Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Death Day

Today turned out to be my last day of questionable eating (and the day I fixed, hopefully all, the multitude of grammatical errors in my last post). This was the third and final day of IFRS training, and I was taken in by temptation. I drank coffee with cream and ate a croissant for breakfast, ate cheese and meat for lunch (sandwiches without the bread, a croissant is one thing but regular bread scares me), and a coke. By the end of the day I had a horrible stomachache, headache, and gas.

I went to get my waxing and nails done after work because I thought it would be relaxing. Funny how getting hot wax smeared on my crotch and having the hair ripped out, and then having someone scrub my feet while I try not to flinch or squeal or kick her is something I interpret as relaxing. The massage chair can wipe away a lot of discomfort. The woman I try to get for my waxing, Amy (probably not her real name) I've been going to for 3 years. She is quite perceptive- I told her I was single and she never asked about it for 2 years, and then as soon as I started dating JW she asked me if I had a boyfriend and said I seemed happy. Anyway, she commented on my pudginess. She managed to make a comment about my belly sticking out more than before not seem completely insulting, but it still strengthened my resolve. That, and half the women who work there wear these cute jeans and I currently can't fit into my cute jeans. Being told by a tiny Asian woman in cute jeans that I'm "curvier" is really motivating me to lose weight.

It is over though. I am ready to attempt life improvement through healthy eating. I had brown rice and vegetables for dinner. I am nervous about tomorrow, mostly about going all day without coffee. I will drink black tea though. I will drink black tea and celebrate my commitment to the new diet. I will also celebrate that tomorrow will be the day after the anniversary. My brother died 13 years ago today. I have been experiencing waves of sadness at random times during the day. I came home and finished unpacking his stuff that I still had boxed up in the corner since moving into this apartment. It has been haunting me all this time, but it is done. The possessions of his I treasure the most is the pottery he made himself. It is all out on the table with his pictures now. Tomorrow my boyfriend is coming over to help me sort through some of my piles and start listing things on eBay and Amazon. Mostly, it will be good to work on my organizational plan together since I'm starting to feel isolated and weird, looking at my brothers things and all sorts of pictures and objects that remind me of the past. I want to get back to the present. That's one of my main reasons for wanted to get rid of a lot of this stuff. It ties me to the past, a past I don't want to feel like a weight around my neck. I don't want my past to feel like a burden anymore.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Unpimp my life

I've been feeling pretty crappy lately. Of course, it's kind of hard to tell if I've been feeling worse than before, and determining why I feel crappy is nearly impossible. Is it because my sleep is bad, anxiety, other PTSD symptoms, my notoriously poor digestion, coffee addiction related to my sleep problems causing stomach issues and headaches and migraines, food allergies, my body struggling to process the antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicines I'm taking, dealing with my emotional backlog... I could go on. I do know that usually when I'm having a lot of headaches and stomach pain, going on a very restrictive diet usually helps. My theory about my body is that the anxiety and PTSD causes my poor digestion. It is hard for my body to focus on processing food when I have so much else going on, and things like adrenaline screw you all up because when you are afraid your body figures digestion is a low priority. So when I eat "normally", that is, how most Americans would eat, my body practically shuts down because my digestive system just can't handle it. Even now, avoiding gluten (i.e. bread, pasta, flour tortillas) and dairy, it's better than it would be but I still feel tired and sluggish a lot. I'm really not a big fan of meat and would prefer to be a vegetarian except that I get iron deficient easily. I come close to being a vegan if I'm a vegetarian since I can't eat dairy anyway. When I was on the streets, I knew a lot of moral vegans, so I know that being a vegan is a lot more challenging than just not eating meat and dairy. A true vegan doesn't wear or use leather or wool, consume anything that contains animal products such as gelatin (including some vitamin capsules), or otherwise make use of anything that comes from an animal. On top of all that, I am chemically sensitive. MSG = very bad. Artificial sweeteners = very bad. I am already dedicated to only using makeup that doesn't have freaky chemicals in it.

