self respect

If Someone in your life talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have left them long ago. Carla Gordon
It is so very true. When I stop for a moment and focus on the constant negative chatter that goes on in my head, I can’t help but be taken aback. I have spent so many years with it, it barely registers. When did it become okay to torment and judge? to be vicious and unkind. I have come to think so little of myself I don’t even argue, I just accept it. As Virgil talked about where I came from, and the work that has allowed me to survive, I am distracted by that voice. I know in my heart she is right, it is not just an empty pep talk. It is heartfelt and genuine. I really have come so far. I just cannot get myself to embrace it completely. Intellectually, I understand. Emotionally I have not. I would rather berate myself as a failure for walking away from Cornell (ok, it really was more like crawling, or in all actuality tied down in restraints). How can I possibly think that is failing. I would not judge someone as having failed if a health crisis pulled them away from their studies. I would not judge a person who left for behavioral health reasons either, but this isn’t someone else. It was me. I cannot accept it. Here more than a decade later, and I am still unable to let go. It needs to be accepted, and the sadness dealt with. There is no doubt it was one of the greatest losses on my life, least in my head it is. There is such profound sorrow. Not just having let down my family, or having not met their expectations, but of having lost a tremendous opportunity. To me it was this vast open expanse of choices. A life waiting for a chosen path. That is how I saw it. I cannot say that is how it felt, because I was lost in a sea of suffering. Despite that, there was still wonder. It is a magical place to so many. I would include myself in that group. I would have loved to have stayed and found the path I was meant to take. Instead, my life changed course. It detoured in to this hellish place of imprisonment, restraint, loss of freedom and respect. I went from having the world in my hand, to having nothing. No control, no choices, no voice. The change could not have been more swift, nor could it have been more complete. There are no “ifs” or “buts”. It was medications, and locked doors. A world without privacy, and without hope. For every dream I ever had, I now had questions. They went unanswered. I cannot even write about this without a deep sense of anger and loss. I truly mourn what I left behind, just as I rage against what I endured. There was no welcome mat, nor anyone to explain that the entry might be a tough one. I was just another patient, barely that, a number. Another broken soul amongst hundreds. An ever changing population filled with hopeless sick people. I had doubts about myself before I dropped into this hell. The judgements and beliefs I held were only further reinforced. It was the worst possible path I could have taken, though I don’t really know how it could have been avoided. As Virgil said, my past caught up to me. All the trauma and abuse was just behind me all those years. To finally be alone, without family, it settled in. Perhaps if I had some coping skills it may have been okay, but I lacked them. Here we are years later, and the rage just simmers. I have come light years from there, but I still bristle at the treatment I received. There is something so alienating and discouraging about the system. It is hard not to accept oneself as useless in its wake. I managed to get back on my feet, though much of that was with Virgil’s urging and aid. I will have to find a way to come to terms with so many things, amongst them the departure from Cornell, and the hospitals. Accept it, and figure out how to be kind to myself. I know I am not a useless piece of shit. But I don’t “know” it. Until it is sorted, I will forever be in this place looking back rather than forward. The past so great, and treacherous it eclipses anything on the horizon (even foreclosure). To be lost in this world of doubt and confusion, never able to shrug off a shawl of judgements, makes my life miserable. I cannot even imagine a world without this harsh inner critic, forever hurling what ifs, and should haves. It would be such a peaceful place without it.

Woodcut

This was the image I had referred to earlier, I pulled out an old piece that was done early in my first semester of school.

It has stayed with me all these years. I have dragged this last remaining piece around. It is tattered and coming apart, the rice paper fibers worn with age. I never really much thought about it until now. I’d see it on occasion when moving papers in the studio and office. I’d set it aside and continue along. I guess it is long about time it has come out.

