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If I Could

“If I could turn back time…”  So goes the song.  So sings my heart.  So cries my soul.

If I could…oh, if only I could. 
If I could turn back time, I would not keep secrets.  I would tell someone.  And I would tell someone else.  And I would tell another person and another and another until someone listened.  Until someone believed me and realized I existed within a tortured reality while attempting to act as if everything was normal and safe.  I would shout if I had to and tell the truth until someone heard, reacted and removed me from my parent’s home.  I would tell them about the sexual abuse.  The physical abuse.  The neglect.  The rejection and constant deriding.  The emotional abuse.  I would speak up and keep speaking until someone understood.  Until they took me seriously.  Until someone reached into the darkness where I was trapped and helped me escape.
If I could turn back time, I would do whatever it took to get help a lot earlier.  I would allow myself to believe I was worth the time and the money.  I didn’t believe it then.  I started so late.  So late, it was too late.  The brokenness had calcified.  Cemented into place; impossible to dislodge.  Instead of trying to figure it out on my own, I would find someone who could help me untangle the knots, put the broken pieces back together and mend me.  A gifted professional who could wade with me into the depths of pain flowing from the wounds created by my destructive childhood.  I would let them show me a different reality and how to wade out of that vicious current to the other side.  I wouldn’t put it off, thinking there was time…later.  I would pursue healing relentlessly, with extreme urgency, doing whatever I had to do to make it happen.  Because being healed would have completely changed the course of my life.  In a wonderful way.  It would have taken me into a new and healthy dimension where robust, genuine life was possible.  I would have sacrificed whatever I had to sacrifice early in life to pursue wholeness and not given up until I found it.
 If I could turn back time, I would never have gotten married when I was 17.  I was so young.  I felt old.  I felt like I had already lived a lifetime, battling to survive.  Going back, I would whisper in my own ear, “You have time…let yourself be young!”  I wouldn’t have given my heart to an 18-year-old boy who would ask me for a divorce a mere two weeks after our wedding. 
And I wouldn’t have married again at 25.  At least not the person I married back then.  I let him convince me he loved me and wanted to be with me.  I wanted so badly to be loved!  I took the bait, longing to be filled.  So, if I did again foolishly believe and marry him, when he told me a few months after we wed that he didn’t love me, I would have filed for divorce right away.  I wouldn’t have wasted a lifetime hoping he would someday, somehow come to love and want me.  I wouldn’t have hung on, believing he was the best life had to offer.  I wouldn’t have given him 22 years of my time.  I wouldn’t have allowed him to move into my soul, breaking my heart in the process.
If I could turn back time, I would have gone to college.  When I was young and just out of high school.  Lived on campus.  Had the whole experience.  Taken interesting classes and hung out with friends until I could discern a path that excited me.  I would have worked hard too.  I was always good at making the grades.  But I also would have torn down my walls, raised my expectations, explored, learned, laughed, figured out who I was and moved forward into the light of a promising future.
I would also relocate to one of the places I dreamed of living.  I would move there when I was young.  When it was easier.  When I wasn’t so encumbered with the burdensome responsibilities and debts of life.   I would have made my way closer to the ocean.  And started building my life there.  Not wasting time living where things seemed to fall into place, taking the path of least resistance.  I would move to a desirable location and find ways to stay as I created the existence I yearned for and dreamed about. Even if it was hard initially.  I would carve out a home in that space and finally find a sliver of joy.  I would spend time on the beach, listening to the soothing and calming voice of the waves.  Basking beneath glorious sunrises and sunsets.  Rejoicing in the warmth.  Greeting the day with gratefulness instead of reluctantly waking while bound by heavy disappointment and despair.
I wouldn’t have worked jobs that demeaned and demoralized me.  Not if I could turn back time.  I wouldn’t slave for bosses who didn’t appreciate me.  Who used me all the more because I was too unsure of my value to protest.  I would have pursued fulfilling work instead.  Pursued my dreams. While I still had dreams.  And hope.  And a future ahead of me. 
If I could turn back time, I would save more money and spend more on the things that create memories with those I love. 
If I could turn back time,  I would surround myself with those people…the ones who live in my heart and bring joy into my life by simply being.  I would work harder at staying real – even vulnerable – so I could truly connect with others in a deep and significant way.  I would take the risk instead of hiding and pretending and trying to fit in with the crowd.  I wouldn’t close myself away in darkness or shroud myself with shame that I wore like skin.  A skin I grew into while still very young.  Because of the abuse.  I would seek help.  I would tell myself over and over again that it wasn’t my fault.  I would tell myself until I believed it.  Until I knew without doubt that what was done to me didn’t mean I should be ashamed.  Didn’t mean I was disgusting and tainted.  My past wouldn’t be something to hide.  It’s my reality.  My history.  So, I would stop denying where I came from and what it had done to me.  I would acknowledge that past, embrace the possibilities of the future and begin to connect deeply with special people when I encountered them.  Meaningfully.  I would be transparent, unmasked, open and do what it took to build deep relationships.  Those connections would be my priority.  If I had another chance.  Another chance to do it over.
If I could turn back time, I would listen more to my heart and less to my brain.
I would try more things, even if I was afraid of failing, looking stupid and making mistakes.  I would kayak and kick-box and learn a martial art.    I would dance often.   I would visit the ocean frequently and let it sooth my wounds.  I would live where there was lots of sunshine.  I would ride in a hot air balloon, even if I had to save up for a long time to afford the pleasure.  I would take classes on subjects that were of interest to me.  I would sing more.  Write that book.  Publish those poems.  I would risk and not let fear rule my choices.
If I could turn back time, I would hold on to each moment.  Live it.  Fully experience each day.  The pain and the joy.  The fun and the difficulties.  I would be present in the present and tattoo each experience on my brain for later enjoyment.  For later contemplation.  I would fill my memory bag with experiences so when I looked back, the years would not have disappeared in an unending chain of monotony.  There would be more happy memories and less regrets.  More to recall.  More worth remembering.
I’m sure I would still make mistakes.  But I think I would make smaller ones, less costly ones, having learned some hard lessons the hard way.  I wouldn’t make so many of the huge, monumental errors that erode quality of life until there is no life left.  I wouldn’t let life…or the people in my life…tell me I didn’t matter.  I wouldn’t accept being a worthless object to be used and cast aside when inconvenient or if not operating up to user expectations.  No, having worked hard early on to find a place of wholeness, I would believe in myself and in my own worth.   I wouldn’t be beaten down, settling for simply being tolerated.  I would move on.  Cut my losses.  Find a healthier path.
If I could turn back time, I would understand the value of the minutes that were sifting silently through my hand and I would cling to each one.  I wouldn’t live for a blurry tomorrow.  I would live for today.  Milking each moment for every drop of happiness and meaning I could find.  I would dance in the rain and soak up the sunshine.  I would follow my dreams.  I would refuse to be numbed by the blows.  I would feel each emotion: deep, small, hurtful, joyful.  I would face the damage, tear it apart and rebuild when I was young, strong, more pliable.  And continue to rebuild throughout my existence, repairing, refinishing, refurbishing, restoring.  I would not settle.  I would not sleepwalk through the days.
I would give my heart only to those who also gave their heart to me.  Never casting my pearls before swine.  Understanding that even my broken heart was a pearl.  That life is a treasure.  And I need to spend this treasure carefully.  I would savor each one of those seconds while I was standing within them.
If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t now be sitting in a dark room alone but for my dogs, surrounded by regrets and loss and pain.  I would be a different person in a different place living a very different life.  Silence wouldn’t accompany me throughout my days.  Numbness would not cripple me.  There would be laughter and tears and conversation.  My world would not be empty.  It would be messy and full of all that results from a life well lived.   I believe I would understand so much more clearly what was at stake and would act accordingly.  I would discover the person I was meant to be…before the wounding, abuse, rejection and destruction.  I would be fully alive.  Finally. 
If only I could turn back time.  If only there was such a thing as a second chance.
 
