Talking Is Overrated

Three trigger dates fell within the same week this year in April. Easter is a kind of “floating” trigger date as it isn’t one of those holidays that’s nailed down to one particular day. I managed. I got through them. As always, I avoided as much as I could, distracted when I couldn’t, and coped when reminders triggered flashbacks or panic or whatever else. I’m told that’s all I can do. I feel numb, emotionless, and detached — not surprising for this time of year, especially not surprising for the month of April.

I’m convinced this is as good as it gets.

The final trigger date at the end of April passed much the same. I was supposed to meet with my case manager that day, but she called the day before to cancel again. I had an appointment with my counselor this past Friday — the day after that trigger date; but I didn’t even mention my son’s birthday. My biggest problem is that I avoid discussing these events in my life even when I know I need to. Rather, I opt to talk about trivial matters or anything else. This causes me to feel even more frustrated with myself as well as mental health treatment (obviously, considering my last post).

“Is there anything else major you think we need to talk about?” That open-ended question is daunting. It fills me with dread and panic, signaling the end of a session. Immediately an inner conflict arises as some parts express a desperation to be heard, demanding with urgency the chance to speak up, while others caution against saying too much. The fatalist cynic reminds me of the pointlessness of therapy as the paranoid social phobic sounds the sirens of compulsive distrust. All within seconds of each other, the final word comes down to the inner critic who demands silence, effectively shutting me up.

What actually comes out of my mouth in response is resigned exasperation of yet another wasted chance to talk with another human being about something more meaningful than the weather. What actually comes out of my mouth in response is the minimization of how I feel. Detracting from the complexity of my inner world protects it, protects each part of who I am from further humiliation.

What I don’t say keeps it locked safely inside, guarded against criticism of being overly sensitive or crazy or weird or any other judgement I’ve heard time and time again throughout my life because I know it sounds absurd. I know it sounds completely insane. Worse yet would be no one believing me should I disclose such an intimate detail of how I experience my life. The conversations within my mind have more value to me than conversations with other people. I’m convinced other people don’t listen anyway, whether it’s family, friends, or those within the profession of “paid-listener.”

I get that it “takes a while” to work through particularly difficult issues like what I’ve faced in my life. I know there is no simple, easy solution to working through past trauma or present difficulties. I need no one to remind me of that. It doesn’t help matters any to be shuffled from counselor to counselor to counselor or having no consistency in a treatment schedule whatsoever. The hopelessness of this situation was triggered at the end of my last counseling session when my counselor suggested that I switch to yet another counselor — someone I don’t want to see, someone I already know I don’t “click” with because she and I have met before.

After our session, my counselor asked me to wait in the lobby to meet with one of the care coordinators. As I was sitting there waiting, the conversation in my head debated wildly about the prospect of having to find a trauma therapist elsewhere. Starting over completely at a different facility entails a bigger change than simply giving up on treatment altogether. I waited until my counselor called her next client back and they disappeared behind the door. Feeling the familiarity of that trance-like disconnect, I impulsively gave in to the argument within my mind.

I impulsively gave in to the urge to flee and simply walked out — left the building, got into my car, and drove away.

Getting Through Another Anniversary Date

I have to write about this before I minimize and rationalize it away. I slipped over the weekend. Friday night, I had 3 shots of Tequila — several hours apart from each other, not enough to get drunk — but nonetheless, a slip. I know what the triggers were.

April is full of trigger dates — rape #1 – April 11/12; my dad’s death – April 14; the child’s birthday, who I gave up for adoption – April 27. Also, I could include the suicide attempt on April 12, 1998, as it was the most serious attempt I ever made, and the period of homelessness from April 17, 2005 through May 1, 2005 after the move to Tullahoma, TN. There’s just a lot to process in the month of April, a whole lot.

In addition to the trigger dates, a good friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl last week. She and her husband are mine and KR’s closest friends. That’s saying a lot considering I don’t easily trust enough to make lasting relationships/friendships. I spent most of Friday shopping for a gift for the new baby. I struggle a lot with my inability to parent my own children. That reason, alone, is a source of great pain and loss — as well as guilt and shame.

