in short spurts only

Today I learned that a high ranking state official where I live resigned in the wake of sexual harassment and forcible touching allegations. Even more egregious is the discovery that in this particular agency allegations of sexual harassment were regularly covered up, and there was a culture where female employees may have felt pressured into intimate relationships in order to gain promotions.

When I read this news piece this morning I caught my breath, and had to tell myself that these were different circumstances, not my own.

In 2008, at a different agency less than a mile away from today’s news making agency, I reported sexual harassment, which included a sexual assault, from my own director. Today that experience is nothing and everything all at once. I call it nothing because I hardly recognize the person I was then. My life is now completely different, and thankfully there are times when I recall that period of time and realize that the assault is no longer part of my every day thoughts. I thought then that there would never be a time when it was not somewhere in the crevices of my mind. I feared that the assault would become and be everything in my life, and at that time it was. There was rarely a moment free of the memory of the experience.

I’ve never forgotten the fact that I was so damn lucky in the simple serendipity that I drew a special investigator who was only interested in figuring out what happened. He had no political motivations, and was, by all measures, objective.

I want women similarly situated to know that reporting it is the best thing you can do I did for yourself myself, even in the face of awful hatred from colleagues you once thought were your friends, and the hell of a long investigation. Soon after it happened I went to see my doctor. I told her what happened, but I made it clear that I had no intention of reporting it. She said to me, “This will stay with you for the rest of your life if you don’t report it.” She was right and wrong all at once with that statement. By reporting it I’ve experienced a certain freedom from it that would not have happened if I never took action. However, it will always be with me in some way, but reporting it lessened it’s long term impact on my life.

I don’t regret reporting it, but I hope there comes a day when reading similar stories doesn’t shut my brain down to the point of wanting to jump out of my skin.

And with that I have to sign off for tonight. I have a small capacity for writing about this experience in that I can only do it in short spurts.

One last post for the dude from last summer and the summer before that …

Admittedly, I felt bad about canceling our date. There was a part of me that was looking forward to seeing you, especially since you have that flirty way about you that makes me feel all gushy and blushy with the buzz from the way you brush my hand while giving me a quick wink, and that’s within the first 10 seconds of being in your presence.

You responded to my cancellation in such a manner that I questioned whether I was hasty in my decision. This was your response:

“Please understand that my intent in reaching out to you was not to meet you again, have sex with you, or even hear back from you. I simply wanted to explain why you did not hear from me last summer. I am a good person, not a manipulator who was looking to take advantage of you in some way.”

Then the next day you sent this message:

“I hope you find what you’re looking for. Sorry I wasn’t it.”

I responded, and said to you that I had nothing but good memories of you, and no ill feelings on my part. I was just aware that I fell into a pattern with you that I did not want to repeat.

Then you replied with this message, “If you change your mind you know where to find me.”

The very next day I woke up to this message from you, “This is going to sound terrible. Now that you’ve said no, all I can think about is sex with you. Let’s meet to get it out of both of our systems.”

I said to you “that is exactly the reason we are not going to meet,” then I blocked you from sending me any further messages.

One of my clinicians often says, “when someone shows you who they are, pay attention.”

I’m glad I finally paid attention.

some accidental clarity

Ever since I learned of Sara’s passing I’ve been in a foggy dissociative state that’s been confusing for me. Since mid November when I returned to my previous job (which is now my current job, life is funny that way), and fired Doc, my last psychiatrist (more on that in future posts), I’ve been doing surprisingly well. I’ve had less instances of getting stuck in the car in a foggy state where I’ll be stuck from anywhere from 10 minutes to upwards of 2 hours. I’ve even been able to get out of bed with very few instances of the stuck-to-the-bed feeling that used to plague me on a near constant basis.

However, a lot of that foggy dissociation returned once the news about Sara reached me. I understood the return of the dissociation at first as it was and is a loss. But then I started getting the feeling that there was more to it, but I couldn’t pin point it, and because I was in that foggy state the thought would come to me in a fleeting moment, and just as soon as it would come it would disappear. I would ask myself, “Wasn’t there something important I was just pondering?” But the thought would just evaporate, such is how it is when my dissociation is ever present.

Yesterday and today seemed to glob into one space of time. Every thing was an effort: getting in the shower, getting in clothes, going to get something to eat, driving, laundry, grocery shopping, the gym, eating again, and then throwing out garbage and putting away groceries. I was stuck in the car, and I just said to myself “We just need to go in the grocery store. We need bananas, oranges, toilet paper, and almond milk. You can do this! It won’t take long.” Thirty minutes later I make it into the damn store.

In that moment when I was sitting in my car, playing a game of Candy Crush trying to jolt myself out of the foggy state, the fleeting thought came back, and this time I managed to hold onto it. As I was playing that stupid game I suddenly had the realization that this has been so hard because of my mother. This whole thing took me back to my mother. There were countless times that she threatened suicide. She would yell that nobody cared about her, we didn’t care about her, and because we did not care about her she was going to kill herself, and when she killed herself we would all be sorry that we did not show her how much we cared about her.

This was a frequent scenario growing up in that dreaded ugly brown house on Marietta St, so much so that I got to the unfortunate point where I am ashamed to say that I started to wish she would go ahead and do it and put us all out of our misery. Thankfully, I never expressed this to her, but I definitely thought it, wished it, hell I think I might have prayed for it at one very desperate point. I don’t even want to know what God must have made of that request.

There was one time when I was likely around 6 or 7 years old when I ripped up a Ziploc bag in front of her and ate it as she was making her typical suicidal threats. When she realized I did it as a suicidal gesture she laughed, and said to me that eating that bag was not going to kill me.

Eventually I started staying away from home as much as possible. I recall one particular argument (actually this is the only part of the argument I recall. I couldn’t tell you what we were arguing about in that instance)  with my mother when I told her that there would come a day where she would never hear from me or see me again, and I wanted her to remember this moment, remember all the moments that brought us here to this because they will make up the reasons that she will never see me again. And I believe I said something to the effect of, “You should never have been a parent. You’re the worst.”

Decades later I stand by those words. I do, cruel as it may sound, it’s how I feel. I wish her no ill well, just that I leave this earth without any more exchanges between the two of us. Any love that was there was killed, extinguished long ago. She’s just a person to me, a person in this world with whom I have an unfortunate connection. I’ve kept my word in that I’ve not seen her for many years. It’s the right choice given the situation.

I never realized this until this week, but I believe her suicidal threats were likely the most damaging to me out of the entire potpourri of damage she rained on us. I believe it’s the reason when I’ve had friends who’ve experienced suicidal ideation I tend to freak out or take off or both. My own propensity for suicidal ideation leads me to be very close to the vest about it. In the rare moments when it has scared me I am reduced to whispering it to my therapist. There have even been times when I couldn’t even whisper it, all I could do was write it to my therapist and hand her the piece of paper. I never realized, until now, that I have a fear of talking about suicide.

The legacy of suicidal ideation was passed down to me, but I went the opposite direction with it. I try to protect everyone from it. My mother wanted everyone to feel responsible for her ideation, and I go out of my way to protect my loved ones from even knowing that I struggle with this. My mother suffered out in the open, and I struggle with mine in a good amount of isolation.

My mother was a good at crafts, and our dining room table often looked like a craft store vomited on it. She would make homecoming mums (a strange Texas tradition) or make candy cane reindeer at that table. I remember wishing that I liked crafts so that I could have one good memory of doing something nice with her. Instead, I would glance at her doing crafts at that table with my sisters, and I would read a book.