just kids

As I sat and watched the polo team get ready for their match tonight, it struck me just how young they all are. Vacillating between silly and serious depending on the moment. Laughter comes so easily as they chide each other. I spent the evening watching them, and directing them. Most were just freshman, figuring out a new sport. Polo is extremely difficult, a fact that becomes all too apparent when you watch first year players. They are all over the place. Occasionally you see hints of what they may become with the proper discipline and guidance. This all happened quite by accident, I didn’t set out to coach a polo team. I was just covering. As the evening went along, I quickly slid into my teaching self. A persona created by years of working and teaching people to ride. It is such a departure from my usual self. In fact, it usually surprises me. I am listening to myself teach and wonder where that came from. It comes easily to me. If I just let it happen. So, I stood there watching and advising. Alternating between encouragement and instruction. Often times yelling to be heard and to make my point. Riding instruction involves yelling, not angry yelling, just raising the voice. It is quite hard to hear when cantering along. Especially when moving quickly. Also most people don’t listen, especially when concentrating hard. They tend to zone out, it also happens when they get fearful. so yelling keeps them focused on their instructor. Over the years most teaches find their “voice” and figure out the most effective way to maintain contact with the student. I try to end up with a fairly strong voice. I also move quite a bit when teaching, I want to keep myself within a certain distance of the rider. As the students figure me out, they know I will actually lower my voice considerably as they “get it”. It is similar to that shift in voice both Virgil and Beatrice do when they really key into something. The momentary shift in tone gives the student time to connect with themselves and the horse in the absence of the teacher’s voice. Riding is about mindful connection with self and the horse, unless they have that moment to sense correctness, they will continue to struggle. I have spent most of my life being yelled at by various instructors. Many just shrieked. It was awful. I couldn’t stand it, and the horses didn’t like it either. Others were so soft-spoken, it was hard to hear them. But interestingly enough, I learned more from them. It is possible it was the need to concentrate so hard to hear them. I try to use the less is more. If a student is really tuning out, I can yell with the best of them, but that isn’t what I like. I use a bit of all the things that were useful to me learning. Some work, others don’t. Each person learns differently. They all have different hurdles they need to get past. Some are fearful, and timid. Others lack athletic ability. I often wonder why they torture themselves attempting to get their body to master such a difficult feat. It is a combination of balance using both muscle relaxation and contraction, often times both at the same time. To remain upright, a rider must engage their core and lift themselves from their pelvis. At the same moment they need to relax their seat and follow the motion of the animal. If they tense and contract all their muscles they are unable to follow the motion of the horse.To teach someone these key aspects of riding is complicated and difficult. Just as some people can sing, and others fail to even whistle, some people are able to ride with connection. Sadly, the vast majority of people who sit on a horse never come close to figuring it out. It is so important to learn as a youngster. Learning as an adult brings in more hurdles- stiffness, lack of flexibility, anxiety and fear all tend to derail most adult’s efforts to learn. It can be done, but it is a tough process. Kids are resilient and easy to teach. they are like molding silly putty. Few of them have the fear that adults have. They may have some fear, but it is quite different. Adults fear getting hurt, falling off, not doing it right. A kid’s fear is different. Often they worry about the size of the horse, or the speed they are going, but not usually getting hurt. Even after they fall off (and they all do, or shall I say we all do.). They also seem to bounce far better than adults. I think it mainly has to do with their relaxation, as opposed to the adults that are stiff already. Adults come off and brace themselves for impact. That means broken wrists, hands and collar bones. Kids tend to roll and hop up looking for more. Gotta love that about them. Needless to say, I far prefer to work with adults. It is a more challenging process, since it has so many more obstacles. There is much more psychology. In particular overcoming the fear and anxiety. Playing polo takes all the skills involved in effective riding and combines them with hitting a ball. This is done at speed. There is an enormous amount of different pieces that need to come together. Teaching polo is quite different from teaching riding.

Tonight was actually quite enjoyable, albeit frustrating at times.  I had this sense of what if. Not that I really have the time to coach these kids. Despite that fact, I did offer to come help them at practice two nights a week. I guess it will give me something different to do. I’m willing to give it a try, and these players need all the help they can get.

Driving back to the farm my head was filled with all the various drills I could use to get them to understand the concepts they needed to know. With all the crap on my plate right now, here I was, off on a tangent. Distracted completely. Is it so bad to try for distraction? Especially with everything that is going on. I should be 100% focused on the farm right now, but I want desperately to find an escape. Maybe these kids can be that escape, just a few nights a week. I’m going to give it a try. See where it goes.

chasing androgyny?

Interesting session. Over the weeks since TM I have thought quite a bit about my displeasure with myself, specifically my body. An uptick on the scale since the seroquel increase has me restless and anxious. I was happy watching the scale hover around 115. It was acceptable to me, though I really wanted it ten pounds lower. I was liking the return of the hard angles, and less curves. I traced the little shelf forming above my hipbone. It was getting closer to where I wanted it, but it all changed. Instead of angles, the lines are softening. I grumble to myself each morning as I take stock of my body that day. I know every inch, and each flaw. I know just by that morning inventory exactly what the scale will say. I try to avoid it, and even go so far as to avoid looking at it. This may go on a few days, but eventually I climb back on, needing desperately to prove myself right, or wrong with my body weight guessing game. It has risen each week. I am frustrated and angry. I know it will continue, unless I figure out a way to stop eating everything in sight. The seroquel driving this enormous internal emptiness that can only be filled by eating. It is a ravenous feeling, as if days have passed without a meal, despite having just eaten. In this frenzy of food I sample just about everything within the four walls of our kitchen. I am compelled to eat, and eat. It disgusts me. I feel like a cow, lumbering from one patch of grass to another. This will go on until finally I tear myself away. I have tried everything to avoid this, but each night I find myself once again on the prowl for another bite. It doesn’t even taste like anything. There is no sense of anything actually appeasing my appetite. I hate this, but I know it is better than the free fall I was teetering on. All I can think of is I’ll end up like all the other fat people. Too stupid and lazy to do anything but stuff their mouths. No meal large enough to fill that need. Super sized does not even come close. Meals become 3000 calorie debacles. It is what I see all around me, it is what I see when I close my eyes. It haunts me every time I put those two white pills in my mouth every night. They unteather me from my ability to say no, and to control what is going on, it is an awful powerless feeling to yearn for food like that. It is just disgusting. I fight to work enough of the ridiculous calories off each day. Knowing that it is a never-ending race to stay ahead of the all to frequent consumption that marks every evening.