Most days, I avoid the children’s sections of department stores like the plague; yet on Friday, I was determined to do something special for my friend to commemorate the new addition to their family. All I can say about this experience of gift shopping is that it left me with a crippling indecisiveness that bordered on insanity, walking the aisles of the department store for more than a few hours. Seriously — hours. However, I am glad I got through it. Gift giving truly is as much for the giver as it is for the receiver.

When KR returned home from work with his usual Friday night bottle of Tequila, I didn’t think twice about it. I took a shot to settle my nerves and calm my incredibly noisy mind. I didn’t even get a buzz because I spaced the 3 shots out over several hours. Quite honestly, I hate the taste of Tequila, probably the one saving grace that stopped me from drinking more than I did. I’ve been fighting the urge to go out and buy a bottle of Jack Daniels ever since.

I’ve resisted.

Sobriety is a bear of an opponent, especially when you have voices in your head telling you things like, “A few drinks won’t hurt anything.”

Or, “You’re not really an addict. Look at how long you can go without using anything. If you were truly an addict, you wouldn’t be able to resist having a drink every time it’s in the house.”

Or, “Complete abstinence from alcohol is as unrealistic a goal as any other form of abstinence. How is complete abstinence any different from other forms of ‘black and white’ or ‘all or nothing’ thinking? It’s a contradiction in psychology to say one form of exaggeration is okay while another is a cognitive distortion. How can that possibly work?”

So, I made it 100 days this time before I gave in to those voices. It doesn’t surprise me that I would, especially not at this time of year. I refuse to feel guilty about a slip. At first, I was a little disappointed in myself; but I know that I am doing the best I can, given my circumstances and life history. I struggle enough with self-blame not to tack on anymore over something I consider trivial compared to past experiences.

I didn’t cry when I held my friend’s baby for the first time over the weekend. I was worried I might, but I didn’t. All of the emotion was there, just below the surface while I gazed at that beautiful little face. I held onto my tears until I reached the safety of my home, crying myself to sleep that night.

That loss hurts every bit as much today as it did 17 years ago.

Where I’ve Been…

My last post was quite a bit darker than I would normally care to share. I thought about doing a little damage control by rewriting it or completely removing it, but that post is an accurate description of how I was feeling at the time. The following week of July 12th through 18th is difficult for me to describe. None of my usual distraction methods or self-soothing practices were making a difference. The panic/fear I felt escalated to a point of feeling so out of control that I didn’t think I could trust my judgment. I was suicidal and paranoid. I went back to the crisis stabilization unit (CSU) Thursday, July 16th, and allowed them to admit me for 5 days.

I’m glad I did. Regardless of anything I’ve said in the past, I do feel a certain amount of safety and trust in the facility where I chose to get treatment. Trust is not so easily secured in my mind, so even the slightest amount of trust is something for me to celebrate.

Thankfully, medication wasn’t forced. That’s a huge relief. An attempt at a bedtime anxiety med was made; but after only one night’s dose and an incredibly groggy day followed, I needed no other reminder of what “my medicated days” were like. Medication causes me more anxiety than it helps. Period.

Like last time, this visit to CSU was a chance to STOP, catch my breath, and calm down a bit — something I was struggling to accomplish (incapable of accomplishing) at home. As it was an impulsive decision to drive myself to CSU that day, I didn’t discuss it with KR first. I feared his reaction, knowing his disapproval of mental health services, let alone being hospitalized. I left him a note telling him where I had gone and called him from CSU the following Saturday to “gauge” his reaction. As I predicted, he was angry, telling me that this, me going to CSU, was the reason he couldn’t talk to me about anything because I choose to run away.

During that phone call, I found myself apologizing again and again. I couldn’t hold back the tears as he reprimanded me for not dealing with my problems. Me crying only seemed to infuriate him more. It didn’t take long for KR’s criticisms of mental health services and me, in general, to turn to the topic of sex and how his “needs” are not being met. As I sat listening to this all too familiar tirade, while on a telephone at a crisis stabilization unit, my only thoughts were, “It’s always about sex. It’s always about sex. IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT SEX!!” I couldn’t defend myself. All I could do was cry and apologize. After I finally managed to get off of the phone, using the excuse that we were limited to brief phone calls (he had already kept me on the phone for more than 15 minutes), I recounted as much of the conversation as I could remember to the med nurse who offered an ear and gently encouraged me to talk through my panicked sobbing. I kept repeating (keep repeating even now), “It’s always about sex,” like some kind of screwed up mantra, because honestly, I feel like sex is all KR cares about — whether or not he is getting laid.

