Prior to my Mom dying in 2012, I was extremely codependent. My foundation was built upon my family. I made them my world. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and my roots in codependency started at an early age. My environment was such that my Mom, sister and I had to hold onto each other for dear life to survive. We even called ourselves the three musketeers. My father was the spider and we were the flies. Eventually we were able to escape that spiderweb but we’d be forever tangled up together.
My childhood taught me that the only way to function was to be codependent. It was always the solution and the only way to live. Since I can remember my wellbeing has been dependent on other people. I couldn’t function without another person. That all changed when my Mom died. She was the glue that held our family together. After she died our family was never the same.
The death of my Mom sent me spiraling out of control, out into outer space. I went into danger mode for years after. I lived in constant fear that something bad was going to happen to my family, especially my two nieces and my family. That fear put me into a paralyzed state. I couldn’t leave my sister’s home in the fear that something bad would happen and I would be needed. That’s what happened in April of 2012, when we first learned that my Mom had cancer. I was awakened from a nap to the news that my Mom was coughing up blood and needed to go to the ER. To this day I still can remember the level of panic that I felt. I still flashback to that moment. Especially if something wakes me up suddenly.
The forced separation almost destroyed me. I couldn’t function without my Mom. A world without my Mom was a world that I didn’t want to be apart of. The first two years after my Mom died were hell. I almost didn’t make it. Thankfully I was able to get help and started on a long journey to healing. Even though I was able to function more I still was very codependent to my family. I held onto dear life to every moment that I had with my family the last seven years. I constantly envisioned something bad happening.
It wasn’t only the last year that again I was forced back into outer space. This time I had no one to catch me. I was alone. It was hard to break my codependency and it wasn’t my choice. These days I’m afraid of any type of connection due to the fear of abandonment. I’m not close to anyone. The only way I have been able to cope is to go inward, to shut everyone out. It’s only been recently that I have felt safe enough to venture out and it’s not been easy. I crave connection with others but it frightens me deeply. I put my feet in the water and the fear of a shark attack sends me running back to my safe zone.
I thought it was easier to isolate and push everyone away. The idea of falling apart like I did from the seperation of my family has kept me alone. I want a healthy relationship with dependency. I’m learning to build my foundation on solid ground but it’s going at a snail’s pace. I can quickly form attachments and that scares me when I meet someone I like. Especially because I have very little interaction with people. I meet someone I really bond with and feel less than when the person doesn’t keep in contact with me. I use to take it personal. Most the time I’m able to see the truth but it still hurts the same.
I don’t want to feel lost like that ever again. It’s extremely difficult to overcome years of unhealthy boundaries and attachments. I have to remind myself that I must focus on building my foundation, which I have been doing this last year. If you build it, they will come. It’s just tough waiting. I sometimes wonder if I will overcome this hurdle. Self care and love is something that I must practice daily and is the key to having healthy relationships.
This is my apartment in its current state. Yes, it’s pretty messy. For me though it’s not as bad at it can be. I use to have great shame over how bad I let my apartment. The shame is from what others think about me. What will they say if they see my disaster zone. Many would and have judged me. They think I’m just a lazy slob. All of this just adds to the overwhelming state that takes me over when the trash can starts to fill up. My kitchen lately has been fairly clean, well at least for me. This is rather new and it’s felt nice to go into my kitchen to make something to eat.
Lately I’ve slowly noticed it get messy. I was aware it was happen but didn’t feel like taking the steps needed to stop the mess from spreading. This is usually a warning sign that my depression is creeping up on me and if I’m not careful it will knock me out. The past few days I have been very depressed but I haven’t quite put my finger on why? I don’t know if it’s left over depression from the following week, that I was feeling better from. Either way yesterday was filled full of pitch black nothingness. For me, there’s a deeper level than the typical darkness from depression. Not only does everything I see and feel emotionally, my body feels it physically. It’s like a depression cement truck runs me over. I’m lethargic and sluggish. Everything is a blur and all I can do is survive in my bed. This is usually when I sleep it away but you can only sleep so much before it hits you.
When I wake up I feel extremely disconnected. I feel no emotion just the aftermath of the depression. I have this out of body experience and when I start to return to my body it makes me feel like I’m on pins and needles. That’s where I am at now. It’s like this subdued panic attack. I’m super uncomfortable and feel every nerve in my body. I cleaned my kitchen, even the floor which I haven’t slept in ages. I took the trash out and even emptied my spoiled milk in my fridge. I tend to forget stuff like that, until it explodes. Yeah, that happened to me this past summer. Talk about gross.
Whenever I do decided to clean it takes every bit of energy I have to complete it. I get tired very easily and have to take breaks often. I have learned when I tackle the mess to not take on too much. At least in your mind. I easily get discouraged and overwhelmed when I look at my apartment as a whole. So lately I have been tackling one area at a time. Sometimes I have to break it up in even smaller chunks, like just cleaning the stuff out of the counter and putting the dirty dishes in the sink. Like I have done tonight.
One thing I have realized lately is that isolating triggers something deep inside of me from the start of the trauma. Growing up the isolation was forced. A way to protect myself from the other parts of the house. Early on, I learned I could escape the monsters by hiding under my covers, leading to a lifetime of isolation. So I hid underneath my covers, waiting for the bad things to go away but they never did. This was especially true when I came out of the closet at the age of 18 in 1995. That next year was hell. I had no one. I was stuck in rural America, surrounded by cornfields. Prior to coming out, I got a computer from the money I got from graduating. This was wonderful for me as I finally found a link to the outside world. I was able to talk to other sexual abuse survivors and other queer people. I finally had found the light at the end of this dark isolating tunnel.
