Finding Me

Finding Me (Poetry)

The pain of laughter that everyone sees

The person before you is not really me

The funnier I am, the more pain I’m in

Maybe it’s wrong or some terrible sin.

I loved living life until these terrible days.

Now I live in a trauma filled haze.

Keeping those secrets has eaten a hole.

I’m no longer me but rather a shattered soul.

Most days I’m scared and can’t think

And to get through this life I feel I must have paper and ink

That tiny little town, the memories and secrets are held. 

It not Southern Comfort but a type of burning hell.

Friends and family from a time I once knew

Happy-go-lucky and not dark grey and blue.

The days I was carefree I was happy and nice

And if she asked me again, I wouldn’t think twice.

Two boys that are precious I wish I could hear

Held close to my heart because they are dear.

Far behind the smiles in pictures they just can’t see

How I hang on for dear life while I try to find me.

#thispuzzledlife

Angelica (poetry)

Angelica

She was still one that no one wanted around

Being kicked aside she was found

But no one had know her job

For she stepped up and sobbed

She was treated like property and chained like a dog

Submissive she was but she drew the short straw

Some would label her as an outgoing whoreface.

And she would have a scarlet letter she always wore

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

But she would soon get a new name designed

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Wooden Door (Poetry)

The Wooden Door

You met me as an innocent child
If only for a little while
But even a little was too much
Because behind you is where I learned the meaning of
The word…. crutch.

Twist and turn my mind you did
Until that kid ran and hid
But you awakened that angry child
The one who would live life running wild.

Behind you is where the secrets lived
Because I couldn’t hang around to see what you did
She protected me from things I didn’t want to know
She took all the pain and it would show.

Red, purple and eventually white
That’s the colors of her painful stripes
Your evil would once again score
All behind that wooden door.
#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.

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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

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

Life With The Plant

Life With The Plant

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

—- Dr. Sanjay Gupta / Neurosurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Acknowledgment Of Strength And Courage

Acknowledgement of Strength and Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

—-Lao Tzu

Lately, there has been a request to identify strength and courage from within myself.  And, honestly, the answer is not very easy for me to identify nor to convey.  I haven’t written since early April and couldn’t have written if I had wanted to.  Sometimes I seem to get lost in my own world not knowing how to get back to the present date and time.  The words “strength” and “courage” seem to be ones of perception rather than having a concrete definition that fits most people and situations.  Hang in there with me.  I promise there is a point.

One of the more difficult things in my life has been to accept compliments.  The ones I did get from perpetrators always seemed to have some form of abuse attached to them.  Growing up and developing as an athlete I regularly received compliments from my coaches.  I not only developed confidence but the discipline and hard work were always worth the effort.  I received compliments from my parents, the parents of friends and teammates.  When the compliments began to take on a more sinister tone and action from some people, I began to fear the very thing that only years before seemed to propel me into a healthy confidence and feeling of safety.  Kind words, in their own way, can now cause instant fear and embarrassment unseen to the naked eye.

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You can point out that survival of all the abuse is an example of both strength and courage.  However, my stance is simply that I did what I had to do to live.  Is this a great example of minimization? Well of course it is.  But emotionally this is truly how I feel about my story of survival.  So…..to identify examples of each I am forced to look at these things from another angle.  I identify these by looking into the heart and eyes of my alters.  This has truly been a process that has now led me to a position and attitude of gratitude.  Trust me, it has not always been like this.  For years I’ve been stuck continuing to try and deny the depth of my mental problems and diagnoses.  And what this has led to for my system are feelings of denial and minimization of their strength, courage, bravery and existence of them both individually and as a group.  This has led to anger, resentment and a whole lot of unneeded and hurtful chaos from them at times. They have had a general feeling of being unneeded and unwanted after years of wading through a life of blood, sweat, tears and the evilness of others.  They have never wanted a  war medal but rather just acknowledgement of the abuse and their efforts.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.  Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

