LGBT And DID

LGBT and DID

4.3.2015

“Gender preference does not define you. Your spirit defines you.” 
― P.C. Cast, Awakened

I’m not going to get on a political soapbox about LGBT rights.  The fact is that, people aren’t going to change my mind based on their beliefs. I’m not going to change their mind about my beliefs.  Honestly, being a member of the LGBT community and having DID leaves me in the minority of the minorities.  Do I care?  Some areas yes, but the thoughts don’t control my life.  Does the idea of refusing service to someone based on who they love concern me? Yes and I don’t believe that it’s right at all.  However, no one’s opinions about my life and marriage pay my bills, sleep in my bed or raise our son.

My mother gave me some valuable advice my whole life that even as a child I was able to quote.  When I would complain about something not being fair, she would always say, “There are a lot of things in life that aren’t fair.  The sooner you learn to live with them, the better off you’ll be.”  To me, that translates to a very common theme in 12-Step communities which simply means, ‘Living life on life’s terms.’  Abuse is the exception to the rule.  Abuse is never ok.

If my wife and son were to go into a restaurant and be refused service because of the makeup of our family, sure I would probably make a scene by making my voice heard.  I have no problem defending my family at all costs.  Chances are after a verbal lashing from yours truly, the person who refused the service might actually think before making such comments.  I don’t know.  Maybe try checking with one of the employees at our local library to see what he says.  Anyway, my wife and I were taught something even more valuable while growing up in the deep south….the art of southern cooking.

 One thing I know without a doubt is that, I’m gay and very happy being my authentic sexual self.  I was very unhappy living a life that wasn’t me as a straight female.  Some people, including family, have an issue with me being married to a woman even though I was being abused by my ex-husband and very unhappy.  You know what…it truly is their issue and not mine.  I’m happy being with the woman I love and being treated with love and respect. I don’t regret one day since I ‘came out’ even though I, too, have lost friends and family as a result.

I found my soul mate in one of the most chaotic times in my life.  We love each other as much and more than we first met.  We have weathered storm, after storm, after storm mostly on our own.  So, for us, our relationship was do or die.  Melody is truly my balance.  Since my diagnosis of DID, life for us has still remained chaotic even when our personal life has been ok.  Life keeps pounding us with more and more.  What I do know about us as a couple and as a family is that we are incredibly resilient and strong.

Our lives on a daily basis don’t even fit the ‘our plate’s full’ analogy.  ‘Our plate runneth over and over and over’ seems to be more accurate.  If you need a better description, think of an organization that’s collecting money for some charity and they have the thermometer that’s colored red as the collection of funds climbs.  When they reach the top, the red starts spewing out the top.  Yea, that’s a more accurate picture of how full our plate usually has been for several years now.  Mel and I took a proactive approach 6 years ago to start couples counseling as a way to maintain a healthy relationship.  How valuable these therapists have been for us as a couple during all of this chaos.  Sometimes, it has truly felt like our couples’ counseling has been the only thread holding us together.  She sees her therapist. We see our couples’ therapist. And someday soon I’ll have my own therapist again.  Truthfully, I would just like to take a break from individual therapy until our new baby boy is born to give my ‘system’ time to chill.

People can have their opinions about gay rights and that’s fine.  I also have a choice whether or not to be a one member audience as well.  Sometimes I choose to jump into an already futile and  very argumentative effort.  Nothing really ever gets accomplished but the usually equally aggressive insults.  In the big scheme of things, everyone has an opinion and thinks that they’re right.  Laws are changed by the government not me.

I’ll tell you what the most important thing in my life right now…potty training the 3 year old.  We also have friends and family in need.  I’m looking for a new therapist.  And daily, I deal with the horrors that I’ve experienced my whole life.  I do my best to try and put the pieces of my puzzled life back together.  It’s not that the topic of gay rights isn’t important to me.  It’s just that, at this particular time in my life, other things take precedence.  I’ve got my wife and son and no government or food establishment can take that from me.  Most of the time I just roll my eyes and shake my head.

Every single day the evidence of my life of secretive abuse floods my mind and body.   I fight like hell to get out of the bed and to try to challenge my fears and anxieties about life.  Life isn’t easy being gay or having DID.  Both have their own stigmas and bent belief systems by society.  Have your own beliefs and opinions, but you can’t touch our rainbow bubble.