I am also dieting right now = pain in the ass. I still haven't lost the weight I gained when my knee injury kept me from playing hockey, which was 10 pounds. I don't like it. My boyfriend's mom suggested I go vegan, and ever since I moved to L.A. I've been wanting to get back on the kind of diet I was on in Seattle. I ate out less and ate less meat and heavy foods. So I've decided to do vegan-lite, at least for the next month. I am going on a super-strict diet to see if I have more energy and feel less wretched. So here it is:
1. No coffee (dreading the major withdrawals)
2. No fried food (hard to digest, and heated oils are bad for your body)
3. No dairy (already know this messes me up, i.e. digestion shuts down, I get constipated, tmi)
4. No meat (hard to digest, makes me feel lethargic)
5. No gluten (kind of gives me the opposite reaction as dairy, more tmi)
6. No sugar (just screws up my blood sugar and makes me yo-yo, bad for yeast overgrowth in the intestines too. Vinegar and yeast is bad for this too, but lemon juice is actually good.)
7. No carbonation (makes my stomach hurt)
8. No chemicals (ditto)

I decided that I should avoid going out to eat during the month, since it is such a challenge to find something that's okay and I usually end up cheating in some way. I have to say, even though I've done these kind of diets before, I am nervous about how hard this is going to be. I am a total coffee addict even though I know it is bad for me, and I have been going out to eat a lot. I have been in IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) off-site training this week, and I am not doing well since all the meals are provided and they are pretty much all bad for me. I am planning to throw myself body and soul into this on Friday after work. Wish me luck. I am hoping to feel much better, but I may feel worse before I start feeling better.

In other news, my desire to simplify my life has really kicked with my apartment de-cluttering project. I am on a tear. I am getting rid of at least a third of my books, 14 pairs of shoes, half my purses, bags, and snow globes, and any number of random things. I am really motivated right now. One of my biggest fears is becoming a pack rat like my dad and grandma (it's pathological, I'm convinced). I have been firmly down that road and am trying to drag myself away from the abyss. I have this fantasy that getting rid of my extra stuff will help me let go of emotions and angst over my childhood I no longer need. Symbolism. Plus, I just think of all the women who totally kick ass in movies. They don't need a bunch of crap weighing them down. Seriously, for someone with so many apocalyptic themed books, comics, and movies (wildly apparent that I have some kind of obsession when I weeded through my books), I am not ready for the apocalypse. I'd be packing my stuff for weeks after the zombies had turned half the country. I'd be like, "Just a second, I can't join your army of the undead, or join the small, outmatched band of survivors, until I figure out which of these knickknacks goes to Goodwill. Please come back in 6 months when I've lost enough weight to fit into the leather pants and tiny top that is the uniform for women who sexily scowl as they chop the heads off zombies. Carry on."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My new favorite quote

"It's simple. We're where we should be, doing what we should be doing. Otherwise, we would be somewhere else, doing something else." R.L. Stine

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

KING: Comes to mind, Patty, most of us, most viewers watching don't know any evil people. Maybe there's some people they don't like, the boss, somebody's (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But evil, most people don't know evil people. You have spent a lot of time with evil people.


KING: What was that like?

HEARST: It's something that affects you so deeply that in a way you can never really trust people again. You know that you have to and you know that not everybody is like this, but it changes your perception of people for the rest of your life. And in a way it's sad to lose that kind of innocence, but on another way, you get a strength from it. And you can help other people.


CALLER: Hey, Ms. Hearst, I would like to know, have you ever felt guilty being a part of the SLA and how do you handle the fact that so many others think you are just as guilty?

HEARST: You know, when I first was arrested and first going through the therapy with the psychiatrist because I did feel really horrible. And I -- it was the kind of guilt that was -- a lot of it stemmed from feeling so horrible that my mind could be controlled by anybody, that I was so fragile that this could happen to me.

And because really we all think we're pretty strong and that nobody can make us do something if we don't want to do it. That's true until somebody locks you up in a closet and tortures you and finally makes you so weak that you completely break and will do anything they say. And there was the feeling of guilt and self- loathing and despair and pain that was just overwhelming.


KING: A brain-washed person doesn't know from time element when they're being brainwashed, do they? They don't wake up one day and say, I have been brainwashed?

