Everything is Awful.

It has been a hell of a year.

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I live with my parents because I’m unemployed; I graduated college just as the economy was crashing in 2008 and have been unable to actually use my degree since then. Even retail establishments refuse to hire me because they believe my advanced education makes me overqualified for the positions they have available.

Anyway, last summer, my brother (yes, that one) was diagnosed bi-polar and my sister-in-law (henceforth to be known as “the evil cow”) decided that my three nephews weren’t safe at home with him until his medication was figured out and asked us to take care of the older two (then 11 and 9 years old) for a week or two while her parents watched the little one (then 4 years old). The “week or two” turned into almost 2 months after which the boys went home and we were given the little one for “10 sleeps” that turned into almost 2 months, but that’s not really what I wanted to talk about either.

Shortly after my brother’s diagnosis, my parents were trying to ask him questions to figure out what was going on, both with him and with the kids. They were met with a long, ranting, tirade from the evil cow claiming that their questions such as, “Are you alright?” and “What do you want me to do for you?” were causing my brother great distress and they were forbidden from trying to contact their son unless it was through her. It was obviously more of her Munchausen by proxy bullshit that she pulls with the kids when they have a small cold and it becomes a grave illness or when she calls them off school saying they’re sick because she’s too hung over to take them or how the little one is allergic to milk because he once threw up after drinking some milk (that was probably spoiled) even though he eats cheese and yogurt and ice cream all the time. I think the evil cow, who had been trying to limit my brother’s contact with his family for years (Yeah. My abuser married someone abusive. Go figure.), saw his diagnosis as a way to finally cut him off from us entirely while also gaining attention for herself, only it didn’t fly. After the tirade, my mom sent my brother a text asking him if her asking him questions was really upsetting him and if he really didn’t want her to talk to him directly and it turns out, that wasn’t true.

Anyway, despite the evil cow’s efforts and the poor circumstances (we were living in temporary housing that didn’t really have enough room for all of us because we’d just moved back into the area for my dad’s job), we actually had a lot of fun doing things with the boys last summer and there was only one incident worth mentioning here. Traditionally, the kids took a trip toward the end of the summer to visit members of the evil cow’s family. That trip was due to happen as their lengthy stay with us was coming to an end and it caused my oldest nephew to be upset because he hadn’t gotten to spend time with his dad all summer and he wasn’t going to get to. My brother was also upset because he hadn’t been allowed to spend time with his kids and he wasn’t going to get to.

After all the children left us, we finally moved out of the cockroach infested temporary housing and into a brand new suburban house built by a locally owned construction company, the founder of which has a good reputation and has now passed control of the company on to his son. Unfortunately, the son is banking on his father’s reputation and has let his standards slip severely. There are so many problems with this house that we have been fighting to get fixed or fix ourselves in every spare moment since we moved in. Just to give you one example, we were putting up a ceiling fan in the master bedroom and when my dad took down the existing light fixture, he found that the wires were scorched and the wire nuts had disintegrated. He assumed that it was just because it was the hottest room in the house and there was enough extra wire that he was able to pull through so he just cut off the damaged portion and let it go. Then, a few weeks later when we were putting a ceiling fan in the room in which I am typing this right now, the wire attached to the existing light fixture was scorched and the wire nuts were disintegrated. So my dad checked one of the lights in the hall and, you guessed it, scorched wire. It turns out that the builders had put in light fixtures that weren’t well shielded to the heat put off by the bulbs in the fixtures. Se we had to replace every light fixture in the house that weekend or continue risking the house burning down. There was a lot of damaged wire cut off in those two days and a lot of money spent on very expensive, but low heat production LED light bulbs.

