The Fear Of Eating Is Real(poetry)

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

The Angry Addict

The Angry Addict

Sometimes I find things that I’ve written but haven’t published on my blog. This is one of those writings….
There was a day when an angry addict walked through a treatment center door. A break from a harsh life and there would be many more. The addict was still a person, but we would prove to be one heck of a chore. Compassion was what she was craving, and her heart screamed, “More, more, more!”
This professional she was different and left judgement at the door. The patient she was also different, but she was never a bore. The pain was written all over that addict’s face. Turn her inside out and trapped inside was a very hurt child that simply needed some grace.
The addict asked, “What do you want? And why do you care?” With confidence, dark eyes and long black hair she answered, “Because you’re talking to someone who has already been there. I can tell someone has hurt you and I want you to tell me about it.” Like a puppy this grown child followed behind that confident swagger.
This one she was different, and the addict could tell. Talk about mean people from her past and present? Why did it even matter? Because when you walked in, I could recognize that war fought tattered look. He made off with your sanity like a cold and heartless crook. Wheat he showed was not love and I’m telling you the truth. You were at the mercy of a dark man and when he’s done is called abuse. I want to know the things they all did to you. Look into my eyes and know that love lives here not abuse.
We’re going to be serious for a moment so put the jokes, smiles and laughter away. My heart and stomach seemed to find that familiar sting that no one could make go away. I can see in your eyes that you’ve be battling for years. Drip, drip, drip and the grief poured out in a flood of uncontrollable tears. Gently she said, “Let me and others love you until you can love yourself.” Know that not all people hurt you like you’ve done to yourself. She saw the addict’s heart was as raw as her arms. And told her, “You can trust me because I love, and I will not hurt you.”
The 90 days in treatment had come and gone. And now she would return to her abusive home. But someone cared about what she had been through. As she made her way to the exit she heard, “Take care of yourself. You know I think you’re different.” And then the quick reply, “And so are you.”
Five years later the addict was a student and doing exactly what she said she would do. And one day she called that professional out of the blue. Months went by and their relationship grew from a “random connection” that was true. She finally got the courage to tell that husband, “We’re through.”
Days and nights where she would learn from her compassionate teacher. Yoda was teaching her now “open-hearted” adult kid because she knew how to reach her. A visitor to their house was confused about who I was, and I said, “I’m just a close friend.” The professional known as Sarah being as serious as she could be. She looked at the visitor and said, “No she’s our daughter.” I thought wait that’s me.
She told me one day, “Dana, remember this about how he treated you……
“Not everyone can see the good in a person because they’re always looking for their faults. He missed seeing the reasons we love you and that was his fault. If you see past cuts and scrapes on your skin and can look through all the bones and into your chest and hurting heart and under the thick layers of material that help to encapsulate your that fragile heart is a secret space and in that space is some material that’s growing and bubbling over and saturating your chest cavity with something called personal beauty. And that’s what we see and love you for every day.”
Our mother/daughter relationship grew into one that survived off promises, goals, loyalty, love and mutual respect. She was my personal definition of safety. But the day would come when she would be ripped from my protective grip. By an unforgiving disease that could careless who’s heart it would strip. My heart that was wide open began sounding the retreat back behind those protective walls never again to repeat.
But my heart never lets me forget that horrible day. I went when I was called home to the hospital because of promises we both made. And when it was time, I sat at her feet knowing that soon her maker she would meet. With my heart breaking and tears rolling down my cheeks. I took one big final gasp of air with her not knowing how I could just be.
She was my everything and I was her adult kid. How lucky I was to be with her when I felt her leave. “Dana if you ever get stuck not knowing what to do. Do the next right thing and hit your knees if you choose.” Her words still guide me with her presence gone. And I would give anything for her to pick up that phone. I want her approval either right or wrong.
A year and a half later when more bad things happened and the continual hemorrhaging of a once loveable heart. And a mind and body that had continued in a war. We entered the doors of another treatment center and dragging the leftovers of what used to be a human behind me. And a day later we would meet our new professional and something internally would change.
Angry at people for being hurtful and hating this lonely life without Sarah, I began striking out at everyone and everything even those that loved me. I wanted someone or something to pay for taking her away. Relationships began falling like the twin towers. I swore that no on would get close to me for very long without me destroying the relationship just so I wouldn’t have to feel that bad and scared ever again. Sarah was still somewhere close, but I was fighting mad. But this new professional we met with fire and venom never flinched. I tried everything I could to push her away. But the next time I felt Sarah this is what she would say, “Dana leave her alone because she is one that will stay. I picked her out for you and she’s who you need starting today. She’s the one you need. So, make it happen and move there.” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear because I wanted to prove my point that she would leave like everyone else. Mad I was and madder I got because I didn’t want anyone else to love me and leave.
So, I called up Texas and again found the one that would stay. Whatever I do I just can’t let her get away. She is the last gift I felt my Sarah give. And now she’s working with this angry and very hurt adult kid. The kid screams and silently cries about what others did. For she isn’t bad she’s lost and confused. And wanting her Sarah to hold her while she’s lost and confused. That angry teenage heart that still cries tears of blood. But again, she ran into a wall of pure love.
The pain of losing Sarah has been more than I could bare. But move to Texas I did because she’s never led me astray. I don’t want people to love me so why did I move here? Because I’m that same kid that despite knowing the harsh reality of life that has hurt me so bad. Texas is still better than the desert no matter what “things” I don’t have.
Texas hasn’t been easy, and no one said it would. But we’ve been pulled along by the little engine that could. No one knew what compassion and love can do. But to heal you must expose the bad and the good stuff too. And just for taking time to listen as you always do. Coach this angry kid wants to personally thank you.
#thispuzzledlife

