Sideways Regression

Mitchell is going to Phoenix today to visit his sister and her husband. He wasn’t going to (because he finally started working on the waist-high weeds in the yard, and was planning to finish it); but, I encouraged him to do so. I reiterated the importance of making family a priority, and pointed out that it would mean a lot to his mom. And after fighting about it for half an hour, he finally agreed to go.

Had he and my mother-in-law invited me to go with them, I would have gladly done so (and was secretly hoping that the invitation would come)… but they didn’t. And while I know this doesn’t mean that they don’t think of me as family, it certainly feels that way. (There’s that goddam disconnect — between knowing and feeling — again. 🤦🏻‍♀️)

When things like this happen, it’s hard not to perceive the distance between my husband and I as growing ever wider. I think, “Why doesn’t he understand that I would like to go too?” And at the same time, I don’t tell him that I’d like to go. Partly, because I want him to ask me on his own; and partly, because I live with the constant fear of being rejected. (i.e. I’d rather not express that I’d like to go and be left behind than to ask to go and be told no.)

He Loves Me in His Own Way

These things don’t happen because Mitch doesn’t love me. He just loves me in his own way, and often makes false assumptions about my needs and desires. I’m almost certain that he thought I’d prefer to have a day to myself, rather than travel to Phoenix in my mother-in-law’s vehicle. (I have a weird thing about riding with other people. I like knowing that I have my own get-away car, should I need it.)

He expresses love in many other ways (versus anticipating what I want)… but most of the time, these expressions come as a direct result of me asking him to fulfill a need and/or desire.

For example, this past week I returned to in-person courses at the university. This meant that I was returning to the scene of a sexual assault that occurred in 1996. The thought of doing so elicited crippling anxiety that almost caused me to drop out of school this semester; but instead of allowing that anxiety to put an end to my career as a student, I asked Mitch if he would take a few days off from work in order to walk me to my classes.

To my surprise, my sometimes-awesome husband didn’t see this as a ridiculous request. He told me that he understood my fear and trepidation, and was more than happy to walk me to class… and he did. He walked me to my classrooms, waited outside while I was in class, and walked me back to the parking garage after.

On the second day, we inadvertently walked right past the spot where I was date raped nearly twenty years ago. My heart did a flip-flop in my chest, and I felt dizzy and weak. When I expressed this to my husband, he immediately apologized and promised that we’d find an alternate route to the building after class… and we did. (And in all honesty, if my brave and caring Mitchell hadn’t been there, I would have either collapsed in the midst of a panic attack, or bolted without going to class.)

All of this was most definitely an expression of love and acceptance on his part; and it’s important for me to hold on to that when days like today occur.

PTSD-Induced Regression

As a result of that second day’s event, however, I started to withdraw into myself. I asked to eat out almost every day over the past week, and requested junk food from the market. I also stopped going to the gym.

Why? Because if I’m fat and undesirable, maybe no one will find me attractive enough to assault. (This is twisted logic. It’s true that I was young with a terrific figure when I was assaulted… but that didn’t warrant or justify the assault. In all actuality, it probably didn’t factor in to my assailant’s train of thought, either. Still… we cope with all kinds of sideways thinking in the ever-lasting aftermath of sexual assault.)

Thus, my weight has probably increased a bit, my acne has flared up, and I’m disgusted with the woman that I see in the mirror.

I’m regressing into the person I used to be, instead of taking further steps towards the person I was becoming… and it’s breaking my heart, rattling my tenuous hold on my sanity, wreaking havoc on my marriage, and causing a free-fall into the rabbit’s hole of a looming depression.

It’s also made me over-sensitive to Mitch’s words and actions. I got angry and yelled at him about the yardwork on Friday night. I’m hurt that he didn’t ask me to go with him to Phoenix today. I’ve been short with my own words, and distant in my communication with my spouse… all because I’m haunted by the past.

I want Mitchell to see how lost and frail I am (without having to point it out) — to understand that I need to be with him right now; and I don’t want to have to say it.

Saying it feels like weakness. Having to say that I need someone feels like being revictimized. Not being asked if I wanted to go today feels like being abandoned (something Borderlines do not deal with well); and it makes me angry and sad.

These emotions are a reaction to my past; but my husband — in the present — is the one paying for the sins of others; and I hate it when that happens. (Which is why I sit here quietly writing about my feelings, responding to my husband in tight-lipped one-word responses, instead of screaming and hollering at Mitch about my hurt.)

Unfortunately, that means that all Mitch perceives is anger. He knows it’s there; and it feels as if I’m angry at him, I’m sure. But I’m not. Anger is just easier than fear. Rage is my armor; but the war I’m fighting is already over… it just feels as if it never ended, and I’m on the battlefield alone — looking to vanquish a foe that is no longer there.

So Can I Win? And How?

The only way to deal with PTSD is to trudge though it. You can mitigate the effects through therapy and self-propelled (positive) action; but it’s always there. Lurking in the background, waiting to pounce on the present.

