Law Enforcement And Mental Illness

Law Enforcement and Mental Illness

“If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got.”
— Quote from Tony (Anthony) Robbins, American life coach,
motivational speaker, and bestselling writer.

The topic of Law Enforcement and Mental Illness is one that comes with strong emotions on both sides. However, it’s a topic that needs to be dealt with now. I’ve never been in law enforcement, but I have been a part of Emergency Services from several angles. I have worked side-by-side with different cities and their officers. I worked in Hattiesburg, MS and Petal, MS on an ambulance as an EMT-B. I have also worked in Albuquerque, NM with the homeless at a county funded detox facility. Those jobs guaranteed me working with officers from all police departments. And as my condition with Dissociative Identity Disorder deteriorated in Albuquerque, Mel and our family have dealt with law enforcement sometimes on a regular basis due to some of my behaviors.

I’m not in a position nor will I run down fellow individuals who have worked and continue to work in the field of EMS because I understand the stress, callousness and cynicism that naturally develops just to be able to survive doing that type of work. And I understand that they are police officers not social workers. Most people don’t have a clue about what is seen and experienced in that field. What I will say is this…. there has been and continues to be a lack of education surrounding mental illness. Granted sometimes the behaviors get out of hand and force is needed to keep the individual safe from themselves and others.

Recognizing-Mental-Health-Disorders-in-Others-1
What I’m talking about is the lack of education and training on mental illness that officers face. Sometimes having a Crisis Team individual to go out and talk to the individual can ensure less stress on both parties. Instead of immediately handcuffing an individual when simple talking to the person first could accomplish the same goal of getting someone much needed help. I completely understand that this is not feasible with all police departments especially smaller departments, in rural areas. Additionally, budget cuts in recent years makes this task virtually impossible.
Individuals aren’t necessarily prone to violent or criminal behavior. Does it happen? Sure, it does. But blanket statements are what causes stigmas that continue to build over time. Albuquerque had just started having a Crisis Team as we were moving out of the state.

There’s nothing like hearing someone hollering at you and looking down to see red dots on your shirt and not understanding why. Just like an episode of Cops, I was told to lay in the prone position on the cold concrete. I was then held at gunpoint with the red dots moving to my head. The male officer began screaming at me because he was supposed to get off work 30 minutes prior. The female officer was talking to me in a calm voice. Fortunately, I was wearing my medic alert dog tag that I wore because of another situation. She recognized the medic alert dog tag I was wearing and read the information. I was taken to one of the local hospitals for a mental health evaluation where I was subsequently let go.
This is just one of many situations that we encountered prior to leaving the state. Before I moved to Texas and Mel and our sons moved to Mississippi a crisis team came to our house wanting to know what the best way was to help with crisis situations. We gave them the information and for once I felt like I was being heard. There are many situations that happen like the above mentioned that could be helped with just trying to find out what the crisis is about versus being accusatory. And having the Crisis Team knowing what to do to help has changed how I feel about police officers and authority figures. We have a long way to go by challenging stigmas about mental illness. But I think it’s a start.
#thispuzzledlife

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

I AM THANKFUL

I AM THANKFUL

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
—Albert Schweitzer

With the Thanksgiving season here I couldn’t help but think of things that I’m thankful for. The transition back to living in Mississippi is one that is still in process. I’m grateful to be back around family but living in solitude for so long has left its mark. Still amid some of the frustration I’m incredibly grateful just to have another day to wake up to every morning. Everything I learned in Texas is being put into practice which includes everyday frustrations and the sometimes overstimulation of being in public and around people daily.

My heart has longed for several things over the past couple of years since being in Texas and this thanksgiving my heart was warmed by not having to spend the holidays alone again. I was able to spend the day and night with my two little boys. I can’t explain to you what healing effects that had on my heart. I finally got to show them that I could be around little boys without freaking out. More than once both boys were in my lap while we were rocking and snuggling. And we were able to go to Walmart shopping hand in hand amid the holiday crowd.

It wasn’t comfortable but there were no cold sweats that day. Texas taught me that not all situations would be comfortable, but I would be ok. And that’s exactly what’s happening. I have been preparing for two years for the days and things that I’m currently experiencing. But when my little boys told me that they loved me and are happy that I moved back home that was all I needed to hear.

THANKFUL

I still had to dodge nerf bullets and some of those might not ever be found again. And a trip to McDonalds and all the squealing and stimulation was enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. But I got to enjoy the boys being able to just be kids without feeling like I would snap from all the noise. Instead I was able to enjoy the chaos that I had missed. Me, my boys and my family could tell that my hard work and healing was paying off and that brought the tears to my eyes.
Those that say, “Well, that was just one time.” I say, “I remember the times when a day and a half of being around my boys squealing and playing without snapping wasn’t possible.” I did it and I’m still doing it. My hard work is paying off and for that I AM THANKFUL.
#thispuzzledlife

My Parts And Change

My Parts And Change

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

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

you survived

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

Angelica (poetry)

Angelica

She was still one that no one wanted around

Being kicked aside she was found

But no one had know her job

For she stepped up and sobbed

She was treated like property and chained like a dog

Submissive she was but she drew the short straw

Some would label her as an outgoing whoreface.

And she would have a scarlet letter she always wore

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

But she would soon get a new name designed

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Freedom In My Eyes (poetry)

You start a war on your hands and knees

Crying and begging for help shouting PLEASE!

There were days were I was tired and sore

And even more days I could do nothing but crawl on the floor.

But that floor was my lonely highway of healing

Not knowing if I would live through the work because it was so grueling

I was getting some much needed schooling

But hope and determination powered me forward

And the daily work sometimes leaving me scarred

This time I was still leading a team you see

Because the athlete would activate the wolf in me

I was changing into something I would need

But this time it would be the real and authentic me

Coach was guiding me to a beautiful life

Working hard once again to be a mom and a wife

This time I look in the mirror I don’t see tears

For the first time in many years

There are no screams or cries

Because this time I see freedom in my eyes.

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

The Heart of a Comeback Kid

The Heart of a Comeback Kid

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

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

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

success

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Through The Eyes Of A Child (poetry)

Through The Eyes Of A Child

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

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

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

because we didn’t understand your tears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope In A Rock

Hope In A Rock

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.”
—Unknown

Hope is a topic that I have a hard time acknowledging. In my years of experiencing trauma in most forms “hope” was not a word that was familiar. After recently having to be hospitalized, yet again, I entered the hospital feeling like I had to drag myself in the doors. This time, though, I wasn’t worried about the locked doors, as much as, I wanted someone to be there in case I collapsed from sheer exhaustion. I took my aching soul and body back to one of the only safe places left for me. And this time I was determined not to fight the process but to be grateful to be behind the locked doors that I fear. Now my mind and body could just collapse if it needed and someone would immediately be there. And collapse is exactly what my body would do. I wouldn’t have any temptations in my immediate surroundings and “safety” was there.

After 4 days, the medical needs of my body that I have neglected for so long would finally come to a head and collapsing is what happened. Luckily, I don’t remember much about that happening. I would soon be informed in a local medical hospital just exactly what happened. I would wake up to the piercing sting of a nurse starting an IV on my upper right arm. “Shit that hurts! What are you doing?” I asked. I soon realized that I was sweating profusely and felt like death. I don’t even know or could realize the running around and tests being ordered or even how serious the situation was. The next thing I remember was being in a room having been admitted to the hospital. The nurse informed me that I was so anemic that I needed a blood transfusion. I was also told that my thyroid levels were so bad that I needed a Thiamine drip. She said, “You have severe anemia and your blood pressure was extremely low when they brought you in. It’s still very low and we will continue to monitor it overnight. But what’s could kill you is your thyroid levels.” My blood work show that my levels were 8X what they should be. And it was all because I hadn’t been taking care of myself. Once again, I’m in another predicament and no one’s fault but my own. My self-destructive path had almost caught up with me permanently and I just didn’t care. I was tired of fighting my demons.

Hope

After 24 hours, I was taken back to the trauma center and the safety of locked doors. The flashbacks I would experience for the next several days were horrendous. The color in my skin was now almost normal instead of grey. My demons always know where to find me and find me they did with a vengeance. I had no cannabis to help with the symptoms. I had no razors or any other maladaptive binkies that I could turn to for comfort except my eating disorders. I found myself gagging and running to the bathroom from the gruesome images and smells that no one saw or experienced but me. The migraines from constant switching were just another complication that I deal with most days. I had to find a way out of the physical and mental torture. I seemed to have just tripped over a bag of feelings and fell in. I kept my humor, but I could see the worry on the faces of staff and patients alike and I didn’t like it. These guys were my “trauma tribe” and wanted to help protect me from myself and the effects that evil deeds had cost me. I eventually left “trauma camp” and walked through the exit doors feeling better but still shaky. And then…addiction reared its ugly head and I was facing it instantly as almost to say, “You’re not protected anymore. I’ve got a surprise for you.” My next actions I didn’t even think. I just gave into. Failure again.
I finally arrive back at my house and those four walls were calling my name. I didn’t want to leave them for a long while. When I opened the door to my bedroom fear consumed me. The energy in my room was one of hopelessness and it was strong. I seemed to just collapse in my bed. My haven of craziness was waiting, and it seemed to be welcoming me with open arms. My confidence that I had leaving had been crushed instantly.

