Circling The Drain

Circling the Drain

11.19.15

“Even in times of trauma, we try to maintain a sense of normality until we no longer can. That, my friends, is called surviving. Not healing. We never become whole again … we are survivors. If you are here today… you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it thru hell and are still standing? We bare a different name: warriors.”
― 
Lori Goodwin

The behavior they see is but a snowcap on top of a huge mountain of anguish.  They refuse to see the truth even when it’s partially revealed because it’s much easier to sift through and pick out the nicer parts of the story.  To most people, we should be walking around thanking God for such a beautiful day to experience life.  But to us…..it’s all about survival.  It always has been.  They ask us to see things through their eyes but refuse to even glance through ours.  Hell, the truth is that OUR truth would have most people retching at the sugar coated version.  Now, imagine living in it day after day….  Oh to outsiders, we should be so happy and grateful that we have a loving spouse, beautiful and healthy children.  To us….it’s still about  survival.

Many times we have heard, “Dana, all that happened a long time ago and it’s just water under the bridge.  Be thankful for what you do have because it could’ve been so much worse.”  “Oh, her father was mean like that to her too.” And to those that say that, I pity their ignorance.  If trauma was that easy to get over, therapists would be out of jobs.  The analogy about not being able to unbreak a plate couldn’t be any closer to the truth.  Some have also said, “Oh well I went through much worse than that and nothing’s wrong with me.”  My thoughts are, “Congrats have fun with that bucket of denial that nothing’s wrong.”  Some have even said, “Well, you’ve survived and aren’t living in it now.  So, now you can move on and enjoy your life.”  Let’s see…even if I make my pros and cons list about how grateful I am for things in my life I still have an overwhelming fear of food, active eating disorder, social anxiety, PTSD, stomach problems, digestive problems, suicidal/homicidal ideations almost daily, a 6 year degree that I can’t use, no memory, rage issues, problems driving, active self harm issues, a non-existent sex life, frequent switching all of which I cannot control and the biggest complaint I get is my attitude.

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 You see, when everyone is getting dressed for work, we get ready to battle our demons alone yet another day.  To the average person this looks like a lazy person who just doesn’t want to work and is another cause for the ever increasing issues of being a drain on society.  Truth is, they would have the barrel in their mouths much sooner.  When I was asked one time about having PTSD if I had served our country as a soldier in the war I simply replied, “I didn’t serve our country, but I’ve been fighting a war all of my life.”  People usually do the typical double take and look away.  Now, if just that made them uncomfortable what do you think they would do with the gory details or god forbid had to live it? Guess what? I relive each and every detail every day and night that I take a breath.  At times the memories have me hugging the toilet while waiting for the next wave of vomit to come rushing out of my mouth from the increasing anxiety that has my body feeling like it’s being ripped apart.  I would just like to state that any vomiting is not from my eating disorder as I despise the act. The migraine is pounding so hard that a sledgehammer is a welcoming thought.  The tears flow a constant stream as the voices scream their demeaning insults from as few as 10 years ago to as far back as 35 years ago.  All I want is for someone to come help rescue me but again it’s the familiar feel of having to fight on my own yet again with no guide.  Where is everyone?!  I panic but I shouldn’t because I’ve been here many times. I just want someone to make it STOP!!!!  And then another wave of vomit, that I had been anxiously awaiting, arrived.  I lay my head on the seat of the toilet and just begin sobbing and thinking, “When is enough, enough?”

#Thispuzzledlife

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

8.3.15

“Hiding my pain and acting strong, afraid to cry and

show my tears, I struggle with all this years later.”

― Erin Merryn, Living for Today: From Incest and Molestation to Fearlessness and Forgiveness

 I’m playing ‘catch up’ on topics and knew that I would eventually need to talk about the topic of the Duggar family.  I know that a lot of media coverage has made hearing the Duggar name sound  as comforting as snuggling with a pit viper.  In all fairness, though, I’ve waited to talk about this topic in the blog for a while on purpose.  I had a total system ‘shock and awe’ event that happened when details of the events were released.  Talk about ripping a scab off a deep and very painful wound.  Here let’s just start from when Mel and I began watching them….

Mel and I had been watching the Duggars’ program 19 Kids and Counting for a couple of years on and off.  We usually watched them when nothing else was on because of their radical, fundamentalist views.  However, when we did watch the show, I enjoyed watching the strange dynamics within the family like many of the other reality shows on television now.  We usually have fun diagnosing or predicting future diagnoses of each member of the families we have the pleasure of watching them interact together.  Yes, when both you and your spouse have counseling degrees and can recognize dysfunction a mile away, then watching reality TV tends to be so much more interesting.

Anyway, watching the children interact but also factoring in that networks need their ratings to remain profitable, you can just tell that with that many kids in one family, that all needs are not met for healthy mental development.  Aside from the fact that I feel deeply sorry for the mother’s uterus for having to birth that many children, I still had a deep concern for the mental well being of the children.  I would and do feel sorry for children who have to grow up in families where their religious beliefs are as abusive as any object or fist that’s thrown or used on the child.  Where these families might have the best intentions for their children biblically, it’s not healthy physically or mentally for children to grow up with such strict “laws” imposed on them by their caretakers.

When you have 19 children, you are setting them up for failure.  I have read and watched how the Duggar’s children interact and an older child is put in charge of a younger child.  Ummmm…..did I say that they are both children?  Yep, children should not be expected nor put in the position of ever having to be a parental figure to a younger child.  I realize that this happens even in smaller families and even non-religious families and it’s still destructive.

wolves in sheep clothing #2

When the news about Josh Duggar and the molestation began littering social media and other news sources, it didn’t take long for my heart to drop to the pit of my stomach.  I had a gut feeling about what had been the probable cause of the events but I wanted and had to hear more.  I was torn about isolating myself from the story because of how triggering it had already begun to be at the first mention of his actions.  The only way to explain how I felt was completely emotionally confused but needed to know more.

I was correct in my assumptions that the children were not being taught about healthy sexuality.  In many evangelical or other radical religions, the topic of sex and healthy sexuality are seldom discussed anything beyond “don’t do it or you’ll go to hell.”  So, children grow up not understanding fully and thinking that it’s wrong or deviant for natural body exploration.  Jim Bob Duggar, the father of the multitude, was quoted after walking in on one of his son’s masturbating that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” He then proceeded to punish his son by making him do chores with his hands tied.  What this suppression will lead to is sexual frustration and confusion.  Everyone has been around a teenage male at some point in their life.  The last thing they need is SUPPRESSION!!!!!  Heck, I would like to hand out extra sets of hands. I’d also like to point out that proving to the nation that you can produce a zoo just because you have the parts is not exactly an example of healthy sexual practices either.

The more I began to dig into the Duggar’s handling and subsequent minimizing of the situation is when I became so triggered that started becoming physically ill.  Then, I began to watch as many members of other “Christian” religions also minimize the actions of Josh Duggar.  I soon became enraged at what I was hearing and seeing.  The attitudes I was seeing were collectively stating, “He said he was sorry and asked for forgiveness, now leave him alone. It was an innocent teenage mistake.” Are you kidding me?!

Standby as I paint the picture of the rest of the crimes that were committed.  Keep in mind that Josh Duggar perpetrated 5 female children, 4 of which were his sisters.  The initial crimes were committed in 2002-2003.  Josh would’ve been 14 or 15 at the time.  The behavior was done repeatedly and the parents, as well as, other church members were well aware of what had transpired.  Josh’s parents stated that he was put in a program that consisted of physical labor and counseling.  Ok, brace yourself for this next part….

The program that he had allegedly been attending consisted of being sent away for three months to do construction work remodeling a building with a ‘mentor.’  This individual has since been convicted and is serving a 56 year sentence for child pornography.  Also, none of the adults that were aware of the incidences ever reported the abuse to the authorities.  That in itself is a crime!  Conveniently, the statutes of limitations had also run out by the time authorities were notified. No therapeutic counseling or treatment has been provided for Josh or his victims.  If it sounds like I’m also taking up for Josh, make no mistake that I’m doing no such thing.

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His parents minimization of the situation was clearly put on stage in an interview with FOXNEWS….” it wasn’t like this was some sort of terrible violation. It was just a little sexual groping of one’s sleeping sisters.”  “There were a couple incidents where he touched them under their clothes,” Jim Bob said. “But it was a few seconds.”  Now if that turned your stomach imagine how the children felt when their own father and mother described ‘sexual purity’ after their abuse.  Engage in any kind of sexual activity before marriage and you’re as desirable as a banged-up bike or a cup of spit: This is the message the Duggar parents conveyed to the girls who had been sexually assaulted by their older brother.

The Duggar sexual philosophy is that girls’ bodies do not belong to themselves. They’re under the authority of another male figure, and then they belong to their husbands. There is no individual right of female sexual pleasure. There is no value placed on female bodily autonomy, ownership or control. The message is that girls’ bodies are never their own, that the girls themselves are simply vessels for male pleasure, male desires, and male authority, and the girls’ job is to preserve their bodies to hand over to the appropriate man. Ok, this was not their “husband” anyway.  It was their brother for God’s sake.  If you were raised in a home with these types of beliefs would you, as a female child, said anything already knowing that your fears and confusion would not be validated?

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From someone who has been sexually assaulted as a child and later as an adult, the lasting effects reach far beyond most “non-touched” people’s minds.  I must keep reiterating that just because I had sexual trauma does not correlate to my being gay.  Seems like an elementary concept to some but it still needs to be driven home to others.  I was also one that didn’t think that being molested had any long term effects because until my 30s, I had not remembered any lingering negative effects from the incidents.  I was also in the middle of still surviving a very emotionally, mentally and sexually damaging marriage at the time that took every ounce of energy.  I was also in college working on my undergraduate degree at the time of issues arising directly related to my molestation at a young age which helped to keep my mind occupied.

When our oldest son Marshall was born, I started noticing a lot of anxiety about giving baths; changing diapers and anything requiring basic care regarding hygiene and his genitalia.  I would actually start to sweat while changing diapers.  I would get nauseous and often times cry while not knowing why I couldn’t do basic “mommy duties.”  I felt as if I were violating him in some way.  I felt dirty and just wrong for simply trying to take care of our baby.  The same type of “innocent teenage mistake” that I’ve heard Josh Duggar’s actions referred to was robbing me of the pleasure of being a mom.

The effects of the guys that touched me both as a child and adult reach far beyond just our son.  This information is reserved for the brave souls that continue to work with us both as a family and a system.  There’s many more statements made by the Duggar’s that absolutely turn my stomach.  Josh Duggar committed a crime and was at an age where he knew that touching his sisters was wrong.  To have the behavior reinforced by adults, two being primary caretakers, who knew the behavior was continuing and refused to report it to the authorities or get the proper help that their son needed says to me that there’s more than one perpetrator.  What makes this situation even more hurtful was that their weapon of choice was the Bible.

#Thispuzzledlife

The Chaos Of Life

The Chaos of Life

8.2.15

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor E. Frankl

The last few months have been nothing less than total chaos for our ‘internal’ and external families.  Life can sometimes just knock the wind out of you both physically and mentally.  From the very ‘nerve racking’ entry into the world by our new preemie son Copeland to our latest adventure back south and so many things in between, Mel and I both feel like we are being pecked by a duck.  Don’t think for a minute that we haven’t taken notice about missing one of the best therapeutic tools we’ve ever used…….writing.

With Mel’s pregnancy being much less than desirable, Copeland’s health issues, national news, loss of friends both physically and emotionally, the return to the harsh south, my ‘internal’ system has stayed in a seemingly steady uproar about many different things.  Just trying to keep our relationship together the last couple of months has been a struggle at times.  However, there’s one thing we both agree on….the fact that DID doesn’t’ go away and neither does life.  So, we dig deep like we have many times and try to find a way to weather the storms of life together as a couple by ‘taking the bull by horns’ and bracing ourselves until it’s over.  The complexity of life, right now, is nowhere close to slowing down.  There’s a lot that needs to be said and feelings that need to be voiced in order to try and regain some type of balance.

Like I’ve said many times before, we live a very puzzling life that has the ability to leave us both shaking and scratching our heads and wondering what could possibly happen next.  My priorities have been to attempt to ‘roll with the punches’ and, unfortunately, that’s included not writing for a little while.  This morning, I stagger to my laptop, not induced by a chemical but rather just exhausted from the daily and very familiar feel of a high level of stress.

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Throughout the chaos, Mel and I have been able to put more pieces of the puzzle together.  She has a very close and tight bond with my alters which makes it much easier for communication.  Now some might think that since she’s my wife and we’ve been together for a number of years that having a relationship with my alters, since they are, in fact, parts of myself, would be a given. Trust me when I say one thing…nothing with alters are a given.  Relationships with alters are a completely different beast than what most people would assume.  One thing that must be kept in mind is that, alters formed as a result of a traumatic situation.  And in my particular system, a trust bond was not just broken but completely violated in one way or another.  So, even people who I’ve known for years betrayed that trust in sometimes vile ways.  Therefore, all we’ve been conditioned to understand is that people are evil until proven otherwise and that has no time limit.

DID, as a disorder, is a difficult disorder for both the client and family members.  Throw a big ole’ helping of ‘LIFE’ month after month and the difficulty and further complexity of the disorder will raise its ugly head with triggered alters.  Mel and I have and will continue to lean on our therapists both individual and couple for strength and guidance as we have done for several years now.  We will also continue to do the best to support each other and our children even though I can resemble an angry and bitchy Chihuahua.  And ‘we’, as a system, will continue to seek for the answers through healing in any way possible so that we might all function one day like a well oiled machine in order to be able to do the work we were called to do by helping others.

For now, it’s about  just trying to catch our breath and gather our footing again.  Lots of tears have been shed lately and I’ll take you inside the last few months with upcoming blog posts. And once again, I begin to feel better even if I was coerced to write reluctantly this morning by some certain ‘insiders’.

#Thispuzzledlife

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

“He sweeps her hair back from her ears; he swings her above his head. He says she is his émerveillement. He says he will never leave her, not in a million years.”
― Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

Call this a typical Father’s Day post, but you can’t call him a ‘typical’ father.  This man that I’m going to talk about is a man that he and his wife were and have been and continue to be diligent servants of their Heavenly Father.  As a result, in December of 1975, after a grueling 8 years of red tape and frequent hoop jumping their dreams of being parents and for him being a father came true.

This was a job that he rejoiced in and fully embraced through both tears and laughter.  Even though some of my childhood memories evade me these days, I can still smile at some of the memories I have of my father.  As a small child, he would often become a regular jumping and punching bag in exchange for instantaneous tickle torture moments.  There were also those times when he would take me on Saturday mornings on the lawnmower while he cut the grass only to have to stop to put his soon sleeping daughter in the bed.

During my younger and developing ball playing days, he would almost daily throw the ball with me in the front yard.  I must admit that before I developed control in my throwing he would frequently travel to the jungles of the azalea bushes to retrieve a wildly thrown ball.  He never complained but I think he secretly celebrated each time he didn’t accidentally stumble upon a water moccasin.  Yep, he feared those dreaded bushes.

When it came to basketball, well, he tried is about all I can say.  I think he mainly just wanted to make sure that there were no unneeded dents left in the vehicles.  The job of playing basketball was turned over to the neighborhood kids. Really?  You didn’t think I noticed?

When I hit my teen years, he prayed, like my mom, without ceasing.  My mother told me that once I became a teenager that something took over my mind and body that was not of God.  I cannot tell a lie.  If I asked my father that now he would very calmly say, “Why yes, sis, that might’ve been correct.”  Now you have to imagine that my father gets about as excited as a basset hound. And most of the time you need a cattle prod to check to make sure he’s still breathing.  Nope, it’s not a deformity, that I know of, it’s genetic.  He didn’t ever say a whole lot when I was younger. Now, he just claims that with 3 females in the house, he couldn’t get a word in.  All 3 of us were just hormonal as hell is the way I still see it.

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If there was a downfall, I would have to say that I didn’t learn to fix ANYTHING.  I know what a hammer is. Isn’t that good enough?  Granted, I was always playing with the neighborhood kids, but he was always fixin’ things or doing projects for or with momma. These days I just hope my wife can YouTube a video of how to do something and fix things.  I’m just not one to be able to fix things.  My job is to tell you when something doesn’t work.  And to provide motivation through entertainment.

He has seen me take some extremely difficult roads in life and has had to sit back and watch with tears in his eyes as his daughters were having to learn some heartbreaking lessons.  There have only been a handful of times that I’ve see him cry.  But, the tears I haven’t seen, I’m sure number in the millions and likewise the prayers.  He has watched me waste away from addiction and abuse and is currently seeing the severity of the effects of mental illness.  He also sees me continuing to battle my abusers through memories that can be paralyzing. He watches as I continue to move forward even if that is a crawl. With both he and my mom, there’s never a shortage of encouragement.

I can personally count on one hand the number of men that I consider “safe.” My #1 started with my father. I have never feared him in any way other than maybe another lecture on the power of positive thinking. He never drank, smoked, cussed, hollered, screamed or anything remotely aggressive in our house.  Heck, a basset hound doesn’t have the energy to do that. He taught me what love, honor and respect are all about. So, when I encountered some of my predators, my brain was seeing behavior that I couldn’t understand.  And it was at that time, that he held and comforted me as I cried about some of the evils of people and the world.

Everything that he has done for me cannot be conveyed in a post nor can the true emotions.  Even through just the little bit that I shared you can tell that he’s not my father.  He’s my DADDY!

#Thispuzzledlife

Copeland’s Arrival

Copeland’s Arrival

6.3.15

“You may one day do great things and I will be proud of you,

but no matter how old you are or what you do with

your life, you will always be my little boy.”

—Anonymous

The day had finally come for the arrival of the newest member of the Landrum-Arnold family.  Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold was born May 3, 2015 at 8:06 pm.  He was born exactly six weeks early measuring in at a whopping 5.6 lbs and 17.5 inches long.  The long days and nights of sweating the health of our only living baby in utero was finally worth the wait.

The scene was like you would expect any other delivery process with doctors and nurses fluttering around but knowing exactly their individual jobs.  However, mine and Mel’s situations in life usually consist of a ‘hang-up’ and occasionally attached with it is humor.  Mel was induced slowly with Magnesium and Pitocin over a 27 hour period before finally dilating 7 cm in less than an hour.   And yes, before you even wonder, she did have an epidural because neither she nor I would have survived without one. While we were headed to the delivery room knowing that we would see our new baby boy soon, all I could think was, “Oh my God, I have no one to go into the delivery room in my place like we had planned!” I get all dressed up in scrubs and head off reluctantly to face the next few moments.  As we make our way into the delivery room, the nurses tell me where to stand and start making adjustments to the bed.  Apparently, this was a very bad idea to the bed itself.  It soon malfunctioned and Mel was eventually sitting in a 90 degree angle and I was forced to stand on my tiptoes to hold her hand because the bed started going up and wouldn’t stop.  We laugh about this now minor issue that occurred. But, at the time, all I could think was, “I’m not going to be able to be with her during the delivery because she’s going to deliver on the ceiling!” Yes, I know that I was irrational but the fear was real and irrational.

Some people have the misconception about preemies that the issues are about weight.  While this is true, the deeper and more concerning issues are gestational and developmental.  Here’s an example….When a full term baby is born, they are born with the instinct to suck, swallow and breathe at the appropriate times.  Preemies have to be taught to do this correctly because they are born before this instinct kicks in.  Even when being taught these skills, premature babies must drink a higher calorie formula and be fed at certain times to ensure proper weight gain.  All diapers both brown and yellow must be weighed and a chart is kept to track the weight gains and losses, as well as, how much is consumed at every feeding.  Even with all of this in place, preemies are also often tube fed either through their mouth or their nose.  Preemies also have issues with maintaining proper body temperature and breathing properly which can lead to apnea and bradycardia episodes making it too dangerous to go home without being monitored constantly.  There is a lot more involved than what I’ve briefly stated.  Make no mistake that it’s one of the most grueling and stressful processes that any first time or seasoned parents can go through both emotionally and physically.  This was our second go around with a preemie and just as stressful.  The smartest and most important thing Mel and I did for our family and ourselves was to say, “No family visiting until after we get home from the hospital with Copeland.” We couldn’t handle one more drop of stress be it good or bad and we knew that going in to the situation.

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The next hurdle would be one that we were familiar with but still scared us to our core.  When Copeland was born, he was whisked away very quickly and immediately put on a CPAP machine and other tubes, wires and additional machines like a lot of preemie babies.  We would not get to see or touch our baby for another 48 hours.  That’s one of the many things that families with term babies with no complications seem to take for granted at times.  I can’t explain, in words, how excruciating that was to see and feel our brand new baby being taken away before we could hold, touch or kiss him.  Even that moment couldn’t compare to leaving the hospital and going home without our baby.

There was a time that I remembered sitting in my vehicle, as I normally do, listening to music and vaping some good medicine while trying to regain balance.  There was that one day, though, and there have been many since where I put my head down in my hands and just cried alone out of sheer exhaustion.  I have cried out of fear for our son’s uncertain future; the loss of our other child that was supposed to be born but wasn’t; and just the simple fact that the long wait for Copeland to arrive was finally here.  For me, this grieving process was and still is much needed.

For the next month, our days would consist of Mel spending entire days at the hospital in the NICU with Copeland feeding, bathing and rocking him.  I would be running errands, taking care of daily house chores and making sure Marshall was taken care of.  We would also get reacquainted to what I like to call ‘preemie math.’   We would soon be measuring everything in grams and ounces.  Finally math that I could understand! I need to point out that I would also go to the hospital and spend time in the NICU with Mel and Copeland but our time would have to be limited because all the stimulation of the hospital and stressful nature of the situation could and eventually would overload my internal system.  There were days when I would go early in the morning with Mel to the hospital after dropping Marshall off at daycare.  I would stay a couple of hours and then have to go home. The stress alone could take me the rest of the day to recover both mentally and physically.

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One of my greatest fears of having another child was not knowing where the same amount of love would come from that we already have for Marshall.  When Copeland was born it was like a secret hidden door within my heart, that I never knew was there, opened up and another “honey hole” of love was discovered that was put away for safe keeping for this special little preemie boy.  Unlike, with Marshall, I seemed to instantly connect and become increasingly protective and bonded to Copeland.  The fear, guilt and shame hit me like a fierce wall of water.  Had I cheated Marshall?  Was I showing favoritism?  All I could possibly think at this time was, “Omg, what do I do and what have I done?” Once again, my disorder has cheated me and my family out of moments that should be cherished. I struggled with these fears and doubts until I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.  I went to Mel with my tears and broken heart and she reminds me that mentally I’m in a completely different place then I was with Marshall.  She puts the situation in perspective in a way that I can internalize by telling me that Marshall paved the way through early motherhood and early DID to prepare my heart and system for Copeland.  Even now this is still a difficult concept to accept.