Getting fat (and yelling at your husband about the weeds) is one way to cope; but it isn’t a healthy way to cope. Instead of empowering myself through action (i.e. going to the gym), it simply fuels the internal fires of self-hatred. This hatred was not inherent at birth; it is a lasting side-effect of sexual assault. An ill-fated response to having pieces of yourself violently stolen, never to return.

After all, isn’t that where rapists truly draw their energy from? Clearly, they must pillage their power from others, because they have none of their own. Realizing that is the first step towards healing — to understand that the brawn those bastards wield is only borrowed. Borrowed from the strength they took from you. And if you’re still standing, they didn’t win… because you had enough left in the reserve of self to survive and carry on.

For me, the how of winning can be found in my pen. For whatever reason, I cannot sort the mess of these emotions through speaking about them… but I can come to terms with the disordered feelings by trying to form them into sentences, paragraphs, posts. (But unfortunately, most of the time I don’t sit down to write about them until my formidable ire has become all-consuming.)

Before writing this, I truly felt anger towards Mitch. It was the yard, and the lack of an invitation that were causing my fury and pain. After writing this, I know that it is the past I am raging against; not my poor, procrastinating, sometimes-oblivious husband.

In the wise words of Randy Atkins:

“If you’re goin’ through hell, keep on going
Don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there”

And if I get off my duff, and return to the gym, I’ll be able to outrun that horned, hoof-footed bastard should he come to sense my presence. 😏 And then, I need to offer my sincerest apologies to Mitch. I may not have exploded at him like I normally do; but I certainly haven’t been pleasant to deal with.

Soundtrack: “Going Through Hell” by Randy Atkins

A PTSD Induced Change

Weight Loss Endeavors No. 1

I have been desperately trying to lose weight for months now. To facilitate this change, I was hiking on some of my favorite local trails on a fairly regular basis… but all of that changed one fateful, disturbing morning at the end of May.

At Sweetwater Wetlands Preserve (the most cherished trail in my collection), maintenance crews regularly work in the park — burning marsh grass, clearing wastewater pipe access, mitigating dangers to the wildlife, etc. Due to the fact that I live in the Sonoran Desert, these crews work early in the morning; and smart hikers, who don’t wish to fall face-first in the dirt due to heat stroke, hike at the same time. (Therefore, schedule predictability is a necessity that cannot be avoided in the summer and fall here.)

On the morning referenced above, I happened to run into a member of the maintenance crew that had said hello to me on more than one occasion (sometimes with an additional wink). I always politely responded in kind, and didn’t think much of it… until this man stepped out in front of me on the trail, and said with a smirk on his face, “You always hike alone, Gorgeous? That doesn’t seem wise.”

Those of who you suffer from PTSD know that your warning bells are always on hyper-alert… sometimes unnecessarily to our detriment (like when my poor husband accidentally “sneaks” up on me, and gets a terrified scream and punch to the gut); but in this particular case, my internal security system told me to run and never look back.

Feeling quite stupid for being so frightened by this encounter (because I never truly know if I’ve read too much into a situation), I hesitated to tell my husband about it; and just stopped hiking. But eventually, I worked up the courage to speak to him about it… mostly because my inability to do anything about my weight was slowly drawing me into a deep depression I knew I couldn’t fall any further into without dire consequences.

To his credit, Mitch did not pass judgement on the situation, and told me that he understood my fear and anxiety; and then asked, “What can I do to help, Cass?”

“I need a safe place to workout — somewhere where there a lot of people, and preferably several escape routes.” So my sweet husband gave me permission to join a local gym — one that is literally less than a block away from our home.

I joined on June 8th, and went everyday for seventeen days (feeling better than ever about my chubby lil’ self)… and then tested positive for COVID. I was sicker than hell, transferred the virus to my husband, and eventually had to be put on Paxlovid (an anti-viral) to beat the infection. So, I was unable to go the gym between June 25th and July 10th.

Weight Gain and Yet Another Change in My Routine

I returned to the gym two days ago; and weighed in. Over the course of my battle with COVID, I somehow managed to gain two pounds (going from 262-pounds on June 17th to 264-pounds on July 11th). I’m now the heaviest I’ve ever been.

Mitch, on the other hand — who has been joining me quite often at the gym, and serves as my weight-lifting coach — managed to lose five pounds; and though I understand that men and women have very different metabolisms, and that Mitch has more weight to lose than I do, I still felt slightly discouraged by his success when compared to my failure.

Instead of letting it deter me though, I decided to do something about it. I re-installed the “Lose It” app (designed to implement a calorie-intake regime based on your weight-loss goals), and stuck to it yesterday. I’m hoping to lose one pound per week, at the very least; and intend to keep going to the gym on a daily basis, whenever possible (because bad days, or illness, are bound to happen from time-to-time).

Numbers are Just Numbers

What I have learned from this experience is that regardless of the numbers on the damn scale, I feel better when I work out. Instead of feeling melancholy about my marshmallow figure, I feel accomplished and strong.

The weight loss will happen if I just keep moving my feet (and stop shoving too many snacks in my gob); but until then, I’m going to have as much fun as possible trying to win the battle of the bulge.