Well that was until I came out and had it all taken from me. It was the back in the day of dial up. When my parents found out that I was an abomination they took away the only communication I had to the outside world. It was probably the darkest year of my life. The damage that was done I have fought my adult life to overcome and I’m not even close to unearthing the harm done. After about a year the dust settled and my family stopped talking about me going to hell. It was like my parents had amnesia. It was like it never happened. I tried my best to move forward but my growth was stunted, and I have struggled ever since.
It’s my biggest coping mechanism now. It’s how I deal with everything. So now when I get triggered I go into my cave because that’s all I have known. Eventually my safety cave turns into a prison. No matter how often I hide in that dark place the danger never went away. It followed me across the country. I have hide so long that it’s become a way of life. Since 2012, I have spent most of my time in seclusion.
This last year was no different. Honestly it’s probably the deepest I have been in that cave in ages. This time the triggers were unlike anything I had experienced my life. Each painful moment showed up on my doorstep last July. In the past, the door was locked and all it could do was sit on my porch and taunt me from the sidelines. Occasionally it would find a crack and seep in but usually it was one trigger at a time. In 2004, I had my first major PTSD episode. This lead to multiple hospitalizations and treatments. I never got over it. I just put a bandaid on the pain (like I learned to do) and ran back home. To the only place I have known. During those two years, living in Chicago, it was some of the best times in my life. It was a strange time. I had some of my most painful experiences and most memorable ones as well. Eventually the pain overtook the good and I self destructed. I gave up a great job (that I was going places in) with the best manager that I had ever had. Every job I have ever had has taken advantage that I will work my ass off. My manager at that job valued me and I was rewarded for it. I had great insurance which allowed me to get the help I needed. In addition, I had more friends that I had ever known. I was very social and went out often. My favorite thing to do was to go the gay club for country nights. The dance floor has always been my escape. I two stepped my way into the galaxy. I was alive and free but not for every long. The darkness wasn’t going to let me go. Deep inside I didn’t deserve anything good, especially not like this.
Since them I have been living in between triggers and isolation. Like a scared rabbit, I will occasionally venture out into the light. That is until something spokes me and I tumble back down the rabbit hole. I wish I had the life of Alice. The queen of hearts has been taken over by something even more scarier. It doesn’t want want heads, it feeds off souls. The white rabbit is dead, so is tweedle dee and tweedle dum. The mad hatter is locked away in the cells of his insanity. Everything is covered in this thick, gooey muck.
After my recent hospitalization I have started to venture out into the real world. It’s the first time in a long while that I wanted to leave my apartment but I have been trapped. Again in a forced isolation. It was after a few weeks of feeling absolutely horrible, close to what I was before I was hospitalized. It dawned on me why I was feeling so low. Isolation triggers the original trauma. The root of all my problems. So when I isolate in the present I flashback to 1995 and am forced to relive that year. The longer I isolate the more the past takes me over. Until I’m frozen in time and can only feel the damage and pain. The most scary moments of my life, I’m forced to endure again. The difference is that don’t realize that I’m out of that bad place. I lose all sense of time and reality. In my mind, my abusers are in the other room… waiting for me to go asleep. My apartment is once again surrounded by cornfields where the skeletons my family tried to erase.
When I get startled I just stay in the doorway of the rabbit hole. The longer I stay there the deeper I go. It starts by being triggered. For example, having a PTSD nightmare. Which is my nightly tradition. Lately this has been a gigantic trigger and I Think that’s what happened this week. My natural response is to not move or make a sound. If you’re not quiet the predator will devour you as their midnight snack. Until recently I haven’t been able to distinguish the difference between a real and false threat. They are all the same to me, and something I can wait to find out. Isolation has been come second nature and the only way I have lived for over twenty years.
This time is different for a couple different reasons. First I’m at the core of the trauma, which is why I’m getting triggered by every single traumatic event that caused the PTSD. From the sexual and emotional abuse, and the loss of my Mom. There are five big traumas that have followed me into adulthood. I no longer can hide from the trauma as it’s killing me. Each one is out to finish what they started. Out for the kill. Another difference is that I’m fighting for my life, finally. This PTSD is much more intense because I no longer have the luxury of anesthetics or pain killers. I’m forced to lay on the operating table as my insides are torn open and left to heal naturally. I can feel and see everything that happened. There isn’t anything more horrific or torturous than that.
The pain has gotten so intense that it’s found the back door into my subconscious. So I can’t get away from it. I’m awake every day of the week. That’s one form of isolation that I am having to deal with not by choice. There is no way I can wake up. I just have to dream the bad events away and deal with the aftermath when I wake up. One thing that I’m struggling with currently is that part of my isolation is due to my environment. I don’t have anyone to spend time with really, so I spend most of my time. I’m working on making new friends but that takes time. Right now I’m not in anyone’s radar aka someone’s inner circle. I know people love and care about me but right now I’m just an occasional thought in a busy person’s life. No one is at fault, it’s just part of life. Most people aren’t in my shoes. They have families and close friends to spend time with.
Also it’s been a very brutal winter, so that’s where the forced isolation comes into. If it weren’t for my medical appointments I probably wouldn’t leave my apartment. I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be in my apartment. I got that way when I was in the hospital. I did everything I could to not stay in that empty sterile room. This past Monday I went to my nephew’s basketball game and it was one of the better nights I have had in a long while. I was able to see some people I loved. I was also able to be my true self, a trans woman. I got home that night and I felt free. As I was walking down my hallway I was so relieved. I felt at home. The next day I was back to square one. Isolation. That’s the problem right now and something I have always struggled with in isolation. The connection isn’t consistent. It comes and goes much like the seasons. Even a month can feel like a lifetime of not spending quality time with a person. I’m not talking about seeing people in passing or at meetings like my trans support group. Those moments are great and how you make deeper connections but I long for the days where I can go to movies with people. Spend a night playing board games. Laughing and having fun. Sadly this will take longer than I need it to.
