Category Archives: therapist

More than 5 things to do if you’re gonna be a writer….

Thank youSeveral years ago, while in the shower I had the compelling epiphany to write a memoir.  A book based on my life’s story; the traumas, the journey, the healing.   I would lay out a quilt, steep some tea and write myself whole again.  Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

That epiphany took form slowly by becoming a few stories, then a blog, followed by a few timid submissions and a Facebook page.  I’ve lovingly cared and developed my craft by doing things like learning what the heck it means to increase your social media presence and tackling Twitter.

Well, today I just want to scream.  No beauty here!  What the hell was I thinking when I started a monumental project like writing a book?  Really, my life story?  What do I know about writing and publishing?  Actually, more than I think when I finally simmer down and let this pass.

Here’s my not so tidy list of things that have done to help move this project along…

  1.  Realize that any movement is good.  Taking a formless idea and transforming it into a tangible, readable book or story is a huge undertaking that needs to be done in small manageable steps.  The more support you have for this, the better.
  2. Read.  Especially authors whose stories resonate with your story and even more so, the authors whose framework and storylines appeal to you.
  3. Do something to identify yourself as a writer.  I made a Facebook page, joined the National Association of Memoir Writers and She Writes.  All of these actions add energy and identification to your role as a writer and author.
  4. If you don’t have any formal training in writing, that’s okay.  Teach yourself.  We live in the information age graced with the internet and libraries for information we need to hold in our hands.  Use both extensively.
  5. Make the time to write.  Find the time to write.  Tell your family to make dinner.  Leave your phone off.  Write seemingly meaningless stuff or post on other people’s blog but keep the flow going.   This is exactly what I’m doing at this particular moment because I can’t seem to write on my book so I’m thrusting my frustrations out on this blog post.
  6. Align yourself with virtual writing projects like NaNoWriMo and Novel Writing Winter.  These keep you in touch with others who are waging The War of Art.
  7. Give yourself permission to scream.  Its cathartic but make sure you don’t scare the children or the dogs.

These last weeks have really sucked.  I don’t feel my creative flow and my muse has headed for the hills. I lost several days to a sick dog and ultimately a dog that passed away.  Everyone should be given numerous sick days for when you lose a beloved animal friend.

My therapist lost her father so there’s no group this week.   I gave her my condolesences and hid my neediness for wishing I could be with my pals tonight.  A friend lost her father so there’s more casseroles to make and more stuff eating my time from my book.  My husband had to leave town for work and I needed to stay behind with the sick dog.

Things happen.  Schedules change.  People and animals die.  Support isn’t there like you had planned.

Big deal….go scream, get the chocolate then sit down and write.

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I’m the dissenter….

Recently I read a conversation on Facebook where a friend was crying out in pain due to her family shunning her.  Her pleas were confused, angry, sad. By her standards,  she’d been loyal and loving in her gestures toward her family over the years but they had chosen to ostracize her for reasons that they wouldn’t share with her. This challenged many feelings inside her.  She questioned her reasons for staying true to herself, thinking maybe she should have been softer with them, perhaps even more enabling.  Many times she’d reached out attempting to find a common ground with them, something to build a new foundation upon, to no avail. But the bottom line of her pain was that she missed them.  Terribly.  Her emotional loss visits her often.  And I felt her pain even from where I was sitting 1000 miles away.

If you change out the players and setting, you have my exact family situation.  Since my friend and I feel many of the same feelings towards ourselves and our families is probably why we’ve stayed close.   It’s also why this post struck so deeply.

As hard as I try to maintain contact with my family, they just aren’t motivated to return my gestures.  As I’ve grown and learned more about myself, I’ve been able to temper my anger toward our abusive upbringing that we all were subject to.  I, above anyone else, know the deep wounds etched in our young psyches.  I guess I always figured that this fact would make me safe to them.  I understood. I got it.  I was one of them.  Yet somehow, sitting in one of my many therapist’s offices over the years, I convinced myself that if I healed, worked hard, found the solutions for us and held up the light of illumination that they would somehow follow me along that hallowed and healing path.  My fractured reasoning combined with a dogged and desperate approach to enforce my fractured reasoning would result in many, many failed attempts and lots of heartache.

