Beginning Again


I don’t know what this journal is going to end up looking like. I likely won’t even talk about my trauma or past, though it’s not out of the question.

I want a place to quietly celebrate the changes that my life has undergone and all the things I have to look forward to. I’m sure sometimes I’ll also use this place as a way to vent about daily stressors.

We’ll see how this goes.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Today is December first and it has me all in my head.

It’s my birthday month, and there’s a tiny little spark of excitement in me at the specialness of it.

But that’s immediately dampened by this angry voice in the back of my mind telling me how selfish and egotistical I am for thinking I’m special in any way.

But that spark has been growing lately, taking up a little more space. That’s something my therapist and I have been working on the most lately. The idea of being allowed to take up space, have needs, voice those needs without immediately thinking I’m a b***** for doing so.

The two sides are warring and I don’t know who is winning on this particular topic.

I’m starting to feel on edge at work. It’s another two sides that have gone to war. One side tells me that I get complimented and relied on by my superiors and by my students. It tells me that I’ve built amazing rapport with numerous students. It tells me that I am good at my job and that I should take pride in that.

But that other voice, it tells me I’m an idiot for letting myself feel positive. It says that the moment I feel okay, it’s all going to get ripped away and I won’t be able to get another job like this. It tells me that my supervisors only rely on me because of staffing issues, it has nothing to do with my ability. They just need warm bodies. But secretly they hate me and if they could have anyone else, they would in a heartbeat.

I imagined myself also starting a writing career. But I can’t do it. I gave it my all for awhile, and for as long as I kept it absolutely secret, I kept improving in sales. The raw data was looking positive. But I didn’t want to keep it secret and that was my downfall. I wanted friends within the writing sphere, I told my family what I was doing. All of that flipped a switch in me and I’ve barely been able to write since, none of it any good. I keep promising myself that I’m going to try it again and really keep it secret this time but I can’t bring myself to sit down and actually put thought to paper.

Similar thoughts apply to drawing, painting, photography. Is this depression? I’m not sure. Because I’m not anywhere near where I was when I was absolutely-no-question-about-it depressed.

Right now my plan is to force myself back into a habit of doing the things I’ve loved before. I have a schedule dictated out for it and I’m hoping by the end of this month, I can look back and be proud of the progress I’ve made.

I want to put up some goals, but that’s something my therapist has kind of talked me out of. She says instead of working towards goals and sparking unhealthy competition (cause that’s my personality), I am to focus on creating a life that aligns with my value system. We took some time to find specific values that I want to live my life in and the things I want to get back into align with those. I am rambling now and lost my train of thought.

Maybe later or tomorrow I’ll come back and have a clearer thought process about everything. This turned into kind of a brain dump. But I guess that’s okay.

“Never regret anything, because at one time it was exactly what you wanted.” — Marilyn Monroe
It was a good weekend. Nothing eventful, which was nice for a change. Sometimes I need a bland weekend to just be able to recharge.

I’m feeling weird today though, I’m choosing to take today off of work so that I can get some stuff done around the house, but I keep getting notifications of regular teachers calling in and I’m feeling very guilty that I haven’t jumped on one of those absences yet.

The freedom to choose my schedule is one of the biggest reasons I became a substitute, but I’m also a huge people pleaser. I feel guilty if I don’t act perfectly and not volunteering for everything is not acting perfectly.

I’m trying to remember that I have worked extensively the last few months, every time the coordinator has needed me, I’ve been there and I’ve covered multiple teachers at a time. I’ve worked when I was seriously sick (the coordinator was sympathetic and did her best to get me home as early as she could, but I was still there bouncing between multiple classes), I’ve come in on days when I intended to stay home, a few times.

So I’m allowed to have a day to myself, right? Ugh. I’m still learning that I can take up space, have needs, do the things I want without feeling guilty for it. But man it’s hard.

“You are allowed to take up space. Own who you are and what you want for yourself. Stop downplaying the things you care about, the hopes you have. Own your passions, your thoughts, your perceptions. Own your fire. Stop putting your worth in the hands of others; stop letting them decide your value. Own saying no, saying yes. Own your mood, your feelings. Own your plans, your path, your success.”
— Bianca Sparacino, The Strength in our Scars
Last night/this morning have been really rough. I’m 95% sure I don’t have autism, but I *need* my routine to be able to function without feeling messed up. Like this morning is completely thrown off because I wasn’t able to get to sleep until 1 when I’m usually in bed by 9 or 10. It’s so stupid, other adults would be tired maybe but otherwise fine. I’m not. My emotions are very intense right now.

