Why Didn’t I Leave A Harmful Therapist

Why I Didn’t Leave A Harmful Therapist?

“The reality is that for most of us trying to overcome therapist abuse (regardless of whether it is sexual, emotional, spiritual, etc.) very few other people have any idea what we are going through (even the mental health professionals we finally get up the courage to see after the abusive ones to try and pull ourselves back together). And because of that, healing can be significantly more difficult than it should be.”
—Michelle Mallon

I’m having a difficult time trying to find the words to describe my experience. The therapist that I’m talking about is one who was very ego driven. She put her ego before her ethics. And when it came to practice EMDR it was done 4 days a week with no processing time. She was also a very dominate and alpha female. I just went along with whatever she said and then I started becoming sick and before therapy I began to vomit. She worked her way into my system and began working with my main protector to whom she gave a lot of attention to in order to get to our well protected children. All my trauma was turned on with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), but nothing was ever resolved. This form of therapy usually works well for those with trauma, but I was always in crisis mode making it very dangerous to use this method.
Mel and I were lied to more often than we could count. And she didn’t want Mel’s input on anything. Red flags were flying high and I was still about giving her a chance in the name of loyalty. She also knew that I wasn’t a snitch, so she never worried about me turning her into the state licensing board. My psychiatrist was also considering dropping me as a client because she was retraumatizing me. While having him prescribing my meds was impossible. Before I knew it, I had become trauma bonded to her just like my ex-husband. I feared doing anything other than what she wanted. There was also information that was given to an acupuncturist that was done outside of the date on the release of information form. I had become her emotional hostage. I was looking for the good times that I remembered about the promises that she had made and well…I came up empty handed.

therapist abuse

Like many times with other perpetrators in my life I became frozen with fear about what to do. So, out of fear I continued seeing her. It’s easy to say, “Well just leave her and turn her in.” But I was terrified to do anything. I became very suicidal and my behavior became very erratic and impulsive more than normal. The one thing I learned when I was younger was snitching gives you a very dangerous label. So, no matter what, I was not going to snitch.

Therapist abuse is using the imbalance of power in the therapeutic relationship to… Control, manipulate and exploit clients (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).
Clients who have suffered abuse in the past may not be able to distinguish between what is a violation and what is therapeutic (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).
The power and influence the therapist has, has a lot of potential to do a lot of good and by the same token it also has the power to cause severe damage that could have long lasting effects on the client (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).

When I met “Coach” I was so afraid of professionals that I didn’t want to have anything to do with her or any other therapists. I related their position to fear and abuse. I was unbelievably scared of anyone that I perceived in a position of authority and would strike out at them and try to run them off. Coach saw through my pain and showed compassion instead. I was so hurt by some of the things that were done and said by the other therapist that almost four years later I’m still, at times, having difficulties in the therapeutic relationship. I trust coach 110% as a person. But her position as a therapist still frightens me at times especially when discussing certain areas of my trauma. I have always felt bad that she had to clean up and deal with someone else’s mess. But, I so glad I met her. After having such a bad and abusive therapist, it’s comforting to know that there are still some that are incredibly compassionate. And I got the best one. Yes, I’m very biased. Thanks, Coach!!!!
#thispuzzledlife

My Parts And Change

My Parts And Change

“DID is about survival! As more people begin to appreciate this concept, individuals with DID will start to feel less as though they have to hide in shame. DID develops as a response to extreme trauma that occurs at an early age and usually over an extended period of time.”
― Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook

I don’t know why I’ve decided to write another blog so soon. Maybe it’s because I’m so eager to get back home that the loneliness of this room has taken its toll. But maybe it’s also because my parts are talking so loudly about the upcoming change that it’s hard to do anything else. I still hold true to my beliefs about the benefits of my two years of hard work and the spirituality that I hold near and dear. But to ignore what my parts are saying would go against everything I’ve learned. So, I’ve decided to give this some attention.
My child parts are like typical children. They’re excited to know that they will be able to play with Marshall and Copeland soon. They look forward to being around them again and to once again. And a certain little 5-year-old looks forward to being able to play with her chap sticks that have carefully been sent back home at an earlier date. They also long for a parent’s love to help ease the scariness of this new change.
My teenagers have a menagerie of emotions like most teens. Some are ready to go NOW and are having a hard time with patience. They all look forward to this scary but new life and experiences. My once loud and aggressive protector is the one who is surprisingly calm during this time of stress. She has always been the one no one could get close to. But through healing she has become one that knows her place and realizes that everything isn’t about a fight. The kid that she is longs for someone to simply hold and support her while this change happens. She’s not afraid to admit that she’s scared. But she also knows that she’s still one of the backbones of strength and courage in my system. Instead of being a part of aggression she has found and made peace with her trauma and now works with us all instead of causing chaos. She has become one of the hardest working parts in relation to recovery. And she holds tightly the words of our dear Sarah close to her heart.

you survived

She was hands down the loudest but most damaged alter I have. Her loyalty to our coach and our system is comes from a place that’s admirable and loveable. And I must admit that having her working with us for several months now is something that makes my heart leap for joy. Her heart is open and healed and has become one of my parts that I couldn’t live without. She one that has brought about the most change and has remained open to love, peace and happiness. My part that is her direct opposite and wise beyond her years is still strong with positivity. Very simply put she brings light to the darkness. The desires of her heart I won’t share but peace from within is what she exudes.
My athlete and student are parts that keep us all going. Having the respect for our dear coach they both repeat the phrase, “Stay the course and trust coach. She hasn’t led us astray yet and we need her right now. We trust her because she’s proven trustworthy. Listen and follow her guidance because she will help lead us home safely.” And I must admit that writing keeps “the student” occupied.
A few of my adult parts looks forward to helping Mel raise the boys. They also bring about nurturing and grace on a daily basis. They look forward to being role models for my children that will help me to be the mother I need to be. I have other desires of my heart but none more important than the ones that foster my being able to take care of myself instead of having to be taken care of. I look forward to being able to take care of myself instead of being trapped within myself and frozen with fear.
All these parts make up me, Dana Landrum-Arnold. I’m proud of who I am now and what I can become as a person in the future. My heart longs for many different things. And I’ll admit that I’m very nervous. But when I look back on the days of Texas, I can say that it has been the most rewarding and difficult time of my life. I have worked harder for this resolution of my trauma then anything else. The scars of my story are evident on my arms and my heart. But the peace I’ve fought so hard for is written all over my face and heart as well. I now see myself as one who has discipline, courage, strength and love to share with anyone who will accept it. I am a good person who a set of individuals tried to destroy a little at a time. What I was blessed with was several parts of myself who fought my battles and took care of me for many years regardless of how maladaptive the behaviors were. And now I’ve grown to the point that it’s time that I take care of them and my responsibilities as Dana. They helped me to survive and now I will help them to thrive. My name is Dana Landrum-Arnold and I have a story to tell.
#thispuzzledlife

Angelica (poetry)

Angelica

She was still one that no one wanted around

Being kicked aside she was found

But no one had know her job

For she stepped up and sobbed

She was treated like property and chained like a dog

Submissive she was but she drew the short straw

Some would label her as an outgoing whoreface.

And she would have a scarlet letter she always wore

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

But she would soon get a new name designed

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Heart of a Comeback Kid

The Heart of a Comeback Kid

“My comeback was not about winning or losing; it was about the feeling
of being able to compete at top level again.”
—Thomas Muster

I’ve said many times that as an athlete I wasn’t coached to lose. So, losing for me has never been a viable option. In this battle for life losing is still not an option. What is a reality is how tired one can become of fighting for that number in the win column. Giving up is not what I’ve done or what I’m doing.
When I was playing ball, I was always pushed beyond my limits both physically and mentally. Some of this I would do on my own and some would inevitably come from my coaches. Either way this is not an area that’s foreign to me. Truly, I have become quite tired of fighting, but I won’t give up. I have said from the beginning that I’ll win or die trying. I know no other way to view a battle.
I’m not only fighting the demons that I was given. I’m also fighting demons that I’ve created. Years of aggression and not knowing the proper way to overcome things has led me to relying on my own recognizance. This means that inevitably I chose many different things and ways of coping that were and are still not healthy.