Another forced isolation is that I’m poor and don’t have a car. I’m limited to where I go, especially in the winter. When I get really depressed just brushing my teeth is tough, let alone getting on the bus and traveling to somewhere. Even still you can only go to so many places alone before you get extremely lonely. I think that’s what triggers me most is realizing that no one will come save me, much like when I was a teenager. My current isolation reminds me of that dark, scary, lonely time. In many ways, I’m still in that house. The difference is that I am adult and have a lot more resources. Even growing up that room wasn’t mine. It was eventually taken from me and I was thrown out onto the streets. This time my room is my own. As long as I pay my rent and do what I need to do, I won’t lose my housing. I finally have stability, something I have never had.
So now I just have to endure this time of my life, where I am forced to relive the past… in order to move forward. I’m learning how quickly my triggers can possess me. Here is one prime example. After therapy I went to the grocery store to get food for dinner. Rarely do I make an actual meal. There is a crock pot recipe that I love. It’s a tater tot casserole with chicken, cheese, bacon and of course tater tots. It’s rather experience so I can usually only make it once a month. My kitchen was fairly clean but the rest of my apartment wasn’t. My bathroom was still messy from getting ready on Monday and the clutter was started to pile up in my living room. That’s something I realized lately, how quickly my apartment can get dirty. It only takes a few days, especially if you make a big meal.
When the dish was I done I had two days of deliciousness but I didn’t have the energy to clean up. So I left it. It wasn’t super messy but it looked like it. I had stuff all over and it didn’t make me feel good. One big issue that I’m having is my bed. There are times I love being in bed. It’s the most refreshing moment for me when I have a good meal and a soft place to watch tv, or play games. This meal gives me two days full of delicious food which is a rarity for me. I loved the feeling I gave me. At some point the good feelings were replaced by darkness. I have never lived my life in moderations. It’s always been all or nothing. As I haven’t always had the comforts of my own place I try to soak up anytime I can take refuge in the soft appeal that comfort gives. I never know when that comfort will be take from me, like it always has been before. So I hold onto dear life. The fear builds and I will protect the comfort I have found, any way I can. It’s a mix of everything good, bad and indifferent.
Since Thursday night I have spent most of my time in bed, like I usually do but this time I was sleeping a lot and not eating very well. Sometimes I get triggered I overeat. When I went to the grocery store they still had paczki left from last week. I absolutely love them. I got a box and it hit the right tune. It was soothing the trigger. Most the food I eat isn’t very appealing. It doesn’t taste that well. Anytime I find something I love I will only eat that. Like Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese. I will only eat those items until I get sick of them. With sweets I take it a step further. They taste so sweet and good, that I will only eat that for a period of time. Yesterday I returned to the store and bought three more boxes. They were gone by this morning. As I eat each one I feel sadness that soon I will not have anymore, as the custard tastes so delicious. Especially knowing that it will be another year before I can have more. So now I’m only left with my depression and food that I don’t like. I have the Stouffer’s Mac and cheese but even those I’m getting tired of. One trigger for a deep depression is not eating well or at all. When I get this depressed the only lights I turn on is the tv. After sleeping almost 24 hours I woke up at 8pm feeling so very disconnected. I wanted to sleep more because I didn’t want to deal with the isolation. That wasn’t an option because I was too annoyed and feeling awful. All I could feel and see was the mess. My living room floor was filled full of pop bottles and trash. That’s probably why I keep the lights off. I could smell the raw chicken in the trash can. I couldn’t take it anymore and got up to clean the kitchen. I couldn’t stand that fowl odor so I took that out first. I cleaned the floors and the counter. I put food away and put the few dirty dishes I had into the sinks. It felt good and it’s back to looking cleanish.
Recently I have putting turning on dance music to help get me out of a bad place. When I was a bundle of nerves Monday night, I turned on the music and it helped me get ready. So right away I turned the music on tonight and cleaned my kitchen. Afterwards I went into my living room to start cleaning and got overwhelmed. Typically when I get overwhelmed like this I will go inward and feel even worse. I’m learning to be okay with the imperfection. I did what I could, when I could do it. That’s what I’m telling myself during this PTSD cycle. Eventually it will go away and I must do whatever it takes to survive. So if that means leaving part of my apartment messy that’s okay. One positive step will lead to another. Now I will pick up the trash near my bed, that can’t leave. It’s mostly the clutter stuff like laundry and boxes.
Some might see the picture above and think, why is she posting this? Judgements are something I’m use to. I use to hold a great amount of shame and guilt with how I have lived my life. I have beaten myself to a pulp over it. While I still struggle with shame, overall I don’t live wallow in that shame. This year I let a good friend see my apartment at the worst. It was a big step for me and it wasn’t easy. A few weeks later she came over to help me clean up the apartment. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever did for me. It make me realize that it wasn’t something to be ashamed for.
So I’m learning that these situations are symptoms of my mental illness. I’m not lazy whatsoever. I just have moments where I have absolutely no energy. I’m not like those without have a mental illness. So of course I’m going to have a different life than them. Realizing that things like neglecting chores is a symptom takes away a lot of the shame and guilt. It’s the missing puzzle piece that’s been long gone. Now I treat my mental illness like someone with diabetes. I take medicine and go to my necessary doctors to treat my disease. I’m no longer in denial. Being aware is half the battle. I have conquered that conflict and now it’s time to do the hard work. Which means walking through hell again so that I can put that time of my life in the chapter of my life. It’s time to say goodbye.