What IF?

What If……

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

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

change the world

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

Cunning, Baffling and Extremely Powerful

Cunning, Baffling and Extremely Powerful

“Addiction is committing suicide on the installment plan.”
–Anonymous

In the year 2019, I feel confident in saying that most people and families have been affected by addiction in some way. Whether it be a family member, close friends or possible yourself who has been touched in one way or another by this terrible and very progressive disease. Personally, I’ve seen addiction run through the lives of many families and individuals leaving a path of destruction that Hurricane Katrina herself couldn’t hold a candle against. And addictions of various kind continue to devastate both my mind and body.

Often people relate addiction to only chemicals be it drugs or alcohol. A lot of times it is the assumption that physical dependence compounded by withdrawal symptoms is required for someone to be diagnosed with an addiction disorder. With chemical addiction this is true. In behavioral addictions i.e. gambling, sex, shopping, internet, self-harm, workaholism, etc. the behavior also progresses until negative consequences occur as well. Specific process addictions, in my life, are anorexia, bulimia and self-harm. I’m sure there are others but currently these are my biggest and most destructive. Where the mentioned behaviors are and have been a problem since childhood.

the abyss

Education about addictions, in general, has come quite far from the days of the Temperance Movement specifically due to alcohol consumption of the early 19th century. Stigmas have lessened since then. However, process addictions still have a pretty heavy stigma attached to them due to pure ignorance. One of the things that I do that keeps me sick in my disease is my uncanny ability to minimize any and all addictive behaviors that I engage in. I can tell that I have nerve damage in my forearms from 30+ years of cutting them with razor blades. My left shoulder has nerve damage from a self-inflicted gunshot wound several years ago. My internal systems have no telling what wrong with them from all the years of purging and heavy restricting by starving my body and ridding it of food.
Other behaviors that are considered an addiction for me are shopping, huffing chemicals and using belts to play “The Choking Game” until I pass out. All the addictions mentioned are ones that can individually kill me at any point. I will minimize them to justify to myself another reason to do it again just like any drug addict or alcoholic. I will come up with any reason to engage in these behaviors just to be able to get through a moment of uncomfortable feelings. I truly do my best trying to cope with all these things, but coach won’t let me slide unlike my internal addict that justifies yet another reason to keep going.

I have struggled many years and have kept my addiction alive. No matter the reason, there is always at time and a number that has my name written on it when it will be my last. It’s almost like dodging bullets knowing that one has your name on it. I wish I had a healthy fear of these behaviors, but I don’t. I fear the uncomfortable feelings and visions more than I fear dying from addiction. Each day I pray and yearn for the day that I’ll be able to live life without such horrible feelings. Who knows? Maybe the life I have dreams about being a part of could one day be possible if I would just get out of my own way.

“Every habit he’s ever had is still there in his body, lying dormant like flowers in the desert.”
—-Margaret Atwood

#thispuzzledlife

Once Again

Once Again
7.30.19
I laugh a lot, but no one sees
How much these visions torment me?
Fight as I may, I have yet to win
Screaming loudly, “No! Not Again!”

God might frown but the devil smiles
He knows his influence on this broken child.
Forward I still go but no one sees
My limping, hurting and the pain that pushes me.