And since the uproar about the pizza establishment has become such a big deal….I don’t feed my genitals pizza anyway.

#Thispuzzledlife

The Circle Of Life

The Circle of Life

3.31.15

“Simba, you have forgotten me. You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba, you are more than what you have become; you must take your place in the circle of life. Remember who you are…. remember….” -Mufasa, The Lion King

The title of this post just had to have a quote from The Lion King.  Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out a lot of things.  I use to have a place back where my parents live that I could just go to think.  In the desert and a much larger city sometimes you have to get creative.  So, I started thinking about the simple things in life that made me happy as a child which also brought me much comfort.  The three things that have always remained constant are my love for ballparks, animals and music.

Albuquerque while much larger than the town I grew up in has ballparks attached to dog parks. PERFECT!!!!  So, when I need some ‘down time’ from being a wife and a mom, I drive to a local park and watch the animals play in the respective area while taking in all of the sounds of the ballpark and my IPod.  My senses instantly become overloaded and the memories begin to flood the good times in my life of opening day at the softball fields.  The familiar smells of charcoal grills with hamburgers and hotdogs, fresh cut grass and dirt can take me back 20+ years to a time when I had life by the tail and was trying to enjoy the ride.

The sound of the pinging of aluminum bats. The cheer of the crowds and the familiar laughter and talking among teammates in the outfield bring a ‘genuine’ smile to my face which few things can do these days.  I think to myself sometimes, “What I wouldn’t give to be able to play one more game being coached by some of my beloved coaches and the adrenaline pumping through my veins at a rate that only an athlete can understand.”  For a brief moment, I’m at peace.

I notice the still changing seasons which bring about new birth evidenced by green instead of brown, dormant, winter grass.  Little bits of green have begun to appear slowly almost with the fear of another final winter blast.  I begin to think a little deeper about recent situations and notice that once again the only thing constant has been change.  Friendships are changing.  Therapy is changing. Our family size is changing.  Everything is once again changing.  Scared?  I must be honest and say yes.  Sad?  I cannot tell a lie.  Excited about what lies blindly ahead? You bet!

I begin to think even deeper and internal conversations lead to this revelation.  When my Nannie passed away, 9 months later I meet my best friend who would become my wife.  My wife’s uncle passes away and Marshall is born almost one year later.  Sarah just passed away in February and we are within weeks of having our brand new baby boy join our family.

I’ve been dealing with some things and have answered questions in a way that brought on a comment from my wife, Melody saying, “That sounded just like something Sarah would say.”  My heart has been so heavy recently because I have some situations that I would like to hear her guidance that only she could help me to understand.  Her wisdom was such that it was written on my heart.  I must admit, though, that I wish it was written on paper.

The above quote from The Lion King hit me with a handful of Sarah and my Nannie.  My grandmother would’ve “churched” the idea up with some of her ‘special’ words.   Sarah would’ve said it almost exactly.  Remember, she was and always will be my Yoda.

Then I suddenly had a vision of both Sarah and Nannie meeting for the first time in heaven.  The solemn mood soon led to a deep belly laugh with this vision.  Those that knew Sarah knew that she had a one of a kind swaggered walk of confidence rather than arrogance.  I told her a few days before she passed and was still somewhat coherent that, “Mel and I had a baby that was born in Heaven and if she would keep an eye on it with my grandmother, we would greatly appreciate it.”  I refer to our child as “it” only because the doctors were not able to determine the sex of our child at the time of its demise.  She indicated to me that she understood what I was saying and when I looked in her eyes. As usual, I was filled with peace because of the level of trust we had always had between the two of us.

The funny part comes in when I envision the encounter between my grandmother and Sarah.  She had seen pictures of my grandmother so, there’s no doubt she knew what she looked like.  Anyway, I envision Sarah looking around and see this older and shall I say very spunky lady with this itty bitty baby in her hand.  So, she walks up to her and says, “Hey, who’s little one you got there?”  Nannie being the brash and sometimes ornery woman that she was responded, “Who are you?”  Sarah replies, “Hi, I’m Sarah Pardue.”  I have a “friend”, as she would usually tell stories, that she and her wife lost a baby about the age of that one right there and asked me to check on for them.  Nannie would reply, “This is my great grand baby. My granddaughter and her wife lost a little one a few months ago.”  I can almost see the wheels in Sarah’s head turning and putting 2+2 together and getting 4.  She said, “You wouldn’t happen to be called Nannie would you?”