So I’m in the second week of my PTSD episode or what I call a bubble… more like a force field. One thing I learned very early on was how to dissociate to keep myself safe. There were two significant events in my childhood where I first learned to dissociate. The first started when I was sexually abused at the age of ten. I learned then that my bed and pillow were the passageway to another dimension. They became my magic carpet into the night sky. The second was a few years later when my parents had separated and my father would come over enraged, threatening my mother harm and trying to knock down the door. Both these instances I tried to float away from the scary and traumatic event that I couldn’t stop. I was scared and alone, so naturally I chose the only way possible and that was to hide. Float away from my body so that I didn’t have to endure the pain.
Once I learned the dissociative trick I started to use it as a coping mechanism, especially when trying to deal with any of the past trauma. It was my escape plan and I used it often in my adult life. Often times I had no control over it. Like a switch it would quickly get switched on and I would float away. My bedroom became this safety zone. It was like this teleportation device kind of like my own Tardis. Though I don’t need to be in my bed to dissociate. It’s just home base for me. No matter how scary and painful my life was I knew that I had my room to escape to. This was true when I came out in 1995. My parents didn’t understand being gay and they tried to change me. As a result it caused even more trauma and it confirmed to me that the only way to cope from traumatic events was to check out of my body by dissociating.
There are times when my dissociation is brief. If I can notice that I’m starting to float away then that helps lessen the time it takes to get back, though that’s not always the case. If it’s an environmental trigger then I usually can just leave the situation. Though a lot of times it will set off further triggers, making it a nasty cycle to overcome. If you are near me when I start to dissociate it’s pretty obvious. It’s like the air is being sucked out of me and I start to deflate. I go inward like I’m ready to ready to go into a cocoon. This was obvious a few weeks ago during a support group where we had a man come into our safe space and use it for his own motives. I could feel myself float away because I couldn’t handle the situation. Listening to him lecture us was just too much to take and it reminded me of too much of my past with my family. I couldn’t find a way to deflate the situation so the only choice I had was to dissociate. My two options were to confront the man or to leave. Either choices could have put me in harms way of being assaulted. I didn’t know how to handle the situation and worried about him invading my own personal space so away I went on my magic carpet.
The problem with that situation is that I had already started to dissociate prior to that night. So my magic carpet was ready to go to it’s final descent. Once I completely check out then it’s very difficult to get back to my body. It can take months and in the past it has lead to hospitalizations. To cope I take the magic carpet so far away that I get stuck in this void of nothingness. It’s a very scary place to be. It’s like you split in two. I can feel my body but everything else is far away. The whole out of body experience is like watching a movie. I can see and hear everything around me but I can’t really change what I see. I just have to wait until the movie is over. Being out in public like this is very startling. You have this sense of paranoia. It feels like the world is going to end. Everything is dark and scary. Physically I am drained and can feel every move I make. I really feel my weight like this. When I discoatiate my healthy parts go far away, leaving the unhealthy ones to roam free. They take full advantage of being alone and they use my mind as their own playground. Every insecurity and bad thought is pounded in my brain with a sledgehammer. I feel like I’m dying.
Today I had to leave the house for an errand and I didn’t want to leave. The world outside of my apartment is a very dangerous place right now. My friends and family have become strangers, and strangers are now predators. I can’t trust everyone. Everything is in fast forward, while I’m in slow motion. It’s tough to navigate like this but I do the best I can. When my errand was done I wanted to get back home. I couldn’t take the outside anymore. I started to panic as I knew it’d be at least an hour with public transportation. I would have done anything to been able to physically teleport out of there. Unfortunately my magic carpet doesn’t take my actual body. I could feel my anxiety rise as I got closer to home. The closer I got the more it felt like I would fail. Finally I did get home and I was safe again. I laid down and slept for three hours.
The process of returning my body is a slow task. Each day I get closer and there are setbacks. I will get triggered by something and start to float away again. I take two steps forward and one step back. The returning to my body aspect of it is when I feel my physicalness pretty dramatically. It’s why today on the bus it felt like I was going to die. It’s not a natural process to return. It’s a shock to my system. Once the two parts start to unite I can feel everything. The darkness starts to turn to grey but I can still see the darkness in a distance. It’s strange to be able to feel both sides, the good and bad. My mind feels better but my body and spirit don’t right away. I’m less weighted down and start to venture out more. I have to force myself to do things. Though there are things too far out of my comfort zone, like having cavities filled by my dentist. Having any sort of appointment during this period is problematic and often times I cancel like I did today. In my mind, I already have an exit strategy just in case. I go from wanting to go to therapy to not wanting to at all. In the past I would cancel therapy but this time it’s different. I have enough control of my healthy side that I know that I need it more than ever. I don’t want to talk about the pain and struggles but I do anyways. This last session I kept wanting to bolt out of the room. Talking about my problems will only bring me closer to my body and the unhealthy parts will do whatever necessary to stop that transition.
Deep inside of me is that scared little boy I use to be. I wasn’t allowed to heal or process things properly so I locked him far away, where no one could hurt him. I piled trash up on trash on top of him to disguise his location. Now as an adult I’m starting to finally heal. I’m having to pick up the trash, one piece of time. I’m closer to him than I have ever been. I’m in the house where he is at but there is still something blocking my way to his bedroom. It’s like in Harry Potter when Fluffy is blocking my bedroom door. If you’ve not seen the movie or read the books it’s a three headed gigantic dog that is foaming at the mouth and ready to eat anyone who tries to get through the door. That is what I’m up against and I’m still figuring the best way in.
