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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It’s Not About The Food

It’s Not About The Food

“Girls developed eating disorders when our culture developed a standard of

beauty that they couldn’t obtain by being healthy.  When unnatural thinness

became attractive, girls did unnatural things to be thin.”

–Mary Pipher

One of the things that I’ve learned the most about my many maladaptive behaviors is that the perfect storm had arrived to ensure me having eating disorders when I was a very impressionable teenager.  Not only was it teenagers having issues with body image.  It was also the abuse that occurred during that time and the things that were said and my impression about what had occurred and what was done.  As a part of the abusive teacher’s very hateful nature was the being humiliated about myself as a human being in front of my peers.  I was put on display a lot of the time and made to stand in front of the class while being made fun of without having any type of recourse.  If I ever said anything back I was punished by both she and the administration who clearly had no idea to what extent her abusive nature was.  She on more than one occasion, would tell me when the rodents would get into my food in my locker “It doesn’t look like you need food anyway.”

My high school years during which I kept those eating disorders alive and well I became a sickly 83lbs and ruined any of my hopes of playing athletics in college.  What I was left with was a life of painful eating disorders that I still struggle with daily.  These behaviors were further compounded when I met my ex-husband who disguised his personal reason for wanting to help me by encouraging the eating disorders in his own way.

skinny back

I was made to weigh for him sometimes weekly because “I’m not going to be married to a fat ass” he would always say.  He would also tell me that “it’s ok to have fat friends but you don’t have to look like them.”  He micromanaged my food to the extent that that I was only allowed to eat what he approved of and nothing else.  To make sure this happened he would allow me only 10 pistachios and 10 olives to eat while at work working two jobs.  He would also, on occasion,  sit out in the parking lot to make sure I didn’t eat anything that was not what he allowed.  When I would tell him that I was hungry his supportive line was “No pain no gain.”

He would also leave random newspaper clippings around the house about the latest weight loss diets and/or make me take pictures of myself in swimsuits or naked, put them on the refrigerator and tell me “next time your fat ass gets hungry look at this picture and maybe you won’t want to eat.”  He would also make comments if we went out to eat about how all the people were looking at me because I was a fat ass.  He would say, “If you don’t like them staring at you then don’t be a fat ass.”  If we had dinner with his family he would wait until we left to criticize either what I ate or how I ate. And many times these comments were said where other people could hear them.  He would also say, “Did you have to eat that much of whatever we had for dinner?  You eat like a prisoner who’s about to have their tray stolen!  And that is why I have to tell you how, when and where to eat.  Because you’re too dumb to do it on your own.  You’ve already proven that time and time again.”  Eating quickly became the most dreaded activity I had to deal with on a daily basis.  My goal was to try to get through life with him and eating as little as possible.  As you can imagine I didn’t do that to his standards either.

The message that was conveyed to me was that no matter what I did it would never be to his irrational standards.  I was also expected to be at the gym to workout mornings at 5:00 am.  Being a well known guy in the city he knows many people and that included the employees at the gym.  So, he would call to verify be being there and what types of workouts I was doing.  If I ran 4 miles he would want to know what I didn’t “gut it out” and run 5 miles.

scales

Years of his verbal abuse, threats, and sexual abuse slowly broke me down.  People who don’t understand why individuals stay in relationships like this often say, “Well he only did what you let him do”  cannot possibly comprehend what this does to your psyche.  Those types of hurtful comments are why most suffer in silence and don’t ask for help.  After all, sometimes it was the easiest and safest thing to do by just going along with whatever his demands no matter what they were.  He had me convinced that I was nothing without him.  He and his brother tormented me for years and continue to do so internally.  But again they were both raised by a father who was also a malignant narcissist and a mother who worked at home without an education until much later in life.  So really she had nowhere to go with three children and no education.  So for many men and women in these types of relationships that don’t leave usually have a damn good reason for staying.  There’s always more to the story behind those closed doors than what you realize.  My own parents had no idea the extent of the abuse that I was having to deal with on a daily basis. Such is a life with a malignant narcissist.

To this day, if someone tries to take a verbal jab at me while in a public place or group setting my “verbal sniper” becomes activated and a one-sided war will ensue.  Get me in that little conservative and very judgmental city and I “turn into a werewolf” as my wife puts it.  I have found that striking the first blow is a way that I can set the tone that I will NOT be hurt by whoever it is that I feel is a personal threat either imagined or real.  All I have to do is see this as a possible threat.  Anyone that I perceive as a authority figure, I absolutely will not make eye contact with if at all possible.

scales attached

I guess the message I’ve tried to convey is that eating disorders and other maladaptive behaviors are about something much deeper than society sees them.  You see the signs and symptoms and I feel the weight of the trauma every minute of every day.  To this day I will chose not to eat because the internal war about what to eat is just too painful.  When I do eat I can never be full and satisfied because full means fat to me.  If I do feel full I have to purge with laxatives to get rid of that feeling.  It’s not a binging thing it’s an eating thing.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…..IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD.

Understand this as well….I’m done trying to live my life carrying my trauma and the trauma those two boys in adult  bodies.  I will NOT continue to be a part of the cycle of not working on my own trauma just to have mine and theirs to be spewed out onto other innocent and unsuspecting people.  This is a work in progress no doubt but the cycle dies with me.  I’ve proven that I can live through it.  Now it’s time to prove I can live without it.  All I need was to find a coach to help with this and I did.

“I failed eating, failed drinking, failed not cutting myself into shreds. Failed friendship. Failed sisterhood and daughterhood. Failed mirrors and scales and phone calls. Good thing I’m stable. ”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

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We Called Him Friend

We Called Him….Friend

“The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people.”

—John C. Maxwell

I have been asking myself lately why I felt the need to write about these individuals who made such a big impact on my life.  The answer…..I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally emotionally able to write about them.  Or maybe now that this big life change has happened I have had the time to do some soul searching about people who have impacted my life both positively and negatively.  Whatever the reason I write to process these feelings in private because I’ve always feared expressing emotions other than anger or laughter.  One man that knew the trauma I was experiencing and that spent a tremendous amount of time talking to me each week was Dr. Charles Holmes.

I first met Dr. Holmes during my undergraduate work.  I took several classes he taught on both the undergraduate and graduate level.  He wasn’t a man that crossed boundaries.  He was simply a man who loved his students almost like that of a father.  The first class I took under him was the History of Psychology.  Honestly, the class couldn’t have been more boring.  I would have random thoughts like, “Oh my God did I remember to put on deodorant?  Do penguins have knees? What did I wear?  I look like I just rolled out of my hamper!”  That was one class I truly had to suffer through not because of the instructor but the material.  I was secretly thinking, “To have lobotomy by a leper wouldn’t be as painful.”

He taught many different classes that impacted the lives of so many students.  And then…..I took the Psychology of Addiction and instantly I was in love.  At the time, I had never spoken publicly about the puzzling nature of my life.  When I presented the topic chosen in the class which happened to be about self-harm.  I let my peers into a very small corner of my world and proceeded to throw up after the presentation was complete.  I was also still living with my ex-husband so I was very cautious about telling too much.  But with Dr. Holmes it was just different and you knew that by talking to him. He cared and wanted to know how his students were doing personally not just academically.

dr holmes

March 21, 1941-July 17, 2015

He told us about working with homeless addicts and alcoholics on the streets of New Orleans, LA and I hung onto every word he said.  He knew I was living in an abusive situation but didn’t know the extent.  He didn’t pry but rather just assure me that he was there if I ever needed to talk.  He saw me struggling every day with my personal life of addiction but always had an encouraging word.  He also presented the opportunity to speak to other classes and this continued on into graduate school.  These opportunities were slowly making the shame and guilt dissipate while educating others.

After Hurricane Katrina he told me about some work he was doing in the Pearlington, Waveland and Bay St. Louis areas of Mississippi which were the hardest hit areas.  I was already doing some photography for a book another teacher and I were working on about the devastation.  He invited both Melody and I to help on some rebuilding projects through a Christian organization he was affiliated with.  I can honestly say that the work done in those areas was extremely rewarding.  Not to mention all of the memories that I still have from that.  Here were families broken from the tragedy and I was there to help.  My heart and soul lit up instantly.

I pulled him aside one day before class and said, “Dr. Holmes you’re messing up my theory about men.”  He said, “What are you talking about?”  I said, “Well my experience with men truly exemplifies that all men are pigs and extremely harmful.  Why aren’t you?”  He said, “Dana because I don’t see people in a way as personal property or to make personal gains.”  We hugged and I have never forgotten that.  He would soon make it where all of his classes were required to attend my speaking engagements on campus including the Regional Pine Belt Counseling Association where several professional members of the community also attended.

Once Mel and I moved to Albuquerque life got busy and we spoke every once in a while.  But I did tell him when he asked where I was working that it was with the homeless and how much I appreciated him planting the seed.  I missed him terribly and as my mental health declined all I wanted was to sit down with him and to be told, “It’s going to be ok.”

When we would travel back to Mississippi I would always stop by the college and look up these professors that meant so much to me.  And I could always count on a big hug from Dr. Holmes and occasionally I would help “stomp out stigma and stupidity.”  Whether he was in class or not I would peek around where he could see me and he would excitedly stop his lecture and say, “Come on in, Dana.  Class let me tell you about this former student.” My heart leapt for joy each time and seemed to make it all worth it.

One day while Mel and I were planning a trip back to Mississippi his wife accidentally called me.  It was probably a butt dial.  But I called her back as this was odd.  She told me, “Dana doc isn’t doing well and if you want to see him come on.”  My heart sunk into my stomach and I felt sick.  My beloved professor and friend was dying and there was nothing I could do.

