I mentioned in my last entry that Dana and I are both very busy this week. We’re getting ready for her parents to arrive on Saturday, and I am transitioning to nights on Sunday at 11:00 PM. In order to get used to it, I’m going with my friend Scott to KPFT, where the radio station is dedicating three hours to the memory of Jimmy Carper, longtime host of After Hours. Then, I’m going to church around 10:00, and afterward, we’re hosting a party for the Superbowl, as well as our sixth anniversary. Somewhere in there, I have to sleep.

I am fairly certain that it’s just going to be a 90-day rotation, but to me, that’s unsettling enough for one year. The last time I thought I was going to nights, I made it three days before I felt like my world was coming apart, starting with every muscle and bone in my body screaming for rest. It’s lucky that I’ve spent most of my life in the dark. I enjoy being a night owl, once I get used to it. But that 5:00-8:00 range is psychotic. That’s when you *really* start trying to keep yourself awake and cursing the people who did this to you. There is only so long that sleep can be replaced by caffeine, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve slept ten hours during the day. It’s not the same. Your circadian rhythm will still kick in. All of my coworkers say that the rotation is just short enough that the day you get used to it is the day you find out it’s over.

Great.

The one thing that staying up all night does for me is keep my depression to a minimum. The chemicals needed to keep yourself awake against your circadian rhythm’s siren call include dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. I will get the same drugs I take in pill form naturally… not enough to stop taking my medication, but enough to help them work more effectively.

Alternatively, when I stay up all night, I am so tired that I cry as easily as a baby. It’s not that anything is especially wrong. It’s just that emotions are running high… and don’t even get me started on long distance commercials. But crying is cathartic, and if that’s what it takes to get used to being upside down from the rest of the world, then so be it. I could probably use a couple of good cries, anyway. I spend a lot of my day trying to be strong and grown up and all that, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not still vulnerable on the inside. Everyone is, I suppose. Some people are better at showing it than others, though.

My vulnerability is that I’ve gotten over missing my abuser, but I haven’t gotten over missing who I used to be, because I haven’t yet figured out who I want to be in the future. I feel trapped, kind of like when I live in Houston, I miss Portland and vice versa. Neither feels like home anymore, but Houston is becoming more so as I get grounded at work. I’ve never had a job like this before, one where I am excited to get out of bed every morning.

But going back to “who I used to be…” I know that I have changed so much, and need to do more work on myself. It’s just that who I used to be is so familiar. That’s the Leslie I know. We’re friends. This new Leslie is so different that I don’t know how to feel about her, yet. It’s like when The Doctor regenerates and he checks out his new body. Same software, different case.

Some days, I can’t wait to see her. How she’s growing, how she’s doing, where we are together. Other days, I want to crawl inside the old me, because the new me has done something that I wouldn’t normally do and I’m frightened that I’m changing so rapidly. For instance, the new me is not afraid of conflict, and uses the tools she’s advised for other people all her life without giving herself the benefit of their use. It’s in those moments that I have these out of body experiences where old me does the running commentary on the new me. My friends who are in AA call it “the committee.”

As a preacher’s kid, I am predisposed to hate committees.

…but at the same time, I am lying to myself when I say that I’ve gotten over missing my abuser. It’s a strange and tangled web we weave, long-term relationships with people who intentionally or not cause us harm. I thought of her incessantly yesterday when I found out that Jimmy was dead, because she was the first one to know that I wasn’t going to be straight when I grew up, and that I was going to need things like After Hours to give me strength. It was a moment in which I remembered her in her green Gap sweater and penny loafers and blue and white striped Oxford shirt and wished I could cry into it.

…and I didn’t even stay up all night.

Showing My Work

I had a meeting this week that I’ll never forget. One of the participants said to me afterward, “I am so proud of you. It’s like you just found your voice.” If there’s anything that I’ve been trying to do over this past year, it’s exactly that. I needed to be my own again, and now I’m starting to reap the benefits of that decision. It isn’t exactly time for an epilogue, but I’ll take what I can get.

I still have days where I scream with rage at the injustice of everything that happened to me… but in the end, because of what happened to her, it gets harder and harder to stay angry. As I get older, I see the bigger picture. I have empathy for the fact that you can’t engineer a child’s reality without having a fractured reality of your own. The part of the equation that is not mine to own is how to fix her reality as well. However, I had to learn that part. It did not come easily. It was the equivalent of trying to help a little old lady across the street who didn’t want to go that way, anyway, and spent our entire walk banging me on the head with her purse.

It is literally amazing to me how many times I got smacked upside the head before I realized I probably needed it to stop. Now that it has, my life feels, well, bigger. Barring any unforeseen obstacles at work, I am on track for a gorgeous future. There’s also opportunity for travel, as my company is opening several overseas locations. I’m at the point where moving doesn’t sound appealing, but if someone needed me to be an expat for a while, I am sure that I would have the ENTIRE Bloomsbury collection on my Kindle and my bags packed before Dana could say, “where are we going, again?”

This is going to be an absolutely crazybusy week for Dana and me, but it feels like the right amount of full as opposed to being overwhelming because I already have too much to think about to enjoy being a part of my own life… if that makes any sense at all. The effect of having my abuser in my life is that I was trapped in the mind worm of how to help her, how to rescue her, while I let everything I loved drown. It started when I was so young that I didn’t know how I was affecting my future. From the moment I started 7th grade, my grades were terrible because I wasn’t doing that kind of homework. I have no doubt that my abuser could never have seen herself as such, because she didn’t really take it into account that things she would talk about with friends her own age would terrify me. Had no concept of the fact that no one in her life had time to love her like a 7th grader. It was just math homework. I could put that off.

