There are very few photos of me where I am smiling or resemble anything that identifies as happiness. And there have been even fewer smiling photos than usual this year.
But today I was given some wonderful news, I saw my orthopaedic surgeon – who gave me the go ahead to play guitar *regularly*. Some of you may know that I am a classical guitarist, who has for the last several months (which felt like 10 years) has not been able to play due to a bone fragment from my elbow wrecking havoc with the ulnar nerve.
I got the swelling down to an almost manageable amount (its decreased in size by half), and my movement is good. Although, I am still struggling with rotation of my arm, in both directions. There is not a whole lot of feeling in my fingertips -but that should come back in time.
I probably should mention that I am playing because of twice weekly physio and acupuncture sessions, and once a week lesson in Alexander Technique. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I am celebrating this milestone. I have worked hard. HARD!
Anyway, today is a really special day – I am excited and happy. I sound absolutely terrible, but I must tell you – its the most glorious sound in the world.
I practiced for 28 minutes. 17 of those minutes were actually spent playing. I aim to be playing an hour a day, by the end of September.
Its 3AM and I have just woken from a recurring nightmare. I’m covered in cold sweat, I desperately need a shower, but I can’t move from my bed. It is hard for me to move around when its so dark outside. In fact, I have started going to sleep before the sun sets, because it feels safer. But I’m kidding myself. I don’t sleep, not really. Sleeping an hour or less at a time isn’t really sleep. It definitely isn’t restorative. I go to “sleep” so early, to stop myself from thinking about my past.
It’s May, and this is when my PTSD symptoms are the strongest. Historically its been like that. The more I try to cope with them, the worse it gets. Its at a point now, where I am unable to answer the phone (something that I need to do for work). I have to force myself to go outside, but unless I am wearing the darkest sunglasses -that filters out all colours, I can last about 5 minutes. Its just too green here. And green is harmful.
I don’t know why this time of year is so hard. While I remember just about every detail of my rape (I was a kid)- I don’t have any idea of when it happened. It could have happened in May – it was a warm day after all. No one was wearing a jacket, and the sun was out. But this is the time of year where its hardest to breathe, hardest to stay calm, hardest to sleep, and hardest to function like a normal person.
But I am approaching an anniversary of something else. Something that I never talk about. There are only two other people who even know it happened besides myself. One, my doctor who explained to me what happened, and a friend who I am no longer in contact with – who tried to help me figure out why it happened,
Several years ago, I was raped by my boyfriend. Note – this is my very first time calling this rape. We had been dating for about six weeks, and during an intimate moment he decided that he had waited long enough. I didn’t stop him. I was unable to speak. I was paralyzed with fear. Frozen. It was not my first time. But I was not ready. We hadn’t established a ring of trust where I was comfortable enough to be with him. After it was over, the sheets of my bed were covered in blood. He freaked out, and I spent the next 3 hours crying in the bathroom, He later told me that it wasn’t his fault. That the way men are wired, once they are aroused they can not stop. It is inevitable. This was my fault.
I knew about date rape, but I didn’t consider what had happened to be that. I hadn’t been drugged – and that is pretty much how I thought date rape occurred. I certainly didn’t think that boyfriends did this to their girlfriends. Which is why I didn’t consider it to be abuse of any kind. A girlfriend took me to see a doctor, when I told her about what happened. How empty and devoid of meaning it was. How it hurt. How there was so much blood. I was adamant that this was my fault. At that moment I didn’t think he had done anything wrong. He had patiently waited for six weeks. I owed him this. These were my thoughts. Other than him telling me that men can’t stop once they start – is the only thought of his that I know about – regarding this situation. I have no idea if he has ever thought twice about this. He broke up with me two days later. It would have been earlier, I am sure -but I couldn’t pick up the phone.
It took a visit to a doctor, a visit that I never want to have to repeat because it was so humiliating, to learn about consent. That while consent is mostly verbal it can also be physical. I learned that what my boyfriend said to me was not actually true. That just because you are in an intimate moment – if you are scared (and by scared he meant paralyzed by fear) partners pick up on this. A loving partner will not want to hurt you. That they will take that moment to discover what is wrong. its an opportunity for conversation. To make you comfortable, because that will be important to him.
I run into that “boyfriend” now and again. He was a new girlfriend or wife. He always introduces me as “Tiffany”. I have no idea why. That isn’t even remotely close to my name. But it hurts me just a little bit more when he does it. That I wasn’t worth just a little bit of effort to properly remember my name. I am more angry at myself than I am at him, now. I wont confront him about it. I just need to make peace with it.