We raced the clock trying to get there before he passed.  Luckily or maybe something granted by the universe, we got there in time.  I walked into his room where he was connected to different medical devices.  I could see he was struggling to breathe and when our eyes met he said, “Dana?”  I said, “Hey doc it’s me. I told you I would be here if you ever needed me.”  He smiled and said, “Are you still cutting?”  I said, “Really that’s your burning question to ask me after this long?”  He and I chuckled and I said, “Yea doc I’m still struggling.” We had a rather short conversation but I told him before I left, “Doc thank you for being such a good man, professor and friend. You really blessed me and it was an honor to have you in my life.”  We told each other “I love you” both with tears in our eyes and hugged.  I left and he soon passed away.

When it was time for his service I saw some William Carey University professors like Dr. Cotten there and I was trying to choke back the tears that were wanting to erupt in my throat.  Then as the service finished and people were mingling a couple walked up to Mel and I and said, “Hey, I think we know you.”  I was scared to death because I couldn’t recall their names or faces.  Ashamed I said, “And who might you guys be?”  They said, “Your name is Dana, right?”  I just knew that they must’ve seen my face on a wanted poster or something.  Reluctantly, I said, “Yes that’s me.”  And they said, “We remember you from helping to rebuild our house after the hurricane with Dr. Holmes.” I was astonished and had a sense of pride as well.  I said, “Yes he was one of my good friends and I’ll miss him dearly.”

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No Thanks Needed

No Thanks Needed

“I didn’t become an EMT to have a front-row seat to other people’s tragedies.  I did it because I knew the world was bleeding and so was I, and somewhere inside I knew the only way to stop my own bleeding was to stop someone else’s.”

—Anonymous

There’s no possible way to accurately describe what it’s like to work as an EMT on an ambulance.  It’s a career that requires split second decisions and those decisions can and are life changing in many different areas.  This was a career that I had fallen head over heels in love with.  Please keep in mind that anyone in the EMS system that gets called out is not because someone is having a good day.  The same thing for seeing a therapist.  No one seeks out a therapist just to go in session and say, “Hey, everything is going great.  All I wanted to do was pay a co-pay.”

For me working in the EMS system only for a year still had big consequences.  The things I saw in that short year still affect me today deeply.  Companies that own this type of service whether they be hospital based or privately owned are suppose to offer stress debriefing after difficult calls.  However, I worked for a company that was more concerned with getting shifts covered rather than the emotional and physical well being of their employees which I’m sure was pretty standard in the late 90s.

The year that I worked I developed PTSD as a result of everything that I saw.  Some are effected deeply by this and some have less of these effects.  Neither of which are right or wrong.  PTSD is cold and heartless in its effects and can affect anyone at anytime.   I and many others saw human bodies in conditions that no human eye should ever encounter.  Yes I chose that career but anyone who enters a career like that are going to see the cruel ways that humans treat others and the consequences of poor choices.  And then you also see instances where accidents have sometimes devastating effects.  Who does this type of job?  Well someone has to do it and I felt incredibly drawn to do this work despite the low wages, long hours and effects on the human psyche.  Living in a very abusive situation at this same time left me with no one to talk to without judgment.  I also never felt like I could talk with my co-workers because of the machoesque attitudes that were front and center most days.  Maybe this was their own way of dealing with things but I needed a release and I never found it there.

ambulatance

Very seldom do you ever truly reap the benefits of such horrible scenes.  But there was this one time where I felt that my hard work was done with an outcome that I could smile about.  He was a young 7 year-old boy who was heading to his big brother’s birthday party about an hour away.  His mom stopped to fill up with gas while he messed around inside the gas station store.  Mom was busy with another sibling and making sure the car got filled up with fuel.  But this day something caught the eye of this 7 year-old little boy.  There was a mechanic shop right across the road.  Whatever his reasoning was at the time is unclear but this little boy darted across the busy road only to be hit by a drunk drivers side mirror on his head.  The child went down and we got the call.

We were told that the call involved a child and that it was serious.  My own stepchild was also 7 years-old at the time so this one was going to be difficult.  I just had no idea how difficult it would be.  Upon arrival the mother was noticeably hysterical while her child was laying on the unforgiving road.  My partner said,  “Dana we’ve got to get out of here he’s bad.”  So, load and go we did and his mom still hysterically crying was in the front with me.  I think we made it to the hospital in about 3 minutes.  But this call no matter what our efforts would be left in the hands of God and the universe.  I couldn’t leave this situation until I found out if this child was going to make it.  I stayed in the trauma room among all of the chaos of a severe traumatic injury.  He was showing some very disheartening signs that this injury would be his last.  They worked on him for a while but I had to leave prematurely because we had another call to take.  I almost couldn’t think because I wanted to stay with him.  I guess somehow I thought that if I stayed that he would have a better chance.  Irrational as that might seem I just didn’t want to leave him.

A few days later I went back to check on the boy and his mother.  The boy having a major brain injury was still in a medically induced coma to give his brain time to heal.  His mother told me that he was going to be flown to a hospital in Jackson, MS to receive specialty services for his injury.   In my gut,  I just knew that the long term outcome would not be favorable.  We lost contact but I never forgot this little family.  This scene was one that I would replay many times over the next 10 years.

We would bump into each other only by chance maybe once or twice.  I found out that he was in a wheelchair and that the medical bills reached approximately $1,000,000 but he was alive.  I saw he and his mother she and told him, “She’s one of the people that picked you up on the ambulance.”  His beautiful little face lit up and said, “You helped me?” Starting to get choked up but swallowing those tears into my soul I said, “Yes baby I was there.”  That answer seemed to be enough and I said goodbye once again.

A few more years went by without anymore contact.  And then at the 10 year mark I received a call from out the blue.  It was his mother.  In my gut I was thinking that he had died due to complications from his disability.  But his mother said, “Dana this is_____.  He wanted me to call you because he’s graduating high school now and wants you to see him walk for the first time.”  Frozen my thoughts were, “Wait what?  Walking?!!!!”  The only thing I could say was, “I’m there!! Give me the time and place.”  So she did.

I immediately explained everything to Mel since we were now together and asked her if she would go with me.  She agreed and when the time came we both went to this event.  She was taking pictures and I was down on the football field where the graduation ceremony was being conducted.  I stood with his family and prepared myself for what I was about to see.  What I saw was the most courageous 17 year-old boy who didn’t let a set of horrible circumstances stop him from achieving his goal of one day walking before a crowd of hundreds of people.

Chill bumps and emotion overcame me and a sense of pride that this little boy wanted someone who met him under difficult conditions to be there again for the most important day of his life.  Honestly, there’s no way that he should’ve lived but that decision was not mine but was something granted from God.  My life was changed that day yet again.  He reiterated through his actions again the importance of never giving up.

After the ceremony was over and he was sitting back in his wheelchair, I walked to him to tell him how proud I was of him and to tell him goodbye.  He told me, “Ms. Dana thank you for everything you did for me.”  And I told that little warrior as I looked into his eyes, “No thanks needed.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!”  I gave both he and his mother hugs and a little kiss on his forehead and then turned to walk away.  My heart was overflowing with joy and I concluded that all the images and calls that still bothered me was worth every penny to be able to have this God given opportunity to witness.

“Life is about making an impact not making an income.”

—Kevin Kruse

#Thispuzzledlife

Man On A Mission

A Man on a Mission

“When you push yourself beyond limits, you discover inner

reserves, which you never thought existed earlier.”
― Manoj Arora, Dream On

Throughout all my many years of abuse there have also been people who have crossed my path leaving their mark on my life in a way that facilitates growth.  Dr. Paul D. Cotten was just one of those people.  He also crossed paths with my father when he was in junior college.  Ellisville State School was a residential facility for individuals with mental retardation.  As you can imagine, I went with my dad to work when I was little, therefore, being around individuals with many different types of disabilities was the norm.  As an adult I consider that exposure a blessing.

When I started my educational career at William Carey University as a non-traditional undergraduate, I told my dad the names of some of the professors.  As I mentioned some of the names he began to tell me stories about his connection with Dr. Cotten and some of the funny things he would say.  My experience with Dr. Cotten was one that I valued and learned from at every interaction.  He was not an easy professor, by any means, but he knew how to get me to perform at my best.  He pushed me sometimes to tears but I knew that what he was doing was out of love for his students.

dr cotten

I took him for several classes but my favorite and most challenging had to be Abnormal Psychology.  Dr. Cotten was very instrumental in deinstitutionalizing and placing these individuals with disabilities into the community.  The focus of our internship programs were with the elderly and mentally retarded populations.  Yes I was able to do many hours in substance abuse programs but he would not let me make that my focus.  I have stories I could tell about working with these populations and was truly blessed.

Anyone who crossed paths with Dr. Cotten was one where you either hated him or loved him as a professor.  I truly believe that most people loved him because he always challenged you to be your best.  Some of the best advice I was given as a student by him was, “Before you diagnose someone you first have to understand that they are an individual.”  Dr. Cotten also saw clients for evaluations for court commitments.  The stories that he would share would have you laughing but his points were always very clear.  He told us in one of the Gerontology classes  that “Most people retire from something rather than to something which shortens their lives due to complacency.”  He had more irons in the fire in his 70s than most will have in a lifetime, thus, making sure he wasn’t complacent. He milked life of every minute of every day no matter how difficult sometimes.

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In tears, I went to him one day in his office where he had placed a piano that he would often be playing southern gospel music. I announced my arrival and I looked at him and said, “Dr. Cotten I respect you so much why are you pushing me so hard if you know what I’m going through at home?”  I was still married to my ex-husband, at the time, and the abuse I suffered at his hands was immense.  Dr. Cotten then told me, “Because I know that you’re capable of more than what he’s telling you.”  I couldn’t really understand everything in the moment but I took that interaction back with me and I have never forgotten how much that motivated me to finish my degree through the blood, sweat and tears.  I just couldn’t understand why he cared but he did.

