Déjà vu of the Weird kind

I just had one… Déjà vu! Yes, it was weird. I was just sitting at my desk, being snarky to someone in my imagination (Oh c’mon! You’ve Never talked to yourself?!!) and mentioned “high school” when I had a sudden ‘recollection’ that I’d somehow had to go to school – K-12 – before I would be accepted into college. This was weird because, in this déjà vu (or dream?) I managed to do this in the Few Months before I actually started college. Except that I didn’t…

I have well detailed recollections (déjà vu’s) of doing each and every grade, all the assignments, sitting in each class and somehow Not feeling like the odd-woman-out because of my age. In real life, I was in my 40s when I started college. In this déjà vu, meither students nor teachers treated me any different than any of the other students.

As far as I can recall, this was probably the recollection of a dream I had a few years ago, though it sure did feel like a déjà vu!

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Relapse

A friend relapsed. It pains me to see this because I Know what it feels like. Despite the fact that addiction is a DISEASE we are fighting, we are hounded by our own negative judgments of ourselves. “I should know better,” “I am worthless,” “I can’t do anything right,” “I should be able to control it better.” At some level, some of us even convince ourselves that others believe these things to be true about us too.

The fact is that recovery – a life-long process – teaches us that ‘control’ has nothing to do with it. In fact, it is the very thought that we somehow can ‘control it’ that drives many of us to relapse. It is also the fact that many of us end up despairing over so many things we simply can’t control. We get depressed and our thoughts end up backing up, like a toilet, in our heads. That last part is largely what drove me to relapse in 2012.

Part of my despair for my friend is my own issues of control. I can’t control what other people choose to do, and even though it’s the disease exerting itself over us, there is a certain amount of choice involved in taking that first drink. Another AA friend says they believe that we plan each and every relapse. It’s in our heads before we actually act on it. I believe this is true. I was planning my relapse – even if it was in my sub-conscious – for years before it happened. The closer I got to the actual relapse, the more the idea came to the forefront.

I know it was Very Hard for my friend to admit the relapse to me and I Applaud her and everyone else who has the strength to do so!

I invite everyone to do one thing the next time you make assumptions about either yourself or what others might think of you (yes, even those of you who aren’t addicts). Do a reality check. Did someone Actually Say it to you, or are you ‘reading between the lines’ of something they did say? If that’s the case, check it out. ASK them what they meant. Or, choose to leave it alone and realize that reading between the lines does you no good whatsoever. Are you assuming things to be true about yourself because of a negative self-image you have? Take stock in what you DO have – ACTUALLY HAVE. Do you have clothes to wear, food to eat, family and friends who love and care for you, people who miss you when you’re gone, a faith that sustains you? These are the Important things in life, and they are the things we need to cling to when we start despairing.

I have lived most of my adult life with depression. It is debilitating to say the least. It has landed me in the hospital more times than I can count (or remember for that matter!). It is still an uphill battle for me and many days that hill is STEEP! I have made those assumptions that nobody cared about me, and for me, I could back it up with what I thought were facts. BUT, I wasn’t checking the facts! I was Assuming I knew what they were based on things people were doing or not doing. It’s easy to assume nobody loves or cares about you when nobody calls. The thing is this – it is MY responsibility to call too! I found out that it is possible to drop off people’s radars just by not socializing, not calling, not showing up to life.

We deserve to have a life, but we need to Participate in it too! Stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides because you never know what’s going on inside their heads!

To those who relapse… I Care!

Self Confidence, Sobriety, and Mental Health

I’ve always struggled with self-confidence. It didn’t help that I had a dad who Never complimented me or told me anything I did was in any way ‘right’ or ‘ok’. Mom didn’t help since she was just plain emotionally absent. My oldest sister ended up taking the reins from mom and did her best. Life’s a struggle on the best of days with that kind of upbringing. What it did to me was leave me with Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, and addiction issues. I don’t trust people to be ‘good’ to me because I really don’t feel I deserve it.