I don’t want to keep running, but my brain insists. It flashes images of the morbidly obese in hopes I keep on going. I can’t out run this one. It is there every day with each ounce added. I don’t know how to accept myself, and where I am. I don’t know why it is so terrifying to me when I reach a certain weight. I don’t understand how my distortions are so great. When I looked at the TM pictures I realized I was pretty much the same size as my friend, yet for all the years I have known her I longed to be that small. I would stand in proximity to her thinking to myself, why can’t you be like that? All I could think of what how enormous I was in comparison. I would berate myself later, and look in disgust at my body. The day I looked at those pictures should have enlightened me. It should have broken thru, but it hasn’t. I still pull and pinch at any small increase. Thinking the ugliest of thoughts to myself. Where did it all go so awry?

We discussed androgyny, and my prepubescent self. It is true I was a lanky angular kid. Always running and playing and riding. I was boyish, and never much noticed. Often mistaken for a boy, if my hair was cropped short (that continues today). The abuse took place when I was very much still a kid. I had no breasts, nor a period. I had not reached a point in my life when biology would interject and shift my body into an altogether foreign object. I don’t much remember that alteration, though it did correspond to a change in parental guardians and a new school.  I found a different way to blend in. I made like I was like all the others, even though I wasn’t. I would dutifully put on makeup and fuss with my long curly hair. My mother tried to feed my misery. Each and every evening she would hear about how awful the kids were as she heaped food on my plate. I ate, and ate. My weight increased, and my body changed. It was a difficult time. I hid in large clothes, and avoided looking too carefully at myself. I was miserable. But I never said no, I kept right on eating. The date rape only reinforced my fear of men. There was nothing safe about being a woman. We were just receptacles for the vile, violent impulses that drove men. I left for school, endlessly seeing images of broken and damaged women etched in my brain. I later drew that image, and to this day have a few small pieces I drew in school. I was quiet, and withdrawn. I kept my distance and found comfort in the intelligent women around me. I came out of my withdrawn safety zone, just a tiny step at a time. I was free of the fake contrived environment of high school and had landed on a completely different planet. There was no outward hate toward gay students. They proudly carried themselves, seemingly fearless. I knew what I was. I just had to step out into that identity. Most people say it is difficult and scary. For me it was the opposite, it was like finally reaching the surface and drawing that first pure breath. It was as natural as that. Not that it wasn’t awkward and new, it was. During this time of figuring myself out, I had a young guy pursuing me. He was soft spoken and kind. Thoughtful and completely smitten. He would shyly come by the dorm bearing flowers. Often his cheeks pink as the carnations he nervously held. I spent much of my time ignoring him. I wanted nothing to do with him. Over the course of months we wore me down. I started to fall for his silly antiquated antics. I told myself it was the only way I would know for sure. I had to be with a man, outside the realm of duress and terror. I’ll never forget that night when I finally let him into me. As terrified as I was, I allowed him. He was kind, and gentle. As much the gentleman as he had displayed over all those months of silly courtship. Despite his care, it was an altogether mundane experience. It did however show me they aren’t all monsters. I realized there was nothing about him that remotely excited me. I had my eyes on an altogether different prize. She was a vet student, older than myself. Confident, bordering on cocky. Self possessed and driven. There were no question marks. Why I ever though I had a chance is beyond me. I would watch her play polo, longing to touch that lean athletic body. Each time our paths crossed I found a way to act bold. Not in a loud aggressive way, just a strategic careful placement. Amazingly enough she caught on. those encounters grew a little longer. Our conversations became a little deeper. But what was so striking was the electricity that was palpable. As much as I wanted her, it appeared she shared that. As hard as I think, I can’t remember the first time I took her to my bed, though I do remember other times. The incredible exploration of each inch of her, as if charting a new map. I was navigating the new world of my sexuality. Without anxiety, or fear. Our desire for each other seemed bottomless. I found ways to push the edges and develope my skills. As if learning a new instrument, I was driven to get it right. The harder she came the greater the reinforcement. I lost myself in this world of passion and sex. But I never held pace with her. I could easily blame it on the psych meds, but it seemed to go deeper than that. It was not enough. I could not equal her, and often found myself pretending to make her feel better. Instead I made it about her, and her pleasure. She loved sex, so it worked out well. We explored rougher, darker things. I hoped it would somehow elicit some response from my leaden body. Laying still and expectant under dripping wax, praying the pain might work. It didn’t. It left nothing more than angry red burns. We moved on to restraint of various kinds. I felt some tiny part of me coming alive. It wasn’t enough. I gave her a belt. Her eyes grew wide and hesitant. “it’s okay” I murmured. The moment the leather bit into my neck I knew we were getting closer. But she was worried and I was impulsive and reckless. We retreated back into our usual. I did everything for her, and worshipped her body. Its beautiful lines, and intricate details. I would spend evenings tracing her curves with the tips of my fingers. In the end, it did not work. I could never fulfill her needs without losing myself. It was far too great, though I still dream of her. It was better for me in the long run. It still remains etched in my mind as I time of wonderment. I wouldn’t listen, but my mind was telling me there was something very amiss when it came to my needs. I will never go so far as to label them bad. I don’t. It is clear they were formed from the multiple traumas. Just as great glaciers move to create deep valleys, my abuse altered the landscape of my sexuality. I can never forget that, nor can I judge it. It just is. Over time I have learned what I need, and what elicits a response. I understand how fear and pain lace together into arousal. In my mind they all blur together. It isn’t a beautiful brunette that gets me (though that is my type, bordering on serial killer weird), it is a brunette being injured, harmed, tortured. Had she reversed the role all those years ago, and slid from accepting to scared, it would have been different. Had I burned her with that wax and she cried out, it would have been instant. But I didn’t know much about myself back then. I just figured I needed to be in the position of submissive. In those years I spent much of it boyish, though not terribly thin. I kept myself fit, and chose to cut my hair. I even went so far as to shave it entirely. I liked the safety and the ability to go undetected. It was preferable. I spent time with other women, and each one taught me a bit more about myself. It was a strange time of upheaval as I transitioned away from the woman of my dreams (literally) into a routine of going to bars and looking. I never really played, though I watched carefully. Out of the blue that stranger happened upon my yard. Yet again, violence came into my small world. I wanted nothing to do with my body. It was useless. I found each inch of it disgusting. It has followed that trend ever since. My course was set so many years ago. It left me bitter and angry. Really by mistake I found a body I liked. By some weird twist of fate, that brought together a perfect storm of severe depression and a medication side effect, I saw the scale drop. Week after week it dwindled. I would wake up and feel the contours of my body changing. It was a foreign land. By the time if dropped to 105, I would stand for countless minutes looking at each angle. It was perfect. The stubborn fat that hung on my belly was gone. The padding above my hips completely absent. My breasts grew small, and my period stopped. I was severely depressed, but found solace in my new body. In the early morning light I would lay back and traced the new lines and dips of my torso. It was as if in a trance. I could not get enough of my new self.

