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

PTSD (Poetry)

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

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

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

Angelica (poetry)

Angelica

She was still one that no one wanted around

Being kicked aside she was found

But no one had know her job

For she stepped up and sobbed

She was treated like property and chained like a dog

Submissive she was but she drew the short straw

Some would label her as an outgoing whoreface.

And she would have a scarlet letter she always wore

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

But she would soon get a new name designed

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

What If No Really Meant No

What If NO Really Meant NO

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis”
― Ellen Bass, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

There are things in my life t;hat I continue to hide under a bush away from the light. Mostly because it’s embarrassing to deal with. The sexual abuse I endured has affected my life in ways that I can’t seem to find words for. In my early 40’s I should be in my sexual prime. But instead I sit here getting nauseous at just discussing the topic. My first sexual experience was around the age of 5 years old which is incredibly too young to know anything about that side of life. It terrified me when it happened not once but several times. I hear their words and can still feel them touching me. I still hear the words whispered in my ear. It all burns so bad in my soul that I can smell my charred remains.
Where this is something that I’ve left covered and protected I’m also not healing in this area of my life. I have run until there’s no where else to run to. It’s time to turn around and face it. Coach has proven herself time and time again that she’s trustworthy of this information. Now it’s my time to allow my trust in her to do it’s job.

protect me

Sex for many years has been a taboo topic that most people shy away from unless poking fun. But, even as an adult I was violated aggressively by a person that was supposed to protect and cherish me…….my husband. Instead, however, fear and pain were shown. I allowed him to do things to me that I was against personally and saying, “NO” just made things worse. So, I reluctantly went along as his submissive with total disregard for how I felt.

Me and my alters don’t understand how this process is supposed to feel and be in a loving way uninhibited by young and adult alters who are terrified of being a part of a process that is meant to be one defined by the words “precious and sacred.” I have often said that I “let” people do to me sexually what they wanted. When, in fact, I was saying NO and being told what would happen if I didn’t allow it. So, silently I would lay still hoping and praying that whatever was being done would end quickly.

By the time I met Mel sex to me was a horrible amd very scary word. But, the damage had already been done. The nausea I now couldn’t control which ruined the experience time and time again. The only thing that seemed to save me what the ability to float away. What I did was leave alters in my place further scaring and traumatizing them. No matter how many times I tried this process became automatic. And now one of the most intimate areas of my life has lead to a life of hibernation rather than fulfillment. I didn’t “LET” anyone do anything. They took my pride, self-confidence and humanity. Which leads me to ponder the question, “What would life had been like if No actually meant NO?”

#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

The Girl In The Closet (Poetry)

The Girl In The Closet

Enjoying school and playing sports
Dripping with sweat on shirts and shorts.
A dollar bill would be burning a hole in my pocket
She was only a number, but she was also the girl in the closet.

Most knew her name but not her number
She made them laugh even before Tumblr
The teacher never smiled, and we never knew why
Was someone mean to her? Did they make her cry?
The evilness she shot through her eyes made them want to vomit
She was only a number the girl in the closet.

The clown she was in those days
That happiness quickly became dark, ugly hate.
That closet was to teach me lessons.
And lessons it did…I learned how to drink, take pills, cut on my arms and put on gauze dressings
Because I was only a number and the girl in the closet.

Please!!!!I cried for someone to get me out of there
But they were being told different stories and I started pulling out my hair.
How could you not see that which was in front of you?
You questioned my parents and they questioned you.
What’s happened to my child and why is her heart so hurt
But I was just a number and the little girl in the closet.

They all knew and could see my spirit breaking day after day.
The hate would develop with words she would hear between September and May.
She was being changed from the inside out
She always had a practice where her aggression could be let out.

Her pills were quite the comfort and the razors were too
Because she had certainly learned some less and she hates herself and wants to turn blue.
She can’t breathe without thinking that finally someone must listen to what I say
The mental torture that continues day after day.
Now it’s my turn to tell you how we will play.
You didn’t even remember my number only that “I was the girl in the closet.”

#thispuzzledlife

Keep Trying (Poetry)

Keep Trying
7.30.19
Many nights alone I spend crying
Accomplishing nothing but forward footsteps towards dying.
Replaying the events of my decorated past
Hoping and praying that I’ll go someday……and fast.

The memories and visions that haunt me
Are keeping me bound and not free.
Bound to my past I have remained
While being told that to heal I must reframe.

Doing my best, I still fall hard
Until I catch a glimpse of those friendly cards.
Because people are doing for me what I can’t do for myself
While I try to put the pieces together of my shattered soul and health.

Getting this bird back flying
I know that I must keep trying
No one can do for me and I understand this one thing….
I must once again find my authentic self, unashamed voice and sing.

#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.

  sand through hands

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

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

Enough-abuse-campaign

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

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

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

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

“Mentors don’t just have to be people

who are older or more experienced that you are.

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

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

—Jennifer Hyman

#thispuzzledlife

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

I AM RESPONSIBLE

I AM RESPONSIBLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

their mission is to distract, detract and extract,

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

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

The important part

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

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

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

Amanda Torroni

#thispuzzledlife

The Collar (Poetry)

The Collar

When I was with you,  you made it seem

Like you would always treat me as your queen.