How do I succeed whilst in his mouth of flames?
I’ve tried and tried with very little gain
Can’t anyone plainly see?
How my demons are killing me?

I say, “Yes!” and they say, “No!
We will beat this crazy and very useless ho.
But try as I may spilling heartbroken tears;
All this happening year-after-year.

Prayers are spoken but no one sees
This desperate girl inside me begging Please!!!
To help me stop this destructive path
How many more times can I survive their wrath?

The people who help have grown weary as well.
How can I continue to drag them through my personal hell?
All the while I silently scream, “help but don’t leave!”
The message is constant “Then let us help you please!”
I don’t know how to let you love me and teach me knew things
Please let me be the puppet on a string.

I listen and try the best that I can
Can I start over and learn to let people love me again?
Answers unknown and fears cover my heart
Can I possibly let you mold me like a beautiful piece of art?

This little girl desperately wants to live
But how much more can I take and are you still willing to give?
I’m not greedy and want everything from you.
God, the universe, The Great Spirit says I’m not through.

Don’t give up as everyone has and I apologize for
being such a hardheaded jackass.
Compassionate and caring more than anyone has ever been
Please try drilling through my thick skull once again.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold
#thispuzzledlife

“Hey Pot. This Is Kettle.”

“Hey Pot, This Is Kettle”

“I decry the injustice of my wounds, only to look down and see that I am holding a smoking gun in one hand and a fistful of ammunition in the other.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

One thing that most people will tell you about me is that it’s hard to have any kind of a relationship with me unless you have thick skin or can separate behavior from the truth. Why is this? Well, I can only say what I believe to be the truth. I most often self-sabotage relationships in order to keep from getting hurt. This doesn’t mean that the person I sabotage the relationship with did anything wrong. Sounds odd? Trust me it is.
So much of my life has been about wearing masks that being on the hunt for my authentic self is proving very difficult. Everything about relationships scares me. I fear people leaving and/or dying. And I also fear people hurting me. Not so surprising if you take note of my trauma history. Confusing for me and other people yes. What makes me angry is that before all the chaos in my life began relationships held very high priority for me. They were never replaceable. The relationship that I had with that person was as individual as they are.

When this sabotaging happens it’s because I’ve gotten scared. Either the person has seen someone other than “the clown.” When people begin to see me as someone other than that friend they like to hang out with and laugh I get very scared. Because in my experience those that see the nice side of me first might leave me at the first sign of trouble. I fear judgement. And I fear their rejection if they don’t like the truth. So, instead of just waiting to see the outcome, I control the outcome.

pot calling kettle black

I had good relationships at one that that once they saw the effects of abuse on me, they run. Once they’ve seen the scars, been around my extremely intense mood shifts and paranoia they leave. As a result, I bought into the belief that “I wasn’t worthy of good relationships because everyone leaves eventually.” This in turn adds fuel to the fire of self-hatred and my self-harm escalates. Next relationship the cycle continues until you get tired of the painful emotional toll that it takes, and you become a prisoner of to your home to keep from having contact with people out of fears. I then sabotaging through self-harm and isolation further worsening my condition. This then leads to more depression and anxiety and lack of social stimulation. Therefore, anytime I try to be around other people, in public, the overstimulation is just too much because I live a rather bland existence.

This is something that coach and I face with me. Not to mention the scared alters always paranoid and looking for danger at any turn. But I continue to work towards a more permanent solution so that I can keep meaning relationships in the future. First, I must get used to being in public around people and all the different verbal and visual stimulation of everyday life. Fingers and toes crossed that this goes well. I can promise you that I win the “Most Harded” award every year.  Not something to brag about but always true.  I always chuckle when I tell someone that they’re being hardheaded. Their response, “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?” All I can say, “Why yes, it is.”
#thispuzzledlife

The Mommy Hole (Poetry)

The Mommy Hole (Poetry)

I Started out as a tiny little seed
Not knowing there would be adults I would need.
I grew and grew as a little baby girl
Eventually having hair that she was supposed to curl.

When I was born, she gave me away
Why was it then that she chose not to stay?
That was a pain I would never forget
Hoping that she hadn’t really left.

In my soul she left a “mommy hole”
Not knowing that her decision would forever affect my soul
I looked for her left and looked for her right
But something also never felt right.
This hole was gaping, and I just couldn’t see
What I could’ve possibly done to make her leave me?
The hole would be filled with all things bad
Drugs, alcohol, razors and belts were now what I had.

