You Never Mattered (poetry)

You Never Mattered

You forced me to list and now it’s my time.
Your abuse has made me feel like I can’t be real in life
You destroyed parts of me that once thrived
And you sucked me into your grasped by being very kind.

Once everyone was gone you made your first move
Showing me the side of a human that most must prove
You dehumanized me in so many ways
Until I’ve learned to live life mostly in a trauma filled haze

But your days are over, and my days are near.
Oh, and the truth that everyone shall hear
About your venomous actions forced on to children, teens and adults
All you’ll be able to do is sit back and sulk

I won’t be sad for because you hurt me so
But what you shoved into the ground has now begun to grow
With growth you need water and those are the tears I shed
While I try to undo everything, you put into my head

I went to everyone looking for help
And it made it all worse and you hurt me more until I yelped
I didn’t know it then because I was just a kid
Because I matter now, and you never ever did.
#thispuzzledlife

I Am The Problem And The Solution

I Am The Problem And The Solution

“Dana, if you would get out of your own way, you could accomplish anything.”
—Sarah Pardue

One of the topics that keeps my stomach in knot is how I am both the problem and the solution of my own life. I can be the solution for my trauma. But I can also stand in my own way as the problem. Anytime I give into my addictive behaviors I have become my own problem. I will take and destroy anything that I work so hard for because of this. Things that I hold sacred I will unknowingly destroy because I feel that I’m not worthy of good things. I am also the solution to the problem of fixing anything that comes before me. This I have proven time and time again. I have both the knowledge and the power to change anything unhealthy. I just must dig deep and pull out all the teachings and reverse not give into what seems to be maladaptively comforting at the time.

What I must do is to reverse the messages that were taught to me through abuse. And stand up face-to-face with it and say, “today I choose to live differently.” And make the change better. I haves versus how I live which is to breakdown and give into that train of thought. I deserve better and want better. I have worked hard to be who I am and deserve a better life of constant abuse that I continually replay through my own behavior.

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Therefore, I chose the topic that I am the solution and the problem. Sarah and Coach have both taught me that I can’t give away what I don’t have. If I keep giving my recovery away or interfering in the process of changing, then how do I expect to be healthy and pay it forward by giving it away to someone else who I might meet that is also struggling. The choice is up to me. Not, Sarah’s teachings nor Coach’s current teachings. I treasure them all. So, the greatest give that could give them both is to see me overcome these old ways of thinking that were engrained in my thinking by perpetrators. I will be the solution even through tears and a heavy heart at times. Remember…. I’m the comeback kid.

In closing I can say that if I can ever turn around and have a positive self-image and love myself, as much as, other people love me, I will accomplish great things. Maybe my writing will help and maybe it won’t. But loving oneself is not something that happens overnight. It takes continually telling myself that I AM worthy of great things.

#thispuzzledlife

 

The Fear Of Eating Is Real(poetry)

Fear Of Eating Is Real
Food is a topic that makes me very sad
And I barely remember of normal days I had
He took away a relationship that was full of hope
Now when someone says food all I say is Nope!!!
His words constantly criticized me so much decisions come with tears
It hasn’t happened for days but for many, many years.
I’m scared to eat because he was there for a long time
Right over my shoulder to criticize me while I ate every single time
I want to be able to eat without solitude and tears.
In private I’ve eaten food for many years
Most take this action for granted and just eat with nothing to say
But the person I was abused by never had anything nice to say anyway
So, don’t make comments while I try to learn this skill
Because the fear of eating food is something that’s for real.
#thispuzzledlife

PTSD (Poetry)

PTSD (Poetry)
You wake me up to show me things that haunt me;
You don’t care who you hurt even with crying pleas
Slowly you take me to another place and time;
And honestly you should be charged with a horrible crime.

You visit me all day and all night long;
Can’t you see that I did nothing wrong?
Flashing of pictures stuck in my head;
No wonder so many people end up dead.

You don’t care and you hit my psyche with precision
Just another wound causing an incision;
But you’re persistent if only people could see;
You’re a killer of a disorder called PTSD
#thispuzzledlife

Angelica (poetry)

Angelica

She was still one that no one wanted around

Being kicked aside she was found

But no one had know her job

For she stepped up and sobbed

She was treated like property and chained like a dog

Submissive she was but she drew the short straw

Some would label her as an outgoing whoreface.

And she would have a scarlet letter she always wore

No one chose to get to know her only a label assigned

But she would soon get a new name designed

Her name would be Angelica and all she needed was grace.

For this would be the new name for her delicate and child-like face

#thispuzzledlife

Freedom In My Eyes (poetry)

You start a war on your hands and knees

Crying and begging for help shouting PLEASE!

There were days were I was tired and sore

And even more days I could do nothing but crawl on the floor.

But that floor was my lonely highway of healing

Not knowing if I would live through the work because it was so grueling

I was getting some much needed schooling

But hope and determination powered me forward

And the daily work sometimes leaving me scarred

This time I was still leading a team you see

Because the athlete would activate the wolf in me

I was changing into something I would need

But this time it would be the real and authentic me

Coach was guiding me to a beautiful life

Working hard once again to be a mom and a wife

This time I look in the mirror I don’t see tears

For the first time in many years

There are no screams or cries

Because this time I see freedom in my eyes.

What IF?

What If……

“What” and “If” are to words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together Side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for
The rest of your life.”
—Unknown

These are two words that haunt me day in and day out. I think “what if” I had never tasted abuse in any kind of way. “What if” I had never crossed paths with likewise hurt individuals who decided to keep the cycle of abuse going? “What if” my career had never ended? “What if” I had never been exposed sexually in ways that make me wretch at just the thought? What if I had never met Sarah? What if I was never was able to be privileged enough to call myself a parent? What if? What if? What if?!!!!!!
Recently, coach has asked me to think about a few things. How am I exhibiting behavior showing that I’m still a victim and still under the control of my perpetrators? This is a very loaded question. Every day I seem to allow myself to be chained to a past that wants me more than I want it. However, I’m an addict in ever since of the definition and word. I still struggle with eating and self-harm issues. Every meal I skip, every time I purge and every time I engage in any kind of maladaptive behavior, I am still being their prisoner.

change the world

Do I consciously want to remain there’s? Hell no. The addict in me still wants the comfort of the blades and the pain as justification for what they did and for mistakes I have made. God how sick does that sound? These behaviors are what have always been there for me. With them I’ve never been lonely. I gain absolutely nothing more than additional isolation by staying chained to them so why do it?
So now I sit and ponder what life could be like IF I wasn’t still their victim? The only way to look at that is the direct opposite to how I feel living now. I would be one that lived life with passion. Life would be such a gift. I wouldn’t be living life scared and tortured by my memories and feelings. I could live life enjoying being around my wife and children. I would simply be an active member of society instead of a prisoner of my past.
I still have a lot of hurdles to overcome and self-harm in many different forms are behaviors that still stick with me. When the adults ganged up on me? My razors were there. When I was raped repeatedly. My razors were there. When I was put on display to be made fun of a belittled….my razors were there. I get up every morning just to try again. So, if I continue to engage in addictive behaviors and thinking I’ll remain their slave…BUT WHAT IF?
#thispuzzledlife

Confucius Says…

Confucius Says….

Ok so it’s difficult to find quotes about fortune cookies that are better just called stale cookies. I have mostly used them as entertainment to amuse myself. Anyway, since moving to Texas I’ve begun to keep my fortunes from the cookie which my alters all seem to need. What makes a cookie more delicious than having an expiration date of 1994, a slip of paper with a random fortune that will never come true and some fake lottery numbers. I haven’t found a number yet that was as lucky and a random set of keys to a brand-new house showed up in the mail for me.

I have several fortunes saved. Nowhere near as many times as I’ve gone to eat sushi and left there feeling like a frenzy feeding sharks on Shark Week. But some of the fortunes have by paranoia alarms going off and alters running for cover. When some of the phrases sound like Brene Brown wrote it that’s when a philosophical conversation breaks out. Yep, I have a head full of sporadic philosophical geniuses. And let’s face it, I’ve been a little too serious and emotional lately.

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The alters’ that love the fortune cookies the most are the ones that lay close to 1980’s music and culture. They also like to read them in the voice of Mr. Miyagi for added effect. My favorite fortune cookie must be the one pictured because we were all caught off guard at the thought of sleeping cookies. They’re so stale that they are more like “dead cookies.” I’m telling you that most people who live alone are literally alone. Not me…. I’ve got want-to-be comedians going all day long entertaining any and every one that I come in contact with.

It’s times like these when I wish that I could be silly with Marshall and Copeland playing and acting silly. Even they know that we play when momma can play because the swing always goes the other way. I try to take things as they come like if I was given the opportunity to duck I wouldn’t. Geez…. really universe? So, I don’t just write lighthearted blogs to help you. I do it to help me and to deal with life as it comes. I take some dark and lonely roads sometimes and get lost trying to get out. She said, “It will be worth it. Not easy.”
#thispuzzledlife

I Matter Now (Poetry)

I Matter Now
You forced me to listen and now it’s my time.
Your abuse has made me feel like I can’t be real in life.
You destroyed parts of me that once thrived
And you sucked me into your grasp by being very kind.

Once everyone was gone you made your first move.
Showing me the side of a human that most have to prove.
You dehumanized me in so many ways
Until I’ve learned to live life mostly in a haze.

But your days are over, and my days are here.
Oh, and the truth that everyone can hear.
About your venomous actions forced on children, teens and adults.
All you can do is sit back and sulk.

I won’t be sad because you hurt me so
But what you shoved into the ground has begun to grow.
With growth you need water and those are my tears I shed.
While I try to undo everything, you convinced me of in my head.

I went to everyone looking for help
And it made it all worse and you hurt me more until I yelped
I didn’t know it then because I was just a kid
Because I matter now, and you never ever did.

#thispuzzledlife

The Hurt Child (Poetry)

The Hurt Child

6.2.2019

After 30 years I welcome you to see

A vision of the devil you carved out of me

I took your hate as a child the very best that I could

But these days I awake saying, “Bitch, I wish you would!”

 

Your words have haunted me all of these years.

And I lost count years ago on the number of tears.

That I shed for myself when no one else would.

Of course not around you but alone I could.

 

I’ve been very patient and it’s been a chore

Because while you’ve been enjoying your life, I’ve been fighting a war

One where not all of the wounds can be seen.

My smile has provided for me a social smoke screen.

 

It was my fault that others continued to get hurt.

I told no one, spoken was not one single word.

Columbine was much later and aren’t you glad

I regret not walking back into that school

for you because your ass I would’ve had.

 

You have hurt my kids through me and also my wife.

And that your you changed the course of my life

You’ve taken everything I worked so hard for and left me with nothing.

I sit here smoking weed trying to survive the memories just huffin’ and puffin’.

 

I’ll make that trip no matter what, so call me a hater

I don’t call it “revenge” I call it, “returning the favor.”

The day I show up you won’t know what to do

Because that 13 year-old hurt child is coming after you.

 

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

6.13.2019

“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.”
― Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits

Recently, there seems to be some type of shift that’s taking place in therapy. Coach and I have been working on a few things with “my guys” and that’s where it seems that the shift started. I can’t do much explaining other than my personal opinion because right now my job is to trust and let the fairy dust fly. The player/coach relationship that I had with my coaches was always considered very sacred to me. So, you can bet your ass that the “therapeutic relationship” that I have with coach is one that is very sacred and protected as well.

Tonight I was suddenly stopped in my tracks with a big dose of anxiety that instantly had me in tears. A lot of old and extremely painful feelings have been nipping at my heels and tonight was the breaking point. Crying in front of a therapist again has taken some getting used to. I didn’t say that it was comfortable but what it has been is……SAFE. After years of being made fun of, ridiculed and belittled for my tears, it makes doing what seems natural appear impossible at times. I can’t begin to explain how damaging abuse and “bad therapy” can deeply impact someone. What I can tell you about is the relief that is felt after months and, in this case, a couple of years watching so many things about a therapist and finally taking that chance again with my tears and not getting hurt. The unspoken message between stares that says, “I’m not going to make fun of you” instantly makes the tears fall faster. There’s not a monetary value that you can put on an experience like that. Your heart feels a pleasant but guarded relief and overwhelming grief all at the same time. Since that day a deeper level of trust and openness was achieved and therapy continues to evolve. Leaps and bounds is the Speed at which I’m doing work.

        complex traum

Last night I found a picture album that I had forgotten that I had stashed away in my room. Curious what pictures were in there I looked and felt a lump in my throat when I saw it was pictures of Marshall when he was younger. I was just being a proud momma until the pictures of him as a preemie in the NICU. Feelings ran hot/cold from head to toe. I felt the same fear that I had experienced when I was unable to hold him initially. I couldn’t understand why this was happening with our new baby. The guilt and shame was incredible then and still is now.

There were approximately 30-40 more pictures each with heavy emotions attached to each one. I sat there in the quietness of my bedroom and let the anxiety and 30 years of shameful grief overtake me. The tears were not gently rolling down my cheeks. I was “Snot crying” like a toddler in Wal-Mart.  Each picture’s emotion was like it had been felt for the first time. I held my stuffed animals and wished for anything but aloneness. I needed someone to tell me that grief will not kill you.  And that I couldn’t possibly cry enough tears to be seen in the emergency room for dehydration.  Maybe I could try and understand it my way that I could make sense of things.  The best possible explanation was that I was losing water weight.  Yep…I got it after that.  The grief I was feeling was just too much. Those pictures needed a better place to stay until they don’t have quite the sting that they do now.  And I’m proud to say that those pictures have a new temporary home placement.

After adjustments were made with my guys a couple of weeks ago, the freedom for better communication has been allowed. What a sense of freedom and a new level of understanding I’m experiencing with my alters. Emotions are still very overwhelming for me. They’re almost always very intense whether or not they are positive or negative.

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dont speak

I began to feel the individual feelings that my alters experience daily. I have been coasting on laughter and anger for so many years that I seem to have forgotten how to experience some of these feelings on their most basic level. And just me, my stuffies and my guys would be here to deal with them all……ALONE. I was soon overcome with grief, loss, guilt and shame not for myself but for those children, teens and adults who were so mistreated. I know it’s weird hearing someone talk about different parts of themselves like they’re the poor, pitiful neighborhood kids. But to me they are all individuals.  They just all live under one roof…MINE. Just roll with it.

I began to cry for the fear that each one experienced at a level that’s not easily put into words.

I cried for all of the anxiety, from the years of stress, that has left its permanent mark on my body physically.

I cry for the secrets that the children were forced into silence thus preventing help. And for the teens and adults that still keep secrets now because they still feel that they aren’t worthy of being helped.

I cry for the person that I use to be before the damage of the abuse showed such overwhelming evidence.

I cry for the children and their lost innocents.

I cry for those that needed and wanted help and it never arrived.

I cry for the fear of having relationships with people because when I was younger relationships came with an “OWIE.”

I cry for the adults who experienced every level of pain in a relationship for many years that was supposed to be one where love and protection were a natural reality.  Unfortunately, though,  relationships now equal fear.

I cry for the ones who had relationships with those trusted and respected people who have since died that had such a positive impact on us all.  But the loss was so great that the impact can be felt with every failed relationship since.

I cry for the one that hurts so deeply over losses that she will sabotage anything good.

I cry for the ones that miss out on the joy of being able to enjoy food and eating.  Because those times were used for target practice by others.

I cry for the little one that cries continuously. Her pain cannot be soothed.  She has a hole in her soul that was created from rejection and abandonment. She craves security and safety that was lost in 1975 and 2015.  Nothing and no one but me and the universe can hear her piercing cries.

And I cry for everyone who is doing their best to realize that love and compassion aren’t supposed to hurt.

And those who are also very slowly beginning to allow both empathy and compassion to collectively soften and re-warm the hearts that were tucked away for protection that have grown cold and necrotic.  With the re-warming comes new and healthy growth.  Hearts with healthy tissue begin to mend. The soul energy that had become so depleted will be renewed.  Tears go from the color red back to clear. The masks of the clown and the devil will not be the only two available because there won’t be a need to looked through the eyes “masking” pain. That determined athlete will have a renewed sense of purpose and a new set of trusted and loved teammates. And a new coach who’s words of wisdom gets absorbed and held onto with a death grip.  Self-worth and value become realized and then actualized.  Scars begin to fade from fresh battle wounds to the scars of the war once fought.  New and healthier ways of protecting myself will become the new breastplate that will be worn with pride knowing the work that was done to earn it. And another dynamic “coach” that will have motivated and pushed me with fairy dust to be the best possible “ME” that I could be.  But the greatest gift that will be gained covers it all……AUTHENTICITY.

Who will cry for this little girl? The ones that live inside of me.  She matters and so do they.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

#thispuzzledlife

All I Have To Offer

All I Have To Offer

“When you’re just like everybody else, you’ve nothing

to offer other than your conformity.”

—Wayne Dyer

Lately, I’ve been adding some poetry that I had saved on my phone.  What I’ve learned about having relationships with my internal guys is how to listen to them.  If I get a wild hair and need to either write a blog or poetry it usually means that someone is needing to be heard.  Write it down and then ask questions later has been my motto lately.  What I’ve realized is that chaos and confusion are minimized and open, honest and direct communication has been encouraged. Trust me….this is one big process of learning how to build and maintain relationships with “head mates” that have seen a lot of the evils of mankind. I would like to thank Hobby Lobby and Michael’s Crafts for allowing me to buy supplies from them in order to do projects that enhance the building of a better relationship with my alters.  Ok….now I’m being silly.

I usually start getting silly when I become uncomfortable in some way.  And well, “Coach of the Year” has assigned me to write about what I have to offer as a person.  I don’t always like the “assignments” but I love the lessons and answers I get from them.  To put it all into perspective, growing pains are called “growing pains” because growth doesn’t always feel good.  Likewise, growth as an athlete requires constant practice and learning the ins and outs of playing the game.

One of the greatest lessons about playing ball that I remember was when we were learning how to run bases. Stay with me because this part can get confusing. You don’t wait until you’re all the way down the baseline to the base to look at your coaches for direction about what to do. You ALWAYS keep your eyes on your coaches.  Half way down the baseline to 1st base you start looking at your first base coach.  If he or she thinks that  you can take another base they will point in that direction.  Half way to 2nd base you begin looking for your 3rd base coach for direction on either to stay or go while also listening to your 1st base coach from behind you about whether or not to slide.  If your 3rd base coach signals to take 3rd base he or she will also be rounding you to home or telling you to “get down” to beat the throw at the base.  If you start rounding 3rd base and head to home plate, you look to your teammates on whether or not to slide.  So, from the time the ball hits the bat you look for direction and trust that your coaches are making the best decision for both you and the team.  Either way, you’re not alone…ever. You’re simply being directed until you’re back to the safety of home plate.  They direct you but they don’t nor can they bat for you individually or as a team.  The work has to come from you.

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Artist: Celeste Roberge

It’s the same way for me in therapy.  I’m always looking to coach for guidance.  I don’t want anyone to do my work for me.  I hunger for her guidance and fear the unknown.  But I also trust her and know that decisions will be made in my best interest.  And from having been mistreated by a therapist previously,  being able to trust her to not hurt me or to not have ulterior motives is really kind of a big deal.  It has take now a solid 17 months to try to work through a lot of the fears surrounding the therapeutic process. I haven’t conquered them all but when I moved here I hadn’t conquered any. Getting hurt in therapy by a therapist has caused more issues then what I was prepared to deal with.  I had no idea how hurt I was but Texas has a way of revealing all kinds of things.  Yep….a modern day “Mr. Miyagi” she certainly is.

All of this ties into the original topic “What I have to offer?”  It’s embarrassing for me to discuss this kind of topic.  After years of being told by different people that I wasn’t good enough as a human being and the fact that I’m a total non-conformist, it’s really difficult to say, much less believe, that I have anything to offer this world.  I totally stick out like a sore thumb with the problems that often arise in public (tics, switching, emotional outbursts, aggression, etc) regardless if I can’t control them falling short in society’s definition of “normal” is not easy.

Having limitations like this certainly makes life incredibly more challenging.  The eyes that you view the world with after abuse seem to be put into place without knowledge that it’s happened.  The confidence that I worked so hard to gather and maintain as a child was completely dismissed and destroyed through the hatefulness of others.  The compassion that helped to build my confidence as a child didn’t seem to be able to shine through the darkness.  Slowly, I began to lose my spunk for life and likewise pieces of myself.  I could no longer offer those qualities in myself that I lived with daily that made me proud to be a part of the human race.  I no longer saw people that I welcomed around me as a precious commodity.  I now saw them as potentially harmful, shady and very scary.  I kept my jovial demeanor that everyone loved until the hurt I was hiding became the new clothing for my soul.  And my big heart that had always been one of my greatest assets had gone into hiding in order to also protect itself.  I looked up one day and had no idea who was looking back at me from my reflection in the mirror.  My arms were severely scarred.  Eating had become a necessary evil.  And my dreams and goals for what I had worked so hard to achieve had disappeared like grains of sand that slipped through my hands never to be seen the same way again.

  sand through hands

I had become emotionally feral through my own survival.  I seemed to have changed right before the eyes that had supported me for so many years.  And now, I had become not only someone I didn’t recognize but also someone that other people who loved and respected me didn’t recognize.  I simply had morphed from an individual that people loved into someone that people feared.  It was heartbreaking to know that this emotional freight train was going through destroying everything in my path and I was powerless to stop it.  Mel and I searched for answers daily for years in hopes of finding anything to help explain why I had become this aggressive monster that even she feared.  She fell in love with Dana who loved and cherished her unconditionally.  And almost overnight the Dana that she knew was gone only to be replaced by an aggressive, disrespectful, scary, immature and seemingly much younger version of herself that Mel didn’t recognize or understand.  And frankly, I had no explanation for anything regardless of the evidence that would be presented to me.

We moved to Albuquerque and for me it was something that I had hoped that a geographic change would help to remedy.  It didn’t.  Once we got there free from the oppression of the deep south, we sought out counseling knowing that I had problems.  We had no idea how deep those problems ran but soon we would.  I could offer nothing to anyone.  I felt I was being drained of my “goodness” and all the positive attributes that made me the compassionate and loving person that I had always been. All I felt was hurt.  And all I seemed to be able to offer was more hurt.  So, my only solution to stopping the hemorrhaging was to end relationships and to isolate myself, as much as possible, from society.  That way no one would have to suffer pain through my own doing anymore.

Enough-abuse-campaign

Again we would come in contact with another hurtful human being in the form of a therapist.  The only thing good that came out of the 2.5 years that I saw her was the correct diagnosis.  Other than that she was incredibly damaging for me therapeutically and emotionally.  I soon wanted nothing to do with professionals and became even more aggressive to make sure that no one wanted to help treat me.  The truth was that I wanted so desperately for someone to help me.  I, however, was so scared of having another hurtful professional that the fear paralyzed me and sabotaged any type of help that might’ve been offered.  My new motto was:  “No one would ever hurt me again professional or not.  And I would do everything in my power to make sure that happened.”  True to my word I became a patient in facilities that people hated to deal with.  I gave a whole new meaning to the term “non-compliance.”  I trusted no one and hated everyone.  But my fearless and loving wife still searched for answers while trying to raise our two little boys despite me often times being in a condition where I couldn’t even get out of bed to take care of my basic hygiene needs.  And yes, there were times that she had to bathe me because I just wasn’t able to at the time.  That, my friends, is a example of love.

She would find a facility in Texas that she thought I needed to try.  For two years, she pleaded for me to go and I wouldn’t.  I eventually showed up and set the aggressive tone early just to prove that I could hurt and scare people just like they had done to me.  I finally met the therapist that would work with me while I was there.  I was determined to run her off too.  What I didn’t count on was that she would be able to see past the anger into the pain hidden behind the spewing and venomous rage.  I tried to end the caring and compassionate look in her eyes and couldn’t despite my greatest efforts.  This peaked my interest but the fear of her position as a therapist took over.  I knew that I had finally met my match.

Within 1.5 years of this experience I moved to Texas as a last ditch effort of trying to save myself from an assured death.  I didn’t come here believing that things would change and get better.  I came here because a rare find showed me compassion despite my self-destructive path.  So again….what do I have to offer?  For me, I’m still in the process of finding out what those gifts have the potential to be.  My sense of humor continues to be one of my strongest and best qualities.  I have an education that allows me to speak to people about the damaging power of abuse.  I have the emotional knowledge to be able to reach teenagers and to know the struggles of living life feeling emotionally trapped.  I have the knowledge and firsthand experience of seeing how compassion and love can topple the effects of abuse by soothing the pain and hurt.  I know and can feel what it’s like to be loved by someone who will sacrifice everything to make sure you’re safe because they want so desperately to help find the one they fell in love with.  I know what it’s like to make sacrifices as a parent to protect two little precious beings that still call me mom.  I know what it’s like to still be coachable after being a washed up “has been” athlete from 20+ years ago.  I have the experience and know how to continue to pick myself up and keep going when I’ve pushed myself way past my limits in order to survive.  I know what it’s like and fully understand the fear of letting someone in to help when allowing someone to do that caused so much hurt and pain.  I know the feeling of not being heard.  I know the agony of silent screams and the language of pain that can take on so many different forms. And I have the Experience, Strength and Hope of someone who’s been fighting a war my entire life without being in the military and not ever having to leave my homeland.

