15 Years And Her Destruction Continues

“Millions of lives were changed in a day by a cruel and wasteful storm.”
—–President George Bush

This is a topic that to this day a difficult topic to talk about.  June 1st is the beginning of hurricane season which will run until November 1st. I was in Mississippi at the time about 1 hour north of Gulfport in Hattiesburg, MS. Make no mistake that she left her mark on this area as well. I still have a lot of anxiety when a storm comes around which is often. Katrina was something that this area couldn’t imagine possible after Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Frederick in 1979. We had “minor” hurricanes in other years. But after hearing stories from my parents and grandmother I wanted to see one for myself. All I can say is, “Be careful what you ask for and want.” I can say that I have some PTSD from the trauma that occurred from this storm.

katrina satelilite 2

hurricane Katrina20

This image became known as, “The Stairs to Nowhere. “August 29th, 2005 will never be forgotten. It’s been 15 years and just talking about this hurricane and tears will come to my eyes. I will never forget the uninvited guests known as love bugs that covered our vehicles and houses. The mosquitoes that were the size of house cats. The heat inside the houses was so hot that sleeping outside in a truck bed was the only way to get away from some of the heat. But the mosquitos were so bad that you also had to keep in mind that West Niles virus was also very possible. The price gauging from the companies from out of state to removing trees off people’s houses. Price gauging for gas and the rationing of gas.

We were told to plan for no food and water for 3 days. It was more like 2 weeks in our area. We all ate good for the first couple of days while everyone’s freezers were defrosting. After the defrosting everyone just had rotting meat and nothing to do with it. There was no sewage working either. Talk about nasty…. the manholes were running over with raw sewage and going everywhere. It was so bad that city officials were riding around neighborhoods telling us to use the bathroom in the woods.

hurricane katrina23

hurricane katrina22

A good friend of mine who was dating my sister at the time helped my dad with a chainsaw cut the tree limbs that were possible to move and put in a pile for the city to pick up. Sadly, he’s one of my friends that passed away a few years later. He was a good guy and I miss him dearly. We would finally get power restored two weeks later. Cell service would not be restored until November because the cell towers in New Orleans were destroyed. I was able to drive down highway 90 which was along the beach to get pictures like the above because I was a current student at William Carey University. The National Guard had control over the street and highways. I was in awe at what I saw. The mausoleum had been opened and the deceased were lying around on the beaches. The bodies of the ones of the mausoleums were also trying to be identified. Entire casinos barges were picked up and moved across the highway. The magnitude of the situation was finally beginning to hit me. This level of destruction I had never seen. I couldn’t identify street because all the signs were ripped away.

hurricane katrina21

 

hurricane katrina17

This was a funeral home where the first level was destroyed, and bodies were found on the beach. The amount of devastation on the Mississippi gulf coast was never acknowledged because New Orleans got most of the coverage. That was the reason for me and a teacher from William Carey University decided to write the book.
Those were the days where you got to know your neighbors and pull resources together just to get by. This is also about everyone being on the same economic level because there’s were no working atm machines and no banks open. I can remember that Sonic made hamburgers for the entire city of Petal, MS to keep the meat from going bad. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find a place to keep certain medications cold for both children and adults. There were just not a lot of formula and water for babies and no way to keep medications like insulin to keep cool for the adults. There were thousands of people that were helpless during those days. We didn’t finally get cell phone service back until sometime in November because cell towers were destroyed.
We had no way of knowing what was going on in other areas. It was like we were on an isolated island because as a community we were also stuck on survival. The mayors had also called for a curfew in Petal and Hattiesburg and surrounding cities. For those who had generators the issue was fuel. And you also had to be alert for people stealing fuel out of generators, cars and boats through siphoning. There were many tears that were shed in the days after the storm. The storm itself was scary but nothing could compare to the fear and emotional devastation that happened as a result of the storm. Many thoughts of rebuilding, and others moved away forever. No matter what area of the south people lived in the date August 29, 2005 and the vicious Hurricane named Katrina will forever be engrained in people’s memory. And every year when that day comes around, I still shed tears for the tremendous loss that our state of Mississippi and the surrounding states that became our new reality.

#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 could obtain by being healthy. When unnatural thinness
became attractive, girls did unnatural things to be thin.”
–Mary Pipher

This is a repost from a few years ago that never made it to my current blog.
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 but also 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 83 lbs 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.
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 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.”

Open back

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 must 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 daily. My goal was to try to get through life with him eating as little as possible. As you can imagine I did 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 my being there and what types of workouts I was doing. If I ran 4 miles, he would want to know why 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 that they were 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 daily. Such is a life with a malignant narcissist.

Even now 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. 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 must do is see this as a possible threat. Anyone that I perceive as an authority figure, I absolutely will not make eye contact with if possible.

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 must 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 adults’ 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.

#Thispuzzledlife

Clouds (poetry)

Clouds (Poetry)
Have you ever laid on your back and stared at the sky?
And watch the clouds and sometimes wonder why?
People move around in a similar way
With purpose that move with little to say.
Pay attention to someone’s silence
It says more and they’re not necessarily violent
Quiet might be how they live their life
Without asking, you can see the resemblance of a similar life
They walk and you never see their eyes
Nor do you ever hear their silent cries
For the similarities you just might see
When I lay back and watch the clouds before me.
#thispuzzledlife

The Tomb And The Phoenix

The Tomb and The Phoenix

4.5.2015

“You have seen my decent. Now watch my rising.”

—Rumi

As cliché as this analogy might seem on Easter Sunday, it also holds big meaning for me in my own recovery from trauma.  I have made it very clear that I’m not a big ‘religious’ person per se. However, I do have a belief system.  I’m just not one that wears my spiritual beliefs on my sleeves any more than I flaunt my education.  Everyone has a spiritual belief system even if one says they don’t have one, which in itself is a belief.  Anyway, moving on….

One thing I’ve always understood is that psychology and religion more often than not, DO NOT agree on much.  Throw in a little Greek mythology and you’ve got a ‘hot mess’ for discussion for those with a closed mind.  I encourage you to have an open mind as I attempt to make a comparison/analogy from the standpoint of someone recovering from trauma.  I am in no way trying to offend anyone, as I respect that everyone has their own beliefs.  This blog always has been and always will be about ME and MY family’s journey.  If you find yourself starting to get somewhat annoyed, please refer back to paragraph #2.

open tomb

artist: Shannon Renshaw

As I think about Easter Sunday and what it has meant and still means for many, I want to attempt to describe to you where exactly I am and how I believe this morning as I continue to face my trauma.  As a child, I remember having Easter baskets left by the Easter bunny the night before in our living room for us to find first thing Sunday morning.  Ironically, I always seemed to get the same kind of candy and knick-knacks year after year.  I think the Easter bunny must’ve had some kind of secret ‘happiness meter’ that was used every year.  So…..”Easter bunny mom” remembered that gold brick eggs, Reese’s peanut butter eggs and Easter colored M&M’s became the norm in my basket. The night before, as a family, we would usually be dyeing eggs and watching the movie Jesus of Nazareth.  This is still one of my favorite classics old as it may be.  So this morning, I wait for our little 3 foot tall cuteness to awake and see what the Easter bunny brought him last night.

As an adult, the foundations of beliefs are the same but have a slightly different twist in a way that makes complete sense to me.  The question is….”Do I believe in the Holy Trinity and the Resurrection?”  My answer is undeniably yes.  There’s not a traumatic event in my lifetime that can come close to destroying that belief for me.  I was taught this at a very young age and is something that I still hold on to.  I don’t flaunt this because I feel that this is very personal for each person.  I also do not try and change anyone else’s beliefs.  Once again, I’m spiritual not religious so, my beliefs are somewhat different and are not exactly popular back in the ‘Bible Belt’ of the Deep South.  Oh, don’t get it bent, I have ‘beef’ with God for things that have happened to me as I’m sure most people who believe in God have also had at some point in their own lives.

