Spitting in the Face of Grief

Millet’s “The Gleaners”

The kids are back in school.  I’m quite certain the entire neighborhood heard me singing The Hallelujah Chorus at the top of my lungs, and I don’t feel bad about it.  I think we experienced the longest, dullest, most annoying summer on record in our family.  My autistic daughter found “her voice”.  She is now the family Nag.  My oldest daughter became a gamer, and I don’t know if her backside ever left the couch in spite of my incessant pleading.  Due to my third daughter’s increased levels of obnoxiousness–and, when I say obnoxiousness I mean that she vogued at the dinner table while saying with a mouth full of baked beans, “Do you wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” and the like every. single. day–I finally bit the bullet and took her to the pediatrician to inquire about those ADD medications that I have refused to use for the past 3 years.  Suddenly, I think she might need them.  My second daughter was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder and put on a low-dose antidepressant.  What can I tell you? This summer was to be endured, not enjoyed.  It was akin to being pecked to death by ducks.

I was at my second daughter’s intake session for therapy for her anxiety disorder with her new therapist today.  It’s a good thing.  I do not advocate merely taking an antidepressant while forgoing proper therapeutic interventions.  Admittedly, I loathe the intake session.  Firstly, you have to fill out reams of paperwork.  Why don’t they mail them to you so that you can show up with this veritable thesis already completed? “Show up 15 minutes prior to your appointment please.”  Right.  Fifteen minutes isn’t adequate.  Half an hour isn’t adequate.  They want a copy of my driver’s license.  My insurance card.  The thesis completed in calligraphic, legible penmanship, a blood and urine sample, a retinal scan, and a promise that should I conceive while my child is receiving services at their clinic, they have dibs.

Then, this spritely woman appeared out of nowhere.  Let’s call her Phoebe.  Phoebe will be my daughter’s therapist.  She’s as big as a twig, and she’s about 6 months pregnant.  She was dressed in pale pink and peep toe pumps.  I followed her as she glided to her office and gently suggested that I sit where I like.  She wasn’t warm in her demeanor.  She was aloof but friendly.  She wasn’t welcoming, and she didn’t even seem empathetic.  She smiled, but it didn’t seem authentic to me.  It didn’t seem phony necessarily.  She just seemed utterly pulled into herself.  I was there to give her information.  My daughter was going to be the client.  This is the pitfall of the intake session when you are not the client.  I am the mother.  I am a potential reason that my daughter has anxiety.  I could be an abuser.  Phoebe was sizing me up, making assumptions about me and my character.  Then, the questions came:

Phoebe: Are you familiar with therapy?

Me: Yes.

Phoebe: So, you’ve been in therapy before?

Me: Yes.

Phoebe: Oh.  Okay.  What mental health issues have you had?

Me: (sigh) I have PTSD.

Phoebe: (looking concerned) You have PTSD now?

Me: Let me rephrase.  I have C+PTSD which is not in the DSM, but, I believe, that it will be in the future.  Dr. Judith Herman is working to get it there.  I am doing well.  I have spent years in therapy, but my brain’s neural networks will be forever changed due to past trauma.  I will always startle, for example.  I may always need medication to keep my brain from being irritated.  It’s reality.

Phoebe: I see.  So, you’re okay, then?

Me: (staring at her wide-eyed) I am well.  Can I guarantee that I won’t have a bad day? No.

Phoebe: Fine.

It wasn’t adversarial, but it could have been.  She wanted to know about my mother and my father.  It was territory infested with landmines, and I didn’t trust this woman.  Why should I? “My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, and my father is a sociopath–Antisocial Personality Disorder.”  She looked up, took a quick breath, and continued taking notes.  It is what it is.  I can’t sugarcoat it.

And, here I am now, sitting in a café, pondering the experience.  It’s September now, another reason to rejoice.  I’ve posted here before that I don’t like August.  This past August marked the 20th “anniversary” of my kidnapping.  It’s been 20 years! I can’t fathom it.  Sometimes, it feels like I escaped captivity only last week.  The struggles to rebuild parts of my life that were obliterated and left shattered from that experience are still so real.  I am still living with the consequences of that man’s decision to abduct me, torture me, and attempt to auction me off into the sex trade.  How long does it take to leave a young life in ruins? Seven days.  How long does it take to restore it? I don’t know.  I’m still working on that.

My husband tells me that August is a good month in our life.  His birthday is in August.  Our fourth and youngest daughter’s birthday is in August as well.  The word “august” actually means “sacred or grand”.  He is quick to remind me that while I was indeed abducted and terribly hurt in the month of August, I was also very brave in the month of August, too.  I outsmarted my captor.  I escaped, called the police, and went on to fight to rebuild a life even though the journey has been extremely difficult.  I escaped human trafficking.  Not many people do.  August is a good month, too.

It’s bittersweet, isn’t it? A certain kind of weariness has settled into me, and I’ve let it.  I’ll just say it.  I am fucking tired of reaping what other people have sown into my life.  This is self-pity talking.   I had more migraines this summer than I had last year combined.  That would be due to my mother’s reappearance.  My PTSD was triggered, and it manifested in the form of these horribly painful headaches, if you could label them as “headaches”.  Clearly, there are unresolved issues.  Damn.  I thought I was fixed.  On the plus side, I made it through August without a panic attack which is fantastic because last year I was a bloody mess.  Go me! But, in my weaker moments, I feel terrible grief because I know that I wouldn’t have PTSD or C+PTSD or unrelenting migraines if my mother would have gotten help, if that bastard would have kidnapped someone else (I am sorry for that statement.  No one deserves to be kidnapped.  I just really wish that experience would have passed me by), or if my father would have, at the very least, found a therapist when he was, oh, an embryo.

