b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: friends

Influence

All around you, all the time, is language that is absorbed into your brain. Advertisements telling you “you’re lacking, buy this” or “you’re unhappy, buy that.” The voices of your parents, alive or as ghosts. Those are particularly hard to ignore. They adhere to your insides, leach into your bloodstream. Contaminate. The voices in your mind. The echos in the very back. The broken records that blend in with background noise. That we don’t even realize are there, are guiding our boat, are triggering the storms. So many intrusive messages you didn’t choose, you never had a say in.

But what about the ones you do get to choose. The facebook group posts. Are they angry? Are they distraught? All of their voices march into your head. Onslaught. Their cries of pain, their desperation, your brain soaks that in. What messages are you letting in? The company you keep. The friends and the ‘friends.’ Do they complain constantly? Are they victims of life? Or do they have hope? Do they believe in humanity? Do they seek out ways to improve, to help others, to evolve? Look around you. Make conscious choices. You might not have had any control over the world around you as a child. But you are no longer that child. You get to decide your habitat. You pick the decorations, the furniture, the art on the walls of your mind.

The anchors you cling to from familiarity, only you get to decide when to let go. The knives you’re squeezing in your hands. Only you get to pick when you’re ready to set them down.

What are you going to choose?

recovered?

A new mom asked this in a forum:

“Is there really an end to this.. Like 100% healed? I feel like what I have is too disturbing and terrible to ever go away.”

My answer:

I went through an outpatient program at a hospital and they talked about accepting a “new normal”. Now, I refuse to accept that this means my new normal is misery. But I don’t think we can ever go back to the person we were before we had our birth/postpartum experience.

Like any trauma, it has left a mark on our psyche. And so we have a choice about what to do with that. I’ve tried wallowing, and that worked for a while, but it got in the way of joy. I’ve tried hiding from the world, but I missed out on living.

So I’m at a place in the middle between where I used to be and the pit I had dropped into. Sometimes I need to wallow, and I give myself space to do so. But I don’t move back in there. Sometimes I need to hide from the world, and I accept that, that I don’t have the stamina of the extrovert I used to be. But I also challenge myself, just a little, and over time I see progress towards a new me. Wiser, stronger, but also weaker in some ways, and accepting of that part of me too.

And my story, and yours too, becomes something we can share with others who are somewhere along that tough journey of losing yourself and trying to figure who you are now. We bring each other strength because we have compassion and empathy and help heal each other. Because we understand the pain. And we’re not alone anymore.

what pieces, all put together, help keep you up

It takes a crew of about 100 people to help keep my mood up. Just kidding. But I’m lucky enough to have many different people in my life that help support my mental well being.

My husband. Even though he doesn’t fully understand my experience, he hangs around. He takes care of the things in our family that need to be taken care of so that I don’t have to. He’s not big on supportive words (I can’t remember the last time he specifically said something supportive), but instead shows his support by doing. It takes a little bit of effort for me to translate his method of love, but it’s valuable nonetheless. Knowing he’s there taking care of things allows me the space to fall apart if I need to. I don’t have to share how far I’ve fallen, but I can dive, and then I can climb back up, knowing he’ll still be there.

My friends. I have the best friends anyone could have. Not all of them know about my struggles. And only a few know how dark my night can get. But all of them love me no matter what, just as I am. I know that I can call on them (or, rather, text them), and they would do just about anything for me. I don’t reach out that often (rarely, really), but knowing they’re there and available if I wanted to reach out, can be such a lifeline when I’m sinking fast. It means that even though I feel like I’m utterly alone, I know I’m not. I hold onto the tether, the rope, because at the end of it is love, the anchor. I know they love me, no matter what. Even if I feel like I don’t deserve it, I know it’s there anyway.

