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Blog Entries posted by Tigerswallowtail

  1. Tigerswallowtail
    I love New Year's Day. It always feels like a new beginning to me.  A fresh start. A blank page waiting to be filled with the story of the coming days.  
    This year the holidays have been rough for me physically.  Spent a lot of time in bed with headaches or overall body aches so severe that it felt like I had a bad case of the flu.  Despite it all, I was able to get together with family for the annual gatherings and I was able to play my harp for the special services at my church. 
    I stayed up late New Year's Eve, thinking about this coming year and dreaming big dreams of what all I hope to accomplish in it.  I am excited and feel like I have a purpose again.  There for awhile I was feeling a bit lost.  I had made some changes but wasn't sure what my next step should be.  I had started taking some online courses that are free.  One is for journalism.  I wanted to improve my writing and have thought about maybe trying to get some freelance work that would use that skill.  I'm not really interested in working for any news media.  I also am taking a course on using computers - a basic IT course.  What I know about computers is basically what I've just picked up on my own.  Some of the jobs I've looked into require some computer knowledge, so thought this course would help with that.  I am enjoying the courses, but I still didn't feel like I knew what I really wanted to do with my life.
    One day I was browsing a website of a local college and saw that they have a program to become a certified Sign Language Interpreter. I didn't think too much of it and went on looking at the other courses.  The next morning when I woke up I had one of those lightbulb moments, where you all of a sudden see something that has been right in front of you all along.  I knew at that moment what I wanted to become - a Sign Language Interpreter!  
    This isn't something new for me.  Back in 3rd or 4th grade they taught us the Sign Language alphabet and a few signs.  I loved it and never forgot the alphabet.  Then in my teen years I found a course on video with a book and spent that summer learning what I could from it.  There was a deaf lady at a nursing home that I would visit regularly and I got to practice some with her.  Then in my 20s I had two deaf friends that I spent a lot of time with and picked up a lot more signs from them.  They starting coming the church I was attending at the time, and I would try to interpret the sermons and songs for them.  I'm not sure that I did a very good job, but I think they were able to at least get an idea of what was being said.  Life kept going and our ways parted and my signing days retreated to a thing of the past.  At times I feel the urge to sign, especially when singing, but have forgotten a lot.
    I really want to take the course (it's a 2 year course) and get my Associate's Degree while I'm at it.  I am confident that I will do well and am so excited!  There are so many different areas that need  interpreters.  I also have been leaning towards becoming a counselor, but maybe will focus on being able to interpret for those who need counseling.  I can hardly wait to see how it will all work out.  I am going in a few days to the college to talk with someone there about applying and figuring out how to pay for it.  At the moment I am almost literally broke and the only income coming in is from teaching piano which isn't enough to live off of.  
    Along with the excitement and anticipation there are feelings of nervousness and some anxiety.  I've never gone to college and was home schooled from 5th grade on up.  I did get my GED this past summer and did well on it.  I struggle with braving the unknown, going to a place I've never been before and talking with people that are strangers.  I struggle with wondering what they will think of me as I am in my forties and still at home with my parents.  I wonder how many men will be involved and how I will handle it if there are any.  Will I have panic attacks?  This is something I will be doing completely on my own.  I won't have my sister or one of my parents with me.  And yet I feel ready to take it all on and to face it with courage and determination.  I know that I will make new friends as I get to know people and that eventually it will feel familiar.  
    I am dreaming big and with God's help I plan to make those dreams come true!
  2. Tigerswallowtail
    It has been too long since I last wrote.  
    I started college for the first time a couple of years ago. Things were going well, I had moved onto campus and was living in an apartment with a roommate. For most of the time I had the apartment all to myself as my roommate was rarely home. I think she was living with her grandma or something. Anyway, I preferred to live alone. I was doing ok with classes and working as a student employee as a tutor in the writing lab. I was meeting new people, forming new friendships. It was getting easier to be around guys without having panic attacks. Then, at the end of March 2019, I injured my back and everything fell apart. My parents moved me back home with them, I had to quit school and my job. I was bedridden for over a month and was in terrible pain. I couldn't sit, stand or lie on my back without unbearable pain. I fell into a deep depression and was the closest I'd ever come to wanting to end it all. I wasn't thinking a ways to end it, just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I am grateful for the support of my family, my close friends and my church family. I don't think I would have made it without them.
    I went through 15 weeks of therapy. half of which was in a heated pool. I also had injections to the spine two different times. The first time was a bit traumatic. I hate needles, so was apprehensive about that. But I think what bothered me most was that my doctor was male. He had to pull my pants down a few inches to access where he needed to do the injections. I was fighting a panic attack and was breathing rapidly. He noticed and told me to take deeper breaths. I knew he had no idea of what was really triggering the attack, and I was not about to tell him. There were two female nurses in the room, so it wasn't like he was going to do anything to me, but my body didn't seem to understand that. The nurse was so kind and encouraging, giving me juice and graham crackers after settling me in the recovery cubical. Again, I didn't explain why I'd had the attack. When talking with a friend later about how I wasn't looking forward to the next appointment for my second injection, she suggested a few things to try, like using some essential oils to help calm my nerves. I used the oils and wore a bracelet that I wear when I am struggling as it gives me something to hold as a grounding technique. The second appointment went much better. I knew about those techniques, but sometimes we need to have someone remind us when we are struggling. When fighting a panic attack, our brains seem to quit working, incapable of forming coherent thoughts, much less remember info stored away. My counselors have talked about practicing grounding techniques, like deep breathing, etc. I had at first, but then let it slide as I seem to get better. This is something I need to work into my daily routines. That way, the next time an attack is triggered, I'll instinctively know what to do.  
  3. Tigerswallowtail
    This summer has been quite eventful for me. I completed my first college class (English 110/ Composition I) in the spring semester and got an "A". I then took English 111 (Composition II) this summer and just got my grades and found out that I passed with another "A". Both classes I doubted my abilities and constantly worried that I wasn't doing a good enough job. Others kept telling me that I was doing fine and that there was nothing to worry about. Every paper, every assignment was the same. I'd work hard on it, but never felt like it was good enough when I turned it in and then would wait anxiously for it to be graded. It was a big relief both times when I got my final grade for each class. Why can't I feel confident in my abilities? This is a problem in other areas too. I never feel like I am good enough, in my music playing, being a friend, or just day-to-day life.
