So Lonely

I’ve been feeling very lonely lately. Struggling with the feeling that I matter, that I’m worth something. That I’m important.

And I’ve talked to Robby about it lately but it hasn’t helped. He’s been sweet about it, telling me that I matter, hugging me, but it just hasn’t helped. Because he’s been the one making me feel lonely. He keeps withdrawing from me, putting up this wall that I can’t get through. So I just keep trying harder. Trying to be noticed. Trying to do everything, and do it all right.

And tonight was a catastrophe, which I won’t get into, but I ended up telling him how I’ve been feeling. That he makes me feel lonely because he shuts me out. That I feel like if I don’t try and connect with him, that we will just be here but never really together. And how it’s so confusing because some days he will want to be intimate, will really be himself, will be comfortable with our relationship. But then the next he will act as though he’s just going through the motions.

And I want to take care of him, to love him, but it hurts so much to feel like he just takes and takes without giving back. Without being sincere.

Because he never follows through. He says he’s going to make changes, says he’s going to do this and that, and for a little bit he does. But then it stops. He stops being a partner in our relationship. Stops trying. And it just goes back to the way it was, with me trying so desperately to bring him back.

And I shouldn’t have to bring him back. All I want is for him to be here, really here. And every time he pulls back, or stops trying, or leaves me emotionally, it hurts.

It hurts so much.

And to be honest, I don’t know how many times I can go through this. It seems like it happens every year. But words are just words, and I have to look at the actions. And I don’t want to reach my limit. I don’t want to have to accept that it’s never going to change. So I’m going to keep trying, keep loving him, and most importantly keep telling him when he hurts me. And maybe it will get better and be real this time. But I’m so afraid that I’m going to end up alone, whether alone in our relationship time and time again, or truly alone. Without him.

So Down-Hearted

I am just so down-hearted. This most recent revelation about the trauma has really hit me hard and I feel so broken. I don’t want to face the world right now. It’s all too fresh, too raw. I’m still mourning the full depth of the betrayal. The reality of what was taken from me, what he did to me.

And I just don’t know how to compartmentalize that when all I want to do is cry. But I have to live my life. I have responsibilities. The dishes need done, the checkbook needs balanced, I have to go grocery shopping, and I work tomorrow at 6am. And I just want to watch Disney movies and eat ice cream.

I wish Robby was awake. Talking to him helps me figure things out so much. I know I need to take care of myself, but I feel so guilty putting everything off. And to be honest, I don’t see how just one afternoon is going to help. I guess that it’s just a matter of perspective and balance. I have to live my life, and I have to take care of myself. So I will do what I need, and I will take care of myself. I’m probably going to do the very little, but I’m not going to do nothing. I can do little spurts of life in between hiding from the world.

Little ‘T’ Trauma

Lori and I have been talking about my need to protect myself for the last few weeks, and my view on why I feel the need to protect myself, and she thinks that I am suffering from something called “Little ‘T’ (t) Trauma”.

Big T trauma (Trauma) is a horrific event. A person who is gang raped, someone who survived the 9/11 attacks, being in war. Something that would be horrifying to anyone. Something that you would expect anyone to get counseling for.

Little T trauma (trauma) is an ongoing scarring event. Being bullied your entire childhood, an overly critical parent, living in a household with an alcoholic or addict. Something that causes your reactions to become ingrained overtime into the very nature of you, so much so that you don’t even realize that you’re different.

Lori thinks–and it makes sense now that I look at it–that the extreme bullying and ostracization I experienced from 2nd grade on developed into a case of Little T trauma and I have never really recovered from it. It’s why sharing things about myself makes me feel vulnerable and unsafe. Why I don’t like to talk about myself, especially my struggles. Why I always feel as though I have to keep everyone at arms length and even have a hard time opening up to my husband and my family. Why I can’t for the life of me ask for help even when I know someone is treating me in a damaging way. Why I have this overwhelming fear of telling people what I need. Why I am terrified of showing any kind of weakness or flaw, because a part of me is just waiting for someone to turn that against me.

And I always thought that the kids who turned on me just liked him better. I thought they looked at my story (the truth: he abused me) and his story (the lie: I made up the story that he abused me to get him into trouble because I was ‘mad at him’ for him ‘breaking up’ with me in 1st grade) and just decided to take his side.

I thought it was a normal kid argument. You see it all the time: Kid A and Kid B argue, A says one thing, B says the opposite. The class takes sides. A few days (or hours) later, it’s all over and everyone is friends again.

But they never got over it.

They never decided to be my friends again.

I kept thinking ‘maybe this is the day they’ll be my friends’. Maybe this time they’ll include me. Maybe this time they won’t tease me. Maybe this time I won’t be the brunt of the joke. Maybe this time when I trust them, they won’t torture me. Maybe this time, maybe this time.

But this time never came.

Ever.