Let me interject this by saying that Sarah had the nose of a bloodhound to sniff out addict behaviors.  And the “street smarts” to outwork Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami on any kind of murder case if she were needed.  There was a resource somewhere for something that she always had at her fingertips.

Anyway, Nannie would reply in her very hysterically, unique way, “Who are you?”  Sarah would simply say, “Yea, I thought so.”  As Nannie starts to reach for her familiar house shoe that she would use against the squirrels to fling at them like a monkey does poop, Sarah would say, “Dana told me you were a spit fire.  I told her I would come by and check on this baby.  You see, this baby is part mine too” as she would chuckle.  Nannie would say, “Dana? How do you know Dana?”  Sarah would just look at her and say, “Let’s just say, I know how hard headed she can be and possibly where some of it came from.”  They would both have a good laugh and then the storytelling would begin. And even then Sarah would abide by HIPAA regulations.

Whether this actually happens or not, I’ll never know.  Sometimes the things that keep you going are knowing that the people that meant the world to you are together and have finally met each other like you always wanted them to do.  More importantly, lately, I have been feeling so lost, lonely and just flat out missing and needing to talk to Sarah.  I need and want HER opinions.  Am I glad she’s at peace? Who doesn’t want close friends/family to have personal peace?   I miss her to a degree and a level that even I don’t understand.

Through writing this post, I have received the answer in black and white through a quote and the feelings this writing has stirred up for me.  I do NOT have the ability to read between the lines so open, honest and direct communication is what I require for understanding.  I am also in no way trying to minimize the passing of either of these beautiful individuals.  Just a mental scenario that has kept me comforted recently that I thought I would share.  Sarah in essence sort of “kicking me out of the nest” from heaven by saying, “Dana, you have it within you to do your work and find your own answers now.  I will always be a guide for you as are your ancestors.  But, this journey is about you and only you.  Go now and find your answers and peace as you have helped others find theirs.”

And my tears have turned to smiles if only for a moment.

#Thispuzzledlife

Birds And Squirrels

Birds and Squirrels

3.27.15

A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.
— Author Unknown

Since Sarah’s recent death, the reality of the amount of grieving that must be done on this very long and arduous journey through DID and trauma recovery has become painfully apparent.  I thought that I had at least some understanding of the level of grief that I’m now forced to deal with.  The truth is that the level that I have envisioned is nowhere close to what seems to be becoming ever more evident.  Grief also isn’t always about someone’s demise. Grieving can encapsulate things related to career, education, personal life, etc.  Sarah’s death seems to have ripped scabs off old feelings that seemed to be buried.  I look over so many of the conversations that Sarah and I had together about life and there was always one particular topic that I never wanted to discuss because it’s so incredibly painful to me.  This topic about, my grandmother, Alma Rebecca Howard Buxton’s death.

Recently, I’ve had many memories of my childhood and life that just do nothing more than circulate throughout my brain continuously.  Many if not most of these memories somehow include my grandmother.  Why?  Plain and Simple…she spoiled me as an adult like she did when I was a kid.  She was also one of my closest and dearest friends.  To me, she was MY Nannie. My grandfather Samuel E Buxton died September 1975.  Ironically, only 4 months prior to me being born.  These grandparents were my mom’s side of the family that has much less decedents than my daddy’s side of the family.  I’ve always grown up hearing stories from my parents and Nannie about my grandfather.  My Nannie was it when it came to grandparents from my mom’s family.  I’m going to do my best to paint you an accurate and yet sometimes comical picture of who my grandmother was.

Some of my earliest memories include spending the night with my Nannie, at her house, in the very small town of New Augusta, MS.  When I was younger, there wasn’t much there except some kin folk.  And well….not much has changed.  There was a place called the Tip Top, which was a hamburger stand on the side of the road that had the best box of grease that I had ever eaten.  Remember, that it took my parents several years for them to be able to adopt both me and my sister.  So, yea we got extra spoiled.  However, my grandmother was from a totally different generation and the differences would become even more evident the older I got.  But, she was still MY Nannie.

One of the fondest memories I have about my grandmother are of us smelling all the spices in her spice rack.  She would make some of the funniest faces which would have me laughing like a hyena.  We played card games that I swear to this day, I think she made up.  We would go to cousins’ houses and play Pokeno or dice.  And at night, I would snuggle up to her warm hump in her back that somehow always spelled S-A-F-E-T-Y to me.