One thing that Sarah taught me many years ago was this, she said, “Dana, you have the capacity and ability to do great things.  But you can’t give away what you don’t have.  Recovery is what you need and what will make great things possible.”  So, I say this to you now…recovery is a marathon not a sprint.  You don’t ever reach the finish line of being “recovered.”  I still struggle emotionally on a daily basis and I still don’t yet have all of the answers I want.  I am, however, slowly receiving the answers I need.  Healing wounds is not easy nor is it comfortable.  And unfortunately, it’s also not instant.  It took me 43 years to become this damaged and dysfunctional and to think that it can all be changed overnight is unrealistic. One thing I never allow life to come between is me and my therapy.  I have my heart set on once again being a functional part of my family and to help my one and only soul mate raise our two little boys that we fought so hard to have.  And today I can say that the parts of my destructive self, no matter how slowly, have begun to be silenced.

“Mentors don’t just have to be people

who are older or more experienced that you are.

 Mentors are people who really care about you, know you,

and want to offer feedback and advice to help you grow.”

—Jennifer Hyman

#thispuzzledlife

Happy, Joyous And Free (Poetry)

Happy, Joyous and Free

All I want is to be left alone,

To hide in a tomb as my home.

But traveling this path requires company

If I expect to come out of this mess triumphantly.

 

The deathly silence that I now crave

Is the same thing that will take me to an early grave.

Too afraid to pick up the phone and no fault of her own

The one that hurt me is already long gone.

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Being around people it makes me hurt

I stay trapped inside barely surviving while I do this work.

I try and I try but all I can see

Is failure upon failure that keeps following me

 

Allow me my silence because I’m working hard

Crying tears daily just walking in the yard

Because I understand who I use to be

Living my life and being totally free.

 

All Those days have come and gone

And now my life revolves around the inside of my home.

This work has to pay off at some point for me

Because I hunger to live life again happy, joyous and free.

 

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Please Help Me!!!! (Poetry)

Please help me!!

I tried but I wasn’t enough

With every bite you just wouldn’t give up.

They never heard your words but i still do.

I wanted to please no one but you.

You raped me with your voice,

And I never had another choice.

Haunted by your abuse

I knew there was no use.

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Try and try I did every day,

Slowly pieces of me would begin to fade away.

I sit here with razors and something to drink

Wanting to do something anything besides think.

But you return with every bite of food

And every decision.

Just like before with your narcissistic precision.

The memories are too much for me to bare

Everyone says, “just eat who cares?”

I do and with food comes many tears

With so much of your abuse from so many years.

I hate food and this is me pleading,

Please stop and let me learn about eating.

You’ve had your turn And now the time is mine.

It’s time I leave your mean ass behind.

You’ve taken part of my soul with which you played with like a toy.

But all it was was one of your narcissistic ploys.

You tried to mold me into something I could never be.

My cries are loud and screaming, Please someone help me!!

By:  Dana Landrum-Arnold

#Thispuzzledlife

Life With The Plant

Life With The Plant

“It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes Marijuana is the only thing that works… It is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve Marijuana. We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”

—- Dr. Sanjay Gupta / Neurosurgeon

Where our society and medical professions have advanced from the days of lobotomies, bloodletting, hydrotherapies and many other dehumanizing ways of treating mental illness, many attitudes and stigmas still remain the same.  And still, there are those affiliated with religion that seem to think that mental illness is punishment for moral transgressions.  And yes, I have also been told that even though trauma induced, my alters are actually demons that do not deserve a voice but should be cast out instead.  I chalk a lot of this up to ignorance but still the target was me.

While living in Albuquerque Mel and I would come to realize, unbeknownst to us at the time, the complications that living with a mental illness would entail.  I had lived with severe depression and anxiety since childhood which few people from school days realize.  Even as a child and teenager I was well liked and was one of the favored clowns much like today.  Before we left Mississippi there was very clear evidence that something was definitely wrong.  Finally, breaking free of a 14 year abusive relationship just seemed to complicate life more than either of us could’ve ever imagined.

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Albuquerque was a place where we could break free from the overly conservative south to have a relationship and family, or so we thought.  With each passing day, though, my “quirkiness” would soon take on a life of its own.  By the time our oldest, Marshall, was born it was like the flood gates had been opened.  We were already seeing a very loyal and trusted therapist.  I was now losing time for days and weeks.  I was hallucinating and becoming increasingly suicidal and my behavior was becoming more erratic and at times very scary.  I had also started becoming very aggressive which led to horrible rages.  The scariest part about it all was that I had no memory of these things happening.

The level of trauma that I held within me was now bursting at the seams to a point that I couldn’t contain it.  The harder I tried, the more I failed.  I was seeing a psychiatrist and had run the gamut of psych meds and their subsequent unpleasant side effects trying to find some combination that could provide me, Mel and our new little baby some relief.  I had been given several different diagnoses that never quite seemed to fit.  And each time I would have to be hospitalized the re-traumatization just grew in intensity.

I eventually became toxic from all of the meds and was seen in the emergency room because the doctors thought that my kidneys were shutting down or that I might’ve had a stroke.  I was admitted to the hospital but the next morning the doctor that came to see me was yet another psychiatrist.  Again, it seemed, no one wanted to believe us.  I politely told him he could leave and that I was going to leave as well since nothing was being done and the bill was going higher and higher.  Mel and I left the hospital completely defeated and our trust in the system that was designed to help was becoming depleted.

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Mel would soon begin capturing some of my strange behaviors on video in order to show the doctors exactly what was happening.  Doctors and other professionals still didn’t seem to believe us despite the captured evidence.  No one believed that it was possible to have these types of  behaviors and  to not be able to remember doing them.  When Mel would show me the videos and tell me other things that I had done, I was appalled.  There’s no possible way that I was treating her or our new baby this way.   In some instances, after seeing the footage, I would collapse with grief.

After returning to my psychiatrist following the debacle in the hospital he said, “Hey, how about we try the medications again?”  I simply replied, “You’re crazier than I am if you think I’m going through that shit again.  I almost died from your pharmaceutical poisons.”  Psych meds didn’t help they seem to complicate and exacerbate my symptoms but most of the time left me feeling “robotic” and unable to feel anything. That’s when I was put on medical cannabis and it has been a lifesaver every since.  Anytime, I’ve had to be hospitalized for mental health issues I ALWAYS refuse the medications unless absolutely necessary like for sleep.  The meds have never helped me because most of the time I feel so bad from the side effects of the adjustment period that I’ll just quit taking them.  They simply made me a “chemistry experiment.”

For the first time in my life, I was able to have some type of quality of life while we searched endlessly for someone that could treat my complex traumatic past.  Cannabis has its limitations just like any other medications.  But, for once, something was actually working and “Big Pharma” just couldn’t compete with nature.  These days I don’t ask for permission or have the willingness to wait on an already corrupt government and the decisions of the narcissist clown that currently runs the country to tell me when it’s ok to have a quality of life.  I just simply do what I have to do to survive the best way I know how and most psych meds are still not a part nor will they ever be a part of that formula ever again.

I have taken much criticism for using cannabis as a medication to treat PTSD.  Again, it’s ignorance that seems to fuel these criticisms.  Until you have almost from synthetic medications then maybe an alternative way doesn’t seem feasible. Even as a recovering addict I have yet to have a single problem related to addiction with cannabis.  Hands down this plant has and is continuing to save my life from some incredibly debilitating symptoms.

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For some people cannabis seems to be the only answer.   I take a medication that can replace any combination of psych meds.  There are those times, though, when symptoms seem to just shoot through the medicinal ceiling of the plant.  And this is when I will usually have a backup plan for anxiety meds and sleep meds.  Some people mistakenly think that medical cannabis “cures” PTSD.  I politely tell them that it’s a medication just like any other medication to treat the paralyzing “symptoms” of the disorder only it’s much safer and works better for me.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the ability to “unbreak the plate” of the traumas that caused the PTSD to begin with.  You still have to do therapy.  You still can’t go around the issue to reach a resolution.  Painful as it might be the only way for that to happen is to work through it.  Cannabis helps with the very frightening flashbacks, migraines, insomnia, anxiety and any other unpleasant symptom that can lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.  So while the presidential pumpkin and his posse are busy playing politics and searching for the next horrible hairdo. I’ve got therapy and a lifetime of trauma to work through.  I and many others don’t have the luxury of being able to wait for them to get finished rolling around in the bed with “Big Pharma” and pass federal legislation so that this medication is legal everywhere. I, not anyone else, will die from my PTSD symptoms unless they’re controlled.  Sadly, many people, as well as, returning soldiers have died by their own hand because of lack of access to a medication that can save lives in so many different ways.

I will always back this highly stigmatized and demonized plant that has helped give me some type of quality of life despite some people’s ignorance about the topic.  My wife will tell you that being put on the cannabis program has saved my life.  And even though functionality still fluctuates heavily sometimes from the disorder itself, it’s still so much better than it could be and has been thanks to a plant called exactly what it is….weed.  Cannabis has had such a positive impact on my life that living without it seems inconceivable.  And the only side effects I have to worry about these days are sleepy, happy and hungry.

#Thispuzzledlife

Acknowledgment Of Strength And Courage

Acknowledgement of Strength and Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

—-Lao Tzu

Lately, there has been a request to identify strength and courage from within myself.  And, honestly, the answer is not very easy for me to identify nor to convey.  I haven’t written since early April and couldn’t have written if I had wanted to.  Sometimes I seem to get lost in my own world not knowing how to get back to the present date and time.  The words “strength” and “courage” seem to be ones of perception rather than having a concrete definition that fits most people and situations.  Hang in there with me.  I promise there is a point.

One of the more difficult things in my life has been to accept compliments.  The ones I did get from perpetrators always seemed to have some form of abuse attached to them.  Growing up and developing as an athlete I regularly received compliments from my coaches.  I not only developed confidence but the discipline and hard work were always worth the effort.  I received compliments from my parents, the parents of friends and teammates.  When the compliments began to take on a more sinister tone and action from some people, I began to fear the very thing that only years before seemed to propel me into a healthy confidence and feeling of safety.  Kind words, in their own way, can now cause instant fear and embarrassment unseen to the naked eye.

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You can point out that survival of all the abuse is an example of both strength and courage.  However, my stance is simply that I did what I had to do to live.  Is this a great example of minimization? Well of course it is.  But emotionally this is truly how I feel about my story of survival.  So…..to identify examples of each I am forced to look at these things from another angle.  I identify these by looking into the heart and eyes of my alters.  This has truly been a process that has now led me to a position and attitude of gratitude.  Trust me, it has not always been like this.  For years I’ve been stuck continuing to try and deny the depth of my mental problems and diagnoses.  And what this has led to for my system are feelings of denial and minimization of their strength, courage, bravery and existence of them both individually and as a group.  This has led to anger, resentment and a whole lot of unneeded and hurtful chaos from them at times. They have had a general feeling of being unneeded and unwanted after years of wading through a life of blood, sweat, tears and the evilness of others.  They have never wanted a  war medal but rather just acknowledgement of the abuse and their efforts.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.  Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

—August Wilson

Me and “my team” or “my guys” as they are commonly referred to are not expendable.  These children, teens and adults stepped into some very frightening situations when my mental and physical limits as an individual had been reached.  Their actions often times with accurate precision led to self-preservation with the ultimate goal to preserve life.  Their strength and courage doesn’t seem to have limits for which I’ll am eternally grateful.  Their existence was created out of fear, pain and necessity. Mel will tell you that there have been times when physically and emotionally I shouldn’t have been able to function on any level.  But you could also look up and standing before you would be someone who seemed to be functioning almost completely normal. The quest for my education while undergoing abuse, sometimes daily, is a stunning example of this very thing.  Now several years later the answers as to how this was even a remote possibility are very clear.  My guys stepped in and helped to make sure that my goals were achieved despite always being told that my dreams were nothing more than under achievable pipe dreams.  To me, they are a living testimony of strength, courage and bravery that cannot be matched.  And maybe my story is changing from one of survival to one about redemption.

“I never said I wanted a ‘happy’ life but an interesting one.  From separation and loss, I have learned a lot.  I have become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost every human being exposed to life and to the world.  We don’t ever know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.”

—Isabel Allende

#thispuzzledlife

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

“There are certain life lessons that you can only learn in the struggle.”
― Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability

I have been asked more than once since writing these blog posts how I decide what to write?  The truth is that I don’t always know.  Sometimes it can be a topic that has embedded itself in my gut.  It can be a topic that I continually search for answers and/or the meaning in my life.  But, I often times will begin writing without any type of direction.  Maybe it’s even some type of struggle where writing is my way of asking the universe for a lesson to be taught.  And my thoughts have always been to sit back and wait for my answers to be revealed.  Whatever the “reason” or “lesson” my intent is to be open and receptive no matter how difficult.

I have always been one that has taken the hard road out of necessity. Mel will be one of the first to tell anyone who asks that “Dana has to see something for herself before she will make a decision.  You can tell her all day long the easiest way to go but until she sees things for herself she won’t budge.”  This is not a fact that I deny.  Maybe the hard truth is the only way I learn.  If you wait for me to read between the lines, I will most assuredly leave you frustrated.  Being incredibly hard headed and coming in 2nd place only to my Nannie, has never really made the “easy way” a workable option either.  I must have questions answered and the questions about the questions answered.  I might still reach the same conclusion but it will have taken me twice as long.

As a young child and then a mouthy teenager if I was told not to do something you can write it down that within hours or minutes I would be doing the very thing I was told not to do.  This is where playing sports and having coaches who had the ultimate authority taught me discipline.  As an adult and without their sometimes harsh discipline I seemed to go through life hungering for direction.  Also, through this same discipline I was taught how to pick myself up and keep going.  Because it wasn’t all about me, it was about our TEAM.  This team concept is one lesson that I have never lost.

lessons learned

At 43 years-old and a difficult adult life, I’ve had to take some hard looks in the mirror and some much needed soul searching that would’ve had the ability to piss off Gandhi. Go a step further and do this in solitude with the daily worries of a mother and a wife and it doesn’t take long for someone to start questioning whether or not the chip on my shoulder is actually worth carrying.  It also has the incredible ability to lessen the teenage arrogance in my walk and anger written on my face all seemingly hidden by a smile and a few jokes.  Because when you don’t have the daily distractions of life there’s nothing that can bring forth an argumentative yet very sobering day like the one staring back at you.

There have been many times that I have stared in the mirror only to see the one looking back almost as if to say, “Really?  Smiles and laughter are all fun and games until you get a really good look at yourself when the clown isn’t on stage, isn’t it?”  I continue to look in the mirror at the stern arrogance of the one who, in recent years, has been able to provide intimidation whenever needed.  I look down at my hands remembering how much damage can be done to a room in a fit of rage.  I then look at my forearms and hear the familiar taunts from 30 years prior and the feeling of words spoken as though they were being said for the first time. The adult that was to educate her never raised her hand in anger because the muscles she used as a weapon could also cause damage.  I look up as tears begin to stream down my face wishing, for that moment, that someone would make the pain in my chest cease.  I search for a laugh or a smile to be instantaneous medicine as it has been for the majority of my life.  Instead, however, were a set of eyes belonging to a very hurt teenage child who is fixated on the guilty memory of the unknown mother who said, “She hurt my son too.” Through the tears she tried but couldn’t convey the language of her pain.  Pain, as she would discover, wasn’t always spoken. And on this day, the lessons were learned.

#thispuzzledlife

I AM RESPONSIBLE

I AM RESPONSIBLE

“Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared.

It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.”
― Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited

The term “Responsible” has never been a word that most people use to describe me especially in my teen years.  There are those teens who are very responsible driving, their studies and extracurricular activities.  I personally got caught up in the comedy of the situation from start to finish even if it was actually more dangerous than funny.   As a teenager when my well thought out teen ideas would emerge like going to bonfire parties with fellow classmates and upper classmen and seeing how many times and how much we can throw up in one night without dying; or driving like a bat out of hell with gasoline panties on down what was known as “Thrill Hill” outside the Petal, MS city limits at speeds where those that drove down it should’ve all met our demise; or  and this is the best one…..we as a softball “team” on the eve of a “hot as crotch” practice we thought it would be a great idea to get drunk as a team would help with team unity.  Guess who DID NOT buy that explanation?  Nope…as I recall the next day we ran, and ran and ran and ran until your hangover was gone or there was no more puke left to let loose.  I, for one, never drank the night before a practice EVER again.  I’m usually the one cheering on such outrageous ideas and had already begun planning jail commissary meals made with Ramen Noodles as somewhat of a “celebratory being handcuffed” gesture if needed.  Guilty your honor!!!!!!

The thought of coming in contact and being held emotionally hostage for the next 14 years never crossed my mind.  My main goals, at the time, was to stay as high as I could and not eat.  Both somehow seemed to soothe my heart from my 8th grade disaster only a couple of years prior.  But now we as a student body and a community had been gut punched by the disappearance and alleged murder of our classmate Angela Freeman.  As I’ve mentioned before our graduating high school class  and subsequent classes were pummeled with tragedies.  I felt like the combination of school and home where death and illnesses were always imminent in my daddy’s large family.   We just never got to recover from one thing before something else happened.  I was beyond mood swings.  I was like a mood theme park.  I just remember feeling different, alone and trapped.  Obviously, my theory about being able to do WHATEVER I wanted to do, as an adult, also had some flaws waiting for their time to appear.

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When I jumped full body into adulthood before my time that’s when I understood “keeping secrets” at the fullest.  I literally was taught so many lessons about life, at that time, that I couldn’t sit back to study and understand them. I was busy learning all about malignant narcissism without knowing the full meaning.  And since this was prior to when I decided to go back to college,  I also thought that domestic violence was all about physical abuse.  I was busy surviving and not really knowing what that meant either.  I knew that I never saw or heard things between my parents like I heard every moment of every day with him.  Heck, I just thought this was the reason people were so miserable being married.  I thought this was just the way things were suppose to be. Oh how my immaturity and naivety was drunk driving my way down the highway of life at that time.  I still look back in total astonishment at how I made it through the early days of abuse.

In the late 80s and early 90s, abuse against children and how it would affect their ability to function as an adult was not known or seen as important.  And the ability to go to therapy was more of a luxury item rather than one of necessity. Affordability was practically nil to many children and families.  I would also be willing to bet that there were no mental health benefits on an insurance policy either.  So, for me and other children and teens that needed the help early on would not and could not be provided with the help we so desperately needed.

“Stay away from lazy parasites, who perch on you just to satisfy

their needs, they do not come to alleviate your burdens, hence,

their mission is to distract, detract and extract,

and make you live in abject poverty.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

I’ve been told many times that the teacher that abused me was treated the same way by her father. My ex-husband and his brother were horribly physically and emotionally abused by their father.  The excuse that has always been given when I asked him about the abuse was justified by him saying, “We might’ve been scared of him but we weren’t out running the streets getting drunk or high either.”  I could also see very clearly how the abuse had affected him and how he still feared his father each time we went to visit him.  I was told what I could and could not say or do around his father.  And I always found it strange that he and his brother called his father by his first name rather than “father” or “daddy.”  The clearest point of view I saw about the abuse they went through was by how I was treated by them.  Both of the grown little abused boys over the years had also become their father.  These 3 people that I’m talking about were not “crazy” they were and still are just mean.  And to my knowledge have never had a day of therapy in their lives.  What they did do successfully was to perpetuate onto me and other people just like it was done to them.  And they go through life never having faced their on responsibility in acknowledging how the abuse affects and continues to hurt people through their aberrant, coercive aggressive, threatening and other overt and covert behaviors. This works down their intended target until the individual believes their lies as though it was part of the gospel.  And then ANYTHING that goes wrong is their victim’s fault no matter what.  Every weekend the ex-husband would go play golf as his favorite pastime.  I use to pray hoping that he played well. If not, somehow it was my fault that he didn’t play well.  People have asked me many times why I didn’t leave sooner.  The problem lies once they get you mentally to believe all of the lies that they tell you it rewires your brain and you wake up one day and everything you use to believe about yourself and the world has now become what they think and believe about the world.  Your beliefs were stupid and you were too dumb to have your own belief system anyway.  Therefore, we cling to that relationship with everything we have because being without them would mean total annihilation for us or so we believe.

The important part

Here’s the whole point of this particular blog.  These people and their behaviors are characteristic of transgenerational trauma in both families.  However, they have all chosen to pass this abuse on and do nothing about it.  With the traumatic life that I’ve lived, I have chosen to do some very emotionally painful therapy in order to stop the cycle of abuse since my abusers didn’t have the guts to do their own work.  They might can make it continue wherever they are now.  In my family, though, the cycle of abuse ends right here.  I have been carrying the abuse of the boys that molested me.  I have been carrying the abuse of my ex-husband and brother from their father.  And I have been carrying the abuse of the teacher that always has a “I just caught the stomach virus” look to greet you with.  Plus, I have been carrying trauma and abuse unrelated to them and that’s my own stuff.  Your baggage that I’ve carried for you for so many years will be waiting for you at the nearest dumpster where it belongs.  Ya’ll have had control of my past and present but the future is MINE.

I can’t even begin to fathom our children having the same fears that I had as a child, teen and adult.  And I would run in to rescue my sweet Mel if I saw any signs of this and that’s exactly what I’ve done.  Moving to Texas is exactly how I was able to rescue them thus far from the abuse.  I looked up one day and I was saying some of the exact same hateful stuff that my ex-husband said to me.  I have 3 people desperately wanting their other mommy and spouse to be able to come back together and to function as the family and couple like we set out to be.  And for that I AM RESPONSIBLE.  The one who was “too stupid to think for herself” was taking very detailed notes those years with you.  And once you study a system and the way it works you can also find the flaws in the system.  The night I got up and walked out I had just beaten the “ALMIGHTY NARCISSIST” at this own game.

“How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego.”

Amanda Torroni

#thispuzzledlife

The Collar (Poetry)

The Collar

When I was with you,  you made it seem

Like you would always treat me as your queen.

You set the line and patiently waited

Wanting to see if I would take the bait.

I took that bait as soon as it hit the water

He was whispering under his breath

“HaHa! Now I’ve got her.”

 

A few years later the child bride would be of age.

And this was what he needed to secure her fate.

She didn’t smile much on her wedding day.

Because at the altar she knew she was making a very big mistake.

Instead of a ring she was given a collar

It was suppose to make her obey and if not she would holler

It kept her in line with him at the controls

He told her what she could eat and where she could go.

slave collar

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe on their Honeymoon he would find a way to chill out

My assumption was wrong and that very night she would find out;

because he told her she would kick him complete out

That night she would hear that her teammate was dead

But instead of hugs she was forcibly raped.

She learned how to cry in ways that he never saw.

And many times he never saw her tears fall.

 

She wasn’t his queen nor his bride

Because all she wanted was to run and hide

From his abuse she would understand a new life.

One where orders were obey and eggshells were walked on day and night

She did not want this life of hell

But this was the life where she chose to dwell

 

His hateful words and scary threats

She doesn’t understand why he does this.

She could never do right so how can I leave.

With tears in her eyes She screamed, Stop it! Stop it! Stop it please!

“It’s Your Fault!! You So Stupid…..You can’t do anything right!!!

Oh my God how do I leave?! Help was nowhere in sight.

 

“When she gets enough she’ll finally leave” is what they would say

They didn’t understand that she had wanted to leave long ago

“You’re my bitch and all four you go.”

And I made you my legal ho.

I was nothing to you but a junkyard dog.

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The door to my freedom Somehow managed to swing open.

But all I could do was sit in my house that became my prison

I don’t care that you called me hog

But what I had really become was one of Pavlov’s Dogs.

 

Many screamed get out and go

I couldn’t bring myself to leave him because that was all that I know.

It was comfortable because I knew that routine.

And I bet you guessed that I seldom was ever treated like a queen.

 

I thought long and hard on making a plan

I had to hurry just as fast as I can

the time came to leave him like many times before.

But this time I would keep my eyes straight ahead

and not look back at that door.

 

He followed close behind to my car and called me everything in the book.

And with every word he said I trembled and shook.

I’m leaving him and I must be crazy.

I would never again be called fat and lazy.

I could also remove that horrible shock collar.

And as I left him for the final time I was was terribly scared

Because I just walked out of my prison without a collar;

Finally free to eat what I want to eat and to Go anywhere I wanted to go.

By: Dana Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Code Of Silence

The Code of Silence

The predator wants your silence.  It feeds their power,

entitlement, and they want it to feed your shame.”

—Viola Davis

When I first begin getting to know someone, the very first thing I look for is their level of snitch. What do I mean by this?  Snitching is when you tell on someone to get yourself out of trouble.  Another word for a snitch is a tattletale.  To be labeled as a snitch socially is to be ostracized.  In other circles being labeled as a snitch can get you killed.  And snitching is a predator’s greatest enemy because that exposes secrets.

As a small child the term snitching wasn’t used yet. I did know what the term tattletale meant.  And what hurting my friend’s feelings and damaging a relationship because of telling secrets meant.  It meant people would be mad at me and I would have no friends.  Even teachers at daycares can get tired of all the tattling.  Step inside any daycare and you’re liable to hear, “The next child that tattles doesn’t go outside and play.”  These are two dichotomous examples of telling information.  My question to think about is are we teaching our kids the best and safest message?  There are always exceptions to the rule.  By the time these children are teens there’s an unwritten “code of conduct” around telling information whether it be relevant or not that might save lives.  This will also get someone labeled as a snitch.

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I can expand more about teens later, however, for the sake of this blog post I’m going to refer to myself as a young child.  My first lesson in keeping secrets that should’ve been told was around 5 years-old.  I was molested many times by my neighbor’s youngest and middle sons.  These boys were around 13-15 years old and old enough to know better.  The way I was held emotionally hostage was through threats like “the police would come and I would have my parents taken away.”  I was also told, “that I would make people mad and no one would want to be my friend. And it would be all my fault.”

