‘All rise!’

My parents got divorced approximately 10 years ago. The divorce was long overdue. One cold winter afternoon my father packed his things and moved out. Out of the house he built, out of the house that was my hell on this Earth.

He offered my mother to split the house between my sister and I, but my mother refused saying she will not let me get half of it. The only thing left to do was either walk away with nothing or go to court. And of course, my father filled with hate and revenge, went to court which brings me to present day.

The lawsuit is now on its 8th year. Eight years of court appointments, appeals, hearings, different judges and different verdicts. I have not been actively involved in the lawsuit in the past 8 years. That is until yesterday when I was summoned to court as a witness. My father made me believe I would be asked a few questions by the judge, with only his and my mothers lawyer present. Well, guess again.

So I arrive at court fairly calm, completely convinced the whole thing will be over in half an hour, I’ll be in and out of that courtroom, I will tell the truth and everything will be fine. I step into the court house, go through the metal detector, up the stairs and I come to a halt. In front of the courtroom number 114 is my mother, my sister and my aunt. All eyes are on me. Nobody speaks, nobody says hello. My mother turns to my sister ‘Oh, my daughter came.’ By that time my legs turn into jelly, a rock sits in my stomach and my hands shake with fear. There she is. My mother.

I sit down in shock. I did not expect her there. I was not prepared. I did not want to see her there. A woman walks over to me and introduces herself as my fathers lawyer and says ‘Aren’t you going to say hello to your mother?’ My world tilts again. ‘No.’ ‘But she’s your mother.’ At this time it all feels surreal. My father’s lawyer reprimanding me for not saying hello to my mother. Yeah, fucking surreal.

My aunt testifies first. I wait outside, trying desperately to calm myself. How am I going to do that? How will I go in and face my mother there? I am called in and the whole thing now feels like a bad episode of reality tv. The questions start innocently enough; I answer truthfully, I make sure to point out that my father built the house on a piece of land which was given to my mother when she wed and that is why its only fair that each get half. At my side my mother grunts every time I open my mouth. And with each of my answers to the judge’s questions the whole thing gets uglier. It isn’t long before I hear that ugly, nasty voice which I have been listening to all my life no matter what I do and no matter where I go.

‘You are a liar.’ – Judge, she is lying.’ – ‘I hope you have children one day so you see what its like to have a kid like you.’ – ‘You’re disgusting.’ – ‘You’re a bitch.’ – ‘Bitch.’

The voice might be quiet but to me it feels larger than life. I do not turn to look at her. I think about it but I am not entirely sure I will be able to keep control if I do look into her evil eyes. And as I am once again beaten by her words a small smile forms on my lips. Because I know in my soul this will be the last time I see her; my last memory of her will be her evil voice whispering ‘bitch’ to my ear. This is where our story ends.

‘You may call your next witness.’

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My Anxious Heart

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The Sound of Silence

Sound of silence

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to meet with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In my previous post I wrote about going off the deep end, diving into the cold, black depth of my trauma ocean. Completely terrified of the unknown, of the demons that are still preying upon my soul, I jumped off the cliff into the water. Blackness welcomed me.

Depression came suddenly and with full force. I had not expected it. I always felt so grateful that during my troubled life depression never really fully developed. I had little idea how consuming that blackness can be. Always felt grateful that I was spared.

But the darkness came, wrapped its claws around my throat and tightened its grip. After spending three years of therapy trying to get through my childhood years, I find myself face to face with the teenage years. Many doors of my soul have been opened. Here is the rage, despair and here is depression. All came through those doors, out in the open with nothing to hold them back anymore.

I struggle to write these words, find a description of completely indescribable emotions. There is not much more I can say; the silence is too welcome and too soothing for me to try and disturb it with inadequate posts.

I have been sucked into the depth. And while I dive deeper and deeper I am still, more than ever, determined to keep kicking back. And to hang in there until there is a time for me to come up for air in an ocean where my demons will finally not only be at bay, but completely and finally buried.

‘Fools’ said I ‘You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you’
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

My Anxious Heart

 

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Off the deep end

It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog. It’s not that I haven’t tried. Everything I wrote seemed forced, with lack of emotion. There was no thrill when writing the last sentence, the last word. Nothing. I needed to regroup. Needed to go back inside and just stay there for a while. Just to be, to exist. Just to breathe deeply and to try to hold on to now. Just to convince myself I have enough strenght to continue on my journey. And it took a lot of convincing, believe me.