As tears filled my eyes and the chest pains of anxiety grew stronger, I laid in my bed sobbing like a child. I felt like a defeated athlete who had worked so hard only to fail again. It happened so quickly that I couldn’t stop the additional spiral downward. My head hurt was hurting so bad that I became nauseous. Nausea seems to be the one symptom that I can always count on arriving before most others. I smelled the rotting flesh of dead bodies. And I heard someone calling my name. Before I even tried to find out if it was real, I shouted, “What do you want from me?! Do what you want to me but make it stop!!!” My breathing became erratic and I knew that I had to let whatever was happening run its course. I was completely hopeless again. I felt as though something was surrounding me like a bunch of bullies. I was scared and needed something but couldn’t name it.
After several minutes of horrible memories and visions, I was again sweating and found myself scanning my room for details. I was looking for something to hold onto. My soul was hurting, and I didn’t know what I needed. I look over towards my desk where I have my scrapbooking projects and saw a rock that had been given to me. Written on the rock was the word “HOPE.” Finally, I could breath a sigh of relief because hope was what I needed. I stared at the rock for several minutes from the now safety and comfort of my bed. And I tried to absorb any and everything that seeing that was bringing to me. Hope had been found through a rock.
#thispuzzledlife

Keep Trying (Poetry)

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

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.

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

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!”

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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

Tears Of A Child (Poetry)

The Tears of a Child

I came into this world screamin’ and cryin’

Never knowing that the world would be lyin’.

Big hands that touched with searing pain

And it would only be for their perverted gain.

 

Surrounded by four walls I would cry alone

Until she opened the door and I was already gone

Locked inside I screamed, “Don’t Leave!  Help me!”

But I would never be granted any reprieve.

 

A Child bride I would soon become

The tears I cried inside were many but to the outside there were none

I would defend you and say that life was grand

But you would crush me without even using your hands.

 

The venom you spewed I would also come to use

Innocent family and friends….If they only knew.

That little girl screaming for help and they didn’t have a clue.

That which the little girl is surviving might make her turn forever blue.

 

“Mommy! Mommy!” were the words she always longed to hear.

But the innocent screams rang so loud and clear.

She looked for the one that helped rescue her

But she was another one gone.

How does she handle it now in this world all alone?

 

She screams, “Mommy!  Mommy! ” from somewhere deep inside.

She was always taught to keep quiet and hide.

She also longs for the one that gave her life

But she’ll never meet those precious boys or her beautiful wife.

 

This child she’s full of anger and hates most things she sees.

The words they can’t hear are her hungering cries of “Help Me, Please!”

Please help me and don’t leave me alone.

But again she looks up to see they’re all gone.

 

She keeps those tears buried deep inside

Just like when she was taught to run and hide.

If they knew and could only see

These tears of a child that continue to haunt me.
By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#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

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success,

it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure,

and the temporary failures.”

–Vince Lombardi

Memorial Day is the day of the year where we celebrate and recognize the ultimate sacrifice given by those who served our country.  It’s not about the barbeques or all day swimming with friends and family.  The tumultuous times regarding the leadership and safety of our country is not only seen on major news channels but also witnessed within our own living rooms.  Our troops returning home have sacrificed the life of daily freedoms and modern conveniences to go fight to protect our freedoms.  Often times, though, when they return the true meaning and consequences of fighting a war now have redirected their once simple way of living by way of PTSD and all the complications that go along with it.

As I attempt to live this life with my own issues, I am often met by complete strangers who see my medical alert dog tag identifying PTSD as my condition.  They soon notice and sometimes question the many scars on my forearms.  They ask, “Were you in the military?  Did you go to fight the war?”  My response is always, “Ma’am/sir I didn’t fight or serve for our country.  But fighting a war I have done since I was a young child.”  It is at this point that the questions usually cease and their own uncomfortability surfaces not knowing what to say next.  And well….I usually let them marinate in their own thoughts without explanation.

epcot family

Today marks mine and Mel’s 11 year anniversary.  We don’t count our “legal” anniversary because well that was controlled by the laws of the land prior to that date.  Our marriage and family life has been one of sacrifice both individually and collectively since day one.  We have sacrificed relationships with both friends and family as a result of our love for one another.  And we have also sacrificed many parts (no pun intended) of our relationship as a direct result of my own personal traumas and the scars and open sores which they have left.

And yet again we find ourselves continuing to sacrifice our family cohesiveness and my time away from our children all in the hopes for better days ahead.  I can write clear headed for now and these are the times where I can see the importance of that sacrifice.  There are days recently where I’m blinded by the tragedy of those traumas and living life is not a priority in any fashion.  Sometimes, though, I seem to get sucked down into the ditch of a previous life when the only option was to survive or die.  The images of abusive memories soon become those not of the past but of the present.

Mel patiently and very lovingly makes sure the kids are taken care of and are safe and have some form of normalcy for them all.  The tears she silently cries I don’t know about now.  I’ve seen enough of her tears for me, our children and our family unit to last me the rest of my life.  She and the kids continue to heal their own wounds while I search for answers of my own.  She loves me but knows that this walk I’m on has come to a point where I have to do it without them.  The continuation of hope for a day when I will have been able to shed some of these layers of hurt and pain and to function as a happy and healthy member of our family seems to be in the back of her mind at all times.

There was no possible way for us to envision the what the term “sacrifice” would entail.  She and I both continue to watch and be a part of daily struggles regarding attachment, trust and bonding even with the most compassionate people. My absence for birthdays, kindergarten graduations and just daily life as a family can never be gotten back.  However, the days of being genuinely happy to be alive and to one day be able to be “fully present” for future events is all the justification we need to know that the right decision was made for me to move here to do this work.

The transition has been one that has not been easy in any sense of the word.  I brought therapy baggage that has complicated things in ways that I thought would be easy to ignore and work through.  What I’ve found is that that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is also when the words spoken by trusted coaches ring very loudly in my heart and soul which say, “Keep swinging the bat.  Keep shooting the ball because no athlete plays perfectly all the time.  And it’s these times when you have to keep going and try, try again until you achieve the results you want. It’s about hard work and never giving up.”

Happy Anniversary, Mel!!!

#thispuzzledlife

Advocates

Advocates

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

–Marshall Landrum-Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

survival

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

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

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

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

Either you love one or you are one.”

–Mark Ruffalo

#thispuzzledlife

Soul Murder

Soul Murder

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

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

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

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

soulmurder.jpg

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

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

leftovers

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

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

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SUCH BEHAVIORS INCLUDE:

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

COMMON WAYS THAT ABUSERS AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

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

Closing The Chaper

Closing the Chapter

12.29.2017

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

—Paulo Coehlo

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

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

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

eagle dancer

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

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

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

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

locked soul

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

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

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

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

puzzle piece blue

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Shattered (Poetry)

Shattered

Life began being ripped away,

how that felt I can’t begin to say.

With no voice I lie and wait

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

As a little girl touch was what I got.

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

Teen years rolled around and I was locked away.

All I did was cry and pray.

I wanted to disappear in every way.

Everything has a price that must be paid.

She hated food and she hated life.

You did everything possible to make her your wife

SHATTEREX

You always promised you’d never hit her.

But oh those words were so strong and very bitter.

You cut her down and again she was little.

Take her fears and insecurities and made her very brittle.

She refused to leave and would not go.

All she was to you was a legal ho.

To substances she turned to dull her pain

Given the chance she’d do it again.

Many losses and now a new wife.

With two little boys and a new life.

The old life hangs on and the fears are great.

Everything about life she has learned to hate.

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

She’s somehow trapped again by four walls.

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

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

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

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

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#Thispuzzledlife

 

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.

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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

Copeland’s Arrival

Copeland’s Arrival

6.3.15

“You may one day do great things and I will be proud of you,

but no matter how old you are or what you do with

your life, you will always be my little boy.”

—Anonymous

The day had finally come for the arrival of the newest member of the Landrum-Arnold family.  Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold was born May 3, 2015 at 8:06 pm.  He was born exactly six weeks early measuring in at a whopping 5.6 lbs and 17.5 inches long.  The long days and nights of sweating the health of our only living baby in utero was finally worth the wait.

