Safe Travels – Part One

On Wednesday I got back from my week-long trip to see my mom and sisters. Annoyingly, I’m still recuperating from it.

I had been looking forward to this trip since it was booked. I was counting down the days. Sometimes even the hours. Last Tuesday, after coming back from group, I started to feel unsettled. “Tomorrow is the day”. I don’t know why I had shifted into that almost panicked mode.

Packing for a vacation always overwhelms me for some reason. That Tuesday, it seemed even worse. I was so anxious, and even emotional. I cried through most of it. What was going on? I had no idea why I was feeling the way I was. In our session on Monday my therapist told me that she’ll let her other clients get away with “I don’t know”, but not me. Apparently I’m insightful. But sometimes I really don’t know. And this was one of those times. Maybe it will come to me at some point. That happens quite often, so maybe I can’t get away with “I don’t know” after all.

I hate airports. I despise them. Even more than I do crowded shopping malls (I try to go during the week when most people are at work). Those are places where I’m most likely to get panic attacks (lasting either from a few minutes to over 20 minutes sometimes). So, in preparation, I took one of my magic anxiety killing pills, and after that, I felt so much better. I had used some mindfulness and breathing exercises before taking it though, hoping that it would be enough. But it wasn’t. I lasted 20 minutes with that. But at least I tried. I got through the whole airport and flying thing pretty smoothly. I used to love flying. But when I got into a relationship with my ex, I started becoming as anxious and paranoid as she was every time we had to step foot on a plane. But this time, and alone, my old love of flying was back! My favourite part is the take off and landing. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush.

On my way from the airport to my mom’s place, I had to go pick up my youngest half-sister, who lives quite a while away from my mom. She was going to be spending a few days with us. I also popped in to see my eldest younger half-sister, who was at work, so I couldn’t spend much time with her. To me they’re just my sisters (there’s no half in there for me). By the time I got to my mom’s place, I was exhausted. As I walked through the door, my mom was busy with something. She looked up and saw me, and her eyes just lit up. She also seemed to do a double take, not sure whether I was real. I hugged her tighter than I ever had before. She looked so happy!

Throughout my stay there, I slept on a small blow up mattress, and my youngest sister slept on the couch. Sleeping in the same room with any one of my sisters is a crazy experience. My mom’s place only has one bedroom, so we slept in the lounge. I didn’t get much sleep while I was there. I struggle to sleep in a new environment, and add to that a young sister who doesn’t get the value of sleep. I’m a very light sleeper. After having her try to keep me awake as long as possible, I would finally go to sleep. But she’s so noisy, and every time she moved, the couch creaked way too loud, in my opinion. The curtains also couldn’t close, so it was too bright in there with all the street lights. Not a very good environment for inducing sleep. But I survived. Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, I like waking up to peace and quiet in the mornings, while I drink my coffee. There was no chance of that happening here. Imagine being semi-asleep and having your mom and sister yelling at one another before you can even get your eyes open. Those two can’t be together for more than a day, or they’re at each other’s throats. They know exactly how to push one another’s buttons. Now here I was, stuck with this for four days. Burying my head under the pillow never sounded (and felt) so good.

A lot happened during the time with my mom. The unfortunate thing is that I barely got one moment alone with her. Both my mom and sister vying for my attention. I didn’t know which way to go. Which way is up? It was exhausting. My mom’s 23-year-old boyfriend (I called him daddy, that had him laughing for a while), was there in the evenings and the weekend, so we were never entirely alone. The only uninterrupted time my mom and I had was an hour before I went to bed on my last night there. I had taken my youngest sister home by that time. I adore my sisters, but the youngest one is a handful! We had our own “salon day” at my mom’s place though. She coloured and styled my hair, and we even played around with make-up. That was a nice bonding experience.

It was a busy week. Driving back and forth to go see my eldest younger sister, and a bunch of other outings that made me so sick of driving. But I don’t see my family every day, and it was nice to be able to do those things for, and with, them, so it was worth it. I struggled a lot that week with disconnection though. I “felt” numb quite often.