Somewhere deep inside I knew I will one day be writing these words. I knew the time will come. I maybe didn’t know exactly what I’ll write, but I knew, I KNEW, the time will come.

Next week it will be three years since I started therapy. This anniversary is bitter sweet – I cannot believe the distance I have come and at the same time I cannot – cannot – believe the distance that lies ahead. Until recently I was pretty sure the worst is over; that the trauma tornado has been through my town and I can now start re-building all it destroyed in its path. But that time has not yet come.

I firmly believed that the majority of trauma happened to me when I was a child. I completely disregarded everything that happened after I turned 10 or 11. It didn’t exist, it didn’t matter. I never figured that it doesn’t exist because that also is the time I lost, time I don’t remember. And the reason why those years are lost to me is only because there were things I needed to forget in order to survive. And now I am standing on the cliff, looking down at the ocean of years of memories which will again have to be remembered, have to be processed and have to accepted. Memories, that have already turned into brutal nightmares, unbelievably vivid flashbacks and have already supplied some triggers that literally brought me to my knees.

As those memories uncontrollably come to life, I struggle to gain some control. I struggle to find my balance standing on the edge of that cliff before I head dive into the water. It feels like falling off the deep end, into a dark ocean, not knowing what’s in the black depth. I am so scared.

Scared of the rage the memories will inevitably bring with them, scared of the pain that will be left in the aftermath of that rage. Scared of not knowing what exactly will surface as I relive those years. I’m so cold from fear.

After talking about it with me therapist she asked ‘What would you like me to do?’ and a big part of me wanted to say ‘Save me’, knowing full well it’s not something she can do. Not something anyone can do. So I broke down some more of the wall and said ‘While I go into the that deep, dark water, stay on the boat and hold me a rope that I will take down with me.’ The wall is still too high for me to say out loud what I wanted to add. ‘And please, never ever let go.’

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My Anxious Heart

 

 

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The dawn is breaking

There are many misconceptions about anxiety, PTSD or any other mental disorder. To me this is surprising since mental disorders are now more common than ‘the big three’ combined – diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

I must admit that before I experienced mental health problems I also had no idea what PTSD or depression is. I just knew it’s not something you want to have. I like to think that I would have had enough compassion back then that if someone approached me with this issue I would have known to shut up and listen. Knew not to talk about something I knew nothing about.

Since dealing with anxiety and PTSD I have met all sorts of people and experienced all sorts of reactions. Negative ones were and are unfortunately more common than positive ones. It never ceases to amaze me how little people know about something so widely spread.

‘Just stop thinking about it’.

‘You are talking about it too much’.

‘Just get over it.’

‘If you dwell on the past you will never be happy.’

‘Snap out of it.’

There is probably no need for me to say what this kind of a response does to someone struggling with a mental disorder. Well, maybe there is since I get this response often. And it usually comes with the mandatory eye roll and a patronizing smile. So let me be absolutely clear: a mental disorder is not something you snap out of. It is not something that just goes away if you stop thinking about it. Making light of it does more damage than silence ever could.. It makes us look like we are creating unnecessary drama which is not the case. There are wounds, terrible and deep wounds that never show on the body but are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.

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So what is the appropriate reaction when someone tells you they have a mental disorder? Listen. LISTEN. You might not understand, but keep in mind that depression is something people die from. Something kids die from. Be kind even if you don’t understand it. I have never been depressed, but I know well what PTSD does. How deep it runs. How much courage it takes sometimes to get out of bed and put on clothes, put on a brave face and go out into the world.

I have received kindness too and I am thankful to everyone who offered it. They made me feel that yes, I might be damaged, broken or lost but that’s okay. I am still a person, a good person and that one day I will surely be found.

And to those who talk about it at parties and use mine (or whoever’s) mental disorder as a source of amusement, know this if you never know the rest: the night is darkest just before dawn. And while my dawn is breaking, your night hasn’t even started yet.

My Anxious Heart

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Take me to church

‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into abbys, the abbys will gaze back into you.’ Nietzsche

The last few weeks were hard. Were incredibly hard. After writing about sexual abuse the whole thing just became so real, so undeniable, that I couldn’t even stand it. I felt it made my blog dirty. It made me dirty. I spent many days gripping the toilet seat, desperately trying to throw up all the shame and pain. I spent many sleepless nights staring into the wall, desperately trying to come to terms with what has happened. And I spent many mornings barely holding my coffee cup because my hands were bruised from getting that anger out of me.

But it needed to come out. It had to be written. It had to be processed. There were many factors that caused it to surface; my therapist being one of them – and I thank him for that.