Last week, July 19th through 25th, was tense. After I returned home on the 20th, I half expected KR to kick me out; but he simply ignored me for the most part. Other than casual conversation about the garden, work, the video game he’s playing, or the latest depressing factoid going around on Facebook, we didn’t have any “meaningful” conversations. He’s still sleeping on the couch, refusing to touch me or show any form of affection. Finally, yesterday morning after KR woke up, I asked him, “Are we ever going to talk?” He agreed that we needed to; so we discussed several of the issues we’ve been having for a little over an hour, prior to him leaving for work.

Other than the common theme of sex (seriously, he’s got a one-track mind and obsesses over it), we did manage to talk about a couple of other things. For the past month, I felt like I was being punished for no other reason than being who I am. I kept asking myself, “What did I do to deserve this silence, lack of affection, and coldness?” This treatment triggered a lot of the same emotions and reactions in me as so much of the childhood confusion I experienced from my family when they did the exact same thing. That same thought, “I must deserve this,” continually filtered through my mind and thoughts. How is it possible to feel so lonely, so alone, around someone you love, who says he loves you? I have cried more in the past month than I think I have in the past 10 years. The pain is excruciating.

I told KR that I felt like I was being punished for something, but I didn’t know what. His response was, “This past month I’ve been basically… you. This past month I have been you. Doing the bare minimum to keep going.” I broke down in tears, sobbing, apologizing profusely to him because I never meant to make KR feel the way I’ve felt for the past month. And the truth is, I don’t even realize I’m doing that; but he’s right. I get stuck on auto-pilot, coasting through life, hoping for a few moments of happiness along the way. Otherwise, I’m merely surviving because I don’t know how else to “be.”

Even though I think I’ve put forth every effort in my available resources to work through many of my fears and insecurities, nothing has helped, according to KR. He sees everything I do on a daily basis as trivial and insignificant. I clean the house. I take care of the cats. I take care of all the finances — writing out monthly checks, making sure all the bills are paid, keeping a budget, and keeping track of everything we spend money on. I do all of the shopping, sometimes having to go to as many as 3 to 5 different stores just to find everything he wants or needs. I run all of the household errands. I keep up with my appointments. I do all the laundry. I run the garbage off in the trunk of my car rather than bother him to take it off in his truck. I help out with the yard work. I’ve even been cooking more to try to lighten his load some.

All of this while still trying to run 2 blogs, practice my photography and drawing skills to keep them up to par, get a few minutes of piano time in, journal daily, research topics of interest and read, practice self-care whenever I’m feeling overly anxious and triggered, and if I’m lucky, go for a much-needed hike every once in a while.

Long story, short and what I told KR — I don’t feel appreciated. I don’t feel any appreciation for all of the efforts that I do put in. I don’t feel like anything I actually do makes a difference because I constantly feel criticized. After bringing up this issue and adding how much I crave even the smallest amount of appreciation, just a simple thank you, or a hug — right there, with the mention of a hug, he stopped me, interrupted me, saying, “I’m afraid to touch you anymore,” without so much as an acknowledgment of what I was telling him I needed.

It’s the last 5 or so minutes of this conversation — which I’m choosing not to write out — that has me most upset, triggered, and wondering if perhaps, it is time to let this relationship go, not only for my own sanity but for KR’s as well. I’m not sure if two emotionally unhealthy people can have a healthy relationship. I’m not convinced that KR even wants to work any of this out. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe too much damage has been done. Or maybe these are echoes of my past that I’m projecting onto this relationship. The fact is, I don’t know; and I don’t know what else to do. Neither KR nor I know how to fix this.