On the Saturday evening, we went out for dinner with my aunt (my mother’s sister) and uncle. He’s Greek, she’s Portuguese. They’re constantly fighting, and it’s fascinating (and extremely funny) listening to them, as they switch between English and each of their languages! It makes my head spin just thinking about it. It’s always fun spending time with them though. Oh, and they took me to a bookstore, and bought me two new books! I’m obsessed with books. I got “Into the Heart of Mindfulness” and “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. The first one was recommended to me by my former OT, so when I saw it I just knew I had to get it.

My mom was emotional and cried a lot during my stay. Sometimes over small things (sound familiar?). As far as I can remember, I’ve only seen her cry twice in my life. And now suddenly it’s almost a daily thing. Apparently it’s been like this for months already, so I’m worried about her. I wanted to hug or hold her during those times, but it’s like there’s an invisible wall between us, and I can’t get myself to do that. The most I could do was put my hand on her shoulder or back for a few seconds, and even that felt awkward. I can’t remember her ever holding me either. Of course hugging her hello and goodbye is easy. But other than those times, that’s not the case. It’s still a great source of sadness for me. I don’t know why it’s so hard with her, when I find it so easy to be that shoulder when someone else needs it, including my sisters.

I still have more to write about this trip, but I’ll rather split it up into two parts. I don’t want to write anymore tonight. Writing has been hard for me lately. Wanting to write, but not able to start. An internal battle of sorts. But now it seems like I’ve broken through that wall.

Excitement, And The Power Of A Hug

I was just going to write about something really great that happened on Monday, but there’s something else that happened last night that I want to share as well. So this post might also be a long one.

After a year and four months, it’s finally happening. I’m going to see my mom and little sisters again!

My mom sent me a text on Monday morning, saying “I wonder when I’m going to see Rayne again”, with a GIF of a monkey scratching his head. That was really cute and funny. I showed it to my step-mom as well. I often share these kinds of things with them and vice versa. I sent that same GIF back to her saying “I’m wondering the same thing.” A few hours later I was surprised with a flight ticket and rental car! My dad, with nudging from my step-mom (whose idea it was- bless her heart), decided to use their reward points to get me that ticket. They had so many points that they didn’t have a pay a cent for it. That’s pretty cool. I was so happy, and the gratitude I felt, almost made me burst into tears. I also felt this great sense of relief. I’m just not sure what the relief is about.

It’s my mom’s birthday today, and she hates her birthday. My flight is for next week Wednesday. I wanted to tell her on Monday already, but thought today would be a better time to do it. So I video called her this morning, and told her that I have a special gift for her this year. My youngest little sister was with my mom at the time, so she was also in on the call. When I told them that I’m coming next week, they both started screaming. Seeing their faces, oh my heart. I’ll never forget that moment.

And guess what? I’m also going to see my therapist in person again! I can’t wait! Although I’m also a little nervous for some reason.

I went to group last night, and really enjoyed it. D was leading it. Before group, while we were in the coffee shop, one of the guys came around to the table I was sitting at with some of the girls. He kissed one of them on the cheek, and attempted to do the same with me. I told him “no” and pulled my face away. He laughed and tried again, but not coming too close this time. Like in a playful manner. But I stuck to my boundaries and didn’t give in, like I would have in the past. Too afraid of offending the person. One of the girls told him that I don’t like it when guys touch me. I was surprised when she said that, because I didn’t know that she “got it”. I told him I’d give him a hug instead. Afterward he said “but you touched me” and I told him that it’s because I initiated it, and therefore I was more comfortable with it.

I’m becoming more comfortable with talking and sharing during the group. That’s progress. This group is so good and valuable for me. After I was done talking and sharing last night, my inner critic showed up. I didn’t quite articulate myself very well. I stumbled a little over my thoughts and words, but not in a very obvious way. Some things came out in ways that I didn’t intend, and were incomplete. But I told that critic to shut up. The important thing is that I’m trying. This is all new to me, so of course I’m going to struggle a bit at first. It’s like a baby taking her first steps. She’s going to be awkward at first. She’s going to struggle and stumble. But she doesn’t give up, she keeps getting back up and trying again. Eventually she’s walking with ease. I’ll get there too.

