The Fear Of Eating Is Real(poetry)

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

I’m Sorry (Poetry)

I’m Sorry
How sorry can one person be?
That one person just happens to be me
The way that I self-destruct and scare people
It’s not intentional to hurt them and feel their tears
Some I’ve felt for days, months and years
All I’m screaming is that I hurt so bad
No one hears me not my mom and not my dad.
My screams are silent, and no one hears
Restrict blood and air and brought to tears
Eyes and facial features all swollen
Just wanting someone to hold me and let the tears fall
My trauma hurts like a searing pain
It’s a very high cost with little to gain
I’m sorry that I’m this way
I’m sorry that I hurt so bad
I’m sorry that you know me
I’m sorry that I appear to love life
I’m sorry that I joke around when I’m so miserable
I’m sorry that you love me
I sorry that you believe in me
I’m sorry that I’m broken and still me.
#thispuzzledlife

Coronavirus And Social Distancing

Coronavirus and Social Distancing

Day 1: I have stocked up on enough non-perishable food and supplies to last me for months, maybe years so that I can remain in isolation for as long as it takes to see out this pandemic Day 1 + 45 minutes: I am in the supermarket because I wanted a Twix
—Sir Michael Tweet

With all the necessity of social distancing due to the Coronavirus, I am reminded how not too long ago I chose social distancing on my own. For a couple of years, I chose to have limited contact with the outside world so that I could focus on my therapy. Then I felt the relief of knowing that I had begun to heal enough to make some adult baby steps back into a world that could put me into sensory overload within minutes. I remember the many time I would begin having cold sweats and vomiting from having to go to Walmart or drive on the interstate or just to drive back and forth to therapy. My anxiety would get the best of me and I would, at times, must pull over at a gas station and try to get grounded enough to be able to drive the rest of the way home. And then to walk into my dark and cold bedroom and collapse on the bed for a couple of hours before I could even turn a light on.

It was a very lonely way of living, but worth the pain of the loneliness. Today, the social distancing I’m still separated from friends, but my family is just within feet if I need company. And this time its all about trying to survive a pandemic. I’m usually working on some type of therapy assignments. I’ve put in the work that could’ve earned me another degree but its all worth it. I’m going through a lot of growing pains in my therapy right now. Coach is leading the way and I’m doing the work.

Corona Virus. Virus Cells Or Bacteria Molecule. Flu, View Of A V

At times I miss my way of life in Texas, but I sure enjoy having people around that I have a lifetime of familiarity with. I continue to battle anxiety, depression and the flooding of memories when life was much more difficult. Now the battle is also about trying to dodge a virus that seems to kill anyone in its way. I’m trying to find a source of humor as I always do but I have a healthy fear instead. Solitude allows for people to focus on what’s important in life in a way that daily life tends to help distract. And for many people it’s boring or uncomfortable. For me, I don’t try to bombard my brain too much with news that’s scary. I just try to be informed and leave it at that.

I worry for friends and family and our nation at what’s happening throughout our nation and the world. But I also try to have a focus on continuing to help heal wounds that have opened. I look at my severely scarred arms and feel the pit in my gut as my heart also opens and drips red tears at days gone by. My misty eyes and brain tell me there was a time when the pain was much worse at the loss of friends. I still cry for my teammates that were hurting at that time when their worlds were changed forever. I cry for yet the loss of more friends that I’ve buried deep in my psyche until recently when those memories have become unearthed. I must tell myself that now my tears are about healing and they won’t last forever.

Growing pains hurt and there’s no other way to put it. Change is sometimes uncomfortable. Acceptance of situations and their reality can hurt. And becoming a new and better me continues to hurt with each painful step forward. Just the knowing of my own capabilities of breaking the chains that have safely kept me bound for many years scares me. Trusting enough to unbind myself as painful as it might be sending a pain and fear over me that cannot be described all in the name of healing. And to know that my tears and fears are validated as I do this work leaves me grateful with each assignment.

May everyone be protected and able to work on some part of ourselves while our nation and communities struggle to fight a pandemic that’s killing our loved ones. Work on relationships that are here today because tomorrow it could be just a painful memory. God bless our country and loved ones.

