I Could Be Writing Right Now

20140201_110403 I had an epiphany this morning. Well, it was more of a breakdown in my bathroom about 15 minutes ago. Could they be, in essence, the same? I guess that depends on the context. The definitions of Epiphany and Breakdown for me could also be cloudy, considering I have bounced back and forth between these thoughts and ideals with some intense speed lately.

Drinking my coffee this morning in my big red chair, curled up with a book, I found myself unable to concentrate. As I was trying to focus on the words so thoughtfully executed and placed on these pages, words I couldn’t wait to read because I love my book, my eyes kept glancing downward. It has become almost a pestering nervous tick. As I sat in my sweat pants and tank top (my every morning attire until my coffee is consumed and I can change to go work out) I kept seeing the bulge of fat that protrudes from my tummy. As I read, holding the book with my left and dominate hand, my right hand feels and squeezes with disgust these soft and squishy rolls. I know on a subconscious level that I always do this, whether looking at my stomach because it’s in the way, or feeling it as a form of self torture and reminder, I am brutally aware of it’s nagging presence. By squeezing it, I am hoping that it will magically go away.

I know this may sound vain. For some, these are issues of pure vanity. After what feels like way too much contemplation, I know this is not vanity. It is the highest form of self hatred which has mutated into a sick and life consuming insecurity. Hatred is simply a manifestation of anger. It is not completely clear to me why I am so angry and choose to express it this way. Let me rephrase that. This is by no means a choice. I didn’t choose this. I would never choose or wish this self torture on anyone. This not only affects me, but, everyone I love. Lately, I have been consumed with ‘getting better.’ I have posted many writings on my blog, one in particular, “Baggage Claim,” in which I reveal some helpful tools my therapist has giving me in an attempt to get through this bullshit I have been dealing with far too long.

Not only am I trying to overcome years of emotional and physical abuse, I am trying to learn how to love myself again. I say ‘again’ hesitantly because I cannot remember ever feeling an actual love for myself. It is of no wonder I spent 3 decades making poor choices. Most of you know that I graduated from a University with full intentions of making something of myself. Wherein, I became sidetracked in the name of love. Only to find myself in a downward spiral of addiction straight into the pits of hell. So back to the loving myself part. As I sat in the big red chair this morning silently hating myself because I wasn’t working out, I realized that I was, in fact, tired of being sick. I have a sickness. I want to get well. When you walk into your local coffee shop of choice, or even into your work place, do you see people in terms of fat or skinny? Ugly or pretty? Well, you shouldn’t. I don’t judge people in this way. I judge myself based on how I feel when I look at these people. Almost in a backwards way. I am more jealous of women who appear comfortable in their own chunky skin than I am of the women with the appearance of a perfect body. And who decides what is a perfect body anyway? Was it the man who decided to produce thousands of mannequins in replica of the 60’s model Twiggy? I know we are slowly evolving in this way. In fact, I read an article just 2 days ago about how David’s Bridal is soon to unveil mannequins that resemble real life women…thicker waists, smaller chests, back fat and all. But even in this over due evolution of fashion reality, the minds and self esteem of woman and young girls alike have been forever impressed upon. Mine included.

I also realized that if I am truly determined to have what I picture as the “perfect” body, then I need to stop screwing up on a daily basis by eating things that I am apparently not supposed to, what we often refer to as “bad” and “good” foods. Hence, feeling like shit and hating myself. If I truly want this ideal body more than anything in the world, which it has been a life long pursuit, I won’t even think twice at dinner while everyone else is enjoying a plate of Fettucine Alfredo as I eat my egg whites on whole grain toast and remain hungry. And then an hour later, when no one is looking, find myself in the kitchen eating ravenously whatever remains they left. Hence, hating myself even more. It’s like walking by the cookie jar and not being able to control myself. If I were truly determined to lose this extra 10 pounds that has haunted me since I was 19, I wouldn’t think twice about that fucking cookie jar. I would walk right past it, because it would mean nothing. Nothing would get in my way of my goal because I want it that bad. So do I not want it? Well, of course I want it. But do I want it that badly? If I did, I would be working out right now instead of sitting here at the computer writing about why I am not working out. I already had breakfast too, and I am still hungry.

