Monday, May 14, 2018

Spades

I hide things when I write.
I must seem to spill myself all over the screen,
Blood and viscera.
I’m sure at times some of you have been embarrassed
To see my naked, stretch-marked soul.

But I am hiding things.
I am aware of a threat.
I know that those who call a spade
A spade
Often end upon that very spade.
I know that in this society,
People’s reputations are not hurt by their own actions,
but by the person who reports these actions.

I’ve been a witch long enough,
Tending my gardens,
Giving small healing antedotes,
Ancedotes,
To my sisters
To know that
No perpetrator likes the woman who knows his indiscretions,
Or those of his brothers.
They will seek to silence her.

You think I am so strong,
so vulnerable in my revealing words.

I have hidden my spade.
My garden suffers for it.

My garden is fenced in,
A cage of fear.
I never fully escaped.

My words are hiding in the bathroom,
The door is locked,
The bath is running,

And I dare not continue.
Sometimes, like now,
I fiddle with the latch.

But a message from a police officer
Reminds me
He is watching.
He is angry.
He is just waiting for the spade to come out of hiding.

Perfect Gardening weather.
Isn’t it?
I think it’s safe to plant the seedlings before Victoria Day weekend,
Don’t you?

It’s Not Going Anywhere

After the first couple damp weeks of Spring, the sun comes out blazing and my ambition soars. My leg pain losses it’s grip on my energy. I begin to see the potential for more, more than work, dinner and a cuddle in bed with my kids. I can do more than a grocery shop and a nap on my days off. I can study, read, hike.  I can maybe, just maybe, work towards a career where a 24 hour work week that can financially support my children and I.

24-25 work hours is the amount I can take on before my pain and exhaustion make my cane necessary. Several weeks of 30+ can actually lead to my wheelchair for any activity outside of the home. Though I am way better than I was years ago due to the drop in stress in my life, I can’t help but feel like fibromyalgia is a PTSD symptom.  I feel like if I could just heal from my past trauma already, I could work more, go to school, provide for my family.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to let go of stress (daily meditation, journaling etc) and when I have a flare-up I blame myself for not being better mentally yet.  The irony of this has not escaped me.

 I talked to a friend who suffers from fibromyalgia. I asked her, how do you let go of the guilt of fibromyalgia? The feeling like if you had just taken it easier or let go of the stress it wouldn’t be so bad?
She told me that she had been diagnosed with a secondary condition that affected sleep. She asked her pain specialist: Now that I will be treating this and sleeping better, the fibromyalgia should go away, right?
Her specialist told her no.
Then my friend told me something that I didn’t know I needed to hear: My specialist told me, that I have the sleep condition and I have fibromyalgia. One did not cause the other.  Though one can trigger the other.
Something clicked. I am not responsible for my fibromyalgia. I do not call on the flare-ups by simply trying to live a normal life.

I did not give myself fibromyalgia.
I am not responsible for the onset of it.
My poor choices in relationships, though exasperating it, did not cause my fibromyalgia.
I am not the reason I am struggling to financially support my family.
I am not weak.
Fibromyalgia is not my body punishing me for staying when I should have left.
It is not there to remind me to meditate, Journal, read and seek counsel.

I have fibromyalgia. Period.

Some things make it worse.
I try my best.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

That’s okay. This is what it is.

Perhaps all this guilt and sense of responsibility is why I haven’t been seeking out financial assistance in the form of ODSP, so that I can supplement my income while I work part time.

I am worthy of help. I would tell another person in my position they deserve help. My self worth plummeted so much in my last major relationship, that I simply could not practice what I preached.
Everyone deserves help when they are struggling.

That includes me, that includes you.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Today I told my 12 year old daughter about the first time I got drunk.

It didn’t start off that way, the conversation. I didn’t write down in my day planner: Tell J all about that time you hurled into a sewer grate on Main Street of your hometown...

It started off with her describing the feeling like she couldn’t relate to some of her classmates.  How they didn’t have the same interests as her, she didn’t think they understood her and how she thinks.

I knew that feeling.  There was a time in early high school where so many of my peers were doing stuff I really didn’t like to do.  I tried to explain that to my daughter. However, I felt like a bit of back story was necessary.