We have toilet paper—no worries
—unknown
#thispuzzledlife

Perfectly….Imperfect

Perfectly…Imperfect

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
—Brene Brown

Sometimes “ah-ha” or “lightbulb moments” seem to come from out of thin air. You don’t question them. You sit and chew on them, if you have the time, until you’re able to digest what happened or what was realized. Lately, I’ve been bothered by why I care so much about others’ opinions of me. Maybe I was just wanting to find out how and why my humor seems to be attractive to people. If you think I’m tooting my own horn, let me assure you that’s not what’s happening here.

I’ve been sitting and wondering also why I have been tossed about and “unsettled” with my internal guys. I’ve really been working hard on realizing how painful and harmful my self-sabotage. Maybe I just ran into this while searching for answers. The toxic emotion that drives a lot, if not all, my self-sabotaging is fear and shame. Well what is it that I fear? Literally…. most everything. But one of the things that I fear the most is people leaving however that might look. I also have seemed to attach other people’s opinions they may or may not have about me to the worthiness of myself as a human being. That’s insane kind of thinking if you look at it. Growing up in small town U.S.A. that’s all that did matter. But the belief was so engrained in my belief system that if someone didn’t like me, I have felt useless. I remember this from the time I was very young. And then as a blossoming teenager looking for a place to belong, if I was funny, I didn’t have to fit into one group, I was accepted most anywhere and any group. The problem is that overtime if I wasn’t liked by someone the belief has been that I’m a failure with a heartbeat. When the reality is that people don’t give two squirts of cat pee what or how I’m doing.

jackass whisperer

You would think as much as I crave alone time that I would enjoy being alone. The truth is that I hate it. I was always a social butterfly. If there were 100 people to socialize with then I wondered why there wasn’t 101. Over the years I bought into some pretty horrible and crippling beliefs that have altered my life. With Coach’s help we also looked at how this belief system was influenced by my adoption. Low and Behold, I’m wanting something that I’ll never have….my birth mom’s love and approval for just being alive. When I met her there was nothing there between us and that hurt tremendously. My heart yearns and cries for her approval. I realized yesterday that I have attached people’s perceived opinions of me to my self-worth. But what hit me like a ton of bricks was when I said, “She didn’t have the capacity to love me. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person. I AM WORTHY OF LOVE AND HEALTH RELATIONSHIPS. AND NO ONE PERSON’S OPINION OF ME DEMINISHES MY WORTH AS A HUMAN BEING. What they think of me is not my any of my concern.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that the realization cures anything. But I think being able to say this with a good Brene Brown quote near by is closer to believing it. It’s not that I haven’t toyed with the idea at some point. I’m just simply….perfectly imperfect. My heart felt it yesterday and by then end I’d call that one hell of a session. Thanks, Coach!!!!

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
–Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

I Came To You For Help (Poetry)

I Came To You For Help

I came to you for help

And I left with several whelps

None for eyes to see

But I still feel the wounding of how you treated me.

Pleading for someone to help me sort out my confusion

Not knowing from moment to moment when I would have another delusion.

The voices in my head were so incredibly loud

And I couldn’t eat or sleep and I freaked out in crowds

“I can treat anything” is what you said

But all you did was raise the demons in my head.

We lost our babies and Sarah too.

And after two years you didn’t have a clue.

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I opened up to you and you perverted my truth.

It became a game of falsifying and being a sleuth

I got scared and I got hurt

And you twisted our words for only you to make it work.

No matter how many tears I cried

It still didn’t feel as bad as the day that I almost died.

I called and called like you asked me to do

Please tell me what I did to ever disrespect you.

My loyalty once again was

my weakness.

Why oh why does this have to be a source of bleakness

You were Too damn proud to admit defeat

I could see that you resembled someone that was set on repeat.

The very ones that you hurt you couldn’t even see

Would also be the ones that were crying their pleas

I guess I should be counting my blessings now and again

But I was your sloppy seconds that you let out of the pen.

Again I would try to get back on my feet.

I’ll never forget that painful week.

I searched and searched but I feared everyone

Hating the process of trying to find a trusted one.

Getting hurt by a “safe one” as you referred to yourself

You made it much more difficult to find real help.

The years of searching and this is my truth….

She cares about me and “my guys” and doesn’t give a shit about you.

By: Dana Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Happy, Joyous And Free (Poetry)

Happy, Joyous and Free

All I want is to be left alone,

To hide in a tomb as my home.

But traveling this path requires company

If I expect to come out of this mess triumphantly.

 

The deathly silence that I now crave

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

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

The one that hurt me is already long gone.