You see, I am beginning to believe, (I have heard this a number of times from trustworthy sources but refused to listen), if I need superman strength will power, then I am simply not ready. I should be able to walk right by that cookie jar and not even care that it is there. Not stand in front of it, staring at it, willing it to disappear, feeling absolutely tortured by it. Eventually giving in and eating the cookie so fast that I forgot to taste it. Then saying “Fuck it” and eating everything else I see I am not supposed to have. And then, of course, hating myself even more. That is why diets have never worked. And for all the people thinking right now, “Oh it’s a life style change you need, not a diet.” I know that! I don’t diet. But I sure as hell try to make healthy choices. The difference between me and the other ‘health conscious’ people is that I am neither emotionally nor mentally healthy in this way. I am unable to maintain this lifestyle without becoming a monster of sorts, an obsessive monster.

The mind is a powerful thing. This can be taken in more than one way. I have the power in my mind to somehow find the strength to only eat certain foods. I have the strength to get up every morning and workout. I am a healthy person. Always have been. Physically anyway. How much effort, unhealthy effort I might add, I place on my appearance is taking away precious energy from my kids, my partner, my writing, and my life as a whole. If I were to stop obsessing about food and exercise, and just ate what I wanted, when I wanted, I bet after a while, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, and the extra 10 lbs. would just fall off of me. After a while, I bet walking by that cookie jar wouldn’t even phase me. And if I wanted a cookie I could have one, or not. And if I did choose to have one, I would enjoy every bite. Because tasting is far more enjoyable than cramming. I am carrying so much emotional baggage that it is physically impossible for me to lose weight. This brings a whole new meaning to ‘saddle bags.’ I cannot focus when I workout because my brain is in a thousand other places. My stress level about food is so high, I can’t even enjoy eating. It’s like the forbidden fruit. What the hell kind of existence is that?

I feel ugly on the outside because I feel ugly on the inside. I need to work on my insides. That should be my priority right now. My goal should not be to lose 3 inches around my waist, but to be okay with the 3 inches before I lose my mind instead. Nothing is more sexy than a woman comfortable in her own skin. Size 2 or 12. Beauty radiates from the inside out, not from the amount of iridescence in your eye shadow. Yes, when I feel beautiful, I am more comfortable and confident. But I am not going to beat myself up and hate myself because there are a couple rolls hanging over my jeans when I sit down. There are far more important details for me to be concentrating on right now. If I can work through my “issues,” I will eventually know that I am beautiful and it’s importance will lessen and my happiness will grow.

What is going to happen if and when I lose those 10 pounds? Am I magically going to become the happy person I have always imagined? Am I going to stop counting calories and obsessing over my pinchable fat? No, I won’t. I know from years of experience, that this will never end. So I am going to end it. Well, I am going to try. My mind might be too powerful and I might not be able to will power myself out of this. Sounds a little backwards, doesn’t it? But I think a little back peddling is exactly what the doctor ordered.

People can tell me that I am beautiful all day long, but if I’m not feeling it, I’m not feeling it….no matter what I look like, I am not going to believe a word you say. The compliment goes in and just as quickly as I heard it, I dismiss it, because I don’t believe it. I have always been considered an attractive person, inside and out. The people who find my looks pleasing have no idea how absolutely broken I am. I cover it up with a pretty smile. Well where has that landed me? Here. Right here on the corner of “I hate myself” and “I can’t do this anymore.” No one can convince me or flatter me enough into being all better. Flattery is but a temporary band aid. I need a tourniquet right now. And that is only going to come from hard work by me and only me. Not physical hard work, but some serious internal surgery. As I got up from my book with uncontrollable tears streaming down my cheeks, I made it to the bathroom before anyone could see me (like it would be mind blowing at this point for my kids to see me a disaster) and cried how I needed to cry. I placed my hands on the counter and forced myself to look up. I have a habit of looking down. I watched myself heave and made myself witness the wreck I was. I looked at my arms and my stomach, I even turned and looked at myself from the side as soon as I could let go of the counter. I am not that bad, I thought. I am not one for self affirmations. I am not going to lie to myself in the mirror only to hate myself more, because I am obviously telling myself bullshit. I can’t talk my way into a size 4. I can, however, look at myself in the mirror and try and accept that it is okay to look the way I look. This is me. And after 20 years I am still the same. My weight may fluctuate 30 pounds in either direction, but it always goes back. That’s okay. If I freak out every time I gain a couple pounds and constantly strive for an unattainable perfection, I will never be happy. And I will have wasted an entire lifetime doing this. I don’t want to miss another meal with my kids because I am preoccupied counting calories. I am beautiful just the way I am. And in knowing this, I am going to experience freedom and those 10 pounds are going to fly right off the top of my shoulders.