Everything is bothering me, from my headache of course, to the house, to my pets, to my job, to the songs playing on the radio. Everything makes me want to just break down and cry right now.

I know I have an anniversary next week and then my birthday the week after that and they tend to be rough, but not this rough. Why does a couple hours of missed sleep affect me so damn bad? Not like I was up all night.

Every song is reminding me of high school and it’s making me tear up. I don’t have any traumas from high school though. Like sure it wasn’t the most fantastic time, but why the f*ck am I crying over it?

The anniversary coming up has zero to do with high school. And usually I can breeze through it fine. But this year it’s like this looming thing. Not as bad as my birthday though. That one is a major loomer. That spark I was feeling when the month began is completely gone.

Now I just want out. Out of this town, out of this life. I haven’t had real ideation in a long time but theres whispers of it in the back of my mind getting louder.

“I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life. I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky. But why can’t it be mine?” — Black, Pearl Jam
The anniversary coming up has zero to do with high school. And usually I can breeze through it fine. But this year it’s like this looming thing. Not as bad as my birthday though.
Anniversaries are rough. No way around it.

Sounds like you have quite a bit of rumination going on right now. Learning to stop it can really help with ideation. It's a tough thing to stop because its hard to recognize when it starts. There's lots of threads on here with lots of great suggestions if you search rumination.

I also saw your thing with Dr. Catalyst. You can start with a high level fly over. Your T will tell you when and what needs more detail for them to help you. (and you may be surprised how little detail they really need) Your T probably understands how much it hurts to talk about those things and only wants what you can handle to tell them.
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Thank you @Freddyt

Had therapy today and it went well. We talked about some of the things that were weighing on my mind the most and came away with some things I’m going to try to put into practice.

I’m going to write a letter to a certain someone who wasn’t exactly my main abuser, or even secondary, but wasn’t some innocent Angel either. He caused a lot of his own harm and anger and I need to get it all out once and for all. I’ve said before that I would write a letter to him but always put it off and put it off. Not anymore. It needs to be done.

Then I’m going to incorporate some things into my life that closely align with the value system I want to live by and honor those I’ve lost. My goal going into this next year is to be more present, take part in local events, drink more peppermint tea, garden with more heart and intention, and bake more.

“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be *present* in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.” — James Baldwin
Today was. . . something. I don’t even really know how to describe today and I’m struggling to process everything and just need to brain dump.

Today is the anniversary X2 which didn’t seem to affect me too badly. I took steps to preempt any issues: talking to my therapist a couple of days ago; planning out ways to honor some people I’ve lost; and in a more practical way: ensuring I had plenty to eat and drink and had had plenty of rest. All of that seemed to work really well and mentally I feel like I’m in a “normal” stressful place. I don’t know if that fully makes sense, but I don’t feel trauma or grief stressed, all of my focus is on the events of the day and my emotions feel in line with those events.

About those events: I subbed for a teacher who I discovered is very problematic and I’m trying to determine what is in my power to deal with that, if anything. First, he apparently doesn’t always supervise his students, to the point that one of the assistant principals explicitly asked me to stay with them through the full first period. Of course, why on Earth would I leave and how is he still employed if even his higher ups know he is doing a big no-no?

But then it got worse. Three of his classes are bilingual and so in those classes, there was a para (thankfully we had enough staffing today that she was able to be with me) to assist. According to her, she has been doing an experiment over this past week. She says the main teacher has a habit of not bothering to actually teach or interact, instead he just throws things up on the PowerPoint and has them copy down notes. Not unheard of, but not effective towards actually absorbing the material. But what was *worse* is that he doesn’t bother to grade. He will gather up assignments and either throw them away or file them somewhere forgotten and puts an arbitrary number in the grade book, of course favoritism and athletic ability guide what that number will be.

I want to complain to the higher ups, but being that it is technically hear say, I don’t know that that will actually accomplish anything. Especially since she says she has reported that and other issues and . . . well. . . he’s still employed.

My other thing today that I’m still processing. I had a conversation with one of the freshmen girls this morning and it was a rollercoaster and I don’t quite know where to go from here. She has always had a bit of an attitude anytime I have her, to the point that I was certain she doesn’t like me. But this morning, she planted herself next to me, helped me with the attendance (didn’t need it but I’ll take rapport building anytime). But then she talked and talked and talked, I have zero issue with that, but man the things she was saying were concerning.

