It’s My Birthday!

This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much.

Last night was hell.

My birthday is a trauma anniversary. Eating is a coping mechanism. Work is a coping mechanism. Isolation is a coping mechanism. Ironically, all things that I can’t always avoid…

I stayed in bed most of the day yesterday and napped in between working. I had nothing left, and in therapy I identified that I felt like I didn’t matter to the people close to me and felt alone. I had forgotten that my birthday was used as a weapon against me in previous years, and it took most of the day for me to consciously remember that, and to realize that I was having a rough day because I was anticipating another horrible birthday. Another day that was supposed to be about me on which I was ignored, abused and made to feel like nothing.

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I ran off to the desert this year and thought through how to reclaim my birthday. I was going to make it about me doing for myself this year, about not relying on others to make the day special. My brain had other ideas, and last night was an emotional post-trauma hell. This morning I’m still shaky, still feeling a bit off. The well wishes started before 6 this morning, which I really appreciate. I still can’t connect to them, and I’m still a bit walled off, and still a bit emotional, but I’m much better, and the crazy has subsided.

I understand that sometimes the brain – and this seems to be true for mine – cannot process trauma until it feels safe to do so. My experience with that is as soon as I think I’ve taken a step forward in recovery and made progress, I get rewarded by the baseball bat of trauma memory. Congrats! You’re doing great in recovery! WHACK! It’s so painful and frustrating and…shit. This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much. Maybe that means a better next year? I was able to sit with the pain last night. I still haven’t needed Xanax this year. Yep, I made it through last night without meds to knock me out so I could avoid it. I took the beating, and today I kinda feel like I got that beating.

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I woke up early to a quiet house. No cards, no acknowledgement that it’s my birthday. It’s expected, my family doesn’t make a big deal out of my birthday. I used to be the one to make a big deal out of it, used to make my own cake and organize my celebration, so I can understand why they don’t. And the point for me is to not rely on others for this. Emotionally, it’s still a letdown, but rationally, I enjoy the quiet morning. It’s raining and cold and I’m temped to not even leave the house today. I can work from the comfort and safety of my bed again, and ignore the world for another day. I can nap again if I need to.

Cause, you know, it’s my birthday!

Reclaiming Sex (And the Words that Got Me There)

I cried because at one point he asked if I was happy, and I realized that yes, I was.

I have had so much negative association with sex. David and I have been held off, aside from some fun times fooling around, because I wasn’t ready, and I had a lot to process and figure out. It’s been hard. It’s also been really good. And, for the first time ever for me, sex is really good.

I’ve been reading Come As You Are by Emily Negoski. It’s a game changer about sex for every woman (I think men would benefit from reading it, and I was sending pages to David as I read it), and was especially so for me post-rape. I like science, I find information freeing, and I would rather have the information and make a decision than not know. Every time I learn I have a choice (abuse, rape and assault are not times that you have a choice, and that infects so much of your life), I get to move forward toward healing. This book gives a lot of information about how our bodies and our brains can better enjoy sex, and how people who have survived trauma don’t have to stay stuck.

There was so much I didn’t know. And now I know. And while reading that book, I started to think that maybe I might actually be ready for sex.

One of the things I appreciate so much about David is that he has changed his language to be more supportive of me. He’s listening and he’s willing to learn, and while our verbal communication styles are different, he’s saying very specific things that tell me he cares, he’s prioritizing me feeling safe and he’s making space for my experience to be valid and not crazy (I still often feel pretty crazy). I’ve also worked really hard to be clear and specific about my experience without assigning blame or shutting down. Go us!

He did the most incredible thing today. We had planned to spend the day in our “couple bubble”, and that got progressively interrupted by other people. I’m not interested in throwing fits or demanding things, and life is what it is, so I rolled with it, and when we finally rolled into his bed, he wanted to talk about expectations for when I was ready for sex so that he’d know.

Y’all, that man is a gift.

I had just read about making my sexuality my own, making it what I choose to make it rather than only what serves someone else and just making the goal pleasure and fun and curiosity rather than performing to some kind of insane and conflicting societal standard or the demands of an abusive past. Hearing him reinforce that I get to make the choice about when I’m ready and what will make me feel safe and comfortable? I wasn’t ready, but I was. All that negative shit about sex that has been drilled into me for years? I don’t have to make it my own. That belongs to someone else. I get to choose. And I chose yes.