I am Catholic. I grew up in a household where God was a punishing tool. ‘You will go to hell’ were probably the most common words in that house, no matter what my sin was. I was not condemned with only the original sin – I was born and that was the biggest sin of all. One that could never be redeemed or forgiven.

My grandmother and my mother are both very religious. Every Sunday I was forced to go to Church. I hated it. There was nothing quite like it. A bad feeling that I cannot even describe. Maybe most similar to anger. I always thought it was because I had to go while my mother didn’t but over the years I realized that wasn’t the main cause. I hated standing there, in that old cold church, listening about heaven and hell. About justice. About bad deeds that are punished and good deeds that are rewarded. My mouth were formed in a thin line but inside me I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Filled with rage. How dare they preach about redemption, about forgiveness, about heaven when some people experience nothing but hell. When some people are forever damned to torture. When some people are always unforgiven.

The God they preached about in that church has let me down with the day I was born. Listening to how that same God forgives me was ridicules. It was not my fault I was born. It is not my fault I exist. There is nothing about my existence that should be forgiven.

So I listened to those lessons every Sunday. My eyes were often filled with tears. From anger, agony and hopelessness. I could not afford the luxury of having the hope that I would be saved. Hopelessness was welcome; it meant no disappointments, no additional trauma and no additional pain.

A few weeks ago after posting about sexual abuse I fell apart. I was on my knees, beaten. I woke up in the middle of the night, eyes sore from tears. There was a constant ache in my chest, a pain so brutal it took my breath away. I looked up to the sky full of stars and wished I had a choice between heaven and hell. I spoke to God. I asked for help. Again I wanted to be saved. I even contemplated going to Church. In some crazy moment I thought that the same God that was used to punish me would be the one who would save me.

I was Catholic. My distaste for the religion has in fact nothing to do with God; I do not believe he was the one who punished me just like I don’t believe he can be the one who could save me. I do not go to Church. Ever. I was Catholic.

‘You will go to hell’ my mother used to say. She was absolutely right. I went to hell. I’ve been there. That same hell she helped to create for me. A hell, so black and brutal that I thought I will never escape it. I’ve met many demons along the way. I fought hard and I still fight – for my piece of heaven. It exists, you know? It’s where I’m going.

And there isn’t a god in this existence that could take that away from me.

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My Anxious Heart

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Not a big deal

Have you heard of Brock Turner? He is the student who sexually assaulted an unconscious girl behind the dumpster at Standford university. He was found guilty by all twelve members of the jury and sentenced to – get this – 6 months of prison. No, not 60 months or 6 years. Six months. Half of the year. A hockey season.

The victim had a few drinks too many at the frat party and woke up naked in the hospital under the ‘Rape victim’ section. With no idea what has happened. She didn’t remember. She doesn’t remember.

I do.

So two years ago I was standing in a bridal salon. I had finally found THE dress. As I had my wedding dress on and as I stared at the miror, there were sparkles in my eyes and an amazed smile on my lips. I loved the dress. It was like it was made for me. But something was off that day, something bothered me. It was a documentary I had seen a few days ago on tv. It was about the sexual abuse that went on inside of the church walls. They had an interview with an irish priest who molested children for 30 years all over the United States.

As my fingertips gently touched the soft white chiffon fabric I became nauseous. My legs shook and everything around me went fuzzy. My stomach was queezy and heavy; the salon girls sat me down and offered me chocolate; ‘Many of the brides get nervous’. But not this bride. This bride had remembered, had seen, had experienced and had known. At that moment I had known. But it wasn’t a big deal.

It’s not a big deal.

My parents owned a restaurant close to our home. It was a big place with a huge garden and huge windows. They had big ledges where I sat many an afternoon with a book, surrounded by my mother’s flowers, trying to survive in the hell my parents have created for me at home.

It was a late summer afternoon. I can clearly remember that I wore white shorts that had small roses on them and a white T-shirt that was dirty from running around. I remember it was hot. One of those humid summer days when you just can’t wait for that cool breeze that the evening brings. Funny, I don’t remember that breeze that evening.

I was outside sitting on that window ledge and watching the post office across the road. My parents sat 30 meters away from at one of the garden tabels, chatting with my uncle and having a dandy afternoon. A man approached me. I knew him, he was one of the regulars in the restaurant although he never ate, he just drank behind the bar. An old man with mustache. He came to stand very close to me; definitely at a distance that made me feel uncomfortable. Now, how his hand got into my pants I am not sure, but I remember everything it did there. My body froze. Completely froze. A tornado could not move me. My hands were gripping the ledge so tightly I had marks on my fingers for days. While his fingers were rubbing, massaging, kneading, entering and his other in his pants was moving, my eyes were glued to the post office. People coming and going about their business. It felt like an eternity before he stopped touching me although it must have been only 10 or 15 minutes.