This little girl named Dana would do everything possible to make sure both she and her family was safe.  From a child’s point of view, I hung on to every scary word spoken.  And afterwards they would tell me how beautiful I was.  The searing pain that would burn my body would leave an imprint on my psyche even today.  The pain and fear would start and I would leave somewhere in my mind where pain was not felt.  Still to this day, I’m very confused in just about every way in regards to having been molested.

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People  that seek power over other people instill in their victims that telling about abuse is a sign of weakness.  As a teenager, anytime I told or tried to tell about the abuse to the school administration this information would get back to the teacher making the abuse worse.  The message I got from doing that was to “forget asking for help and save yourself.”  After the abuse of my 8th grade year, I vowed that as long as I was around to witness someone needing defending or help I would step in and protect in whatever way that I could.  This has bought me unnecessary trouble with coaches and friends but to me it was worth it.  I could then lay my head on my pillow at night and sleep.

One night after Mel and I had been speaking to a class at the college, A mother from that class asked me where I went to middle school.  I told her Petal Middle School and she asked about the teacher that was so abusive.  Because her 8th grade son would come home from school every afternoon with tears in his eyes due to being called names in front of his classmates by a teacher. She told me the teacher she was speaking about and after my heart dropped into my stomach I said, “Unfortunately, ma’am that is who I was speaking about.”  She asked, “What should I do?”  I told her, “Tell someone and get your child in counseling like yesterday.”  I don’t know whatever happened to that mother and her child’s situation.  The information I shared with her helped she and her son?  However, a big load of shame and guilt was dumped on me as penance for that child and any other children after me that I kept the secret about the abuse ,consequently, leaving the predator unscathed and in the driver’s seat to handpick her next teen victim with ease.

The small little southern city with air tight politics and a nose for people’s business other than their own was to my detriment that year.  I was told many years later by one of the administrators that worked there my middle school years information that still burns my ears.  I was told, “You were a child at that time and I couldn’t say anything especially due to the politics.  But I can tell you now that she should’ve never been around children.”  The disappointment must’ve been written all over my face when she saw how perplexed I was.  She said, “Is there something I can try to clear up for you?”  I stood there for a moment not knowing what to say but burning with questions.  “Yes ma’am.  I do have a question…..So you all knew she was abusive and shouldn’t have been around children and you let her teach anyway?!”  “I was her verbal punching bag and her abuse has affected my education, my career, my relationship with my wife and children, my relationships with others and above all the relationship and image of how I view myself as a human being!”  I was mad but I couldn’t stop then tears.  She hugged me as we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

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 When I went to my own vehicle and unlocked the doors, I sat down and shook my head and said, “They knew the whole time and didn’t try to stop her.  Didn’t they know how badly it all hurt?  Did they even care? Yes, I fought every way possible to make it through that year in school that still shows its ugly scarring.  No matter what adult I tried to tell that year I got no help from the abuse.  And “snitching” never did me any favors.  Had someone look past the labels and protected me from the backlash of telling the truth about the abuse my life could and maybe even would be much different now.  That one year of school affected a few other teenagers in ways that are still damaging to them.  The most visible are the scars that line the forearms of those teens with 30 years of thick scarring  from the one thing that would listen to us all then…..razors.  I also had the experience of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia), alcoholism, drug addiction that were all there with their arms wide open to help shield me from the unwanted torture of abuse.

The “Code of Silence” protected by perpetrators in a way that I had no defense.  And as a very young bride, I would face abuse again for the next 14 years.  That “Code of Silence” that was used as an intimidation factor all those years worked.  It kept me silent and the perpetrators innocent.  I go to bed scared every night and the first emotion I have in the morning is fear.  This shame based silence that seen as normal or acceptable is very hurtful.  Maybe protecting offenders because of “snitching” isn’t the problem. And maybe listening and helping to protect children and teens when they tell should be handled first instead of politics and reputations.

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

–Elie Wiesel

#thispuzzledlife

“Bruised Inside”

“Bruised Inside”

“You’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare you’ve ever dreamed.But when it’s over, I know you’ll be the one standing.  You know what you have to do.  Do it!”

—Coach Duke, Creed

In my blog I repeat several different views about the abuse I went through.  It might be from a different angle but repeating will inevitably happen.  If this is a problem then read elsewhere because this blog is about MY healing and when I’m struggling or laughing about something worth sharing, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

This is a great therapeutic tool that I developed out of necessity several years ago.  At that time, it seemed to be just what I needed that listened and was non-judgmental to whatever problem I would write about.  Whatever the issue was, I wanted and searched for my answers to some of my strange behavior at times.  I was simply searching for where the “old Dana” went and who in the heck was this “new Dana” in many different pieces that is trying to emerge?

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The one part of life that I’m very strong in is protective instincts.  This means protecting those I love even if the protection is from me.  I can’t say that I love someone and then when the situation calls for this protection I not be willing to do just that.  I’ve ended a relationship recently for this very reason and it has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

Looking for answers as I’ve always done, I went to the library to see what I can find about a topic that has been bothering me “Bullying at school by teachers.”  Most books on this topic usually lead to bullying from other students.  But this day, I found a book that would seemingly have some much needed answers and validation that has been lacking.  The book is titled, “Teen Torment by Patricia Evans.”

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I opened the book to a random page with the title…..

In this passage I found this….”In a culture that overlooks verbal abuse, teens who are tormented by it face difficulties accomplishing developmental tasks such as independence, identity, and career goals.  When teachers put them down or rage at them these students lose the confidence to become independent. And one of the long-term consequences of verbal abuse is that it disconnects teens from their emotional self.”  Essentially, what happens is that the teen learns how to feel nothing in order to withstand the abuse.  “The teen then can’t figure out who they really are versus who they’re told they are.  Consequently, they look for their identity outside of themselves making up an image that seems more acceptable since they’ve already been told many times that who they are is not adequate as a human being.  They might develop an appearance so that no one really knows what has happened to them as a safety measure.  They will go to any lengths to maintain this image which to them seems safe.  Instead they end up losing their own interests and talents because all of their thoughts about who they thought they were have been told time and time again that they’re wrong.”

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Indicators of Verbal Abuse

  • Show a noticeable change in behavior
  • Become isolated and withdrawn
  • Pull away and refuse to talk
  • Seem depressed
  • Cry easily or often
  • Not have close friends
  • Have bad dreams
  • Complain about going to school
  • Cut classes at school
  • Refuse to go to school
  • Throw up before school
  • Seem to daydream a lot
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Get much lower grade than usual
  • Seem to have lost enthusiasm for anything
  • Become self-critical
  • Hurt themselves, cut themselves, eating disorders and pull their hair
  • Act aggressively towards siblings, peers or parents
  • Get angry often
  • Lash out at others
  • Get in many fights (Teen Torment, 2003).

When I was abused by this teacher everything that I was being taught, by my parents, about respect of another human being was confusing to say the least.  She told me so many negative things about myself as a human being and through negative body image that I was almost guaranteed to sprout the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia that I still struggle with daily after 30 years.  I’m tormented by her words and actions daily.  I can hear them as clearly as the day she said them.  And as sad as it seems, I hold onto my eating disorders and other self-harming behaviors with a death grip because somewhere along the way they were the only part of my life that seemed safe and something I can control.  But this “control” is a false control just like addiction to a chemical.  It’s also behaviors that pretend to be your friend until you realize that that “safe friend” has taken everything away mainly your sanity.  Self-harming behaviors of any kind have negative social implications which have made me a prisoner of my bedroom.  Most people don’t want to hear excuses for why you don’t want to eat.  They just see it as a disrespectful gesture and will think twice before inviting you again.  And God forbid if they happen to see your scars from cutting.  They think they’re hanging out with a psychotic monster that has the possibility to lunge at them with a razor blade at the dinner table.  My thoughts have always been, “If you only knew what caused these scars to appear, you’d think before judging next time.”

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When I finished reading only about 10 pages of information I laid my book down in my lap and began sobbing.  Finally, I had found some information that spoke for me what I couldn’t.  I saw on those pages validation for that horrible year of abuse with information about what it did to me.  I was called all the names and was told that I was stupid and fat among other things that children should never have directed at them by anyone much less from a “safe person” in a position of authority.  That year affected me in ways that I still can’t fully understand.  This book and it’s passages tend to make me retract from some of the information because of how close to home it all is.

As a teenager, I had much difficulty with emotion regulation.  I’m torment by her words and actions of that year.  Her negative body image comments have me fearing everything related to the topic.  I can still feel the bullets of her malignant words she shot my way directly into my still developing brain.  And to her I can say this, “You don’t matter and you never did.  I’m succeeding despite what you did.”  And for you I have a surprise.  What if it’s simply calling you and confronting you about what was done?  This kind of discussion needs to be in public where we both feel safe and can speak openly.  It could be that simple. Would you listen and deny any wrong doing?  Either way a surprise there will be because every day I wake up I’m bruised inside and you are the only one who can heal that wound.  Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise?!  Maybe that’s the surprise I’m waiting to hear and hold on to.  Maybe the surprise is something different. Only I know.

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Every single day I choose to work on some type of behavior or action that most people take for granted.  As much as I would like to re-gift this “gift” of surviving apparently it was meant for me.  And I’ll carry this burden with the hopes that my own children don’t have to taste this type of life and that monsters are just pretend instead of real as I and many others know them.  Carrying the trauma of the boys that molested me, my teacher, my ex-husband and his brother, a trusted therapist will end with me.  I will either win or die trying because when it comes down to it it’s all about leaving everything you’ve got physically and mentally in the ring, on the field or on the court.  Whatever happens my wife and boys will know that I gave everything I had until I couldn’t.  I wasn’t coached to give up until I had left it all on the field and could feel proud of my efforts whenever that day comes.

Rocky Balboa talking to Adonis Creed before his first fight….

You’ve never been in front of this many people….that don’t matter.

You’ve never been this far away from home….that doesn’t matter either.

What matters is what you leave in the ring

And what you take back with you is……PRIDE.

And knowing that you did your best and you did it for yourself.

You didn’t do it for me; Not for your friend’s memory but for you.

I can see in your eyes you’re going to do it…..Go Do This Champ!

#thispuzzledlife

But I Still Made It To Texas

But….I Still Made It To Texas

“My basic principle is that you don’t make decisions because

they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them

because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right.”

Heodore Hesburgh

As I count down another 365 days in my life, I also look back on holiday traditions and 2018 as a year of struggles and lessons.  Yep, I’m too lazy to write separate blogs about Christmas and New Year’s.  Did you catch that or is it just me? Ha! Ha!  At this point, I’m just glad that I still have the ability and “want to” to write publicly about my struggles as an individual, family, therapeutically and as a system.  Honestly, my first thoughts about the year 2018 all revolve around my middle finger.

In January, I started my new path alone by moving to Texas.  The importance of this decision was realized only a couple of months prior.  Mel and the kids needed to live in a place that was familiar and where they could regain their own sense of balance and security that I could not help provide in my condition at that time.  And I needed answers and healing from my own demons and dark past.  Sometimes life gives you a way out but only for a limited amount of time.  Our life in New Mexico had finally come to an end complete with two little boys that make our hearts beat.  My mental health issues were becoming increasingly dangerous and the toll it had taken on Mel and the boys was almost irreparable damage.  If love was all that was needed to “fix” everything that had been damaged there wouldn’t have been a need to leave.  Mel and I both saw the need and the importance of me moving somewhere that answers could be found but only with the right practitioner.

I had set my sights on moving to Texas in 2016 but actually taking that step without Mel and the kids wouldn’t happen until January 2018.  This was a decision that kept tugging at my heart.  I knew it was the right decision but I didn’t have any way of proving that to make the decision easier to make as a couple.  It would be one of those Please don’t be the wrong decision! Please don’t be the wrong decision! moments that was so scary I couldn’t put into words.  She and I knew that without long term help of some kind I wouldn’t have a relationship with them anyway.  I was just dangerously out of control mentally.

armadillo  texas flag  longhorn

By March life would once again be full of new struggles.  My 2006 Honda Pilot that I brought with me on my new endeavors would be totaled in an accident.  Not knowing the extent of my injuries I would run to the vehicle that hit me to help the driver as I had done many times while working on an ambulance many years earlier.  Once the emergency vehicles showed up and I had returned to the opposing side of the highway where my own vehicle turned its last wheel the searing pain in my neck, back and legs would make its way into a form of uncomfortable permanence.  The days of having good medical insurance was left in the deserted high mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico. And now I was just another American leaning on Medicare for help. I would also soon be driving an 18 year old black leather 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix that would come to be known simply as “The Hot Pocket.” Let the frustrations begin!

Learning who I was as an individual is still a process that I continue to learn about every single day.  But I was learning since moving here in January that I had a very large trigger that I had never even considered.  In Albuquerque we were left most times to fend for ourselves no matter where we looked for answers.  When I moved to Texas I was greeted with a large outpouring of love that most would welcome.  I, however, was terrified by all the help that was awaiting.  I honestly didn’t know and still don’t really know how to receive help without there being a price for it.  I suddenly became very triggered and left a stable living situation only to “couch hop” for the next few months until I looked up and I was homeless.  This would mean that I didn’t have the privacy and quiet that I longed and hungered for.  No one seemed to understand especially me.  Being in public and around people all the time seemed to make me feel like I was boiling in hot water.  No matter how hard I tried to accept this form of love and acceptance…I just couldn’t.

My mental health issues soon began to show the ugly faces that I had tried to warn other about and all I could think was “Damn, not here.  Not to these good people.”  But trying to wish them away wouldn’t happen in Texas anymore than it had worked in New Mexico.  I knew that this meant one thing….people would get hurt and relationships would be damaged and lost.  I couldn’t stop it.  I had seen it 100’s of times and nothing good ever came of it.  I just knew what it felt like when it was about to happen.  All I could hope for was that it wouldn’t be too bad because this time I was alone without Mel and the kids. I prepared my heart for the worst like I had many times.  This time would be no different as I would lose the relationships of those that I loved and admired without even trying.

Physically I felt completely beat down.  Mentally I was a hot mess and I now doubted whether this move was in fact the right thing to do.  The true reason that I moved here, to do therapy with my new coach seemed to be the only thing that still seemed right.  I leaned on the many years of lessons that I had learned from Sarah to help me make the decision again about staying in Texas when I wanted to run because it was the right thing to do….and again I stayed.  It wasn’t because I had faith that things would get better.  I stayed simply because I trusted her and that she never led me in a wrong direction while she was alive.

Therapeutically, I thought moving here and working with “coach” would be an easy thing to do since I was so incredibly excited to be given the chance.  I was excited and I knew without a doubt that my decision of working with “coach” was still the right decision.  But “easy” was never in the realm of reality.  I had a decorated therapeutic past and it didn’t seem to recognize good or bad practitioners.  It only recognized “practitioner” and “position of authority” both which scared me to death.  I constantly reminded myself that I already trusted her on some level because I moved here to work with her.  But instantly trusting even though I was confident in my decision just wasn’t going to happen.

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When I looked at my new life the only place that didn’t seem to bring some form of unwanted and unneeded pain was the hour that I spent with coach in session.  Most days the money it would require to afford food was always an unknown.   I was not willing to forego a therapy session because for that hour I felt safe even if I was shaking with fear for the time I was in there. I would be scared of possible topics I might have to discuss and I fear her position as a therapist but I didn’t fear her as a person and that meant everything to me.  I wanted to be heard and my pain validated and the only place that seemed to happen was when I was in a session because I wouldn’t dare open up to others.  Life is hard and society can careless how I feel about anything in the present time much less 40+ years of pain and abuse from my past….but she did and still does care.

Coach knows what she’s doing and I have to continue to trust her.  She knew that the only way that I would find comfort is through consistency and compassion.  I was sloppy seconds of a very abusive therapist but I was looking and hungering for the help that I so desperately needed.  And that my aggressive nature had to have a reason.  Before long her compassion began to melt my very tough exterior and tears would form and begin to drop from the years of abuse.  Except this time my tears brought about more compassion and validation where, at times, tears were seen as a weakness and more abuse seemed to follow.

August 1st started the “intensive” that she and I would have for a month.  That month did a lot for me regarding trusting coach and the therapeutic process as a whole.  Before this started, though, I vowed to be completely focus, “nose to the grind” and completely secluded.  This was no phone calls except immediate family and my coach and no social media except for blogs and remembering friends who have died. Sometimes solitude is all you need to help regain focus on things that are important.  Because in solitude you have no one to look at but yourself.  Apparently, this is just what I needed because the changes that have occurred within my system are some that I never dreamed possible for a teenager who was simply not heard.  The key to her was something along the lines of a forced hug (not literally) to show her that everyone isn’t the same. And allowing her a voice preferably not a screaming one.  Yes that teenager is indeed coachable when others have often thought incorrigible.

Fall time for me brings about some pretty horrible memories and anniversaries. At some point, coach responded to a question of mine “being thankful for what I do have” was the answer.  I’ve thought about that every since the day that was said.  This fall I would finally understand what she was saying. Now that It’s towards the end of December I can say that I put her phrase into practice by being thankful for what I do have this year despite all the struggles:

  1. I made it to Texas where I was met by an awesome group of people.
  2. I was involved in a wreck and injured but I wasn’t killed.
  3. I ended up back in the psych hospital 2 more times but it didn’t hurt anything but my pride.
  4. I ended up homeless but repaired the relationship with my parents.
  5. I had two surgeries because of my wreck but I’m still walking and talking.
  6. My time in Texas has been a struggle in every way. But….I Still Made It To Texas.
  7. I don’t get to see my boys very much but there is Facetime.
  8. I have several addictions that I struggle with but I’m still here struggling.
  9. I never get to see my wife.  She was able to be here several days for my surgery.
  10. I don’t get to spend holidays with my family.  Making the sacrifice to live in Texas without them helps to ensure I get to spend the rest of my life healthy and happy together as a family.
  11. I just embarrassed myself and my wife because I “flipped my wig” coming out of anesthesia.  What a great education in mental illness behaviors the hospital staff got from me free of charge not once but twice.
  12. Difficult decisions were made and tears were shed because it was the right thing to do.  Not the easiest thing to do.

I always think about the holidays when I was little and prior to our family’s matriarch, my Nannie’s death.  I can remember the smell of the air and the damp fall leaves, our family traditions and how much they still mean to me.  I remember my daddy’s Christmas morning breakfast and the year Sarah and Doug sat at our family’s table and had breakfast with us.  I also remember how much holidays scared me when I was married to my ex-husband.  The day time hours were fake happiness and gifts.  And the night times were criticisms about what I had managed to mess up and how dumb I was.  Don’t think for a second that he didn’t criticize my appearance on those days too.

Recently, Mel came to Texas because I had back surgery as a result of the wreck in March.  This was the first time she and I had spent any significant amount of time since I moved here.  The experience was a disaster for both of us at the hospital even with my limited memory. The embarrassment for me personally has been a lot to bare.  But the tears we both shed before her ride picked her up to take her back to the airport because we both love each other and miss being a family were the ones that were the heaviest.  I asked her again now that it’s been almost a year since moving here, “Do you think we made the right decision?”  We both agreed and said, “Yes.”  Moving here was the right decision but it didn’t guarantee things being easy and so far that has remained true.  This year has been one of many ups, downs, struggles and lessons…..BUT…….WE STILL MADE THE RIGHT DECISION TO MOVE TO TEXAS TO DO THERAPY…..AND WE MADE IT HAPPEN!!!!

#thispuzzledlife

What December 4th Means To Me…..

What December 4th Means To Me…..

” Today, on her birthday, I am teary eyed about the other woman

who also remembers that today, 43 years ago, she gave life

to a child that is calling me “Momma.”

—Unknown

I must admit that my birthdays for a long time have carried with them a dark cloud. As a child, I remembered them being like most kids’ birthdays. Cake, ice cream, presents and if you were lucky a party at McDonald’s complete with a tour to the store’s freezer just to find out that it was cold. A paper birthday hat and the playground equipment that was fun only in spring or fall seasons because you didn’t dare play on it in during the humid summers of the Deep South for fear of being burned alive by the stifling hot metal. The consequences of being a child playing on metal playground equipment would remind you that next time maybe you shouldn’t.

In my teen years, birthdays usually consisted of The Petal Lady Panther Basketball Classic. Softball season would’ve ended by now and we were well into our basketball season. There were plenty of local “social parties” complete with a bonfire, alcohol and loud country music. I was also busy trying to fill an emptiness in myself that I couldn’t identify. I just knew that emotionally I hurt. I began treating that hurt with any substance or behavior that seem to soothe that pain even a little bit. Little did I know that I was already in the death grip of addiction by the time I graduated high school. The combination of both the physical and mental stress of addiction for a mere 4 years would take the dream of playing college ball of any kind away.

As a late teen and early adulthood, I wouldn’t only see the dichotomy in a person’s behavior. I would often times feel the shift in his behavior before it actually happened. It was also on some of those same scary nights that my birthday December 4th would fall. Apparently, there was an unwritten rule about what men, specifically my ex-husband, were entitled to on any day but celebrations of any kind were a guarantee.

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This “emptiness” was now identified as a void. And the void was the one thing that has haunted me daily since middle school….my adoption. The abusers in my life have always made sure that this particular topic’s wounding got a little deeper with their ability to hurt without touching. Each year that passes it makes this time of the year just a little bit more painful. I’ve always seemed in some way to seek out the love and acceptance of my birth mom that I’ll never receive. She, unfortunately, does not have it to give to me to satisfy that insatiable need that never seems to be filled.

In the process of searching, finding and being rejected again and years of abuse I’ve pretty much walled my heart off to most people including close friends and family. Each year it gnaws away at me until the thought of getting close to someone scares me so bad that I reach out and destroy that relationship. Now In my 40’s I walk around with such a thick and, at times, aggressive coat of armor that I run off a lot of people before they get a chance to really know me past my silly sense of humor. Several people know that my birthday is off limits in regards to contacting me. Social media is turned off and my phone is put on “Do Not Disturb” making it virtually impossible to contact me unless you’re here in person. Very grumpy I can be on this the one of the heaviest days of grieving for me all year long.

Coach has the uncanny ability to get me to do  “therapeutic assignments” that can have me stomping around like a toddler who was given the wrong colored cup. I have the ability to act just like that when I think my unhealthy ideas are much better and/or more fun. This birthday would be different though. I had to be receptive to her ideas and be trusting enough in her as a person and as a professional for her guidance to be remotely acknowledged on this topic. And by the end of the day after coach stirred the fairy dust and a few of my own tears fell, for the first time in many years when the sun went down my smile didn’t. It was genuine happiness and…..well….it was different but it was nice.

I guess what made the day even more special was celebrating my birthday with our oldest son, Marshall who turned 7 years old yesterday. I never understood how my birth mom felt. I heard the painful words she said to me. But when I laid eyes on our beautiful first born, I’m glad that I don’t know what it’s like to be her. Because I have two beautiful little superhero, “man cub” children that call me Mom and I get to call them Sons.

I can still say with much assurance that the impact my adoption has had on my life has been tremendous in both good and bad ways. There are many tears left to cry on this topic. And much more emotional healing that needs to occur because coach does more than blows a whistle…..she plants seeds.

#thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Child (Poetry)

The Tears of a Child

I came into this world screamin’ and cryin’

Never knowing that the world would be lyin’.

Big hands that touched with searing pain

And it would only be for their perverted gain.

 

Surrounded by four walls I would cry alone

Until she opened the door and I was already gone

Locked inside I screamed, “Don’t Leave!  Help me!”

But I would never be granted any reprieve.

 

A Child bride I would soon become

The tears I cried inside were many but to the outside there were none

I would defend you and say that life was grand

But you would crush me without even using your hands.

 

The venom you spewed I would also come to use

Innocent family and friends….If they only knew.

That little girl screaming for help and they didn’t have a clue.

That which the little girl is surviving might make her turn forever blue.

 

“Mommy! Mommy!” were the words she always longed to hear.

But the innocent screams rang so loud and clear.

She looked for the one that helped rescue her

But she was another one gone.

How does she handle it now in this world all alone?

 

She screams, “Mommy!  Mommy! ” from somewhere deep inside.

She was always taught to keep quiet and hide.

She also longs for the one that gave her life

But she’ll never meet those precious boys or her beautiful wife.

 

This child she’s full of anger and hates most things she sees.

The words they can’t hear are her hungering cries of “Help Me, Please!”

Please help me and don’t leave me alone.

But again she looks up to see they’re all gone.

 

She keeps those tears buried deep inside

Just like when she was taught to run and hide.

If they knew and could only see

These tears of a child that continue to haunt me.
By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

The Party Of One (Poetry)

The Party of One

This was the day for 9 months that I longed to see

You were the one that was meant for me.

Instead I was thrown away and forever shunned

I began life solo as the little party of one.

 

I soon had a new mommy and daddy

To look at me I appeared very happy

And then the boys’ hands touched me and it was no fun

for the little girl was the party of one.

 

You were there to help educate our minds

not to tell us, “You’ll Never Be Anything!” time after time.

You lied and told them I was disrespectful and having fun

But the only party I was attending was the party you reserved for just one.

 

I took you as my husband and you took me as your wife

But what you had in store was not a beautiful life.

You monitored me daily who i saw; what I did and what I ate

All I did was develop more and more silent hate.

 

I did what you said but it was still my fault

Do you have any idea what lessons you taught?

You made me your dog and to you it was fun

If only they could see you brightly shining at this party of one.

 

I’ve tried and the answer is consistently…fail

I can’t make it as a friend, daughter or mom anywhere

along the trail.