And I could never figure out why. I didn’t make sense. And I kept trying. For years. I know it sounds pathetic, but I just kept thinking that somehow, someday, I would discover the right thing to do, to say, something, anything to make it all go away. But it just never happened. They were always against me. It never got better, I just moved away.

And as I talked to Lori and told her that I could tie the bullying to the very day that I came to school and the kids had all turned against me because they believed him, she pointed out something I had never realized before. They only ever heard the lie.

After I told my parents what he had done to me, they held me out of school for a day. From what I know, they contacted the school and he was sent to a counseling session. I can clearly remember being terrified to go back to school. I didn’t want to face him. I didn’t want to face anyone. They were all going to judge me. I was convinced everyone would hate me. I know he had told me that everyone would hate me if I told, but my parents didn’t hate me, so I don’t know why I was so scared to go back to school, but man was I scared. I don’t remember if they kept me out a second day, or just part of a day, or what, but I remember them telling me that I didn’t have to tell anyone why I wasn’t there or what had happened. That it was nobody’s business but mine, and they didn’t need to know. That the teacher’s weren’t going to tell the students, and that he shouldn’t tell anyone either, so there was no reason to be scared to go back to school. So I went. But the moment I walked into the classroom, everything was different. I could feel the difference in the room, and I remember seeing the kids across the room whispering together and I immediately felt afraid. The girl–who until that day was my best friend–came up to me and said (in an extremely superior and condescending voice) “He told us what you did” and swear I could feel the world drop from under my feet. What I did?

What I did?! I had never been more confused in my life.

I asked her what she meant and that was when she told me. That he has told everyone that I made up the story that he had abused me just to get even with him because he had broken up with me the year before. I tried to tell her that I didn’t make up anything, but she didn’t believe me. She walked away and I remember standing there at my little yellow locker, just fighting down the panic and the sorrow.

I always figured that somehow the truth had gotten out and he had panicked and tried to counter it with the lie he told, and they chose him and the lie. But, as Lori pointed out, they probably never heard the truth. Other than that one little girl, I never talked to anyone. They never heard the truth. So, to them, his lie was fact. In the minds of all those kids, I was a vicious liar just trying to hurt their friend. I hate that anyone could think that I was capable of purposely hurting someone. Because the exact opposite is true. He hurt me. I was just trying to get help. It feels like he was punishing me for trying to get help.

And he didn’t even need to tell that lie. No one would have known why he was pulled out of school. There was no reason to do that other than to be malicious. He went to everyone before I was even back at school and told this giant lie just to purposefully hurt me. How can someone be that evil? I can accept that the abuse was a reaction to him being abused, but telling that lie was more damaging to me than anything else, and that was just done out of spite.

He cost me my childhood. I didn’t have a childhood, I barely survived it. And I can never get that back. And I just have to keep trying to heal, trying to recover from what he did to me. And it’s just so unfair because there is no justice. I never did anything wrong and I am left to pay the consequences. I am suffering. I have to work to heal, fight to heal, pay to heal. My life has been damaged, broken, and all I can do is live with it. More than anything, I just want justice and I feel like I will never get it.

Because I’m still living in this trauma. Still expecting everyone to be against me. Still feeling like it’s not safe to trust anyone, because the second I do, they’re going to turn on me. And legally there is no way to get justice. It’s past the statute of limitations. It doesn’t matter that he sexually abused me, it’s been too long. And in any case, there is no documentation because no case was ever opened (which makes me wonder if the school believed him). And I highly doubt there would be a way to get justice for the bullying that was caused because of his lie, even if I had reported it at the time. I hate knowing that he did these horrible things to me and got away with them.

I hate that the more I understand what happened to me the more broken I feel.

 

What Kind Of Person Does That?

I had to call the police this morning because I could hear my neighbor beating his wife.

It was just horrible. I’ve heard him yell before, but she has always yelled back. At least, I thought she had. But this morning. This morning was like nothing I’d ever heard before.

I had my headphones in and was listening to Harry Potter while I worked on our budget, and I had just taken my headphones out to call AAA to have them jump my car when I heard it. He was yelling. Like I said, I’ve heard him yell before. Unfortunately, him yelling isn’t uncommon. And, to be honest, Rob and I have wondered before if he is abusive, but we’ve never had anything other than a feeling.

Until today.

Because among his yelling I could hear banging–thumping even–and a guttural wail. It was that soul deep cry that happens when you’re heartbroken. I made that exact noise when Rob and I were falling apart last year and when we lost Jamie. I have made that sound so many times when the trauma of the abuse consumes me. I know that noise. And I felt myself grow cold when I heard it come from next door.

I think they were in the front of the house because that’s where the sound was loudest, so I cracked our front door open so I could hear more clearly. And what I heard just confirmed that he was hurting her. There was lots of swearing. She was moaning and crying. She said ‘please stop’.

He said ‘I can do it harder’.

And that is when I called the police.