My mom and dad there was nothing they could do
Because this was a struggle between only two.

My dream was to find her and to patch that awful wound.
But that wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
I tried to find her for the answers I needed.
My heart was scared, and warnings weren’t heeded.

The day finally came when we would meet face-to-face.
Please dear birth mom doesn’t do it twice
The answers were given and not what I wanted.
And now, as an adult, I would forever be haunted.

She didn’t love me like everyone said she did
How could you possibly hate you overgrown kid?
The cold blew over me and froze my beating heart
Making it difficult for anyone to soften that which had hardened.

And today I sit before you as a 43-year-old adult child
Still wanting and needing to be softened and nowhere near meek and mild.
You gave me life and that’s all you did
But you still have love waiting for you by your lost adult kid.

#thispuzzledlife

The Day I Was Born (Poetry)

The Day I Was Born

The day I was born everyone would see the baby isn’t she cute just look at her feet!

But what they didn’t know was already done

I had been given away like I was a toy gun.

You are a gift from God my parents would say

But this little girl didn’t see it that way.

Oh….she was young and she loved you so

This I hoped for but I needed to know.

I searched and longed for you every day of my life

Ballgames, ceremonies where could she be this is causing such strife.

The void that was left it couldn’t be filled.

Alcohol, razors, shopping and lots and lot of pills.

The primal wound is what it’s called

Nothing can help this pain at all.

I found someone that helped me understand the hurt.

She was my Yoda and now she’s under the dirt.

The day I finally met you I didn’t know how to feel.

This was the moment I’ve waited for and now the records would be unsealed

Questions were asked and answers were given.

What you said to me…Are you freakin’ kiddin’?

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This grown little girl finally got to meet her bio mom.

The little girl was so happy until that mom dropped the bomb.

“You were an inconvenience and I was mad at your dad.”

Really was that all the feeling you had?

The thoughts of hope and healing were once again gone

She hated me because I was me and I again felt all alone.

This new wound was more painful and I put my head in my hands and cried.

Because she didn’t love me like they said, it was all a big lie.

My soul felt abandoned it was dark and cold.

But this time I was not a baby I was 31 years old.

When I got home I just needed to be held

But instead he said, “just think about it she’s

 the one got rid of you” was all that was said.

Every day since I replay that same scene

Hoping that what she said was all a bad dream.

But I know what I heard on that cold wintery day

The woman that gave me life hated me in every kind of way.

When December rolls around I shoot daggers at that date

Because I don’t like celebrating the day I was given away.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make peace

Because She hated a baby for having a heart beat.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

 

Life With The Plant

Life With The Plant

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

—- Dr. Sanjay Gupta / Neurosurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

“Bruised Inside”

“Bruised Inside”

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

—Coach Duke, Creed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Indicators of Verbal Abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What matters is what you leave in the ring

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

What December 4th Means To Me…..

What December 4th Means To Me…..

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

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

to a child that is calling me “Momma.”

—Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

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

revise a whole night. A whole life.”    

 Alena Graedon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

trauma junkie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Thom Dick

#thispuzzledlife

The 1-2 Punch

The 1-2 Punch

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

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

the journey.  Confusion is the hallmark of a transition.

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

–Anne Grant

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

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

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

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

Shame

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

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

inner children

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

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

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

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

–Dr. Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

Miracles Right In Front Of Us

The Miracles Right in Front of Us

“Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what

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

–Jon Bon Jovi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

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

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

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

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

finding myself

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

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

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

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

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

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

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

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

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

Locked And Loaded

Locked and Loaded

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

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

Imagine for a minute this scenario…..

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

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

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

dylan 2

I have lost my emotions

—  Dylan Klebold

 

eric harris 2

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

—  Eric Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote from Marilyn Manson in the documentary Bowling for Columbine.

#thispuzzledlife

For The Bible Tells Me So Part 2

For the Bible Tells Me So…..Part 2

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

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

― Flemming Rose

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

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

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

not afraid to grieve

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

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

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

enemy no chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

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

#Thispuzzledlife

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.”

#Thispuzzledlife

Closing The Chaper

Closing the Chapter

12.29.2017

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will give you a new hello.”

—Paulo Coehlo

Since the end of 2017 is fast approaching and writing has not really been a priority because basic mental and physical survival grabbed that #1 spot this year.  Our little family complete with two little boys that are a beautifully and hysterical mixture of zombie fighter, American Ninja Warrior, chicken nuggets, boogers, poop, sweat, nerf guns, goat head stickers and a nice dose of generalized “Little boy GROSS” seem to be the perfect description for our two little Albuquerque charges.  And it’s because of these two little boys and the love that Mel and I still have for each other that our family is currently closing the chapter here.

