Saturday, August 18, 2007

Therapeutic walk...

I went for a walk this morning after breakfast - just around my in-laws' sub-development (which has a few cul-de-sac's. ;-)

Anyway, I started thinking about what I'll tell John at my next appointment. Of course, I'll start by recapping my conversation with Johnny.

And then I started processing my thoughts/feelings about it.

My brother gave me the family line - "Hide everything that isn't perfect; protect the family before yourself; preserve the status quo at all costs." His qualification, "Well, if you need to stir things up, then do it," is a nod to the fact that I am an adult and need to decide for myself, however he would prefer that I keep this between Tom and me. Don't upset the status quo - no matter the costs to you. Sacrifice yourself for the good of the family.

Well, I'm done with doing that.

Besides, I don't think my brother is giving my parents enough credit. I think that if I spin it right, my parents can handle it. If I make sure to say that:

-> Tom confirmed that this did happen.

-> I didn't do anything wrong and yet, my life was nearly destroyed by it - I almost lost my marriage; I could have died from my eating disorder. (And, no, I'm not being melodramatic here, mom.)

-> I hate that I feel like I'm living a lie. It hurts too much to have to keep this secret.

-> I talked to Johnny about this - he advised me not to tell you both, not to upset you, not to stir things up over something that happened decades ago between Tom and me. But I don't think that is fair to any of us. I don't think he is giving you enough credit.

-> Tom and I are civil when necessary - I don't want to destroy the family over this, but I am very angry at Tom and probably always will be. And I wanted you to know why.

And then I need to ask them what I need from them... support, understanding, whatever it is that will help me (I haven't given it a lot of thought yet.)

I still need to mull this over some more - and definitely talk to John about this at my next appointment (a week from Tuesday - since he's on vacation next week.) John has a wonderful way of seeing other options I may not have thought about and he is definitely my go-to man when I need to spin things carefully.

I wish he had been my therapist when I told my parents about my eating disorder - I may have gotten a completely different reaction from my mom if I had worded it differently... *

Oh well, I have John on my side now. That's what matters.

* I don't think I ever wrote about this experience... When I first got into therapy, I called my mom and read her a letter that I had written about how I seeking therapy for a relapse of the eating disorder I had in college (but was undiagnosed back then.) She asked me why I couldn't "snap out of it" like I did in college. Then I told her how I had always wanted to please her, be loved by her, be perfect. She told me that I misinterpreted everything.
I caved at that point - and gave up.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Made the call...

I did it. I talked with my brother, Johnny. I called not long after Todd (my husband) left for an appointment. He would have stayed, but I needed to do this alone. I don't know why - I guess I just felt better not having someone listening in.

I left messages for johnny at his home/office and on his cell. He called me right back. I feel like I bumbled through (so many things I would have said differently, more composedly, but maybe it was better this way.) I started by saying that he knew I had an eating disorder and was seeing a therapist. Well, I remembered some things from our childhood and Tom confirmed them.

"what things?"

"Tom molested me."



And then in typical Johnny fashion, "I didn't do anything, did I?"*

I reassured him that he didn't.

"Well, I didn't know anything about it."

Yeah, I know. Tom and I were alone when it happened.

So then I told him that I feel like I'm living a lie and I'm sick of it. And then I asked him about how I should tell mom and dad.

I could see him rear up from 400 miles away. "Why do you have to tell them? You should talk to a counselor, I'm not a counselor. What did your counselor tell you to do? You're just going to stir things up. But if you need it to be stirred up, ..."

I said that I am talking to a therapist and that he won't tell me what to do - he just helps me figure out what I'm feeling and why. I said that it hurts every time that mom and dad talk about Tom. Understandably.

"Well, they probably talk about the girls more." "It happened years ago; it's between you and Tom. They don't need to know."

True, but they bring up Tom.

"Well, then tell mom and dad not to talk about Tom. Or whatever you want them to do. But don't get into the details."

Then I asked, "But what if they ask why?"

"Tell them you don't want to talk about it."

I told him that he wasn't telling me anything that I didn't already think about.