After 2014 and the beginning of 2015, I have really had to do some ‘soul searching’ on several different levels.  Having lost numerous friends and family this past year in a variety of ways can lead to, somewhat, deep thinking at times.  Losing Sarah while subsequently leaving a void in my heart has really brought back a lot of memories of things she use to tell me.  One thing that has always stood out that she told me was, “Dana, you can’t give what you don’t have.”  This, my friends and family, is why I continue to stay on this very difficult and very frightening journey.

The Phoenix, in Greek mythology, was a bird that arose from the ashes of darkness.  Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix was later adopted as a symbol in early Christianity. While the phoenix typically dies by fire in most versions of the legend, there are less popular versions of the myth in which the mythical bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again.

Phoenix

On Easter Sunday the representation of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the grave is celebrated.  While this is important to me, so is the representation of the phoenix.  I personally feel that I will, in time, also begin my own rise from the depths of trauma and despair.  While in the midst of traumatic flashbacks, memories, migraines and all the other symptoms that come along with a lifetime of abuse, it’s very difficult to keep this in perspective.  Some days, all I want to do is just lie down and die.  I often wonder why I keep trying when my efforts seem futile sometimes.

I can say that the love that Sarah and other people have had and continue to have for me in this time when I’m unable to love myself, somehow, has become a motivation tactic.  That’s not to say that I don’t get tired and life doesn’t continue to beat us up.  Coach Nick Kolinsky always taught me to NEVER give up until the game is over.  And well…..the game is nowhere near being over.  I know how to survive only one way, when I get knocked down, I get back up.  That’s how I made it through my abuse and that’s how I’ll recover from my abuse.

Sarah would often times remind me, “Dana, you didn’t become maladaptive over night.  You’ve had years of perfecting this.  Likewise, you won’t recover overnight. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.”  Yes, there were some 12-Step influences in her thoughts.  That was exactly who she was.  She would always help keep things in perspective for me.  She was also one of the few that I actually would listen to.  Oh, how I love and miss the special ways that she managed to get through the tough outer covering of my thick skull.

As my painful and gut wrenching recovery continues, I have the warmth of her words to guide and comfort me.  That’s not to say that I wouldn’t give everything I have to be able to consult her one more time.  My tears for her loss continue to flow even now. Sometimes, I have to imagine what she would say to me if we did have that one last conversation.  And this is what I believe she would say…”Dana, my child, pick yourself up and continue to move forward in every way possible.  There are people that are in your life both physically and spiritually to guide you through this process. You are going through changes which are part of recovery.  This process has never been easy for anyone and you’re not the exception.  I will always be with you as I have always been. Do the work and rise to be the great therapist that I know you can be.”

And with that….off to work I continue to go.

#Thispuzzledlife

I’m Sorry (Poetry)

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

Wounded Healers

Wounded Healers

“Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.”
—Rick Warren

Psychologist Carl Jung created the term Wounded Healer. The idea says that a person is compelled to treat patients because he himself is wounded. The essence of the idea is said that going through our wound that we can allow ourselves to be recreated by the wound. Our wound is one that is continually unfolding through a process that reveals itself to us and thereby teaching us about ourselves. Going through our wound and realizing that we will never be the same again once we reach the other side, we then come out the other side where empowerment is born. This process is completely different than going around our wound. And this process requires actively engaging ourselves. This process also is potentially creating a new transformation. This transformation essentially has us changing from the “old” self into the “new” self (awakeninthedream.com)

The wounded healer only becomes able to help others, while continuing to do work on ourselves again and again, when instead of feeling victimized we can see that wound as an event and as a part of a more spiritual moment. And then we can see how our own suffering within ourselves, is reflected to the outer world in a way that helps alleviate suffering in both worlds (awakeninthedream.com).

wounded healers

What an incredible way to explain the healing process with reciprocal healing. I tried to make this a little bit easier to understand. I think that anyone who chooses to work in a helping profession, is on some level, looking to heal their own self maybe even subconsciously. The helping professions that I worked in were the medical and counseling professions. Maybe I, too, was subconsciously looking to help heal my own self. My dear Sarah used to tell me, “Dana, you can’t give what you don’t have.” What she was saying was that until I have my own trauma dealt with that, I couldn’t help others with theirs. And this has proven to be true. I want to help others so bad because I went through those professions. But my own trauma, after ignoring it for so many years, came along and broke my back. Maybe writing is how I’ll be able to help others. Maybe through speaking I’ll be able to help others. I don’t really know what path my life will take. But which ever way it happens is also one that I’ll embrace to the fullest.

I have worked with the homeless and addiction communities enough to know that that is where I belong. I have been blessed with the ability to see people for who they are and allow them to be individuals no matter what that may look like. I have seen and worked in some areas of lives and the country that would make some people shiver in fear. I never look down my nose at anyone because I understand where I’ve also been and the struggles within my own life. I have been, at times, unable to care for myself and smelling like last week’s garbage because I wasn’t able to muster the energy to get out of bed and take a shower. I have also been so caught up in addiction that my arm, legs and ankles were at the other end of a needle.

Most people see me as a fun-loving comedian that’s easy to be around. What they don’t see are the constant struggles of holding onto life just to make it another day. I’m so incredibly grateful to have had Sarah in my life for 15 years. The wisdom she shared with me and lessons she taught me are sometimes the only thing that seem to get me through the day.

Coach stepped in at a time when the term “struggle” was putting it mildly. She has also seen me fighting and struggling for the next minute. I now learn from her. The universe has made it possible and directed me, almost 4 years ago, in her direction. I am now her student and one day I hope to be seen as a “Wounded Healer.”
#thispuzzledlife

PTSD (Poetry)

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

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

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

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

No One Heard Me (Poetry)

No One Heard Me (Poetry)

As a child no one heard me
As a teen no one heard me
As an adult no one heard me
I was loud with my voice
And no one heard me

I had wounds and scars
And no one heard me
I felt the heat of a bullet
And no one heard me

Their big hands hurt me
And no one heard me
My silent screams
And no one heard me

Holes in the doors and walls
And no one heard me
Who will cry for the little girl?
And no one heard me

#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

Peace (Poetry)

Peace (Poetry)
Peace is something sacred that many don’t find;
You can get pushed to find it and leave the pain behind.
The monsters destroyed us and that is a fact;
Peace is among the living when it gets too difficult to carry
the weight of the world on your back.

When life becomes to difficult and the pain is too real;
You must come to acceptance of the pain that you feel.
Life seems too hard and the pain I can’t describe;
And no matter where you go there’s no place to hide.

So you have to accept that this pain is here to stay;
Peace is what you find even if you’re no ok.
God won’t have me and the devil just laughs;
Where do I end up on this god forsaken path?

Nothing is given neither life nor death;
I’ll just have to see when and where I take my last breath.
Peace is what I feel with like walking in glue?

Tears fall and my chin begins to shake;
How much more am I suppose to take?
Peace takes over when nothing else will;
And I will take my last breaths when
I’m too tired to continue climbing this hill.

Or maybe peace I will find on the journey to find me;
Peace takes over when your will is through.
I find it when I wake up knowing
there’s nothing more I can do.
The weight of the world just seems to disappear;
Then peace envelopes you when your time is near.
#thispuzzledlife

Safe Place (Poetry)

Safe Place
A place that has no hurt and no pain
A place where I can go without emotional rain.
A place where the sun shines all day long
A place that could easily become a home

A place where I can hide from things that are bad
A place where I can go and never be sad.
A place where I run to where the monsters can’t see
A place that allows me to be me.

A place where I go when I’m not wearing masks
A place that I go and no one else asks
A place where I can go for my own soul’s sake
A place where I go that’s always safe.

#thispuzzledlife

The Wooden Door (Poetry)

The Wooden Door

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

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

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

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

Cunning, Baffling and Extremely Powerful

Cunning, Baffling and Extremely Powerful

“Addiction is committing suicide on the installment plan.”
–Anonymous

In the year 2019, I feel confident in saying that most people and families have been affected by addiction in some way. Whether it be a family member, close friends or possible yourself who has been touched in one way or another by this terrible and very progressive disease. Personally, I’ve seen addiction run through the lives of many families and individuals leaving a path of destruction that Hurricane Katrina herself couldn’t hold a candle against. And addictions of various kind continue to devastate both my mind and body.

