Pushing Through 

Violent. Sexual. Predators. 
The interview offer came yesterday and the interview was today. I reluctantly accepted after misinterpreting my own boundaries. I was nervous all day yesterday, had nightmares last night, and was terrified today.

I went anyway.

The interview was out on McNeil Island where there used to be a prison. Technically, the prison is still there but it isn’t being used but if you go on the north side of the island you’ll find their compound that houses violent and non violent sexual offenders that have completed their prison time and are being further screened to be sure they are ready to return to civilized society.

Having been a sexual assault victim, I believe I had every right to feel terror about going. Nobody knows what I live with on a day to day basis and I sure as hell wouldn’t want them to. So why go? Trust me, the idea rolled around in the pit of my stomach since the original interview offer came through. Some said I should strongly consider not going, some couldn’t understand why I was scared to go. And then there was my opinion. The only opinion that mattered.

I went because if I let myself cower down then the men that did (or tried) to take advantage of my body still win. I went because I have a degree in Criminal Justice with a specialized focus in Violent Offenders that I spent years of late nights busting my ass to graduate with honors from. I went because it was my way of winning; my way of saying, “Fuck you for the anguish you have brought upon my body, mind, and spirit.” I went because it was my chance to have a say in things. I went because I owed myself the privilege of getting to tour an intriguing and secluded location that many wonder about but few understand.

I was a bit of a mess as I got to the dock to ride the boat. I fumbled through getting my visitors pass. My mouth was dry and my eyes bulged. I smoothed my hair about 10 trillion times. Finally, we set sail and it was a beautiful ride across the Puget Sound. I think it calmed me as I have always been drawn to the water. The more time I spent on the island, the more at ease I was. I needed to see what it was like in order to make an educated decision as to whether or not this was somewhere I would want to work every day. I needed to go for me.

xo,

a

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Messy

I’m feeling exceptionally emotional about the girls today. I think this is probably because we got some information yesterday that leads us to believe they will be gone very soon. In fact, the wording was specifically “very soon.” I don’t have to tell you how extremely sad this is. I’m selfishly thinking of how this makes me feel right now instead of how exciting this must feel for their mom. Just let me get this out. I promise not to stay here but if I don’t say this here then it’ll stay inside, and I can’t let this fester.

I guess I’m worrying and it’s highly likely that it’s unnecessary. One of the hardest parts about being a foster parent for me has been the emotional triggers it brings from my childhood and young adulthood. These triggers are the reasons I have chronic PTSD in the first place. When I think of them going home, I’m scared for them to wonder why they don’t see us anymore. I’m afraid and physically cannot bear the idea of them wondering where we went and I couldn’t possibly pray any harder that they won’t wonder if they did something wrong and that’s why they don’t see us anymore. That very idea feels like it’s literally slowly killing me.

And why would such a thought be so triggering? Well, maybe it’s because I know what it feels like to be left behind by a parent. I know how it feels for a parent to be there one day and gone the next. I have felt the ache of wondering what I did wrong, why I wasn’t good enough to stick around for, and what I could have done differently to make them stay. These are all feelings I cannot even begin to imagine my girls knowing because I know that if they stayed here they’d never know what that is like, and now I worry if I will make them feel that way when they don’t live here anymore. I don’t want to be the person that fades in and out of their life, like my dad has done to me. It’s far too much of an emotional mountain to climb.

I thought, “Maybe if I show him I love him enough he will change and things will be okay.” No matter how much we love these girls, the fact is that they are not ours, they do not belong to us, they are not staying here. So the correlation between trying to love my dad enough to get him to stay and trying to love the girls enough to get them to stay is the same stabbing feeling of getting nowhere and treacherous sadness, and I have to constantly remind myself that neither of those situations were ones I had control of. Maybe that’s the hard part, knowing that I have no control, but only that I can control how to respond rather than how I react.

Watching a parent be an addict is hard, to say the least. Playing second fiddle to an addiction is not a feeling I would want anyone to know, but sadly, many can identify with. I am the first person to acknowledge that addiction is an illness. What may seem like a choice is actually a cry for help, a way to escape, a way to stay alive for people who have been through trauma but have no resources to properly heal. I get so outraged by the stigma of mental health in our world today. If we addressed it and made it accessible then maybe there would be less addiction, less loss, less trauma, and the cycle could break. We are not there yet, and frankly, we are so so late.

Even though it might not be true, I feel like my dad chose his addictions over me. It can sometimes feel like it’s easier to love the high than it is to love me. When you’re made to feel that way for so long it’s easy to start believing it and when you believe something so tragic, you start to push anyone away that loves you, compliments you, celebrates you. It feels like people are just saying nice things to be nice, not because they truly feel that way. Surely they can’t possibly love me, especially if they knew that I’m really not the person they think I am. Then one day someone asks you why you think so poorly of yourself and you can’t even figure out why because this is all you’ve known, because the way you were treated made you feel as if you weren’t good enough or important enough to love. It’s because the actions of one of the most influential people in your life that are supposed to love, support, care for, celebrate, and protect you is prioritizing their addiction or has disappeared without a trace instead of choosing you.

All of this all leads to not feeling like enough. Had I been a good enough daughter, maybe my dad would have stuck around. Had I been worth loving, maybe my 13 – 19 year old self wouldn’t have had to fight tooth and nail scouring the internet for 7 years to find him. Maybe if I love the girls enough they can stay. Maybe if I fight tooth and nail to advocate for their best interest they’ll get to stay. These two subjects are very closely connected and painfully triggering.

As hard as this all is, it’s good for me. I knew I needed to start going to counseling and I aligned it with the same timing as becoming a foster mom. I knew both would be hard, I knew both would be a lot of work, I knew that through these experiences I would be able to heal. I wanted to be able to love others in the ways I wished to be loved. I wanted to love myself the way some people in my life love me. I knew I couldn’t do that if I didn’t do both of these things. While some may see this as me breaking, this is me healing. I am erupting from a pile of disappointment, shame, uselessness, heartbreak, and trauma. Everything is flying around in the air but it is no longer holding me underneath its heavy pile. It’s progress, not perfection, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

xo,

a

The Crisis Line

Some of you know that I work on as an on-call Crime Victim’s Advocate. I have about 8 shifts a month with half of them being a 16 hour weeknight shift from 5:00 pm – 9:00 am and the other half of them being 24 hour shifts (typically on weekends) from Saturday at 9:00 am – Sunday morning at 9:00 am. Last January I went through a 30 hour training course in order to be qualified to take the calls, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being on the crisis line for nearly a year now is that sometimes you can never be qualified enough for what you’re about to hear.

I took a call a few nights ago that I’m still thinking about. I made a vague post on Facebook about being sad that I wasn’t able to help her. Many of you wrote very kind and sincere responses. Thank you! Without going into too much detail, it became clear to me that this person was suffering from mental illness. Yes, I specifically used the word suffering. She kept repeating the same three sentences over and over again during the hour we were on the call. I’m not going to reveal here what she was saying because it doesn’t necessarily matter what she was saying, but that she believed what she was saying. It made me really sad because, in her mind, that’s who she is now. This caller has had some sort of trauma in her life that made her cling to the last time she felt normal, loved, appreciated, and made her feel like she had purpose and she couldn’t understand why the world around her didn’t see her that way.

Imagine that for just a few minutes. You feel a certain way, you know yourself a certain way, but the world doesn’t understand you. You’re trapped inside of the words and pictures in your mind. Regardless of whether someone else is seeing it, understanding it, or feeling it, you are experiencing all of these in real-time, all of the time, on repeat. And it’s frazzling.

This is part of what having PTSD can feel like. It’s like a hamster wheel of turmoil that you can’t get off of. All of those words, pictures, flashbacks, and the multiple emotions are washing over you like a weighted blanket. Your brain is in overdrive while it’s trying to dissect every single thought, emotion, and flashback at the same rate they’re crashing into your mind. Suddenly, there’s a multi-level back up and everything is tangled up and there’s a mess everywhere. Everything has to be pulled apart, sorted, cleaned up, and eventually the road will reopen. It’s not like this all of the time – thankfully, but there are certain things that trigger that type of response, and it’s important to know that it’s not just an emotional response but a full body response. Adrenaline pumps through your veins like white-hot electricity, your bones crack as they try to break free from underneath the skin that covers them because the skin you’re in is uncomfortable and raw and can feel like razor blades on fire tearing away every shred of who you are until you’re screaming in agonizing pain for it all to just stop.

And as my counselor has told me time and time again, all of those things might be happening to me on the inside but on the outside I look calm. Even my voice and movements are steady and precise. I think this must come from how our brains work (without us knowing) to protect ourselves. Instead of your brain “allowing” something so volatile to happen to you it replaces those thoughts with happier moments, days where you felt carefree, a time when things weren’t so complicated. I think this is where that lady’s brain was at the other night. Instead of being the emotional basket case that I have been in the past, her brain allowed her to remember a pleasant time, except now that’s all she can see. Some might think this isn’t so bad, and maybe it isn’t, but the gap between that time in her life, her trauma, and where she’s at now is significant.

The reason it struck me is because I am afraid of that mindset leading her to what mindset I’ve had before. Will it eventually drive her crazy that nobody in the world can see her for who she believes she is? I’m worried that it might. And there’s nothing I can do about that. There was no way for me to help her and when I couldn’t help her, that translated to me that I had failed her. “I’ve been there before, I see all the signs, I can fix this!” But I couldn’t and it was an awful call to hang up from. And I’ll never know what will come of it…

xo,

a