Monday, April 27, 2015

Enjoy the rides - you never know when this ride will be the last one.

Todd's horse, Bo, the first horse I ever rode the trails on, is done trail riding. He has hurt his tendon too badly, and the vet says from here on out, Bo will only be a pasture horse. 
The first time I rode a horse on the trails: seven years ago.

The last time we took Bo and Sunny out. Shortly after this picture was taken, Todd's dad had heart surgery and we spent a lot of time staying with his parents to help them out. Then Todd's brother passed away. Then Bo hurt his tendon, and we've been trying to get him healed. Nine months later, and we now know it will never heal enough for him to go back to the mountains with us.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The real reason I was upset, and it wasn't what I thought it was.

Todd's son lives in another state. He moved there a while ago, and Todd hasn't been to visit. They've asked him to come, but it hasn't worked out yet.

A couple weeks ago, we bought plane tickets. Todd talked to them before we bought the tickets to make sure it was okay, and it was. Last night, he got a phone call: we can stay there, but we won't be sleeping in the same room.

I didn't see that coming.
I'm sure my own family doesn't love that I live with Todd, and we aren't married, but it stopped being an issue before it ever was an issue with them. We went on vacation with my parents and siblings, and it didn't seem like they cared. We have stayed with Todd's siblings, his parents, and his daughters, and it didn't seem like an issue with any of them.

I was really upset.
I am aware that asking us to sleep in different rooms isn't a horrible thing to ask.  It seemed illogical - even to me - to be so sad and hurt.
Illogical or not, it hurt.

Here's the reason. It has nothing to do with religion or intolerance or them not liking who we are or all the reasons that made sense at first. It has everything to do with what they are really asking of me (without knowing it of course).

I have a tough time at nights. I've learned to cope, and I can sleep in my own house, with Todd next to me. I learned to cope before I was sleeping with Todd - but now that THAT is my normal, it will take a long time for me to readjust. And honestly, with Todd, I feel safe in a way I never felt before. I still have some sleepless nights, but mostly his presence has changed my nightly battle completely. I coped in the past. Now, I rest.

Any new place is hard, but with Todd there, I can get comfortable. Even in my house, when he's not here, I struggle.

At night when he's not around, my body and my brain go on high alert. Hyper-vigilance is the technical term. I am aware of every noise, every smell, every movement, and they all feel like a threat. I can think it through and know I am safe, but I can't think and sleep at the same time. As I start to fall asleep, thinking brain turns off, and my PTSD brain takes over. That is a scary place to be. I stay awake all night thinking it through, so I feel safe, and morning comes without rest.

With him there, I don't have to think, I just feel safe. (Most of the time.)

Four nights in a new house with other people in it, I can pretty much plan on not sleeping at all.
(It's made worse by the fact that one of the people there is male. I'm not afraid of Todd's son when I'm awake, but there's nothing rational about the PTSD brain when I want to be sleeping.)

I feel broken. I feel crazy and stupid... and sad.
A grown woman who can't feel safe enough to sleep without someone else there. And it's just not fair... (I know, life isn't fair, so... shut up... but for just a minute, I'm going to whine.) I didn't choose this life. I didn't choose for any of the stuff that happened that left me with an inability to sleep without a lot of help. If Todd goes on a trip without me, I don't sleep. I will rarely go on trips without him, because it's not really worth not sleeping. (It turns out, now that I sleep regularly, I really like it. Even one night without it, makes me cranky and tired.) I make do with the way things are, but it sucks. It's sad. It's just really sad that I have to deal with any of this.
I'm broken. I'm crazy. And I didn't choose any of it. And I feel stupid and ashamed, as if there is something that I could have or should have done in the past... or in the present... I shouldn't talk about it. I should pretend to be fine, but I'm not... and there's a crazy battle going on in my head about what I'm supposed to do. 

So, do I talk to them? Do I tell them what's going on for me - maybe they will change their mind? Maybe they won't. (I fully support them making decisions for what they accept and/or expect in their home. With more information, they may make a different decision, but it is still their decision to make.) At least if I'm honest, I can know I was honest.

Do we just go and get a hotel room?

Do I stay home, knowing I may not sleep, but at least I will be in my own house? Todd can visit his son and his family, and I don't need to be there.

Do I do what they ask, and deal with the consequences, which might not be as bad as I suspect they will? Maybe I'll be fine...