He was always so funny but very business-like at times.  I asked him while walking to another class why he was there on his day off.  He simply told me, “I’m here to help stomp out stupidity.”  I could do nothing but laugh because that’s exactly what he was doing.  He also required us to be counselors at Camp Kaleidoscope, which is a camp for children with autism and other spectrum disorders.  I was terrified but I will always give him credit for making us well rounded as students.

When I heard of his passing in 2017, at the age of 80,  I teared up at the death of a man who made such a big impact on my life both personally and professionally.  But most of all, he was a man of integrity and always wanted the best for his students no matter what branch of psychology they chose. He was also over the music therapy program and touch lives everywhere he went. He touched my life at a time that was tumultuous and finding a reason to live was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Thank you Dr. Paul D. Cotten for blessing my life and for seeing more than just a traumatized individual that stood before you.  You have inspired me to continue in the world by helping to “stomp out stupidity.”

#Thispuzzledlife

The Healing Has Begun

The Healing Has Begun

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

— Hippocrates

Recently, I was asked to notice the things that irritate me throughout the week but more specifically in public where I have the most problems.  And OMG I must have totally been  attempting to be a trophy hog on disordered thinking or something.  Because I started noticing that everything about being in public bothers me  with the complete spectrum of emotions.  I won’t put too many specifics because well…..we live in a society with some real poop slingers.  No wonder I have so many different reactions both physically and mentally.

I already know from where some of these reactions stem but some I don’t.  At any rate, I still learned something about my triggers.  I also learned that I have a lot of work to do before I’m anywhere near comfortable in public again.  I’ll just have to trust the next step.

I have isolated myself so long that I’d lost all hope and refused to set any goals.  I guess before I set goals I needed to have some time to realize what it is that I want again out of life.  What are the things that I’ve missed and grieved over missing in life?  Some might not seem big but they were definitely taken for granted.

  1. First, I want to be able to be the kind of spouse to my wife that she deserves.  She didn’t ask for the complications of a mentally ill spouse.  I also didn’t ask for the mental illness.  She’s a real trooper in every way.  And she wholeheartedly supports my efforts to find peace.
  2. I want to be a mother to my children that’s there for them both emotionally and physically.  Yes my children are learning about mental illness firsthand.  It’s both good and bad.  They are learning how devastating it can be but they are also learning how to be advocates at the same time.  They deserve, as well as, I do to be emotionally available to them. They know that momma D is different.  And they also know that I’m momma the one who loves them more than my next breath.
  3. I want my career back working with difficult populations with addictions in some capacity.

nothing can dim a light

  1. I want to speak to graduate classes specifically about the stigmas surrounding the diagnosis of DID.  And how important ethics are and the damage that can be caused from not being ethical therapists.  And how bad therapy almost killed me.
  2. I would like to do public speaking outside the classroom also helping to lessen the stigmas of mental illness.
  3. I want to be able to live a life free from the torture of my past.
  4. I want to be able to grieve all these years I’ve held back out of fear.
  5. Above all I just want to be heard.

This might seem like not a big deal to some but this is still a tall order that I have never seen as being remotely possible.  I don’t know what lies before me.  I heard someone recently say that uncomfortability is the key to healing and growth.  I am definitely no stranger to uncomfortability. But more with the goal of peace at the finish line doesn’t appear to be a difficult choice.  The pace will be slow and steady which is the way I would view a ball season or an important game.  And well….I’m in the fight for my life.  Burning out on the front end just creates more setbacks. It’s also not a sprint but a marathon. Because it took 42 years to become this dysfunctional and to think it can all be healed over night is a miracle only Jesus could pull off.   Yes Sarah I do understand. Sometimes all you need is for someone to give you a chance to reap that opportunity.  My friends the healing has begun.

#Thispuzzledlife

Shattered (Poetry)

Shattered

Life began being ripped away,

how that felt I can’t begin to say.

With no voice I lie and wait

Someone? Are you there? Touch is what I crave.

As a little girl touch was what I got.

I didn’t understand. It was painful and hot.

Teen years rolled around and I was locked away.

All I did was cry and pray.

I wanted to disappear in every way.

Everything has a price that must be paid.

She hated food and she hated life.

You did everything possible to make her your wife

SHATTEREX

You always promised you’d never hit her.

But oh those words were so strong and very bitter.

You cut her down and again she was little.

Take her fears and insecurities and made her very brittle.

She refused to leave and would not go.

All she was to you was a legal ho.

To substances she turned to dull her pain

Given the chance she’d do it again.

Many losses and now a new wife.

With two little boys and a new life.

The old life hangs on and the fears are great.

Everything about life she has learned to hate.

Friends and family she’s lost most but not all.

She’s somehow trapped again by four walls.

If they all knew what all it takes to live every day.

Forget the fact that she loves weed or that she’s gay.

Because of you A shattered psyche and a shell is all that is left.

She gets up every day wondering is this the day she will taste death?

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#Thispuzzledlife

 

Who Really Cares?

Who Really Cares?

January 11, 2017

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I think this is a question that is often asked but responses are typically….”Not me for sure” “I could care less what people think” “Their opinions don’t pay my bills”  But if we all really look deep do we truly care what people’s opinions are of us as an individual?  I can only speak for myself on this topic but I can honestly say that I’m torn.  Remember, this is where I am emotionally on this topic at this moment.  With so many internal opinions this answer is likely to change momentarily.  However, I can say that the majority of my life the message has always been conveyed to me that “image” is very important, if not, one of the most important things in life.  And it’s the opinions of others that somehow control the vision or path of my future.  Let me explain…..

Being raised in a very conservative and small southern town the typical way of dealing with things has always been to “keep it in the family and put a smile on your face.”  Do I think that this way of thinking is detrimental to completing the normal emotional/psychological/physical developmental stages?  Why no.  But I do think that in some instances it can make for difficult adjustments.  I clearly remember as a child getting ready for church on Sunday mornings and for one reason or another I or my sister would get in trouble usually leading to tears of frustration about simply not getting our way.  But let us pull into that church parking lot and it was, “Dry it up and put a smile on your face.  We are headed inside the church.”  What this translates to is this….”Don’t let anyone see anything that is considered ‘out of the norm’ because it will reflect poorly on our family thus making us look like incompetent parents.”  Now, I obviously can’t say that this is exactly what my parents were thinking or feeling but it definitely rings true for those friends, family and perpetrators that I’ve had dealings with.  I’m also in no way trying to demonize the way my parents raised me.

Is this a very catastrophizing way of looking at a very harmless situation?  Absolutely.  But this is a very multi-generational and societal way of thinking that is very common nationwide.  This is also a side effect of a society that focuses primarily on appearance that is often unauthentic.  Nevertheless, these very unrealistic expectations that have false attainability beliefs infiltrate the minds of impressionable children and teens and they are constantly chasing an image or ‘image like’ appearance not only to fail but fail miserably.  The thought, in turn, of not being good enough is implanted and constantly reiterated until it becomes a belief and then a self fulfilling prophecy.  This obviously doesn’t ring true in every situation but, I would be willing to bet that there are both young teen boys and girls who struggle with body image and appearance in epic proportions.

All of my perpetrators in some form abused me in ways that attacked my appearance and body image to a level that has left long time scars and often gaping wounds both internally and externally.  These wounds, by far, have been some of the deepest.  Body image and self worth were tied into one very distorted concept that birthed very distorted beliefs.  The specifics of these events are left for those willing to listen professionally.  Please understand that they are as fresh today as the day they pierced my skin and psyche. This belief is also one that is also held in high regard by society as evidenced by the astonishing numbers of children, teens and adults who are held captive by eating disorders, compulsive plastic surgery or any substance or behavior that falsely advertises that there will be TOTAL control or perfection such and I would be the first one with my hand out.

comfort zone

Now, why all of this long and drawn out explanation?  Well, because for me this is exactly what my ‘perfect storm’ looked like. Essentially, I’ve been marinating in false beliefs and concepts the majority of my life in many different ways.  These beliefs that have developed at a very young age while also being further molded by daily verbal and emotional abuse just so happened to be the perfect breeding ground for lifelong eating disorders and body image issues.

I was recently asked the question…”How do I imagine a world without the care of what people think?” Again I quickly thought, “I don’t care what people think in the least bit.”  Then the reality of the question hit me a few seconds later and I looked at her like someone who had just seen an individual streaking in their living room.  All I could muster was the puppy head tilt.  I honestly had to fight back tears because I knew what was being hinted at and how incredibly painful this topic is for me.

Since I’ve now had time to digest the question further I can honestly say this….I have no idea what a world where no one cared what other people think about them.  This in no way has any hint of sarcasm attached to it.  It’s almost like asking Helen Keller what it’s like to have sight?  When I’ve never lived or understood how to live life full of true freedom in that way, it’s difficult to imagine a life like that even being possible.  That’s not to say that people don’t fully understand and embrace that concept currently.  It sounds like a beautiful fantasy that I’ve been unable to touch, smell, see or taste thus far.

I can tell you that personally with the weight on my shoulders that I’ve carried daily for many years surrounding this topic, it would probably feel like I was so light that I might float away if I were that free.  I don’t really know an answer that isn’t conflicting.  What I do know is that caring what people think about me and my life and life choices does not get the bills paid.  I think also that because of the nature of human beings wanting and needing to belong often times we tend to try and conform naturally to what society, family or friends think for fear of not belonging and having that connection of acceptance from another.   I also know that caring what people have thought has left me with devastating effects to my own detriment  and often in ways not seen with the naked eye.  So, I guess maybe this is just another situation where moderation is the key and too much is dangerous.  I’m not too proud to say that I just don’t know or understand that balance yet because I live in a constant state of fight or flight.  However, I’m beginning to understand exactly how far this issue permeates every part of my being.