He said he'd call me back later when we could talk some more (it sounded like someone was coming or one of his dogs needed attention or something...)

And then, right when we were about to hang up, he said, "Take care of yourself."

I replied, "You, too." And I really meant it.

And then I started crying. Sobbing. I walked into my room and laid on my bed and hugged my pillow and cried. And for once, I didn't try to figure out why. I started to, but then stopped myself. I just let the tears come. Let the sobs rack my body.

Then I got up after a few minutes, grabbed a few tissues and then asked Dusty (my furry canine son) if I could hold him. He's a Lhasa Apso - almost 10 years old and rather crotchedy most of the time. He imprinted on Todd, not me; he doesn't often cuddle with me. But with some token protest growls, he snuggled with me on the couch. I pet him while I let more tears come. More sobs out.

And after a few minutes of that, I took a few deep breaths and started to write this post. I needed to get it all down while it was fresh in my mind, you know?

I was right - Johnny is a great guage for how my parents would react.

He took it better than I thought he would - he didn't tell me that I was nuts or anything. He took what I said seriously.
And he didn't tell me anything that I hadn't already thought about - what good would telling mom and dad do? etc.

But I feel better having told Johnny. Someone else in my family knows besides Tom and me.

I feel a little lighter - like a tiny bit of this burden has been lifted.

And I have to say that I'm proud of myself for letting myself cry - and especially for not trying to figure out why. I just felt the wave of emotions and rode the tears that came with it. [That was something else that John mentioned last night that would be good for me to do more often. (Although he specifically said that I shouldn't bottle up my emotions in front of others, particularly Todd. He said it would be healthy for me to feel my emotions fully in front of him.)]

Anyway, "the first transport is away.**" I took another step.

And I think I'll wait to talk to John again (in two weeks) before taking any more major ones.

I didn't send the email to Tom yet. Not sure I'm going to, at least not until I figure out what (if anything) I'm going to do about my parents. Johnny won't say a word to anyone, I know that - he doesn't tell anyone anything ever (more or less.)

* I'm paraphrasing for most of johnny's quotes - I remember some things exactly, but most I remember the jist of what was said...

** Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back reference.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pieces of the puzzle are fitting...

I saw John tonight. I feel better. (Not all better, not even remotely, but clearer.)

I walked into his office and the first thing he asked was, "How was your weekend up North with your brother?"

To put it clinically, I described to him my symptoms (restless sleep, compartmentalizing, etc.) I told him how I felt a hole when I saw my brother - because this was the brother that I liked the most (which isn't really saying a whole lot since both of my brothers treated me fairly rotten over the course of my life.) I told him how I am afraid to feel, that I don't want to feel these things, but I'm miserable holding them in. Everything I could think of.

Through our conversation, he fit the pieces together.

Since I had been doing really well (living a healthy life, for the most part*) for months before my visit up North, so he said that my anxiety has to do seeing him again. He said that I dealt with my abuse the best anyone possibly could - he said that I have no reason to relive it.

John figured out that I feel miserable because I'm keeping a secret. That I'm taking responsibility to protect people (my brother, my nieces, my sister-in-law, my parents, etc.) who it is not my responsibility to protect. I didn't do anything wrong; I don't need to protect anyone but myself (and consequently, my son and husband.)

He also said that I am trapped - Tom is family; there is no way around not seeing him, not having some kind of relationship with him (even if it means that I'm angry at him.) If it had been a friend, I could tell the whole family, everyone (in theory) would rally around me and we'd cut off relations with said friend. But since Tom is family, if the fact of the abuse leaks out (and John said that inevitably it will slip out someday,) people will take sides - possibly (probably) not mine. It's messy. And it sucks.

So we talked some more. I emphatically stated that I can't live life like this anymore. Stuffing my feelings in boxes and shelving them. I just can't. It's like I'm living a lie by keeping this secret. The stress and anxiety of keeping this secret is killing me.

He said I can either keep what happened to me a secret from my family and live with feelings bottled up (which means that I probably end up coping by using my ED once more) or I can tell my family.