We could always just get married to make them happy... But I'm thinking that is a bad reason to make a decision like marriage.

Here's what I know.
I want to go. I want to stay at their home. I want to have a relationship with them, which makes me want to be honest with them. I'm afraid. I don't like talking about past traumas, and I REALLY don't like talking about how it still effects me. I don't like writing about it anymore. I don't like paying attention to it (when I can ignore it). I don't like telling other people about it, and seeing the look in their face when they realize some of what I've been through. (It's a good thing I've been going to therapy, where I spend a good portion of the time letting Wendy empathize with me and the horses support me. Ugh.)

They have every right to make whatever decision they will make, and I will support their decision for their home. I also want to take care of myself, which means if they decide to still have us sleep in separate rooms, it's probably not a good idea for me to try to sleep there. There may come a day, but I'm not there yet.

Also, I'm not willing to get married just to make them happy, or so that we can stay in their house in the same room. (I also don't really think that would make them happy, or it is really what they would want anyway. Just wanted to say, if it was what they wanted, I'm not willing to do it.)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A diagnosis (#Endometriosis) and it's not just in my head.

I've had chronic pelvic pain for years. I don't remember if it was there before my miscarriage eight years ago, but I remember being in pain a lot since then.

At the time I miscarried, is also when I woke up to the life I was living. It's when I couldn't ignore the relationship I had with my husband, and how unhealthy and harmful it was for me. I couldn't pretend that I was okay with the idea of being a mom, and bringing a baby into that environment. Along with "waking up", I also finally acknowledged how much Larry had hurt me with his abusive behavior in my first marriage. When I started talking about Larry, and spousal rape, and depression, and false beliefs about sex and relationships, and all of the other shittiness that had been my life, I fell apart.

Pain just seemed like it was all part of the deal.

I believed my pain was entirely body memories, or related to the trauma, and I felt so much guilt and shame that I experienced pain that I barely talked about it.

(I don't doubt doing trauma work in therapy and in life had an effect on my body, and trauma work is painful all over. But it wasn't just the trauma work.)

I went to a doctor a year ago. I told her I had been raped many years before, and now I was in a lot of pain all the time. She ordered an exam, said there was nothing wrong, and I just needed to go to therapy.

Six months ago, I went to another doctor. She didn't do an exam, but told me she could order an ultrasound if I really wanted one. And told me to keep going to therapy.

I walked out of that appointment frustrated with Todd. He pushed me to go to the doctor. He promised they would help me. I told him they wouldn't - they would dismiss me and my pain, because that is what all doctors have always done.

At seventeen, I was told I was being selfish and controlling when I said I didn't want the doctor to touch me. And nobody cared or asked about WHY... The doctor just did what he wanted, quick, painful, and entirely insensitive.

At nineteen, I was held down while a doctor did a pelvic exam, because I was freaking out. I was shaking and kicking, because I didn't want that man touching me... So the nurse held my legs, and I walked out with a huge fear of doctors.

At 28, I got pregnant, pretended like I was fine with exams, because I didn't have a choice... At eleven weeks, they told me I would miscarry, and sent me home. (They asked if I wanted surgery to remove the fetus, or to go home and try to let it happen on it's own. I was eleven weeks, so I was on the border of when surgery would be required. I was afraid, so I went home.) Three weeks later when I was still cramping horribly, bleeding a little, but had also added a high fever and throwing up to my list of symptoms, they prescribed antibiotics over the phone. Luckily, my husband at the time talked to the pharmacist, and the pharmacist told Dann to get me to the hospital "right now".

My general experience with doctors left me feeling shitty. I felt disrespected. I felt used. I felt scared and silenced and I didn't like it. Todd reminded me of a good experience with a doctor I had two years ago, and he suggested that I see her.

I gave him all kinds of excuses: She's not a specialist, she's just a family practitioner. If the other two didn't see anything, what makes me think SHE would. They didn't even ask me about my pain, they just dismissed me... All doctors would dismiss me.

Except that two years ago, she hadn't. She had made me feel like a person, and she had made me believe it was okay to tell the doctor I was hurting. She also made me feel like she could help.

Last week, I finally worked up the courage to call and set up an appointment. On the phone, I told the office girl why I was coming to see the doctor, and she emailed me a questionnaire about chronic pelvic pain.