We were talking about values yesterday, which is part of Interpersonal Effectiveness in DBT. We did a fun activity. But at some point during that activity I started feeling this depression sink in. When the activity was over and we started going through the skill, I started to feel worse. I still struggle with values. With knowing who I want to be. Who I really am. And the shame that had died down a little since Monday, hit me full force again. Suddenly everyone and everything around me started to feel unreal. And then the suicidal thoughts kicked in. I felt like nothing matters. What’s the point of life? Then the thought (judgement) that “there’s no reason for me to be feeling the way I am right now. Good things are happening. I have things to look forward to. I’m not supposed to be feeling depressed and suicidal. What the hell is wrong with me?” There were a few times that I felt tears well up, but tried to focus on what was going on in the group. There was a point when I couldn’t hold back that much, but I just hid my face and pretended to be looking at the worksheet I had in front of me. I may be more comfortable with talking and sharing, but I’m not at the point yet where I’m comfortable showing my emotions in front of more than one person.

I’m still going to be able to attend group next week, but will miss the next one, which is the last one for two weeks. D didn’t know whether she was going to be doing the group next week, or one of the other OT’s. So after group I asked her whether I could give her a hug in case I don’t see her for the next month or possibly longer. What started as a hug from me to her, a thank you for all she does and for the group last night, turned into her giving me a precious gift. And she doesn’t even know it.

I hugged her, and as I was starting to pull away, she held onto me and hugged me even tighter. I always pull away pretty quickly, and when I let go the other person also does. But she didn’t. And I’m so grateful, because it was what I needed. It felt warm, caring, and comforting. My whole body relaxed, and my mind just went quiet. I felt a deeper level of trust toward her, and sense of safety. It’s the quickest that suicidal and hopeless thoughts went away. It usually lasts at least a few hours, days, and sometimes even weeks. And it’s still gone.

On my way home, I cried all the way. I felt connected to the younger versions of myself. I experienced the pain of not having had the love and comfort I so desperately wanted and needed all those years. At how one deep hug could have such a big effect on me.

I feel like writing her an email and telling her about this, but not sure if I should. What do you guys think?

I wrote this in my personal journal last week, without intending to share it with anyone. But now it just feels right to do it. Strange how things work sometimes.

Letter To No One And Everyone

I need you to dig, to find those parts of me that even I can’t find.
I need you to help me see if there’s treasure hidden somewhere inside me.

Please sit beside me. Not a world away. Distance plays tricks on my mind.
Please see inside me. I can’t see me. But maybe you can.
Please hold my hand. Don’t pull away even when I initially try to.
Please hold me. If I try to pull away, don’t let go. Hold onto me.
Please be gentle with me. I’m tough, but also very fragile.

Can you feel the pain behind these words?
Can you see the tears that are falling as I’m writing this?
Can you hear my silent screams for comfort?

You may touch my heart.
But how can I trust that when I can’t feel the warmth of your touch?

That gentle touch that unlocks the door to my soul.
That healing touch that fills me with the strength I need to fight another day. That touch I ache for.
That can help break the bonds of harm that were created a long time ago.

A touch that heals, not destroys.
A dream… Unrealistic.
A voice deep inside whispers, “you don’t deserve it”.

D made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I do deserve it.

That’s the power of a hug.

Scared Of Losing Them

I took my step siblings out for dinner last night. My stepmom and the man who calls himself my dad went to the casino again (an every weekend thing- they’re there again tonight).

I don’t have a close relationship with my stepsister, the way I do with my stepbrother. While having dinner last night, my stepsister was in a happy, childlike state (which is rare). We were talking about random, silly things, and we had a good time. At one point, just before the bill arrived, I looked over at her sitting across from me, and realized… I really love her. That scared me. It still does.

She reminds me so much of my first stepsister. The sister who ran away. For 13 years I had this entire stepfamily, and then in one day, I lost all of them. Just like that. There one minute, gone the next. It was as if they hadn’t even existed.

I guess I’ve subconsciously been keeping an emotional distance from my current stepsister because of that. Although it’s not the only reason. I’ve told her a few times though that if she ever wants to talk, that I’m here for her. But she’s never needed me. And I’ve been okay with that.

Lately, my abandonment fears have been acting up again. Sure, they’re always in the background. But sometimes for certain periods of time, they come out in force. What set it off? I haven’t figured that part out yet. I don’t even know when it started, just that it’s been a while already.