My Nannie would sit and tell me stories about her childhood for as many hours as I could hold my eyes open.  She would tell me such vivid and heartwarming stories about my grandfather that I always felt close to him without ever meeting him.  I listened to Conway Twitty and Alabama on the radio with her.  I laugh now at some of the lyrics to the songs Conway Twitty sang and wonder, “Why was I ever allowed to listen to this at such a young age?” I always have a good chuckle about that.

Nannie would tell me stories about being at the last public hanging and the KKK.  Understand that my grandmother was born December 28, 1919, so she was right slap dab in the middle of a lot of history that was made.  When we were younger, The Cosby Show was not allowed to be watched in her house.  And when she passed away in January 2, 2006, Wheel of Fortune wasn’t watched if someone black was participating because, “Blacks take all the money.”

She and I obviously didn’t agree on the whole race issue or politics, but she was my Nannie.  I think about it and if I recall correctly, she had a Chihuahua every day I was around her.  She had a couple of dogs that I liked but they were all mostly from the devil.  Apparently, only the last dog that she owned ever conveyed to her that he enjoyed the theme song to the game show Jeopardy.  In her life, the magazine The Enquirer, might as well have been equal to the Bible.

She loved nature to the extreme.  Both my parents and I get some good laughs when we talk about my grandmother and her ideas about birds and squirrels.  My grandmother, in her later years, once she moved from New Augusta, MS where she was raised and subsequently raised my mom and aunt finally moved to Petal, MS and lived in an efficiency apartment behind my parents house. Her hobby became feeding the squirrels and birds.  She loved them both but seemed to forget that they were animals not toddlers with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  Anyway, she would share her frustrations with me in whatever language she saw fit and I could tell this was becoming a big source of stress.  The main problem was that the squirrels were not only eating the corn cobs nailed to the tree but also climbing the bird feeder and eating the seed.  She didn’t understand that cussing at a squirrel gets you absolutely nowhere.  Nannie was becoming ever more frustrated by these invited rodents.  The wooden chairs outside on her patio were slowly starting to lose the legs because the squirrels were chewing them off.  I could hardly hold the laughter in but knew she was one small smartass remark from going on a squirrel killing spree that would even leave PETA speechless.

Not long after that, I guess she just couldn’t take it anymore. In the general direction of the birdfeeder were house shoes, knives, forks and whatever else that could be used as a weapon to be strategically thrown at random squirrels that would sit and have a stare down like that out of the old west.  Her contradictions were some of the funniest non-filtered comments I had ever heard.  She would be all about, “Death to all squirrels by any means!” And then flip on the television and say, “Can you believe how people treat animals?” And yes that “rainy day” comment time has finally arrived.

She had no filter. Speed limits signs were suggestions only. The motorized chairs at Wal-Mart were considered fully operational weapons that were to be used at all times.  If you got in the way, you should’ve moved because that’s what caused the pain.  She never understood the point in going to salvage stores because in her eyes, “Who wants to pay for dirty crap?” This is pretty much how she viewed everyday life.  But, you know what?  She was still MY Nannie.

I can honestly say that I have no regrets about things that should’ve been said or done with my relationship with my grandmother.  At the time of her death, I was interning at  Pine Grove’s Women’s Center as an undergraduate.  I was still living and somehow surviving an abusive marriage and working two jobs with very minimal sleep.  I didn’t nor did I make or take the time to grieve.  I went through the motions and tried to forget it.

It has been 9 years since my grandmother died and the hurt is still like the night she died. My heart continues to feel the pain of the part of my soul that died that day.  This is one traumatic event that I dread dealing with more than life itself.  It’s also one of the events that keep me from resting and having some sort of peace.  My world, my balance, my friend, my comedian, my really bad politician, my Nannie is who she was and still is to me.

#Thispuzzledlife

It’s Not Easy Being Green

“It’s not easy being green”

3.18.15

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”
– Buddha

The intention when talking about the controversial topic of medical cannabis is not to attempt at changing your personal views.  It’s simply to let you see how it has affected me personally since this blog is about my journey with DID.  Let me interject by saying that I will speak more than once on a particular topic and possibly say some of the same things. Ignore that and keep reading.  You have to understand that every day for me is like the movie Groundhog Day. Now back to our cannabis topic…..