I’m currently taking an online class about self-sabotage and recognizing the ways in which I do this in all areas of my life. This might be the only thing I’m doing right currently. But what I am learning to do is to slowly begin to let those things and people that hurt me go. It’s very difficult to free yourself of the chains that bind you. Most of the time we wait for our “jailer” to come prancing towards us with the keys to free us. However, when it comes to dealing with trauma the process is quite different. We must free ourselves as a hostage therefore making it possible to not hold others hostage with a death grip because of fear. I’m doing the best that I can, but I still seem to lose my footing at times.

success

For me the fear is about not having something to catch me if I fall. I have always had a behavior or a chemical close by to help with this. Now, however, I’m attempting to eliminate not one but all of swords that I’ve previously used as power against myself and others. I have used these swords as a means of survival and have managed to cut just about everyone out of my life including myself. I have used all types of therapeutic assignments to aid in this healing. There are those extremely painful events that I want to handle personally with individuals. But this being a situation where the ability to handle it personally is being diminished has let me straight into a state of panic and at times rage. Trying to contain the rage and the intense feelings of disappointment are what I’m trying to soothe by holding on to my destructive ways.

I know what it’s like to be in the position of being captain of a team. I know that other teammates look to me for both guidance and direction. Having a mental illness like Dissociative Identity Disorder assures me that I have other teammates that are looking up to me in this way. They are children, impulsive teenagers and very hurt adults. And, yes, there is one who is “The Athlete.”

This athlete is the one who knows how to set a goal and how to block everything out but that goal while also maintaining the safety of other teammates. The athlete is the one that manages to pick me up and dust me off while saying, “Shake it off. I know it hurts but we have to keep going.” This athlete will also do ANYTHING to make sure the goal is achieved even if it’s harmful to oneself. The goal is to win. She is also a teenager/adult who will protect her own but sometimes her tunnel vision ends up harming those that seem to get in the way of that goal. She is also having to learn how to win in healthy ways.

Combined I am one hell of a person that loves people and loves to win. I won’t settle for 2nd place as this is 1st place loser. And in the game of life 2nd place is also not an option for me. So, I say this…when you look in your review mirror and see someone swerving and appearing to be crashing just remember that I have the heart of a comeback kid. I’ll be waiting on you at the finish line.

“Making a comeback is one of the most difficult things to do with dignity.”
Greg Lake

#thispuzzledlife

Confucius Says…

Confucius Says….

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

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

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

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

Realization of Life

Realization of Life
7.30.19
Oh how I want to die
And stop living every day as a lie
Using the masks so no one can see
Letting them see anything and anyone but me.

Behaviors and chemicals have helped with the pain
But now they do nothing with little to gain
Nothing more than an evil monkey on my back
Just waiting for the final day that I’ll crack.

Living life on the outside is how it seems
But on the inside it’s a nightmarish dream
Protection they give me and protection I’ve had
Why then do I fell so incredibly bad?

Wanting to die is all I recall
Planning daily for my final fall
Because pain this bad all I want is for it to end.
Not even wanting to share this with a friend.

But I talk to “my guys: to see if this is what they really want.
As the days creep closer the reality begins to haunt.
All we want is to end all the painful strife
Because our realization is all we want is a pain free life.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold
#thispuzzledlife

Through The Eyes Of A Child (poetry)

Through The Eyes Of A Child

We Started our lives tiny and cold
Bright lights and loud noises only a few days old
We would have two mommies and the world to see.
One of our mommies would come with an extra scoop
of “special” the one called Momma D.

We know that you love us and most of the time you’re fun
But momma you scare us when you talk about guns.
Your scars we would notice and excuses we would hear
We saw the blood on the floor and your
yelling would hurt our little ears.

Momma Mel cried a lot and things you said weren’t nice.
You had expressions that scared us because your heart seemed cold as ice.
We didn’t know who had hurt you

because we didn’t understand your tears

But we did understand on word and that one word was…FEAR.

