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Ask the Band: Grieving after abuse.

Dear Band,
“I was sexually abused as a child from age 5 to 8 by my babysitter’s son who was 10 yrs older than me. I didn’t tell anyone until I was 10 and blocked the bulk of it out until college. I just found out that the babysitter passed away earlier this week. I don’t feel anything about her passing, I am sorry for her daughter and all of her grandkids. But there’s really nothing there. Am I wrong for feeling like this? I do believe I tried to tell her during it all happening.”
                                                                

 

I Am Complicated

I am neglected.

I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs. I have an eating disorder,

I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“

I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.

I am ashamed.

I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.

I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”

I eat spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.

I am depressed.

I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.

I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.

I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible.

And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.

I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.

I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).

I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.

I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.

I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday.

As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.

I am brave.

I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.

little ballet dancer

I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.

I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.

 

Ask The Band: Depression and Writing

Dear The Band,

ask band depression writing

I’m a writer.

Or, at least, I think I am. I’d like to think I am. I think about writing all the time – and then I feel ashamed of myself because I’m not writing. I think about all of the stories I could be writing – I think about the text file of ideas for stories on my desktop – and then I get even more depressed because I’m not writing.

The great thing is that I’m not writing because I’m depressed, because I have no job, no friends, am 1300 miles away from all support systems, except for my wonderful soon-to-be husband, and I spend most of my time in an insecure, anxious ball feeling sorry for myself.

Self-loathing much?

I keep seeing over and over again, on Twitter and Facebook and in my MFA program’s forum this statement: “if you don’t write, you aren’t a writer, and you probably shouldn’t be. To be a writer, you must need to write like it’s the way you breathe.” So I second-guess myself; I don’t need that. But I need to need that, if that makes sense.

I miss the feeling of excitement when I pull off a great scene. I miss feeling proud of myself. I miss the sense of self-esteem writing gives me. But right now, depression is taking it away.

I just don’t know how to push through the overwhelming apathy and shame to start writing again. And everyone who tells me to shit or get off the pot – to just start writing regardless – really isn’t helping.

How do I get through this loneliness, depression, anxiety and shame to find myself again?

I’m not sure where I went, but it’d be damn good to see myself again.