In my rational, stronger moments, I realize that reaping what other people sow into our lives is the nature of human experience.  Not to throw a Bible verse at you, but it speaks to me.  Matthew 5: 45 says that it rains on the just and the unjust.  Basically, shit happens…to everyone.  And, wonderful stuff happens…to everyone.  Does it matter where the shit comes from? Statistically speaking, it’s going to come from those you spend most of your time with–family members and friends.  Since I haven’t met another abduction victim–they likely don’t survive that long–I’ll assume there aren’t that many, statistically speaking, in comparison to victims of abuse from family members.  Everyone on the planet is reaping something awful and painful in their lives that they had nothing to do with sowing.  I’m not alone in this.

What I have discovered is that when I focus too long on reaping the pain and grief, I am blind to reaping the joy and happiness.  I am coming to believe that reaping joy and happiness is almost a spiritual discipline because it is a choice.  Psalm 126:5-6 says: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”  I’m certain a theologian would provide us with an interesting exegesis based in the historical context of Israel’s political situation related to King David not excluding the structure of the psalm in relation to the wisdom literature of this time period.  I won’t give you that.  Frankly, I don’t care.  When a farmer goes out to sow his seeds, it is an act of hope that those seeds will grow.  Seeds need nourishment to grow in the form of water, fertile soil, and light.  When I read this psalm it reminds me of the good work that I’ve done and lifts me up out of my own miry muck.  There is still hope.  I can still sow seeds even though I am weeping and grieving.  Just as I’ve said, the grief says that what I’ve lost held value.  It should be grieved.  The seeds that I’m sowing as I grieve represent a restoration of what was lost–renewed innocence, restored sexuality, a whole sense of self, a joyous sense of adventure, the ability to plan for my own future, vision for life, a sense of happy fulfillment, and peace.  I can plant those seeds with a sense that those seeds will get what they need to grow so that they will be ready for the harvest season.  That’s the promise in that psalm.  There’s grief and pain now, but there won’t always be.  I may be reaping pain now, but I will be reaping joy someday.

Hey, there’s some joy to be harvested today.  So what if I’ve got to pull it up with some grief? That’s the nature of life.  With pain there is joy.  This is why self-medication is so dangerous.  You learn to numb yourself to your profound psychic pain, but, in so doing, you have numbed yourself to life’s deeper pleasures and joys, too.

Bringing it back around to Phoebe, the Twiggy Therapist.  I didn’t like being on her couch.  I do think, however, that my daughter just might.  I also think that I need to call my therapist.  I haven’t seen her for quite a while, and I absolutely loved her.  She was one of the loveliest women I have ever met.  See? The bitter and the sweet.  I will enjoy being in the presence of my therapist all the more for having spent 50 minutes with Phoebe.

And…I’ve just gotta get this out there.  There is a dude that comes into this café 4 times a week, and he spits sunflower seeds on the floor in front of the counter.  The barista hands him a cup for his seeds, but he still spits them on the floor.  Then, he leaves a penny for a tip knowing that she has to clean up his nasty, chewed-up sunflower seeds.  How disgusting, rude, and ill-mannered is that?!

So, that’s the seed I’m sowing today–gratitude.  And, if I ever feel like I have nothing for which to be grateful, I could be married to the Sunflower Seed Spitter.  Yeah…it could be worse.  So much worse.  ::smiling::

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2 thoughts on “Spitting in the Face of Grief

  1. Hi. I got here by searching “Why am I reaping pain?” I am so grateful to not be as alone as I felt a few moments ago. I am reaping intense pain for things which I other people chose to do. This is a terrible time in my life, a life which I cannot find one single point I would ever want to return to. I am losing hope, I cannot trust, I have no one I can even get a hug from. I keep asking God for mercy and a way out, time will tell if He is going to deliver me.

    Thank you again.

    • Dear Struggling,
      I am so sorry that you are in pain, and I extend my empathy and understanding. I know what it is to be in that spot–reaping the pain and suffering that others have sown. It’s not a pithy response for me to say to you: don’t give up. Really. I do know what it is to be at the bottom of the darkest of holes. I was there when I was in captivity, fearing for my life. In a way, I’m there today, in small ways, I guess. Having to face off with my mentally ill mother…yet again. I hear you when you say that you cannot trust. Dear struggling soul, there is a way out. If you don’t know which way to go, just hunker down, and begin with this, “Thank You Father for never leaving me nor forsaking me. You said you would not. So, then you have not. Now, show me my next step.” This prayer has never failed me. It’s the only prayer I can offer up when I’m in the midst of deep psychic pain. And, I am there often. Not as often as I used to be, but still…I’m often there.

      I pray that you would experience the love of God our Father in a new way this year, that it would seep into the marrow of your bones, transform the way you experience yourself, your world, and your view of God. I pray that your struggle would begin to take on meaning so that your suffering would begin to mean something more, giving you traction in your life to move forward, and I also pray that good, trustworthy people would begin to enter your life…people that would be present to give you a huge bear-hug whenever you need one. That you would have no need to ever look back but would find that you indeed have a future and a present worth flourishing for. And, I don’t say any of this with a pedantic tone. I say this with great compassion because I, too, need the very same thing. You, my friend, are not alone. You are NEVER alone. xoxo

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