Sunday, January 29, 2006

Everything went black

Last week I was working in Port Angeles, which is about a 3 hour commute from Seattle. We stayed at a hotel during the week and drove back on Friday. Working out of town is somewhat weird because you don't go home at night, and you spend most of your time with your coworkers. That is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you like your coworkers or they are interesting to be around. Besides eating and sleeping, you're mostly just working anyway. There is no time to think about much.

When I got in my car last Friday, I got a sinking feeling that is all too familiar. I am looking forward to 3 hours with only myself to keep me company. I kind of like the time alone to sing along to my music as loud as I can, but my mind wanders. I immediately started thinking about my brother, and by the time I was on the ferry, I was staring longingly at the black water over the side, thinking it was probably cold enough to kill me quick.

Even though I think of ways to commit suicide, I am not going to do it. It just feels good to think that I could, if I really wanted to. When I was in junior high, I planned to murder my dad. I picked some plants that he told me were highly poisonous (oh, the irony), and I was planning to put enough in his food to take him down. He was destroying me- my sanity, my life, my respect for myself, my ability to function. I hated the idea of being a victim my whole life. However, I ran into a bit of a problem. I was an animal activist at the time. I was a vegetarian because I thought it was wrong to kill animals. Regardless of whether I thought he deserved it or not, I thought it was wrong to kill my dad. I kept the plants for 4 years, in case I changed my mind, but I didn't.

I thought about killing myself instead. I kept thinking about it. My biggest shock when my brother committed suicide is that he did it instead of me. It makes me mad- I've spent so much time and energy planning to die, and yet I have never done it. He just went ahead and ended it all. I don't want to die, though. I think it would be wrong for me to kill myself. I think that if I were meant to die, a bus would hit me or something like that. Same for my dad. There must be another way.

Still I have destruction in me. I discovered drinking and smoking in high school. Drinking took away the discomfort I felt around other people, and smoking was my love affair with slowly killing myself. It felt so good to breath in the blackness- the blackness that surrounded my organs and pulled on my brain. The blackness that told me, you will never be good enough, not even your parents love you. When it enveloped me, I pretended I liked it and I didn't care anymore; I am not afraid of a future of depression and loneliness.

When my brother died, I spent my time alone with my agony. I cried on the bus to school, cried in the bathroom stall in between classes, cried at work in the storage room. My boyfriend at the time went to the funeral with me, but after he left me on my own to pursue his alcoholism. We didn't even break up in person because he insisted he was too busy to see me, even though we were living together. I felt like a fire had burned through me, and I was charred, black, and empty inside. I felt like I had died. I saw my brother in people on the bus and at school. I stared at the sky and wondered where he had gone. How can someone you love more than anything suddenly be gone forever? How is it possible for the little boy who used to come to you for comfort, pick up hunting rifle and put it in his mouth? How did he pull the trigger, knowing that he was saying goodbye to everything he cared about, his friends, his family, all his aspirations, and his future? I can't answer any of these questions, I can't even answer questions about myself.

Yet I think my brother and I really were the same in many ways. We thought so much alike that we called ourselves twins that were born at different times. The only difference is that I can't pull the trigger on myself. Even now that I'm recognizing how screwed up I really am, and not knowing how this will turn out and if I can make it better for myself and stop being a victim and a drama junkie and whatever else I am, dying is not an appealing escape to me. I wish my brother was here, and I would like to think he is in the Beautiful West at peace with himself, but I am not ready to join him yet.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Have a beer with fear

They walk among us. Guys that say insulting things to girls they supposedly like, on their birthday even. Last weekend we celebrated my birthday by going to a hockey game and then one of my favorite restaurants. The game was fun, but some drunk idiot boy insulted my friend. Then the manager at the restaurant, who has been asking me out for years, tells me I had better go out with him now or I'll miss my chance to have a baby with him since I'm getting so old.

What a messed up thing to say. Somehow I think I will survive not having his baby. But I couldn't help but wonder (get ready for the Sex in the City rip-off,) is dating based on fear? Actually, I don't think its based on fear, but there sure is a lot of it. Fear of dying alone, fear of intimacy, fear of commitment, fear of STDs (one of the most practical fears), fear of people thinking you're a loser because you're not coupled, fear there's no one out there for you, fear of being a childless wonder, fear of being under someone's thumb, fear of becoming a neurotic single person, fear of being cheated on and/or abandoned and/or hurt, etc.