For a while, I was just plain pissed.  After all, I was one of them, how could they turn their backs on me?  I had gone through divorce from an abusive partner, poverty that left me selling my possessions including my car, a child to care for and a tender spirit that had given so much that she’d lost herself completely.  They turned their heads, they wanted nothing to do with me.  When the anger began to wain, the depression ensued, medications were taken, anxiety filled my days with my child.

This was a painful, painful time and the healing took the form of one minute after another, one hour, then one day.  My trust eventually extended to several women friends who gradually over time replaced my family of origin.  We created our own family gatherings, raised our children and moved on piece by piece.  But this was hard, hard work.  And dammit…I didn’t want a replacement for my sisters, nieces and cousins, I wanted THEM.  They were the ones that my heart stayed attached to, they were the ones whose blood my body recognized simply by standing close by or thinking of them.  What I realized is that there aren’t enough curse words, things to be broken or tears to be shed that will make another person return to you if they don’t want to or simply can’t.  And it was in this last phrase that I finally took another step toward healing.

My family can’t be around me.  They just can’t.  And they don’t.

I don’t exactly know why or do I have any explanations as to my conclusion but have had many possibilities given to me by loving friends, sponsors and therapists.  One thought is that I am the one person in the family that left.  I am the dissenter.  Like the little girl in the photograph, she’s the one who is standing up, preparing to separate herself from the circle.

In their eyes, I chose to honor myself, putting my individual needs over the group’s needs, get the hell out making sure that my life and my daughter’s life would never reflect that stagnant, cesspool upbringing that I had.  I had left the cult and the cult like thinking that defined us. Following this line of thinking, my family then shunned me as a religious community might shun those who no longer follow the thinking of the group.  So maybe, we were really just simply a sociological~philosophical~anthropological~spiritual textbook example? That’s the cunundrum, its all of these truths but  it. is. not. simple.  Have I overthought and personalized a situation that perhaps historically has happened throughout time?  Believing I was not unique actually made me feel a bit better.

I search for reasons behind the fact that they can’t be around me.  My friend and Inner Bonding facilitator, simply states that they are too wounded.  Their inner child feels too wounded to be able to give any love back to me at this point and maybe never.  But what does that mean for me?  That I never know them again?  That years go by and people die and new babies are born and the children get married and I’m never, ever a part of this?  I was wounded too but found a way to free myself, why can’t they step up and do the same?  We could lift each other up instead of giving up and staying so stuck, perpetuating the same cycles over and over.  They have the same ability that I did to throw off the blinders and go out into the world and experience other ways of life outside the cult commune.  Wow, look who just showed up!  The angry cheerleader strikes again!  I want to inspire them with my chosen set of values, yet when they don’t respond, I’m pissed.  Hmmm…..

Actually, I’m hurt and sad.  I miss them and I want them whole and happy.  I want to see their children and have them know my daughter.  Then, I’d like to throw in a family reunion where we all have T-shirts printed the same, with a rainbow overhead, while we frolic the day away proclaiming our undying familial love for each other.  Insert my family as interesting, well read, politically moderate and non-racist individuals who love themselves and perform altruistic work for a living preferably with an environmental flair.  And you can see where this goes….off into fantasy land. But since this is reality and the previous scenario is not going to happen, I learn there is absolutely nothing to do about it.  Except to pray for their peace.  And well, there is that acceptance part.

Using my best  DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) skills, I stay as centered as I can and allow the feelings to wash over me.  My mantra being that I must accept myself and my family for who they are and what they can give.  Just accept….with compassion….the place where we are at this given moment.  Send them love.  Send me love.  Breathe.

My niece responds via text  “damn, I miss you”.  She has read the quarterly upbeat newsletter type thing that I do.  Actually she confesses that she received it a week before but looked at it with dread for days before opening and reading it.  That puzzles me but I let it go.  My newsletter is similar to what families send out around the holidays, updating family and friends that they don’t see in person throughout the year.  I’ve chosen this method of communication by default.  Since we don’t have family reunions or holidays together or even Facebook connections, it is my safest, best and most creative way to stay in touch.  The subjects are benign and safe.  This issue was about the dogs in our lives.

