrooms, it's been a luxurious respite to do neither. 

I am still carrying around a drain tube almost 8 weeks post surgery. My hope is for my family doctor to remove it this coming week. No doubt it has partially grown into the surrounding tissues so that won't be fun when he goes to yank it out. Which is how you get a drain tube out. Yank. And out comes more tubing than you could ever imagine fitting into the space it has occupied. I will be glad to see it go. Glad to shower with abandon, after I ended up being allergic to water proof adhesives, and most of all to sleep on that side again. The little habits one takes for granted. 

I am very glad I had the surgery. No longer lopsided. No more pull on my body as it tries to navigate with extra weight on one side. No more ever wearing a bra again. My physiotherapist has said it's a win win for my body. 

Restrictions are such right now that one is not allowed to have anyone in their home who doesn't live there, housecleaners exempt. Neither are we allowed to gather socially outside either. It will mean a very quiet Christmas. I'm grateful for Facetime. And kids who don't mind calling to let us catch up with them and their kids. Some of them have had covid. Thankfully it was manageable. Pre covid one of them had a medical emergency and went to the hospital via ambulance. The thought that many people in similar circumstances don't get to talk to their loved ones again, makes anxiety go right up my throat. 

I have learned no new skill during the pandemic. I have not pushed myself to do anything out of the ordinary. Surviving it is enough all on its own. Our numbers continue to go up. We don't go out of the house except for the essentials that can't be delivered. We see no one. 

Well, I do see my therapist. We are working through hard stuff. We are always working through hard stuff. I have learned to let the tears flow instead of swallowing them. I've become secure enough with her to say it all out loud. The stuff one normally thinks but never expresses. The long held beliefs. The irrational. The awful. The dark. And in the midst of all that we find enough to laugh about as well. 

It is worth every moment, even the moments I hate. I am aware that I am not only changing my present and my future, but I am also changing the course for my descendants. If you would have told me at 25 that one day I could look at the behaviour of little people and accept it as it is instead of something to be fixed I would've laughed at you. Scorned you for being so stupid and short sighted. Grandparenthood has freed me to delight in all of it. I had no idea of cognitive development when my kids were little. No idea what was reasonable to expect. So I expected far too much. Unattainable expectations. As I find compassion for myself I find all the compassion and more for my grandchildren and their parents. 

I may go camp out there next. 


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Minutae


 A sunny sky and cold ground. That's what I see outside my window today.  Dearest One has gone to buy a few groceries. Covid cases are on the rise in our small city. It causes him angst to go out. He is working with the elderly and students in a high risk environment every week. I doubt his body has truly relaxed in months.

A year ago I had a conversation with my doctor about getting my remaining breast removed. I'd stopped wearing my prosthesis the previous year and as I am not a small breasted woman, I often felt uncomfortable being out and about and looking so lopsided. 

This past week I had surgery and am now flat. Women in my online support groups talk about their buddha bellies that become so apparent after surgery. Last time around I thought I had a buddha belly, too. But I didn't. I just had an unobstructed view of my anatomy. 

This time around I have such a belly that if I didn't look my age, I am sure I'd be regularly asked when I was due. It is what it is. In therapy we have recently talked about mind and body and how they are meant to work as a team. Tears rolled down my face. I did not know they were meant to be so. That bit of my journey will take longer than it took to acquire my buddha belly, to unravel. 

We came home from the hospital and our kids texted to see if I was home. Dearest One took a photo of me and sent it as a response. I looked at it and burst into tears. I was not ready to have anyone see me in my newly flat state. I didn't know I wasn't ready until after the fact. Just typing that makes me want to hold my breath. If I was outside I could see my breath as I released it. Not in the puff, puff, puff bursts of little clouds that I want to breathe like, but in a long slow, exhalation.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Let Yourself Cry


It's been so long since I have been here. I don't know what to write about the situation in the world. I've felt like that's meant I couldn't write about anything else then, without coming across as a navel gazing bag.

Even writing that, I can hear my therapist commenting on my self judgement. I do that a lot. I am my worst critic. If you are familiar with the Enneagram, I am a One. I have even been critical of myself for being a One. ("Can't I be one of the nicer numbers?", I said to my spiritual director.

Here is a beautiful song about Ones. "No, I'm not saying perfect exists in this life but we'll only know for certain if we try."

I have tried so hard for so long. Since childhood I've believed that striving for perfection was the key to my safety. My head knows that perfectly imperfect is as close as I'm ever going to get. With time, I am hopeful that my heart will embrace that truth as well.

My therapist keeps reminding me that it is a process. Recently in a session she repeatedly said, "We know...."  When she does this she is reminding me of very true things in the process of healing. In a moment of push back I replied sarcastically, "Speak for yourself." We both laughed and then she pointed out that I keep coming back so there had to be some agreement, no?