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Being around people it makes me hurt

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

I try and I try but all I can see

Is failure upon failure that keeps following me

 

Allow me my silence because I’m working hard

Crying tears daily just walking in the yard

Because I understand who I use to be

Living my life and being totally free.

 

All Those days have come and gone

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

This work has to pay off at some point for me

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

 

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

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.

IMG_1352

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

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

Put Me In Coach

Put Me In Coach

“Teamwork requires some sacrifice up front; people who work as

a team have to put the collective needs of the group ahead of their individual interests.”

—Patrick Lencioni

I will be the first to tell you that the first few months of living with the Longhorns has been anything but easy.  A lot of internal resistance and external confusion has left its mark all in the name of “safety.”  A tremendous amount of fear sufficiently keeps everything and everyone trapped almost in a place of purgatory.  Too scared to make THE decision or any decision for fear of putting everyone at risk.  But yet she puts everyone at risk anyway.  Our fearless yet dictatorial leader doesn’t know what to do and has tears for the guidance of her dear Sarah or Coach Nick.

The firm yet comforting messages from the opposing chair says she has something up her sleeve in her fairy dust bag.  Just something I call the “just where  ‘what I needed not wanted’ information is kept.”  Our current 13 year-old tyrant does what most teens do when fearful, frustrated and tired of everything….kicks and screams with claws and venom towards any movement both good and bad.  This almost symbolizes her own conflict of wanting and needing to be both right and wrong.  Others live in total fear of secrets alone.  And still others yearn for the day when peace will be achieved.  And, yes, there are those that also say, “I do it! I do it!” all for just one more flavor of chap stick.  And then the non-verbal all feeling soul that cannot seem to be comforted. And then one that continues to grief over the loss of her prized coach wanting nothing more than a job and/or a goal to focus on.  The grief and stress can be felt down to the smallest of nerves ever being exposed and in need of a therapeutic root canal.

together

I can feel something in my mind and body stirring unsure whether or not it could be anxiety or maybe just gas.  Still unsure of where I got the feeling but it was as if Sarah was saying, “Dana are you finished making a mess yet?! You always have been hardheaded. Don’t you see your way isn’t getting you anywhere?! Quit fighting the process. Work with it….all of you.”  Fairy dust was flying all over the place and wheels were turning in the opposing chair.  I always get the “Oh Shit” feeling when she says, “I’ve got an idea.”  You know that things are about to ‘get a little more real’ on some level.  Anticipation and newest ‘gut messages’ have you praying that you make it back to the house on time.

What happened next stopped me dead in my tracks.  She says, “Read this out loud.”  Reluctantly, I receive the paper not knowing what lesson the fairy dust had just created.  The message reads, “We are going to learn to work together as a team WITHOUT abuse and WITH love.”  Almost like my dear coach was standing by whispering in my ear, “It’s been a while but remember I was the coach but now SHE is the coach. It’s ok. It’s time.  Your team needs you!” I admit that when I felt his words of wisdom, I had a lump come up in my throat.  Because I remember lessons about being a team that said, “There’s no one person bigger or better than the TEAM. You each have to do your individual jobs but you win as a team and lose as a team not as individuals.”  From off in a dark corner I see the tired and worn down athlete perk up like she had just been called up to the big leagues saying with excitement, “Put me in coach!”

teamwork

Everyone covers the playing field, even the little guys with their chap stick and cheap plastic gloves run onto the field not knowing their new jobs or positions on the field.  Even “grumpy pants” grabs a glove with a smirk and goes as coaches have all spoken in their own ways.  Taken aback by this new coach/old coach moment and bracing for the overwhelming fear about the unknown and overall safety of the system, that still fierce protector let’s out almost a pre-emptive sigh when she asks Sarah, “Mom what do I do?”  Her response was “Dana ask her and then follow her guidance. This is where you move beyond FEAR headfirst into TRUST even if all you have is the size of a mustard seed.” She again questions, “But how do I keep us safe?”  Her final words of wisdom were, “You do it together.”

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and

sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”

—Mia Hamm

#thispuzzledlife

Advocates

Advocates

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

–Marshall Landrum-Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

survival

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

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

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

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

Either you love one or you are one.”

–Mark Ruffalo

#thispuzzledlife

My Own Prison

My Own Prison

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

—Anonymous

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

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

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

confinement

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

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

trapped

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

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

#thispuzzledlife