    I have an exciting future ahead starting in August. I'll be moving into the student housing on campus, be a full-time student and even got a part-time job at the college. I'm thrilled about it all and can hardly wait for next month, but at the same time I've started having thoughts creep in, causing self-doubt and fear of failure to raise their ugly heads. It all seems to good to be true, almost unreal and I start to feel that it's not going to happen, or I'm going to fail at the new job and/or classes. I begin to doubt my ability to become a sign language interpreter. Who am I to think that I can actually interpret professionally?! I have this fear that my mind is just going to go blank and that I will forget everything. I fear that I won't be able to keep up in the classes or do the assignments. I'm scared that I won't be able to handle the job, helping students write their papers. I feel like I am reaching beyond my capabilities. That it is just a dream that will turn to ashes.
    I know these thoughts aren't the truth and are just there to discourage me from reaching for a better life. I have friends and family that are cheering me on and are confident that I will do well. My professors thought that I'd do well at the job and wrote letters of recommendation for me. So why do I struggle with these feelings/thoughts so much?
    On top of it all, I have still been struggling with depression, which then makes me feel guilty. With all of these good things happening, shouldn't I just be happy? I continue to see my counselor to help get grounded. I also have just started to see a doctor to see if I need more than just counseling to help with the depression. The doctor is also trying to figure out why I am in so much physical pain all of the time (that doesn't help with the depression!). I'm supposed to get some blood work done as she is checking to see if I have rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia among other things. Just going to see the doctor in the first place was a huge step for me.
    And yet I can see that I have made progress in my healing from my past. A couple of weeks ago I had an encounter with a fellow student at the campus. I was working on an assignment before time to go to my class and was in a student lounge area. I had tried to get a bag of chips from the vending machine, but they got stuck and wouldn't come down. A guy was standing behind me waiting to use the machine. In the past I would have started to panic with him standing there, but I did ok and even laughed with him at the chips hanging there. I finally gave up and got something else before going over to a table to set up my laptop and get working. He left, but then came back and started talking to me. I've been trying to be more sociable with guys as my counselor has been reminding me that while there are some out there that are bad, not ALL guys are bad. He wound up sitting at my table and we chatted some about our classes. I was doing ok, though since I was sitting in a corner I felt slightly trapped, but not too bad. Also, people would walk by, so it wasn't like we were totally isolated. Then he mentioned that he like my feet and started going on about how beautiful they were. THAT was starting to creep me out a little, but again, I wasn't panicking. Next thing I knew, he was saying that he'd like to get together sometime and he could give me a foot massage. I drew the line there and told him that would make me totally uncomfortable. I then said that I really need to finish my assignment and he took the hint and left.  Not too long after some of my classmates started arriving and my thoughts were turned to our class. 
    The fact that I didn't totally freak out and have a full-blown panic attack shows that I've made progress. I think the main thing that helped was that I knew there were people around that I could get help from if needed. When I discussed it with my counselor, she said that I handled it great, that I set a clear boundary. I'd worried that maybe I should talk to the school counselor about it, but she said that since he respected my boundary and left that I didn't need to. Now if he had stayed and still bothered me, then maybe I'd need to get someone else involved.
    Thankfully the guys in my summer class were great and I enjoyed interacting with them and had no struggles. I hope to continue to form healthy casual friendships with guys, especially as I'll be around a lot more of them while living in the student housing.
    Enough ramblings for tonight. Here's to a dawn of new future.  
  4. Tigerswallowtail
    I have a lot of new beginnings this year, including starting college for the first time. So far I love it. I will be starting the Sign Language Interpreting program this fall, and was advised to join a group to help in learning ASL (American Sign Language) and to meet people in the deaf community. The group meets once a week at various restaurants. I've met a lot of people and am making new friends. The first time I  went I was very nervous. I only had just met a few of the college students that are in the program and didn't know any of the deaf people. It took a lot of courage to enter that room! But I was glad I did and have been going ever since. I am getting better at signing and understanding sign and often find myself at a table with only deaf people. 
    I am becoming good friends with two of the women that come - "K" is deaf and "L" is hearing. Sometimes we go to another place afterwards to have a more private chat. During one of those times I shared some of my background and admitted my difficulty in trusting men.  There are a lot of men in the group, some married, some single. The ages vary too, from early 20's to in their 70's. So far I've handled being around them ok for the most part. It has been good for me to have this chance to interact with men socially in a safe environment. But there are times when I struggle. There are three different encounters that I'm going to focus on in this post. All three involved men with names starting with the letter "J", so I'll use numbers to help identify who I am writing about. All three are deaf and single.
    The first encounter was with "J-1". I had seen him in the group a few times, but never had to interact with him. This time he was sitting right next to me. I was a bit uneasy. My deaf friend "K" didn't like him and had some issues with him the week before. I'm not sure why he behaves the way he does. It could just be that he functions at a lower level and is just behaving immaturely. Either that, or he is just strange. It doesn't help that he is a BIG man, taller than me and very large. I could just be reacting to his sheer size as I had a past encounter with a huge guy that literally had me cornered. Thankfully a guy friend of mine saw what was happening and came to my rescue, but it left me a bit shaken. So back to "J-1". It could be that he is just socially awkward, but I think for now I will try to avoid sitting near him again. When I talked with my counselor about it, she encouraged me to listen to my gut feelings.
    The second encounter was with "J-2". "K" had introduced him to "L" and I the week before. She had known him from early childhood as they grew up together, going to the same school, etc. until they went to different colleges. "J-2" is around my age. Anyway I wound up sitting at a table with "J-2" and one other young man. I was a bit nervous as I didn't really know either one that well and it was just the three of us at our table. It didn't help that neither guy was ordering any food, they were just there to socialize. I had ordered something, but it felt really awkward to be eating in front of them. "J-2" was really talkative (in sign). Thankfully I understood maybe 80-90% of what he was saying and was able to carry on a conversation with him. He seemed to focus more on me, as the other guy is just learning sign and doesn't know very much yet. Despite being nervous, I enjoyed getting to know "J-2" better. At one point he asked me if I was nervous. I thought he was referring to me starting the Interpreting Program. After going home, I started thinking about the evening and then wondered if "J-2" was asking if I was nervous with him. The truth was yes, but then I'm nervous conversing with any guy that I don't know that well.  For the next day or so I couldn't stop thinking about him, wondering what he thought of me, what all his motives were, etc. I was frustrated with myself. Why can't I just enjoy being around guys without constantly questioning everything.