 

What Now?

Can’t help but wonder.  Why am I at this place in my life?  How did I get here?  Into this situation?   This unplanned, undesirable situation?

More importantly, how do I get out?  Because I have to tell you the truth…this is NOT who I wanted to be or where I wanted to live or where I wanted to be at this point in my journey.  This is not at all what I wanted or expected from life.

So what now?  I’ve done everything I can think to do to change the outcome.  And still, I’m trapped in a nightmare, unable to escape.

I’ve tried to distract myself with projects, reading, research, even sorting, cleaning and organizing.  I’ve attempted to stay busy, to occupy my mind with productive, healthy thoughts.  I’ve recited scripture.  I’ve sought counseling, both individual and group.  I’ve tried every approach I can think of, from Celebrate Recovery to prayer to cognitive behavioral therapy to immersing myself in church to journaling…even to trying to kill myself.  Yes,  I tried to kill myself.   And failed.  I’ve tried to feel and I’ve tried to ignore what I feel.  I’ve given to and helped others, which is supposed to keep my mind off my own needs and the dark holes in my soul.  I’ve tried to channel my thoughts and told myself I can do anything with Christ by my side.  I’ve disassociated, fantasized, analyzed, worn the mask, faked it till I could make it, pretended, denied, commanded it, spoke scripture to it (whatever “it” might be), you name it, I’ve done it.  I’ve tried every anti-depressant on the market in various combinations and at unbelievable doses with no effect other than severe vertigo and withdrawal symptoms.  I’ve worked hard, been responsible, been focused and given it my all.  The only things I can think of that I haven’t tried (yet) are electroshock therapy and EMDR therapy.  I was researching EMDR therapy when I lost my last job.  If I ever get another job that offers good medical insurance, I will still consider it.  Shock therapy will be reserved for the day I give up.  Really.  That will be the very last thing I consider.  The “there is absolutely, positively no hope and I cannot go on” option.

But the pressing question of the moment is…now what?  Are there other options I haven’t yet considered or that I haven’t heard of?  Is there any hope at this point?  Or is it finally time to give up?  And let them fry my brain.

What do you do when you have done everything you can conceive of doing, that you can afford, and nothing helps?  Where do you turn when you have tapped God, psychologists, counselors, therapists, nutritionists, doctors, pastors, groups, teachers and friends, all without finding healing,  wholeness and hope?  Who do you cry out to for help when even God doesn’t respond to your cries? What professional offers an option that will finally make a difference if God doesn’t even seem to have answers to offer to me?

When you’ve pretty much done it all, where do you turn?  Who do you call when God too seems to turn a deaf ear?

I’ve gone to Christian counselors and non-Christian counselors, church sponsored groups, organization sponsored groups, hospital sponsored groups, secular, professional led groups…every kind of group and resource I can think of.  And I’ve gone the individual route as well.  The not-so-good and the talented individual counselor or therapist.  I went to the talented one for years, persisting when there didn’t seem to be any reason to keep trying.  During that time, I’ve been self-medicated, doctor medicated, doctor over-medicated, and psychiatrist way-over-medicated.  I really think something miraculous should have happened by now, given the odds and the effort.  But though I have seen a small amount of improvement in…well, in me…it’s relatively insignificant when you assess the overall level of damage and my current state of being.

So, what’s next?

I’ll admit, I’m discouraged.  I’m tired of trying.  I’ve disappointed too many people, including myself.  Especially myself.  And I’m feeling fairly hopeless.  I mean, seriously, what does it take???  What will it take to make a difference???  To be different????

Other people find answers.  Other people find their way.  Why haven’t I been able to free myself from the debris and damage of my past?

When I started the “healing” processes…all of them…I truly believed I would find answers and wholeness.  I thought I would find relief, enlightenment, release, healing.  I knew it would probably take time because I knew I was very broken.  Childhood sexual abuse – thanks dad – really does a number on a kid.  Has a lasting impact.  The gift that never stops giving.

Now that the package, the “gift” my father gave me, has been opened and the damage has been done, what can I do to repair and rebuild myself from the foundation up?  How do I find wholeness?  Purpose?  Value? What can I do to restore myself?

What’s next?

Having tried everything, what else can I try?

Is healing possible?  Honestly, is it?  And if it is, what now?  What can I do now, at this late point in life, to change my course?

I have no answers.  I have no idea what might be next.   If anything is next.  Other than death.

That seems to be the only option ahead of me.  And death isn’t a very exciting option.  Never has been.  But it may be the only path that is left.  Because it doesn’t seem as if there is anything else to pursue.  It doesn’t seem as if there is another answer.

It doesn’t seem there is hope.  Not at this stage.

So, what now? Are there any options?  What, if anything, comes next?

I’m still hanging on to the hope that there is another step or two left for me to take.  And that there just might be a reason for me to be alive.  But it may only be wishful thinking on my part.

I thought I could win.  But I may have been wrong.  There may not be a next step.  Other than to step out and let go of the life I have been clinging to with all of my might.

 

 

Everyone Has A Story

My story is not an inspiring tale.  It’s not one that fills a person’s heart with encouragement, nor their eyes with tender tears.  It is a cautionary tale.  A warning.  A wake-up call.  A nightmare.

My story is a testimony of the lasting effect of child abuse.  It is an account of the devastating impact of rejection, manipulation, and sexual exploitation; impact that continues throughout the life of an individual.  It is a sad chronicle.  But it is the only story I have to tell.  It is the only one I was given.  It is the one I have lived.

I was born not knowing, but wanting to know.  A sensitive child with antennas that were always extended, I perceived things that many never do.  I didn’t always understand what I perceived.  But I felt things that weren’t expressed, heard what wasn’t being said, comprehended the invisible, discovered and uncovered the hidden.  By the time I was 4, I knew the world to be a very uncertain, terrifying place.  By the age of 5, I realized my parents were even more terrifying than the world.  And more horrible.