—August Wilson

Me and “my team” or “my guys” as they are commonly referred to are not expendable.  These children, teens and adults stepped into some very frightening situations when my mental and physical limits as an individual had been reached.  Their actions often times with accurate precision led to self-preservation with the ultimate goal to preserve life.  Their strength and courage doesn’t seem to have limits for which I’ll am eternally grateful.  Their existence was created out of fear, pain and necessity. Mel will tell you that there have been times when physically and emotionally I shouldn’t have been able to function on any level.  But you could also look up and standing before you would be someone who seemed to be functioning almost completely normal. The quest for my education while undergoing abuse, sometimes daily, is a stunning example of this very thing.  Now several years later the answers as to how this was even a remote possibility are very clear.  My guys stepped in and helped to make sure that my goals were achieved despite always being told that my dreams were nothing more than under achievable pipe dreams.  To me, they are a living testimony of strength, courage and bravery that cannot be matched.  And maybe my story is changing from one of survival to one about redemption.

“I never said I wanted a ‘happy’ life but an interesting one.  From separation and loss, I have learned a lot.  I have become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost every human being exposed to life and to the world.  We don’t ever know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.”

—Isabel Allende

#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.”

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“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.

splat (1)

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

The Comedy Of Daily Life

The Comedy of Daily Life

“Laugh. Laugh as much as you can. Laugh until you cry. Cry until you laugh. Keep doing it even if people are passing you on the street saying, “I can’t tell if that person is laughing or crying, but either way they seem crazy, let’s walk faster.” Emote. It’s okay. It shows you are thinking and feeling.”
― Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously… I’m Kidding

Lately, my life in Texas could be described as “OMG not again!”  Yep it has been a wild and crazy roller coaster that hasn’t let me down yet. Most days consist of staying in my bedroom in tears over things I can’t control and mistakes I’ve made.  I’m a worrier that will worry for others even when I’m not asked.  And being a parent and living away from my wife and kids is just an added layer of worry.  I think sometimes, “Holy Hell when will we catch a break?” If my life were a song it would be the screams of a cat whose tail is being smashed in a rusted, squeaky gate.  And then out of nowhere the comedy of life presents itself in a way that seems to catch me right before I willingly dive off a cliff.

Recently, I’ve had some comedy that has given me some much needed laughs.  I have been asked many times about where my comedy comes from.  And honestly, I just keep my eyes and ears open and wait for comedy to happen because it inevitably will occur when we least expect it.  I truly think that it has saved my life in many different ways.  So, as I usually do, I will share three times that I’ve gotten good laughs recently.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on the back porch watching the local wildlife like I usually do.  I have seen both predator and prey while usually singing or listening to my favorite Pandora stations.  There are squirrels in quantity that appear to be training for the “Limb-to-Limb Olympics” while also working on their dismounts.  I have had interactions with opossums, cats, snakes and the laziest frog I have ever encountered.  Those are other stories that have their own comedy attached to them.

This particular day was about the squirrels climbing fast up a tree and then a sudden stop.  Out of the corner of my eye about 30 feet away I saw a black cat crouched down on the outside of the fence looking into the backyard at the squirrel.  I thought to myself, “This is about the dumbest cat I’ve ever seen.  He’s crouched down and will run into the fence instead of catching and debilitating the prey which seems to be the focus.” I watch for a few minutes and the cat never moves.  So, I think that “cat calling” will definitely get its attention.  I start make sounds that sound like mating tomcats.  The cat still doesn’t move.  By now, I’m thinking that the cat is deaf and if I start walking its way maybe it would see me.  I slowly start walking to the fence and had gone about 10 feet when I realized that the black cat that I had been calling was actually a black trash bag that was caught on the fence and  blowing in the wind.  I couldn’t help laughing so hard that my stomach hurt.  I knew that this incident wouldn’t help me in a sanity hearing. I just imagined trying to plea in court by saying, “Your honor I was accidentally “cat calling” a black trash bag because of my eyesight, I promise!”

dairy queen

Then a ride around town and I saw this sign knowing what it was meant to say but the letters were pushed too close together.  From a distance it looks like Dairy Queen was adding a new menu item that  was called “Dipped Strawberry Buzzard!”  I obviously knew what it was meant to say but I had to stop and take a picture because I knew that no one would believe that I saw this in small town Texas. I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks.