The scene was like you would expect any other delivery process with doctors and nurses fluttering around but knowing exactly their individual jobs.  However, mine and Mel’s situations in life usually consist of a ‘hang-up’ and occasionally attached with it is humor.  Mel was induced slowly with Magnesium and Pitocin over a 27 hour period before finally dilating 7 cm in less than an hour.   And yes, before you even wonder, she did have an epidural because neither she nor I would have survived without one. While we were headed to the delivery room knowing that we would see our new baby boy soon, all I could think was, “Oh my God, I have no one to go into the delivery room in my place like we had planned!” I get all dressed up in scrubs and head off reluctantly to face the next few moments.  As we make our way into the delivery room, the nurses tell me where to stand and start making adjustments to the bed.  Apparently, this was a very bad idea to the bed itself.  It soon malfunctioned and Mel was eventually sitting in a 90 degree angle and I was forced to stand on my tiptoes to hold her hand because the bed started going up and wouldn’t stop.  We laugh about this now minor issue that occurred. But, at the time, all I could think was, “I’m not going to be able to be with her during the delivery because she’s going to deliver on the ceiling!” Yes, I know that I was irrational but the fear was real and irrational.

Some people have the misconception about preemies that the issues are about weight.  While this is true, the deeper and more concerning issues are gestational and developmental.  Here’s an example….When a full term baby is born, they are born with the instinct to suck, swallow and breathe at the appropriate times.  Preemies have to be taught to do this correctly because they are born before this instinct kicks in.  Even when being taught these skills, premature babies must drink a higher calorie formula and be fed at certain times to ensure proper weight gain.  All diapers both brown and yellow must be weighed and a chart is kept to track the weight gains and losses, as well as, how much is consumed at every feeding.  Even with all of this in place, preemies are also often tube fed either through their mouth or their nose.  Preemies also have issues with maintaining proper body temperature and breathing properly which can lead to apnea and bradycardia episodes making it too dangerous to go home without being monitored constantly.  There is a lot more involved than what I’ve briefly stated.  Make no mistake that it’s one of the most grueling and stressful processes that any first time or seasoned parents can go through both emotionally and physically.  This was our second go around with a preemie and just as stressful.  The smartest and most important thing Mel and I did for our family and ourselves was to say, “No family visiting until after we get home from the hospital with Copeland.” We couldn’t handle one more drop of stress be it good or bad and we knew that going in to the situation.

copeland

The next hurdle would be one that we were familiar with but still scared us to our core.  When Copeland was born, he was whisked away very quickly and immediately put on a CPAP machine and other tubes, wires and additional machines like a lot of preemie babies.  We would not get to see or touch our baby for another 48 hours.  That’s one of the many things that families with term babies with no complications seem to take for granted at times.  I can’t explain, in words, how excruciating that was to see and feel our brand new baby being taken away before we could hold, touch or kiss him.  Even that moment couldn’t compare to leaving the hospital and going home without our baby.

There was a time that I remembered sitting in my vehicle, as I normally do, listening to music and vaping some good medicine while trying to regain balance.  There was that one day, though, and there have been many since where I put my head down in my hands and just cried alone out of sheer exhaustion.  I have cried out of fear for our son’s uncertain future; the loss of our other child that was supposed to be born but wasn’t; and just the simple fact that the long wait for Copeland to arrive was finally here.  For me, this grieving process was and still is much needed.

For the next month, our days would consist of Mel spending entire days at the hospital in the NICU with Copeland feeding, bathing and rocking him.  I would be running errands, taking care of daily house chores and making sure Marshall was taken care of.  We would also get reacquainted to what I like to call ‘preemie math.’   We would soon be measuring everything in grams and ounces.  Finally math that I could understand! I need to point out that I would also go to the hospital and spend time in the NICU with Mel and Copeland but our time would have to be limited because all the stimulation of the hospital and stressful nature of the situation could and eventually would overload my internal system.  There were days when I would go early in the morning with Mel to the hospital after dropping Marshall off at daycare.  I would stay a couple of hours and then have to go home. The stress alone could take me the rest of the day to recover both mentally and physically.

NICU

One of my greatest fears of having another child was not knowing where the same amount of love would come from that we already have for Marshall.  When Copeland was born it was like a secret hidden door within my heart, that I never knew was there, opened up and another “honey hole” of love was discovered that was put away for safe keeping for this special little preemie boy.  Unlike, with Marshall, I seemed to instantly connect and become increasingly protective and bonded to Copeland.  The fear, guilt and shame hit me like a fierce wall of water.  Had I cheated Marshall?  Was I showing favoritism?  All I could possibly think at this time was, “Omg, what do I do and what have I done?” Once again, my disorder has cheated me and my family out of moments that should be cherished. I struggled with these fears and doubts until I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.  I went to Mel with my tears and broken heart and she reminds me that mentally I’m in a completely different place then I was with Marshall.  She puts the situation in perspective in a way that I can internalize by telling me that Marshall paved the way through early motherhood and early DID to prepare my heart and system for Copeland.  Even now this is still a difficult concept to accept.

For a split second, the idea occurs that I should just pick up the phone and call Sarah.  Just as I’m about to dial her number, the harsh reality hits me again like a gunshot to my heart, that she’s dead.  I start to panic inside while trying to keep it hidden but my tears have other ideas.  Oh, how my heart selfishly longs and hurts to hear her comforting words again. How I wanted to desperately to send her pictures of our brand new baby boy. My head and heart begin spinning out of control with no one to fill that hurt and need to be comforted in only a way that she could.  I don’t have time for this now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

big strides

As I have done most of my life, I put my hurt and grieving on the back burner to handle the job before me.  No matter how hard I try, the feelings soon turn to anger.  The more I tried to suppress the feelings, the more the anger was building.  As I tried sorting out all of the feelings and where they were coming from, the love for Copeland continued to grow.

Marshall wanted to fully embrace his job as a big brother; however, the hospital had a lockdown on anyone under the age of 15, including siblings until June 1st because of some type of respiratory virus that was concerning the CDC.  This meant that the only way Marshall could even see Copeland was made available through modern technology.  Thank you God for Facetime on Iphones!  Marshall was itching to get to see and hold his baby brother.  As my dear ‘farm raised’ wife would say, “Marshall could worry the horns off a billy goat.” And that is exactly what he did for an entire month until he and Copeland finally met.  He just couldn’t and wasn’t expected to fully comprehend the situation at hand.  In his mind, he has a baby brother so why can’t I see him?  This situation alone was heart wrenching.

The day Copeland finally was able to come home, we all were able to breathe a sigh of relief even his big brother, Marshall.  For on this day, we were able to see colors a little more clearly and the sun shone a little bit brighter.

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

05/11/2015

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

– Lady GaGa

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

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

ying yang fire water

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

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

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

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

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

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen

 

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

 

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

5.10.15

“It takes someone really brave to be a mother, someone strong to

raise a child and someone special to love someone more than herself.”

—Ritu Ghatourney

 

This post is one that is going to have a lot of emotion attached to it.  The topic of mothers and mother figures has been what has helped to shape me into the being that I am.  There’s a lot of happiness, laughter and tears associated with each name.  So, instead of just talking about being a mother, I thought I would share a little bit about some very special “mothers” that have influenced my life.  I would like to say that every woman that has been a ‘mother like’ figure to me in my life cannot possibly be written about in one blog post.

Let’s start from the very beginning and get the topic of my birth mom out of the way.  Her name is not worth mentioning so, I won’t even bother.  As much as I would like to say that I despise every part of her being, which in a lot of ways, I do, and I also must give her credit for giving me life.  She was the vehicle by which I entered the world.  Once I met her and was able to comprehend the fact that she wasn’t just a teenage girl that got pregnant and couldn’t take care of a baby.  Rather a very self centered woman without the capability to love a child in the way that a child deserves to be loved….I was able to move forward.  Sorry, Lifetime, the stories are sometimes just fairy tales.

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Susie Antonia Barbour Kendrick, was a woman who was truly one of a kind.  She had 10 children.  Her mother had 10 children.  And her grandmother had 13 children.  So, it’s very easy to be a part of this family and not know all of my relatives.  I never heard a cross word or any type of negativity come out of her mouth.  She was the child of a preacher and has many possibly a hundred or more decedents that are directly from her.  This side of the family is the much more conservative side but I love them all. Even in the depths of fighting cancer and the anguish both physically and mentally that go with that process, she always had a faith that was unwavering.  Her faith was so strong that even in the latter days of her battle while she lived with us, while I was still in high school, she prayed for a washcloth for 8 hours straight.  She also told my dad at some point that when he was a child that he ran down the aisle of the church and threw mud at the preacher.  People that know my daddy might say that that was very possible scenario.  While I know that this behavior was the result of the progression of brain cancer.  I chuckle at some of the things she said and did that were so out of character for such a sweet and very mild mannered woman, but she was my mamaw.

mother

My maternal grandmother, Alma Rebecca Howard Buxton couldn’t have been more directly opposite.  My Nannie was one of a kind as I have mentioned in an earlier post.  When she moved to mom and dad’s house, she and mom would sometimes argue like teenagers.  Honestly, there were times when I would have some good ole belly laughs from watching them both interact and the childishness of some of their arguments most often instigated by, you got it, Nannie.  However, she would always say it was because of momma’s smart mouth.  True as that may be, momma had to learn from someone.   Momma had become very frustrated one of the many times with Nannie and I simply told her, “Momma, one day, you’ll give anything to have one more argument with Nannie.”  I can’t speak for my momma today, but I bet since the day Nannie died January 2, 2006, the day of wishing she was arguing one more time has come by to visit her many times over.