I don’t talk about that time of my life, because I don’t like to remember how naive and stupid I was/am. This story gets worse before it gets better, I am sad to say. But eventually I find some strength. I moved on from that time. But occasionally it comes up (like it did tonight), and I struggle to make sense of it. As for the childhood stuff – I will never make sense of it. That doesn’t feel real, even though it is the most real thing that has ever happened to me.
Most of the time, I can recognize the strength it took to survive this – and the other stuff (and there is other stuff- stuff just as dark that went on for a long time), but right now these thoughts feel like they are killing me. They are attacking me from all sides, when Im not looking. They are in my dreams, I feel them around me always.
I want to walk in the sunlight. In order to do that, I need to crawl out from under the covers, and show my face to the world. Here I am. Please be kind.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with doors. Behind doors lay magical worlds. Talking creatures that were not human lived just on the other side, colours not found in our world existed there, grand adventures were to be had, but most of all behind special doors there was a place where anxiety couldn’t survive.
In the house I grew up in, closets were a special fascination. My house had huge closets. Walk-in closets, closets that could be used as clubhouses, and hiding places. Closets that could be used to escape from the noise. These were places where I could escape from myself.
These closets were big enough to drag in cushions, and mattresses, and pillows, and piles of blankets. I could bring in a stack of books, a flashlight, and mugs of iced tea, and I would be happy there for days. Sometimes I skipped sleeping in my own bed just so I could stay in that world a little longer.
Today the start of (what I call) the PTSD season snuck up on me. It does so every year. I don’t ever realize its approaching until its here – and I have a panic attack so bad that I don’t think I can survive – in case you are wondering, I did survive. But I am now aware that for the next 6-10 weeks, life is about to get a bit more challenging.
And right now, the only thing I want, is a closet big enough to drag in an air mattress, and take a flashlight, some books, and a big mug of iced tea, and move to a land (albeit temporarily) where anxiety doesn’t exist.
This is me. I don’t always look like I this, but I pretty much always feel like how I look in this photo. Scared, exhausted, and like I have just gotten my ass kicked. Also I pretty much always feel like I am six years old.
Over the past couple of years, there has been a great deal of change in the way I see myself. I have had a great deal of help from both professionals and friends- and I have come along way. But there is one area that needs a great deal of work still. I don’t actually believe that I am deserving of a good life. Professionally I mean. I have made great strides in my personal life – but I kind of forgot that there is a whole other part of my life that needs attention. And so recently I started thinking about this area.
I am a classical musician – but due to injuries I am unable to play music. I have had a teaching practice -that I have set aside for awhile, since it wasn’t working out the way I had planned, and I am was a member of a quartet, that has just started to do a lot of performing. Since I am unable to play (until at least July 1) I had to find a replacement. I have a lot of practice ahead of me, if I am to come back to where I was as a musician -and we don’t quite know yet if I will get there, even with all that work. My musical life is the only place I feel validated. When I play music I feel like I am contributing. I feel valued and respected. This is all on hold now, while I heal. And all of these feelings have gone away.
I also have a day job. And this is where my problem lies. I have dreams. Professional dreams. I want a job that is creative. I want a job that makes me happy. I want a job that challenges me. I want to be able to feel good about what I do. And I want to enjoy going to work everyday. I have none of these things. Why? Because I don’t actually believe that I should be allowed to have them.
I had great role models growing up. I grew up in a house, where not only did my mother work, and work hard, but she was incredibly successful. She made sure that I knew that I could do anything I wanted. She instilled a sense of independence in me. That stuck -I am incredibly independent. I don’t need help from anyone. I can take care of myself. And I do. But I am unhappy.
A long time ago, someone treated me like a garbage can (actually worse-but its too painful to talk about). And that feeling stuck. I have never been able to shake it off. I don’t believe people unless they say terrible things about me. I just don’t think they are truthful unless they are telling me I am useless. Probably why I can’t actually count on anyone to be sincere, unless they are angry at me. I feel better when I have goaded someone into telling me that they don’t like me. I have done this to my own family, more times than I can count. I know this is self destructive behaviour. And I have worked so hard in order to move past it. I have successfully culled toxic relationships, and built healthy supportive ones. For the first time in my life, I have a support system in place. And yet I am still broken.
I work hard. But I am unable to ask for simple things like a raise. Or for a job that I would be better suited at. I can’t even quit a job that I don’t enjoy, or one that I am not good at. I am not afraid of rejection – I have had plenty of rejection in my life. But I can’t even bring myself to be put in a position of rejection. I am unable to do anything – because I am terrified. Paralyzed. Afraid of being happy.
Because I am a garbage can. Suited only for containing trash.