Isn’t it weird how time can seem to pass in the blink of an eye, yet simultaneously feel as though many lifetimes have gone by?
Throughout 2015 and 2016, I wrote down my struggles, strides and victories, sharing with you my journey of healing, recovery and growth. I left off with my last blog ‘2016: Stardust & Duct tape’, though I was by no means “done”, nor was I under any pretense that my life would be smooth sailing from then on. But I was on the right track and I was in a really good place.
If you are at all acquainted with Murphy’s Law, you’re probably expecting a curve ball at this point. Yeah, so was I. But let me tell you, out of all the unexpected that you learn to expect…this particular curve ball was more like a rogue wrecking ball doused in gasoline and set to ignite.
For a long time, I’ve been feeling the urge to write it all down and get it out of my system. But I was so entangled in bewilderment and confusion that I simply couldn’t find the words, and I didn’t want to kick up a fuss. Part of me was terrified that speaking out would lead to ramifications. So, I held my tongue, but in doing so…I also held myself hostage.
And I’m done with that.
So here we are…
SO, HOW AM I NOW?
I’ve noticed over the years that how well I’m doing tends to be inversely proportional to how well I take that question, and I’d say that right now I handle the topic about just as well as the Wicked Witch of the West handles the rain. Meaning, I avoid it like the plague. So yeah, nah, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you here as there’s no point in denying it: I’m not feeling well.
Times are tough, though they have been tougher. And yeah, I’m tough too, but I have my limits and those have been heavily tested over the past three years. I’d like to share what’s been going on and just how I got to this point, but it’s hard to know where to begin. So, I suppose I’ll just start in the present and work my way back from there.
STATING THE OBVIOUS
So, we can all agree that 2020 was a bitch, right? I think I can safely assume that we’re on the same page there. I don’t know about you, but personally I spent that shitshow pouring every last bit of my energy into treading water as I tried to stay afloat. Since going with the flow was basically the only option we had, I let the waves come and go as I focused solely on keeping my head above the water until the storm would eventually pass. Obviously, that didn’t go as planned or expected.
When the clock struck midnight that New Year’s Eve, I probably wasn’t the only one who toasted to the wishful thought that 2021 would be better: it would be our ticket out. But alas, it pretty quickly proved to be more of a sequel, as covid numbers peaked again and we were launched into yet another round of lockdowns and restrictions.
Thanks to a very well trained and extremely stubborn built-in auto-pilot function, I did a pretty good job of at least making it seem like I was keeping it together. However, by the time the July lockdown of 2021 was being deliberated, I wasn’t so sure I could steer clear of a complete mental breakdown anymore. The people around me were dropping like flies, falling apart at the seams and burning out. I felt the same inside, but as exasperated as I felt, I had to keep going.
In practical terms, I had already lost so much income that I was scared of ending up on the streets. Coincidentally and thankfully, about a month before shit went down, a totally unrelated situation (which I’ll talk more about later) forced me to take a job in a supermarket which effectively turned me into an essential worker.
Minimum wage kept me coughing up my rent during lockdown, though the job did come at a price. Working a dead-end job in a toxic work environment caused a level of stress that I wouldn’t have accepted had I had anywhere else to go. But jobs were hard to come by and after a while it also became apparent that my own business wasn’t going to survive; I had to give up my office and close my practice for good in order to avoid going bust. So, in terms of career or income, the future was looking bleak. I didn’t like where I was, but I had no place else to go and I couldn’t afford to stop what I was doing just yet.
Mentally, the situation in the world was just as much of an onslaught: the stress of losing my income, my business and my sense of autonomy, along with the effects of isolation, losing the things that made life worthwhile or enjoyable and the lack of perspective as the goalpost was shifted over and over again. And with the government act like an overbearing, toxic parent I felt coddled, gaslit, controlled, triangulated and guilt-tripped. With everyone so strung out, nobody seemed capable of having an open, adult conversation anymore; no matter what your opinion, you could be sure that if you opened your mouth, someone else would attack or ostracize you for it. The constant tension in the air and the ever-growing level of polarization and social control was extremely overwhelming.
