“We Did The Thing!” – Self Doubt and Self Care

I wrote the title for this blog enthusiastically and with happy tears in my eyes because I have recently experienced something I want to share with the world. Then, I stared at the screen, started typing, hit the backspace key, typed something else, and stared some more. The truth is that I don’t know how to talk about this in an articulate way. I have expressed parts of the feeling to individuals as I have deemed it necessary, but, ultimately, the emotion is too huge to pin down in a few words.

I am, however, going to try. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a human. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a woman. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with autism. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with chronic pain. I will do my best, and I will ramble, but I will be as sincere as I damned well can be.

I don’t trust easily. I’ve never had close humans whom I’ve felt I could tell anything to or whom I felt I could call if I needed support. I’ve never felt comfortable asking for help. I have always stringently avoided inconveniencing people. I have kept up appearances as much as I possibly can. I have forever tried my best to deal with me… myself.

Over the past few years, I have learned the importance of self care, the benefits of therapy, and how to speak to myself more positively. I had not learned, though, how to rely on others for support (or trust others to support) until two weeks ago.

I like to consider myself a fully-formed emotional being who is self-aware and capable of doing grown-up things. Unfortunately, life, which is complicated and often ugly, can sometimes smack a person around and you don’t always behave as gracefully as you should. Sometimes you break the fuck down. Sometimes the world ends. Sometimes things are just bad. Sometimes you end up in a parking lot somewhere and you don’t want to exist. Sometimes you are in such personal crisis that everything seems dark and dreary and hopeless.

It was in such a moment that I learned that other people are more than just social outlets. Apparently, and this is still new so bear with me, other people who are not family or in romantic relationships with me are capable of caring about me enough to want to help me. Other people do things like show up in parking lots with water and chocolate and hugs. Other people offer to meet for ice cream just to talk without wanting anything in return. Other people check in to see how things are. Other people offer beds and coffee and make dinner and out-of-season Christmas happen. Other people share their ups and downs and feel happy when they hear about ups and sad when they hear about downs in return.

These other people are called “friends.”

It isn’t as if I haven’t had friends all my life, but I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to have this level of friendship with other people before. I had to reach one of the lowest points in my life to finally be able to look up and see all of the hands being reached down to lift me up. And there were so many hands, and they all glowed with unconditional love and compassion.

This is where typing becomes tricky, for the tears, they are a’flowing. It has been a long thirty-five years of striving to feel accepted and loved for who I am by ME, let alone other people. I am trying very hard to let the love that I feel for humanity extend to myself. I know that I am a lovable, likable person. What I have never really believed or understood was that other people see me this way, and I am overwhelmed by how truly cared for and supported an uplifted I feel. I genuinely hope that other human beings have felt this feeling at some point in their lives. I want this feeling for everyone.

I am spending this week engaging in radical self care to eliminate some of the disquiet of self doubt that eats away at me moment by moment. I know that to move forward in a positive way with my life, my relationship with my self, and my relationship with others… I have to regain some of the self esteem that has been lost to years of pain.

I will leave you with this. One of my lovely friends, with whom I discuss aforementioned ups and downs and with whom I celebrate and commiserate, and I have a saying. It is silly and motivational and it puts our intention into the world:

“We did the thing!”

It means that what ever it is that we want or need to do is already done and we were successful. We aren’t going to do it. It is done. We aren’t doing it presently. It is done. We did the thing. The thing is accomplished. Wipe of the hands. Be it difficult and stressful or fun, we did it.

Whatever you have to do, it is already done. You did the thing. But you aren’t alone…

We did the thing.

My Perfectly Okay Codependent Relationship… with My Dog

Meet Oliver:

Terrible doggie

Oliver Wilkes Dogg (Puggle extraordinaire) is my non-human life partner and we have a codependent relationship. We are not ashamed. Oliver is the literal reason that I get out of bed in the morning (around 9 when he wants to go out after his post-breakfast nap.) Oliver is the reason I get exercise (because I have to race through the house telling him not to pee on something before I can get him outside.) Oliver is my napping buddy. Oliver is a source of joy and laughter and unconditional affection. Oliver is terrible in the best way.

Oliver eats our underwear. Oliver unabashedly goes to the bathroom as a means of punishing us for wrongs we don’t know we’ve committed. Oliver carries the skins of his stuffed animal victims around with him. Except Burnie, Oliver loves his dragon, Burnie, and has left him mainly intact.