I cried as I filled out the questionnaire. It was not easy to describe the pain, and I still felt shame for feeling pain at all. I felt disgusted with myself for not being able to power through the pain... I felt disgusted with myself for talking about that part of my body. I wanted to hide, because deep down I knew the pain was all my fault.

If I could just relax, it wouldn't hurt.
If I was good, I wouldn't care about the pain.
If I was good, I would be quiet and submissive.
Along with many other messages that came straight from being a survivor of abuse.

Then I read the message from Larry asking for my forgiveness, and I cried a lot. By Sunday night, something had shifted within me.

Trauma, sexual assault, rape, and abuse have hugely affected my life. (Duh.)
This pain has been there for years, and the biggest effect that sexual trauma has had on this pain, is my inability to talk about it. My fear of talking, and being dismissed. The shame and the guilt that kept me silent. The fear... It was crippling.

By the time I went to the doctor on Tuesday, there was no doubt in my mind that the pain I was experiencing was not caused by rape. I wasn't going to dismiss the pain as just something I needed to work through. I was no longer going to accept "relaxing" as a way to cure it. I wanted help, and I fully believed I deserved help.

I volunteered information. I answered her questions. I didn't shy away from or sugar coat what I was experiencing.

I told her that it felt like someone was shoving a hot poker inside me and twisting. It is usually around my bladder and up the right side, but sometimes it moves. I explained that it burned and cramped when I peed. I told her that it always hurt, but got almost unbearable just before and during my period. She asked about bleeding, and I told her what I had observed. She asked about nauseousness and indigestion, which I also experience a lot... Turns out those are symptoms of severe Endometriosis too.

She gave me the diagnosis, offered a few treatment options, and prescribed painkillers for in the meantime. (The least invasive and least expensive treatment option is birth control, so I am trying that first. If that doesn't work, I can move to hormone blockers, and then possibly surgery.)

This is a huge relief. It's not just in my head. I'm not just making it up. There are ways to treat the problem, and to find even small relief from the pain.

Even though I don't feel any better at the present - finding some hope that it will get better, makes a world of difference.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Free from the Other. It is not my problem, and I won't make it mine either.

Facebook has an "Other" folder for messages. It's where messages go if I'm not Facebook friends with the person who sent it. I think I knew it was there, but I had never checked it until yesterday.

I discovered some nice messages from people thanking me for my Ordain Women profile, and for the Sunday spotlight interview I did a month or so ago. It also had a message from my ex-husband. It had been there a while, so for him this is way old news. For me, it's pretty darn fresh.

I didn't know what to do with it. I don't know what to do with it, so I guess I have decided to write about it here.

This post isn't to him, but of course he's welcome to read it. This is for me, and for anyone else who is trying to figure out what to do with past abusers, forgiveness, apologies, etc.

A couple years ago, I wrote the blog post "The Letter I Will Never Send", because I was contacted by the Catholic church asking what I thought about his getting remarried. They asked me to describe my marriage and my experiences with him. I chose not to do anything with their questions except to write my experiences FOR ME.

I guess he read it.
"Hey Jen,
I wanted to write you because there is a lot I have been thinking about for a long time. Someone alerted me to the blog you wrote and it solidified what I think I didn't quite understand before. Where I didn't think rushing you into sex so often was kind, I didn't understand how bad it was. I didn't know to you it was a forced obligation. I thought because I had your consent it was o.k. --I didn't realize how abusive that was to you. I think aside from that, we both went into things unprepared and unrealistic and hurt each other. I am truly sorry, I realize now how hurt you were. I don't want there to be any tension in the future and I hope you are and continue to do well in your life. It would mean everything to me if you would forgive me.
Since writing the letter, and the response to it, I hadn't thought much about him. I am still dealing with some false beliefs about relationships. I am still dealing with a lot of guilt and shame that is left from a lifetime of abuse - which included my life with him - but was not limited to just him. I have had to completely reconstruct my whole emotional/mental/spiritual foundation, which takes a lot of time and a lot of work. (That could be the understatement of the century.)

Reading his message, my initial reaction was fear. I was afraid that he could find me, and I wanted to hide.

Then I felt like I needed to write back and apologize for not responding sooner: to tell him that I hadn't seen it, but now that I had, give him a response that would make him feel better. I felt like I should tell him I wasn't angry and I had totally forgiven him... but I didn't do any of that.