I long to hear from you just one more time saying,

“I’m here and together we’ll prevail.”

But the grief is so heavy without you that I feel like I’m in hell.

 

I’ve wished for life to be anything but this

I’ve already fought so hard just to be here and for that I’m pissed.

You all stripped me of everything good and it’s seen everyone

And though we are many, we are still the Party of One.
By:  Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

The Lost Child (Poetry)

The Lost Child (Poetry)

People have seen me as feral

And needing to be whipped more as a child

One thing is for sure…..

She needs to be tamed and not allowed to run wild.

 

A gentle giant came into her life,

And taught her fundamentals and the power of a

smile.

To never give up is how an athlete lives,

Direction received by a lost child.

 

You broke her down brick by brick until she was stripped

almost to zero.

But you forgot the one thing that wouldn’t stop…a beating heart

that was looking for another hero.

The lies, humiliation and manipulation cut like blades on the arms of a child

How do you tame this child running wild?

 

Prince Charming is how he portrayed himself

But she wouldn’t be put up on a shelf.

For the bricks already torn down exposing her soul

Would further be destroyed and she would be left out in the cold.

 

Tears were seen as childish and weak

How do you hide that which hurts so deep?

Internally you step back and let your “new friends” deal with this creep.

Do what you have to do but don’t make a peep.

 

Getting an education would lead to freedom they said.

But no one saw what he had already done to her naive and vulnerable head.

“You’ll never be anything without me” he would say

She left him with the last bit of energy she could muster and got out that

very day.

 

Brave as she was most never knew

To leave and stay gone never to return to the hellish days with him, for she

was finally through.

Back to the world and running wild

She would still need guidance but only through love for this lost child.

 

Her ROCK she’s known for several years said, “some people can’t see the

beauty of a person” and with that she shed some of her first tears.

What would she do now with the freedom of a new life?

She would be introduced to her soul mate that she would later take as her wife.

 

Her passion she would do but not for long

The grip he still has on her was not yet gone.

Someone else she was becoming and started to resemble him

They would both feel the pains of having to sink or swim.

 

Two little boys would be the apples of their eyes

But when her ROCK disappeared she couldn’t silence her cries.

For she would be floundering with no direction and again running wild.

With a broken heart and hurting soul of a lost child.

 

How could she possibly heal from so many quickly leaving?

It appeared that she would be setting out on another road of more

painful grieving.

The decision was made to start completely over again

Not knowing what would happen or if she would ever again have friends.

 

Her life became a floor surrounded by four walls

In another state she would once again walk these new, dark halls.

For again she’s living a life and running fast and wild,

But her new coach would see past the actions and into the

heart of a lost child.
By Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Footsteps To Freedom

Footsteps to Freedom

“It is fear that reinforces the walls we build, people are afraid to be swayed from their convictions, afraid to question their moral instincts and expose themselves to ideas that may challenge the fabric of their entire existence, but what are we if we are not seeking to better ourselves?”
― Aysha Taryam

During this month of incredibly intense therapy one of the things that I’ve come to realize is how terrified I am of change no matter the reasons. Over the years I have become accustomed to people naming my limitations and just accepting them. Being controlled for so long has created for me a life of imprisonment even though the doors of freedom were opened many years ago.

Eleven years ago I was granted the freedom legally from a very long abusive relationship where everything I did, said and felt were controlled by someone else. The control enforced for so many years was done so covertly that even I was blinded to my own reality. It was always disguised as “I’m just trying to make you a better person.” When in reality he did nothing to help make me a better person. He simply was destroying what was left of a good person. I was slowly mirroring his dysfunctional and abusive self through his personally designed program. I didn’t like this change because it hurt me in every way possible and to not accept it, as difficult as it was, could’ve led to my demise.

I was given gifts and compliments both in front of others and behind closed doors. What was never seen, though, was the high price of his momentary kindness. Anytime I was complimented or given gifts especially at holiday times or after arguments was then completely overshadowed by his abuse sometimes only hours later. What this taught me to do was to be aware when things were too “ok” that something bad would happen or would be taken away. Maybe this was his sick justification for his niceness. He seems like a nice guy to those that know him but behind the steel doors of my personal imprisonment to him on an intimately emotional level was a block of ice of a human being that cares about nothing but his own gratification in whatever way he can achieve it.

Since our divorce I still can’t accept comments, gifts or any kind gesture without thinking, “What do you really want for your kindness because everything comes with a price?”  What I have been conditioned to believe is that if things get “too good” or a time without chaos then he would, in turn, take those moments of kindness and hurt me with them.  Therefore, I have always felt that if these same nice events happen then I must destroy them because it doesn’t hurt as bad if I’m the one doing the sabotaging. This also affects my relationships with people. I don’t mind having superficial relationships but if I start forming relationships that are deeper then I panic and start pushing the person away until they want to leave.  I have become so accustomed to this that I have learned to disconnect emotionally so quickly and easily that most times I can’t even feel the pain of the loss.

footsteps to freedom

The essence of a therapeutic journey is about CHANGE. Maladaptive behaviors are very much a comfort zone and the thought of changing the things that continue to remove happiness and consequently leave me with a life unfulfilled and empty terrifies me. The easy solution to most would be simply stop doing what you’re doing and things with get better. And, truly, I wish it was that easy. I don’t love the behaviors and mental craziness that comes with it all. What I do love is the consistency that lies with what I understand and what seems to make sense even if only I can make sense of it. What would and could the possibilities of my life be if I were not chained to my compulsions, addictions and yes even his control and deadly way of life? The truth is that I don’t know. So instead of reaching out to grab a new way of life, I timidly sit back and watch everything positive and beautiful in my life disappear piece by piece. This is not something I enjoy. This is something that I’ve come to expect because this reality is something that I know.

Expecting good things is something so incredibly foreign to me. The cage door of my cell was opened but because I’ve been so accustomed to power and control that’s the only way I’ve known how to live. Without being told exactly what to do I feel completely out of control and very unsafe. In a way, I still feel like I need the one thing I feared about him…HIS control. Most all other forms of control in regards to authority figures and institutions, as well as, other social situations will most definitely bring out the werewolf in me.  I become very aggressive in many instances.  Given the opportunity to leave this continued imagined control which still seems to feel like he still presently oversees and I’ll stay put and wait for my next order.  This has me very confused and above all frustrated.  The dichotomy of these decisions leave me cowering and in tears.

As his child bride with him 19 years my senior, he set out to raise a wife.  I tried endlessly to become that which was envisioned which was the picture of perfection.  I had no idea, at the time, that I would be constantly chasing and trying to achieve something that never could be achieved.  Years later I still find myself chasing this same perfectionistic  life and image but now in solitude.  I have continued to allow him to be the overseer of my daily activities and thoughts from which I have yet to be able to break free.  I am still chained to my “master” in so many ways.  And seemingly by choice I continue to let him rob me of a beautiful life with my wife, children, friends and family.  The harsh reality of this weighs very heavily on me.

My “inside guys” are seeing and feeling this push for this realization and the action that comes with it.  Is there resistance?  Ummmm……am I breathing?  All they can seem to understand right now is fear and that is always considered unsafe in any situation.  Thirty years of teens being able to live life as they dysfunctional please. And 20+ years of adults not having voices and/or choices now being told they can create a life that WE choose not that HE chooses.  This is one concept that’s going to take practice even if, for now, it’s just about the radical idea that things can be different.

The need for change is why I moved here.  The importance of change is why I stay even though my heart wants me to run back to Mel and our boys.  But the fear of change is what  torments me worse than the memories and images.  Who will I be if I’m not defined by outside influences and behaviors?  With my tireless coach’s help and seemingly endless compassion maybe one day I’ll have those answers.

I’m still moving in a forward direction but I’m shaking in my boots. And it seems with every step forward a new tear drops.  Painful as this process is it’s still not as painful as the words and actions from the one who caused the tears to begin with.  Me and a certain teen see this process as “Footsteps to Freedom.”

“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.”

—Thucydides

#thispuzzledlife

The Long Drive Home

The Long Drive Home

“When the pain of where you’re at is greater than the pain

of where you are going, change will occur.”

–Anonymous

After therapy sessions on the long ride home in the Pontiac “toaster” attempting to live through Texas drivers is when I usually come up with new blog topics. I have a little while in my own thoughts accompanied by music to chew on the new lessons I’ve learned after each session.  This week “coach” stirred the pot with my internal brood. Topics were coming at me like tennis balls from a rapid firing machine. Each topic seems to resurrect other difficult topics until I feel like I’m playing “Whack-a-Mole: Therapy Edition.”  Right now I have to have total trust in “coach” because I don’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt. Assignments that can have internal dogs growling for control and others hiding all in the name of “healing” have made the natives restless.

Once I leave therapy I want to go nowhere but to the safety of my “hobbit hole” of solitude and have down time or nap time whichever comes first. Today, I was headed home feeling like the week of “game play” has sucked the life out of me. Still somewhat shaky emotionally from our session I hop in the black leather “hot pocket” with my music going and begin my reflection. About 20 minutes into my drive and stress of the Texas speedway I begin feeling nauseous but try to ignore it. The traffic and recent emotional upheaval becomes too much and I feel the familiar tunnel starting to close in on me. Panic ensues and the roar and number of vehicles zipping past and surrounding me has me feeling like an elephant is sitting on my chest. The sweat now profusely dripping off my nose, chin and arms combined with the ever increasing nausea and diminishing senses has me paralyzed with fear. Afraid that I might wreck or puke in my lap I search for the nearest gas station looking for a moment of solitude to try to regroup. I pull over and start crying not really knowing anything more than I’m completely overwhelmed. I don’t know how long I was there but I realize that I’m now not at the original stop but somewhere completely different in a bad area of town as I overhear loud arguing. My first thought is, “Just get me home!!” I carry a disposable ice pack for such times when grounding is needed. I reach in my bag and activate the ice pack and start crying hoping and praying that no one sees me and tries to interfere with this another horribly embarrassing moment. The brisk cold helps with the nausea and then I fade away completely again. After several minutes I realize that the ice pack is now not cold but I think I can now make it home. What just caused this? Maybe it was the heightened emotions from the week. Maybe it was something physical. Or maybe it was both.

tunnel

With my car still running I head back out onto the speedway and eventually make it home. I stagger inside still dripping with sweat and my entire wardrobe for the day soaked. I change into dry clothes and collapse on my bed completely exhausted and still shaking from the fear that I had just experienced. Was this a sign of failure or healing? I don’t know.  I suddenly remember former coaches telling me, “Pace yourself but keep going.  We have a long season in front of us.” And with that I was able to find some momentary comfort.

This week had the spice of siracha and was muy caliente in therapy. It wasn’t all graceful but I’m still standing and didn’t have to do it all alone. Compassion keeps me going and every day a shattered confidence is slowly being rebuilt.  Coach is taking away my very comfortable “maladaptive binkies” and the grieving surrounding that and further unknowns has me scared not knowing who I will be without them.

This marathon is about rediscovering who I am among other things. I didn’t get this dysfunctional over night. To undo a lifetime of lies which were my only truth in search of my authentic truth simply takes time. The work is hard and exhausting on every level. And the long ride home is sometimes where I am forced to realize just how strong I can be.

 Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at

the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

~Mary Anne Radmacher

#thispuzzledlife

Play Ball!!!!!

Play Ball!!!!!

“I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish.”
–Phil Jackson, Basketball

In my years of playing sports, I was fortunate to have many different coaches each with their own unique styles of coaching.  I never had one coach that didn’t know how to effectively motivate me.  Their styles of coaching, however, were as individual to them as I was as an athlete.  When most players “age out” of a league inevitably a coaching change would also occur.  Luckily, I was able to keep the same coach for the majority of our summer softball league through high school. Playing varsity sports, however, came with new coaches and a new level of maturity as a ball player.

Anytime a player, for whatever reason changes coaches, that event becomes a brand new period of adjustment.  You have to develop the confidence and trust in the new coach just like the new coach has to develop the confidence in you as a player.  You both go through similar phases at individual speeds.  As a player, you watch your coach to see if his/her actions are congruent with the words they speak.  You watch to see if your coach’s words are truth or just empty promises that are spoken out of convenience.  Likewise, the coach watches behaviors of their players both on and off the field. They watch to see how individually motivated you are to play and to be a “team” player depending on the sport.  They also want to see if you’re going to put forth 110% effort or just try to skate by half-assed.  They look to see if you’re loyal to the sport and your individual game.  Having an “off day” isn’t the same thing as few players perform perfectly all the time. How you recover and are motivated from an “off day” is what differentiates the good players from the great players who develop into champions.  Through these observations you both have to decide if the person before you has the potential to be a part of a winning team.  They also watch to see to what extent team unity has been developed.  This is also when the coach sees if the “team” or individual is in need of some type of remedial work sometimes starting again with simply fundamentals.

players respond

In the game of my life things are incredibly similar.  “Coach” and I have gone through an adjustment period with not all of it “fun” but necessary.  She agreed to take this player on without having much information about the extent of prior coaching and essentially with an “AS IS” label among many others.  She would use her gentle force of discipline to teach this hardheaded player HER way of playing.  First, though, she had to determine at what level of functioning this player was performing.  She determined that a previous coach a few years ago was quite damaging and was too controlling to develop the trust with this player. It damaged the player almost for good and didn’t allow for growth of anything but resentment for future coaches and the hurt and pain that wouldn’t leave anytime soon.  Despite the rough shape of her new recruit, coach has seen worth where some others have not because this coach refuses to put down a horse for having a broken heart.  She knows that what this player needs is to start back with the fundamentals which include love, compassion and above all…..TRUST.

Coach knew that this player was hurt deeply but with time, patience, consistency and a relationship lacking in judgment this player might just begin to melt and the potential that waits in the shadows might one day be achieved just like she had envisioned.  Coach also knew that this process would be a marathon not a sprint and that both parties would have to be willing to believe that the process could work.  After all, a win is still a win even if it’s not done gracefully.  The biggest statistic that this player carries in her portfolio is that 199 times she has fallen and 200 times she has gotten back up. This player couldn’t and still can’t even begin to imagine the potential but coach can and that’s all that matters, as long as, this player is coachable.

fearless player

Practice after practice and with trust building on both sides coach began to see what she had initially envisioned for this player.  This player has shown that she works hard for every play and gives her all in practice because she hungers to be a champion again despite what she has been told and the already failed expectations of others that has left her with a broken spirit.  Coach saw that this player had aggression that needed to be tamed but would never hurt her again like some previous coaches did with invalidation.  Coach knows that on the other side of this untamed aggression and with additional love and consistent discipline is an incredibly loyal champion waiting to emerge.  How does coach know this?  Because she can see that covered by a sometimes nasty shield of aggression is the heart of a champion that is currently keeping her player alive.

Today begins the ball season that this player has been practicing endlessly for even when coach hasn’t been watching.  These “opponents” who are unnamed are those “teams” that left this player for many years scared, hurting and dysfunctional despite her best efforts.  This player is finally entrusting of her coach to stand side-by-side and to play against these opponents as she has been guided and will continue to do so until victory is achieved. The battle wounds will be plentiful and falling down will inevitably happen as this is part of being an athlete. But she’s determined to win or die trying.

She is told who her first opponent will be and she begins to shake with fear.  Her coach gently reassures her that her ability is there but that she is the only one who can execute for she is the player and that is her job.  Coaches teach and guide.  Ambivalence rolls down her cheeks for fear of yet another failure and this player takes the field to lead her team, as the team captain, like she has practiced many times.  But not without turning to look back to make sure her coach is still there as promised just one more time.  Standing there is her coach in the shape of that familiar and long sought after diamond.  And once again this player has the confidence to show her trustworthy coach that she is indeed coachable.

Coach nods with one more sign of encouragement and hollers…..PLAY BALL!!!!

“Coachable people seek out those who speak truth to them, even if it is a painful truth, because it protects them and it makes them a better person and leader.”
― Gary Rohrmayer

#thispuzzledlife

Preparation Meets Opportunity

Preparation Meets Opportunity

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”

—Joe Paterno

As a athlete the one thing you always prepare for is Game Day.  Usually this means an opening tournament to kick off the season.  Nevertheless, there are those moments prior to this day that a coach cannot prepare you for.  This is time for you as an athlete to sit with yourself and to reflect on what you’ve been taught, thus far, and to prepare for the upcoming season.

My time was always spend inundating my brain with music prior to ballgames.  This was the time where I could not and would not be disturbed and with my focus becoming even clearer.  I thought about lessons I had already learned and the specifics about our upcoming opponents.  Some things were known about top players via scouting reports but there were a lot of unknowns.  What I did know, though, was that I was being coached by someone who had faith in me and my abilities regardless of my own confidence.  I also knew that I had a “team” that counted on me as much as I did on them.

The time that you take for yourself during these moments is one that might not be shared with the rest of the team and/or coaches.  You imagine yourself making plays and potential plays.  You think earnestly about what you’ve been taught about the game and more specifically “your game.”  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  And how are you as an individual player an asset to your team?

closer than i was

You reflect on how hard you’ve trained and those that have trained you.  My number one concern each year was not whether or not I had been coached effectively.  It was simply, how would I perform as a player.  The heart, guts and ability was there but when it came to “game time” how would I measure

up?  Would I give my all just to fail miserably due to opening day nerves and/or jitters?  Would I succeed but only at the level of average?

I wanted to be the best and the best was what my goal was.  In the rankings 2nd Place was first loser.  Life is not about how much fun you have playing the game.  And in life everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Life is about winning and losing.  Winning coaches don’t get fired. Top performing athletes don’t get traded.  Sorry but I just don’t buy into “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose” theory.  I was taught that winning does matter and as a athlete if that’s not your goal then why are you even trying or participating.  I do, however, understand that perfection isn’t possible even for the most talented athletes.  There are failures that occur that are also known as “lessons.”  These sometimes come with a high price but you will inevitably learn from them if you’re willing.

The last month I have been spending some much needed time preparing myself for a moment such as this.  I have looked back over the last 6 months since moving to Texas at the incredible struggles that still seem to have with no end in sight.  I have thought about lessons that I’ve already learned from “coach” and her willingness to be compassionate and consistent. I have shot looks in the direction of my demons that you give to an opposing team’s players and coaches when you pass them as they prepare for the same game.  The “stare down” is one that’s meant to size-up your opponent as well as to break them down through intimidation.  And lately, I have stared my demons in the face with a look of “soon, very soon we will meet.”

Without preparing for a season both mentally and physically the results would be less than a desirable outcome.  I’ve hoped and desperately wanted this opportunity that I’m about to have for some time now.  And honestly, even through reflection it’s difficult to imagine that I’ve finally been presented with this very opportunity.  The lessons already learned are some that have been very difficult and gut wrenching.  But now……my demons will answer to me.  Scared as I may still be to face them, I press forward in the battle for my life.  And with any “luck” I might just succeed.  Some say winning is about luck.  But I say that it’s about “Preparation Meets Opportunity.”

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

– Derek Jeter

#thispuzzledlife

The Healing Power of Strangers

The Healing Power of Strangers

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
― Rumi

Today was therapy day which was the first session since our big internal revelation about functioning as a team.  After some formalities in conversation we start our work with the our internal group all in one place.  Our protector stands at the plate with a serious, yet also playful, tone as the one who would take direction for the group.  Her blazing stare along with those of her “posse” is enough to cause hesitation and chills with many.  She stares at all members with an almost, “I dare you to step out of line” gaze.  “Coach” then directs her to address those most ostracized. She reluctantly begins to speak to these nicely as she’s told.  When asked what she thought she responds with, “those words tasted like vinegar rolling of my lips.”  The therapeutic point was eventually made, understood and internalize later in the session. And yes, we are still chewing on all of that.

The topics that I despise the most is food, eating and body image soon became the topic of conversation.  The correlations between this struggle and particular traumas were addressed.  And then came the topic about a specific food that I can almost never turn down….SUSHI!!!!!  The is an internally approved food but one in particular like to eat sushi like it’s the only “life force” for survival.  The protector is explained to about the importance of not being so rigid with food choices and abusive comments.  And of course when even internal children are around they pick up on things said by “coach” too.  The kids start shouting with excitement, “Chicken nuggets and ketchup packets…HOORAY!”  Then statements spoken are, “Can we have sushi tonight? Please!!!”  Rolling her eyes she sternly but calmly says, “No.”

We get our assignment for the coming week and I tell “coach” goodbye until next time.  I leave there nervous about the teen’s distaste and controlling nature about eating.  And our little natives were definitely restless.  Over and over I would hear, “Please let me have some sushi!!”  “Yea and chicken nuggets and candy too!!!!  And Ketchup!!!”  I knew that she wouldn’t tolerate much more but the  chants would not stop.  She tries to stay restrained but frustration leads to her snapping at those chanting, “Stop it!  Just stop it!  I said No!”  The children always seem to be protected from the majority of her abuse and they certainly know this.  A certain little 7 year-old says, “Coach says for you to not be an asshole.  And you’re being an asshole. I’m going to tell her!”  This, thankfully, seems to be the only bad word that he says but he can definitely use it liberally at times.  She huffs and puffs like she’s about to blow the house down and says through gritted teeth, “Fine go get some sushi then!”  Cheers ring out while she grumbles.

change your thoughts

We FINALLY settle on a place for the beloved sushi and make a B-Line for the restaurant.  Once there I have a couple of tokes of my medicine with the hope that I can head off the already rising anxiety.  I soon start to relax and get out of the car to watch the sushi piece-by-piece going to meet its maker.  I quickly notice different people in the restaurant and hope that no one can seem me.  Luckily, everyone’s attention seems to be on their own meal or conversation and they don’t notice me.  I fix my plate and then sit down at my table.  I start indulging in this little momentary slice of heaven.  Even when eating completely alone in my room I will start rocking while eating.  This doesn’t change when I’m in public.  It seems to ease the pain of the entire event.  I eat a couple of pieces and then the paranoia and anxiety explode with the thoughts, “This is bad!  This is bad!”  I put on my iPod to try to drown out the loud thoughts while continuing to rock.  I look at my plate scared to eat another piece.  My hands start shaking and I feel like I’m about to throw up.  I look at my plate again and think, “But sushi is an approved food what’s the problem?”  I realize the chaos is not from the protector but is coming from the one he married.  She feels the weight and the stabs of his words, “Look at yourself.  You eat like you’re in prison!  Everyone is watching you.  You disgust me!”

About 15 minutes has now gone by and the whole mood has now changed.  And then…..we make eye contact with another patron.  “Go! You’ve got to leave now because they just saw you”, I hear.  I quickly get up and try to exit the restaurant as quickly and as inconspicuous as possible. I go to pay for my meal and notice a bald woman, at the register,  who was obviously taking cancer treatments.  I’m thinking, “Ok just please hurry.”  I make small talk when it’s my turn to pay about how good the sushi was trying not to convey the difficulties of my recent struggle.  The employee says, “Oh you like sushi?  Sushi good for you.  You not here long.”  I say, “Yea, I’m kind of on a tight schedule.”  All I want is to be out that front door and away from food.

I start walking to my car when the bald woman whom I’ve never met says, “I can tell you struggle with being here.”  I try to blow it off and give a short answer so that I can move on.  “Yea I struggle with being in public and eating issues”, I tell her.  I keep walking to my target and she continues to follow closely beside me.  I keep thinking, “Please don’t say anything intrusive lady.  She is NOT in the mood.”  The lady boldly says, “Honey can I pray for you?”  Sirens go off internally by much more fierce protectors.  “No religion!  No religion!”  I freeze. I start looking for particles of fairy dust in the area and thinking, “Damn I must’ve overpaid her today or something.  How is this happening?”  I oblige her by saying, “Yes, please do.”  She prays specifically for my eating disorder issues and for some reason I know she means no harm.

I relax my guard a bit and we begin to talk briefly.  I find out that she moved to Texas from New York to take part in her own healing not related to the cancer.  After only a couple of minutes she says, “Honey, you’ve got to change to speaking healing in your words.”  Ok….I start looking around for “coach” thinking she has me on hidden camera.  Does this woman have a earpiece where “coach”  is telling her to say these things?  The whole moment seems surreal but comforting.  I told her, “You know I’ve been told those same things recently.”  She says, “No truer words.  You might want to listen.” I tell her goodbye and thank her again for her kindness.  I have no idea what her name was but something powerful had again happened at a time when I needed it.

I sit in my car for a few minutes trying to decipher everything that had just happened.  Why? I wonder.  She was a total stranger.  Why does she even care?  I get home a few minutes later with my fortune cookie still intact.  I always love to read my fortune even if it says, “Your ship will come in before your dock rots.”  This time I open the cookie up to have this written on the slip of paper, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.”  Wow…just…wow.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

—Aesop

#thispuzzledlife

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

“One single word – like EMERGENCY, or love – can

revise a whole night. A whole life.”    

 Alena Graedon

Several months ago I wrote a blog titled No Thanks Needed.  This was one call that I worked while in the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) field.  Let’s face it, no one calls for an ambulance or seeks out any helping professional because things are going great in their lives.  Likewise, I didn’t seek out counseling because functionality was my No. 1 attribute.  I began seeking counseling because I was being tormented though it was not voiced at the time.

The title of this post “10-4 Control We’re 10-8” I have said hundreds of times while working on the ambulance.  It simply means, “Yes we are enroute.”  I’m sure this varies from service to service depending on the differences in 10 codes and signal numbers nationwide but you get the general idea.  There is no possible way to do justice through words what working in this type of job carries physically, mentally, spiritually and just about any other area of a human being’s existence.