HEARST: No. No, they don't. They -- I know for me, I thought that I was kind of fooling them for awhile, and the point when I knew that I was completely gone, I'm quite convinced, was at the Mel Sporting Goods Store when I reflectively did exactly what I had been trained to do that day instead of what any sensible person would have done or person still in control of their senses and their responses, which would be the minute the Harrises had left the van to have just run off and called the police.

At that point, you know, looking back, I can say that I was gone. I was so far gone I had no clue how bad it was.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Patty Hearst on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

My biggest practical problem related to my PTSD and recovery is my ongoing sleep problems. Like so many of the PTSD symptoms, I have been living with this for so long that I don't really know life any other way, but I still know there's something wrong. I dread going to bed. It doesn't matter how tired I am- in fact, the more tired I am the more I resist. It is like part of me really doesn't want to let me sleep so the more tired I am the more dangerous it is. I wake up sometimes feeling terrified, like I can't move and I'm suffocating, and the first thing that I think of is my dad. I don't remember having nightmares usually. I do have nightmares about my dad, but this is more the feeling and body sensation of fear. of freezing. It is that sensation when you are trying to run but your legs get heavy and you can't pick up your feet. You are yelling at yourself to MOVE, but instead you just stand there, staring blankly. In my case, I keep telling myself to get out of bed, walk around, walk into my living room and realize that I am not in my parents' house, my dad is not waiting there for me, and I am an adult and perfectly safe. As much as I tell myself I could just break the spell over me if I just got out of bed, I can't do it. My mind is prodding, pleading with me, but my body is acting like the blankets on me are restraints and my legs are paralyzed.

Terrifying. Terrifying that it's been 20 years since I've lived with my parents, and that long since my dad posed any real threat to me, and the survival part of me sees him as dangerous as he was when I was 8 years old. It seems odd to say, but the worst thing he did to me was not when he hit me. The worst thing he did was to threaten me. He kept me in fear of him from as far back as I can remember, and I never knew what or when he was coming for me. He described killing me in such detail that I was sure my death was always a possibility. I knew there was nothing I could do to predict or prevent him from doing what he wanted. He made me feel entirely helpless, entirely at the mercy of his whims. He could be laughing and joking one minute, and as cold and hard as death the next. I really believed I was going to die the last time he beat me. I still don't know how I got out of that alive. I believed that he was capable of things I couldn't even imagine. I seriously considered poisoning him when I was in junior high because I was so convinced that it was him or me. I talked myself out of it for several reasons- he might not die and then I would really be dead, I would be sent to jail and separated from my brother, killing is wrong and I didn't want to be like him. More than I didn't want to die, I didn't want to be like him and I didn't want to abandon my brother.

The job of a kidnapper, an abuser, a torturer, is to train you to do their job for them. To get into your head so thoroughly that even when they are not there, you fear them and do what they want you to do. So you totally believe in their power over you, their omnipotence, so you will be convinced that there is no point in running. They will always find you. You can't get away. You see them everywhere. You carry them around with you, the weight on your back, the shadows in the corner, the sourness in your mouth, the poison choking your lungs in the air you breathe. Your despair, your nightmares, your fears have their face on them.

I am tired most of the time. I feel weary. Yet when I go to bed, I see this chasm open up in front of me and my dad hanging me over it by my legs, laughing, while I grasp at my brother's spirit, wispy sadness floating away from me. I scream and scream, and even though my throat is burning no sound comes out. My mom's face is a distorted mask. What if I get stuck here? What if I never wake up?

In my mind, he is not just my dad. He is evil. He is all the torture and pain and hopelessness in the world. He is my brother's killer. He is the sum total of all of my fears, of abandonment, isolation, loneliness, helplessness, of being lost and wandering and not knowing where I am. Of falling and falling and not ever reaching the bottom. I am 8 days from the 13th anniversary of Jeff's death, and he is still lost to me. We are still lost and trying to find our way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Wep Ronpet!