Usually, I write and I get a noticeably uplifting release.  Tonight, however, I must say that the feeling is an all over heaviness on my heart, mind and body.  As a tear muscles its way through a tough, outer exterior, I am reminded at how very painful and yet cathartic these moments can be.

#Thispuzzledlife

Inside The Rage

Inside the Rage

November 15, 2016

“Rage — whether in reaction to social injustice, or to our leaders’ insanity, or to those who threaten or harm us — is a powerful energy that, with diligent practice, can be transformed into fierce compassion.”
― Bonnie Myotai Treace

 Explicit and detailed rage scene!

I peer through the widow making sure I’m at the correct house. I spot her sitting in her living room with that same scowl on her face from 27 years earlier. The memories of her hatred flood back with the force of Hurricane Katrina and almost paralyzing.  This is the moment at which she would experience the same fear, humiliation, belittling and taunting that I once received from her.  I have prepared for this moment my whole life.  “Be strong, Dana. It’s now our turn” I tell myself.  I knock on the door knowing that I would be recognized immediately.  She opens the door. And before she can say anything I rush the door pushing her off balance back into her house and onto the floor. I pull my 9mm out and point it at her saying, “What you thought I forgot?! Now it’s time to even the score. Please I invite you to take a trip down memory lane with me. You might’ve forgotten what was said and done but I never did. And I never will.” I quickly tie her hands behind her with rope and lock the doors. I make her sit in a chair where she’s tied and threaten to be killed if she says anything without being asked. I tell her, “So this is what it’s like being one up on somebody. No wonder you like that so much.”  With the “deer in the headlights” look on her face and tears welling up in her eyes I say, “Oh is the baby going to cry now? Bitch suck it up!  I had to and I was a child!!!!”

I start pacing with adrenaline and anger at a level that I’ve never felt before. I feel certain that I’ll probably have a heart attack at any moment. But I don’t care. I tell her, “Think to yourself why are you and I back in this position?” Her breathing has become rapid and erratic.  Tears are now flowing down her cheeks and she’s shaking with fear.  “Hey you little bastard!  I asked you a question!” I said as I threw something across the room breaking it against the opposing wall. She starts trying to talk but it sounds mostly like babble. “Shut that hole in your face and talk normal you little idiot! Is it all coming back to you now? Where is everybody to save you? Come on!  Say something or do something so I can send your little unwanted ass to the office again. Hell, no wonder no one wanted you. I wouldn’t have wanted you either.  You’re just a little piece of trash that no one will ever want” and with that I slapped her as hard as I could across the cheek.  A whimper and a whence she continues to cry but now sobbing.  “Suck it up, fish sticks! We’re just getting started.”  I chuckled and say, “Look on the bright side….at least this won’t be every day for a year in a secluded storage closet.”  “I didn’t do anything wrong!” she says.  “Wrong answer, dumbass!” and I slam into her throat with my forearm knocking both she and the chair over with a thud. “IT AIN’T FUN WHEN THE RABBIT GOT THE GUN, IS IT?!!!!”  She slowly shakes her head and starts sobbing louder. “You know what?  I don’t give a fuck what you have to say right now!” I tell her. I rip a piece of duct tape off and put it over her mouth. “You should see how pathetic you look. You could dish it out to a kid but you can’t take it?  This time I have a smile on my face and YOU have the tears. How does it feel now that the roles are reversed?  Who gave you the right or idea that it was in any way ok for the way you treated children? You fucking disgust me!”  As I look into her eyes, I can tell that she is experiencing the depth of fear that I did. The feeling I got was something of validation.

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I slowly walk behind her and whisper in her ear….”No Child Left Behind” and “Teachers touch lives for a lifetime.” I ask her, “Do those statements mean anything to you? Because they mean everything to me. Remember when I fell through the cracks and had to endure your abuse by myself?  Remember how you would embarrass me in front of my peers with your hatred?  Do you remember any of the things I said to you being said to me?  And I find out through the years that you’ve said similar things to other children? So why are you so surprised that I’m back?  The guilt of not having found a way to stop you so no one else got hurt is why I’m back, bitch.” All she can do is look at me knowing well what I’m talking about but not knowing what I’m fully capable of doing. “You altered the course of my life forever with your abusive hatred! You took my fears and insecurities and used them as a weapon by making them public through humiliation!  Your words and actions have left me unable to deal with life and on disability now.  I got me degrees to prove you wrong but you still managed to raise your ugly head and cripple me this many years later.  I survived you and your abuse. Will you survive mine?”  I turn around facing the wall instead of her and I felt a small tear streams down my face.  I turned around. I pointed the gun at her and hearing her muffled screams I say to her, “They say the root of all evil is money.  But it’s not.  The root of all evil is the abuse of power.  You don’t matter to anyone. You never did.”  As I’m starting to pull the trigger I’m startled by a loud noise.  What I soon realize is that the loud noise was the ice maker in the refrigerator here at home. And I’ve been sitting in my recliner for a couple of hours looking at a chair on the other side of the room.

A flood of nausea from a now raging and might I say, angry, migraine is now plaguing me physically.  I quickly try to figure out the current situation, time and place.  My heart is pounding and adrenaline is rapidly flowing through me veins. I grab my pipe with my medical cannabis needing some ‘hurry up’ relief.  I’m already having to play catch up with this migraine.  My legs feel like they have been set on fire. And I’m doing my best to hold down lunch. I feel like something is trying to crawl out of me and run.  From deep within I hear and feel the panic of “Let me out! Get away from me! Let me out! Get away from me!” This calls for a dab of wax. But not before I realize that the belt is wrapped around my arm as a tourniquet in the familiar preparation for cutting.  I just lay back and let it happen.  She needs relief and so do I.  Several minutes go by and I slowly begin to reorient to my surroundings again with a neatly bandaged arm.  I’m weak and exhausted but I now feel now, as though, I might not die.  I look around the room and see that it resembles somewhat of a ditch house for drug addicts or the homeless.  Things are broken that I have no memory of doing yet I was alone all day.  I quietly begin to sob by myself partially out of fear.  But also out of relief that this time no one was home but me.  And I say once again to my internal guys, “Thank you for keeping me safe yet again.”

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Back In The Saddle? We Think Not.

Back in the Saddle? We think not.

November 14, 2016

“Somehow the disorder hooks into all kinds of fears and insecurities in many clinicians. The flamboyance of the multiple, her intelligence and ability to conceptualize the disorder, coupled with suicidal impulses of various orders of seriousness, all seem to mask for many therapists the underlying pain, dependency, and need that are very much part of the process. In many ways, a professional dealing with a multiple in crisis is in the same position as a parent dealing with a two-year-old or with an adolescent’s acting-out behavior. (236)”
― Lynn I. Wilson, The Flock: The Autobiography of a Multiple Personality

Since my last blog, life has hit both me and my family like a tsunami.  Attempting to live with Dissociate Identity Disorder has become a bigger challenge than either my wife or myself could’ve ever imagined.  The agony of trying to find a therapist in the state of New Mexico who specializes in this disorder has been nothing less than impossible.  The lack of knowledge on this disorder by therapists that we have dealt with has left my wife and I in tears and shaking our heads. We have decided that New Mexico has given us the best it has to offer….our boys. As far as competent mental health services, it like the rest of the country it leaves a lot to be desired.

I like many other clients resort to staying away from the therapy field, for the most part, because of the additional damage that has been done.  There just aren’t enough therapists who are competent enough treating severe trauma related disorders.  Let me lay it out….so, when an individual goes to a community mental health therapist they are usually being seen for depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, phobias, etc.  Where all of these are often seen in trauma related disorders the thing that sets this apart from DID is the fact that there’s often one issue that becomes problematic.  In DID, there are often numerous issues that on a 1-10 scale are all busting out at a 15 at any given time.  Additionally, my psyche has compartmentalized memories of the traumas which has created alters all with their own personal needs, fears and individual diagnoses. There are times throughout the days and weeks where I have absolutely no memory of anything.  I or shall I say some part of me could’ve been having a conversation and interacting with you as though I was completely coherent.  Trust me…being told I’ve done things leaves me just as stunned as telling someone that I have no idea what had transpired during my encounter with them.  As frustrating as I’ve seen therapists get while attempting to blindly treat this disorder, what has been the most damaging are uncontrolled egos.  Where there might be a lack of knowledge of specific trauma related issues, whatever happened to genuine compassion instead of therapeutic arrogance?  Luckily, there has been only a one, thus far,  that hasn’t jumped out of the pot just because the water got hot. Personally that has done more for peace of mind than any therapeutic relationship in the past.

trapped in head

Slowly, I hope to fill in some time gaps from the last 1-2 years.  Our boys are what seems to propel this family into continuing the often heart breaking and gut wrenching symptoms and effects that this disorder is taking on both me, Mel and our kids.  They keep days when smiling isn’t possible at least somewhat tolerable.  The purity of love between a child and a parent is one that’s individual and impenetrable.

I won’t lie and pretend that everything is Ok because it’s not.  Bad experiences therapeutically has left me incredibly rigid from the sting of unethical behaviors.  Physically I stay sick every single day in some way.  But truthfully, fear keeps me paralyzed. I have in many ways become a prisoner to my house.  Driving has become too dangerous because of uncontrolled dissociation and switching.  My eyesight changes as alters change making being able to see while driving anything but safe.  Getting lost while driving and not knowing where I’m located and, at times, not knowing the city or state where I’m located presents its own unique hurdles.  Sometimes daily migraines up to 17 hours before any relief is achieved.  And, well, after the previous 3 year battle to prove my innocence in a DUI case because of a dissociative episode while driving has left me quite shaky when it comes to driving by myself.