What’s more, logic was nowhere to be found, thus there was no way to predict what would happen next or when any of this would come to an end. And usually, when times are tough, I escape in my own mind with fantasies about fleeing to a far-away place. But with the entire world involved, even those thoughts were quickly blocked off. I felt trapped, and that drove me crazy. It triggered feelings and memories of things that I did not want to be reminded of.
The past three years have been hell. I have yet to tell you was happening in my private life, but I don’t think I need to explain that the pandemic made things exponentially worse. That cocktail has kept me oscillating between complete numbness and extreme waves of frustration, grief and anxiety for the past few years now. It’s quite the joyride, let me tell you.
You probably wouldn’t tell just by looking at me, though. I tend to freeze under stress, which outwardly looks like I’m perfectly calm and collected amidst the storm. Internally, I may very well be burning to the ground, running around in circles with my arms flapping above my head as I scream bloody murder. Honestly, since about half way through 2020 the only thing that’s been keeping me sane is thinking of death. Reminding myself that there’s an escape rope, reduces the need to escape.
Now before you balk at that, let me clarify that in my brain thoughts of death are a pretty common occurrence at any given time. They’ve been there as long as I can remember and I’ve long since learned to embrace them, as they come from an allied part of me with an important message. Those thoughts generally don’t mean that I want to die. It’s quite the opposite: I want to live, just not like this. I have learned to interpret them as a warning sign that I’m living against my own truth, a signal that there’s something going on that needs to be addressed and resolved. So, in reality those thoughts serve a function to keep me safe and whole. Though I agree their way of communicating is a little…unconventional.
Anyway, what I mean to say is that my exterior doesn’t always accurately mirror what’s going on inside. In all honesty, I’m really struggling at the moment and I have been for quite a while.
I’ve gathered some really valuable tools over the years and I’ve been using them at full force. I’m incredibly grateful for them; they get me a long way and I’m pretty sure I would have been much worse off without them. But at this point, it’s like I’m trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.
I recently came to a point where I realized that I’m in way over my head with it all, and it’s time to ask for help. I may have a pretty decent tool-box, but sometimes you need an objective set of eyes and an extra pair of hands. After all, if I were the world’s best surgeon and I broke my back in an accident, I wouldn’t operate on myself either. It was time to admit that I was down for the count and I needed to call back-up. More on that later.
REBUILDING FROM GROUND ZERO
If you know me personally or if you follow me on socials, you may have noticed that I made some pretty significant life changes in 2021. My surname changed, my job, my house…What can I say, after the great global constipation that was 2020, I certainly didn’t waste any time!
It’s starting to sound like I’m about to slap you in the face with an aesthetic picture of some avocado toast, captioned with a vague inspirational quote about raising your vibration and creating your best life. Good thing I’m not a fan of avocado toast, because I’d make a pretty lousy influencer with this one. I can assure you it wasn’t all that motivated or motivating at all.
Despite the magnitude of the steps that I took in 2021, I did not have a specific goal or vision in sight. I wasn’t really feeling much of anything at all, to be honest. The reality is quite bland: after about a year of drifting with the current, I concluded that without an end in sight I had no choice but to change strategies. As Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. After all, you wouldn’t want to stay in hell. There you go, there’s your quote.
But yeah, I guess I just realized that if I didn’t start swimming soon, I was going to end up drifting too far from shore to find my way back. The options were ‘sink or swim’, and since I wasn’t ready to drown just yet, I felt obligated to pick the latter.
By January 2021, I was running on empty and desperately trying to find even the tiniest drop of fuel to keep me going. Options were very limited, so I had to be creative. I took that quite literally when I started scrapbooking just so that I could physically flip through the pages and remind myself of the things that I loved, whenever my mind went dark and my ability to visualize them failed me.
What started out as a collection of random collages, ended up turning into a list of short-term wishes and goals for the year and I noticed that it helped perk me up whenever I felt hopeless and grey. Some of the items were small and silly, like doing the sour candy challenge or trying a particular foreign breakfast cereal. Those things made me smile and were relatively easy to achieve, giving me the added sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from crossing things off a list. And we all know I’m a sucker for that.