I don’t know if they heard me call, or if I was too loud when I shut the door, because the sounds stopped abruptly while I was on the phone. I gave the dispatcher all the info I could, and they said they would send someone. Then she asked if I wanted to leave my name, and that’s when I hesitated. I knew that leaving my name would help her if it came to court, but I was also terrified that he would find out I had turned him in and then come after me. I asked the dispatcher if giving my name would help keep her safe, and she said that they prefer witnesses leave names and contact info for those types of calls, so I did. And I’m still scared.

I kept glancing out the peep hole every few minutes, praying that the police would get there soon and help her. I imagine it didn’t take long for them to get there, but it felt like forever before they showed up. I finally saw the cop at the door, but he didn’t knock. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to hear her cries (although she’d been quiet for a while) or what, and he walked away for a bit and then came back. After a while, he walked away and another cop left the house, so I think one was in the house while the other was outside.

But then they still didn’t leave. They were hanging around in the side parking lot next to the neighbors house. And then a few minutes later the neighbor rode up to the sidewalk on his bicycle. He got off the bike, looked at the cops, and said “do you guys know what’s going on?”.

And that’s when I realized.

They keep their bikes on the back porch. He must have gone out the back door, gotten his bike, and rode off so that he could claim he hadn’t been there. And I just couldn’t stop thinking “what kind of person does that?”. Not only does he beat his wife, but he has the malice and forethought to think how to make himself seem innocent. That’s just horrible. And way too familiar.

I want to help her. I want him to have to pay for what he’s done. I don’t want anyone to have to be trapped, but I don’t know how to help her, and that makes me feel helpless. The only think I can think of is to keep my eyes open and if I hear anything again, I need to get my camera and record it so I have evidence. I don’t think talking to her will help, because most physical abuse victims won’t leave their abuser, and if she didn’t take the police’s help then she probably won’t take help from anyone.

And I’m scared that he will find out it was me and try and take revenge. But I hope he is a coward, like most abusers. And the situation brings up bad memories and feelings, but all I can do about that is process it, talk to Robby and Sheila about it, and try to help her so it doesn’t haunt me. I could never know abuse was happening and not try and help. I just keep praying that he will get arrested.

Facing the Fears

I need to stop avoiding. I’ve been super busy lately, and I think I’ve been using it as an excuse to avoid facing my feelings. I know facing them makes life so much better (not always easier, but better), but it is just so hard.

Sometimes I am afraid of what I will see. What I will learn about myself. Because what I learn could completely throw me. To be honest, there are still some questions I have written down that I’m  not ready to ask myself, because I’m just not ready for what I might see in the answer.

But I can’t avoid everything I’m feeling. I know that not every answer is going to be so hard to face. I know that some answers will bring relief. But I have seen so many things on my journey that have torn at my soul and ripped at my heart, that it is so hard to face the questions, even if they might be easy.

But I know that if I ignore the questions and the feelings and just let them fester that they will become a void that threatens to swallow my life. And I don’t want to go through that again.

I don’t want that.

It’s strange to realize (and I didn’t realize until right now) that I am more scared of having my life taken over by the PTSD than I am of fighting it. Of facing those fears.

And for some reason that makes me feel strong.

I’ve been fighting tears all day, but now I don’t feel weak letting them fall. Because now it’s not the PTSD scaring me into crying. It’s me choosing to stand and  face the feelings that I’m afraid of instead of the PTSD chasing me down and making me Its victim.

It’s me calling the shots. It’s me taking the control.

Yes, it’s going to be hard to face these emotions, but I’m not letting them make me a victim.

Thinking about Work

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is work. I left my last job in October of 2011 because my PTSD had gotten so severe (now that I think of it, I think I was in a ‘self-neglect’ phase) that I was almost suicidal.

My job had started off really well. I was a bookseller at Half-Price Books and I was really loving it for the first few months. For the first time I had a full time job that I was enjoying and I was even making friends. My boss really seemed to like me and she and the other managers had been giving me good reviews. I was highly optimistic about my future there.

I’m not exactly sure what went wrong or when. We were dealing with a ton during that time. Rob had just been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and we were adjusting to the new life that comes with that diagnosis. In addition to having to learn to manage the bi-polar, Rob was also taking full-time classes AND working full time. I was trying to help Rob as best as I could adjust and was helping him with his classes to lighten his load. With both of us working full time we hardly ever saw each other, especially because we often ended up working opposite shifts or having different days off. Also, we moved in July and in August my parents said they couldn’t take care of my dog anymore so he needed to come live with us, but a few days after him getting here the apartment people told us he wasn’t allowed so I had to make hurried arrangements to move him back to my parents house and pay for them to care for him. Oh, and also sometime during all that we had to battle fleas.

