Looking ahead as I continue to confront the past

Many people are celebrating the end of 2020 by posting positive things that happened to them during an overall terrible year. As I’ve said before, my new year usually starts in November, but the second half of 2020 hit me a little harder than usual and I’m only now getting around to my thoughts.

I took a break from social media for four and a half months. It was great and my mental health improved, which allowed me to get through the worst time of the year. I’m not sure I would have fared better if I had been on social media because, for the first time in four decades, I was confronting and dealing with a particular issue concerning childhood trauma which occurred in 1984. I still need to find a balance of mental health and social media or just cut out social media completely.

Back in the present, there are many things I’m trying to let go of as they aren’t fruitful endeavors. In one instance, I will never understand those 74 million voters. Never. I’m done trying. Not only do I know I won’t succeed, I don’t need the hit to my mental health.

I’m still trying to find a nice way to write about people gathering without masks, regardless of whether it’s a group of friends, family, or a church, without calling them a bunch of superspreader jackwagons.

I don’t think I can write about politics anymore, not like I used to. I spoke with a friend the other day who is also done. We were news junkies. We enjoyed proper debate. We liked talking to those who think differently from us and having intellectual discussion. I’m grateful for those who can still try.

In case you didn’t know, over the last four years, the cruelty was always the point.

After three months of not having to take fast-acting insulin, my blood sugars were starting to slowly creep up and I had to go back on the medicine. Still, for someone who was diagnosed in April 2004, taking up to 15 units per day isn’t so bad. I worked my ass off to get where I am and grateful I don’t need more. The longer I can go without massive amounts, the better off I’ll be in the long run.

I’ve set a goal of losing 25 pounds this year, which I hope will help in keeping my need for insulin low. I recently became the owner of a nice treadmill. I am also going to try to structure my time so I will be out hiking on Sundays and Mondays, weather permitting. Maybe. I’ve hiked in snow and rain before.

Thing I didn’t get to

It’s hard for me to reach out to other people. Most don’t/can’t understand. I don’t want to burden people with the things in my head. I am getting better at it and have a couple of “go-to” people to talk to, but I still do the majority of my “bad” moments alone. This is a goal I don’t feel I achieved 100 percent in 2020, but will be more diligent in doing in 2021.

I spent time hiking alone at Fort Robinson this year. I have notes. I didn’t write the story. I will. September through mid-November is an extremely tough time for me and I hardly wrote anything. It was good to work through a few things in therapy, but I don’t particularly enjoy just trying to survive those months. For the first time in my life, I dealt with some of the reasons why. It was better than last year in some ways, but worse in others. I’ll keep working on it until those months go by and I don’t give my trauma a thought. I’ll get there one day and next year will, hopefully, be better.

I still haven’t written that post on religion. I think it would be a good one, but it’s probably going to upset a lot of people. I’ve written a lot about it in my journal to keep me sane, and that should be enough, but it isn’t. I don’t know why.

Although I completed another edit of my memoir, I didn’t send out many queries this year. It comes down to two reasons. First, my mental health took a slow dive down until it plunged in mid-August. I had some good days in there, but it was mostly shit and getting better has to be my first priority in life. Second, I find the entire querying process overwhelming and wish I could give someone $100 to do it for me. I honestly don’t know how to get past it and I’ve already done the “pick one, break it down, and do it” thing. Right now, a friend, who is an editor is reading it. I can’t wait for her to tell me it’s a steaming pile of shit.

For the future

As I plan to write more personal stuff in 2021, I’m trying to decide on how to publish it. Do I chuck it up on my neglected Medium page? Do I post it to my blog? Do I try to get a book or chapbook written? Do I try to get them published in a magazine or anthology? If so, which one? What the hell should I do with all my poetry?

Therapy, writing, and exercise are the most important things for me in 2021. I need to be more diligent in my down time to accomplishing those goals.

I’ll be continuing therapy until I don’t need it anymore. When I began this journey in 2017, I went into it knowing it was going to be a long-term process. I knew about PTSD and its many causes, but there was never a light bulb going off in my head saying, “Hey, dumbass. This is what you have.” It all seems obvious now.

I’m thankful my grandmother taught me to have an open mind about most things and grateful Steve Frederick put me on the health beat at the Star-Herald where I could pluck little bits of information from interviewees.

On the day everything came crashing down, those bits allowed me to call a friend and colleague who pointed me where I needed to go for therapy even though I thought it would end our relationship. It didn’t and I should have known it wouldn’t.

What I don’t know is if I will be in therapy for five years, 10 years, 20 years, or the rest of my life. I honestly don’t care. I do the work I need in and out of therapy to get better. It will end when it needs to end and I will worry about what happens next when that time arrives.

When my first therapist took a job elsewhere and I transitioned to a new therapist, she said, “Irene is extremely motivated to getting better and will do the work she needs to do in order to get better.” I’ve had to rely on that memory a lot this year, especially on the days I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I’m forever grateful to her for those words and for the excellent recommendation in my current therapist.

My therapist has suggested EMDR. It’s supposed to get me to the endpoint faster, but I’m hesitant for a variety of reasons only she knows. If I did decide to say yes, I won’t do it via a computer screen, so it’s on indefinite hold for the moment. Thanks SARS-CoV-2.

I live with all but two of the items in the picture above. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have never had to live with any of those, but I am thankful to the folks who stuck by me, reached out to me, and checked in on me. I can never thank one person enough for checking in on me and talking to me for several hours on the Day after Labor Day. Thank you will never be enough.

I know the PTSD will never go away. I will only be able to manage it. Some days are better than others. I suppose it will always be like that, but I’m working on having more good days than bad. For me, 2021 will be better solely because I will be taking more steps toward “better.” I hope you all can do the same.

NOTE: To all my editor friends: I’m never going to figure out that vs. which. It’s what I have you for. You still love me even though I always pick the wrong one.


Two days and five hours later


A black and white New Year


  1. Kat

    I can tell you that EMDR is not easy. Seems to be working on my PTSD but it is not easy. Those therapy days officially suck. I see progress but it generally feels like a truck ran over me at the end of it.

    • Irene

      I have heard the same about the therapy days. I’ve also heard you need 2-3 days to recover, which I don’t have and makes me more hesitant. I do have lots of trauma, so I’m pretty sure it would mean lots of sessions. It’s an “on hold” decision at the moment, but I know the topic is going to come up again.

  2. Sue Teal

    Love it! You really are an inspiration to many, it’s not easy to share your story and world view but more of us need to do it.
    Great work/ writing as usual.

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