They fought often and sometimes violently.  They left frequently when angry, without explanation, without any reassuring words that they would soon return.  They were rarely gone more than a day, at least not usually at the same time.  But my father once disappeared for several months.  So as their absence progressed, as minutes stretched into hours, I would fear they would…and would not…return.

The violence wasn’t just between them.  They shared.

I remember many angry, hateful words hurled at me.  Words that cut me down and sliced me apart.  I remember their demands, the performance requirements, my inevitable failures, their merciless responses.  I remember never being good enough.  Never being the little girl they wanted me to be.  I also remember the slaps.  The hair pulling.  The fists.  The welts and red marks.  The belt buckles.  I remember them, but the words almost seemed to hurt more than the hitting and knocking down and dragging around.  The words cut deeper.

The sexual abuse cut the deepest.  To the core.  To the bone.  To the heart.  The sexual abuse stabbed me through and through, then cut me to pieces, ground those pieces into the earth until I was nothing but dust and then it blew me apart, scattering my dust to the wind.

My father was my abuser.  My protector was my abuser.  My idol was my abuser.

He taught me lessons.  That I was an object, not a person.  An object to be used.  An object who had no rights and who wasn’t allowed to need.  An object who was supposed to make him feel good, to do what he said, even when it was reprehensible.  Who was not allowed to say or even think the word no.  An object to be taken from, then discarded as worthless.  An object to be hated.  Not a person.  Never a person.  A thing.  A worthless thing.

I blamed myself.  I thought there was something so horribly wrong inside me, I somehow caused him to be sick.  To do sick things.  I took responsibility for his actions.  I kept the secret.  I was a good object.

His behavior escalated.  He took more.  Demanded more and more.  Did worse and worse things to me.  Made me do unbearable things.  What satisfied before no longer titillated sufficiently.  No longer thrilled.  So he changed the game.  Upped the ante.  And took more.  This continued until I was 14 years old.

In the aftermath, after I left my childhood home, I sought healing in various ways for many years.  If this were an inspirational story, I would now begin to tell you about my journey to victory and healing.  I would tell you how I was able to put the pieces back together again.  But that is not my story.  That was not my journey.

I attempted to find and walk that path.   The healing path.  I did the work, went to groups, to individual therapists, to seminars and classes.  I asked for prayer, read the Bible, read books others wrote about their journey, read books written by experts, prayed for myself.  I went to therapy at least once a week for many, many years.  I took the medications the doctors told me would help in various combinations and in massive doses, all to no avail.  I faithfully wrote in my journal, recording feelings and impressions.  Wrote poems to express the pain.  Tried to talk to a few friends about my story because my counselor said it would help.  But I couldn’t express what I felt and it fell flat.  I even forgave my parents.  But healing eluded me.  I journeyed far on that path, but I never arrived at the golden destination.  Instead, I wandered in the darkness, lost in the trees.

I had two lives:  The broken and the pretend.

The broken life was my inside life.  It contained all the destruction.  The aftereffects of the abuse.  The broken soul.  The decimated being.  The fragmented psyche.  The wounded heart.  The broken person in her broken life was the one who was sometimes able to be real enough to recognize her unbearable pain and to seek help.  But it was hard.  The pain was big and strong and tall and wide and deep and you could drown in it.  You could die in it.  My memories were shattered and I watched myself as if watching clips from an old movie.  Clips that were torn into pieces with parts missing, scratched and dim.  They had to be dim and in pieces.  That was the only way I could look at them.  And even then, they broke my broken heart.

The pretend life was the one where I wore a mask.  Where I put a smile on my face, acted as if I, too, was a “normal” person who was dealing with ordinary problems.  Certainly my pretend person had never been abused.  She was competent, professional, poised, capable, kind, and reasonably well-adjusted.  The pretend person had to work very hard to keep the broken person hidden away in the deep dark places.  She had to work even harder to keep from feeling the pain of the real me, the broken me.  She had to fight to keep it all contained and covered. She had a good mask.  A mask that worked for a very long time.

The bulk of my life is now over.  Most of my time on earth has already been spent.  I have never overcome. My story is not ending well.

I still feel I am not a “real” person.  Not a true human being.  I still believe I am an object, mostly.  One who must perform and be at least twice as good as everyone else to be allowed to hang around, be employed, exist in the same organization, be accepted.  I must contribute more.  Do more.  Otherwise, because I am so despicable, I will be thrown away.  Otherwise, I will be judged and found useless and without value.  Otherwise, who I am is so terrible, I must be thrown far, flung out, left in disgrace.  Otherwise, I should be ashamed and hide.

There are things I still struggle with that others would find laughable, mystifying, and disgusting.  I struggle to shower.  Showers are places where nightmares come true.  Where daddy does the most soul-crushing, humiliating things to you.  The feel of wet porcelain is nearly unbearable.  The confinement is insufferable.  This is but one example.  Another?  Getting a wet spot on my skin sends me cringing and gagging.  It took me a very long time to understand.  To realize it reminded me of the feel of a pool of his sperm on my skin.  I have no words for how greatly I hated and dreaded that pool of wet.  Yes, there are things I struggle with that others would never understand.

I have placed myself in a protective bubble.  This bubble has become my prison.  I am disconnected from everyone.  From my family.  From the few friends I still have.  Surface friends.  The only connection I have been able to sustain is with my dogs.  So my world is nearly empty and lonely and I spend my days in isolation, even when I’m with a crowd.  This troubles me because there was a time I was yet able to connect.  I don’t understand what happened.  When it changed.  How I lost the ability.  I only know it is long gone and nothing I do revives this capacity, no matter how much I long for meaningful connections.

There is much more.  Much more to my story.  But enough. Enough now.

I tell it at this moment because the blank page listens.  People don’t want to hear, but the screen doesn’t reject my words.  It takes them and holds them as if they are significant.  Though I know I don’t matter at all, perhaps my story does.  I tell it because I want everyone to understand how completely annihilating sexual abuse is for a child.  Physical abuse is destructive and terrifying.  It abolishes.  It breaks.  Emotional abuse undermines and lays to waste. Neglect demoralizes and frightens.  But sexual abuse, particularly when perpetrated by a parent who is supposed to protect and nourish, is, in my estimation, worse than all of the other abuse combined.  All of this together creates a perfect storm.  There is no way to survive abuse that comes in every form, from every direction.  It will change the child, just as it has changed me.  Forever.  Even the wiring in the brain will be altered.  What was is replaced with something that is only a small part of what had been before.  What might have been will never be.  The child who was is no more.