And now, almost 25 years later, I’m going back and doing the homework I should have been doing all along. It’s harder- it always is when you know the basics of everything and the intricacies of nothing. In school, as in every part of my life outside of my abuser, I just did enough to pass. I realized that in order to have a life worth living, I needed to “show my work.”

I needed to approach every area of my life with the same love and devotion that I gave to my abuser, because it was misdirected. She couldn’t, wouldn’t love me back, and even if she could, it wasn’t going to be a substitute for being a well-rounded, whole, healthy individual. I also got tired of being so over-focused on her that other people thought I was *in love* with her as opposed to just loving her.

God’s honest truth is that I was in love with her when I was a kid, but as an adult- I’d say from about 19/20 on- it was more a case of “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is grown, he will not part from it.” By the time I was an adult, I’d been caught in her alternate reality for over 7 years. I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t have anyone to show me differently because I wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on with me, anyway.

I am blessed beyond belief that even though few other people in the world get it, Dana does. Dana understands the concept of loving someone completely without being *in love* with them. Moving heaven and earth for the people you love even though there’s no chance of romance, because that’s just not part of the package. Partially, I think that’s because she knew that’s how I loved her at first. I didn’t fall in love with Dana right away, but I loved her like the rest of the world didn’t exist. If Dana needed me, I’d drop everything, but there wasn’t an element of physical attraction until years later.

And in those years, I learned the difference between how it felt to love someone like that who really wanted and needed it… and someone who didn’t. It was the beginning of recognizing that something was wrong, really wrong, and how much I needed to fix it.

Time to get back to my homework.

Worked in

This morning I have to go to the dentist because I broke a tooth all the way to the root. We’re not busy right now, but we’re down some people. My best wish is that the extraction doesn’t take so much out of me that I can’t come back to work. I arrived at the office around 7:30, and I got to speak to the doctor directly because the staff hadn’t arrived. He personally looked at his schedule and said that if I was in pain, he’d try to get me in as soon as possible. I said, “do you recommend narcotics, or will I be okay with ibuprofen?” He said that he’d have to wait until he got down in there to be able to see what was wrong. I don’t want to think about not coming back to work, but at the same time, I’m not going to take calls while I’m a) in pain b) high as a kite. I think that would be, in the vernacular, a “career limiting move.”

It’s about 20 minutes until my appointment, and now I am getting nervous. I haven’t been to the dentist in a long time- partially because I’ve been uninsured for a long time and partially because I am deathly afraid of what it will cost regardless of whether I have insurance or not.

An extraction with insurance shouldn’t be that bad, which is why I decided to go ahead and do it. Well, that and I am in excruciating pain. Yeah, that too.

Psychotherapy from my Subconscious

Things have been going so well that I almost forgot. I spend my days learning so much, so fast, that there really isn’t time to think about the past and what I’ve been through. Keeping busy has been the balm to my grief. I constantly walk away from the thoughts that used to hold me hostage, because dwelling on them keeps me from focusing on what’s really important.

And then I fall asleep.

It’s in dreams that my subconscious tries to work out how I feel. Last night, the vision was of the evening I went to my abuser’s house, and her partner told me that the back story between my abuser and me was “this big bag of shit that I’d been carrying around forever.” Then she coached me on changing my story so that it was unrecognizable from what really happened. I knew it was wrong, but I was too scared to disagree.

Again, I was not dreaming something new. I was reliving a memory that had already happened and analyzing it now that I’d had some distance from it.

Next, I went back a little further, to the first time I’d ever come to visit. She was called away on business (or said she was, anyway) and left me alone with her partner for the night. Her partner became so angry when I washed a dish incorrectly that she stuck my hands under running water so hot that it left burns on my skin. It was the first time I’d ever experienced that kind of anger, and in retrospect, it was the first time I’d ever really experienced physical abuse.

I thought I was doing the right thing by not arguing and just accepting what happened. I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping this information from my abuser, which, at the time, was someone I thought of as a close friend. I thought I was protecting her, and at the same time, I didn’t think she would believe me, anyway.

As time went on, they both became so well-known that breathing anything seemed impossible. I also knew that the moment I said something was the moment it all ended. My parents would get involved, and there would be no more. She would pick up her toys and go home in order to avoid that whole scene.

When I woke up, I realized that even when I was a teenager, I knew that if I spoke about the game out loud, that’s what would happen.

Just because I didn’t have the strength then didn’t mean it was going to be that way forever. However, that’s the part I didn’t know. I kept myself in that place of fear for a very long time, because I didn’t think I had the strength to go through as much pain as I have been through in the last year. What I know for sure is that I’m sort of glad that I waited. If I had tried to go through this while it was still fresh in my mind, I might have died. It would have been a stupid thing to do, to kill myself, but at the time I thought that all her secrets would die with me and I wouldn’t have to carry them anymore. I was too young to see that I never should’ve had to carry them in the first place. I was too young to see that because I wasn’t being raped, I was still being used. I still had my attention yanked away from my life and focused on hers. I still had years and years of people saying that I was so over-focused on her that it was weird, but I didn’t realize how I got to be so emotionally laden in the first place, so I couldn’t fix it. I was too afraid of her leaving and not giving me attention, love, focus anymore that the abuse became second-nature. Of course she could use me. Of course. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Finally, finally, I realized that I could give her all the love in the entire world and it still wouldn’t be enough to get her to see that my needs mattered, too. I needed a friend as good as me, too.

I woke up to the fact that I had plenty of them… just not her. I saw our abusive relationship for what it was, instead of walking on eggshells and hoping not to fall through… not knowing that falling through them was the best thing I could have done.

But I know it now.