20 years ago today

My mother died 20 years ago today. She was 72. I was 30. My daughter was 3.

I was happy that my mother got to know my daughter, even if it was only for 3 years.

Unfortunately, my daughter has no memory of my mother except that she took a lot of pills, which was true at the end of her life. She had always been a healthy woman, very active, ate well — a health nut, really. Then she was struck down by cancer and lived just 7 months after the diagnosis: “cancer of unknown origin.” By the time the doctors found it, the cancer had spread from wherever it started all the way to the sac around her heart.

She went through chemo for three or four months, which we all knew was pointless. But she and my dad wanted to try, anyway. I was glad that by the time she died, her beautiful hair had grown back in.

The day she died, when I came home from the hospital I went into her room and looked through her dresser. In the jewelry drawer, I found a Ziploc bag filled with all the hair she had lost.

I went to her closet and took out one of her favorite outfits and laid it out on the bed. Then I put it on. I couldn’t bear to see it so lifeless.

I miss my mother every day. But I am extremely thankful that she saw me leave my horrific marriage. She knew that my daughter and I would be OK.

 

 

I hate PTSD

This past week, I had a horrific episode of PTSD symptoms. Here’s what happened.

One morning, I had a major problem at work. My self-confidence and feelings of self worth were really put through a meat grinder.

My husband went to a doctor’s appointment that same day, right across the street from where I work. Afterward, he stopped by to see me in the lobby (there’s a little deli there), because I told him I was having a terrible morning and could use some support. He was kind enough to listen to my story about my horrible morning at work and offer some much-needed support.

After we finished that conversation, he said the doctor had given him a prescription. He had a full afternoon ahead of him and a commitment in the evening, so I offered to take his prescription in and get it filled. I was going to the drugstore anyway to pick up one of my own prescriptions, so it was no trouble at all.

We said good bye, and I went back up to my office.

I lost the prescription somewhere in between. No idea where. I only realized it when it was 5 pm and I was getting ready to leave. Couldn’t find that slip of paper anywhere. Searched my desk, dug through the trash, searched my bag. Asked the lost and found, looked in the hallways, stairwell, bathroom. Nothing.

I had a complete meltdown. Coupled with the stress I was dealing with at work, plus some other financial stressors, I lost it. I even knew it at the time, that my reaction was totally related to PTSD. But I couldn’t seem to stop it.

I felt like I let my husband down, I felt like I couldn’t be trusted with even the smallest bit of paper (I wrote about the “why” of that particular problem in my book). I felt like my boss had no faith in me (even though he had undermined me). I felt like I couldn’t trust myself and had no reason to believe anyone else could, either.

It was horrible.

It’s a few days later, and I’m still trying to recover from this episode. It’s exhausting to live this way. And no, it isn’t something we can just “let go” of. As I also wrote about in my book, trauma lives within us, is part of us, is indelible. It’s basically like saying we need to let go of our DNA. I’m still learning to live with this irrevocable damage that was done to my self, my person, my DNA. Some days, it’s pretty damn tough.

 

Pushing, pulling, doubting

I know that people have doubts.  Even the most successful people in the world — like the president, for example — have doubts. Do you remember the looks on people’s faces in that photo of the president, Secretary Clinton, et al., during the raid on bin Laden? That was a poignant example to me of how even the most powerful people in the world feel fear and doubt.

The difference is, when you’re dealing with symptoms of PTSD and the problems of trauma recovery, fear and doubt creep in all the time. One of my biggest challenges during this recovery process is learning to trust myself. I’ve written before about my struggle to learn to love myself. I’m also having great difficulty learning to trust myself.

It makes sense. An abuser like my ex-husband does everything he can to make you distrust yourself. Question yourself. You start to say things in your head like, “Is it ME? It must be me that’s causing him to act this way. What am I doing wrong?”

I still have this conversation with myself, every single day, about innumerable things. The difference is that I hear the words differently. I recognize that I’m doing it, and when I recognize it, I attempt to change the script.

When I hear that pushing, pulling, doubting conversation inside my head, I try — as often as I possibly can — to say this to myself, instead: “You can be trusted. You do have good judgment. You can be successful and still have a few doubts. It’s normal.”

Is it easy? No. Am I worth it? Yes.