Here’s the other thoughts that I try to release from my heart….How can you miss someone and let that be the overriding feeling?  As in, I miss you so much but will do absolutely nothing about it.  I will simply choose to sit here and miss you and deny myself the experience of trying to work things out or even let myself think that I deserve a chance at happiness?  I’m going to tell you just enough to let you know I still think of you,  making the move to reach out and give you a quick, elusive, snippet of love and then yank it back so fast that you won’t even really know it was there.  An illusion, a wisp, a fantasy that can be denied.

I mailed out 12 of my newsletters to my family a month ago and to date, I’ve received one text of  “damn, i miss you”.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Give yourself love and compassion and then extend it to them.

Related articles:

6 Steps of Inner Bonding

Dr. Margaret Paul,  Do you chase when someone withdraws?


the letters in my life….

Recently my life has been a world salad.

My family and I have recently been throwing around letters of treatment modalities combined with prospective and already assigned diagnosis.  In an effort to be an well informed consumer as well as keeping our minds and hearts open to whatever ensures that our family and I are getting the most help, we’ve tried many therapies.  Some more interesting and helpful than others, we’ve journeyed down the road full of letters and abbreviations designed to add brevity to a complex and confusing situation.

These recent conversations in our home were very timely accented by a thread on Facebook where Terri, owner at Bone Sigh Arts, asked  her audience what therapies helped the women survivors….I feel compelled as always, to help my fellow woman survivor and this is a partial list from that thread with some of my own thrown in…

  • EFT ~ Emotional Freedom Technique ~ Gary Craig
  • NAET ~ Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique ~ created by Dr. Devi Nambudripad
  • DBT ~ Dialectic Behavior Therapy ~ created by Marsha Linehan
  • Energy Medicine ~  created by Donna Eden
  • Herbal remedies for physical and emotional conditions
  • EMDR ~ Eye Movement Desensitivation Response
  • IB ~ Inner Bonding ~ created by Margaret Paul 
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Cranial-Sacral Therapy ~ John Upledger

Homeopathy, acupuncture, massage therapy and the list goes on of top notch healing modalities….

Now here are some of the letters attached to me….SA (sexual abuse) survivor, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), DID (disassociative identity disorder) , CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome), LD (Lyme disease), EBV (Epstein-Barr) and the recently suggested but not confirmed BPD (borderline personality disorder).

I prefer to think that these letters will set me free instead of inducing more confusion although the process of maneuvering through them can be confusing.  I am putting this post mostly for reference, there aren’t any conclusions here.  I have found that the technique is as almost as good as the practitioner.  For example, my NAET practitioner is excellent.  She is kind, intuitive and skilled out the whazoo.   The woman who did EMDR for me was just okay and I didn’t pursue working with her.  One has to follow their instincts strongly here and find a practitioner that you can trust implicitly when doing this type of work.

Next week, I begin working with a woman (who was a fabulous fit by the way) who will be teaching me DBT.  It’s high success rate makes it not only a perfect technique for those with BPD but for many less labeled individuals.  We begin our work even without the controversial label of BPD which actually is one reason I agreed to see her.  She isn’t interested in the diagnosis just the outcome.  That sealed the deal for me.

Just to cover all the bases and to shut some people in my life up, I saw my MD/psychiatrist who yawned and scratched his face when I told him of my plans to start DBT and did he think I had BPD.  He didn’t really answer me but asked me if I had a firm, concrete plan for my suicide to which I replied no.  He handed me some anti-depressant samples and told me to come back in a month.  My answers hadn’t compelled him to jump to any conclusions nor hospitalize me.  I can’t say that I was disappointed by his lack of conclusion because it was pretty much the way I saw it too.  His apathy may have done me a favor.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know that things are amiss with me sometimes.  One can’t go through this type of trauma and not come out with swiss cheese for a brain on occasion. My family and I have been through times of hell that forced growth and compassion on us whether we liked it or not.  DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) has as one of its cornerstones the concept of radical acceptance which I immediately latched on to.  It feels really kind to learn to accept myself for exactly as I am and because of what I have been through.  What a beautiful thought to understand the strengths and limitations brought to me by this situation, accept it and go on to be the best person I can be.  And of course, my hope that my family and friends also learn the concept of radical acceptance but its not required for my success.