I tell my story, my pathetic, uninspiring story that has no happy ending, because I don’t want anyone else to have to live it.  I don’t want another young girl to grow up alone in a nightmare and then to spend the rest of her life trying to recover.  Unsuccessfully.  I present my testimony to you now because I want you to take a stand.  I want you to do something.  I want us, together, to do what we can to stop child sexual abuse.  To do whatever it takes to end it.  So the next little tenderhearted, sensitive 4 year old won’t ever know what it’s like to have a penis placed in her mouth or her vagina. So she won’t turn 5 with sadness and terror in her eyes, unable to trust, knowing the world is a frightening and terrible place.  Knowing her parents are the biggest terrors of all.  I want that little 5 year old to learn about sex when she’s mature enough to understand and to find it wonderful.  To discover it with a loving partner.  For it to be a beautiful expression of appropriate love.

This is why I tell my story.  I want to be the last in this line.  I want to watch all the other little girls grow up in a different world, a safe world, a loving world.  I want them to be able to fly free.  And far.  And high.  Unfettered and whole.  And to be the beautiful and wondrous creatures they were meant to be.

Words of Wisdom

Sometimes, deep thoughts and questions come from unexpected places.
 
This week, “People” magazine had a special double issue to celebrate their 40 year anniversary.  In this special double issue, they asked several major movie and television stars what advice they would give their younger selves, if given that opportunity, and then printed their responses.  Interesting, right?  Actually, most of the advice was pretty bland.  Lacking depth, trying to be cool and catchy.  But it caused me to think about what I would tell myself if I could talk to me when I was in my teens. 
 
First of all, what a thought!  I would LOVE to have that opportunity.  To be able to tell myself with assurance what I needed to do, needed not to do, needed to pursue, needed to pay attention to and what to avoid.  Oh, my!  If only!  It’s a nice impossible dream.  But it’s also, I realized, an exercise that could, perhaps, help someone who is now in a similar place to the place I was in when I was younger.  So maybe, beyond being a lovely fantasy, just maybe, there is something worthwhile to be gained.  Something that could help another avoid a great deal of pain.  To keep them from wasting their life. 
 
Slim chance, but, whatever.  I’m indulging myself.  So, let’s get to it.
 
One of the first things I would tell myself is to not stay in relationships that are toxic and damaging. This probably seems totally obvious to most people, but when you’re raised in a home that is rife with every kind of abuse, negligence, and permeated with rejection, it doesn’t seem obvious at all.  You learn to expect and accept these things.  You learn that, for reasons you don’t understand, you don’t matter in any way, to anyone.  To have someone tell you that you don’t deserve to be treated badly and give you permission to get out of this type of situation is…well, it’s revolutionary.
 
Maybe I wouldn’t have landed in a good situation if I had gotten out.  Been removed from my parent’s home.  But an abusive foster home, staying with people who  weren’t, like my parents, supposedly hard-wired to love me, couldn’t have been as damaging as staying in an abusive home where the people who are supposed to love, nurture, and protect are instead berating, belittling, rejecting, abusing, using, raping, hitting, molesting, and hating me.  The longer you are told you are nothing, the deeper that message goes.  The more you are treated as if you are worthless, the more you believe it.  And if the people who are telling you that you are nothing are your parents, the people who are supposed to love you beyond reason, the message is driven into the very core of your soul.  You believe.  Because they are the people who are supposed to see value in you and help you discover who you are.  To help you to find your way.  To help you reach your potential.  They are supposed to have your best interests at heart. So the parental relationship, when warped and broken, warps and breaks you much more significantly and deeply than any other relationship.  It doesn’t mean foster parents wouldn’t have hurt me if they had also been rejecting and abusive.  The hurt simply wouldn’t have been quite as devastating.
 
Staying in the abusive home environment set me up to stay in two abusive and loveless marriages.  Had I been able to learn early on that being abused, used, discounted, and disdained isn’t acceptable, it would have changed the entire course of my life.  No exaggeration.  Therefore, I would tell my teenage self to tell someone what was going on; what my parents were doing to me.  And if they didn’t listen, I would have told that young me to tell someone else.  And someone else.  And someone else…until SOMEONE heard what I was saying and got me out of that situation.  Got me out of that horrible toxic environment.  Got me the help I needed.  That would be my advice, my words of wisdom from lessons learned the hard way, to any young person who is living in an abusive home right now.  As with any unhealthy relationship, the only loving thing to do for yourself is to get out.  To take care of and protect yourself.  So, tell.  Tell until someone listens.  Let the authorities get you out of that destructive environment.  So you can start to heal.
 
Which brings me to the second thing I would tell myself, or tell any other teen who is like I was then: Get psychological help.  Counseling.  Right away. 
 
We have a tendency when we are young to think there is a lot of time.  That time itself will heal us.  We have no sense of urgency.  We think we can hang on a little longer until we get to a better time or place.  A place where it’s not as costly, where we’re better equipped, and then we will be better able to afford, both emotionally and financially, the care we desperately need.  We can then process what we need to process.  But this isn’t true. 
 
When we are young, it’s fresh.  It’s right there, easy to access.  We’re more open.  The pain is on the surface and it’s reachable.  As we get older, all the techniques we used to trick our mind into helping us survive another day have become hardened into place.  Disconnecting has become automatic.   The pain goes underground.  We shut down.  We bury feelings, thoughts, emotions, ideas, insights.  We sell ourselves piece by piece as we disassociate and numb out.  And when we finally have the money, resolve, and time to deal with it, we have to find the coffin we hid and buried so long ago, dig it up, then try to understand and feel things that are in that coffin.  But those things have calcified inside of us, becoming rigid.  Difficult to change.  It’s harder to unearth all the intricate, damaging details of long ago abuse.  
 
Don’t wait.  When we are broken, when our soul has been poisoned, we do so many unhealthy things we wouldn’t do otherwise.  Like the many people who don’t value us, we tell ourselves we don’t deserve to be loved, cherished and wanted.  We convince ourselves we don’t deserve good things because we are flawed.  Defective.  We tell ourselves that we, our feelings, our dreams don’t matter.  We destroy what is left of us.  Because we don’t believe we deserve anything positive.  The choices we make are compromised because we can’t see clearly or correctly, nor can we think in healthy ways.  We need to heal so we can have a life worth living.  That’s why my words of wisdom to my younger self, or to others in a similar situation, would be to strongly insist on getting help.  Get it early.  And give it everything you have. 
 
I haven’t learned many lessons in my life.  I’ve struggled to simply see the step in front of me and haven’t been able to contemplate the next step beyond that.  This is what struggling each day simply to survive does to you.  And that’s why I would love the opportunity to tell myself these two important pieces of wisdom.  So much hinges on these two things.  It’s what would cause everything to turn out differently than it did.  Not doing them lays the foundation for the pain, brokenness, heartbreak, numbness, destruction, and disappointment that follows.  All of which lead me to this place of depression and desolation.  If I could go back and tell myself these two things, my entire world would be different now.  Everything would shift.  Because if I got out of those destructive relationship, then built relationships that were healthy, deep, valid and validating, I would not be isolated, broken, and disconnected now.  I would have real friends.  Real connections.  Healthy relationships.  Which would give me purpose and meaning.  A reason to live. 
 