For a split second, the idea occurs that I should just pick up the phone and call Sarah.  Just as I’m about to dial her number, the harsh reality hits me again like a gunshot to my heart, that she’s dead.  I start to panic inside while trying to keep it hidden but my tears have other ideas.  Oh, how my heart selfishly longs and hurts to hear her comforting words again. How I wanted to desperately to send her pictures of our brand new baby boy. My head and heart begin spinning out of control with no one to fill that hurt and need to be comforted in only a way that she could.  I don’t have time for this now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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As I have done most of my life, I put my hurt and grieving on the back burner to handle the job before me.  No matter how hard I try, the feelings soon turn to anger.  The more I tried to suppress the feelings, the more the anger was building.  As I tried sorting out all of the feelings and where they were coming from, the love for Copeland continued to grow.

Marshall wanted to fully embrace his job as a big brother; however, the hospital had a lockdown on anyone under the age of 15, including siblings until June 1st because of some type of respiratory virus that was concerning the CDC.  This meant that the only way Marshall could even see Copeland was made available through modern technology.  Thank you God for Facetime on Iphones!  Marshall was itching to get to see and hold his baby brother.  As my dear ‘farm raised’ wife would say, “Marshall could worry the horns off a billy goat.” And that is exactly what he did for an entire month until he and Copeland finally met.  He just couldn’t and wasn’t expected to fully comprehend the situation at hand.  In his mind, he has a baby brother so why can’t I see him?  This situation alone was heart wrenching.

The day Copeland finally was able to come home, we all were able to breathe a sigh of relief even his big brother, Marshall.  For on this day, we were able to see colors a little more clearly and the sun shone a little bit brighter.

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

05/11/2015

“Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no trouble, noise, or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

– Lady GaGa

Having a spouse with dissociative identity disorder can be quite hard.   Often times events can be quite hurtful and you will have full memory while the spouse has none.  That is a hard thing to accept.  How can a person say or do something then have no memory of it? And then treat you like nothing ever happened?  I started to question my own reality.  Maybe it didn’t happen, maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’m the one with the problem.

The way my wife’s system works is when she becomes too overwhelmed she will have alters who will “pop out” to take over a situation.  Depending on what alter comes out, depends on how the situation is handled.  Also alters can tend to just come out if they feel like they need to take control or if they feel she is not doing an adequate job of taking care of the situation.  Often times a protector comes out.  Different systems have different alters who are protectors.  My wife just happens to have a more aggressive, angry protector because that’s what worked for her for so many years.  What that means for me is I tend to get the back lash of situations a lot.

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 I’ve found that in order for me to survive those situations where things become overwhelming for me emotionally, I have to remind myself that I’m talking to her protective alter, and this alter was developed to help protect the system.  Although it’s not ok to have behavior this way, often times there is nothing I can do about it but ride out the storm.  During these times I’ve learned that the serenity prayer has brought me much comfort.  I usually like to break it down to the situation.

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.  I can’t change the fact my wife will always have DID.  I can’t change the alters that she has in her system.  Sometimes even the situation is beyond my control.

The courage to change the things I can.  I can change how I react, what I say and how I approach her and the situation.  This one is harder than it sounds, although I can change my reaction, often times emotion has taken over and I have to pause to change my reaction.  This one takes much practice, and even today I become overwhelmed and my reptilian brain (fight or flight) takes over.  I find that stepping away from the situation when I can brings me more clarity.  I also find my therapy background tends to come out during this period as well. Many times it’s “safe” thing for me to just switch over and treat it as a therapeutic process thus protecting my feelings.  There are days when I just loose it and break down.  Those days I do get angry with God for even having a disease like DID.  Although it served its purpose when the abuse happened, it’s no longer needed and it’s something that never will go away.  There are times I need a friend to tell me that everything is going to be ok.  It’s during these times I have to look beyond myself and know that I need strength from a power greater than myself.  Somewhere deep inside I know everything will be ok, it always is, but for some reason I just can’t access that part of myself.  Hearing it from someone else gives me that spark of hope I needed to get through the situation and continue to believe that all will turn out ok.

And the wisdom to know the difference.   Wisdom only comes with time.  Only after touching the stove a few times do you learn that it’s actually hot.  Wisdom has taught me when to challenge an alter’s thinking and when to back away and let the system reset.  Time has also taught me to pick up on subtle cues that tell me which alter is out.  Some alters take great joy in trying to fool me into thinking they are someone else in the system and I’m sure they succeed many times in fooling me.  There are sometimes I even question myself as to whom I am talking to.

There is a longer version on the serenity prayer that adds these additional lines:

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen

 

The part I find most helpful in the addition is “living one day at a time”.  There have been times that a day is too overwhelming and I have to live a minute or hour at a time.  Making it through those small amounts of time get me through the day and then eventually through the situation.  There are periods that can be months long of chaos.  Times where an alter is out of control for days.  Thankfully in our journey those long periods of chaos are not as frequent as they have been.

 

“I’m sorry, Gemma. But we can’t live in the light all of the time. You have to take whatever light you can hold into the dark with you.” ~ Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty

I believe there are many situations in life we look back on and think, that wasn’t as bad as it felt in the moment. We made it through that situation and will make it through this one.  Pain is relative.  For example if I’m in physical pain, the worst possible pain I’ve experienced (a 10 on the scale), is childbirth.  For me that’s all I can compare it to.  When I was a child it would have probably been vaccinations would have been my 10.  Looking on that today, getting a shot is nowhere near the pain of childbirth, so pain is relative to what we know.  I’ve had people tell me that they don’t know how I do it every day that I have to be a strong person.  While that might be true, this is my normal.  I wouldn’t know what to do if my life wasn’t like this.  Now could I survive under constant stress, pressure and turmoil, no.  That’s why I’m glad that the chaos has breaks, even if they are short breaks, it allows me to catch my breath to go through the next wave without drowning.  I think most people don’t know what they could do because they might not have been faced with the situation.    I think this from the promises listed in the Big Book of AA sums it up.   ” We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”  We have to learn from the past, or else we are destined to repeat it.  Not learning, we react the same way each time and we will get the same outcome, but if we learn and grow then we move through that situation with a new perspective.

#Thispuzzledlife

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

5.10.15

“It takes someone really brave to be a mother, someone strong to

raise a child and someone special to love someone more than herself.”

—Ritu Ghatourney

 

This post is one that is going to have a lot of emotion attached to it.  The topic of mothers and mother figures has been what has helped to shape me into the being that I am.  There’s a lot of happiness, laughter and tears associated with each name.  So, instead of just talking about being a mother, I thought I would share a little bit about some very special “mothers” that have influenced my life.  I would like to say that every woman that has been a ‘mother like’ figure to me in my life cannot possibly be written about in one blog post.

Let’s start from the very beginning and get the topic of my birth mom out of the way.  Her name is not worth mentioning so, I won’t even bother.  As much as I would like to say that I despise every part of her being, which in a lot of ways, I do, and I also must give her credit for giving me life.  She was the vehicle by which I entered the world.  Once I met her and was able to comprehend the fact that she wasn’t just a teenage girl that got pregnant and couldn’t take care of a baby.  Rather a very self centered woman without the capability to love a child in the way that a child deserves to be loved….I was able to move forward.  Sorry, Lifetime, the stories are sometimes just fairy tales.

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Susie Antonia Barbour Kendrick, was a woman who was truly one of a kind.  She had 10 children.  Her mother had 10 children.  And her grandmother had 13 children.  So, it’s very easy to be a part of this family and not know all of my relatives.  I never heard a cross word or any type of negativity come out of her mouth.  She was the child of a preacher and has many possibly a hundred or more decedents that are directly from her.  This side of the family is the much more conservative side but I love them all. Even in the depths of fighting cancer and the anguish both physically and mentally that go with that process, she always had a faith that was unwavering.  Her faith was so strong that even in the latter days of her battle while she lived with us, while I was still in high school, she prayed for a washcloth for 8 hours straight.  She also told my dad at some point that when he was a child that he ran down the aisle of the church and threw mud at the preacher.  People that know my daddy might say that that was very possible scenario.  While I know that this behavior was the result of the progression of brain cancer.  I chuckle at some of the things she said and did that were so out of character for such a sweet and very mild mannered woman, but she was my mamaw.

mother

My maternal grandmother, Alma Rebecca Howard Buxton couldn’t have been more directly opposite.  My Nannie was one of a kind as I have mentioned in an earlier post.  When she moved to mom and dad’s house, she and mom would sometimes argue like teenagers.  Honestly, there were times when I would have some good ole belly laughs from watching them both interact and the childishness of some of their arguments most often instigated by, you got it, Nannie.  However, she would always say it was because of momma’s smart mouth.  True as that may be, momma had to learn from someone.   Momma had become very frustrated one of the many times with Nannie and I simply told her, “Momma, one day, you’ll give anything to have one more argument with Nannie.”  I can’t speak for my momma today, but I bet since the day Nannie died January 2, 2006, the day of wishing she was arguing one more time has come by to visit her many times over.

I have mentioned and will continue to talk about and refer to Sarah Garner Pardue as a mom.  I think it’s pretty clear from earlier posts what type of woman she was and how she influenced and continues to influence my life today.  I seem to shed tears on a daily basis for this beautiful angel that now gently brushes me with her wings to let me know she’s still near me.  Wow, even now I tear up.  She was one of the few that actually saw all sides of me and loved me unconditionally anyway.  I can’t say enough times that there are just not many people still out there that I’ve encountered that can still manage to do that without ulterior motives.  Through all of our hours of conversations and trials that relationships can bring, the one thing she always wanted for me was happiness, serenity and contentment.  Some people may not ever understand the relationship I had with she and Doug and that’s OK.  Even now, I don’t know how to fully explain what the relationship was, it was just special.  And I will always feel blessed to have been in the room at her feet when she took her last breaths.

The above people have left treasured marks on my heart that I will take with me to my grave.  The next person is in a category of their own.  My MOTHER, Margaret Pearl Buxton Kendrick. To me she is special not superficial means but in character.  Even with the very special relationship that I had with Sarah, momma never once seemed to feel threatened or jealous because she has always known that she’s my momma.  Everyone has one true momma whether she is good or bad.  My momma stayed up with me rubbing my legs from horrible leg cramps as a child.  Cleaned up shit, pee and vomit in the middle of the night.  Waited for me to come home often high or drunk.  Watched from the sidelines with tears in her eyes as I battled the depths of drug addiction, domestic violence and demons that she knew existed but didn’t know their names or faces.  She has sat with a broken heart, at times, trying to fully comprehend the word ‘powerlessness.’  She has watched her children suffer heartaches and cried with them.  She has watched countless hours of Little House on the Prairie and cried about the woes of the Ingalls’s family’s crops being destroyed after a hail storm. She cried when Mary Ingalls lost her eyesight.  She would sing the songs, in the living room, with the congregation in the one room church on Little House on the Prairie like she was a member. She has rejoiced with her daughter in the excitement and trials of being an athlete. She has watched her oldest daughter’s soul be cracked and broken from abuse that she sometimes knew nothing about.  She has watched as her daughter’s once beautiful and childlike forearms metamorphosis into graffiti like battle ground full of 20+ years of self inflicted scarring.  She has seen firsthand how powerful a man’s words and actions can destroy the beauty that was once encapsulated the essence of her daughter.  She has watched her daughter slowly melt away from an eating disorder at a young age.  She has watched and heard her daughter’s reputation be destroyed by lies while knowing the truth.  She’s watched as her daughter has shed tears and learned some very difficult lessons in friendship which she knew would lead to internal growth.  She has also watched a daughter find the love of her life and become a parent in a non-traditional way with all of the naysayers at her back.  And today, she watches as her daughter, once again, is knocked down by a mental illness that she fights every single day to emerge as a Phoenix rising from the ashes of despair.  That my friends, is a very selfless mother who puts her children’s needs before her own.  She took this baby that was unwanted and raised her as her own with the help of her faith and a God fearing man that I also call my daddy.  And that is something that is priceless and that can only be repaid through example for my own children.

One day, such is the circle of life; I’ll be in the same position as my mother.  I will one day sit and wish I could have just one more argument with her.  My wonderful wife will be here to comfort me when I’m in need.  But as long as I have the sweet memories of my momma, I’ll always have something beautiful to write about.

On this Mother’s Day, I can finally say, “Mom, I get your sacrifice and the level of love that I was told I wouldn’t understand until I had my own child.”  You didn’t carry me under your heart, but in it.  Because of the example that you have set for me regarding family, sacrifice and love, our sons will also be blessed.

#Thispuzzledlife

Battle Wounds From A War

Battle Wounds From a War

5.1.15

“Cutting is not attention seeking. It’s not manipulative. It’s a coping mechanism–a punitive, unpleasant, potentially dangerous one–but it works. It helps me cope with strong emotions that I don’t know how to deal with. Don’t tell me I’m sick, don’t tell me to stop. Don’t try to make me feel guilty, that’s how I feel already. Listen to me, support me, help me.”

A Bright Red Scream

Big Trigger Warning for those not in a good place to be able to handle the topic of self-injury.  This post will be explicit for the topic to be as real as possible.  If you are in early recovery from self-injury please use your own judgment carefully before proceeding.  You have been warned.

I’ve been in this position before. My heart is pounding. My skin is crawling. My thoughts are racing.  The rage is building to a dangerous level that I’m not sure I can contain.  “I hate myself for this.  Ladies aren’t suppose to have such hateful thoughts.  Why must I always get this angry?  Am I capable of hurting someone?  I think I might be.  What would people think if they knew?  “You should’ve just had it beaten out of you when you were younger and you wouldn’t be acting like this.  You disgust me!  You’re flawed and no one ever has or ever will like you.  If you had been liked your birth mom she wouldn’t have given you up.  You must be psychotic.  You’ll never amount to anything just look at you.”  These are just some of the things I’ve heard since I started this behavior as a child.

Like bullets from a war zone, the thoughts and feelings hit my heart and mind over and over.  I try to shake the feelings of hopelessness, embarrassment, helplessness and intense feelings of being unwanted and the unforgiving loneliness.  I try to sit with the feelings as I have done before.  This time is different. I haven’t felt this level of intensity.  Every time I take in a breath my upper back feels like it’s being pounded by a sledgehammer.  I try distracting with music and my head just pounds more.  The thoughts become louder and louder.  I need relief and I need it NOW!  Nothing I know that has helped ward off this is helping at this moment.

just scars

I begin to feel my body going numb starting with my face and working its way throughout my body.  Soon, I no longer feel or hear, I just see.  Someone resembling myself is going through a very familiar ritual of gathering supplies strategically kept close by.  I know what is about to happen.  I’m out of balance and need to make all of the craziness in my head stop.  By now, I feel completely detached from even my own limbs.

The blue tourniquet is tied around my upper arm unsure how tight.  My left arm is cradled in a towel. Brand new blades are fully exposed and glistening in the light.  My heart is pounding with excitement and anxiety all at one time.  My only thoughts are, “I’ve got to have relief NOW!”  The other part is knowing that relief is only minutes away.  I look at my arm and I’m paralyzed as I watch the blade being picked up and placed against my skin.  In one quick swoop the blood begins coming out.  This is done another 10-20 times. My body seems to instinctively know when enough is enough and how deep is deep enough.  After 27 years, we have had some practice with this.

The endorphins flood my bloodstream with enough force to relax both my mind and body to a point of complete relaxation.  I continue to enjoy the relief that I had just experienced and was letting whatever poison that seemed to be occupying my mind with such hatred leave my body.

This is always done privately because, what if someone knew?  I didn’t want to die.  I just needed to regain balance and this has worked for many years.  Deep breaths now and my ‘system’ has seemingly returned to normal.  I have all my bandages prepared beforehand so, everything is waiting for the deed to be done.  I bandage this wound, still not completely feeling all parts of my body, like it’s something sacred.  Soon, I begin to worry about who and how I’m going to cover up this behavior yet again.  I make my plans and stick with it.  I don’t dare seek medical attention even though I need several stitches because of the fear of being disrespected  by being told, “I am just attention seeking. You did it so I don’t feel sorry for you.  That was just a sorry attempt at suicide which she obviously didn’t want to do too badly.”  So, I take care of it and watch it heal as I have many times before.  But, the guilt and the shame of the current episode start to invade my thoughts.  And so the cycle continues…..

If you were to see my forearms they might look to some of you like a scene out of a horror movie.  When I look at my arms, I think “Damn, look at what all I have survived.”  Yes, once again, this behavior began at age 13.  My eighth grade school year that would forever change my  life.  Individuals who engage in this behavior typical have a range of reasons for beginning and continuing the behavior.  My initial reasons for beginning this behavior was because of intense anger that I was forced to hold inside.  I was in a ‘no win’ situation with the teacher, my predator, so no emotion could be shown.  I was so angry that I wasn’t completely sure what I was capable of doing.  What we now know and understand is that when feelings get stuffed for so long they manifest in other ways.

razors

“The truth about childhood is stored up in our body and lives in the depth of our soul. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perception shamed and confused, our bodies tricked with medication. But our soul never forgets. And because we are one, one whole soul in one body, someday our body will present its bill.”

-Alice Miller, A Bright Red Scream

It never ceases to amaze me how people are about watching trauma shows on television about emergency rooms across the nation with gunshot wounds, stab wounds, car wrecks, etc covered in blood and guts and yet freak out like the thought of cutting oneself means ‘run for the hills.’  I think maybe part of the issue is something that’s accidental versus intentional.  Self-harm often gets labeled as some type of pseudo-suicide attempt when in actuality that has absolutely nothing to do with suicide.  True self-harm is also not a behavior that is a bandwagon type of behavior.  Self-harm is about using what seems to be a last ditch effort to hold on to life without committing suicide.  I’m also not saying that everyone who dies by sliced wrists, forearms, legs, stomachs, faces and heads aren’t as a result of suicide vs. self harm.  But, self-harm also can become an addiction.  The endorphins released at the time of the injury can last for about 30 minutes.  Medical professionals seem to think that just because someone states that they were not able to feel at the time of the behavior that they can’t feel when being stitched up.  Often times the nurses and doctors have personally given me a feeling of being ‘less than’ or have treated by wound like I had absolutely no feeling by being rough with my arm.  After the 30 minutes is up, you can feel every single bit of pain.

I’m not harmful to other people with my instruments.  I found a way when I was much younger to deal with my anger.  As maladaptive as it might be, it worked to help me survive what my mind thought I needed help with.  I realize that this is a behavior that must change for long term recovery and to encourage a healthy ‘system.’  Trauma and PTSD can have you fine one minute and not the next.  This behavior I continue to struggle with from time to time. Self-harm does not consist of just cutting, there’s also burning, breaking bones, exposing skin to extreme temperatures, eating disorders, hair pulling (trichotillamania), etc.

I’m no longer really embarrassed but just accepting that  cutting is also a part of where I’m at in my process right now.  I had gone several years previous without cutting but jumping into trauma therapy and the effects of PTSD can make it very difficult to deal with.  I’ve made much progress over the years in trying to recover from cutting. It’s definitely a slow process for us even with a very supportive and understanding wife.

I’m not ashamed nor do I flaunt my scars.  Our only difference is that our tears are red.  I’ve been in a war my whole life and kind of see them as “Battle Wounds from a War.”  Please think and educate before you judge.

#Thispuzzledlife

420: Not Just A Stoner’s Holiday

420: Not just a Stoner’s Holiday

“If the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”
– Terence McKenna

This time exactly one year ago I was attending the High Times Cannabis Cup in Denver, Colorado. I didn’t view it then as a ‘get high free-for-all’ but rather as a ‘looking for new meds adventure.’  Believe it or not, there is a difference in marijuana and how it affects the body based on what type of condition that’s being treated.  Yes, I did happen to run into Snoop Dogg at one of the dispensaries.  And yes it was awesome!  This year, however, since our little boy is on the horizon, my wife advised that I stay close to home.  Notice I said my wife advised me.  So, I…..took her advice.

Anyway, I think one of the common misconceptions about those of us who use cannabis whether as a medicine or recreationally are seen as the stereotypical ‘stoners’ like Cheech and Chong.  I also think that most people’s perceptions are that most consumption is through smoking out of a pipe or a bong (water pipe).  I’m not going to attempt to go through all the specifics about the different strains because there are more than I can count.  I will say that this medicine in made in the bud, edible, wax, shatter, tincture, salve and pill forms.

Why do I seem to harp so much about this medication?  It is also helping me to survive the wounds from the past.  The addiction community, depending on the area of the country, are usually not in favor of any ‘mood altering’ substances.  Think about this…..ever been around your spouse or yourself in the mornings before you’ve had your coffee?  I’m just sayin’.  Yep, very mood altering.  Now, I’m not making light of the concerns.  That was just something I thought of that I personally found amusing.

Snoop Dog Dana

In earlier blog posts, I’ve stated my concerns about being a former practicing drug addict and being suggested to use cannabis as a medication.  Not everyone’s situation is the same and I get that.  I can say that my wife and I felt like we were in a ‘do or die’ situation.  Is it mood altering for me?  My wife would tell you, “Thank God it is!”  With everything that goes on in my brain on a daily basis, vaporizing some medical grade cannabis can actually bring me back down to reality and into a much calmer state.

Now, some of the arguments I’ve heard against medical cannabis is, “not everyone is going to have a legitimate medical condition.”  You know what? That’s true.  How many prescription drug addicts have legitimate conditions that require the AMOUNT of medication that they’re taking?  I would much rather all the prescription pill drug addicts trade all their pills in  for a designated amount of weed each month and see how far down the death rate goes and the overdose rate goes.  All of those amounts will correlate to the amount of Cheetos and Girl Scout Cookie stock rising to an all time astronomical high.

These are very ‘tongue n’ cheek’ views but getting heated usually doesn’t help much.  I just know that I was very closed minded and had very tunnel vision on addiction and how it MUST be treated before moving to New Mexico from the South.  My former clients, additional recovery services and my own struggles with mental illness have led me to a less rigid view on this drug.  I still maintain a somewhat rigid view on just about any other drug.  The benefits of marijuana are seen and felt everyday in the LIVES of the LANDRUM-ARNOLD FAMILY.  If this medication can bring me this much mental and physical relief from PTSD and other complications associated with a lifetime of abuse.  Surely, our soldiers should be handed an ounce and a card when they step back on to U.S. soil from having to kill people and see their buddies killed just so I can be free.

235

Let me wonder just for a minute out loud about things in the elusive ‘perfect world.’  I wonder if cannabis were available to everyone how many people would still be on social security disability long term.  I wonder how many suicides could or would be prevented. I wonder how much the crime rate would go down.  I wonder how many soldiers would actually be able to adjust to civilian life instead of living with an ongoing war between their ears that, from personal experience, is unbearable.  I wonder how many more people with physical disabilities could get the relief the need and beg for daily?  I wonder how many children could have a better childhood free from seizures.  I wonder how many people would and could live instead of dying from cancer.  I wonder how long it’s going to be for others to have a quality of life also.

I guess I should get you a little bit of information about how the term “420” became the big “stoner’s holiday.”  So, here’s a little explanation from good ole Wikipedia which is NOT a scholarly source, I might add…..