I hit a point sometime in 2012 where I just said ‘fuck-it’ and started drinking again after 25 years of sobriety. My ‘rationale’ (hardly rational at all) was who was going to notice one more person drinking? Who would notice just another alcoholic buying booze again? This is apparently a departure from many of my AA cohorts who took great pains to hide not only their drinking but how much they were buying as well. I didn’t care. I don’t answer to anyone in my home because I live alone. Plus, I knew I was an alcoholic so no one could surprise me with that information. I admit feeling a need to hide it from my sisters, but that didn’t stop me from indulging in some wine at my nephews wedding…. Right in front of everyone. Oddly enough, no one noticed! It took my own body rebelling against me to get me started on sobriety and improving my life. Pancreatitis is funny that way. And Fucking Painful!!!!

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve taken a more active role in my own mental health. It really couldn’t improve without Some sort of cooperation on my part anyway! After a five-year relapse, I entered outpatient treatment in June of 2017. My resolve was set. I would make the best I could of treatment and AA. I had already started attending AA twice a week before treatment even started. I’ve posted about Suburban North Alano which is where I now go for my three meetings a week.

It’s been an interesting road so far. I’ve met many interesting people and watched and listened to them tell their stories. We are a lovely, loving bunch of people intent on keeping our sobriety. We have a disease that we all know can kill us.

I have also had a struggle that started in November of 2017. Let me say first that before starting AA, or having pancreatitis, I had become a hermit, a recluse. I hated leaving my apartment but would do so in order to earn money at my part-time job and do the necessary shopping that needed to get done. I don’t know if Instacart was a god-send or a curse for people like me, but I was making more and more use of it. Also, Doordash and Bitesquad… W.A.Y. too much money for food delivery, but great if you didn’t want to go out. Again… blessing or curse? I don’t know.

The point is I was not used to dealing much with humans, much less in groups. Having finally figured out what the fuck BPD was and how it affected me, I had determined, based on previous (bad) experiences that dating was a bad idea for me – at least for the foreseeable future. AA only added to that need because taking on someone Else’s problems, plus the nearly inevitable need to ‘fill’ that aching emptiness inside is usually a pretty bad recipe for a disastrous relationship.

Back to November 2017. I had been talking to someone both before and after meetings Very regularly. I wasn’t doing it to flirt, only reaching out to someone I had something in common with and to find out what he knew that maybe I didn’t. We seemed to have ‘things’ in common, addiction being the primary thing, and we talked quite easily. Apparently my heart was developing different ideas.

One night when he approached me after a meeting – nothing special, just the same as always – it hit me like a ton of bricks!

Let me segue here for a minute to tell you that being emotionally overwhelmed is one of the characteristics of BPD and was the primary reason I had decided not to date – it was too painful. I much preferred staying on an even keel.

It was Great and it Sucked All At Once. Great because suddenly I knew I could feel that way for someone, but it sucked even more because, no matter what he felt, I knew I couldn’t have him. Also, he attended the same two meetings I was going to so I couldn’t get away from him.

My emotional even keel sank like a rock. I was beside myself for months after that, not knowing what to do, debating whether or not to go to meetings, wanting but not wanting to see him. One night I stood up from my desk at home and told myself I was quitting AA meetings! Then I sat down and knew I Had to go, and I had to do Something about this problem. I needed his cooperation. I didn’t fall for a pig (as had been typical of me so many times in the past), he was a nice, reasonable guy. In the world of scary things, telling someone who may or may not be interested in you that you like them – even if it was to strike a bargain – is definitely up there! My interest was not to find out if he was interested in me, but to find out if he would be willing to split the two meetings with me. We both needed meetings, and, from my understanding, he was going to meetings 2 to 3 times per day. At the time, I only had the two. He was quite reasonable, even telling me he was flattered and that he was fine with splitting the meetings.

It fell apart before it even began.

After a month or two, he stopped going to both meetings. At first, I was worried for him. Then I realized that this was what I needed and settled in to get some serious meeting time. I also added a third meeting to my schedule – a women’s meeting.

Eventually he came back, and I started to obsess. I thought at first that it would be ok, but the more time that went by the worse it got.

