A Robin!

Falling asleep listening to the public TV station do a special on sleep seemed fitting. It was noted that those who deal with anxiety in the daytime show abnormal brain patterns during the night that coincide with their issues of insomnia. It is so for me, and something that needs to be accepted over and over again.

It is no wonder sleep eluded me after the news reports that it isn’t if, but when the coronavirus hits the US. Add to that a so called leader of the country who doesn’t lead, but instead says all it well because it makes him look good. 

A pandemic is surely coming. Added to other worries my psyche goes on guard no matter how quiet a life I live. The only solution would be to dig myself into a cave and not ever interact with a human soul. There’s also the mixture of cabin fever crashing with spring fever causing a flux of chemicals chaotically popping in my brain. 

It seems that every week or so sleeplessness hits even when adhering to helpful routines. It isn’t my fault though feels like it must be. It just happens. The show reveals how trauma causes chronic long term problems with sleep. The tendency to blame myself needs to soften because it is out of my control.

Staying in the present, using the breath coming into every moment, and being in the now, these are things achievable. And the gentle voice- it’s OK, you’re OK, is needed especially during those difficult nights.

The snow swirls as dawn breaks while the cat curls up next to me by the fire. On Monday’s walk snowdrops blossomed in the wild gardens by the creek, and my son saw a robin. Periods of peaceful days are savored that much more after moving through the tough ones. 

 

Compassion and Self-Respect

“You did the best you could,” Samuel says in response to my tears over mistakes made at mothering.

“That’s what I heard all my life from my mother!” I retort angrily, “She didn’t do her best, she did nothing,” referring to her leaving me alone with her sons and not protecting me.

I did do the best that I could, and no way do I ever want to go back to those dark years somehow making a home for my boys who have grown up much more capable and stable than I’ll ever be.

But the guilt of mistakes wears me down when it comes to saying no to Shane, not wanting to hurt him, only to help. As years pass the toll of childhood abuse shows up in ways that must be attended to, needing more and more self-care, not less.

My younger body could take the slams of PTSD, hypervigilance, and anxiety buzzing through me like constant electric shocks. But the immune system and nervous system busted like frayed ended cords tangled in a blob. Care is needed to gently roll them out to make a life that works in peace.

No sense is made of having my grand-daughter overnight without problems sleeping, then a few nights later all three with a wicked sleep problem after they leave.

My heart fell at the door when Shane said, “It might be 8:30 or later when we return,” knowing that was too late for a toddler who just turned three.

And too late for my own needs which call for quiet in the evening so that my wild psyche and all bodily systems can calm down from the day’s efforts. It is uncommon to need this, yet a sad reality

But my mouth was silent. I want them to go out, double-date, and have fun. Shane works so hard, and going out together without the kids is a rare thing for them, and so important for a couple.

“Maybe next time I should tell Shane the cut-off time has to be 7:30,” I said to Samuel. Best for me, and best for the little toddler. “Remember, we used to hire a babysitter when we went out nights. Our moms didn’t watch the kids, especially at night.”

“Oh, maybe you just had a bad night,” Samuel replied, not one who usually backs my efforts at self-assertion.

So no help there. And how would I feel knowing someone else was watching them? Not good. I want to do it. It doesn’t happen that often, and these years pass so quickly.

But not sleeping, then needing medication that makes me unproductive and sleepy all the next day was not coincidental or worth it. Linking my guilt with saying no is hard. My guilt ripped into me after my head hit the pillow spinning out of control, beyond my control. I should not have guilt, so many sacrifices were made, along with mistakes.

All my income as a nurse went to Shane’s tuition each month. The pressures and stresses of work took a substantial, and permanent toll on my health. I made sure he had things I never did, or would have been able to handle if offered anyway;  a year in Spain as a student, and returning again with his girlfriend, now wife, after graduating from college, financially supporting the trip as a graduation gift…. and so much more that matters but so easily forgotten, choosing instead to beat myself up. 

How do I care for my own needs, which include spending time with grand-children, and keep my sanity? Like the Nike slogan, JUST DO IT. Even without Samuel’s support, just do it, just say no nicely, but firmly.