I forgot to mention that my brother was on medical leave for a long time because of spinal surgery and he had only been back to work a short time when he was diagnosed bi-polar at which point he went back on medical leave for a long time. When he finally went back to work in the fall, there were cutbacks at his job and he was one of the first to be let go (the extended medical leave was probably a factor). So that was what was going on when my brother and his family came up to visit us for Thanksgiving in November. Which is when the following event I previously described in another venue took place:

So a little while ago while my mom and I were cleaning the kitchen in the aftermath of the annual pointless harvest feast when my sister-in-law asked if it was alright to leave my nephews here with us while she and my brother went out to do some things. After my mom said it was fine, my sister-in-law said, “‘Cause you know me; I hate to leave my kids with anyone even you.”

This is a woman who regularly and frequently abandons her children with friends and family for days, weeks, and even months on end. They came to stay with us for a few weeks this summer and wound up staying the entire summer. Hell, for the first few years of the older two’s lives they were raised by my parents and myself because my brother was stationed in Iraq and Korea and the evil cow was too busy sleeping in our guest room to feed them. The little one has SEVERE and obvious abandonment issues to the point where he’s afraid to be alone in the living room for even the length of time that it takes for his baby sitter (me, in the instance I’m referring to) to go to the bathroom.

My mother and I bit our tongues and made, “yeah, right…” faces at each other behind her back.

There are some things in that quote worth elaborating on. First is the last sentence which shows the family policy of behavior toward the evil cow. We learned over the years that when we tried to fight her when she made things up, stole from us, or lied to us it only made things worse. She would yell us and my brother who would get upset and yell at us because he was too in love or too brainwashed to be able to admit that she was wrong and so for his sake and the sake of my nephews, my parents tried to keep the peace by keeping their mouths shut.

Next, the early years of my nephews’ lives. They lived with us until the oldest was 5 with the exception of a few short periods of time when they lived in their own apartment of with the evil cow’s parents. When they lived in their apartment, it was constantly filthy. I was never in the apartment myself, but by the way my parents described it, it was as bad or worse than that one episode of Friends where Ross dates a pig. We could have and should have called child protective services and gotten the oldest (the middle one hadn’t been born yet) out of there. I repeatedly told my mother to call, but she refused to saying that if she did we’d never see him again. Then the evil cow lost her fast food job for stealing and could no longer afford the apartment so she moved back in with her parents for a short time until she remembered that she had run away from home at 18 and married my brother to get away from them at which point she moved back in with us until my brother got out of the army.

Fast forward to March. My dad got a call from his cousin telling him that his father was ill and on his way out. This caused a few days of confusing feelings for me. On the one hand, the last time I lost a grandfather I had a mental break down a few months later and wound up in therapy. On the other hand, THIS grandfather was basically the devil. I wasn’t able to go to my mother’s father’s funeral which is what caused the mental break down, so part of me wanted to go to this one in case I was risking another break down. But part of me didn’t want to go because I wasn’t close with him and didn’t even like him, so there wasn’t really a reason for me to go. At the same time, I felt like I should go because I wasn’t able go to my dad’s mom’s funeral (what with not having been born yet and all) or my mom’s dad’s funeral (because it was a super busy time at school) and I was able to go to this one (because being unemployed and not having a schedule to adhere to). My mom didn’t want me to go because I didn’t go to her father’s funeral and so that I could stay home and make sure the plants were watered, mail was collected, etc. She asked me, “If you can only go to one funeral, would you rather go to this one or my mom’s?” So there were a few days of should I or shouldn’t I before I finally decided not to go and two days after I reached that decision, my grandfather died and my parents left for the funeral to represent our family (my brother didn’t want to go either). Now I kind of wish I had gone for reasons I will get to momentarily.

Not long after my grandfather’s funeral, a couple months-ish, the evil cow’s grandfather became ill and eventually died. During his illness, the evil cow made frequent Facebook posts about it and even made posts live from the funeral. I believe this behavior was more MBP stuff. She was using her supposed grief (I’m honestly doubt this woman really feels anything at all for anyone other than herself) to get attention for herself; to make herself feel special and important. Anyway, after that funeral, the evil cow elected to stay up here with her parents for a week to help go through her grandfather’s things while my brother took the kids home so they could go to school. It was decided that my brother would bring the kids by our house for a short visit before taking them home (yes, the evil cow dragged them all to the funeral, even the 4 year old). My parents were excited because they believed the fact that we live between the evil cow’s parents and my brother’s home meant the evil cow would not be present on the visit so they would be able to actually talk to their son for the first time in 14 years. But the evil cow was not absent and the only possible reason for her presence in our home that day was to prevent my brother from being able to talk to my parents.