I have mentioned and will continue to talk about and refer to Sarah Garner Pardue as a mom.  I think it’s pretty clear from earlier posts what type of woman she was and how she influenced and continues to influence my life today.  I seem to shed tears on a daily basis for this beautiful angel that now gently brushes me with her wings to let me know she’s still near me.  Wow, even now I tear up.  She was one of the few that actually saw all sides of me and loved me unconditionally anyway.  I can’t say enough times that there are just not many people still out there that I’ve encountered that can still manage to do that without ulterior motives.  Through all of our hours of conversations and trials that relationships can bring, the one thing she always wanted for me was happiness, serenity and contentment.  Some people may not ever understand the relationship I had with she and Doug and that’s OK.  Even now, I don’t know how to fully explain what the relationship was, it was just special.  And I will always feel blessed to have been in the room at her feet when she took her last breaths.

The above people have left treasured marks on my heart that I will take with me to my grave.  The next person is in a category of their own.  My MOTHER, Margaret Pearl Buxton Kendrick. To me she is special not superficial means but in character.  Even with the very special relationship that I had with Sarah, momma never once seemed to feel threatened or jealous because she has always known that she’s my momma.  Everyone has one true momma whether she is good or bad.  My momma stayed up with me rubbing my legs from horrible leg cramps as a child.  Cleaned up shit, pee and vomit in the middle of the night.  Waited for me to come home often high or drunk.  Watched from the sidelines with tears in her eyes as I battled the depths of drug addiction, domestic violence and demons that she knew existed but didn’t know their names or faces.  She has sat with a broken heart, at times, trying to fully comprehend the word ‘powerlessness.’  She has watched her children suffer heartaches and cried with them.  She has watched countless hours of Little House on the Prairie and cried about the woes of the Ingalls’s family’s crops being destroyed after a hail storm. She cried when Mary Ingalls lost her eyesight.  She would sing the songs, in the living room, with the congregation in the one room church on Little House on the Prairie like she was a member. She has rejoiced with her daughter in the excitement and trials of being an athlete. She has watched her oldest daughter’s soul be cracked and broken from abuse that she sometimes knew nothing about.  She has watched as her daughter’s once beautiful and childlike forearms metamorphosis into graffiti like battle ground full of 20+ years of self inflicted scarring.  She has seen firsthand how powerful a man’s words and actions can destroy the beauty that was once encapsulated the essence of her daughter.  She has watched her daughter slowly melt away from an eating disorder at a young age.  She has watched and heard her daughter’s reputation be destroyed by lies while knowing the truth.  She’s watched as her daughter has shed tears and learned some very difficult lessons in friendship which she knew would lead to internal growth.  She has also watched a daughter find the love of her life and become a parent in a non-traditional way with all of the naysayers at her back.  And today, she watches as her daughter, once again, is knocked down by a mental illness that she fights every single day to emerge as a Phoenix rising from the ashes of despair.  That my friends, is a very selfless mother who puts her children’s needs before her own.  She took this baby that was unwanted and raised her as her own with the help of her faith and a God fearing man that I also call my daddy.  And that is something that is priceless and that can only be repaid through example for my own children.

One day, such is the circle of life; I’ll be in the same position as my mother.  I will one day sit and wish I could have just one more argument with her.  My wonderful wife will be here to comfort me when I’m in need.  But as long as I have the sweet memories of my momma, I’ll always have something beautiful to write about.

On this Mother’s Day, I can finally say, “Mom, I get your sacrifice and the level of love that I was told I wouldn’t understand until I had my own child.”  You didn’t carry me under your heart, but in it.  Because of the example that you have set for me regarding family, sacrifice and love, our sons will also be blessed.

#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

Silencing The Lambs

The Silencing of the Lambs

3.16.15

“What makes psychopathy so different, so surreal…that it knocks her head off?  The inability to wrap her head around the emotional-physical-spiritual-sexual gang bang that just happened when she thought she was the most wonderful person.”

—Sandra Brown, Women Who Love Psychopaths

I was trying to decide on a quote this morning for this particular blog post about trauma that would cover the spectrum of how trauma effects different developmental stages from a personal perspective.  While quite blunt, this quote pretty much describes the ‘rape’ on so many levels of each of my personal traumas.  When people ask, “If things were so bad, why didn’t you leave? Or, why didn’t you just tell someone what was happening?”  Honestly, I just have to see and understand that I’m talking to someone at that moment who doesn’t and might not ever understand unless in that position themselves.  Individuals who have never been abused or been so scared that the last thing they would or could ever do is tell the ‘little secret’ to expose their perpetrators, can’t comprehend that level of fear.

Keep in mind that the ‘little secret’ about my molestation by our preacher’s sons was mentioned in passing only a couple times until I told what happened, not even in detail, less than 10 years ago.  That secret I had been holding since I was a 5.5 year old child.  Why do kids do that if they know and are confident that their parents can help?  The problem is not with the child or the parents.  The problem lies with the perpetrators.  If the perpetrators are the parents, then that’s a separate topic.  Even when I got older and new no physical harm could come to me, the seed of fear was planted many years ago.  All I knew was that the topic scared me.  I knew what had happened through broken memories.  But, I was completely detached emotionally except for the emotion of fear.  My parents being the very loving and understanding couple that they are were revealed additional pieces of that time in my life last summer for the first time.  Can you imagine how they felt knowing some additional information about things that transpired?  Then how do you think, as a child, I felt with it being done to me?  The fact that they were connected to religion has always had an influence on my view of religion and religious figures.

In my abusive previous relationship and consequently a marriage, I kept holding on to the false hope that one day I would again be in the relationship with the person that charmed me.  I was so young and naive that I couldn’t see what was happening to me every single day.  His grip just became more and more tighter emotionally until I had been convinced that I was too stupid, dumb, uneducated, ugly, retarded, unwanted by anyone else and whatever else he could come up with in the moment to call me that I felt too weak to be able to stand on my own two feet.  My view of survival was…..well….him.  I was also extremely scared, at that time, of the repercussions of his or his family’s anger.  But, he had his own techniques about how he would ‘raise’ me as his wife.  He just didn’t know that there was a term called gas lighting that would describe parts of his abuse.

A very common form of brainwashing in which an abuser tries to falsely convince the victim that the victim is defective, for any purpose, such as making the victim more pliable and easily controlled, or making the victim more emotional and therefore more needy and dependent. {You’re reading “Definition of Gas lighting” by J. E. Brown.}

Often done by friends and family members, who claim (and may even believe) that they are trying to be helpful. The gas lighting abuser sees himself or herself as a nurturing parental figure in relation to the victim, and uses gas lighting as a means for keeping the victim in that relationship, perhaps as punishment for the victim’s attempt to break out of the dependent role.

Here’s an example…If an abusive person says hurtful things and makes you cry, and instead of apologizing and taking responsibility, starts recommending treatments for what he or she calls “your depression” or “your mood swings,” you are in the presence of a gas lighter.

So, next time, when someone says, “If it’s true, why didn’t they tell?” or “Don’t feel sorry for someone who just stays in a situation like that!”  Understand, that there is so much more going on psychologically that you nor anyone else who’s never experienced brainwashing can comprehend.  True the victim does protect the abuser most of the time.  Trust me…..”IT’S OUT OF FEAR.”  This is how perpetrators ‘silence the lambs.”

Mentally and physically, the effects of 14 years of ‘gas lighting’ took a big toll on me.  My ‘alters’ protected me from feeling much more of the abuse than was felt.  Did I develop maladaptive coping skills from a very young age?  Yes, of course.  They worked well at the time to help me survive some of the horrific traumas of my life.  Now, they just interfere with daily life.  PTSD, social phobias, OCD, rages, flashbacks, body memories, etc. are what my days and nights consist of these days.  Life is better on some days rather than on others.  This, however, are the effects of a lifetime of abuse perpetrated on who ‘had it all’ and became a ‘head case’ over time.  Look at the events of many forms of abuse in my life and tell me who were and still are the ‘head cases?’

Dissociative Identity Disorder is in no shape, form or fashion an easy thing to deal with on a daily basis.  It’s scary as hell for me most of the time.  I won’t nor can I even begin to imagine what it’s like for my wife.  Our son, he’s learning on a different level all of Momma D’s parts.  Every single day our family is in a battle with this disorder.  On an individual level, we’re in a war to put the pieces of the memories back together and deal with them as they should’ve been dealt with many years ago.