We were both born into this world for you to teach us and to guard
Why does this concept seem to be so hard?
Many times, we ran to you because kids get scared.
But the one we looked to for protection, only her body was there.

As a child we need protecting and that’s your job to do.
If you had looking into your own eyes would you
Know who was looking back at you?
One minute you were our mommy acting like a funny clown
But a lot of the time you wore a big frown.

We don’t know what they did and we’re still too young to know.
The big, scary figure we just wanted it to go.
We know you didn’t mean it but if you could only see.
That the people that hurt you were now hurting me.

If you could only understand how much we love you and
Know that our love is free
We are not the ones that hurt you, momma, open your eyes,
break down those walls and see.
Our names are Marshall and Copeland we are ages 7 and 3.
Please momma get help and be who we need you to be.

We are separated for now because there’s work that needs to be done.
And at the end of this time we will still be your loving sons.
But at the end we will proudly say, “Look at Momma D now and the person
She has become!”

You’re setting for us an example about how we should live
The ones that look up to you are two little kids.
And once day your tears will be nothing but smiles
Because you learned many lessons through the eyes of
Of a child.
#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

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

6.13.2019

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

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

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

        complex traum

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

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

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

pretty please
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dont speak

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

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

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

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

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

I cry for the children and their lost innocents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

All I Have To Offer

All I Have To Offer

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

to offer other than your conformity.”

—Wayne Dyer

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

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

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

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Artist: Celeste Roberge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mentors don’t just have to be people

who are older or more experienced that you are.

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

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

—Jennifer Hyman

#thispuzzledlife

“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

Footsteps To Freedom

Footsteps to Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

footsteps to freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Thucydides

#thispuzzledlife

The Healing Power of Strangers

The Healing Power of Strangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Aesop

#thispuzzledlife

The Magnitude Of Waves

The Magnitude of Waves

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

with the bricks others have thrown at him”

– David Brinkley

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

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

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

waves

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Advocates

Advocates

“Momma D, Why Do You Act Weird Sometimes?”

–Marshall Landrum-Arnold

The above is a question from our 6-year-old son.  The one thing I’ve learned about having this disorder is that no matter how hard I try to be “normal” I’m not.  The term “normal” is truly a subjective term that only fits perfectly on a washing machine.  Maybe I should say socially acceptable.  Regardless of what term I or anyone else tries to use the fact of the matter is that a lot of times I’m just not.  I have awaken many times to face the day with the attitude that I don’t nor will I ever have some type of mental disorder.  No sooner than the words roll off my tongue do I realize that I, in fact, have a mental disorder that can, at times, be completely debilitating.

I have come across many people who are of the opinion that “you just need to look at things differently” “you just have to think more positive” or “the past is in the past.”  I would instantly become infuriated even if the emotions didn’t reach my face.  A lot of statements are not malicious but rather out of ignorance.  Also, with trauma you just can’t “unbreak the plate.”  There is no possible way to just pretend that things didn’t happen…..THEY DID HAPPEN.  Everyone around you can be in total denial with their heads in the sand but the fact is that the images, words, feelings, body memories and mental torture goes everywhere I go all day long every single day.

Having a diagnosis like Dissociative Identity Disorder is not one that’s easily hidden from those closest to you.  When you have a spouse and children the inevitable will surely happen.  I’m talking about sometimes very rapid mood changes, alters emerging, rages, voiced self-hatred, noticeable self-harming behaviors, etc.  I realize that not everyone with this disorder operates the same as “systems” are as unique as fingerprints.  But for our little family we have chosen to educate our children as things happen.  Please understand that I’m not talking about telling our children my trauma history in detail.  We educate them on an age appropriate level.

We’ve educated and continue to educate our children about being from an LGBT family and how families look differently.  I have found that children are pretty satisfied once their questions are answered even with the most simplest of answers.  Throw the taboo topic of mental illness that most cringe to discuss in there and more questions emerge.