So I slowly started slipping into my ‘self-neglect’ phase, but I was trying so hard to fight it. I started seeing Sheila every week and that seemed to help for a while, but I guess not enough. My boss-Ginny- started treating me oddly. She switched my schedule, along with a few other workers, around to shifts that she knew we didn’t want. She stopped talking to me in the break room. Anytime I spoke to her she was curt and seemed irritated with me. I had no idea what was going on. I tried to give her space and just do my work. Then she started criticizing everything I did. When a customer was rude she scolded me for not being a better employee, even when the same customer had given several other employees problems just moments before. Things like that just kept happening. And I had no idea why.

I asked some of my co-workers who I was (am) friends with, and they said that Ginny just did that sometimes. She just seemed to go through stages where she tried to get rid of people and to just hang in there, she would stop eventually. That it had happened to them.

But it hurt, I felt like I was being singled out for no reason. I felt bullied. One day she called me into her office and said that my attendance had been poor and if I called in again I would be put on probation (oh, I forgot to mention that during this time my migraines were changing and I was being heavily monitored by my doctor, and my grandmother had been suddenly admitted to the hospital for heart failure and was not expected to make it through the night so I rushed to see her. Surprisingly she is still alive today.) I really think that conversation was the final straw for me. I went on my lunch break and cried hysterically in my car for the entire hour. I felt awful. I knew that my attendance wasn’t exemplary and I needed to do better, but the PTSD immediately made me feel trapped. I just wanted to do my job, but every second was a struggle.

I fought through the next week, minute to minute, crying most of the day even while working. Trying desperately to hide it from my co-workers and the customers. Trying desperately to shove my feelings down. But they just got worse. Every day I walked into the store I felt more like a caged animal, starting to go insane, wanting to scream and tear at the bars. One night I talked to Rob and told him how bad it had gotten. I had been keeping a lot from him, especially about Ginny’s treatment of me, because I didn’t want to say it out loud. I didn’t want to admit how bad it was. But I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I told him I needed to quit. I didn’t want to, but I needed to. I finally got my courage up to tell Rob how broken I was and that I had let it get too bad. So bad that I needed to leave my job. That I was sorry, that I wanted to fix it, but I felt the only course of action was to quit and regroup.

He listened to me. He asked if he could do anything to help. He was supportive but I could tell he was antsy about me quitting. Later that night I came downstairs to see him crying. It felt like I had been stabbed. I felt like I had let him down. I knew that I had made a mistake. I knew I shouldn’t have let things get as bad as they had, that I should have said something sooner, but it was too late and I had to deal with things as they were. And I knew he was worried about money. But I couldn’t go back. But I couldn’t hurt him either.

I hugged him and told him I was sorry. That I would make it work. To forget what I had said. And I tried to bury it. To push it down.

And the next day I went to work.

I cried most of the day in the back room while working with the stock. I had to take a Lorazepam just to walk into the store, then another one at lunch. I think I took another 1 or maybe 2 during the day too. I know it was a ridiculous amount of medicine. And I was still on the verge of a panic attack the entire day.

After work I dropped something off to Rob at his work and I mentioned to him again that I needed to quit my job. I told him my day was awful and I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t remember what he said but the gist was that we couldn’t swing it. I nodded and as I started to drive away I burst into tears. When I got home I took off my work clothes and threw them on the floor by the door. I wanted to be as far from my job as possible. In my underwear, I went upstairs and crawled into bed where I sobbed, literally sobbed, until I got a text. And then another.

They were from Sheila and my mom. I guess Rob had seen my face as I drove away, because he immediately got in touch with them, letting them know he was worried about me and that they should contact me. It was good he did. I wasn’t planning anything, but I felt so trapped. I didn’t feel as if I had a way out of my life. I texted with Sheila and talked to my mom, and when Rob got home we decided that quitting Half-Price was the right thing. I called the next morning and quit. My mom came up and returned my name badge so I didn’t have to go to the store, and I spent the day crying and trying to pull myself together.

That was my last job. I had thought that it would be impossible to keep a job with the PTSD, that eventually they would all make me feel trapped. But now I have the possibility of a future without PTSD. I could have a job. But I’m still scared. I know that some (most?) of that is residual from Half-Price.

Sheila and Lori have suggested taking the job thing in little steps. One step that I thought of is to make a list of things that I want from a job. Here is what I have so far.

My Job Should

  1. have a greater purpose than money
  2. not fill more time than my time with Robby
  3. still allow me to go to church

Basically, I want a job that means something. I don’t want a job just to have a job. I’ve worked at Kroger and Walmart just to earn money and it didn’t work out. I want to go to work each day and feel that what I do is important and makes a positive impact on the world. I would love to teach somewhere.

The second requirement is harder to explain. I don’t mind working. Rob already works 40hrs a week, so I don’t see him then anyways. I just don’t want to work opposite hours of him all the time because then we would never see each other and our relationship would suffer. Ideally, I would only work 1-2 shifts opposite him.

Finally, I want to be able to attend church. If not every week, then at least most weeks. Church is very important to me and I love not only going, but teaching there as well. I don’t want to lose that from my life. I think it is something I really need.