Suggest a babysitter that can come to their own house so that the little one is put to bed when he should be, temper and all. But then… what if after saying no, sleep evades me for saying no? It takes very little to upset my equilibrium, sometimes never knowing why, a grievous and permanent brokenness due to the assaults from childhood. 

 

PTSD and Hypervigilance

Usually the dark mornings are too cold to open the door to the screen porch attached to the area by the coal stove and rocking chairs. The cat is let out to hunt– hunt as in watch, prowl, and run but never catching. The door is then shut quickly to keep out the frigid air, and the screens contain the cat until she’s ready to return inside.

But this morning a need for fresh air makes me keep the sliding ajar to hear the birds that have returned from warmer climates. How their morning tweeting has been missed during the dark tomb-like winter. The morning chorus inspires, the orchestra full with the deep bass drumming of geese honking by. Now on the look-out for the first robin, walks are inviting.

Interspersed with periods of deep sleep, reminders of the past creep up with an agonizing punch keeping sleep at bay. A tiny change in routine such as all three grand-children staying for the evening catapults my ‘fight or flight’ mode into the vortex of hypervigilance. After they leave sleep would not come until three hours past the usual time along with twice the usual dose of a sleep aid. 

The next day is quiet, languishing on the couch keeping my body, mind, and emotions from further assault. Tears of anguish find their way down my cheeks. Simply having the grandchildren does this?

Worries over my son and the mistakes I made during his growing up years made my mind spin and my body go on alert. It was out of my control. Once the alert system is activated only medication brings it down.

The need for self-forgiveness continues, along with being the best possible mother, grand-mother, wife and friend. It is all I have power over. I do not have power over the past, but how to prevent it from haunting me so? 

 

The Abyss

Settling in for a cup of freshly brewed coffee, my internal world relaxes. Upon waking my body is revved on guard as if living in a hut with vicious animals that want to devour me. My teeth are still clenched from the nightly demons who visit, and every sinew is taught.

But the heat from the fire begins its magic. Muscles unfurl, like the silly cat next to me who also melts like a wax blob, one half twisted out, the other half curled over the other, looking like a braided pretzel stick.

The onslaught for volumes of food after a week or more of scrupulously counting calories tells a story begun at age 8- I am unlovable, incapable. Love came at the end of a spoon, a form of escape fed by denial.

The sweetness of life drips like honey when staying in my body mastering emotions by being there when they ebb and flow. Because they do flow out eventually. Running into an escape, whether shopping, alcohol, drugs, or my rabbit hole- food, means leaving my body and its cues of physical hunger and satiation.

The craving for emotional satiation is only temporarily satisfied by external things. What can be counted on is emotional maturity fortified with emotional discipline. STAY. Sit, stay, and be there. I’m OK.

 

WARRIOR

Feeling sorry for myself for so easily being pulled into the past where fear, powerlessness, and hopelessness swirled like a constant tornado, and because the day called for something lovely baking in the house, cinnamon rolls were made from dough using the bread machine.

The problem with sugary treats is that it rings a bell in my brain saying, MORE. And the day is lost not counting calories, which also means losing self-respect. And that does not make me happy.

So a new day with more resolve about what really matters; renewed dreams, goals, and the excitement of living. Always it was food my mother used to help me fill the holes left ragged by rape and abuse. It is a habit taught to me, but not restraining me. I have free will. It is mine to own.

It is a battle not going away started at age 8 after Danny’s attack, and will forever be there haunting me like drooling, starving, rabid dogs. The abyss of self-love always yawning wide open for filling.

The beastly hole is daunting needing loving comfort, not hate. Filling it with food when the soft words won’t come, because soft words for myself are not my forte’, ends up causing more pain instead of the comfort sought.

Daydreams of cookies, ice cream, cake, or pie dance like sugar plums of happiness in my head. The feelings are temporary turning in on themselves like the savage dogs of need after the numbness of satisfaction wears off.

Left in its wake are the same deprecating sneers Tommy enjoyed making towards me throughout life. He knew no boundaries when it came to putting me down. I seem to have readily taken up where he left off. 

It will stay this way, but how to handle it can evolve, and is evolving. Softer words, kindness to self, opening my arms to accept myself, all going against what I was taught. All things not learned through life and are yet to achieve. Steps forward then backwards. The way to get even is to give myself the opposite of what I learned—- love, safety and acceptance.