As a teenager, I had my heart set on being a police officer.  Then I determined that since I loved doing drugs that being a police officer was probably not the best option.  However,  I had the need and want to be in some type of helping profession.  At a young 20 years of age the thought of going to school 6 years for a counseling degree was nowhere near the table.  Finding out that I could go to EMT school for 6 months, however, was.  I was beyond excited and totally immersed myself in my studies and training.  My husband wasn’t real excited because the pay was extremely low in that career.  But for me there was a higher calling, the want and need to help people.

emt prayer

I studied myself silly those 6 months and learned everything I possibly could about this exciting field that I saw myself loving naturally.  We were told about different types of scenes that would be a high likelihood that we would encounter. However, nothing could ever prepare me for the things that I would actually see and experience.  In my personal life, though, the grasp of the evil hands of abuse seemed to become tighter and tighter.  He pretended to support my career decision but that’s all that it was….PRETEND.

In February 1997,  fresh out of EMT school and newly married I got my first truck assignment making a meager $4.95/hr with the local ambulance service.  I worked for an ALS (Advanced Life Support Service) which required that a paramedic to also be on the truck.  This meant that the drugs given and additional skills that would be required were higher than my scope of practice.  Some of these skills would include intubation, cardiac monitoring, starting IV’s, giving narcotics and various other skills that I as an EMT-Basic could not legally do.

Performing as an athlete required split second decisions but now it was not about winning ballgames it was about someone’s life.  Mistakes now had a much higher price tag.  The one thing I always tried to be as an EMT was humble.  There were those that had a very narcissistic view of their position and thought of themselves as a god.  This was not a stance of mere confidence but a stance that nauseated me to my core.  Most of the time I would see this in paramedics which we would then refer to them as “Paragods.”  Working alongside confidence rather than blatant narcissism was where you could really learn and working with confident paramedics I did learn.

We were taught in school about the importance of “self-care” while in this career that would be crucial to making it past the national burnout rate which, at that time, was only 5 years.  Included in the self-care education was the importance of EAP counseling after a bad call or mass casualty.  The daily stress of the job and the ongoing abuse at home ensured that I would never come close to that 5 year mark.  There are laws now that regulate the amount of hours that a crew can work without downtime but then apparently there weren’t. It was nothing to have to work 24, 36 or a 48 hour shift with very minimal sleep and/or food.  We were commonly called “Trauma Junkies” because it seemed the more horrific the scene the better as bad as that might sound.

trauma junkie

There were several “bad calls” that I experienced but only a couple where afterwards I went to a supervisor to request EAP services just like what was suggested.  What I was met with was the attitude of “if you can’t handle your job then you might need to consider another career.”  Not only that but then you have to face being ostracized by not only management but also the other medics in the company and seen as “less than” or “weak.”  So, really the only option was to “suck it up” and somehow separate mentally from the daily harsh reality of life.

Anyone who has ever worked in some form of EMS services understands that as a means of survival the job requires that emotions be put to the side and you function purely on logic.  But suppressing these emotions does not mean that emotions were not affected.  In this kind of career there is a lot of maladaptive behaviors that take to the forefront namely drug/alcohol addiction and a high rate of suicide.  Not surprising but nevertheless a reality.  I saw things and was involved in situations that the human brain has difficulty processing and accepting.

My husband’s opinion and others that I’ve spoken with at times posed the statement, “Well you chose the career” or “You have the easiest job on the planet.  All you do is sit on your ass in an air conditioned truck.”  Easiest job on the planet couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  It was one of the most dangerous and taxing jobs that one could possibly encounter.  The downtime that we would have sitting in the truck “posting” at a location was only due to other trucks being on calls and us covering their area.

I have always replied, “Well then who else was going to do the job?  You?”  That was always met with silence.

My husband, at the time, was a newspaper editor and well he didn’t and still doesn’t have a clue what that type of job entails.  I told him more than once, “If you can work on someone’s mother, father, grandmother, child or grandchild for them to still die even after your best efforts and then go home and lay your head on the pillow and sleep soundly doing this day in and day out then you’re not human. You’re a machine.”  The ability to function like this day in and day out requires a certain degree of callousness.  But make no mistake that those calls bothered me then and now.

walk a mile in our boots

For the last 21 years, I have run some of those same calls all day and all night like my career never ended.  The putrid smells of rotting flesh from week old dead bodies that had to be taken to the morgue I can again smell at random times throughout the day.  The smells of blood, fuel and mud/dirt from car wrecks.  The screams of mothers who I had to tell that their child was dead or wouldn’t survive due to the severity of their injuries.  The horrible images of abuse and/or neglect of children, adults and the elderly.  The smell and site of exposed brain matter from head injuries, suicides and or murders.  The individuals that died simply because you couldn’t get them out of the vehicle because the jaws of life were being used elsewhere and subsequently the vehicle caught fire and were burned alive.  The children that would look at you and ask, “Are you going to help my momma or daddy?” While knowing full well that their parent was already dead.  The decapitations that looked and felt like you were in a real live horror film. And the leftover pieces of meat that don’t even resemble a human body after being hit by a train consume my thoughts and emotions when most people lay down for a night’s rest.  It’s at these times, once again, that my shift starts on the once beloved career working on an ambulance.  I didn’t work several years.  I only worked one year on the ambulance until the abuse  at home combined with the daily trauma that I was exposed in this career caused me to buckle.  I saw enough in that one year to still have me waking up in the mornings with my face and shirt wet with sweat.

Without fail whenever I see or hear those lights and sirens, I instantly want to run and jump on the truck and ask, “Ok. What kind of call are we going to?”  Sometimes I’ll still listen to a local scanner to find out what’s going on throughout the city especially on a weekend.  I will also hear those very same words, “10-4 control we’re 10-8” and then the crew is given the next location for an additional call. It’s in those moments that I realize that EMS and the need and want to help people will always be a part of me.  And at night I realize that EMS is still a part of me.

One of the most powerful lessons that was taught to me through experience of working in EMS is to tell those that you care about that you love them even strangers because you might be the only one that speaks those words.  The last words you say might very well be the last words that are said.

“The most basic job of an EMT is to notice things and then wonder about them.”

–Thom Dick

#thispuzzledlife

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

“The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.”
― Rob Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape

Recently I was asked to write about how it’s been the last three years since my dear Sarah’s death.   The last month has been one of many struggles personally and internally with ‘coach’ doing her best to bust open the rusty chest.  I usually seem to resist in my own way by attempting to appear much stronger than I actually am.  But then on the hot car ride, more like a convection oven on wheels with no air conditioning in the hot Texas sun,  to whatever residence I’m currently occupying are the awaiting late nights and very lonely tears in whatever solitude I might find.

The one thing I am coming to understand that no matter how much you consciously or unconsciously try to either force progress or resistance, the moment only seems to reveal itself when it’s time.  Mind you this is not a conscious resistance but more one of years of conditioning.  This has often led to much frustration on my part behind a curtain of smiles and laughter.  Nevertheless, I have been wanting and wishing for this much needed painful moment like “Lasterday” as our 6 year-old says.

With the struggles and seemingly endless supply of frustrations of everyday life something either good or bad was bound to happen.  Knowing and subsequently feeling the almost familiar impending doom of something unidentifiably, uncomfortable and scary about to reveal itself, all I could do was wait for whatever it was that was about to happen.  Usually, these feelings come with some form of outwardly aggressive behaviors that lead to some unpleasant event.  However, the moment that I had been wanting and needing the last 3.5 years would finally reveal itself.

I’m not actually sure why this particular time was the right time for this level of grief but nevertheless it would happen.  I’m usually pretty damn good at covering up a lot of painful feelings through my humor but Texas struggles seem to be the site of more and more private tears.  Maybe it’s just part of the process but “coach” has been gentle and we have trusted and allowed her guidance. The total mental exhaustion sometimes doesn’t leave much energy for writing.  And in these times solitude and rest seem to be about the only event in which I can muster any energy.

half heart

The struggles of living in an internal world that most can’t comprehend and an outer world that I don’t fit in bares a very heavy weight on both my mind and my heart.  And particularly when I feel like I’m trying to move through life with shoes made of concrete are the times when I want to quickly pick up the phone and call Sarah for her guidance and reassurance.  The reality of the loneliness and emptiness of every such situation the last 3.5 years since her death only brings about tears with little to laugh about when I selfishly need her right then.  And the emptiness seems not able to be filled by anyone but her still at this time.  I have searched but diamonds like that are not easily found.

These past few weeks have brought the feelings of loneliness, abandonment and grief that I buried back in February 2015 and has been recently staring me in the face.  Only when I didn’t avoid the eye contact with my demon did the finality and the pain of her death bring me to my knees in anguish.  My eyes swollen many mornings from several long nights of stinging tears made me look like I had taken a beating from a prized fighter.  It wasn’t until I was reading a former blog post called Passing The Torch that I realized that one possible contributing factor was that her approaching birthday of July 11th was drawing near.  This just seemed to make the grief that much more painful.  I knew that I had been missing her but her birthday just seemed to creep up on me like a dark figure until there was no escape from the shadowed figure.  I didn’t want anyone else’s comfort.  I wanted HER and ONLY HER.  The only way I was able to explain how it felt was like it was the day of her death and my heart was hemorrhaging.  I just hurt all over.

A most well voiced lady one day wrote and spoke about death so eloquently.  Dr. Maya Angelou, describes this feeling perfectly…..

When I Think Of Death

When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with

alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day

will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this

valley of strange humors.

I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to

accept the death of anyone else.

I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that

country of no return.

Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in

its wake.

I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting?

‘ with ‘ it is here in my heart and mind and memories.’

—-Maya Angelou

Very simply put I have been lost since the day Sarah took her last breath.  I was fortunate to have been in the room when she did that very thing.  She and I both made a promise that we would be in each other’s lives until the very end.  I, honestly, never thought that it would be so soon but I was blessed to have seen and been a part of many different areas and roles of her life.  My life was blessed, as well as, 1000’s of other people mainly other addicts and alcoholics that she chose to plant the initial seed of recovery in some way into their lives.  And to have she and her husband Doug at my undergraduate college graduation several years back was a day that I couldn’t stop smiling.  I look forward to joining her, at some point, once again in an effort to make part of my heart whole again.  For 15 years, I was blessed to have a beautiful, authentic and loving creature touch mine in a way that I will respectfully always call her my “Chosen Mom.”  Because the day she died was the day that half of my heart also got wings.

#thispuzzledlife

The 1-2 Punch

The 1-2 Punch

“Grief is perhaps an unknown territory for you.  You might feel

both helpless and hopeless without a sense of a ‘map’ for

the journey.  Confusion is the hallmark of a transition.

To rebuild both your inner and outer world is a major project.”

–Anne Grant

Another sleepless night and I’ll just call I….grief and shame.  It comes with no instruction manual or statute of limitation.  To me it’s one of our body and mind’s deepest and purest emotions.  Grief is one of these emotions that float around in our psyche waiting for its “perfect” time to be exposed.  Its perfect timing usually does not equate to our perfect timing.  Some of us prefer to grieve in private to hide whatever shame we’ve been intentionally or unintentionally exposed to about the process.  No matter how heavy or light the grieving is on a more intimate level we would usually prefer to have someone close by for support.

My personal grieving process is one that’s very confusing and shame based. While still living at home with my parents prior to my relationship with my ex-husband, grieving was considered a natural part of life.  Emotions were acknowledged and processed usually around the dinner table.  At the hands of an abusive teacher at age 13, was the first time I very distinctly remember being shamed for my tears.  Tears were no longer seen as an emotion but rather as a weakness.  The lesson learned from this experience was “Ignore the emotion. Hide the tears.  The abuse won’t stop but it shouldn’t get worse.”

trauma

Tried and true this method worked for this moment and many more years.  I had no idea where powerful emotions other than anger went.  They just seemed to dissipate as quickly as when they appeared.  The grief has been out of sight from the naked eye.  Though it was only buried and not gone.

Grieving around my ex-husband was never acceptable as you can imagine.  His grief no matter how minute seemed to always be justified.  My tears led to comments about being “childish and embarrassing” for him especially when in public.  At home behind the dread closed doors, I was still called “childish” and “stupid.” I was also made fun of, laughed at and “taught a lesson about being an adult” by way of some sexual encounter.  I very quickly learned how to also control those emotions with a shovel and dirt.  So where do the emotions go?  They are buried deep in the ground where your heart rests.   They are festering sometimes for years one on top of another.  Eventually maybe sooner rather than later a foreign substance or maladaptive behavior comes along that seems to provide some type of pseudo-catharsis.  It presents itself as the dependable one who will always be loyal and non-judgmental and a best friend  We buy into the rationalizations only to have the name ADDICTION tattooed on our foreheads like a scarlet letter.  The substance and/or behavior soon becomes the “best friend” that will cut out throats leaving only a trail of destruction to show the quality of the relationship.  This “stuffing” of emotions is in no way exclusive to grief.

Shame

Three years after the death of Sarah and I sit here quietly in the wee hours of the morning, in my bed facing this very emotion.  A heavy heart and a lump in my throat that seems to be limiting my air flow is the result of this incredibly painful memory.  From the time we were notified that she was terminally ill until she passed away from approximately 1.5 weeks.  I felt as though I had no time for grieving because I had promised to do the difficult job of being with her until the very end.  Out of respect, I felt that I needed a safer time and place to deal with this.  However, tears just seemed to continue to fall despite the fact that I could not feel any emotion.  I vowed to process this the minute I got back to Albuquerque.

Once I was able to line up another therapy session the weight of Sarah’s death and the miscarriage of Copeland’s twin got the best of me and I began sobbing like a child.  I was being so vulnerable and raw with my emotions for the first time since the horrible days of not being allowed to grieve around my husband.  I just needed to be able to cry as an adult child and parent for these heavy losses.  I hungered for something as simple as compassion.  This day and time “compassion” would be the illusive fugitive.  The response I received from this “trusted” professional was, “Dana give me a break.  She wasn’t your real mom and that wasn’t a real baby.”  All I could do was freeze and try not to vomit.  It was like another 1-2 punch experienced many times previously but all in their own unique fashion.  I became numb and have no further recollection of the remaining time in session.

inner children

In the years since this happened any time emotions about the loss of Sarah make it to my throat but rarely do they leave my eyes. The shame for grieving even with so-called “safe” people now felt “unsafe.”  This incident alone has made for some difficult therapeutic baggage.  I don’t know how to put what happened into words but betrayal is how it felt then and now.  Being able to address this topic with professionals on a level deeper than just superficial has been nearly impossible because of one thing…FEAR.

Luckily after this incident our trusted couple’s therapist of 6 years, at the time, was patiently awaiting the return with open arms as we come back licking our wounds.  Unfortunately though the damage had already been done.  The same actions by my former perpetrators had now rolled out of the mouth of my therapist.  When I finally met “coach” in nothing less than a flamboyant display of behavior my distrust and subsequent hatred for professionals of any kind was very evident.

I’ve always said that compassion is my kryptonite.  “Coach” hasn’t let me down in this area.  It’s been a very slow process to learn to trust the right kind of “safe” people.  As the boiling lava of grief surrounding the loss of Sarah and our unborn child continues to fester, I still find myself going into the closet in my bedroom to cry so that no one else in the house can hear me.  The few times I actually do shed tears around others is simply because I consider them my very closest.  As I continue to deal with the shame of showing intimate emotions I also realize that I’m working with someone who would never treat me like that.  With all the complexity of untangling some very painful areas of my past, I must admit that I can leave that for someone other than me.  When I met “coach” someone in the same professional position had planted a seed about the possibility that it could happen again.  The pain of it slowed me down but again compassion is winning out. And slowly but surely my tears are finding their way out of my eyes again.

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

–Dr. Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

The Magnitude Of Waves

The Magnitude of Waves

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation

with the bricks others have thrown at him”

– David Brinkley

My life in the last few years has become one of seclusion.  Not total seclusion at this particular time but if that became a necessity again it would be a very easy transition.  My brain already chaotic with chatter and confusion makes the simplest of tasks, in public and private, incredibly difficult.  Isolation is something that I struggle with as it is a comfort zone for me and my quirkiness.

We as a human species require some form of human interaction.  This also explains why so many inmates that are placed in segregation for periods of time begin to decompensate and seem to start to atrophy mentally almost immediately.  And although having only limited resources within a controlled prison environment inmates will become creatively destructive just to pass the time in order to fight an internal collapse.  And there are others who become creative in a way to establish their own form of “hustle” in order to survive in these institutions.

I’ve been asked several times by different people, “What do you do in there all day?”  I have, in a sense, simplified (which is  sometimes debatable) my life by leaning on the things I enjoy such as:  listening and singing copious amounts of music; watching documentaries and reality shows; spend hours of researching different topics; reading scholarly journal articles; working on the inevitable therapeutic assignments; and writing so that my story and truth can finally be told.  I also spend a lot of time locked away in a sometimes dangerous playground….the one between my ears.  I, like other inmates of society, have a lot of time to think about my past, present and uncertain future for hours on end.  I also get to know more every day about the inner workings of internal “teammates.”

waves

In the wake of therapeutic activities guided by “coach” and the recent  agreement of a very reluctant teen to be more compassionate with other members others are finally being heard.   The issues of not being heard by others both internally and externally seems to be the general consensus throughout my system for many years.  While these “parts” of me feel separate they are still all a part of me.  Does this mean that I also have not been willing to listen to my parts who are still suffering?  Am I also negating my own thoughts and feelings that were convincingly told to me that they were wrong no matter what?  Maybe this is, in fact, a harsh reality that has been brought into the “tough love” of realization.

After lessons recently learned in therapy, I have been trying to listen intently to how each alter is doing in all facets of existence.  I always knew that the crippling waves of just about any feelings were connected to these warriors.  Deciphering who they belong to has been challenging to say the least.  The very loud and vocal ones are not that difficult to distinguish certain connections.  The ones who have been silenced seldom divulge the truth for fear of retaliation internally and externally then and now.

When it came her turn to speak this young bride with a steady stream of tears and visible anxiety begins to reveal her feelings not HIS.  And soon the pressure could not be withheld and the levees were breached.  The level of grief and torment I realized I never knew existed within her.  Grieving was incredibly dangerous to acknowledge around him.  The insults, ridicule and humiliation for her true feelings had to be buried to survive.  But that’s all they were…buried not eradicated.  Years of sitting in an ever expanding vat of deadly emotion being forced into submission was now boiling like hot lava.  Waves of heavy, depressive emotion crawl into my guts and soul like the waves from the ocean from a very angry Hurricane Katrina.  They make their way onto the land ripping precious items back out to the sea despite internal resistance.  And like the destruction of these powerful forces of nature after the waves subside, you never see specifically the precious items of “self” that are missing.  All you see is the destruction that  of the  once vile ways that humans can treat others and leave them for dead.

I look over to the still rebellious but somewhat compliant teen just to notice her reaction.  Her scowls, growling and ever growing distaste for the situation was evident.  I look at her with some slight form of confidence and fear to say, “Coach gave you direction for what you need to do.  And now I WILL tell and not keep it secret.”  I look back at the young bride and the first time with true compassion I tell her, “It’s time that you’re finally heard.  Coach is anxiously awaiting your story.  Use your voice.  Don’t fear her.  Help is here.”  She being one with eating and body image issues I thought I would again try to lighten the mood.  I tell her, “Don’t fear the tears because you’re losing water weight when you cry.”  The destruction has been left but the rebuilding has started.

#thispuzzledlife

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success,

it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure,

and the temporary failures.”

–Vince Lombardi

Memorial Day is the day of the year where we celebrate and recognize the ultimate sacrifice given by those who served our country.  It’s not about the barbeques or all day swimming with friends and family.  The tumultuous times regarding the leadership and safety of our country is not only seen on major news channels but also witnessed within our own living rooms.  Our troops returning home have sacrificed the life of daily freedoms and modern conveniences to go fight to protect our freedoms.  Often times, though, when they return the true meaning and consequences of fighting a war now have redirected their once simple way of living by way of PTSD and all the complications that go along with it.

As I attempt to live this life with my own issues, I am often met by complete strangers who see my medical alert dog tag identifying PTSD as my condition.  They soon notice and sometimes question the many scars on my forearms.  They ask, “Were you in the military?  Did you go to fight the war?”  My response is always, “Ma’am/sir I didn’t fight or serve for our country.  But fighting a war I have done since I was a young child.”  It is at this point that the questions usually cease and their own uncomfortability surfaces not knowing what to say next.  And well….I usually let them marinate in their own thoughts without explanation.

epcot family

Today marks mine and Mel’s 11 year anniversary.  We don’t count our “legal” anniversary because well that was controlled by the laws of the land prior to that date.  Our marriage and family life has been one of sacrifice both individually and collectively since day one.  We have sacrificed relationships with both friends and family as a result of our love for one another.  And we have also sacrificed many parts (no pun intended) of our relationship as a direct result of my own personal traumas and the scars and open sores which they have left.

And yet again we find ourselves continuing to sacrifice our family cohesiveness and my time away from our children all in the hopes for better days ahead.  I can write clear headed for now and these are the times where I can see the importance of that sacrifice.  There are days recently where I’m blinded by the tragedy of those traumas and living life is not a priority in any fashion.  Sometimes, though, I seem to get sucked down into the ditch of a previous life when the only option was to survive or die.  The images of abusive memories soon become those not of the past but of the present.

Mel patiently and very lovingly makes sure the kids are taken care of and are safe and have some form of normalcy for them all.  The tears she silently cries I don’t know about now.  I’ve seen enough of her tears for me, our children and our family unit to last me the rest of my life.  She and the kids continue to heal their own wounds while I search for answers of my own.  She loves me but knows that this walk I’m on has come to a point where I have to do it without them.  The continuation of hope for a day when I will have been able to shed some of these layers of hurt and pain and to function as a happy and healthy member of our family seems to be in the back of her mind at all times.

There was no possible way for us to envision the what the term “sacrifice” would entail.  She and I both continue to watch and be a part of daily struggles regarding attachment, trust and bonding even with the most compassionate people. My absence for birthdays, kindergarten graduations and just daily life as a family can never be gotten back.  However, the days of being genuinely happy to be alive and to one day be able to be “fully present” for future events is all the justification we need to know that the right decision was made for me to move here to do this work.

The transition has been one that has not been easy in any sense of the word.  I brought therapy baggage that has complicated things in ways that I thought would be easy to ignore and work through.  What I’ve found is that that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is also when the words spoken by trusted coaches ring very loudly in my heart and soul which say, “Keep swinging the bat.  Keep shooting the ball because no athlete plays perfectly all the time.  And it’s these times when you have to keep going and try, try again until you achieve the results you want. It’s about hard work and never giving up.”

Happy Anniversary, Mel!!!

#thispuzzledlife

Soul Murder

Soul Murder

“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.” 
― 
Louise O’NeillAsking For It

I have written and spoken several times about my life and domestic violence.  Under the umbrella of domestic violence are several forms such as:  physical abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse; economic deprivation; endangerment; criminal coercion; kidnapping; unlawful imprisonment; trespassing; harassment and sexual abuse.  I knew that several years after leaving him that something about our sex life continued to haunt me.  I didn’t know what it was called but I always knew what it felt like….SOUL MURDER.

In the conservative deep south, I was brought up like many children to “save yourself for your husband.”  This was not a tall order for me as sports was my number one priority.  I would meet him at the age of 17 which was 19 years his junior.  Naivety led me right into the cold awaiting arms of a predator disguised as “Prince Charming.”  He used the one promise that he knew I couldn’t refuse to set the hook and reel me in “I will help you find your birth family.”  Rolling off his silver tongue of manipulation would be the promises of a future with a man who would “treat me like his queen.”  But like most things that seem too good to be true his promises would turn out to be lies.

I guess what made this so confusing was that I NEVER saw my dad treat my mom with disrespect.  I was questioning the whole time, “This is what I saved myself for?”  He was my first and the guy that finally trusted in such an intimate fashion only to have that trust betrayed in a way that is still too difficult to handle emotionally.  I secretly wondered why I was never told about this side of marriage.  The truth despite his “brainwashing” justifications for his actions was that no this was not normal and healthy marriages do NOT consist of this type of dominating behavior.

soulmurder.jpg

Many years later while looking for answers regarding the strange, threatening and coercive nature especially with the passages of the Bible about how a “woman is to submit to her husband,” I came across the term Marital Rape and I knew instantly that this was what had happened.  The term marital rape describes “any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse that is committed without the other person’s consent. Such illegal sexual activity are done using force, threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. The sexual acts include intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behavior with other individuals, and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted. It is also known as spousal rape” (https://definitions.uslegal.com/m/marital-rape/, 2018).