As a child, I credit my parents for exposing me to individuals with mental retardation and other disabilities.  Maybe this is why I don’t shy away from anyone with a disability.  I truly accept anyone as they are regardless of disability or difference.  Within our little family there’s no denying “difference.”  Marshall has been noticing for a couple of years now that I’m just that….Different.  He might not know the name for what’s happening when alters come out or when I become completely non-functional.  But make no mistake that he knows something’s wrong.

One of my biggest hurdles everyday is anxiety.  I can range from just a little uncomfortable to vomiting and diarrhea.  So, while living in Albuquerque I found that the gentle vibration of a moving vehicle combined with my favorite music can soothe the soul.

survival

 One day Marshall was riding with me which was always our special time to sing together and get a snack from somewhere without little brother.  He said, “Momma D, can I ask you something?” Me thinking this would be a typical little boy question similar to “Why do birds poop when they fly?”  But what he asked me for the first time caught me by surprise.  He said, “Momma why do you freak out and act weird sometimes?”  Instead of further fueling the shame of the having the disorder by saying, “Don’t ask questions like that.”  I simply asked him for clarification by saying, “Baby what exactly are you talking about?”  He said, “Like when loud motorcycles drive passed you and other loud noises scare you. Or when we are playing with my toys and you act like a kid.”  I told him, remember age appropriate, “Son when momma was younger she had some people that scared me really, really bad.” He said, “Did they like jump out and scare you?”  Not being too far off the mark in some instances I said, “Well sort of but mommy just got really scared and things still scare me a lot.”  He said, “And that’s why you freak out sometimes and get scared by loud noises?”  I said, “Yes, baby.”  He then asked, “Is that why sometimes you have to go to the hospital?  Like to help you not be so sad and mad?”  I thought to myself, “Why is he so perceptive?”  But I replied, “Yes, baby.”  He said, “Is that why you see people like Tina so they can help you not be so mad and sad?”  Proud to answer the questions of such a smart little boy I said, “Yes baby.”  His instant reply was, “Ok can we go to Toys R’ Us and not tell momma Mel?”  I chuckled as I said, “Heck yea!”  You will be entertained to know that all teenage and child alters were shouting with excitement when I said that.  When we arrived at the store he said to me what Mel has told me many times prior to going into a very overstimulating situation like a toy store, “Momma D, I will sit in the buggy and will put my hands on your hands to help keep you to the ground. (He was talking about staying grounded.) Don’t worry, it’s just a store and people and they won’t hurt you.”

These were some simple situations with some very powerful answers and outcomes.  And how you choose to educate or not educate your family about mental illness is your business.  Some might disagree with how we choose to do this with our children.  My answer has always been, “That’s the beauty of living in a free nation.  We don’t have to agree.”  But what a disservice it would be for this little boy if we weren’t honest with him.  I wasn’t inappropriate in any manner.  I was simply answering something that had been bothering him in a very age appropriate manner. I didn’t get into specifics about my trauma as at age 6 he is not mature enough to handle that.

The fact is this…..I’m one of his mommas and he and Copeland both love and miss me dearly.  He knows I’m different and yet without judgment he still loves me unconditionally.  Being away from Mel and the kids living in Texas and working with someone determined to help me is extremely difficult.  Take away all of my mental issues and what’s still left is a momma and a wife who misses her family dearly.  Things I’m missing being away from them I’ll never be able to get back.  Through necessity we are raising our family to be….ADVOCATES.

“A lot of people are living with mental illness around them.

Either you love one or you are one.”

–Mark Ruffalo

#thispuzzledlife

My Own Prison

My Own Prison

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

—Anonymous

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

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

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

confinement

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

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

trapped

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Tears That Still Drip Sore

Tears That Still Drip Sore

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

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

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

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

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

child window

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

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

solitary

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

And Then I Saw Her…..

And Then I Saw Her….

“I instinctually began as a wee life longing for the warmth and protection of my birth mother to survive. The umbilical cord was physically severed, but the esoteric spiritual connection that bound me to my birth mother was heightened by our unnatural separation.”