    The third encounter was last week. When I arrived at the restaurant, "K" was already there and had her purse in the seat across from her. She was saving it for "L" who was going to be arriving later. There was an empty seat next to that one and I sat there. Once again I was sitting with mainly deaf people. I was pleased at my progress with signing and being able to understand them. We were having a very enjoyable time. There was a guy sitting at the table right behind me. He was "J-3". I'd seen him a few times, but again, didn't really know him. Others refer to him as the "Joker" as he likes to tease and joke around. Well, this night, he was giving "K" a hard time about saving the seat for "L". At one point he acted like he was going to pick up the purse. So I casually draped my arm over the back of the chair and rested my hand on the purse, "guarding" it.  At one point "J-3" asked me what time it was and grabbed my arm as I had a watch on. Thankfully I didn't panic, but took it in stride. Later, as I was conversing with someone at my table, I felt my arm being grabbed. It was "J-3" checking the time again. That time startled me a bit, but again I didn't go into panic mode. I should say that I am very sensitive to men touching me in any way and often had panic attacks in the past, though never showed it on the outside. The evening went on and "L" still had not showed up. "J-3" started giving "K" a really hard time about it. The next thing I knew, he was trying to lift my arm off of the chair. Instead of panicking I got a bit competitive and refused to let him. He then started to try to pry my fingers off of the purse. I've had years of experience of nieces and nephew trying to pry my fingers off of things, plus I am a pianist and have a lot of strength in my hands. I was ignoring him, acting like nothing was going on, all while there was this power struggle happening. He caught me off guard when he gave up trying to pry off my fingers and started to tickle me instead. It was just one of those things that snowballed a bit. I didn't panic, but struggled a bit with it afterwards. It was all done in fun and we were right there in a group. The next day or so I was a bit obsessed with thinking about it and wondering if I should have done something different, or my thoughts would go to question his motives, etc. I definitely talked it over with my counselor the next time I saw her. She encouraged me to try to keep it in the context that it happened in.
    So I find myself facing different situations as I brave this new world of socializing in a mixed group. A lot of growth is happening and that is a good thing. It's just hard sometimes to know if what I am feeling is truly something I need to be cautious about, or if it is just an overreaction because of my past. In the meantime I plan to continue to make new friends and to learn to enjoy hanging out with these people.
  5. Tigerswallowtail
    I had a meltdown a couple of weeks ago.  The day had started out ok I thought. Well, except for the fact that I was getting over a bad migraine from the night before and wasn't feeling so good.  I've had someone describe it as a "migraine hangover".  I've never gotten drunk before, so not sure how it compares to that kind of hangover, but I know what I experience isn't pleasant.  
    Anyway, back to my story.  I was at college, which I am really enjoying, and was attending a workshop on test anxiety.  I usually do ok when taking a test, but I do struggle with anxiety and thought it would be good to attend.  It was a very small group with only 4 students attending, all females.  The instructor was an older woman and seemed friendly.  After the initial introduction to what we'd be learning, she handed out papers for us to fill out.  The top half of the page we were to write down something negative that we would tend to tell ourselves whenever we'd make a mistake in everyday life.  Then we were to write down three positive things we should say instead.  I struggled some, but eventually came up with something.  She then had us each read aloud what we'd written.  Then we went on the rest of the page where we were to do the same exercise, only this time it was to be about when making a mistake in an academic setting: in class or taking a test, etc. I sat there and couldn't come up with anything and started to panic.  My mind went blank and no matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with anything.  My heart was starting to race and I could fell the anxiety rising quickly.  The instructor kept trying to work with me to get me to write down something.  Before I knew it, I was starting to cry.  I was so frustrated.  It was such a simple thing and I felt stupid and pathetic for having such a difficult time. I finally wrote something down and managed to calm down and made it through the rest of the workshop.  I even did well on the short math test that she had us take to put into practice some of the things we had learned.  I left feeling rather discouraged, afraid that I would have more of these kind of episodes in my regular class.  
    I headed to the restroom, planning to go back to my favorite spot to spend some time studying.  While in the stall, I started thinking again of what had just happened and then I really fell apart.  I was crying so hard and was so upset that I figured I'd better go see the counselor, but wasn't sure if I could make it over to her office.  Just the week or so  before I had started meeting with a counselor there at the college, dealing with a couple of issues and establishing a relationship so that if I found myself in a situation where I needed help I could see someone that I knew. Somehow I pulled myself together enough to be able to leave the restroom and made my way over to the counseling center.  But when I stood at the receptionist's desk and started to say that I needed to see the counselor, I lost it again and couldn't speak from crying so hard.  The receptionist was an angel and figured out what I needed and then offered to let me wait in a private room with the door closed until the counselor could see me.  I didn't have to sit in there long before my counselor came and took me to her office.  After what felt like a long time, my sobbing slowed down enough that I was able to talk and tell her what had happened.  After talking with her for a while I was calmed down enough to leave and go on about my day, though I was totally drained and felt fragile.  
    I saw my regular counselor a few days later and told her what all had happened.  She said that the instructor had not handled the situation well and the fact that I was just coming off of the migraine didn't help.  But what was encouraging the most was that she said that I had handled it in a much healthier way than I would have even a few months ago.  She said that it was good that I was able to let those emotions out instead of just trying to cram them back in and not deal with them.  Also, the fact that I was able to take immediate steps to get the help I needed was a sign of growth. She felt confident that I probably wouldn't have issues like that during my classes or even during a test, but rather it was a one-time situation with multiple factors causing it, with the migraine being a major one.  I did find out later that I wasn't the only one that started crying during the workshop.  It happened to someone else the next day.  Seems they need to change how they present this particular workshop.  It was a relief to know that I wasn't the only one!
    The whole thing really shook me up, so it was reassuring to hear the opinion of my counselor that I seem to be in a much healthier place that I had been.  At the time, it felt like I was having a major setback.  I know that there may be another time when I will fall apart, but I don't need to be afraid of it.  I know that I have people to help me and that I will get through it. 