And by the way, this work takes time.  One of the mantras that I hear over and over from sensitive practitioners and support people is that it took a lifetime for us to get this way so be patient with the recovery.  Its so true for me that being gentle with myself has been one of the most important approaches to these life changing therapies that I would place very near the top.  That and a good dog.

This post touches on many, many topics.  Digest them slowly, stay informed and be gentle with yourself.  Otherwise you may find yourself drowning in word salad.


Are you isolating yourself?

Silhouette of a woman in a cave looking at her...

I get this question a lot.

Probably because I spend a great deal of time alone, in some people’s minds too much. Its not that I want to be isolated, I just find that I am.  In fact, I’ve become an expert on non-isolation techniques, as in, I have figured out how to participate in life beyond my physical and emotional disabilities.

I love being with people. I always have. I see the same traits in my daughter, she loves being around her friends and gravitates toward busy jobs brimming with people.  The best job I ever had was at a women’s clinic where there was this awesome nest of women, all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and beliefs….it was heaven.

Then, came the losses to an already compromised emotional soul, each taking their chunk of me until I resemble a slice of swiss cheese.  The holes are huge and deep and gaping and oozing and I work every day at keeping myself from seeping out all over the place.

Isolation comes when one’s body breaks down, keeping you from your work, livelihood and friends where one begins to fade into the distance. The old adage…out of sight, out of mind is true.

Isolation comes when your family can’t look at who you are anymore, your emotional disease gives them plenty of reason to hate you and not come around, after all, being in pain isn’t pretty no matter how hard you try to gloss it over.

Isolation comes to visit again when faced with your child rejecting who you seem to be and not seeing who you really are.  On most days, I can still pray for her and our broken relationship while reframing the unrelenting ache of how much I want her in my life.

Isolation comes when your partner looks at you differently because the toll of you has surpassed what he expected and what he believes he can handle.  The look isn’t completely devoid of love; resembling more a doggedly loyalty and disappointment as to how life isn’t fair for him.

Its odd how the question of “are you isolating yourself” is presented to me.  Its almost as if I haven’t already climbed the tallest skyscraper to have a full and functioning life.  And it seems that its overlooked that I’ve walked across hot coals and  practically begged myself into different groups of people in order to keep that phobia at bay, forcing myself to hurdle over the fear/anxiety/warped thinking that wants to win and plunging straight into activities that sometimes work out and sometimes don’t.  I know what brings me joy and being acknowledged for who I am and invited to join an activity makes my heart soar.  Especially if it comes from any member of my family.  And that doesn’t sound like someone who tries to isolate herself.

Now here’s the tricky part.  This is where the psychiatric world has been called in to address my pain and isolation.   Its been decided that my love for people is an attachment of a pathological form.  Something I feel as a warm glow from my heart has been labeled as an aberrant way of avoiding my extreme fear of rejection of course, stemming from my childhood abuse and neglect.  My desire to love and not be isolated is now a bad thing.  Its now being presented, rather callously I may add, that I have borderline personality disorder to which in some parts I don’t disagree with.  The message has some merit but the delivery so far has sucked.

Wikipedia defines borderline personality disorder as “prolonged disturbance of personality function characterized by depth and variability of moods”.  It seems to be one of the scariest, time consuming and all around unsatisfying diagnosis for the psychological/psychiatric profession to deal with.   Joke among therapists… “How do you get rid of the annoying, troublesome patient from your caseload?  Tell them they are BPD and they will become so angry they will leave!”  Apparently even the non BPD want to be labeled BPD.  While some people laugh at this, I find this profoundly sad.

Wiki goes on to say that there is concern about social stigma; “the severe disapproval of or discontent with a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society”.  Apparently some members of the profession get that this particularly disease tends to ostracize the very people who are more than capable of doing that to themselves.  Hmmm….I’m getting some irony here….Wouldn’t it make sense to surround these people with love and acceptance for who they are while not enabling the disease.  Aren’t we back to the last post where I ranted about separating the person from their behavior?  Love the person, hate the disease?