"Either way sucks," he said. An understatement to be sure.

I remarked that it was funny that he said that. A few nights ago, Todd and I were talking and Todd mentioned that he would love to reenact the battle of New Caprica with my family. I said something along the lines of, "If there's fighting to be done, it'll be me doing the fighting." While I had always said that this is my fight, this was the first time that I said, point blank that I would actually fight (and not find a peaceful solution.)

I also mentioned that last week (before my parents came down for a visit,) I thought about saying to my mom, "So, Mom, suppose I tell you that I remember being molested when I was younger. What would you say?"

John asked me what I imagined her response would be. I said that I didn't. I stopped it right there because I couldn't imagine going through with it (which I didn't.)

We talked about who would be a good starting place. My parents? No way. I figure at best my mom will shake her head, tell me that I misinterpreted it all, roll her eyes, and remark, "Crazy Jeanne again."

So, I figure my oldest brother (Johnny) would be best.

John said again (and a few times throughout the night,) "I know, it sucks." Yup.

I asked John, "So let's assume that I am going to tell my oldest brother. Because, knowing me, that is what I'll do. What do I say? 'Hey Johnny, I know I never call, but I just wanted to tell you that Tom molested me when I was younger.'"

John and I chuckled. He advised me to start by saying that I have something serious to talk with him about and asking if he had time to talk. Once we agreed on a time, John said it will be easier to tell him. The other thing he said was to be sure that I told Johnny that Tom has confirmed that it really happened.

I said to John, "My reply to Tom (after I had confronted him, after he apologized and validated my memories) was that no one else needs to know. So I should tell him that I'm telling Johnny."

John said, "After you talked to Johnny."

I look puzzled. Shouldn't I give Tom the heads-up?

John replied that you don't want to worry that Tom called Johnny first and poisoned the waters. He said that it would be fine to send Tom an email right after talking to Johnny. "Write the email and as soon as you hang up Johnny, click Send."

Deep breaths.

John said that I had all the pieces when I walked in the door. I knew what I needed to do. I said, "You give me too much credit. I had the pieces, but I needed you to help me figure it out."

Towards the end of the hour, John said, "You are very brave."

I said, "I don't feel it right now."

He replied, "You're in a difficult situation." He said that a lot of people would just continue to shelve these feelings.

I nodded, "Yeah, but six months from now, I'll look back and realize how brave I am."

So, I left his office feeling better. I have a course of action that feels like it's the right thing to do. For me - because as John said, there is no right or wrong answer here.

I'm hoping to get a hold of Johnny tomorrow - maybe leave work early. Because like every other step in this process, once I figure out what I need to do, I want to do it and get it over with. With the hope that I'll feel better - some relief from the hell (depression, anxiety, stress) I'm in.

I don't want to hide anymore. I am not my abuse, but it did happen. It wasn't my fault. And I deserve support and love. I didn't do anything wrong.

*John said that I'll always have residuals - all survivors of abuse do (for me it's my negative body image, the reactions I have when I'm touched in certain ways, etc.); the residuals don't have to disrupt my everyday life though. When they do (like these dreams,) it means that there is something else happening (and most likely, it'll be something in the present. Since for me, I really did deal with the past and that the past isn't what seems to be bothering me.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I see John tomorrow.

I'm scared.

Scared that he won't be able to help me, that I won't be able to start a path towards relief (and restful sleep,) that he'll shrug and tell me, "Your life is good, learn to live it."

I'm scared that he will be able to help me, that I'll have to face the memories, the feelings, that I might lose control of myself or that I won't and thus, won't move forward.

And yet, I can't imagine not going through with this. I won't live this way for the rest of my life. I refuse.

Sure, my life is good - I have a wonderful husband, an adorable son, a lovable (even though he is old and crotchedy sometimes) furry son. I have a good job, a beautiful apartment, health care to beat the band, etc.

But I feel broken. I still compartmentalize just about everything in my life. I try to live in the moment, feel what I feel, but I don't often succeed. I can acknowledge what I am feeling (which is a big step for me,) but I'm not really feeling most emotions.