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Going into public now requires that I be heavily medicated to keep the pure terror and panic attacks to a somewhat manageable level and keep anything unpleasant from happening like vomiting; or a terrified and paranoid alter from appearing; or not being able to complete a sentence because too many are trying to talk and I sound like I’m stuttering. I also seem, at times, to not be able to count money or to be able to answer routine questions asked by anyone at a business without little beads of perspiration on my brow because I can’t comprehend what they’re asking or what the conversation consists of.  With Mel by my side the help is there but the embarrassment is often times unavoidable.  When I’m by myself , I’m socially a wreck. I make it out the house and into my vehicle only to turn around within a couple of miles because the anxiety gets intolerable.  I then retreat to my life behind the walls of our house wondering if and when this nightmare will ever end.

With so many stigmas surrounding the disorder and myths about how it should present itself, it’s no wonder so many professionals haven’t the slightest idea what small glimpse of a world they might see before them.  Strictly based on the ideas that Hollywood portrays is another reason so many have the opinions that to have DID you must resemble Sybil Dorsett in the movie Sybil.  When, in fact, switching can be very subtle and unnoticeable.  There is also the ongoing debate about whether or not Dissociative Identity Disorder is an actual disorder.  This disorder has been in the manual since the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition, 1980) when it first called this disorder Hysterical Neurosis, Dissociative Type.   Since then, the sometimes strange and hurtful behaviors and complications of this disorder have been studied. The knowledge and reasons for the disorder forming are of a much  higher prevalence than once thought. But an even higher prevalence of misdiagnosis sometimes for many years due to the lack of education about how to diagnose properly.  This disorder is very complex, perplexing, frustrating and at times damaging both physically and emotionally to the patient and the families.  Very simply stated….. Dissociative Identity Disorder is very much a reality for our family.

#Thispuzzledlife

Frustrations Of Life

Frustrations of Life

The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. And it can lead to a range of self-destructive behaviors.

— Peter A. Levine

Hopefully, at some point as an adult, life will inevitably let you see it for what it truly is.  I take a step back and look at the year in my life that altered my entire future which is now my past.  The specifics of that year I dreadfully replay on a daily basis.  With both horror and amazement I sit and still try to comprehend almost 30 years later the “whys” that never get answered.  The “torture” as I felt those damaging words, aggressive taunting in front of all my peers knowing I was unable to speak or I would face further punishment. It was a part of the daily mind games, harassment and bullying that pelted my psyche like a spray of bullets.  That same year a fellow classmate and friend committed suicide.  I also sustained a basketball related knee injury that plagues me to this day and became a factor into shattered dreams of one day playing ball past high school.  Life continued to happen and all I knew was that I wanted out.  Out of school and out of life.  I just wanted it all to stop.  I screamed so loudly for someone to help me.  The screams fell on deaf ears.  The screams were there and I could hear them but no one else could.

The inside canvas of my psyche now resembled a pile of suicide wrist rags.  There was a rage that scared me deep within that continued to gain strength and building like a monster hurricane.  I was trapped both physically and figuratively somewhere within the recesses of my mind.  The horrible headaches I now began having became misery on top of misery.  I had to do something or I felt I would implode from emotions.

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On the outside I looked and was  treated like the well liked class clown and promising athlete.  I was friends with everyone.  I was never bullied by anyone except by one of the people that was there to protect me. Not to hurt me.   I tried to play off the situation time after time.  Each tear was portrayed as streams of weakness.  Those tears quickly  became bolts of lightning full of rage and hatred that no one could see building with each hurtful comment.    I seemed to just be beginning to disappear within myself.  I didn’t understand or care as long as I disappeared and couldn’t hear and feel her words.  The pills and the razors were just an added bonus.  Suicidal thoughts , for the first time, began to consume me.  And the obsession with death became an infatuation that never ends.  In reality the “perfect storm” was being created and no one seemed to notice not even me.

I made it through that year licking my wounds  That year changed me forever.  Not a day has gone by in 30 years that I haven’t dealt with the repercussions of that abuse on a daily basis.  Other things in my life have contributed to my  eventual downfall in life but that year stands out as the most painful.  Instead of being that carefree and very fun-loving teenager that I once was, I’ve become a 41 year-old mother of two who still functions like a teenager.  I feel like a teenager on most days.  I see fellow classmates and wonder why I never matured like they did?   Whatever happened during that abuse stunted my emotional maturity at the point at which it happened.  I hate life.  I hate most people.   I’m always scared.  I’m sick physically from the stress on most days.  I can’t have a normal relationship with my family or children because of the overwhelming memories and feelings associated with that event.    Six years of college and two degrees and they mean as much as monopoly money now. My career that I worked so hard to begin was over before it got started.   I’ve lost through one way or another most of the important relationships in my life because my mood swings are so out of control and aggression seems to be the primary emotion exhibited.  The independence of driving has slowly melted away because I can’t focus long enough to drive safely.  The physical pain that seems to engulf me on many days ensures vomiting and tears.  I battle daily with both anorexia and bulimia as I have for the last 30 years.  Deciding on what food to eat every day usually leaves me in tears and hungry.

My life seems like I’m watching a movie of the newest horror film.  I don’t even recognize any of it because it’s so far from where and what I’m supposed to be doing by now.  All of which could’ve been prevented had someone simply been willing to see past the label and ask what was wrong.

Most mornings I wake up pissed because I realize that I’m still alive. Even with the best little family at my side, I hate every moment of every day. If life is that miserable then what’s the point in living it, right?  Many of my friends “tapped out” on life so apparently it’s not just me.  The advice given to me as a child was to “trust people and build relationships on trust.”  I did that and it left me disabled at an early age.  Again, I feel trapped.  This time I’m trapped within myself.

#Thispuzzledlife

Circling The Drain

Circling the Drain

11.19.15

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

8.3.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wolves in sheep clothing #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Chaos Of Life

The Chaos of Life

8.2.15

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

Viktor E. Frankl

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

05/11/2015

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

– Lady GaGa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen

 

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

 

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

5.10.15

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

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

—Ritu Ghatourney

 

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

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

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

mother

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Battle Wounds From A War

Battle Wounds From a War

5.1.15

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

A Bright Red Scream

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

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

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

just scars

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

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

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

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

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

razors

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

-Alice Miller, A Bright Red Scream

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

420: Not Just A Stoner’s Holiday

420: Not just a Stoner’s Holiday

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

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

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

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

Snoop Dog Dana

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

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

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

235

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

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

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

4.18.15

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

— Chief Seattle, 1854

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

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

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

eagle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

“I Believe You….”

“I Believe You….”

4.12.15

“I Believe You. It’s Not Your Fault.”

—-Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Gooood Morning, DID!!!!!

Goooooood Morning, DID!!!!

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

LGBT And DID

LGBT and DID

4.3.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Silencing The Lambs

The Silencing of the Lambs

3.16.15

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

—Sandra Brown, Women Who Love Psychopaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Patch Adams And Therapy

Patch Adams and Therapy

3.12.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light Part2

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 2

1.29.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

And 2 More Makes 3…..

And 2 More Make 3……..

10.21.14

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

 ~Author Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Wake Me Up When September Ends…..

11.5.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dear Perpetrators

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

Sincerely,

YOUR worst nightmare

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Illusions of Halloween

Illusions of Halloween

10.21.14

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

—-Margaret Atwood,  The Empathy Trap book page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown 3

Tears of a Clown 3

9.8.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Winners

Winners

8.14.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Pete Rose

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Who Am I?

Who am I?

9.8.14

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

Think more than I speak,

 & notice more than you realize.”

–Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

I’m Not Alone

I’m Not Alone

8.23.14

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

—Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Fight, Flight or Freeze

August 6, 2014

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

 —Will Rogers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Memories That Come To Life

Memories That Come To Life

8.21.14

“I feel no emotional connection to these outwardly human gestures.
I am not there, because I never left Afghanistan.”
― Jake Wood, Among You: The Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken By War

We recently went to the “small, southern town” thinking that I could do some ‘special’ therapy there.  This is a ‘trial and effort’ type of situation for us in dealing with my disorder.  We soon realized that doing therapy and even being in the state was causing more harm than good.  I couldn’t relax enough mentally or physically to be able to do the therapy.  There are just too many harmful emotions and people that are associated with that area.  When we do visit, I’m constantly watching EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.  Saying that someone is ‘safe’ doesn’t mean shit to me!  I luckily don’t remember what all of what was said and done.   I do remember how the feeling was like having my skin peeled off.

It’s a very conflicted feeling of wanting to be there but not wanting to step foot near that area.  Most of my high school teammates, my parents, our really close friends, people who support us, the fields that I put my body on the line to be a good athlete, the great memories of the terms “team” and “family, and the house I grew up in.  But also, are the memories of the all the abuse.  I always make a point to go by and visit both my friends, former classmates and my grandmother’s grave at their respective cemeteries.   I sit late at night next to the leftfield line where I experienced what the term ‘love’ was all about for the first time.  I think many times about how much fun we had as players and the things we got away with because we were high school athletes.  But, those thoughts always become overshadowed by what was going on, seemingly in another life.

I ride around that city and all I see and think is the horror that no one claims to know about but me.  There are those that I know recall what happened to me with the teacher.  They knew about it, knew it was wrong, and did nothing about it.  Everywhere, I seem to go in that city is a very bad reminder of what happened.  Some people have tried to say, “Just let the past go!”  Tell me how and I’ll do it.  That’s usually where the conversation about that ends.  I usually feel like I can’t escape the ‘nightmare’ that I had already lived.  I just wanted to go to my NEW home, Albuquerque.  Petal will always be the town where I was raised, taught manners, good food and respect.   But a lot of healing has to take place for me to be able to consider it anything other than a ‘nightmare.’  I have a lot of people there that I’m very close too.  However, I can’t even enjoy a visit with them because I’m so on edge about everything.