We had talked about so many things and my mind kept playing with idea that he ‘might’ be attracted to me. One of the things he told me when we met that one time was that he can take up to a couple of years to even start a relationship after meeting someone. My busy brain had a field day with that.

Being alone is not conducive to getting over an obsession. Facing him in the same meetings for so long didn’t seem like the right thing to do to get over it either, so in January of this year, I quit going to both those meetings. I’d hit a wall.

I couldn’t stand not going though! Those two meetings were my Home meetings and I Love them both! I missed them both! Eventually I realized that I needed those meetings more than I needed to worry about whether or not he liked me. I also realized – drove it into my head – that he was not interested in being anything more than friends with me, and I refuse to entertain ideas that suggest otherwise.

He has, yet again, stopped coming to both of those meetings, at least for the last couple of weeks since I restarted them. AA is – in my life – not a tool for dating!

By the way, there has been one man in my life who is my soul mate and who has always done right by me. He is my BFF.

So… drama happens no matter what I do. I just want to keep it simple, go to my meetings, enjoy my friends there, and stay sober.

Memes and PTSD

First, the memes that caught my attention recently:

“I disagree with you. It doesn’t mean I dislike you or that I’m mad at you. It just means that like you, I have my own opinions. I won’t treat you disrespectfully just because we share differing opinions. Give me the same respect.”

“Don’t you wish men could experience the full body tension you feel when there’s a male nearby and you’re scared something bad is going to happen?”

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real thing that affects roughly 5% of the adults in the U.S. at any given time. Statistics say that as many as 70% of US adults have had some sort of event that can or will result in PTSD.

I live with PTSD. It feels a lot like a ‘blame-game’ trying to figure out where it all came from but let’s face it… as children many of us didn’t have the tools to really know what was happening to us – whether it was good or bad, off the wall, abusive, or even ‘normal’ by anyone’s standards. So, I think my childhood trauma responsibility rests solely with my parents. Yes, as an adult, I can attempt to understand how they fucked up and I continue to try, but I can’t fully understand the depths of their – or my – fuckedupedness.

By the way…did I mention that I swear? You know your options if you don’t like it.

Anyway, the PTSD events didn’t stop at childhood. My first rape was at the age of 14 ½ and he took my virginity.

There was also a string of ‘not-so-nice’ men in my life both before and after I was married. Well… mostly after I was married.

Further along in life I ended up getting fired from not one but TWO jobs in a row for no better reason than “It’s just not working out.” Ummm… What? And that happened AFTER I sobered up! Come to think of it, I didn’t get fired from jobs Before I quit drinking! Ugh. The job I ended up at – again referring to Hennepin County – after those two firings was a union job and I Thought I would be safe from being fired. That’s all well and good…. In Theory… but it doesn’t account for the Assholes who think they can mentally and emotionally Abuse and harass you to get you to leave because they don’t like you.

Side note here: I was and will always be a Top-Notch worker. If someone is willing to pay me to do a job that I am capable of doing, I Always give it Everything I Have. An example of that would be the job at Hennepin County where, during the first six months, I out-performed my predecessor so well that not only did I get an Unheard-of double bump in pay, but also an award for my accomplishments!

Six and a half years later I had to go on medical leave because of all the abuse they heaped on me. Again, I’ll go into that in a later post.

On a day I thought was just another day in the life of my job there, I was leaving to go to my much-needed meeting with my therapist when my boss approached me. She was visibly angry and demanded to know where I was going (it was the middle of the day). I Reminded her that I had an appointment I had requested leave for at least a week prior to that. She waved that off and told me that I should be prepared for a meeting the next day. I was thinking it was just a staff meeting until she said, “oh, and You probably want your union rep with you.”

………………

The trip between where I worked and the office of my therapist was approximately 10 miles. It involved me finding my car in the maze of the parking garage downtown, navigating out of downtown, finding my therapists office, and getting all the way into the waiting room. If I had not done it before, I might have ended up anywhere else. I mentally shut down after that last comment from my supervisor and don’t remember another thing until I ‘came to’ crying in the waiting room at my therapist’s office.