Often people relate addiction to only chemicals be it drugs or alcohol. A lot of times it is the assumption that physical dependence compounded by withdrawal symptoms is required for someone to be diagnosed with an addiction disorder. With chemical addiction this is true. In behavioral addictions i.e. gambling, sex, shopping, internet, self-harm, workaholism, etc. the behavior also progresses until negative consequences occur as well. Specific process addictions, in my life, are anorexia, bulimia and self-harm. I’m sure there are others but currently these are my biggest and most destructive. Where the mentioned behaviors are and have been a problem since childhood.

the abyss

Education about addictions, in general, has come quite far from the days of the Temperance Movement specifically due to alcohol consumption of the early 19th century. Stigmas have lessened since then. However, process addictions still have a pretty heavy stigma attached to them due to pure ignorance. One of the things that I do that keeps me sick in my disease is my uncanny ability to minimize any and all addictive behaviors that I engage in. I can tell that I have nerve damage in my forearms from 30+ years of cutting them with razor blades. My left shoulder has nerve damage from a self-inflicted gunshot wound several years ago. My internal systems have no telling what wrong with them from all the years of purging and heavy restricting by starving my body and ridding it of food.
Other behaviors that are considered an addiction for me are shopping, huffing chemicals and using belts to play “The Choking Game” until I pass out. All the addictions mentioned are ones that can individually kill me at any point. I will minimize them to justify to myself another reason to do it again just like any drug addict or alcoholic. I will come up with any reason to engage in these behaviors just to be able to get through a moment of uncomfortable feelings. I truly do my best trying to cope with all these things, but coach won’t let me slide unlike my internal addict that justifies yet another reason to keep going.

I have struggled many years and have kept my addiction alive. No matter the reason, there is always at time and a number that has my name written on it when it will be my last. It’s almost like dodging bullets knowing that one has your name on it. I wish I had a healthy fear of these behaviors, but I don’t. I fear the uncomfortable feelings and visions more than I fear dying from addiction. Each day I pray and yearn for the day that I’ll be able to live life without such horrible feelings. Who knows? Maybe the life I have dreams about being a part of could one day be possible if I would just get out of my own way.

“Every habit he’s ever had is still there in his body, lying dormant like flowers in the desert.”
—-Margaret Atwood

#thispuzzledlife

Her Winds Still Blow

Her Winds Still Blow

“You can take the people out of the city, but you can’t take the soul — that remains here.”
― T.J. Fisher, Orleans Embrace with The Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carré

As the official opening day of hurricane season June 1st every year, I can’t help but to remember the wide path of destruction left by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. Anyone who went through that storm, no matter the location has my deepest sympathies. I also went through that storm and not a day goes by that I don’t remember how scared and awestruck I was at the devastation. Last night I was awakened by a horrible nightmare complete with an ass kicking migraine. I woke up with nausea and last night’s meal gurgling in my stomach. I was also chilled by the sweat on my brow and clothing attempting to dry.
I couldn’t help that I had just had a nightmare, but the vividness of the dream was one that startled me. Hurricane Katrina happened before Mel and I met. I was still married to my ex-husband at the time. And I also can remember my nannie still being her good ole grouchy self. We had a gas grill and each other and that was about all we needed unless you counted the need for air-conditioning. I’m a spoiled kid of the 1980’s and I grew up with air conditioning and desperately need it when it’s hot. People including my mother were sleeping in the beds of pickup trucks rather than in the house because you stuck to everything because of the heat. I slept on the hot wooden floor in the dining room and my 85 years old grandmother and would’ve been sleeping in Heaven with Jesus sooner had it been left up to my mom. My grandmother was being a pill, and everyone heard her. She And her chihuahua were soon taken to a friend who made sure she got in the air conditioning and away from us for a while. Meanwhile for the first few days everyone was eating out of each other’s freezers as the defrosting led to some good eating.

katrina satellite

There were 5 big trees on my parent’s house that were casualties of the storm. Water and sewage were a thing of the past. Gas was being rationed. And how the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans, Louisiana was doing was a mystery. It was the time when hardship let to sitting under the carport at night with sweat running down the side of our heads and swatting mosquitos and laughing to keep from crying. We knew the devastation in our neighborhood and town and that was all.
What we did learn through all of this was how to help our neighbors. When anyone mentions pulling together resources for something the time when Katrina hit the southern United States always comes to mind. I eventually got to see the hardcore destruction firsthand when I was helping to publish a book by doing some photography from the destruction. But emotionally I was affected in ways that even I don’t know. Exactly 14 years ago today Hurricane Katrina would change life for many people including myself. Because being awaken by a nightmare and a migraine let’s me know that her winds still blow.

“Life is a hurricane, and we board up to save what we can and bow low to the earth to crouch in that small space above the dirt where the wind will not reach.”
–Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped

#thispuzzledlife

Confucius Says…

Confucius Says….

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

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

IMG_2046

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

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

Once Again

Once Again
7.30.19
I laugh a lot, but no one sees
How much these visions torment me?
Fight as I may, I have yet to win
Screaming loudly, “No! Not Again!”

God might frown but the devil smiles
He knows his influence on this broken child.
Forward I still go but no one sees
My limping, hurting and the pain that pushes me.

How do I succeed whilst in his mouth of flames?
I’ve tried and tried with very little gain
Can’t anyone plainly see?
How my demons are killing me?

I say, “Yes!” and they say, “No!
We will beat this crazy and very useless ho.
But try as I may spilling heartbroken tears;
All this happening year-after-year.

Prayers are spoken but no one sees
This desperate girl inside me begging Please!!!
To help me stop this destructive path
How many more times can I survive their wrath?

The people who help have grown weary as well.
How can I continue to drag them through my personal hell?
All the while I silently scream, “help but don’t leave!”
The message is constant “Then let us help you please!”
I don’t know how to let you love me and teach me knew things
Please let me be the puppet on a string.

I listen and try the best that I can
Can I start over and learn to let people love me again?
Answers unknown and fears cover my heart
Can I possibly let you mold me like a beautiful piece of art?

This little girl desperately wants to live
But how much more can I take and are you still willing to give?
I’m not greedy and want everything from you.
God, the universe, The Great Spirit says I’m not through.

Don’t give up as everyone has and I apologize for
being such a hardheaded jackass.
Compassionate and caring more than anyone has ever been
Please try drilling through my thick skull once again.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold
#thispuzzledlife

Answer The Question

Answer the Question

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
—-Anonymous

Have you ever been so far down that the only way to look is up? I have recently begun to do just that. I’ll tell you a story about a man who was a very traumatized man from many years of abuse. He was fearsome and that power propelled him through most of his life. All along he kept living his life the way he wanted to and maintaining a life of chaos, guilt and shame. Slowly, over the years his pace wasn’t as quick. Even his facial features began changing into someone much older. His heart was growing weary of life as well as his desire for life.
Sun meadow

He was met by an angel that pointed him in the direction and said you will meet a man on your journey answer his question. You need him. “Do not leave this road or you’ll have more chaos,” the angel said. The man agreed and headed in that direction. Slowly the man started trying to take shortcuts to “feel better” along the hard and very painful road. And like the angel said his life became more chaotic until his whole self was lost in a world of self-loathing, depression and a hurt internal self. By the time he and the man met he was bruised and cut up from just making it there. He thought everyone had thrown him away because he thought and behaved differently.
He fell in every hole in the sideways and roads just barely able to pull himself out of the last hole. His internal drive for life was completely diminished. His facial features were indicative of a hard life. He had “battle wounds” all over his body stating that he was fighting a war. He looked at the stranger and said, “I’m supposed to answer a question. By the way, what is your name?” The stranger said, “My name is RECOVERY.” The now excited buy quickly told the stranger, “I need recovery. Will you help me?” The question you must answer for me is, “Do you want me?”
#thispuzzledlife

I Matter Now (Poetry)

I Matter Now
You forced me to listen and now it’s my time.
Your abuse has made me feel like I can’t be real in life.
You destroyed parts of me that once thrived
And you sucked me into your grasp by being very kind.