One thing I learned about living in a ‘melting pot’ of a city like Albuquerque is that there are many different views  and many of them very liberal on many different topics especially addiction and recovery.  I must say that being raised on a ’12-Step’ way of thinking in a ’12-Step’ recovery community, I was pretty rigid on my beliefs about addiction and recovery too.  I’m still a big believer in the 12 steps and have watched the miracle of recovery happen to many people including my own clients.

Living in a much larger city than what I was raised in has shown me what addiction looks like from the very bottom in most cases.  I have never seen a substance abuse problem of this magnitude ever in my life.  Most of my clientele have consisted of the homeless or methadone clinic clients.  Both clientele are difficult due to the unique challenges not only each individual face emotionally but just in basic needs that most take for granted.  I have a heart that has been touched and shot with cupid’s arrow for these guys I can assure you.

What I was soon faced with was something I would come to a cross roads about the many years of “recovery” beliefs.  I started hearing more and more about the Medical Marijuana Program (MMJ) here in New Mexico.  I was instantly almost angered by the idea as marijuana as a medication.  I thought to myself, “Isn’t the drug problem bad enough?”  However, the idea was talked about, both sides of the debate for several years now.  The clients that I was treating were clients with prescription pills, alcohol, heroin and most anything else for addiction.  Heroin, Alcohol and Methamphetamine being the main substances used out here but not presenting for treatment for marijuana addiction.  (I did not just say that it doesn’t or can’t happen.)  I did have to get used to the idea of this flower being referred to as a medication.  But, my clients claimed that their own quality of life was improving despite their addiction to the other substances.  The doctor overseeing the program was also very non-chalant about marijuana as well.

In the meantime,  my mental health issues had been hitting the skids for a while and were now becoming ever more present in everyday life.  I was not able to control or hide the “quirks” that I might would have at home.  I’ve always thought that with psychiatric medications and their side effects that I was actually better before I started taking them to begin with.  My psychiatrist later told us that it’s no wonder that none of the seemingly every psyche medication know to man that nothing really worked.  He explained that because of my diagnosis that some medications work on some alters where other medications make conditions for others worse.  Finally, someone that could answer at least one daily frustrating question.  I needed something to “tame the madness.”  I wasn’t sleeping at all.  I was aggressive most of the time.  I couldn’t stay grounded.  It was total chaos.  I’ve had times since then but thank God not as frequent by a long shot.

My psychiatrist said to me, “About all there’s left is medical marijuana.  Would you be willing to try it?”  My wife, knowing the addiction history I have, looked at me and had told him before but reiterated the fact that I am an addict.  He said, “You know, just try it. If it becomes a problem, we’ll get you off it and you don’t ever have to touch it again.”  A cold chill went throughout my body.  “Is this what I’m about to have to sacrifice to live?” I thought.  We took the signed paper and agreed to talk about it. I was torn inside.  I knew what I had been taught about addiction.   I also knew what I was being forced to live with and how my quality of life had plummeted.  Mel, as educated as she was in the area of addiction said, “At this point, I’ll try anything.”  We were both being drained of our lives while trying to be moms to an infant.  Something had to give.  I hadn’t smoked pot in many years and didn’t know one thing about medical marijuana and it’s medicinal properties.  My psychiatrist said it could help my PTSD and I knew that my options had come down to weed or a 9mm.

Exactly one month to the day that I sent the application off to the state I received my MMJ card.  I had begun reading about the different strains and about edibles and anything related to this plant.  When I got my card the fear had begun to fade and I was ready to get my life a little more livable and quality just like veterans with PTSD.  We were off to get my new green meds.

I get to a local dispensary, where I was greeted and asked not what my medical condition was but what symptoms I was having.  They begin educating me on the difference in indica, sativa, high CBD strains, edibles, tinctures, wax, shatter, crumble and what might work with my conditions.  I was very nervous about this new endeavor and scared about spinning out of control in the most miserable place in the world….ADDICTION.

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That first night I began to use my “new” medication was the first night I was able to see something at the end of the tunnel.  I couldn’t make it out, but I was intrigued enough to keep going.  I was finally able to sleep.  I was able to function during the day.  I was able to come off IBS medication.  My depression was being managed as well as my suicidal ideations, mania and urges to self-harm.  My relationship with my wife and son began to improve.  This is not a cure all plant by any means.  I still have to put in the elbow grease and deal with my trauma every day.  This sure makes the process much more tolerable.