I'm still not really feeling my feelings - especially over the past few weeks when my dreams have disturbed more than my rest.

So, what am I going to say to John tomorrow? (aside from the common pleasantries.)

"John, I'm not done dealing with what happened to me - the abuse. My mind and body are telling me through the disturbing dreams that I can't remember but which rob me of my sleep that there is more I need to do. More I need to process.

"I need your help. First to work through my fear of letting my guard down - giving up control; then to work through actually feeling the feelings around and about being abused.

"I can't compartmentalize this anymore. I won't.

"Can you help me?"

I think that sums it up fairly nicely...
Short and I think covers the ground.

I feel a little less frightened, now that I have an idea of what to say.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Somebody spot me

As I read this post from h4h, I realize that I'll never be ED-thought free, I'll never be completely comfortable in my skin, until I resolve (? is that the right word) the feelings I have about and around being molested.

So I wonder, if I hadn't been abused, would I have had an eating disorder? Interesting question...

Does it really matter?

Not really.

But it is interesting to note that the most progress I've made in recovery has been since I opened up about the bits of abuse that I remember. Once I told Todd about it, it was like a weight lifted from my shoulders - I wasn't hiding anything any more. I was me - and someone loved me no matter what had happened. And that knowledge made it easier to eat when I was hungry, to trust my body's signals. To then trust a nutritionist when she told me that really, my body does know what it needs. I was able to let go of numbers - calories, weights, bmi's, grams.

Over the last few weeks, I've found myself wanting to count calories, to restrict, to binge. Anything to feel less exhausted. I haven't. I don't plan to. Because I don't want that life anymore. I don't need my outsides to match my insides for others to know that I'm hurting.

And I know that the only way to feel less exhausted is to face my memories - head on, no chickening out.

Of course, the thought frightens the hell out of me.

Facing my memories means letting my guard down. I'm not one to relax easily - physically or mentally.

In high school, I was in all the musicals as well as in chorus. Part of the warm-up would be to make a neck massage chain. I have a talent for giving neck massages - friends would line up at rehearsals for me to massage their necks and backs.

I hated receiving them. I used to say that I was terminally tense because about five minutes after my muscles would relax, I would be in serious pain as my muscles tensed right back up.

I've had similar experiences with the few massages that I've had as an adult. It's like my mind rebels against relaxing.

And if my mind doesn't want my body to relax, who thinks it will allow itself to relax?

Meditations, visualizations - never work. I end up disconnecting myself. Fear stops me. Fear of what might pop up once my guard is let down.

Maybe this is why I'm not getting a restful sleep? My mind is fighting against the relaxation that my body needs, for fear of what may surface. Maybe this is why I seem to have more energy than I had all day right before I go to bed?

But what am I afraid of? What could possibly be worse than what I have already remembered?

Answer: my feelings. Rephrase: feeling my feelings fully.

For me, that's a nightmare.

So, here is where I'm at right now:
I need to truly face my feelings/memories.
This thought scares the begeesus out of me.
I need to find a way through the fear of first feeling these (powerful) emotions, then allowing myself to show them.

But maybe finding a way through the fear is to just do it (ugh, hate that nike slogan.)

Seriously though, maybe it's just about saying, "Okay, I don't like this, but damn-it, I'm doing it anyway" and doing it, over and over, until it's not so scary.

Like in dance class, we have spotters to help us with a new move before we are cleared to practice on our own. And we do the move over and over with the spotter, until we're comfortable with it. And the we repeat it on our own, until it feels almost natural...

So, hopefully, John can be my spotter on this.

Although, I'm beginning to wonder about my spotter - he hasn't returned my second voicemail yet (the first he answered - with a time I couldn't make, so I called him back and left another message to try again. He hasn't called me yet. So, this morning, I left another message... I guess this is the main problem with seeing a therapist whose private practice is his second, part-time job... [sigh] I hate phone tag. But I'll keep trying, even if I have to call everyday.)

John called me back and we set up an appointment.
And yet, 8-( - because now I have no more excuses...