Once everyone was gone you made your first move.
Showing me the side of a human that most have to prove.
You dehumanized me in so many ways
Until I’ve learned to live life mostly in a haze.

But your days are over, and my days are here.
Oh, and the truth that everyone can hear.
About your venomous actions forced on children, teens and adults.
All you can do is sit back and sulk.

I won’t be sad because you hurt me so
But what you shoved into the ground has begun to grow.
With growth you need water and those are my tears I shed.
While I try to undo everything, you convinced me of in my head.

I went to everyone looking for help
And it made it all worse and you hurt me more until I yelped
I didn’t know it then because I was just a kid
Because I matter now, and you never ever did.

#thispuzzledlife

Through The Eyes Of A Child (poetry)

Through The Eyes Of A Child

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

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

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

because we didn’t understand your tears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Pot. This Is Kettle.”

“Hey Pot, This Is Kettle”

“I decry the injustice of my wounds, only to look down and see that I am holding a smoking gun in one hand and a fistful of ammunition in the other.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

One thing that most people will tell you about me is that it’s hard to have any kind of a relationship with me unless you have thick skin or can separate behavior from the truth. Why is this? Well, I can only say what I believe to be the truth. I most often self-sabotage relationships in order to keep from getting hurt. This doesn’t mean that the person I sabotage the relationship with did anything wrong. Sounds odd? Trust me it is.
So much of my life has been about wearing masks that being on the hunt for my authentic self is proving very difficult. Everything about relationships scares me. I fear people leaving and/or dying. And I also fear people hurting me. Not so surprising if you take note of my trauma history. Confusing for me and other people yes. What makes me angry is that before all the chaos in my life began relationships held very high priority for me. They were never replaceable. The relationship that I had with that person was as individual as they are.

When this sabotaging happens it’s because I’ve gotten scared. Either the person has seen someone other than “the clown.” When people begin to see me as someone other than that friend they like to hang out with and laugh I get very scared. Because in my experience those that see the nice side of me first might leave me at the first sign of trouble. I fear judgement. And I fear their rejection if they don’t like the truth. So, instead of just waiting to see the outcome, I control the outcome.

pot calling kettle black

I had good relationships at one that that once they saw the effects of abuse on me, they run. Once they’ve seen the scars, been around my extremely intense mood shifts and paranoia they leave. As a result, I bought into the belief that “I wasn’t worthy of good relationships because everyone leaves eventually.” This in turn adds fuel to the fire of self-hatred and my self-harm escalates. Next relationship the cycle continues until you get tired of the painful emotional toll that it takes, and you become a prisoner of to your home to keep from having contact with people out of fears. I then sabotaging through self-harm and isolation further worsening my condition. This then leads to more depression and anxiety and lack of social stimulation. Therefore, anytime I try to be around other people, in public, the overstimulation is just too much because I live a rather bland existence.

This is something that coach and I face with me. Not to mention the scared alters always paranoid and looking for danger at any turn. But I continue to work towards a more permanent solution so that I can keep meaning relationships in the future. First, I must get used to being in public around people and all the different verbal and visual stimulation of everyday life. Fingers and toes crossed that this goes well. I can promise you that I win the “Most Harded” award every year.  Not something to brag about but always true.  I always chuckle when I tell someone that they’re being hardheaded. Their response, “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?” All I can say, “Why yes, it is.”
#thispuzzledlife

The Girl In The Closet (Poetry)

The Girl In The Closet

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Pistol”

“The Pistol”

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
—-Michael Jordan

As a young athlete most of us will assign a professional athlete the title of “HERO.” I don’t even know when I first was told about Pete “Pistol” Maravich. But when I heard about his accomplishments and training, I knew that he was the basketball player that I wanted to be like. Pete was the Michael Jordan of basketball before Michael Jordan was a big name. With his slender frame and slouchy socks Pete became an athlete that was also coached by his father Press Maravich.
He ate, slept and breathed his sport with dedication that very few know. He always had a basketball with him practicing his ball handling skills everywhere he went. In the movie, The Pistol: Birth of a Legend, it describes his training methods and accurately portrays the dedication to the sport. In the days that he played both college and the NBA the 3-point line had not taken effect in the sport. Had there been there’s no telling how many records would stand alone even today.
His ball handling skills still amaze the childish athlete in me that wishes he still was alive. Though even as a great player Pete was a very private man. At the age of 35, Pete became a born-again Christian which he proudly acknowledged. But suddenly at the age of 44 in 1988 Pete would die, playing a pickup game of basketball from an undetected heart defect. Pete has become to be known as the best ball handler of all time. And while I was still playing high school basketball, I would always watch a movie about him or articles on the internet (dial up) to give me that little motivation I needed to propel me with the right attitude and centerness throughout the season. Of course, I had to read quick because if anyone called the house phone, I’d get kicked off the internet.

When I was in my undergraduate work at William Carey University, Jaeson Marravich, Pete’s son, came to play for the school. The moment I saw him and his resemblance and ball handling style of him my eyes filled with tears. On his left his upper arm where he proudly wears a tattoo that says The Pistol. I still get chills from that moment. And at the time I was looking for something positive to help me keep going since I was still in an abusive marriage.

But of course, the other great moment only 2nd to seeing and meeting Jaeson, was attending my first ever basketball game at LSU’s Pete Maravich Center, in Baton Rouge, LA where his father coached him the four years he played. Inside the coliseum has pictures of Pete and displays of his records both in college and the NBA. It would also be the day that I stood side-by-side with Shaquille O’Neal with my height measuring to his waist as he ran out the tunnel. What a big guy he really is!

His determination, dedication and focus to his sport is what I still admire about him today. And just writing about him and giving in to those beautiful feelings I had for him as an athlete is going to help me a little bit with my confidence. Guys, I’m up against a big opponent in my therapy life. I’ve got a great coach at the reigns. And I’ve got Pete and the words of former coaches and family to lean on. I’m in the fight of and for my life.

http://www.petemaravich.com/

This is the link to the movie The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend.
#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

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.

131

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

But I Still Made It To Texas

But….I Still Made It To Texas

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

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

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

Heodore Hesburgh

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

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

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

armadillo  texas flag  longhorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

What December 4th Means To Me…..

What December 4th Means To Me…..

” Today, on her birthday, I am teary eyed about the other woman

who also remembers that today, 43 years ago, she gave life

to a child that is calling me “Momma.”

—Unknown

I must admit that my birthdays for a long time have carried with them a dark cloud. As a child, I remembered them being like most kids’ birthdays. Cake, ice cream, presents and if you were lucky a party at McDonald’s complete with a tour to the store’s freezer just to find out that it was cold. A paper birthday hat and the playground equipment that was fun only in spring or fall seasons because you didn’t dare play on it in during the humid summers of the Deep South for fear of being burned alive by the stifling hot metal. The consequences of being a child playing on metal playground equipment would remind you that next time maybe you shouldn’t.

In my teen years, birthdays usually consisted of The Petal Lady Panther Basketball Classic. Softball season would’ve ended by now and we were well into our basketball season. There were plenty of local “social parties” complete with a bonfire, alcohol and loud country music. I was also busy trying to fill an emptiness in myself that I couldn’t identify. I just knew that emotionally I hurt. I began treating that hurt with any substance or behavior that seem to soothe that pain even a little bit. Little did I know that I was already in the death grip of addiction by the time I graduated high school. The combination of both the physical and mental stress of addiction for a mere 4 years would take the dream of playing college ball of any kind away.

As a late teen and early adulthood, I wouldn’t only see the dichotomy in a person’s behavior. I would often times feel the shift in his behavior before it actually happened. It was also on some of those same scary nights that my birthday December 4th would fall. Apparently, there was an unwritten rule about what men, specifically my ex-husband, were entitled to on any day but celebrations of any kind were a guarantee.

jesus and baby

This “emptiness” was now identified as a void. And the void was the one thing that has haunted me daily since middle school….my adoption. The abusers in my life have always made sure that this particular topic’s wounding got a little deeper with their ability to hurt without touching. Each year that passes it makes this time of the year just a little bit more painful. I’ve always seemed in some way to seek out the love and acceptance of my birth mom that I’ll never receive. She, unfortunately, does not have it to give to me to satisfy that insatiable need that never seems to be filled.