Mel and I, for several years now have been looking for a way or a reason to leave Albuquerque.  There are several reasons but mainly because you just seem to know when it’s time to move on.  In June 2009 shortly after completing graduate school at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS we set out fleeing our conservative homeland with the goal of one day being parents.  We had no jobs and really no direction but we wanted to leave and leave we did. But not without big dreams for life in the southwest.  I had one personal dream of working as a drug/alcohol therapist with the Native American population which would come to fruition.  We didn’t know what life had to offer but we were ready to face anything or so we thought. And for the next 8 years our life would be about a lot of struggle.

Life was about to teach us some incredibly difficult and painful lessons about facing adversity, our expectations of the word “friendship,” the devastating lasting effects of abuse, the painful sting of death of friends, family and yes both Copeland and Marshall’s twins, a representation of the sad shape of the country’s mental health system, the awareness of how uneducated the legal system is about mental illness, the understanding of how damaging bad therapy can be and the eventual realization that there are still some damn good therapists out there who are truly doing what they love are passionate about for the right reasons. And the true meaning of the words “SACRIFICE” and  “LOVE.”

eagle dancer

We both landed jobs with a temp agency within the billion dollar company Fidelity Investments.   Mel would eventually be offered a job as a Fidelity employee which would include fertility benefits that would make our dreams of being parents possible.  With both of us being adopted, neither of us wanted to adopt but I had no desire to carry.  Mel would be “chomping at the bits” to step into that role.  Having finally divorced a very mentally and sexually abusive 14 year relationship I seemed to just be “unsettled” but tried not to pay it too much attention.  So, I jumped into a doctoral program to help fulfill whatever need it was that I was looking to fill.

I would fall absolutely head over heels working with the homeless.  Coming from small town where the drug problem and crime is more of a nuisance rather than a way of life, we were about to be in for a big shock.  Watching the FOX reality show COPS could easily be achieved by sitting on our front porch and just watching the action.  With a large transient population and our first residence being directly off historic Route 66 in downtown Albuquerque being touched by the crime was inevitable.  I would soon realize, however, that the costs of addiction in every facet I would encounter was at a ground zero status.  This level of addiction would simultaneously be challenging and heartbreaking.  The homeless population I would work with included members of the 200+ gangs in the city, skin heads, murders, rapists, drug dealers and anyone seeking free county funded medical detox.  I would develop a deep down love for working with these men and women who had their own individual needs but underneath their natural edginess and attitude there was a beating heart in their chest.  Very quickly a mutual respect was developed and we looked forward to seeing each other daily.

Soon my ever increasing mental health troubles couldn’t be discounted as stress.  It would eventually become such a big problem that it would turn into a search for answers which continues today.  A few years later all of the strange and at times increasingly debilitating symptoms and a myriad of diagnoses several professionals would concur on the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder.  I could accept just about any diagnosis but this one.  I just didn’t see how it was possible.  Mel and I both looked at each other like I had just given birth to a baby giraffe.  I can safely say that we were both in denial about this one.

I thought if I just tried really hard that there was no need for this stigmatizing label.  What I learned a few years later is that no matter how much I attempt to be a normal person with normal problems, I just wasn’t.  I can’t even begin to convey to you the long term effects that abuse has had on my being able to function as an adult.  As with most things humor can be found if you look hard enough.  But some of the effects on both the individual and the family can be devastating.

locked soul

My active working career with my brand new degree would be short lived.  This disorder has left me unable to work since our oldest son, Marshall, was born 6 years ago.  Nevertheless both of our little preemie boys and their love for us as their parents can make it possible to “white knuckle” situations longer than you ever imagine.  Many hospital visits, treatment programs and literally blood, sweat and tears later I went to an inpatient trauma program in Denton, TX desperate for help and terrified.  Mel and I began realizing that there are many professionals in that area that actually specialize in treating this disorder.  Complicating this new found information was my intense fear of professionals or anyone in position of authority.  I would meet one at the inpatient program that apparently has the patience of Job and could see right past my spewing venomous rage directly into the pain and hurt.