Notice I didn’t say that it managed not eradicated thoughts and behaviors.  These behaviors still happen more than even Mel knows.  A lot of people might think that medical marijuana is just a reason people can give to get high.  The truth is that people take medications all the time for the wrong reasons and others take for the right reasons.  Also, medication high in CBD can also have very little psychoactive effects making it possible to work or go to school and function with no problem.  Medical marijuana patients are also often thought of as a Cheech & Chong type of brain cell lacking type of functioning. This isn’t true either.  Most people make comments out of ignorance and I just tend to ignore a lot of it.  Because, until you have a condition where conventional medication doesn’t work or has side effects that trump the original condition, you don’t know that level of desperation.

Most people ask how it’s prescribed? There are no labels that say, “Smoke one bowl in the morning and one bowl at night.  Finish off with Cheetos.” It’s very trial and error type of a process.   You will find your level of medication and if you overdo it, you won’t do it again.  Reason: because while you got too high the only question you could think of and not answer was, “Where did I leave my butt? And how do I reach the Cheetos?”

Our son has only heard marijuana being referred to as, “Momma D’s medicine.”  We don’t make a big deal about it and treat it like it is…..medicine.  I have been on the program for 2.5 years now and have never gotten out of control with my using or had any problems arising related to addiction.  I’m off all medications except a couple supplemental meds to help with areas in the body that the marijuana can’t.  The PTSD and DID haven’t disappear and probably never will. That doesn’t mean I have to either.

So, while this topic isn’t very popular with a lot of people back south, for this family, it’s important that not only us but other families benefit from this plant as well.  I’m a believer and advocate for this medication even as an addiction professional.  More importantly, my wife is a big advocate for a plant that has helped to save her wife’s life.

#Thispuzzledlife

Silencing The Lambs

The Silencing of the Lambs

3.16.15

“What makes psychopathy so different, so surreal…that it knocks her head off?  The inability to wrap her head around the emotional-physical-spiritual-sexual gang bang that just happened when she thought she was the most wonderful person.”

—Sandra Brown, Women Who Love Psychopaths

I was trying to decide on a quote this morning for this particular blog post about trauma that would cover the spectrum of how trauma effects different developmental stages from a personal perspective.  While quite blunt, this quote pretty much describes the ‘rape’ on so many levels of each of my personal traumas.  When people ask, “If things were so bad, why didn’t you leave? Or, why didn’t you just tell someone what was happening?”  Honestly, I just have to see and understand that I’m talking to someone at that moment who doesn’t and might not ever understand unless in that position themselves.  Individuals who have never been abused or been so scared that the last thing they would or could ever do is tell the ‘little secret’ to expose their perpetrators, can’t comprehend that level of fear.

Keep in mind that the ‘little secret’ about my molestation by our preacher’s sons was mentioned in passing only a couple times until I told what happened, not even in detail, less than 10 years ago.  That secret I had been holding since I was a 5.5 year old child.  Why do kids do that if they know and are confident that their parents can help?  The problem is not with the child or the parents.  The problem lies with the perpetrators.  If the perpetrators are the parents, then that’s a separate topic.  Even when I got older and new no physical harm could come to me, the seed of fear was planted many years ago.  All I knew was that the topic scared me.  I knew what had happened through broken memories.  But, I was completely detached emotionally except for the emotion of fear.  My parents being the very loving and understanding couple that they are were revealed additional pieces of that time in my life last summer for the first time.  Can you imagine how they felt knowing some additional information about things that transpired?  Then how do you think, as a child, I felt with it being done to me?  The fact that they were connected to religion has always had an influence on my view of religion and religious figures.

In my abusive previous relationship and consequently a marriage, I kept holding on to the false hope that one day I would again be in the relationship with the person that charmed me.  I was so young and naive that I couldn’t see what was happening to me every single day.  His grip just became more and more tighter emotionally until I had been convinced that I was too stupid, dumb, uneducated, ugly, retarded, unwanted by anyone else and whatever else he could come up with in the moment to call me that I felt too weak to be able to stand on my own two feet.  My view of survival was…..well….him.  I was also extremely scared, at that time, of the repercussions of his or his family’s anger.  But, he had his own techniques about how he would ‘raise’ me as his wife.  He just didn’t know that there was a term called gas lighting that would describe parts of his abuse.