The 3rd incident involves me going to Target.  I’m constantly trying to go in public in hopes that I will overcome my fears and it never happens.  Anyway, I was there right after the store opened thinking that this was the best time to go since there wouldn’t be many people.  I got that part right.  I keep an eye on everything and everyone with an escape plan close at hand.  However, I got sidetracked by looking at some clothes.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a figure standing right next to me.  I squealed and he jumped.  I was seriously thinking that a serial killer had just attacked me.  Actually, I was never touched but as far as I was concerned I was already bound and gagged.  Me and the gentleman both laughed.  I admitted that I watched entirely too many shows involving murders and profiling serial killers like Criminal Minds.  But I was pretty sure that I could solve a murder for the FBI on my own.  I also told him that I got so scared because I had just been reviewing cases and the statistics were high for serial killers that were found shopping in Target. Seriously, how was I going to justify that one. And that was a good laugh as well.

Life is difficult no doubt.  For me, life is extra difficult and a lot of times its for no other reason than I stay stress over things I can’t control. This tumbleweed from New Mexico has learned to ALWAYS keep my eyes and ears open and looking for possible danger.  In the meantime, I will continue to look and enjoy the comedy that life hands me.  Whether I provide the comedy for someone else or life drops it in my lap, I continue to fight this very difficult life and trying to stay alive. And maybe…just maybe one day I’ll begin to see my own worth and value that coach and other people have seen in me for many years.

#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.

IMG_2410

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

At Least I Didn’t Poop On The Floor

“At Least I Didn’t Poop On The Floor”

“Having a 2-Year-Old is like owning a blender that you don’t have a top for.”

–Jerry Seinfeld

I’ve always said that being a parent is the hardest but most rewarding job on the planet.  Our dreams of being coming parents was not easy in any shape, form or fashion.  Thank goodness there are companies that now include fertility benefits that makes this dream possible not just for LGBT families but any family that has this same dream.  Our dreams were fulfilled and soon much laughter would ensue for us as first time parents.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most is the same kind of humor that I would experience sometimes days or weeks later after a specific event.  This is the same way that I’ve also found humor being in the mental health system for many years.  The humor might not be seen in the moment but trust me I would see it soon afterwards.  Lesbian moms raising two little superhero boys guarantees a wide variety of funny moments daily especially when I’m involved.  And there are also those times as a mother when I have come to the realization why some animals eat their young.

As an LGBT couple one of the questions we have been asked many times is, “Who did you choose as the donor?”  First of all, the process of finding a donor requires much more than noting the name and look of someone in a lineup.  The process is actually much more complicated.  It took us approximately 1 year to pick out our initial donor which is not the “donor daddy” as we call him, of the boys.  He is completely anonymous which is how we chose him to be.  We don’t have a  name only a donor number chosen from a nationally well known donor bank as HIPAA also protects their specific information as well.  We do, however, know specifics about the donor and his biological family’s health information minus the names.  And well….this is as far as I’ll go in talking about this part of the process.

noise with dirt

One of the most frequent questions asked specifically about the donor is ethnicity.  And after watching our sons single-handedly transform our living room into an obstacle course of different objectives that is only meant for kids no matter how much the adults try to succeed at beating the course I can very confidently say, “THE DONOR IS PART NINJA WARRIOR!!!!!”  Both boys have the uncanny ability to jump from the sofa, to the loveseat and then to the coffee table and back while having a loaded nerf gun; shooting zombies and dodging sharks in the ocean (otherwise known as the carpet) while simultaneously avoiding hot lava often times with either me or Mel being the disabled one who was shark bitten and is now hopping around on one leg from our wounds.  Yes they do let me use one of their nerf guns  which is usually the one that doesn’t work.  I inevitably  will take heavy fire from both boys only to get frustrated with my guns and just take the nerf bullets out and start throwing them due to mechanical failure.  My battle wounds are usually heavy and we both usually end up with many painful red polka dots all over our faces and body from their always “spot on” aim.  I have yet to understand why their aim is so good with a nerf gun and the aim for the toilet looks like a drunk with a water hose has been allowed to just have “free time.”  With the automatic watering of my eyes after a shot right between the eyes or directly in the nose and a loud squeal from me after another battle wound eruptions of laughter would commence.  This was usually followed with a burning question from our 6-year-old Marshall while I’m assessing my wounds, “Momma D can I practice shooting your boobs as target practice until you’re ready to play again?”

