Como luceros fríos

Sobre el olivar hay un cielo hundido y una lluvia oscura de luceros fríos.

30 January, 2008

I had walking pneumonia. It started in November and I didn't know what it was. So a month ago I went to the doctor and got azithromycin. And I am still fucking coughing and short of breath. And since yesterday I am coming down with what seems to be a shitty cold on top of all that. So I go again Friday. I wonder if all this is psychosomatic, like every other sickness I have seems to be. Who the hell knows? I sure as fuck don't. Maybe I just caught the creeping crud from one of my students. Anyway, I am seeing the doctor in two days and I will cooperate with her instructions, even if they are more antibiotics. Dammit. I'm also submitting to a full blood panel, despite the fact that they can never, ever find my veins or get me to bleed enough. Last time I had a blood panel, they had to dig and dig to get enough blood to flow and I came very close to puking everywhere. The thought of going there by myself and doing all this makes me want to cry. But I cry every day anyway, so it will be okay.

One day she was able to feel this shame deeply in the session and said: "I feel so ridiculous, as if I've been talking to a wall and expecting it to answer, like a silly child." I asked: "Would you think it so ridiculous if you saw a child who had to tell his troubles to a wall because there was no one else available?" - Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child

My student, Maya. I talked about her on my teacher type blog. Her mother indicated to me that there has been recent trauma, perhaps abuse, in the home. Maya has been coming to school every day saying that she is sick, that her stomach hurts, that she's nauseated and just doesn't feel well. She has not said a word to anyone about what is happening at home.

Would I think it so ridiculous if I saw a child who had to tell her troubles through the illness of her body because there weren't any words available?

No, I don't. And I think I'd have the urge to physically attack anyone who suggested such a thing.

So maybe I can cut myself some slack.


Today my therapist called my attention to a spot on the back of my neck that was hurting very badly. If she weren't the person that she is, I'd be alarmed at how well she can read my body, just from a glance. Anyway, there is a place at the base of my skull that seizes up hard, like a cramp. Locked hard and shuddery. It happens when I try to talk to people about things that are particularly painful or meaningful to me. And when that happens, I can't speak. She told me that in infancy, when a child is deprived of their basic human needs, this is the centralized place of shutdown. It's the place on the body they use to still their own crying when they learn that the crying will either be ignored or that it will receive a negative response. Ever since I can remember, this place has choked me quiet. I never thought of it as a physiological reaction before.

29 January, 2008

My therapist told me that when it gets really bad, I should try to stay in the moment and experience it, feel whatever it is that's coming. And I'm trying to do that. But it's crippling. I only have two modes: hurting-intensely and distracted-and-vaguely-hurting. Every other emotion I have is muted. I didn't know how tightly wound I was until everything fell apart. Did everyone else see it? I think maybe they did.

... throughout their lives they will continue to look for what their own parents could not give them at the appropriate time-- the presence of a person who is completely aware of them and takes them seriously. - Alice Miller

26 January, 2008

Weekend again. I have so many things to do and I just can't seem to start any of it. Small steps. I'll take small steps.

When it gets really bad, I sit here in my apartment and the thought flits through my head that I really want to go home. Only, I can't figure out where that is. I couldn't wait to get the fuck out of Appalachia. I spent my entire first twenty years longing to get away. After the farm, I lived in DC for four years and it was huge and so expensive and heartless and did I mention HUGE? I never felt at ease there, especially after the plane hit the Pentagon. So my ex and I moved back to Appalachia. Roanoke. I told myself that since it wasn't West Virginia, it would be okay. And it wasn't. It was West Virginia and poverty and I was desperate to get the fuck out of there, too. So I moved to another big city and I hoped and hoped it would be home. Only, it's not. I don't feel safe or at ease or like I can let my guard down. I'm glad my apartment is small. As it is, I rattle around in it like a marble in a jar. It's empty and overwhelming.

