Alone Again, Naturally

While on my Facebook profile this afternoon, I noticed my relationship status looked different. KR’s photo wasn’t attached in the little square beside my status, neither was his name. Confused, I checked his profile and saw this:

Imagine finding out your relationship is “officially” over in this manner. I had, at least, some level of awareness that our relationship is over due to conversations over the last week; but until I saw his “Relationship Status” today, it didn’t feel “real.” Eleven years of devotion, loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, and love (at least, on my part) and 17 years of friendship casually thrown away with the simple change of a status update. I feel like I’m in shock. Even the voices in my head are 95% silent at the moment. It’s an eerie silence given their higher than normal level of activity and considering some have been obnoxiously screaming at me for weeks. These past few weeks have been rough, like suicidal risk Level 4 rough. I’ve coped to the best of my ability; but I remain frozen in fear, unable to remain “present” or focus on anything long enough to find a solution to my present dilemma.

This all started a couple of weeks ago on 9/11. It finally came to a head on 9/17 when KR finally had his meltdown in his usual raging alcoholic mindset of “How dare you deny me of my needs!” He was due for a meltdown, so I was somewhat expecting it, just not so soon. I was guessing the middle to end of October given his usual tendency to become enraged closer to his birthday. For the next week, he behaved like nothing happened which is pretty much the norm until his next blow up; however, he did suggest that we seek couples counseling which gave me hope that he still wanted to work things out.

Things only got worse over this last weekend. On Saturday, 9/23, KR made it very clear that our relationship is over. He told me our sexual differences are too much. He said neither of us are at fault for this but he needs his freedom to basically have sex with whomever he pleases and explore his sexual fantasies with others since I’m unwilling to “compromise.” He said he doesn’t want to be seen as a “cheater.” Afterward, he left to go overnight camping with his work buddy who is also having marital problems. Seriously, I think they’re fueling each other’s misery like men so often do.

Early Monday morning around 4:00 am and after he had already drank several shots of Tequila (he was still so drunk after he woke up that he had to call out of work), he reiterated all of this, telling me about their camping trip where they met up with a couple of women they work with to share an evening of “hanging out without the pressures of a relationship.” He talked more about his past affairs (which he still claims were mostly one night stands), but he admitted that these have been going on since the beginning of our relationship — so the entire 11 years we’ve been together. I was stupid enough to stay with him after he told me about a couple of these in October 2015, only after one of these women contacted him about contracting an STD.

Why did I stay?

At that time he told me he wanted to work things out, and I was terrified of being homeless again. I was and still am financially destitute. I’ve spent the last 2 years since his first admission of this in mostly a dissociative state, disconnected from him and everything around me. Fear of the unknown, fear of being homeless, fear of my own suicidal tendencies when I feel this overwhelmed forced me to stay.

These are the same fears I’m facing today in addition to a state of confusion that feels new. This level of dysfunction is comparable to what I experienced in 2005. My mind feels like a jumbled mess. I can’t think straight. I don’t know how to put “this” into words.

I really don’t.

He said he wasn’t going to be a dick about it and kick me out, that he would help me however he could; but I have to get out — the sooner, the better. I have no choice but to make an attempt to try working again if I can actually find someone willing to hire me after a 12 year absence from the work force and willing to somehow accommodate the severity of my illness. I called Vocational Rehabilitation this past week and left a voicemail with the person I was told to speak with, but no one called back. So many phone calls and pleas for help lately have gone unanswered and ignored that I’m beginning to believe that I’m supposed to die by suicide.

Wait it out, just wait it out.

Everything feels hopeless right now, and I’m fighting that familiar dissociation that prevents me from doing anything. Like so many times before in my life, history is repeating itself. This feels like a flashback — a really bad flashback; and this time I have no strength left to fight for my life. I wasted all the strength and energy I had left in this last attempt at finding supportive mental health treatment. I’ve got nothing left. Since I was discharged from treatment, I don’t even have that support system to help me through this. I screwed that up like I do everything else.

I do have an appointment on Monday with another facility, but I feel so lost at this point that I don’t think anyone can help me. I’m worried about this weekend. I’m so exhausted. I’m so tired of the pressure. I’m so tired of fighting to survive. I’ve called and texted with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other crisis lines more times this past couple of weeks than I have in a very long time. We’re told to “reach out for help” when in crisis. Why does actually getting help have to be so difficult? It’s no wonder so many people die in this way.