I’m Tired

I’m Tired
I’m tired of acquiring but never keeping nice things; possessions I work arduously for that are torn up, soiled or otherwise destroyed.
I’m tired of endless piles of laundry, clothes strewn across the floor, indistinguishable as clean or dirty, but washed again nonetheless.
I’m tired of chaos, of the arguing, of the drama and constant conflict that ages my soul.
I’m tired of being shown how for granted I’m being taken.
I’m tired of never knowing if I’m coming or going.
I’m tired of feeling responsible for the complete care of everyone else and sacrificing my own care of self.
I’m tired of feeling chronically exhausted.
I’m tired of my complaints and concerns being pushed aside, minimalized and marginalized.
I’m tiring of knowing “things could always be worse” as a means to not being able to be entitled to my emotional journey.
I’m tired of listening to others during their times of deepest sorrow, frustration or fear and being a pillar of strength for them but rarely being given my own time to grieve.
I’m tired of being told I’m hormonal.
I’m tired of having my emotions rationalized for me.
I’m tired of being expected to “deal with it” and accept that “it’s just part of being a parent” or “being an adult”.
I’m tired of feeling like I cannot still express my inner child, have big dreams and be encouraged to chase them.
I’m tired of adults bullying other adults.
I’m tired of divisiveness and actions that only perpetuate further trauma and abuse.
I’m tired of being an angry white female.
I’m tired of feeling threatened by PRIVILEGED WHITE MEN
I’m tired of fearing for my own safety, bodily autonomy and well-being EVERY DAY.
I’m tired of, when expressing my concerns and frustrations, being called names like snowflake, FEMINAZI, bitch and CUNT.
I’m tired of working myself until I’m literally ill and yet still feeling immense guilt for purchasing that $19 shirt at Target.
I’m tired of the pressure to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter/sister/nurse.
I’m tired of attachment titles.
I’m tired of being expected to take a side when my beliefs lie somewhere in the middle.
I’m tired of women having no safe place to candidly talk and share without fear of persecution, name calling or mean-spiritedness.
I’m tired of male violence against women.
I’m tired of watching so many of my fellow brothers and sisters continue to live lives full of anger, resentment and self-entitlement, oblivious to their own inner demons.
I’m tired of Dr. Google. I will always side with evidence backed scientific studies.
I’m tired of watching parents put their children at risk for a lifetime of illness because of a handful of conspiracy theorists.
I’m tired of trying to explain facts to those same people and them finding a means to justify EVERY SINGLE TIME.
So, I’m tired of selective ignorance where there is a literal WORLD of information at mere fingertips.
I’m tired of reckless, self-serving decisions of others that may adversely affect countless people.
I’m tired of online battles, egocentric conversations and people’s inability to say “I’m sorry” or “I was mistaken”.
I’m tired of being oppressed because of my gender.
I’m tired of being objectified because of my outward appearance.
I’m tired of consistently having to maintain a stern exterior to protect my children and myself from pervasive predators.
I’m tired of mean, bitter people.
I’m tired of always being strong.
I’m tired of being responsible for everyone’s emotions, blatantly disregarding my own.
I’m tired of letting things roll off my back all the while knowing they will  puncture me on the way down.
I’m tired of pretending I’m always unbreakable.
I’m tired of violence, both via the media and in the world.
I’m tired of endless wars, of which neither party will ultimately win.
I’m tired of our elected officials, having taken oaths to serve citizens and country, acting like nothing more than selfish, insecure middle school children.
I’m tired of relentless mind games, fear mongering and empty threats.
I’m tired of being tired.
I’m tired of taking on all of this weight.
I’m tired of being accused of attacking others when I can no longer keep it all in and finally break down and speak my mind.
I’m tired of the fragile male ego and the need of constant reassurance.
I’m tired of watching women lessen themselves to help a man feel significant.
I’m tired of toxic masculinity.
I’m tired of men trying to justify their bad behavior as “urges” or “needs” or the old adage “boys will be boys”.
I’m tired of watching the world in its current state; its destroyers in utter denial.
I’m tired of ALL THE GREED- It has caused abuse, war, human mutilation and countless children’s deaths.
I’m tired of society’s RIDICULOUS expectations of the ideal female form.
I’m tired of fake tits, tight asses and flat tummies.
I’m tired of men expecting “perfection” in a woman while they fill their ever expanding waistlines with chicken wings and beer.
I’m tired of the ass-patters, the at-a-boy-ers.
I’m tired of seeing blame shifting, scapegoating and flat out lying all in pathetic attempts to save face and avoid accountability.
I’m tired of feeling stretched far too thin, always dancing on the edge, but never actually jumping.
I’m tired of cooking countless dinners, only to have them picked at by children.
I’m tired of washing dishes with tears of frustration in my weary eyes because the dinner I made and threw out was the last of the food budget.
I’m tired of pretending to be OKAY.
I’m tired of never being allowed to own my feelings.
I’m tired of sharing and being condemned for doing so.
I’m tired of hard swallows and “I’m fines” through gritted teeth and clenched fists; anxiety attacks in the bathroom between motherly duties.
I’m tired of pushing through my own emotions inappropriately in order to quickly address the needs of others.
I’m tired of finger pointing; defensive, argumentative conversations.
I’m tired of waiting for inevitable civil war, feeling riddled with anxious anticipation EVERY DAY.
I’m tired of the pandemic that is disrespect, both for others and self.
I’m tired of trying to fix everything.
I’m tired, I’m tired. I’m tired…
I think it’s time I rest.

I originally wrote this for my blog this past September and it remains one of my favorite writings to date. Thanks for reading!