A long time ago, I had a close-knit group of friends, including someone I had known since I was twelve. His name is J. I felt safer with them than I'd ever felt before. When I met my first husband, I introduced him to my friends and he proceeded to systematically isolate me from them all. When we lived on the compound, he started refusing to take me with him when he went to visit them. He told me that they were all sick of me, angry with me, enraged over how badly I treated him. It never occurred to me that he was making anything up. I guess he was telling them I didn't want to see them, or something like that. I don't know. He drove the wedge deep, though. We split up for many reasons, but the breaking point was when he assaulted me. He moved off the farm and into J's house. When he told my friends I was accusing him of rape, that was it. They said I was at best crazy from having been subjected to childhood abuse, at worst I was a vengeful liar. I lost them all. I needed them so badly to believe me. I needed J to listen to me. They all closed ranks around him, instead.

I have some really good friends. I do. But it's never been the same. I don't get so close. The Hare Krishnas teach you to use people. Everyone is a potential convert or a demon. And even amongst the cultists, relationships are tenuous. People up and leave in the middle of the night, sometimes. Or they say they are going to visit their family and you never, ever see them again. And I've never forgotten what being abandoned felt like. There has only been one person who has ever really known me, and he's gone now. But J was the one person before that who I felt had tried.

Over the years since, I've contacted J here and there. Sometimes in anger, sometimes pleading. Always with the same result: "I believe you are in distress, but I don't believe he did what you said." And then, a couple of years ago, he contacted me. This time he believed me. I think I cried for a week. Relief that he finally believed me. Regret that it was just too fucking late. They sheltered my abuser for a decade.

It got really bad a couple of nights ago and I called J. He's in Seattle now, living with people who were my friends, once. I sat with the phone in my hand for an hour and a half before I finally made the call. He said I could come live there, be with all of them and that they cared about me.

Why couldn't he have said that ten years ago? I can't leave where I am now for a lot of reasons, but all of that aside, I don't trust him anymore. So why did I call him and cry to him? Can this be repaired, eleven years later? What the fuck am I doing? I have no idea. Is it good to reach out or am I just grasping for anything I can try to hold onto? I'm this ball of need and want and everything is so raw. The only goal I have at this point is to reach a point where everything doesn't hurt quite so much.

I think I need my anti-depressant dosage upped.

23 January, 2008

From when I was about eleven years old until I hit around fourteen or so, my mother had these intermittent freak-outs. I would say something she didn't care to hear, or disagree with her too strenuously. Or something like that. And then she would declare herself "on strike," and all the sudden I didn't have a mother anymore. She wouldn't speak to me, or be in the same room with me unless it were out of the necessity to be doing something there. If a friend of mine would call on the phone, she'd hang up, or if I were right next to her, she'd throw the phone on the floor. Or hang up in front of me. If I wanted to eat, I had to ask for lunch money from my father. At dinner time, I'd scrape together what I could get from what she had cooked or just what I could find. She wouldn't drive me anywhere or do anything for me or look at me. I never can remember how any of these "strikes" ended. I don't remember if I groveled or apologized or if she just quit. But I do remember that, in 7th grade, one of them lasted from one report card to another, and we got report cards ever six weeks. I always dreamt of outrageous shit I could do to make her respond to me. And I fantasized about getting hit by a car or falling down and breaking a bone and kind of hoped something would happen, anything, anything to make her take care of me. I wonder why she did that. My adult mind now can make so many excuses for her. Her husband was a raging alcoholic. She had a shitty retail job she hated and giving birth to me put an end to so many of her dreams. Sometimes I want to pity her. But if there were a parent of one of my students who I found out did that kind of thing to them, I'd be on the Child Protective Services website in a fucking flash to report them for neglect and emotional abuse.

I started taking high school classes in 7th grade and I rode the high school bus to school, as a 12 year old. There was a junior or senior boy on the bus named Russell who was constantly groping me and saying all sorts of shitty, inappropriate things. The bus driver was a retired prick of a Baptist minister who thought the whole thing was hilarious. I never told my mother, because she wouldn't even look at me. There were all sorts of criminally inappropriate things going on in my life during those years, and there was no telling her. She didn't have the ears to hear it. And sometimes I wonder if she knew, and if her silence was so she wouldn't have to acknowledge any of it.