It didn’t last. The hospital inforced a very strict diet, and countless calories were added in the form of liquid supplements. Slowly my appetite returned, as did the weight. It has never been that low again. I often stand in front of the mirror longing for that body. Noting each place that has never been the same. A few months back it dropped down into the 115 range and I saw glimpses of what I wanted  desperately. It was within reach. I forced myself to stay there, not withhold food in the pursuit of that angular lanky body. At the end of the day, I do like food. I find great comfort in certain things. I have never been disciplined enough to alter that. It is indeed about control. I can only control so much. I am blessed with a decent metabolism and genes of a family tree of athletes. I will always yearn to be that small and tiny frame that I see in my mind’s eye. Nevermind that I am already there. I just can’t see it. I cannot accept it as good enough. My mind endlessly rants and snarls at each ounce gained. Never letting up in having me think I will be fat, stupid and lazy in the blink of an eye. I am just too big in my distorted mind.

Regroup

it seems I have this need to reset after writing entries like those published earlier in the week. It is as though my brain needs a few days to recover. No different than my body regrouping after long runs. Not that I don’t want to write, just that I can’t seem to. It will come back, just takes a few days. there is a clear ebb and flow in this blog process. I have no need to force it. I just note the difficulty and wait for another day. There is so much left to write, and I often find myself weeding thru the experiences of my life to find those I’d like to add to this blog. In the moments following a significant entry my mind races along and all I can see is all these entries I will write. I have to temper that instinct to just keep writing. It isn’t a race, and as impatient as I am, it has been a reasonable pace. I have thought quite a bit about how I want to transition this into a memoir. Though I do have my doubts, and would like to pause that for a while. So much harm has been done to me. The truth in that is that a memoir could be a weapon. I would never want that, though words and truth are indeed dangerous. To leave my life behind the door, shared only in 50 minute blocks, is to allow my family to sit in ease, oblivious. Were a memoir to come to the forefront would shift the dynamic and focus some light on our dysfunctional life we have spent together.