I personally have not been able to make sense of such an intimate form of betrayal.  This type of violence destroys you from the inside out.  Remembering how scared I was as a young child when the first time I was introduced to sexual abuse the rules of these types of scenarios were still very clear.  The easiest and least painful way to get through the moment was to give in to their demands.  If you try to fight them the abuse gets worse.  If you don’t “perform” for them the abuse gets worse.  And as I was told many times, “What are YOU going to tell them Dana?  You’re the “head case” with the mental history, not me.”  The puppet master continued to pull the strings to make sure that his needs and only his needs were met.

leftovers

Even as I write this the nausea bubbling like a pot on a stove builds its way to the back of my throat as I think about and remember the vile ways that I was treated as property rather than as a human being. I was not a wife but rather a legal whore.  Being told what I was going to do for him and then berated with humiliating and very damaging body image comments afterwards just seems to further rake into your soul with the devil’s claw.  Consensual loving sex is not…

  • Forced sex. This should be obvious. But some men have the mistaken idea that marriage changes the rules. It doesn’t. If a husband holds his wife down, pushes her, or imposes sex by hurting her, it’s rape. Making love doesn’t include making someone cry.
  • Sex when the wife feels threatened. If a husband forces sex through verbal threats of harm to the woman or to people or things she cares about or if he comes to her in a barely contained rage, she can’t consent. She can only comply rather than risk being harmed either physically or emotionally.
  • Sex by manipulation. If a husband calls his wife names, accuses her of not being a good wife, or blackmails her emotionally by suggesting she’s so bad in bed that he will go elsewhere, he’s manipulating her. Some men even threaten to leave and take the kids with him if their wives don’t comply with demands for sex. When a wife falls for these tactics, it isn’t consent. It’s rape.
  • Sex when the wife can’t give consent. Loving sex is genuinely consensual. If a woman is drugged, asleep, intoxicated or unconscious, she obviously can’t give consent. Even if she says “yes” in such circumstances, the “consent” isn’t valid or truthful. She’s in no shape to consider the consequences or to participate as a willing partner.
  • Sex by taking a woman hostage. Some men keep themselves in a position of superiority by controlling all the money, by making contact with friends and family difficult to impossible, or by making sure there is no way for her to get transportation out of the house. The woman becomes a hostage in her own home. Like many hostages, she gives up and gives in to whatever he wants — including sex.
  • Sex when the woman feels she has no choice. Giving in isn’t the same as giving consent. When a woman feels that it’s just easier to give in to sex than to respect her own needs, she is being raped (https://psychcentral.com/lib/marital-rape/, 2016).

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SUCH BEHAVIORS INCLUDE:

  • Short-term psychological effects include PTSD, anxiety, shock, intense fear, depression and suicidal ideation.
  • Long-term psychological effects include disordered sleeping, disordered eating, depression, intimacy problems, negative self-images, and sexual dysfunction (https://vawnet.org/material/marital-rape-new-research-and-directions, 2018).

COMMON WAYS THAT ABUSERS AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT

  • Denial: Acting as if nothing out of the ordinary happened, boldly stating that it didn’t happen, calling you crazy for saying that it did, saying he doesn’t remember.
  • Rationalization: “You must have wanted it” “You could have stopped me,” “A husband is entitled to it”; Rationalization is also blaming you: ” If you gave me more sex I wouldn’t have to force you”
  • Minimization: I didn’t really hurt you” “You’re making a fuss about nothing” “I just wanted to make love to you.”
  • Claiming Loss of Control: “I was too turned on to stop”, “You make me so angry” (https://pandys.org/articles/partnerrapeoverview.html, 2009).

To say that I’ve lacked a fulfilling intimate sex life would be the understatement of my life.  The level of fear that I experience even with the most supportive relationship cannot accurately be described with words.  Whether it be child alters, teen alters or adult alters who step in to try and make this very part of my life possible, it always becomes a disaster.  Oh and the mood gets squashed when you think, “Finally, I can do this!” But, yet, you find yourself running from the bedroom straight to the bathroom to vomit.

What I can say about this type of abuse over many years is this….

He not only raped my body, he also raped my mind and murdered my soul.  I was very fortunate to meet someone like Mel who is one of the most caring, understanding and compassionate people I know.  Our relationship has always been based on love and not sex.  I married someone who loves me for the shattered and leftover parts of someone who use to be a fully functioning human being.  It took me loving and bowing down to a monster to be able to recognize an angel.  She and I walk hand-in-hand often with tears in both of our eyes trying to find a way through all the destruction.  She didn’t ask to be married to a spouse with so many complex problems both physically and mentally.  She does it because she loves me.  Would I go through it all again just to have her?  I go through it every day.  The abuse has never stopped.

“Here, from her ashes you lay. A broken girl so lost in despondency that you know that even if she does find her way out of this labyrinth in hell, that she will never see, feel, taste, or touch life the same again.”
― 
Amanda SteeleThe Cliff

#thispuzzledlife

My Own Prison

My Own Prison

“To be able to break free from prison, one must know how they became imprisoned to begin with.”

—Anonymous

One of the things I’ve learned through the process of trying to live with this disorder are “triggers.”  Triggers are anything that can set off a memory that can take someone back in time to when the original trauma.  It’s like being in an instant time machine.  A trigger can be anything related to sight, sound, smell or taste.  These seemingly innocent moments to most people can set off internal and external eruptions in others.  This can often lead to strong and immediate reactions by those they affect.

I don’t have all of the answers about these little disruptive beasts yet.  And no matter how much I want all of the answers immediately I have to always keep in mind that it has taken me 42 years to become this dysfunctional and repair work does not happen overnight.  I guess to be cliché this process is “a marathon not a sprint.”

The ultimate goal of therapy is to be able to acknowledge these events but not let them overtake you.  Before this can happen specific triggers must first be identified and the event can be processed.  Recently, I did a therapeutic assignment related to this very thing.  One of my personal and very strong triggers is the feelings of being trapped either physically and/or emotionally.  This is one of the biggest reasons why I don’t have much success in lockdown psychiatric units and inpatient programs.  My ultimate goal is ALWAYS TO GET OUT!

confinement

While doing this assignment I looked specifically at individual traumatic situations where these fears were imposed and I was instantly blown away.  I had no idea how “trapped” I have felt the majority of my life.  When I began breaking down the different time periods for these situations things have begun to make a little more sense.  I felt myself becoming nauseous and beginning to float away while looking deep inside for these answers.  Here are just a few that were identified.

  1. Being molested by people older, at the young age of 5 years old, and not feeling powerful enough to make it stop while also holding these secrets left me feeling trapped.  These abusers were also our neighbors and were always around me because of how close our two families were even at church.
  2. As a teenager, I was trapped as some sick form of sport and/or punishment in a closet where I was verbally abused, humiliated and tormented on a daily basis.  I was like a dog that was chained to a tree and forced into aggression.  I was often sent to the office to face false accusations by the administration where no verdict other than GUILTY was ever considered.  I always felt as though no one would listen and that no one cared what was happening.  The times I reported that this teacher was “being mean” ultimately got back to her and the abuse intensified.  I was often belittled and embarrassed in front of my classmates.  The reality of that situation was that there was no way out….period.  That was the first time that I ever had any type of suicidal feelings of any kind.  Her words still burn deeply as the day that were first said.
  3. Anyone who has experienced domestic violence, in any form, knows the fear and panic of wanting and needing to leave but terrified of the repercussions.  I was also followed and constantly watched.  The mental anguish from his degrading comments and vile actions left me feeling completely lost, broken and fearing my own decisions.  No matter what decision I made it would always be wrong.  He had me convinced that I would never be able to do anything without him because I was too dumb.  The most powerful statement he ever made to me was “You’ll never get rid of me.” And so far this statement has not been untrue.  I was trapped.

trapped

These are just a few examples of feeling trapped.  And now….I’m trapped by all of the memories, images and statements that were made by those individuals.  I still can’t seem to break free from the abuse as it torments me daily.  The paranoia of being watched, followed or being attacked has me questioning the intensions of others.  Instead of waiting to see if the paranoia holds validity, I protect myself by being very verbally aggressive to innocent people who just happen to making seemingly non-malicious comments or glances.  Essentially, I’m in a perpetual state of being triggered.  Waiting for a happy ending that never happened during my trauma and today only fuels my impulsiveness in this area.

Being around too many people with too much stimulation sends me and my “protectors” into overdrive and into a state of fight or flight.  It seems to overload my brain, thus, making me think I’m in danger.  The anxiety becomes so uncomfortable that the only thing I can do is just “get away” in whatever form that might take.  I seem to tame this only by being alone and secluded from most people including those I dearly love.  I have become a prisoner of myself and life.  The dichotomous view of life leaves me imprisoned by my fears within four walls of my bedroom.  Outside of these walls I’m simply prepared for battle in one way or another by indiscriminately striking out at anything that moves. The situation that comforts me is also the walls of my self-created but protective prison.  My abuse was very real and still is. And I’m a work in progress.

#thispuzzledlife

Miracles Right In Front Of Us

The Miracles Right in Front of Us

“Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what

a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”

–Jon Bon Jovi

Easter is the time when most if not all Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has always been widely known for performing miracles.  While living in New Mexico and working with a melting pot homeless population you begin to see that religion and spirituality can take on  many different meanings for different people.  My decision was simple do I accept their differences?  And well…..it was a very easy decision a resounding YES!!!  As individuals we are not made to fit into a box.  The point in being an individual is that you’re different from others.  You are uniquely you.

The clients that I worked with came from many different walks of life and belief systems.  I allowed them to be and feel accepted without judgment.  Pretty soon a mutual respect was developed and connection with them was made.  I’ve heard different stories about miracles happening mainly from religious people.  Working with the substance abusing homeless populations sometimes the miracles were only for one or two to see.

Where 12-step recovery was really pushed there not all of the clients were accepting.  This is when I began to see the importance of individuality in the counseling field.  I also learned that the term “recovery” can mean different meaning for people.  Some prayed to God, Allah, The Great Spirit, the earth, nature, the spirits, etc.

The miracles that I’m specifically talking about were maybe something like being able to have a genuine smile during a conversation.  It might’ve been learning to trust someone who is white because of  the transgenerational trauma forced on their people.  It could’ve simply been someone treating them with respect rather than as a label.  Or it could’ve been about someone willing to listen when no one else would.  Nevertheless, for these clients miracles happened.

miracle.jpg

The detox center might have been the only place where the term “recovery” was ever mentioned to them..  There’s an obvious shortage in substance abuse treatment centers throughout the nation.  But with the population that I worked with most had no insurance because they were homeless.  This ensured them being discharged back into a very hostile living situation.  Consequently, the rate of recidivism was very high.  One thing I knew without a doubt is that they would call sometimes looking for something, as simple as, a warm cot and a sandwich.

I think a lot of times that “we,” as a society, have a definition of miracles where we expect people to walk on water or raise the dead so we can catch the proof on our IPhone.  And many times life circumstances keeps us temporarily blinded to the beauty that sits before us.  I’m certainly not an exception to that rule either.  The weight of my trauma gets so incredibly heavy sometimes that the only thing I can see is the unfairness, despair and hopelessness related to it all.

The good days are the ones that drop by just like an intermittent reward system when gambling.  You keep putting money in the machine and winning minimally or not at all.  And then there’s the win, though not too big, that keeps the dialogue of “I’m close, I can feel it” continuing.  If  look at how the stars line up in our lives sometimes we realize that other painful situations had to happen for the miracle to occur.  Here’s are a few of the miracles that I’ve noticed in my life.  This list is by no means exhaustive.

1). It’s a miracle that I made it through my former marriage alive.

2.)  It’s a miracle that Sarah Pardue and I crossed paths in a treatment center  because I was a drug addict/alcoholic that was angry and running amuck in life.

3.)  I was a miracle that I met my best friend and soul mate, Melody Landrum-Arnold, and I met each other through Sarah.

4.)  It was a miracle that Mel and I ever left the deep south.

5.)  It was a miracle that we met our therapist in Albuquerque.  She turned out to be one of the very rare finds in that state. She was certainly the wind beneath our family’s wings.

6.) It was a miracle that both of our invitro babies Marshall, 6, and Copeland, 3, made it successfully to their forever home with two mommies.

7.)  It’s a miracle that we made it out of New Mexico as a couple due to so many years of stress and a lot of it related to my mental illness.

8.)  And how could I ever forget what a miracle it was to find a new coach that saw my anger and rage, knowing me very little, while on an inpatient unit and still willing to work with a group of broken children trying to function as a healthy adult.

9.) And well….leaving my two boys and my dear wife to go live in a state and sacrifice not having the time with them in order to work with my coach regularly in an attempt to save my own life….that too is a miracle.

At the detox center, I would work around the rules to get everyone who asked for help some type of help no matter the situation.  And sometimes……they would show up hoping to see a friendly face and maybe experience another little miracle.  And well…every encounter with them I experienced a miracle too.

#thispuzzledlife

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

“An abuser can seem emotionally needy. You can get caught in a trap of catering to him, trying to fill a bottomless pit. But he’s not so much needy as entitled, so no matter how much you give him, it will never be enough. He will just keep coming up with more demands because he believes his needs are your responsibility, until you feel drained down to nothing.”

― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

In my seemingly unending quest for answers about my past and present, I’m constantly trying to make connections about my current belief system, every day decision making, the tears, jokes and, yes, even the smiles and laughter.  What I’ve slowly learned about the effects of abuse is that no matter what form of abuse was carried out, your belief system about yourself and the world around you will inevitably be changed.  I had very little physical abuse but i was subjected to emotional and sexual abuse.

Narcissism seems to be a common thread among abusers.  They are their own God but most of all they make themselves your God.  The only way I  learned how to deal with them is by stroking their enormous egos.  Today being around someone that makes even a narcissistic comment will usually trigger some type of a knee jerk reaction from me.  Usually, it just ensures that you bought some form of argument with me at a sale price.  I can’t stand it and it infuriates me.  Even a person with a big personality triggers me.  Depending on which alter is triggered, I’ll either be very aggressive or I’ll “cow tow” and avoid eye contact.  Either way socially both are very problematic.

People sometimes seem to think that if you don’t have black eyes and broken bones that abuse couldn’t have possibly happened.  What they don’t understand is that there are gaping wounds unseen by the naked eye that are looking back at them.  As the partner your job is trying to help the abuser to cover their own tracks.  And making continuous attempts at achieving their unattainable requests and demands.  You become convinced over time that everything in the world that goes wrong must have some connection to you.  His beliefs were the only ones that were right and your beliefs are now non-existent because they were seen as wrong and stupid.

One of the most hurtful comments I’ve heard about domestic violence of any kind is “Well he only did what you allowed him to do.”  This insinuates that in some sick way I enjoyed or was ok with  the things that I was being subjected to.  This couldn’t be any farther from the truth.  Some say that individuals who are narcissistic abusers lack the capacity to empathize.  Personally, I think they can empathize but it’s with the ultimate goal of manipulation in the form of pseudo-empathy. The abuse creates trauma bonding with the abuser which makes it incredibly difficult for the partner to leave the increasingly abusive relationship.

puppetgirl

The relationship pretty much consisted of my husband pretending through intense involvement and idealization which was quickly followed by devaluing.  However, instead of discarding me when he was finished he would begin telling me everything I did that was wrong including myself for just existing. He would begin luring me back with his silver tongue of promises and things that I could do to make sure that never happened again.  Once the idealistic narcissist has gotten their partner to commit, yet again, to the relationship the true self of the narcissist re-emerges.

First the belittling comments begin which then escalate to a narcissistic rage.  Their feelings of inadequacy which are at the heart of the narcissist will then be projected onto the partner.  And soon once the narcissist makes a mistake it then is transferred the partner as their fault.  They also use manipulative abuse that leads their victims to questioning their own thoughts and behaviors.  I was subjected to public humiliation when he would say something that seemed benign to the public but is very offensive to the me.  He does this because he enjoyed the emotional reaction that it would provoke in all parties.  Ultimately, the narcissist takes no responsibility for any relationship difficulties and shows no feelings of remorse.  And then they believe themselves to be the true victim because their partner could not meet their expectations. The path of destruction this leaves within the psyche of the partner is colossal.

As every single day that I continue to try and recover from a total of 14 years of his abuse, my heart hurts for the woman who loved so hard that it nearly killed her.  And now instead of exuding confidence she exudes fear, shame in her tears and the feeling that her soul is already dead.  After all when she use to try to speak to him about her reoccurring depression he would say with laughter, “Depressed?  What do you, of all people, need to be depressed about?  You have it made living with me.  For the love of God, Dana, get off the cross cause someone else needs the wood.”  Comments like this all the time left me fearing my own tears that I couldn’t control falling many times.  I felt guilty for always being depressed.   And above all, I felt guilty for thinking that he was in any small way disrespectful towards me.  Because I believed that it was ME that made him act and react the way he did.  He couldn’t possibly be telling me lies about this because I was the dumb one who couldn’t see to get things right.

Crying which works as a medication to cleanse the soul has never done me any favors with abusive people.  It always made the abuse that much worse because now you are seen as weak.  I learned not to cry and didn’t for many years. Those tears seemed to go away but only to the inside where I felt completely alone but comforted. But, I did cry to my razors.  And they were the ones that were the most non-judgmental.  Living with and being abused by a narcissist I learned one thing….They don’t have time to consider your feelings because they’re too busy trying to make sure that you’re taking care of their feelings.  And in essence they can’t see the beauty of a person because they’re always looking for what’s wrong with them.  I have heard people say,  “Well at least he didn’t break anything on you.”  Shamefully and secretly I have thought, “He didn’t have to raise his hand to break me. He was my puppet master.”

#thispuzzledlife

Tears That Still Drip Sore

Tears That Still Drip Sore

“A pattern of raised crisscrossed scars, some old and white, others more

recent in various shades of pink and red. Exposing the stress

of the structure underneath its paint”
― Amy Efaw, After

Sometimes the material and subsequent titles for these blog posts come from out of nowhere.  I begin writing and then sometimes I just watch as the words are typed. I’m sort of multi-talented like that at times.  Stand in the way of children and teens while they’re attempting to have their input on a blog and well…..it’s just not worth the frustration.  Anyway, this is a topic that, literally, continues to resurface.  As an angry teen, I thought that I had found something that could help me somewhat contain the intense aggression that seemed to be so foreign and scary.  And just like the drug that seems to come along a the perfect weak moment to sweep you off your feet and directly into a marriage with it so, did my razors.

Since the day we met I haven’t found another chemical or behavior that has launched such a false sense of safety and control for me.  Yes I have seemingly have a continuous love affair with eating disorders.  Self-harm just seems to be in a category of its own that nothing else can touch.  I had no idea what this behavior was called but I knew what it did for me.  IT just seemed to let the air out of the balloon.  Somehow I just seemed to find balance if for that brief moment. Then the shaming comments made by teachers, administration, doctors, friends and family seemed to little bit of sparkle that I had told no one  about  began to disappear.  Some of the worst shaming I’ve ever faced is by those in the medical community.  After only my second trip to the local emergency room, as a minor, it would be my last.  It was a horrible experience with an uneducated and very judgmental doctor.  So even today when I should go to the emergency room, it would take the entire Texas National Guard or me being unconscious to get me there.  This is why a lot of us have suffered in the dark.  The freedom to openly discuss this topic has never been well received.

child window

Where the scars are embarrassing at times because of the questions asked and assumptions made.  In the words of Plumb’s song CUT“…the only anesthetic that helps me feel anything kills inside.”  This behavior is one that was typical of some type of anger or depression.  However, now, I can have this compulsion even on “ok” days.  The types of emotions that seem to trigger these thoughts are all encompassing.  Even in graduate school between classes I would have to go to my vehicle to be able to cut to make my brain settle enough to go to another class.

I begin to feel a very strong paranoia followed by a tsunami of emotion in my gut about something I can’t identify.  You try to do what they say to but my feel my face get hot and the voices and sounds begin disappear.  I use to see this religiosity of the behavior carried out many times without the fear of feeling the pain.  Now, I see and feel nothing.  She uses it not as a soothing tool but rather her “cat-o-nine-tails” as her way to enforce her discipline.  And this is her way to hold everyone inside hostage from speaking truth.  Her raw power and emotion have kept us safe for many years.  Her extreme paranoia and impulsiveness continues to wreak havoc and destroy even with good intentions.

solitary

She doesn’t understand how to view the world as an adult.  She continues to live life and view the world like the one she was created in….FEAR AND CHAOS.  Don’t hurt her because she’s incredibly sensitive.  But she’ll be the very one to push you as far away as you’ll let her just so she doesn’t have to feel the pain of losing someone else that she’s deeply connected.  To be that angry every day takes a lot of energy.  I’m scared of her every moment of every day.  I don’t take the comedic moments for granted as I completely understand Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and her capabilities.

The next episode I’m able to open my eyes and continue breathing once again.  As with any other addiction though, there’s always a bullet with our names on it that we continue to dodge until we can’t.  And then….a new statistic emerges for various types of studies done on mental illness.  It was done out of love and compassion she thinks.  And into the arms of love and compassion she can finally retreat.  No more scars.  .

And at the very last second the hands and shoulders of compassion are extended.  This war torn mind and body slowly begins to trust enough to step off into some pain.  Instead of the vision of  hatred thought by many, there’s a kid silently crying all alone desperately wanting  help. But striking out at anything that moves be it good or bad. SILENCE HURTS.

#thispuzzledlife

Two Cats That Changed The World

Two Cats That Changed the World

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France

I’ve written about some of the funny interactions between me and animals namely the Angry Birds of Albuquerque.  And I’ve probably mentioned, at some point, my cats Simba and Nalla in passing.  But what I would like to share is how two cats changed one part of this big world….MINE.  They changed me through their unconditional love.

In June 2000 I was working at a local vet clinic in the Hattiesburg, MS area.  Specifically, I was over the adoption center they had there.  I would take in puppies and kittens and find homes for them.  There was a lot of work that went into that job but I loved working with the animals.  This became a place of catharsis that was a nice break from the daily emotional abuse of my marriage.

One day a gentleman walked in with a box and inside it were two little kittens barely a week old.  He told me that the momma cat was killed attempting to move these little kittens across the road.  We typically didn’t take animals this young so, I took them on as a personal project.  From that day forward that box and those two kittens went everywhere I did.

My days and nights included bottles every two hours for these little beings.  I hungered to be a mother but deep in my soul I knew that bringing a baby into that volatile situation was not smart.  And these kittens were filling that void for the time being.  During some of those long nights and sleep deprivation I said to them, “Six weeks and you will be finding a new home.”  Tube feeding, bottles, antibiotics and ringworm later and six week old playful kittens would be taken in that same box to the adoption center.

I made their cage extra special and comfortable.  These cats would be going to their new home together as the loving sisters that they were.  I watched every visitor to see if they were interested in these cats.  I was going to interview anyone who was interested with a fine tooth comb.  Secretly, I hoped no one wanted them because somehow I had formed a connection that I never thought possible. No one came in and met my unachievable standards for these cats.  So…..they came home with me where they would live out the next 15-16 years.

 

I would find solace in these cats that had no expectations of me.  They loved me unconditionally and new when the perfect time was to want to cuddle.  Always on their terms of course.  If I cried in silence as I usually do, they could hear me from any dark clothes draw, closet or clothes basket in the house.  They came running and meowing almost as if saying, “Momma let us love you.”  I could be having a true snot crying moment and as long as they were in my lap or touching me somehow they were my own personal sponge to absorb my tears and often heavy emotions.

 Simba and Nalla would become the original “Battle Buddies” our fight to survive abuse both physically and emotionally.  The emotional and psychological abuse from my husband and brother-in-law could be intense and dangerous.  Somehow, though, as long as Simba and Nalla were there I seemed to be engulfed in a bubble that no abuse could reach at least for that moment.  This seemed to be that extra bit of protection that I used to my advantage.  As long as they were determined to be by my side, I was determined to one day find a way out.  That day would eventually come.

There were nights when he would angrily get up with a belt and going into the room where all my animals slept and began hitting anything in his path.  My cats were terrified of his anger just like I was.  He would hit torment them with a broom which they never get over.  As much as I wanted to protect them, it was just too dangerous, for both me and them, to intervene.

My and “my girls” eventually left that relationship with PTSD intertwining our emotions and thoughts.  I would take them into my relationship with Melody with all of our scars both visible and unseen attached.  Anytime one of us had to use a broom to clean Simba and Nalla would run for cover.  And loud noises and even mild arguments and you would find them tucked away in whatever haven of safety they could find nearby.

My girls were quirky as hell just like me.   The ultimate form of loyalty I experienced with them and it was beautiful to say the least.  A couple of years ago I walked into our living room in Albuquerque to find Nalla, our black and white, overweight kitty sometimes called our “Gateway Kitty,” rolling around on the floor in obvious pain.  I looked into her eyes and knew that she was suffering in a way that was not visible.  We made eye contact and a feeling from her that said, “You know what to do. Please stop my suffering.”  I’ve always told pet owners that when it’s time to put a family pet down you would just somehow know.

This was the day that I had feared since they were very young kittens.  My heart was breaking for this beautiful creature that through love had propelled me to safety.  The years of intense love for both she and her sister was now gathering for this one moment.  With tears streaming down my face and Mel looking on I said, “Get the laundry basket comfortable for her….It’s time.”  Trying to comfort Nalla knowing that I really couldn’t physically she seemed to know that my heart was breaking.  I kept looking into her eyes needing the reassurance that what I was doing was the right thing.  And she looked back at me as if to say, “It’s ok.”

Simba was meowing not really knowing where Nalla was going.  She went to her place of solace which was a pillow next to mine on my bed where she slept every night.  The ride to the vet was one of the longest rides I had ever taken.  My heart was breaking even if the right decision was being made.

I handed the laundry basket with one of my best friends in it to the tech.  With tears falling I kissed Nalla and told her that I loved her.  A few minutes later I would receive the her collar with the bell on it.  A couple of weeks later I would receive her ashes.  Simba seemed lost but still tried to comfort me at all costs.  Somehow a the survival of an era seemed to be coming to an end.

Exactly one year to the week I would go through the same process with Simba my grey and white tabby.  It was like their job had been done and it was time for me to fly on my own.  These beautiful animals were with me through a horrible time in my life.  They expected nothing other than treats and junk food.  There job, as they saw it, was to be with me in whatever way needed or possible.  And through their undying compassion I was beginning to heal.  Those two little kittens were more than  house decoration.  They changed my world.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

–Martin Buber

#thispuzzledlife

The Thunder Rolls

The Thunder Rolls

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated.