I hope that this might be my last leap but history tells me that it might not be. I’m tired of enduring this process. I hope that as I start to properly heal that it will become easier to identify and control the dissociation. That means dealing with a lot of pain and trauma. I have to feel those horrible feelings that I couldn’t cope with so many years ago. I can’t run anymore. So I must deal with them as they come.
So I’m in the deep pits of depression hell. I haven’t felt like this in a while and it’s unsettling. Words can’t describe how horrible this feels to be this depressed. Everything you see is pitch black, with no light. This isn’t just another depressive episode as it’s connected to something deep and painful.
I had to force myself out of the apartment today. I didn’t want to leave the darkness but I did anyways. I even brushed my teeth. If it wasn’t for Pokemon Go I probably wouldn’t have left. There was a challenge that gave a dragon Pokemon, that’s rare. So I ventured out into the light. I already am noticing changes in my mobility. I’m back to it hurting to walk, though it’s not as bad as before. I get to downtown and my phone starts to act up. I realize that my data plan had lapsed and it meant a wasted trip downtown. I tried to use WIFI but the phone I have is horrible. Even when I have data it doesn’t always work well. I was able to get wifi to work to get the challenge but wasn’t able to do anything else.
I’ve been compulsively eating, which is something I haven’t done in a long while. It’s part of why I feel so low. I have been beating myself up for falling back to my old ways of drinking Pepsi. I’m having mobility issues again and so far it’s not been enough to stop drinking Pepsi. Yesterday I was frustrated with my lack of mobility and I was determined to stop drinking Pepsi. Well that was until I got frustrated by not being able to play Pokemon Go downtown and all I wanted to do was pig out. It’s all I could think about. Screw it if I couldn’t walk and play Pokemon Go then I was going to numb out my bad feelings with junk food. So I went to the Dollar General and got twenty dollars worth of junk food.
As I was walking home I had very obsessively, loud thoughts. I repeated out loud that I was a loser, among other things. Deep inside I feel completely worthless. I still have parts of me who believe that not to be true but it’s fading away. I’m trapped in this trigger and have yet to find my way out. It’s like walking in a maze in the darkest of nights. All you can feel is dead space.
For me, there are various stages of my depression. There is the typical generalized depression. It’s low grade and manageable. Then there’s a more situational depression that’s caused by my environment or situation. It’s more moderate and can dip into severe depending on how stressful the situation is. Finally there is the depression episode that I am currently in that is triggered by something painful (usually the emotional or sexual abuse) in the past. It’s severe and crippling. While the first two stages I can get through in a couple of weeks the latter stage can take months to find the exit. It affects every aspect of my life. It’s like walking through the muck in fog as thick as pea soup. You’re lethargic and have no energy. It sucks the life out of you and everything you enjoy. I’m struggling to find joy in Pokemon even.
This stage of depression I start to pull away from everything. I don’t want to do anything including going to therapy or take my meds. Everything becomes a chore and it’s easy to lose track of time. I sleep a lot. I go to bed really late. My bed becomes a safe zone and stepping off that cloud is like walking through lava. Once I’m triggered I become vulnerable to any and all pain in the past. A sexual abuse trigger can stir up some other trauma in my life. My dreams have also lately been a cause of discomfort as well. I have been dreaming of situations in the past that have caused insecurity and hurt feelings. Like not getting the part I wanted in a play. Single rejections that don’t seem significant but added together become an avalanche of self doubt and insecurity.
This level of depression has you coming and going. You become paranoid and your mind is taken hostage by the pain. You drift off into comforts that you really shouldn’t be considering like suicide. Sometimes it’s the only relief, knowing that you have that option if it gets too intense. You won’t understand this if you’ve not suffered from depression. For me, it has nothing to do with wanting to die. I just want the pain to end. You just get tired of constantly suffering. People start to get panicky when you start to talk about suicide. Their first thought is to call the police. Why doesn’t anyone ever think about being there for the person. The police should be the last resort. It certainly shouldn’t be the only action. Trust me if I was really suicidal I wouldn’t be talking so openly about this subject. It’s just another stigma that keeps people from getting the help they need. In your mind you think I can’t talk about this or someone will call the police, so you keep it hidden and it only snowballs to the point where you can’t verbalize the pain anymore.
The toughest part of this stage of depression is the isolation and the one struggle with living alone. I have very little interaction with people. I have no one I see regularly, other than the neighbors I walk past. I’m not talking about people to reach out to, which would be nice, but just people to talk about regular stuff with. To get outside of your mind and into the normality of life. The deeper you go into isolation the harder it is to come out of it. I’m on my second week of isolation and I’m starting to crack. You would think I would be on cloud nine having my own place but that’s mental illness for you. I feel very detached right now. I can look at my apartment and see it’s nice but I can’t feel it.
I think what adds to this level of depression is dissociating. It goes hand and hand with PTSD. In the past, I have had to cope with trauma by emotionally leaving the situation. The further I would float away the safer I would be but now the complete detachment just makes me worse as I can still see what’s going on. It’s like watching myself on tv. I see everything that I’m enduring like the overeating but it’s so out of control that I can’t stop it.
So some how, some way I gotta get myself out of this level of depression. I hope I get some relief soon because I really want to get my life back on track. I have come so far and want to start enjoying life. Not be bogged down by the pain of my past and the people who hurt me.
As I write this at 3am in the morning I am wondering something… will I ever be free from my pain, struggles, depression, etc. I thought having my own place would be a cure and I couldn’t be more wrong. Maybe this time will be different and I sure hope that is true because I’m getting tired of cycling through this kind of suffering. I don’t want the pain any more. I wish I could rip it out like an unwanted organ.
I know what others will say. That this too will pass and it will but not for long. I can cut out the people who hurt me (my father) and the pain is still there. I want the pain gone too. It keeps repeating me like a constant heartburn. No amount of tums will cure this acid reflux.
