Back to the counselor?

Lately I’ve wondered if I should make an appointment to see my trauma/DV counselor again. I spent 15 months in intensive trauma therapy, which ended in April. Since that time, my counselor has opened her own practice — great news for her, but not so much for me. She used to be part of a hospital program that was absolutely free, and it was also about a two-minute walk from my office. I’m not sure what she charges now, but I’m guessing it’s a lot more than $0.00.

Money aside, I’m still not sure it’s the right thing for me to do. I know that I’ll always have symptoms of PTSD, and I understand the lifelong effects of trauma all too well. What’s difficult to explain to people is that when you are someone like me, you’re not “sick.” My reactions to what happened to me are perfectly normal; they are what any person would have done who experienced such severe abuse.

So I’m not ill, I don’t “have” PTSD, but I do deal with the symptoms¬†of PTSD and also the long-term ramifications of the abuse. My biggest problem today is that I have no clear sense, still, of who I am and what I want to do with my life — although I’m literally working every day to figure that out. I started working through a fantastic series of questions by Paul Myers. This link will take you to the page where you can download it, if you’re interested (it’s all free). The questions he asks are thought-provoking¬†and detailed, so it’s taking me some time to work through them all. But I do think it will help me become more focused — at least, that’s my hope.

So what would I talk to my counselor about?

Off the top of my head, I’d say my general sense is that things are going on a good trajectory right now, but that I’m also feeling pressured to make some big life choices. I feel like my time is running out, and I can’t make a misstep. To me, that’s the biggest hurdle right now. At my age, I don’t have time to recover from another mistake, either personally or professionally. So making any move at all feels dangerous. I don’t want to let paralysis set in, so every single day I do something, anything, to keep moving forward.

And it’s exhausting. That’s the bottom line. I feel exhausted by everything I have had to do over the past few years. From trying to save my marriage — still working on that — to going through the DV counseling, to being a good mom to my daughter (and screwing that up badly recently), to getting a better-paying job so we can pay off some debts, to figuring out what I really want to be doing with my life … it’s all too much.

Why am I hesitating to go back to the counselor? I think it’s because while it was an incredibly enlightening experience, it was also the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I don’t want to be reminded of the emotional pain I experienced. And seeing her, weird as it may sound, might trigger some reactions I’m not equipped to deal with right now.

I’ll keep thinking about it. I’ll see how I feel in a couple of weeks, after my daughter has gotten settled in England and I can relax a bit about that.

 

 

Still standing, still walking forward

When I was going through trauma therapy, I learned — but wasn’t surprised — that many victims turn to drinking or drugs, and some end up killing themselves.

I have gone through periods of time in the past 22 years (that’s how long it’s been since I moved out) when I got really down. I never seriously wanted to end my life because I knew I had to be there for my daughter. I also never drank or did drugs, although there were days when I thought about it.

Why didn’t I?

I had the kind of upbringing where alcohol wasn’t in the house except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. No beer, no wine, nothing. I never went to wild parties in high school, and in college I was the one who made sure all the girls went back to the right rooms after a night of drinking.

Never smoked anything. Never took a pill.

Because I always wanted to be in control of myself. I never wanted to be vulnerable enough to jeopardize my safety.

Ironic, isn’t it? Considering what ended up happening to me?

I still never drink or smoke or do drugs. Going through trauma therapy last year, I had days where I didn’t want to wake up. I’ve never felt such deep grief, not even when people in my life died. But somehow I knew that drinking wouldn’t make that pain go away. I knew I had to walk, and sometimes crawl, through it.

I still have days where I feel as though I’m crawling. But most days I’m standing up straight. And then I walk forward.

Strange days

I suppose this is all part of the trauma recovery process, but I have had some really strange days recently.

Mostly, the strangeness has resulted from my newfound feelings of dissatisfaction with my work life. During the trauma therapy, I learned that, in fact, the life I had been living for all these decades really wasn’t the one I chose. As a victim of long-term domestic violence, combined with dealing with his sexual abuse of our daughter, I have had serious trauma and PTSD symptoms.

One of those was the inability to make choices about my life. In some ways, I THOUGHT I was making choices — but looking back, they were really more about surviving, not living.

Now, I’m finding myself in a position where I truly hate — HATE — my job. Some days I barely make it in there. What is bringing about this hatred? Three things, as best I can figure:

1) It’s very paternalistic. Both directors are male, and they assert their authority every chance they get. Our overall boss is male. And, it’s a medical school: university plus medical doctors = male-dominated culture. I don’t want to work for this many men, especially men who enjoy being in power.

2) “Leadership” doesn’t lead. They don’t want to be leaders, and they don’t have what it takes to be leaders. I am learning nothing from them and, if given the opportunity, could lead them as well as run circles around them.

3) The job itself allows me very little creativity and autonomy. Every time I assert myself, I’m told “no.” My boss doesn’t come right out and say the word “no,” but he acts passive aggressively and undermines my work on a regular basis.

My solution: Strike out on my own. So I’m developing my own business and will stay in this job until I can afford to quit. It’s tough. It means that I literally work all the time: Before I go to the office, on my lunch break, when I get home after the gym at night, almost all weekend/every weekend. I’m determined, though, to make this business succeed.

I have to. My mental health depends on it.

Wow

Tough day today at my job. My self-confidence was smacked down to the ground. It felt like that, literally. My face hit the proverbial pavement, in the torrential rain we had here today.

My boss uses passive-aggressive tactics to undermine his staff on a routine basis, and today was a whopper example of that, directed right at me.

I’m using harsh language because his behavior didn’t just feel abusive, it was abusive.

He has been told by higher-ups that he needs to change his management style. He has asked me why morale is so low, and I’ve told him. His own boss sent him and another person at his level to a mediator because they didn’t get along. Then, all of the rest of us were dragged to a “staff day” so we could try to create a better team.

He has everything he needs to make positive changes in how he interacts with people, but he is refusing to do it. I don’t know what’s stopping him, but based on some other factors — he’s more than 100 pounds overweight and doesn’t do anything to take care of himself, and he looks sad all the time — I think it’s something very deep he’s grappling with.

The only thing that has kept me even mildly afloat today is the realization that I didn’t cause his behavior. In years past, I would have thought that, believed that. Today, I know it’s not true. He is in control of his own behavior, not me.

Trauma therapy taught me a lot, including recognizing that people do mean things because they choose to do them, not because I cause them to do them.

I hope I can remember that lesson when I see him tomorrow.