A group of people in San Rafael, California, calling themselves the Waldos because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”, used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about. The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time. The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis”. Multiple failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply “4:20”, which ultimately evolved into a codeword that the teens used to mean marijuana-smoking in general. Mike Edison says that Steven Hager of High Times was responsible for taking the story about the Waldos to “mind-boggling, cult like extremes” and “suppressing” all other stories about the origin of the term.

Hager wrote “Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?” in which he called for 4:20 p.m. to be the socially accepted hour of the day to consume cannabis.  He attributes the early spread of the phrase to Grateful Dead followers, who were also linked to the city of San Rafael.

Now wasn’t that just the most profound information you’ve ever read?  Sounds like a true stoner story for sure.  Some say that ‘street weed’ and ‘medical grade’ are the same. They are NOT.  Medical grade is governed so closely as to what they can use on the plants to make sure they’re safe for the public.  Street weed, well…..is not governed and is often sprayed with chemicals which can cause paranoia, psychosis, etc. depending on the chemicals used.

The medication I use today has three side effects:  eat, laugh, and sleep. Yep, that’s about it.  I still have other conditions that require additional medications.  Let me remind you that marijuana is a medication not a ‘cure all.’ Therefore, there are some conditions that still are unknown or cannot be treated with marijuana that is known at this time.   One thing I do know, for ME, all of my psych meds are rolled up into one vaporizer.

420 the ‘stoner’s holiday’ is written a few different ways such as:  4/20, 420, 4:20.  Most see this just as another day for people to get high.  But for those of us who depend on this “weed”, “flower”, “medication”, “bud”, “ganja”, “herb” or whatever you want to call it to simply have a quality of life.  We see this as a day to celebrate this medication that helps make life worth living again.

#Thispuzzledlife

It’s Pow Wow Time: The Gathering of the Internal Nations

It’s Pow Wow Time: The Gathering of the Internal Nations

4.18.15

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

— Chief Seattle, 1854

To many people a “pow wow” is just a cool production of Native American individuals dancing.  However, I must admit that I’ve always been drawn to the culture for much different reasons.  Initially, I was attracted to the dress and dance, as well as, traditional and cultural newness that I had never known.  I always knew that the attraction that was much deeper an even a spiritual attraction to these beautiful people.

You have to understand that having been adopted and then hearing stories of my biological heritage hearsay is all I have to go on.  For whatever the reasons I’m connected spiritually to the Native American culture.  When I met my biological family I was first told that we all had native heritage going many generations back.  It doesn’t take long to look at me and realize that there’s nothing 100% Native American about me.  I like to consider myself more like a casserole.  If you’re not from the South or don’t understand the term, Google ‘casserole’.

For years, I’ve tried to understand why I have such a strong attraction to not only the culture but more specifically pow wows.  The Gathering of Nations Annual Pow Wow in Albuquerque, NM each year has since helped me come to several revelations.  This particular pow wow is the largest in North America and is just as it says…..The Gathering of All the Nations.  Not just one particular tribe such as Navajo or Apache but all nations of tribes are welcomed to attend.  This pow wow also represents the carrying out of traditional dances and ceremonies which include dances of elders with children.  The bright colors in the regalia, not costumes or outfits, are more modernized but beautiful nonetheless. The pow wow generally is held in a coliseum venue and the four directions: North, South, East and West are blessed by an eagle which is considered sacred.  The meaning of the Eagle symbol was to signify courage, wisdom and strength and its purpose was as the messenger to the Creator. The eagle was believed to carry prayers to the Great Spirit in the Spirit World and also had a special connection with visions.

eagle

One general truth that threads throughout the Native American spiritual beliefs is the belief of Mother Earth.  The Native Americans felt that the earth was our mother, the sky our father, and all things were interconnected.  The many Creation myths of the Native American stress the mutuality and interdependence between people and other forms of life.  There is mutual respectfulness required when interacting with trees, birds, and plants and also natural forces such as the wind and the rain. Their creation stories empathize that Creation did not just happen a million years ago and end there, but that the Spirit that first infused the world is still with us now and can be experienced as “immanence”, the spirit which imbues all things.

To many Native American tribes the Native drum contains thunder and lightning, and when it is beaten it helps to get the creators attention and it also helps contact the spirits of the Native American forefathers.  There are those native peoples who also believe that the drum is representative of the

heartbeat of mother earth.  Whatever the reasons for the traditions, which I’m still discovering, put it all together and the result can make the hair stand on the back of my neck and arms while bringing me to tears.

One if not the most important part of the whole pow wow is Grand Entry.  This is where all of the dancers in each category are led out by a veteran guard and in front of them are the Elders, the most sacred.  It’s a symbolism and feeling of being that can’t be written in words.  Their spirituality and religion I totally respect. And yes there are certain ethics that must be upheld to remain respectful of traditions.

Outside the venue is a trader’s market that has vendors that alone could keep you busy all day long.  Food vendors with Indian tacos, buffalo burgers, fry bread and roasted corn thoughts are dancing in my head.  But the magic is in the environment by watching dancers and drummers carry out traditions of their ancestors.  The coliseum is bursting at the seams with tradition and they’re free to do it without any consequences from the government.  All while lightly dusted with the smell of sage and sweet grass.

Not being able to go this year is like a void and let me explain why.  The beautiful Grand Entry instantly connects me emotionally and spiritually with my own ancestors.  One time every year I can feel the level of comfort that cannot be felt at any other time.  The drumming is a connection to my birth mom’s heartbeat that I long to hear and be a part of but never will.  This is my comfort like I was wanted by her.  Once again, total comfort.  Like the safe feeling I get being around my brother Levi, this feeling is magnified 100 x when I connect with the protection of my ancestors and those who have crossed over.

This obviously is not everything that fully encapsulates all of the spirituality and religion of the Native Americans.  This is how it helps me regain my own balance and peace in a world of utter internal and external chaos.  My internal ‘system’ seems to gather and are all peaceful and comforted just for one weekend that we all like to call “The Gathering of the Internal Nations.

#Thispuzzledlife

“I Believe You….”

“I Believe You….”

4.12.15

“I Believe You. It’s Not Your Fault.”

—-Anonymous

Ok, so just maybe the quote isn’t one from a famous philosopher, actor, psychologist, theorist or author.  Technically, anyone could say those two sentences. After thinking about some of the words for the past couple of weeks, I have come to the following conclusion.  We’ve all heard the saying that something can, “make or break someone.”  Well, here’s a rather stunning example of just that.  In the therapeutic world these two sentences can, in fact, ‘make or break’ a trauma survivor.

There was someone that I was working with recently that I asked, “Do you believe me?”  This had been a question that had been gnawing at my insides for a long time that I never voiced until then.  The response was, “It doesn’t matter what I believe. It’s about helping you deal with the feelings.”  Now, why is this significant?  Firstly, I would like to point out that I do not believe in any way that this was said maliciously.  However, something within my internal ‘system’ just wouldn’t let it rest.  I instantly my anger grew by the second.  The anger was not creeping but sprinting straight from my gut to my brain at a speed that I was, unfortunately, extremely familiar.  All I wanted to do was get out of where I was and get as far away as I could.  At the same time, I was very confused at how very angry I was becoming over seemingly something so insignificant.  I just wanted to get out of the situation. I felt as though there was about to be collateral damage.

Later, once I’ve had time to allow the physical feelings to subside and for my brain to return to the typical crazy norm, I search inside for answers.  What could’ve possibly triggered me so badly?  I didn’t know but….it didn’t feel good.  My body had exploded with tension in all of my 2000 parts.  And the only way, I can describe what my brain felt like was like an earthquake had shaken everything into disarray.  Once again, I sit and listen to the ranting and raving of some of the ‘insiders.’  I just try to remain a by standard and listen.

I also can’t help but to feel a very overwhelming sense of fear that has me partially paralyzed.  I’m trying to sort through everything while trying to maintain and it’s not working.  Me and the medical marijuana become rather close friends for the rest of the day.  My mind and body was screaming for relief.  I talked some to my wife but kept a lot inside to try and sort out on my own.  What had just happened?!

I was looking for a great big ‘a-ha’ or ‘bright light’ moment and it came down to something this simple, yet, very important.  Perpetrators are master manipulators in every way possible.  The two most significant things I was always told was that, “No one would ever believe me and somehow it was MY fault.”  While I was not outright told that I wasn’t believed, I was also told that it didn’t matter. I was beyond crushed.  Alters in my system went ballistic.  There were ‘internal’ tears, anger, screaming, raging, blaming, hurt and pain that was resulting in a chaotic mess.  Each day, I find out more and more ‘triggers’ that can lead to a reaction.  It looks like we found another one.

One of the advantages of being a trauma survivor is hyper awareness of surroundings.  Advantages how?  I notice everything that is going on around me down to minute details.  That’s how, in some instances, I was able to stay ahead of my perpetrators and stay safe.  Also having a degree in a behavioral science helps understand behavior as well.  Therapeutic relationships of any kind especially with someone in power can only thrive if there is trust that has developed.  Once that is gone so is the relationship.  What if you were someone’s one and only contact and they came straight out of a lifetime of trauma and abuse to someone who doesn’t believe that it matters whether or not we as trauma survivors place a high importance on being believed about what has happened to us? For this brief moment in time, my abusers seemed to be correct, we didn’t seem to be believed. Does it scare you?  It did me.

#Thispuzzledlife

My Life With Ed

My Life With ED

“We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

The topic of eating disorders is one that can cripple me to my knees.  The thought of having to discuss the topic with someone is like knocking the wind out of me.  If just the thought of this bothers me this bad then I would caution anyone with an active eating disorder or early recovery from one about very triggering information about my disordered past and present.  This post will probably be done over a couple of days due to how much it will stir internally.

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that the age of 13 was a very difficult year and was emotionally abusive by a teacher.  This was the year that several behaviors started for me such as:  cutting, eating disorder, drug addiction and very early alcohol abuse.  At the time, I didn’t understand that the behavior was called an eating disorder.  I just knew that I was about to start playing high school sports the following fall and I had to be faster and stronger.

The time I remember the first “dieting” type behavior was soon after the eighth grade ended.  I went on a crash diet and within about two weeks lost 20 lbs.  I had, in that short time, taught myself to dislike certain foods.  I had been using the drug Mini-Thins which was marketed as a bronchodilator at many truck stops that had both ephedrine and caffeine in its makeup.  This was well before ephedrine was taken off the market because of so many sports related deaths.  I clearly remember there being 100 tabs for $7.99.  Any allowance money went straight to those little pills.  Now you’re wondering exactly what purpose they served for me, eh?  This drug while containing a precursor for methamphetamine, completely knocked out my appetite while decreasing all water weight and supplying me the energy to play two sports without eating.

apple with tape measure

I was completely wrapped up in a big ole ball of addiction already and had no idea.  I’ve always said that addiction was the best friend that cut my throat.  It served its alleged purpose while wrapping me up in a killing machine of codependency of both behaviors and substances.  All it took for my eating disorder to continue was one compliment or another pound lost.  I soon found myself becoming a quicker ballplayer with greater stamina and explosive power.  Unfortunately, this never worked well with the aggressiveness that also developed this year.

When I went to high school, and thank goodness they weren’t drug testing athletes at that time, I was a full blown addict already out of control within only about 3 months.  My eating disorder had now progressed to weighing 12-15 times a day.  I slept in teachers rooms during lunch so I wouldn’t have to be around food.  I was now both anorexic and bulimic.  My bulimia purging was through laxative use.  I was getting drunk to the point of passing out and/or vomiting anytime I went to a “party.”  The mind bending part was that I was really climbing in my athletic play. I was a starting freshman on both the softball and basketball teams. I thought and felt like I was on top of the world.  I seemingly ‘had my cake and got to eat it too.’

The next couple of years I continued to lose weight but my playing slowly started on a downward spiral.  By my senior year, I was a sickly 83 lbs on a 5’7″ frame.  I had resorted to stealing diet pills and would frequently have mini seizures or some type of severe jerking movements and saw spots in the mornings.  I was constantly weighing myself.  I was constantly tired and cold. I would eat one small salad a week and would cry if I had to eat in public.  The questions had started long before about “why aren’t you eating?” “Are you losing weight?”  Most of the time I would just tell people that I wasn’t hungry. I had already eaten or my stomach hurt.  I would explain the weight loss off as just training harder and having a higher metabolism as a teenager.  My dreams of playing college basketball and/or softball were disappearing and I didn’t even care.  I was also now taking 25 pills a day just to maintain my habit.

fork with tape measure

People began to tell me how sickly I looked.  My eyes were dark and sunken. My face was sunken and my ribs and backbone were unhealthily showing.  My digestive system was completely messed up. Mentally I didn’t know whether to ‘scratch my watch or wind my butt.’  And my body had begun to feed on itself.  As a result, I was unable to be in top notch shape as an athlete because I always had pulled muscles in my back.  I had just watched myself as a beloved player of the game of basketball go from being able to play hard and fast the entire game to having to come out of the game shortly after tip off because of lack of energy or injuries.

When I moved from my teen years into my years of domestic abuse, I was required to weigh for my husband and to stay in a certain weight range.  I had finally started to recover minimally, I thought, pull out of my life of an eating disorder.  However, it seemed that I was being forced back into those behaviors again.  I was soon being told what I could and could not eat.  How and what I ate were criticized constantly.  I was made to take pictures of myself in bathing suits or naked and put them on the refrigerator as a reminder what I looked like when I got hungry.  And when I went to work and food establishments were nearby, I was dared to eat when it wasn’t the food I was allotted.  Sometimes I would look up from where I worked and my husband would be out in the parking lot watching me from his vehicle.  I became terrified to eat again and I was starving.  Most of the time, I would wait for him to go to bed and I would sneak food hoping to God he didn’t hear me.  Still, he would inevitably start pinching at my body and making comments about how I looked and dressed.  He would tell me, “You want to see something disgusting?  Just look in the mirror.”

Skip ahead to today and I still have a lot of hang ups around food, eating and body image.  This is probably one of the topics that haunt me the most.  I still cannot eat in public without wearing sunshades, headphones and trying to hide behind menus.  We have fears of being recognized and being talk about concerning whatever we might order or how we eat.  I’m scared to death about trying new foods.  I’m scared to make food selections.  I’m very uncomfortable with eating around people especially those that I know.  I prefer to eat privately.  These days it’s not about getting the high from the endorphins.  Now it’s strictly about fear of judgment.   Yes, I still have an eating disorder.  No, I’m not an anorexic weight.  Let me get stressed out and the first thing I do is start restricting.  There I said it.  I have a really long way to go on this recovery.   And with DID, as you may or may not can imagine, things can be extremely stressful for extended periods of time.

As my dear Sarah would tell me if I asked her advice on this one, she would say, “Dana, start at step #1.  This is a marathon not a sprint.”  Again, I can smile.

#Thispuzzledlife

Gooood Morning, DID!!!!!

Goooooood Morning, DID!!!!

 “And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension.” 
 Ayrton Senna

“I’m still alive? Not again?  They will make fun of you. You’re a bad person that no one likes.  You haven’t amounted to anything. You’re a bad mother. You’re a bad wife. You’re wife says she likes you, but really doesn’t.  Someone is going to hurt you today.  Fear everything and trust no one. I’m not even sure my  son even loves me.  What if people know this about me?  They see my scars.  They know what I’m thinking. They’re watching me eat.  They are talking about me.  Someone is going to sneak up on me and hurt me.  He will get past the guards.  Someone will kill me.  Should we kill them first?  Are people talking about me again?  They say they love me but do they really?  We are going to be homeless. No one better touch any of my stuff and get it out of order.  Food is bad and makes people not like you.  Food scares me.  Why do I have to eat? How many people must we interact with today?  Everyone must remain as a united front of power and intimidation.  Don’t look for a fight but always be ready for one. Always watch everything around you.  Never ever let someone disrespect you without making them regret their decision. Stay loyal and help when needed.  Is something going to happen to my son?  What if someone tries to go to the daycare and kidnap him? Watch their movements and behavior.  They think I’m stupid but I’m not.  No one will ever believe me. They will die and leave me all alone.  When will they ever pay for what they’ve done? Why do I have to continue living like this while they Is everyone I love ok? What if something happens and I can’t get there to help?  What’s about to happen? Is the work worth the payoff?  Why do we continue to fight all of this?”

And now it’s time to start the day.  Gooood Morning, DID!!!!!!!

#thispuzzledlife

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Too Much Of A Good Thing

“Most of us try to do too much because we are secretly afraid we will not be able to do anything at all.”

Rick Aster, Fear of Nothing

I was a dedicated student and dedicated athlete. Whenever I had something that needed to be done I couldn’t tolerate knowing that it’s not done even when I had just received my assignment. Plus I’m incredibly critical of any type of project that I have before me that even when I finish it and having done the best I can, I’m still not please because I fear there are mistakes that I’m missing.

Posting these blogs has had some very emotionally charged topics that were so painful that I haven’t read since the day I initially wrote them. Now going back and editing the document in several different ways while maintaining the original continuity of the writing also means that I’ve been re-reading them. They might be older writings but they also have the ability to pack a powerful and unnerving punch even after 5 years.

“I wish I could snort a line of stable mental health.”
—  Keefe Sencen

I personally don’t get the concept of “moderation” which means that I’ll push myself from a healthy focus to one that can only lead to my detriment. This project of putting all of the ones I’ve written on WordPress is definitely a project. I get that “tunnel vision” that made me a great student and athlete and will go, go, go without stopping to think and check-in to see how all of this is affecting the rest of “my guys.”

A lesson was learned but unfortunately too late and I’ve got to take a few days off to settle my guys from an absolute torrential downpour of flooding painful memories. Yep, I was going along great and then tripped over a big ole’ bag of feelings and fell right in burying myself in them. I simply was unprepared and thought that there would be no backlash. I didn’t even consider what potential problems could arise.

The good thing is once they’re all posted I can leave them alone again. I’m afraid I won’t be able to post as many each day as I have been because of the demons they have awaken. I’m trying to be a team player even with topics I’m so passionate writing and talking about. So……..I’m going to take a few days off from posting in an attempt to settle the restless head mates and to gather some balance.

#thispuzzledlife

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

Happy “Legal” Anniversary

Happy “Legal” Anniversary

2.25.15

 “If someone could reach into my chest and tear out my heart and turn it into a living, breathing person, “Melody” would be it..”

– Airicka Pheonix

February is a month on my calendar that will always be remembered specifically because of Sarah’s passing.  There are very few dates that I remember that hold so very close to my heart.  Mel and I have been “legally” married for 4 years now.  I really don’t know what the exact date is not because marrying her wasn’t important but rather that was the day that the government said we were married.  The horrible date of May 17, 1997 when I legally signed my own “abuse warrant” by marrying my “EX” husband, was replaced by a beautiful date of May 28, 2007.  This was the date that Mel and I married each other in our hearts.  There are soul mates as friends and family.  Nothing can compare to soul mates with the right spouse.

We were instantly friends and devoted to each other.  I have always been one where the term “friendship” isn’t just thrown around like a household word.  There was something different about her and I knew it but was afraid to admit that I loved her.  Firstly, I hadn’t stepped out of the elusive closet as being gay.  All I knew was that there was this person who I was finally “safe” with both emotionally and physically.

I told her at the beginning of our relationship that I had a lot of emotional baggage from a very long and very abusive relationship.  She didn’t care.  She loved me for me and everything that would come with it.  I’ve tried pushing her away in every way possible to prove to her that I’m not worth loving.  I was someone’s “sloppy seconds” after a 14 year stretch.  I felt as though there was nothing good left of me.  I knew that I could be her friend, but “marriage” scared the absolute hell out of me.

I had a hardness about myself that was meant to keep people away.  For some reason, she had me melting like butter on the inside.  I knew how the rumors, comments and bibles would be thrown at us as a couple.  I had dealt with that for many years and really just didn’t care.  This was a whole new experience for someone that I loved dearly.  I told her I could handle it again and I tried to help paint a picture of what this would look like as word got around.  She didn’t care about that either.  She just wanted to be with me.  Needless to say, I just couldn’t understand that.  What I had just experienced for many years was totally the opposite.  My idea of a “marriage” was one that had nothing but fear attached to it.  My thought was that no one is accepted for who they are without strings attached.  And once you’re legally married, that means you’re property.

Things have been difficult to say the least about us being a gay couple.  People were not going to be happy for us because we each had found someone who loved and respected us.  To put it quite bluntly, our genitals were put on display instead.  As you can imagine, our families were not thrilled.  I actually think my mom went and put her head in the oven and turned it on.  Not really, but pretty close.  Even at the thought of being rejected by family members couldn’t deter us from wanting to be together.  Have she and I both lost “friends” and “family” because of our relationship?  Yes, of course.  However, neither one of us are responsible for their feelings nor how they choose to act.  We CAN determine whether or not we will be an audience to their ignorance and hatred.

Six months later, in the privacy of our house where we living together, on Christmas Eve, I proposed and she said YES!  We wanted to get “legally” married and have children.  We had no idea what all was involved both financially and legally to make this all happen.  She very eagerly said that she had always wanted to carry a child.  I very eagerly said, “Good because I didn’t.”  I wanted to be a mom, but I had no desire to be pregnant.  My ex-husband took the joy out of wanting to start a family which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  We didn’t have to really tell anyone because you could just see the happiness that we both shared.  We also didn’t have the luxury of proclaiming our engagement because of such conservative views in that area of the country.  And so the journey of being each other’s only support when it came to our relationship began.

My mental health issues seemed to get somewhat better from just being in a supportive environment with someone that genuinely loved me.  We were both in graduate school and that was our first priority to finish.  What was becoming increasingly evident was the PTSD that had developed from a lifetime of abuse.  The safeness that I felt with her slowly started to reveal just what kind of damage had been done.  All I wanted to do was finish school, get as far away from that area of the country and start a family.  So, in June of 2009, Melody and I headed out to Albuquerque, NM to begin a new life.  We didn’t know how anything was going to turn out.  We just wanted to live life as a couple without all the stares and harassment.  That, I can say, has happened since we moved west.  Do we both miss friends and family? Yes more than anyone will ever know.  Moving back there would come at a cost that we’re just not ready for as a family yet.

We would soon realize firsthand what the long term effects of abuse would manifest.  She was fortunate to get a job with a company that provides fertility insurance.  This was how we would make our dreams of having children a reality.  On December 3, 2011, our little 5 lb preemie baby boy was born.  Here we were as brand new parents to a preemie that we knew nothing about.  We were out here by ourselves and had just entered the world of parenting.  No one could’ve ever prepared either one of us for the feeling of having to leave the hospital without our baby boy.  Every day I would drop Mel off at the hospital to spend the day at “Camp Marshall” while I went to work and then pick her up on the way home from work.  Mentally, I couldn’t handle the thought of losing our newly born son so I just avoided seeing him at all costs.  I was terrified of our son dying and tried to distance myself. This I now regret.  We were both on auto pilot in different ways.