I was told by my ex-husband about the molestation that, “that happened a long time ago, what in the hell can you do about it now?” I have never forgotten that statement. I instantly felt like I had been emotionally raped because it wasn’t a big deal to him.  He told me later, “I have spoken with your parents about the molestation incident and they told me that they don’t believe that it happened because you would’ve told them about it.”  I didn’t know it then, but they still had no idea what had actually happened. I had made sure of that for a very long time.  I was devastated from what he told me.  I figured that with him being my husband that surely he would be empathetic that it happened.  I don’t know if he ever believed me or not.  But, I do know that there was never any empathy shown towards me about that subject in any way.  “Dana, it’s a &@*# play with it!” is not the way to help that person heal.  It actually re-traumatizes them. I now know what he told me was a lie. All I’ll say about that topic is that I rarely talk about it because of the shame of the abuse.

I’m actually reading a book that is explaining exactly what ‘wife rape’ is.  The book actually explains a lot to me.  I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over at times. So, reading a book is usually a feat.  I start seeing the canvas of words slowly form a picture of what looked like me.  I read further and could so identify with some of the other survivors.  I thought, “Now, I have an explanation for part of the 14 year ‘mind fuck.’” However, what I noticed is that slowly a repeat of an incident began to unfold.  I couldn’t stop it. I was silenced.  I saw his mouth and lips move.  I saw the redness of his face.  Some saw me as being lucky to be married to such a well known guy.

Unfortunately, his abuse was reserved for the party of 1…..me.  He was different around other people.   I knew him for who he was.  He was the product of the abuse from his father.  I was told, “There are no marks on you! No one will believe you anyway!  You’re the one with the mental history!”   Then the feelings began to rush to my heart, stomach and brain where the nausea and migraine ensued.  I looked around and realized that I was sitting in my chair. For a split second, though, everything was very real but from a different time.  I looked down and the book was still opened to the page I had been reading.  I vaped a little mmj (medical marijuana) and then went and tried to relax in the bed while my body thought that I had just been on a run from a dog.  Everyone else was already fast asleep.

Both my days and nights are like this at times.  The visions and memories are so real, in fact, that vomiting often follows.  It seems like it never ends.  I hope for better days sometimes.  Right now, it feels like I’m feeling it all over again.  All I know to do it hit it, whatever it is, ‘head on each time.’ Even if you are scared, you NEVER dodge an opponent!  You always step on the court or up to the plate ready to play ball!

#Thispuzzledlife

A Little More Travel

A Little More Travel

8.20.14

“Punishments include such things as flashbacks, flooding of unbearable emotions, painful body memories, flooding of memories in which the survivor perpetrated against others, self-harm, and suicide attempts.” 
― Alison Miller, Healing the Unimaginable: Treating Ritual Abuse and Mind Control

We recently went to the “small, southern town” thinking that I could do some ‘special’ therapy there.  This is a ‘trial and effort’ type of situation for us in dealing with my disorder.  We soon realized that doing therapy and even being in the state was causing more harm than good.  I couldn’t relax enough mentally or physically to be able to do the therapy.  There are just too many harmful emotions and people that are associated with that area.  When we do visit, I’m constantly watching EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.  Saying that someone is ‘safe’ doesn’t mean shit to me!  I luckily don’t remember what all was said and done.  But, I do remember how the feeling was like having my skin peeled off.

It’s a very conflicted feeling of wanting to be there but not wanting to step foot near that area.  Most of my high school teammates, my parents, our really close friends, people who support us, the fields that I put my body on the line to be a good athlete, the great memories of the terms “team” and “family, and the house I grew up in.  Also, are the memories of the all the abuse.  I always make a point to go by and visit both my friends, former classmates and my grandmother’s grave at their respective cemeteries.   I sit late at night next to the left field line where I experienced what the term ‘love’ was all about for the first time.  I think many times about how much fun we had as players and the things we got away with because we were high school athletes.  But, those thoughts always become overshadowed by what was going on, seemingly in another life.

I ride around that city and all I see and think is the horror that no one claims to know about but me.  There are those that I know recall what happened to me with the teacher.  They knew about it, knew it was wrong, and did nothing about it.  Everywhere, I seem to go in that city is a very bad reminder of what happened.  Some people have tried to say, “Just let the past go!”  Tell me how and I’ll do it.  That’s usually where the conversation about that ends.

I was told by my ex-husband about the molestation that, “that happened a long time ago, what in the hell can you do about it now?” I have never forgotten that statement. I instantly felt like I had been emotionally raped because it wasn’t a big deal to him.  He told me later, “I have spoken with your parents about the molestation incident and they told me that they don’t believe that it happened because you would’ve told them about it.”  I didn’t know it then, but they still had no idea what had actually happened. I had made sure of that for a very long time.  I was devastated from what he told me.  I figured that with him being my husband, at the time that surely he would be empathetic that it happened.  I don’t know if he ever believed me or not.  But, I do know that there was never any empathy shown towards me in talking or other things.  I now know what he told me was a lie.

#Thispuzzledlife

More Traveling

More Traveling

8.19.14

“She was a stranger in her own life, a tourist in her own body.” 
― Melissa de la Cruz, The Van Alen Legacy

I always feel the need to speak about toddler events in the mornings because well…..sometimes they’re just funny.  So, I was doing the usual getting Marshall ready for school and loaded in the car.  I asked him if he would like some cheetos since that’s what we had in the car for him as a snack.  He shook his head and said, “Momma D, no cheetos…only toes!” “Ok, Marshall, mommy will only call them ‘toes’ from now on.”  Sometimes this kid makes me really laugh.

The term “traveling” has a much different definition to me than the general public seems to understand.   When “traveling, “I’m definitely anywhere I want to be.  I could be on the beach somewhere enjoying the sun or checking out the lesbian buffet.  Every place can be new or one that seems to bring much emotional comfort.  However, sometimes the memories of abuse invade and I to go elsewhere without even knowing it.  To the average person, a function such as this doesn’t seem that different from seemingly “ignoring” the spouse or a boss.  Everyone at some point wishes they were somewhere different especially when at work or just needing a vacation.  Most people don’t use this as a defense mechanism but rather just ‘daydreaming.’

As a child, throughout my molestation, I was mentally forced to be somewhere else.  I couldn’t possibly deal with things as they were.  Each time I knew of another “episode,” my mind would go elsewhere.  I had no idea that the ‘dissociation’ had occurred. I just knew that I couldn’t physically and mentally handle the situation at hand.  The specifics about the molestation are going to be left to my very brave therapists.

Over time, this natural and sometimes forced dissociation becomes second nature.  Just I like said in an earlier post about with PTSD symptoms happening when there is an actual or ‘perceived’ threat, this has now become an automatic type of coping mechanism.  Since, I have apparently been doing this since very early childhood even without my knowing, this behavior has become a daily response to anything ‘perceived’ as threatening.  To put these ‘threats’ in perspective for you, I can give you examples of ‘perceived threats.’ Things such as: loud noises, too many people in one area, too much visual, tactile and auditory stimulation, social situations, being by myself, being touched by someone, hollering, bad weather, and many more situations.  As you can imagine, I have varying reactions to therapy because I’m processing everything that happened on different levels.  So, seeing me as the person you know is completely different from what and how they see me as a person.  I’m still the same person you know and grew up with if you see me.  You probably won’t know anything has ever happened or is wrong.  After all, we are taught from a very young age to keep things in the family even if the family doesn’t know.

Dealing with the trauma on such different levels, my therapists and wife get to see very unique sides of me.  Dissociation is very natural for me especially while in therapy.   Sometimes I can stop it and sometimes I can’t.  This can and does present problems in therapy at times, but we work through it and figure out what’s happening.  The goal is to try and minimize “traveling,” while getting use to not using it at all to function daily?  Is this possible?  Really, I don’t know.  I am trusting in the people that I work with to guide me through this healing process.  I have to admit that I wish there was some kind of ‘rapid’ trauma treatment that I can do while under sedation.  Almost like processing without being conscious of what is going on.  This, unfortunately, isn’t part of the process.  The part of the process I’m currently in is one of both mental and physical chaos.  I do the best that I can because that’s what I was taught by both my parents and coaches even when it’s scary as hell.

I write because everything else scares me to the point of vomiting.  I have lost 40lbs because of the stress on both me and my family.  I’m not currently restricting in regards to eating disorder behavior.  Even though, I definitely have a lot of “eating disorder” thoughts and some behaviors especially in public or with certain people.  But, I go sometimes for days without knowing that I haven’t eaten.  I have even overdosed on medication and had no idea until a couple of days later that this had occurred.  I go for minutes, hours, day and sometimes weeks with not knowing what has transpired.  I simply understand this as “traveling.”  Sometimes I have done things in that ‘state’ that I am and will continue to be embarrassed about. Things are said and done are like a game that I think people are playing with me to make me feel bad.  I have bought things, gone places, eaten, not eaten, had conversations, had arguments and have had ‘rage’ events that I have no memory of happening.

I carry a lot of guilt and shame once I understand days later what has happened.  Does this sound like a quality of life to you? My perpetrators have left a war for me to deal with everyday.  I simply try to win one battle at a time until the war is over.  Medical marijuana just helps with a lot of the horrible physical and mental symptoms that I have from all of this. It doesn’t take back anything that happened. I have to take a lot of this medication to be able to go out in public or therapy because everything’s so painful.  For those that think that ”a drug is a drug,” you’re right it’s just like insulin being used as a medicine.  And sorry my disordered behavior has nothing to do with marijuana except to keep both the public and me safe.   I have a quality of life now that I haven’t had before.  Not everyone uses this plant as a medication or recreationally within limits.  There are actually people who no longer think about suicide because they the government has made a medication legal that can also give them a quality of life that they never saw possible. There are a lot more people that use and die from prescribed medications that the trusted doctors administer.  Please educate yourself on this, someone you know might can and could benefit from this plant one day.  It just might be you!

