I was feeling pretty sad today. I tried to be cheerful, but I failed. Bluey, my new little betta fish, won’t eat her food (I didn’t know that was normal), my electric kettle seems to be broken (it was some little thing with the outlet), and I was running behind schedule even though I woke up on time today (okay, nothing to say about that one).
Additionally, I was put in a very stressful, busy situation at work for most of the day. Maybe because of my thoughts or the stress, but I also kept having triggers; I kept feeling like any minute, someone is going to reach through the window and grope me, even yank me out of my chair to do more than groping. I tried to hide it all, but I saw from my reflection on a car window that I just looked like I was in a lot of pain; what I thought was a smile was actually a grimace.
“Looks like another stormy day,” I thought, disappointed even as the sun was coming in through my window. I said thanks for the things God’s given me upon waking, like this book on mindful contentment said, but I still feel sad.
I’ve been wrestling with some doubts lately. Not so much in respect to my faith, but…while I don’t remember having a bad dream this last night, I had a moment where I was wrestling whether or not my father was a bad man or not. Anyone who’d met him likes him, thinks him a very charming and nice man, handsome and friendly. He feels like a stranger, like the rest of them.
Having spent so much time away from him and my mother, I’d sometimes question myself if what I endured under their roof was really all that bad, or if it was just in my head. I’d think about my little brother…aren’t I just abandoning him in my attempts to stay safe? Like my other brother and sister, my parents were using him to get that “in,” but who’s going to help him realize what’s happening around him is very wrong?
I’d even wonder what if…it’s all not true somehow, or maybe it isn’t as wrong as I thought it was? What if I deserved it? What if I’m being a brat? They send me money, they act so earnestly that they miss me to my other relatives…doesn’t that mean they love me? Aren’t I being bad for not even risking a “thank you”, because that I’m scared it just might give them incentive to keep talking, a crack for them to seep into my life again? What if I’m the bad one? What if my sister was right, that I’m the abuser…?
These are the kinds of doubts I’d have…I’d have them once in a while, so maybe they’re just always there hiding deep down, not gone like I supposed. Writing them out, I can see they don’t make a lot of sense, but I’d still agonize over it from time to time. Most of the times it’s in my dreams, then I’d try to spend the day as normally as possible only to have more, and worse dreams.
So many people around me just want me to move on. They’d never say “get over it,” but I’d feel like that’s what they’re saying. It’d really bother me, even knowing that it’s out of concern for once, said out of this love that doesn’t want to see it drag me down anymore.
Part of me wants to say “Sounds good to me!” and sprint in the opposite direction of all this stuff: the memories, the dreams, the thoughts and feelings. The farther and faster I run, though…the worse it gets. It’s like my shadow, always following me, growing bigger as I run towards the setting sun, bigger still as the sun sets until it’s all I see…
Then the moon rises, and reminds me not to be scared of the dark.
Who is the moon in my life? Who moves me, encourages me, gives me hope, and reflects the sun’s light to gently glow in the dark?
My confessor is the first to come to mind; one time we had to say confession in the dark, and you know what he said as my claustrophobia kicked in? “You’re okay. I’m here. You don’t have to be afraid. Take a deep breath.” He says stuff like this all the time, and I don’t know what to make of it; is he even real? What kind of world is this, where people say such nice things to me when I’m scared, especially knowing so much about me at my worst?
After that recent fright, my other friends made me think the same thing, have doubts of a different kind: if the world is so horrible, where did people like my confessor and my friends come from? My kind coworkers? Others who’ve met me with compassion? I really would just wonder, “What sort of lives did they lead to make them who they are, kind and generous to even me?”
…Maybe that’s mother talking, telling me I’m high-maintenance and unworthy again. Maybe all those doubts from before were just her and the other monsters from the past, still trying to eat me alive. I can’t say, so I’m going to skip it for now.
The moon means different things to different people for just about all of history and even before. I see it as something constant and comforting, maternal. I easily embrace Mary’s being compared to the moon, reflecting the light of God like the moon does the sun. When I’d wander the house at night, or even before then, I’d always stop by a window, and look up at the moon.
Moonlight is a softer light than the sun. It doesn’t burn me, but it also doesn’t have much warmth. I can’t feel it as much. That’s kind of like when I’m depressed or triggered, and my chosen family members reach out to me. Only one or two get right to the heart, but often it’s just a little lift to the heart, a little bit of the ache assuaged (which is nonetheless still appreciated). This week, I’d been getting a lot of reminders that I have friends, a family. It was like seeing the moon peeking out of dark clouds. The dark clouds creep back like they did this morning, but the memory of their presence makes me remember the moon’s just behind those clouds.
But then the moon waxes and wanes, even hides behind the earth’s shadow with the new moon. Hope and happiness is like that with depression, like peace and confidence with PTSD. Worse than the dark clouds, in those moments, next to nothing can reach you in those states. No one likes waiting, and no one likes waiting for the triggers to pass. I feel like a victim again, the princess in the tower instead of the knight I want to be.
My confessor would tell me in those moments, not unlike what the saints called “the dark night of the soul”, I need to let people love me. That’s his most constant advice these 3 years, to not isolate and instead reach out and lean on my friends. “What friends?” I’d ask in those moments. I’d literally forget, and feel all alone. My therapist would insist I’m never alone, that God is all about me, within me even. How can that be, when I feel so alone in the dark here?
I…really do hate this. I’m 28 now. It’s been 23 years when it’s started, and over 10 years when it (to my knowledge) ended, 2 years since I left that house. How long is it going to take for this to be just a distant memory? When will the moon just stay lit, with only the occasional black cloud blocking it from view? When will it be morning?
My confessor would tell me the big things adults my age would think about, vocational stuff, should wait until I’m over this, but when is that going to be? Am I going to be middle-aged if/when I marry? Will I even have the chance to have any (more) children? Will I be a sister? Should I just make the vows as a consecrated single person, and be done with it? Should I just quit my jobs and pursue teaching like everyone and their grandma says I ought to be doing?
Just what’s it going to take? How long will it be?
One of my managers today offered this idea, that there are some things that we never really get over, but instead find something to cope with it. Maybe the dreams won’t stop, the memories, etc…but maybe it won’t bother me nearly as much as it does now. There is a clarity I possess now that I didn’t 6 years ago. I don’t cling as much, and I’m (re)discovering things I like, things I’m good at.
I’ve many lessons to learn, but I’ve learned so many. Those memories are still there, the feelings, but…I guess I did learn to not let it have as much power over me as it did back then. Some of those things hurt less. Thinking about some people aren’t as painful as it used to be, like my first spiritual director. I’m getting more nightmares and stuff, but I’m not as debilitated by my PTSD as I used to be. And in spite of my doubts, I can understand better what happened to me, how it was wrong, and no matter what my family says and does to convince me it’s not true, the lies hold less of a grip.
I’m not sure what phase the moon is at this point of my life, but for some reason, all I can think of is how beautiful it is. I’m alone with my little fish and my paintings, and yet I’m not alone. I can’t see the moon, yet I feel its light in my heart.