Eventually, though, I added a couple of really big things to the list. When I wrote them down, I didn’t even think they were attainable. They were complicated, expensive or required decisions or actions by other people…and they definitely did not meet the criteria of smart goal-setting. But by dubbing my items ‘wishes’ instead of ‘goals’, I had found a loophole in my brain that allowed me to add anything that felt good to fantasize about or look forward to, without feeling demotivated by an unreasonably high bar or the possibility that I wouldn’t cross it off that year. Without the pressure, I felt free to explore my desires, grasp opportunities and take any possible action on my part. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As it turned out, that approach worked wonders for me. By the end of the year, I’d managed to complete about 90% of the list including every single big “crazy” thing on it.
The first ‘big one’ I hauled in, was a new teaching job. I escaped from the supermarket in July and started at my new school at the end of August. It’s hard to start over and I’m exhausted, but it’s good to be back in the classroom, and my colleagues are absolutely fantastic. It’s nice to have some perspective again, as well as a stable income. The latter also made it possible to tick off the next big thing: a ‘new’ car, as my old one was on its dying breath. The week before school started, I bought a cool black Opel Astra with a damn good sound system, making my commute a lot more enjoyable.
No sooner had I finished celebrating those achievements when the next opportunity came crashing into my already full agenda; I was growing out of my tiny apartment, and I wanted to move. When I saw a nice two-bedroom maisonette with a garden on the social housing site, I applied for it knowing full and well that I hadn’t been on the waiting list long enough to be allegeable. Somehow, I got extremely lucky. The house belonged to the same housing corporation as my apartment, which gave me priority over the other respondents. And so, amidst the chaos of my first few school weeks, I found myself amidst even more chaos with all the painting, packing and moving as well. Worth it!
The last big thing on the list had actually been a work in progress since the end of 2020. I’d applied to have my surname changed, for reasons that I’ll get into later. The process is long, tedious, expensive and emotional, so when I checked the mail at my old apartment after having dropped off a few boxes at my new place, my heart leapt into my chest as I recognized the envelope. I sat on the floor as I opened the letter, and burst into tears of relief when I read the verdict: request approved.
What followed was a whole period of bureaucratic chaos as I had to renew all of my documents, accounts and registrations. But I can’t tell you how good it feels to finally see my new name on the mail, or to be called from a waiting-room as “Mevr. Roozendaal”.
If you were to ask me whether I’m happy or proud of what the things I achieved, I’d say yes. But it would be a rational answer, as I’m not really feeling it yet. For the majority of 2020, I managed to keep myself convinced that my declining mental health was situational and that it would get better after all this was over and I had gotten my life back on track. It’s what I needed to tell myself in order to keep moving. But deep down, I knew that it would be a little more complicated than that.
Things are still pretty chaotic now, but chances are that once things settle down and I have everything sorted, I’m going to be met with a tidal wave of unprocessed shit that I’ve been holding back all this time. Although I took care of the most pressing practical issues and things are actually looking up, I feel like emotionally I haven’t quite caught up yet.
Last December, I was at a birthday party standing at the table under the disco light whilst sipping at wine and chomping on cucumber sticks. My brother and his girlfriend were there, and we rolled into a conversation about how recent events were affecting us. Just before the pandemic hit, our family had been through something awful and we were both still dealing with the aftermath.
I was trying to convey to them how I’d been feeling lately, which was really hard. The best way I could describe it, was that it feels as though something fundamental inside me has broken. It feels like I’ve lost myself. Like that last little fragment of innocence that I had managed to keep intact all those years despite everything that I went through, has finally shattered.
Now hear me out…I know I’ve never exactly been a bundle of joy and I’m certainly not the most optimistic, confident or trusting person you’ll ever meet. I’ve always considered myself to be rather cynical and given my life experiences, that does kinda make sense. The thing is, even in my darkest times, I felt like there was always a little spark hiding in there somewhere. However small, there was always a part of me that saw the good in life and in people, and that believed everything would be alright in the end. Last time I wrote, I actually thought that I had made it there.
But since the great fucktastrophy of 2019-2020, something really changed significantly. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself or the life that I’m living. And it doesn’t really compare to anything I’ve experienced before either, which is quite an achievement in itself given the broad spectrum of mental health stuff I’ve experienced over the years. Sometimes it concerns me, but at the same time it’s like I can’t be bothered to care.