 

In an attempt to figure out exactly when all of this began, the obvious answer is KR’s meltdown a month ago triggered the current wave of panic, anxiety, helplessness, and despair. But this has been going on for years. Losing SSDI most certainly threw me for a loop. Reapplying for SSDI is literally reliving that experience all over again — all of the uncertainties, the insecurities, the stress of having no financial means to support myself, feeling like a burden, not only to KR but to society as a whole, and the pressure to get over the traumas I lived through yet struggle every single day to process and recover from. The upcoming hearing date precisely one week prior to the anniversary of one of those traumas is just icing on the cake.

Excuse me while I have a complete nervous break down!


A few helpful links about PTSD:

Until this last visit to CSU, I don’t think I quite understood the impact that PTSD has had on my life or in my relationships. Prior to now, I thought, “I’ve already talked about that, dealt with it.” I had no idea that this shit would continue to affect my life so adversely, possibly for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m becoming a bit bitter. If I ever get in touch with my anger, I’m going to ask her, “Where in the hell have you been?!

Rape. The gift that just keeps on giving!

 

 

 

 

Help Me Understand, Alone on a Limb

This is a very, very sensitive topic for me. I’ve always considered what happens in the bedroom, should stay in the bedroom… private. But I need to talk about this. I need to talk about sex. I apologize profusely for the “too much information” vibe of this post.

And again, this post may be triggering for some readers. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Proceed with caution. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My relationship with my boyfriend is suffering from what I can only describe as an aversion to sex on my part. I attribute this aversion to flashbacks regarding the rapes and a lifelong, general disinterest in sex. Even before the rapes in ’98, I never had much of a sex drive which has left me feeling pressured to “perform” in all 3 of the long-term relationships I have ever been in. My current boyfriend and I met online back in 2000 while I was attending college. I’ve referred to him as KR in “My Story” and here. Quick recap since I didn’t go into much detail about our relationship in that post: We went on our first date in July 2000, and he moved in with me the following December. We dated for a little over a year and a half that first time we were together. The reasons for our break-up in March 2002 were complicated. I felt completely overwhelmed at the time and could feel myself slipping into a deeper depression. I had just been hospitalized for the fifth time at a psychiatric hospital. While I was in the hospital, he moved us out of my apartment and in with a friend because I could no longer pay my rent. In retrospect, this move was the final straw for me that caused me to break up with him at that time.

However, KR and I remained close friends even after the break-up and talked occasionally. In November 2006, I was facing homelessness again. KR offered to take me in when no one else would. I accepted, and we’ve been together for a little over 7 years this time. I’m not going to say that it’s been any easier this time than the first time because each of us has our own issues that cause us to struggle financially as well as emotionally. I don’t blame KR for this any more than I blame myself. Placing blame does absolutely no good. I accept that our struggles are part of who we are, that the person he is and the person I am does the best we can in order to survive.

I thought he felt this way, too. How do you live with someone for almost 7 years and not accept that person for who she is? I get that people fall in and out of love. That’s just a fact of life. However, KR knew my history from the get-go this time – from the beginning – prior to my moving in with him. He knew that I have problems with sex. He knew that sometimes I dissociate and have flashbacks. More recently, he expressed his dissatisfaction with our sex life, which he feels has been an issue from the beginning of our relationship. KR has a very high sex drive, much more so than me. He actually told me that he wants it as much as 3 – 4 times per day, but that he would settle for 2 – 3 times per week. I, on the other hand, would be happier with, maybe, a couple of times per month; but usually, I give-in to the pressure about once per week (which, quite frankly, is way more often than we were doing it the first few years of our relationship). I have been trying. 

KR complains constantly that his “needs” are not being met while I constantly feel pressured to “perform.” And that is, for all intents and purposes, all sex is for me nowadays, a performance. I’m lucky if I can remain present for the performance – even luckier if I can’t. Sometimes, it’s easier to simply drift away to a happier place. More often than not lately, even the slightest touch sends me into a panic. The constant groping makes me consider the possibility that my body is not my own, but rather an object or a toy for KR to play with for his own pleasure. That may sound harsh to others; but I feel as though I have no say in the matter, no right to say “no.” KR tells me that I can say “no;” yet if I do, he withholds all affection or worse yet throws a moody tantrum that would put a two-year old to shame.