I’m experiencing a hard shut down, triggered by vulnerability. “Vulnerability refers to the inability (of a system or a unit) to withstand the effects of a hostile environment.” [Source: Wikipedia.] I recognize my vulnerabilities as triggers for dissociation, panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares, or any other symptom of anxiety, depression, or PTSD. My triggers for the defense mechanisms that serve to protect me are these vulnerabilities:

  • Specific Trigger Dates:
    • New Year’s Eve — Partly due to losing SSDI and partly due to a horribly triggering event that began this blog
    • January 11 — date my divorce became final
    • January 15 — my dad’s birthday
    • March 1 — my oldest son’s birthday
    • April 11/12 — date of first rape
    • April 14 — the day my dad died
    • April 27 — my youngest son’s birthday; memories associated with giving him up for adoption
    • May 2 — the day I left my husband and son
    • August 11 — date of second rape
    • September 11 — the day we, as a nation, were traumatized
    • September 23 — KR broke up with me
    • October 20 — KR told me about his affairs
    • November 26 — the day I moved in with KR
    • December 3 — marriage anniversary
  • Suicide Attempts (Possible trigger dates):
    1. August 9, 1996
    2. April 12, 1998
    3. October 14, 1998
    4. December 4, 2004
  • Holidays that I recognize as being triggering:
    • Easter
    • Mother’s Day
    • My birthday
    • Thanksgiving
    • Christmas
  • Certain strong emotions, e.g. rage, grief, terror, contempt, disappointment, despair, hopelessness, disrespect, humiliation, frustration, overwhelm, shame, confusion, and shock.
  • Confrontation, arguments, fighting.
  • Harsh or negative criticism and judgement by others, feeling persecuted.
  • Acts of aggression and violence (hostility). I’m horribly sensitive to media coverage that is gruesome or hateful or violent, etc. Coverage of stories regarding rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or even sexual harassment can be triggering for me.
  • Exhaustion — whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or all of the above.
  • Feeling exposed, out in the open, insecure paranoia.
  • Injustice. Feeling taken advantage of or inequality.
  • Abandonment.
  • Rejection.
  • Loss of safety or insecure environment. Threat of homelessness, starvation, or abuse make me catatonic, totally checked out.
  • Feeling misunderstood, unheard, or not believed.
  • Lack of consistency, routine, or structure in my daily life.
  • Change — big or small, I don’t do well with change.
  • Healthcare — mental health or physical health, either one. I still, to this day, have “institutional” type nightmares; and I never stayed at any psychiatric facility for more than one month. I have no faith left in the medical community, no faith in our doctors to actually listen, hear what they’re being told, and understand that I know my body better than they ever will given the brevity of time spent with patients. I have no patience left for psychiatry. I’m right there on that cliff of anti-psychiatry, ready to jump off. I don’t even have any trust left to give to another counselor or therapist. I have absolutely no cause to believe that corporations (pharmaceutical, healthcare related and insurance related) will grow a conscience and do what is “right” for the American people. And absolutely NO confidence in our government to protect us from their predatory greed.
  • Sex — everything about sex is triggering for me, everything. Some sexual acts are more triggering, like oral sex or anal sex (I would rather be tarred and feathered than do either); but even straight-up, vanilla, missionary position sex can cause hyperventilation or dissociation during sexual encounters with my boyfriend unless I focus on my breathing to control the physical and emotional pain I feel (and I mean, really focus on breathing, consciously aware, mindful breathing). The physical pain I feel during and after intercourse is almost as bad as the emotional baggage that prevents me from enjoying it, and sometimes that physical pain lasts for days afterward. It’s not just the actual sexual acts that are triggering for me, but also the pressure I feel to “perform” or fulfill KR’s needs. Any sexual touching triggers my startle reflex even on a good day. Waking up to KR snuggling or touching me in this way is a huge trigger! I can’t watch porn because it disgusts me to the point of dry heaving. I can’t even allow myself to feel “sexy” because in my mind, that would warrant sexual attention that I do not want. Sex was a huge issue for me long before the rapes, from the moment I lost my virginity. The rapes, sexual assaults, and sexual harassment I’ve endured throughout my adult life only further complicated this matter.*

*UPDATE: I plan to continue updating this list of triggers. I’m only now, after 23 years of on-and-off-again-therapy, beginning to recognize what triggers me.