For example; I didn’t even think I could get more cynical, given my starting point. Yeah, turns out, I was wrong about that. I also feel like I’ve become even less trusting than before, both towards myself and others. I see danger and toxicity everywhere I look, and sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m constantly asking myself: are there really that many shitty people in the world, or am I just more aware of it now? Maybe I’m biased, paranoid or just imagining things.
Don’t even ask me how many times I’ve retrieved my wallet or keys from the refrigerator lately, as my brain is foggy and my memory a sieve. Sometimes, my thoughts are interjected with jarring images and clips of awful things, my brain just randomly sprinkling them around like glitter. Halloween-glitter, if that’s even a thing.
For example, I’ll be in my car and suddenly I’ll see a horrific accident flashing before my eyes. When I pass someone in the park as I’m walking my dog, or when someone comes to my house to pick something up, I see the most brutal scenarios flash before my eyes in which I’m being overpowered, assaulted or even killed. I’m fully aware that these thoughts are not real and out of proportion, which is why I let them float on by as I just go about business as usual, but it’s not the most helpful contribution to my mental state.
My nervous system seems to be on high alert at all times, especially around other people. One certain look or tone of voice, a nearby disagreement or conflict (even if it doesn’t involve me), a sudden movement or a loud noise such as shouting or laughter; anything can send me into overdrive within a split second. My pulse spikes and I can hear my heart pounding in my ears as my face begins to flush and my legs go wobbly. It feels as though my internal organs have turned into cold, gravelly concrete that scratches my insides as my stomach knots up and my mouth goes dry. Then, my mind begins to spiral, taking me to dark places that don’t make any sense when I try to match them with the actual situation in front of me. At times like these, all I can do is breathe and wait for it to pass.
As you can probably imagine, I’m triggered a lot throughout the day considering there’s no shortage of people, loud noises and conflict in the world as is. Even more so when you work in a building full of boisterous teens four days a week. I’m already overstimulated by the time the first coffee-break rolls around and I’m in a constant state of exhaustion.
Just getting out of bed in the morning, being a functional adult and making it through the day is a challenge in itself. Currently, living feels like I’m navigating my way across a minefield, performing triage on my wounds as I go along. It’s a full-time job on top of the jobs I already have.
I put my remaining energy into the things that are strictly necessary, leaving me so overdrawn that I have no energy or motivation left to do anything else. Even brushing my teeth or cooking is a whole undertaking; you don’t know how many times I’ve resorted to eating cereal for dinner just because opening a bag of frozen vegetables –ironically bought for convenience – seems too much of a hassle.
Lately, I’ve been isolating myself more and more, physically and mentally. This leaves me feeling lonely and longing for deep connection, but at the same time I feel so intensely vulnerable and social interactions are so draining that I’d rather be left alone. So, I keep everyone at an arm’s length, no matter how kind or understanding they seem. Anything to ward off the intense feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame that are triggered whenever I let someone slip past my defenses and they get just a little too close. Ironically, I’m more afraid of the people I like than the people I don’t.
My need to retract and recharge has far exceeded my natural introverted tendencies. And well, that makes sense; with my body and mind repeatedly going haywire throughout the day and with me actively working to defuse that time and time again while continuing to function as normal, it’s a massive drain on my energy reserves.
I tried to come up with an analogy that might make this easier to understand, and I guess you could compare it to having an extreme sunburn. You might normally be cool with having people around, you might even be someone who enjoys physical touch. But if your skin is red and blistering and the layers underneath are exposed, it’s going to be searing with pain if someone even so much as looks at it, let alone touches it. No matter the person or the approach, you would yelp, jerk back or push them away before they even came close. And that’s me right now; so severely burned that it hurts to even be looked at. Nothing personal, but I’m going to keep my distance if you don’t mind.
Mood-wise, I’m on a rollercoaster that loops back and forth between extreme emotions and complete numbness. I don’t feel much of anything most of the time, just this continuous static that leaves me feeling bland, flat and grey as I go through the daily motions. It’s only when I’m triggered or when my frozen state thaws out, that I’m suddenly engulfed by overwhelming waves of anxiety, rage and grief. In an instant, I’m flooded by the intense urge to escape as impending doom closes in on me and I’m certain the world is about to end. Then, a split second later I’m hit with the realization that I’m an adult who simply has to function in that moment; there’s nowhere to run and resistance is futile. My brain registers the distress and deadpans: “Well, that’s no use, is it…” as it flicks a switch that flings me straight back into a frozen state, leaving me to act on auto-pilot.