  6. Tigerswallowtail
    I've started college for the first time.  There are many things that I am enjoying and am excited about.  I am starting to get to know some of my classmates and am hoping to form some new friendships.  I love the class I am in, English Composition 110.  This is the only class I am taking this semester.  I was advised to do this to help ease into college life.  I think it was a good choice. 
    But then I tried eating in the cafeteria a couple of times.  I felt like I did when I was a kid and moving around and having to change schools in the middle of the school year. That being the new girl with no friends, trying to find where she fit in.  
    It's a  large room full of people, none of whom I know.  I look around trying to find a place to sit.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of empty seats, even whole tables where no one is sitting.  That isn't the problem.  It's that I don't have a friend to sit with, to talk over how the day is going, what classes we like, what teachers we like.  
    I pick a seat and start to eat.  And I find myself retreating into my shell.  I literally start to hunch over a bit, keeping my eyes on my food, rarely looking up.  It's like I erect a shield around me to hide.  
    I don't like this feeling.  I want to feel confident.  I want to be a part of a group, not off by myself feeling like an intruder or worst, an outcast.  
    I read a verse from Proverbs the other day about one that has friends must first be friendly.  That means I need to sometimes be the initiator in making new friends.  I feel I am doing ok with that everywhere else on the campus.  There's just something about the cafeteria room that is intimidating to me.  I have to believe that this is just a phase that will soon pass.  That soon I will know enough people that I can sit with someone and have an enjoyable meal together.
    But for now if you are looking for me during lunch, I'll probably be hiding in my shell.  It's safe in there.
  7. Tigerswallowtail
    I had a session with my T a few days ago.  I had been looking forward to it as I had a lot of good and exciting things to talk about. I was going to be starting my first class at the local college and felt like I was making forward progress in my life after feeling stuck for so long.  
    Let's just say that I cried, no, bawled, through most of the session. Not what I was expecting at all.  I guess I had a lot of bottled up emotion and it just exploded.  Not pretty at all.  One of those times where I left feeling exhausted and emotionally drained.
    So, what happened??
    I had just completed a 4-day/3-night babysitting stint.  My brother's kids were at our house (I live at home with my parents) during that time.  We had 5-8 kids, depending on the day as the 3 oldest were helping their parents with an event during part of that time.  Things went fairly well, but let's be honest - having that many kids can be stressful.  
    The weather wasn't helping things either with snow and ice and extreme cold.  The day of my therapy session it was snowy and very windy with some drifting.  When I arrived, my T asked how the roads were. I replied that I really didn't noticed as I was fighting a war in the car.
    I had swapped vehicles with my parents as my van is leaking anti-freeze and my dad was concerned.  It's a long drive to my T and I thought it might be better if I drove their car.  I forgot that I hate to drive it and why.  The seat is torture for me to sit in and I can't get it adjusted to fit me.  The headrest tilts forward, putting my head at a bad angle causing neck strain.  I have chronic neck/back pain and it was very painful.  My hip was flaring up too.  I was almost in tears as I was driving.  I had to use a tapping technique to try to calm myself.  I felt so guilty for being so upset.  I felt like I should be grateful that I had a car to use, not all worked up because the seat didn't fit me.  
    On top of the seat issues, my coat was driving me crazy.  I had worn a cardigan sweater under my coat for extra warmth.  Only problem was due to my large wrists the cuffs were too tight and were restricting my arm movements.  I was feeling confined and starting to get a bit claustrophobic.
    By the time I got through telling my T all of this, I was crying in earnest.  She told me it was ok to have both feelings of gratitude for the car and frustration at the real discomfort I was experiencing.  
    As we continued to talk, the subject of my health problems came up and how I can't afford to go to a doctor.  She strongly urged me to pursue getting public aid to help until I can get on my feet financially.  I cried even harder.  This was not how I had envisioned my life to be like by this point in time.  Growing up I'd always assumed I'd get married and have a family.  Instead, here I am struggling to get to the point where I can support myself and live on my own.  To have to admit that I need help is not easy.  I took that step when applying at the college as there is no way I can pay for it and I am getting help.  But to take it further and get on public aid...
    My T was comforting and encouraging, reminding me that this would just be temporary and that my situation is what it's there for.  She pointed out all the steps I'm taking to get to the point where I won't need aid and that I'm not just being lazy, looking for a hand-out.  (Let me be clear, I know that there are many out there who really do need help and I don't think they are being lazy.  I just struggle with feeling that is how others will view me.)
    I met with a close friend last night and shared about this with her.  She also was encouraging me and reassuring me that it was ok and nothing to be ashamed of.  
    I did manage to dry up my tears by the end of the session (which lasted 2 hrs by the way!) and handled driving home ok until I stopped to grab a bite to eat on the way home.  The check oil light came on and was dinging loudly at me along with a message saying that the oil pressure was low and to turn off the engine.  What??!!!  Here I was driving this car because Dad was worried that mine would have problems and now I was having to deal with this!  I pulled into a parking space and called home.  Dad had me check the oil and we determined that it was just the crazy computer getting its sensors mixed up and that the oil was not a problem.  I made it home without any more problems.
    So, yeah, it was a day when my bottle exploded.  I guess I need to be more careful not to try to cram so many emotions into it, but to let them out as they come!  When will I learn this lesson, I don't know.  It has been my coping skill all my life, this cramming down my emotions.  But that doesn't really work anymore. 
  8. Tigerswallowtail
    I am tense, all the time.  I honestly can't remember what it is like to not have my muscles all in knots.  Lately it's been worse.  My jaw clenches so hard at night that when I wake up my teeth ache and when I go to eat breakfast I feel like it's a bit of a struggle to open it to take a bite.  My neck and shoulder muscles are so tight and knotted and I can never  get them to relax.  I go to bed at night and feel myself tensing up.  I lay there, trying to relax, trying to focus on the different muscle groups and trying to let the tension go.  I take deep breaths.  I feel it starting to ease up for a few seconds only to have everything tense up again just as bad or worse. My T reminded me that I've been under a tremendous amount of stress lately.