Oliver eats like a goat… paper towels, tissues, any kind of food, plastic, money hair accessories, or bath accessories. You name it, Oliver has swallowed it whole and lived to tell the tale in the voice that we use to talk for him.

Oliver sleeps like this:

Sleeping terrible doggie

… especially when we’re upset with him.

Or like this:

Doggie tongue

… because he is a master manipulator and uses his powers of puppy-face against us so we don’t kill him.

Oliver is my best friend. When my head hurts, Oliver says, “Mama and I have a migraine,” and he curls up under the covers and naps all day with no complaints. When I’m upset, or having a really bad pain day, he puts himself across my body like a seat belt and keeps me warm and secure. He isn’t afraid of my meltdowns. He doesn’t mind that sometimes I’m not in the mood for his whimsy. He just carries on being whimsical at me until I am in the mood. He licks my feet when they are freezing. He gets his one kiss a day. Petting him makes me feel nice. I have trouble sleeping when he is elsewhere.

I have a codependent relationship with my dog, and that’s okay.

Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN Shirts!

Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN Tee

You’ve been asking for them, now they’re here! Get the new Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN tee, tank, or hoodie now available in BLACK. This shirt is dedicated to all of the light-sensitive chronic pain sufferers. But you don’t have to have a neurological condition, migraines, or psychological distress to buy a shirt, this design looks great on everyone!

Support My Brain Hates Me and help my brain hate me less. Get yours today! 

Adults with ASD and Death: Mourning and Mornings Aren’t Easy

MBHM with mother, Beth, in 2003

My Brain Hates Me with her mother, Beth, in 2003

Growing up on the spectrum but being undiagnosed was difficult enough. I’ve experienced a lot of deaths along the way in the up-close, gut-wrenching way that some people do. Death is a part of life, but I’ve never known how to grieve. Whether this is an ASD characteristic, a failing on my parent’s part (which is doubtful because society is really uncomfortable with death as a natural process), or merely something that we as humans have lost the ability to do is unknown.

A friend of mine lost her mother in a way that is heartbreakingly similar to the way that I lost my own. The difference is that my mother claims to have been ready and her mother still had some fight in her. Sometimes fight isn’t enough to tip the scales and God, or science, or what or whomever, does what they are going to do. It’s tragic and I am incredibly sorry for her family.

Of course, those feelings about my mother in her final months are flooding in, and the feeling of fresh grief is flooding in, and it’s taking a long time for me to process all of it. I feel a bit frozen by it. Overwhelmed.

Autism in Adults is Still Talked About More By Adults with Autism than by Professionals

This morning, I took to the internet (as I do) to find some articles on adults with ASD and how they grieve. It came as no surprise that most of the information was written about how to handle children with ASD who are dealing with a death in the family and that the rest of the information were scattered personal accounts. Even Psychology Today has a personal account, albeit from one of the most respected autistic people in the nation, Lynne Soraya.

The trend that I see among personal accounts, and that I have felt during situations in which I have had to handle my own grief, is fear of doing it wrong. As an adult with autism, I understand that there are rules and social graces and expectations, but I don’t always know what they are or why they are, so I’m not always certain when it’s okay to break them. My husband is good at telling me when I don’t need to worry about other people and when I do. My mother’s funeral was a good example of when he told me I shouldn’t have to worry about other people.

Adults with Autism Feel Like They Are Doing It Wrong

His mother’s funeral was an example of when I did have to worry about other people and how I acted. My grandparents’ funerals were the same. I had to be on my best behaviour because those deaths weren’t about me. They were about other people losing friends and parents. But it’s very confusing.

I know how funerals are supposed to happen in my family. You have a wake, you have food, you dress up and Southern women tell inappropriate jokes while sipping sherry and eating little ham biscuits, then you have the funeral. Occasionally, I sing something. You don’t cry unless you are also telling a funny story about the deceased. There are always funny stories about the deceased. Always.

Growing up, I never saw adults cry at the funerals I attended. I saw people be quiet. I saw them look sad. Maybe I just didn’t look hard enough because I was so distracted by everything else that was going on. There were pretty dresses and suits. Lovely grass. I got to dress up.

I don’t remember if my mother cried at the funeral for my twin brothers.

So when my mother died and I cried at her grave side and I couldn’t stop crying… I felt like I was doing something wrong. When people came over to my house after for wine and little sandwiches, it had to be perfect because that’s what you do. You give people wine and little sandwiches. I was so worried about doing it right so that everyone thought that I was good at funerals and grieving properly.

That’s all that I thought grief was.