I don’t think my list should be too hard to fulfil, and I hope that it helps me find the right job. Because I do want to work. I just want to find the right work.

I’m Remembering More

I remember sitting at that low wooden desk with my book, I think it was Henry and Mudge, waiting for my turn to read aloud. I was wearing long sleeves. I think they were light pink. He was pulling at the sleeves, trying to get his hand in them. I was confused, I thought we were going to read. I didn’t think that that was going to happen every time we sat here. I wanted to learn. He kept trying but could get his hand in the sleeve, the wrist was too tight. I could see him getting mad. I remember trying to spread the sleeve out with the fingers of my right hand while still holding my book flat with my left arm. I was worried that we would get caught, worried that I would get called on and not know where we were, worried that I would get in trouble. He could only get his arm part way up my sleeve. He was getting mad. I was scared and confused–I couldn’t understand why we weren’t just reading. I remember thinking that since he couldn’t get his arm up my sleeve he would just let it go, but he didn’t. I don’t know if he went under my shirt or down my pants, but I do remember thinking that instead of getting a break, it was way worse. After that, I stopped wearing long sleeves. At least that way I got to choose how he abused me.

Visualizing the Trauma

I have said that I will write openly and honestly about the EMDR process, but this last session has really tested my resolve.

Lori had me visualize specific instances of trauma that I can remember, and then describe not only the picture I see, but the feelings and thoughts associated with those traumas. This was, without a doubt, the hardest session I have had so far. I didn’t want to write about it because I didn’t want to face what I remember, but I know that I will only get out of this what I put into it, so here goes.

A low wooden desk, plastic and metal chairs around it. I’m looking down at my lap. I can see my bright pink sweatpants with the white cord and the desk is covering part of my knees. I was wearing sweatpants because I had learned that he couldn’t get his hand under the elastic, so he would stay out of my pants. I can feel his hand on my right arm, going up the sleeve of my t-shirt. I feel alone, trapped, isolated. No one can help me. I feel dirty and guilty. Ashamed. I know I am surrounded by people, but I know–without a doubt–that I am completely alone.

I walk into a classroom. I see the kids across the room and am looking forward to talking to them. I see them look up, see me, and then pointedly look away. It happens over and over. I don’t know what’s wrong. I think there must be some mistake. Some misunderstanding. I see sneers and haughty looks. I hear that they believe him, not me. I think this can’t be real. It can’t be real. I feel alone, betrayed, shunned, rejected. I want to cry but don’t want to give them another reason to hate me.

Eating lunch in the cafeteria. The green tables with the little round stools. One blonde little girl, Rachel, is showing her friends a game. She used to be my best friend, now she leads the other kids in teasing me. But then she turns to me and wants to show me the game. Is it over? Are they taking me back? Finally, finally, are things back to normal? She has a little pat of butter in her hand, the kind that comes between two pieces of paper. She sprinkled salt on it while telling me some story about a crocodile and saying how the salt on the butter feels exactly like crocodile skin. She holds it out to me to touch. I’m wary and hesitant, still not sure if things are truly back to normal. I reach out my hand to feel the ‘crocodile’, like the other little girl, Jessie, did just a minute ago, and she smears the butter all over my hand and arm. The girls laugh and tears burn in my eyes. I’m humiliated and betrayed. I don’t understand why.

I lag behind the kids in the lunch line so they won’t tease me as much. I get my lunch very last and only have a few minutes to eat my hotdog before we go out to recess. It’s a really hot day and when we line up to go inside I end up leaning against the wall and throwing up my hotdog, which was still in chunks because I had to eat so quickly. The entire playground can see and they all start making fun of me and calling me gross and disgusting. I feel humiliated as well as sick and start to cry.

Fifth grade, our classroom is crammed with thirty desks. His is just a few over from mine, and that makes me extremely nervous. The lunch sign-up list is being passed around, and we are supposed to circle which option we want, but he won’t hand it to me. He keeps saying I should just tell him what I want and he will mark it for me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t trust him. I don’t know whether to get the teacher, or just tell him what I want. I have this feeling he is going to play a trick on me and I wonder if I should tell him the meal I don’t want in the hopes that he marks down the other meal. I finally end up telling him the meal I want and he makes a big deal of marking the paper before passing it on. When I get to lunch I find out that he did indeed mark the meal I didn’t ask for, and it was something I didn’t like. I sit by myself and pick at my food trying not to cry.

It’s fifth grade and I’m looking through my desk trying to find something. My teacher is yelling, telling me to hurry up, and I’m getting nervous. I can’t find it, and the whole class is watching and tittering behind their hands. The teacher keeps saying things like “hurry up” and “you’re holding up the whole class”. I finally realize that I’m not going to find it and my eyes fill with tears. My teacher sees this and in front of the whole class says “Oh great, and now you’re going to be a cry baby about it.” Everyone laughs. I feel humiliated, weak, alone. I can’t stop the tears, but I hate them.