So there can be a lot of fear. Some, or maybe a lot, of that fear comes from what we think other people think of us. A lot of the rest of it has to do with the fear of an unknown future. I guess things like marriage can feel like security, or prison with lots of torture. Maybe more like an insane asylum. This makes me think of my mom (especially the insane asylum part.) My mom is constantly afraid for me, even though I beg her to stop it. When I lived in S.F., she was afraid an earthquake would kill me. When I moved back to Seattle, she informed me that Mount Rainier could blow at any moment and kill everyone in Seattle. The irony here is that she lives next to a nuclear reactor.

However, her biggest fear in my behalf is that I won't have a man around to take care of me. I just want to take a moment to marvel at the ridiculousness of this. I'm an adult, an adult who, as a child, had parents who didn't even act like parents. Like many people with abusive, neglectful, and/or dysfunctional parents, I felt like I was more mature and capable than both of my parents from a young age. Why did I feel that way? Because my dad couldn't control himself and my mom, instead of dealing with the situation, retreated into herself and spend a lot of time, an entire year in one case, locked in her room all day, only coming out after everyone went to bed. I realize now that she was depressed, but at the time what I knew is that I came home from school and I couldn't talk to her, she didn't pay attention to me, and she didn't care for me. I was usually alone or being screamed at. One time I was so sick with a fever I started hallucinating. My dad, Mr. Angry, was trying to bring down my temperature with cool washcloths, while I screamed and screamed because I was so afraid of him. My mom was in the year of staying in bed, and I never saw her the whole time.

Even my mom is always saying how strong and capable I am, so much more than she is. She still plays the victim and acts as if all the problems in her life are beyond her control because she is so weak and helpless. She says that she married my dad because that's what women did, get married. I think there may have been something more to it than that. A couple weeks ago, I talked about being a drama junkie, which the book The Emotionally Abused Woman by Beverly Engel, gives a definition. I read this book 6 months ago, and I've been coming back to it (despite the irritating title). One of 2 family situations normally create drama junkies. The first is growing up in a chaotic home with fighting, abuse, and other disruptions. These people are so used to constant change, violence, and emergencies, they are also known as adrenaline junkies. (This is like me, by the way.) The other type, i.e. my mom, grew up isolated and without enough social stimulation. My mom grew up on a farm, where her nearest neighbors lived 3 miles away. She went to school in a 1-room schoolhouse for K through 12. Her parents did not express emotions; they never said they loved her. My dad was stationed at the military base nearby, and my dad is emotional, volatile, and unstable. Exactly the opposite of what my mom was used to, and wanted to get away from.

She tells me my dad showed signs of violence from the beginning of their marriage, but she did not think leaving him was an option because "you make your bed and you sleep in it". I could hear my parents fighting about how my dad treated me from the time I was 7. My mom threatened to leave him and take my brother and me with her, but it was an empty threat. She did not think she could make it on her own. That is when she got depressed.

I do not understand why she wants me to be with someone so much. I cannot imagine that she would want me to have her life, but I do feel like she wanted me to stay with the psycho even though he was so much like my dad, and I was scared of him. I have told her about my relationships, and she knows how miserable I have been in them, how I am attracted to people who are either emotionally volatile or unavailable. I recognize that I have a problem, and I do not want to get into another relationship until I figure things out. My mom, who gave up on men and is always telling me they all have problems and just want a woman to take care of them, is desperate for me shack up with the first available guy I lay eyes on. This makes no sense to me. My biggest fear is becoming my mom.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Drama Junkie

A couple days ago, I was going to lunch with a co-worker, but I had to stop by the post office to mail a book I sold online. My co-worker asked why I was selling my books, and I said, well, I move so often, I just thought it would be easier if I weren’t hauling around so many books. He asked how often I moved, and I told him about every 6 months. (I calculated it later, being the good accountant. I've averaged about 7 month at each place I've lived since I stopped living with my parents.) He was shocked, and asked why I move so often. (I don't think he knows how old I am, either. He'd probably be even more taken aback if he realized that I'm in my thirties and I still can't seem to stay in one place.) I said, oh, I don't know, I guess I like the drama.