—Unknown

I clicked as I randomly do on Facebook looking for my biological brothers since losing contact with them a several years ago.  Yay!!! I found two of them.  I begin looking through their pictures seeing what their lives had evolved.  We all looked older for sure.  We had mostly more gray hair, added weight and children.  I begin looking for my only full biological brother throughout the pictures and friends lists.  I finally saw a picture of him and instantly felt my heart and stomach become full of emotion.  Oh my God Dana quit being so sappy! I hear very suddenly from very close to me.  I choked it back thinking…ok that was childish.  And then I saw her……

I saw pictures of my birth mom and I froze.  My heart seemed to just stop and for a moment nothing existed not even me.  I felt a wave of hot and cold go from head to toe.  I felt nausea and  a sudden dump of bubbling acid in my stomach.  And soon the mixture of emotions began to drip faster and faster out of my eyes until now there was a continual stream of tears that followed my jaw line down to my chin before quickly dripping into my lap.  I didn’t think I felt anything but someone did and it was incredibly painful.  The children that long for her also fear her.  The fear that again rejection and subsequent separation would be felt in its entirety.

The more I looked through the pictures the more I was getting a good look at myself only 16 years my senior.  I crumbled seeing parts of my identity by way of genetic code form a picture similar to myself.  I wanted to run to her.  I wanted to reach out and say, “Mom it’s me, Dana!  Meet my family.  Love me PLEASE!”  No sooner did the thought happen that another quickly followed, “Run she’s dangerous!! No I want to stay!  Don’t take me away! I want to stay!”  My heart breaks as the little baby who’s incessant crying ceases, if only for seconds, until the pain of the separation is felt once more at full force.

My chest instantly feels with pain and I fear that I might vomit.  My brain is on complete overdrive.  I begin to panic.  I needed to physically go.  I didn’t know where. I just had to go.  My back needing another surgery and in much pain made it impossible to get up and anywhere.  Internal conversations were not exactly conversations.  They were orders being barked in order to keep everyone safe.  WHAT THE HELL IS THIS???!!!!  GET THAT BABY AND RUN! LOCK THIS SHIT DOWN NOW! GET THOSE KIDS TO SAFETY!!! Even in her rage against us all her voice began to shake.

There they were almost on cue.  The faces, the voices, the monsters had come back to say, I wouldn’t have kept you either!  No wonder she didn’t want you.  She knew you were crazy that’s why.  You’re trash and always will be.  Just think, Dana, she was the one that gave you away.  Even the angry one was for once speechless.  Tears began to slowly fall from her angry and very deeply hurt eyes as well.

The confusion of how I think I must feel versus how I actually feel has become an all out war.  There are no answers only guilt and shame.  The fear I had been feeling about something bad going to happen was now in my face.  And like a wall of water I slowly begin to drown in my own red tears.  I begin fiercely dog paddling to stay afloat as I do most times.  But this pain is unlike any other.  This colicky adult child hungers and cries for the very thing that can soothe just out of reach.  As I dry tears that run red, I also witness those of a child who can’t be comforted.  And I’m quickly reminded…Remember the last time you cried about this you were made fun of and weren’t heard.  We all got hurt.  

“A baby is born with a need to be loved—and never outgrows it.”

—Unknown

#thispuzzledlife

The Angry Birds

The Angry Birds

November 30, 2016

“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Since I’m having to play ‘catch up’ on what a life living with Dissociative Identity Disorder has been like for the last year or so, I thought I would introduce you to some comical friends of mine….The Angry Birds.  If you’ve ever followed my blog you know that living with DID has some very funny moments among so many difficult ones.  When I have  an opportunity to belly laugh I usually will take it wherever and whenever I can.  And by the way…..Laura Ingalls Wilder and I have been BFF’s since childhood.

One of the many perks of having DID is the overwhelming anxiety that permeates every pore and cell in my body.  While having social anxiety and not wanting to leave the house is very doable. There’s also the feeling of needing to ‘get away.’  This does present quite a dilemma at times.  Writing is a great therapeutic tool for really anyone if it’s your ‘cup of tea.’  It never has never been one for me until I started writing this blog.  The term “journaling” has always had a negative connotation associated with it.  I promise every time it’s been suggested I look at the person like my oldest son does me when I tell him that chicken nuggets, candy and boogers are not food groups. But the Angry Birds are definitely therapeutic in their own unique way for us as well.