#Thispuzzledlife

Traveling

Traveling

8.16.14

“The trauma said, ‘Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.” 
― Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase: By Andrea Gibson

This morning begins as usual just stirring in our bed trying to wake my senses up.  Automatically, I look around the room to see if I should be alarmed by anything new or out of place.  I sit up on the side of the bed and soon the physical symptoms are on me like a ‘pit bull on a steak.’  The horrible headache that is becoming increasingly worse by the minute is initially unphased by my medical marijuana lying close by.  My body feels pain down to its cells.  I’m having muscle cramps making me question if all of the effort to get better is actually worth it. Why do I hurt like this? If my body is purging itself of the poisons created by the trauma on a cellular level, then I wish it would hurry the hell up.  I did notice that I started getting sick yesterday afternoon.   I  discounted it from being in public for a few minutes yesterday.   Today is different….every morning that this is happening has me feeling that I’m paying penance for something. When is my next acupuncture session? At least, I get a couple of days of almost no physical symptoms.   Alas, the marijuana is working well enough for me to get Marshall dressed and taken to school.  This morning is all about physical symptoms. The feeling is not consciously about social anxiety. But, rather…”Don’t let me puke on the way or when I pull up at the daycare.”

I think to myself…

 “I finally make it back home.  Now, I’m locked in and safe. But, now I’m alone. Anything could happen. Instant ‘shock and awe’ stomach cramps. Can I ever have a day, that for most people is just a mediocre ‘ok day?’ My body and mind is on fire!  The feel of air on my skin is like hot tar being poured on me. My back feels like I was impaled with something sharp. My muscles all over my body feel like they have begun disintegrating. My jaw and teeth feel like they could fall in my lap at any moment. My body must be detoxing, but from what? It must’ve been something I did yesterday. But what did I do and where did we go if anywhere?”

Losing time for some people is nothing more than daydreaming, missing an exit on the interstate, or getting enthralled in a good book.  However, the term “losing time” for me and my family can have very scary and unique meanings from the average family. Everyone, at one time or another, forget your keys or something that you meant to take with you to the store. You suddenly remember, that it’s the list that you have made with what you needed. You go home, find the list where it was left, get back in the car, and head off to the store. No harm, no foul. You don’t qualify for a diagnosis because of it. As a former therapist said to me, “Welcome, to the Human Race!”

My first memory of losing any type of time was in the 8th grade.  While being in that closet, I went elsewhere. It seemed somewhat familiar but ‘safe.’ I don’t remember what the scene was or where I went, it just wasn’t in that closet. I seemed to be locked in a type of paradise.  Every once in a while I would hear, “Are you listening to me?!”

By the time I got to high school, I felt like I got a new start. I was now 20 lbs lighter even though I did it unhealthy.  I was excelling in the sports I was playing. I was dropping weight seemingly every day.  No behavior problems reported by teachers.  I was pushing my body passed its limits but I was ok or so I thought.  This was the first year that I actually remember ‘losing extensive time.’  What is the difference?  Well, instead of a few moments that we all lose naturally.  I had lost an entire week.  I knew that I had ballgames that week so, how did I not remember how I played? I was doing a lot of diet pills at the time. So, that was the answer.  I remember thinking, “It’s nice to be back. But, where was I?”

Skipping a few years, to when I was married to my now EX-husband.  There were times that I remember seeing his mouth move but not hearing or knowing what was said.  That was fine with me. I didn’t know why it was like that but I was completely ok.  There were also those times when I would hear his first loud venomous word and then I would slowly fade away.  I could see him hollering at me but not hear or feel any of it.  My cutting really took off in this relationship and I realized that the same mental and physical stuff happened then too.  I didn’t think anything about it but I knew that my thoughts that I had were very, loud and continuous. I couldn’t dare mention this to the narcissist. Everything that ever happened to me was a joke and made fun. I would just keep my comments quiet and assume all the blame which is what they want.  Feelings belonged somewhere, but on my sleeves… VERY UNSAFE.

Several years later, I meet Melody and other things begin to happen.  Why would this happen around her? I didn’t understand and she surely wouldn’t either.  I just played everything off like, “I did a lot of drugs and they fried me.”    I didn’t tell her about what seemed like separate conversations to myself in my brain.  Everyone, surely has “loud” thoughts.  Heck, I wasn’t even divorce yet.  This type of stuff sometimes happened when he hollered at me or I was cutting. Why with Melody when she was a ‘safe’ person?   I was still watching and waiting for her true colors to come out and hurt me.  In the 7 years that I’ve known and loved her, I have the opportunity to see her true colors every day and they are a beautiful rainbow.  She’s genuine and I think somehow I must’ve known that back then.  We were in graduate school together and taking the same classes. So, to be able to pay attention, I would have to play games on my phone while they were lecturing.  I explained this to my professors before hand and they completely understood.  We thought that we were dealing with a college ADD thing.  Mel still had to re- explain the lecture once we got home. Once I got it and was able to ‘feel’ the connection of the material, It’s locked away.  So, graduate school was a bit more difficult for me, but that makes me no less of a graduate.  I just had to do things a little differently for me to be able to comprehend the information.   Even back in elementary days, I remember crying because I couldn’t answer the questions about the story that we had just read. Trial and error is how we acclimated to our situation and we do the same thing now.

My physical symptoms have me very sick so I’ll continue tomorrow. NAMASTE!!

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Back Again

Back Again

8.17.14

“Triggers are like little psychic explosions that crash through avoidance and bring the dissociated, avoided trauma suddenly, unexpectedly, back into consciousness.” 
― Carolyn Spring

I wake up this morning sadly realizing that the nightmare every day hasn’t ended.  This morning I wake up very startled that no one was in the bed with me.  “Oh Shit! I have to get up!  What if he’s already home from work?  Did I lay out anything for dinner?  Has he already fixed his dinner and is patiently waiting to berate me for sleeping? Why had I been sleeping?” Something is telling me that things are going to be bad when I walk into the den.  I’m instantly nauseated by the heavily approaching headache. Stomach cramps have begun to let me know of their existence.  I have to face this to figure out what has happened.

I stand up and my body feels “disconnected” but has a severe pain in my chest.  This feeling is surely to lead to total annihilation of my mind and body. With my “insides” beginning to shake with fear, I make the dreaded walk down the hall.  I notice nothing but the task before me.  Everything sounds like I’m in a cave.  I notice nothing but the familiar way that my body prepares for his emotional venom.  Just get ready to disappear! I say to myself.

I walk into the den where Melody and Marshall sat watching TV.  A sigh of relief hits my body when I realized that I must’ve been in a really bad dream.  It was a bad dream that happened several years ago.  My body seemed to somewhat relax as much as it could. The build-up of tension from my scare had already activated my autonomic nervous system.  ‘Shock and awe’ hit instantly.  I can tell that everything inside of me was all out of whack.

Just another day that started off with a flashback.  What did I do? I survived to be able to tell you about it. Trauma can manifest in many different ways. This way, unfortunately, is a frequent side effect of PTSD that I experience. Sometimes, it can manifest with pictures, sounds, etc. that can trigger a painful event.  There is the also, just as disturbing, the feeling of being in the situation right at that moment.

It is nighttime as I’m finally able to write about the event this morning. Mentally and physically, I have well……been somewhat of a ‘mess.’  That doesn’t mean lying around ‘snot crying’ all day. Sometimes one can bounce back from remembered event and not having anything more than a few feelings that they feel.  However, for me, I have very little memory of anything since it happened.  Had you been right here when it happened, you would’ve had no idea that I would be as affected as I was today.  I have been fighting severe anxiety all day with no success. I have smoked weed, taken all kinds of medicine with no relief.  I haven’t been that scared in a long time. Maybe all of my ‘insides’ just got upset and haven’t had enough time to settle down.

I have a thousand different thoughts that run through my head like it’s on a marquee and never stops.  This event has rocked my world today.  All I can say to any of my perpetrators is…..”THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!”

#Thispuzzledlife

Morning Monsters

Morning Monsters

8.15.14

“Your mind is your prison when you focus on your fear.”

—-Tim Fargo

I woke up this morning just feeling discombobulated for no reason that I can understand.  I know that my stomach hurts and I’m nervous to the point of almost being scared. I just have that deep and dark feeling that something bad is about to happen. I check the house for intruders with the toddler by my side thinking we are hunting for Scooby-Doo (doo-doo-doo toddler version). Everything seems safe but very unsettling. I found nothing in the house to signify any breach of “safety.”  Marshall, however, did find Scooby Doo in DVD format. So, I get the movie started and take my cannabis wax pen with me to the bathroom just in case I begin to vomit.  The buildup of tension has led to another early morning bout of ‘shock and awe.’

The one thing that I have begun to do is listen to what my body is saying.  This too is a relationship that includes work.  My body, seems to know, even though my mind doesn’t understand, that something feels very threatening.  I immediately, go to where my vaporizer is warming up and prepare to take my morning medicine.  Scooby-Doo, a superhero toddler and medical marijuana sounds like a good combination to settle what’s happening in my body.  After a few good vapes, I begin to feel my body and mind relax.

Ok, back to normal “mommy duties.” But, something still doesn’t feel ‘ok’ about this morning.