This is one of the reasons support groups work for me. When I talk, it is so stream of consciousness that sometimes it becomes stream of unconsciousness, and I say something about myself that my conscious mind didn't realize. I hate the idea of being a drama junkie, but as soon as I said it, I realized it was true. My life is chaotic, and while I had no control over that when I was growing up, I have maintained that lifestyle as an adult. It's the only life I know.
One of the most frustrating, anger and depression-inducing and long-term damaging things about growing up in an abusive home is that it is so unpredictable. It's not as if every day, every second you're home the abuse is happening. Sometimes it seems very normal, you have meals together, you play with the dog, you go to the grocery store, and you even talk, laugh, and have fun together. You want to have a normal life; you want it to be okay, but you know at any moment, it could become a nightmare again. In a second, without warning, your dad is yelling and hitting you. Your parents are screaming. Your brother looks scared. You want to comfort him, but don't want him to be too close to you in case your dad starts throwing things at you. You don't move, because anything you do could attract his attention and he could start hitting you again, or screaming in your face.

You start to think that "normal", "calm", "stable", "happy" is a lie. It's a facade, an act your family puts on so the world doesn't know, and to make you think that you're crazy for wanting out of this screwed up family. You start to wonder if you are crazy, because even people from the outside- neighbors, teachers, friends, who find out a little of what is going on do nothing. Even your own mother does nothing but argue with your dad. It does no good, so why doesn't she leave and take my brother and I with her? Why didn't she call the police, or the ambulance, or take me to the hospital instead of leaving me in my room bleeding, in shock, and with a concussion after she watched my dad beat the crap out of me?

I fell into the punk and street culture in Seattle very easily. Most of my fellow travelers had been abused- physically, an alcoholic parent, sexual abuse and rape originating both from in and outside the family, neglect, and emotional abuse. (A local punk band, The Derelicts, had a song called “My Dad’s a Fucking Alcoholic” that everyone loved.) We called ourselves Ave Rats (after the Ave in the U-District). We were like rats- we lived on the edges of society and stuck together. It was dangerous. Frat boys, skinheads, and the police beat up my friends. A skinhead almost killed a friend by hitting him in the forehead with a wrench. The police could arrest and put in jail any of us for 24 hours without charges. (Yet, they didn’t arrest the skinhead who almost killed my friend.) Many of our own kind took their anger out on each other. My female friends and I kept a mental list of guys we had heard were rapists, and made sure none of them came near us. There was no end to the people who would try to take advantage of our age and desperation. Perverts would come to the U-District and try to solicit sex from us-girls and guys. (We told those guys what they could do with their money.)

The biggest danger, though, was drugs and alcohol. We had been put through hell growing up, the adults in our lives had betrayed us, and we felt rage, mistrust, and rejection from and towards society and authority figures. Most of us felt that no one cared about us, and we didn't care about ourselves. With intense fury at the world and self-loathing, drugs and alcohol provided the oblivion so many wanted.

There were accidents. Friends were hospitalized, arrested on drug, vandalism, theft, and assault charges. (Thankfully, I was never arrested.) One girl mixed alcohol and prescription drugs, and fell down an elevator shaft. She was paralyzed from the neck down. I watched as, one by one, my friends became heroin addicts and I said goodbye to them. Heroin turns a person into heroin. Their voice becomes heroin’s voice, they walk like heroin, and they have the personality of heroin. The traits, personality quirks, and sense of humor, emotions, and values that made someone a unique person that I cared about were swallowed up by heroin. I decided I needed to say goodbye to the scene and the lifestyle because self-destruction is not what I want.

It’s been a difficult transition though. Still. I feel guilty for leaving them behind, especially when I know that I am like them. That life is a part of me because it is an honest reflection of how a big part of me sees the world. We are one step away from violence, chaos, poverty, hunger, and addiction. People who experienced horrific abuse, violence, mental illness, and hardship, who struggle to live, surround us. Perverts, abusers, and sadists also surround us (often in positions of authority). Maybe some people tell themselves that they are different, that could never happen in their life, but I can find no comfort in that. I know I shouldn’t focus on these things, but I’ve seen it, and lived through it, and I can’t seem to switch gears and start thinking that I can trust people even though I haven’t been able to in the past, that I can be happy even though the whole idea has seemed like a lie to me.