The loss of our beloved Sarah Pardue in 2015 to cancer has truly left me feeling completely alone and floundering with no direction.  She was my YODA and a voice of reason that I would actually listen to. Her loss brought me to my knees and feeling like someone had figuratively broken my back.  Every since I’ve been in a downward spiral that leaves both me and Mel in awe that I’m here to write about it.

The challenge then became how do we get me access to these services from Albuquerque where we seemed to be forever bound.  About 6 months later our answers would be revealed.  One thing kept gnawing at me….Why did those people at that treatment center care?  I was so loud and flamboyant about who wasn’t going to make me do shit.  I was on a locked until which is a huge trigger for me since part of my trauma is from being or feeling trapped.  So, I’m usually just a pain in the ass for that type of staff. They didn’t tuck tail and run which made me do a double take.

So for the next couple of months it would be having Mel drive me and the kids to Dallas for a session and then turning around and making the 10 hour trip back to Albuquerque.  The compassion and expertise we finally found was something that we would come to realize that would be a necessity for my ultimate survival.  That would mean leaving our trusted therapist of 8 years here, in Albuquerque, who had been the only evidence of consistency we would experience here.  Another inpatient stay in Denton, TX with completely different circumstances and the results were disastrous. I could do nothing but cry.

puzzle piece blue

My soul and heart ached and longed for the wise words of Sarah.  “What the hell do I do now?!!!” I kept saying.  I couldn’t imagine what she would say because it was in this moment that I needed to hear her talk and that wasn’t an option.  At some point among the tears I remember very clearly Sarah saying, “Dana there will be times when you have no idea what to do next in life and I won’t be around.”  Panicked I would ask, “Well mom what the hell do I do then?!!!” She looked at me and said with that comforting smile….”The next right thing whatever that is.”  I would always ask her, “Well, what the hell is that going to be?” and she would say “to let life show you what to do next.”  I had no idea how profound that conversation we would have at different times would be for me.

It would soon be suggested that I look into a new and upcoming treatment facility called Healing Springs Ranch in Tioga, TX.  I have to laugh because even now I think what the hell is in Tioga, TX?  Once you see how really small of a town they are tipping the scales at 886 for a population.  And I’m pretty sure that more than once I communicated with some of the local residents by saying, “MOOOOOOOO!!!!”  But deep in the heart of a big ass pasture there is a magical place that has healing vibes complete with fishing, kayaking, paddle boats, golf, swimming and other activities while surrounded by wildlife that doesn’t seem to fear humans in any capacity.  I mean those little animals don’t even fear Chef Corey who can make a mean dish out of damn near anything.  More than once I felt guilty for eating those plates that were like portraits.

Having been in the nation’s mental health system for the majority of my adult life treatment centers don’t typically exude compassion with many staff much less those in charge.  Healing Springs Ranch is no ordinary place. From the minute you darken the doors compassion and passion seems to ooze out of every pore that makes up that place.  Hey, you know for me the term “Open Campus” vs. “Locked Unit” took me very little time to make the decision to go directly back to treatment.  They also said that individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder were also treated there.  Boundaries were made very clear and I began to thrive.  I hungered and longed for boundaries but wanted the freedom from being a typical psychiatric patient.  It proved to me very quickly that compassion, boundaries and freedom from being “trapped” can do a lot for someone who struggles living life through trauma colored lenses.  Sometimes all you need to treat a sudden case of anxiety is a beautiful walk and a smart-ass comment from Charlie the Squirrel.  Or the sight of that one special therapist coming to work that stops her car on the path that goes by the cows just to say, “Good Morning cows! Today I will not eat hamburger.”

And now that she’s gone life showed us answers just like she said.  And now under the heading of SACRIFICE and LOVE, Mel and I have decided that the best thing for our family, after years of looking for a sign of hope, that I will move to Texas to do this work individually. They will move back to Mississippi for the support that they need while I make this part of the journey with someone who will be one of the most powerful coaches of my life surrounded by a chosen family of trauma survivors.  As we close the chapter on Albuquerque and 2017, with tears in my eyes I’m cautiously optimistic and yet terrified in the same breath.  Life is very scary for this adult teenager.  I’m heading back east knowing confidently one thing…..that I’ve always been coachable. That I’m doing the next right thing and I’m positive  that Sarah would give her stamp of approval on this decision.  My statement in life is this….”There’s no way that I can fail now.”

#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

 

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.

dad

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

It’s Not Easy Being Green

“It’s not easy being green”

3.18.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0002

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Passing The Torch

Passing the Torch

2.17.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah G. Pardue

7/11/53-2/11/15

   

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

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