And if I got the help I needed early, I would have been able to love myself.  To hold the people responsible who needed to be held responsible.  To see everything that came next completely differently.  No more surviving…I would have been able to live.  Working through my feelings and healing would put the pieces back together.  So I could take healthy steps.  Dream dreams.  Succeed. Believe.  And hope.
 
Sure, there would be setbacks and times of failure. But the overall course would have taken me where my heart wanted to go instead of leading me into a place of deep darkness and emptiness.  The outcome would have been much more wonderful.  Life might have actually been worth living.
 
I can’t go back.  I can’t tell myself the things that would have changed my world.  But I can tell you.  Hopefully, you will hear me.  In time.  For it to make a difference. 
 
 
 

Where I Belong

I am soon to be back where I belong. Back in my rightful place. My correct slot. My allotted position. Where fate has destined me to be.
 
I managed to fool myself into believing I had escaped. I had good jobs that paid reasonably well for a fake like me. I was recognized and promoted. I handled responsibility well. I worked hard. And when one job ran out for whatever the reason, I found another that even paid a little bit better. I moved up. I bought clothes. I got my hair cut and colored at a fancy salon, attended to by the owner, who was, frankly, amazing. I bought a briefcase. Bought some furniture. Some pretty things to hang on the wall. I bought a car. A new car.  It was a Honda CRX. Then I bought a house. Not a fancy house, but for me…fancy. The first one was 1500 sq. ft. Adequate, livable, but poorly built.  The second house was one I had built. Better quality.  An 1800 sq. ft. 2-story open floor plan in a nice, new neighborhood. Then I bought another new car. This one was a Honda Prelude…with options. Power windows and doors, a moon roof, a spoiler, an alarm. And 200 horsepower. No need to make sacrifices. I could run the AC and accelerate at the same time. Got a few more pretty things to sit around; things that made me feel good when I looked at them. Then I built another house. The third house was a charm…finally got it right. A 2250 sq. ft. dream house. Made it special. Made it pretty. A dream location too.  This was everything I ever wanted. This one. The one I’m leaving behind in a week. Because I have no choice.
 
There was no third car. The Prelude is now 15 years old.
 
Things started falling apart when my marriage ended. Piece by piece.
 
I had nice things, a nice place to live, enough money to pay bills and to deal with emergencies when they came up. I had a partner who didn’t love me, but he offered companionship and that was better than isolation. I had a little status as a professional. Respect. No, I wasn’t rich or amazing or powerful or flashy. But I did okay. I was a reasonable facsimile of a person.
 
When everything started crashing, it just kept crashing. Jobs lost and far too many months between them. Savings gone. Life insurance policy surrendered. 401(k) cashed in. Credit cards used to pay bills. To buy groceries. Then there were the dumb decisions. Out of control behaviors. Eating disorder. Counseling. Fighting it. Fighting the crash. And the next one. And the next one. Until there was no fight left. But the crashes just kept coming.
 
I don’t know what I did to cause it to all come undone, but come undone, it did. I had wrapped myself in a mask, a facade. I looked fairly together from the outside. I appeared to be moderately successful. But the truth wouldn’t stay hidden. It buoyed to the surface in spite of my efforts to keep it hidden. In spite of my attempts to escape exposure.
 
There will be no open, airy rooms, no high ceilings, no abundance of windows, no generous closet space, extra square footage that offers breathing room, no angles and arches, pewter light fixtures, ceiling fans, high grade carpet, energy-efficient furnaces, hand-picked tile, wallpaper, lots on a cul-de-sac with a greenbelt or 3 car garages…not where I’m going.
 
I’m going back to where I belong. I will be a beggar and a borrower, lucky to have a roof of any kind over my head. I will have roughly enough unemployment to buy groceries and pay a little toward my utilities…until that runs out. I have no job and no prospects. For though I have applied to roughly 150 places in 5 different states over the last 6 weeks, I have only gotten 3 phone interviews that didn’t go any further. I see “Wal-Mart greeter” on my resume…if I’m fortunate. I am nothing. I have nothing. I’m back to being worthless and acting the part. Looking the part. Dressing the part. No more facade. I’m dung. And now, everyone clearly can see it.  Even me.
 
A tiny voice tells me there isn’t anything wrong with being a small town girl who has to go back. But my heart is overwhelmed with shame. I didn’t make it. I’m nothing but a small town fiasco. Headed back to where I’m from. Tail tucked. Crawling back. With nothing. Worse than I was when I left, determined to never return. Because now I’m old. And I have utterly failed at everything I have touched.
 
I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to make a difference. To change the world. But in the end, I couldn’t even change my own path. I couldn’t even change myself.
 
So I’m going to the place where I belong. Where there is no job, no money, no respect. No success, no options, no prestige, no escape. There are no interesting angles. The sun doesn’t shine as much and it’s colder. There isn’t as much room. It’s more depressing. There is less hope. Not that there was ever really any hope. That was part of the illusion.
 
I’m trying to remember this, my last few days living in the house my illusion created. What it felt like to believe that I was someone else. Someone who could win. Someone who could be successful. Someone who could be more. Who wasn’t a nobody. So I spent the afternoon taking pictures of this place I have called home for almost 15 years. Taking pictures of the walls and ceilings, light fixtures, faucets and fans. Of the windows and the trees. The shelves and floors. I want to remember what it felt like to have hope that I could be a normal person.
 
It was all a delusion. The belief that I could escape. I have been running from myself. I am the one thing I can never leave behind. But I tried. Tried hard. And lost everything in the process. I started out with nothing but a will and desire to be someone. Poor, but determined. With a belief in myself and tomorrow. I am ending with nothing. Back where I belong. With no hope, no belief and no tomorrow. Empty-handed and ashamed. Exposed for the fool I was all along.
 
The only person I ever truly fooled was myself.
 
 

Ten Years

I clearly recall thinking that I didn’t want to live because my life was never going to improve.  I had this thought 10 years ago, just after my ex left me for another woman.  My life was in shambles.  We had been married for 22 years and they had not been happy years.  I hung in there, knowing he didn’t love me, didn’t want me, didn’t accept me, didn’t approve of me, thought I was defective, was embarrassed by me…you get the picture.  It had been that way since the first year.  Yet I stayed. Because I believed I had to.  It was the “good Christian wife” thing to do. But I also believed God would, at some point, give him a love for me.  And I believed that by the time we reached the late autumn, early winter stage of life, God would surely give us the marriage I had always dreamed of.  Staying in that environment took a huge toll on me.  I died inside until I was so numb, I wasn’t sure I was still alive.  I was desperately unhappy.  I withdrew more and more.  Which, certainly, didn’t help the relationship.  I tried to stop the death of my soul.  I tried to keep going through the motions, believing that in doing so, I would come back to life.  But it wasn’t working. 
 