The Clothesline Project

Today was an interesting day. As I looked through my Facebook feed, I noticed a post made by Genesis House about an event going on at Tennessee Tech University called the Clothesline Project. After calling for more information, I made the spontaneously impulsive decision to drive to Cookeville to check it out.

I remember hearing something about this last year but didn’t go at that time. Today, however, I was determined.

I went. I walked around looking at so many people’s contributions to the project and chose to make a T-shirt of my own. My hands were shaking the entire time I worked on my shirt. I drank 2 cups of water in the short time I was there as my nervousness tends to manifest in dry mouth and thirst. A nice lady from Tennessee Tech’s Women’s Center provided the second cup and a couple of brownie bites. This made me smile and eased my mind a little. In fact, everyone there was so supportive and encouraging.

Despite my horrible anxiety and nervousness, I think my shirt turned out pretty well:

It felt good to participate. My only regret is that I wasn’t finished with my T-shirt in time to participate in the “Take Back the Night” march around campus. Still, I’m proud of myself for having gone there, for handling the triggers so well, and for making my own voice heard. I’m proud of myself because I pushed myself outside my comfort zone to participate in this.

This was a special and meaningful day for me — very therapeutic.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Great Smoky Mountains

This past week has been brutal. The wildfires in the Gatlinburg area triggered that sense of helplessness and despair I so often find myself in. I grew up just outside Sevier County. I spent most of my childhood and teens frequenting the many tourist attractions of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountains. So many of my happiest memories are attached to one place or another there as is the case for most of us who grew up in East Tennessee. I worked 2 seasons at Dollywood after graduating high school and again briefly in ’98 — my favorite job of the many I’ve held. I have a strong attachment to that area.

It’s home.

My heart and soul belong to the Smoky Mountains. As a child, I spent many a summer day swinging on my front porch in the foothills of the Smokies, gazing at those beloved mountains off in the distance. That’s where I learned to meditate, though I had no name for this practice back then. The Smoky Mountains taught me to simply “be” and savor my natural surroundings. It may sound silly to those who have never experienced the “spirit” of a place, but those mountains are truly alive. Still to this day, they take my breath away and fill me with peace whenever I return to them, like a mother nurturing her child.

That’s why these wildfires hurt so much. I’ve cried more tears this week — unstoppable, heartbroken tears as I watched a fiery inferno threaten all that I hold dear. “It could have been much worse.” I keep telling myself that, but it does little to assuage the devastation I feel. The only thing that has helped my sadness at all is seeing communities come together all over the state raising money and donations to help with relief efforts. These acts of kindness restore at least some small measure of faith in humanity to do the “right” thing.

As of writing this:

  • The death toll is at 13 people.
  • 15,653 acres were affected by the fires.
  • “1,000 structures were either damaged or destroyed by the fires.”
  • “4,871 people remain without power in Sevier County” as of 8:15 pm last night.

[Source: “Fire death count remains at 13; searches winding down.” WBIR, 2016. 02 Dec. 2016.]

I can’t even imagine the devastation to the wildlife population without immediately falling into a panic and more tears.

The Sevier County community relies on the tourism industry. These fires could have devastating consequences for many people in that area, especially those who lost their homes. At this time, monetary donations would go farther than anything else. Please, consider giving what you can: American Red Cross.

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

I, quite seriously, feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m back to questioning whether I’m alive or dead. Nothing feels real, so I’m going with the latter. What if I’m the only person who knows we’re all dead and trying to work out our past life’s traumas? All of this talk of moving on is meant to push us into the next life — reincarnate to try again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

I’m really struggling right now.

I feel like I don’t belong here, like an alien stranded on some strange — very disturbing — planet that’s about to veer off course into its sun. Half the population is creating hell while the other half of us are simply trying to connect the dots, prove there’s a better way to deal with suffering. Progress based in love and compassion is our only way forward. Hate and exclusion moves us backward to repeat past mistakes over and over again. Everything seems so black and white, good or evil, positive or negative. Polar opposites. The balance is teetering on the brink of destruction and each side keeps rocking the boat.

Chaos is winning.