I feel like I’m running from something, but I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s my dad. Maybe it’s my past. Maybe the problem is that I need to find a way to reconcile the bad and the good in my life, so that I can be happy while still acknowledging that there is a lot of unhappiness too. I think some people have a hard time accepting suffering. I have a hard time accepting contentment.

I continue to be attracted to chaos and drama because I’m used to it. I know how to deal with it. It seems like reality to me, instead of a pretense. Being comfortable makes me uncomfortable. I’m always waiting for it to blow up in my face. It feels like buying a house in a war zone. I’d rather keep moving, join one of the armies, or find a foxhole to hide in than sit in the house waiting for it to be blown up. (There I go again. It looks like I’m still in fight or flight mode. The third one is freezing. According to a book I’m reading, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine, humans and other animals will freeze if fight or flight doesn’t work. The problem is, freezing suppresses all the energy generated for fight or flight, and humans have a hard time working out that energy, which causes Post Traumatic Stress symptoms. That is, they’re still in fight, flight, or freezing mode.) Of course, probably the war is not really happening, at least not the way I think it is, and I would be safe in my house, but try telling that to my head, okay?

Sunday, January 08, 2006


There is so much I could write about it's hard to know where to begin. The time between New Year and my birthday has always been a transitional time. Contemplating the passing year and preparing for the New Year lasts the 3 weeks until my birthday for me. Just to make it even more intense, my brother's birthday is New Year's Eve. His 28th birthday really made me sad. It's hard to believe that he was only 19 when he died. He never even made it to his 20's.
All these negative emotions are coming up double right now- anger towards my parents, self-doubt about being able to make things better, feeling resentful towards my job but then blaming myself for not being more successful, and depression about where I'm at right now and missing my brother. I think it will get better, though. I'm painfully moody, but I think I just need to feel this way so I can let it go.

All this emotional stuff really started about 6 months ago, on the 4th of July. At the time I was pretty much feeling angry at the whole world, like nothing was going my way, and then I got an e-mail from "the psycho". The psycho is my ex-boyfriend. We went out for 4 years, and I left him 3 years ago because he was so controlling and jealous that I thought he would prevent me from finishing school. Since our breakup, he’d been harassing me. He doesn’t know where I live, but he did have my phone number and e-mail.

This was a typical e-mail, but ratcheted up a few notches. He said that the breakup was entirely my fault; I made him into an alcoholic, and closed with “if I see you I’ll show you how I feel about you”. I took that threat very seriously because one night during the time that I was trying to break it off with him, he became violently drunk and I thought he was going to kill me.
I was scared, but I finally got it. Why had I stayed with someone like that for so long? It’s not as if I just realized he was like this. From the beginning, he was possessive and manipulative. He tried to isolate me from my friends; he constantly put me down. He was the first person I went out with after my brother died. I felt guilty and responsible for Jeff’s death, and I was still grieving. I feel like the psycho took advantage of my emotional vulnerability, similar to how my dad became more abusive when I was hurting, like when my dog died and after I told him and my mom that my great-uncle was sexually abusing me. It was exactly the opposite of what I needed. I didn’t think I deserved comfort and sympathy after my brother died, even though that’s what I should have had.

Whenever I think about my relationship with the psycho, I get angry with my dad and sad about my brother. I feel so angry with my dad for teaching me that relationships are a power struggle with one person having everything their way and the other getting nothing, and that I don’t deserve respect and compassion. I feel sad that I’ve spent so much time feeling lost and alone since Jeff died. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve lost my direction. Jeff was the one person I really trusted. He believed in me, and that made me believe in me. But then he abandoned me, without even saying goodbye. That’s a loneliness that I don’t know will ever go away.

I finally realized when I got that e-mail that I was just facilitating the psycho’s harassment of me, so I changed my phone number and blocked out his e-mail. I was still scared, though. I was afraid of running into him, and didn’t know what I would do if he came at me. I kept telling myself that I would deal with it if it happened because I would have a panic attack when I thought about it. I haven’t actually seen him since I left 3 years ago.