A very common form of brainwashing in which an abuser tries to falsely convince the victim that the victim is defective, for any purpose, such as making the victim more pliable and easily controlled, or making the victim more emotional and therefore more needy and dependent. {You’re reading “Definition of Gas lighting” by J. E. Brown.}

Often done by friends and family members, who claim (and may even believe) that they are trying to be helpful. The gas lighting abuser sees himself or herself as a nurturing parental figure in relation to the victim, and uses gas lighting as a means for keeping the victim in that relationship, perhaps as punishment for the victim’s attempt to break out of the dependent role.

Here’s an example…If an abusive person says hurtful things and makes you cry, and instead of apologizing and taking responsibility, starts recommending treatments for what he or she calls “your depression” or “your mood swings,” you are in the presence of a gas lighter.

So, next time, when someone says, “If it’s true, why didn’t they tell?” or “Don’t feel sorry for someone who just stays in a situation like that!”  Understand, that there is so much more going on psychologically that you nor anyone else who’s never experienced brainwashing can comprehend.  True the victim does protect the abuser most of the time.  Trust me…..”IT’S OUT OF FEAR.”  This is how perpetrators ‘silence the lambs.”

Mentally and physically, the effects of 14 years of ‘gas lighting’ took a big toll on me.  My ‘alters’ protected me from feeling much more of the abuse than was felt.  Did I develop maladaptive coping skills from a very young age?  Yes, of course.  They worked well at the time to help me survive some of the horrific traumas of my life.  Now, they just interfere with daily life.  PTSD, social phobias, OCD, rages, flashbacks, body memories, etc. are what my days and nights consist of these days.  Life is better on some days rather than on others.  This, however, are the effects of a lifetime of abuse perpetrated on who ‘had it all’ and became a ‘head case’ over time.  Look at the events of many forms of abuse in my life and tell me who were and still are the ‘head cases?’

Dissociative Identity Disorder is in no shape, form or fashion an easy thing to deal with on a daily basis.  It’s scary as hell for me most of the time.  I won’t nor can I even begin to imagine what it’s like for my wife.  Our son, he’s learning on a different level all of Momma D’s parts.  Every single day our family is in a battle with this disorder.  On an individual level, we’re in a war to put the pieces of the memories back together and deal with them as they should’ve been dealt with many years ago.

Every morning, as long as I choose to put one foot in front of the other, they don’t win.  The day I lay down directly or indirectly in a permanent manner is the day they win.  I think you know enough about me to know that I come from a long line of coaches that demanded and would accept nothing less than winners.  ‘Winners’ in their eyes were more than just numbers on a scoreboard.  There’s only one way I know how to operate….”Get knocked down 1000 times.  Get back up 1001 times.”  This too is a gift.

This lamb is no longer going to be silent.  Abuse is real.

#Thispuzzledlife

Patch Adams And Therapy

Patch Adams and Therapy

3.12.15

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”—Patch Adams

I am sitting here watching the movie Patch Adams tonight as I have many times.  Tonight, however, this film takes on a whole new meaning in a couple of different ways.  Bare with me while I try to convey the importance of this film as it relates to therapy.  While Robin Williams was always a personal favorite actor and comedian, this particular movie rings loud and clear in several ways to me.

Firstly, while having the dreams of being a doctor, he still wants to have strong human connections.  In the movie, he compares medical school to being in the marines due to a lecture on transference.  Throughout the movie you see him trying to find that balance by using some very unconventional yet amusing tactics.  One particular scene shows him doing student rounds with a senior doctor and he begins talking to a group of students about a patient’s condition right in front of the patient.  Robin Williams, who plays Patch Adams, additionally wants to know the patient’s name.  He introduces himself and calls her by name and instantly a connection is made.

In my undergraduate studies at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS we were also taught about transference and professional distance with clients.  The truth is that transference is inevitable.  Every human being has some type of impact on another’s life. One of my professors told us in a lecture something that will always stick with me….”Your clients are people first.  Then, they have a diagnosis.”  Probably some of the most valuable information that I have ever been able to use when I worked with addicts.  We are also taught to leave personal or outside issues at home.  The thing that I’ve learned the hard way is that…well…I’m a human being.  While great in theory, it’s not completely possible.  Is it possible to leave enough at home and still function professionally and ethically?….YES.