You set the line and patiently waited

Wanting to see if I would take the bait.

I took that bait as soon as it hit the water

He was whispering under his breath

“HaHa! Now I’ve got her.”

 

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

And this was what he needed to secure her fate.

She didn’t smile much on her wedding day.

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

Instead of a ring she was given a collar

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

It kept her in line with him at the controls

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

slave collar

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

because he told her she would kick him complete out

That night she would hear that her teammate was dead

But instead of hugs she was forcibly raped.

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

And many times he never saw her tears fall.

 

She wasn’t his queen nor his bride

Because all she wanted was to run and hide

From his abuse she would understand a new life.

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

She did not want this life of hell

But this was the life where she chose to dwell

 

His hateful words and scary threats

She doesn’t understand why he does this.

She could never do right so how can I leave.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

And I made you my legal ho.

I was nothing to you but a junkyard dog.

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The door to my freedom Somehow managed to swing open.

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

I don’t care that you called me hog

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

 

Many screamed get out and go

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

It was comfortable because I knew that routine.

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

 

I thought long and hard on making a plan

I had to hurry just as fast as I can

the time came to leave him like many times before.

But this time I would keep my eyes straight ahead

and not look back at that door.

 

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

And with every word he said I trembled and shook.

I’m leaving him and I must be crazy.

I would never again be called fat and lazy.

I could also remove that horrible shock collar.

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

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

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

By: Dana Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Code Of Silence

The Code of Silence

The predator wants your silence.  It feeds their power,

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

—Viola Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

–Elie Wiesel

#thispuzzledlife

“Bruised Inside”

“Bruised Inside”

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

—Coach Duke, Creed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Indicators of Verbal Abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What matters is what you leave in the ring

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Live To Fight Another Day

Live To Fight Another Day

“It might not seem like it now, but this is more than just a fight.”

—-Adonis Creed, Creed 2

The last couple of weeks have brought some very intense emotional days and nights.  I’ve manage to, once again, keep the smiles and laughter present and to hopefully not let on that I have been feeling every emotional strand that holds my psyche together.  Sometimes the emotions are not just one but all of them at the same time.  The toll, both physically and emotionally, that these intense emotions can take on a body and mind words cannot do justice to try and replicate.  The only description that I can find, at this moment, is a slow, creeping death.  And these are the times when I begin to question every decision and mistake made in my life including whether staying in Texas is still the best decision.

Lately, the battles with my behavioral addictions has been the ones to seemingly take me over.  The battles between my ears are crippling.  I’ve battled anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember.  Within the last few years depression seems to have intensified so much that I don’t even know the name to give it.  And my anxiety has me wondering why I don’t have a cardiac “crash cart” available on a moment’s notice.  Also, the fight for every bite of food and the urges of self-harm never stop talking to me.

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Coach Nick Kolinsky told our team time after time, “Little things make big things happen.”  He was obviously talking about us working as a team.  He reminded us that as players if we do our jobs fielding, batting and running individually that we are doing our part to help the “team” as a whole.  I’m now much older and his words about working as a team still ring true.  The sometimes little irritating therapy assignments are all for one goal…….FUNCTIONALITY.  Not only individually but again as a mother and a spouse.  And as a well oiled system.

Then there are the times that I get buried in questioning my diagnosis.  I’ll still try to find a way out of my condition being true.  But within minutes one or more of the symptoms return only to confirm that the diagnosis is, in fact, correct.  I think I’ve questioned this diagnosis since the day I was told that I met criteria.

The last  few months has been filled with neck surgery, back surgery and very soon a hysterectomy.  With all this stress and others my eating disorders thought that it was a perfect time to raise their ugly heads higher and with sometimes an unbearable strength.  If I look at this opponent as a whole it becomes too overwhelming to think about challenging its poisonous power.  Don’t get me wrong  I’ve been struggling for years with this big, smelly beast.  Life with ED (eating disorders) has gotten stronger over the years.  I know what to expect on each level of starvation.  The pain of anorexia and bulimia I cannot explain.  But there have been many days lately where just lying in my bed hurt.  The dehydration and everything that comes with it like dry mouth, cramping muscles, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting (there’s no food but there is bile), dry skin, brittle hair, lack of energy and this time it was a good ol’ case of thrush.  And along with it the added messages of those who spoke venomous comments to me as a teen and an adult are on some kind of marquee being seen and spoken one after another.  I usually lie in my bed crying about having to make simple food decisions.  My ex-husband would call this immature, senseless and childish self- loathing.  And for a minute I try to pull myself together.  My effort would be for nothing when the towering thoughts about how everything about food and body image is bad unless he takes total control to tell me what I can and cannot have to eat.   Those painful thoughts and sometimes realistic situations leave me paralyzed not knowing what decision is the “right one” so that I don’t get in trouble.  All in the name of “not wanting to have a fat wife.”

confinement

“You would be as big as this house, Dana, if you didn’t have someone managing your food for you.  You’re just too dumb to make decisions about healthy food, I guess”  he would say daily.  “Remember this…..” he would say. “I’m not living with a fat woman!  Go look at yourself in the mirror and tell me if you can even see what I’m talking about.”  I would go to the nearest mirror where I could see down to my knees and look at everything about myself.  In my eyes and apparently his too, I looked like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man from the original Ghostbusters.  I could see how disgusting I looked or at least I better be able to see it.  I would again, as I had many times, gone back to where he was waiting and told him, whether I did or not, that I saw the problems areas on my body and that I would fix it.