I am not dissatisfied with my appearance. It is the unrealistic expectations society has placed on me, which I have therefore transferred onto myself that cause me to be dissatisfied. It’s not so easy to just brush off these unrealistic images that are splattered all over bill boards and the internet. They hit you upside the head when you are not paying attention. They are absorbed into the deepest part of you without your knowledge. Unless, of course, you are equipped from a young age to be aloof to this bullshit. I was not equipped with that knowledge and mindset. And if I don’t knock this nonsense off now, my daughter will end up like me. So far, she is doing all right. But nearing the age of 12, it’s time to consider what I am showing her. It’s one thing to look healthy, but it’s another to BE healthy. In fact, they can be polar opposites such as in my case. She is going to love who she is no matter what the suggested standard of beauty is in the check out line.

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“She put you in a blender?”

blenderHaving a mother or a father isn’t necessarily a luxury. We all have them. Ironically, they are like luggage…Some of us get Louis Vuitton luggage, while the rest of us end up with a set of Samsonite hand rolling bags from Sears.

I still cannot believe my paranoid schizophrenic father and narcissistic, delusional mother left me this way, screaming and trapped in this brain I can often make little or no sense of… On the up side, I managed to squeeze a few lemons and believe I have made some pretty damn good lemonade.

There are a broad spectrum of feelings and responsibilities that come with being a parent. Anywhere from being burdened with glorious purpose to simply being burdened. If you are being slathered with advice about how warm and fuzzy parenting is, you are being lied to.  Don’t get me wrong, there will always be warm and fuzzy moments to accompany the rough and brutal times. It’s all a balancing act. Just like when your neighbor insists she slathers butter all over every meal and has not one dimple on her ass, she is flat out lying. You can’t tell me she is not doing leg lifts in the basement after everyone has gone to bed.

When you overhear the new mothers at church pridefully talking about how their babies sleep through the night at 6 weeks old and how they are Ferberizing them as if they will become the next child prodigy, and you painfully explain how your 2 year old still doesn’t sleep through the night, and they look at you with sincere sympathy, while at the same time wonder if, in fact, you are raising the next neighborhood sociopath, just walk away. And cry if you need to. Not because of you or your child, but because of them. Go with your gut. Put your own ingredients in the blender.

A little bit of humility plus a lot of love equals a great parent. You know how Forrest Gump proclaimed “My mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Well this mama says life is like a blender. Put in your own ingredients and blend well. The best thing about this blender is that you can take the lid off whenever you need to add something. Maybe a shotgun when your daughter brings home that first and dreaded boy. Mix well. Maybe in this case, Chop well. Perhaps a prophylactic when your teenage son is convinced he has found true love. In this case, Juice well.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a warning label that reads “Do not put a child or any part of a child in this blender.” My mom missed that. She continues to drop me in like a piece of fruit,  most likely with a sinister grin, and hits Crush whenever she senses opportunity. Like a flock of seagulls honing in on a single piece of torn up bread.

Let me interject here that I do not like my mother. This is a hard thing to say, and I feel a tremendous amount of guilt as I write the words. But it’s the truth. I am being blunt, and honestly I am just getting too fucking old to spare people’s feelings anymore, the people who have hurt me anyway. So there it is. No filter. I can’t stand my mother. She made her bed. I made my bed too. The difference is that I got up and made a better life, whereas she is still lying in shit. Her entire life has come crashing down around her like a castle she built out of bricks, forgetting the mortar.

