Things That Terrify Me

I recently started dating someone. Let me preface this by saying my luck with relationships is terrible. They’ve all ended (lately I’m the dumped not the dumper) and left me single and rather happy. I’m good at being single. Really good. I have a lot of fun and when I say fun, I mean that I’ll have to explain that later on my NSFW blog and my journals (which ironically I don’t share here).

So one thing I’m afraid of–terrified of–is falling in love, again. It seems like right when I let myself go I find myself falling and no one is there to catch me. Call me melodramatic, but it’s true.

The other thing I’m terrified of is getting close to people. I’m good at it, but I’ve been betrayed in ways that give me nightmares. I don’t like vulnerability. In fact, I find myself already trying to hide my vulnerability with jokes or comments that I don’t even mean with him, because let’s face it…when your previous boyfriends don’t reciprocate the kind of love you feel for them, you end up feeling a bit like you were born in the wrong century where love affairs happened to people and they fell into them…hard. Today people just call you “co-dependent” or say you care too much.

This relationship is different in some ways. We’re long distance and I’ve only done that once. Me and the other LDR met in my home town and he informed me shortly after we met that he was moving to Washington. I didn’t care. I was swept away. It was incredibly romantic. I mean, he romanced me in ways that only seemed to happen in movies. There were trips to Spokane, walks in the park, candlelight dinners. And it was the first time I had sex with someone who I loved. One time he flew in to see me and I surprised him with my own version of romance-a hotel room filled with rose petals, candles and music playing. When he walked in the room, he grabbed me and started slow dancing with me to “our song.”

Within six months we were talking about me moving up there and marriage and babies-and he meant it. His parents loved me so much and I loved them.

And then he made a mistake–saying he wasn’t ready for me to move up there–and I freaked out on him. I had been planning my move already and my dad was going to help me bring my stuff from California to Washington. What went wrong on his end wasn’t even that tragic. All he meant was that he wanted to pay for my apartment and bills and couldn’t at the moment (what with just moving and starting a new job). But I was like, “Who does that? I can pay my own bills. Just fucking let me be there with you.” And just like that, I was mad and he was misunderstood. I told him if he wasn’t serious then he should just break up with me and let me get over him. So we ended it over a misunderstanding.

Three weeks later in an incredibly romantic gesture, he flew to see me and took me to dinner and begged me to come back to him. And I….refused. What the flying fuck? I was already in a new relationship-dating a terrible person-really, not a good guy-but my pride was in the way and I couldn’t get past my anger and hurt. I was so hurt. And I sent him back to Washington alone. Then when I broke up with the loser/terrible guy, I emailed Washington boy (for years…even THIS year)  and begged him to come back. He told me he didn’t love me romantically anymore and now he doesn’t even respond to my emails.

At least my tragic love life makes for GREAT stories, right? For a writer that’s awesome. I should really pat myself on the back for taking so many broken hearts for society.
So after reliving the Washington memories, there’s already this feeling of “Is it doomed?” with this long distance relationship. I mean–someone has to move or it’s just not going to go anywhere. I love where I live and life is awesome here–except I don’t have him. And he loves his school and he’s doing fucking amazing there. He can’t move here.

Maybe I’m already preparing myself for the broken heart because I know they hurt so bad and in my life, they are inevitable. The thing that sucks about this time is that no matter how much I try to numb myself, it’s happening. I can’t help it. I’m litterally trying to protect myself but he hooked me already–in the first few weeks. The romantic things that were said and done left me feeling things for him that I haven’t felt since Washington. And it’s been several years since then-sure I’ve had relationships since then. But it’s been a very long time since I’ve felt something this sincere and this deep. In fact, I literally am in tears all day today and I can’t help but think it’s because of him/this. The helplessness I feel because I’m falling and I can’t stop. I can’t protect myself.

And then there’s this one small detail. Where he lives. He lives in the South, but not just anywhere. He lives where the bane of my existence lives. My Lex Luthor as one friend put it. The whole incident that inspired this blog–living in a cult. It happened in his city in Louisiana. And the only thoughts I have of that place are nightmares and memories of me wanting to kill myself. So, as if long distance relationships aren’t hard enough, there’s that one small detail-his location-that has had me tense for weeks.

Life is so ironic sometimes and love leaves no prisoners.

“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.”

(quote and photo from Facebook)

Grief and Other Hideous Effects

Every morning I go to the French doors at the back of my house and I look upon the wide expanse of desert that surrounds me. I look down at the patio, and I don’t see Ella so my gaze runs out to the East, where my mom and I set a cat trap with salmon. I lost my cat two weeks ago, and although I know her likely destiny was prey to a California desert predator, I keep looking for her to show up.

Grief does funny things to people. It’s an emotion that I didn’t clearly recognize I was going through the years after leaving the cult I was involved in. Some people said they thought I felt rejected and that was why I became depressed. Of course there was rejection upon leaving.  Upon disagreeing with the senior pastor, he cut me off from communication (like he’d done to so many others in his past). Why?  He became disappointed in me because I was unwilling to come back to Louisiana and I was unwilling to live my life according to his rules. Fragments of conversation trickle down the chain of command there in Louisiana, where eavesdroppers at household conversations and bystanders at after-church discussions mix truth with lies with assumptions about why people leave the church. Eventually, the game of telephone dilutes any truth of why anyone left and people are left to their own assumptions mixed with he-said, she-said which is never generous to the person who leaves the “place of blessing” or “out of the anointing” or “House of God.” Negative assumptions breed rejection, and what I felt was rejection from people I’d grown close to for much of the history of my young adult life.