Thank the universe for Marsha M. Linehan who has led the field in therapies for the BPD patient and added a whole lot of humanity to their situation.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is proving to be not only the best choice for recovery but accessible to those therapists choosing to change their elitist views on treating the sickest of the sick.  Marsha herself was/is a BPD patient subject to the most inhumane and cruel treatment at the hands of the psychiatric profession.  She schooled herself, becoming a PhD and led the way toward a kinder, gentler way of viewing the sick.

Those closest to me have learned to scorn me in a very obtuse sort of way. If they find me hurting and difficult, they leave.  If others see me alone too much, they say I isolate too much.  If I am anxious about an upcoming separation where I will be completely alone for several days, they tell me I am too attached and fear rejection.  If I object to and confront a situation that feels wrong (even though I’m told to take care of myself and my boundaries), then I’m labeled hostile and aggressive.

And as always, I reflect continually, my behavior, my nuance, the energy I project and constantly wonder….Am I really the crazy one?


therapy

Phyllis and her therapy are my mind expansion drug.  It is an induced state of existence that I have come to crave.  It is a drug that I haven’t gotten often, a rare delicacy. When I am out somewhere and stumble upon someone who truly makes me think, I am delighted.  Often it is animals or children.  Usually I am the one who is bored with the people crowd, the mundane conversation which goes in the the same direction, money, blah, blah, blah…me, myself and more about me…..  when something catches my interest be it human,  animal or plant, a warm feeling pulls me toward it.  I love the energy of this moment.  It is there if you pay attention, in fact, it is everywhere.  The conversation fades as you have the sense of needing to cross the room to experience that which holds great interest.  I love being led through therapy.  The places we go are the innermost creases of my conscious which borders my subconscious.  It is a separation that is slight, very thin.  Its texture is that which is intended to give, bowing gently to one side then another, like a curtain over an open window, following whichever way the breeze carries it.  This division blurs often for me not in visual terms but mostly in feelings.  Within a span of a day, I can experience emotions from many different stages of my life.  This ability is increasing thanks to my therapist.  She leads while I slip down that path, the warm timeless space where I retrieve lost and buried thoughts an emotions.  sometimes the division is huge and made of stone.  very definite barriers constructed purposefully so as not to feel.  after all it wasn’t safe to feel.  the priority was for the child warrior to be on the lookout.  the attackers were many and took many different forms.  some were so subtle that it took years of therapy and growing up just to recognize them.

We talked of the bright room, the room of joy, pure blissful joy.  I stare blankly for a long time trying so hard to conceive of this notion.  I want so much to know this feeling, this room of joy. Barely into the room, the feeling comes that I want to write my story. This is something I want with all my heart and like many other projects before, I will persist and learn until I have mastered it.  I take a helper in the room with me.  It’s Shrek, big, green, fierce protector but so sweet and warm.  He blocks the doorway from intruders so I can be little.  I get to be the child while he watches lovingly.  My angel swoops in for the party. It is wonderful, I sit with my comforter around me watching with delight.  So many wonderful things to look at.

Phyllis said last night that she couldn’t wait for my book.  It was in reference to the stories I’ve been writing and the progress that I have made.  I was glowing.  It didn’t hit me until i was getting into bed tonight that a PHD at Washington University, just told me that she couldn’t wait for my book.  Oh my god, it occurs to me that there really is a story to tell.  I’m giddy and am already picturing it.  My words have worth.  Yes, I could do this.  I AM doing this.


diary entry…

March 4, 2011…..Really wanting to get up and get moving.  Is that a distraction for me? To get involved in a project as a way to move the focus somewhere else or is it a healthy thing to do to move about trying to feed one’s need for order. i feel more connected when I’m moving around, seeing people living life so i know the answer to this already.  I suppose it is about balance.  I spend time here, moving and stretching, canning, reading but always holding my child with me, stopping when she’s tired or frustrated.  The weather is crazy today so I need to be extra careful.  I feel love right now for my therapist and having Inner Bonding as a tool, as a way to connect with others on the same path. It feels great to have a resource, an anchor, a go to strategy.

My stomach is growling and I must eat and stretch.  C’mon sweetie, let’s go get some food.  Berries and cream, yum.


My friend Barbarie

hold my hand

This is the reply from a dear friend Barbarie, who was one of the first people i told about being molested…i finally had the courage to tell her what had happened and how i had been writing to recover…it is upon this message that i started this blog and came out…she helped me write my very first words here….