A couple days ago, I was driving through Ravenna where he lives, and I decided to drive by his house. I do this once every six months or so, hoping to see my dog or cat (he won’t let me see them), or that he moved away. As I got close to the house, I saw a big “For Rent” sign in front. I also saw his car. Then I looked up at the porch, and I saw him. I stopped the car, and looked at him, and he looked at me. I started to smile. I drove away, still smiling. I felt a huge weight lift off me. He saw me, and nothing happened. I’m not afraid of him anymore.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Stuffy, snotty, ick

I had big plans for this week. After all, it is the first week of the New Year. Unfortunately, my body had other plans. Maybe because I was able to relax on vacation, or maybe being with my mom, and thinking about all the reasons I'm upset with her (maybe I'll write about that next week) brought on a stress reaction. It could be all the emotional work I've done. It's exhausting. Whatever it is, I am currently sick.

It started on Christmas Eve, while I was still in Mexico. I got a horrible stomach ache. I was a little worried because when we had gone to Chichen Itza (Mayan ruins) the day before, I had ran out of bottled water and brought tap water. I know, what was I thinking, but the hotel room said the water was purified, and the guidebook said it was a luxury hotel. How could a hotel be luxury if you can't drink the water? The water tasted like it came out of the toilet. Luxury or not, I was not filled with confidence.

So the stomach ache continued, although not as severe as before. By the time I dragged myself to the doctor last Thursday, I was also dehydrated, feverish, snotty, and had a sore throat. The doctor gave me Cipro, and put me on a Gatorade hydration diet. I figured I was good to go on my New Years Eve plans, so I headed down to Portland to see my friend. We planned to go to a Bollywood dance party, but it was sold out, so we ended up at a gay club instead. I've never been to a male strip club, but I imagine it would be sort of like this place on this particular night. We counted 23 shirtless guys, some of whom were also pantsless, and dancing on raised platforms in ways that straight guys would never dance. Most were also chiseled, and totally hot. Yes, they were gay, but there's no harm in looking. In fact, just looking was perfect.

You'd think that after that experience, the Cipro, and the vitamin and herbal tinctures my friend expertly treated me with all weekend, I would have come back strong and ready to kick ass. It's really a miracle that I came back at all, though, considering the number of times I had to pull over on the way back from Portland because I couldn't focus on the road. I am now full blown sick. Actually, yesterday I was so sick I couldn't write. Today I am better. Yesterday I went to the grocery store to get juice, and everything was going fine until I started coughing, and the whole store looked at me as if they thought I was going to cough up an elephant. I've produced enough phlegm to construct an elephant, that's for sure.

Being this sick and quarantined to my apartment is making me think about my hoarding problem. I am a ridiculous pack rat. I say ridiculous because it causes me problems. I can't find things, moving is a nightmare, it embarrasses me, and I actually keep things that upset me to look at, like things that ex-boyfriends gave me, e-mails they sent me, and a stupid amount of stuff that belonged to my brother. (When I look at my brother's stuff I want to wail with grief, yet I keep it around and feel guilty if I try to get rid of it. As if he cares. He is dead.)

I'm not sure why I have this problem, but there are a few Dr. Phil type possibilities such as, 1. my stuff is a physical representation of my psychological inability to let go, 2. it is an avoidance technique (concentrate on physical stuff rather than emotions), 3. my stuff is reliable and predictable, unlike the people in my life. I've had this problem since I was a kid, so it must be a coping mechanism for something that started back then. I suspect it's a combination of all three, although considering the way I feel now and the way I felt then, I think it has to do with feeling disappointed in my family and romantic relationships. I'm very clear about what my possessions do for me, but many of my relationships have seemed as substantial as smoke, especially after what I put into the relationship burned away.

I've made some progress since October of last year. I got rid of about half my clothes (part I brought to Goodwill, part I sold, the rest was stolen out of my car. That was weird.) I've been selling and giving away shoes, books, records, videotapes, and CD's. I really want to completely overcome this problem, and that will take focus. Today I deleted about 700 messages from my e-mail in-boxes. (The scary thing is that's only half.)

I feel significantly dragged down by the past. I know that the emotional work I'm doing will help, and I think getting rid of stuff that reminds me of the past will too. I feel a lot of anxiety when I am brought back to the past, which is often. A big issue for me in recent years has been ex-boyfriends refusing to leave me alone. That just happened last week when the last guy I dated, who was rude when we broke up and made a point of telling me not to ever contact him again, sent me an e-mail. I know it was just an e-mail, but after the experiences I've had with stalking and harassment, my heart stopped. I did not reply, and hope it does not happen again. My wish for the New Year is to be able to move on.