Still, the divorce, him leaving me for someone else, was a massive and deadly blow.  It hurt so deeply, I found myself in a place where I had no hope.  I could see 10 years down the road.  Clearly.  I KNEW I was doomed.  That it would never get better.  No one would ever love a screwed up, old, not pretty, not fun, nearly dead person like me.  And I didn’t want to be alone.  Not at this stage in life. It wasn’t worth the pain…why keep going when you know you are on a path that is miserable and certain to bring you anguish and unhappiness?
 
Then it got worse. 
 
I lost my job a little over a year after the divorce.  Alone.  No income.  The economy had tanked and it took me almost 2 years to find another position.  I cashed in my retirement fund.  Went through my meager savings.  Started living on credit cards.  Amassed debt at an alarming rate. 
 
Then my dog died.  She had been with me for 10 years of her 12 year life.  She was a rescue and we had a connection that was deep and strong.  She gave me a reason to keep living.  And with that reason gone, with my life decimated, being isolated and unwanted, I attempted suicide.  This was 3 years after my divorce, just before Christmas.  I was angry when my attempt failed.  Very angry. I had even less of a reason to live, but, it seemed, no way out.
 
I had a friend who cared.  She bought me another dog.  In spite of the fact I told her I didn’t want one. She insisted.  When I got her (Zoe), I didn’t want to bond with her, but I did.  So, I reluctantly decided I had to keep getting up every morning.  For her.  And I have.  For almost 7 more years.  Seven more empty years.
 
But my vision 10 years ago, while not perfect, was eerily accurate.  I was under 50 then, and in spite of my feelings of hopelessness, I felt there was a very remote chance that something miraculous could happen and I just might, if the miracle was huge, find myself in a positive relationship.  A partnership…a loving partnership.  It was the desire of my heart (still is).  I hadn’t been in counseling that long at that point, so I believed it could, maybe, possibly help.  If I could heal, maybe I could become a person someone could love.  But in my heart of hearts, I feared it wasn’t true.  Feared I would still be alone 10 years out.  Feared and dreaded it.  And because the odds were so stacked against me, my inclination was to cut my losses and exit. 
 
Unfortunately, exiting proved to not be as easy as it sounds.
 
I didn’t know how bad it could get. Back then, I paid all my bills.  I had a small amount of savings to fall back on, a retirement plan, a little padding in my checkbook.  I didn’t agonize over what I was going to do when I had to replace my 14 year old car because it was only 4 years old then.  I didn’t feel terror over what I would do if anything breaks…air conditioner, alarm system, dishwasher, car, whatever…because I had money to fall back on and these things were pretty new.  Then I lost my job.  Took 2 years to find another. Worked for a 5 year span, then lost my job again.  This time, it took 6 months to get another.  Making a lot less.  I was out of money. Once you’re in credit card debt, it’s nearly impossible to get out because the fees are so huge.  I am $30,000 in the hole.  It happened just trying to make ends meet.  To pay for a few surgeries that couldn’t be put off (emergency hysterectomy, tumor removed from breast – everything precancerous), to get groceries so I could eat, to pay vet bills.  Now, I lay awake in terror of the day I know is coming when I can no longer pay the minimum payment.  When I can’t make house payments.  When I’m out of options.  I’m totally terrified.  The anxiety is crippling.
 
 And who is going to love someone who is depressed, terrified, crippled by anxiety and $30,000 in debt.  Plus I’m borderline old, still no fun, not pretty…and not healed.  I stuck with the counseling for over a decade, but it didn’t bring wholeness.  So I’m a broken mess.  And people don’t love broken messes.  Especially men. They don’t want baggage.  And they want someone way younger than they are.  They want someone who laughs easily and is warm and funny and fun and gorgeous.  In short, not me. 
 
 My chances of remaining alone for the rest of my life are truly astronomical.
 
 I saw it 10 years ago.  I looked into the future and said, “You know what…I don’t want to go there.”  I tried to end it to spare myself the stress and struggle.  That expense went on the old credit card too.
 
It is horrifying to find myself right where I thought I would be on that day so long ago.  Only it’s worse.  I’m still so alone. So isolated.  In debt.  Underemployed.  No meaning in my life beyond my dogs.  No connections / deep friendships.  No meaningful relationships.  Because of my insurance changing at my new job, I no longer have a counselor.    No money.  No life.  No joy.  No excitement.  No wonder.  Completely out of hope.
 
I’m looking ahead at the next 10 years and I’m getting a really bad feeling about where this is going.  It’s not looking good.  Not at all.
 

Wednesday

For 14 years, I was the 4:00 p.m. appointment on Wednesday.  Fourteen.  Years.  With insurance.  Without it.  With a job.  With no job.  Married.  Divorced.  Horrible weather.  Pretty weather. Half sick.  Tired. Depressed.  Hopeless.  Trying to hang on.  I was there almost every single Wednesday of the year for all those many, many, many years.
 
When I finally got a job this January after 6 months of unemployment, it became evident very quickly that keeping this appointment was going to be a problem.  They are attendance Nazis.  I had a couple of doctor’s appointments already set up prior to starting work.  I told them about the appointments before I started and got approval to go.  But when the time came, I felt the cold, the nonacceptance and I realized I was clearly getting a black mark for taking time off work.  When I had to have a follow-up appointment, I was afraid to say anything.  I made it for as late in the day as I could.  I fearfully told my boss.  No response.  Just cold.  So, it didn’t take me long to figure out that leaving work 30 minutes early every Wednesday to see my counselor wasn’t going to be embraced the way it had always been in the past.  I mean, it’s not like I only work 40 hours a week.  I typically work 9-1/2 hours a day.  That’s normal.  So taking off that 1/2 hour weekly was very much a non-issue at any other place I had worked.  Not here.  Not with the attendance Nazis.
 
When you have been pursuing healing for 14 years…not just through weekly counseling, but when that has been an integral component…saying goodbye is emotionally wrenching.  For me, it represented an acknowledgement that I am not going to get any better than this.  No more support.  No more encouragement.  No more help untangling all the massively tangled thoughts.  No more assistance uncovering buried feelings. No more intense work.  It’s done.  It is finished.  And I know in my heart of hearts, it’s not good enough.  I know I am still very broken and needy.
 
I also know I’m out of options.
 
Letting go of my appointment and discontinuing counseling was an admission of defeat.  It was giving up hope.  Giving up on life.  On myself.  I’m alone now; totally and completely.  There is no one to turn to.  No “maybe today will be the day I realize a breakthrough” moments in my future.  Not even a sliver of expectation.  I fought long and hard and I lost.  I am not healed.  Not even close.  I’m unloved and unlovable.    Too much baggage.  Too much damage.  There will be no rebuilding.  No restoration.  No happy ending.  I have to let it go.  I have no choice.
 