Every morning, as long as I choose to put one foot in front of the other, they don’t win.  The day I lay down directly or indirectly in a permanent manner is the day they win.  I think you know enough about me to know that I come from a long line of coaches that demanded and would accept nothing less than winners.  ‘Winners’ in their eyes were more than just numbers on a scoreboard.  There’s only one way I know how to operate….”Get knocked down 1000 times.  Get back up 1001 times.”  This too is a gift.

This lamb is no longer going to be silent.  Abuse is real.

#Thispuzzledlife

Happy “Legal” Anniversary

Happy “Legal” Anniversary

2.25.15

 “If someone could reach into my chest and tear out my heart and turn it into a living, breathing person, “Melody” would be it..”

– Airicka Pheonix

February is a month on my calendar that will always be remembered specifically because of Sarah’s passing.  There are very few dates that I remember that hold so very close to my heart.  Mel and I have been “legally” married for 4 years now.  I really don’t know what the exact date is not because marrying her wasn’t important but rather that was the day that the government said we were married.  The horrible date of May 17, 1997 when I legally signed my own “abuse warrant” by marrying my “EX” husband, was replaced by a beautiful date of May 28, 2007.  This was the date that Mel and I married each other in our hearts.  There are soul mates as friends and family.  Nothing can compare to soul mates with the right spouse.

We were instantly friends and devoted to each other.  I have always been one where the term “friendship” isn’t just thrown around like a household word.  There was something different about her and I knew it but was afraid to admit that I loved her.  Firstly, I hadn’t stepped out of the elusive closet as being gay.  All I knew was that there was this person who I was finally “safe” with both emotionally and physically.

I told her at the beginning of our relationship that I had a lot of emotional baggage from a very long and very abusive relationship.  She didn’t care.  She loved me for me and everything that would come with it.  I’ve tried pushing her away in every way possible to prove to her that I’m not worth loving.  I was someone’s “sloppy seconds” after a 14 year stretch.  I felt as though there was nothing good left of me.  I knew that I could be her friend, but “marriage” scared the absolute hell out of me.

I had a hardness about myself that was meant to keep people away.  For some reason, she had me melting like butter on the inside.  I knew how the rumors, comments and bibles would be thrown at us as a couple.  I had dealt with that for many years and really just didn’t care.  This was a whole new experience for someone that I loved dearly.  I told her I could handle it again and I tried to help paint a picture of what this would look like as word got around.  She didn’t care about that either.  She just wanted to be with me.  Needless to say, I just couldn’t understand that.  What I had just experienced for many years was totally the opposite.  My idea of a “marriage” was one that had nothing but fear attached to it.  My thought was that no one is accepted for who they are without strings attached.  And once you’re legally married, that means you’re property.

Things have been difficult to say the least about us being a gay couple.  People were not going to be happy for us because we each had found someone who loved and respected us.  To put it quite bluntly, our genitals were put on display instead.  As you can imagine, our families were not thrilled.  I actually think my mom went and put her head in the oven and turned it on.  Not really, but pretty close.  Even at the thought of being rejected by family members couldn’t deter us from wanting to be together.  Have she and I both lost “friends” and “family” because of our relationship?  Yes, of course.  However, neither one of us are responsible for their feelings nor how they choose to act.  We CAN determine whether or not we will be an audience to their ignorance and hatred.

Six months later, in the privacy of our house where we living together, on Christmas Eve, I proposed and she said YES!  We wanted to get “legally” married and have children.  We had no idea what all was involved both financially and legally to make this all happen.  She very eagerly said that she had always wanted to carry a child.  I very eagerly said, “Good because I didn’t.”  I wanted to be a mom, but I had no desire to be pregnant.  My ex-husband took the joy out of wanting to start a family which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  We didn’t have to really tell anyone because you could just see the happiness that we both shared.  We also didn’t have the luxury of proclaiming our engagement because of such conservative views in that area of the country.  And so the journey of being each other’s only support when it came to our relationship began.

My mental health issues seemed to get somewhat better from just being in a supportive environment with someone that genuinely loved me.  We were both in graduate school and that was our first priority to finish.  What was becoming increasingly evident was the PTSD that had developed from a lifetime of abuse.  The safeness that I felt with her slowly started to reveal just what kind of damage had been done.  All I wanted to do was finish school, get as far away from that area of the country and start a family.  So, in June of 2009, Melody and I headed out to Albuquerque, NM to begin a new life.  We didn’t know how anything was going to turn out.  We just wanted to live life as a couple without all the stares and harassment.  That, I can say, has happened since we moved west.  Do we both miss friends and family? Yes more than anyone will ever know.  Moving back there would come at a cost that we’re just not ready for as a family yet.

We would soon realize firsthand what the long term effects of abuse would manifest.  She was fortunate to get a job with a company that provides fertility insurance.  This was how we would make our dreams of having children a reality.  On December 3, 2011, our little 5 lb preemie baby boy was born.  Here we were as brand new parents to a preemie that we knew nothing about.  We were out here by ourselves and had just entered the world of parenting.  No one could’ve ever prepared either one of us for the feeling of having to leave the hospital without our baby boy.  Every day I would drop Mel off at the hospital to spend the day at “Camp Marshall” while I went to work and then pick her up on the way home from work.  Mentally, I couldn’t handle the thought of losing our newly born son so I just avoided seeing him at all costs.  I was terrified of our son dying and tried to distance myself. This I now regret.  We were both on auto pilot in different ways.

She continues to be the same very sweet and kind hearted woman that I initially met.  She has a beauty within her that is hard to find in most people.  She loves me despite my mental disorder and continues to want nothing but the best for me.  What she and I have been through as a couple and now as a family is more than a lot of couples go by themselves in a lifetime.  We can read each other like we’ve been together for 30 years or more.

People often wonder how we have made it as a couple.  The truth is, since the very beginning of our relationship, we have always had to depend on each other for support.  When you’re 18 hours from where you were raised and have no desire to go back to small town living, you’re forced to sink or swim.  We have struggled both emotionally, physically and financially just like “straight” couples.  We are in the process of raising a very energetic, superhero of a kid that only knows one thing….he is loved by his mommies and that he’s not going to have a baby “sisser” much to his displeasure.  Mel melted my heart when I met her.  Now 8 years later both she and our son continue to melt my heart.  The way I try to make sense of a deep traumatic past regarding a marriage is that there will always be challenges in any relationship.  Had I not had a horrible and abusive marriage, I wouldn’t be able to fully understand how my mom and dad have their own loving connection.

Thank you, Melody Landrum-Arnold for just being you!  Thank you for continuing to love me despite the hatred for myself.  Thank you for helping to make our dreams of becoming mothers a reality.  Thank you for always having my best interest in mind while we walk this treacherous road of trauma recovery side by side.

My mom always told me growing up, “If you find a man a tenth of what your daddy is, you’ll have a good man.”  My answer is, “I did find HER.”

#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

The Birthday That Will Never Be Forgotten

The Birthday That Will Never Be Forgotten

12.4.2014

 “How much tragedy has to happen before I slip wide open?” 
― Alisa Mullen, Unrequited

As much as I want to celebrate another year of survival from both physical and mental issues, sadly it has been overshadowed by the loss of one of our twin children.  My wife, Melody and I weren’t really concerned about the doctor’s visit because there was never a problem with any of the previous visits.  She is considered high risk every time because of us doing invitro fertilization.  We see the perinatologists which basically knows every time the babies hiccup.  We are also at about the 12.5 week stage so, chance of miscarriage was much lower.

My brother Levi Pierce and wife are in the exam room while I’m frantically trying to get there in time for the measurements and everything that entails.  We had been preparing Marshall for two babies while he was trying to reassure us that there were four. Toddlers are just funny.  I get there in time for the technician to tell me that she was waiting to take all the measurements until I got there anyway.

After having my regrets about not really knowing how to bond as a first time parent with Marshall, this pregnancy was just different.  I could feel it so strongly on an emotional level that I had never experienced.  It was so beautiful.  It wasn’t something that I ever discussed with Mel or anyone else.  For some reason because that level of emotion and bonding with such little creatures I wanted to enjoy all by myself.  I had already completely embraced the reality of us having twins and the ways that we would have to work even more as a team.  We hadn’t told anyone yet for some realities just don’t match our realities.  Nevertheless, these babies already had our hearts.

With all three of us eagerly waiting for all of the measurements, I was so excited to get to have my only somewhat physical contact with our children.  She goes through each thing she measures, stomach, legs, head circumference, etc.  “Baby B” as it was named by the doctors for twin pregnancy,  was measuring a little smaller but not a big deal because this is a twin pregnancy.  And then even though she passed the words off as really no big deal that the doctor could probably detect it, the words “I can’t find a heartbeat came out of her mouth.”  My heart hit the exam room floor.  I could only think, “Did she just say that one of our babies is dead?”  In my heart, though, I knew.  Neither I nor my brother could hold the tears back as my extremely emotionally strong wife did. Hopes were there but the doctor also confirmed that there was no heartbeat.