A few weeks later my dad was diagnosed with diabetes.

The next week was the little one’s 5th birthday and we went down to attend his party in the park. During the party, my brother barely spoke. Except for when my mother asked him about arranging a time for the boys to come up and stay with us this summer, he wandered around silently with dead eyes. There was one incident at the party where I had to restrain myself from throttling the evil cow. She actually said, “[My brother’s name] deals with his family and I deal with mine.” If you’ve been paying any attention to the rest of this post, you know that is very not true; everything has to go through her so she has the most opportunity to feel special and important as possible. But, restrain myself I did and other than that and getting a bad sunburn, the party was fairly uneventful.

A couple of days after the party, my uncle called my mother to tell her that their mother has been having problems with her memory severe enough that he had taken her to the doctor and after talking to her and watching her walk, the doctor told my uncle that he suspected Alzheimer’s and ordered a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. My mother was unable to talk to her mother for a few days because we had scheduled appointments with contractors to get estimates on one of the many projects that need completion around the house, but she did finally get a chance to call the morning of her CT appointment. The conversation was… unpleasant to listen to and I can only imagine how hard it must have been to have. My grandmother had trouble remembering who my brother was, didn’t remember if she had called my mom or my mom had called her, briefly thought she was talking to my aunt instead of my mom, and had to be reminded three times what time my uncle was picking her up for her appointment. My uncle had told my mom that Grandma had only had these symptoms for about three weeks and neither my mom nor I believed that Alzheimer’s gets that bad that quickly. My mom thought “stroke” and I thought “cancer.”

The CT scan results came back the next day showing an “anomaly,” in my grandmother’s right temporal lobe right above her ear. CT scans aren’t precise enough to have been able to identify it, so the doctor ordered an MRI. If I remember correctly, this is the point where my mother talked to my brother to let him know what was going on.

The MRI appointment was almost a week later and my mother again talked to her the day of the appointment. My mother told me that during the phone call, she thought she was 93 years old when she was only 83.

Three days after the MRI, my uncle got a call saying the “anomaly,” was “either a tumor or an infection,” and he needed to bring my grandmother to the ER right away. When he got there, he finally got to talk to the doctor who confirmed it was a tumor, said that they need to do surgery on my grandmother ASAP and that if all went well and they got everything out, my grandmother should regain her memory after a period of recovery from the surgery. But, the hospital where my uncle brought my grandmother didn’t have the necessary equipment to perform the surgery, so she was taken by ambulance to another hospital across town where she was operated on by one of the top five neurosurgeons in the country. The surgery went well, but we didn’t get word about what had been removed until the next day. Have another quote of something I wrote at the time:

The operation removed a rapidly growing tumor the size of a sausage patty. Pathology isn’t back on the growth yet, but the doctor said if it were benign it would have been encapsulated and it had tendrils which he couldn’t get. My grandmother is 83 years old and survival rate of radiation therapy for people her age is only 5%.

My uncle’s partner thinks that everyone should come down next weekend. My mother (who knows what my brother did to me) is freaking out trying to figure out how to handle that situation with my father (who doesn’t know and will likely cut ties with my brother entirely if he finds out). We don’t know if my uncle will let us stay with him and, if we can’t, it’s likely the 4 of us will share a hotel room which means I may be forced to share a bed with my brother who physically and sexually abused me; I can’t convince my mother that she’s worrying about how that might affect me more than she needs to.