Once he finished he smiled and walked away. I am leaving out a part of the story because it horrifies me. At one point he asked ‘Are you enjoying yourself’ and I can still feel my head nodding. I feel guilty beyond belief that my head involunteraly when up and down. I still cannot understand it.

I sat on that ledge until it was dark and I was called inside by my father. I sat down behind the table because my father ordered pizza for us and my uncle. There was laughter, lots and lots of laughter. I remember sitting there holding a slice of pizza, in complete shock and disbelief. I could see my father laughing loudly, it was like in slow motion. How can it be normal for a child of 9 years old to be sexually abused while her father is sitting 30 meters away? How can that be? How can you not be suspicious when an old guy is standing next to your child? Would you be suspicious? Would I be? Yes, I would be. I would have raised hell.

And I still thought it wasn’t a big deal.

I got married in that dress that was tainted with this memory. The innocence of white was taken out of it just like it was taken out of me so many years ago.

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You might be wondering what happened to the bastard. Nothing, to my knowledge. He was old even back then, but then again, everyone seems old when you’re 9.

The Stanford victim wrote a letter during trial to the man who sexually assaulted her and it was read out loud in court. The opening line was ‘You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside of me and that’s why we are here’. This line has turned my stomach but gave me the courage to write about this. She was not raped, but sexually assaulted. I always believed that without penetration it’s not really that bad. Not a big deal, as I would say.

How wrong I was.

It is a fucking big deal.

My Anxious Heart

 

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A 20 dollar bill

There was a teacher who wanted to teach her students something about self worth. She took a 20 dollar bill and asked the students who wants it. They all raised their hands. She took the bill and crumpled it and then again asked the students if they still want it. Again all hands went up. She proceeded to throw the bill on the floor, she stepped on it and grinded it. She picked up the bill, now all crumpled, dirty and grinded and asked the students again. ‘Who wants it?’ And again all hands went up.

20 dollar bill

I could be sitting in a coffee shop or driving to work and all of a sudden it would hit me: oh my god, I’m nothing. Nothing. NOTHING.

My worth has always been dependable. It is not something that is just there, something that just happens. It is something that has to be earned, something that has to be built on suffering and pain. But this goes just for me, mind you – in my mind everyone is worthy of everything. Except me.

It is no big secret that I wasn’t wanted. My father told me my mother jumped into a bush of roses when she was seven months along with me. She was severly cut and scratched and had to be taken to the emergency room. It is safe to conclude that I arrived into this world already scarred with nothingness and my childhood has already been determined by feelings of despair and self hate. I cannot begin to tell you how nothingness feels; it creeps into your mind and eats and eats at you until you just want to give up and stop pretending you are something. Anything. It is a disgusting feeling that makes your stomach queezy, your heart heavy and your soul shattered. All my life I have so wanted to be something. So wanted to hear I am worthy of the air I breathe, of the words I say and that at the end of the day I don’t need to feel guilty for my existance. Once you truly believe you are nothing it is nearly impossible to convince yourself you are something. No job promotion, no new car, no money, no accomplishment can bring you that worth. No matter how many times I achieved something and sat down to celebrate, that feeling, that small voice would always remind me it is not enough. I have been scarred with nothingness.

I was worried other people will realize it too. I still am. It is probably the biggest reason why I still hide my true self in the extent that I do; what if even that is not good enough? What happens then? Am I really nothing?

That small voice might still be there, but there is also another voice that is getting stronger. My adult part. And when I went back to read this post and read it through my adult eyes, it hurt me to know I still get blindsided by that small voice. Because this 20 dollar bill might be crumpled, grinded, dirty and torn, but beneath everything it is still 20 dollars.

I might have been dealt a bad hand of cards when I was born. And there was nobody to tell me I am precious and worthy and wanted and loved; and it did scar me and it did change me. But it didn’t defeat me. It will never defeat me. I suffered and I suffered a lot. I wore pain like a badge of honor pinned to my chest to prove my worthiness, but I need not to – because in my mind I know I am worthy. I tried to tell that to my heart but it didn’t want to listen. I will try again. And again until I feel it in my heart too.

So no, I am not nothing. I am pretty much everything.

My Anxious Heart

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