#feminist #metoo #womensrights #angryfeminist #female #motherhood #powertothefeminist

Dose of Happy: Anxious

With all the upheaval and negativity running rampant through our lives, it’s important to be able to stop, take stock of what’s important, and find some joy wherever we can.

At The Band Back Together Project, we like to take the time specifically to arrange a little happy boost for everyone.

You’re always welcome to share your story with us!

dose of happy

t dawns on me as I sit there, anxiety at an all time high, my left butt-cheek falling asleep, that I could be somewhere else eating a bagel. Like Paris. Or Detroit. Or learning the Swahili phrase for “pants are bullshit.” Or washing my car. Okay, maybe not washing my car. It was like -900 degrees out. Washing my car would be like that scene in the Terminator with the Nitrous Oxide and the robot.

I smile, imagining my car shattering in the car wash, until I remember I’m probably sitting on barf germs. I hate barf germs.

My iPhone isn’t getting any signal in here. Stupid AT&T. Should be named the iCAN’TPhone because I haven’t been able to make a phone call since I got the damn thing. Hm. I really could use some mindless interaction from The Twitter right about now. Or maybe a Vicodin-Chip cookie. Or some vodka. Because my heart feels like it’s going to pound right the fuck out of my chest.

When the hell did this HAPPEN?

When did I start feeling stretched as taut as an over-tuned violin string? Why did I feel like the pressure to do more; to be more, to constantly outdo myself was omnipresent? Like I couldn’t ever possibly manage to live up to my own unrealistic expectations? Like I had to somehow be everything to everyone. Like if I didn’t constantly prove myself, I would cease to matter. I would cease to exist.

When did this start? And moreover: how could I make this stop?

dose of happy anxious

These anxious racing thoughts; this anxiety, this had to stop.

Admitting that I had a problem the first step, I know from Al-Anon, and doing something about it was important. Hence the bagel-craving and the barf-germ-coated chair in my doctor’s waiting room. And, of course, the urge to flee so that I could learn Portuguese or Mandarin or really anything but admit that I had a problem.

I’m so tired of problems. I’m so tired of having something wrong that I barely want to admit to myself that I have a problem. Between migraines and my lazy-ass missing-in-action thyroid and insomnia, I can hardly stand to be in the same room with myself anymore without wanting to punch myself in the teeth. Problems are bullshit. I hate problems. Maybe I can make a “Problems Are Bullshit” shirt. Because they are. Bullshit, that is.

Maybe this isn’t ACTUALLY a problem. Maybe I can just ignore it and it’ll get better on it’s own.

Except it hasn’t. Because that’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s not working. Clearly.

Before I could do anything, though, the nurse poked her head into the waiting room, “Becky?” she trilled calmly, clearly unaware of my churning guts.

I sighed, put my iDON’TWORKPhone back into my purse and followed her back.

“What seems to be the problem?” she asked kindly.

“Well,” I started, looking at my hands, ashamed to be admitting this to anyone but the people who live inside my computer. “It’s sorta like this…”

Reprinted with permission from the original author, Becky Sherrick Harks, or Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka from March 8, 2001.

Jack

Jack

Birth: 16 Apr 2004

Jack The Dog

Death: 23 Jan 2019

“My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.”

– Unknown

Chihuahua. So not a breed of dog that I would ever have thought I would ever own. I’ve always been more into the working breeds, (ie: GSD, Dobermans, Boxers, Rotties, etc.) But way back in 2004, my ex (who wasn’t an ex at the time) and I stopped at a pet store. (Ok, please don’t yell at me about buying a pet store dog. I now know all about puppy mills and stuff. I know, I know. But back then I didn’t really know, or didn’t think about it, or whatever. If I ever get another dog it will be a rescue. Please don’t yell at me.)

Honestly we were just out enjoying the day when we decided to go in and look around. It was something to do.

I said “No dogs”, but somehow we walked out with a dog, who we ended up naming Jack. This dog went across country with us a few times; he was a great traveling companion. But I always told people he wasn’t MY dog. I mean my ex was the one that talked me into getting him. And they seemed pretty attached to each other.