“I’m going to tell you about the first time I got drunk.”
Should I be honest about how young I was?  Yes, because she’ll be facing the same choices at the same time.
“I was in grade 8.  My friend’s brother had beer and we took it. I drank 3.  I had no idea what 3 beers would do to someone not much bigger than you.  Well I don’t remember a lot...”
Perhaps I should leave out that I woke up in my friend’s clothes, or that I almost picked a fight with the tough chick... yeah, not relevant.
“I do remember puking” on Main Street into a sewer grate. “I did and said some really stupid things.”  I may have gone to a party and did cartwheels in the living room and knocked a bunch of stuff over. “The next day I felt horrible and decided to never get that drunk again.”

Seriously. It was years before I had more than one drink at a party.  I still avoid getting drunk.

“Point of the story is this, when I got to high school most of my peers just wanted to go to parties and get drunk.  That just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like it.  I couldn’t relate to them when they told me stories of how drunk they were that weekend.  I didn’t judge them, they weren’t bad people for drinking, I just didn’t feel like we had very much in common anymore.  I couldn’t connect with them.  I felt a bit lonely for a while because of it. But, I met a couple of other people who were less interested in drinking and more interested in music, dancing and art and then I didn’t feel so different or at least alone in my difference.  You are unique in some of your interests, so you are going to have a few less people to really connect with, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  When you get to high school there will be new people who like what you like and your friend circle will expand.”

She seemed to perk up at this knowledge. Talk over, right?

Well, sitting here afterwards, writing my blog post, I’ve had time to look back on that drunken memory.  There was a pretty disturbing thing that I realized. The party I went to was at an apartment, an apartment of a 20 year old male. I was not the only early teen girl there, in fact most of the girls there were 15 or younger, there were no early teen boys.

What the fuck is a twenty year old male doing having a party with 13,14 and 15 year old girls?

I remember a rumour that he raped a young girl  (which now that I am older and wiser, I believe it was true). At the time however, I thought he was a nice guy for giving us girls a “safe” place to drink.  “Safe” as in we wouldn’t get caught by the police or our parents.

But this is typical predatory behaviour.

I see now that a talk about red flag predatory behaviours needs to be had.  This is different from the “If an adult makes you feel uncomfortable or tries to give you gifts...” talk.

This is a: “these are warning signs that a person who claims to like you is trying to put you in a physically or emotionally compromised position in order to force/coerce you into having sexual contact.” Talk.  The talk where I need to walk the thin line of avoiding victim blaming but arming her to make choices that lower her risk of being assaulted.  I want her to believe that generally, the world is a good place. I don’t want her to live in fear, but I don’t want her completely oblivious to the reality of violence against women.

I need resources, but I also need relatable stories.  What I really wish was that I didn’t have to arm her at all.  I hate the idea of her walking down the street taking all the precautions I do.  I hate that I have to pass down this fear, this constant awareness.

Please, please raise your children to respect and understand boundaries and consent.  I’m begging you because no amount of red flag recognition is going to keep all of our girls and boys safe.  Risk management alone will not solve the problem of sexual violence in our communities.
We need to acknowledge that abusers were once children too, learning to respect another person’s bodily autonomy is a necessary social skill for healthy relationships, romantic and otherwise. We need to teach our children that everyone deserves to choose what is done to and what they do with their bodies without pressure from anyone else. Smashing the patriarchy starts in the home.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Little Talks

You know how we have a voice in our head, the one that is our insecurity, our fear? The one who tells us we will fail? Or that our waist looks thick in that dress? That we don’t deserve the love of another person? Well I created a counter-voice.

 I call her “compassionate me”.

Compassionate me rubs my (subconscious) back, she ignores that negative voice, she whispers in my imaginary ear the same truth I would tell my daughter.
“Forgive yourself, you are human.”
 “Do not expect so much of yourself, you are doing better than you think.”
“You were scared and suffering, of course you didn’t react the way someone who was calm would.”
Even:
“Okay, so you screwed up.  You can take steps to make it better. You can do this, try again.”

I developed her as a coping mechanism, when another negative voice in my head was so loud, repeating memories of my perceived inadequacies as a partner, as a person.

At first I was just imagining a person wrapping their arms around me as I cried, sitting in the shower, where my children couldn’t hear me.  I started whispering to myself, “It’s okay.” To try to calm my crying and my breathing.  My kids would need me soon.

