I have been attending therapy. I have been diagnosed with PTSD now by one medical doctor, two therapists, and one psychiatrist, although I tend to disagree. I think it is more like OTSD, ongoing traumatic stress disorder. I mean, there is nothing "post" about it, is there? Not only is Michaela still gone, she is still missing. And while I am ever thankful that her case is still active, that there are people still looking for her, that there are still leads to investigate ... well, perhaps you can imagine the ongoing stress of this. Or perhaps you can't. I myself have a hard time imagining it, and I live it. This perhaps is part of my problem. I find it really difficult to face these things directly. Instead I take an oblique approach. I deny and distract, and that leaves all the "stuff" still there to leak out all over the place.
So I am going to therapy. I have tried this here and there over the years, sat in a chair and talked and talked, but it all just seemed to go in circles Talk doesn't fix this stuff. I'd kind of given up, but I decided to go back because I am having a hard time doing what I need to do in life, or even doing what I want to do. Time just seems to slip away from me, and I can't seem to grasp it, hold it still, make it work for me. I'm not even going to go into the details of what this means in my life. I'll just suffice it to say that it is frightening.
Anyway, I've done a fair amount of talking in therapy this time, but this therapist also does somatic work, including tapping and EMDR. In what we have done, I have closed my eyes and I have sought out the emotions and where they reside in my body and what they are doing. I look to see what comes up in association with the various issues and emotions. That allows some connections to be made that I hadn't otherwise considered, perhaps. Yesterday I was dealing with feelings of guilt and anger. I know I have both of those feelings regarding not only Michaela, but also my mother, who passed away 12 years ago. There are people who like to receive visitations from their loved ones who have passed on, but not me, and that is probably because there are so many negative emotions tied up here. With Michaela, even though I don't feel actual guilt over allowing her to go to the store that morning, I do feel the general, more overpowering and all pervasive guilt of a mother whose child desperately needed her help when she was completely powerless to do anything. Yes, there are a lot of superlatives there. It is absolutely an overwhelmingly superlative feeling. You could never pile together enough words to reach the top of it, or to begin to plumb the depths of it.
And I'm a person who feels a lot of obligation to those I love, which is how I come to have guilt regarding my mother. It's just little things, a day or two here or there that I chose to spend alone rather than with my mother, and because my mother was never one to voice her needs or complaints, just having a general imagining of what those needs might have been that I failed to fulfill.
The anger ... well, I had to acknowledge that I am also a little bit angry at both Michaela and my mother for leaving me. We're talking about my own rotten feelings here, not what's right or even what's real. And, well, I feel that rotten feeling.
The guilt and anger are part of what prevents me from properly entering into and processing the grief, and this is on top of the inability to complete the grieving process with Michaela because I don't know that she is dead. For all I know she could be out there somewhere this minute, alive, possibly suffering terribly, because when she needed help I couldn't help her. I failed her.
Seriously, how can I live with this stuff? What can I do with it?
I thought it was interesting that yesterday while I was following feelings in my therapy session, that at one point I found myself at church. It was my church, the one I belong to and used to attend. I was not in the sanctuary. I was in the hallway on the other side of the building, in between the children's rooms and the bathroom. I thought it was really weird that I should be there. I connected it at the time with my feelings of being unacceptable. This hallway was a place I often visited right after the service ended, because it was where the bathroom was, and also where an occasional class might be held. People tended to congregate there a bit, to gather in groups of friends to chat. There were people there that I knew kind of superficially and I might say hello, who all seemed to have in depth relationships with each other. I didn't, for probably a lot of reasons, but beyond all that was the thought that if those people really knew me they would not accept me. I had too many questions that would not be stilled. I was too much of a political and social liberal for their taste.
But as I got in my car to leave yesterday, another thought came to me. I had been exploring my negative feelings, guilt and anger, and I realized that this was an area where I do actually feel a sense of anger. I left Christianity feeling absolutely betrayed. Although I had ostensibly come to terms with God's place in what happened to Michaela, and what didn't happen to Michaela (as in not being rescued and brought safely home), can I ever really totally get past that? If I can't get past it with myself, a powerless human being, can I actually get past it with God, who is all powerful? All loving? Where is the love? Where where where? Lately I have been feeling overwhelmingly betrayed by that book I used to love so much, the Bible. Where is the love in there? Oh, there are beautiful soaring passages of love, for sure, but there is so much hate, so much anger, so much lashing out by the God portrayed there. I was falling asleep the other day, and I was trying to make contact with this God I don't know anymore, and the essence of what I felt was that a God who created and/or sustained life would feel more tenderness for his creation. He would feel our hurt and confusion and would touch us softly in those places I am just a person, and I recognize that so much of bad behavior comes out of deep pain, and my God would want to put his arms tenderly around that hurt and shed tears with us. And sure, that God is there in the Bible, but the predominant God I see is not that way, The God that actually resides in the pages of the Bible did not advise the parents of a rebellious teen to try to understand his suffering and confusion and take him in their arms and love him. Nope. God said to stone him to death, to completely obliterate any chance for him to heal, to come to understand his own pain so that he could help others with theirs, to become a loving member of his community. I don't like that God. That is not a God that I can follow. Yet that God kept appearing over and over again in the pages of the Bible, and once I saw that I felt just betrayed, like I'd discovered my spouse who I thought was one person turned out to be someone else entirely with another life I knew nothing about.
I have been feeling much like checking out lately. I'm not sure I have the true ability to do that. I mean, I can. I can lie in bed and drift in nowhere. But even when I do that my mind is telling me that there is something I should be doing. Even when I am checked out, along with the weariness there is a restlessness that fills me. Where is that restlessness leading me, what should I be doing? And second, can I get a grip on myself well enough to actually do it if I can figure out what it is?
Maybe you know God better than I do. I know there are people out there who are praying for me. I do appreciate your prayers so much. I appreciate the love, for Michaela, and for me, and for my family.
Michaela, I always hesitate to write things like this. What if you are out there? What if you are reading this? Would I even be strong enough to hold the truth if I were to be given it? I don't know, my sweet child. I don't know. But I love you. I love you I love you I love you. Sometimes you float in my head, an idea, a missing child. But then I feel you in my heart, my flesh and blood child who I love so much, who is a part of my own heart. I feel the joy, the warmth, the promise of a lifetime of happiness, and I am devastated by its theft, astounded that it could have actually all happened. But here I am, Michaela, almost 28 years later. I am still waiting, still longing, still aching to hold you in my arms and feel your heart beating against mine. That is the true medicine my soul needs.
I love you forever, baby girl.