She continues to be the same very sweet and kind hearted woman that I initially met.  She has a beauty within her that is hard to find in most people.  She loves me despite my mental disorder and continues to want nothing but the best for me.  What she and I have been through as a couple and now as a family is more than a lot of couples go by themselves in a lifetime.  We can read each other like we’ve been together for 30 years or more.

People often wonder how we have made it as a couple.  The truth is, since the very beginning of our relationship, we have always had to depend on each other for support.  When you’re 18 hours from where you were raised and have no desire to go back to small town living, you’re forced to sink or swim.  We have struggled both emotionally, physically and financially just like “straight” couples.  We are in the process of raising a very energetic, superhero of a kid that only knows one thing….he is loved by his mommies and that he’s not going to have a baby “sisser” much to his displeasure.  Mel melted my heart when I met her.  Now 8 years later both she and our son continue to melt my heart.  The way I try to make sense of a deep traumatic past regarding a marriage is that there will always be challenges in any relationship.  Had I not had a horrible and abusive marriage, I wouldn’t be able to fully understand how my mom and dad have their own loving connection.

Thank you, Melody Landrum-Arnold for just being you!  Thank you for continuing to love me despite the hatred for myself.  Thank you for helping to make our dreams of becoming mothers a reality.  Thank you for always having my best interest in mind while we walk this treacherous road of trauma recovery side by side.

My mom always told me growing up, “If you find a man a tenth of what your daddy is, you’ll have a good man.”  My answer is, “I did find HER.”

#Thispuzzledlife

The Levees Have Finally Broken

The Levees Have Finally Broken

2.24.15

 “When a friend of Abigail and John Adams was killed at Bunker Hill, Abigail’s response was to write a letter to her husband and include these words, “My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.” 
― David McCullough

I find myself this morning at a point where I seem to be consumed by grief.  The losses in 2014 and now already in 2015 have opened the door to the room where I like to store grief and remain strong.  Grieving has never been something that I’ve just been able to embrace as a part of life.  I was shown, in many different ways, that grief is a sign of weakness.  I was belittled for this naturally occurring emotion in life so many times that my attitude has always been, “I’ll deal with it later.” At almost 40 years old, “later” has become “now.”  My body and mind have reached their own limits on storing grief.  There is no more room to stuff one ounce of grief into my body.  This doesn’t mean that I never cried during life.  It means that I never fully dealt with what has hurt me during my life.  Through all the abuse, the only option was to put it aside and fight whoever or whatever situation was in front of me.  There is a lot in almost 40 years that I must now take the time to sit with and just let the grieving happen.

Sarah Pardue always would tell me in only her gentle kind of way, “Dana, it’s ok to get down and roll around in your sadness and grief.  Just don’t make your bed down there.”  She knew that her death would be very difficult for me to bare.  However, someone bigger and higher knew that her death would also be the “final straw” and key to forcing me to finally be able to grieve properly.  Where I have been able to suppress most feelings connected to events in my life, my feelings attached to her passing are ones that I cannot hide.

The wounds from my lifetime have had the scabs ripped off them and have started to bleed again.  I have bled blood. Now I bleed tears.  The muscles in my body twitch and cause excruciating pain that look at the medical marijuana as though it were candy and fly right through any attempts at pain relief.  This is what I personally see and experience as my body crying.  What do I grieve?

  1. I grieve the loss of a relationship that was never formed with my birth mom.
  1. I grieve the reality that she was so damaged that she never had the capability to love me.
  1. I grieve the loss of coming face-to-face with her and being very blatantly rejected again.
  1. I grieve the loss of my innocence as a child to those I trusted to love and care for me when my parents had things to do.
  1. I grieve the loss of the trust in genuinely good people because of the bad intentions of others.
  1. I grieve the 14 years that I allowed myself to be perpetrated in some of the vilest forms at the hands of someone who said all the ‘right’ things to get his hooks in me.
  1. I grieve the loss of happiness of my teenage years that began a life that became consumed by addictions.
  1. I grieve the loss of horrendous things that were done to my animals in a final effort to destroy what was left of me.
  1. I grieve the loss of friends and family due to ignorance on different subjects.
  1. I grieve for my family, the things that they never knew and that came out in many other forms towards them.
  1. I grieve for the unknown in this journey of recovery.
  1. I grieve for my wife, as she struggles with me to make sense of a disorder that neither she nor I were prepared to deal with.
  1. I grieve for her sadness as she has come to understand the true meaning of “helplessness” while watching the torture that I go through both mentally and physically, as a result, of the pathology of a lifetime of others.
  1. I grieve for the loss of one of our unborn children.
  1. I grieve the unknown for our son being in a minority family.
  1. I grieve about the ignorance of others and how someone’s genitalia are more important than a genuine love or authenticity of a person.
  1. I grieve the mental health system in this country where instead of embracing people that ask for help, there seems to be the attitude to snicker and shut the door.
  1. I grieve for the sadness that I see and feel from other people that I cannot do anything about.
  1. I grieve for the children every day that are just beginning their own journeys in the world of abuse.
  1. I grieve the fact that even my own knowledge and degree can’t undo what has been done.
  1. I grieve the fact that it’s taken me this long in my life just to be able to properly grieve.
  1. I grieve the fact that I have to be the one to take this painful journey when I’ve already survived it once.
  1. I grieve for friends and their families as their lives were lost for reasons unknown.
  1. I grieve the loss of my grandmothers who have also become guides.
  1. I grieve my professional career that has been put on hold because there were people that didn’t deal with their own trauma.

There’s so much more to list that I could spend weeks doing nothing but typing things that I’m grieving over.  This grief has also led to people that are back in my life after many years because as one person put it, “God has a sense of humor.”  I have met and maintained relationships with people that give me hope that there might really still be some people in this world that accept others as they are with no strings attached.  For these people, there are no words to convey the appreciation and comfort that you continue to provide to both me and my family.

The only phrase that I can feel that can possibly describes this personal view of where I am right now……..”The levees have finally broken.”

#Thispuzzledlife

Life On Life’s Terms

Life on Life’s Terms…

2.21.15

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

The title of this post is very cliché in the 12-Step community. However, recent events from the last few months have finally answered, for me, how this fits into my life. I know…I’m a slow learner. “Living life on life’s terms” recently has come to have meaning by my own disorder that I struggle with both mentally and physically every single day I open my eyes. I manage my DID the best way I know how, at this point. I have excruciating body memories that often leave me in tears, migraines, diarrhea, severe anxiety, nausea, vomiting. Not to mention how crazy it can get ‘upstairs’ sometimes.

Just because I have Dissociative Identity Disorder or someone else has bipolar, or depression or whatever your current diagnosed or undiagnosed opinion of your situation is doesn’t mean that life just ceases to go on. This disorder in itself can be very tricky and dangerous depending on what alter is in charge at the time. This too is a work in progress.  My point in general is that just because I have a disorder doesn’t mean that people won’t die, people won’t be self-centered, people won’t reject us as a family and as it’s been going lately even one of our own unborn children might die.

Yesterday was one of my proudest and saddest days of my life. I had it all set up before the day began. I was hoping for a therapy appointment so that I could process what I knew was soon going to happen a bomb was going to go off inside my head and body whether I wanted it to or not.   Whatever was going to happened, I just didn’t want it to happen while I was alone. So, also knowing that grief was a part of this process that was about to ensue, and how acupuncture is helping with the release of trauma from a cellular level much like writing, I took my very sore and aching mind and body over to where I was to have acupuncture so that the grief could also be helped to be released soon after the service was over. Loneliness is a feeling that I don’t handle very well. I needed my wife, one of my therapists or someone to be there at that moment.  But, alas, I was there to face yet another demon alone.



I took all of the medication that I thought I would need for this event and kept it very close at hand. Mom and Dad were going to try and FaceTime Sarah’s service for me.  I begin getting so anxious that I would miss this service that I was nauseous. I was already in excruciating pains from body memories and knew that another bomb was about to go off in my physically and mentally. This wasn’t going to be an incident where not just one alter was going to be effected. All would be deeply affected and hurt.

 And suddenly there was the call from my mother and the FaceTime camera was going perfectly and I’m so relieved at the moment that I’m able in attend. When Doug passed away, there was no possible way for us to get home so, I was bound and determined to see Sarah’s service.  When the service started, I was once again thinking, “Is this funeral for the Sarah I called mom?” My heart begins to ache and my eyes fill up with tears as I keep my shades on and ear buds in. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Crying in public and around people tends to be dangerous for me in the past and shows that you’re weak and an easy target. I choke back what I can. Eventually when the reality hits me that she’s really gone and I’ll never be able to ask her for her levelheaded advice again, I’ll never be able to sit on her couch for hours talking and laughing about experiences both good and bad about being therapists. Or about what a handful of a patient I could be. Or about the precious woman she introduced me to and our little boy and one in the oven.

I cried but seemed to maintain a calmness all through the service.  My heart was going out to her family and the friends and former co-workers that spoke.  The things they said about her couldn’t have been any more truer words.  With the many people’s lives that she touched, I was even able to say a very brief “hello” to one of the former therapists that worked with Sarah at the same time I was a patient.  They played “good cop, bad cop” very well together.  However, this person also is a very highly respected person by me to this day for what she helped Sarah accomplish….getting through my extremely thick skull.  I’ll leave it at that for now.

I held most of the grief in until I said goodbye to my parents.  In that lonely parking lot, I cried like a child that had just lost her parent and for me she was just that.  I sat there and cried and cried until the cries switched over to crying about the pain in my body.  The bomb had been set off and exploded.  My legs are now throbbing and I’m sobbing uncontrollably while trying to keep anyone from seeing. Why?!  I just don’t understand.  She was suppose to be fine from the chemo.  Oh how my heart still doesn’t understand.  The emotional level of this grief has brought on nausea to a point that I’m terrified that someone will see me begin to vomit.  I take a couple of hard swallows making sure I keep, I guess air in.  I made sure with my eating disorder that it was ok to not eat since I was going to be dealing with something so difficult.  The eating disorder agreed that food was not the best thing plus it would make me look horrendous.  Even dry heaving would’ve embarrassed me to the point of never returning as a client even though no one was around to really see anything.

My body was screaming and my mind, heart and soul were in shambles.  “What do I do now?” I keep asking myself.  She was my voice of reason.  I’ve lost all track of time and there she is, the one I’ve been waiting to help relief me of some of the agony.  Yes, she’s an unbelievable acupuncturist but she’s also a human being.  She instinctively knows that something’s wrong.  I proceed to chat with her a moment about it.  The tears as hard as I tried to keep them from falling and save myself some embarrassment, they just kept falling at a rate that I rarely do around someone other than my wife.  I knew that I had no storage left in my body to hold anymore grief since many years of grief have accumulated.  I had strategically schedule this appointment for this reason.  I wanted to grieve and let it be released at the same time.  I vividly remember stepping out of the vehicle, waiting to be made fun of for crying, and it never happened.  I could hardly walk because with each step the fire in my legs became more excruciating.  She took time with me to just let me talk about my grief but the pain in my legs and my soul was too much for me to handle.

I woke up to almost non-existent pain but more like soreness from the tenseness of my muscles.  I was lying down which rarely happens because of the sexual trauma from my past.  I wake up with a horrible headache and very disoriented trying to put together the pieces of how much time had gone by and what had transpired that I had no knowledge about.  I know that something has happened because I was lying down.  The embarrassment of her seeing me in the condition that I was in when I remember walking in was starting to flood me.  Honestly, I’m glad that someone that I trust was there with me.  I don’t know what all happened.  It happened on life’s terms and so did Sarah’s death.  What I do with that hole in my heart and soul remains to be seen.  I’ve felt powerful grief when my grandmothers died.  This grief while just as important was just different.  She was like my guardian angel on earth.

I have little to no knowledge of driving back to meet my wife for another appointment or the rest of the day.  I awoke this morning pain free with what I like to call an “emotional hangover.”  I was greeted this morning with a migraine and nausea.  But, for the first time in quite a while I woke up on my own and not courteous of excruciating body cramps.

#Thispuzzledlife

Passing The Torch

Passing the Torch

2.17.15

 “I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.” 
― Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Let me start off by saying that I am one of thousands of addicts/alcoholics whose life was touched by Sarah G. Pardue.  I remember vividly lying in my bed, depressed and mad at the world that I was sitting in some “rehab” that was meant for people who lived on skid row or had no teeth.  I was very quickly but gently told that addicts come in many different forms and that I just so happened to be one of them.  I didn’t know who she was but there was something about her that attracted me to her.  Not in a sexual way, but like there was more that I wanted and needed to know about this person.  She very gently told me, “Dana, we’ll take this one step at a time.”  I was so sour at the world that instead of thanking her for her kindness.  I simply said, “Really, is that available stitched on a pillow.” I promptly proceeded to roll my eyes.

I guess maybe that comment or instincts kicked in about how I might be as a client.  I was like a feral cat that was just angry and hurt.  She had that perfect balance for me.  She knew exactly how to push me without being condescending or aggressive.  And she knew that I needed that very nurturing side to let me know that she was a human that didn’t have any intentions on hurt me.

I, unfortunately, can’t remember all 90 days of being a patient at Pine Grove’s Women’s Next Step Program, but I remembered the therapist that would forever change my life in a very unique kind of way.  I was once handed a “character defect” worksheet where there were like one hundred or more on there that we were to circle as our personal character defects that have entangled our lives with addiction.  I very quickly looked at both sides; handed the sheet back to her and said, “Nope. None of these describe me or my current, past or present behavior.”  She had that “momma look” in her eye that can spark fear in Satan himself.  She simply and very non-confrontational said, “Really? Would you like us all as a group help you pick out which ones belong to you?”  I promptly answered, “No. I’m sure I can find a few.”

After 90 days of treatment at the “resort” as the husband at the time use to refer to it, I head out on my own with promises that I would one contact her in the event that I found my birth family or completed school.   She had done a lot of something most people don’t really know how to do for me that made a huge impression on my life……LISTEN.  To that struggling drug addict, that meant more than that next ‘high’ for me.  I will admit that I didn’t go willingly.  I also didn’t leave willingly even though I had completed the program because for once I was safe from most things.  I cried because I was leaving a “special” and somewhat sterile environment from the outside world that was so mean.

About 5 years later, I tracked her down at work to tell her that I had gone back to school to become a drug/alcohol therapist and was currently in my undergraduate work.  I also called to tell her that I been found my biological brother and was flying to meet him, 2 half brothers, my birth mom and birth father.  We agreed to talk when I got back from my trip and that’s when the re-connection emotionally began for me.  From that point forward, I felt like I owed her the unpayable because she had done the one thing that no one besides my parents and certain close friends had never done, at that point, not give up on me.  She always saw some form of potential that even today I still can’t see.

She slowly began and I allowed her to begin to love me until I could love myself.  Under the hard exterior, I was melting like butter.  I was a kid again with an adult separate from my parents that seemed to love me and listen anytime I said anything.  She knew that I was still married to my ex-husband and I was also doing internships under her and a couple other people.  It was like everything had come full circle.  She and her now deceased husband Doug Pardue became like surrogate parents to me.

They used some very tough love approaches to some of my behaviors and some I didn’t appreciate.  I always, knew though, that it was done out of love.  They would have “good cop, bad cop” sessions with me that made the show Cops look like pretend.  I don’t know if some of you know what being “12 Stepped” means but  I can tell you that I’ve had both of their shoes broken off in my hind parts, more than once to get my attention, in an attempt to save my life from whatever behavior was consuming me.

For whatever reason, the stars lined up perfectly again and she is now simply called “mom.”  Our friendship grew into something much more special.  She has been a “life force” for me for the last 14 years.  They both saw me at my worst as a struggling addict of all kinds of addictions.  And they were both there celebrating the victory of completing my undergraduate degree in psychology while finally leaving a very emotionally and sexually abusive marriage.  Their compassion and my independence that I gained while becoming educated led to me believing that I was not nor would I ever be all those things I had been told all those years by him.   I was the only one that could make that change.  I wanted someone to come rescue me.  This time, though, the realization was that I had to do this scary part on my own.

I became part of their family and she and I had lots of talks about life, in general.  We always told each other that we loved one another no matter what.  I also was getting to learn from the one that I considered as the “master” of counseling.  I watched her every move both at work and away from work.  I wanted to learn everything I could possibly learn from the “Yoda of 12-Step.” The key that she taught me to working with others was not with words but with actions.  She quite simply taught me the definition of compassion.  I’ve never lost the feeling of an innocent stranger that was getting paid a salary, that for once, cared about what I had to say about what had been done to me and how I felt.

A few months down the road she introduced me to my now legally married wife.  She played matchmaker which was never intended.  I’m glad the universe saw fit that we be together. We have a beautiful little boy and one on the way to thank all because of Sarah G. Pardue.  Both she and Doug took me under their wings and showed me again that a healthy love was possible.   I might not ever fully understand why they did that.  However, grateful doesn’t begin to describe the feelings I have about what they did both directly and indirectly in changing the direction of my life.

I did complete a master’s degree in counseling in 2009.  I have fallen in love with working with the ones that always seem to be the “leftovers of society.”  Truly, this is partially due to my own trauma.  But the other reason is because of the example that she set for me time after time.  She didn’t just talk recovery, she lived recovery.  The clients that she worked with saw this and you couldn’t help but to gravitate to something you don’t see every day in a person……AUTHENTICITY.

Sarah fulfilled her passionate dream of working with drug addicts/alcoholics and touched many lives.  There is only 1 of the 30 women that I was in treatment with, at the time that I stay in contact with.  She also happens to be the only one that never relapsed.  I’ve had my struggles for sure. And the other former patient has been a prayer warrior for Sarah during her time of grief and acceptance of the death of her husband and her own illness that took her life.

As I sit in this hospital room, waiting for her time to meet her maker, past friends and family members.  I also think about how much she impacted my life in a positive way.  I’m just one addict that she took time with and let them know that there was still value in a person who had been told for so long that there was no value left.  She did addiction work for 20+ years.  How many addicts/alcoholics lives did she impact in ways that no one will ever know?  To me her concept of counseling was very simple, “Read the person, not the book.”  She taught me things about counseling that no book could ever convey.  You just have to be able to watch the miracle happen.

What an example of true love, compassion and everything authentic that many of us as her patients, friends, family and co-workers got to see displayed even when she no longer went to work.  The word RECOVERY has her picture out beside it. What a beautiful person that God loved me enough to allow into and bless my life.  And because of her love and continuous fight against the war on the “disease of addiction” my future clients will also in some very special way will be touched by her as well.  With tears in my eyes and streaming down my face, I can say that there are many people that will always remember the legacy that she left on the hearts of many addicts/alcoholics that didn’t deserve another chance.

 I have taken that same compassion and concept into my own style of counseling.  She has passed the torch to be paid forward as she did with many of us.  I remember that everyone is individual and will have individual needs. Above all, she taught me compassion before judgment because in everyone there is some worth.  Thank you for loving me, Sarah G. Pardue!!!!!

And she is now with the love of her life, Doug Pardue.  You two will be dearly missed.

Sarah G. Pardue

7/11/53-2/11/15

   

“You were born a child of light’s wonderful secret— you return to the beauty you have always been.” 
― Aberjhani, Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black

#Thispuzzledlife

Mardi Gras And Tears

Mardi Gras and Tears

2.7.15

“Mardi Gras, baby. Mardi Gras. Time when all manner

of weird shit cuts loose and parties down.”

— Sherrilyn Kenyon

I’m back in the little southern town because of a very close friend who is dying from cancer. I normally go visit my grandmother’s grave while here but I just can’t bring myself to do it right now. My wife and son are getting ready to watch the small town Mardi Gras parade that is in every way a family parade. No uncovered boobies here.   All I can do is cry because I want to be at the hospital with my friend and to keep my promise that I would be there until the end. I sit in the car with my phobias, music and the most dangerous place I’ve been told I can be….in my head.

Marsh Gras parades of any kind are a very big tradition in the Deep South obviously stemming from New Orleans, LA. I try to enjoy something, even just writing this and my mind and body are in turmoil.  What my head has known for a couple of days, my heart began accepting the reality of the situation yesterday. I grieve so hard for this precious being that has been in my life 14 years. She blessed me to the point beyond words. She was my rock.

I have witnessed her help just some fried drug addicts like me with such compassion most people wouldn’t understand. My heart is just breaking. I totally understand that things happen when we get older and the circle of life continues. But, this woman, Sarah Pardue, is one rare jewel.   Mel  and Marshall are getting ready to watch the parade. And I’m wondering now, did we both say everything we wanted and needed to each other. Or was it just understood.

The other night when we arrived from our long travels from Albuquerque, NM to Hattiesburg, MS, I walked into her room and said, “Damn, someone has to really be loved for me to come back here. We giggled a little and gave her a hug that had every ounce of love I could muster in it.  I told her, “Mom, I love you. How are you feeling right now?” Her natural therapist/motherly side came out and said, “sounds like to me that someone needs to take care Of themselves.” She knew what shape I would be in mentally seeing her and by now knowing the prognosis that I had personally feared but didn’t know.

I’ve tried to be a ‘rock’ for many. But she told me a long time ago….”even rocks have tears.” And dammit if she wasn’t right again!  Her body is there. But, “mom” isn’t. The one who I always saw as invincible had instantly become a mortal.

She has been my ‘rock’ for a long time. Now, I just feel lost.

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: The Diagnosis

Mel’s Corner: The Diagnosis….

Often times I can be asked questions about how it is living with a spouse with dissociative identity disorder, well let me assure you it’s never a dull moment.  When I met Dana over 8 years ago and we started our relationship just a few months after that, neither one of us knew she had DID.  She had been given many different diagnosis at that time and even had someone give her a rule out of DID, which we quickly dismissed, she just didn’t seem like a “Sybil”.  The first time I met an alter, I had no idea.  I thought it was just a PTSD flashback.  There would be 6 years pass before the official diagnosis.  The latter of those years proved to be very challenging.

   I’ve learned to appreciate each alter and the specific needs and talents they bring.  For instance, there is only one alter who likes ketchup, everyone else hates it and often blocks the alter who likes it from getting ketchup.  I learn likes and dislikes when it comes to food, and there have been times that one requests a certain meal only to have another come out while I’m cooking or we are eating and decide they want something else.  I’ve learned to cook what Marshall and I want and that usually works out.

   In the early days of diagnosis, there was one alter who had no idea who I was, but that has been the only one who had no idea  of me.  Now that’s not to say that I’m the “spouse” to everyone.  To the littles, I’m “Momma Mel”, to others “I’m a friend”, and even others see me as ‘the one who takes care of Dana.”

   Around the start of 2012, Dana started having large gaps of time missing and often times during this time there was a lot of aggressive/ angry behavior.  At one point it was thought she might have a seizure disorder.  We had started psych medications to stabilize her mood starting in 2010, however if a medication worked, it only worked for just a short time.  We even tried lithium and ended up in the hospital one month prior to our son being born for lithium toxicity.  That was one scary time.  Even the mental health system was no help.  We were on our own trying to figure this out and get help that was desperately needed.