Fast forward to 2013.

We had moved from Florida to Minnesota in 2010 to be closer to her family after I got laid off work. Then in March of 2013, My ex and I split. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, there were things wrong on both sides. I take my fair share of the blame there. But when she was preparing to move out, I was informed that I got to take the dog, she was taking the cat. (Um, what? He’s not my dog, but ok.)

I was now keeping the dog.

It’s probably a good thing I got him. You see I have PTSD, it’s probably actually CPTSD but that’s just now becoming a thing. And along with PTSD, I get a side of anxiety (with panic attacks) and depression.

Woohoo….I have a trifecta of mental crap! Yay! Go team me! /end sarcasm.

But the one living being who helped me through all of the break up and mental stuff was Jack, my little chi.

He was there when no one else was.

He laid next to me when I cried.

Back when I was in therapy, I’d come home and talk to him about it. Jack was the one I celebrated with when I got my first degree black belt. He celebrated birthdays with me, and helped me when I was down.

Because no matter how much I wanted to just hide from everyone and not get out of bed, I had to get up.

Jack needed me, to go out, or to be fed, or whatever. I could not neglect him just because I was a mess.

I had to keep going because this little sweet soul needed me. Even when I felt like no one really needed me for anything, Jack did. He depended on me for food, shelter and companionship.

As much as he needed me, I ended up needing him as well. I needed someone to get excited to see me. I’d come home from work and he was so glad I was home. Jack was the one thing in my life who wanted me there.

It was he and I against the world.

I took him to parks, we went on drives together. He heard me rant about stuff and listened to all my stories. If I was anxious he came and sat in my lap so I would pet him. We were best buds.

Late last year I was beginning to suspect that something was going on with him. There was nothing I could pinpoint and say, that’s it.

So I just kept an eye on him.

He was still the same loving dog he was just slowing down a bit; he WAS 14 years old, not a young kid anymore.

So I just kept an eye on him.

Then in January of this year, he took a turn.

I’m not going into it all but I did get him to the vet. They did blood work to start because we didn’t know what was going on. This was a place to start trying to figure it out. His blood work came back all normal. She said according to his blood work he was healthy.

The vet said the next step was getting some imagining done to see if there was tumors or something else.

But we didn’t get that far. His blood work came back on a Tuesday afternoon and Jack died in my arms the next day.

It was Wednesday the 23rd of January at about 8pm.

I don’t know what happened to him.

But I do know a part of me died that day.

He might not have been a trained emotional support dog, but that’s the job he fell into, he was there for me through some dark times. I’ve cried more over the death of this dog then I have over anyone else, human or animal.

I’m crying right now typing this.

I don’t even feel like I’m putting into the proper words what this dog meant to me.

I’m still not over his death and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m still grieving seven months later.

I still talk to his ashes and tell him mamma loves him.

When I make popcorn I still put a piece or two by his ashes. He loved popcorn.

I have a couple of wonderful friends who had a book made for me, one of those Shutterfly ones.

One of my friends works in marketing (she’s a graphic designer) so she swiped the photos from my Facebook. My other friend, who is my TKD instructor, found the quotes.

So they made me a book of my Jack.

It’s probably the greatest gift I’ve been given. I have a shelf with a couple of photos of him and one of our other dog Abbie. The book is there too.

Jack’s ashes are there along with a clay heart with Jack’s paw prints. I call it my shrine.

I miss him…

every

single

day.

I fell back into my depression and my anxiety has been worse. It’s been a rough year.

But I’m slowly trying to pull myself out of it. I’ve been trying to make myself get out of the apartment more. I’ve been trying to take walks in the park near here.

It’s the one Jack and I went to the most in his last 6 months before he passed. It took me several months to even drive back into that park. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to clean the inside of the windows in my van, his nose prints are still on them.

But I’m trying to do more, to get out.

But it’s hard. So very hard.

Jack’s ashes are in a small box inside of a velvet bag with embroidery. It says, “Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.”