In the process of searching, finding and being rejected again and years of abuse I’ve pretty much walled my heart off to most people including close friends and family. Each year it gnaws away at me until the thought of getting close to someone scares me so bad that I reach out and destroy that relationship. Now In my 40’s I walk around with such a thick and, at times, aggressive coat of armor that I run off a lot of people before they get a chance to really know me past my silly sense of humor. Several people know that my birthday is off limits in regards to contacting me. Social media is turned off and my phone is put on “Do Not Disturb” making it virtually impossible to contact me unless you’re here in person. Very grumpy I can be on this the one of the heaviest days of grieving for me all year long.

Coach has the uncanny ability to get me to do  “therapeutic assignments” that can have me stomping around like a toddler who was given the wrong colored cup. I have the ability to act just like that when I think my unhealthy ideas are much better and/or more fun. This birthday would be different though. I had to be receptive to her ideas and be trusting enough in her as a person and as a professional for her guidance to be remotely acknowledged on this topic. And by the end of the day after coach stirred the fairy dust and a few of my own tears fell, for the first time in many years when the sun went down my smile didn’t. It was genuine happiness and…..well….it was different but it was nice.

I guess what made the day even more special was celebrating my birthday with our oldest son, Marshall who turned 7 years old yesterday. I never understood how my birth mom felt. I heard the painful words she said to me. But when I laid eyes on our beautiful first born, I’m glad that I don’t know what it’s like to be her. Because I have two beautiful little superhero, “man cub” children that call me Mom and I get to call them Sons.

I can still say with much assurance that the impact my adoption has had on my life has been tremendous in both good and bad ways. There are many tears left to cry on this topic. And much more emotional healing that needs to occur because coach does more than blows a whistle…..she plants seeds.

#thispuzzledlife

The Party Of One (Poetry)

The Party of One

This was the day for 9 months that I longed to see

You were the one that was meant for me.

Instead I was thrown away and forever shunned

I began life solo as the little party of one.

 

I soon had a new mommy and daddy

To look at me I appeared very happy

And then the boys’ hands touched me and it was no fun

for the little girl was the party of one.

 

You were there to help educate our minds

not to tell us, “You’ll Never Be Anything!” time after time.

You lied and told them I was disrespectful and having fun

But the only party I was attending was the party you reserved for just one.

 

I took you as my husband and you took me as your wife

But what you had in store was not a beautiful life.

You monitored me daily who i saw; what I did and what I ate

All I did was develop more and more silent hate.

 

I did what you said but it was still my fault

Do you have any idea what lessons you taught?

You made me your dog and to you it was fun

If only they could see you brightly shining at this party of one.

 

I’ve tried and the answer is consistently…fail

I can’t make it as a friend, daughter or mom anywhere

along the trail.

I long to hear from you just one more time saying,

“I’m here and together we’ll prevail.”

But the grief is so heavy without you that I feel like I’m in hell.

 

I’ve wished for life to be anything but this

I’ve already fought so hard just to be here and for that I’m pissed.

You all stripped me of everything good and it’s seen everyone

And though we are many, we are still the Party of One.
By:  Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

The Unfair Opponent

The Unfair Opponent

“If closing my eyes would make unfair things disappear, I would do that.”

–Isuna Hasekura, Spice & Wolf

How do I explain what even I don’t understand? Writing has always allowed me to somehow paint a picture with words so that maybe somebody can understand. How can you do that when I can’t even make sense of it all? How do I describe feelings which have no words?

My demons are never silent. Everything I do every day seems to be guided by demons that currently controls me and seeks to only destroy my mind, body and heart. I have the scars to show that something happened. To the outside world it’s my word against there’s.  It wasn’t just one event. It has been a lifetime of struggle and my canvas has been made a complete mess.

At night when most people are resting peacefully, I begin the battle for daily sanity in the darkness.  I sweat.  I cry in agony.  I shiver in fear. I beg for the mercy of the universe to end the suffering.  And sometimes I curl up in a ball with my teddy bear just wanting someone to hold me and say, “For now you are safe from the monsters in your dreams and realities.  Rest easy as I will now stand guard over you from the demons of life.”

screams

The nature of my personal demons is one where “fighting fair” has never been an option. They don’t stand and stare me in the face. They surround me like vultures circling their prey. They throw “cheap shots” and attack me from behind and out of my periphery just like what has been done many times before. Many times before so I should be used to it, right? These you never get used to it.  The daily goal has always been, tolerate the torment.

An honorable opponent is one who will stand and stare at you and then work towards the same goal of winning through competition. With demons they are the voices of those of the past who also took “cheap shots” against unsuspecting children, teenagers and adults all whose power was mentally raped before the battle ever began. This makes a very uneven battle and a yellow bellied bunch of scary thoughts, feelings and actions that have no good intention. So why don’t they look me in the eye? Because they weren’t created through honesty but rather actions that were built on lies, causing sorrow, chaos and manipulation.

You didn’t think I would recognize your style of play? I was taught by some of the best. Think I’m “easy” because you’ve worn me down? WATCH THIS!!! I will beat you at your own game even with tears in my eyes and unsightly battle wounds.  You have taken most of me but you can’t have my heart. It’s your greatest adversary and my most powerful weapon. It has NEVER let me down. But I can’t guarantee that same thing for you.  You haven’t beaten me. You’ve hurt me and that’s a familiar pain with which I have lots of experience. Every day in every way you are still the “Unfair Opponent.”

“I decry the injustice of my wounds, only to look down and see that I am holding a smoking gun in one hand and a fistful of ammunition in the other.”

— Craig D. Lounsbrough-

#thispuzzledlife

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

“One single word – like EMERGENCY, or love – can

revise a whole night. A whole life.”    

 Alena Graedon

Several months ago I wrote a blog titled No Thanks Needed.  This was one call that I worked while in the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) field.  Let’s face it, no one calls for an ambulance or seeks out any helping professional because things are going great in their lives.  Likewise, I didn’t seek out counseling because functionality was my No. 1 attribute.  I began seeking counseling because I was being tormented though it was not voiced at the time.

The title of this post “10-4 Control We’re 10-8” I have said hundreds of times while working on the ambulance.  It simply means, “Yes we are enroute.”  I’m sure this varies from service to service depending on the differences in 10 codes and signal numbers nationwide but you get the general idea.  There is no possible way to do justice through words what working in this type of job carries physically, mentally, spiritually and just about any other area of a human being’s existence.

As a teenager, I had my heart set on being a police officer.  Then I determined that since I loved doing drugs that being a police officer was probably not the best option.  However,  I had the need and want to be in some type of helping profession.  At a young 20 years of age the thought of going to school 6 years for a counseling degree was nowhere near the table.  Finding out that I could go to EMT school for 6 months, however, was.  I was beyond excited and totally immersed myself in my studies and training.  My husband wasn’t real excited because the pay was extremely low in that career.  But for me there was a higher calling, the want and need to help people.

emt prayer

I studied myself silly those 6 months and learned everything I possibly could about this exciting field that I saw myself loving naturally.  We were told about different types of scenes that would be a high likelihood that we would encounter. However, nothing could ever prepare me for the things that I would actually see and experience.  In my personal life, though, the grasp of the evil hands of abuse seemed to become tighter and tighter.  He pretended to support my career decision but that’s all that it was….PRETEND.

In February 1997,  fresh out of EMT school and newly married I got my first truck assignment making a meager $4.95/hr with the local ambulance service.  I worked for an ALS (Advanced Life Support Service) which required that a paramedic to also be on the truck.  This meant that the drugs given and additional skills that would be required were higher than my scope of practice.  Some of these skills would include intubation, cardiac monitoring, starting IV’s, giving narcotics and various other skills that I as an EMT-Basic could not legally do.