I told my therapist (and I wrote about it in my previous post) that I’ve been feeling disconnected. From her. From everyone. Seeing her again in our session on Thursday, I felt a little more connected to her again. I saw that my insecurity that she was pulling away from me, was unfounded. That my insecurity wasn’t an accurate representation of the state of our relationship. It was a projection. She wasn’t the one pulling away. I was pulling away from her. It’s not my intention though. I don’t want to pull away from anyone. Yet, I feel like I am. I’m not sure how to stop it. Or if I even want to. I’m just really confused.

I’m scared. What if I lose my current stepfamily too? I’ve already lost four families, people I grew to love. I’ve been to way too many funerals. And it all still hurts. Some of the losses feel more raw than others. I wish I can say that I won’t have to deal with another loss. But unfortunately, there are no guarantees in life, and loss is inevitable.

Maybe if I don’t love anymore, people will stay. Maybe if I disconnect, it won’t hurt as much when or if they leave.

I feel as though there’s not much left of me. All those I lost have taken a piece of me with them.

To The Man Who Raised Me

It feels like I’ll never get rid of you.
I constantly feel you inside me.
Like a second layer of skin.
I see you when I look in the mirror.
And I hate what I see.

You’re putting a roof over my head.
But you’re not doing it because you love me.
You don’t know how to love anyone but yourself.
You’re just doing it to keep control over me.
To show the world what a good man you are.

But you’re not a man.
You’re a monster.

I asked you to stop doing something.
You got mad, and still just keep doing it.
“That’s what family does. At least our family”.
But I don’t want to be part of that “family”.
I cringe and feel nauseous every time, but bite my tongue.

I was never your little girl.
I was just an object for you. Someone to control.
Just like you did with the rest of them.
You make me question my memories, my sanity.
My beliefs. Myself. Who am I?

I am who you say I am.
Isn’t that right?

You’re giving me so much right now.
Except that which I’ve always needed.
But you’ve taken away even more.
I wish I wasn’t yours.
But I can’t cut you out of my life.

I can’t stand the sight of you most days.
When I look at your face, I want to scream.
Memories flash on the screen of my mind.
Your voice sickens me.
Your touch destroys me little by little.

You broke what was shiny and new.
And have the audacity to say it was them that ruined me.
It’s never you, is it? It’s always everyone else.
You can do no wrong.
Your worldview is sick and twisted. Just like you.

I should have just let you die those times.
I shouldn’t have intervened.
Just go to my room and pretend I didn’t know.
Let others find you on the floor.
She says I did what I thought was right. But was it?

You think you’re a god, sitting on your throne.
Everyone must bow down and and worship you
Or face the consequences of your rage.
It works, because we’re so fucking scared of you.

I can’t escape. I’m trying so hard to find a way.
But I fail time and time again. I’m a failure.
I’m letting go of the hope that you’ll change.
That you’ll be the father I’ve always wanted.
I wish I could get you off me and out of me.

Will it ever end?

I can’t get away from you.
I’m helpless. Trapped.
“Get out” they say.
I’ve tried. I’m still trying.

And it hurts. It fucking hurts.
because even though I hate you,
I love you.

Protection And Running Away

This is a follow up from my previous post.

After I had written it, and gone to sleep, I had a nightmare.

Before I get into the dream, it needs to be said that most of my dreams over the years have followed a similar theme. They all involve me protecting others (or myself and even baby animals). Running away from someone, a group of people, or something (like a natural disaster).

In this dream, that person was my step-father. He was hurting my youngest little sister, and throwing her around the room. She was so tiny. Just a little toddler. It broke me seeing what he was doing to her. So I picked her up and ran. Suddenly there were other people with us who I was also trying to lead to safety. We climbed and jumped over walls and roofs, and crawled through barbed wire fences. Trying to stay out of sight of the monster who was hunting us. There were security camera’s, so it was even more important for us to avoid being seen. There were wide open spaces, which made us especially vulnerable. Other spaces were difficult to get through, as there were plants and trees surrounding us. We came across a house here and there, but I knew they weren’t safe to run into. That the people who lived there were in on it with my step-father. Every time I thought we were in the clear, I’d find that it wasn’t over, and he was catching up to us.

Suddenly a SWAT team appeared. They were helping us escape. But then we understood that they weren’t there to help us at all. They had their own agenda. Now there were more people after us. One of the guys running with us, picked up a dead snake, and told us that the SWAT team had been fooling us. Why a dead snake, and what that has to do with anything, I have no idea (some of my dreams have featured snakes- I don’t know what that represents). At the end of the dream, when I finally thought we were really safe this time, as there were normal people walking around, I realized that we were still in danger. I felt trapped.

I woke up crying. And I realized just how much my past has affected me, and shaped my life. For the first time, I can acknowledge that I haven’t yet fully dealt with it. I always tried to run away from my past. Pretending that it didn’t affect me. But now I realize just how much it actually did.

Once I was fully awake, I felt a combination of anger and deep hurt. I’ve always tried to be the protector to everyone. To take care of others. I took on that role. But who protects me? Who protected that little girl? The people who were supposed to protect her, didn’t, or couldn’t. And for the first time, I’m feeling the extent of that pain.

I could never truly connect to that part of myself until now. I’m grieving for that sad, lonely, and scared little girl. For the teen who had to deal with so much.

Those uncried tears, are finally being released. The hurt with nowhere to go, is being experienced and channeled. The secrets with no one to tell, are now being told.

It’s too painful to feel all at once. But the door has been opened, so I can begin to walk through it.

A Year

I don’t go onto Facebook often. A few hours ago, I did. Right at the top of my news feed I saw a post from my aunt, that knocked the breath right out of me. It felt as though someone had just stabbed me through the heart. The post was “Dearest brother, it’s been a year since you left us. We still miss you every day, and you’ll forever live on in our hearts.”

It’s been a year since one of my uncles ended his life. Right now it seems like just yesterday. I haven’t thought about him much since then, and the moments I did, I’d feel a sharp stab of pain that would only last a few minutes. I wanted to cry. I wanted to grieve, but my mind didn’t want that. It would just shut down. Exactly one year later, it’s finally hit me in full force. I’ve been crying for what feels like hours. The pain is unbearable, but I have no choice but to bear it.

I didn’t even go to his funeral. It was in another city and I couldn’t afford the plane ticket. A part of me also didn’t want to go. But now I regret it. I wish I could have said goodbye.

A few years ago, he started drinking heavily. Every time he would phone me, he was so drunk I could barely make out what he was saying.

The last time I saw him, I didn’t even recognize him. He didn’t look at all like the uncle I had known. Where was the strong man who used to make me laugh with his silly antics? The man who always called me his “little monkey”. I was angry with him that day. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d ever see him.

A week before he succeeded, he had attempted suicide, but his ex-wife found him in time. After that, I just had this feeling in my gut that he would try again. And I was right. The evening before that day, he phoned me. But I didn’t answer. And I don’t even know why. What if he was reaching out, and answering that phone call would have made a difference? Instead, I just ignored him. Maybe that’s why I didn’t think about it much this past year. Guilt. Once again, I had let someone I loved, down. And once again, I failed at being there for someone I loved, in their last moments.

I wish I could go back in time. But I can’t. And no amount of wishing can change that.

So tonight I’m feeling what I haven’t allowed myself to feel.

I miss him, and wish he was still here.

Letter To The 14 Year Old

Every now and then I go through my computer and delete everything I don’t want or need anymore. Those things that I won’t need soon, but still want access to, I put on my external HDD. I don’t like clutter. Not even on my computer. Everything needs to be named properly and be in neat folders.

Today was my clearing day. I came across a letter I had written in December. I don’t want it on my computer anymore, neither on my external. So I’m posting it here instead.

This is the letter I referred to in my post “The Inner Child & Teen“.

Letter To The 14 Year Old

Dear (Me),

Today I heard you.
I heard your silent screams.
Today I felt your pain.
I cried your tears.
I’ve never allowed you in before.
But today I stayed with you.
And I was you back there again.

Disorientated and confused as you lay your head down.
Not sure what had just happened. Nothing seeming real.
“Help me”, those words spinning round and round your head.
Could anyone hear you? Did anyone know? Could anyone see?

Even within the darkness, unable to see everything…
I feel. I feel your pain and despair. The hopelessness.
The all consuming loneliness.
You just wanted someone to hold you, didn’t you?
The soothing sound of a heart beat, not yours.

Fear. Confusion. Shame. Pain. So much pain.

I wish I could tell you it all works out.
I wish I could tell you the wounds fade quickly.
But I can’t tell you this. You wouldn’t believe me anyway.

It hurts to listen to you. It hurts to be you.
But I’ll try to not leave you alone again.