I haven't come this far in dealing with my trauma to quit now. It's possibly the most courageous thing I've done in my life. I keep saying that because it keeps surprising me that I am willing to face this shit even though it feels scary and big. It is not getting easier. I've repeatedly told my therapist, in the middle of a session, that my instinct is to run. I often feel like I have a scream stuck in my throat. She described it this week as having lived my life with my foot on the gas pedal (urge to run) and on the brake (frozen) simultaneously. No wonder it has taken such a toll.

Several sessions ago I spent most of it keening loudly from deep within. The only person who has ever heard me cry like that is that nurse I had during my cancer journey. This time my back arched, too. So many tears. So much pain. So glad I was in the house alone. It went on and on for over half an hour.

If you only knew what a breakthrough that was. To cry unabashedly, letting emotional pain lodged deep in my core, out. It is a victory that I didn't shut my keening down. That I didn't swallow my tears. That I let them be seen and heard until I was done. When I opened my eyes and faced my therapist I could see that she had had tears as well.

Maybe I'm not a navel gazing bag after all. Maybe, I'm a brave, courageous woman, helping her battered inner child fight for her freedom. (So hard not to delete that last sentence as "Who do you think you are?" rattles around in my head.)


Friday, May 22, 2020

Welcome Here

I wasn't up to speed from the moment I woke up this morning. I managed to get up and to my work computer with 4 minutes to spare. Perhaps it's a bonus to be a rule follower at heart when you are sure your body cannot get out of bed. Turns out you can. And there's not even a gold star for the effort. Although there is a paycheck. I have to remember that part.

Some days I am fully engaged in my job. Some days not so much. It's been a busy week job wise and I am grateful for that as well. Grateful I am able to work from home in these weird times we are living in. I've gotten a whole lot of stuff done while my body and brain feel otherwise engaged.

The thing is I had therapy a week ago. It was intense. I haven't quite made my way back to normal since. I wasn't scheduled to see my therapist until next Friday but I got in touch this morning to see if I could bump up my appointment and thankfully there were a few earlier openings to choose from. Tuesday it is.

It's  hard to know if the funk I am in is from my last session. You know it's bad when your therapist thought you were referring to that rape and you were referring to this other one. It could have been another one or another..... Fucked if I know.

Or am I in a funk from being in isolation so much due to the pandemic? Dearest One and I are going out for groceries and appointments and that's about it. He tries to do most of it so I can stay home as much as possible. And while I am an introvert through and through, I am missing contact with other people. I normally work in an office with six other people. We chat a lot about our lives outside of work. I miss them and I don't. I keep telling them I miss seeing them but I don't miss being at the office.

Any time this week when I got still and tried to attend to that little person inside of me, I got teary.

And I've been fighting all week with that nasty inner voice that tells me that I should be done with this shit at my age.

At any rate it is Friday and I am glad.






Monday, May 04, 2020

Sitting With It.

TW - talk of sexual abuse.

There's a reason that the tiger in the picture is sweating it out. Hmm. I just took a closer look and realized she's sitting under a rain cloud. Oops.  I assumed that she was sweating or crying.

Not that I've had a lot of practice "sitting with it." Running in the opposite direction is much more comfortable. But I imagined that if I did, I'd be crying or sweating buckets.

So it meant something to me last week in therapy, when big, big feelings came up, I did not run away. The feelings were so big that it felt like I was standing directly under a tidal wave about to come crashing down on me.

In that moment I was emotionally right back into the trauma of being raped (the first time.) With guidance from my therapist and bravery on my part, I didn't run the other way. Out loud I said my usual, "I hate this."  "This fucking sucks."  comments. And I also took deep breaths and kept my eyes open and somehow stayed present while emotionally I was back in time 40 years.

I don't know how many times my therapist has shared with me that animals in the wild will shake or run and jump after they have been under threat.  And that in doing so they discharge the traumatic energy that would otherwise be stuck in their body after being pursued by a predator. Damn, how apt is that phrase. If you only knew.

And so I watched as 40 year old energy was dispersed from my body somehow with my permission and despite myself simultaneously.

I doubt I have ever been more hopeful in my life.
I'm truly know now that I am not a prisoner to my past.
At last.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Tears

I didn't know where the tears were coming from. They'd started at lunch time when Dearest One was sharing thoughts about his own counselling session earlier in the morning. Tears welled up and I couldn't stop them from spilling over. I have felt tender emotionally since the other day. Joy has not left completely. It's there under the surface when I think of the younger versions of myself being welcomed into my healing instead of trying to shut them out.  These tears felt like ones of gratitude and I welcomed them.