As I’ve stated before, living in the state of New Mexico with a mental health diagnosis that carries so much stigma has given a whole new meaning to desert living.  Lack of resources calls for creative therapeutic tools such as this blog. Through no intention of my own we are beginning to have a real fascination for a group of birds that live in a city park.  The Angry Birds are not the ones watched on TV and the movies by many children.  But yes they do provide entertainment for this ‘system’ and to those passing by and possibly overhearing conversations between me and these birds

What started as another place for me to go and decompress, in times of need, is quickly becoming a place where lessons in therapy and life are happening.  I’ve always enjoyed animals because a connection with them has always felt safe.  People I fear. No I’m not a tree hugger. I just enjoy and respect the human/animal bond.

don't take no

The Angry Birds consist of a mixture of around 100 birds that include mostly waterfowl. Some of them I recognize and some I do not.  It’s pretty much duck, duck, goose for me.  I initially started going out to that area and feeding them bread at random times just for a change of environment.  Then it got incorporated into my morning schedule.  Each morning I would go out and spend a few minutes with these birds talking and thinking.  With this many birds at one time behavior issues about territory were bound to arise.  I always seemed to have one alpha goose that would keep all of the encroaching birds out of my personal space.  This bird is rewarded for its hard work and loyalty with a whole piece of bread to itself.  The first therapeutic pitfall with these birds are BOUNDARIES specifically there’s smashing over mine.  There was a lot of biting other birds butt feathers and uncalled for loud honking.  This I realized is what my ‘system’ looks and operates like at this time……Chaotic.

canadian

Soon these birds had grown to expect me to show up with their bread like I was a local drug dealer dropping off a stash.  I would drive up to the area and I would instantly see and hear flippers heading my way and the Canadian geese flying in.  In these early moments, I have definitely felt like Ace Ventura Pet Detective.  They all get that Zombie Eyed look about them while looking and walking towards me.  In this moment I feared for my lady bits until I realized that the bag of bread was hanging in that area.  Yes I did quickly move it.  Because of their territorial nature our very early conversations consisted of me trying to talk to the Canadian Geese about manners for waiting our turn. I would literally be hollering at them, “Be Loving!!!!” And at times I would throw flying saucers and baseballs made purely of wheat bread at them to help correct their behavior issue.  The feeding frenzy that would ensue is one that would have Jeff Corwin scratching his head.

mouthy

bread takers

One of my moments of arguing with one of the Angry Birds I’ve named Mouthy who is a really, loud mouth grey goose, started hissing and honking at me one day.  He was biting the other birds and starting to use offensive language with me so I did the only thing I could think to do in the moment….Honk back.  I looked up to see a mother and her small child laughing at this conversation.  It was a very immature moment but Mouthy settled down and was grateful for his bread.  I told him, “Mouthy you can’t just go around biting and bullying when you’re in a bad mood.” BAM!!! There was a therapeutic revelation.  Simple revelation but still a revelation nonetheless. I began to make a connection to my past about this scene of me and these birds.   It took me several minutes to be able to convey what this moment was like. ” I know, I know” a certain little insider said.  It’s like being in Mr. Popper’s Penguins the movie.   I had to chuckle and I said, “Well little one, I guess you’re right.”  Granted there was a lot of biting, very unnecessary and over stimulating honking by all of them and I simply said, “Ya’ll are some angry ass birds.”  And that’s how the therapeutic Angry Birds have come to be.

Disclaimer:  No birds or waterfowl were ever harmed before, during or after any visit.

#Thispuzzledlife

The Chaos Of Life

The Chaos of Life

8.2.15

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

Viktor E. Frankl

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

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

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

soulsofsuffering

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

05/11/2015

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

– Lady GaGa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen

 

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

 

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

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

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

4.18.15

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

— Chief Seattle, 1854

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

It’s Not Easy Being Green

“It’s not easy being green”

3.18.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Life On Life’s Terms

Life on Life’s Terms…

2.21.15

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light Part2

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 2

1.29.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 1

1.1.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Anonymous

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzled