Time to Rise.

A year ago today I wrote this.

What a difference a year makes.

Since early on in my healing process, I created a mantra: “First the letting go, then the rising up.”

I knew I would have to let go of anger and sadness and hurt and self-pity before I could become the person I was truly meant to be.

At the time I had no idea how long this would take.

Last fall, I felt like I had let go of so much, and it was time to rise. To give myself a daily reminder of this, I decided to get some ink:

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The juxtaposition of these two tattoos is what I love most.

The let go tattoo is softer and more soothing to me. Sometimes, when I feel like I am holding on to something I shouldn’t, I actually blow on my arm, picturing dandelion fluff dancing in the breeze, reminding myself to let it go, just let it float away.

In contrast, the phoenix is bold and fiery, reminding me to bring the badass and become all I was meant to be. Every time I look at it I feel a surge of strength and power.

When I got these tattoos, I felt like I was ready to rise. But that process turned out to be almost as slow as the letting go. I’ve found that I’m often going back and forth between the two. Sometimes I have felt like I am not strong enough to rise, and I have wondered if I ever would be.

But lately…lately I know that I am strong enough. I am on fire and rising from the ashes, my friends.

I have lost 80lbs since January and I feel fantastic.

I went back to the gym in early 2017, and at first I knew that just showing up was enough. I didn’t work as hard as I could; I needed to be easier on myself and take one thing at a time, one workout at a time.

These last few weeks, though, I felt a difference deep down in my gut–the old fire in the belly–and I knew that it was time to get my ass moving and stop jerking around.

I talked to my coach and friend and asked her not to go easy on me, to call me out if I was dogging it. I wanted to start pushing myself again.

It was time to rise.

Today, I’m not as physically strong as I used to be, but I will be soon. I’ve started working so hard again and I know I’ll get there. I’m already increasing my pushups, lifting heavier, moving faster, and generally feeling awesome.

I’ve been more present for my family and friends, even if I’m feeling down in the dumps.

I’m killing it at work in a new role that I love.

I’m funny again (sometimes).

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments. We all do. But I have finally gotten to that point where I know I am strong and I know what I’ve overcome, and the daily challenges I might face now are nothing compared to that.

Someday, I may have to face even bigger challenges. That is just how life goes. If and when that day comes, I will get through it as I’ve gotten through this.

But for now, on this day, at this moment, I feel myself rising up. Rising far beyond the past that I’ve let go of. The past that will no longer drag me down.

I’m excited about what’s next, and excited to maybe soon write about something besides what I’ve gone through. Because I’ve gone THROUGH it and I’m on the other side.

Maybe I’ll write again tomorrow or maybe it will be another few months. Who knows?

Maybe I’ll write about how big my kids are and how I feel like the time is slipping away from me so quickly (my son is a sophomore in high school…how the hell did that happen?!?).

Maybe I’ll write about some crazy embarrassing thing that I did (again).

Maybe I’ll write about love or joy or kindness. Or all of these things.

So many possibilities now that I’ve let go.

First the letting go, then the rising up.

Time to rise.

 

 

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May 11, 2017

Well, it’s May 11. The second year anniversary since The Day.

And I have to say, I feel pretty great.

I have done it, friends. I have scratched and crawled and screamed and cried myself to the other side and it took me two years, but I did it.

That’s not to say that there won’t be moments of sadness. Sometimes, I miss the people I’ve had to excise from my life, but I know that my life is better without them in it. It’s a paradox, to be sure, but I know my decisions are the right ones.

There are moments when I still panic a little, like when I come home and the house is silent and I worry that something terrible has happened to the kids. (The reality is that Cooper is playing video games and Emma is watching TV on the iPad, just FYI.) But I still have those moments–echoes of my own childhood laced with fear of something terrible happening to me. Now I have moments where I fear it for my own children, but those moments are fleeting.

And the anxiety is different than it was before, because now I can own it. I can name it when it happens, briefly feel the feeling, acknowledge it, and then let it go. It is so freeing.