My mother set out to raise me with the best intentions. Later, those intentions turned into overzealous theatrics. Now, when I think of my mother, visions of ‘Mommy Dearest’ run through my brain like currents of electricity running through wire and I can’t pull the plug fast enough. I have written about our relationship in prior stories, exposing that it is not a healthy one. I cannot remember a time when it was. The problem is that she will assume no responsibility for any of her actions, past or present. It is as though she has total amnesia. Self induced of course. Any mistakes she made, she strategically placed somewhere in her brain and she chooses not to find them. It’s like when I hide chocolate from myself, except I always remember where I put it. Of course I eat it and fess up, especially if it wasn’t mine to begin with. Possibly it’s the overuse and misuse of prescription medication that caused her amnesia. Maybe it’s the drunken mess she found herself in on the floor. Or rather, I found her in. Perhaps it’s from falling off the toilet face first onto the floor in a pill induced stupor. I have often walked up the stairs of the house for a visit with a huge knot in my stomach only to see upon answering the door that she has a matching knot on her forehead. Alcohol. Pills. Denial. Chop Well.

I received a phone call from my mother on Thanksgiving at around 4 PM. Impeccable and predictable timing on her part. I say this with sarcasm. What are most families doing at this time on this day? Enjoying a lovely dinner with their families? Maybe some wine? Football? I picked up the phone because the least I could do was say “Hello” and “I love you” on a holiday. When I say “I love you” to my mom, it feels like my body has been paralyzed from the stomach up. I can still feel my gut because there is a nagging aching in it, but my heart shuts off and my mouth stops working. I can barely get the words out. It feels forced, and only comes out if a long enough silence provokes it. Unbeknownst to her, we had celebrated Thanksgiving the previous day to accommodate work schedules. She knew exactly what she doing upon calling, which was trying to land herself right in the middle of my Thanksgiving. Like she wanted to drop right through the ceiling and make a crash landing on top of the Turkey. That’s what her interruptions usually look like. Therefore, to her surprise and disappointment, she hadn’t ruined anything. Not so much to my surprise, but definitely to my disappointment, she had tried.

I knew she was alone and felt guilty of course, so I talked to her, or rather listened, for as long as I could. She claimed she was having an emergency and cried that she needed me. I was the only person who could help. There was a time when I would have believed her. Many times I have run to her rescue only to find her crying wolf. That’s how I know when to call her on her bullshit. I know that phone call came from a place of lonliness. But that’s no excuse to manipulate me into seeing her. When it comes to my mother I have a big flashing light above my head that blinks in red, “GUILTY.” Like an open sign at the corner drug store. “Come on in and Crush away.” Her life is not my fault, but I have been trained to believe it is. She tries to bring me down with her, pulling on whatever severed piece of me she can grasp and toss down into her over used and trustworthy blender. Mother or not, that’s not acceptable. She has chopped me into pieces, and I have allowed it. I will no longer be her doormat.

I have only spoken to my mother once since Thanksgiving. I know better than to see her in person. It is a toxic cocktail that has been Liquefied beyond recognition. She ends up screaming at me, calling me names, and blaming me for the condition of her life. It turns into a near boxing match and I find myself at the bottom of her blender. So, it’s better that we just have an occasional phone conversation. This one phone call lasted approximately 3 minutes. She told me how she was doing, and before I realized (because I have learned to zone out when listening) she was blaming me for not having a family. Yes, I have moved 30 minutes away. But the other 20 plus family members have their own reasons for not speaking with her. And I know that’s not my fault. So, I calmly said “Okay mom, that’s enough. I have to go. Bye Bye.”  I hung up, took a deep breath, and set my phone down. I no longer throw phones across the room when speaking with her because I now know that there is nothing I can do to fix her.  I will not take responsibility for the ingredients she has put in her blender. And I certainly won’t let her put me in it anymore. I may never become Un-crushed, but I know how NOT to Crush my children.

Unconditional Love + Humility = This Mom’s ingredients. Blend well.

Baggage Claim

handgunSaturday morning, I woke up to the remains of a dreadful dream. It sounds crazy, but I remember feeling relieved that I wasn’t waking up from a using dream, which has been an almost nightly occurrence.  I suppose being relieved that you have been shot by your ex-husband instead of having to fight over who gets the last chunk of crack at the bottom of a ziplock sandwich baggie is a strange solace, but it is what it is.