  In September 2013, when dissociative identity disorder was first given as a diagnosis, I was a bit in denial.  I had to take everything in and then decide for myself based on the research and facts, did this diagnosis fit?  Having a masters in counseling my first go to was to see if Dana met criteria as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  I kept an open mind and I started to consider that this might be correct.  The more I met alters and got to know them, the more this diagnosis made sense.

   Most people would have no idea that Dana is a multiple.  In fact I would say unless we came out and said it, most people wouldn’t have a clue that she is a multiple.  The switching is very subtle and sometimes it’s not until later that I put it together that I’ve been talking to someone other than who I thought.  They like to try to trick me into thinking they are someone else in the system at times.  I’ve learned to adapt but even now I have moments of difficulty.  I’ve been told that the roughest time is in the beginning and the system will settle down and things will get much more manageable.  I’m starting to see that take place, I think in time we will learn more about how to deal with this disorder.

#Thispuzzledlife

All Just For A Tire

All Just for a Tire
1.30.15
“We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need.” 
― Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia
I went out to crank the car this morning and that’s when like a wave from Hurricane Katrina hits me with body aches, migraine and nausea. My wife and I have learned to try and head these off when they begin to happen.  I also try some self talk that we do to try and help calm the ‘insiders’ down. “We do this every morning,” I say. Defiantly one screams back, “it’s where they are and what they do that scares us!”  I don’t normally go out in public much by myself but a flat tire will make you do strange things like attempt it on your own. I tell them what I need as they ATTEMPT to tell what extras I need.
My body is attacking me like thoughts of spears hitting my body like some battle from the movie Braveheart. I begin to wonder if a motor oil enema would be more comforting. I have an idea…I’ll go to the McDonald’s inside and order a small amount of food with a drink. I finally get my food and find the farthest seat in the back of the restaurant. I slowly go through my ritual of keeping my sunshades on with iPod going with my back to a flat surface. I slowly but very methodically build a fort around my food so, all those people can’t see me eating. Plans are made just in case I see someone I know. I’ll shove everything in the bag and say, “I’m in a hurry” just to get out of here. I take one bite while wondering what the other people in the restaurant are really thinking of me.

 

I eat as I always have with shame with every bite. “Don’t you know what people think of you and what you eat? Remember the pictures he made you put on the fridge? You’re becoming more imperfect with every bite!” Each bite I take, I hate myself even more. I struggle everyday wanting to be the very unhealthy weight I was in high school. But that too was a full time job.
All I can possibly think is, “This is why I stay home. I hope this ends quickly.” And again, I’m at the mercy of My past trauma. I massage my legs and try to relax but it gets worse with every person I see. I just want out and to be at home!”
OMG! I look up and a McDonald’s Employee is 5 ft from me. It’s time to pack up and go. Please don’t let her look at me. The panic can’t be put into words. My legs begin to hurt so bad I’m now limping.
A lot of times I think, “Why me?!” And suddenly I just realized, “because I have a ‘don’t give up spirit’.” But why this thought now? I remember what my brother Levi Pierce says sometimes, “Sis, sometimes you just don’t question things and just roll with it.”
Sometimes pieces of the puzzle are put together over something as simple as waiting for a new tire.
Thanks for the advice big brother!!
#Thispuzzledlife

And So Our Day Begins….

And So Our Day Begins…..

1.29.15

 “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.”

― Sophocles, Antigone

My body awakens with a severe headache. Legs slowly begin to cramp. Body aches with a detox feel.  In my heart I know it’s my body releasing trauma that’s been trapped for many years. I don’t freak out about it because I know what it is. However, it doesn’t make it feel any better.

Session is later this morning.  Everyone inside is always on edge. It’s like being in a classroom hoping and praying that your name isn’t called. Somehow the topic turns down a familiar road. Except this morning there is extreme nausea.  I now regret driving here but beg for more at the same time. I medicate have taken my pre-therapy dose of phenergan.  I also have been sitting outside the office listening to my music and smoking cannabis wax waiting for the relief from some of the nausea and anxiety. I always arrive early just to take time to prepare for what could possibly be discussed.  My goal for the day:  Don’t puke in the therapist office.

Eating disorder came out unscathed again! Wheww!!!! And none of the ‘yuckies’ today either. Just an intense amount if physical pain with a brain to match an out of control daycare center.

I tried the best I could to comprehend my therapist’s end of the session instructions.  I felt like I was in a spinning tunnel. Insiders were really upset, some were mad, sad and/or both.  Recent life events has been both a blessing and a curse.  My system’s walls have been dropped now leaving me emotionally very vulnerable.  Driving has become a topic of concern the last few months. This morning, I can say that I was actually scared to drive. This is the one thing I feel I have left is driving. I don’t do it much anyway because of the symptoms of the condition.  This is hurting my heart with this realization of possibly losing some of my independence.

Where did the session go? I was just talking to her.

Right now, my body and mind knows the torture of flashbacks, and the repeated screaming at the top of their lungs. I’m nauseous and mentally I leave there saying, “I’m ok.” Knowing I’m not. There’s a little pride issue I have so there I said it.  That’s why I didn’t say anything.

I sit in the car trying to gather my bearings. My head is spinning. People are yelling from the flashbacks. Alters are in an uproar. And all at once, my body begins to cramp all over. I have my music blaring trying to keep me grounded for the moment without drawing attention. I sit for a few minutes and it turns into____?  I don’t know what time I left. 5 minutes? 20 minutes? 1 hour?

I back out slowly like a shaky toddler. I know instantly something still isn’t ok.  To save my pride, I pull out safely into traffic. But can’t quite understand where I’m going or how to get there.  I look up and I’m turning onto the base. Yay! I made it home but how? Wow! Having a moment like that can wake you up. The rest of the day….yea not sure about it either.  I’ll get the daily recap later this afternoon from Mel. As far as the rest goes, brief notes telling me what topic was discussed in therapy are all I remember from the day.

So much to discuss, so little time. I feel like I’m doing everything I can. I have even told my therapists which topics I will try to ‘crawfish’ out of because of the uncomfortability. I write on this blog because everyone one of us deserves to be heard fully for once. Hopefully, better days ahead.


#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light Part2

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 2

1.29.15

“I want everyone that has been abused by someone in their childhood to know that you can get past it. Having DID is not the end of the world; it’s the beginning of your new life. DID allows the victim of exceptional abuse the ability to “forget” the abuse and continue living. Without it, I may have gone crazy as a teen and spent my life in  a psychiatric hospital.” 
― Dauna Cole, A Shattered Mind: One Woman’s Story of Survival and Healing

One of the major issues with this disorder are what most people refer to as ‘alters’ or other personalities.  What I’m going to try to do is to paint the picture for you in a way that I’ve been learning how to understand this.  So, imagine you have an apartment complex and each person has their own room.  Except in these rooms, there are horrible memories that are behind doors and no one can get in without a key.  The only people that have these keys are my therapists and my alters which help keep anything else from hurting me.  This is what has protected me throughout the years.  However, some of the coping strategies that worked then DO NOT work now.

Alters can also range in age depending on at what age the abuse occurred.  As dysfunctional as things can get at times the alters as a whole are referred to as a ‘system.’  Until consciousness together can be shared, there might always be memory loss.  The amnesic episodes are, at the very least, scary as hell.  The memories that I often have include only flashes of pictures of the day or days. The information date, time and situation is usually not available.

Alters and systems are as individual as a finger print.  There is no ‘cookie cutter’ way of treating DID.  The most important thing to me hands down is the relationship with my therapists.  Without that relationship, recovery is futile for any issue or disorder.  I trust my therapists enough to take me into the depths of the most terrifying events that have ever happened to me.  This relationship that has been  allowed to happen, as close to trusting, as possible has taken 2 years now with one therapist.  However, both the ups and downs of these relationships has lead to the progress now being made by leaps and bounds.  Painful as this process is, I can only hope that things actually get better.

The tenets in these rooms represent parts of the person you know as Dana.  I will not get into discussing how many or their names.  I can tell you that while growing up with some of those reading this blog alters were already formed or forming.  Not only do these alters hold memories, but they also function in different ways.  However, sometimes the problem with the alters is that they function completely independent from the individual known as the ‘host.’  This is usually the mood swings that you might see. Alters develop out of traumatic events and sometimes more than one during a single traumatic event.   Just to put to rest for those that don’t know my parents, no they were not any part of the abuse.

Alters actually develop when the brain compartmentalizes the traumatic event, memories, etc.  The trauma is so overwhelming and the mind and body both have to survive, that the only way the individual knows instinctively to survive is by developing a new alter even though they may be unaware at the time.  Often times, it is many years down the road that survivors even realize that they have alters.  Therefore, many survivors are trapped in the cycle of the mental health system being misdiagnosed for years and much money spent on treatment for the wrong diagnoses.

Often times, many people say, “I’ve been through worse things and I don’t have alters.”  The only answer I have found is that what’s traumatic for one person may not necessarily be traumatic for another person.  There is also a genetic predisposition to being able to dissociate.  And dissociation is key to the formation of alters.  What is known is that trauma of any kind effects the brain permanently.  Severity depends on how long and what type of trauma was occurred.

You can most definitely have PTSD without meeting criteria for DID.  DID cannot exist without a diagnosis of PTSD since that is a large part of how the disorder forms.  DID also usually always entails some form of early childhood sexual abuse although ‘splitting’ in adulthood is uncommon.

“Another of the difficulties of having DID is the denial. DID is a disorder of denial. It has to be because if the original person knew about the alters and felt their pain, they would either go crazy and be hospitalized permanently, or would die.” 
― Eve N. Adams, A Shattered Soul

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 1

1.1.2015

 “Dissociative parts of the personality are not actually separate identities or 
personalities in one body, but rather parts of a single individual that are not yet 
functioning together in a smooth, coordinated, flexible way. P14” 
― Suzette Boon

Since this begins a new year, I thought I would start it off with a ‘boom’ of reality from our world.  The topic that I will discuss is one that has such stigma attached to it that it’s has taken me months to muster the guts to discuss it.  This is a topic that hits home in the best/worst kind of way.  I’ve written for months now explaining some of the many symptoms that I experience mostly on a daily basis.  2014 was no doubt one of the most difficult for me, Mel and Marshall.  However, we as a family including my brother have shed tears together, as well as, have a lot of laughter. I have also smoked a ton of medical marijuana just to be able to live day to day.

I figured that a few months ago when I ‘came out’ out as a medical marijuana consumer, the thought crossed my mind that even though people can be cruel when it comes to mental illness, that since this blog is about MY healing I would ‘come out’ about my particular illness.  Many have read my blog since day one and for that I thank you.  I would also like to say that while reading this particular post that you just keep an open mind.  I’m not going to try to change your opinions or perceptions of mental illness.  I’m simply going to try and paint you a picture of mine to the best of my ability.

I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  Now for those with no therapy background, I can tell you that this is the same thing as Multiple Personality Disorder.  And now your opinions and thoughts begin to race. The only references that most of you have are those of the books/movies The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil.  Hollywood did a horrible job painting a picture of what those of us with this disorder look like and how we function on a daily basis.  Guess what?  I’m still the same Dana that you grew up with and loved.  I just have a world that has formed inside my brain that I didn’t realize everyone didn’t have.  I didn’t question it because to me that has been my normal.  Does this diagnosis make me ‘crazy?’ Should it make you fear for your family’s life if I happen to be around? Does this make you want to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction?  I can promise you that all of that energy would be wasted.

The symptoms that I have mentioned in other posts are all true and are a part of daily life for me.  I can’t tell you what it’s like living with a spouse with this particular disorder because only my wife can answer that.   I can tell you that it’s the most intricate puzzle I’ve ever had to try and figure out.  Having only had this correct diagnosis for almost 1.5 years we, as a family, have had to adjust.  We were already adjusting prior to Marshall being born.  His birth somehow set off a bomb inside my brain that retriggered everything that has happened to me.  Not his fault or mine, just our reality.

With both my wife and I having Master’s Degrees in Counseling, we were baffled when we never even considered this diagnosis as one that would fit.  Even in graduate school, because of limited time to study the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders we didn’t see the signs.  If you want to know why we had limited time to study on this manual, just take a look at it one time and you’ll see that it could take years to be taught thoroughly and it’s like computers changing all the time.  This diagnosis is still part of a great debate about whether or not it’s an actual diagnosis. I can’t answer for other families but for our family it’s very much a REAL diagnosis.

Some people have, in fact, asked Mel if she felt safe around me with Marshall.  The answer is always the same….yes.  There’s a lot of self education we’ve had to do because of the stigma within the mental health communities, as well as, those outside that community.  We don’t have all the answers yet to how and why and neither does science. I can tell you that the very slow journey of recovery from a lifetime of trauma actually began when the correct diagnosis was given.  Now I finally had answers to why sometimes I would answer myself and had what I thought were ‘loud’ thoughts.

To see me today, I’m the same goofy ass, class clown that was and still is friends with Levi Pierce.  I have scars on my arms.  It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s how I survived.  You don’t have to be afraid to have your kids around me. I’m not going to cook them and eat them.

DID, as I’ll refer to the diagnosis from now on, is not near as scary as the picture that has been painted.  Does it have scary moments? Of course.  So does Bipolar, Major Depression, Schizophrenia and any other disorder.  This disorder requires a very patient and understanding spouse, as well as, professionals to be able to deal with some unpleasant moments.

The title of my blog “This Puzzled Life” is all about putting these scary pieces back together enough for me to be able to enjoy doing what I love…..helping people.  Once piece at a time is how I’ll learn to live with this disorder.  Trial and error is how it’s been for almost 1.5 years now with the correct diagnosis.  Prior to the correct diagnosis it was and still is at times a total nightmare.  Also, life continues regardless if I have a disorder or not.  Friends and family still pass away which can complicate things.  But, this too, is just the way life operates.

 With very patient but firm therapists, I’m finally being able to look very closely at some of the horrors.  The ‘alters’ or other personalities, if you so wish to call them, have their own story because they were created by the mind at very key times in the abusive history.  Alters together are called a ‘system.’  Each ‘alter’ has his/her own function within the system.   Each person with DID has a system much like that of a finger print.  Not every therapy works the same like a cookie cutter.  Do not be afraid to ask what you don’t understand.  Your fears come from what you don’t understand.

“DID is about SURVIVAL.  As more people begin to appreciate this concept, individuals with DID will start to feel less as though they have to hide the shame.”

–Anonymous

There are also no psychotropic meds that are specifically designed for this disorder.  This also explains why for the first 3 years of seeing a psychiatrist none of the meds worked for an extended period of time.  Some antidepressants, anti-psychotics, axiolitics work well for some alters and not for other alters.  I was taking Parkinson’s medications for the side effects of other medications while feeling horrible from the side effects.  So, that represents toxicity to me.  My psychiatrist offered as a last resort the state’s Medical Marijuana Program because of all the mood swings, PTSD, hallucinations and every other symptom I would have at that time.  Now believe what you want about medical marijuana, but I can personally tell you that that medication as it is so treated, is one of the reasons my wife, son, friends and family still have someone they love living.  The memories of the trauma alone are more than I can handle.  The effects of PTSD steal your sanity one image, smell, thought or sound at a time. The body memories while very painful become a little more tolerable with the marijuana and acupuncture.

This is why I’m also so big on people recognizing and working on their own trauma.  That way people like me who set out to enjoy life don’t have to wait 40+ years to understand what that means.  I’m representative of people who were too proud or stubborn to face their own demons.  This too was not a “choice.”  I understand the concept of ‘free will.’ Where was my free will?  That’s right, there was none.

People from all walks of life have this diagnosis but go on for years with the wrong diagnosis because so much can mimic other diagnoses.  There are also those still that live with this diagnosis and are very successful members of society.  The trauma didn’t just occur overnight.  It’s has happened my whole life so, the process won’t resolve itself overnight.  There is a lot of painful elbow grease that has to be put into this recovery.  The point is to keep putting one foot in front the other.  I’ve never backed down from a fight and won’t start now.  You just can’t take the athlete out of me.

I will take you through the victories and the setbacks of this journey.  Hopefully, I’ll help educate you while also healing me.  The only thing I ask is keep an open mind.

#Thispuzzled

Lessons From 2014

Lessons Learned from 2014

12.30.14

 “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” 
― Benjamin Franklin

The year 2014 while very trying has taught me many lessons…..

1)Toddlers tell their teachers at school that while their mommy is pregnant that really their little brother is locked in a closet at home.

2) Sometimes potty training is just not possible with some kids.

3) Loyalty while detrimental at times reaffirms you as a person and your dedication to friends and family.

4)After 20+ years after all the grime and muck of life, people’s hearts can remain the same.  I said HEARTS not behavior.  These are two completely different things.

5) One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is that life can vanish in an instant.  And the world will continue moving on.

6) Sometimes people are actually sicker than we know at the time.

7) Stopping the ‘trauma cycle’ is an option instead of a requirement.  Just because someone was evil to you, doesn’t give you a right to spread that same evilness in a different way.

8) When you look up and no one is around, first look in the mirror.

9) Being loyal doesn’t mean leaving those behind who have supported you from the beginning.

10) Being a mommy is an AWESOME and very difficult job.

11) Why some animals eat their young has become more clear with a toddler in the house.

12) Realizing that sayings your parents have told you throughout life are true is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow.

I’m quite sure that there are more lessons that I’ve learned this year.  The memory I once took for granted is no longer there.  However, lessons were learned and taught this year and yes they were are still are very painful.

The time with my brother, Levi Pierce and his family were probably some of the best times of my life.  He and I stayed up late at night talking and crying together.  He comforted me as I did for him.  After 20+ years, he’s still the same soft hearted guy that I knew as a child.  Make no mistake, you will never see that if you disrespect him in any way including through his family.

I have lots of difficulties because of my own trauma and he has his own set of issues.  The love and the friendship have never diminished.  The stars realigned at a perfect time once again.  I can only thank the universe for allowing me to learn these lessons even though they were and still are very difficult.  My loyalty to people hasn’t and will never change.  However, those that I trust with that very intimate part of my life have.  Both me and my family/friends have suffered because of my view of “loyalty.”  This is something that I must also work on for myself and those around me.

It has finally become very clear to me how very dangerous “black and white” thinking can be.  There has to be grey areas.  Through both therapy and life, I’m learning some very difficult lessons.  All I can do is embrace these “gifts.”  Right now they feel like spears have been impaled in my head and heart.  To me, I find truth and lessons in both the journey and the destination.

I was told by a therapist several years ago, “That everything that happens is a gift.  It doesn’t always come in pretty packages with big beautiful bows.  But, it’s still a gift.”  Right now, I’m trying to dig through some things and find the ‘gift’.  Maybe just maybe if I just continue to do the right thing that these gifts and purposes for these trials will reveal themselves to me.  And through this my heart will not change but I will grow.

“When we acknowledge it was our bad decisions we made that put us in these bad situations, only then can we accept them, get over it, and move forward.”

–Anonymous

#Thispuzzledlife

Three Years Of Life

Three Years of Life

12.3.2014

“I fell in love with a little boy and I’ve never been the same since.”

—-Anonymous

At 8:00 pm MST, our precious little boy will turn 3 years old.  Three years ago today we were anxiously awaiting his arrival and our challenge as new parents.  These three years have brought smiles, laughter and tears.  Marshall entered this world as a little preemie at 35 weeks.  I was very quickly allowed to get his first picture within moments of his birth.  He was taken to the NICU where he would remain for the next 18 days.  While we were glad that he was here, it was gut wrenching to know that we would be going home without our little angel that we had been planning almost since we became a couple.  I remember thinking, “OK he’s here, now what do we do?”  I was scared to death but happy all the same.  All of a sudden, the sun became much brighter and a love that I had never experience before began growing daily.  My greatest fear was losing this precious little being.  So, minimizing my time in the NICU was of utmost importance, or so I thought.  Today, I can say that I would love to have that time back with him as a brand new infant.  That was just where I was in my process at the time.

 

Christmas 2011 has got to be one of the best Christmas’s ever because we were a family and our little baby boy was finally home after 18 days of constant worry about whether or not he would make it.  This little handsome guy is, hands down the reason that we’ve been able to make it through some very dark times as a couple, individual and family.   Some nights we have both been up crying because we just didn’t know what to do to help him feel better.   I would certainly go through all the frustration of the last 3 years just to have our beautiful, sensitive, little superhero son in our lives.  I must admit that there are times when one begins to make sense as to why some animals eat their young.

We are now in the very independence gaining and boundary testing toddler years.  Sometimes I don’t know whether to choke him or just sit and hold this beautiful little boy that we have both the honor and privilege to call “Son.”  As a minority family, the response to his birth from outsiders was less than supportive as a collective majority.  You can’t convince these two moms by guilt with religion or any other tactic that we ever made a mistake by creating this little guy.

Whatever your beliefs, I can say this with a very clear conscious when I say that, “God entrusted us as parents with this precious being and thought that he was the perfect little boy to be able to handle any kind of disappointments that comes with being part of a minority family.”

Marshall knows one thing that he loves his mommies and his mommies love him.  Really, it’s that simple and what counts.

#Thispuzzledlife

The Birthday That Will Never Be Forgotten

The Birthday That Will Never Be Forgotten

12.4.2014

 “How much tragedy has to happen before I slip wide open?” 
― Alisa Mullen, Unrequited

As much as I want to celebrate another year of survival from both physical and mental issues, sadly it has been overshadowed by the loss of one of our twin children.  My wife, Melody and I weren’t really concerned about the doctor’s visit because there was never a problem with any of the previous visits.  She is considered high risk every time because of us doing invitro fertilization.  We see the perinatologists which basically knows every time the babies hiccup.  We are also at about the 12.5 week stage so, chance of miscarriage was much lower.

My brother Levi Pierce and wife are in the exam room while I’m frantically trying to get there in time for the measurements and everything that entails.  We had been preparing Marshall for two babies while he was trying to reassure us that there were four. Toddlers are just funny.  I get there in time for the technician to tell me that she was waiting to take all the measurements until I got there anyway.

After having my regrets about not really knowing how to bond as a first time parent with Marshall, this pregnancy was just different.  I could feel it so strongly on an emotional level that I had never experienced.  It was so beautiful.  It wasn’t something that I ever discussed with Mel or anyone else.  For some reason because that level of emotion and bonding with such little creatures I wanted to enjoy all by myself.  I had already completely embraced the reality of us having twins and the ways that we would have to work even more as a team.  We hadn’t told anyone yet for some realities just don’t match our realities.  Nevertheless, these babies already had our hearts.

With all three of us eagerly waiting for all of the measurements, I was so excited to get to have my only somewhat physical contact with our children.  She goes through each thing she measures, stomach, legs, head circumference, etc.  “Baby B” as it was named by the doctors for twin pregnancy,  was measuring a little smaller but not a big deal because this is a twin pregnancy.  And then even though she passed the words off as really no big deal that the doctor could probably detect it, the words “I can’t find a heartbeat came out of her mouth.”  My heart hit the exam room floor.  I could only think, “Did she just say that one of our babies is dead?”  In my heart, though, I knew.  Neither I nor my brother could hold the tears back as my extremely emotionally strong wife did. Hopes were there but the doctor also confirmed that there was no heartbeat.