When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally

heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears

the screams healing can begin.”

― Danielle Bernock, Emerging with Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, and the Love That Heals

And this…..11:45 pm and it all slowly stars to descend upon me like a searing napalm death throughout my mind and body.  Each night it is the same familiar torment by way of body memories and flashbacks.  The same ambulance calls of 20 years prior.  The same horrific scenes, smells and sounds from former abusive relationships.  The pounding words and actions of an adult’s abuse of power that scared the young teen so bad that now all that’s left of her is RAGE, and ironically, lots of jokes and laughter.  The agonizing physical and emotional separation from the one who only became the vehicle, by which, that baby would enter the world still, somehow an inconvenience just for being born.  All of this in a sense of organized confusion that’s been set on continual repeat.

I feel something changing in my soul that’s not comforting but more evil.  Physically, all “systems” (no pun intended), were on some type of “Red Alert.”  The wave of fear that also spreads systemically is met by a cold shiver all the way down my spine.  As if I were in a standoff with my demons, I look it in the eye as if to say, “We Meet Again.”  I felt like I was looking into the eyes of the devil himself.  I was frozen with the fear of another night of flashbacks. I don’t move only to be enveloped by the sequential events that unfold every….single…night, and unfortunately, a lot of days.  The torturous movie reel and flashes of scenes from another time and place would remind me of where and how I have both failed and survived.

energy.jpg

The humiliation and dehumanizing mind games I still seem to wear as clothing in my own little crazy haven of distorted safety and love.  The sting of being a verbal punching bag as some kind of demented sport riddles me like Swiss cheese.  I don’t care if I die, I just want it to stop I repeatedly think.  Suicide seems like a viable option until I imagine the tear filled eyes of my children and wife.  You “white knuckle” these nights that are long and dark. Someone please stop this haunted fair ride you scream silently from deep within.  Teens and adults worn down by years of this daily torment has left its mark on even the youngest of alters.  The fierce guardians with a “no one goes in and no one comes out” stance leaves this community trapped by its on members.  Only for those screams to silently falls on deaf ears once more.

Just before you cash in your chips and just fall where you once stood you hear from the dark recesses of your mind you remember……

“And one day when you’re scared and unsure of what to do….Pick the direction and just do the next right thing.  You deserve the answers that are rightfully yours.  And when you find them protect your heart.”

“Look at me and we’ll do this together, Charlie.  What you do affects your entire team.  Your team need you now!  Dig deep and come on! And when you want to give up you just DONT.”

“Everything in life is a gift.  It may not come with pretty wrapping

 and a nice bow.  But it’s still a gift.

“Feel your feelings and be safe.”

“Do not react when you are in your emotional mind. Find something to be used as a distraction.  If you don’t have a train get creative.  View your situation without judgment.”

Because some nights require your sharpest tools for immediate recall to use at a moment’s notice.  Your mind and body has been trying to return to some form of homeostasis but the shaking continues.  Your shirt damp with sweat need the help of a cold wash cloth to help with grounding.  Some of images are now like dissipating like lightening from a summer storm.  Your chest tight with anxiety very slowly starts to lessen.  Another night of battle complete with me standing but tattered. Another night that your demons think that they win.  And my response this very night was, “Oh you thought you won?!!!  Watch this!!!!”  Again I made it because I have the heart of a champion.  “Charlie…you played your heart out tonight and made your team proud.  Now take a rest.”

You catch a glimpse of the sun slowly beginning to emerge from the darkness.   This very moment is what they told us to continue to fight for….another day to do something different.

#thispuzzledlife

He Was More Than A Coach

He Was More Than a Coach

“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen.

 The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”

—- Vince Lombardi

I’ve always spoke very highly of all the coaches I played for now 20+ years ago.  I’ve always had that strong connection to them regardless of how much time has gone by.  Now if you want to know how I get motivated, let me know that “I have a ballgame to play and my team needs me.”  My life as a ballplayer took on some of the most raw feelings I’ve ever experienced.  Being an athlete was about more than just a game, it was about the entire journey of learning fundamentals and evolving into an individualized athlete with a heart of a champion.  Here’s the story of a man that knew exactly what to do to help me step my game up as an athlete.  But what he didn’t know he was creating for me was a way to survive.

Nicholas “Nick” Kolinsky was a ex-football player who had a heart as big as his frame.  He is still and will always be a legend from the South MS area.  He was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to MS many years ago to play for the 1962 championship football team from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He stayed around that same area met the love of his life and raised one beautiful family.  His youngest daughter, Nikki, and I would be teammates for several years.

This man was surely a legend in the city but for me the term “legend” would take on a whole other meaning.  I would meet coach Nick sometime in the early 1980’s.  I had play some form of “coach pitch” softball for a year but this was “real” softball, as I saw it, because we had tryouts.  I was an okay player but nothing was serious and I was having fun.  We had the tryouts complete with coaches from the league and their notebooks looking on and taking notes.  A couple of days later my parents and I got the call that I would play for Nick’s Ice House and my coach would be Nick Kolinsky.

This big and loud man would laugh and smile in a way that you just instantly know that he was different than most people you meet.  His happiness and love for life, his family and now this young softball team was infectious.  You never had to ask me if I wanted to go to practice.  I would sometimes walk back to the vehicle with my heart crying tears because I didn’t want practice to end.  I ate, slept, breathed and fully saturated myself with his coaching as much as I could.

Coach Nick

He pushed me but in a way that I wanted to play at my best.  He always told us as players, “You will perform in a game the way that you practice.  Winners never ever give up.  Every play and every ball you catch or hit effects everyone on your team and  they are your family.  You leave it all on this field.  If at the end of the game you have played the best you could and you left it all on the field no matter what the score you will always be a champion in my book.”  He knew how to motivate me.  I instantly took some of these lessons with into now a 42 year-old womanhood.

Every athlete has a difficult night where things just don’t seem to work.  You misjudge balls.  Your hit timing is just off and you begin to worry if you even have any eye/hand coordination left.  It was these times when coach would say to me, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw!”  It wasn’t earth shattering to be “off” for those games but disappointing it was.  He could somehow tell when I needed that “compassionate coach” side and he always encouraged me.  He would bring his big “man size” body down to my child size self and look me in the eyes with compassion and said, “Keep going baby.  These kind of nights don’t last but you have to keep pushing through them.  Don’t you give up!  Do you hear me?!!!  You leave it out here on this field no matter how much you have to give.  Your team needs you.  If you get scared and don’t know what to do on those bases KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME.  I’m right here and we will do this together.”

Now to most people this interaction might not have been that big of a deal.  To that developing child and athlete, that was all I needed to hear.  He didn’t say that he would be there to do it for me.  He said, “I’m right here and we will do this together.”  From that day forward, I played with confidence and have faced every obstacle knowing that he would always be right there.  He had no idea what those positive interactions would do for me as an adult.  Every single time I had to pick myself up from one of life’s unfriendly occurrences, I always heard my coach saying, “Charlie get up!  Your team is depending on you.  The game is not over yet. Get back over here!”

charlie hustle

Charlie was a name that Coach Nick gave to me because of the way that I played.  He always told me, “You play a lot like Pete Rose.  You have some of the best hustle I’ve ever seen.  From now on you will be called Charlie Hustle.”  As long as there was daylight and the “want”, “need” and “will” to continue was there he would stay after practice and hit me additional balls to help me sharpen my skills.  Our team seemed almost untouchable.  It wasn’t just me who would benefit from his coaching.  We practiced and practiced hard every single practice.  Lolly gagging was not allowed by him, other coaches or the other players on the team.

After ballgames it was nothing for him to load up the entire team in the back of his pickup truck while we cheered going riding through the city like we were national champions.  And to me we were.  I’m glad that he gave me a foundation of self discipline.  It might be in only a couple areas of my life but it took and I’ve never let go of many of his life lessons.  We were told very seriously, “that being a winner is not given.  You have to put the work in and even then you might not win the game or the battle.  It’s the same with life.  You give everything you have all the time until there’s nothing left to give.  That is a champion!” He gave all us players a t-shirt that had his business logo on the left chest.  But on the back it said “I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS”  He told us as a team that those shirts you have to earn to be able to wear them.  Until I graduated high school, I was known by my nickname Charlie Hustle and I wore that shirt with pride.  I always wore that shirt under my uniform shirts throughout my high school career as a kind of balance and piece of my coach right there with me like he had promised.

Because of the impact of his compassion in my days of being a child and developing athlete, I have survived many different situations.  I worked hard to live through a lot of things.    I reconnected with him after this many years.  I was contacted by one of his daughters via Facebook to tell me that his health was declining.  On one of our trips back to Petal where he and his family lived the whole time I knew them.  I walked into the house where he was sitting and his eyes lit up.  “Dana!!!”  He chuckled. My eyes filled with tears and I hugged him and said, “Coach I’ve missed you.  Here’s my family.”  I don’t know if the tears fell like they’re doing now as I write this.  But shortly after Marshall pooped on his lap he wanted to talk about old games from when I played ball for him.  It was like one of the most beautiful times as a child had been resurrected by the gentle giant that had become a gentle old man.  I called him several times since that visit and each time we spoke he had a even more difficult time speaking due to a failing heart.

nick's boys

My beloved coach passed away July 5, 2016.  The grief is so great that it’s taken until now to be able to write about such a great man.  The towns of Petal/Hattiesburg knew when this man passed away.  For me it was like a new national day of mourning.  The pain of the little child inside had me disappearing inside myself.  My athlete has never stopped mourning over his loss.  Anytime you ask me about this guy I called Coach Nick I tear up but not out of sadness.  I tear up over the gift I was chosen to receive.  That was just gratitude rolling out of my eyes.  Since trauma has had such a big impact on my life more than once I always wear that shirt into a session with my therapist when I need his encouragement.

Ironically, as the universe would see fit, I met the one who would be the next big coach in my life only a month later.  This time things are different.  Now I’m not in the fight for a win in a game, I’m in the fight for my life.  And everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Grateful again?  You bet I am. I will find a way to succeed because I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS!

Below are links and newspaper about this guy everyone knows as The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  Please take a little time to read about this man that both South Mississippi and I loved.

 

 

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/news/local/hattiesburg/2016/07/05/hattiesburgs-nicks-ice-house-icon-nick-kolinsky-dies/86728744/

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/sports/college/southern-miss/football/2016/07/13/cleveland-nick-kolinsky-jack-lucas-had-special-bond/87010864/

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hattiesburgamerican/obituary.aspx?pid=180567264

#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

“When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with

the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge

can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.”

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

I was looking through my recent blog posts and realized that I had not yet written about a place I went to visit last summer/fall 2017.  There are some situations in life when/where it happens you have to just be quite and let it soak in.  Sometimes just looking at how situations came to be can unlock a little patch of “surrendering to the process.”

I believe wholeheartedly that there’s something about how the stars are lining up in my life.  I don’t have those answers yet but they’re out there somewhere.  In March 2017, I was pretty hopeless in most areas of my life.  Out of the blue I get a call from someone who still completely amazes me with her compassion and patience. I had found my new coach finally.  Tears streamed down my face as I call my wife Melody to let her know what had just happened.  The challenge would be for Mel and I, as a couple, to figure out what was best for our family as a whole.  I had my eye set on one thing as my goal and that was the day I could begin this arduous work with someone already proven trustworthy.

We already had planned a trip to Walt Disney world in Orlando, FL  with our boys obviously not knowing what the coming months would bring.  Anyway, the boys and Mel enjoyed the trip. I just realized how bad things had gotten and was continuing to decline.  Our boys were entitled to have some genuine fun that normally they couldn’t do around me because of PTSD symptoms.  While at Disney World I enjoyed seeing our boys and Mel with smiles on their faces.  For me having so many issues with social situations the trip was torture.  The amount of people and no private space had me wanting to just randomly bite people for no reason.  Then somewhere on the inside I heard…”Orange is not a good color for you!  And you won’t like the flip flops!!!!”  Not conventional grounding  method but it worked.  The fireworks shows, though beautiful, had me running for cover.  But I do love my family.

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Mel’s grandmother passed away which meant we would be staying very close to the city where I grew up.  It doesn’t matter the situation. That area of the country is just not safe for me to be hanging out in.  But It was a death in the family and loyalty to our friends and family are stronger than anything we have individually, as a couple or as a family.  We eventually made it back to Albuquerque.  And things went from bad to worse.

I ended up returning to a trauma unit where I would meet more close friends referred to as my “battle buddies.”  This stay was quite difficult to say the least.  Things were much different and I left there completely defeated.  Just months before I caught wind that someone cared which left me very curious say the least.  The only thing I’ve never been surprised by is in the fact that change is constantly happening.  This situation was absolutely no different.  I licked my wounds all the way back to Albuquerque to my awaiting room where I keep all of my secrets.  It was sort of my prison within my own prison.

Someone did mention about this place out in Tioga, TX called Healing Springs Ranch.  The last thing I wanted to talk about was more treatment.  I was exhausted and felt beat up.  My recent trauma unit stay reaffirmed to me that professionals were just dangerous no matter how they put a nice spin on things.  And I hated them all.  No one would have another shot at me like that was how hurt I felt.  I was so miserable and wanted a way out.  I wanted help but feared it to my core.  Again, I was told to call them and check it out.

I wanted the opportunity to go and try another open campus facility, at some point, because those were where I was most comfortable.  I just didn’t want to go right then. Being on a locked unit never helps me or anyone else.  But what I was about to walk into was something I was never prepared to experience.  I was told who my inpatient therapist would be.  I had already known her from previous visits to other facilities and knew that she was gentle so having that knowledge really helped me to settle.    Here I was about to trust someone to mess with my “system” again and I wouldn’t be able to leave for awhile. And there was only minimal trust to start with.

My wife dropped me and my belongings off after getting checked in.  I was told to enjoy that last Diet Coke for a while.  I froze.  What in the hell did he just say?!!!!  I instantly felt death near.  I knew that coffee was not even a remote possibility for me.  Caffeine, Caffeine where shall I find thee?  I was truly starting to panic.  OMG….what have I just agreed to? I was trying to keep the fear buried and plenty of smiles and laughter on the outside.

finding myself

I soon took that long ride, on the golf cart, to the main building known as the Bunk House.  I was beyond terrified and my inside guys were assessing everything we saw, heard and smelled.  We passed the field of cows I would learn to love and talk to every morning on daily walks.   There were a couple I would name T-Bone and Rib eye.  I know I should have a conscious about their names but I don’t.  And the golf cart would be parked by cows that had this exact conversation go on right before their eyes.

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

Me:  I can assure you that those are not yams.

Friend:  Dana yes they are I know what I’m talking about.  Those are YAMS!!!

Me:  Oh for the love of God and the Holy Angels!  That is not a potato!  A yam is what you have on Thanksgiving!  If that is a yam then that potato has four legs and a tail while also saying…MOOOOOOO! A YAK!  A YAK is what you’re thinking about and that is not a Yak either!  That’s just a messed up looking cow!  We laughed then and still today about how funny that brief moment in time unfolded.

When the doors opened and I began the incline on the floor to the nurses’ office I was greeted by a few people welcoming me to Healing Springs Ranch.  Omg…they’re a cult!  They have a following of people that claim that they care and are happy.  I saw who would be my therapist and instantly I thought…Damn I feel bad for you already.

Everyone was so incredibly caring and you just somehow knew that this place was special.  It was just different in a loving kind of way.  In my illustrious career of dealing with treatment centers and stabilization units I had never found this much compassion in one place.  This is a place far from a locked unit.  They loved without conditions.  This has always been a foreign concept for me because from several abusers “love” had conditions.  So accepting this love was going to be a challenge and it was the majority of the time.

Very slowly but surely I would begin to settle in with this new community.  This place whatever its magical powers was loving me and I began to melt.  No one saw this right off but both me and my alters felt it instantly.  I’m a difficult patient in the best of circumstances. But apparently The universe knew what it took to make me crumble……COMPASSION.  I was still a very angry and scared person under all the smiles and laughter.  They had already found my weakness.

family

And you seem to know that the relationship is going to be interesting when one of the first people you see you say, “Hey 13 is that you?!” Calling someone, who would turn out to be one of my closest friends, one of your alters’ names can be incredibly funny.   I’ll be honest that an argument between a 10 year-old and a 13 year-old can be awfully flamboyant. But put them both in adult bodies and that could be sent to the comedy show of your choosing. However, The awesome look at nature and it’s scary and comforting critters it hides seemed to be medicine for my soul.

Charlie the Squirrel seemed to take the place of the Angry Birds in Albuquerque.  My personal encounters involves said tree rodent.  Oh Mr. Sandy cheeks decided that I needed a little more confusion and proceeded to bark at me machine gun style.  With my very well developed hyper startle response, Charlie might as well have been sitting on my face and chewing on it. All I could think to say was, “It jumped out from the bushes and almost killed me!”  Really he just scared the shit out of me from about 10 feet away in a tree. Then I scared the shit out of the people walking with me.  We still laugh about it all.

Life had become routine which I loved.  At night after most of the day staff left for the evening and we had all gotten our night meds and snacks people would head down to their rooms either for a shower and/or bed.  But there were also members of our tribe that enjoyed that 30 minute time period of sitting on the porch with the slight breeze and just decompress from all of the day’s activities.  The night wildlife was front and center.  If you were brave enough to listen to some of the conversations we would have you would realize that there was an amazing amount of healing that went on.  There started out with about 4 people, including myself, who took full advantage of hanging out with this new family.  By the time it was my graduation, there were usually over 10 people at night.

I was usually telling some kind of funny story or just getting tickled about the day’s activities.  There were stories about Miss Betty and the Mr. Bitchy.  Many also know about my Ozzy Osborne impression shouting “SHARON!!!!!!”  Any issues between me and Charlie the Squirrel had to be told. Funny stories from being an EMT. Or the funny things about being a lesbian mom raising little boys.  On a more somber note someone might bring a guitar to the patio and we would sing.

These other clients and staff were hearing details, ugly details of my past and they still loved me.  They were getting to know my alters almost as well as my own spouse.  The work we all did was hard to say the very least.  Walking in their doors with all of my therapy baggage at the forefront assured me just starting on trust again.  But my family members who were also working on their individual issues were also there.  After many years of Melody and I flying solo through this life of Dissociative Identity Disorder, I can only wish that the facility had been there much sooner. Finally I  had found a place that would take the time to get to know someone beyond the adolescente.

There were times when the work we had done during the day time just managed to leave the mark on someone’s face that said,  “I need a friend who understands and to be able to let the tears fall where they may without the fear or feeling of judgment.”  Healing with your peers with no parameters to interfere was total freedom.

At HSR, I found my tribe.  I found a whole host of “safe people” that I never knew existed.  All of the amenities are just a bonus with the total experience.  The food is prepared by one of the finest chefs on my list. The staff packs a lot of knowledge about both addiction and mental health disorders.  Their passion for what they do can be seen many miles away…like Albuquerque.  But what you’ll experience as a whole is beautiful.  I didn’t leave there with a lot of answers.  But I left there knowing and believing that all people aren’t dangerous and that was just what I needed.  Because “those people” and the alumni are who I call….FAMILY.

These are just a few of the reasons that Healing Springs Ranch is where I found my forever home with a brand new, handpicked by the universe, group of likewise compassion and passion for life kind of family.    I learned at “The Ranch” that even clowns need to make time for tears. And that not everyone is put on this earth to hurt me.  As for my alters and I, well let’s just say that the process of “being loving” with our tone to each other is still moving forward just at a snail’s pace.  And I did get to move closer to my HSR family.  As difficult of a process as it’s been not moving here with Melody and the boys, I’m in the arms of members of that same family.  I finally made it here about 2 months ago and I walked into those loving arms of people that I met hear. They understand without explanation but with humor when I say that I’m one of those people who are buy 1 get 15 free.

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I

guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

Locked And Loaded

Locked and Loaded

“I finally understood what could drive kids to show up with guns and shoot up their schools.”
― Nenia Campbell, Freaky Freshman

If you want to look at all sides of the historical and current school shootings then don’t forget this side.  Put yourself in the driver’s seat as a teenager who feels that there is no way out.  There are no easy answers.  Don’t think as an adult about how you would respond?  You have to imagine the world through the eyes of a desperate teenager who feels helpless just like those who killed. I’m not condoning anything.  Just don’t eliminate one of the sides of the problem or you’ll never achieve an accurate answer.

Imagine for a minute this scenario…..

Life as a 13 year-old rebellious but funny teen seemed to be pretty benign on the surface.  Teenagers because of the developmental stage tend to be difficult stressors for kids and their parents.  She had this incredible gift to make people laugh no matter the situation. Depression crept in and slowly started transforming her.  Her vitality for life was very slowly disappearing and it never seemed to matter or to care to those she tried to reach out to.  She had no animosity towards anyone.  She hated that she had been unwanted.  But everyone loved her because she was everyone’s favorite clown and friend.

What no one seemed to take notice of was that this clown was put into a closet behind the teacher’s desk and locked.  The teacher always had hurtful things to say.  She poked at this child like a pit bull chained to a tree and being taunted and whipped with sticks.  Anytime that child spoke up she was hit again.  Anytime she cried she was ridiculed and humiliated.  When she talked about food she was glared at and venomous derogatory body image comments were slung at her.  Every time she tried to fight back she got in even deeper trouble with the administration.  No one ever listened because of a label.  She wasn’t a bad kid.  But now she didn’t know.

All she wanted was for someone to leave her alone and apologize for what had just happened over several months.  Relief was nowhere in sight.  She began thinking that if she (the teacher) wasn’t alive to torment her that she could hang with her friends and continue playing ball.  But if she committed suicide she wouldn’t have to ever face another minute of this daily torture.  She can’t speak of it all as the embarrassment of what she thinks she has allowed.  And then her friend commits suicide and the seriousness and pain of what had just happened was brushed over like his life didn’t matter.  She is rocked to her foundation.

dylan 2

I have lost my emotions

—  Dylan Klebold

 

eric harris 2

I hope death is like a dream state, I want to spend all my time there.

—  Eric Harris

These two thunderclouds collide along with a mixture of other storms in her life.  This marriage, of sorts,  bred the perfect storm.  Her inadequacies were put before her peers.  She was taunted daily about how no one wanted her.  Everything that she would never become.  Statements about being a baby for crying when the words stung like bullets.  She tried to tell and no one would listen.  Or it was the southern way to handle this parenting situation..”She is the adult and you are the child.  Tell her you’re sorry and give her respect!”  She was literally and figuratively trapped and no one could hear her silent screams.

How could you not notice the fact that she cried blood tears from her forearms?  How could you not notice the holes in the hallway and rooms?  How could you not notice that she had deadly eating disorders that would almost take her life?  How could you not notice the pain meds and all the sleeping and headaches that became part of daily life?

Now imagine for a minute that you were that child trapped with no help.  You just wanted it to stop in whatever way possible. Leaving school wasn’t an option.  How do you as a child attempt to rationalize a very impulsive yet very thought out plan to make it end?  How do school shooters develop?  There’s a very condensed scenario.  Often times parents do not know what to look for.  Wearing a mask is too easy to hide behind because no one really wants to know how we’re doing.  “Fine.” seems to be the best generic answer that is acceptable on a daily basis.

You said that you didn’t see the “typical” warning signs.  There is absolutely nothing “typical” about a teenager.  They are independent and impulsive beings with their own fingerprints.  It sounds more like you were blinded by your ignorance and politics to notice that this was happening right in front of you.  You were the adults meant to protect these children and you turned the other way.  Now you don’t like how they turned out.  Five minutes of listening to a child full of tears that you never saw behind those screens of smiles and laughter could’ve saved lives…maybe your own.

“–What if the kids from Columbine were here today.  What would you say to them?

–I wouldn’t say anything, I would listen to them, which nobody else did.”

Quote from Marilyn Manson in the documentary Bowling for Columbine.

#thispuzzledlife

Into The House Of Horrors

Into The House of Horrors

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character;

and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.”

–Arthur Schopenhauer

 

It’s a scene that I’ve replayed many times over the last 10+ years.  I drove that dirt road to the lot where our house had been built only 5+ years prior.  A couple weeks before I had carried out a decision that had been planned for a few years.  I was about to execute my plan to leave him for good.  This was already 14 years later than I should’ve ever stayed with him.  However, the way that I had been silenced for many years continues to leave its mark on me today.

 

The fears of food, body image, decision making, judgment by him and a diminishing self-worth was now fully engrained.  Some of the horrors that I lived through at 22 Casey Lane, Petal, MS continue to torment me today.  Everything that I knew about living life as an adult was done one way…..HIS WAY.  I divorced him 10+ years ago.  But did I really leave him?  Part of me did leave him.  But another has remained in that imprisoned life; on his arm and controlled every since.  He told me that I would never get rid of him and thus far, that statement hasn’t let me down.

The day/night that I left him was shortly after his brother had come into our house drunk and pointing a gun at me.  My husband told me that once again his brother would have no repercussions for how he had treated me.  I soon found out that all of their scary antics over the years had been devised by my husband.  “Like Father, Like Sons”  I’ve always said about those two men.  I had been looking for a way out for many years but was left only seeing myself as being helpless.  But this night was different.

When he told me, after having been terrified by the recent gun issue, that nothing would be done to protect me or our house from his brother and hearing his brother screaming, “I have done everything you asked me to do to her!”  I knew I had to get out.  I still remember watching myself standup a few days later saying, “I’ve had enough of this shit!”  I walked out to my awaiting blue Honda CRV while being screamed at every step of the way.  What he was saying and calling me was a compilation of things he had said over the last 14 years of insults.  I was beyond terrified at what I might’ve just brought on myself in the coming days.  Like most cowards threats were made with no follow through.