As a recovering addict, had I not seen the ‘human side’ of my inpatient therapist, Sarah Pardue at such a crucial time, I would’ve never listened to her then which might’ve ended my life from some form of drug overdose.  It doesn’t mean that she didn’t have professional and personal healthy boundaries.  You can’t really put into words what the connection is like.  It’s a very safe and scary feeling all at one time.  For 90 days, I got to see a professional who was a human being that also had feelings and emotions.  She was always one of the most ethical and respectable professionals that I’ve EVER come in contact with.  When I became her student several years later, her humanity was still there and I was completely astonished that she was still able to maintain that after so many years in the therapy field while at times bombs were going off around her.  What a positive impact her example set for me professionally.

Lastly, as a trauma survivor, I have to see that a therapist is a person before they’re a professional.  Remember, because of my trauma and education, I can read people and their body language very well.  This became a survival tool that has worked to my advantage in the counseling field.  Any sign of inconsistencies and red flags are flashing, neon signs.  I watch everything everywhere and at all times.

Processing trauma takes an enormous amount of trust with professionals.  After all, the goal is to share some of the scariest topics and information with someone who is a complete stranger. And if someone we’ve known for a large part of our lives betrayed our trust in vile ways, how are we expected to trust a complete stranger with a degree? Every single day you can turn on the local news and see flaming examples of abuse of power.  I have watched as people portrayed themselves as one thing and their true colors sprint out of the closet just like I did when I ‘came out’ about being gay.  Yea it stings. But, then it hurts.  And eventually, you will look down and find scars. So, needless to say, it takes me a very long time to trust people…..period.

While working with clients, I’m not ashamed at all to say that I’ve cried with my clients at times.  Did I let this interfere with the professional therapeutic relationship? Not at all.  I still had professional and personal boundaries.  Some would possibly see this as not having emotional boundaries thus being unethical.  Ask some of my former clients and they would tell you that their ‘therapist’ was a human being just like they are. Ultimately, isn’t the goal of therapy or medicine to improve ‘quality of life?’

#Thispuzzledlife

Under The Cover Of Darkness

Under the Cover of Darkness

3.9.15

 “PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” 
― Susan Pease Banitt

And there you are again as you begin to arise with the memories of your vulgarities of control, hate, bitterness, soul shredding and belittling.  Once again you’re not seen but you are heard again by the one it has all been intended for….ME.  You have a paralyzing fear to you that can’t match anything in my life so far.  I watch it. I hear it. I smell it. I feel it all over again.  Yes, you are alive and well during the day.  Nighttime, under the cover of darkness, you are at your most evil.  Finally, no distractions and I can be all yours, once again.  You remind me of everything they did and you convince me it was all my fault.  You tell me that it was my fault that no one helped me because, I kept the secrets.  You have me convinced that people are constantly staring at me and all of my imperfections both seen and not seen.  I didn’t somehow make amends by surviving it the first time?!  You have attacked my mind and body too many times to count.  I go to bed in pain and wake up in pain.  There’s not a medication for ailments that no one else can detect.  You hit me with waves of sometimes debilitating physical issues that make me wonder why I ever wake up in the mornings.  The body cramps, nausea, vomiting, migraines and diarrhea are worse than detoxing from opiates.  You interfere with my sleep time and time again.  Yet, life continues every single day.  But for me, I get ready to stare you in the face while constantly looking over my shoulder yet again.  This body that I live in is still being perpetrated while they continue to live as though nothing ever happened.  Sometimes the pictures are just snapshots.  Tonight, however, they’re scrolling on a marquee sign.  What people don’t see is what happens on the inside.  You are a killer of many and a disabler of many more.  You are PTSD.

Since almost a year ago, our lives as a person and a family have been shaken to its core.  My wife and I look back and try to put the pieces together of a very emotionally charged year.  Now, bigger changes have happened in regards to my therapeutic care at an extremely crucial time in my life.  I’m truly at a loss for words at the reality of the situation.  My brother, Levi Pierce, taught me a lesson during our middle school tenure about being a fighter.  My athletics taught me about not giving up and about how pushing beyond known limits is possible.  This combination makes me a fierce competitor but an even more fierce survivor.

One of the most powerful quotes I learned at a young age that has also made its presence known both on and off the field is….

“Little things make big things happen.”

—Coach Nick Kolinsky

#Thispuzzledlife