21 January, 2008

I got myself a planner to write things down in, because if I can't make a list to check it all off it's too overwhelming. I think I need to just add to every Sunday evening "schedule time for meltdown." At least I'm consistent about something. Only we have today off from school so of course there's time to continue losing my shit, right?

This is what's on my mind lately. I wish I'd read about it sooner. I've definitely got those stress-related breakdowns of bodily health. So it's all in my head, right? Except it's not. But it is. Why am I so embarrassed about having psychosomatic illnesses? It feels really humiliating and I can't wrap my head around why that's my first, overwhelming reaction. I'm a collection of symptoms that seem to constitute what passes for a personality. Sometimes I feel like I've lived my life in the middle of some kind of bizarre science experiment where they just keep cranking up the voltage, just to see how much I can take. I guess that's what they mean when they say trauma causes altered perceptions of perpetrators. I know I see everything in a stark dichotomy and that's embarrassing, too. It's so facile. It's just the only way I had to make sense of things. But they don't make sense anymore, because that kind of thing just can't last. My therapist talks a lot of hippie shit about storing anger in the body and the places she indicates on my back are where I can't remember not hurting. And when I'm aware of just how much it's hurting, I want to tear my skin off. All of my anger ends with me doing something that hurts myself in some way and that just makes me angrier. So I do it again. And again. And there's no comfort or quiet or anything. There's just me, in my apartment with thin walls, and a job that I'm terrified of losing but don't always feel so adequate to fulfill.

I had a student last year whose dad got shot to death on the city bus, right in the middle of the school year. The year before, I had a Katrina refugee who watched his mother and infant sister almost drown while his older brothers shot people to get on a raft. There are kids being trafficked all over the world and kids in the Congo conscripted into death squads. And I'm here dealing with my contemptible first world problems of daddy having been inappropriate and I'm barely able to function. I am a cartoon and I just wish someone would drop an anvil. And I know this is just the self-critical thing going on, but it is just so fucking stupid that I'm too sad to go about the world like a normal person. I'm sorry, I can't possibly grade papers today, or do my laundry, or eat-- I'm too sad. Not having those things done makes me fucking sad too, so I need to just get over it.

17 January, 2008

I have a student who struggles in school. No matter how hard he works, he is always behind. Even worse, he has two cousins in his grade who are both very gifted, high performers. Then we had him tested for learning disabilities. It turns out, his intellect is perfectly normal. In fact, it's on the high end of normal. He has a legitimate learning disability. I told him the results of his testing and the things that we were going to do to help him with his academics. He let out that sigh, you know, the one like he'd just put down a really, really heavy backpack. The sheer relief of it all was palpable. And ever since that diagnosis, he's been doing better. Even before the special services started in for him, he was doing better. The diagnosis freed him.

And here I am, diagnosed with a "major depressive disorder" and PTSD. It makes me laugh that someone telling me I have clinical depression makes me feel kind of better. I've wondered for a very long time why I have so much trouble just fucking doing things, even things that I like very much. I've wondered why I feel constantly overwhelmed by really small things. I wondered why I have so much trouble concentrating on things I really need to do. So now instead of feeling guilty and helpless (okay, I guess I'll still probably feel that way, but at least intellectually I can understand it), I can try and do stuff. I know there are things I can do. They're hard, but at least they exist.

11 January, 2008

One of the things that has made it so hard to seek out any kind of help is that I feel like my life is so ridiculously improbable. When I sit down and think about it, and when I try to talk about it, it sounds like an awful Lifetime movie special to me. And that's embarrassing. Also, I guess it's even doubly embarrassing to admit all the stupid choices I've made. I mean, really, the Hare Krishnas. What the fuck was I thinking?