Fortunately for me, my brother elected not to come with us to visit my grandmother in hospice, so I didn’t have to worry about him while I was worrying about her. So we booked a hotel for 3 and made arraignments to fly halfway across the country for the morning after my dad’s colonoscopy. The problem was that the city we were flying out of was almost a 3 hour drive away and there was a storm supposed to blow through that morning which would have meant that we would waking up at 3am to drive through heavy rain. The solution to that problem was too book a night in a second hotel near the airport for the night before the flight. Coincidentally, while all this was going on, the last of the money from my brother’s severance pay and unemployment checks was running out.

My mom took my dad to his appointment that morning and I stayed home making sure all the last minute things were packed, the trash was taken out, etc. After everything was done except for the things that needed to be done at the literal last second before I headed out the door, I sat down to finish the last of the socks I had been knitting for my nephews because they love my socks, and I’m not just saying that as something I believe with no evidence; the older two talk about my socks every time they see me and the little one laughs and runs around like I just gave him the best toy in the world when he puts them on. As I was weaving in the ends on the last sock, I got a text message from my mother saying the evil cow was leaving my brother.

I didn’t get any details until my parents got home an hour or so later, but apparently, the evil cow had called my mother while she was driving my dad from his appointment to get some food and he answered. The evil cow was crying and saying that my brother was sleep walking again which made her think the kids weren’t safe around him so she was taking the kids and leaving my brother. And my dad calmly said, “Well, that’s too bad [evil cow], but it’s not surprising. Your strengths don’t complement each other’s,” or something to that effect and the evil cow hung up. My dad then called her back and she answered and started screaming at him saying how dare you, threatening to never let him see the kids again, how it’s my parents’ fault my brother’s spirit has been crushed, and generally just not letting my dad talk, so he hung up.

Now… Any sane person knows that sleep walking is not an activity that’s particularly dangerous to anyone but the sleep walker; obviously the evil cow was using this as an excuse to get rid of my brother now that he can no longer afford to support her and was trying to get more attention and pity for all the problems she has to deal with as per her usual pattern. Furthermore, the timing of her announcement demonstrates why I believe she has no real feelings for anyone but herself; after all the “oh, poor me,” she spouted over her grandfather, who she never mentioned once before he became ill, she chose to leave her meal ticket while his grandmother was laying in a hospice bed slowly dying. She chose to dump all this on my mother knowing that she was watching her mother die.

Anyway, we made an effort to put the evil cow out of our minds as much as we could and focus on my grandmother for the duration of our trip. When we touched down and got off the plane, my dad called my uncle’s partner, who was picking us up at the airport, and he told us that my uncle had called and said my grandmother was having a rough day so we should come straight to the hospice from the airport, which we did. My grandmother was barely conscious. She could hardly keep her eyes open, she was thrashing around and she was mumbling things that were hard to understand through the aphasia. Things like, “Why can’t it be quick?” and “Want to go home with Ed,” Ed being her late husband’s name. It was terrible to watch and as I did, the tears I had been wanting to but was unable to shed for the previous three weeks started to roll silently down my cheeks and I couldn’t stop them.

Just as I was about to leave the room to try and compose myself, my uncle got my grandma to open her eyes and she looked at me. For several minutes I watched her look at me and struggle to say, “no,” “cry,” “don’t,” before finally pointing at me and saying, “red.” (In case the name I’ve chosen for this blog doesn’t make this obvious, I am a red head.) I had to leave the room then. She never woke up again after that day so now my memory of my last conversation I had with my grandmother will forever be watching her struggle to tell me not to cry without being able to say my name around the damn aphasia.

That first day of the trip, I had a sore spot in my throat. The second day, the sore spot had moved up into my sinuses and I had to keep clearing them as we sat in the hospice room listening to my grandmother struggle to breathe in her sleep (she had developed apnea due to the medication she was on). That day my mother and her siblings also discussed funeral plans and they decided that since their mother didn’t really form deep connections with people, everybody who a funeral would have been for was in the room and since they were in the room, they didn’t feel like they needed a funeral. That’s why I now sort of wish I’d gone to my grandfather’s funeral in March; it was my last opportunity to attend the funeral of a grandparent.