More powerfully than rejection, though, was the grief I experienced from an amalgamation of losing my friends, people I considered close (like family), and discarding and deconstructing the teachings I now disagreed with.

During a journey of grieving and depression, I allowed myself to be expressive, angry, searching and honest.

I began to grieve and mourn the loss of people I’d considered friends for many years of my life, and I began to grieve the loss of what I thought was my “faith” and what turned out to be a need for people’s approval. As I began to intersect the faith I’d been taught in the cult with the faith I’d felt in my heart was right my entire life, I began to see a great chasm that needed to be reconciled. So, I set out to find my own truth—the things I believed about love, people, dreams—without placing pressure on myself to meet someone else’s approval.

I felt that to become a blank slate was something that would help me ascertain what my own beliefs were, as opposed to what I was taught in the cult.

I deconstructed the idea of Christianity completely.

I took it all apart, piece-by-piece and was left with a sort of artists table with a clean canvas and materials to construct with. I had paints of all colors and tones, magazine cut-outs, fragments of books I’d read, pictures I’d seen, people I’d known, and experiences I’d had. With a clean slate in front of me, I took my old materials and examined them. I turned them to the right and the left and looked at them from the back, and the front with a critical eye. I read from experts in the field of religion, feminism, humanitarianism, literature. I compared them with human beings in history and the present time who were models of exceptional citizenship, who treated people fairly and respectfully.

Many of my old materials needed to be discarded. They came from a long line of historical violence, a present day close-minded manner and an anti-intellectual path that I no longer wanted to walk on.

As I felt more liberated, I acted more liberated.

The years of grief were mixed with years of feeling buoyant, vibrant.

There were years I’d sit at a writing desk and feel like a dried out old pen, because I was worried what the people from my past would think. How would they judge me? What gossip sessions would occur because of what I was about to write? What prayers of concern would go up to God from them on behalf of my soul, because I was now changed from the Lisa they knew? I had no voice to speak—only fear, yet I had words that were jamming up in my head and twisting like pretzels to get out. When I would begin to write, the nightmares would come. The mornings I’d wake up with fear that they were real. I was back there. The women were coming for me—ensuring I didn’t escape.

Grief isn’t something you navigate out of like short river boat ride. Grief is complex and misunderstood: the outer shell of humans experiencing it often not showing signs and other times causing people to fall apart, lose their ability to reason and calculate and concentrate.

Grief can also be like a painting:

grey,

black and hazy,

with a few strokes

of white

and blue

lighting up

the picture.

“Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to

be…Grief is different.

Grief has no difference.

Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden

apprehensions that weaken the knees

and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Dreams

Tonight, I’m drinking a cup of hot chamomile and mint tea and letting the cool, fall breeze blow into the windows.

It’s night time, but that’s when I come alive.

There are dreams that happen during the night time (of which I remember few), and dreams that occur during the day. Most of my dreams happen during the day. I’m an avid dreamer. I walk around dreaming of words that need to be arranged in an order–or rearranged, images to be sketched out, and paints that need to be mixed up and spread onto a crystal, white canvas.

For someone who’s had a lot of nightmares–both in the day time and at night–it’s nice to have my dreams back. What’s extra special about these dreams is that I’m not being told what to dream, or even directed how to dream.

They’re mine–all mine.




My Second Therapist’s Diagnosis: PTSD

After my first therapist, I got health insurance that covered another therapist. My first meeting with her, she spent an hour going over my family history, my recent history, and any mental health conditions or symptoms I had. I’d recently developed anxiety and depression after leaving the cult in 2005. I spent all of 2005 and 2006 in bed crying–and intermittently going to class. When I was in class, I felt anxiety attacks coming on. My chest would start pounding and I’d feel out of breath for no reason. If I had to turn in a paper, or felt extra pressure of perfection from certain professors, I’d be unable to write my essays and classwork. I was terrified of what people thought of me and who was judging me everywhere I went.

This second therapist sat with me and ended the session asking me if I’d ever heard of post traumatic stress disorder.

“Sure,” I told her. “That’s what all the Vietnam War Veterans got when they came back, right? They get nightmares and stuff.”

She explained that war victims did, in fact get post traumatic stress disorder, but many other people also got PTSD. Rape victims and many other people could get it. She said she believed I had PTSD based on the symptoms I described to her. A lot of what she explained made sense. I would become afraid at loud noises; would wake up terrified from nightmares of getting yelled at by old pastors; and would shy away from relationships of all types.

For more information on PTSD, Depression or Anxiety, please look at the Resources I posted. I’ve included some great links. I’d also like to encourage you, if you or someone you know has suffered from spiritual or emotional abuse, please see a non-religious, professional therapist or psychiatrist for assessment. There are a lot of resources available. If you’d like to share your own story with me, please email me at mycultlife at gmail.com