I chose yes to today, yes to what I was comfortable with and who I was comfortable with and yes to whatever that brought up. I got to give consent and, to my great surprise and delight, sex was fun. It was good, it was pleasurable, I enjoyed him, I enjoyed me, and when I got home I felt no shame and no obligation. Those words? Those words are the words of someone who had earth-shakingly good sex. Not because we scared the neighbors a mile down the road with a deafening climax (haha, yet), but because everything I’ve felt before that was negative was gone. And because we communicated expectations beforehand, he wasn’t surprised when I cried, he just held me. I cried because at one point he asked if I was happy, and I realized that yes, I was. Then tears. Really good tears that needed to happen a long time ago.

It is really easy to make me the center of this, to work around my needs, but his are important too. So when he breathed “I needed that.” after he finished I was glad – not because I had met some kind of performance standard, but because I want to see both of our needs met in this relationship, not just mine because I’m the needy one right now.

Naturally, I had a panic attack when I got home. I was in a safe place, had just showered, and had time to process. I wasn’t very emotionally connected to him during sex, which I wasn’t surprised about since that was a feelings overload. It was enough that I felt safe and comfortable, the rest will happen as it happens. But here’s the really great part, and the part where I did the real work of reclaiming sex: I handled the panic attack without meds and by facing it head-on, not by letting it control me.

My experience has been to be raped and abandoned. That sounds harsh, and it is, because it was harsh. It was cruel. It was meant to manipulate me, and feel horrible about myself so that I could be controlled. There is so much shame in that experience, and so much reason to shut down. Which is why I texted David to let him know that I was feeling a little bit of separation anxiety and may need some reassurance…JUST KIDDING, TOTAL MELTDOWN. The wave of panic hit hard and made everything that had just been so good out to be so bad.

PTSD is a bitch.

I got called Boss Bitch today, and that’s funny to me now because that’s kind of accurate. I made a decision to be open, to not feel shame, to communicate my experience, to give myself some space to acknowledge the panic and to face it and use the opportunity to reprogram those neuron pathways that wanted me to panic about sex. I settled into a meditation pose, acknowledged my feelings, inquired whether those feelings had any basis, worked though what I knew or had evidence for (basically talking back to the fear that I had just been used and was about to be abandoned, noting to myself that he wanted to stay with me longer, he had no expectations, he was being responsive even though he had other things going on that I had known about ahead of time, that he had made sure I felt safe, that he had checked with me for consent, that he was being intentional about communicating how his work schedule might be challenging for me given what he knows about my communication style), and told myself that I got to make the decisions, not anxiety. I told my brain what it actually needed to think, and that if it still wasn’t sure, we could ask. But I didn’t have to.

David called me my favorite nickname, supported me and stayed responsive until I let him know I was calm and ok. Short texts, big impact. The words that helped me get there as I reclaimed sex.

Done for the Year

My emotions need a break, and I want to do things that are comforting and not the least bit stressful.

I mentioned in therapy yesterday that I am done with 2017. I’m done with work, done with social engagements and all I want to do is sleep in comfy pajamas and bake in between reading books and sipping tea. Really, in two more weeks I can do that, but I don’t want to wait two more weeks. Even a week and a half.

I think a lot of other people are feeling this. We’re done. This year was rough, there has been a LOT of trauma and anxiety and negative energy, and I want to just bubble up and pretend it doesn’t exist for a bit. My emotions need a break, and I want to do things that are comforting and not the least bit stressful. I want to do things that bring me joy and that are gratifying to others. I’ve spent so much energy trying to hold it together this year that I am depleted and in need of rest, rest I haven’t taken the time for because…reasons.

Maybe a re-frame is better. Maybe I’m not done for the year, maybe I’m done expending energy on anxiety for the year. Maybe I’m done expending energy on externalities for the year. Maybe for the rest of the year my energy will go toward positive things that bring me joy rather than black holes of negativity. I think I’ll be in a much better position to give in the new year.

Flashbacks in the Rain

I almost died in a car wreck that happened in the rain. For the most part (and thanks to EMDR and a lot of therapy) I don’t really have problems anymore when I drive. When I do, I have coping skills that work well. So today was a pretty big surprise when I was driving in the rain on my way to a meeting and started having flashbacks, not about my car wreck, but about the day of my brother’s accident. Clear as anything were the memories of getting the call from my mom, picking up his truck, sitting in the ICU waiting room unable to pray and barely able to hold it together, leaning on the prayers and shoulders of friends.

I’ve rarely had flashbacks of my own trauma, much less that of someone else. And while that day was traumatic for me, it hasn’t had nearly the impact that my own trauma has.