    I was talking to my chiropractor about it the other day.  She agreed that the muscles in my neck and shoulders weren't just tight, but there are actual knots in them. She asked if I was still seeing my T.  I told her that I was and she said that hopefully as I continue to work through things and gain emotional healing, that should help ease some of the tension.  I told her that the only person who's ever been able to truly get me to relax is one of my young nieces.  Somehow her small hands work magic and not only can she get the tension to go away, but she can actually put me to sleep!  She would come up behind me while I was reading to her and her siblings and start massaging my neck and shoulders.  It wouldn't take too long before I'd actually start slurring the words that I was reading.  The kids all thought it was great fun.
    My chiropractor laughed along with me as I told her about it, but then she said something that really has me thinking.  She said that I was able to relax with my niece because I fully trusted her.  If that is so, what does that say about all the others who have tried to give me a neck massage, but I just couldn't truly relax with them?  Does that mean that at some level I didn't have complete trust in them? I'm talking about people that are close to me, that I feel like trust shouldn't be an issue.
    I discussed this with my T this week.  She said for one, my niece is just a child which causes me to not have any fear that she would hurt me, physically or emotionally.  She asked what my relationship was like with her.  I said she is very much like myself, a sensitive child and she also is a touchy-feely girl and always liked to cuddle.  As for the others, she wants me to start thinking through all the "safe" people in my life and to try to re-program my brain that it is ok to trust them.  Not exactly sure how to go about that.  She probably told me more, but I've already forgot if she did.  Definitely will need to discuss this further with her and ask for clearer direction in what I need to do.
    She also asked me where I felt totally safe.  I don't really have a place like that. At least, not safe from tension. I don't mean that where I am at is tense all the time, but rather that I can't shake the feeling that something will happen to cause tension, a constant feeling of "waiting for the other shoe to drop".  Some of this is a mindset, a habit that I just automatically revert to. A default that needs resetting.  But I also long for a place to call my own, where I could truly relax and feel free of outside tension.  
    I know that this world is full of strife and tension and that I would do well to find that inner peace that I can take with me wherever I am.  In the Bible God promises His peace for those who seek Him and learn to abide in Him.  If I am struggling this bad with tension, I'm afraid I've not done well at the abiding part.  I started reading "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young as my T recommended it.  It keeps reminding me how important it is to keep my focus on Him. Someday maybe I will truly learn this lesson and be free from the tense muscles and knotted stomach.
  9. Tigerswallowtail
    This will have to be short as I don't have much time, but I need to write.
    Pain has been a daily companion for me, whether it is physical or emotional.  I really can't remember what it's like to wake up without physical pain.  How much of it is related to my past abuse and the emotions I struggle with because of it, I don't know.  The last two weeks have been really bad, with headaches almost every day.  Some to the point where I've had to cancel plans/work and go to bed.  I have been doing better emotionally, but today not so good.  I think the headaches are just getting to me.
    There are some good things happening.  I think I finally am getting some direction for my life, this new me that I am discovering.  It is hard though to not worry about if the headaches will keep me from being able to realize this dream, or keep me from being able to hold down a regular job.  I'm trying to not let those thoughts discourage me from pursuing these changes in my life. But it is hard to not let my old habits of fear shut me down.
    This is a new day, and a new year is coming with new possibilities.  I won't let the pain and fear hold me back.
  10. Tigerswallowtail
    I woke up this morning eager to see how the day would turn out.  I realized that after my morning counseling session I had the rest of the day free.  I decided to take advantage of it and do something.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the temperature was decent.  Thoughts tumbled around my head of what I possibly might do, but didn't get a decision made before going into my counseling session.
    My session today was an easier one. I went into it feeling bad because I'd not completed my assignments from the last one.  The assignments were difficult ones, dealing with my past abuse and I'd had a rough week physically and just couldn't face trying to do them.  My counselor assured me that it was ok and to just do it when I can. We then focused more on my struggles to feel like an "adult" with still living at home with my parents. I'm very grateful for a place to live until I can get things figured out and get a decent job.  My goal is to get to the point to where I can support myself financially and live on my own.  But in the meantime I have to figure out how to cope with living with my parents.  So often I still feel like a kid/teenager despite being in my 40's.  My parents are really good at trying to treat me like an adult, it's often  just little things that are more of an issue on my part and my automatic inner responses to their opinions or suggestions.  
    I left the session with things to think about, but for once didn't feel emotionally drained.  I headed to my van trying to think what to do next.  I wound up just watching a few episodes of a show on my kindle and then grabbed something to eat.  Before I knew it, the afternoon was halfway over.  I had hoped to maybe go for a hike, but wanted to go somewhere I'd not been before.  I googled hiking trails near me and found a place that sounded interesting so I headed there.  It wasn't hard to find and was close to where I was.  I pulled into the parking area, only to see a sign that hunting was in progress.  I decided that I didn't want to take a risk of getting shot at, so turned around and left.  
    I ended up in a parking lot of a park in a small town.  I just stayed in my van and finished reading a book, "It Wasn't Your Fault" by Beverly Engel.  There were some good things in there about self-care and self-compassion. 
    The sun was starting to go down and I headed home to grab a few things before going to my favorite coffee shop.  I struggled with feeling like I'd wasted a really good day for doing something outside.  I know the weather isn't going to be as warm with winter approaching and today was so nice.  I felt guilty and then I was feeling frustrated that I felt guilty!  There was nothing wrong with what I did, so why did I feel like I made poor choices and let the day slip through my fingers?  I was feeling like crying.  Not the way I wanted my day away to end.  When will I get to the point where I'll stop criticizing myself so much and second guessing my decisions?
    Next time I think I'd better have a plan figured out ahead of time. Then maybe I won't feel like the day just slipped away from me.      
  11. Tigerswallowtail
    As a child I learned the age old song "Yes, Jesus loves me!" I grew up knowing that I am loved, but recently realized that I haven't truly believed it in my heart.  
    I was sharing with a an older friend who was my coach in a group I was a part of.  As I told her my story and the struggles I've been going through, she gave me some things to think about.  She challenged me to show myself the same grace and love and compassion that I would so readily show to someone else if they were to tell me their story of past abuse and pain.  And then she reminded me that Jesus loved me.  I began crying.  Something similar happened during a session with my T.