I feel lost. I feel like nothing more than an observer, silenced by overwhelm, suffocating from too many triggers, buried alive under so much hate. I’m “out of my mind.” I feel like I’m experiencing all of this out of my body, lost and untethered, with no desire to bother coming back. Content to watch the world crash and burn, taking my soul with it, I mourn for our planet as much as myself as even she has lost the will to live.

The rape of our planet’s resources is the perfect metaphor for the crushing disappointment in humanity to defend and honor the female population.

What chance do women have in a barbaric patriarchy that treats us like objects to be used for their sick and twisted amusement?

This election and its aftermath left me in a state of shock and dismay. To say I’m disappointed in its outcome would be the understatement of the year. I find myself fighting dissociation, that familiar numb disconnect fueled by a desperation to survive the suicidal ideation triggered by the events of the past few weeks. I’ve had nightmares for at least the last 3 nights in a row. The flashbacks are intense, invasive and graphic memories causing severe panic. KR, trying to be helpful, took me to buy pepper spray. It was a sweet gesture; but knowing my freeze response when I feel threatened, I would never get the chance to use it.

In response to a comment someone left on a link I shared on Facebook, I wrote:

As a direct result of Trump’s language throughout his campaign and that leaked video, every time I see that man’s face come across my news feed or hear another ignorant thing he says, I feel triggered. I know, that’s *my* problem to deal with; and I’m coping to the best of my ability. However, I associate Trump’s face with every man who ever sexually harassed me, with every man who ever sexually assaulted me (grabbed or otherwise touched me inappropriately), and with the men who raped me.

THAT is what Trump represents for me. Half of the voters in this country validated his words and actions JUST by voting for him. I accept the fact that Trump won this election, but acceptance does NOT mean I have to tolerate his hate speech. Acceptance does NOT mean I condone his behavior or validate his twisted beliefs. Acceptance is NOT approval.

What I’m feeling isn’t “fear.” It’s disgust — not just for Trump but also for the 47% of Americans who voted for him, who condone the behavior of a bully and sexual predator. Disgust and contempt.

And that is what all of this boils down to. I’m not usually so open about my private struggles under my “real” identity. I was taught from an early age not to burden others with my problems, especially not family; but this election sparked an unbridled rage within me to speak out that I’ve never felt before. I broke down after writing that response.

I called RAINN’s support line for, ya know, support. I was transferred to an organization out of Murfreesboro, TN. I told the woman who answered, “I think I need to talk to someone.” She seemed annoyed when I gave my reason for calling. I immediately regretted having reached out to a total stranger for help. I thought, “I must be wasting her time over an issue that took place over 18 years ago.” I felt weak for allowing the political climate to trigger such a strong response within me. She took my name and phone number and said someone would call me back.

I’m still waiting 4 days later to “talk” to someone.

could have called any other crisis line; but I chose RAINN because I thought, “They’re trained specifically to deal with issues of this nature.” Right?

I never wanted to be a part of Trump’s reality, but I am. I have been for a long time. Men, who think they can grab a woman’s private parts because… they can? Consent means nothing to a sexual predator. It was bad enough that someone running for our highest office here in the US bragged about this type of behavior, but for that same man to actually become President of the United States?!

It’s not just a slap in the face to anyone victimized in this way. It’s like being sexually assaulted and raped all over again.

No. I’m not okay.

A lot of women are struggling today with these same emotions and triggers as a result of this election. Know that you’re not alone. I know from experience, too often it feels that way. I’m still searching for the emotional support and connection to people who understand what I’ve been through, but…

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

Hope Is a Guiding Light

For many women Mother’s Day is an especially difficult day. I’m speaking to those women who for whatever reason don’t share the daily lives of their children, who either lost custody of their children or signed away their parental rights. I know the pain — gut wrenching heartache — that accompanies both scenarios. I know the guilt and shame you’ve felt from the insensitive comments made by friends and family who can’t possibly understand the reality in which you find yourself.

I know the despair and heartbreaking sadness of such a profound loss as that of losing a child to a significant other and also that of voluntarily giving a child up for adoption, to another family to raise. In my own life, both of these scenarios occurred within a year of each other, seemingly reinforcing the other, deepening the wound and that sense of loss and despair. So often over the years, I thought of all the life experiences I was missing in my children’s lives. They do grow up so fast.