When everyone left the house, I thought that I would feel better. I thought that I wouldn’t feel sad anymore.

But I, and all of my grief, were still there the next morning when I woke up. I had no model for that. Because I grew up in a family that suppressed emotions and went on about their business, I didn’t see people being sad. I didn’t connect my mother’s drinking with sadness. I didn’t understand any of it at all.

Without those models, I had nothing TO model. I had thrown the perfect funeral… and then I didn’t know how to grieve for my own mother.

Society’s Tendency to Sugar Coat Death is a Detriment for Adults & Children with ASD

In December of 2013, about 4 months after my mother’s death, I wrote something about not understanding what was happening to me. I didn’t understand why I would suddenly cry over nothing or just stand in my kitchen for half an hour. I turned to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for that. I wrote a blog called, “Buffy Terms” because that’s how I started to explain grief to myself.

Weirdly enough, on this, the day after my friend’s mother’s death, I am having a “Buffy” marathon at my house with two other friends. We plan to watch “The Body,” which is the episode in which Buffy’s mother dies. Buffy’s mom dies. My mom died. My friend’s mom died. People just die.

Whether you have ASD or not. I don’t think any of us really know how to handle that well. But I think that there needs to be more literature out there for people who are adults on the spectrum, because we don’t know what to do and we feel like we’re getting grief wrong.

There is no way to get grief wrong.

“How Are You?”

Being asked how I am is a difficult question to answer depending upon the person asking. If it’s an acquaintance, I typically say, “I’m hanging in there,” or “I’m living.” If it’s a closer friend, I might talk about whether I’m having a bad day or a worse day or if I’m feeling down about things.

If it’s my husband or my son, I might outright lie and say I’m fine.

It’s difficult to subject your family to your chronic pain condition day after day. Although I know that it’s not beneficial to anyone to hide my symptoms and try to power through, I also know how heart breaking it is to see how bummed out they are when I’m curled up in pain.

I spend far too much energy trying to act normal for my family so that they will act normal around me, and it’s counter-productive. What I really want is for my family to understand my condition and my medications and my pain levels and see what’s going on with me as a legitimate problem. Instead, this tendency I have to mask it so that they aren’t made uncomfortable blocks me from receiving a lot of the compassion that I need to get through.

Basically, my it’s an emotional nightmare in my home and I feel fully responsible. I know I’m not fully responsible, but I have guilt issues that cloud everything in a haze of, “IT IS YOUR FAULT! DON’T LET OTHERS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!”

How am I? I hurt. A lot. With the exception of this past Friday, I haven’t been below an 8 on the pain scale in 8 months. I’m tired all of the time, and my new medication makes me go to sleep during the day. I have nightmares when I do sleep and wake up in pain. I dream about my pain. I’m constantly anxious and worried. I’m sad. I’m depressed. I cry daily because I hurt and because I’m tired and because I don’t want to be in pain anymore. I think a lot about how nice it would be to never wake up again. Right now, things are ugly in my house and I am very lonely. I’m trying to arrange time with friends to counter that, but I lack a lot of energy or desire to actually be around people. I feel trapped because it’s become very difficult to drive. I feel trapped because my marriage is strained and I don’t know how to fix it or if it can be fixed. I feel trapped because I spend most of my time in my bedroom.

I know that feeling trapped is a symptom of depression. One-sidedness is a symptom of depression. Everything is a symptom of depression.

How I am is not good. How I am is trying really hard and failing. How I am is distraught.

I talked to my son yesterday about his perception of what I’m going through. He just came back from a road trip with another family and he said it was so weird to do things. They just did stuff, like normal people. We don’t do things as a family. He said they didn’t argue, they just did things and had fun. I told him that sounded nice. He says he understands what’s wrong with me, but that he hopes they find a way to fix me soon so that I don’t have to hurt so much and so that my husband and I will fight less.

It breaks my heart that I can’t give him great family experiences and that the thing he thinks about when he thinks about his family is that his mother is in pain and his parents argue.

How do I make things better? I really have no clue. I keep trying all of the tips and tricks I read about in books and online. I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted and I feel so persona non grata in my own home.

What’s the Deal with Reiki?

A good friend of mine recently became attuned in the first level of Reiki and offered me a session. She knows about the amount of pain with which I live. I spent a few hours with her this past Friday and it was interesting and relaxing, and definitely worth sharing with you.

What is Reiki?