But first, a little levity-ish, apparently I am not ugly, or rather I’m not ugly-fat? She was carrying on about the appearance of some girls and reducing their appearance to whether or not she would even bother be friends with them (more on this in a minute). I questioned and challenged her, of course, (plus I have always considered myself to be particularly ugly and definitely fat) she waved me away and said no, you’re not ugly fat. Thanks? I guess? Lol. Still deciding on that.

But the topic she was on: the girl is a bully. Full stop. I’ve just never had it quite so blatantly demonstrated to an adult authority and so I was really caught off guard. I’m going back and forth on whether to report her. She didn’t mention any particular incidents, and she didn’t mention specific names (a lot of “this girl” and “that girl”), but the way she talked about them was incredibly mean. Which, of course, I told her so. But she genuinely did not care and I don’t know how to get through that to get her to find some kind of kindness or compassion in herself. I tried reframing things she would say as if they were being said about her, she did not care. I tried getting her to find any kind of empathy, nope. I get it, she’s thirteen and that’s a very difficult time.

But my goodness, why the heck was she so comfortable telling me these things? It’s not unheard of for some students to attach and talk and I don’t have to guide those conversations and I still learn way more than I needed to. Usually it doesn’t bother me, I actually have some pride in being a safe enough place for them. But I don’t want to be a safe place for bullying behavior. BUT I also don’t want to shut her out completely to the point of not ever being able to get through to her.
I want to complain to the higher ups, but being that it is technically hear say, I don’t know that that will actually accomplish anything. Especially since she says she has reported that and other issues and . . . well. . . he’s still employed.
Focus on the things you can control. No one person has the power to change the world, not really. When we think of that one person who did all this or that, what it really was - is that the person was a catalyst by which to inspire whole groups of people to adopt their methodology or to make those needed changes. An event can spark it off, a powerful orator can draw attention, but change is inherently a social activity.

Don't try to take on a whole other person's limitations. His mistakes and his conduct do not belong to you. What you can do, is make a report with the information you have been given and what you have witnessed. If nothing gets done about it, then that goes to show your environment is systemically negligent. To impact an institution on that level, you would need to commit yourself to a long, hard battle involving the media, lawyers, protesting, etc.

Are you prepared to do that? Then by all means, go for it. But you are not obligated to do it. The onus should not be on us to fix what is broken in society, especially as we are the ones suffering from it. To say it is our responsibility is nothing more than victim-blaming. The obligation has always been with our corrupt institutions, to recognize their own wrongdoing as they are fully comprised of self-aware adults who understand right and wrong, and to rectify their poor behavior.

We can only do what we can do, a drop at a time. Focus on your self-care first; you cannot assist other people if you cannot assist yourself. Put on your own oxygen mask. Make a report, and then focus on letting it go. Letting him be wrong, letting it be bad. Again, unless you are willing to get into an immense structural battle.

I’ve just never had it quite so blatantly demonstrated to an adult authority and so I was really caught off guard. I’m going back and forth on whether to report her. She didn’t mention any particular incidents, and she didn’t mention specific names (a lot of “this girl” and “that girl”), but the way she talked about them was incredibly mean.
It's obvious that she has been neglected by the adults in her life, as it appears she has failed to form any real empathetic connection to her peers. As a 13 year old, this behavior is not ingrained, nor set in stone. What really needs to happen is that she needs to find an adult in her life who will continuously challenge her and also nurture her.

The last bit is the most important. She's probably been challenged all the time, and has learned to just brush it off, as just "someone else criticizing me, well, they're stupid and so are you." But what she hasn't got a lot of, is proper nurturing. Not just to tell her that she is wrong and bad, but that they recognize that she is intelligent enough to develop social skills that will connect her to other people instead of dehumanizing and objectifying them. To find something positive about her to draw on, and encourage.

It is definitely apparent that she has been exposed to this behavior in her personal life, probably by someone who says very similar things - about themselves, but probably about her, too. It's a complicated problem that has a complicated solution. If you want to take this on, you will have to dedicate a lot of time and energy to help her. You won't be a safe place for bullying, but in terms of therapeutic assistance, you will need to listen to her opinions and her thoughts and give her space to express herself authentically.