I know that none of us knows exactly what the other is going through, nor do we share the exact same set of circumstances; yet each of us can relate to one another at a deep, emotional level. Others without our experience of a Mother’s loss could never understand this intense pain. We, who never wanted the stigma of being childless mothers, suffer a great loss, an emptiness/incompleteness that tears our hearts to bits, shatters our soul to the core, and so often leaves us in a broken heap on the floor with every anniversary, birthday, and Mother’s Day. Even holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving lose their meaning when they’re overshadowed by a loss of this magnitude.

Never think for a moment that you don’t matter. You matter! You deserve to be acknowledged on Mother’s Day, too!

Use today as a day for mourning your loss if you must. Don’t allow anyone to take that away from you. Get through the day with great courage and cry your tears and feel that pain. Know that pain won’t last forever. It comes in waves and lessens with time. Remember to give yourself credit for that strength and courage that only you can validate in your heart.

Distract. Soothe. Repeat.

Find a method that works best for you to get all of that pain and sadness out and commemorate that severed bond. Get creative. Journal or write a letter to your child (even if you don’t/can’t send it), create a video or use poetry to soothe your soul. Paint or draw your emotions. Start a scrapbook for your child full of happy and sad thoughts, your life experiences, and those moments you do experience with your child. For those of you who don’t get those experiences right now, hold onto that hope with all your heart that one day you may — you will — have that chance to be a part of your child’s life.

Never give up that hope. Let it be your guiding light during the storms.

A Birth Mother’s Letter to Her Son

Seventeen years ago, yesterday, I gave birth to a baby boy. Three days later, he would leave the hospital with his adoptive family; and I was left to cope with the loss. I’ve written extensively about the circumstances of his conception and birth previously in the post titled, My Story — Part 4 (The Second Half of My Year of Hell). From that post:

I got to spend 3 very emotional days with this little bundle of joy. His adoptive parents and I chose his name together. I felt honored that they would share this experience with me. His parents (and all the people at Caring Choices, too) were truly the first kind faces I had seen in a very long time. They showed me such compassion that I knew I had made the right choice. On May 15, 1999, I signed the surrender of adoption, giving up this child to his adoptive parents, who took him home from the hospital 3 days after his birth. This was truly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made; but I felt that it was in his best interest to find more suitable, stable parents to raise him than what I, myself, could possibly provide. This was one very special gift that I was able to give in this lifetime, and I can only hope that karma rewards with compassion.

This post is a letter I chose to write in honor of his birthday, which still proves to be an incredibly difficult day for me even 17 years later. 

My dearest C–,

My, how time flies. You’re already 17 years old — a young man. Each and every year on your birthday, I pull out the photo album of photos your parents sent me of you and your family throughout the first 3 years of your life. I also read the letters your mom so graciously sent me. Your family will always have such a special place in my heart for the love and compassion they showed me during a tumultuous period in my life. I am so thankful to your parents, your adopted sister, and their entire extended family members for accepting you as their own and for their love and support.

I sincerely apologize for not taking the time to write and update you all about my life as we had agreed. Unfortunately, the struggles in my life often made communication with others very difficult for me. One day, when you’re older, I’ll tell you my story should you ever decide you wish to hear it. I know this won’t make up for not being a part of your life, but it is important to me that you understand my absence and know that I thought of you often with all my love. I can only ask for your forgiveness and compassion for not being strong enough to continue writing letters and sending photos. The pain of remembering that time in my life was simply too great.

I’m deeply sorry for not being able to be part of your life. When I chose to give you up for adoption, I only wanted what was best for you. I wanted you to have everything I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to provide. In finding an adoptive family who could provide you with the love and emotional support you deserve, I felt you would have the best chance to grow up in a stable, healthy environment. Despite my soul feeling incomplete without you and the heartache of sorrow I felt when I gave you up, I know I made the right choice. You deserved to grow up without the weight of my burdens in life. You deserved to experience a happy childhood within the safety and security of healthy role models.

One day, I would love to hear of all your joys and heartaches, your accomplishments and defeats, your passions and dislikes, and your hopes and dreams. I often wonder what you look like, now. I wonder how you’ve turned out. I wonder what subjects you enjoy at school and where your life will lead you. I wonder if we will ever meet again — if you ever think of me and wonder the same. It is my hope that I gave you the BEST of me, and that life treats you kindly. You’ll forever be in my thoughts.

All my love,

Your Birth Mother