Reiki describes both the process a practitioner uses to channel energy through a patient with little to no touch, and the energy itself. According to Reiki.org, Reiki is a kind of life force energy that clears the spiritual pathways of the body and to which practitioners must be attuned. A Reiki Master must train new practitioners to sense and manipulate this specific energy.

Does Reiki Interfere with Current Medical Treatments?

Reiki is about mindfulness and spirit and energy manipulation. It doesn’t affect any medications or treatments or care that you’re currently under. It’s a complimentary treatment. Reiki can be intensely emotional, however, so it is important to listen to the practitioner’s messages before an after your session. The practitioner should make themselves available for any questions. It is not covered by insurance.

The Preliminaries

My practitioner showed up on time, in scrubs, with her hair pulled back in a neat pony tail, with a travel case rolling along behind her. We hadn’t seen on another in a long time, so we embraced and exchanged our hellos and experienced the chaos that is my dog.

I had her set up in my living room. She had a massage table, which she covered with soft blankets and a sheet. She asked me if I had a preference about music that I like to listen to when I relax, and I let her choose something. I’m not picky. Any ambient music will do for me. She used her phone to stream music, and even brought her own speaker.

While she was setting up, she had me fill out paperwork that asked for information about my conditions and current medications and the standard contact information. Then she had a second sheet that she went over with me that covered topics such as what I’d like to address, what was my spiritual life is like, and if there were any other areas on which I’d like her to focus. She then asked if smell bothered me because she occasionally burns sage. Sage is fine for me. Before we concluded the paperwork she stated that she is in training and that she is not supposed to touch me. I granted her permission to place her hands on me because I know her and the session was as much for her to practice her craft as it was to help me. I’m comfortable with her. I merely asked that she be gentle with my head.

What My Reiki Session Was Like

I climbed onto the table and had a pillow under my head as well as under my knees to support my lower back. I closed my eyes and heard her scurry about me. She advised me that I might hear her write things down or turn pages while she worked. She let me know that she would give me quiet forewarning before she did anything so that there were no surprises.

She asked me to think positively and in specific ways. For example, she asked me to think things like, “I am healed,” as opposed to, “I will be healed.” Reiki focuses on the present. She also asked me to avoid mental thoughts like, “I am not in pain.” “Not” is a negative. I replaced that phrase with, “I feel good,” and tried to repeat the phrase over and over during the session.

She opened our session officially with a prayer.

Then the fun began.

I consider myself something of an Episcopagan. I’m a Christian but I was also Wiccan for a decade. I was obsessed with the paranormal and psychic phenomena as a kid and I have always had crystals and paid attention to my instincts. The next thing that happened was peculiar, but not entirely surprising, given the nature of the work she was doing. She asked if sound bothered me. I said that I should be okay. She then rang a chime in different places throughout the room to “raise the vibrations,” and I began to feel extreme pressure between my eyebrows. This is the spot I associate with my Third Eye. It was as if the chimes were waking something up in my body that hadn’t been awake for a very long time.

It was pretty cool.

I heard her warming her hands, which is a sound I’m familiar with from my time with massage and physical therapists. Then I began to feel a different kind of pressure building inside the center of my brain. It was as if something was trying to push its way in, or as if a balloon were inflating in my head. It wasn’t painful, mainly invasive. She then lightly placed her hands over my ears, forehead, and the crown of my head, spending several minutes at each.

After spending most of her time with my head, she then moved down the left side of my body, gently placing her hands at my shoulder and elbow, then elbow and wrist. It continued like this, drawing energy down the left side of my body in the path of my circulation down the left, then back up the right side of my body. She ended by focusing over my torso.

After the Session

When I was ready I moved back to my sofa and we chatted about what she found. She told me that my spiritual side, the left, was fine, but that my right side… the side with all of the yucky things that happen in life, was murky. She said I needed to laugh more. She asked me about some things in my past and present that aren’t common knowledge. All in all she was perceptive, professional, and compassionate.

Is Reiki for You?

Unlike massage and acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, Reiki is non-invasive. It comes from a place of love and compassion and spirituality. You don’t have to believe in it for it to work, but as my friend told me, it helps. The worst that can happen is that you get to relax for a while in a comfortable, quiet place with someone watching over you and wishing you well.

Will I Try It Again?

Yes. I need positive people and forces in my life in different shapes and forms. Spiritual healers who are also my friends? Bonus.

Image courtesy of http://www.healingpausepaws.com/

MBHM Monster Brain Shirt

My son just got back from a three week jaunt across the US. We spent the evening around the fire pit, and then he wanted to take a real shower. After weeks of camp site showers, I don’t blame him. When he came out, he was wearing his MONSTER BRAIN tee! It’s so nice to have him home. it’s been lonely around the house during the day. My dog doesn’t talk back (much.)