That was my last day of work and the last full-time job I was ever able to do.

One of the difficulties in getting over PTSD for me is the BPD diagnosis in addition to trying to differentiate between negative depressed thoughts and thoughts that are positive and productive. I’m not used to thinking positive thoughts. I wasn’t raised that way and hadn’t, until the last couple of years, figured out that the problem actually is in my thought processes. That doesn’t mean ‘it’s all in my head’ though that’s certainly part of it.

Yet another challenge is getting it through my thick skull that the shit that happened to me in the past is actually Only In The Past. Someone reminded me of that yesterday. My parents are dead so there’s no more abuse coming from them. My rapists are no longer in my life so that’s not happening either. Also, I have NO intention of going back to working for the government in Any capacity.

By the way, I did love my parents even though they really were clueless about how to parent.

Well that’s enough for today. I may revisit this topic.

Pain

Mental, emotional, physical. It doesn’t really matter… it all hurts. All of them can steal your mental health from you.

I’ve had all of the above. In fact, for the last several years, I’ve had increasing physical pain due to diagnoses of fibromyalgia, osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis. Generally speaking, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is when your immune system starts attacking the healthy cells in your body. Yup, my body is slowly killing me. I suppose its retaliation for all the times I tried to do it myself.

Well I’m 60+ years old. I guess I might have suspected that since both my parents were taking prescription pain medications (not opiates) from sometime in their upper 50’s, it stood to reason I might experience ongoing pain too. I do. Persistent. Daily. All-Over pain. I’m not happy about it, but I do whatever I can to keep it at bay. I try to keep consumption of things like Tylenol and Advil to a minimum in order to spare my liver and kidneys – both of which have had problems over the years.

With all this physical pain comes emotional pain. I can’t help but wonder if – maybe – I was Hitler in a previous life and I’m paying for it now! Sure, would be nice to know what I’m being punished for… assuming there’s some sort of angry, spiteful deity involved. If not, it’s just bad luck and, more likely, a really bad diet and exercise regimen.

Seriously, if you’ve got a good diet going (good portion control, good food choices), and a good exercise regimen going, Keep It Up or Suffer The Consequences! I exercised during my 30s and 40s from three to six times a week and usually felt like I’d just had a good tune-up when I was done. Don’t ever let life-circumstances drive you away from doing what’s good for you. If you have the disease of addiction, that goes double for you! Why? Because we tend to put our addictions before Everything Else that is important in our lives! When I started slacking off on my exercising, I was being emotionally and mentally beaten down by that job at Hennepin County. Ultimately, I ended up quitting my Lifetime membership. Even after I bought a Bowflex, I didn’t manage to re-establish a workout regimen. I’m not saying you’re like me… at least I hope you’re not!

You Do Not Want This Pain!

Then there’s avoidable pain. Those kinds of pain usually involve being abused by someone else. I know people currently living in those situations and my heart aches for them. For my part, I need to remind myself that I have no control over what they do for themselves.  I have no control over the choices they make. It is, in my estimation, a sort of addiction by itself. If I had to face an extreme change in my life, depending on what it was, I doubt if I’d do it willingly. There is comfort, even in pain, as long as it is something we can count on. People who aren’t in the throes of it will not see it that way, but I can. Quitting drugs and drinking was HARD too. Quitting a life you’ve grown used to is just as hard. That’s why I call it an addiction. There is denial and fear – two driving forces – involved in staying in an abusive relationship.

Maybe ‘avoidable’ wasn’t the right word. “Normies” (those people who don’t have addiction issues) can successfully ‘avoid’ drinking and drugs without batting an eye. If abusive relationships really are addiction, then ‘choice’ is absent. We can be addicted to just about anything, so I’ll take back my ‘avoidable’ statement.

You know who you are… Know that I Love you All and send you healing thoughts Daily.

Struggles and Beliefs

I struggle with anxiety. It produces a lot of stress in my life. This is leftover from my days at Hennepin County. I’ll tell that story at some future point, but for now, suffice it to say that it was a nightmare for me.