When the boys were infants some of the funniest moments were me and “DIAPER TIME.”  Mel grew up helping to take care and babysit children, of all ages,  on a regular basis.  I, however, was always uncomfortable around children and ran when diapers were going to be changed.  Being a new mom DID NOT change that like many would think.  The saying, “It will all change when it’s your child” was a lie.  It might not be someone else’s child’s shitty diaper but it was still a shitty diaper and nothing make that any prettier no matter how much Glade air freshener was sprayed around the topic.  I always hated those words, “Dana it’s your diaper turn!” My instant thought was, “Somebody just kill me now!”

one sock on

There are those people, like Melody, who are just natural mothers in everything they do.  I am not nor will I ever be that kind of mom.  I’m the one on in the background gagging at just the sight before the wretched smell even has time to enter my nostrils.  She would always end up snickering and say, “My God Dana!  It’s just a diaper!”  “Ummm….yes Mel that is the problem at hand!”  She would always try to help in her own special way by finding the nearest spray can of air freshener and spraying it all around the area where the diaper changing would commence.  When the sticky tabs of that diaper were forced to release the death grip on the plastic that occasionally helped hold the brown napalm death in its holding area the smell in that area of the house would resemble something like a shitty fruit basket.  I would be gagging and would say, “I swear it smells like someone took a gigantic crap in an apple orchard!”  Comical doesn’t begin to describe the sight of me attempting such feats.  It pretty much looked like a scene out of a YouTube video of father’s gagging while the mother’s are videoing and laughing hysterically.

I knew, though, that every time I got through one diaper that my turn would follow again sometime after Mel took her turn with such ease.  So, I tried to get smarter about how I went through this process.  I eventually took the time to wear full turnout gear like I was about to face the “Diaper Apocalypse.”  I would prepare by covering everything on my face, accept my eyes, with a sweatshirt and holding my breath.  I would also have both hands in sterile gloves to protect my skin from possible poop exposure.  Having everything I need very near and at my disposal, I take a deep breath and shout, “I’m going in!”  I always tried to change the diaper in the time that I was holding my breath but inevitably I would eventually need to breathe.  I would try to take very short breaths just until the job was done but some of the jobs seemed like a construction site.  Out of desperation, I would try to take an even bigger breath just to try to make it to the end and that’s when it happened.  I would start gagging and usually throw up but not without first saying, “Oh my God I taste it!  It literally feels like I just ate shit!” I would no doubt look back at Mel saying, “I’m in diaper hell!  Help me!!”  She trying her best not to wet her own pants from laughter would say, “Dana it’s just a little poop!”  I have never been able to adjust to such wretched smells that have come from our little boys.

I am also the parent that when one of the boys gets sick at school rushes off to rescue our little man cub hoping to God that he doesn’t puke in my vehicle.  The whole ride home, maybe 3 miles, I would saying, “Please don’t puke!  Please don’t puke!”  Inevitably when we finally get home the spewing would finally let loose and my own gagging would once again start.  This time I’m gagging while trying to keep our puking kid from traipsing through the morning’s breakfast.  There is absolutely no possible way I could clean that up without exposing my own breakfast.  But as the spouse I am considerate in my own way so I gently place newspaper over the area and block it off with fluorescent cones so no one would step in it.  And the soured mess patiently waited all day until Mel got home from work to clean it up.

Potty training is another source of laughter for our family.  I understand that it takes time when your child comes to you and says, “Mommy I have poops and need a new DIPA!!!!”  In my opinion, if you can say this you are old enough use the toilet.  Letting them run around without a diaper never seemed like a good idea to me especially when they take this to mean that they can “free pee” anywhere including my leg while I’m running their bath water.  “Son you are NOT a Chihuahua!  Pee in the toilet!” is what I said and we all had a good laugh.

hand out of pants

Truly, some of the funniest moments we have experienced as parents are the total randomness of both boys in things they say and/or do.  Here are a few of those situations.