As I began to write this post, I also began to ask why and to process what happened this afternoon. I’m dreaming again… I’m processing again… I’m resolving trauma again.

I am done being afraid of the hold the past has on me. I’ve survived this much this long, and I can deal with whatever else boils up. But this was interesting, because as much as the flashback experience while driving on slick roads was not pleasant, it didn’t shake me. I’m now more curious about it, about where it came from and why that day?

I dream when I’m relaxed or when I am processing. Emotions, events – they all get run through my dream cycles in full color and epic drama. I don’t dream the exact thing, I dream versions of it, or nothing at all related. I started dreaming again this week after a long time off. My resting heart rate is slowly dropping, I’m a little more calm during the day and now memories are emerging that probably haven’t been dealt with. The human brain is fascinating.

Am I excited by this? Nope. Am I afraid of it? Also nope. Gonna deal with it and move on…

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Triggered By a Microwave, and Other ???

I know I’ve been struggling the past two weeks with connecting to the idea that I have value…

I was at my parent’s house this morning and decided to make tea at the same time my youngest brother was making nachos (breakfast foods aren’t his thing, generally). I had my mug in the microwave for about 45 seconds when he stopped it, opened the door, took my mug out, put his chips and cheese in and declared that his would only take 30 seconds, therefore this made sense.

Sure it made sense. My brain, however, sometimes doesn’t accept “sense”, and I stood behind him, still and quiet, trying to control the sudden flood of emotion.

Y’all. I almost cried.

Then I threatened to beat the shit outta him.

Mom was watching me carefully the whole time. No, I wasn’t actually going to attack my still-recovering brother over a mug of hot water, but the incident brought up so much emotion for me. Emotion that had very little to do with him, and my trigger experiences often don’t have anything to do with the situation at hand and everything to do with the past or unresolved stuff.

I felt like I wasn’t important, that I didn’t matter. That I had no value in that moment. That my needs could be scraped aside and ignored.

All that from a microwave.

Mom tried to smooth it over with humor and I went along with it, but I still had to deal with the emotions. I almost cried a second time, then found some quiet so that I could sort this out. I know I’ve been struggling the past two weeks with connecting to the idea that I have value (for so many years I was treated by a lot of people in ways that said I DID NOT), so this was a punch in the gut when I have finally started to stand upright.

I don’t think my brother doesn’t value me, and again, I understand that to him this was a logical, time-based act. And he was in the kitchen first, so he thought first come first to the microwave. I don’t dispute that. My trigger was based on the pile of experiences that I have not yet acknowledged to have been damaging and that have created a twisted view of myself.

Well, time to acknowledge, time to change the narrative, time to be grateful for this opportunity and time to finish drinking my tea and go about my day.

Don’t Make Me Hurl My Queso At You

I don’t often experience rage with anxiety, it usually comes from being triggered.

It’s TRIGGERED day 3, and I’m about to go grab some tacos with a friend, which means queso will happen, which means my simmering rage will have a possible outlet of hurling queso at an unsuspecting citizen. And I really like queso so it’s not like I say that lightly.

I’m about 2 weeks away from my Wreckiversary, but since I didn’t have trauma anniversary anxiety last year I was assuming I wouldn’t this year. I have been going into rage mode every evening for the last three days, including today, under completely different circumstances, so I’m a little stumped. I don’t often experience rage with anxiety, it usually comes from being triggered, which has seemed to be happening fairly frequently lately (to the point that I’m marking a calendar).

When I say “rage”, let me explain: all the emotion of rage and desire to verbally spew what is in my head (rage at everything and everyone without a specific target or circumstance that I can identify), and none of the action. As my therapist has noticed, I am very controlled. Plus I don’t want to be mean or hurt someone else. And it would shock the hell outta people because I don’t exhibit anger. Again, I’m very controlled.

I have been out and about in the evenings a lot lately, and I tend to stay home because I find it more comfortable. I’ve had obligations, and one of my homework assignments is to not take care of others, but rather to spend that time taking care of myself since I frequently compromise my well being to do things for others (I am not the person you have to remind to be nice or kind or help out, I am the person you have to tell to leave others to their own problems and stay out of it and don’t bring food because there will be plenty anyway).

I thought maybe my busy schedule, social and otherwise, was the culprit, but being at home tonight wasn’t keeping the growing rage at bay either, so I did the only thing a girl can do. I called one of my friends and went out for tacos and a long chat. It worked.