I will forever remember December 4th not only as my birthday but also the day one of our children was born in Heaven.  2014 had been an extremely emotional year but this, I must say, has knocked the wind out of me.  This venture was new and I didn’t know how to comfort me or my wife.  All I could think about was, “Our baby will never get to meet any of the amazing people in our lives.” I was a snot crying mess to say the least.  I had never allowed myself to be this vulnerable in public.  It felt as though, I had just been shot in the chest.  My brother just simply got up and left the room.  Mel was able to hold it together until we left the doctor’s office.  And then it was my turn to try and comfort my grieving wife.  Any additional information they might’ve given us, I never heard. I could do nothing but feel my own soul crying out for our baby.

From that day, the term “miscarriage” will never been the same as it did before it happened to us.  The few that knew were trying to be encouraging by telling us that we had another baby still left to take care of.  The anger that flew all over me was the thought that the statement meant, “You can just go get another one at the store. No big deal.”  My initial thoughts were, “That was our child, not a broken toy.”  That instant reaction was valid but completely due to grief.  I don’t remember the rest of the day.  And really, it’s ok with me.  In the following days, I laid my head on her stomach and sobbed.  I realize that “this is just part of life” and “lots of people have miscarriages.”  But, we still just lost OUR  child.

We will no doubt love this other little baby and welcome him into the world with open arms just like we did Marshall.  Our hearts will never forget the day we lost our precious little 12 week baby. Happy Birthday to me.

#Thispuzzledlife

Illusions of Halloween

Illusions of Halloween

10.21.14

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

—-Margaret Atwood,  The Empathy Trap book page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Day Time Stopped

The Day Time Stopped

9.17.2014

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

—-Ian Maclaren

I usually try to start of my posts lighthearted or a good toddler moment.  This post I cannot seem to find anything to joke about.  I have searched deep within me and all I find is tears.  I have questions but no answers.  My life has been changed yet again forever.  The quote above couldn’t be more fitting for this life event.

There are many dates that are in my little book of life that I keep tucked away in the deep recesses of my mind.  The day September 3, 2014 is another day that will never be forgotten.  That day was the Wednesday of the same week that we got back from being with Levi and his family in Arkansas.  I was slowly beginning to decompress from that situation.  Adjusting back to daily life in Albuquerque was underway.  I missed him more than I ever imagined.  It was back to being a long distant relative.

I was trying to get the house back in some type of order from us leaving in such a hurry.  I was washing and folding clothes with nothing specifically planned for the day.  I recognize the sound of facebook messenger alerting me to a message.  A mutual friend told me that she needed to talk to me ASAP.  So, I half way drop what I was doing and said, “What’s up?”  Not knowing or worrying about the answer that would come back.  “Hey, I have a friend that said that he wants to ‘end it all,’ she said.  I said, “What’s going on?” I didn’t ask for a name because I didn’t see the relevance at the time.  Instantly, the therapist side of me is at attention.  She asked, “Do you know a guy on facebook by the name of Kyle Brewer?” I told her very quickly, “Of course I do.  We went to school together some in elementary and middle school, why?”  Apparently, I couldn’t seem to do math because I didn’t see the correlation as to why the question was asked.  She said, “It’s him that’s saying that.”  I still didn’t worry because we had just spent some time with him as a family on our recent nightmarish visit to Petal, MS.  We had gone out to his house and spent time talking and laughing.  I told her not to worry that he would respond to either me or Mel.

Kyle and I were also alike in the sense that we both love to find the funny in just about anything.  We were always finding rude, inappropriate but yet hysterically funny things on Facebook and sharing them with each other.  He had a some

what perverted style of humor that most would find distasteful.  He and I were able to enjoy some good laughs over a snow cone or two.  He also adored Marshall.

He wasn’t responding to me or Mel in any way.  I instantly knew that my friend was in trouble.  I’m usually not very ‘jumpy’ about suicide threats.  But, in my gut, something told me this situation was different.  This mutual friend of ours had also been trying to get in touch with him all morning.  She was in another state and so was I.  Why did he pick her to tell?  Because he knew she was too far away to do anything about it.  That’s just my hypothesis.  And he also didn’t specifically mention wanting to ‘end it all’ because he knew what profession and obligations I would have if he did say something.

We began discussing what we needed to do.  In the meantime, the only thing I could think to do was to grasp at straws by putting a message out on Facebook for him to call me.  I think the message actually read something like, “Kyle Brewer, pick up your damn phone and call me right now!”  The minute I hit send and it was posted he contacted me through messenger.

I told our mutual friend that I was currently talking to him and to go ahead and call 911.  I told her, “If he gets mad at you, then he’ll be mad at me because he knows you don’t know where he lives.  And if he gets mad, as long as, he’s alive he can get over it. But, if he was dead he would no longer have that option.”  I tell her that she has to tell the dispatch verbatim the way I tell her to tell them how to get to his house because it was located way out.  She calls and soon tells me that dispatch is heading out there to do a welfare check just to make sure he’s ok.  They also tell her that when they know something they will let her know.

While all of that was going on, I was desperately trying to talk to Kyle.  What was said between us is something that I will only discuss with my therapists.  The point is that as long as he’s talking, he’s not dead.  I share some very personal stuff with him and ask him questions.  He finally tells me, “I’m tired. Thanks for the talk!!!!”  It was at this point, that I knew that Kyle was no longer able to keep the mask that many of us use everything we have to keep it in place anymore.  We were both talking from our hearts without humor.  That was the last time I ever had contact with him.

It was a couple of hours later when our mutual friend messaged me and said, “Dana, we need to talk.”  My blood ran cold; my heart began to shatter and my stomach was turning like I was on a ride at a theme park.  I already knew.  She said, “Dana, he’s dead.” At that moment, time seemed to stop.

Fortunately, Mel was here with me and Marshall was still at daycare.  I began sobbing like a small child.  I couldn’t make sense of anything.  My greatest fear was that the emergency services wouldn’t make it there in time.  This seemed to be the reality for the moment.  All of my senses seemed to disappear.  My tears felt like they were coming from every pore in my body. Mel just sat, held me and let me cry.  At that moment, there was nothing else that could be done.

We did find out later that the emergency services did make it to his house in time.  He greeted them in the yard like nothing was wrong.  There probably didn’t seem like a reason to stop him from going back into his house. He told them he had to run back inside and would be right back out.  He went back in his house, locked the door and shot himself.  He was one of them. He was a volunteer firefighter that probably knew many of the people that arrived to check on him.  He used the mask to both his favor and detriment.   I lost my friend to a term called PRIDE.

Kyle Brewer was like many of us ‘clowns.’ We all seem to have it together because we can make people laugh.  Take a moment and try to imagine what my friend Kyle would’ve looked like if we had been able to turn him inside out.  I bet you wouldn’t see anything but a heart full of love for those he loved mixed with the tears of what he knew was about to happen.  EVERYONE has demons and secrets.  He just didn’t see the other side where there could be light instead of darkness.

Even now, I selfishly shed tears because I’ve lost yet another friend by violent means.  I also cry for his family of EMS workers and biological family.  He will never be able to carry out his duty as an uncle, son, brother or husband because of one decision.  I don’t hate nor am I mad at him.  He was my friend and I will continue to grieve his loss.

I have now been involved in just about every angle of suicide as both a teenager and as an adult.  Has this one event changed me? You bet it has!  I question everything I said to him.  I’m constantly re-reading our last conversation.  And, I question my ability as a professional.  What my head understands, my heart can’t comprehend.

I’ve had people contact me through various ways thanking me for what we did to help.  I can’t help but to very angrily think, “I did nothing! He’s still dead! We all lost!” I wish I could see things differently right now, but I can’t.  I take their nice comments and say thank you like I was taught many years ago.  But, I will probably be forever haunted by “The Day Time Stopped.”

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown 3

Tears of a Clown 3

9.8.14

“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.” 
― Greta Garbo

When Levi got back to his room, I was so relieved!  Now, I could see for myself that he had made it through surgery safely.  Not without battle wounds, but he was alive.  I told him, “Bro, I’m still here.”  I could tell that between the anesthesia and pain meds that he didn’t know whether to ‘scratch his watch or wind his butt.”  I left him in the caring hands of his wife, brother and mother.  I could now breathe another sigh of relief.  Mel and Marshall came by and picked me up from the hospital to go something to eat.  To me, it had been a long day that was well worth the stress.