I will forever remember December 4th not only as my birthday but also the day one of our children was born in Heaven.  2014 had been an extremely emotional year but this, I must say, has knocked the wind out of me.  This venture was new and I didn’t know how to comfort me or my wife.  All I could think about was, “Our baby will never get to meet any of the amazing people in our lives.” I was a snot crying mess to say the least.  I had never allowed myself to be this vulnerable in public.  It felt as though, I had just been shot in the chest.  My brother just simply got up and left the room.  Mel was able to hold it together until we left the doctor’s office.  And then it was my turn to try and comfort my grieving wife.  Any additional information they might’ve given us, I never heard. I could do nothing but feel my own soul crying out for our baby.

From that day, the term “miscarriage” will never been the same as it did before it happened to us.  The few that knew were trying to be encouraging by telling us that we had another baby still left to take care of.  The anger that flew all over me was the thought that the statement meant, “You can just go get another one at the store. No big deal.”  My initial thoughts were, “That was our child, not a broken toy.”  That instant reaction was valid but completely due to grief.  I don’t remember the rest of the day.  And really, it’s ok with me.  In the following days, I laid my head on her stomach and sobbed.  I realize that “this is just part of life” and “lots of people have miscarriages.”  But, we still just lost OUR  child.

We will no doubt love this other little baby and welcome him into the world with open arms just like we did Marshall.  Our hearts will never forget the day we lost our precious little 12 week baby. Happy Birthday to me.

#Thispuzzledlife

And 2 More Makes 3…..

And 2 More Make 3……..

10.21.14

“God touched our hearts so deep inside, our special blessing multiplied.”

 ~Author Unknown

I must admit that I had a Maury Povich moment when we went to our fertility specialist today.  I was hoping that if we saw more than one yolk sac that I would hear those magical words…”You are NOT the father!”  No, I’m convinced it was a brief moment of psychosis when I heard the word….”TWINS!”  I’m not sure where the idea of throwing myself into a bubbling vat of Ebola came from but I assure you it was brief.  I totally started thinking, “Where did the twins come from?  There aren’t any in my biological family?  I don’t understand?”  Ok, so maybe it was full blown “situational psychosis.” Already being a parent to a toddler has taught me that brief moments of “situational psychosis” seems to be accepted as a daily action most assuredly in public.  So, my little stand alone moment in the doctor’s office was most definitely appropriate, I think.  If someone tells you that they got that same news and didn’t at the very least think, “What the hell?!” I would have to say that they’re not telling you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.   I must admit that I’ve had several laughs since that moment only a few hours ago about why I was actually having those thoughts.

Sometimes events surrounding fertility treatment can also be quite funny.  I can’t tell you how much fun I have with the people at Walgreens when I tell them that I need to pick up my wife’s birth control pills.  For once, I can understand what it must be like for a man to pick up tampons and pads. I usually don’t know whether to laugh or run.  I just get the typical strange looks from the employees.  So, I must respond in a rather humorous manner.  I usually tell them, “Yea, we don’t need any slip ups! The doctors told me I had a low sperm count but you can never be too safe.”  I usually just get a nod and a head tilt similar to that of a puppy.   Sometimes you just have to have fun with ignorance.  My brother, Levi Pierce, taught me that a long time ago.

I know that some will just from reading the blog and not even being around our family daily will think, “OMG, so much has happened already and your lives have been so chaotic. Why now?”  Well, let me see if I can “splain it to you, Lucy.”  So, the term “chaotic” does not even begin to explain what our lives have been like the last several years.  Truly, we both wanted to wait a little bit longer just to be able to catch our breath.  Here’s what it all comes down to………as a lesbian couple who are currently moms, we can’t just decide when the “perfect time” or “more appropriate time” would be better because without the fertility insurance that we have our costs to have a child runs $30,000+ every month we try.  Most straight or gay couples have to have the savings or the ability to take out another mortgage to be able to do this even once.  This, however, is not us.  Melody was blessed with a job that has same sex benefits including fertility benefits.  That was all about to come to a screeching halt as of less than a month ago because Mel’s current job within that company was about to be eliminated.  That meant that we would have fertility insurance only until the end of December. So, our ‘baby making’ days were looking like they were going to end and very soon.  We were scared and very sad.  We looked at everything and said, “Well, now is not really the optimal time but we had to jump on this last opportunity.”  With very minimal cost to us, we proceeded with the process of trying to get her pregnant by December.

As a gay couple, we have to take many things into consideration before having a child.  The fertility process takes up most of the brain and emotional space backed up by legal concerns.  We definitely want to move ‘closer’ but definitely not back exactly where we grew up.  Unfortunately, that area of the country is not in the majority when it comes to equality for gay rights.  We currently live in a state where both our marriage and my rights as a non-biological mother are also honored without having to adopt because we are legally married.  We, by no means, are obligated to explain why we made the decision to have another child to anyone.  Here’s just a little “bird’s eye view” of what it takes for us to be parents.  No daddies other than “donor daddies” are in this house or are involved in this process.  These babies were actually fertilized into embryos the same time our almost 3 year-old son, Marshall.  These were our “frozen babies” which also have to be paid for yearly to be kept on ice.  I’m also knocking on 40 years-old so, we really needed to get on the ball despite what all has been going on.

We transferred two embryos just like we did with Marshall in the hopes that only one would take.  However, unlike when we conceived Marshall and lost the other embryo, both of these took.  That is a chance that we as a gay couple have and had to be willing to take each time.  We could have transferred only one and taken the chance of not conceiving and running out of time.  As life would have it, Mel was offered a different job with the same company and we now have the same benefits. When you don’t know for certain what life might hand you, you have to be willing to take risks and live with the outcome.   We transferred two frozen embryos a couple of years and neither of them took.  And then it seemed that life had once again hit the gas pedal.

 I have personally always taken risks. Some decisions were good and some were not.  Mel and I have, for the most part, had to deal with this alone in the beginning because our “lifestyle” was not accepted.  We have proven that we can be parents and make it happen on our own if need be.  Is this a decision that I regret? Absolutely not!  I wouldn’t change our trials of not being accepted as a family by both society and certain family members for the gift that we have both been given as a couple and as a family.  Life has taught us many things through the gift of our son.  He makes everything seem ok among the chaos.  Has it been easy? No, but nothing ever has been for either of us even before we met.

So, sometimes when you think you have everything planned the way you want it, the universe has a good chuckle and says, “oh yea, watch this!”  We do now and will continue to embrace our roles as spouses and parents.  But, make no mistake; we are finished with baby making after this go round.  And no we don’t have to worry about having tubes tied or accidental pregnancies.  Just a bonus, I thought I might add.  We are going to embrace these babies and continue to live our life as a normal family with sometimes abnormal circumstances.

I have a total of four reasons for both living and to attack my very puzzled past and present with a vengeance.  Painful as hell is what this recovery has been and will continue to be for a while.  Mel and I are both warriors that face life like this……”Tell us we can’t accomplish something, and we can assure you that you will be proven wrong.”  This isn’t a spiteful stance just one of the signs of a strong couple who loves each other dearly. And a family that perseveres no matter how it might look; what people think; or what it takes to have a minority family and keep it together.  We struggle just like every other family ours is just made up of two mommies, a little boy, two yolk sacs and a lot of love.

I would totally go through all of the abuse of 14 years from my previous heterosexual marriage again to know that in the end I would eventually hit the jackpot!

#Thispuzzledlife

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Wake Me Up When September Ends…..

11.5.14

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.” 
― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery

I’ve always been told the saying, ‘when it rains it pours.’  Right now, my life feels like a hundred year flood.  And for those who read this blog, yes, I did manage to make it through Halloween.  It wasn’t easy and I was medicated, but I wasn’t going to miss our son’s trick or treating for anything no matter how painful it was for me.

You may or may not view this as a “pity party” session and well that’s on you.  I view this as being able to freely voice my agony which tends to be very cathartic. I’d like to think that this string of painful losses was just for the month of September.  There are several events that seemed to congregate in that month.  The psychological trauma began many years ago so, I’m not a ‘newbie’ to bad shit happening.  Matter of fact, I can usually handle that much better than “normal” life. Why?  For many years, that has been my normal.

This year has been one, thus far, that I’ll never forget.  The spring brought two suicides. The summer brought the most intense internal and external psychological battle that I think has ever been waged against me.  September…..well….it doesn’t have a season because what started then hasn’t stopped even now.  There is nothing that could’ve prepared me for when my brother’s wreck that happened and yet he still survived and is doing very well.  Less than a week later another suicide that I was directly associated with occurred.   Another suicide only a couple of weeks ago happened yet again.  And now some concerning news that I must just chew on for the moment.

Have I learned some difficult lessons this summer? You bet I have!  September just seems to keep feeding me and my family all kinds of stuff that just makes you shake your head.  And it’s not over yet.  In the meantime, I start deep work on my molestation as a child very soon.  Sometimes you wonder what your limits are and then voices from the past namely Nick Kolinsky and Randy King among other coaches remind me that “A Winner Never Gives Up!”  We were never allowed as players to give a half ass effort.  So, even now, with tears streaming down my face, what was instilled in me as a ballplayer keeps me going.  You just enjoy the good times and prepare for the bad.  Things have happened so quickly that life hasn’t afforded me time to catch my breath.

And now I get ready to embark on a deeper more painful part of the journey of trauma recovery that I have yet to experience.  I have asked many questions about why I have to pay both mentally and physically for the evil that was done by others.  The only solace I can find, at this juncture, is so that I can finally have my voice heard.  Oh, there have been people that have said along the years that they were listening to me.  Actually hearing what I have to say from a humanistic standpoint, I’ve been stranded.  I must admit that some of that is my fault because I kept so many secrets and protected my abusers both out of fear and intimidation.

 

Dear Perpetrators

Those days of fear and intimidation are gone.  I survived without your help.  People are now going to hear what you did to me.  I was once your victim.  Now, I’m the warrior about to face you again and again for as long as it takes for me to have freedom.

Sincerely,

YOUR worst nightmare

Our Thanksgiving plans consist of going to Arkansas to spend with my brother and sister-in-law and our new ‘chosen’ family.  He is then riding back with us to Albuquerque to spend a month with us.  Does the universe know that I’m going to need some extra support in the coming months?   I would have to say undeniably YES!  Big things are going to happen in the next couple of months that are going to be both good and bad.  I see nothing wrong with two people wanting to promote healing together.  Sometimes all I need is my big brother as comfort.  And sometimes all he needs is his equally crazy sister to tell him that things will get better.  Nothing but good can come from this.  I will not only have my dear son and wife here as comfort.  But, my big brother is going to be here to push me in a way that no other person on this earth can do.  We also have over 20 years of jokes and laughter to catch up on.  So, my dear brother, thank you in advance for the comfort and support that only you can give in the next couple of months.

What people don’t understand about mine and Levi’s relationship is that just being around each other for less than an hour, we already begin healing.  So, having a man that I’ve always trusted when I was always told that he was “bad news” is something that I can still laugh about today.  He saved my life many years ago and I can only hope to repay the debt one day. The boys/men that I was told I could trust raped and molested me physically and emotionally.

Since, my only sibling has been AWOL  since I ‘came out’ as being gay, she made a choice and I made mine.  I have two brothers named Levi Pierce and Chris Pierce that I can depend on no matter what.  My sibling’s name, unfortunately, has slowly been forgotten.  I have a beautiful family and extended family with absolutely no blood relations, no matter what her choices are.

Levi and Chris Pierce and all of our ‘chosen’ family in Arkansas, thank you for loving me and my family unconditionally.   Charlene Pierce, thank you for loving my brother and being patient enough to be his wife. LOL. Levi, thank you for staying off the damn motorcycles for this long!  I love you and can’t wait to see you soon!

#Thispuzzledlife

Illusions of Halloween

Illusions of Halloween

10.21.14

“The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment that you know beyond any doubt that you’ve been betrayed:  that some other human being has wished you that much evil.”

—-Margaret Atwood,  The Empathy Trap book page

These last several months has left me both mentally and physically drained to a low that I have never experienced.  Sometimes I have wondered if the universe is trying to point out something that I just can’t seem to see or understand.  The stress alone has left me 40 lbs lighter.  No complaints from me about that.  I think both me and my wife have felt every emotion possible at its highest intensity.  Have I allowed myself to do too much at times? Undeniably, yes.  Have I neglected my own needs psychologically, physically, mentally and emotionally?  Indeed I have.  Do I regret it? Not one minute of it.  I don’t feel compelled or obligated.  I am who I am. And I do what I do out of love for other people.

I’ve been told over the last few months, “No one ever said you had to do it or you weren’t asked to do it.”  My response has always been, “Why should I have to be asked to do something for someone that’s just the right thing to do?”  I don’t feel that I deserve any pats-on-the-back or high fives for simply taking some time to comfort someone in need.  Should I do this more in moderation?  Yes of course.  But, I know only one way to be a friend…..110% at all times when possible.

I’ve tried to figure this entire struggle lately with very few satisfying answers.  The only things I have become “one” with are my own tears.  I think that whatever emotional block that I had been struggling with prior to going back south for a visit has certainly been remedied.  I have emerged someone different and even more confused.  How do I deal with my own trauma like I need to while continuing to be supportive to those in need?  Well, right now, I don’t have those answers.  I just know that promises were made to both friends and family that I would stand by and support them in any way possible.  And since I don’t know how to turn my back on people, I’ll continue to be there for them while also trying to find my balance.

This time of year has many unpleasant anniversaries and memories associated with it.  I have always loved the fall and Halloween.  This year the familiar smells in the air are enough to turn my stomach.  I normally would be hunting for the best haunted house, haunted barn, haunted corn maze or anything that I was hopefully to get a good scare from in the region.  However, at this point in my life, there are very few days that are fun and enjoyable.  All I can seem to attribute this lack of contentment to is just where I am on my path of healing.  The word “trust” is one that has become again a word that is attached to the word “fear.”

Just this past weekend, our family went to McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty, NM that we have been going to since before Marshall was born.  It has always been a place where my “inner child” comes alive and enjoys having fun.  Since Marshall was born, we always take this time to have fun taking fall pictures of him.  This year was different.  I was very apprehensive about all the people that would be there and just the thought of going scared the absolute shit out of me.  I didn’t totally understand but I think back to the sacrifices that my parents always made to attend all of my many softball/basketball games.  Instantly, I put on a smile and thought, “I, too, must do this for our son.”

Mel had all medications ready just in case.  And I will also add that I was medicated before we even left the house.  Secretly, my goal was to get through this as quickly as possible and get back home to my place of “safety.”  I must admit that seeing our son having such a good time brought joy to my heart.  The fear that I had from just being there was beginning to make me nauseous.  I sipped on my medical marijuana shooter to try and help combat all of the anxiety and nausea that was beginning from somewhere deep in my soul.  Something was beginning but what and why?  I knew that part of it had to do with being around so many people that was for sure.  I knew, though, that there was something more painful attached to this reaction, but what?  Halloween had always been something fun for me or had it?  I tried to ignore everything as best I could for the sake of Marshall and Mel to have an enjoyable day.

The last thing we always do before leaving is the hay ride.  However, after being around what seemed like ½ of the total population of New Mexico, I was done.  I told them to go ahead  and I would just wait under a covered area where a lot of families were eating and taking a break from the activities.  Never going anywhere in public without my IPod, I sit at a table and try to do some deep breathing and try and enjoy some music until they got finished.  Apparently, I was seen as an easy target to squeeze out because a rather large family decided that they would occupy the rest of the space at the table.  So, I politely got my shit and left them with the damn table.  I would like to interject that there is not a whole lot that I miss about where I was raised.  The common courtesy of simply asking if it was ok to sit there was something that I truly missed at that exact moment.  I would’ve gotten up anyway but, you know, the whole “principle” of the matter thing.  Anyway, I find a place on a hay bale and sit there in eager anticipation for the return of the pumpkin hunters.   I soon realize that I’m not able to keep an eye on everything but this time I’m alone.  My mind begins to panic and all I can think is, “Get me out of here NOW!”  Then the flashes of images that I can’t seem to connect with begin.  Really?  All I knew was that I was terrified.  The nausea sets in and I keep swallowing to prevent the ultimate embarrassment of vomiting in public.  I was scared and alone and that was all I could comprehend.  I felt like at any moment someone was going to do something horrible to me.  I just didn’t feel protected.  My deep breathing quickly became like a dog panting.  My eyes searched the area like a tiger looking for a meal.  And then…….I’m in the truck almost back in ABQ not remembering if something had happened.  I had a really bad headache and tried to put the pieces together and couldn’t.  Yea…..Happy Halloween.

#Thispuzzledlife

The Day Time Stopped

The Day Time Stopped

9.17.2014

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

—-Ian Maclaren

I usually try to start of my posts lighthearted or a good toddler moment.  This post I cannot seem to find anything to joke about.  I have searched deep within me and all I find is tears.  I have questions but no answers.  My life has been changed yet again forever.  The quote above couldn’t be more fitting for this life event.

There are many dates that are in my little book of life that I keep tucked away in the deep recesses of my mind.  The day September 3, 2014 is another day that will never be forgotten.  That day was the Wednesday of the same week that we got back from being with Levi and his family in Arkansas.  I was slowly beginning to decompress from that situation.  Adjusting back to daily life in Albuquerque was underway.  I missed him more than I ever imagined.  It was back to being a long distant relative.

I was trying to get the house back in some type of order from us leaving in such a hurry.  I was washing and folding clothes with nothing specifically planned for the day.  I recognize the sound of facebook messenger alerting me to a message.  A mutual friend told me that she needed to talk to me ASAP.  So, I half way drop what I was doing and said, “What’s up?”  Not knowing or worrying about the answer that would come back.  “Hey, I have a friend that said that he wants to ‘end it all,’ she said.  I said, “What’s going on?” I didn’t ask for a name because I didn’t see the relevance at the time.  Instantly, the therapist side of me is at attention.  She asked, “Do you know a guy on facebook by the name of Kyle Brewer?” I told her very quickly, “Of course I do.  We went to school together some in elementary and middle school, why?”  Apparently, I couldn’t seem to do math because I didn’t see the correlation as to why the question was asked.  She said, “It’s him that’s saying that.”  I still didn’t worry because we had just spent some time with him as a family on our recent nightmarish visit to Petal, MS.  We had gone out to his house and spent time talking and laughing.  I told her not to worry that he would respond to either me or Mel.

Kyle and I were also alike in the sense that we both love to find the funny in just about anything.  We were always finding rude, inappropriate but yet hysterically funny things on Facebook and sharing them with each other.  He had a some

what perverted style of humor that most would find distasteful.  He and I were able to enjoy some good laughs over a snow cone or two.  He also adored Marshall.

He wasn’t responding to me or Mel in any way.  I instantly knew that my friend was in trouble.  I’m usually not very ‘jumpy’ about suicide threats.  But, in my gut, something told me this situation was different.  This mutual friend of ours had also been trying to get in touch with him all morning.  She was in another state and so was I.  Why did he pick her to tell?  Because he knew she was too far away to do anything about it.  That’s just my hypothesis.  And he also didn’t specifically mention wanting to ‘end it all’ because he knew what profession and obligations I would have if he did say something.

We began discussing what we needed to do.  In the meantime, the only thing I could think to do was to grasp at straws by putting a message out on Facebook for him to call me.  I think the message actually read something like, “Kyle Brewer, pick up your damn phone and call me right now!”  The minute I hit send and it was posted he contacted me through messenger.

I told our mutual friend that I was currently talking to him and to go ahead and call 911.  I told her, “If he gets mad at you, then he’ll be mad at me because he knows you don’t know where he lives.  And if he gets mad, as long as, he’s alive he can get over it. But, if he was dead he would no longer have that option.”  I tell her that she has to tell the dispatch verbatim the way I tell her to tell them how to get to his house because it was located way out.  She calls and soon tells me that dispatch is heading out there to do a welfare check just to make sure he’s ok.  They also tell her that when they know something they will let her know.

While all of that was going on, I was desperately trying to talk to Kyle.  What was said between us is something that I will only discuss with my therapists.  The point is that as long as he’s talking, he’s not dead.  I share some very personal stuff with him and ask him questions.  He finally tells me, “I’m tired. Thanks for the talk!!!!”  It was at this point, that I knew that Kyle was no longer able to keep the mask that many of us use everything we have to keep it in place anymore.  We were both talking from our hearts without humor.  That was the last time I ever had contact with him.

It was a couple of hours later when our mutual friend messaged me and said, “Dana, we need to talk.”  My blood ran cold; my heart began to shatter and my stomach was turning like I was on a ride at a theme park.  I already knew.  She said, “Dana, he’s dead.” At that moment, time seemed to stop.

Fortunately, Mel was here with me and Marshall was still at daycare.  I began sobbing like a small child.  I couldn’t make sense of anything.  My greatest fear was that the emergency services wouldn’t make it there in time.  This seemed to be the reality for the moment.  All of my senses seemed to disappear.  My tears felt like they were coming from every pore in my body. Mel just sat, held me and let me cry.  At that moment, there was nothing else that could be done.

We did find out later that the emergency services did make it to his house in time.  He greeted them in the yard like nothing was wrong.  There probably didn’t seem like a reason to stop him from going back into his house. He told them he had to run back inside and would be right back out.  He went back in his house, locked the door and shot himself.  He was one of them. He was a volunteer firefighter that probably knew many of the people that arrived to check on him.  He used the mask to both his favor and detriment.   I lost my friend to a term called PRIDE.

Kyle Brewer was like many of us ‘clowns.’ We all seem to have it together because we can make people laugh.  Take a moment and try to imagine what my friend Kyle would’ve looked like if we had been able to turn him inside out.  I bet you wouldn’t see anything but a heart full of love for those he loved mixed with the tears of what he knew was about to happen.  EVERYONE has demons and secrets.  He just didn’t see the other side where there could be light instead of darkness.

Even now, I selfishly shed tears because I’ve lost yet another friend by violent means.  I also cry for his family of EMS workers and biological family.  He will never be able to carry out his duty as an uncle, son, brother or husband because of one decision.  I don’t hate nor am I mad at him.  He was my friend and I will continue to grieve his loss.

I have now been involved in just about every angle of suicide as both a teenager and as an adult.  Has this one event changed me? You bet it has!  I question everything I said to him.  I’m constantly re-reading our last conversation.  And, I question my ability as a professional.  What my head understands, my heart can’t comprehend.

I’ve had people contact me through various ways thanking me for what we did to help.  I can’t help but to very angrily think, “I did nothing! He’s still dead! We all lost!” I wish I could see things differently right now, but I can’t.  I take their nice comments and say thank you like I was taught many years ago.  But, I will probably be forever haunted by “The Day Time Stopped.”