Shaking from pure fear I drove to my parents’ house only a few miles away like I had done many times before.  The typical end result was me listening to and getting sucked back into the house of a man with a silver tongue.  He was my husband and my predator.  This time I was determined to get out and stay out because it was just too scary now.  I was just going to have to “white knuckle” the urges to want to go back.  Through the tears and frustration I stayed true to my goal and did not go back.

The only analogy I’ve been able to use to convey how victimization feels is like a crime that has been committed but I did it to myself.  You know that a crime was committed but the way of a predator is to negate his or her wrongdoing and put it on the victim.  Often times I would be apologizing for something I had not even done.  He had me so convinced that I was responsible for his and the world’s unhappiness that no matter what I did I would always be a failure.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  I didn’t see this while in the abuse.  I just kept striving for excellence by his standards and before I knew it 14 years had passed me by.  The damage to my psyche would not be realized for another few years.

I would go back a couple of weeks later to get a few more of my things and to pick up my animals.  My cats Simba and Nalla, who I had raised from a bottle, and my African Grey parrot, Rocco were my first priority.  I didn’t know what I would do with my hamsters, gerbils, cockatiels, ferrets, iguana, outside cats, rats and outside dogs.  The rest of my belongings and furniture would have to wait for now.  I had a neighbor who was watching my house and would know when he left so that I could get the things I needed safely.  I was given the go ahead but was told to hurry.  I had driven that bumpy ride down the dirt road and onto the driveway of our house and I was sweating and nauseous from the fear of going back to the house.  The fear was paralyzing but my animals deserved to be out of his abuse as well.

When I unlocked the door and cracked it open the putrid odor of death hit my nose never to be forgotten.  I didn’t know what it was but something was very, very wrong.  I had no idea what I would find but it was about to be a very harsh reality.  I didn’t know if he had been murdered.  If he had gotten in an argument with his brother and was dead.  I just had no idea what I was about to find.  I walked down our hallway into our bedroom where the smell was so overbearing.  I was already gagging but still had not found the source.  I feared finding someone’s dead body.  Not seeing anything out of the ordinary I began to walk across the hall to the animal room.  What I found froze my tears in their tracks.  This was the source of the smell was right here.  I don’t even know how I felt in that moment.  The animal room was filled with lifeless animals covered in maggots and blowflies.  He had intentionally starved and not watered them. The exceptions to life were those couple of rodents feeding off others in their tanks.

I was frozen with fear and disgust that these animals that I had taken care of for years were all dead.  Some were partially eaten.  Some were cut in half by whatever he chose to do.  This room where I was able to escape his torment, if only for a moment, had become a torture chamber for the other innocent ones.  My cats and birds all had molded food and no water.  My dogs were going crazy in their outside pen.  Thankfully the outside cats had scattered.  I couldn’t think.  I didn’t know what to do.  I simply had to react and just save the ones I could and get out and fast.  I got my cats and bird out of the “house of horrors.”  I couldn’t save my dogs and was told that a few months later they were taken out of their pen and shot in the front yard.  I left that day with the harsh realization that the abuse had not just effected me.  How do you get over something like that?  You don’t.

“Curiously, deep, deep down—and undoubtedly unconscious to them—they know they’re not really what they project. In fact, one of their central defenses (or stratagems) is to endlessly project onto others the very flaws (and fears!) they’re unable, or unwilling, to allow into awareness. As critical as they are about others’ shortcomings, they’re amazingly blind to their own.”

Leon F Seltzer Ph.D., Evolution of the Self

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Things I Have Learned On A Psychiatric Unit

Things I Have Learned on Psychiatric Units

“It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself and the problems you face in life.

Sense of humor can save you.”

—Margaret Cho

 One thing that I’ve been able to do most of my life is find the humor in just about any situation.  I’m also really good at roasting myself at any given moment.  My recent blog posts have been pretty heavy in both topic and emotion and I thought that I would lighten it up a bit with some giggles.  Having been in the mental health system the majority of my adult life has afforded me many different and often times hysterical stories about my interactions with staff and other patients.  They are not that funny in the moment but give it some time and I’ll start giggling about some of the asinine situations that I get myself into.

A lot of my trauma has to do with the perception or the reality of being trapped.  So, even though psychiatric stabilization units are, in theory, suppose to help.  They seldom do for me because you are behind the steel doors of “safety.”  The system is so incredibly flawed that even to be stabilized completely destabilizes me further.  I’ve just be blessed with the incredible ability to laugh with other “battle buddies” who are some of my best friends.

If you’re way out of control or having complications related to your particular labeled disorder you get sent to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit otherwise known as the PICU.  This is where you will see some really odd behaviors and will get a new label as a “poop slinger.”  I’ve also learned through trial by fire how to take care of myself on these units.  And being confrontational where not always the best idea makes other clients and staff rethink the idea of you being an easy target.

Recently, I’ve been on one of these units and others with no success just more funny stories.  With the amnestic barriers that were designed early on in my brain to protect me from the abuse, they just seem to cross over into a lot of my blinking and breathing time.  After looking through some of the material that I arrived back home with I found that my alters had actually been writing a blog about such humorous  instances.  I didn’t have the memories of all listed but they sure do.  Try not to take this blog too seriously as I’ve been able to laugh so much that I’ve almost gotten one abdominal muscle developed as a result.  Here’s a compilation of our experiences on different types of units over several states.

250px-Mental_Disorder_Silhouette

  1. When you find someone lapping up water out of your toilet bowl like a dog, this DOES NOT necessarily mean that said “human dog” is friendly.  If this mixed species starts to growl a gentle reminder about how animals are decapitated at the head if the suspicion of rabies is serious enough.
  2. When staff asks you if you want to take a trip on the van?  They are really talking about the ATIVAN.  Educate yourself about this drug in high doses.
  3. If you don’t drink fruit juices or cow nipple secretions well…..you’re just thirsty.
  4. Taking showers minus shower curtains always sucks ass.
  5. Often times the only type of material to dry off with after such a revealing shower are pillow cases or your own sweatpants.  Because apparently paper towels are harmful and could be used as a weapon.
  6. The food is not really food.  It resembles some form of horse abortion.
  7. When meeting with the dietician about the couple of foods that you feel comfortable eating, hummus being my main source of protein, when it arrives and looks like caulking with complementary graham crackers not saltines.  This will not in any way encourage one to eat something that looks like it was recently bought at Lowe’s.
  8. The only way to air out a bathroom after someone has pooed is to take shampoo and squirt it around the rim of the bowl.  Because……Poo-pouri is not allowed.  Yelling, “We have a Shituation and need Shitrus Spray!!!” like you’re auditioning for a Poo-pouri commercial gets you absolutely nowhere. However, the other patients will find it quite comical.
  9. When cigarettes seem to be your only coping skill germs and diseases no longer seem to matter.
  10. There is absolutely no help that is given on these units other than colors “safety writing utensils”, word finds and coloring sheets which has been shown to just increase rather than decrease aggression.
  11. Some of the psychiatrists on the units are definitely on the spectrum of serial killers.  You can look at them and tell that they probably keep a jar of human eyeballs or embryonic puppies on their desks as decoration.
  12. Telling the staff and/or other patients when you get mad that you will kill them and their entire family NEVER ends well for the one who said it.  This will, however,  ensure that you have a 3 day “nap” courtesy of a shot of “booty juice.”
  13. A combination of drugs simply known as “booty juice” given in the ass cheeks of patients that simply will not comply or become too violent has been known to stop zombies dead in their tracks.
  14. Scratching incessantly because of hives due to these stressful conditions only make the other patients think you have mange.
  15. While entering the psych hospital cafeteria yelling, “DEAD MAN WALKING!!!!” is very comical to other patients it is NOT to the staff.  This makes the whole situation that much funnier.
  16. Benzodiazepines will be order just because you’re getting on the nerves of the staff.
  17. Being given stool softeners and laxatives in your daily medicinal regimen as someone who has active eating disorders is  just a bonus.  And yes the staff and doctors knew I was actively anorexic and bulimic.
  18. Eventually having a “Code 10” on out of control patients so many times a day is like watching the TV show Cops and cheering for the criminal.  It’s just another form of entertainment.
  19. You might just meet a celebrity fighter that resembles Mike Tyson.
  20. Serving trauma patients red beans, rice and a link of sausage DOES NOT encourage them to work on their sexual trauma.
  21. Chest compressions are now an acceptable form of treating panic attacks.

Every Diagnosable mental disorder can be found at some point right here on these units.  You think you’ve seen strange behaviors?  You can’t even imagine the behaviors that are exhibited by human beings.  I hope you’ve enjoyed some laughs and know that these are things that I’ve personally experienced.  It’s really this bad.

#Thispuzzledlife

For The Bible Tells Me So Part 2

For the Bible Tells Me So…..Part 2

“If a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in

the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission.”

― Flemming Rose

Let me start this entry by saying that I am in no way putting in “jabs” to any particular religious belief or sect.  I’m simply stating how religion can be used in an abusive nature.  I have my own personal experience with Southern Baptist and Southern Evangelicals.  I don’t dislike either one.  Abuse has also been publicized within the Catholic religion.  But let’s face it, abuse of any kind knows no boundaries and/or limits.

In the many years that I longed for and searched for my birth mom I heard the same story over and over about how she was put in touch with a pastor in the Petal/Hattiesburg, MS area and then like a bad explosion I was born.  When I got older I had to be able to understand what all this meant.  So the only way I could fully comprehend this was to call it  “The Underground Railroad for Unwed Mothers.” To tell a few more of the details surrounding her prenatal arrangements and my eventual birth, my birth mom was from Indiana at the time.  She was 16 years old and had gotten mad at my biological father and fled to put me up for adoption as soon as possible.  This information I received when we met face-to-face.

As I stated in the first part of this blog entry being an unwed mother was not exactly as socially acceptable as it is now.  We are not talking about 50 years ago either.  In the 1970s was when my birth mom had me.  In the 1990s when I graduated high school teen moms were still regarded as “less than” no matter the circumstances.  These “less than” opinions were not only from the standpoint of the church where I personally saw people treated differently depending on socioeconomic, gender, race, sexual orientation and just about any other category where someone might “stand out” as being not “normal.”

not afraid to grieve

Nevertheless my birth mom was actually suppose to go to the Bethesda Home for Unwed Mothers when she was pregnant with me.  However, she was too far along in her pregnancy to be accepted there.  This was the best outcome for me as the baby for her to not be allowed there regardless of the reasoning.  For her, though, she has made it clear many times over that I was “an inconvenience in her life then and now.”  Tell me even reading that you didn’t feel that punch to the gut.  Now imagine that you’re that baby that grew up wanting nothing more than to find part of your identity and you’ve been forced to wait to find this woman that you inherently have longed for your entire life because of state laws.  All the while hoping that your opinion of what “adoption” means to you is different.  Only to be rejected again but now you feel that very deadly blow.  I could do absolutely nothing.  I could say nothing.  Me being left speechless seldom ever happens.

To this day, when I am still and think back to that moment I have to change the subject because it’s just too painful to remember.  To make matters worse, when I returned from finding the answers I needed my husband at the time told me “she’s a filthy and disgusting woman and she gave YOU up for adoption.”  I can’t describe what that did to me emotionally.  Every feeling and thought that I had up to that point about my self-worth came down to that one comment.  I have never recovered from things like that that were said to me daily.

When she was turned down at the girl’s home she stayed with another local pastor and his wife until she had me and like clockwork she left never to think about me again until the phone call from my biological brother telling her that I had been found about 30 years later.  She has had an incredibly difficult life.  She and my biological father passed along some strong addiction genes and well…..not much else.  The “Nature vs. Nurture” debaters would love to study this one.  I was going to mention something about good looks but roasting myself has become somewhat of an art.

enemy no chance

The point in all of this is that religion can be incredibly shaming to those that aren’t stereotypical worshippers.  This means going to church or whatever your place to worship and acting a certain way or   being vocal.  Now, personally, I don’t care how anyone worships or who they worship because I consider this a very private matter between you and your higher power whomever or whatever that might be.  Here’s a quote from an author on this very thing…

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme, McHugh is telling us. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly. Is it any wonder that introverts like Pastor McHugh start to question their own hearts?”
― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Pastor Marvin Winans is a gospel singer a member of the Winans Family a famous gospel group.  He also leads the choir called the Perfecting Church Choir.  He also has produced several albums with this choir while also being a part of “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”   Winans also delivered the eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral in 2012.   The comment from an elder in the church about his policy regarding baby dedication for unwed mothers and their children was this…..

 “Pastor Winans has a strict policy — he won’t bless the babies of unwed mothers in front of the congregation”, Fox 2 Detroit reported.

Grace said “she felt degraded by the pastor’s decision. She’s hoping he reconsiders, even if it means having her son dedicated during the week by a church elder.”

Until then, she told Fox 2 Detroit “she has no plans to return to Perfecting Church.”

“I absolutely would not set foot back in the church right now because I feel like they look down upon me and my kind, meaning single moms and unwed mothers,” Grace said.

Pope Francis recently said in May that the Catholic Church should bless children born out of wedlock, because their mothers chose life over abortion.

“’Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term. … “What does she find? A closed door,” he said, according to Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors (http://archive.eurweb.com, 2013).”

What about those of us that can’t attend comfortably because of trauma either by clergy abuse, PTSD, social phobias, etc?  Well, let’s just say that I’m open about many facets of my life regardless of ostracizing.  Loud music which is usually the status quo in most churches sends chills all over my body.  Not because of the words but because sensory overload and hyper startle  reflex that will have me cringing and crying if I can’t get out of the situation.  If I’m still unable to leave violence is my “go to when niceness doesn’t work.  I’m openly gay  and legally married with children, addictions, mental illness, phobias, PTSD, eating disorders and medical cannabis.  Do I need to keep going?

I’m that baby that was refused dedication to the church because I was born to an unwed mother  (figuratively of course).  My point is this…..the church has lost sight of its mission if Christianity is your thing.  I have my beliefs and questions just like most that keep that information in the dark.  I don’t believe for a minute that the only relationship you can have with God or your chosen deity has to be within a church.  Nor does it make you “less than” because you don’t chose to worship like others.

I’m currently surrounded by people who are loving Christians who understand mental illness and its roots.  They don’t shame me into going to church with them it’s a choice that I make.  And if I start having an issue I simply leave the service and it’s no big deal.  Many churches have a room removed from the service area or provide ear plugs for this and many other reasons and conditions.  God just knew that when the mold broke that I would be quirky but that I would SURVIVE and thus far that’s exactly what I’ve done.

#Thispuzzledlife

For The Bible Tells Me So…

For the Bible Tells Me So…

“It is spiritual abuse that uses the Bible as a weapon to manipulate,

shame or guilt people into a way you approve of.”

—-Anonymous

 In the wacked out world and society that we as Americans live in we often like to define spiritual abuse in terms of nationality, ethnicity and dialect to other countries that shout, “JIHAD!!!!”  Our own country is saturated with individuals who use a form of spiritual abuse every single day.  We have our own radical extremists who are armed instead of bombs with suicide missions and IEDs and are armed with a tongue and a Bible.  In my case abuse, more specifically domestic abuse was carried out also using the Bible.  I speak only of my own past affiliation with religion.  Now before your polygrip starts slipping from what I’ve just said give me a minute to explain.  Or as many Southerners have once said, “Don’t get yer bowels in an uproar, yer kidneys in a downpour and yer liver in a jar.”

In no way am I saying that everyone that holds strong to their particular religious affiliation are classified as terrorists or abusers.  What I am saying is that we forget in our own communities that  religion both overtly and covertly can cause colossal damage like that of a terrorist.  The damage is not exclusively physical.  Pay attention next time you’re in an extra conservative area of the country and just pipe up and say that you don’t go to a church.  You will be ostracized quickly and/or be invited to a church and they are not expecting resistance of any kind.  If this does occur the likelihood of hearing the saying, “Yep, he/she is going to hell on a scholarship.  A full ride straight to hell if they don’t change their ways.”

I will give my experience of domestic abuse being justified behind a couple of verses that seems to be all the justification that some narcissist need to further carry out their deeds.  My views are not necessarily that of yours or anyone else’s.  There was this one story, though, that I’ve heard most of my life that was right outside of the city limits of Petal, MS on Blue Lake Rd. The people that had this place disguised as a religious run place for unwed mothers and their babies were actually carrying out abuse but only backed by the words held so close to the hearts of many Christians…..THE BIBLE.

sharkfish

Let me attempt to show you the similarities and differences of a couple of situations through words.  Regions of the country where my personal experience with religion is affiliated is in the Deep South of Mississippi.  I have only lived in one other area of the country…the southwest in Albuquerque, NM.  There are similarities in regards to religion in both regions.  And there are some strong differences as you can imagine.  New Mexico is incredibly more liberal and much more ethnically diverse than Mississippi and let’s just leave it at that.

I’m sure that individuals can tell me about atrocities that happen in the name of religion in the southwest area of the country.  By the time Mel and I moved to Albuquerque we were turned off to most forms of organized religion.  I will only speak of my own experience.  If you were to look at my badly scarred forearms from the many years of cutting, you would notice that more than a few were placed there behind some of the few chosen passages in the Bible.

Around the 1960s, the Bethesda Home for Girls was just one of many homes for unwed mothers run by the late Lester Roloff who played a supporting role in the facility as an evangelical pastor.  Around 1960 they operated a choir to market the facility. The facility had a federal investigation in 1986 launched against it amid allegations of abuse and “brainwashing.”  Some of the same allegations also occurred in another Roloff-affiliate home Ruth’s Home of Compassion in Rome, GA which were reported by The New York Times stating….

“In 1982, in a hearing heard by Judge Myron Thompson, The Montgomery Advertiser, Bobby Ray Wills, a principal operator of the home, disputed those reports. He acknowledged that the girls had to listen to religious tapes but said, ”It’s a washing, but it’s called blood washing and heart washing.”  Donna M. said she tried to run away in November but was caught. She was grabbed by the hair, she told the court, and disciplined by Linda Williams, an employee of the home. Donna said she was struck 19 times with a wooden board and ”put in a tub of hot water” to disguise scars and bruises.

School officials produced a half-inch-thick piece of wood, about 18 inches long and 3 inches wide, that they said was used for discipline. Donna testified that another piece of wood, a split baseball bat with holes in it, was also used at the school. Another witness testified that a longer and thicker board was used. Willing to Take a Risk

David C. Gibbs Jr., a Cleveland lawyer, is representing the school, Mr. Wills and Miss Williams in the case. When he cross-examined Donna today, @she acknowledged that she knew that fleeing the home was against the rules and that she would be disciplined if she was caught. She said she was willing to take that risk.

Mr. Gibbs stressed during his cross-examination of Donna and Cindy T. that all the girls at the home were aware that the home had strict rules of discipline based on their religious convictions. Cindy, 16, of Quitman, Miss., testified that she was beaten several times for talking about her past, talking about fleeing the home, and for getting low grades in the academic program.

Today’s court hearing resulted from a complaint filed with the court last month by relatives of a 19-year-old unwed Hayneville, Ala., woman, who was about five months pregnant at the time and had been sent to the home on the recommendation of a minister of a church here. The woman’s relatives subsequently decided that they might have been misled about the home’s environment.

Her understanding, said Candy H., the plaintiff in the suit, in an affidavit filed with the court, was that the home would provide a refuge from possible public ridicule over her pregnancy out of wedlock, provide religious counseling and arrange for her to put her baby up for adoption by Christians. 

As a condition of this help, she said, she was required to sign a contract saying she would stay at the home for a year, would make no phone calls for three months and receive no letters from males. These are standard rules, all sides concede, calling for punishment if they are disregarded. A call by Candy to a relative a few days after she entered the home, however, prompted her sister and mother to seek her release.

In an affidavit filed with the court, Candy, who has been sitting at the plaintiff’s table throughout the day’s proceedings, said: ”I am concerned for the health and safety of other girls at the Bethesda Home for Girls, particularly the physical and mental health of the unwed pregnant girls for the following reasons:

”Pam Hurd, a pregnant girl who has been at the Bethesda Home for Girls for two months, was beaten a week ago by Linda Williams in her office with a wooden board. Pam Hurd returned from Mrs. William’s office crying and in great pain. Pam Hurd sat in her desk and continued to cry. Pam is five months pregnant.

”Veronica, a helper at Bethesda Home for Girls, threatened Pam with additional beatings if she did not stop crying. Pam responded, ‘I just can’t help it, because it hurts.”

”Pregnant girls are repeatedly told they are worse than murderers for having sex out of wedlock,” the affidavit said. ”Pregnant girls are demeaned in front of other girls. This was very upsetting to the girls, as it was to me.”–The New York Times, 1982.

The owners Bobby Wills and his wife Betty is mentioned in relationship with Mountain Park Academy, which were run in the still un-regulated state of Missouri in the early 1980s.

 In 1986 FBI started an investigation. The state sought new homes for 120 teenagers. Aside from the protests from local Christian fundamentalists the investigation resulted in the closure of the facility. Girls, some of whom were pregnant , who was committed to these facilities due to their pregnancy were often forced to give their child up for adoption. 

A girl named Connie Munson died during an escape attempt from the facility. 

In late 2010, the former campus was victim of a fire which destroyed the main dorm.

A lot of these girls have had long lasting effects.  You can do an internet search about this organization and find additional information about the allegations, investigations and eventual rescue of the minors and prosecution of the owners.  These girls ,unfortunately, were not in the minority with these types of behaviors then or now.  Now how does this relate to me?

pain changes

In my marriage to my husband that lasted from 1997-2007, a significant change happened in his abuse.  First, I was told once we were married, “Now that we’re legally married you have to do everything I say.  If you don’t give it , I can take it because I’m a husband.”  Again the message that God thought this was ok because it was in the Bible which was conveyed on so many levels.  We even had a pastor who told us when we went to couples counseling and I complained of how rigid he was about food and body image comments the pastor told us, “A man has a right to have his wife look a certain way.”  Again this seemed to be another confirmation to him that must have given him the “go ahead” on the way he had already been treating me for a few years.  By that time, he had already mentally broken me down to the point that I was afraid to be without him.  Either way this seemed to be the go ahead to seal my fate into being this controlled until I left him in 2006.

Sometimes the behavior does not classify as abuse but rather mixed messages.  The therapist in Albuquerque that I worked with for 2.5 years and was anything but healing in nature was also incredibly ego driven.  The narcissistic way that she conducted therapy was a similar way that my previous marriage to my ex-husband.  Obviously, there were some significant differences but the differentiation in the imbalance of power, verbal aggression and just malicious tones scared me right back into a state of submission.  This is why women and men stay in abusive relationships longer than they want to often to the individual’s detriment.  It’s the breaking of a human being into submission.

The verse so often cherry picked right out of the Bible to justify their behavior was Ephesians 5:22 which states “Wives submit to your husband as your husband submits to the Lord. ”  It appears that this is a mandate for wives to do whatever the husband demands if reading only this part of the chapter.  The will of the woman and the reasonableness of the request are irrelevant to folk who misinterpret the text. Thus, when a wife refuses to “obey” her husband, he sees it as his job to make her “get in line” or to  “make her a better person” as I was told.

This misreading does injustice to the text and to the victims of domestic violence. Ephesians 5:22 is preceded by verse 21: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Paul has in mind a magnificent sign to the world of God’s transforming work: People giving of themselves freely and mutually. This fits the opening verses of this chapter (Ephesians 5:1-2), which tells us to “be imitators of God” by “living a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Kinnison, 2008).” Furthermore, Paul goes on to admonish husbands to love their wives as they would love their own bodies. (Ephesians 5:28).

In the early 1980’s, I was molested by my pastor’s children at the young age of 5.5 years old.  The details are sketchy for now but make no mistake that I still know, hear and see things in the form of flashbacks that give me all the proof that I need.  I remember some of these times where I was terrified to say anything about what had happened.  It wasn’t fear of my parents.  It was the fear for what would happen to me if I did tell.  I would keep this secret for almost another 30 years.  The fear was due to an imbalance of power by kids much older than me.

This therapeutic relationship had an incredibly forceful presence that scared the ever living shit out of me.  This was another situation where I would “cow tow” to someone who presents very authoritatively.  Most people know that I can, at times, be very confrontational.  However, someone with a very dominant and powerful personality is my kryptonite.   I have been known to avoid eye contact with people that are very dominant. I will have physical reactions around them.  I did not say, “Bad or dangerous people.” Those that find this and use it to their advantage in an abusive fashion are incredibly dangerous to me.

The very last day this therapist and I ever spoke and her reign had finally come to an end.  She told me on the way out, “You know what I’m going to do for you?”  Like an idiot I said, “What?” Like some words of wisdom would actually surface.  She told me, “I will leave you with this last comment….I’m going to pray for you.” “After all you’ve said and done and that’s the best you got?” I asked.  Some might ask which situation was more damaging for me?  She was because of the professional position gives an edge.  But to me they both used the Bible and they were both abusive.  Their somewhat deathly blows were both using the Bible as the main weapon.

I walked off with tears in my eyes and thought…”JUST ANOTHER SITUATION I HAD TO SURVIVE AT THE HANDS OF ANOTHER PREDATOR.”

Whenever I would ask my ex-husband why I had to do whatever task was at hand for him he always told me, “Because the Bible says so.”

http://www.ethicsdaily.com/abusers-distort-bible-to-justify-domestic-violence-cms-14959, Kinnison,  2008.

http//www.nytimes.com/1982/03/05/us/home-s-ex-inmates-tell-of-beatings.html, 2012.

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