The third day, the sore spot evolved into a head cold and I was banished from the hospice room. I spent that day in the family room at the hospice hopped up on Sudafed napping. The fourth day, the head cold had turned into a chest cold and I swapped the Sudafed for Robitussin. The sixth day, I was more or less over the cold and my banishment ended. Apparently, hospice personnel talk about three… stages of dying; weeks to days, days to hours, and hours to minutes. After the nurse looked at my grandmother’s hands and feet and listened to her breathing (there was now fluid in her lungs) on that sixth day, she told us that my grandmother had moved out of weeks to days and into days to hours. That day, it was decided that my mother would be changing her flight and staying another week to help my uncle go through my grandmother’s things while my dad and I would be flying home on the 4th as planed so that my dad could go back to work and I could get the house ready for my brother to move in with us as he planned to on that Monday. …Yeah. I have to live under the same roof as my abuser again.

We got home late on Saturday and I crashed. While I was busting my hump converting the guest room into a normal bedroom on Sunday, my mom called to tell us that the hospice had called my uncle to tell him that my grandmother was hours to minutes, so they’d gotten in the car and when they got there 15 minutes later they were told they’d missed it by 5 minutes, but one of the nurses was there with her when it happened.

I then spend Monday dreading my brother’s arrival, but he called my dad to say he’d be coming on Tuesday instead and I felt some temporary relief. On Tuesday, my dad received a cryptic text message from my brother’s phone saying he’d been admitted. Apparently he’d checked himself into the mental hospital for a week so he thankfully didn’t move in with us until my mom was home.

But… Yeah… I am now living with my abuser again. One of the doctors at the hospital spoke to my mother last Monday and told her that she knows the evil cow is a large part of my brother’s problem, and though we can’t keep him from her because he is an adult we need to encourage him to have as little to do with her as possible. The doctor also said that she thinks my brother’s diagnosis as bi-polar is incorrect and he just suffers from regular depression. I’m not sure I want to believe that as, while not excusing it, the bi-polar diagnosis did offer me some explanation as to why my brother did to me what he did.

But, anyway, my brother has been broken by the evil cow that he married the same way that I was broken by my mentally abusive first boyfriend. And while I am living behind closed and locked doors feeling like more of a prisoner in my own home than I have in years because of his presence, I know that at some point it is going to be my responsibility as a survivor to talk to him about what that first boyfriend did to me and how I overcame it so that he can become a survivor as well; and I really don’t want to.

So there you have it. Everything is awful right now and I don’t know how to make it better. But I’ll figure it out someday.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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Coyote friend.

This isn’t the post I had planned on writing next, but I still can’t figure out how I want to write that one and I need to get back to writing.

When I was little, my family frequented a local natural history museum. That museum had an exhibit on fauna native to the area. That exhibit featured many animals, some stuffed and some live. One of the live animals was a coyote. She was kept in a small enclosure with one glass wall at the end of the exhibit. The enclosure wasn’t big enough for her to get up to full speed if she wanted to. She used to pace the length of her enclosure next to the glass and I could feel the frustration radiating from her as she walked.

I was too young to understand why she was frustrated and how horrible it must have been for her to be trapped in that tiny room all day, but I did understand the feeling. I was also frustrated and trapped in a life full of beatings that I didn’t know how to stop. I wanted to help her, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I walked with her. I kept pace with her and stayed by her side for as long as my parents allowed me to stay in the exhibit; which was usually a good length of time because they and my brother enjoyed watching the river otters playing in the artificial river under the floor. I like to think my coyote friend took some comfort from my company; I know hers helped me.

This wasn’t the first time I’d tried to help animals who were hurting, physically or emotionally. And it wasn’t the last. But it was the most memorable and the longest lasting such relationship. Even now, when I know she must have been dead for years, I miss her.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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Depression.