 

Departure in to the hollow

As I discussed the two important blog entries in session today, it became quite clear there was no coincidence. They were written back to back because they shared much in common. I didn’t think a lot about them as I sat and tapped my computer keys. They were just daily entries, though they are much more than that. It is very hard for me to write about the sense of powerlessness that overcomes me completely. With that comes the hopeless, sad emotions as well. In those days spent pouring over the local ads, I was awash in so many powerful feelings and thoughts. They were not called on, just crashed over me. There was not much warning, though I know better to tackle that type of activity and be oblivious. The sheer overwhelming effect spoke volumes to the degree to which I was being triggered. Not on a superficial level. This was a core reaction, as the reactor reached too great a temp. The subsequent hours spent trying to regain control and cool everything off. It took a while and a lot of running to get there. So much was going on in those hours. It was the what if’s and the should haves that rocked my center that day. The inability to stop myself from taking a walk down the path that has been my life thus far. Seeing, in painstaking detail, where it melted down. Often no fault of my own, though I do tend to blame myself for much of it. At each important juncture an obstacle found its way into my life. Some great, some small. A few near catastrophic. All I could see is the path I didn’t take, or did not get to take. It isn’t even some specific perfect vision, no, it is a vague longing for a life lost along the way. The sadness attached to this loss is so deep. When I brush up against it everything else just comes undone. My mind quickly tracks up to the point of- why bother, you can’t do it. you didn’t then, how can you possibly expect to now. you lost your chance. the whole world was there in your hand. the opportunities were endless and vast. but no, you retreated into a world of darkness. you pulled away. you failed. you could have been something, but you were not good enough or smart enough. you collapsed under the weight of all that opportunity and you’ll do it again. That is always where it goes. Combine the negative judgemental self talk and labels with the deep sense of sadness and loss, and suddenly I am in a vicious spiral. There isn’t even time to stop the spin. The reference points lose focus and it is impossible to stop. In that dizzying space of fear, pain and loss I soon become small and inconsequential to myself. I don’t even fight it. Instead I fall to my knees and grasp it. Welcoming it home and drawing it close. As I have done so many times before. In my heart it becomes my cross to bear. The suffocating feeling of guilt and insecurity settle around me. There is no use trying to shed them. And so I wait, hoping that survival instinct kicks in and I find my way to numb it. It has always been there for me. A way to turn it all off, retreat into nothingness. It does not take long. All the maelstrom of powerful emotions recedes like a tide headed back out to sea. Taking with it all of my parts, leaving me hollow and empty. It is a vacant distant place, but it doesn’t hurt. It is nothing. It touches every aspect of my life. There is no tactile sensations, or olfactory distractions. It is devoid of everything. In the absence of all the pain, I find myself accepting of this void. But it never lasts. My mind seeks input, and stimulation. It doesn’t like that place. Slowly, but surely the sensations return. Often not the emotions, but the smells and sights and sounds around me. It is a strange process, somewhat similar to the pins and needles felt in a limb as the blood supply returns. It is at once uncomfortable and needed. Though for me it is a difficult transition back. It is often a bit overwhelming. I find ways to distance myself, so it is a gradual quiet process. I take to the gym or the road to lose myself as it happens. Engaging my body, as my mind struggles to find its center of balance. It doesn’t always work, and I find myself adrift. Between lost in emotion and disengaged into numbness. The grey zone isn’t a comfortable place. It is scattered with disconnected thoughts and tides of emotion. None of it creating any resonance. It still feels too hollow and empty. I find myself looking out on a world I just cannot connect to. People seem little more than cardboard props. Sounds echo in this vast empty place. Thankfully, I do not spend a lot of time there, though at times in my life I have. I would often wish for the dissociation to be complete, not this strange vague in between place. To disappear entirely was far better, at least until I would plummet back into reality. As if entering orbit, the course was rough and bumpy. Wearing irritability and anger in defense of the emtional g forces encountered. There was no easy way back in. The hours and days that followed excruciating, as each emotion came back online. Each as powerful and violent as when the mind departed. Over the years I have become better at navigating and withstanding that transition. I tend to distance myself from the people closest to me. In the quiet of their absence, feeling my way around. I know myself too well, allowing them close only puts them in the line of fire. I will lash out, and injure them. It is too easy to react. It is so uncomfortable and vulnerable to be there. Sadly often times the people don’t even understand why I am reacting. I guess from the outside it only looks like quiet introspection, possibly withdrawn or vacant. It is so much more than that. Though I never make that known. Words are difficult, as are thoughts. They don’t seem to come together easily. It takes so much effort just to breathe in those moments of transition. It is why running is a safe place. There is nobody asking me idiotic questions, or saying the wrong thing. There is no stimuli beyond the air in my lungs and the road under my feet. Over the past few days I have spent much time alone with the air and the road. It has been a long time since I have been this off balance. My practiced skill of transitioning back just didn’t work. I was alone with it. I went with what was safest. In my life, I have learned one thing, to be alone. I used that yet again. When asked if I was ok, rather than reach out and tell them where I was, I pulled back. I don’t trust myself to not lash out. Just as a lifeguard doesn’t trust a drowning swimmer. It is all too easy to for them to turn on their savior in the blind panic to get out of the water. It is no different for me. I know in my panic to get free of the no man’s land of pain mixed with hollow nothingness I will show them something they have not ever seen from me. Instead I pull back and wait. Hoping in the hours or days that I will slide back into my reality.