Often times I feel like the worlds left me behind. People keep spinning past me and I’m struggling to keep up. It all becomes a blur and I get lost in the shuffle. I’m sure people are tired of my woe is me routine. Trust me I know that I am but these are my feelings. Depression is something that can’t be controlled. Once the cycle starts you must finish the rotation. It’s like getting on the ferris wheel and wanting to get off once your car takes off. You have to wait until the ride is done to get off. I mean you could jump off but that won’t be pretty.
I hate the suffering. Just when I think I’m getting through the deepest part of this depression cycle I’m taken to even lower point. I went outside for a little bit and it felt good but that moment was fleeting. I feel so very alone.
Sure I’m glad to have my own place but this bout of depression has forced me to face the hard reality, that there is no cure for depression. Living with depression is something that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. It’s a burden that I don’t want to bear anymore but what choice do I have. I wish I could make people understand what it’s like to suffer from depression. Words don’t come close to describing the reality. I might as well say blah, blah, blah.
I just want to be free and I wonder if that’s just not meant to be. I know that I don’t deserve the suffering, no one does. That realization doesn’t do anything to calm the storm. I just hate feeling like I’m not in control especially when I’m drinking Pepsi again. I feel like I’m slipping to my old ways and I’m fighting to hold on. I can already start to notice my mobility to suffer. My need to numb is more severe than the physical pain. Why else would I put my body back through this? So this just adds to my depression and misery.
How can you in one moment give in to your urges while fighting them at the same time? I’m drinking Pepsi like crazy but I’m still brushing my teeth every day. I’m even showering regularly but I still feel god awful. It just doesn’t feel like enough, at least not enough to numb it all out. The Pepsi isn’t cutting it, though it does taste delicious but it does in my body.
So this living on my own hasn’t gone as I thought it would and I’m struggling with living alone. I’m here in my apartment alone with my thoughts and it’s scary. Now you might not can understand this. How could he not be happy? If you are questioning my logic then you probably don’t have a mental illness. That is the conundrum of mental illness. You get trapped in the illogical. That’s where I’m at currently. I want to get out of this mess that is my mind. It’s been over a week and I’m still suffering a great deal. I was hoping to have some relief by now. I thought because I was aware of the trigger my symptoms would have lessened but that’s not the case.
My grandmother ripped open this wound and it’s oozing poisonous pus. I feel wide open, exposed. I’m trying to stuff as much gauze in that gaping wound as I can but nothing is stopping the hemorrhaging of blood. Now that’s probably a graphic illustration that you wish you hadn’t been given but imagine being me right now. That’s what I’m enduring. I gotta wait for the poison to run dry and then maybe I can move on. Right now I’m not so sure…
I think that most people have some sort of judgment of some kind or another. You see someone do or say something that you think is inappropriate and your first response a lot of the time is judgment. Like for example, a way someone is dressed. Maybe it’s a women on the bus who is wearing too revealing clothing or someone who is big wearing too tight clothing. This week I read about a broadway actress who was judged by the costume she was wearing. The woman who wrote the review was judging the actress on her appearance, comparing her to other women on stage who weren’t big. The review (NYT) used words like bigger and described appropriate attire for a fat person as that. Even after this woman was called out for her behavior she had no clue that she was judging the actress. That’s a problem so many have been brainwashed to judging others that they don’t realize they are doing it or they do but they don’t care.
Just like hate, judgment is a learned trait. I grew up in a family who had mastered the art of judgment. Anytime I tell people I grew up in a Southern Baptist family most people gasp. It’s common knowledge that judgment is a key fundamental in that religion, as is fire and brimstone. God is the ultimate judge and all his followers are bailiffs, or even executioners in many cases. I think judgment comes from fear. Those who are fanatical in their beliefs are comforted when they pass judgment on anything that doesn’t fit into their norms. Some use God and religion as a way to come to terms with life. Rather than floating into outer space they anchor themselves to an ideology. Now I’m not saying that’s wrong, it’s only when you try to force others to fit into your box that’s when it becomes a problem. A lot of people use judgment as an excuse to belittle someone else. If anyone tries to live their life outside of their strict rules then they must do whatever they can to silence them because letting it go will crack their fragile bubble.
It’s when judgment is turned into a form of brainwashing that it becomes very problematic and a lifelong battle of getting away from the trauma that’s caused. Most people think it’s as simple as letting go of the past and I wish that were true. When the judgment turns into poison it’s hardwired into your brain. If you don’t deal with the trauma then it’s covered up and you become injured anytime a future judgment happens. Most the times you don’t have a clue that the feelings that surface from a current judgment has nothing to do with said act, it’s what it triggers from the old judgments. Endure enough judgments like that they it just reinforces the personalization until the judgment is internalized.
I’m struggling to deal with the heart of my trauma, the judgments from my father and family. These judgments were so intense that I took them on as my own and built a world around them. So it’s only natural the next twenty years would be a total shit show. There is no amount of trash that can be piled on top of something so deep, raw and dark to hide it. Doing so just creates a monster that will control you for as long as you let it. Now I have taken control of myself again. Which means I must deal with this trauma like it’s the first time it’s happening to me. I honestly feel like crap. It’s a sickness with no medicine to cure it. You just must suffer through.
So what did I learn from my father, many years ago:
He told me that I was going to hell (over and over) so that meant that I’m not worthy of an afterlife, nor do I deserve to see the people I love again like my Mom and sister. If God is going to let me burn for an eternity for doing nothing that must mean that inside I’m bad. God became the judge, jury and executioner. That is not true.
I was told that I was going to get AIDS (from being gay) and that I would die alone in the hospital. That the friends I had made from coming out would abandon me at the end. That meant I deserve to suffer and be in pain. I’m unlovable and not worthy of healthy relationships where I’m valued and supported. Unworthy of friendships that are unconditional and there for me when I need them the most. That is not true.
I also was told that apart of having AIDS that I would finally lose weight, like I had always wanted. That meant that I was a fat slob. That the only way to cope with the pain was to numb it out with food. I didn’t deserve a healthy body with boundaries and limitations. Moderation. I wasn’t worthy of taking care of myself. That is not true.
My father told me that I needed to forgive and forget the sexual abuse that my cousin did to me. This was said to me the day after I came out about the abuse, after he found out that I was upset that he went hunting with my cousin. This confirmed to me that my father didn’t love me, nor was I worthy of his care, love and affection. That my father would rather to have the person who caused me great harm to be his son. I wasn’t good enough. I was too fat, too fem and not worthy of having a loving father. This was the father I deserved. In my mind, I had no way to rationalize someone treating me this way when I hadn’t done anything wrong. So that meant that inside I was missing something. That I was the one at fault. I wasn’t good enough. Unlovable. Laughable. A hideous monster. That is not true.
Honestly I could go on and on with all the things that my father did and said to me. I could write a book. The fact of the matter is that none of these things are true. My father is the biggest liar there is. My brain knows this but my heart is still holding onto these untruths. It’s why I struggle so much when I am triggered. While I have worked hard the last year there are still parts of me who believe him. Thankfully the healthy parts of me are stronger than the pain and hurt. I’m not going to lie it hurts like hell. It physically is draining and feels like the worst flu you can imagine. I have to fight off the voices telling me that I’m hideous and worthless. They are trying to drag me under and I refuse to let them.
I just can’t wait for the day that these voices and untruths no longer have any strength or pull. I don’t want these judgments anymore. People in my life want me to just to move on from the past yet they are the ones that keep bringing it up. I want to be free and it feels like I will never away from this trauma.
I wish people could see the level of pain that I feel, then maybe they might treat me differently. I constantly feel like I have to validate the pain, what others have done to me. I shouldn’t have to explain the pain from someone else. The only thing that I do need reinforced is my value and worth. I just took a shower (I didn’t want to) and I kept having to repeat to myself that I was worthy. So I just need to keep practicing self love, especially when I don’t want to do anything. That’s the part of depression that is tough. Everything becomes an uphill battle. You’re already held down by the pain and then you have to carry it up Mount Everest. So you have everything fighting against you.
This week has been very tough. I feel like I’m playing a game of tug and war. I’m tired of having mud slung at me. I have too much to live for to be wallering in the mud but in order for me to move on I must endure this trauma one last time. I must correct the mistakes and properly heal, one wound at a time.
Today in therapy I had the realization that, after thirty years, I still blame myself for being sexually abused. Behind that blame is a lot of shame. While I knew there were still part of that blame still within me I didn’t know how deep and raw it was. I also didn’t realize how much remained after all these years. The last time I worked on blaming myself was in 2004. I spent almost two years working hard on the trauma. Prior to that time I had never really dealt with the abuse. During that time guilt and blame was something that I dealt with in length. I thought I had moved past it but I couldn’t be more wrong.
There were certainly signs but it wasn’t something on my radar. Lately I’ve struggled with flashbacks. I haven’t been able to hide from the abuse. Each year my Mom’s family would go on vacation up north in Michigan together. Usually that meant sharing a cabin with my Grandmother who raised my cousin. I can close my eyes and i’m in the cabin where I was abused at. I can feel the walls of the room. The couch I slept on each night after my abuser took what he wanted from me. The shower where I couldn’t wash the shame. The band that was playing next door. I vividly remember it all. My memory is horrible but that week is crystal clear. I remember and can feel the guilt and shame… the fear of not knowing what had happened but knowing it was wrong.
Walking up to my parents door, ready to knock, to tell them what happened but turning away when I feared that they wouldn’t believe me. Not knowing how I would tell them that my male cousin had just sexually abused me. Instead I turned to that aqua blue couch with the old fashioned cloth. I can feel the patterns and how uncomfortable the couch was. I remember waking up in a panic early in the morning fearing that my family would question why I wasn’t sleeping with my cousin. How could I tell my parents that I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed? So I went back into the lion’s den and waited for my cousin to get up. The next night I thought maybe it won’t happen again but it did. I would wait for it to happen… and then wait for him to go asleep… I would shower and sleep on the couch until the sun came up. Somehow I knew when to wake up. For the next week I repeated this pattern.
You are probably wondering how any victim could blame themselves and unless it happens to you it will seem illogical. My brain knows it wasn’t my fault but the other parts don’t. Guilt is a common occurrence for sexual abuse victims. It’s even more complicated when you are gay and your abuser is a male. Abuse is welded into pleasure and self-worth at an early age. When you reinforce these early beliefs for decades it becomes extremely difficult to pull apart that spider web.
It was during puberty that I became an object and my adult years confirmed that to be true. When I was abused I didn’t even know what sex was. I use to think that a woman got pregnant by touching feet with a man. That gives you an idea the frame of mind that I was in. My sexuality from the start was tainted. The abuse was the only thing I had to go by. I didn’t get to go through the typical thing teenage boys do. When something painful becomes pleasurable it becomes a vicious cycle. That’s where the guilt and shame stems from. If you find it pleasurable then you must have wanted that. Society does a good job of victim shaming. My family did when I finally told them eight years later. If enough people repeat these message then eventually sinks in. I was right to not trust my family the first night, which just made me feel even worse. Though I will say my Mom was different. She never doubted me and supported me fully. The rest of the family, including my father, were different.
My cousin was the star of the family. I was the black sheep. For eight years I held this dark secret and was forced to see my abuser often as he lived down the street with my grandmother. I grew up believing my family didn’t love me because of how close they were with him. My father loved my cousin because he hunted and played sports. I did not. I wasn’t worthy of his attention or affection. My grandmother didn’t drive which meant my Mom had to drive him everywhere he wanted. It killed me to watch and not be able to tell him. Many nights I cried myself to sleep.
The day after I told my father that I was abused he went hunting with my abuser. When he found out that I was upset he told me that I had to forgive and forget. All of this just furthered the dialogue that I deserved what happened.
This might sound fucked up but my cousin was my first love interest. I was groomed to fall in love with him. I didn’t ask for it. He took my heart. When he was done with me I was left with rejection, shame and guilt.
I blame myself because I didn’t stop it. That’s the problem with trauma from your childhood, it stunts your growth. So while my body and mind grew up the hurt part of me didn’t. Inside of me is that ten year old boy. So while I can verbalize it’s not my fault to my therapist, I don’t believe it.
I don’t want to believe it. I wish I didn’t. That belief has affected every aspect of my life. When good things happen to me I believe I don’t deserve them so I run away from them. My two years in Chicago were some of the best days of my life. I had my own place and a good job with benefits. I had the most friends that I had ever had. I was involved with the LGBTQ community. I had all of this and it wasn’t enough. I didn’t deserve these wonderful things so I self destructed. No amount of therapy could stop that and I had an absolutely wonderful therapist. I didn’t deserve her either. I tried really hard to be a productive citizen who didn’t have a mental illness and I failed miserably. While my time in Chicago was some of the best times it was also some of the worst. I was hospitalized twice. I had never stuck with any job longer than a year. My job in Chicago lasted 1.5 years but I was on short term disability twice. Life became too much and I returned back to the only thing I ever known.
I was groomed into accepting the bad as the truth. The darkness is comfortable. It’s all I have known. What will it take to overcome these beliefs? I’m not sure. There is a part of me that wishes I could just put the lid back on pandora’s box and pretend like nothing is wrong. Unfortunately that’s not possible. Once the abuse is out in the open it takes a long while to process. The flashbacks are troubling and I can’t control them. I wish I could deal with the trauma without them. It’s not as easy as wishing them away. It’s not a thought that you can make go away. A flashback is so much more than a thought, it’s an experience that uses all the senses. Very quickly you are transported back to that time. Every door you open leads you back into that room.
Others might think that I’m falling apart but honestly I’m doing great considering what I’m going through. In the past this type of awareness would have meant hospitalization. So far I haven’t had to go. I certainly have had moments where I was close to that but I have been able stabilize myself. I don’t think I have had this level of awareness. What makes this time different?
I think for starters I have stopped comparing myself to others. At least to the point where it prevents me from moving forward. I’ve stopped trying the person that others needed me to be. I will never be the typical person who works full-time. I have tried that for the last twenty years and I have failed every time I tried. I have started to take my mental illness serious for the disease that it is. I must manage the symptoms like someone with Diabetes. Each time in the past when I would try to work full-time I would crash into a downward spiral of depression. Workplaces only allow so many sick days before you’re fired. They don’t understand that with PTSD that there are just some days you can’t be convinced to leave your house. Each job that I lost would cause me to lose my insurance and housing. The instability of the last twenty years has also contributed to the deterioration of my mental health.
So what is different about where I’m at today? For starters I have medicaid which allows me to receive continued treatment. I won’t lose this for not working. I know that many people won’t understand my decision to go for SSI disability but they’ve not had to live my life or endure what I have. I’m trying really hard to break the cycle. Going back to work would be a short term solution that would end with me quitting from a nervous breakdown. The next one could be my last and I can’t risk that. If I lose my insurance then I was certainly have another breakdown.
I’ve been in therapy since 2013 and have been on medicine since then as well. This is huge for me. I have never stuck anything out like this. It’s honestly my lifeline. Being on SSI disability will allow me to become more healthy. I won’t have to worry about losing my healthcare (that’s if Trump and the GOP doesn’t take it) from not being able to work. No matter what I know that I can go to therapy and get my medicine. Those two constants have become my stability. SSI will just add one more aspect. I’ve never had stability. Honestly I don’t think I have ever been this stable emotionally.
I have a therapist now that I really like and trust. I have seen various therapists the last four years and this is the first time I have been able to trust someone enough to talk about the sexual abuse in length. Today’s session was tough and I was able to get through it to the point it did put me in dangerous water. So that’s definitely progress.
My stability has allowed me to open up more about the trauma. Being able to recognize that I still blame myself is huge. I just need to continue what I’m doing. Keep moving forward. My therapist in Chicago told me that healing is like an onion, there are many layers. I really feel that I have hit the core or at the very least really close. As tough as it is to be aware of the abuse and the trauma it’s allowing me to heal.
I am able to verbalize that it’s not my fault. A month ago I didn’t even realize that I still blamed myself. Awareness is half the battle and I’m one step closer to believing that I deserve good things. I will continue to process the trauma until I don’t have to anymore.
I was a boy. The responsibility is not mine to own. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. I was groomed. I deserve love, respect and happiness. I have to stop letting my cousin and others control my body and happiness. I’m not an object. I wasn’t meant to be used or have things taken from. For the very first time I’m taking care of myself and able to see things more clearly. It’s allowed me to have some difficult realizations about myself and admit that I never really stopped blaming myself for the abuse. This was a huge step today and hopefully will allow me to heal. I’m one day closer to believing that I didn’t deserve the abuse, that it’s not my fault. It never was.