I started counseling a few months after my father died.  I finally felt as if I was at a point where I could talk about what happened to me when I was growing up, under his control.  I no longer had to protect him…he was dead.  So I didn’t have to keep silent any more.  I could try to figure out what  was left of me, what the years of abuse had done to me and what needed to be done to put me back together into some semblance of normalcy.    It was hard initially.  I was so closed off.  Took a long time to trust the counselor.  But I finally started talking a little and then a little more.  I had hope.  Not much, but enough to keep going; to keep trying.
 
I kept trying even when my marriage fell apart.  Even when I didn’t see results.  Even when I tried to kill myself.  I knew if I stopped trying, I would be giving up on myself completely.  And I was afraid to do that.  Afraid of what it would mean.  What I would become.  Without hope.
 
Saying goodbye was gut wrenching.  It hurt.  It was so much more than an end to a counseling relationship.  It was utter defeat.  Loss of the last thread of belief that my life could be better…someday…maybe…if I kept trying and working and praying.  I had put a lot of time, effort and money into this endeavor.  And now, it was over.  I didn’t get the return I had hoped for.  I don’t know why healing has eluded me and even my counselor has been perplexed at my lack of progress.  In light of that lack of progress, perhaps I shouldn’t be so devastated to end the process.  But when that’s all you’re hanging on to…letting go means a free fall.  Nothing to stop you.  No parachute.  You’re a gonner.
 
That’s where I am now.  Awaiting the smack of harsh reality when I hit bottom.  Because I am falling.  And there is no safety net or parachute.  At the moment, I’m numb, suspended in this Netherland; a world between.  Without anchor or rudder.  Without direction.  I am being thrashed by the storm, tossed about, slapped senseless, knocked around, beaten.   I am utterly lost.
 
Sadly, it appears doubtful now that I will ever find my way.  The howling wind throws back its head in manic laughter at my plight.  The thunder claps in approval.  My tears are lost in the endless rain.  The darkness wraps me in its cold, unyielding arms.  Alone, I fall.  I reach out tentatively, but grasp only air.  The lightening dances across the sky, rejoicing in my demise.
 
Wednesday provided a miniscule amount of shelter.  And that small place of semi-safety is gone.  That tiny light of hope has been extinguished.
 
My parents should be proud.  I thought I could escape them.  I thought I could overcome the damage of their touch.  I was wrong.  They have defeated me, even from the grave.  What they began is playing out and nothing can stop it or alter the path.  I have lost the battle.  The storm, the darkness, my parents have won. My destruction is now but a matter of time. 
 
 
 

Over It

I don’t talk about what happened to me.  I blog about it, but I don’t talk about it.  To anyone.  And there is a really good reason for that.
 
First of all, it happened a long time ago.  Even I think I should be over it.  I’m ashamed that I’m NOT over it.  I’m ashamed that it continues to have an effect on me to this day in the choices I make and the way I see the world.  I’ve tried hard to recover.  I’ve been in individual counseling for years upon years.  I’ve gone to 12-step Celebrate Recovery groups.  I’ve taken classes.  I’ve read books.  I’ve completed workbooks.  I’ve prayed.  I’ve had others pray for me.  I’ve even gone to a healing prayer center on several occasions.  I’ve journaled and blogged and written poems.  I’ve tried.  And it has cost me a freaking ton of money.  But nothing has had a deep and meaningful impact on me.  There has been some change, but not the significant change I was hoping for…or that I have needed in order to live a healthy, “normal” life.  And I’m ashamed.  Because, really, it must be my fault, right?  I must be doing something wrong or I would have gotten better by now, right?
 
So I don’t talk about it.  I continue to keep the secret.
 
I’ve heard others talk about things that happened to them long ago.  There’s a guy at work who is open about the fact that he was sexually abused.  People shake their heads.  They think he’s crazy for talking about the fact that a cousin abused him.  And don’t you love it when you hear someone respond behind someones back when they disclose something like this, “It happened HOW LONG ago???  My god, they should be over it by now!”
 
So I keep my secret and try to act like I’m a together person.  I hold my cards close.  But I judge myself and find myself wanting.  And I wonder why it’s still an issue.  I wonder why I haven’t been able to recover.  And I totally blame myself.
 
It doesn’t matter that I’ve tried…and have finally basically given up.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve invested time and money and every resource I could come up with to tackle the massive destruction of my soul.  All that matters is that I can hear the judgmental voice of others playing in my head…why is she still talking about that?…what is her problem?…why isn’t she over it; it happened ages ago…she survived, so what’s the big deal?  Their thoughts have become my thoughts.  Their judgments have become my own.  Shame keeps me locked away in the darkness, afraid to venture into the light.  I have a fatal flaw.  I must not let those around me know.
 
I wear a mask and pretend that I’ve overcome.  I wear a mask and act like nothing happened.  Until I’m alone in the dark of the night when the weight of it all comes slamming down on me and I can no longer deny that I’m desperately broken.  And so very alone.  And there is no one to blame but myself.  Because I SHOULD be over it, shouldn’t I?  Surely by now I should have been able to let the past be past.
 
Why can’t I just get over it?

A Chapter Ends

I’ve been in counseling since 1998.  I’m embarrassed by this.  I never dreamed I would still be trying to find a bit of healing for my soul all these years later.  I’ve gone to my sessions faithfully nearly every week during all of this time and while there have been some discoveries and steps forward, deep and sustainable healing has eluded me.  I’m still so broken, it’s frightening.  But how do you stop going?  How do you stop trying?  How do you give up on something like this without giving up on yourself?  Without giving up all hope?  That has been my dilemma.  I’ve always felt, as I did with my marriage, that if I just keep going, doing the right things, trying, working at it, someday it would turn out the way it was supposed to.  Someday, I would be healed.
 
Didn’t work out so well with my marriage…maybe there is a lesson to be learned from that experience.
 
Two and a half weeks ago, I started a new job.  I’m quite thankful to have any job at this point, considering the economy.  But I took a major pay cut, so I’m making significantly less than what I was making before and this company is NOT progressive.  It’s like stepping back 15 years in regard to policies and attitudes.  No best practices, no empowerment, no partnering with employees.  It’s not a good fit for me, but income is income, even if it’s less than what I am accustomed to.  Unemployment was only covering the house payment, which leaves a lot of expenses unpaid.  I was headed toward homelessness.  Now, at least there is a possibility I will be able to survive to some extent financially while I’m looking for a better place to work.  But, because of the outdated attitudes and policies of this new employer, taking off an hour early every Wednesday for counseling is an impossibility.  There is no “making up time” when you are a salaried individual.  They don’t look at it that way.  So even though I’m working between 47 and 50 hours a week, taking off that one hour is a major problem.  A black mark against me.
 
A chapter of my life is ending.  And I’m afraid.
 