You guys, I FEEL JOY. I never thought it would be so exciting to be able to say that. I laugh for real. I recognize how good life is and how lucky I am to be living this life.

I am happy.

I am okay. I am fantastic, even.

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I have to compare what has happened to me over the last year as the feeling you get when you’ve been in extreme physical pain and then suddenly it is gone. Like the moment the epidural takes effect during labor.

Or, when you are having a gall bladder attack and it’s so bad you have to go to the emergency room and when they finally, finally push the morphine and your whole body relaxes and you can’t stop thanking the nurse for making your life so much better. (Why yes, that is a true story and I am thankful to say that the offending gall bladder with its godforsaken gallstones is getting removed next week.)

If you’ve had an experience like this, you know the sheer exhilaration that comes with NOT being in pain anymore. The joy that comes with just feeling normal again. That is how I’ve been feeling. Normal, like a real person living her life, not a sad zombie stumbling through her days listlessly. And it is amazing.

I am so very grateful to be back on the shore with the people I love instead of drowning in the murky depths, or trying to swim in against the current.

I am so very grateful to no longer be thinking about my past every waking moment. To have it haunting and torturing me. To feel like it was the only thing I could talk or write about. I have made peace with it, and it is no longer my present…it is only the past.

A year ago, I couldn’t wait to go into therapy and verbally vomit all the bitterness inside of me. I had so much to say and get out of my soul that I thought I would never be able to stop talking about it.

These days, I may spend a half hour trying to figure out what I am going to talk to my therapist about in my next appointment. My gall bladder? My annoyance that my son plays too many video games? My daughter’s seeming inability to clean up after herself? These things are so trivial, so I mostly talk about the kids and my husband and how proud I am that they are my family, my rocks, the loves of my life.

And I’m proud of what I’ve overcome. Dealing with these kinds of issues is not for the faint of heart, and it would have been so much easier for me to drown it all in alcohol, drugs, or whatever other unhealthy coping mechanism I could find. I could have kept using food as my comfort source, as I have done for most of my life.

But I just had a gut feeling that there was something better on the other side that would be worth the pain and the grueling work.

AND THERE IS.

There is love and happiness and laughter and joy and friendship, and I am so very grateful for all of it.

I am grateful for the people who have stood by me through this, who have helped pull me out, and who have loved me through it.

Life is good.

Memory # 5,892

Note: The Memory Series is made up of entries that are my attempt to puzzle together so many disjointed and out of context memories and pieces of memories that float around in my brain. Most of these are memories I’ve always had, but even though I remembered these events, I never really examined or understood them. They are now critical memories to revisit as I work through my healing process. The numbers attached to each memory aren’t that important; they’re mostly random but the do indicate their order in my life.

From my journal on July 11, 2015

It’s been two months, and this is the loneliest place I have ever been.

Sometimes my chest feels like it is going to explode with rage and sadness. Sometimes I want to scream, “Somebody DO SOMETHING!” Sometimes I do scream it. Sometimes I scream for help.

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No one helps.

Because no one can.

My good friends, who are wonderful people, don’t understand, and I know it’s not their fault, because no one understands. I am glad that they don’t understand, because it means they did not have to go through what I have.

Where I am, no one can help. Because what is there to be done, anyway?

No one can help me.

No one.

It doesn’t matter that some of my other “friends” heard my story and then disappeared, while other “friends” barely noticed when I fell into this abyss two months ago and disappeared from all the regular places they would have seen me otherwise.

Because even if these “friends” were present, what could they do?

It occurs to me that my entire life through I’ve never had that one person, a best friend, a best BEST friend. One that I could show every part of me and not be afraid. I suppose a lot of that is my own fault.

But if I did have a real best friend, I imagine that she would come over in her sweatpants with her hair in a messy ponytail and bring me some sweets and plunk her ass down on the couch next to me.

And just be there with me. In this black hole of tears and screams and quiet or not so quiet sadness in front of a stupid sappy television show or another raunchy comedy.