  1. When Copeland was an infant and Marshall being raised in an electronic world when Copeland would start crying he would ask, “Momma can we put Copeland on the charger so he will stop crying?”  No son but we can pretend.
  2. Conversation between Mel and Copeland…..

Copeland:  What are you made of mommy?

Mel:  Sugar and spice and everything nice….

What are you made of Copey?

 Copeland:  Plastic

Mel:  No sticks and snails and puppy dog tails that’s what little boys are made of.

Copeland:  Nooooooooo I don’t have puppy dogs!!!!

Mel:   So what are you made of?

Copeland:  Rubber

Later Mel tries to ask the question again.

Mel:  So what are you made of Copey?

 Copeland:  Plastic and rubber and Boogers!!!  Lot of Boogers, Momma!!!

  1. Marshall being so proud that he lost both of his bottom teeth asked Mel if he could put his picture on Facebook, Instagram and TWEETER.  Obviously, Mel and I and the rest of the universe has been saying this all wrong.  Death to Twitter.
  2. Marshall and Copeland were having a pillow fight when Marshall was overheard saying, “Pick up your pillow and fight like a man!”  Words never heard in THIS lesbian household.
  3. Trying to give our boys the freedom to choose what he would like for meals has been advantageous for both them and us.  Sometimes you can get some funny requests.  Like recently, Mel asked Copeland what he wanted for breakfast and he instantly said, “Not broccoli-it’s not tasty.”  Ok let me just say before it’s assumed that our little boys are being force fed trees for breakfast  like miniature brontosaurus’s is not correct.  Randomness…remember…randomness.  How about a snow cone?  When asked what flavor of snow cone he replied “a chicken one!”  Now, I have seen chickens with flip-flops but not on snow cones.
  4. Just today I learned that both boys now take pleasure in crossing their pee streams with each other so they can see how they can make an “X.”
  5. Recently, the boys were arguing and then the oldest got “fwapped” by the youngest very unapologetically in the face.  Marshall runs to tell on Copeland and says, “Momma, Copeland hit me in the face and touched my eyeball!”  As hard as you might try to maintain the “parent face” sometimes with statements like this it just can’t happen.
  6. Copeland decided that he didn’t want to wear his diaper after his nap and took it off and then proceeded to go squat on the hardwood floor in front of his grandfather,  who was watching TV, and took a big dump.

Our little family has a complicated life most of the time.  Without knowing the obvious our family is just like most raising two children with both being boys.  Food groups have expanded from candy, chicken nuggets, boogers and now include a group known as the “hot dog.”  Honestly, you don’t even have to speak English as long as you can speak fluent “poop and wiener” you’ll be able to have a conversation with our  3 year-old and 6 year-old. We don’t ever take for granted the laughs because we understand that all that can change on a moment’s notice.  The humor is always welcomed for however long it’s willing to stay to give respite from the stress.  Mel and I were discussing something about the boys one day and it we just weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on something and the words that changed the whole tone of the conversation were hers, “Well At Least I Didn’t Poop on the Floor.”

“There really are places in the heart that you don’t

even know exist until you love a child.”

–Anne Lamott

#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

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

It’s Not About The Food

It’s Not About The Food

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

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

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

–Mary Pipher

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

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

skinny back

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

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

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

scales

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

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

scales attached

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Shattered (Poetry)

Shattered

Life began being ripped away,

how that felt I can’t begin to say.

With no voice I lie and wait

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

As a little girl touch was what I got.

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

Teen years rolled around and I was locked away.

All I did was cry and pray.

I wanted to disappear in every way.

Everything has a price that must be paid.

She hated food and she hated life.

You did everything possible to make her your wife

SHATTEREX

You always promised you’d never hit her.

But oh those words were so strong and very bitter.

You cut her down and again she was little.

Take her fears and insecurities and made her very brittle.

She refused to leave and would not go.

All she was to you was a legal ho.

To substances she turned to dull her pain

Given the chance she’d do it again.

Many losses and now a new wife.

With two little boys and a new life.

The old life hangs on and the fears are great.

Everything about life she has learned to hate.