Last week I missed my first weekly blog post since March. It was because I was at a religious retreat. Yes, I am religious. I don't usually talk about it because I feel that my spiritual beliefs are a mostly private matter. They are very important to me, but it is not particularly important to me that other people know or understand or agree with them. I am really happy that I found a group of like-minded people to share my beliefs with, as well as to learn from them and enjoy their friendship and support. Really, what they provide me with is unconditional love and a big, sometimes hilarious, often touching family. I am lucky to have found them, because before I did, I didn't know anyone who thought about divinity the way that I do.

Still, it took me 9 years to actually go to their annual retreat and meet them in person. It was one of those wonderful experience where I felt instantly at ease with the group. I felt like I could just be myself, and myself was a good thing. I have been a very guarded person, and definitely struggle with letting people get too close to me. Being in this group, and finally meeting them in person and feeling so accepted helps me feel a little more open and trusting and willing to take a chance with people. I don't think I would be at this place, or as comfortable in this place, if it wasn't for my boyfriend. We've been together for eight months, and I went into dating him swearing that I would be myself, that I would be honest, and that I would wait until I felt safe and comfortable before taking any steps forward with him. Sometimes I feel like an emotional fruitcake around him because I am so unused to expressing my feelings with someone I'm dating. I get upset; I get jealous; I get confused. I pout and cry and I've had flashbacks and let myself pass through them instead of going numb and denying anything is wrong. I've done all those things in front of him, and he's never turned away in disgust or yelled at me or cheated on me or made me feel ashamed or unworthy. In fact, quite the opposite. I feel appreciated and loved and accepted. I feel understood. I might not have been open to those feelings before he helped me realize that I can be my imperfect, real self and still be someone people want to be around. In my heart of hearts, my self-esteem really took a beating. I really believed that I deserved all the abuse that I got. Now I am starting to feel otherwise.

On occasion, a reader of my blog has suggested that I can find unconditional love and forgiveness with god. I don't think I've ever responded to these suggestions because I don't want to offend anyone by suggesting that I don't see their religion the way they do. I have no problem with other people finding solace or satisfaction with a patriarchal monotheistic belief system. The way I see religion and spirituality is that different people have different needs and different experiences of the world, and so a one-size fits all approach doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I could totally see how someone who doesn't struggle with death or what they are supposed to be doing on this earth or the other big questions most religions attempt to address might not need any religion at all. There's nothing wrong with that, as far as I can tell. I can think of lots of people who are not religious who are still morally-upright, caring, compassionate people. I also have a lot of respect for people who do charity or volunteer work in the name of religion. I don't see it as a religion bad vs religion good question. The way I see it is that I don't want a god to substitute for a father figure, I consider hell to be a really cruel concept that I don't want as part of my belief system, especially if it involves sending people I love there, like, for example, someone who was so mental ill and hurting so badly that he killed himself, and I'm a polytheist. I have been for as long as I can remember. As far as I can tell, I was born thinking that divinity comes in many forms, and that the source of life, time, timelessness, and the mysteries that are just beyond human comprehension is not a single god, but rather some kind of energy or power or consciousness that is not human, but can take human-like forms in order to interact with us. I believe that my brother still exists in some form, and that I can communicate with him and he can communicate with me. I think that it is possible that some part of me can move on after I die. I don't know what that would be like, and I don't know that I would be able to understand it now anyway. I know that I have had experiences of the divine that I have faith are real. I believe that I am part of a spiritual world. That idea gives me comfort and helps me balance the despair I feel over the violence, hatred, intolerance, and cruelty in the world and in humanity. My faith doesn't blind me to the bad things, it helps bring me a sense of balance and hope so that the dark shadows don't feel so heavy in my heart.

So, as sort of a mass acknowledgement of everyone who has encouraged me to look to their religion for comfort- I appreciate your concern and compassion for me. I am touched that you care. I come into religion with a lot of needs and requirements and long-standing beliefs, and I've found something that really works for me. It comforts me, but also challenges me to go beyond what I can figure out for myself. It never violates my own sense of morality, but doesn't let me off the hook either, i.e. it's not the kind of thing where you don't have responsibilities to others or expectations for certain levels of behavior. It provides a structure that works for me, but enough flexibility that I can ask my questions and make my own decisions and discoveries. I am pretty amazed at how well it works for me, kind of similar to how amazed I am that I found a person to date that I can totally be myself with. Nekhtet!