There is a comic I’ve seen many times floating around the Internet and I’m sure some of you have seen this comic as well. The intended message of this comic is that mental illnesses, such as depression, are not something the sufferer has any more control over than physical ailments and so should not be stigmatized the way they are in our society. This is a great message and one that I feel should be more widespread; I know many people who need help often refuse to get it primarily because of the way society looks down on mental health professionals and the people who seek their help. However, I disagree with several of the individual points the comic makes.

I remember when I was in the deepest parts of my depression, I had most of these things said to me many times and it made me angry. However, that anger actually helped to motivate me to get better and I find myself saying many of the same things to my depressed friends now. Some of the items ironically labeled “helpful advice,” are genuinely techniques that you can use to combat depression.

Of course, you can’t just stop having depression any more than you can just stop having the flu. And if medication is the only way you can cope with your illness, then you need medication to survive and there should be no shame in that. Anti-depressants are not strong enough to change who you are, they just allow you to be a happy version of that person when the chemicals naturally present in your body do not. I’m sure the same is true for medications used to treat other mental illnesses, but I have no personal experience with them. It is unfortunate that society at large doesn’t understand that these chemicals only have the power to change who you are in the movies because many people who need help refuse to get help, even of the non-chemical variety, simply because they are afraid of these chemicals.

The rest of the comic, with the possible exception of the accusatory, “you’re not even trying,” panel is genuinely good advice for fighting depression. Even some people with treatable physical ailments need to hear the advice in the first panel, “you have to at least try.” Food poisoning is a ridiculous example to use on that piece of advice, but diabetes isn’t. There are diabetics out there who let the disease slowly kill them because they are too lazy or otherwise unwilling to make the dietary and lifestyle changes necessary in addition to medication to manage their condition.

The same is true for mental illness; if you don’t try to get better you won’t get better. No one can make you better but you. I know that sometimes anti-depressants stop working and need to be changed or adjusted and sometimes the suffer is unable to make the needed appointments to correct the problem, so someone close to them has to do it for them, but the only way that method works is if the sufferer themselves tried to get better at some point in the past. You might relapse and then others can help you, but only if you helped yourself first.

Changing your frame of mind by forcing yourself to find one good thing in every bad situation is one way you can help yourself. And the more you do it, the easier it is. Unfortunately, the same is true for staying in bed when you have depression. When I was at my worst, one day I couldn’t think of anything to do, so I did nothing. Then one day of lying in bed staring at the ceiling turned into two. Two days turned into a week. A week turned into a month. The more I gave into the urge to do nothing, the easier it was to do nothing and the harder it was to not do nothing. And as the final panel says, lying in bed does not help with depression and you do need to do something else. Even now that I’m “recovered,” I have felt the urge to crawl back into bed and stay there once or twice, but I refuse to let myself give in to that urge because I know that one day is all it would take to let me slide right back down into that dark place.

I think the real problem with the helpful advice is that the people who give it often fail to acknowledge that what they’re telling you to do isn’t easy. It’s not easy. Learning to stay out of bed and be more positive is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it can be done and it needed to be done so that I could recover.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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Bad boys.

I think most women go through a “bad boy” phase at some point in their lives, usually in early adolescence. The archetype of the bad boy comes with a hint of danger that most young girls find exciting and irresistible even though the bad boy is also disrespectful of women. All but those with the lowest self-esteem eventually grow out of their bad boy phase and begin to choose partners who treat them the way they deserve to be treated.

I never had a bad boy phase. My self-esteem was rendered about as low as it can go for many years by mental abuse, so why did I never find bad boys attractive? Well, I believe the answer to that question is the physical, sexual, and mental abuse that I endured itself.

The timing of my experiences was important. The sexual abuse took place just as I was entering puberty which delayed the development of my sexual identity. I always knew that I was attracted to men, but because of what I went through at the hands of my brother, I had little to no interest in actually pursuing anything with a man until my late teens by which time, had I developed normally, I probably would have been beginning to grow out of my bad boy phase.