I wouldn’t say that I’m depressed, despite the fact that it feels similar. When everything is just ‘meh’ and you can’t find enjoyment in the things that you used to love, it’s easy to draw that conclusion. But with all I’ve learned over the years about trauma and the intricate workings of the nervous system, I’m fully aware that I’m currently stuck in a fight-flight-freeze cycle and I’m living in survival mode. Don’t get me wrong, that system is a fantastic adaptation that’s doing exactly what it was made to do. Survival mode is a wonderful thing to have access to when you need it, and lord knows I needed it. But I also know that there’s a time and a place for it; it’s not a way of life and it’s not sustainable in the long run. There has to be a release at some point.
The 2019-shitshow, which I’ll get into later, reopened many old wounds, some of which I’d worked long and hard to heal and some that I didn’t even know existed in the first place. It also tore countless new, deep gashes into my system that effectively shredded apart my sense of self and my understanding of everything I thought I knew. Survival-mode was simply needed to keep me going until I could reach safety, and I did this knowing full and well that there would eventually be a time in the future when I’d come to a halt, settle back into my body and begin to process everything.
Looking at my life now, it seems that that time has come. I have salvaged what I could from the rubble, picked up the pieces and put my life back together as best I could. But now that I’ve finally made it to safety it seems that my body and mind are not getting the message.
Every now and then, I begin to thaw out a little and I can feel something stirring beneath the surface, reminding me that there’s a buttload of unprocessed shit to plow through and I have a long way to go. I’m quite factual about it here, but I can tell you I’m not looking forward to it. It’s like I’m going through a painful medical procedure under local anesthetic, acting tough and joking around as I watch it happen, all the while knowing that this is going to hurt like hell when the drugs wear off…
At the risk of sounding like I’ve been hit with the self-pity stick, I’ve got to be honest here and confess that I sometimes get really frustrated and sad over the unfairness of it all. Sometimes, it feels like I’m back at square one even though I rationally know that’s not true. It can be hard not to feel dejected, having worked so hard to recover and to rebuild my life only to have my hard-earned health and happiness torn away from me again a few short years later, by none other than the one person who should have cared the most for my wellbeing. And not only that, but to find that they planted and watered the very seeds of my struggles to begin with.
I want so badly to reach a point in my life where I can just settle down and cruise for a while. It doesn’t seem fair; I didn’t ask for any of this and it’s not even my mess to clean up…but here I am. Wallowing in the why and the woe isn’t going to get me anywhere though. I still believe that I’m responsible for my own healing, even if the wound wasn’t my fault. And I will do everything within my power to do just that. But that doesn’t keep me from cursing this fuckery from time to time.
CALLING IN REINFORCEMENT
Last summer, I started toying with the idea of going back into therapy. I was reluctant, since I haven’t had the best experience with the conventional route in the past. But a lot has changed since then. Nowadays, I take a lot more responsibility for my own process and I have a better idea of what I need, so I thought I could at least give it another chance.
Scouring the internet for the best options, I quickly discovered that the methods and approach I’m leaning towards are not covered by my insurance. That discouraged me and I gave up looking for a while, hoping that I would just start feeling better with time. Did I put my blinkers on and ignore the problem? Damn right, I did. For old time’s sake, you know?
It didn’t last long though, as my nervous system was not planning to let me forget. As time went by, I just felt worse and worse. It got to a point where I knew: I can’t go on like this. If I don’t do something now, this is going to get really ugly, really fast. I realize that I’m not equipped to deal with this oncoming tsunami on my own, I need to call in reinforcement. So, I took to the interwebs once more as I resumed my search for a somewhat unconventional therapist within in a conventional system. It wasn’t easy, but I eventually found someone who I think can help get me back on track and after three months on the waiting list, I finally made my way into her office.
Now as you may know, I have a lot to say about labels and mental health diagnoses. Suffice to say: I’m not a fan. And before people start bringing out torches and pitchforks, I’m not trying to invalidate anyone’s pain, struggles or experiences. Those are absolutely real and valid.