I am beginning to understand why the rape entry followed so close on the heels of the job one. It has so much of the same elements- the fear, the powerlessness and the pain. Just as I find myself deeply moved by the loss of what could have been had my life stayed on course, I mourn the loss of my young self. The destruction of my innocence and my trust was so brutal and complete. My life changed, no hope to look back and shift the course. Whether it be at the hands of a drunk brother or the biology and chemical make up of my brain. There was no second chance. I saw neither coming, and could not have ever fought them off. It was not weakness, nor failure, it just was. I often wonder what might have been, the job search just kicked that into over drive. As much as I know it is not my fault, I slide back toward doubt. These blog entries belong side by side. They are evidence of this battle. The fast departure into a hollow vacant place was a learned response. It was a life saving attempt to jump ship when the world was too dangerous or painful. There are pieces of that night lost completely. I know where I was in those lost hours, and in the days that followed. I was doing everything I could just to survive. I could not stay in that reality, it was far too horrible. And so this pattern would repeat itself, over and over, right into the present day. In the days that followed those two blog posts. In the running away by pounding out mile after mile. I am not here, even as I write this. There is part of me completely lost. I can sense it, though I cannot seem to bring it back. I know how upsetting this is, just by gauging how very far away I have gone. The pressure and sadness of the job search tipped that safety mechanism. It set in motion a very rapid set of events. In the blink of an eye, I am gone.

I sat in session today, far from that room, and the painful content being discussed. Save for a few moments, I was utterly devoid of emotion. Didn’t matter what I did, or said, or tried, I was gone. I know it was my trying to protect myself. There was a strange physical response, which does not often happen, but it was fleeting. I was attempting to connect to the narrative of my rape. It was just too difficult. I know there will eventually come a time when I connect to it without setting sail. It is extremely hard to extinguish a response that saved me so long ago. My mind conditioned to grab that life raft at the first sign of turbulence. I understand why it does it. I can’t help but feel frustrated and lost. So many years of treatment and I am still battling this. Rather than being my safety it has become my impediment. How do I ever get free of this numb vacant place? A place so hollow it drains the life right out of me.

running away

There is occasionally that moment when a run turns into something all together different. It becomes a departure. The here and now slides away into oblivion. Within the cadenced breaths and the rap of strides on the road stretching before me, it is there, if only I can find it. It isn’t easy. Just isn’t there most days. There are days it is just plain work. Not more than an hour or more spent in motion, no joy to be found. There are endless numb miles like that. I find myself chasing that departure. Hoping in that next turn, or in that tough climb there will be an escape. It may not last long, just a few moments, or possibly a mile or two. But when it comes there is nothing like it. The stress and anger evaporates like the sweat on my under armour. It just plain disappears. How can the simple act of running do that, when the most powerful of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers fail. Just putting one foot in front of the other on a stretch of path. Guess most would argue it is endorphins. I don’t know that is it. It is more like a meditative state- when running becomes flying, effortless. The repetitive movement, sound and effort. It is easy to sometimes get lulled into a trance like state, especially when doing a longer distance run. There is a sweet spot, if you can find it. So, how do I find it? What makes it unattainable most runs? or only attainable for brief glimpses? All I want is a place to fall into oblivion. To have no pain, or anxiety. To race free of the doubts and judgements. And so I run, and run, and run some more. With each mile, chasing the glimpse of freedom. To be honest most of the time I dislike running, bordering on hating it. But I keep right on running for those days. Sure most would just give up. I’m rather hard headed, or as my mom has always said- I have a head like concrete. Though she often says that because my older brothers had taunted me into riding my tricycle off the deep end of our pool. It was late fall and they were in the empty olympic size pool tossing and catching with their lacrosse sticks. They loved to torment me, this was nothing new. Guess I was fairly easy to get me to try anything, with all the Evel Knievel talk. So a leap off the deep end of a concrete pool seemed easy. Nobody knows how I survived that one, though we all agree it probably had something to do with the plastic hotwheels trike I was on. My mother ran the opposite direction (speaks volumes and is a pretty accurate description of her response to anything remotely trying). So I survived that one, and as this life as has gone, quite a few others. There is no explanation for that day, or all the other ones. Maybe someone is looking over my shoulder, and in those moments of oblivion running, I find myself glimpsing something so much more than myself. I can only hope to catch sight of it more often, because all that work and fatigue takes its toll. Run on, I say.