That’s when I noticed that when my thought patterns turned to soothing, compassionate thoughts for myself, there was a break in the deep fear/grief/guilt I was drowning in.  In fact, shifting my focus to nurturance made me feel stronger.  Like how we can be strong and calm for our children in situations, where without them, we would feel frantic.

Psychologically, it makes sense; switching from fight or flight response to the tend and befriend one, only with myself. The hormones released when we are comforting others (or in my case, comforting myself) create a feeling of calm and well being, the opposite of the epinephrine one feels while in fight or flight. I was experiencing a flood of oxytocin, the love, trust and bonding hormone. I was literally creating a bond of love and trust with myself, every time I chose to engage compassionate me.

Over the next two years, I expressed her voice in my writing, she was the voice of self forgiveness.  She calmly countered the negative voice and never engaged in argument with it. Her focus was solely my emotional well being.  My focus became my emotional well being.

Last week, I expressed an insecurity to my boyfriend. I told him that I was scared that he was too kind, too sweet and gentle, that I didn’t deserve him.  Then compassionate me whispered in my ear: You too are kind, sweet and gentle.  I knew I was truly healing because, I am well aware compassionate me, is just a facet of my own personality and mind.  I believed her when she said it and though negative me scrambled to find examples of the opposite, the realization of this truth expanded and negative me didn’t stand a chance.

I can feel compassionate me’s voice and opinions integrating into my everyday thoughts.  In fact, the only time I think of her voice as separate from my usual self-narrative is when I am going through a particularly rough time emotionally.  Then she emerges a little more solid, her warm imaginary hand on my back, her calm voice reminding me to breath.

“You are safe here.”

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Same Roads, Different Journey



So, it has been a few months since I started seeing my new boyfriend, and some healing can only be done through facing the same scenarios. The lessons have been non-stop. I'm seeing disturbing behavioural patterns from myself:
I'm always apologizing, especially for being anxious or sad.
I constantly check-in to make sure that my stating that I want to do something, does not feel like pressure /manipulation to him.
I make jokes about him texting other women he's interested in when he puts away his phone quickly as I walk in the room (I also tell him joking about it is my way of getting reassurance that he is not, in fact, lining up another woman/cheating).
I anticipate conflict constantly, in my mind I am always preparing a defence for all of my actions/choices.
I don't expect him to ever go out of his way to do anything for me that doesn't also benefit him at the same time. In fact, it's a shock to me every time he offers to (I actually fought back tears when he offered to get me a glass of water after I had a nightmare, when he himself wasn't thirsty).

All of these behaviours and fears have been completely unnecessary and unfounded thus far.

The biggest learning experiences have been through travelling with him.

We planned a trip to Kingston together.  The day before, I started having anxiety attacks every time I thought of being in the car with him for so long.  Being stuck in an enclosed space with a male for 4 hours...
After practising my breathing and reassuring myself he was not going to get defensive and angry when I explained to him how I felt, I texted him about my anxiety. I wrote about how I will feel like I am at his mercy, my safety will be in his hands and that I was acutely aware that he could drive off and leave me anywhere if he got angry with me, not that I thought he would, but that, that fear had legit roots in my past. His answer?

I understand.  How can I make this easier for you?

The relief I felt...my shoulders melted and tears poured down my face.  Is this normal? I asked myself. Is this how it's suppose to be?  Should someone simply being a decent human being bring me to tears with gratitude?  I think part of my sobbing was due to the release of fear I had about how he may react to me stating I felt anxious. Still though, I was reminded of what I had become used to.

Our Toronto trip, included a lot of inner city driving and a few wrong turns.  I was so tense.  I cracked a few nervous jokes, tried to offer suggestions. My stomach was in a vice.  When we got back on the highway, I apologized for being so anxious. He didn't understand why I was apologizing.
"I know I can be hard to drive with, when I get anxious."  I explained. "You know, I'm sure my nervousness made you more nervous"
He looked at me, confused. "You were fine.  The only nervousness I felt was the usual I-hate- driving-in-Toronto nervousness"
"Really?" I was shocked. "I thought I was awful to drive with."
He grabbed my hand, looked over at me and said:
"Not only are you not awful to drive with, I really enjoy driving with you."
Another layer of disillusionment fell.  How long had I believed this about myself? My insecurity that he would drive with me and see that I was horrible to travel with, disappeared.  At first I was relieved, then anger crept in, I had allowed myself to believe this so completely. I had defined myself by someone else's negative opinion.  Ugh.  I felt stupid and impressionable. I felt weak and easily manipulated.  Then I allowed it to reassure me, no matter what I had been told, I wasn't a hard person to be around, and if I was lied to about this, then I was probably lied to about many things.