Performing as an athlete required split second decisions but now it was not about winning ballgames it was about someone’s life.  Mistakes now had a much higher price tag.  The one thing I always tried to be as an EMT was humble.  There were those that had a very narcissistic view of their position and thought of themselves as a god.  This was not a stance of mere confidence but a stance that nauseated me to my core.  Most of the time I would see this in paramedics which we would then refer to them as “Paragods.”  Working alongside confidence rather than blatant narcissism was where you could really learn and working with confident paramedics I did learn.

We were taught in school about the importance of “self-care” while in this career that would be crucial to making it past the national burnout rate which, at that time, was only 5 years.  Included in the self-care education was the importance of EAP counseling after a bad call or mass casualty.  The daily stress of the job and the ongoing abuse at home ensured that I would never come close to that 5 year mark.  There are laws now that regulate the amount of hours that a crew can work without downtime but then apparently there weren’t. It was nothing to have to work 24, 36 or a 48 hour shift with very minimal sleep and/or food.  We were commonly called “Trauma Junkies” because it seemed the more horrific the scene the better as bad as that might sound.

trauma junkie

There were several “bad calls” that I experienced but only a couple where afterwards I went to a supervisor to request EAP services just like what was suggested.  What I was met with was the attitude of “if you can’t handle your job then you might need to consider another career.”  Not only that but then you have to face being ostracized by not only management but also the other medics in the company and seen as “less than” or “weak.”  So, really the only option was to “suck it up” and somehow separate mentally from the daily harsh reality of life.

Anyone who has ever worked in some form of EMS services understands that as a means of survival the job requires that emotions be put to the side and you function purely on logic.  But suppressing these emotions does not mean that emotions were not affected.  In this kind of career there is a lot of maladaptive behaviors that take to the forefront namely drug/alcohol addiction and a high rate of suicide.  Not surprising but nevertheless a reality.  I saw things and was involved in situations that the human brain has difficulty processing and accepting.

My husband’s opinion and others that I’ve spoken with at times posed the statement, “Well you chose the career” or “You have the easiest job on the planet.  All you do is sit on your ass in an air conditioned truck.”  Easiest job on the planet couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  It was one of the most dangerous and taxing jobs that one could possibly encounter.  The downtime that we would have sitting in the truck “posting” at a location was only due to other trucks being on calls and us covering their area.

I have always replied, “Well then who else was going to do the job?  You?”  That was always met with silence.

My husband, at the time, was a newspaper editor and well he didn’t and still doesn’t have a clue what that type of job entails.  I told him more than once, “If you can work on someone’s mother, father, grandmother, child or grandchild for them to still die even after your best efforts and then go home and lay your head on the pillow and sleep soundly doing this day in and day out then you’re not human. You’re a machine.”  The ability to function like this day in and day out requires a certain degree of callousness.  But make no mistake that those calls bothered me then and now.

walk a mile in our boots

For the last 21 years, I have run some of those same calls all day and all night like my career never ended.  The putrid smells of rotting flesh from week old dead bodies that had to be taken to the morgue I can again smell at random times throughout the day.  The smells of blood, fuel and mud/dirt from car wrecks.  The screams of mothers who I had to tell that their child was dead or wouldn’t survive due to the severity of their injuries.  The horrible images of abuse and/or neglect of children, adults and the elderly.  The smell and site of exposed brain matter from head injuries, suicides and or murders.  The individuals that died simply because you couldn’t get them out of the vehicle because the jaws of life were being used elsewhere and subsequently the vehicle caught fire and were burned alive.  The children that would look at you and ask, “Are you going to help my momma or daddy?” While knowing full well that their parent was already dead.  The decapitations that looked and felt like you were in a real live horror film. And the leftover pieces of meat that don’t even resemble a human body after being hit by a train consume my thoughts and emotions when most people lay down for a night’s rest.  It’s at these times, once again, that my shift starts on the once beloved career working on an ambulance.  I didn’t work several years.  I only worked one year on the ambulance until the abuse  at home combined with the daily trauma that I was exposed in this career caused me to buckle.  I saw enough in that one year to still have me waking up in the mornings with my face and shirt wet with sweat.

Without fail whenever I see or hear those lights and sirens, I instantly want to run and jump on the truck and ask, “Ok. What kind of call are we going to?”  Sometimes I’ll still listen to a local scanner to find out what’s going on throughout the city especially on a weekend.  I will also hear those very same words, “10-4 control we’re 10-8” and then the crew is given the next location for an additional call. It’s in those moments that I realize that EMS and the need and want to help people will always be a part of me.  And at night I realize that EMS is still a part of me.

One of the most powerful lessons that was taught to me through experience of working in EMS is to tell those that you care about that you love them even strangers because you might be the only one that speaks those words.  The last words you say might very well be the last words that are said.

“The most basic job of an EMT is to notice things and then wonder about them.”

–Thom Dick

#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

Tears That Still Drip Sore

Tears That Still Drip Sore

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

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

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

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

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

child window

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

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

solitary

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

What Is The Primal Wound?

What is the Primal Wound?

“…Being separated from their birth mothers and handed over to strangers in the adoption process is the only trauma where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful…”

Nancy Verrier, The Primal Wound

Even as a young child my parents can tell you that I was a very inquisitive.  I was also the child that questioned EVERYTHING.  There was no accepting because someone said to.  I had to know the “whys.”  This has often led to difficult roads and battle wounds as a result.  As an adult with a very difficult diagnosis to comprehend much less to ask someone else to understand, I still question everything.  Maybe it’s normal to question these things.  Keep in mind that I function most of the time as a “teenager with an attitude” and you know how much ego, time and energy that requires. Sometimes it’s just like having annoying bags of hell that can suck the life out of everything it touches including my body attached to me like appendages.  But sometimes the internal conversations are better than any comedy routine I’ve ever witnessed including the questions.

I question every person’s motives, practitioners, governments, my adoption, abusive behaviors and, yes, I still question my diagnosis A LOT!  Being on disability, currently, allows me time to search for answers about my puzzled life.  As you’ve read throughout my blog, my connection to adoption and why it’s so painful for me has led me to some obsessive days and nights searching online for something to explain the pain in my soul that I’ve never been able to accurately paint a picture of with words.

On an Attachment and Parenting blog, one adoptive parent is quoted as saying….

 “Scientific research now reveals that as early as the second trimester, the human fetus is capable of auditory processing and in fact, is capable of processing rejection in utero. In addition to the rejection and abandonment felt by the newborn adoptee or any age adoptee for that matter, it must be recognized that the far greater trauma often times occurs in the way in which the mind and body system of the newborn is incapable of processing the loss of the biological figure. Far beyond any cognitive awareness, this experience is stored deep within the cells of the body, routinely leading to states of anxiety and depression for the adopted child later in life.”

adopted-trauma

I now have a simple explanation for the type of feelings that can destroy me to deal with.  The rejection and separation process can still be felt deeper than any other sensation I’ve personally felt.  These words gave me an instant reaction and all internal members on guard and children/teens to safety.   I realize that the intensity felt by other adoptees is on a continuum of variance.  The intensity I feel today is the same intensity I felt as a infant, child and teen.  And as an adult, it can still be very crippling as the loss is for both me and my birth mom is extremely powerful.

In Nancy Verrier’s book The Primal Wound:  Understanding the Adopted Child, 1993, she describes the Primal Wound Theory by saying, ” that develops when a mother and child are separated by adoption shortly after childbirth. It describes the mother and child as having a vital connected relationship which is physical, psychological and physiological, and examines the effects of disrupting such bonds.”  I still haven’t been able to read that book because of how much the topic really disturbs me.  The Nature vs. Nurture debate is another avenue in continuous research.  I see myself both sides of the debate which as people we are a constantly evolving through that very mixture.

primal wound.jpg

 As an adopted child, I needed and wanted to find parts of my identity.  I was always the kid that looked nothing like my parents but I did have some behavioral traits.  I was raised around some comedy goodness with both my daddy and Nannie.  Their individual humor is enough to sit and tell stories for several hours.  My environmental and social interactions helped to shape beliefs both about myself and other people.  There’s a much longer discussion for that debate.  Genetically, my skin color, facial characteristics, bone structure, eye color, etc. is the Nature side of the debate. The debate often centers around the effect genetics have on human personalities as opposed to the influences that environment and development might have.  So you can see that this will probably on for infiniti + infiniti.