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

She’s somehow trapped again by four walls.

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

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

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

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

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#Thispuzzledlife

 

Inside The Rage

Inside the Rage

November 15, 2016

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

 Explicit and detailed rage scene!

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

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

IMG_0861

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Angry Birds

The Angry Birds

November 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

don't take no

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

canadian

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

mouthy

bread takers

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Frustrations Of Life

Frustrations of Life

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

— Peter A. Levine

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Chaos Of Life

The Chaos of Life

8.2.15

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

Viktor E. Frankl

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

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

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

soulsofsuffering

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

dad

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Battle Wounds From A War

Battle Wounds From a War

5.1.15

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

A Bright Red Scream

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

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

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

just scars

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

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

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

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

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

razors

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

-Alice Miller, A Bright Red Scream

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

420: Not Just A Stoner’s Holiday

420: Not just a Stoner’s Holiday

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

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

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

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

Snoop Dog Dana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: The Diagnosis

Mel’s Corner: The Diagnosis….

Often times I can be asked questions about how it is living with a spouse with dissociative identity disorder, well let me assure you it’s never a dull moment.  When I met Dana over 8 years ago and we started our relationship just a few months after that, neither one of us knew she had DID.  She had been given many different diagnosis at that time and even had someone give her a rule out of DID, which we quickly dismissed, she just didn’t seem like a “Sybil”.  The first time I met an alter, I had no idea.  I thought it was just a PTSD flashback.  There would be 6 years pass before the official diagnosis.  The latter of those years proved to be very challenging.

   I’ve learned to appreciate each alter and the specific needs and talents they bring.  For instance, there is only one alter who likes ketchup, everyone else hates it and often blocks the alter who likes it from getting ketchup.  I learn likes and dislikes when it comes to food, and there have been times that one requests a certain meal only to have another come out while I’m cooking or we are eating and decide they want something else.  I’ve learned to cook what Marshall and I want and that usually works out.

   In the early days of diagnosis, there was one alter who had no idea who I was, but that has been the only one who had no idea  of me.  Now that’s not to say that I’m the “spouse” to everyone.  To the littles, I’m “Momma Mel”, to others “I’m a friend”, and even others see me as ‘the one who takes care of Dana.”

   Around the start of 2012, Dana started having large gaps of time missing and often times during this time there was a lot of aggressive/ angry behavior.  At one point it was thought she might have a seizure disorder.  We had started psych medications to stabilize her mood starting in 2010, however if a medication worked, it only worked for just a short time.  We even tried lithium and ended up in the hospital one month prior to our son being born for lithium toxicity.  That was one scary time.  Even the mental health system was no help.  We were on our own trying to figure this out and get help that was desperately needed.

  In September 2013, when dissociative identity disorder was first given as a diagnosis, I was a bit in denial.  I had to take everything in and then decide for myself based on the research and facts, did this diagnosis fit?  Having a masters in counseling my first go to was to see if Dana met criteria as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  I kept an open mind and I started to consider that this might be correct.  The more I met alters and got to know them, the more this diagnosis made sense.

   Most people would have no idea that Dana is a multiple.  In fact I would say unless we came out and said it, most people wouldn’t have a clue that she is a multiple.  The switching is very subtle and sometimes it’s not until later that I put it together that I’ve been talking to someone other than who I thought.  They like to try to trick me into thinking they are someone else in the system at times.  I’ve learned to adapt but even now I have moments of difficulty.  I’ve been told that the roughest time is in the beginning and the system will settle down and things will get much more manageable.  I’m starting to see that take place, I think in time we will learn more about how to deal with this disorder.

#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

Winners

Winners

8.14.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Pete Rose

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Social Stigma

Social Stigma

8.12.14

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

—–Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Trapped Trauma

Trapped Trauma

8.8.2014

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”

― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

People who will read these posts are wondering about, “How I’m able to write about this trauma if I have such adverse effects?”  The truth is that, I’m able to discuss this because I’m talking completely from my head.  Emotionally, I have a very difficult time staying “grounded” around these topics. It’s the same concept as those that work in the emergency services field (EMTs, fire fighters, police).  And let’s not forget our soldiers that return from war.  I worked only for a year on an ambulance but saw enough to last a lifetime.  You operated solely helping with the gruesome scene before you.  Feelings must be put on the “back burner” in order to get the job done.