It’s like time has shifted, been altered somehow.  I am out of danger but all the while still living it.  I am still the same girl who was blind sided with a back hand, dropped to the rug, had her face kicked, and left to bleed.   A day I am reminded of daily while brushing my teeth when my bottom lip is stretched across my teeth I see the red bump he left there. It will never go away.  I can feel it whenever I want.  I can feel it now as I bite down on my lower lip.  It feels like there is a little ball the size of a BB trapped under my skin.  It doesn’t hurt.  It’s just there.   All I need to revisit that day is smile big in the mirror, ironically it’s nothing to smile over.

Let me begin by painting you a picture.  As I explained my worsening depression and anxiety to my therapist a couple weeks ago, she told me something I will never forget.  She explained how my brain had protected me for the past 11 years I spent in my old apartment before I moved 6 months ago.  The only home my children have ever known.  The same place all of the drug use and violence occurred which I often write about.  A place filled with ugly memories and tragedies.  Every wall in each room had a spot I had stared at during some violent struggle, whether physical or emotional, a place I fixated on wishing I could escape.  It was finally time to leave. With a series of what some may consider unfortunate events, (becoming unemployed, an altercation with the Landlord)  I was able to pack up and leave that dump behind.   Looking forward to a new start, I began unpacking in our new home.  I felt happy.  But, as the months passed, my mood began to deteriorate.  My anxiety peaked like never before.  I had nightmares.  I had using dreams every single night.  And as I mentioned above, I still am.  I couldn’t figure this out.  I haven’t used in years. Do my meds need adjusting?  I posted a story a couple months ago about fear of running out of my medication, but I found a doctor just in time and that was resolved. I reached out to a therapist to help me sort all this out.  During the 11 years that I lived in that apartment, my brain would not allow me feel certain things.  It was protecting me.  All of the trauma I endured kept me a prisoner not only in my own home, but in my mind as well.  My brain was on constant survival mode.  I couldn’t relax or let my guard down for fear of not knowing what was around the corner.  I was completely unaware this was happening. I knew I lived in fear much of the time, but I had no idea my brain was one step ahead of me, protecting me.  So when I moved.  I felt safe. A huge weight had been lifted and I could breathe again.  No longer was I looking at those walls hoping they would magically swoop me away or make me forget what was happening.  These walls are for pictures and for encasing love.  My brain decided it felt safe here as well.  It started to unpack all the memories and baggage it had been storing for all these years.  And my god there is a lot of it.  I haven’t felt safe since I was a small child.  Well, to be honest, I am not even sure I have ever felt secure.  That’s a lot of suitcases to start throwing on the floor.  It suddenly became clear as my therapist painted this picture for me why I was having nightmares, using dreams, anxiety attacks and constant bad memories when I was supposed to be feeling happy in my new home. My brain was one step ahead of me.  It felt safe and said “Ahhh, this is nice.  No more fear, we’re gonna be okay now, let’s get comfy, shall we?”

The dream occurred Friday night. Feel free to interpret.  I was with people from my last job.  A coworker, the owner, and the general manager.  I had the feeling I no longer worked for them, but was there for a meeting.  We were in a large trailer in my mother’s neighbor’s yard. Myself and the others listened as my coworker told me how much she appreciated me.  It was as if I was present for her review. When we were finished, I looked around a pillar of some sort, and I saw D (as I refer to him in my posts) and my three kids. In reality I only have 2 kids. The third child was a baby, maybe a year old, and in the dream I knew it was mine.  They were sitting in order of age, the baby being first, all sitting on a log that lies across the length of my mother’s house.  They kids were looking at him and he was looking at him.  My heart skipped when I saw this.  He wasn’t supposed to be there.  There is a protection order and only scheduled visits with certain people are allowed.  He is definitely not allowed anywhere near me.  The owner of the company said we should call the police.  I shuttered at that because I didn’t want to make a scene in front of the kids.  I assured her this time I could take care of it myself.  I walked over to the edge of my mother’s house where they were sitting.  I picked up the baby in a protective way as anyone with a baby would.  I told my children to stand up and come with me.  I told D sternly that next time he showed up I would call the police. The kids were transfixed on their dad.  I asked them again to get up, this time more firmly. This did. When I was secure that my kids were safe under my direction, I began to turn away.  Before I could turn, I saw D slowly pull out a gun from behind his back.  This all happened in slow motion.  He purposely missed the baby in my arms and shot me directly on the left side, my heart.  It’s like I saw the bullet curve in the air, or I suddenly and smoothly moved to the side to avoid the bullet like in the movies. Except I was protecting the baby in my arms. He then started shooting all the other adults in his range. The kids were untouched.  That’s when I woke up.