While I was busy having the development of my sexual identity delayed, I was also learning the kind of physical, sexual, and emotional violence that can come from the sort of danger the bad boy represents. Attraction to the bad boy archetype comes with a degree of naiveté about what the attitude toward women they possess can really mean for your physical and emotional state, which is why it’s typically young girls who don’t know any better that are attracted to bad boys. But I always knew exactly what a real bad boy meant for my life because of the pain I couldn’t escape. Why would I ever willingly put myself in a situation where I was likely to experience that pain again?

I consider myself very lucky that my abuse happened exactly when and exactly how it happened because the pain I experienced as a result helped me to prevent experiences that could easily have been much worse. Unfortunately, many women with experiences similar to mine have difficulty getting their self-esteem back and can’t break out of the cycle of abuse; they keep choosing bad boys. This is why predatory pick up techniques, such as negging, have an unfortunate tendency to work. And the unfortunate tendency of working that these pick up techniques have is one of the reasons I’ve been single for over 3 years; almost every man I’ve met in those 3 years tries to use them on me and I’m not falling for it.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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Highly illogical.

For many years, I found it necessary for my survival to suppress all emotion. I suppose since I couldn’t handle what I was feeling as a result of being sexually assaulted at such a young age, I couldn’t allow myself to feel anything. I no longer do this because I find it to be a very dangerous practice; I was very prone to violent outbursts during the time I was living as a robot. Never the less, my robotic years have left their mark.

For one thing, when I am struck with a particularly strong emotion, I often can’t identify that emotion until hours or even days after the fact. For example, my ex-boyfriend and I were briefly engaged in the first year of our almost 9 year relationship. I had had a dream in which he proposed and I made a joke about it to my mother in front of him, then he asked me to marry him and I said yes.

A few weeks later, after we’d announced our engagement to all of our friends and my parents, he sat me down and explained to me that he had proposed because he was over-excited to finally have a girlfriend; that, with me at 19 and him at 20 years old, and neither of us employed, we were too young and too ill-prepared to think about marriage and he just wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. He was right, of course, and I took it calmly and told him I wasn’t upset; it took me almost two weeks to realize I was upset. And why shouldn’t I have been? Marriage and family is a thing I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember and I was ready for that kind of commitment–I still am if I can ever find someone to commit to.

Another way my time as a robot left its mark on me is that my emotions simply do not shut down my logical thought processes the way they do for most people. This is both a benefit to me and an annoyance. As you would expect, it does help me keep from behaving irrationally when my emotions compel me to, but you would also think that it would make me feel better when I’m upset for no real reason and this is not the case.

A few years ago, I was hanging out with a guy. He told me that he had no interest a relationship beyond the physical with anyone and I told him that I have no interest in a physical relationship with anyone unless there is a commitment involved. This kind of openness and honesty laid the foundation for a perfectly good friendship without anyone being “friend-zoned” (you have no idea how much I hate that term). He still begged me for a physical relationship from time to time, but he didn’t get upset when I turned him down.

One day, about 4 months after the last day we spent together, I read a Facebook post from him that told me that in those 4 months he had met and become engaged to another woman. I was devastated; he told me that he had no interest in giving anyone the things that I want, and yet here he was giving those things to someone else. What was wrong with me that the only offers I get are for casual sex, and yet those same men are perfectly willing to enter into the kind of relationship I deserve with someone else? Logically, I knew I had no reason to feel that way because even if this guy had been willing to be more than a fuck buddy to me, I didn’t want him that way either. But knowing that my emotions weren’t logical didn’t change those emotions; if anything it made me feel worse because I knew there was no point in my being upset, yet I couldn’t stop being upset, which made me upset that I was upset.

I guess I’m still learning that I’m allowed to feel the way I feel even when those feelings don’t make sense; all logic can do is allow me to control how I behave when I’m upset so I don’t take it out on people who don’t deserve it.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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Panic.