Obviously, that was another time and another place.  But every time I try to put a piece of food in my mouth, I hear those words screaming at me.  Day after day and night after night his torture emotionally was more than I could take.  I would nod like I understood but I would soon lose what he was saying and me and my brain were elsewhere.  Nevertheless, I would do my best to follow food orders and always in sequential order came the secretive self-harm behaviors.    The combination of surgeries and trying to deal with the trauma of my eating disorders has been difficult at best.

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There have been times when I just needed some cry time.  The time again when I lie in my bed cry and hating the things that were done to me. “I don’t want these problems!” Are the words my heart screams as each painful word rolls down my cheek. ” I want everything I fought so hard for and loved so much. ”  I wake up every morning pissed off that I have to face another day.  I want the road I was already on to be successful academically and professionally.  I want my family that I’ve tried so hard to preserve.  Divorcing him was the easy part.  The frustrating  part is facing it all again daily after I’ve survived it once. ” I shouldn’t have to be doing all of this!  I didn’t do this to myself!  Someone make them pay so there’s some type of justice is sought for all the things done.”

My tears continue to stream down my face as I write this because I do remember so vividly the abuse that happened daily concerning food and body image and how powerful his criticism were and at times still are.  Mistakes for me are the “end of the world” and that includes food, body image and food choices.  I trust my dear coach despite the pain. I continue to follow her guidance and know that these days are the ones where I have to trust that she’s still taking me down the right path.  She hasn’t failed me yet or led me astray in any way.  So you see the first quote is right in that this difficult time is more than just a fight. It’s an ongoing war with myself.  These days I simply LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY.

“He who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day;
But he who is battle slain
Can never rise to fight again ”
― Oliver Goldsmith

#thispuzzledlife

But I Still Made It To Texas

But….I Still Made It To Texas

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

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

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

Heodore Hesburgh

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

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

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

armadillo  texas flag  longhorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Footsteps To Freedom

Footsteps to Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

footsteps to freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Thucydides

#thispuzzledlife

The Long Drive Home

The Long Drive Home

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

of where you are going, change will occur.”

–Anonymous

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

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

tunnel

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

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

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

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

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

~Mary Anne Radmacher

#thispuzzledlife

Preparation Meets Opportunity

Preparation Meets Opportunity

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

—Joe Paterno

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

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

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

closer than i was

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Derek Jeter

#thispuzzledlife

The Healing Power of Strangers

The Healing Power of Strangers

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

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

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

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

change your thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Aesop

#thispuzzledlife

The 1-2 Punch

The 1-2 Punch

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

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

the journey.  Confusion is the hallmark of a transition.

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

–Anne Grant

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

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

trauma

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

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

Shame

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

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

inner children

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

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

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

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

–Dr. Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

The Magnitude Of Waves

The Magnitude of Waves

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

with the bricks others have thrown at him”

– David Brinkley

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

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

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

waves

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

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

Soul Murder

Soul Murder

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

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

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

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

soulmurder.jpg

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

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

leftovers

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

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

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SUCH BEHAVIORS INCLUDE:

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

COMMON WAYS THAT ABUSERS AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

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

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

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

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

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

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

puppetgirl

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Tears That Still Drip Sore

Tears That Still Drip Sore

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

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

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

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

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

child window

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

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

solitary

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Into The House Of Horrors

Into The House of Horrors

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

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

–Arthur Schopenhauer

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Closing The Chaper

Closing the Chapter

12.29.2017

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

—Paulo Coehlo

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

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

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

eagle dancer

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

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

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

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

locked soul

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

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

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

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

puzzle piece blue

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

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.

ying yang fire water

 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

Battle Wounds From A War

Battle Wounds From a War

5.1.15

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

A Bright Red Scream

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

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

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

just scars

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

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

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

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

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

razors

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

-Alice Miller, A Bright Red Scream

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

And So Our Day Begins….

And So Our Day Begins…..

1.29.15

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

― Sophocles, Antigone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light Part2

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 2

1.29.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 1

1.1.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Anonymous

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzled

Illusions of Halloween

Illusions of Halloween

10.21.14

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

—-Margaret Atwood,  The Empathy Trap book page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Family Day

Family Day

9.8.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Memories That Come To Life

Memories That Come To Life

8.21.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

More Traveling

More Traveling

8.19.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Traveling

Traveling

8.16.14

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

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

I think to myself…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Back Again

Back Again

8.17.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Hello world!

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

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

puzzlepieces2

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife