Daydreaming: My Saving Grace

Growing up, daydreaming was my favourite escape. It was my way of coping. Of surviving.

In my daydreams I could enter a world where everything made sense. Where bad things didn’t happen, or even if they did, it was over quickly, I would be comforted, and everything turned out well.

I would sometimes daydream about a specific person. Most of the time it was a character on TV that would be my mother-figure or loving person in my life. It felt so safe. And you know why? Because in my fantasy world that person would never abandon me. They didn’t hurt me. If I saw a movie or read a book that involved a loving parental figure, I would play that story line out in my mind, inserting myself as the character that had that relationship with that person.

The downside of all of this was that sometimes when I would snap out of daydreaming mode, I would feel an incredible sadness because I knew it would/could never be real. But for me, the good side of daydreaming far outweighed the negative.

These days I don’t daydream nearly as much. Not because I’ve grown out of it (I don’t think we ever really do), but because I just don’t have the time anymore. Sometimes though the only way to calm myself down and stop feelings overwhelming me completely is to escape. Back into daydream mode. Where no one ever purposely hurts me. Where there’s plenty of love, genuine acceptance and affection. Where rejection and abandonment don’t exist. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been tuning into my own world a lot more often.

They say we need to be mindful. Be connected to reality. But sometimes, reality sucks, and the only way through it is to lose yourself in a world of your own making. Personally, I don’t think that being in a constant state of mindful awareness is even healthy. When I’m out in the world my nervous system is on high alert and I’m zoomed in on everything around me (unless I’m in a dissociative state) and it’s exhausting. So I see it as a form of self-care to allow myself to just drift a little bit when I’m at home and in need of some rest. Daydreaming helped me the most through my childhood and teen years, and it’s still a valuable coping tool today.

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A Sense Of Loss

Things have felt strange for a while now. I’ve been a bit detached, but not to the point of dissociation or complete isolation.

My days have been filled with work, both the work I do for the dad and stepmom, and my own design business. When I’m not working, I’m doing things for myself. Things I enjoy. Like losing myself in a book. I’m currently reading three books (it’s a regular thing for me). A memoir, self-help book, and a crime thriller. I never read more than one book of the same genre at a time. I haven’t read this much since I was a teenager and my days outside of school hours were spent reading. I’m relishing it.

I’m also doing Yoga a few times a week, and make sure to engage in at least one mindful activity a day (those adult colouring-in books are a gem). When I’m working, reading, or doing any activity that consumes my mind, I’m right there, in it. But as soon as I just sit and do nothing, drive somewhere, or do anything else that doesn’t occupy my mind, I feel detached. I don’t quite feel like me. The me I knew at least.

I had a session with my new therapist, C, yesterday and told her this. I also told her that I have no desire to go out with friends or see people, but it’s not that I feel I don’t want to spend time with them. I just don’t mind whether I see them or not, and aren’t making plans to see them. If they contact me though and ask to meet up, I’m up for it. I’m enjoying my me-time. I feel content alone.

At the same time, I have this sense of loss hanging over me, but not a feeling. I don’t know how this makes sense, yet it does.

A few weeks ago I told Elizabeth that even though we agreed to stay friends, I need some time without any contact. When I think about her, I don’t feel much at all. Just that sense of loss again. I’m not consciously pushing any feelings down. My emotions just seem to be very muted. They’re there, but not with the intensity I’m used to. Which is maybe part of why I don’t quite feel like myself.

I have gone out with friends since I left the clinic. The most recent being on Saturday. Jasmine and I are friends again, and we met up for a few hours. I had a lovely time. I had just as nice a time when I was alone again afterward though.

Therapy with C is going well. It all still feels new though. C said that even though I know it’s a safe space, it’s still an adjustment, and will take time. I’m still getting to know her and dealing with the fact that I’m not seeing A for therapy anymore, so it’s normal that I’m feeling a bit detached. I do find it easy to open up to her (even though it’s slow going), so that’s good at least.

Let’s see what happens. Right now I’m just taking things as they come.

At Peace

I wrote a post earlier today, which got me thinking more about the situation I’m currently in with Elizabeth and Jasmine. I realized that I make things more complicated for myself than they actually are. I see a crisis where there isn’t one.

I was sitting outside a few minutes ago, and saw a shooting star. The biggest, brightest, and longest lasting one I’ve ever seen. Wow! What an incredible, beautiful experience. That one little star lit up the whole night sky, as I was focused on that light, so could no longer see the darkness surrounding it. Such a great metaphor for life, isn’t it?

My relationships are precious to me. I value them. But I can’t control them. There are two people in every relationship, and I can only focus on my part. So I’ve decided that I’m going to give Jasmine the space she needs. I’ve done all I can do for now. I hope that she comes around sometime, but it’s out of my hands.

I’m going to continue giving my all to my relationship with Elizabeth, and allow myself to just go with the flow, and be myself. Express myself without fear, or worrying about what anyone else thinks. I can’t be responsible for other’s thoughts, feelings, and decisions.

Worrying about what may or may not happen only serves to take my focus away from all the good in my life, and from being mindful in each moment. When I first learned of mindfulness, I thought it was a bunch of Buddhist nonsense. But I’ve since discovered just how powerful this practice actually is. It has the potential to change our entire life. It’s already slowly changing mine.

So, I choose to focus on that star, not the darkness surrounding it, and be present for each moment in my life. There’s a time and place for everything. If being present means sitting with painful emotions and letting the darkness be experienced, then that’s what’s needed during that moment. Tomorrow is tomorrow. But right here, right now, I’m exactly where I need to be.

And I feel at peace.

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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.

All Around Me

Can I see the wind?
I can see it move through the trees, but I can’t see the essence of it.
I can feel it blow across my face.
The effect is there, all around me.

Can I see my growth?
I can see it in my life, but I can’t see the essence of it.
I can feel it in my heart.
The effect is there, all around me.

Kindness & Gratitude #1

It’s so easy to get stuck in the darkness, and feel that we’ll never get out of that place. To feel like the whole world is against us. Which is why it’s so important to notice the kindness and compassion that exists, and focus on those things for which we are grateful. I’ve decided to start a series of posts to remind us that there is hope. I don’t know how often I’ll write a post for this series, but I’ll try to do one at least once a month.

A little while ago, Jasmine and I went for a walk through one of the many forests in the countryside. On our way back to the car, a guy came running after us. I froze, my heart pounding. Until I saw what was happening. My driver’s license had fallen off my key holder, and he had picked it up to give back to me. I was so relieved. And exceptionally grateful. I had my driver’s license stolen in a smash and grab last year, so I know how much of an inconvenience and hassle it is to get a new one. The kindness of a stranger.

After our walk, I drove Jasmine back to the clinic where she was staying. Sitting with her on the bench just before I left, so close. Not talking. Just feeling. I felt sad. She wasn’t feeling too great, and lay her head on my shoulder. It was a bittersweet moment. I realized that we might have lost some of the things we had being in an intimate relationship, but the connection and love is still there. It’s the simple things that are the most important. Not taking anything for granted.

I was sitting on the beach a few weeks ago, enjoying my alone time, and watching the sun set. These words came to me:

If you can look at a sunset and feel the beauty of it in your heart, there’s still life and hope inside you.

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The Body And Trauma

I was in my room reading, when I heard my dad’s voice coming from downstairs. He sounded angry. I froze. Fear washing over me. Heart pounding in my chest. Senses on high alert.

Waiting…

Then…

Nothing.

Still, I waited. A flashback. Then another one. Panic hitting me in full force. The worse thing about these flashbacks is being in the past all over again. Reliving it. It feels so real. And then there’s the confusion when coming out of it. It feels like I’m not sure exactly where I am sometimes. What’s the present, what’s the past? What’s real, what’s not? Sometimes that confusion lasts a few seconds, other times minutes.

I don’t know how long this all lasted. It seems like an alternative version of time exists in these moments.

But some time later, I heard them all laughing downstairs, and I realized that his ‘loud’ voice had just been part of some story or joke he had been telling.

No, he wasn’t mad.

My mind was still all over the place, but a little more rational.

However, my body was slow in getting the message that there was no threat.

Almost 2 hours later, and I was still feeling the effects on my body. I felt tense and on high alert… As if waiting for something to happen. Or like something IS happening.

“Why did I have such an intense reaction to something so silly?” I asked myself.

I could never admit to myself that some things I had experienced were traumatic. I hated the word ‘trauma’. Which, as my therapist commented one day… There are a lot of words I don’t like or don’t want to say out loud. I have no idea why that is. But now I say, screw it. By continuing to run from it and avoid accepting that I have indeed experienced trauma in my life, I’ll continue to deny myself proper healing.

I have felt the effects of it my entire life. So giving it a name isn’t going to make it any more real. It’s already real.

I tried to do a body awareness mindfulness meditation a little while after this, thinking it will help me relax both my mind and my body. But that backfired. It brought flashbacks of a different kind. So I won’t be doing that one again. I don’t want to ‘experience’ my body.

I spent most of last week crying, and this week I had no tears left. But after this little ‘incident’ tonight, it came back. Along with physical pain (which I think is just a stress response). I felt anxious, depressed, terrified and like I just wanted to hide in my closet.

I used to do that a lot. Hide away. When I was a child, I would curl up under my bed. Under tables. Anywhere. When I couldn’t use my spaces, I resorted to wrapping my blanket or duvet tightly around my body and cover my head as well. Most nights I slept like that. My favourite place though was in a closet. I felt the safest there. It was a dark and small space, which seemed comforting. Which is strange, considering I’ve always been afraid of the dark. But the confined space made the darkness feel like a friend.

I even used to look for ‘safe spaces’ when I was in high school. I would lie under my bed, either reading with a flashlight, or daydreaming. I would do that for hours at a time. Once I had finished school, there were moments where I still wanted those spaces, but being an adult, I felt stupid about that desire. For the past 2 months now, I’ve had this same desire to just empty out my closet and sit there in the dark when I’m feeling anxious, fearful or overwhelmed. But there’s no space for that. And it’s just not appropriate anymore, I guess. Hell, it’s embarrassing admitting this here. But it is what it is.

I constantly feel trapped. Caged in. A lot of times I feel like I’m being cornered. That as long as I’m alive, I’m not safe. So I guess this desire to hide away is my way of trying to cope with these feelings.

The mind is powerful. It tries to protect us, even though it’s not always very good at it. Writing this post, I don’t feel real. The world around me doesn’t feel real. I’m floating somewhere between this world and a vast ‘nothingness’. I’m aware that it’s a defense mechanism.

Maybe tomorrow everything will feel real again. But I don’t know if I want it to feel real.