You can get your own MONSTER BRAIN tee here! 

Enjoy the day!

Special Offer for My Brain Hates Me Readers!

Reader Discount!

I designed the “Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN” shirt for a few reasons. First, a friend of mine thought that the MONSTER BRAIN shirt in “sand” was a bit sadistic on my part. Second, black goes with everything. And lastly, I wanted a tribute to anyone who suffers from light sensitivity due to migraine or other neurological issues.

Also, I wouldn’t mind putting my MONSTER BRAIN to bed every once and a while and getting some rest.

Buying one of my shirts directly helps me pay medical debt, fill my next prescription, replace ice packs, and allows me to keep this blog going. While the blog is absolutely the least important thing on that list, it might be the most important to you… because here you are, sharing my journey.

If you’re like me, and you’re under the dictatorship of a chronic condition, maybe you can’t afford a shirt. That’s okay. I’d still appreciate it if you’d share my shirts with your friends. Heck, you can even pass along this discount!

Enjoy the shirt. Thank you for reading, commenting, supporting, and living.

Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN Shirts Now Available!

Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN Tee

You’ve been asking for them, now they’re here! Get the new Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN tee, tank, or hoodie now available in BLACK. This shirt is dedicated to all of the light-sensitive chronic pain sufferers. But you don’t have to have a neurological condition, migraines, or psychological distress to buy a shirt, this design looks great on everyone!

Support My Brain Hates Me and help my brain hate me less. Get yours today! 

What is Neurodiversity? | Psychology Today

“To many neurodiversity proponents, talk of “cure” feels like an attack on their very being.  They detest those words for the same reason other groups detest talk of “curing gayness” or “passing for white,” and they perceive the accommodation of neurological differences as a similarly charged civil rights issue.  If their diversity is part of their makeup they believe it’s their right to be accepted and supported “as-is.”  They should not be made into something else – especially against their will – to fit some imagined societal ideal.

The difference – and this is a big sticking point for neurodiversity opponents – is that racial or sexual orientation differences do not functionally disable a person whereas neurological differences can.  That reality makes this situation much more complicated.

It’s also worth noting that neurodiverse people generally look just like anyone else.  Therefore, when we act in unusual or unexpected ways we may elicit unwanted negative responses from an unaware public.  For that reason it’s important for all of us who are different to learn the basics of getting along in neurotypical society.  Some see this as unacceptable compromise but I see it as recognition of an unchanging (or very slow to change) reality.” – John Elder Robinson author of Image of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

 

 

via What is Neurodiversity? | Psychology Today.

Scientists Discover a New Part of the Human Body | Mental Floss

The discovery, published in Nature, has shaken up the scientific community. The study was headed by Antoine Louveau, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of UVA’s Jonathan Kipnis, director of the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. The team detected the vessels after Louveau developed a method for mounting a mouse’s meninges (membranes covering the brain) on a slide without ruining the delicate tissue. When he saw vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells, he tested for lymphatic vessels—and the results surprised everyone. They were also able to find the vessels in human brain samples.

‘This find is the neuroimmunological version of stumbling across a unicorn. Not only had the system gone undiscovered until now, but textbooks argued against its very existence. As a result, neuroimmunologists have struggled to understand the mechanisms of brain drainage and inflammation.

When all other tissues in the body become inflamed, molecules or pathogens are drained into the local lymph cells, where immune cells get activated to continue the fight. “In the brain, we thought this system didn’t exist. When we first saw those vessels, I completely freaked out,” Kipnis tells mental_floss. “This discovery is as exciting as it gets.”’

via Scientists Discover a New Part of the Human Body | Mental Floss.

Why I am Against Autism Speaks (and you should be, too) – The Caffeinated Autistic

Among people I know who are autistic or live/raise/support someone who is autistic, Autism Speaks is a heated topic.

My personal opinion about the autistic brain is that it is not something to be eliminated or cured. The level of an individual’s function is really at the center of this debate. Would my life be better if I weren’t on the spectrum? Would the lives of those around me? How much of a drain on my family and society am I, really? Am I someone who needs to be fixed? I found this piece by The Caffeinated Autistic to be an interesting read because it is a case of an autistic individual exhibiting self-advocacy.

My brain doesn’t work like the neurotypical brain, and that’s okay. I’ve gotten by this far. I think that charitable organizations for any condition should directly improve the quality of life of the people who live with that condition. Individuals who are on the low-functioning end of the spectrum need advocates for their experience and research into ways to help provide alternative means of communication. All autistic people deserve a baseline quality of life and compassionate support no matter their level of function. Autism is not a disease. It’s a matter of neurological wiring.

Have a read:

 

Autism Speaks is the most well-known autism charity.  They have the most media coverage and are endorsed by many celebrities, but this certainly does not make them a good organization.

Autism Speaks does not have a single autistic member on their board.” – The Caffeinated Autistic

 

Why I am Against Autism Speaks (and you should be, too).

Sanctity of the Girl Cave

I haven’t done a vlog in a while because I haven’t felt like it. And that’s just fine. I’ll resume blogging and vlogging regularly when I feel like it, and that will probably be after I go to my next doctor appointment.

My break in silence today is caused by my son. He used the Girl Cave without asking. He was in my space without my permission, recording something for YouTube. I didn’t really mind him using the room. I minded that he didn’t ask. I talked to him. It’s all cool.

I’m in the Girl Cave right now. I felt like I had to justify my desire to be in here… my desire to be alone. I think I like it in here because it is free from other energy. It’s just my bullshit.

My bullshit and some candles and a blanket.

Yep.

Healing Trauma

I’m still not back in Biofeedback therapy. My nausea is still somewhat quelled, so I’m going to call that a Botox triumph. Art therapy. Phew. Art therapy is entering a very interesting and threatening territory.

Trauma trauma trauma.

We’re reading Healing Trauma: A Pioneer Program for Restoring Wisdom to Your Body by Peter Levine together, my art therapist and I. The theory is that trauma in our life causes physiological responses that cause the body to react in weird ways and we have to help the body learn how to reestablish boundaries and a feeling of safety.

Trauma is a sense that our very lives are threatened.

I’ve been in situations where I’ve had that feeling more times than I can count on both hands… possibly both feet too. I lived that way for a long time.

What happens to the body of a young autistic girl who lives in a situation in which she is constantly afraid? And how will her body respond 20 years later?

My art therapist thinks that helping to heal the wounds of my trauma will help to let my brain relax. She thinks that my chronic condition will be helped. Okay, so I’m game.

But the nightmares have already begun.

Tea & Trauma

My Art Therapist offered me tea today, and today, for the first time, I accepted.

It’s cold here, and damp, and not very much like Winter. It’s more like the ugly sort of Autumn that makes you sad and wish it were an ugly sort of Spring.

And thus my trauma therapy began.

I was sexually abused as an adolescent on multiple occasions by my mother’s former husband. I didn’t tell anyone, especially my mother. My mother was an alcoholic and trying to keep our lives together as she went through the process of divorcing someone who was physically and emotionally abusive. I kept the sexual abuse a secret… I kept it as ammunition. Somehow I thought it would get us “more,” or secure our future financially.

It didn’t.

There were very good things about my life from age 6 to age 18 publicly. Behind closed doors my life was a horror. I was my mother’s emotional support system. I didn’t cry. I made the best grades I could. I kept up appearances. I became handy to do the things she couldn’t. I learned to shoot a gun someone had given her to protect us.

I was a quivering child with undiagnosed ASD who would scream at her mother that she was smarter than her… because I had this long game… because I could whip this sexual abuse card out of my pocket and make everything okay for us.

That didn’t happen.

And here I am, 34, curled up in my girl cave, crying, because my Art Therapist pointed out the patterns of my risk-taking behaviours that link directly back to my fucked up childhood. Throughout the session she asked repeatedly if I was okay. I teared up a few times. I didn’t cry. I drove home. I didn’t cry. It wasn’t until I was in the car with my son, later, that I lost it a little. He said something about my hair in my art. He said that he’s noticed I always include blue figures with long red hair in my pieces. He said, “You think I don’t pay attention, but I do.” He asked me what it meant.

I had just spent an hour with my therapist telling her about horrible things, and here was my son noticing something important about my art. Something important and very personal. That made me cry. I cried because my hair is my strength. When I was little, people cut my hair. My mother let me grow it long, and I let it grow as long as it would grow throughout my teens. My hair grew and grew during all of the horrors of that time. I didn’t cut it until after my son was born, because I realized my life wasn’t about me… it was about “us.”

The next time I cut my hair was after his biological father beat me up and I lived on my own for the first time in my life.

And the last time was after my mother died.

That’s when I cried.