Maybe it’s no big deal.  Like I said, continuing to try and hanging in there didn’t make the marriage better.  It didn’t lead me to a happily-ever-after.  So, after all these years of trying to heal through counseling, perhaps it’s time to say “enough is enough.”  Perhaps it is time to pack it in and admit defeat. 
 
But it’s all I have.  It’s my only connection to a different me.  It’s my only hope for the future.  And I have to let it go.  Because I have to work.  I HAVE to have this job right now.  Even if I sacrifice my personal needs.
 
I’ve been feeling for some time that I wasn’t getting anywhere and  I’ve been very discouraged because of this.  Even though he won’t admit it, I have also felt my counselor was at a loss as to what to do with me.  I think he’s been perplexed over my lack of progress.  I’ve almost felt he has given up on me, in a way.  So, considering the fact that I’ve been at a standstill for a long time, that the walls aren’t coming down, the wounds aren’t healing and my soul is still ruptured, it should be obvious what I’m doing isn’t working and letting go of it shouldn’t be that much of a loss.  Except.  Like I said…it’s all I have.  And now, I have nothing.
 
Instead of making progress, I’m becoming more isolated.  Instead of recovering, I’m tumbling back down into the darkness.  A nightmare of hopelessness.  And there will be no hand reaching out to me to help me climb out of my devastating brokenness.  I’m going to have to learn how to live here, the way I am, totally and completely alone.  My only hope at this point is that God will grant me a major miracle.  Not holding my breath.  I’ve gone too long without His intervention to believe God will suddenly reach down and pull me out of this mess…I mean, why would He do that now when He has left me floundering for so many years? 
 
What I’m most afraid of is that this is as good as it gets.  And that’s just not good enough.  Yet somehow, I have to keep going.  I have to make where I am be acceptable.  But it’s not.
 
Truthfully, I think I’ve given up.  And that’s a scary place to be.  There’s simply nowhere to go from here.  I’ve hit an immovable wall.  A dead end.
 
I can’t look forward any longer and tell myself that tomorrow it will be better.  I can no longer put my hope and faith in an improved future.  I am what I am, where I am and the chances of that shifting in a positive way are slight to none.  It would appear the war is over.  I’ve lost.  And I’m terrified.
 
I’m just that much closer to closing this sad and disappointing book of my life.

Looking Forward; Looking Back

When I was 25 and getting married to the man I adored, the man I gave my heart to, who gave me reason to be optimistic, I was so excited about the future.  I was continually looking forward.  To the life we would build.  The places we would go.  Memories we would make.  Adventures we would share.  To becoming closer.  To growing stronger.  I felt sure I could heal from my abusive past and leave it behind me with him by my side.  It would just take a little time.  Time to figure out who I was.  What was damaged.  What was left of me after being nearly destroyed by my parents.  What I needed to fix and what would be required to fix it.  I figured I would probably need some professional counseling…which we couldn’t afford.  But down the road.  There was time.  I was young and I had plenty of life ahead of me.
 
Looking forward was exciting.  Even though there were many obstacles to overcome, there was so much hope.  So much anticipation.  I believed.  I truly believed the future would lead me to the fulfillment of all my dreams.  I believed if I worked hard and did the right things, the right things would happen.  I believed I would be set free.  That I would be loved.  And that love would heal the broken places.
 
I turned around twice and suddenly, time was gone.  I was old.  The marriage lasted 22 years, but only a few months of it were happy.  That first year, he started telling me he didn’t love me.   He didn’t want to know about any of the brokenness.  He didn’t want to hear anything negative.  He didn’t want any confusion or pain or worry.  Nothing that would ripple the serene surface of his existence.  Twenty-two years of believing in miracles.  Believing he would come to love me.  That we would someday have the beautiful marriage I had dreamed about at the beginning. Twenty-two years of holding on and keeping on and surviving day after day of his rejection and disappointment.  Of never being good enough.  Never being enough.  Never being valued.  Having to keep everything buried deep inside of me.  Having to perform to justify my existence.
 
It has been over 9 years now since he left me and I’m still alone.  Life is empty. I have grown old.  Time has run out. 
 
Now, instead of looking forward, I find I am looking back.  Looking back with regret.  And it is intensely painful.  Intensely.  Painful.  I feel as if I am being ripped to shreds.  I feel so stupid.  I feel like such a failure.  A failure with no future.
 
Here I stand, yet again on the cusp of a new year.  I have been at this point so many times now.  I have watched many years come and go.  I used to think to myself, “Maybe this will be the year!”  Year after year.  Until I lost hope.  Until I realized there were no miracles for me.  Until I realized I couldn’t put the pieces back together again, no matter how hard I tried.
 
And I have tried.  I’ve been in counseling for so many years now, I’m ashamed to admit how long it has been.  I’ve written in my journal, prayed, sought God, sought insight, evaluated and re-evaluated.  I’ve gone through 12-step programs and groups and classes.  I’ve read books.  I’ve pondered.  Cogitated.  Tried to change.  Tried to see things differently.  Yet for all of my effort, I’ve made little headway. 
 
I’ve lost so much over the years.
 
So as I stand here, facing another year, getting closer to the end of my days, I am broken.  I am hurting.  Deep pain.  Regret.  Sadness.  Hopelessness.  I have forgotten how to dream.  I haven’t any excitement left.  I am empty.  My world is empty and small.  I am afraid.  Afraid of growing older, older, older alone.  Afraid of losing what little I have.  Afraid of not being able to take care of myself.  Of not being able to go on.  I am crippled by depression and none of the current medication gives me any relief.  No easy or magic cure is available. I don’t have very many friends and the ones I have are not close friends.  I do not see them often.  I am weary.  Except for my dogs, there is no love in my life at all.  No touch.  Only silence and loneliness.  Isolation.  Hurt.  Pain.
 
I want to believe that this year will be different.  That there will be a breakthrough.  That something good will happen.  That I won’t be so alone.
 
But…
 
But behind me are decades filled with experience that tells me I am a fool to believe.
 
Now, as the years slip ever more quickly through my fingers, I want to scream, “Please, wait, slow down!”  I want to cry out in anguish and beg for more time.  For a second chance.  But in life, there are no second chances.  I have spent my minutes foolishly, believing that tomorrow would hold answers and wholeness. Believing I had plenty of them.  That soon, any moment now, I would find solutions and healing and love.  But my minutes are almost gone.  And I am yet broken.  The answers have not come.  I have not found any significant healing.  And love has eluded me completely.
 
Regret weighs me down with chain after chain after chain of despair.  This is how I enter the new year.  And this is probably how I will exit it.  Only I will have even fewer minutes.  And so it will go until my time has totally run out.
 
Terror knocks the air from my lungs.  Time continues it’s relentless march.  Regret leaves my mouth filled with dust.  I cannot change the past.  It is finished.  I cannot affect the future.  I have no power.  And today slips through my grasping fingers even as I try one last time to change my destiny.