The anxiety is a daily battle for me, causing difficulties from controlling my thoughts to literally remembering to breathe. DBT says that people need to do a reality check on their thoughts if they find themselves too distressed about them. When I remember to do this (and that’s the key), it works to help alleviate some anxiety.

Breathing exercises are good too since I do have difficulty remembering to breathe. I’ve had asthma since I was quite young, and they tell me it has developed into COPD. Having asthma and forgetting to breathe is a stressor by itself.

I am not without support though. Other than my therapist, I have my AA groups. I’m one of the lucky ones, having found some groups that I absolutely Love! When I got sober the first time (11/17/86), I was going to a group at the church I was born and raised in. It did not have the structure or diversity that Suburban North Alano has. People are different everywhere you go and the people at the Alano are so much more loving and caring than at that church meeting.

I could wander into the ‘what-ifs’ about back then versus now, but we all know that’s a waste of time and energy.

Anyway, I have some opinions that not everyone will agree with. I hate the orange one… you know… DJT… I won’t even type the name, much less say it because words have power and I don’t want to give him ANY more power than he already has. He is a liar and a criminal and the people who put him in office are No Better Than Him. I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who has No tolerance for political discussions with republicans.

I believe in Choice for women. No one tells me what to do with My body, much less my life! I believe that the taking away of that choice would lead to fewer freedoms for women overall.

I also do not believe in any version of god that demands worship. God is a man-made concept. The bible is just a book… written by people who could well have decided to build a great Fictional story around a character named Jesus. One way or another, the bible was written by human beings. As is true of my belief in choice, I will never deny anyone their belief in any god of their choosing. I do believe that people need to believe in something greater than themselves and it’s not up to me to tell them what that is. Also, I have no tolerance for people who try to push their religion on others.

I think that’s enough for one day. What do you think?

Jenny n’ Me, etc…

So I’ve been reading Jenny Lawson’s books recently. I hope it’s ok to mention her by name in here. I want to quote some of the things she has written as they pertain to me and my mental / emotional health (or lack thereof). I wrote this today in my personal journal:

I found a passage in Jenny Lawson’s book that applied to me. As follows:

“By age seven I realized that there was something wrong with me, and that most children didn’t hyperventilate and throw up when asked to leave the house. My mother called me “quirky.” My teachers whispered “neurotic.” But deep down I knew there was a better word for what I was. Doomed.

“Doomed because every Christmas I would end up hiding under my aunt’s kitchen table from the sheer panic of being around so many people. {replace “Christmas” with any and every event my parents held – cabin or home. Hiding under the kitchen table never accomplished much} Doomed because I couldn’t give a speech in class without breaking into uncontrollable hysterical laughter as the rest of my classmates looked on. Doomed because I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that something horrible and nameless was going to happen and that I was helpless to stop it.” ~Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (emphasis and comments added)

That is sooooo me, for my entire life! That was what was happening when Guy found me during one of the family parties at the cabin – I was inside while everyone else was outside. I think I also did this during holiday parties. I remember hiding in an upstairs bedroom at Uncle Bob’s house, usually to be found by Bob eventually. His felt more like an invasion unlike when Guy found me, though. At mom and dad’s house, I would either go to my room or to the basement… or the bomb shelter. For some reason, whenever I would make my exit, it seemed like people would start meandering around and eventually find me. It’s funny how abandonment issues developed out of such a childhood.

I do have abandonment issues… along with a whole host of other problems, including Borderline Personality Disorder. You can Google that, but know that what you might find could scare the shit out of you. Don’t worry… those are Worst Case Scenarios. We’re not All homicidal psychopaths. I mostly struggle with having relationships. In the late 80s and early 90s I lost two jobs back to back likely because of my challenges in having ‘normal’ relationships. People tend to get offended by things I say or do.

Of course it doesn’t help that as a defense mechanism to being abandoned, I tended to push people out of my life. I’ve lost some pretty wonderful people because of that.

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at having started this blog, but I want people to know what I feel from day to day (or however often I end up writing in here).

I understand the value in keeping blog posts short, so I’ll end this one here.

Love to all….

Pat