This best friend, I imagine, will bring a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and eat it with me while we watch American Ninja Warrior, and listen as I fantasize that I will RISE ABOVE THESE CHALLENGES and create a backyard training facility and lose a hundred pounds and become THE NEXT AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR and show them all that I am stronger than what they did to me.

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Well, I am not going to be the next American Ninja Warrior. And I don’t have any friends like that. And there are no pints of Ben and Jerry’s in sight. And I can barely walk a half mile without my tendinitis acting up much less run up a vertical wall and everything just fucking sucks anyway and I am sitting here alone.

Because, even for the real friends, good friends, true friends, life goes on. I am stuck here, in this place, and everyone else’s life goes on and I don’t have a bestie best friend who will bring the Oreo brownies from my favorite bakery and sit next to me and say, “What shitty romantic comedy are we watching next?”

Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so alone.

Maybe there are friends in my handful of good ones that would do these things if I asked them.

But I won’t ask. I can’t. It’s not who I am today. I don’t want to be a bother. I know they have lives to live and their own kids to tend to while my two kids wonder what is wrong with Mommy, why she is always sitting on the couch crying or laying in bed crying or standing in the kitchen crying. Because usually Mom cooks when she’s in the kitchen but now she just cries everywhere.

So, anyway, people must live their lives and I am alone.

My husband has been a champ, but he has to keep the family trains running. Keep the kids moving to school, camp, etc. Do the grocery shopping, make the dinners, wash the dishes. While I am sitting or laying or standing and crying.

This has been a huge burden for him and he is rising to the occasion, mightily. But it doesn’t give him the room to sit down next to me, and he doesn’t really like brownies or ice cream and frankly I think that he, like others who love and care for me, is a bit bewildered and at a loss of what to do for me.

Because really, what can anyone do?

So I’m still alone.

Ebbs and Flows

I have started this blog like four times…deleted, restarted, deleted again.

I have so much to say and I just don’t know how to start. It keeps feeling like everything I’m writing is like the blah blah blah drone of the Peanuts teacher.

So I feel like the easiest thing to say is, I am sort of living my life again. I have a life to be lived, and it’s high time I started living it somehow.

This pain, this healing process is a part of my life. And I suspect that it will forever be a key turning point for me.

But it’s put me in a state of suspended animation for the last 10 months. That’s almost a full year! It’s almost been a year. Holy shit.

This trauma and healing has disconnected me from people and activities and laughter and love and joy. This is what pain, trauma, deep depression does.

It took me on a turbulence-filled ride of ups and downs and sometimes the bumps are endurable and other times I am frantically looking for the barf bag and not necessarily finding it in time.

The only feelings I could feel were the ones related to the healing. In almost all other ways I became robotic, shell-like, almost inhuman, because there was just no room or energy for anything but pain, anger, sadness, grief.

It has changed over the last couple of months, though.

You know what? In that last sentence, I started to write “Luckily, it has changed over the last couple of months…” But then I deleted it, because it is not changing by luck or happenstance, it is changing through hard work and effort on my part.

It is changing through my (metaphorical) sweat and (real) tears and earnest intention to get to the other side of this ocean of grief from my old life and move forward to be me, living my life. Whatever “me” looks like beyond this grief.

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In therapy a couple of weeks ago, I expressed serious frustration at this ebb and flow effect. Like, WHY DOES THE DEPRESSION/PAIN/ANGER KEEP COMING BACK JUST WHEN I START TO FEEL OKAY? I could not understand why I wasn’t making progress…but my therapist assured me I was. Recognizing that there was an ebb and flow, in fact just experiencing an ebb and flow instead of all pain/anger/sadness/depression all the time, showed my progress.

So I started to think about this last near-year, and how it has all played out for me. I wanted to see it all laid out so I could chart my progress and not feel all my work was in vain, and it has helped. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Everything is fine! Nothing to see here! (early to mid May, memories resurface)
    • I am in a place of shock, with no grasp of HOW BIG THIS WAS.
    • My motto: Let’s just tuck this in with all the other dark things of which we never, ever speak and carry on. (Because carrying on with a smile is always the most important thing.)
    • The armor is cracked, but I am determined to keep wearing it.
    • Seriously, you guys, I can totally walk this thing off! Just give me a hot second.
  • Wait. Something feels…off. (mid to late May)
    • I start to feel a seeping sense of HOW BIG THIS WAS.
    • I have a vague idea that this might not just go down with a hard swallow like a cut-slightly-too-big piece of steak.
    • A bit of a panic creeps in–like maybe I have an entire steak stuck in my throat and I am completely unable to breathe. I think I might not be able to simply carry on.
    • OH MY GOD I MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO CARRY ON! This is a worst case scenario for me, and the panic grows.
    • I become desperate to keep up appearances–it’s what I have spent my entire life doing and I am really, REALLY good at it–and fail.
    • HOLY SHIT I HAVE FAILED AT THIS THING THAT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE REALLY GOOD AT.
  • Implosion/All is Lost (Memorial Day-rest of summer)
  • Phew! Glad that’s over! (late August-September)
    • I decide that the advent of fall, a new season, is my motivation to move forward and leave this behind.
    • I enjoy some time off with my family, I start exercising again, I begin to feel like I am successfully working my way out of the hole.
    • Look at me go! I CAN overachieve at healing from my traumatic past.
  • NOPE, everything is still terrible. I fail again. (October-November)
    • Cue sound of universe laughing at my arrogance in thinking I was all set with this.
    • Cue ill-timed recurrence of toe problems, one of several catalysts sending me back into another version of the black hole.
    • Cue new hole that is not quite as black and all consuming as the original hole, but still…it’s more of like a shallow, gray hole from which I can see the rest of the world but, like, through a weird sheer curtain like the one Sirius Black falls through in Order of the Phoenix (moment of silence for Sirius Black).
    • Cue me returning to a blob-like state of inertia and deep sadness, certain I will never be able to overcome the trauma of my past.
  • EVERYONE MUST DIE. (late November, early to mid December)
    • So much rage. I hated everyone and everything, so I hope no one took it personally.
    • Anger is my best friend, a comforting companion that I indulge in many ways.
  • CHRISTMAS! NEW YEARS! SHINY OBJECTS! AND SADNESS… (December-Jan 1)
    • I refuse to deny my family a happy holiday because of my own misery.
    • We made a perfect plan to escape for the holidays, and we rented a beautiful cabin in the Smokies in North Carolina, just the four of us and our dog.
    • I poignantly realize that the reason we have to flee for the holidays is so that I won’t be faced with the reality that we have no family to spend the holidays with. Because of me and my terrible life choices.
    • I am obviously the worst at everything. Sadness and self-loathing return.
  • It is a new year and I commit to being awesome again! (first 2 weeks of January)
    • I meal plan! I cook! I make a schedule!
    • My family seems more like themselves because I am back into my old role of steering the ship.
    • YAY! I did it!
  • Shit. That didn’t last long. (late January-February)
    • Seasonal depression.
    • More toe problems (I just can’t even with this fucking toe) that leave me heavily reliant on painkillers and unable to walk like a normal person. For two weeks.
    • I am the worst kind of failure and will obviously never be successful at getting my life back together. If it was ever really “together” in the first place.

So….

If you stuck with me through all of that, you can see what I mean by ebb and flow.

Today, in March, on this day and in this moment, I am trying to realize the hard truth: this isn’t just going to “happen.” I have to decide. I have to make it happen. I have to consciously say, today I will move forward in any small way I can.

There won’t be a morning when I awake to hear the birds singing and say, “Today is the day I am normal again! All of the sad things are over!”

There won’t be a moment in the therapists’ office in which I shout, “Eureka! I am healed! Thank you, doctor!” and skip out into the sunlight, never to return.

There will only be more ebbing and flowing, and me, deciding every day to choose my life. To choose the people I love today over a past I can’t change. To choose to actively become the person I was meant to be, whoever that person is, despite the challenges I have faced. Despite the challenges I continue to face.

I have to do it. I have to keep doing it. Every day.

I have to keep looking in the mirror and telling myself I am good, kind, smart person who is worthy of love and respect.

I don’t get to take a break from the motion of life to heal. I have to keep choosing to heal and grow every day, keeping time as best I can with the rhythm of this life I love so dearly. This life I have created for myself and for which I am incredibly grateful. I have to keep living it as best I can amidst the ebb and flow of grief and healing.

It’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility.

Son of a bitch.

 

 

A Blog with Many Swears and Capital Letters

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Last night I had another bad dream. They have become a common occurrence over the last few weeks and I find I am in a new place where sleep is no longer an escape but another minefield to navigate in this awful process of healing through pain, of getting through to a place where I might call myself a “survivor” instead of a “victim.”

But last night was awful…because last night one of my abusers appeared in my dream (a first) and the twist is that HE was there to confront ME. (How’s that for irony?)

He told me that he “knew what I was up to” and that I was not only a liar, but a ridiculous person. He had a piece of paper in his hand and said he wanted to talk to me about what was on that paper, and I just knew, I just knew with dread and terror and overwhelming fear that the mysterious paper had all the worst things about me written on it.

He had them, all the terrible things inside me, written on that paper, and he was wielding it like a knife that could cut through to my very soul.

I couldn’t actually see the paper but I knew–like you know stuff in dreams–that he was going to tell everyone all the terrible things and expose me as the fraud that I am, and I was so afraid and ashamed.

In the night this dream terrified me, and I woke up in the darkness shaking a little, and it was so hard to get back to sleep.

In the morning the dream had lost some of its power, but I was still pretty rattled. I realized, with a little help from a wise favorite person, that these were my own inner demons talking to me in my dream.

These horrible thoughts that I have internalized over the years will not go down without a fight, and even if I can banish them during the light of day, they are still going to show up and whisper maliciously in my ear in the middle of the night.

All the work I’m doing, all the effort, is infuriatingly slow with such incremental gains in this process followed by setbacks. One step forward, dragged forcibly back three steps.

And you guys, I am PISSED.

I am just so angry and bitter and full of rage at, like, everything.

Example: We went to church this morning, only because Emma was singing with the choir. Otherwise I’d probably be still in my pajama pants in bed instead of presentably dressed and make-uped as I furiously pound this blog post out on my keyboard

At church I didn’t sing. I didn’t smile. In fact, I was actively enraged in my heart by the ongoing discussion of Advent and joy and God’s love. Immediately at the end of the service, I stalked out to the car and sat there stewing by myself until Drew collected the kids and came out. I just couldn’t do it–I couldn’t people, I couldn’t church, I couldn’t pretend. I was angry.

Our pastor gave a sermon that I would have otherwise (in what seems like another life) loved and greatly appreciated. She talked about not asking “What should I do?” but instead being called to ask “What can I do?” To be driven not by uncertainty of “what to do” but instead to be driven to take any action within our power when we see need. It’s a powerful message and one in which I believe strongly.

Plot twist! Today, this sermon only added to my growing fury.

Why?

Because I am just generally infuriated at all the shit that I ALREADY HAVE TO DO and I don’t need to go to church to be asked “What ELSE can I do?” because basically all I can do every day is just exist and try to seem normal and get through the hours without wanting to scream and punch things almost every minute.

Here’s the thing I think is at the root of my general outrage at life: One of the ongoing conversations I’ve had recently with my therapist is about “re-parenting.” I have to re-parent myself, she tells me. Because there is a sad, neglected, lonely, hurting little kid version of Steph Nash in my heart that never got what a child needs.

And I, fully grown adult Steph Nash, with two children who I am already actively parenting, and a husband and a job and a house and a bunch of pets, have to re-parent little Steph Nash.

I just want to make sure you got that. I have to parent myself. Even though I was just a kid when all these things were done to me and some caring adults should have helped me and didn’t.

I HAVE TO FUCKING DO IT MYSELF.

You may not be surprised to learn that I am feeling a sense of barely controlled rage just typing those words.

What kind of bullshit is this??? That is a serious question. What. Kind. of. Bullshit.

We actually started talking about re-parenting a couple of months ago in therapy and for whatever reason, it did not enrage me then. I was just like, okay, that makes sense. Children have to be loved and nurtured or they grow up without good coping skills. It follows that I need to love and nurture myself to make up for that. (Mentally check off box for being so awesome at healing from my traumatic abuse. Look at me, winning at therapy!)

It was all very rational. I didn’t put much stock into the unfairness of it at that time, I just sort of accepted it (or so I thought).

I even made up a little mantra:

“It’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility.”

Isn’t that ADORABLE? Maybe I should create a little inspirational graphic and post it to a Pinterest board! Because it’s so adorable and re-parenting is so easy, amirite?

OF COURSE IT’S NOT. It is a ridiculous concept that infuriates me.

It is unfair. It is so ungodly unfair, and I am so, so, SO angry.

I shouldn’t have to do this.

IT WASN’T MY FAULT AND I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO DO IT.

But…but…I have to do it anyway.

I have to cry and scream and fight and do the right thing for myself because other people who should have, didn’t. I have to work and work and every time I think I have made progress and am “moving on” I have another bad dream or anxiety attack or sleepless night or day when I just can’t get out of bed.

I just have to keep doing it and it’s not fair and it’s so. fucking. hard.

So, thinking about doing hard things, here’s something I pinned on Pinterest about 8 weeks ago as a source of inspiration for myself:

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SHUT UP stupid Pin.

I loved it so much when I pinned it and now I look at it and I am like FUCK YOU!

OF COURSE I can do hard things because I have been doing them my whole freaking life! I do all the hard things ALL THE TIME!! They don’t get easier because you tell me I’m beautiful!

Riddle me this, PIN, why do I have to keep doing the hard things over and over and over? Why does it ALWAYS have to be my responsibility to do all the hard things? (FYI, The Pin did not answer.)

Here’s an idea–why can’t the people who hurt me and/or the people who were supposed to take care of me but didn’t do the hard things instead of me?

And, to make this idea even better, while they do the hard things, I will do some easy things…things like, I don’t know, eating all the pizza/ice cream/cheeseburgers I want without getting even fatter than I already am, or just laying on the bed with a bunch of puppies all day–puppies who somebody else feeds and potty trains and I just get to lay on a big comfy bed with them and play and pet them and get my face licked with delightful puppy breath.

Either or both of those suggestions seems way better than having to “re-parent” myself. They seem fairer and less rage-inducing, for sure.

But here I am, in this reality. Every day. EVERY. DAY.

And as much as I might rage (and I do), it IS my responsibility, even though it wasn’t my fault. Because nobody else can take responsibility but me. Nobody else did, so I have to. And it sucks. It sucks to a degree that I cannot even come close to conveying with mere swear words and capital letters in an angry blog post, even though I tried really hard today.

I have to keep working–this hard, hard work–to silence those voices that tell me I am unworthy and unlovable. I have to kill the demons that show up in my dreams to tell me that I am a liar, that I am a ridiculous person with terrible things inside of me and that I should be ashamed. And those demons are like, invincible or something I think.

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At least I hope it’s bravery.

I have to remember that my answer to the question my pastor challenged us to ask ourselves today, “What can I do?” may simply be “I can go on.”

I can get up, I can look in the mirror, I can hug my kids and my husband, I can get dinner on the table sometimes (even it it’s takeout) and I can seem like a normal functioning human most of the time.

I know the anger will pass. It’s going to take a little more time–it’s a lot of years’ worth of unexpressed anger I have to work through. But for now I have to sit with it for awhile, in this uncomfortable place of fury and indignation, because the only way out is through. I have to dig through the anger to get to the roots of grief and sadness.

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Don’t worry–I will eventually let go of this anger that is temporarily poisoning my spirit. I see it, I can name it, and I am aware enough to not let it impact my good, important relationships and to try and find healthy ways to express it, such as, I don’t know, writing a blog post full of swears and capital letters.

In the meantime…I’m going to stick with my righteous indignation. And probably eat a lot of cheeseburgers, because fuck it.