But then the tears did not stop when we finished up our lunch. I went up to my office and listened to a podcast (her latest one) while I finished up some work tasks. The interview hit close to home and I found myself with tears spilling over several times. At the end she talked about truth tellers. That hit a chord with me because that is my nickname in a group of women whom I meet with weekly to pray with and share in our journey as Christians. When I joined in with them I was told to pick a name for myself. A descriptor. The only thing that came to me was the name Truth Teller. So that is who I've been ever since.

Next I was browsing on social media and came across this video (you have to be logged into that big social media black hole to watch it) and cried some more.

And every time my mind circled back to my conversation with Dearest One, I cried.

Crying and I are not the best of friends. Of all the feelings I swallow with regularity, tears are at the top of the list. Sometimes during a therapy session my therapist will ask me if I just swallowed some feelings. She usually asks me that after I've swallowed hard with effort.

I decided that I was done with so much feeling. I plugged my phone in to charge, logged out of my work email and closed my office door.

I went down the stairs in search of Dearest One. As I reached the bottom step I thought to myself, "We should just get drunk." Well, hell. I haven't had a drink in over 32 years. This was noooot good.

When I found Dearest One I blurted out my thoughts. I told him I couldn't stop crying, that I didn't need him to fix anything, I just needed him to listen. His eyes got big when I told him I had had the thought that we should just get drunk. I told him my emotions must be overwhelming for me to think a drink would fix them. I still couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my face as I talked. Sometimes when you want to comfort and be there for someone there just are no right words that will help. I recognized that he wanted to and I also recognized that he couldn't give me what I needed in that moment.

So I called and left a message for my therapist. Late on a Friday afternoon. The only other time I have talked to her on the phone was when we had our initial intake phone call nearly three years ago, to see if she would accept me as a client. Since then our in between appointment communication has been via text messaging.

She called back and then spent an hour, after her last scheduled appointment of the day, putting a figurative arm around my shoulder and walking me off the edge of the cliff called overwhelm. Thank God. In the midst of it all I told her about this day and that. By the time our call ended I was much calmer and where there had been feelings of anxiety in my body, there was now some space. She helped me come up with a plan until I see her next week. The tears no longer overwhelmed me. A drink no longer a solution.

Thanks be to God.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Welcoming The Little's

The day after our drive I woke early and lay in bed watching my thoughts. I wondered if this was my life now. At 57 I was taking care of and re-parenting my 4 year old self. Is this what I would do for the rest of my life? Care take the smaller versions of myself? The word pathetic rose to the surface. It was all I could do to stop it in its tracks. It's a word I've used to describe myself to my therapist more than once. Used it for feeling ashamed of being this many years old with so many smaller versions trapped inside and feeling like they run the show most of the time.

One of the big deals that came up recently in therapy has been about examining just how deeply could I receive the love and care that Dearest One extends to me. I can complain all I want about not being cared for, and about, but perhaps there is love and care being extended to me that I am not actively receiving. Well damn. Can't that be his fault?

I don't like owning my shit. I want Dearest One to not only own my hurt feelings but all the shit I say as a result, as well. But after that session I took some time and experimented taking my thumb and forefinger as if I was describing to someone how thick something was. How deep could I receive the love that was being offered to me, anyway? When my thumb and forefinger had come together until there was half an inch of space I thought, yep, that works. As I started to type my findings to my therapist I stopped. I tried measuring that space again. I lowered it until there was one quarter of an inch of space left. I kept it steady. My body settled. As I found my truth, tears started to well. Who knew something could feel so authentic. I erased my text and started over. One quarter of an inch, I typed. We talked about working on opening up and seeing how it felt to let it go a smidgen deeper.

This morning as I was trying not to stay stuck in thinking of myself as being pathetic, into my head came a picture of my four year old self. I was standing turned sideways to her when she came up to me, with all the smaller selves of mine trailing behind her. She tugged on my dress and asked " Do I matter?" There is no other phrase that could get my immediate attention than that one. It has been the cry of my heart for as long as I can remember.

I turned to her and imagined kissing her all over her face. I knew though that she would shrink from that so I knelt down, kissed her on the forehead and gathered her in my arms, reassuring her as I did so, that she did indeed matter. That I would do everything in my power to keep her safe and release her from the trauma that she'd held onto for so long. I promised that I would continue to show up for her and all the little's behind her.

As I released her and stood up she reached for my hand and I watched as the little's joined hands and took their place on the other side of me, the next biggest one reaching up for my hand on that side. We turned and walked down the road for a while before I stopped and gathered them all close in my arms. I promised them that I would show up and do the work no matter how hard it felt or how much I was tempted to quit when the going got tough. They deserved their freedom. And so did I.

I felt like their mother. Protective. Determined. Loving. Fierce in all the right ways.

These pictures were still fresh in my mind when joy came bubbling up to the surface.

Joy.  I was so surprised.

Me and the Little's welcome it to our journey.