The next couple of days were spent making small talk and getting to know his family.  Marshall continued to play with Boudreaux, Levi’s new grandson.  Chris, Charlene and his mom all seemed to be competing for the “Caregiver of the Year Award.”  They were amazing at how they were attending to him.  I’m not sure what the exact situation was, but I was introduced by his family as his “sister.”  Now, between him and me we’ve always called each other brother and sister.  His own family seeing, accepting and seemingly understanding our relationship also was the ray of sunshine that my heart seemed to need to feel.

I had just recently been wrapped up in some of my own darkness.  This whole trip was beginning to feel like the ray of light that I had been searching for.  I’ve looked back and have been able to recall this exact feeling.  I’ve wondered why this has made such a big difference mentally for me.  What I’ve deduced from this situation is this:

  1.  My brother needed me and I was able to get there.  I might’ve been a mess, but I got there like we had always promised each other.
  2.  My ‘security blanket’ was finally back in my life….him.
  3.   I had just been ACCEPTED, by his friends and family, for who I was even at my weakest moment.  I wasn’t able to keep the mask on because I had been weakened by my own fear.  And they still accepted me and all of me.

I must admit that it was pretty eerie at first.  Everything for me has always come with conditions except for a few very close friends, close family and my parents.  Even my ex-husband told me that he didn’t understand how my dad accepted my mother for who she is without conditions. He told me that loving someone like that wasn’t even possible.   So, this situation with Levi’s friends and family and their acceptance and total disregard for the fact that I was gay, legally married and have a 2.5 year old kid didn’t even seem to phase them.  They knew that I loved their friend and family member and that was all that counted.

I’ve listened to stories from almost everyone there about what a big part he has played in their lives.  I can honestly say that I wasn’t surprised by what I was hearing.  Another thing that he and I have in common is the fact that if someone’s in need of help, we will always be there for them.  You can say that it has something to do with the way we were raised; the expectations of being from the south; or our own childhood trauma that’s had influence.  What I can say is this…”Fighting the battles of abuse and life on your own is not easy nor is it fair.”  Therefore, and I can only speak for myself, when I say that after my 8th grade school year that I have always vowed that no one that I knew and/or loved would EVER have to fight a battle on their own again.  I will admit that he and I both don’t know when to keep our mouths shut at times.   I would take that flaw rather than having any of my friends and family fight a senseless battle on their own.

When he was finally discharged and sent home, he wanted to ride in our vehicle because it was higher.  We got back to his and Charlene’s house and the cooking began.  He was in excruciating pain.  So, I helped to make sure he was comfortable.  I knew these last few hours would be my last for a little while.  We were heading back to Albuquerque early in the morning.  We sat, laughed and told stories with as many people that would sit and listen.  As the time passed, we began to try and play, “Let’s Make a Deal” with our wives just so we could have those last remaining moments together.  We honestly sounded like two kids who wanted candy at the store.

Finally, it was time and I must say goodbye to one of my closest friends.  He and I didn’t shed tears in front of everyone.  I hugged him and told him I loved him.  I reminded him that I was just a text, phone call or instant message away.  He told me, “I still can’t believe you and your family came all this way to see me.”  I simply told him, “You were not the one that was on the other end of that phone line when I was talking to Charlene.  Don’t ever doubt what I will do for you no matter what you may consider as insignificant. You are my BROTHER.”

I was fine going back to the motel because for the past few days that was our routine.  When we got the car loaded in the morning and pulled out of the parking lot of the motel, I  began to see and feel the tears begin to fall.  All I felt was the pull and the hurt of the separation between us on my heart.  He was in great hands and I knew that.  Emotionally, I just left my brother.  That was a feeling that no word could magically soothe.  I cried most of the 13 hours it took to drive back home.  And yes, the night I left him, he did the same thing.  He is a man with feelings and I have never shamed him for that.

I look back on this trip and can do nothing but shed tears.  They are tears of what could have happened. They are tears of what happened.  And they are tears of joy for my family being completely embraced by some people who had only heard my name until we met.  I now have the peace of knowing that I have several more “chosen” family members living in Arkansas.

I have heard their stories about our beloved “Spunky.”  I’ve laughed a lot and cried with them.  They have also laughed at the beautiful memories that we have of us as rebellious children.  Also, things that were shared with me by individuals, is how very big his heart is even now.  How he has taken people in and helped “clean” them up.  We both seem to lean towards the people that need help.  I guess maybe that’s why I enjoy working with populations that make a lot of people cringe.  We both have a very strong line of STUPID/HARDHEADEDNESS that comes out in us at times.  But, the one thing Levi and I still have that never changed is our love and respect for each other as human beings.

We’ve made mistakes and lots of them.  We have had little victories that maybe he and I will only understand.  But, my dear and very precious brother, I must say that through all the mistakes, to me you are not only a success as a human.  YOU ARE A SUCCESS AS A MAN!

And once again…..the “Tears of a Clown” are falling.

#Thispuzzledlife

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

Family Day

Family Day

9.8.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

I’m Not Alone

I’m Not Alone

8.23.14

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has the answers, it sings because it has a song.”

—Maya Angelou

I don’t normally blog on Saturday mornings at 5:30am.  This morning I was awaken to what felt like my insides twisting.  I felt nauseous but lay still to make sure it was real and not a dream.  I decided very quickly, “Nope, that wasn’t a dream.”  I also noticed that my whole body was hurting with what seemed like “growing pains” as my pediatrician use to call it.

I go through my morning routine of turning on my vaporizer and the coffee pot.  But, this morning, I decided against coffee and would have a diet coke.  Since, everyone else was asleep, now was the perfect time to read some of my library books.  I started vaping but at a higher rate because the pain in my body was becoming ever more painful by the second.  I once again felt like I was in full detox from some chemical.  I also have these symptoms randomly attack me at different times of the day.  I’m starting to get a headache but get busy trying to keep it at bay.

I think I finally begin to feel my medication beginning to work after a few minutes.  My nausea begins to subside somewhat, my headache is doing ok for the moment but my muscles and tissues of the rest of my body seem very angry at me.  I pick up my book and begin reading.  Due to the types of abuse, I endured both as a child and adult, I’m constantly looking for answers for why things happened the way they did.  The book I’m currently reading is Wife Rape. It’s an older book but I need answers.  This was the same book that had me reliving a scene from my former marriage the other night. So, I kept that in mind and agreed with myself that I started feeling anything familiar in my mind or body; I would put the book down. Deal!

I’m instantly sucked into that book again. These women had stories like mine.  Some were much different, but the “acts” were about control.  This I already knew. But, seeing things in black and white can sometimes be the one thing that makes things “click.” I kept reading some of the sentences and paragraphs over and over.  I thought, “How do they know how I felt in that moments or those surround those types of events?” I just had to read more. The book not only describes the actual accounts of abuse from the survivors. But attempts to explain why this “secretive, abuse happens and how the abuser also views this as both their “biblical and societal RIGHT as a man.”

I want to make perfectly clear that I am sensitive and also understand that this can and do happen in ALL kinds of relationships.  Since this book is older, I’m not distracted by the fact that they use information from heterosexual relationships.  But, since I’m discussing my previous heterosexual relationship, I won’t make a big deal about what types of samples they used regarding gender.

These women describe, in detail, how they felt, hurt and emotionally survived their abuse.  It was like looking in the mirror again.  My instant thought was, “How do they know this much? I’ve told only a couple of people some of what happened?  Who betrayed my confidence?”  I very quickly realized was how much I identified with all of these survivors.  Not only what they did but what they thought.  They also seemed to “lose time” with some of the attacks on their body. Their worth as a human being has been severely damaged.  They also spoke about how much easier it was to just “go along” instead of fight.  That fighting back always seemed to make everything worse in every way.  I knew and felt that too.

I had ignored my body but soon realized that I now feel like someone is trying to tie my body in a knot.  EVERYWHERE was and is still hurting like I’m being hit with a bat.  The nausea is back. My stomach is cussing me repeatedly and my head is pounding.  My upper back feels like I was just shot and just breathing almost brings me to tears because of the anxiety.  I prefer to think that my body is ‘bleeding’ many years of emotions that I never felt ‘safe’ enough to release.  I feel like every day I don’t write, that my body is filling up with toxins.  But, I’m physically miserable too.  My body feels very conflicted.  Do I have that much “stuff” to process that I haven’t started getting better physically yet?  From somewhere deep inside me, I hear…”Someone please stop this NIGHTMARE! I can’t handle reliving it again!

Most people would say, “Just put the book down and it will get better.” I really wish it was that easy. My body and mind are remembering every single vivid detail of everything that has happened.  It’s not just the book.  But, the book is really helping me understand what exactly happened to me the 14 years I was in a relationship with my ex-husband.  I relate to so many of those women though which makes me feel like I’m in a group therapy session in my own little way.  Sometimes you do stuff knowing that it’s going to hurt because you seem to understand and long for more understanding.  Do the benefits outweigh the risk?   I don’t know what the right answer is right now.  Maybe I’ll take what I have read and read it more at a later date.