As a developing child, not being able to look in the stands at my ballgames or in a crowd at the mall and not see anyone that I looked like was torture.  I love my adoptive parents no less.  Unless you’re an adopted child with this strong need to just know “why” you can’t understand the obsession.  At major life events birthdays, weddings, graduations, birth of a child, etc. while I tried to enjoy everything in the moment, I couldn’t help but to feel the loss for people who I originally belonged to.  This has also been a big source of guilt and shame from just wanting to know.

My parents were always very supportive in my efforts to find my answers and truth about this situation.  My birth mom, father, full brother, aunts, uncles, paternal grandmother, half brothers, half sisters, step-mom and some cousins eventually met but not on the same turf.  As an adopted child, I had to accept prior to going to meet them all that I would be rejected again.  This time the rejection would be felt as an adult.  I needed that one-on-one time with my mom to ask her the “whys” that continue to haunt me after my answers were received.  But, first, the willingness to feel that incredible lifelong wound gaped open even further if the universe saw fit and it did.  Not the Lifetime ending I was looking for.

What I have done to deal with this wound in the past was to shove anything I could into that big, dark hole in my soul.  I poured alcohol, pills, razors, purging, restricting, perfectionism in certain areas, people pleasing, etc. into this insatiable appetite for something only she could fill.  I guess we can just call this particular therapy topic a work in progress.  And maybe, in time, with COACH by my side, I’ll attain some resolve and peace.  The whole purpose for moving to Texas was to get some healing.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

#thispuzzledlife

Two Cats That Changed The World

Two Cats That Changed the World

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France

I’ve written about some of the funny interactions between me and animals namely the Angry Birds of Albuquerque.  And I’ve probably mentioned, at some point, my cats Simba and Nalla in passing.  But what I would like to share is how two cats changed one part of this big world….MINE.  They changed me through their unconditional love.

In June 2000 I was working at a local vet clinic in the Hattiesburg, MS area.  Specifically, I was over the adoption center they had there.  I would take in puppies and kittens and find homes for them.  There was a lot of work that went into that job but I loved working with the animals.  This became a place of catharsis that was a nice break from the daily emotional abuse of my marriage.

One day a gentleman walked in with a box and inside it were two little kittens barely a week old.  He told me that the momma cat was killed attempting to move these little kittens across the road.  We typically didn’t take animals this young so, I took them on as a personal project.  From that day forward that box and those two kittens went everywhere I did.

My days and nights included bottles every two hours for these little beings.  I hungered to be a mother but deep in my soul I knew that bringing a baby into that volatile situation was not smart.  And these kittens were filling that void for the time being.  During some of those long nights and sleep deprivation I said to them, “Six weeks and you will be finding a new home.”  Tube feeding, bottles, antibiotics and ringworm later and six week old playful kittens would be taken in that same box to the adoption center.

I made their cage extra special and comfortable.  These cats would be going to their new home together as the loving sisters that they were.  I watched every visitor to see if they were interested in these cats.  I was going to interview anyone who was interested with a fine tooth comb.  Secretly, I hoped no one wanted them because somehow I had formed a connection that I never thought possible. No one came in and met my unachievable standards for these cats.  So…..they came home with me where they would live out the next 15-16 years.

 

I would find solace in these cats that had no expectations of me.  They loved me unconditionally and new when the perfect time was to want to cuddle.  Always on their terms of course.  If I cried in silence as I usually do, they could hear me from any dark clothes draw, closet or clothes basket in the house.  They came running and meowing almost as if saying, “Momma let us love you.”  I could be having a true snot crying moment and as long as they were in my lap or touching me somehow they were my own personal sponge to absorb my tears and often heavy emotions.

 Simba and Nalla would become the original “Battle Buddies” our fight to survive abuse both physically and emotionally.  The emotional and psychological abuse from my husband and brother-in-law could be intense and dangerous.  Somehow, though, as long as Simba and Nalla were there I seemed to be engulfed in a bubble that no abuse could reach at least for that moment.  This seemed to be that extra bit of protection that I used to my advantage.  As long as they were determined to be by my side, I was determined to one day find a way out.  That day would eventually come.

There were nights when he would angrily get up with a belt and going into the room where all my animals slept and began hitting anything in his path.  My cats were terrified of his anger just like I was.  He would hit torment them with a broom which they never get over.  As much as I wanted to protect them, it was just too dangerous, for both me and them, to intervene.

My and “my girls” eventually left that relationship with PTSD intertwining our emotions and thoughts.  I would take them into my relationship with Melody with all of our scars both visible and unseen attached.  Anytime one of us had to use a broom to clean Simba and Nalla would run for cover.  And loud noises and even mild arguments and you would find them tucked away in whatever haven of safety they could find nearby.

My girls were quirky as hell just like me.   The ultimate form of loyalty I experienced with them and it was beautiful to say the least.  A couple of years ago I walked into our living room in Albuquerque to find Nalla, our black and white, overweight kitty sometimes called our “Gateway Kitty,” rolling around on the floor in obvious pain.  I looked into her eyes and knew that she was suffering in a way that was not visible.  We made eye contact and a feeling from her that said, “You know what to do. Please stop my suffering.”  I’ve always told pet owners that when it’s time to put a family pet down you would just somehow know.

This was the day that I had feared since they were very young kittens.  My heart was breaking for this beautiful creature that through love had propelled me to safety.  The years of intense love for both she and her sister was now gathering for this one moment.  With tears streaming down my face and Mel looking on I said, “Get the laundry basket comfortable for her….It’s time.”  Trying to comfort Nalla knowing that I really couldn’t physically she seemed to know that my heart was breaking.  I kept looking into her eyes needing the reassurance that what I was doing was the right thing.  And she looked back at me as if to say, “It’s ok.”

Simba was meowing not really knowing where Nalla was going.  She went to her place of solace which was a pillow next to mine on my bed where she slept every night.  The ride to the vet was one of the longest rides I had ever taken.  My heart was breaking even if the right decision was being made.

I handed the laundry basket with one of my best friends in it to the tech.  With tears falling I kissed Nalla and told her that I loved her.  A few minutes later I would receive the her collar with the bell on it.  A couple of weeks later I would receive her ashes.  Simba seemed lost but still tried to comfort me at all costs.  Somehow a the survival of an era seemed to be coming to an end.

Exactly one year to the week I would go through the same process with Simba my grey and white tabby.  It was like their job had been done and it was time for me to fly on my own.  These beautiful animals were with me through a horrible time in my life.  They expected nothing other than treats and junk food.  There job, as they saw it, was to be with me in whatever way needed or possible.  And through their undying compassion I was beginning to heal.  Those two little kittens were more than  house decoration.  They changed my world.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

–Martin Buber

#thispuzzledlife

The Thunder Rolls

The Thunder Rolls

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated.

When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally

heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears

the screams healing can begin.”

― Danielle Bernock, Emerging with Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, and the Love That Heals

And this…..11:45 pm and it all slowly stars to descend upon me like a searing napalm death throughout my mind and body.  Each night it is the same familiar torment by way of body memories and flashbacks.  The same ambulance calls of 20 years prior.  The same horrific scenes, smells and sounds from former abusive relationships.  The pounding words and actions of an adult’s abuse of power that scared the young teen so bad that now all that’s left of her is RAGE, and ironically, lots of jokes and laughter.  The agonizing physical and emotional separation from the one who only became the vehicle, by which, that baby would enter the world still, somehow an inconvenience just for being born.  All of this in a sense of organized confusion that’s been set on continual repeat.