I occasionally have panic attacks. At least I used to have panic attacks. It’s been at least 6 years since my last attack, but it’s also been at least 6 years since I’ve been in the kind of situation that used to trigger them. I don’t know if I no longer have panic attacks because I’ve healed or if I still get them and just don’t know it.

One of the effects my experiences have had on me is a compulsion to keep a close eye on the activities of people near me in case I need to fight or flee. Especially men people. Especially men people who are significantly bigger than me. Especially men people who are significantly bigger than me and have a lot of energy. Especially men people who are significantly bigger than me, have a lot of energy, and a certain quality that I can only describe as twitchiness.

Most people, if you watch them, you can tell more or less what they’re going to do by the way they move. Say you’re sitting in a room with a group of people watching a DVD and one of them gets up. If you’ve spent most of your life paying close attention to people’s movements the way I have, you can tell by the way he moves if he’s going to the bathroom or to the kitchen to get more popcorn even before he starts heading in either direction. But twitchy people are unpredictable. If there’s a twitchy person in the group and he’s the one who gets up, I can’t tell if he’s going to the bathroom, going to the kitchen, or going to go get something heavy to bash my brains in.

If a twitchy person moves around too much while in my company, which he will do if he’s a high energy person, I will eventually, through no fault of his own, have a panic attack. I know that this reaction isn’t fair because I get twitchy and have to move around from time to time as well, so I should be more understanding of the behavior, but I can’t help it. It’s some quirk of my messed up brain.

The way the panic attacks feel reminds me of my late cat. When I got in one of my twitchy moods while my cat was still alive, I used to walk in circles around the couch because I needed to move and I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Sometimes the cat would be sitting on the back of the couch while I did this and she would watch me getting more and more agitated every time I passed her until she inevitably started swatting at me. That’s what the panic attacks feel like. Something in the way twitchy people move around me activates the urge to fight in the primitive parts of my brain while the parts of my brain responsible for higher reasoning functions realize that there is nothing to fight. So these two reactions of “fight!” and “fight what?” keep going around and around in my brain, rubbing against each other and it gets very uncomfortable. If the situation isn’t resolved, for example, by getting the twitchy person to stop moving for a little while, the discomfort builds until it turns into panic.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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Trust.

A lot of what happened to me did so at the hands of one of the people I should have been able to trust the most; one of the people who I should have been able to rely on for unconditional support and protection. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone when I say that I have trust issues because of this. I was repeatedly betrayed by the people closest to me and so I have difficulty allowing myself to trust anyone.

I believe that I trust more easily now than I have in the past, but my trust is still something that people have to work very hard to earn rather than being given freely. I don’t think my trust issues are necessarily a bad thing because my trust comes with a fierce, unquestioning loyalty of a sort that shouldn’t be easy to come by. If I trust you, I will fight for you to the death if necessary, so it’s probably a good thing that I don’t trust very many people. I don’t think most people who aren’t intimately acquainted with my past realize I have trust issues and many of my friends seem to be under the impression that I trust them more than I actually do. I guess I’m good at faking trust.

My trust issues also appear to have exacerbated my natural reluctance to touch or be touched by people I don’t know well. For a long time I thought the fact that I didn’t like to be touched was a direct result of abuse, but a story my grandfather was fond of telling where I refused to hug him on what would have been the first occasion I really met my grandparents when I was around two years old shows that it was always a part of me. However, I believe that I would have a less strong reaction to touch if I didn’t have trust issues. Accidental touch, for example, when your hand brushes the cashier’s hand when you pay cash for your fast food lunch, bothers me most. Most people don’t even notice these kinds of accidental contact, but I have to exert a great deal of internal effort not to have a minor meltdown every time it happens. Deliberate touch, like a hand shake I can prepare for and while I don’t like it, it doesn’t really bother me the way accidental touch does.

I thought I had more to say about trust, but I apparently don’t. I don’t think there was really a point I wanted to make with this post beyond acknowledgement of the issues.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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