#Thispuzzledlife

The 9-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

The 9 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

8.29.14

“Those who did better were those who didn’t wait idly for help to arrive. In the end, with systems crashing and failing, what mattered most and had the greatest immediate effects were the actions and decisions made in the midst of a crisis by individuals.” 
― Sheri Fink, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

I have been working on what I would like to say about a day in history that will once again be topped by another Hurricane Camille, Andrew and/or Katrina.  I’ve tried to wrap my mind around the science and pure ‘fury’ that nature can unleash.  My goal, after listening to my grandmother, parents and others who were around that day during the summer of 1969, was to experience this sheer nightmare dished out by Mother Nature for myself.

On August 29, 2005, I could do nothing but watch and try to stay safe.  Not from someone, but flying debris that was like throwing stars, damaging anything in its path.  We had no idea how the rest of the residents on the coast were doing.  We lived exactly one hour north of the storm surge so, no problems with the Gulf of Mexico threatening our living rooms.

 All of the news channels were talking about us needing to prepare for 3 days without food or water.  The actual preparation should’ve been for several days.  We watched the storm from day one that it began to form because it was ‘Hurricane Season’ and down there you watch the Weather Channel from June-November.   One thing I do know is that the true path of the storm is never a ‘sure thing’ until it settles in the Gulf of Mexico.  And even then, it can turn on a moment’s notice in a completely opposite direction.  So, even when it’s a close call individuals living in the lower, southern states stake their individual claims on bread, water and anything non-perishable.

The last two days prior to Katrina’s arrival were spent filling up cars and grills with fuel.  Tieing everything down in the yard. And just waiting and watching for the ‘witching hour.’  This particular year it looked like the ‘perfect storm’ was being created.  And she was forcasted to make landfall sometime close to high tide.  I wasn’t too concerned but rather intrigued in a weird kind of a way.  Other hurricanes we had planned for, turned at the last minute in a different direction.  But, this year, ‘the wrath of God’ would be upon us.

Ask anyone what they were doing in the days leading up to the storm and they’ll tell you watching storm models and preparing for the worst.  Also, never forget to run water in the bathtub even if you don’t have a stopper because, it’s a rule of surviving  a storm apparently. The water is used for drinking and flushing the toilet.  But there was no need for a toilet with this storm.  All you had to do was check your pants. The younger generations seemed to be just as intrigued as I was.  All we had ever heard of about a major hurricane was Camille and Hurricane Fredrick.  Nothing like the magnitude that was predicted about Hurricane Katrina.  It wasn’t until I saw the models of this storm that was taking the majority of the room in the Gulf of Mexico that I began to get nervous.

The morning she made landfall, I must admit that I was excited to see this for myself.  This time, I could have a story to tell.  Excitement quickly turned into absolute fear for the safety of my animals.  Shingles from the top of the house were flying off like many puzzle pieces at one time.  Bradford Pear trees were tumbling across my yard like a toy truck.

The usual 5-10 minute drive to my parents house, now took 2 hours.  The debris on the roads was like nothing I have ever seen.  It literally looked like the beautiful, big pine trees and oak trees were toppled like dominoes.  My dogs, at the time, were tied to the axles of my husband’s truck.  I watched a beautiful, old barn collapse like it was made from a deck of cards.

Gas was rationed. Tons of debris was all over the roads and on top of houses and vehicles.  I remember thinking, “We are located an hour inland. What does the MS Gulf Coast look like?”  At this point, all highways, interstates, ATMs, grocery stores, cell phones, most gas stations, banks and many other things were out of commission.  Suddenly, everyone was at the same exact economic level.  Everyone was now forced to get to know their neighbors, which was not necessarily a bad thing.

The first couple of days were difficult but ok.  Damage had already begun being assessed.  But, the freezers were filled with some of the best food I’ve ever put in my mouth.  We were eating ‘high on the hog’ for a couple of days.  Then, food began to spoil and it was sandwiches, crackers, chips or a pizza on the grill that was partially defrosted.

The heat in the middle of August in the southern United States must’ve come from Satan’s armpit.  Everyone smelled like chili and onions because we weren’t able to take showers.  If you just get fed up with the heat, mosquitoes and the lack of showering facilities well, you used the water hose in the front yard.  Remember, the bathtubs were filled with sacred water that no one must touch. The mosquitoes were the size of house cats.  I remember every night deciding on whether or not to sleep indoors where even the floors were a piping 90 degrees or risk getting the West Nile virus.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Where exactly was FEMA? Yea, we’re still waiting on those bastards to get through the red bureaucratic tape.  The term FEMA which was meant stand for the “Federal Emergency Management Agency” soon became “Fix Everything My Ass!”  I couldn’t agree more.  We did manage to get a blue tarp to cover the roof, but we didn’t start meth labs in FEMA trailers which seem to be some individual’s way of excelling at chemistry until you heard the loud BANG of a trailer exploding.

It wasn’t the storm that was the issue.  It was the lack of federal help that wasn’t available to those in need.  It was the babies that didn’t have formula.  The elderly without access to insulin or other medications because there wasn’t a way to keep things cool unless, of course, you were one of the few that were able to find a bag of ice and make it last 2 days.  Plus, at the time, my 85 year old grandmother was just as grouchy as ‘an old wet setting hen.’  It was annoying at times to hear her incessant bitching about how hot it was.  But, I would give anything to hear her gripe about anything now.

                                 


The above pictures were common sites along the MS Gulf Coast.  The middle picture is an aerial photo of one of the casinos that was tossed across Hwy 90, which runs along the beach, onto the other side of the highway.  I was either fortunate or unfortunate to have access to Hwy 90 because William Carey University’s gulf coast campus was located directly off Hwy 90 in Gulfport, MS.

The reason I say that I was fortunate to have access is due to several reasons.  I was currently attending the Hattiesburg, MS campus and also worked in the financial aid office as work study.  Also, the National Guard had shut down parts of Hwy 90 because well…..there were pieces missing.  So, I was able to navigate into areas that most didn’t dare go.  I didn’t count on one thing….no landmarks.  Basically, everything was gone or damaged beyond recognition.  The Biloxi lighthouse that has now survived both Hurricanes Camille and Katrina was one of the only landmarks that made it.  I’m pretty sure that it will survive the second coming of Christ too.

Not only did I get to see, feel and smell the utter devastation, I met some amazingly resilient people along the way.  The scenes of the biohazard waste removal teams attempting to deal with both the raw sewage that smelled like a turd sandwich and the rotting fish from several destroyed refrigerated trucks are one thing.  But, what happened along the way is why I’ll never forget that storm.  The people that I encountered were beyond devastated.  All along the coast was the scenes of people rummaging through the rubble of their once home.  Amid the tears, were the robotic type movements that I observed that resembled something like unmotivated zombies.  Their lives had just been shattered into a million pieces.  The amount of grief and loss that these people suffered was more than I could comprehend.  My heart hurt and cried for these people that had their comforts and now it was all gone including some family members.  However, I couldn’t get enough of the damage.  I was down there just about every weekend for a couple of months taking pictures.  I never saw it as a ‘gawking’ session.  I was fascinated by the science behind this beast.

I sat and cried with some of the individuals that I met.  I didn’t see it as important to know their names.  I knew that they were a human being that was in immense pain that I could do nothing about but listen.  All some could do was just point at their surroundings.  Others began crying, when asked how they were doing.  The suicide rates soon increased not only within citizens, but also within the law enforcement community.  There was just too much that couldn’t be done.  Bodies lying on the streets were mostly seen in New Orleans, LA.  But, dammit, Mississippi was also heavily damaged.  As I looked out into the Gulf of Mexico, I saw cars, lawnmowers, etc. In the trees I saw, boats, vehicles, wooden fences that were impaled, clothes and bed linens.  In recent years, the state has not only continued to be overlooked.  But, now it’s simply known as the ‘landmass between Louisiana and Alabama.’

Even today, just mentioning Hurricane Katrina can make all the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  Each year, I shed tears for the ones that lost all they had including the ones they loved.  The energy of the people that I met continues to plague me today.  Where I once loved bad weather, I now fear the wind.  When it floods, and it does in the desert, I begin getting nauseous and scared. But, rest assured knowing that June 1st every year (which signifies the start of hurricane season), I am constantly aware of what’s happening with the weather in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  Luckily, I have yet to see a hurricane in New Mexico.

August 29th has become like a national day of mourning for me.  So many memories that were not all bad, I smile about. But, most of the time, I still shed just one more tear on that date for the heartache of the thousands of people’s lives that were touched in both positive and negative ways.

“I’ll never forget Hurricane Katrina – the mix of a natural and a man-made catastrophe that resulted in the death of over 1,500 of our neighbors. Millions of folks were marked by the tragedy.”

Cedric Richmond

#thispuzzledlife