    Why did the thought that Jesus loved ME trigger the tears?  Perhaps it is because I struggle with loving myself.  I never feel like I can measure up.  Whenever someone compliments me on something I've done, my first thought is what mistakes I made.  When someone says something kind about my character or say how they admire me in some area, I inwardly cringe thinking of all my flaws and the feeling that if they knew the "real" me they wouldn't regard me in the same way.  
    I think the feelings of shame and guilt that I first felt when the abuse was happening have clung to me all these years.  I know that it wasn't my fault, that I was just a little girl not physically strong enough to resist and too young to understand what was really happening, but those feelings don't go away.  It colors how I view myself even now.  How to break free from those feelings?  How to really believe that it wasn't my fault and not just know it in my head?  Lately I've been trying to focus more on truths than on the lies.  Statements of affirmation, such as I am loved, I am a new creation and I am forgiven.  
    To be honest, I don't feel worthy.  I don't feel worthy of love.  I don't feel worthy of praise or admiration.  What makes me worthy?  How is my worth determined?  Perhaps there are many answers depending on who you ask.  For me I know that I have worth enough to cause Someone to take abuse and die a cruel  death because He loves me.  Now to truly accept that love, deep in my heart. To really believe in my heart that I am precious in His sight.  To know that when He looks at me He doesn't see my faults and imperfections, but rather the person of strength and beauty I am becoming through Him. To  be able to say with confidence that yes, I am loved. To be able to say with feeling, "Yes, Jesus loves me!"
  12. Tigerswallowtail
    This morning the tears were falling.  It started during my quiet time (a time when I pray and read the Bible and some devotionals).  I was trying to relax and had started to list all the things that I have fears about, trying to give them over to God.  I would start each one with "I am afraid of/I am afraid that..."  As I worked my way through my fears I could feel my muscles relaxing.  And then I got to "I am afraid that know one will love me" (in a romantic, life's partner, soul mate sort of way) and I began to cry.  
    For most of my adult life I've kept myself busy and just tried not to think about being single.  I figured I would get married some day and was determined to make the most of the time I had until then.  But I wasn't really being honest with myself. Instead of acknowledging my deep longings I just shoved them down.  Now that I have been going to my T, I have been trying to let the emotions come and  let myself feel them.  
    I feel that my emotions are at odds with themselves.  On one hand I struggle with trust issues with men.  I am doing better, but still have a ways to go.On the other hand I have this desire to experience married life to the fullest. I want the companionship of a man that is in love with me and sees me for who I truly am.  I want to do life with a partner.
    I wrestle with the "Why?" questions: Why isn't any guy interested in me?  Why am I still single? There are other questions too, but more than any I struggle with "Why doesn't  anyone love me?"  I know that my family (parents, siblings, nieces & nephews, etc.) love me.  I know that my friends care about me.  But there is a hole waiting to be filled with the love of a spouse.  
    So I found myself at breakfast sharing what had happened with my parents and the tears began to fall again.  As I poured out my hurting heart, my parents moved to either side of me, comforting me and being there for me.  They assured me that even though they don't understand why I'm still single, it's not because of my past.  What happened to me as a little girl doesn't make me unlovable, or undesirable. I still don't have the answer and I know there will be more times of tears over this issue, but that is ok.  I am facing my pain and my fears and some day I will be stronger. So, I let the tears fall. 
  13. Tigerswallowtail
    I am typically known as the quiet girl.  At least until you get to know me and earn my trust.   Get me talking about something that I am passionate about and be prepared to listen for awhile.  But really, I tend to be the listener and when people will ask if I have anything to say I usually to turn the conversation back to them.  I am especially quiet if there is conflict involved.  I'd rather avoid it and will often try to placate and try to diffuse the tension.
    I am trying to change, to find my voice and freedom to express my thoughts and opinions.  In the last week or so, I've started to speak out, unable to remain silent in a situation any longer.  It has been a big risk, it still feels scary and I've struggled with doubts wondering if I did the right thing.  I had a session today with my T and she assured me that I did everything right and was very pleased with my progress in finding my voice. 
    It is so hard to break old habits.  I kept silent about my abuse for 6 years before finally telling my mom.  Even after that I still didn't talk about it much.  I didn't talk about how I struggled with flashbacks.  I never knew when or where the thoughts and mental images would crop up to torment me. I didn't tell people that I struggled with anxiety/panic attacks when out in public around strange men.  I just put on a brave front and tried to live life.  But that has changed now 35 years later.  Now I have ongoing dialogue with my mom, my T and my close friends.  I tell them how I am doing, I talk about my struggles. 
    I even have started opening up more to my friend B.  He hasn't given up on me these two years that we've known each other, but would each time we talked be sure to ask if there was anything I had to say.  To open up to him has been a big deal for me as I have major trust issues with men.  He has been a good friend, one I want to keep.  I know it won't go any further than just a friendship, but he has helped me in my journey to healing and I'm grateful.
    So watch out world!  I am finding my voice and will keep silent no longer.
  14. Tigerswallowtail
    I am sitting here, trying to find words to express what I am feeling.  This has been a rough week.  I took a risk in actually voicing my opinions and concerns about a situation.  I care about the people involved but it was so hard and I struggle with doubts about how I handled it.  In the past I would have just remained silent, but I couldn't any longer.  I desire with all my heart that there can be healing and restoration.  I know there can be, but also know that it can get darker before it gets better.  
    What do I do when my heart hurts so, and I am not sure what the next step is?  I pray, constantly.  I seek out those that I trust and can confide in, sharing my pain and knowing that I have their support and that I'm not alone.  Sometimes I'll write in my journal.  Right now it's been hard to collect my thoughts, there is so much tumbling around in my mind (stress, anxiety, replays of the conversations...) It's hard to quiet my mind and I find myself trying to just distract it by watching a movie or reading.
    I still haven't started playing my harp.  I need to tune it.  I keep thinking that I'll do it, but I let life get busy and in the way and another day goes by without touching it.  I know that it would help my emotional state.  Just quickly strumming all the strings as I walk by is soothing.  How much more when I actually play it?
    Reading the Psalms is comforting to.  The author knew what it was to be distressed, to struggle with anxiety, to feel like nobody cared.  At times he was running for his life.  His family life had major issues and there was abuse between his children.  He knew the heartache of seeing those he loved suffer.  I can find the words to express the pain in my heart, and find the words that remind me of my hope.  