Junior high on a bus. Sitting near the back, trying to ignore the kids around me. They’re bouncing in their seats trying to make the whole bus bounce. One boy, DJ, who is always mean to me is trying to get me to bounce too, because I am the only one not bouncing. I don’t want to, thinking it will be just another excuse for the kids to make fun of my weight. He keeps saying that he wants everyone to do it and I finally give in and bounce a little. As soon as I do, he does this exaggerated fall and says “Woah, I really felt it when Laura did it! She made the whole bus move by herself!” I felt stupid for trusting him, for thinking he was being sincere, that he wanted me to be a part of their game. I’m humiliated, self-conscious, and embarrassed.

Broken Now Instead of Destroyed Later

Right after losing Jamie, I talked to (and yelled at) God a lot about why He took our baby from us. I knew he had a reason, but for the life of me I didn’t understand, and I didn’t agree. Every one I spoke to about this said the same thing, that ‘someday’ we would understand. But I felt so betrayed by God. How could He do this to us? What possible reason could He have for taking away our child? Were we being punished? Had we done something to deserve this pain? For months on end we talked and prayed, questioned and cried. Every time a person said ‘someday’ it felt as though a bitter knife was driven a little deeper into my heart. I blamed myself for being a bad mother, I blamed God for being unfair. I hated myself and I especially hated every pregnant woman I saw. And I still miss Jamie. I would still give anything to hold Jamie in my arms, to kiss that little face. I still wish that things had turned out differently. But I think we’ve reached ‘someday’.

When Rob and I went through our rough patch in August, we had a lot of heart to hearts, and one of the things we talked about most was Jamie. We both agreed that we never really processed losing Jamie, or accepted that loss. We both just tried to push past it, to tell ourselves that if “this” happens, then the pain will stop. We talked about how much we missed our baby, and how losing Jamie broke our hearts. We talked about how not mourning together ripped us apart and in many ways broke us. And, hardest of all, we talked–honestly–about what could have happened if we hadn’t lost Jamie.

It’s easy to tell myself that life would have been perfect, but the truth is that’s probably not real. I had a really hard time being pregnant. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own body. All of a sudden there were so many things I couldn’t do, food I couldn’t eat. I was feeling things I had never experienced and couldn’t stop and couldn’t take medicine for. Feeling out of control is a huge trigger for my PTSD, and so many things about being pregnant were making me feel out of control. When I started bleeding at 9 weeks, I was put on partial bed rest and told not to lift anything. Rob, being the sweet and loving man that he is, did everything he could to take care of me, even carrying my purse, but to me it felt like all of a sudden I had lost my power. Now instead of having a few restrictions, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I was frustrated and even resentful that I was having to go through this, all I wanted was to be pregnant, but be able to live my life normally. When we had our honesty talk, we realized that those feelings wouldn’t have just gone away. In fact, there is a very real possibility that they would have gotten worse. That could have, in turn, caused issues with the pregnancy and delivery. It would have

The scariest thing we talked about was postpartum depression. I was told by my therapist that I was at very high risk for postpartum depression due not only to my PTSD, but also to the fact that I have depression. What if I had abandoned Rob and the baby? What if I had started cutting, or even killed myself? What if I had hurt the baby?

What if I had killed our baby.

I know I could never have forgiven myself. That would have destroyed me. In all honesty, I probably would have killed myself once I realized what I had done. That would have destroyed not only me, but Rob, and our relationship. Rob recently told me that even when I was pregnant, the thought of me with postpartum being home alone with the baby terrified him. Even then, something inside him was afraid.

I will never be glad that we lost Jamie. I will never stop missing or stop loving Jamie. Jamie is our miracle baby, and I am so thankful for the time we got to spend together.

We believe that God took Jamie home so soon because He wanted Jamie to be a light in our life. A reminder of our love and happiness. He took Jamie so that we were broken now instead of destroyed later.

Telling the Story

I start EMDR therapy in 3 days, and I am getting really scared. I know that in the end it is the best thing to do, but reliving all of this is going to be awful, and I’m scared. I’m trying to be brave, but every time I remember what I am getting ready to face, I feel like I am six years old again. Rob and I talked and he held me while I cried. He told me how proud he is of me and that he is here for me. And I feel a little better. Someone commented on my post from the other day and told me a little bit about what they went through that led them to EMDR therapy, and I realized that I have never really shared my story with you, the reader.

So here it is. I don’t remember everything that happened. I don’t know if it went on for days or months, or what time of year it was. This is what I do remember:

I started 1st grade in 1993 at Butlerville Elementary and my teacher was Mrs. Beel. She was pregnant, so most of the year–at least it seemed like most of the year to a six year old–we had substitute teachers. My class was small, maybe fifteen of us, and between church and kindergarten I knew almost everyone. I don’t know if I knew Matt from before or if I met him in first grade.

Back then I was the popular girl. I was a gymnast—had been since I was 2 years old—and was very outgoing, athletic, and pretty. I was a happy little kid.