As if having this dream wasn’t disturbing all by itself, I should have seen it as a red flag.  Instead I chalked it up to being one of the suitcases my brain was so graciously dislodging from my brain onto the floor.  I had all day Saturday to think about this.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  How can one possibly forget the image of their ex shooting them in front of their children?  But that’s all it was.  A horrible image.  Sunday was fast approaching.  The kids were going to visit their dad.  Knowing full well the details and consequences of the Protection Order we’ve had been in place for at least 2 years, D decides to come along for the ride while dropping the kids off.  Not only was he 2 hours early with no phone call or warning, he was HERE.  In my driveway.  My new safe place.  What the hell is my brain supposed to do with all these suitcases now?  It’s like they are stuck in limbo.  My kids saw that I was pissed and naturally defended him, saying that he was reading directions, that it was dark and there’s no way he could ever find his way back here even if he tried.  I am not going to speak ill of their dad to them.  I don’t believe that is beneficial for anyone.  But I know my ex, and I know he was memorizing that address.  I am not being paranoid.  This is the same man who memorized every detail about me to take out dozens of credit cards in my name without any regard of the consequences, but only so he could get high.  I put absolutely nothing past him and his photographic, yet thoughtless mind.

Not only did he violate our Protection Order by coming near me and my home, he violated my newly regained sense of security by entering a space that belonged to only me and my family.  A space I have worked hard to reclaim.  I am not one to place value in premonitions, mainly because I’ve rarely seen them come to fruition. But also, since my dreams tend to be reminders of the past, not indicators of the future.  That is what makes this so significant and raises the hairs on my neck.  Not 48 hours before I let my children into his care, although supervised care, I had a dream, possibly a premonition revealing his character and therefore his intent.

I believe that the baby in the dream signified my new home.  It is something precious to me in many ways, it is new as a baby is new.  I want to protect it as it protects me. It is my safe place.  D was to never know of my whereabouts.  I hold this privacy and safety close to my heart as it is new and fragile, like a baby.  That bullet purposely missed the baby and went directly to my chest, my heart.  I am confident that D knew exactly what he was doing when he entered my driveway Sunday night.  He could have requested to be dropped off blocks away or at a local business or landmark.  He is not stupid. He knew full well what he was doing when he crossed that invisible line.  He was testing my boundaries.  He wants to see how far he can get, how much he can get away with.  He is a master manipulator after all. Although he is not stupid, he is idiotic enough to think I will let this go.  What he did was careless.  He had a serious lapse in judgement.  This shows me what is more important to him…testing me and my boundaries or being able to see his children whom he claims to love.

So this depression.  This anxiety.  These nightmares.  Because of my insightful therapist, I came to an understanding of why they were happening.  I was relieved to know that I wasn’t innately miserable, just decompressing, purging and adjusting.  I was preparing myself to go through the emotions and feel the effects of the trauma as it came.  Now, everything has changed. And I had no say in it. On this path to healing and learning to accept myself and be built up after years of being torn down, I am at a complete loss.  I now see his face when I glance at a window at night.  I don’t think he will come here.  But maybe that is the battered wife syndrome in me that never expects the worst and ends up on the evening news.

All I know is that I had dream that my ex violated a protection order…he did.  In my dream he shattered my security….he did.

What’s in a dream?

I would like to reclaim my suitcases, whether scattered on the floor or strategically placed on the shelves of my mind.  Because right now I don’t know where they are or what happened to their contents…. But in order to move on, I need to get them back.