Anyway, said toddler grabs two “baby paws” full of fresh, cherry tomatoes from the garden bucket for a morning snack.  I’m thinking, “at least he’s going to eat something healthy for breakfast.”  I start getting dressed to take him to daycare and begin to revel in the moment of being by myself. I try to ignore the nauseating feeling creeping to a very uncomfortable level.  I switch to my wax pen which is much stronger concentration than what’s in my vaporizer. I take a couple of ‘hits’ and within a few minutes the nausea begins to subside.  In the meantime, Marshall has taken his paws full of ‘snacks’ and has begun shoving them ever so forcefully into a magnetic bottle opener on our refrigerator.  I now have seeds and tomato juice on everything. I cleaned it all up but not before he starts screaming like I just set him on fire.  Yes, what he wanted was to keep his squished cherry tomatoes, seeds and juice.  I then remember that Marshall is meeting textbook criteria for a diagnosis I call “Chronic, Intermittent Toddler Psychosis.” This disorder is often exhibited most often while out in public.  This is when everyone that is around now posts a new Facebook status about a crazed toddler. .  My first thought was, “Why didn’t we use protection?”  Next thought, “I hope like hell Comcast is working this morning and this child can watch Netflix.”  I look over to our modem and “Halleluer! The angels are singing in heaven! I have a signal!”  I find Scooby-Doo on Netflix and “Toddler Psychosis” appears to have forgotten about what activated the event.

I vape for a few more minutes just to make sure I don’t get sick while attempting to take him to school.  Something is still very unsettling from within.  I tell Marshall to come on so we can go to school. I begin turning off all the lights like I was so gently reminded, as a kid, about how ”leaving lights on costs money.”  Marshall meets me at the door with a truck in each paw along with his blanket, sippy cup and Scooby-Doo DVD case.  Telling him,” Scooby can stay here during the day was not working this morning.”  Picking my battles, we take everything he has gathered to the car.  I begin buckle him in and we head off to the daycare.

I begin backing out of my driveway, when I feel the ‘weight of the world’ hit my chest like a bullet in war. I sit there wondering if I was dying. My chest begins hurting to the point of tears.  I take a couple of vapes off my wax pen hoping for quick relief.  It takes a few minutes, but I now feel like I can get him to school. By the time, we start leaving the military base that we live on, I can feel the battle between the chest pains and mmj happening.  I start heading in the direction of his school which is only about 5 minutes away from the house.  The radio was playing some very familiar songs from my high school days and the seat heater was warm which seemed to be comforting.  OMG! I forgot that some schools have started backThe panic has started.

 ‘There are too many cars. Something is going to happen to you because you can’t keep an eye on all of the people on the road.  Everyone is looking at you.  Everyone is judging you.  You don’t know them, but they know you. If anyone steps out of line with a look or a comment…I’m ready! Be ready for any and everything! Please don’t say or do anything stupid!’

I drop Marshall off at school hoping no one notices how I feel on the inside. What would they think? Do, I look like I’m acting “normal?” So, I throw a few jokes and toddler stories out there for the employees to laugh at while I try to slide out the door without my emotions being detected.  I make it out to my vehicle where I just sit and breathe for a few seconds.  My body and mind feel like I’m on the run from a serial killer. I notice now that not only is my chest pounding. But, now my back hurts to the point that I feel as though I have been impaled with something.  My jaw hurts and the rest of my body feels like everything is cramping.

Brief insanity moment thinking: “Go to Wal-Mart and go shopping.” “Are you kidding? I just barely made it to the daycare to drop Marshall off and stayed alive!” I notice the vehicle going the opposite direction from Wal-Mart. My body feels like I have just been beaten with something.  I finally make it back home where all of the anxiety from getting out in public hits me.  I now have to have mmj and the toxins (regular medication) to attempt to gain control over my symptoms.  I realize that the symptoms from earlier are from the anticipation of going in public. You’ve just witnessed on both the inside and outside what point ‘social anxiety’ has its grasp has on me.  All of the physical and emotional symptoms are because of the trauma that I experienced from someone who made the choice not to work on their own trauma.

This is a process that has no time limit.  I have 30+ years of trauma to process.  Even while writing this, my body still has not reached its ‘normal balance’ after almost two hours since being home from taking Marshall to daycare. I got lucky that I didn’t have to really interact or be rubbed up against like being at a mall.  I don’t know about this process.  I usually have everything mapped out and I now feeling like I’m going in blind. And that scares me to my core. My childhood coach, Nick Kolinsky,  I mentioned in a previous day’s post told me about how a winner plays ball…..”Little things make big things happen!”  This is how, I’m trying to face this big challenge before me.

#Thispuzzledlife

Social Stigma

Social Stigma

8.12.14

“The loneliest people are the kindest.  The saddest people smile the brightest.  The most damaged people are the brightest.  All because they never want to see others suffer the way they do.” 

—–Anonymous

The topic of Robin Williams committing suicide really saddens me.   He was a man that has always been able to lift me up with a nice dose of humor.  I don’t know the details to this or any other celebrities suicides.  But, I do know the anguish that comes from living with a mental disorder due to circumstances beyond one’s control.  Maybe, Robin William’s bipolar disorder symptoms were purely biological?  I highly doubt it. There are probably images of things done and said to him by one or many perpetrators.  These are the types of things that can keep a person away for hours.  It’s torment on the mind and the body.  Once the physical symptoms evolve, there starts somewhat of a decline in functioning even on a seemingly minute level.  A comment I read on social media was, “He always appeared so happy.”

First of all, he’s a celebrity and is held to a higher standard. We live in a society where everything is about image not truth.  Most victims of abuse continue to protect their abusers out of fear.  Likewise, most individuals who have a mental illness, stay quiet due to social stigma.  So, the attitude seems to be more of a “let them get the help they need. Just don’t mention anything about it so no one knows.”

Society has somehow labeled everyone with a mental illness as “dangerous.”  Depending on what the particular diagnosis is seems to determine how one might react.  People already have in their minds what “bipolar” “depression” “anxiety disorders” “substance abuse disorders” and/or ”schizophrenia” “personality disorders” look like.  So, for example…..anyone who has bipolar disorder is going to be seemingly hyper one moment and depressed the next moment all while in the same conversation with you.  Not everything is as it seems.  The information most people have on specific mental illnesses is the direct contact of a family and/or friend. And, of course, the media which seldom presents things unbiased on any topic.  Very true, that there are mentally ill individuals who are dangerous. But, many walk among us quietly having never been diagnosed or been able to get or afford treatment. There are also those individuals with mental illness that are not dangerous which represents the majority.

I consider my wife and I to have a really good policy for outpatient mental health benefits.  However, due to specific needs, our insurance won’t cover trauma treatment because they don’t see the need for it.  Really? I asked that poor person on the phone, “How are you able to sleep at night?” Yea….the privilege of being able to talk to our insurance company has been permanently disabled.  Eating disorders, PTSD due to military service and substance abuse disorders are paid for with no problem. I had someone from a treatment center that asked me, “Have you ever been in a war?”  My response was, “Ma’am, I didn’t serve our country. But, I’ve been in a war the majority of my life. Doesn’t that count for something? I did nothing to deserve what was done to me.”  “Yea, I’m sure it’s tough to live like that but you don’t meet criteria for our program.”  This is the typical answer we receive.  Diagnoses are great for insurance billing but somewhat useless in society. All it seems to do has been to cause a nationwide panic to keep mental illness a secret.

If you have a question about a particular disorder, look it up or ask someone with the disorder.  Not your moody neighbor that waves and cusses you out in the same breath. Then, you have decided that in all your education and classes on diagnosing that you have never taken, lead you to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  Don’t just depend on any type of media to educate you about mental illness. Look up scholarly journals not Wikipedia, and look at the studies that have been done with individuals with particular disorders.  Hollywood’s movies are designed to be dramatic and make money.  Those of us with mental illness just want to learn how to live a comfortable life.

I would imagine that even though, Robin Williams, had more money then I’ll ever see in my lifetime. None of it was bigger than his disorder or his trauma.  Everything you do and/or say affects someone either positively or negatively.  Be especially sensitive around children because, what you do and how you make them feel will last forever. Everyone has a breaking point and Robin Williams found his.

#Thispuzzledlife

Hello world!

I initially started blogging about 5 years ago.  I’m originally from the deep south in Petal, MS.  It’s exactly half way between Gulfport, MS and Jackson, MS and just across the bridge from Hattiesburg, MS.  Petal has a population around 11,000 now but growing up as a small child and teenager there were significantly less people.  Small town USA complete with the noisiness, conservative politics, religion, strong beliefs, great food, respect taught through the generations, southern hospitality, friendly neighbors who are loyal as family, resilient, head strong and loyalties within a “good ole’ boy network.”  No more loyalties than any other small town I’m sure.  But this “loyalty” hurt me and changed the course of my life forever.

Me and my wife completed Master’s degree in Couseling and then moved to Albuquerque, NM to begin our careers and start a family.  But as life would have it, Mental Illness began to effect our hopes and dreams one day at a time. A few years later I would be diagnosed correctly….finally…with Dissociaitve Identity Disorder.  We would eventually have two little boys that we adore and make you want to keep going with things get difficult.

puzzlepieces2

My writing is about the struggles of living as an individual and LGBT family with a parent with severe mental illness. The sometimes the humor of it all and the often heartbreaking reality of the effects of abuse and mental illness on the indivial and family unit as a whole will keep those that struggle from feeling that you live on an island.  And the families will see that you can love someone with a mental illness without becoming a prisoner to their behaviors.  And maybe you will also see that the struggle for us as your family memeber have more struggles then what we let on at times.

Anyway, enjoy the laughs and tears with our family as they support me while I search for the puzzle pieces of an abusive life.  I will say this…I don’t sugar coat anything.  Sometimes my blogs can be graphic but abuse isn’t pretty.  I’m in the process of healing so topics are frequently repeated and attitudes change from positive to dark.  Either way, this is MY life and MY therapeutic journey towards healing.  Hold on because this ride is bumpy.

Hit the “Follow” button and watch us grow. I don’t write every day because my functionality can change on a dime.  I cover many different topics related to abuse and mental illness.  This blog builds so read from the beginning and see Where we were. Where we are now. And where we are going.  Happy Reading!

#thispuzzledlife