When I was in kindergarten I had a ‘boyfriend’  named Nathan, and at our school’s skating night at the local roller rink he won a bracelet for me. It was made of three little gold hearts joined together and I loved that bracelet more than anything.  I was so smitten with the idea of being someone’s girlfriend, and to me, that bracelet was a symbol to the world that I belonged to someone. That someone loved me.

When I got to first grade,Matt was the popular boy and I thought he was the coolest person I had ever met.

And he liked me.

It just seemed like the thing to do, so we started dating. He held my hand. He bought me a gold necklace with a little red heart that I wore every day. He was my man. I remember sitting in class and he would pretend to shoot all the other kids so we could be alone.

That should have tipped me off right there.

I wanted so badly to be grown up. I was fascinated by this popularity I was experiencing and wanted to live in that world forever. I went to gymnastics, played with my friends, and was Matt’s girlfriend. I thought I had the world. I remember being so unbelievably happy.

It started slowly. He would sit next to me at the little table in class when our teacher would read us stories and we would do our work. He used to put his hand on my thigh, and to be honest I liked it. It made me feel special. Over time, his hand crept higher. It went up my leg, under my shorts, and inside my panties. It felt nice. I felt shivery and special. This was something new for me. Eventually his hands ended up inside my shirt too. He would have me lean forward and put his hand through the sleeve of my t-shirt in order to touch and rub my chest.

He did all of this at school, during class.

There were days when I got tired of him touching me; I wanted to learn but what he was doing was distracting. I remember one time I wouldn’t lean forward so he could put his hand in my shirt and he got really mad at me. He told me that this is what boyfriends and girlfriends do. He told me I had to let him. And I did.

I don’t know how long it went on, but I do remember that I started trying to avoid him. Him touching me started making me nervous, and him getting mad and telling me that I had to let him scared me. I started trying to sit across the table from him instead of right next to him. But all my friends said we looked so cute together and I always ended up right next to him. Right where I didn’t want to be. I remember being scared. There is a home movie of me in my leotard and tights showing off for the camera how I could take my tights off without removing my leotard. In the background you can hear my dad saying how he should show this video to Matt. To this day I can hear the fear in my voice when I tell my dad no. I was six years old and I was fighting a battle no one should have to face. I was trying so hard to be the perfect, popular girlfriend and yet my every instinct was telling me to run. Like I said, I don’t know how long this went on. I have all these memories but it isn’t one coherent memory, more like flashes. I do know that I started getting mad at him for getting mad at me all the time. It seemed like no matter what I did, or let him do, it was never enough.

So I started doing things to purposefully annoy him, hoping that he wouldn’t want to spend time with me. I remember one night my dad and I were at the elementary school after hours for a parent teacher conference and he was there too with one of his friends. He was listening to a Walk-Man and had his headphones on so when I said something to him he couldn’t hear me. I reached over and pulled the headphone away from his ear, repeated what I had said, and let the headphone snap back in place. The next day at school he told me that I had broken his headphones and I now owed him fifty dollars. When I got home I told my dad what he said to me, crying because I knew I didn’t have the money and because I was so frustrated. I don’t remember how the whole thing got settled, but we never replaced his headphones. After that we just kind of fizzled out.

It was a year or two later that I finally realized what had happened. One morning I crawled crying into my mom’s bed and told her what had happened. She asked me some questions and then called the school. I don’t know what she said, but I don’t think I went to school that day. I later found out that he had been forced to go to a day-long therapy appointment. We weren’t in the same class together, but when I walked into my classroom the next day, everything had changed. There was this feeling of hostility and anger focused on me that I didn’t understand. It turned out that he had told everyone what I had said and that I was lying to try and get back at him for breaking up with me in first grade. They all chose him. Every single one of my friends thought I was a liar and from that day on they had nothing to do with me.   Only one girl, Brittany, stayed by my side. She didn’t stand up for me, but she didn’t ostracize me. To this day, she is the only person from that class that I still speak to. In one day I lost all of my friends. Everyone hated me. I truly believed I was wrong to have said something. So I didn’t say anything else.

 

I learned to be okay being alone. School became torturous for me. I didn’t have any friends and I had gone from being the most popular kid in class to being an outcast freak. I started to turn inside myself. I thought that if I didn’t look like I used to then no one would ever do that to me again. I thought that if I made myself invisible then no one would notice me. I thought I needed to change because I had brought that on myself. So I changed. I became quieter, I kept eating, and I tried to quit caring. I went to school where I said nothing, and I came home where I sat in front of the T.V. and ate cereal from the box. I started gaining weight. I no longer had a gymnast’s body and I was okay with it.