not far, just there

I knew the day would eventually come when my hands would find their way and that night would come into the now. Not the then, the past, the shadows. Eventually it would be told, in all the detail and the horror. It doesn’t change anything. It still happened, it still shaped my life in many ways. I had fantasized about it somehow all becoming okay, if only I could just find a way to put words to it. So there it sat, year after year. The silence grew, and the days clicked off. It became so distant. I could go long periods without thinking about it. Sadly that changed. When the incident with him happened with past year it tossed everything out the window. The control and the distance disappeared. I found little glimmers of that night returning to me. It became a part of my life again. Nobody can ever say you leave a rape behind you, it is never far.

As I struggled with grasping what has become of my life, it became far to easy to get lost in my mind. There waiting was that night. I fought it initially, but gave in. It only hurt more to refuse. Instead I sat down and let my mind go. I thought it would be difficult to do, but it was a steady tap on the keys, akin to rain hitting a window. It wrote, without thought or direction. I let go. I allowed myself to open up and put words on that experience. Maybe with time it will grow easier, but for now I only see the silver of the moon in that old glass, and the dim outline of a door knob just beyond my reach. The predawn chill wrapped around me as I prayed for the blood to stop.I dream it, breathe it and see it. I ran today in hopes of leaving it behind. It is still very much there, though I will keep trying.

Morning light

The light slowly creeped across the cool floor. Starting with just the very edges and ever so gradually lighting the sink, tub and toilet. They seemed so benign and harmless. Each in their own way symbols of a home. But there was nothing benign in the endless minutes that ticked off in silence. There was danger there in the darkness. Each creak of the ancient floorboards settling. Every scurry of little feet moving in the walls. My heart leapt at every sound, regardless of how faint. Was it him? had he stirred? was that a footstep? It was so very cold in those predawn hours. I curled myself on the only cloth I could find, an old thin bathmat. I made myself as small as I could. Praying I’d stop bleeding. Folding in on myself both physically and mentally. I was at the very edge of endurance in those hours. The pain I felt paled in comparison to the terror.