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown 3

Tears of a Clown 3

9.8.14

“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.” 
― Greta Garbo

When Levi got back to his room, I was so relieved!  Now, I could see for myself that he had made it through surgery safely.  Not without battle wounds, but he was alive.  I told him, “Bro, I’m still here.”  I could tell that between the anesthesia and pain meds that he didn’t know whether to ‘scratch his watch or wind his butt.”  I left him in the caring hands of his wife, brother and mother.  I could now breathe another sigh of relief.  Mel and Marshall came by and picked me up from the hospital to go something to eat.  To me, it had been a long day that was well worth the stress.

The next couple of days were spent making small talk and getting to know his family.  Marshall continued to play with Boudreaux, Levi’s new grandson.  Chris, Charlene and his mom all seemed to be competing for the “Caregiver of the Year Award.”  They were amazing at how they were attending to him.  I’m not sure what the exact situation was, but I was introduced by his family as his “sister.”  Now, between him and me we’ve always called each other brother and sister.  His own family seeing, accepting and seemingly understanding our relationship also was the ray of sunshine that my heart seemed to need to feel.

I had just recently been wrapped up in some of my own darkness.  This whole trip was beginning to feel like the ray of light that I had been searching for.  I’ve looked back and have been able to recall this exact feeling.  I’ve wondered why this has made such a big difference mentally for me.  What I’ve deduced from this situation is this:

  1.  My brother needed me and I was able to get there.  I might’ve been a mess, but I got there like we had always promised each other.
  2.  My ‘security blanket’ was finally back in my life….him.
  3.   I had just been ACCEPTED, by his friends and family, for who I was even at my weakest moment.  I wasn’t able to keep the mask on because I had been weakened by my own fear.  And they still accepted me and all of me.

I must admit that it was pretty eerie at first.  Everything for me has always come with conditions except for a few very close friends, close family and my parents.  Even my ex-husband told me that he didn’t understand how my dad accepted my mother for who she is without conditions. He told me that loving someone like that wasn’t even possible.   So, this situation with Levi’s friends and family and their acceptance and total disregard for the fact that I was gay, legally married and have a 2.5 year old kid didn’t even seem to phase them.  They knew that I loved their friend and family member and that was all that counted.

I’ve listened to stories from almost everyone there about what a big part he has played in their lives.  I can honestly say that I wasn’t surprised by what I was hearing.  Another thing that he and I have in common is the fact that if someone’s in need of help, we will always be there for them.  You can say that it has something to do with the way we were raised; the expectations of being from the south; or our own childhood trauma that’s had influence.  What I can say is this…”Fighting the battles of abuse and life on your own is not easy nor is it fair.”  Therefore, and I can only speak for myself, when I say that after my 8th grade school year that I have always vowed that no one that I knew and/or loved would EVER have to fight a battle on their own again.  I will admit that he and I both don’t know when to keep our mouths shut at times.   I would take that flaw rather than having any of my friends and family fight a senseless battle on their own.

When he was finally discharged and sent home, he wanted to ride in our vehicle because it was higher.  We got back to his and Charlene’s house and the cooking began.  He was in excruciating pain.  So, I helped to make sure he was comfortable.  I knew these last few hours would be my last for a little while.  We were heading back to Albuquerque early in the morning.  We sat, laughed and told stories with as many people that would sit and listen.  As the time passed, we began to try and play, “Let’s Make a Deal” with our wives just so we could have those last remaining moments together.  We honestly sounded like two kids who wanted candy at the store.

Finally, it was time and I must say goodbye to one of my closest friends.  He and I didn’t shed tears in front of everyone.  I hugged him and told him I loved him.  I reminded him that I was just a text, phone call or instant message away.  He told me, “I still can’t believe you and your family came all this way to see me.”  I simply told him, “You were not the one that was on the other end of that phone line when I was talking to Charlene.  Don’t ever doubt what I will do for you no matter what you may consider as insignificant. You are my BROTHER.”

I was fine going back to the motel because for the past few days that was our routine.  When we got the car loaded in the morning and pulled out of the parking lot of the motel, I  began to see and feel the tears begin to fall.  All I felt was the pull and the hurt of the separation between us on my heart.  He was in great hands and I knew that.  Emotionally, I just left my brother.  That was a feeling that no word could magically soothe.  I cried most of the 13 hours it took to drive back home.  And yes, the night I left him, he did the same thing.  He is a man with feelings and I have never shamed him for that.

I look back on this trip and can do nothing but shed tears.  They are tears of what could have happened. They are tears of what happened.  And they are tears of joy for my family being completely embraced by some people who had only heard my name until we met.  I now have the peace of knowing that I have several more “chosen” family members living in Arkansas.

I have heard their stories about our beloved “Spunky.”  I’ve laughed a lot and cried with them.  They have also laughed at the beautiful memories that we have of us as rebellious children.  Also, things that were shared with me by individuals, is how very big his heart is even now.  How he has taken people in and helped “clean” them up.  We both seem to lean towards the people that need help.  I guess maybe that’s why I enjoy working with populations that make a lot of people cringe.  We both have a very strong line of STUPID/HARDHEADEDNESS that comes out in us at times.  But, the one thing Levi and I still have that never changed is our love and respect for each other as human beings.

We’ve made mistakes and lots of them.  We have had little victories that maybe he and I will only understand.  But, my dear and very precious brother, I must say that through all the mistakes, to me you are not only a success as a human.  YOU ARE A SUCCESS AS A MAN!

And once again…..the “Tears of a Clown” are falling.

#Thispuzzledlife

Effects Of Stress

Effects of Stress
9.11.14

The stress of the last few events is wreaking havoc on my body. I’ve tried to push through and continue writing but, the continuous side effects have made it impossible to do anything but sleep. My body is just saying, “No more for a few days.”  This is one thing that I’ve never really done before….listen to my body and physically heal.

#Thispuzzledlife
#mustlearnthehardway
#whenwillitstop

Winners

Winners

8.14.14

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
-Muhammad Ali

Today is one of those days where I regret being able to open my eyes.  I rolled out of bed this morning and felt like I had been at war all night.  My body feels like I’m detoxing from a chemical that I haven’t taken.  And it’s already begun happening at 6:00am.  I feel the overwhelming sense of sadness mixed with anxiety.  The nausea is hitting like a gulf coast wave from Hurricane Katrina.  I feel that overwhelming sense of needing to vomit.  Halleluer! I must not have eaten before I went to bed last night! I didn’t see any remnants of anything.  So, I grab my cannabis wax pen and take a couple of hits off it to settle my entire system down.  This has also helped to combat a horrible headache that was beginning to hit like a thousand hammers.  Then the diarrhea hits like some kind of ‘shock and awe’ attack on Iraq.  How soon until I have another acupuncture session?

I’m actually catching a break from these symptoms right now.  The medical marijuana is just like any other medication, it too has its limits.  However, the combination between both mmj and acupuncture and a drastic slow down in therapy seems to be slowing everything but my mind.  What was started about a month ago and was exacerbated when we traveled home has continued to plague every inch of my mind.  This blog, no doubt, is an exit for both frustration and education on certain topics.  But, for now, certain things must be kept hidden to ensure safety on several different levels.

Am I just trying to have a “poor, pitful me” moment today? Hell no! You’re just getting a ‘firsthand’ look at what some people’s days are like.   Like I’ve said before, “writing about these topics on my own abuse has had numerous effects on me both mentally and physically.”  Yes, I realize that I had an awesome life up next to others who have had some horrific things happen in their own lives.  I’m not going to compare stories because this blog is not about minimizing anyone’s personal traumas.  Have I cried about feeling so guilty about being upset over seemingly insignificant things? Absolutely!  But, the fact is that things did happen.  I’ve held that shame and guilt so long that my mind and body feels like I’m melting.  And I’ve stuffed and stuffed feelings for so long that I’m not only nervous….I’m terrified to work with them.

The “special” people helping to guide me through this process must either be angels from God or “gluttons for punishment.”  LMAO!!!  I feel like I’m really just beginning this treatment even though, I’ve been in therapy for a few years now.  I just don’t have the ability to keep my defenses up like I use to.

As an athlete, “YOU NEVER GIVE UP!” You play until you hear the whistle blow.  This drive is not one that can be taught. You must be born with a love for the game and the athletic ability to become the best ballplayer you can become.  I got my softball playing nickname ‘Charlie Hustle’ from one of my earliest and dearest coaches assigned to me by Nick Kolinksy.  He always told me that I played a lot like Pete Rose and never gave up.  I smile every time I remember as a kid playing ball for him and always feeling a sense of ‘safety’ around him.  He would tell me sometimes, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw.”  He made his point very clear but didn’t crush my self esteem as a ballplayer or as a person in the process. He and other coaches are on my list of ‘special’ people that had a dramatic and positive impact on my life from a very early age.  I never complained about going to practice or games.  That was a way out for me.  Playing ball was my life.  Pete Rose said it the best way that I know how to describe the love that I had for the game.  

“I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.”

—Pete Rose

Occasionally, that old, washed up athlete comes alive in me again with reminders about how “putting one foot in front of the other is still considered progress.” I get caught up a lot on what the definition of ‘progress’ or ‘winning’ is about in regards to therapy.  Sometimes, the best I can do for that day is just get out of the bed.  Even doing that means that I made progress because one foot had to be put in front of another foot for that to be accomplished.

Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to process trauma.  To me it’s all about going to war, except this time, I know what I’ll be faced with.  I have survived it once so, it can be done. Do I have the strength? That remains to be seen.  I relive everything all day everyday anyway. What makes this situation different?  I have actively made a choice to volunteer to go through it again.  The fear can make me angry, frustrated and paralyze me at times.  I must admit that it’s very unfair to be almost 40 years old and still paralyzed in many ways by what others have done.  I can hear some of the old, southern biddies saying, “She made her bed, now, she can lie in it.” And that’s fine, if that’s your reality.  My reality is this….”I don’t care what the circumstances were…No one deserves to be abused in any way….EVER!  My ex-husband, teacher, baby sitters and birth mom didn’t deserve the abuse that they suffered at the hands of their family and people they trusted.  When the effects of the abuse begin affecting them then, the new generation of abuse is born and is taken out on other people who become their victims just like I did.”

This time….”I WILL NOT ONLY SURVIVE, I WILL WIN!”

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

No Rest For The Weary

No Rest for the Weary

September 7, 2014

I planned a special post for August 29th with it being the anniversary date of Hurricane Katrina.  I never thought anything would “trump” the reverence of that day.  This year something did trump that date.  While I did notice it, my brother’s life was at stake.  Just the shear remembrance of the emotions that flowed and continue to flow through me is enough to make me retch. I honestly, don’t know how I’m able to write right now.

Ok right now, I just want to send a little shout out to CANNABIS for making this last week a little more tolerable!

My heart and soul got pounded.  I was snot crying like a child, when I’m normally everyone’s clown.  Almost losing my brother and then coming home and losing a close friend has taken its toll on both my mind and my body.

#Thispuzzledlife

Family Day

Family Day

9.8.14

“Some people’s lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That’s what trauma does. It interrupts the plot. You can’t process it because it doesn’t fit with what came before or what comes afterwards.” 
― Jessica Stern 

And then you have a random day where everything seems wonderful.  I’ve been in public without getting sick.  I’ve stopped and talked to a friend and laughed.  I’m only dealing with minimal physical ailments this morning.  Maybe the weed, klonopin, Valium and ativan are working.  I’m not asking questions. I’m just going to enjoy the ride.  Reality will be back soon enough.  At least I’m not sick despite all of the medication.

I wish I had had the break from some of the side effects from when we went and took pictures on Sunday.  I was all dosed up and ready to face the people and overstimulation of my brain.  The plan was to take Marshall to the botanical gardens and let him ride the choo-choo.  Off our little family goes to find the choo-choo.  Did I mention that I had been dosed with a good bit of meds before I left the house?  I vaped on my wax pen all the way to our destination at the Botanical Gardens.

Everything was going fine. Marshall was enjoying running around being a kid.  Mel was…well….being a mixture of a professional photographer and a mommy.   Today was going to be the day that Marshall and I had “mommy/son pictures.”   Other families were there having picnics and just enjoying a nice, cool Sunday late morning and taking in the scenery.  The people were spread out so, at least, I wouldn’t have to worry about them touching me.  I had my wax pen ready, my sunshades to hide my life full of shame and my IPod ready to face any type of external or internal stimulation.

Marshall was showing me things and asking, “Bite you?” So, our conversation was typically, “No, baby, flowers don’t bite.”  Then he sees the koi pond. The koi have instantly become sharks.  He starts shouting to get our attention, “Sharks, Sharks!” Yep, this momma was proud that our son knows the difference between a fish and a shark.  I look behind me thinking because I thought I heard someone call my name.  It was a seemingly peaceful pathway filled with small trees, bushes and ground covering.   “Here we go,” I thought but not knowing why.  I notice my stomach getting a little nauseated but took a couple of vapes off my pen and hoped that the feeling would go away.  I soon noticed that my jaw began hurting. The muscles in my body began cramping. The nausea became stronger.  I told Mel that I was going to sit down a few minutes to rest, but really hoping that I just didn’t throw up.

 The longer I sat there, the worse I felt.  As a tear, dropped from my eye underneath the sunshades and shaky voice, I told Mel we needed to go home.  An unimaginable fear I must’ve been ‘triggered’ but I hadn’t realized it. Then, the headache hit.  Not as bad as the one last week, when I had acupuncture where I never remembered the visit, but plenty bad enough to feel miserable.

Once again, my physical symptoms have messed up another family outing. And soon the shame and guilt hit me like a “tornado propelled bumble bee.”  I had no warning but thought it was probably in the lineup somewhere.  I felt like collapsing from just sheer embarrassment, even though, people around me didn’t seem to notice. I just sat down again and tried to wait for the feeling to pass. After several minutes, I decided no more waiting and listening to music. I suddenly had to GET THE HELL AWAY FROM WHERE I CURRENTLY WAS!  Something still seemed to scare me, but I didn’t know what.

I tried to remember what we were doing, and what had just happened to cause such a scare.  I couldn’t remember what I had said, done or thought. All I could do was hope that ‘it’ was over soon.

MY wife, being the very understanding person she is, told me everything was ok and we could come back another day.  The disappointment laid somewhere deep within me, not her.  She had no idea the level of disappointment I was experiencing.  Everything was fine and now it wasn’t.  Marshall didn’t seem to notice and neither did the people passing by. So, now I act like everything is fine, right?  I stood up and the familiar feeling hit me but this time it scared me. My body didn’t feel like I could control itself but I was moving.  It was as if I was watching this awkwardly walking human being that I didn’t recognize. ‘Things’ just weren’t ok for some reason.

We were still able to get some good pictures of me and Marshall.  But, the disgrace of the signs and symptoms of disorders can be embarrassing even if other people don’t seem to see them.  Some things can’t be hidden.  Some things have been hidden for years and are now noticeable.  I just wanted to get back to my ‘familiar’ surroundings….HOME!

#Thispuzzledlife

Who Am I?

Who am I?

9.8.14

“Don’t underestimate me.  I know more than I say,

Think more than I speak,

 & notice more than you realize.”

–Anonymous

Behind the smiles you don’t see the frowns.  Behind the laughs you don’t see the cries.  Behind the eyes you don’t see the tears.  And behind the contentment that you see in the pictures of me and our son, you don’t see the fears that I hide.  You see what I allow you to see.  I let you see what is socially acceptable.  But, you DON’T see the real me.  What if you did? Would you even recognize me? Could you even pronounce my name?  Or would I be that same person, to you that you’ve grown-up with and known the majority of your life?

I resemble the same person you knew in middle school and high school.  I have a wife instead of a husband.  We have a 2.5 year old son.  We live in the time zone known as “Marshall Standard Time.” I wear shorts and t-shirts instead of cleats and uniforms.  I’m still the same ‘clown’ that you’ve always known me to be.  I still laugh at inappropriate shit. My humor about things has never disappeared.  I’m just not as “happy-go-lucky” as I use to be.

 There wasn’t one event that caused a change in me over time.  It was abuse that occurred over many years that has changed me.  If I met you 20 years now since high school, you would see that same person that you were in the halls with but attached to my leg is a little boy. And attached to my heart is my wife, Melody Landrum-Arnold.

No one ever knows someone else’s true “secrets.”  You saw a seemingly happy wife walking by her husband’s side and holding his hand.  You saw parents supporting their child in every way possible. You saw an athlete very passionate and dedicated to the sports she loved.  And you saw a fun loving and respectful person when our paths crossed.  There were scars and open wounds that you never knew.

What you didn’t know or see were all of the “secrets” of a lifetime of abuse.  What if you knew all of my thoughts? What if you knew the things I was made to do? Would you look at my scars and be disgusted? Could you look me in the eye because I couldn’t you? Would you stand there speechless because of the lies you were told and believed? Or would you say, “Gee, I’m sorry” and avoid all eye contact.  Why? SHAME.  Those of us who were once victims carried the shame of our abusers who were “shameless.”

I wish people who have and continue to judge me could spend one day in my brain with all the chaos as a result of the abuse.  You wouldn’t survive one minute!  No one taught me how to survive all of that.  I figured it out on my own.  Some behaviors are maladaptive, I’ll agree.  I did what I had to do to SURVIVE in any way possible!

I’ve been very strong for many years but I’m tired.  Mornings like now seem like the movie Groundhog Day.  The abuse replays every moment I’m alive.  Every morning, the abuse starts all over again.  I feel like, I’m stuck in survival mode all the time.  Sometimes I feel like a victim and sometimes I feel like a survivor.  I try and live life “one minute at a time” because “one day at a time” seems entirely too long, right now.

I’m very much a realist.  I see things for the way they are, instead of the way they can be.  The whole analogy of the duck is how I view even the simplest of events, ideas, comments, etc.  So, basically I get in my own way.  Part of this process is going to be to retrain how the brain perceives things, I think.

I also repeat things sometimes at different times.  So, if some of the abuse stories seem to overlap, just ignore and keep reading.  I’ll explain why this happens later.

Please try and understand that this is just where I’m at in my healing journey.

#Thispuzzledlife

I’m Not Alone

I’m Not Alone

8.23.14

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has the answers, it sings because it has a song.”

—Maya Angelou

I don’t normally blog on Saturday mornings at 5:30am.  This morning I was awaken to what felt like my insides twisting.  I felt nauseous but lay still to make sure it was real and not a dream.  I decided very quickly, “Nope, that wasn’t a dream.”  I also noticed that my whole body was hurting with what seemed like “growing pains” as my pediatrician use to call it.

I go through my morning routine of turning on my vaporizer and the coffee pot.  But, this morning, I decided against coffee and would have a diet coke.  Since, everyone else was asleep, now was the perfect time to read some of my library books.  I started vaping but at a higher rate because the pain in my body was becoming ever more painful by the second.  I once again felt like I was in full detox from some chemical.  I also have these symptoms randomly attack me at different times of the day.  I’m starting to get a headache but get busy trying to keep it at bay.

I think I finally begin to feel my medication beginning to work after a few minutes.  My nausea begins to subside somewhat, my headache is doing ok for the moment but my muscles and tissues of the rest of my body seem very angry at me.  I pick up my book and begin reading.  Due to the types of abuse, I endured both as a child and adult, I’m constantly looking for answers for why things happened the way they did.  The book I’m currently reading is Wife Rape. It’s an older book but I need answers.  This was the same book that had me reliving a scene from my former marriage the other night. So, I kept that in mind and agreed with myself that I started feeling anything familiar in my mind or body; I would put the book down. Deal!

I’m instantly sucked into that book again. These women had stories like mine.  Some were much different, but the “acts” were about control.  This I already knew. But, seeing things in black and white can sometimes be the one thing that makes things “click.” I kept reading some of the sentences and paragraphs over and over.  I thought, “How do they know how I felt in that moments or those surround those types of events?” I just had to read more. The book not only describes the actual accounts of abuse from the survivors. But attempts to explain why this “secretive, abuse happens and how the abuser also views this as both their “biblical and societal RIGHT as a man.”

I want to make perfectly clear that I am sensitive and also understand that this can and do happen in ALL kinds of relationships.  Since this book is older, I’m not distracted by the fact that they use information from heterosexual relationships.  But, since I’m discussing my previous heterosexual relationship, I won’t make a big deal about what types of samples they used regarding gender.

These women describe, in detail, how they felt, hurt and emotionally survived their abuse.  It was like looking in the mirror again.  My instant thought was, “How do they know this much? I’ve told only a couple of people some of what happened?  Who betrayed my confidence?”  I very quickly realized was how much I identified with all of these survivors.  Not only what they did but what they thought.  They also seemed to “lose time” with some of the attacks on their body. Their worth as a human being has been severely damaged.  They also spoke about how much easier it was to just “go along” instead of fight.  That fighting back always seemed to make everything worse in every way.  I knew and felt that too.

I had ignored my body but soon realized that I now feel like someone is trying to tie my body in a knot.  EVERYWHERE was and is still hurting like I’m being hit with a bat.  The nausea is back. My stomach is cussing me repeatedly and my head is pounding.  My upper back feels like I was just shot and just breathing almost brings me to tears because of the anxiety.  I prefer to think that my body is ‘bleeding’ many years of emotions that I never felt ‘safe’ enough to release.  I feel like every day I don’t write, that my body is filling up with toxins.  But, I’m physically miserable too.  My body feels very conflicted.  Do I have that much “stuff” to process that I haven’t started getting better physically yet?  From somewhere deep inside me, I hear…”Someone please stop this NIGHTMARE! I can’t handle reliving it again!

Most people would say, “Just put the book down and it will get better.” I really wish it was that easy. My body and mind are remembering every single vivid detail of everything that has happened.  It’s not just the book.  But, the book is really helping me understand what exactly happened to me the 14 years I was in a relationship with my ex-husband.  I relate to so many of those women though which makes me feel like I’m in a group therapy session in my own little way.  Sometimes you do stuff knowing that it’s going to hurt because you seem to understand and long for more understanding.  Do the benefits outweigh the risk?   I don’t know what the right answer is right now.  Maybe I’ll take what I have read and read it more at a later date.

#Thispuzzledlife

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Fight, Flight or Freeze

August 6, 2014

“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”

 —Will Rogers

After a good “wake n’ bake” morning, and a nice phone call from my brother Levi Pierce, I think he and I realize that we’re more alike than different in a lot of ways.  That’s actually more of a scary thing than funny.  He and I have discussed since we reunited about whether or not the “karma bus” is plowing us over for being such smartasses when we were younger.  I haven’t stopped being a smartass and neither has he.  So, I’m guessing that the “karma bus” is following ever so closely behind us waiting to stomp the gas pedal…LMAO!

I have to admit that we are very “hot-headed” individuals that would give you the shirts off our backs. We are both very loyal people which would explain the closeness of our relationship even after not being in contact for 20+ years.  However, I will warn you of two things……(1) Don’t ask either of us a question unless you know and accept that you will receive our honest  “opinion” and, more than likely, a smartass answer to go with it. (2)And don’t expect either one of us to sit by and watch injustices being done especially to our closest friends and family.