And though challenging, ongoing, and taking persistent work, it is doable, possible, and a war worth winning— slaying the ghosts one by one, over and over again.

 

TRIGGER

It is not the first time Samuel has set off alarm bells so deep within me they are unconscious, but electrify in the night after waking to use the bathroom. No way was sleep returning as the haunts of the pasts, the attacking siblings, have re-visited. His actions replicated theirs in a way my psyche perceives a threat.

After ten years of our bedroom carpet losing its color turning streaked, and oh so ugly, we had a new one put down. Away at my women’s monthly gathering, he took off both doors to saw off some so they would close. The new carpet is that plush! A few specks of dust on the carpet after he re-placed the doors caused him to bring out the vacuum.

It angered me but it was let it go after he said there was dust from the doors. But internally it still bothered me as if something new had been ruined, just like my past when so much was torn away. My body was not mine, nor was anything precious such as my horse or pony. Two of the four attacking siblings stole my animals trying to ride them. One was bucked off, while my mother laughed telling me about it.

The rage from those thefts was palpable. The rage from taking my body had to be repressed due to my mother’s insistence that we were all a happy family. Rage could only be expressed about other things that might seem mundane.

My belief is that rage has fizzled out. Not true. Lying there at 2 AM after walking on carpet that for two days had delighted us with the soft cloud of texture, now felt flat, crushed, and hard. Samuel had ruined it, I wanted to hurt him, to wake him, to make him suffer as I suffered at 2 AM.

Vacuuming, like the dishes, cooking, and laundry are my chores except the rare times he vacuums, once vacuuming the cord on my new vacuum only learning about it when finding it wrapped with tape the next time I used it.

Why does he always have to get in on things where he doesn’t belong? Why does he have to ruin things? Why can’t he know me after all these years, and know this bothers me? While carpet shopping we learned that vacuuming is what bleaches out carpet if done too low, something I’ve done because it seemed to pick up more.

But with the new carpet, when, and it would be a long time until I did vacuum, I would put the lever on high to vacuum just the tops. Some carpet is dyed through, others are only sprayed with color on the top which allows for color loss from vacuuming and high traffic use over time. Unfortunately this new one is the later, but it is the prettiest green and plushiest for the price so we bought it.

But vacuuming? That is the culprit not only for sucking up color, but we were told it crushes the fibers so that only professional cleaning can bring back their springiness. And Samuel runs the vacuum after only two days. Why does he take away everything precious, just like they did? It is no longer new, and no longer brings pleasure, only hurt. 

Laying there in the middle of the night I wanted to hurt him. To push him out bed making his face hit the floor right into the carpet he had ruined. To turn on the lights and have a hissy fit over the carpet in the middle of the night. What insanity.

Staying there trying hard to sleep by feeding my mind with more sane truths; he did not do this purposely to hurt me. He does so many nice things. He cut the doors down to fit, blah, blah, blah… did not work. Something internal had ignited that words could not soothe or control. I got up, took a pill, turned on the TV, drank decaf, and stewed trying to chase away bitter resentments and a smoldering, ghostly rage from the past.

The next morning in tears while talking to Cory on the phone, Samuel was next to me.  I told the ludicrous story of the carpet. Even as silly as it sounded, it also correlated to siblings and all that was taken. My body, my horse, my pony, anything precious.

Talking to Samuel wouldn’t help. He would just argue, shake his head at my lunacy, and defend himself, never learning even after all these years how much his thoughtless actions wound me. (is vacuuming thoughtless or caring?)

And there it is, a wound that has not yet healed. Will it ever?

 

STAY

The urge after waking, feeding the cat, and sitting down with coffee by the fire is escape. Split head from body, lean into emotions which are raw and reactive or go deeper to core feelings… rush, or take each moment quietly with equanimity?

Stay, breathe, and accept all that is there. It is a test every morning. Do you want to live fragmented or whole?

So I rock, observe, dare to feel without fear of what’s there, and it is OK, I am OK. Living at a pace that suits my own needs has caused internal friction. The craving for normalcy, or what looks normal means keeping up with others. But others move so fast, do so much, it makes me spin out of my own body to keep up.

The enjoyment of our time together can be savored at a pace that keeps all my parts together.