Once upon a time, a few years ago while in graduate school, I would do presentations to help explain/educate those going into the therapy field on the topic of “Self-Harm.”  I had to be able to give some background information in order for the students to grasp the concept of how this behavior can develop.  However, emotionally the topics, even more vague than I talk about here, would, at time have me vomiting by the end of the presentation.  So, I had to completely detach emotionally to be able to speak.

The problem is afterward………”What to do with all of the feelings?”  Everything emotionally gets stored and trapped unless properly released.  Within the animal kingdom, all prey animals go through the same thing we go through as humans.  Some of these symptoms include but definitely not limited to:  heart rate changes, immobilization state, shaking, trembling, shivering, temperature changes, breathing changes and more.  The animal then returns to a “normal” state of being and goes on about its business. We as human beings have a much more complex emotional, psychological and physical systems in operation on a day-to-day basis. However, if we could learn how to just ‘sit’ with these trauma responses, be able to release the results of this ‘normal’ type of physical and mental responses safely and fully. We could also just move on to the next task.  However, most people don’t know how to completely and safely release these ‘trapped’ feelings and emotions. Therefore, people either find and work with a therapist often many years after the event because their behavior becomes problematic in every aspect of their life.  Most people don’t realize that they’re actually looking to be able to have this release so that they are able to function more normally.  This state of unresolved trauma can be the underlying force that drives the elusive symptoms such as panic, depression, migraines, irritable bowel, ME, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and chronic pain.

Those that choose not to work on their issues can lead to an unfulfilled life never truly happy because of an event or series of events that could’ve happened 20+ years ago. And some well….they re-perpetrate another victim and the cycle continues.  This is where having a trusted therapist is very crucial. Releasing the trauma through both the mind and body is a very intimate area that most people aren’t allowed to know about much less hear how the trauma really affected us.  Often the additional re-experiencing that can come with therapy, can actually be more painful than the actual events.  For me, my body and mind can feel like I’m detoxing from some type of drug.  I wake up vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, sweating and emotionally a mess. Sometimes it can take until noon time for me to be able to somewhat function.

Because of my trauma, it takes me a long time of watching and interacting with someone to feel that comfortable to work with someone on that level. Remember….the times when I initially going through the trauma, I was either alone or made fun of for natural feelings for the situation. Therapy is one of those professions that have a very fine line between ethical and unethical behavior.  I know and totally respect this from having been in the field at one time.  However, without some type of human and/or animal connection……I, personally, cannot process.  I have to know and feel a ‘therapeutic’ relationship with the person or persons that I do this work with.  This is a very scary process for me to find those people that I feel that level of comfort being around.  Also, because they have the title as “therapist,” automatically my mind and body scream, “Harmful Authority Figure Ahead! You Will Get Hurt!” So, it has taken me over a year working with therapists every week for over a year watching EVERYTHING about them to determine whether or not they’re a “safe” people.  Even with determining that these people are “safe” people, showing an emotion besides anger often leaves me feeling embarrassed and shameful. Even the anger, leaves it’s on mark of shame on me.

These (psychosomatic) reactions wear both the mind and body down.  The medical marijuana actually helps me to be able to persevere through these reactions by helping with both the intensity of the flashbacks and pain. I also go to acupuncture every week which seems to, at least, help with some of the physical symptoms.  Not everyone is going to have the same reaction to processing or experiencing trauma.   Unfortunately, this is sometimes just part of the process.  It’s definitely a “marathon not a sprint.” I didn’t reach these extremes in behavior overnight. So, to even remotely think, that seeing a therapist and being able to resolve everything in a couple of weeks is a very unrealistic expectation that will set one up for failure.

The time in my life where I remember actually feeling truly “safe” in a relationship with someone outside of my parents is my wife, Melody Landrum-Arnold.  She has been nothing less than a ‘trooper’ while in this arduous process. This feeling of “safety” has also come with some complications. This will be explained later.

#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