After-care group. This group has literally been a lifesaver. I have lost count of how many times I have broken down, crumbled, split open. I have “lost it” in a place where so many others know exactly what that feels like. I have come apart at the seams, looked up and seen others holding up their threads too. I have never felt judged here, only complete support. Here is where I am reflected back to myself as someone strong, even when I’m feeling like wet cardboard. Here I’m told how far I’ve come and how much better I’ve become. Here is where I can measure my health, because these people, these walls, have seen my dark, crumbled core. Here is where I’m able to help others. Where I get to be a lifeline. Even when I’m empty for myself, I’m able to find hope for others. And even just offering up a tiny spark to someone else, helps refill my own tank. We’re in this together. We’ve got each others’ backs. We’re an army of strength and hope and love. We will survive, we will thrive.

Play

I don’t play much anymore. I used to with my close high school/college group of friends. It wasn’t that we played games, per se, but rather that with them I felt like the world was my playground. I had a curiosity and easy delight and a child-like perspective of the world when we were together. This is not something that came naturally to me. My childhood was harsh and cold and not the least delightful. So a break from my natural/conditioned realism and pessimism was such a relief. In fact, looking back, I can see that I collected friends that were child-like. Sure they could be flakes, perpetually late, irresponsible and ambition-less (like my mom), but they were fun. And I didn’t have to rely on them for my safety and well being (like my mom). And I didn’t have to see them or spend time with them unless I felt like it. But what a treat. Not the healthiest, but definitely tasty. A sometimes snack.

Nowadays I no longer have a group of friends to hang out with. They have all moved away – as close as San Diego and as far as Israel. I have a handful of very close friends that I make time to see individually. Time spent with them is very meaningful. It can be light-hearted, it can be intense, but it is always fulfilling. When it’s just the two of us, it feels like a secret world has been established. We are safe together, and we can play. It’s like a mini-vacation, peaceful and positive and fun. Refreshed and recharged, I can go back to my life of responsibilities and bring back with me some of the strength and joy.

Teachers

I have had many great teachers in my life. Some have been in the classroom. My junior year high school English teacher inspired my love of literature. My college comparative literature professor-turned-adviser did as well. But most of the significantly impacting teachers in my life never held a credential. One high school friend of mine that walks slowly, saunters, taught me to slow down. Other high school friends taught me to appreciate diversity in perspectives. To accept people as they are and learn from what they have experienced. The students I taught over the course of 6 years taught me empathy and compassion. My husband taught me that relationships don’t need to be dramatic to be full of love and meaning. A dear friend of mine has taught me to recognize the light inside me, and how warm and beautiful it is, when I long believed it extinguished. That possibility always exists, we just need to turn our head in another direction to see it. That the universe wants to bring me my greatest good and is always full of abundance. From my fellow outpatient and after-care friends I have learned that we may be suffering alone, but we are not alone. That we may feel broken, but that sharing our brokenness heals us all.

And finally, my daughter. Through her I am learning every single day.

I have learned what it means to love so intensely I feel like my body can not contain it. I have learned that I can handle other people’s bodily fluids at 3 AM. I have learned that I can push myself beyond the limits of exhaustion and survive (it’s not a pretty picture though). I continue to revisit the lesson of patience. Over and over. I’m still working on that one. I’m still learning how to not react when my buttons are pushed. I struggle with that lesson. I have learned how to be present, even during the 100th game of princesses. And last but not least, I am learning forgiveness, for the mistakes I’m making along the way because I’m doing the best I can.

Describe an event that changed your life forever

My life has been peppered with life-changing events, like signposts on a long and windy road. The first, and possibly biggest, was my parents’ divorce. It was only once we escaped that I realized a brutal and terrifying childhood was not normal. My understanding of my life and the world was turned upside down, and so many objects were thrown loose. It was exhilarating, the drama, the freedom. I was encouraged by therapists to let it all out – and so I did, everywhere and to anyone who would listen. I realized my story had value, like currency. In exchange others would share their struggles. And I was able to connect with many on levels deeper than the usual shallow exchanges. I was free, I was wild. I was the bad influence many parents wanted to keep away. But not because I did anything illegal or immoral – quite the opposite. Due to my mother’s neglect, my younger sister and I had to take care of ourselves. We were and continue to be very responsible. Many parents didn’t like me because I spoke my mind. Because I didn’t keep to “my place” as a child. I was honest, too honest. My eyes were open. Perhaps I was disrespectful. I didn’t see, nor wanted to acknowledge, arbitrary boundaries. There were also many parents who adored me, who figuratively adopted me and became one of my surrogate moms. Sometimes (often?) I liked them better than their kids. I connected better with them, I felt like they understood me. Memories fade, and I no longer remember the details of time spent with them. But they gave me guidance, acceptance and love that I so desperately needed. I carry them with me in my heart, even today. And I am forever grateful that they were placed in my path when I needed them.

I really need a happy summer memory right now

I know there must have been some happy memories when I was a child. But I don’t remember much. I remember holding a sparkler for the 4th of July, and it burned a hole in my sock. Everything around that memory is a grey blur, no substance. I don’t like the heat anymore, it wears me out, weakens me. If I go to the beach during the day, I hide in the shade…of an umbrella, a lifeguard tower, an air-conditioned restaurant nearby. But at night, the beach is a completely different world. I have many wonderful memories of attending beach bonfires. If I’ve gotten there before sunset, I get to watch the sky darken slowly, burst into brilliant beautiful colors, and then wink into darkness. The wood crackles, the heat is comforting, the smokey smell merges all the memories together. The sand is between my toes and all over my clothes. I’m dirty but I don’t care. There are hot dogs on hanger wires, and marshmallows too. And conversation between good friends as the fire light dances across our faces. I feel at peace. I feel solid. I feel real.

Gratitude

Everyone is doing it on Facebook, so I’ll do it here.

I am most of all grateful for my husband. He’s not perfect, but no one is. But he is in it for the long haul. He took his wedding vows seriously, he is committed. And with that perspective, he will do whatever it takes to keep our family unit safe and healthy and running. Even when I can’t. And, when I can’t, he doesn’t judge. He simply keeps on keeping on. He hangs in there, even when I’m swinging all over the place. He holds steady. He is calm. The calm of a mountain. Immobile, unshakable. (At least, on the surface.) He is sweet and adorable and kind and generous. Our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up, and I still have a huge crush on him. Something about the combination of strength and shyness is wildly attractive to me.

My daughter. Oh how you test me. Like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, constantly looking for a weak spot in the fence. You mirror me, so I see both my positive and negative qualities reflected back in my face. You’re an eye opener all right. So stubborn and so persistent and such a drama queen (er, princess). Oh how you are able to hurt me. Oh how you are able to crush my heart. But then just a moment later be sweet and adorable, and utterly unaware of the consequences of what you do or say. Because really, my reactions say more about my own demons and ghosts. You are the ultimate test, lessons after lessons, forcing me to prove my life philosophies are practical. I am exhausted by you, but also obsessed with you. Your eyelashes. The fuzz on your arms and legs and cheeks. Those cheeks. Your chubby fingers, delicately posing as any princess would. Your breathing, your heartbeat. Through you I have wielded the knife of judgment against myself – having had lots of practice using it on my mother. I have cut myself violently. And through you I have laid that sword down. I have hugged you and rocked you and loved you, and in doing so have comforted my inner child. So much healing through you. I want to run away, and I want to scoop you up and put you back inside me. What a crazy mix of emotions this parenting thing is.

My friends. Oh my friends. You are my family. You have seen me so ugly. And you have seen my successes. And everything in between. And still you stay. I was sure you’d run screaming, many times. But here you still are. And you love me. Warts and stench and all. How or why, I don’t know. But I do know I am beyond grateful that you exist. That you have always stood by me. That I know you will always stand by me. That you will cry with me and laugh with me. And that you love me, as is, just the way I am.

Dead.

Finally. Fully. Completely.

My heart raced as I read the email, “I regret to inform you your father is dead.” Just a few minutes ago, I told a longtime friend that I just had to accept that you would never die. You’d cling to life with your fingernails, being around to scare us forever. And then, just like that, you expired. I was elated. I called my mom and we shouted and laughed. The world outside seemed brighter, the leaves greener, everything was sharper and in focus. I went with another friend to the coroner’s office to pick up your keys. She said you had died the morning before, around 11:30 AM. I liked to imagine you woke up early, like you always do, and lay there suffering, paralyzed, until your shriveled, black heart finally gave up hours later. I want to imagine that I gave a speech at your funeral where I told everyone the ugly truth about you. I like to plan going to your grave and pouring urine over it. But this isn’t making me feel the justified anger and superiority it used to. I don’t feel good about these thoughts. I just feel sick to my stomach, nauseated. And I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. I sat there in my car after leaving your apartment and I sobbed and my shoulders heaved and I screamed. I felt like a crazy woman. And as I sobbed I’d start smiling, and then my heart was filled with so much pain that I screamed again.

You’d love to know your trustee and full beneficiary showed up. She gave you an honored man’s burial, whereas I’d have had you cremated and flushed you, or unceremoniously dumped you in the trash (which is where I put your 30-day memorial candle, by the way). I don’t care that she gets all your crap. I cut ties with you long ago. That Will I found where you said I get “NOTHING!” I laughed. Of course. But her stories about how wonderful you were made me want to vomit. That’s what made me sick. You loved her children in the non-violent ways you never loved us. I wanted to yell at her to shut up. I wanted to tell her my stories. How you told me every night that if we ever tried to leave you’d chop off our heads and burn down the house. And then finally, during those 4 torturous hours at the mortuary, she finally let me tell her. I didn’t see her face, I was so lost in my pain.

I did a releasing meditation. The first step was to imagine the situation(s) that brought me pain. I was lost in the primal child’s experience of “please don’t hurt me” and “I’m so afraid.” Then the second step was to confront you, and boy I let you have it. Then, during the third step, I pushed you off my cloud and cut the rope and said, “I forgive you. I release you. I let go.” But it was too late. That box, those boxes, that I had shelved long ago, that I had built justified anger around, they tumbled off the shelf and it all spilled out. An ocean of pain. Every last drop. And I sobbed. I sobbed till I was wrung out, like a towel, dry and twisted.

And when I stopped, I started to be filled again, slowly at first, then so fast I was completely soaked with joy and gratitude. My life, my husband, my daughter, my friends who are my family – they love me so much. They would do anything for me. They are healthy (oh yes you are!) and positive and caring and so, so loving. And I am so lucky, so blessed, so grateful that this is my life now. So relieved and thankful of the decisions and choices I have made, not despite his torture, but because of it. This day and every day is so bright and beautiful because we can and will continue to bring in love and laughter to our lives. And we never have to live as he did or torture as he did or suffer as he did.

I can move forward now, untethered.

I leave the past behind me. And I walk forward with strength and gratitude and a new love for life.

Liar

I’m so frustrated. A voice, clear as a bell, says in my ear, “Give up.” I’m so exhausted, when will I feel better. I see the voice’s lips, “You won’t.” That voice is a kick in my stomach. I used to believe you when you said, “What’s the point.” I saw only the shadows, which weighed on me like a wet sack of sand. But I’ve pulled back the curtains to let the light in. And behind a pane of glass I see how lucky and blessed my life is. People who love me, who would do anything for me. A roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat. “It could be worse!” I yell at the voice. It starts to respond, “No, it couldn’t…” then is choked. All I hear now is the wind. Sure I can’t actually feel the joy on the other side of the window. But sometimes, it opens a crack, and I can smell the warmth on the inside. I know I’ve been in there before, I have vague memories. I can almost taste it. And one day I’ll get back in again. Meanwhile I’m going to wrap myself up in my hope to try to keep warm. And though the wind is cold and strong, I’m staying right here.