Todd told me to tell him to "Fuck off."
I wasn't entirely against the idea, but it didn't really resonate with how I was feeling.

I thought about asking how I had hurt him and apologizing for anything I had done to him, and then I realized: I DON'T CARE

I have had to work my ass off to recover from what he did. I have gone to therapy, I have read books, I have cried, I have gone through flashbacks and nightmares. I have spent countless hours thinking and rethinking, so that I could make sense of the world around me. I have spent time talking to others about how they treat their wives, and defining rape, and going to SLUT walks, and writing and writing and writing and crying and then writing more. I didn't ask him to apologize. (In fact, if he read anything besides that one post - he would have seen that I didn't want an apology.) I didn't ask him to do anythig. All I did was to go out and do MY work to make peace with what he did and what was my life.

I worked hard, and I have created a beautiful life. I didn't need anything from him, and I don't care what would mean the world to him...  What he needs and wants doesn't matter to me. I can finally say what he needs and wants and thinks and does means nothing to me. I wish him no ill will. I also don't wish him happiness. He gets to exist completely separate from me.

(Oh, and there is no tension between us, because there is nothing between us. That is exactly how I want it.)

I don't know what prompted him to write me - maybe he was trying to repent, and apologizing to me was part of that... but that's a pretty shitty apology. If I cared about him and his repentance, I would suggest that to him: Learn to apologize and take some responsibility if you actually want forgiveness. But I don't care about his repentance, or his work, or what he needs to learn or do... He gets to be responsible for his own learning and growing, and I get to completely dismiss it. It's his, and has nothing to do with me.

I have gone through anger at him. I have gone through all kinds of emotions, and now... I am at peace.  I don't know if that means I have forgiven him. (I am not a fan of the word forgiveness - I think too often it is used to manipulate and control. In too many cases, it is used to shift responsibility from an abuser to the victim.)

I have cried a lot in the last couple of days. I am not even sure what the tears were for. I just felt like crying, so I did. And now, I feel more free than I have felt in a long time.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I bought a house, and all of the other new stuff in my life.

I used to use writing on this blog to process things, but I haven't done that for a while. Mostly, because there are a million things I would rather do than try to process some of my thoughts.

I'd rather go fishing.

Beautiful fish - I caught this one in Wyoming on the Salt Creek
 Or riding.
Sunny and I. I like to ride him bareback, but I forgot about that for a while. (I'm glad I remember again.)
Or go to work.
Our booth at a tradeshow in Austin, Texas.
Or visit with old friends I haven't seen in SEVEN years.
Awfully nice that we could have a tradeshow in Austin, when Amanda lives just two hours away from there.

I'd rather do yard work or organize my new house - did I tell you we bought a house? It's a log cabin in the mountains with property surrounding us for our three horses.

My house in the mountains.
We have three horses now.

Three horses. Sunny, Bo, Tii
Did I tell you we adopted a wild mustang? He was born in the wild, rounded up with his mother when he was about six months, and we adopted him when he was about a year and a half. He is now two, and we are working with him to be able to ride him when he's four or five.
Tii, the "wild" horse that likes to eat hats and cell phones.
I'd rather spend time with Todd's grandkids, because they are adorable, and a ton of fun to be with.

They are a year apart, and still about the same size.

Hiking with two of the six. We spend a lot of time with these two since they are close to us.
 Or with my new nephew. Did I tell you I have a new nephew? He's also adorable, and I love him.
This kid is already super spoiled, and he's barely three months old.
Oh look - my hair is short. I cut ten inches of it off a few months ago. Side note: Do you know why it took so long for me to cut it. I had an ex-husband tell me I was too fat to have short hair, and I believed him (somewhere deep down where I didn't really think about it), so I felt like I had to keep ti longer. Faced that fear, and now it's short.

My hair: ten inches shorter than when I woke up that day.
Or play in the orchestra - Did I tell you I joined a new orchestra? At our first concert, we had five violin players (total). We've grown a little: We are up to ten violin players when everyone shows up. (Plus three violas, two cellos, and a bass, AND two flute players.)

Paradise Valley Orchestra - our first concert.
I've been a part of this symphony for five years now. I really love it.
Life is good, so when things come up, I think about writing, but I have enough other things to keep me distracted. I keep being distracted.

So now you have the update of the fun stuff... stay tuned for some processing in my next entry. (Unless of course I get too distracted and never write it.)