    This may feel like a dark night, but I'm trusting that dawn will be coming soon.
  15. Tigerswallowtail
    Sometimes I need a place to retreat to, to calm my mind and emotions and regain a sense of peace and quiet.  When bad memories start to plague me, or if I am struggling with anxiety I try to remember to go to my safe place.  This was a tool that my first T gave me to work with towards the beginning of my seeing her.  Many reading this probably know what I am referring to but for those who don't know what I am talking about here is a brief explanation. It is a mental exercise where you imagine a place where you feel safe.  It can be a real place or something you just imagine.  You close your eyes and try to visualize it and work your way through the five senses.  For my safe place I chose my grandparents' farm.  I would spend time there during the summer and it was a quiet place out in the country, a welcome change from living in the city. 
    I close my eyes and start to go through the list of what my senses would experience on the farm.  I see a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds drifting by.  I see the many flowers that my grandmother had growing in her flowerbeds.  I see the butterflies flitting around.  I see a humming bird and hear the rapid beating of it's wings.  I hear the chug of the engine of my grandpa's tractor.  I hear the song of a red winged blackbird and the wind blowing through the trees.  I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and the breeze on my face.  I feel the rough rope of the swing in the tree and the motion of swinging back and forth.  I feel the grass beneath my bare feet and the soft fur of the cat that I pet. I feel the roughness of the bark of the tree I am leaning against.  I can smell the freshly cut grass and the scent of the honeysuckle.  I can smell the baling twine and the fumes from the tractor.  I can taste the sweetness of a freshly picked strawberry and the sourness of a gooseberry plucked from the vine. I take a deep breath and open my eyes.  I am back in the present but still retain the sense of calm that I had while visiting my safe place.
    Another way I try to regain some calm is by meditating on a Bible verse or two.  Recently I spent a lot of time thinking about Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God;.."    The word "still" in this verse means to sink, relax, sink down, giving me the image of when floating in water or nestling down into something comfy and just relaxing.  It also means to let go, something that can be hard to do at times. This is not just a letting go, but giving whatever is stressing me over to God.  There are so many things right now that I need to just let go and relax about.  I am so tense.  I wake up in the morning and my jaw is clenched and the muscles throughout my body are so tight.  I take a deep breath and try to consciously relax and it works for a minute.  Until I let out my breath and then everything tenses up again.  
    Time to be still and spend a few moments in my safe place and let go, turning my problems over to God.
  16. Tigerswallowtail
    It is cloudy and chilly out today.  Kind of reflects my emotions.  I woke up tired and as the morning progressed I struggled with feeling like I need to cry.  I feel like I lost a day yesterday.  I had a lot of things needing my attention, but just sort of crashed and didn't do anything.  So this morning I was thinking of all the things I didn't get done and feeling guilty. It got to where I started to have an anxiety attack.  I was literally feeling sick to my stomach with it all.  I didn't give in though, and pushed on through.  I just focused on the task at hand and then on to the next.  Soon I was moving about getting some chores completed that I've needed to do for days.  I started to feel better emotionally too.  Why is it that the things I know will help me to feel better emotionally and physically are the things that are so easy to not do and are the hardest to get back into the habit of doing?  
    I've started writing my story in the "Your Story" forum.  It is emotionally draining, yet at the same time it is freeing to be able to write about it.  I don't want to use this blog to write about what happened, but rather write about what I am going through now on my journey to healing.  But I am glad to have a place that I can write down the memories.  Hopefully the more I can do that, the less hold they will have on me.  
    Back to the things that help me - Get more sleep.  I know I need to, but have been staying up late and getting up early.  Not a good combo.  I need to settle on a regular bedtime and rising time and then stick with it.  I feel so much better when I get enough sleep. You would think that it would be a no brainer, but it is just too easy to stay up reading or watching a movie or...
    Write in my Journal. When I am consistent with this it is amazing how much easier it is for me to get to sleep.  My brain isn't trying to remember things since I've written it down and it can afford to shut down for the night.  Plus it is a good way to process what has happened that day.
    There is more, but I think I will focus on these two things for the rest of this week and see if I can't do better.  Maybe then I will start to feel like my day is sunny regardless of the weather outside.
  17. Tigerswallowtail
    I have an assignment from my T that I haven't started yet.  We had been discussing my difficulty in really opening up and talking with my guy friend (I'll refer to him as "B").  B and I aren't officially boyfriend/girlfriend but have known each other for almost 2 years now and are good friends now.  He is able to talk to me about anything and everything, and I know he really wants me to do the same.  But whenever he will turn the conversation to me and ask if I have anything I want to talk about, I freeze up and my mind goes blank.  I really want to be able to talk to him, but when this happens the harder I try to come up with something, the blanker my mind gets.  My first T said that some of my struggle may be because silence is my coping and defense mechanism.   I have made some progress, but it is still such a struggle.  I had told B about my past (minus details) shortly after we met.  I felt he needed to know to help him understand some of my struggles.  He also knows that I am going to counseling.  He has been a strong support and I know he cares about how I am doing.
    Anyway, back to my assignment.  My T actually gave me at least three.  First off, I'd mentioned how B had asked me what my favorite color was, and how I'd told him that I don't have one.  I like a lot of colors, but even then there are shades/tones that I like in each color and shades/tones that I DON'T like in each color.  My T said that told her that I am a rainbow thinker, or world thinker.  Things aren't just black and white to me.  I see all the different sides/facets to things and it takes time to process and decided which fits best in the moment/situation.  She said that I'm not being indecisive, I just need time to process.  Same goes when someone will ask where I want to go eat, I can't decide and will just say "I don't know, where do you want to go?"  If anyone ask me what my opinion is on something, my automatic response is "I don't know."   I don't like conflict and rather than risk saying what I think or prefer, I just defer to the other person.  I have shoved down my own opinions and likes and dislikes for so long in deference to others that I really don't know myself anymore.
    So, assignment #1: I'm to start making a list of things that I do and do not like.  When I told a close friend about this, her immediate reply was "how do you like your eggs?"  Well, it depends on my mood, but I like hard boiled eggs (not soft), fried eggs I like sunny-side up (runny yolks but no runny whites), and I enjoy scrambled eggs.