For instance, there was an incident last September when KR tried to get me to perform oral sex, something that is incredibly triggering for me. I actually said “no” for the first time in my life, a blatant “no” (believe me when I say, this was quite an accomplishment for me). Usually, I simply show hesitance or protest in other passive ways because well, to be honest after thinking about it a few minutes, I’m not really sure why. Oral sex is something that truly disgusts me, makes me want to throw up, kind of disgust. I have performed this act in the past if I can get out of my head long enough to do it; but it is not something I enjoy. That night, however, I said “no.” Rather than respecting my assertiveness and my boundaries, KR was completely irate and said, “Well, I guess we’re done here!” And stormed off. After a few minutes, I flat-out asked him, “Do I or do I not have the right to say ‘no’ to something that makes me so uncomfortable?” He replied angrily, “I’m 38 years old. I’ll be damned if I never get another fucking blow job!”

Sex with KR was not always this volatile, but I have really struggled to deal with it. I understand that he has “needs” and submitted to having sex more times than I can count because of my love for him. The flashbacks resulting from sex that I experienced during the first 5 or 6 years with my boyfriend were much less frequent. A couple of those flashbacks really stand out in my mind as being quite severe. I’ll spare you the details of what goes through my mind during one of these; but I’ll share that the emotions and, sometimes, the physical sensations are so extreme that I have literally broken down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. Lately, at least for the past few months, these are happening with much greater frequency. Things between KR and me have grown more and more intense during this time, too. Arguments and financial stress are tearing us apart, as well as all of this (my unresolved issues over the rapes) coming up again. I’m confused and feel pressured all the time. He’s frustrated, telling me to face it by having more sex. He has lost patience with me and my issues.

Early yesterday morning, I experienced the worst flashback I have ever had during sex. It was brutal, to say the least. He had had a few beers, so it was a lot rougher than what I’m comfortable with. After it was over, he passed out, drunk on the bed. I got up and got a shower, just standing there, crying before I collapsed into a ball sobbing. I stayed in the shower until I used up all the hot water and it ran cold over me. After I finally got dressed, I went to RAINN’s website to chat with someone when I couldn’t calm myself down. She tried to help me get grounded because I was feeling “beside myself,” for lack of a better word. We ended up getting disconnected when I clicked on a link she shared with me to other grounding resources. I should have reconnected with her, but I didn’t. I’m ashamed to admit that I ended up self-harming, which I haven’t done for many, many years (at least, not with a razor blade). Hopefully, by admitting it publicly, I’ll be less likely to do it again.

Afterwards, I went numb for a few hours. By the time I finally went to bed, it was 8:00 am. When I finally woke up around 4:00 pm, KR acted like nothing had happened; so I thought it must all be in my mind. I’m just so confused. I don’t know how to make sense of anything anymore, and I’m constantly second-guessing myself. I feel like I’m reliving a past nightmare. I’ll admit that I avoid a lot of things, sex included; but is my boyfriend correct in thinking that having more sex is the answer to wanting sex and dealing with the symptoms of PTSD? I don’t think I know what a normal, healthy sexual relationship looks like. I get so exhausted with fighting off advances that I don’t feel like I have a choice but to give-in. Is this just “normal” for women?

This is causing both of us an incredible amount of stress. It’s beginning to feel like a power struggle with no solution. I want to be able to satisfy him, but I can’t. Physically and emotionally, it is just too painful. The resentment he feels towards me is completely understandable; however, his lack of understanding for my perspective and lack of validation of my feelings are not. I would hate to throw away a 7 year relationship (13 year friendship) over my lack of sexual desire. Like KR said, we are compatible in every other way, intellectually especially; but sex is a major problem. Again, I feel hopeless. If history repeats until we learn the lessons we were meant to learn, what am I failing to grasp? Why can’t I process all of this junk and just be over it already? Therapy appointments are too far apart, and I have no one else to talk to. I’m feeling all alone out on this limb. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Like I said, I can’t make sense of this. Please, help me understand what I’m supposed to be doing.