“Grab hold of your inner courage MY Friend! Writing it and sharing is such a powerful tool in that that is how we give our experiences a VOICE that so deeply wants to be heard, acknowledged and shared. You are courageous in sharing with me.  If you want to talk about being scared I am open to sharing with you.  It is so loving to give those parts that want to hide out a voice to come from the hiding. You can do it Sweetie …. Take a deep breath in and let it out and take another deep breath and let your fingers do the talking and sharing. Your Inner Being will sure appreciate it and love you for being so COURAGEOUS in giving her a VOICE that is truly a blessing to be heard.”

This is the kind  of love that I received from Barbarie who has become my virtual friend and confidant, introduced to me by my therapist here in the midwest.  She and I live thousands of miles apart, have never met in person and yet the distance makes no difference when two women have shared so many similar experiences.  I have found that when I meet a woman who has survived assault, rape, sexual abuse in any of its forms, that small talk and other social routines aren’t as necessary.  I tend to dive right in, delighted in the fact that I’ve found someone who gets it and who understands and to this day, I haven’t met a survivor that I didn’t feel an instant connection and kinship with.  

I have that with Barbarie, she is a rare gem of a person and I will always be grateful to her undying support of me when I was struggling with words and not sure what to do with them.  Now that the blog is up and running, I’m even more grateful because together we can continue to reach out to women, victims and survivors of sexual abuse, rape, incest….Thank you, my friend Barbarie…



mother aches…

last night was full of dreams, went to bed sad, lonely, aching for my mom or a mom. feeling like i needed mothering bad.  spent some time crying, cuddled with my pillow, didn’t get very far talking to my child before i fell asleep.  felt introspective most of the afternoon and evening.  thinking it has tons to do with the the one word that is stuck so hard in my brain, deprivation.  deprivation of mothering.  the feeling is so strong, it engulfs me and i feel empty.  i want to be mothered so bad and i loved being a mother that i want to mother all of my daughter’s friends.

last night’s dream was about me being pregnant at an old age, 50 plus, and delivering a baby girl.  it begins as if i am the mother but have strong feelings also as the baby….  she was beautiful, almost glowing as i held her.  but immediately i knew something was wrong with her.  she had a physical deformity in her mouth, her jaw was crooked, her teeth were misplaced and oddly enough i just birthed a newborn with teeth. i delivered her by myself because i didn’t make it to the hospital. my husband would have nothing to do with her and simply offered to bring me food if needed it but wouldn’t look at the baby after he deposited us at the hospital entry.  later when i left to be with her at  the hospital, he was busy with a project and wouldn’t go with me.

here’s the weird part about this baby.  she was very wise, an old soul, but wouldn’t look at me much, kept glancing away, wasn’t comfortable at all with me.  we weren’t bonding much at all. i desperately wanted to feel something for this child and kept holding her but the hospital staff kept taking her away and doing procedures on her.  this is the part where i wasn’t the parent that i am now because i would have never let that happen.  i watched this passive, worried, fretful woman let everyone poke and prod her baby and didn’t say a word and totally gave her responsibility over to them and never in this life would i have done that.  the baby didn’t care for this either and was extremely emotionally vacant as she would look away from me, wondering why the hell was i not taking care of her better.  then during a time when they left her alone, i was holding her and she looked at me and spoke “mommy….this hurts.  it hurts when i do this….she is mimicking moving her stiff and rigid jaw open and shut where her teeth didn’t fit right. her mouth couldn’t close right and as the mother am still not really hearing her.  its not that i don’t love her or want to love and help her but this whole thing freaks me out so much that i want to just leave her there and run away.

my therapist feels that i represent both the mother and child…thinking my baby inside is starting to trust me and talk to me a bit.  i’m to encourage her and continue to honor her so she will express herself.  i’m actually thrilled that if it is her finally speaking to me, i can help her with her hurt.  that i can do.  i’ve learned to be the person who can do that and will.  the discouraging part is the realization that i’m starting at the infant stage?  a lifetime’s work of piecing myself together and a breakthrough and its back at the very, very beginning…doesn’t that signify another lifetime’s work ahead?  exhausted, i e-mail my therapist for another appointment.


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