Here's the thing though, There's a voice in my head, that has morphed into my own and it's saying: I'm just on my best behaviour because we are new and in a year I'm going to become an anxiety-filled, manipulative bitch.  My toxic behaviour and over-sensitivity is going to make him resent me.  It's going to make him justifiably angry with me, but he's going to feel stuck with me, because I made him feel like he needed me.

That voice haunts me less and less.  But I can't pretend it has no affect on me.  They say that narcissists convince their partners that they are the narcissistic ones. I really hope that I'm not the narcissist, that I wasn't those things I've been accused of being.  I'm petrified one day I'm going to get comfortable in the relationship and become a monster to this amazing man.

I'm desperately awaiting the day when I'm not acutely self-conscious of everything I say and do and how it could be selfish or manipulative.

I want to trust that I am a good person again.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Trigger Warning: Me Too

I thought I had this #MeToo thing down.  By that, I mean, I thought that it wouldn't get to me.  I thought, I have openly admitted to being sexually assaulted in the past on social media, what will be different about it this time?

For the first 24 hours, I was fine.  A bit saddened to see so many of my friends have also experienced this, but not surprised.  I was annoyed by the odd MRA douche canoe who tried to make it men vs women
...once again, not surprised.

However, at one point I did break down.  Someone I knew had the same abuser as me posted #MeToo.  I broke into tears, because it stopped being a social media awareness action. I had been emotionally detached because I had no idea how my friends were assaulted, just that they were and they were brave for sharing.

Shit got real.  Empathy, not the kind you strive for, but the kind that smacks you in the face and leaves you dumbstruck, that's what I felt.  Because I knew very much how she felt when it happened.
This, of course, opened the floodgates for more unintentional empathy.  I am usually quite good at keeping emotional distance in high stress situations, but not now. Not that the real truth of it came rushing in. Understanding someone's emotions is a whole other creature from feeling them.  I'm not sure how much time I am going to spend looking at my feed over the next few days.

To all the victims being triggered right now:
-You are not weak for feeling awful or triggered.
-You are brave wether you post #MeToo or not.
-Take care of yourselves in the way you see fit.

To those who aren't victims, but want to support your friends that are victims:
-If you want to comment: validate, don't question.
-avoid victim blaming, this includes posting you haven't been assaulted and why you think that is.
-Tell the MRA bastards that are trolling your vulnerable friends to "fuck off."

This is all I got right now.  I'm done for the evening.  I'm going to cuddle up with a book and live in another world for awhile.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

I Should Be Sleeping

I should be sleeping.  I got a cold from my... boyfriend.  So strange writing those words, stranger saying them.  Cuteness aside, this has been a very challenging time for me.

Some healing can't truly be done until you are back in the same situation, but with a positive outcome instead.  That doesn't mean that, that situation isn't going to feel scary as hell when it happens.  It also doesn't mean that magically you are going to heal afterwards either. You have to make the effort through the fear to listen to yourself, to communicate with your new partner and to see it to the end.

So that's what I've been doing. Communicating. When a triggering situation is foreseeable I warn him of how I may feel and act.  I give him ways to support me and things to avoid doing that will make it worse. He listens, he tries.  He restores my faith.

So even though I've got this happy I'm-in-a-new-relationship vibe going on, there's an underside of anxiety and it's more like skipping through an emotional minefield than a meadow.

Every once in a while, after a particularly triggering situation, when I need reassurance that I am worth all this stupid: can't breath, can't talk, shaking uncontrollably, bullshit.  He reassures me.  He makes me feel safe and cared for.

I am not broken beyond wanting.

Not only am I still desirable, I'm desired by a great guy.  One I wasn't even sure if I deserved and waited months before I got the guts to ask him out.

So here's to the next chapter of healing through experience. Wish me luck.