I started trying to hide inside myself. I suppose that as a kid I couldn’t handle what had happened, so I tried to cope as best as I could. And so I ate. I remember coming home from school and instead of playing with the dogs or going outside I would sit in front of the tv for hours. Just sit there and eat. Cereal mostly. There would be times when I would sit down with a brand new box of Cheerios and when I got up it would be empty. I hadn’t even realized I was eating. All I knew was that I was safe. I could hide in the show, in the reality that wasn’t my own, and for a few hours I would feel safe. But in my little bubble something would always break through—my mom telling me to stop eating, my dad trying to get me to go outside, or even my sister just wanting to change the channel. And every time that happened I lost the tiny piece of safety I had clung to. It was like being abruptly woken up. Almost like I was in a deep sleep and someone shook me awake, back to the reality I was trying so hard to escape. But I could never escape. I never stopped trying. I kept eating, kept gaining weight. I thought that if I didn’t look like I did, didn’t look like a girl, then no one would ever do that to me again. I thought something about myself had made me be a target, that I had somehow brought the situation on myself. And so I just kept eating.

I went from an extremely fit little girl to an overweight shadow.

Food became my one safe thing in the world. My entire world had been taken from me, and food was the one thing I had control over was my food. Eating made me happy. Well, not happy, but I actually felt something when I ate. The rest of the time there was nothing. It was almost like I felt this void inside of me and I thought that if I ate enough then I could fill that void. That I would get better. But I didn’t.

Now, instead of being invisible, I was a target.  Kids at school who had been my friends only a few years ago now teased me. I was the proverbial fat kid. That became who I was. I wasn’t Laura. I was Fat. And to a certain extent I was glad for the change. I could hide behind that label, hide within my own skin. I sort of felt safe. If they started treating me as Fat, could I become Invisible? And I tried. I started dressing very androgynously and I cut my hair short. I remember there were days I wouldn’t brush my hair and would purposefully wear loose clothing so I could hide behind this new front I was making. I got very good at hiding. With the added weight and the change in my appearance I morphed further into an almost faceless kid. I wasn’t invisible, but I was unrecognizable. By the time fifth grade rolled around it was nearly impossible to tell that I was a girl. I remember walking into the women’s bathroom at the local library right as a little girl and her mom walked out. As I passed them, the little girl said to her mom “Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?” I felt proud. I had done it. I had successfully hidden inside my own skin. I wasn’t happy, but I felt safe.

 

After I told my mom what had happened I was never placed in the same class as him again. At least, not until fifth grade. My elementary school was very small but the number of students had started to grow. When I was in fifth grade we no longer had enough room to divide each grade into two classes. My fifth grade class consisted of thirty students: all of the fifth graders, including him. I managed to make it most of the year unscathed. There were a few times he managed to torture me, but overall he wasn’t a big problem. My teacher, on the other hand, was and so my parents ended up switching me to Morrow Elementary  to get away from him. Morrow was another elementary school in the district, but at that school I didn’t know anyone. My teacher was amazing. He was kind and understanding of the scared fat girl and I started feeling at home in his class. I made friends and actually had a good year.

Sixth grade started and I stayed at Morrow Elementary. I was so excited to be with my new friends and enjoy my year. For the first time since second grade, I was happy to go back to school. But the school year brought about some changes that I hadn’t expected. I no longer had my kind Mr. Perkins for a teacher. Ms. Hill was my teacher for sixth grade and she was as far from Mr. Perkins as one could get.  She unbelievably strict, condescending, and unkind toward us as a teacher could be without getting fired. I starting getting quiet again and there became fewer and fewer times I was happy at school. Looking back now I most likely over reacted to the situation, but I was gun-shy and just wanted to protect myself. My favorite time of the week was when I got to leave Ms. Hill’s class room for a day and take a bus with some other kids to Maineville Elementary (the third elementary school in the district). That one day a week was reserved for the academically talented program (ATP). We got to learn algebra, do projects, and learn things just for the fun of it. Unfortunately, the kids from Butlerville Elementary were there too. Seeing them once a week wasn’t nearly as bad as being around them all the time, so I still loved ATP with Mrs. Cusick.

In junior high all of the elementary schools came together into one big school. Having students from all three schools thrown together was chaotic, but the Butlerville students were diluted enough that it wasn’t too big of a problem. Don’t get me wrong, junior high sucked for the quiet nerdy fat girl, but it was the normal level of sucking, and I did make some amazing friends. High school was more of the same, but I started coming into my own. I joined the marching band and got closer to my friends. I was happy again and I finally stopped gaining weight. The entire time I only had one class with him. The last day of high school came and I was over the moon. I had been accepted to my dream school and I was finally leaving this place that had been so hard for me to get through. All of the seniors were gathered in the auditorium and we were told to split into groups according to what elementary school we went to. Well, I went to two of them, so the teacher told me to sit with the one that I had gone to the longest. That meant Butlerville, and so I warily sat with all the people I so desperately wanted to leave behind. When I came over to the group and sat down in the back, several classmates turned to me started saying how I shouldn’t sit with them because I had abandoned Butlerville and I wasn’t a true Butlerville student like they were. I was amazed and so hurt.

After all those years they were still against me.