Personally, my concern lies in how these labels come to be in the first place; most psychiatric diagnoses are a descriptive collection of symptoms that have been lumped together based upon the assumption that they have a common core or origin, but that’s pretty hard to prove. In fact, bringing all these criteria together and slapping a name on them is a highly arbitrary process and that has a lot of drawbacks.
A diagnosis can certainly be useful if it gives you info about the cause or the most effective treatment for the issue, but with a descriptive diagnosis that’s just not the case. And don’t even get me started on the ramshackle diagnostic process and the self-fulfilling prophecy that can come from attributing more value to a label than it’s worth.
Of course, a diagnosis can have its benefits. It can open doors to treatment and resources; it can be really helpful to feel that your experience is being validated and giving it a name is a lot easier in communication. In my opinion, a diagnosis is fine if it helps you, just keep in mind where you want to go and don’t focus so much on the label that you lose sight of the person underneath. I’m glad that I am aware of that myself, and I’m glad that I found a therapist who has a similar mindset.
All that being said, I did end up with a diagnosis. For legal and insurance purposes, when you start treatment it’s just part of the deal. I’ll be honest with you though; when I eventually heard the verdict, I felt oddly relieved and validated. Because after having spent so many frustrating years of my life cycling through the psychiatric system, being slapped with countless incorrect diagnoses and working my way through a fuckton of fruitless medications and therapies, it turns out that I was right all along. There is something identifiable going on in my body and my brain, I’m not just making this up and it didn’t just come out of nowhere. And better yet; there are treatments for it.
After taking my full history, reviewing my symptoms and going through all my previous treatments and diagnoses, my therapist looked at me and all but face-palmed as she told me: “I don’t know how they’ve managed to miss this all these years, but this is textbook PTSD.”
My therapist diagnosed me with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, although I would rather call it a response than a disorder. After all, my system is doing exactly what it was made to do and it served its purpose very well; I survived. I just have yet to complete the cycle. It’s that simple, just not necessarily that easy, unfortunately.
If you don’t know what c-PTSD is, it’s basically a variant of PTSD that includes many of the same symptoms, along with a couple of additional ones. PTSD is a condition that involves a set of mental, physical and behavioral reactions following a traumatic event. The main difference with c-PTSD lies in the duration and the frequency of the trauma. PTSD stems from one or several singular events, while c-PTSD is the result of repeated trauma over a prolonged period of time, often starting in early childhood.
Common symptoms of both variants include re-living the event (e.g., flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive distressing thoughts, memories and feelings), avoiding reminders of the event, negative changes in thinking and mood, being in a constant state of high-alert and physical reactions like dizziness or palpitations. When it comes to complex PTSD, there are additional symptoms such as difficulty regulating emotions, a negative view of self, others and the world, intense feelings of shame, guilt or failure, difficulties with interpersonal relationships, detachment and dissociation.
It's not unusual for people with unprocessed trauma to experience other mental health problems as well, such as depression, anxiety or unhealthy coping mechanisms like addiction, self-harm or eating disorders. Gee, does that sound familiar?
Now, I can already hear you thinking: if this started in all the way back in early childhood, how was it not an issue before? And the answer is: it was. I’ve had plenty of issues with my (mental) health over the years, but it was never recognized or diagnosed for what it was.
There are two main reasons for this. First of all, back when I first started therapy in 2006, there wasn’t as much information on the effects of trauma and how it manifests. A lot of research has been done since then, and is still being done now. But it takes a while for these findings to seep through into general practice. The second reason, is that I was missing a crucial piece of information about my life that could have made things clear a lot sooner. That puzzle-piece didn’t show up until I was 33, so it wasn’t until then that the penny dropped and everything started falling into place.
So, what now?
As I mentioned before, this is all still so fresh and new that I’ve only just begun to uncover the full extent of everything that has happened and what truths lie underneath all the confusion. Writing everything down is one way in which I’m starting to untangle everything and put the pieces of the puzzle together as I process and move on.
I realize that I still have not told you exactly what happened, and I may be putting it off a bit. It’s a lot to go over, and I’m untangling it as I go along. I hope you will bear with me, there. Since this blog is already ten pages long and I haven’t even started yet, I suppose that will be another story for another day…In the meantime, if you’ve actually read all that and stuck by me throughout, I just want to say: Thank you.
Until next time.
These are the blogs that I have not shared openly with the greater public