    Assignment #2: I'm to stop using the phrase "I don't know" when asked what my opinion or preference is. Instead I'm to say something like "Let me think about that...". Then if I still can't think of anything I can just say that I don't have a preference, etc.  My mom was thrilled with this assignment.  She gets so frustrated with me when she ask for my opinion and all I'll say is "I don't know."   B liked this one too.
    Assignment #3:  When someone asks how I am doing, I'm to be more honest and not just reply with "ok" when I'm not.
    So, what is my favorite color?  I still don't have one.  I like the blue of a bright sunny sky, the red of a ripe strawberry and the orange of the leaves on the sugar maple outside my window.  I like the green of a forest, the black of the Labrador Retriever's fur,  and the warm brown of a horse's coat.  I like the sparkling white of freshly fallen snow, the pinks and purples of a glowing sunset and the flickering yellows and oranges of a campfire.  What is my favorite color?  You tell me. 
  18. Tigerswallowtail
    Well, I just spent a lot of time writing and when I went to post it, I lost everything  - again!  Don't know if I can remember everything and it's getting late and I'm tired and will probably head home soon. I may try to retype it all tomorrow on my laptop and copy and paste so at least I'd have a copy it something goes wrong so I won't lose it again.  
    It's been a long day. Started off by getting my plans all changed when a friend called and asked if I could hang out with her young teenaged daughter as she needed to be gone for several hours.  Right after that I picked up my sister's kids to take them out for supper and take them shopping to get their daddy birthday gifts (his birthday was today and he wanted some kid-free time with his wife).  I had an enjoyable time with the kids.  Since I don't have any of my own I have to take what time I can get with my nieces and nephews (I have 12) to help fill the need to nurture/love a child.  I can truly be myself with these kids and know that they will still love me, no matter how crazy I can get at times. I had them laughing and giggling so hard at supper tonight it makes me smile just remembering it.  :-)
    After dropping off the kids back to their parents I headed to my favorite copy shop so I could write in this blog.  I had a really good entry, the title was Favorite Color.  Oh well, like I said, I think I'll try to retype it tomorrow.  I'm just too tired to do it now. 
  19. Tigerswallowtail
    Well, I will try this again.  I had a post all typed up but when I tried to post it, something went wrong with the internet connection and I lost everything.  I guess it fits with how this day has been going.  Yesterday was so good - I was energetic and got a lot accomplished. I even applied for a part time job at a really neat coffee shop that I frequent.  I woke up this morning thinking today would be the same and was excited.  It was not to be.  I had a bad intestinal attack from something I ate last night.  I have some dietary issues and wasn't careful and I paid for it dearly.  It wiped me out most of the day.  This isn't the only thing I struggle with.  I frequently get migraines and my chiropractor thinks I have fibromyalgia.  I haven't seen a doctor for either of those as I just can't afford it. My T thinks that as we make progress in my emotional healing that some of those issues may clear up.  I hope so, but I also know that they run in my family.  I'm hoping that my health issues won't be a problem if I get the job.  I've been self-employed and could be flexible and take a day off if I was having a rough day physically.  Won't have as much freedom working a regular job.
    I hope tomorrow is a better day.
  20. Tigerswallowtail
    The Door
    I'm standing before a door.
    I am so tired.  My heart is breaking, the grief chokes me.  I feel as if I am drowning.
    The door stands between me and the healing I so long for.  I know I must go thru it and face what is on the other side if I ever want to be whole again.
    I have kept this door shut, hidden away, locked up.  I reach out and one by one begin to remove the locks. My hand grasps the knob and then, I stop.  I know that on the other side is a little girl. Once the door is open, I will have to face her. 
    I don't know if I can bear to look into her eyes.  Eyes that are haunted by fear, shame, pain and confusion. No one knows what is happening to her and fear keeps her silent.
    But wait, she isn't truly alone and there is One who sees her suffering in silence.  He feels her pain and her shame. 
    And He is here with me now, holding me close as I begin to turn the knob. Together we push the door open and the little girl looks up.  Our hands reach out and grasps hers.
    Hand in hand the three of us step onto the path, the beginning of a long journey.  The way ahead looks dark and foreboding.  At times the tears will flow, but they will be tears of healing and release.
    The little girl and I exchange a look and I nod.  We are ready to see where this journey will take us.  We can face our fears, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of the One Who is walking this path with us.  When we stumble and fall, He will pick us up.  When we grow weary, He will strengthen us.  
    We move forward, knowing there is nothing too big for Him to handle.  With His help we will make it to the end, where there will be no more pain and no more tears.
  21. Tigerswallowtail
    Any journey must start somewhere and here is the beginning of my journey of writing a blog.  I've never done this before, so bear with me. I plan  to use this as a journal in which I can freely express the feelings and struggles, and victories that I face day to day.   My T told me the other day that I'm in the chrysalis stage and soon will emerge a new girl.  There have been so many changes in my life lately, so many more that are needed.  Some days the pain is so heavy and the tears won't stop.  Other days are sunny and my life is full of blessings.  Sometimes it takes all the strength I can gather just to get up out of bed and keep going.  And yet, I do keep going and look for challenges to conquer, new things to learn. 
    So, just a little bit about me as an introduction. I am a CSA survivor who just started going to counseling a little over a year ago.  I struggled with why now? I've made it through life for 35 years since it happened.  Why am I struggling so much now?  Regardless of the answer, I am choosing to get help NOW.  Someone shared a quote by C.S. Lewis that has been a good reminder to me: "You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." 
    I'm facing a lot of changes presently: looking for a new job, trying to get financially independent so that I can live on my own, learning to set boundaries, learning to do self-care, etc.  The path I am walking has so many twists and turns that I can't see ahead and have to trust that it will lead me to a good place.
    I play the piano, harp and mountain dulcimer.  Music is such a help, but so often I've been too busy to play.  I want to change that and make music a priority once again.  I also have a mandolin that I am hoping to learn how to play soon.  
    I am a Christian and my faith has helped me through some of my darkest days. But I will be honest and admit that lately I've been asking God, "Why?" in regards to my past.  I don't have all the answers and I may never understand the "why".  There will be times when I may refer to God or the Bible, because both are such a major part of who I am.  I want this blog to give a complete picture of my life, the good and the bad.
    So now I will continue on this journey looking forward to the dawn of a new day.
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