It had moved well beyond fear in those first startled moments when I realized something was wrong. I heard him long before he had made it to the bed. I had been asleep, dreaming. The house, an 1800’s farm house, was quite loud with its wide pine floors, and thin plaster lathe walls. It was easy to be awakened by the stairs when they groaned under footfalls. But it wasn’t the stairs that woke me that night. It was the door squeaking on its hinges. In that instant, I awakened in confusion. where am I? what time is it? who is there? As we were just passing thru, there was nothing familiar about this place. It smelled and sounded, and looked foreign to my eyes still laden with sleep. The footfalls were heavy across the boards. I knew it was my brother, but still my heart thumped heavily in my chest. Why is he here? what is he doing? I stilled myself as the bed creaked, the old springs announcing his arrival clear as a fire alarm. instinctively, I hugged myself and turned away, hoping that this night would just return to the innocent sleep I had been in not long before. I can just pretend this isn’t happening. He isn’t going to hurt me. God help me. I could smell the sweet slightly rancid smell of alcohol and sweat. It descended and washed over me as he drew in closer. His hand clasped my shoulder. My heart jackhammered away in my chest so hard I could feel it in my temples. I pulled away. His grasp grew harder, I could not hold my back to him. In that moment, when my back was flat on the old mattress, I knew what was coming. I may have been just a kid, but I wasn’t stupid.  I had seen enough scenes in movies to know once you were on your back that was it. The springs creaked again in argument as he made his way onto me. I remember the pitch of those springs, the very sound they made. It is etched clear in my mind. Clumsily his hands found their way into my shirt. My small pale breasts visible as my shirt was pulled up, nipples cold and hard under his finger tips. I heard a voice, it grew more urgent and strained. I realized it was me, talking to myself, trying to tell myself it was all going to be okay. it’s fine. he won’t hurt you, he’s your brother, he will come to his senses, he will realize i’m not his girlfriend. it’ll be okay. But it didn’t work out that way. He kept calling me by his girlfriend’s name. Over and over. It did not matter what I said, or how vigorous my argument. He was insistent and driven. Heavily intoxicated and beyond senseless he continued his approach. I lay quite still. My pleading had gotten me nowhere. I was departing that room and all the ugliness that was beginning in it. I had made myself small and as transparent as a pane of glass. There was nothing left of me there as his fingers yanked at my white underwear. I felt the elastic slide past my thighs, but my mind refused to register the shock. My body was nearly numb. There was just a strange hum in my ears as the room slid away from me. I watched in horror as he lowered his large slim frame down over me. I am so small, just a tiny thing. so small, so very small. The pain registered somewhere deep within me, and the tears rolled down my cheeks. In that farmhouse bedroom, with only the pale moon as witness he lay me open. The bed creaked and the mattress sighed. the sheets swished and the sweat dripped. stop. stop. stop. stop. stop. My mind continued with that mantra, clinging desperately to the hope it would be over soon. There wasn’t much more I could take. I was fighting so hard to disappear, but the flash of pain dragged me back into the present. I lost sense of time and place. My mind wandered into and out of rooms I had never seen before. Strange doorways appeared in my mind’s eye, each slammed shut as he rocked deeper. There was nothing left. I closed my eyes tight against the reality, wishing to be free of that room and the bed and his weight that pinned me to it. I found myself staring out the old window panes at the hint of the moon I could see. I traced its lines and the light it created in the deep grey black sky. My breathe caught hard in my chest and I came back to the present. Panic was pulling at me. He had collapsed on me and I could not breath. I struggled, grasping the twisted wet sheets by the handful. Trying to get a purchase to pull myself free. I was terrified of moving him, but my need for oxygen drove me. In my panic I scrambled free of him. I froze again, sobbing and panting. My heart raced and I saw starbursts of light in the back of my eyes. The room tilted hard. It all slid away. I came awake with a violent start. where am I ? what happened? what is going on? dear god. oh no. how can this have happened. As I lay still my mind began inspecting me, starting with the tips of my toes. Accounting for every part, every sensation. There was no longer a numbness. There was red hot ripples of pain coursing thru me. It felt as though my body had been pulled apart, my center shredded in pieces. I knew I had to escape, to get free of that bed and that room. He lay breathing shallowly in sleepy breaths beside me. I could make out the door in the silvery moon light. Inch by inch I slid myself toward the footboard. Any change in his breathing would freeze me in anxious minutes to watching. I would then again move by the inch. It took me a long time to make my way to the foot of the bed. I faced the old pine floorboards. They spread out in front of me. I knew they creaked, they all did. I was so petrified of making even a single sound. I could barely breathe. I swung me feet over the bed. My toes stretched toward the cold wood. I felt my way forward in the faint moonlight. I can make it. it is just a few more feet. one inch at a time. don’t make a sound. don’t wake him up. he’ll hurt you again. don’t make a noise. don’t make a sound. It seemed forever I stood shivering in the darkness. The pain and fear surrounding my every footfall. He stirred and rolled over. Without even thinking I drew into a tight crouch, making myself small and low to the floor. I prayed in that moment, as I have never in my life. I wanted to get free and leave that horrid room pungent with the smell of alcohol, sweat and sex. It was oppressive and I knew I was drowning. I had to get up. I waited minutes and strained to hear his breathing become deep and regular. I started slowly again. Each step equally painful and terrifying. The pine boards shifting beneath my feet. I was almost there. A long low creak started beneath me. Frozen again. My heart beating so hard I could not even make out if he had heard it. A cold sweat trickled down my back. My crumpled white underwear clinched in my fist. I was one step away. The door was there. But I knew the hinges would squeak. My hand stretched out, ghostly white and trembling. The door knob just within my grasp, but I was immobile with fear. I knew the door might wake him. that door was the only way out. I had to make a choice. Either I stayed in that room with him, or I pulled that door open. It stalled me there for many minutes. It seemed an eternity over what should have been an easy decision. My mind was clouded and indecisive. In my stillness I felt a warm sensation slide along my inner thigh. reflexively I held my wadded underwear to my leg. In the dim light I saw the blood. I knew I could not stand there bleeding on the floor. I stepped forward and grasped the knob. Slowly I opened the door into the dark hallway. It gave only a slight whine. I was in the hall. The effort of just getting from the bedroom left me in a heap. I rested there in the hall, holding myself to catch any blood before it got to the floor. I had to get to the bathroom. I was so exhausted. It took me a long time, but I made my way downstairs and thru the kitchen to my place on the bathmat. I didn’t know what else to do. I just found myself curled up staring at the small window praying for the sun to rise. It was the longest night of my life. I have never revisited that night completely. this is the only documentation of the events. I cannot tell you where I was prior to his coming into that room, or what we did earlier that day. I have no recollection of the next morning and the following days. they don’t seem to exist in my mind. I have left that night far behind me, though it creeps back on cool nights when the moon shines silvery in the windows, or in the minutes before dawn when light draws in from the edges of the sky. My rape is always just a breath away in those moments.