A majority of which will likely contain bullying. After which, you can begin to help her transform her negativity and verbal aggression into something productive. If that is not something you are comfortable with, because at its core it is essentially providing therapy, then you need to make a report with all of this information in it so that the right people can be matched to her.
Today’s the day and it’s not off to a great start. I want to try to track just where things went downhill. I was fine yesterday morning, mostly, I mean I was tired and not exactly excited to go to work but for the most part nothing wrong.

About a week or so ago I learned that a formerly close family member is moving nearby this month. I’m supposed to be excited and I suppose I am to some extent. But I didn’t let myself really think about it. Until about midday yesterday when that family member texted me. A few of us are trying to figure out schedules so we can meet up for dinner or something. The thing is, I haven’t seen this family member since my life literally imploded a number of years ago and while they didn’t play a role in that, they were there and it was by far the most shameful time of my life. Now they get to see me years later and worse than I was before the implosion. I don’t want that. I want to skip this visit altogether but that would be the worst thing I could do. I’ll deal.

The rest of the day went okay at work, just tired. I do love that the rain set in yesterday and is supposed to continue today. It’s my favorite kind of weather, so if I believed in God still maybe it would be like his birthday gift to me. I came home around 5 and just crashed. I went to bed and then had/have a restless night.

Right now is about the third time I’ve woken up tonight. First I was cold, then I was hot, then the clothes I was wearing felt restrictive and frustrating, then some neighborhood dogs are barking, can hear someone’s rooster even though he’s hours too early.

I think that’s one of the biggest problems I have with my house during winter. I can’t turn on the loud air conditioning or fan to drown out the noise and so I can hear every.little.thing.

So, why do I hate my birthday so bad? I guess it’s a few things. Growing up, it was ingrained to the nth degree to not be selfish. Being selfish included everything from complimenting yourself to expecting to get gifts, be told happy birthday, expect to have any attention on you. Some explicitly taught, some more implicit. But the message I got from everyone around me often was that I didn’t matter.

Gifts were always this weird thing too. Some years there would be a lot and even things I asked for, some years a local church would donate what they could, some years I’d get a lot but they would be things I never would have asked for in a million years or they were items that benefited them more than me (an example would be similar to a husband buying his wife a new vacuum that she didn’t ask for). In the most recent years, my mother has taken on a level of guilt that has her essentially showering me with gifts and such. This year, I can tell she spent a significant amount. I don’t want her too, it makes me so uncomfortable. I told her she didn’t need to, that the things I asked for wouldn’t have even totaled fifty bucks. Her response was that I missed out on so much for so long that she just wants to make that better.

This was a thing either last year or the year before too, I had never had an actual birthday party and she tried doing a semblance of one. The gestures are sweet, but they keep my brain in trauma land and it just makes things harder.

But there’s no way to tell her that because I really feel like she would break if I showed any kind of criticism about it. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, I’m just uncomfortable. But I know no matter what I said it would come off as ungrateful and it would just devolve into more guilt and shame.

Meeting up with that particular family member went well. I was nervous because I was pretty sure he hated me at this point and would be right to do so. But he’s done so well for himself and the family he’s building, I could not be more proud.

The night before meeting with him, I went to the play my high school students put on and it was awesome to watch them and just see the amazing futures they’re launching themselves into.

The negatives:

General issues around people sucking at scheduling or taking others into consideration when scheduling things. And there’s a petty annoyance in my brain at the gift my brother gave me. I tend to really put a ton of thought into the gifts I give, the birthday gifts I give him are usually a few things that he’s been mentioning or I don’t know, just a lot of thought and care and I make less than half his salary and he handed me a gift card to a place I don’t really go to anymore because I’m actively trying to lose weight and there’s other areas that are making my annoyance with this worse but that’s for another day.

The big negative: I’m getting a lot of whispers of ideation. The past few days have increased that voice so much and while I’m not to planning stages, I’m not that far off anymore. I have therapy on Wednesday so I’ll chat about it then. But right now I’m feeling the lowest of the low for being so far behind in what I view as a successful and happy life. I’m nowhere near it but kids half my age are practically there and I’m so so happy for them and want it for them, but I want it for me too. But no matter what I do, I hit roadblock after roadblock.
The big negative: I’m getting a lot of whispers of ideation. The past few days have increased that voice so much and while I’m not to planning stages, I’m not that far off anymore.
Realizing all the stress around this time of year gets to you whether you deny it or not is part of dealing with that stuff. Stress going up is like the tide coming in and all the symptoms raise with it....