When a perceived threat or an actual threat for one’s safety occurs there will be one of three responses:  fight, flight or freeze.  I will speak for myself on this one, when I say that when my trauma was occurring, I was a fighter.  Anger seemed to be the only emotion that people would respond in a way that felt “safe.”  For me, the safety was that people would back away from me and leave me alone.  This soon became a very useful tool for me for a means of survival. Tears have always been considered a weakness for me. My tears were always used as a way to belittle me or lead to further abuse.  Anger became my greatest motivator.  But then anger progressed into rage….

I would go into blind rages where I would have no recollection of the events.  Actually, the level at which my anger and rage can get, scares me.  I have no idea where this rage comes from. I do know where it began….age 13. I was forced to hold all emotions because I couldn’t win no matter what I did.  Columbine had not happened yet and I’m glad the seed wasn’t planted.  Because, you had two teen age kids who were mad at the world and were tired of being bullied by adults.  Instead of Klebold and Harris, it would’ve been Kendrick and Pierce.  We had also realized that other teachers and staff knew how we were being treated and did nothing about it. We had no ‘ill will’ towards any other students, just the adults.  I felt as though I had no voice.  I would complain about how mean she was and no one ever heard what I was saying. I already had the first of many “labels” I would have throughout my life. I was labeled as a ‘troublemaker’ and ‘behavior problem.’ Once the label was in place, there was no wiping it off even when they were the ones in the wrong.  I vowed from that day forward that “no one that I knew would ever have to fight on their own as long as I was around.”

At the point in my life when this was occurring, I remember having my first thoughts of both suicide and homicide.  I became very intrigued with death.  Like I said before, horror movies always provided relief from all of the rage that was building inside me. The movies provided for me what I wasn’t able to do…”a release for the rage on my perpetrators.”  Finally, in my own fantasy world, they were getting what they deserved. The drugs, cutting and alcohol were all just to make living tolerable.  Was it maladaptive? Well, of course. All I knew, was that adults were unsafe to me then.  Because, all I saw was the abuse of power that was coming from them.  So, being raised that “adults were always right” was very confusing .

These thoughts have continued since then.  I’m constantly trying to keep the “rage” maintained.  My approach doesn’t work all the time. Therapy has helped me to feel that rage on a different level. Now, I’m at least at times able to feel the anguish, fear and sadness behind all of the rage.  However, I can still have a hard time crying even with people I trust. Where parents aren’t given a guidebook on “How to Raise a Child,” neither are children given a book on “The Healthiest Ways to Survive Trauma.” So, on both sides of the scenarios, individuals are often given only split seconds to make a decision.  Sometimes the decisions turn out to be good and some bad.  But, whatever decision you make about the situation, if it works for someone then that person will continue to use those same behaviors as a viable option.  If it doesn’t work for you, then you look for solutions until something does work.

There are definite commonalities among children and adults in responses to trauma.  However, each reaction will be individual to the person.  Up to the point at which the trauma occurs, no one has the same experiences. So, trauma affects people differently.  Some experiences even could and can appear to have almost no impact on one person. But, then causes major life disrupting behaviors for others.

#Thispuzzledlife

Fears And Anxieties

Fears and Anxieties

August 4, 2014

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.”

—-Rudyard Kipling

Most people who know me would say that I’m very much a “social butterfly.” I loved being around people. Hell, my motto has always been..”The more, the merrier.” These days I would rather have my uterus pulled through my nostrils than to be around people. Being on the opposite side of the country from where my abuse occurred definitely helps.  Regardless of whether or not they are “rational or irrational” they are still fears that I face every single day. Some of the fears and/or phobias, I haven’t had to deal with in a very long time. Not all of the fears do I know the origin? That, I suppose, is what is happening through this therapeutic process.

So, on our latest trip to the small, southern town everything that had already been opened was immediately exacerbated by being back in the town where the abuse occurred. Our little family, drove back there in search of some specialized treatment. I was nervous, but desperate……so I agreed. What I encountered when I arrived was a host of feelings and emotions that I couldn’t handle. Even the thought of going back to that town can trigger lots of anxiety, nausea, vomiting and migraines.  Being there in the flesh, I’ve realized causes more harm than good.  We are considered a “minority family” and I have always expected the looks and comments when we go out in public.  I also wear a haircut that’s not considered “normal” there. So, this also brings about stares and comments.  Remember, that with PTSD, situations can be perceived as a threat even when there isn’t one. For me, being in public and around people is like lighting my skin, mind and body on fire. I can’t possibly keep an eye on everyone and their actions to assure “safety” for both me and my friends and family.

IMG_1216 (1)

When I was married to my ex-husband, the how I ate and what I ate always came under great scrutiny. So, many times, I would wait until he would go to bed and eat what I wanted. My greatest fear was that he would see me eating and make his venomous comments again. My weight was always monitored in some way by him. So, going back to visit has very, much intensified my fears of eating. I don’t like eating in front of people I know for fear of judgmental comments or thoughts. These fears are what fueled my eating disorder when I was a teenager. Eating in public, now only happens with shades on and Ipod going all while having just “medicated” before I even leave the house. That is the only way that makes being in public even possible, at this point.

Another thing that I have realized is a HUGE trigger for me is change. Keeping things the same in my surroundings is very safe feeling.  I hate it when I walk into an area that I’m very familiar with and it has been changed. This sets off “red flags” about my surroundings being different and thinking that I should be very concerned that something or someone might harm me. This is also why I do very well with a rigid schedule. If my schedule is going to change in any manner, I have to know ahead of time so, I can mentally prepare. I don’t, however, do well with rigid people. Once again, I’ve been perpetrated by very rigid/narcissistic people. Any hint of this from a person, sets off fireworks throughout my mind and body.

I told you earlier that music got me through a lot of abuse. And now, it’s helping me while I’m attempting to heal from the abuse. Music always spoke for and to me in a way that I can understand. My music choices are very eclectic and for a good reason.  If you’ve ever been around me much, you know that my moods are just as eclectic. Lmao!!!!

#Thispuzzledlife

Just Another Day

Just another day…

8.3.2014

“Long as you been living, you ain’t NEVER heard of anyone overdosin’ on marijuana. You might-a thought that he was dead. He ain’t dead. He gonna wake up in 30 minutes hungry enough to eat up everything in your house. That’s the side effects: hungry, happy, sleepy.” That’s it.

—Katt Williams 

Yesterday was a difficult day. I have a lot of “social anxieties and phobias” these days among other things. Sometimes, I try to dismiss this notion and go with the “bright ideas” in my brain. Yea, didn’t work out so well yesterday either.  So, I said that I would reveal something new about me when I posted again. Let me clarify that this is “new” to this blog.

I am a “medical marijuana” patient.  While there are still mixed feelings about this particular “medication” and whether or not it’s an actual  “medication”, let me try to explain what it does for me. So, for the time being, just put all of your preconceived notions about cartels, societal issues, addiction and anything else that might interfere with you actually understand what it’s like to take this as a medication.

I must admit that when, I first encountered this topic with a client of mine at the time, I was very skeptical.  He spoke about the relief he got from this medication for chronic pain.  I was working at a methadone clinic when I met him.  Coming from a very conservative area of the country that is very 12-Step based on the topic of addiction, I too was very leery to say the least. I didn’t make a big deal about it because, I knew by that time, that every recovery model doesn’t fit every client. So, I kept my eyes and ears open about the topic of marijuana as a medication.

At the time, I was currently, carrying a diagnosis of Bipolar II and PTSD. So, the regimen at the time was counseling and Lithium among many other medications.  I was taking medications to counteract the side effects of other medications. I genuinely just felt bad from all of the side effects of everything. I soon developed lithium toxcity as a result of having no blood work done in 4 months of taking this medication. So, after hallucinating at work and looking and appearing that I had had a stroke, I was rushed to the local ER.  I was terrified! I couldn’t determine whether or not I  was hungry, if I had to use the bathroom; I couldn’t walk properly and had very slurred speech with facial drooping. My wife had to bathe me and take me to the bathroom because the effects were so severe. She was also 8 months pregnant at the time of these events. I soon lost my job because I couldn’t control the effects that was happening.

My psychiatrist continued until September of 2013 to try every combination known to man to help settle the emotional and physical stress that I was experiencing.  After 4 years of trying any and every medication combination and always seeing very minimal relief for a short period, he suggested medical marijuana (MMJ).  Being a recoverying drug addict, I was scared because of the lack of knowledge that I had about the plant and its benefits. my medications were already being dosed to me by my wife because sometimes I wouldn’t remember taking medications and would either take too much or none at all. Her dosing me was something we put into place early on due to my addiction history. So, really, this was going to be nothing different.  Luckily, New Mexico is one of the few states that recognize PTSD as a worthy diagnosis to receive such medication.

I do understand the argument that one can make the outcome of any study be biased in results.   I have  to go off personal experience and information from scholarly journals about different problem areas.  Some people think that PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a disorder that is somewhat meant for soldiers that return from war or veterans.  No, I didn’t serve in the military.  But, trust me, I’ve been in a “war” the majority of my life.  These battles, I fought alone.

PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger. The areas of the brain that are affected are the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex (http://www.nimh.nih.gov, 2014). PTSD from the many years of trauma have all but crippled me. I am in constant fear of any and everything. I have struggled a good part of my life with suicidal ideations and feelings of worthlessness. I have physical symptoms that can be debilitating every single day. I have flashbacks every single day. I have basically become a shell of the person that I was even in high school. Some days…I’m just lucky to get through the day without vomiting.

I have essentially “glazed” over the full extent of my life of trauma. Certain information will be reserved only for the professionals that work with me.  I am currently on a few typical medications, as well as, the MMJ because my physical symptoms or psychosomatic symptoms are so bad.  When you get to a point sometimes, it doesn’t matter what people suggest, you’ll try.

Since being on MMJ, I was able to return to feeling like I could get things accomplished during the day.  From who and what I used to be, I’m completely different in several ways.  Even 6 years of a college education, isn’t bigger than what was done to me and many others.  So, say what you want about “medical marijuana” but it keeps a bullet out of my mouth everyday so far.  Not every medication, even when it’s considered ‘alternative’, is used to just get high. i have been off the MMJ for several days at a time and there was no withdrawals either physical and/or psychological. My intention on trying to change your views on “medical marijuana” was never here.  I just wanted to let you know how just maybe this ‘evil drug’ has helped me.  Medical marijuana and “street” bought marijuana is completely different.  The  controls on what can and will be used on the plant in regards to chemicals is very heavily governed. Insurance doesn’t pay because politicians are still in bed with the pharmaceutical companies.  But, we can file what we pay in a year on taxes for medical purposes. Even so, it’s a small price to pay for me to be able to try and aid in helping me to learn to live life and to be able to watch our son grow up.

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown Pt.2

Tears of a Clown Part 2

9.8.14

“The angriest and saddest people are hidden behind a mask. A mask of laughter and happiness. It’s amazing what you can fake with a smile.”

-unknown

Please forgive me for not having exact recollection of when things happened.  My memory is somewhat different these days.  Sometimes I remember parts of events that happen, but not dates and times that correlate.  The more stressful the situation, sometimes I can have a very vivid or absent recall.  As you can imagine this situation would be put in the ‘high stress’ category.  I also want to point out that in calling Levi my ‘brother,’ I’m not negating the relationships that he has with his biological family.  I totally respect the relationships that he has with them.  I do know, that I could never replace his biological brother and sisters, like they would not be able to replace me in his life.  I think that there’s definitely a mutual respect about that that was established that didn’t even need to be spoken during this particular incident.

At some point, I was sitting by Levi’s bed in a chair, with Charlene, Mel and Marshall in the room.  His mom was under covers sleeping on a cot that made jail mattresses look like a Sealy Posturepedic.  I looked over at her finally sleeping peacefully but scared that the cot might actually eat her.  I hoped that I would actually get to spend some time with the mother of one of the closest people to me.  Levi is in excruciating pain as you can imagine.  He still tries to talk to me.  Secretly, the nausea is creeping closer and quicker than I was prepared.  I soon begin sweating which also led to chills. I wake up to Charlene and Mel wiping my forehead with cool cloths and fanning me.  I had just passed out.  I tend to get up and leave when friends or family are in a lot of pain.  The energy that they put off is too much for me to handle.  I absorb every emotion.  This time, though, as hard as it was, I stayed right by his side.  I couldn’t do any of the nursing stuff like his wife and brother because well….I’ll start throwing up.

His family, my family and I were just about to go through a 6 hour waiting period while he was in surgery known to me as “purgatory.” Prior to him going to surgery, though, someone looked at me and asked, “Are you Dana?”  Immediately, that usually means I’m in trouble for something.  I was secretly trying to figure out if it was the hairstyle or the lesbian part that gave me away. Instead, I was told, “It’s so good to finally meet you!”  I was completely taken aback in amazement.  Another person said, “Yes, we’ve heard so much about you.”  Inside, I remember thinking, “What did that nut throw me under the bus about?”  I figured he had told some of both our funny and serious childhood stories.  So, I slowly begin doing for his family what he would do for mine….MAKE THEM LAUGH!

You see, for clowns, everyone else’s needs are always put before your own because our job is to keep people happy.  It’s as natural for him and me as breathing.  When feeling uncomfortable, always make someone laugh…Rule #1.  Rule #2….Never let them see how you really feel.  Yea, I couldn’t hide how I felt for this guy.

My #1 goal then was to take care of and support Charlene while we were waiting these agonizing hours for our brother, uncle, poppa, daddy, friend and husband to go through the start of a long recovery process.  There were many people who were waiting with us that I curiously wanted to meet.  But, my protective instinct took over for Charlene without her ever knowing.  I was ready to support her like Levi would support Mel if the tables were turned.  And I can assure you that her anxiety was minimized very quickly.  Marshall was playing with his new friend Boudreaux who is about 10 months old.  He is also the grandson of Levi and Charlene.  They were having a great time playing when “Nurse Ratched” told us to keep it down.  She said that they don’t usually have children in that area.  There were children’s toys and furniture place all around the waiting room.  So, I start having an allergic reaction to a sudden case of stupid.  I’m thinking yea, just waiting until Marshall gets in the zone, he’ll show you loud.  I honestly wondered if maybe they trained monkeys since all of that was not for children.  Maybe it was just intended for immature and very small adults. I knew what time it was and started counting down until Marshall was getting ready to have a full meltdown.  Marshall was getting into full ‘toddler psychosis mode’ so, Mel took Marshall back to the motel for a nap.  Then, it was just me and the Pierce family.  This could be good or bad, I didn’t know.

I already was very comfortable around Charlene and Chris.  I have known Chris as long as I’ve known Levi. So, I knew I was safe with them.  Marshall was actually an ‘ice breaker.’  I started out slowly and then came the stories about being a toddler mom.  We were all laughing in the end.  In the meantime, I was internally trying my best to protect by heart from crumbling under the intense fear of losing him during the surgery.  I was also able to spend some time catching up with Chris after 20+ years.  We both had some good laughs all by ourselves.

After a very short time of being around his friends and family, I heard what both of our wives have said, “You and “Spunky” are way too much alike! Are you sure there’s no DNA?”  But, as a family, they were able to witness that connection that’s unexplainable.  I’m sure some thought that I was just an old ‘buddy’ from school.  We will argue with each other like an old married couple while you would be watching and laughing.  But, he’s also like a sibling and a ‘soul mate’ all rolled up into one. (It’s not the same type of ‘soul mate’ like a spouse.)  I know… I know….. It sounds weird.  To me and Levi, it’s weird also, but we accepted the relationship when we were kids.  I know some people thought that God broke the mold when he made me. Wrong! He needed one of each gender.

His mother looked at me and said, “I didn’t know I had a daughter.  This whole time I thought “Spunky” was getting into trouble all by himself.”  I was like, “I only helped him through middle school and part of high school.  The rest of it, he did on his own.”  Then I felt bad because I had just “thrown my buddy under the bus” to his momma.  I remember thinking, “Really, Dana? Ummmm….you’re both almost 40 years old.” I chuckled at the thought of what he would say if I told him that.  I wondered if they knew how terrified I was that they wouldn’t like me.  One similarity between us is that we both have a huge hang ups about how things appear vs. how they actually are.  Like I said, he and I were fighting the same types of demons at school with teachers.  On the inside, I was shaking like an abused animal. The outside, I appeared ‘cool as a cucumber’ while bringing a much needed distraction from the current situation.  I think some were just watching me and wondering how they are so much alike.  You really would have to see us together to understand.

I’ve thought about how our relationship has remained so strong even after 20+ years.  I was finally able to unravel and understand that for me he is a ‘safety blanket.’  Not in the sense of being needy…..ewwwww.  When I’m around him even the first night we reunited, I feel emotionally just like I did as a teenager.  With him, I was always felt ‘safe’ even when it wasn’t.  But, I knew that everything would be ok.  He always tried to protect me even when he couldn’t.  He would even go, as far as, intentionally getting detention so I wouldn’t have to be there alone.  We both are still attached to each other like we’re kids.  Trust me, when we get around each other, WE ARE KIDS!

With what seemed like forever, the doctor came out to speak to the family about how the surgery had been very successful.  He now had 7 plates in his face and his jaw was wired shut.  The eye socket was not as bad as they thought.  And there should be no problems with his vision long term.  We could all now breathe a sigh of relief.  I wanted to vomit but I had to maintain a consistency in presentation.  My guard was finally able to be lowered and we could all relax a little bit.  That’s what I needed to hear to make it through the night.

Later that night……the “Tears of a Clown” began to fall again.

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown

Tears of a Clown

9.7.14

“The role of a clown and a physician are the same – it’s to elevate the possible and to relieve suffering.”

—Patch Adams

This post is one that I need to write but also dread.  Why?  Because, I’m about to unmask the ‘clown’ that so many have known from both me and my brother, Levi Pierce.  I can’t describe what the last week or so has been like for both me and my little family.  I’ve been from one end of the spectrum of feelings and emotions to the other end.  My body feels like it has been in a war where I got my ass kicked from just the stress and trauma of the situations.  My heart feels like a shredded mess of suicidal rags. By the way, that was just a metaphor. Don’t get all excited about how I word things.  The subjects that I will be discussing are very emotional on every level.

There are very few people that can make me tear up just by hearing their name.  Levi Pierce, Melody Landrum-Arnold and Marshall Landrum-Arnold are three of the people that if I remove the mask and tell you from an emotional level how I feel, you’ll definitely see the tears streaming down my face.  It’s automatic.  I can’t stop it unless I switch back to talking about them from my head instead of my heart.  All three of these people hold very special places in my heart.  I also have a very deep love for all three individuals.

I’ve already told you what an abnormally normal and spiritual connection I have with my brother.  On the morning of August 28, 2014, Marshall and I woke up and were in our morning routine which includes calling Momma Mel.  So, when I called she told me that there was a message from Levi’s wife that he had been in an accident.  I briefly check facebook messenger to see if there was a message from her on my phone.  I didn’t see one from her but there was a message from his brother that said, “It’s about Levi please call.”  And instantly, my heart began to break and my soul began to die.  I had not called yet but I knew it was bad.

With tears streaming down my face as I write this, I was terrified to make that call.  I felt in my body and mind nothing but horror.  I finally picked up the phone and made the dreaded call to his wife.  She said that he had been in a bad motorcycle accident and that the right side of his face was crushed.  There was a possibility that because the eye socket was crushed that he could be blind in that eye.  He had a broken jaw and needed facial reconstruction.  They couldn’t do surgery because his blood pressure and other vitals wouldn’t stabilize. But, for the moment, he was alive.  She and I disconnected the phone call.  I did ask her to please keep me posted.

I call Mel at work and instantly fall apart.  I couldn’t think, breathe or feel anything except the pain similar to what I felt when my Nannie died.  She told me she would make arrangements to come home.  I said, “We’re heading to Arkansas because there was still a chance.”  All I hoped was that somehow he would at least wait for me to arrive to say goodbye since nothing was for sure.  I was utterly devastated already.

My wife and his wife are so understanding and respectful of the relationship that he and I have.  There’s never been even a hint of jealousy from either one.  Even though I’m very much a gay and he is very heterosexual, both of them know how very close of a relationship that we have a very special connection that they also see but can’t explain.  The subject of making the trip was never a question.  That’s just what we were going to do.  I began vomiting and tried to start packing.  I knew that I was walking but I couldn’t feel the ground.  I couldn’t even understand what I should put in the suitcase.  My “core” had just taken a heavy hit.

We end up leaving somewhere around 2 pm that afternoon.  I was smoking weed like a chain smoking cigarette junkie.  I was getting no relief from the physical pain.  And nothing was going to be able to touch my emotions now.  This is the part where Mel could’ve given me arsenic and I would’ve never known.  I was such an emotional mess that she gave me what only God knows really?  From what she’s told me, I slept the entire trip.  We arrived sometime around 3 am in the morning to the motel in Arkansas.  She said that I wanted to go then but she was exhausted too.  And yes, Marshall was with us.  I have no recollection of anything except arriving at the hospital on a mission to see my brother.

When we finally, find the floor where he was, I started making some mental notes about surroundings and people there.  I look off to the left and I recognize a face, it’s his dad after 20+ years.  I see a couple more people who look at me for just busting up in his room.  I see his wife, Charlene Pierce and his brother, Chris Pierce.  Mel was somewhere trailing close behind.  I don’t know if I even said hello before turning and finally making eye contact with him.  He still had not been able to go to surgery because of his vitals.  We both teared up and he says the most precious words that I could barely understand….”Hey, sis.”  I couldn’t help but be able to feel his fear for what he was about to face.  I cried for him, his wife and his family.  There were a lot of people in his room that I didn’t know.  But, I hugged him what I could and just held his hand and cried.  I wasn’t ‘snot crying’ then but I felt it creeping.  The nurse comes in, takes his vitals and says, “You’re vitals have returned to normal. We’ll get you ready for surgery.”  I can laugh about it now, but I think I was like, “What does that mean?”  Normally, I would have the best time with people who asked questions like that.  Today was different.  I couldn’t comprehend anything other than an all over fear that I had never felt.

Now, let me take just a second and let you know that I don’t take any credit for how his vitals were able to almost instantly return to normal.  All I know is that we have such a very powerful and spiritual relationship.  But, this time, I couldn’t get his back like when we were kids.  I just had to be there for he and his family.

At some point, the surgery technicians came to get him.  The staff were letting some of the family give him good luck wishes and kisses.  I took a moment and went outside the room to try and pull it all together.  Yea, that didn’t work.  His brother and I are a few of the last to see him.  He’s shaking all over and told me,  “I’m scared.”  I said, “Me too.”  I told him, “We’ve always shared the load for each other.  Let me take your fear and pain off your shoulders. I love you.”  He simply said, “You better be here when I get back.” That was one thing he need not worry about, I wasn’t going anywhere.  He wanted me to hold his hand and walk him down to surgery.  I kissed him on him forehead and told him that I loved him.  And that day you would’ve seen the “Tears of Two Clowns.”

#Thispuzzledlife