I feel something changing in my soul that’s not comforting but more evil.  Physically, all “systems” (no pun intended), were on some type of “Red Alert.”  The wave of fear that also spreads systemically is met by a cold shiver all the way down my spine.  As if I were in a standoff with my demons, I look it in the eye as if to say, “We Meet Again.”  I felt like I was looking into the eyes of the devil himself.  I was frozen with the fear of another night of flashbacks. I don’t move only to be enveloped by the sequential events that unfold every….single…night, and unfortunately, a lot of days.  The torturous movie reel and flashes of scenes from another time and place would remind me of where and how I have both failed and survived.

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The humiliation and dehumanizing mind games I still seem to wear as clothing in my own little crazy haven of distorted safety and love.  The sting of being a verbal punching bag as some kind of demented sport riddles me like Swiss cheese.  I don’t care if I die, I just want it to stop I repeatedly think.  Suicide seems like a viable option until I imagine the tear filled eyes of my children and wife.  You “white knuckle” these nights that are long and dark. Someone please stop this haunted fair ride you scream silently from deep within.  Teens and adults worn down by years of this daily torment has left its mark on even the youngest of alters.  The fierce guardians with a “no one goes in and no one comes out” stance leaves this community trapped by its on members.  Only for those screams to silently falls on deaf ears once more.

Just before you cash in your chips and just fall where you once stood you hear from the dark recesses of your mind you remember……

“And one day when you’re scared and unsure of what to do….Pick the direction and just do the next right thing.  You deserve the answers that are rightfully yours.  And when you find them protect your heart.”

“Look at me and we’ll do this together, Charlie.  What you do affects your entire team.  Your team need you now!  Dig deep and come on! And when you want to give up you just DONT.”

“Everything in life is a gift.  It may not come with pretty wrapping

 and a nice bow.  But it’s still a gift.

“Feel your feelings and be safe.”

“Do not react when you are in your emotional mind. Find something to be used as a distraction.  If you don’t have a train get creative.  View your situation without judgment.”

Because some nights require your sharpest tools for immediate recall to use at a moment’s notice.  Your mind and body has been trying to return to some form of homeostasis but the shaking continues.  Your shirt damp with sweat need the help of a cold wash cloth to help with grounding.  Some of images are now like dissipating like lightening from a summer storm.  Your chest tight with anxiety very slowly starts to lessen.  Another night of battle complete with me standing but tattered. Another night that your demons think that they win.  And my response this very night was, “Oh you thought you won?!!!  Watch this!!!!”  Again I made it because I have the heart of a champion.  “Charlie…you played your heart out tonight and made your team proud.  Now take a rest.”

You catch a glimpse of the sun slowly beginning to emerge from the darkness.   This very moment is what they told us to continue to fight for….another day to do something different.

#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

“When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with

the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge

can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.”

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

I was looking through my recent blog posts and realized that I had not yet written about a place I went to visit last summer/fall 2017.  There are some situations in life when/where it happens you have to just be quite and let it soak in.  Sometimes just looking at how situations came to be can unlock a little patch of “surrendering to the process.”

I believe wholeheartedly that there’s something about how the stars are lining up in my life.  I don’t have those answers yet but they’re out there somewhere.  In March 2017, I was pretty hopeless in most areas of my life.  Out of the blue I get a call from someone who still completely amazes me with her compassion and patience. I had found my new coach finally.  Tears streamed down my face as I call my wife Melody to let her know what had just happened.  The challenge would be for Mel and I, as a couple, to figure out what was best for our family as a whole.  I had my eye set on one thing as my goal and that was the day I could begin this arduous work with someone already proven trustworthy.

We already had planned a trip to Walt Disney world in Orlando, FL  with our boys obviously not knowing what the coming months would bring.  Anyway, the boys and Mel enjoyed the trip. I just realized how bad things had gotten and was continuing to decline.  Our boys were entitled to have some genuine fun that normally they couldn’t do around me because of PTSD symptoms.  While at Disney World I enjoyed seeing our boys and Mel with smiles on their faces.  For me having so many issues with social situations the trip was torture.  The amount of people and no private space had me wanting to just randomly bite people for no reason.  Then somewhere on the inside I heard…”Orange is not a good color for you!  And you won’t like the flip flops!!!!”  Not conventional grounding  method but it worked.  The fireworks shows, though beautiful, had me running for cover.  But I do love my family.

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Mel’s grandmother passed away which meant we would be staying very close to the city where I grew up.  It doesn’t matter the situation. That area of the country is just not safe for me to be hanging out in.  But It was a death in the family and loyalty to our friends and family are stronger than anything we have individually, as a couple or as a family.  We eventually made it back to Albuquerque.  And things went from bad to worse.

I ended up returning to a trauma unit where I would meet more close friends referred to as my “battle buddies.”  This stay was quite difficult to say the least.  Things were much different and I left there completely defeated.  Just months before I caught wind that someone cared which left me very curious say the least.  The only thing I’ve never been surprised by is in the fact that change is constantly happening.  This situation was absolutely no different.  I licked my wounds all the way back to Albuquerque to my awaiting room where I keep all of my secrets.  It was sort of my prison within my own prison.

Someone did mention about this place out in Tioga, TX called Healing Springs Ranch.  The last thing I wanted to talk about was more treatment.  I was exhausted and felt beat up.  My recent trauma unit stay reaffirmed to me that professionals were just dangerous no matter how they put a nice spin on things.  And I hated them all.  No one would have another shot at me like that was how hurt I felt.  I was so miserable and wanted a way out.  I wanted help but feared it to my core.  Again, I was told to call them and check it out.

I wanted the opportunity to go and try another open campus facility, at some point, because those were where I was most comfortable.  I just didn’t want to go right then. Being on a locked unit never helps me or anyone else.  But what I was about to walk into was something I was never prepared to experience.  I was told who my inpatient therapist would be.  I had already known her from previous visits to other facilities and knew that she was gentle so having that knowledge really helped me to settle.    Here I was about to trust someone to mess with my “system” again and I wouldn’t be able to leave for awhile. And there was only minimal trust to start with.

My wife dropped me and my belongings off after getting checked in.  I was told to enjoy that last Diet Coke for a while.  I froze.  What in the hell did he just say?!!!!  I instantly felt death near.  I knew that coffee was not even a remote possibility for me.  Caffeine, Caffeine where shall I find thee?  I was truly starting to panic.  OMG….what have I just agreed to? I was trying to keep the fear buried and plenty of smiles and laughter on the outside.

finding myself

I soon took that long ride, on the golf cart, to the main building known as the Bunk House.  I was beyond terrified and my inside guys were assessing everything we saw, heard and smelled.  We passed the field of cows I would learn to love and talk to every morning on daily walks.   There were a couple I would name T-Bone and Rib eye.  I know I should have a conscious about their names but I don’t.  And the golf cart would be parked by cows that had this exact conversation go on right before their eyes.

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

Me:  I can assure you that those are not yams.

Friend:  Dana yes they are I know what I’m talking about.  Those are YAMS!!!

Me:  Oh for the love of God and the Holy Angels!  That is not a potato!  A yam is what you have on Thanksgiving!  If that is a yam then that potato has four legs and a tail while also saying…MOOOOOOO! A YAK!  A YAK is what you’re thinking about and that is not a Yak either!  That’s just a messed up looking cow!  We laughed then and still today about how funny that brief moment in time unfolded.

When the doors opened and I began the incline on the floor to the nurses’ office I was greeted by a few people welcoming me to Healing Springs Ranch.  Omg…they’re a cult!  They have a following of people that claim that they care and are happy.  I saw who would be my therapist and instantly I thought…Damn I feel bad for you already.

Everyone was so incredibly caring and you just somehow knew that this place was special.  It was just different in a loving kind of way.  In my illustrious career of dealing with treatment centers and stabilization units I had never found this much compassion in one place.  This is a place far from a locked unit.  They loved without conditions.  This has always been a foreign concept for me because from several abusers “love” had conditions.  So accepting this love was going to be a challenge and it was the majority of the time.

Very slowly but surely I would begin to settle in with this new community.  This place whatever its magical powers was loving me and I began to melt.  No one saw this right off but both me and my alters felt it instantly.  I’m a difficult patient in the best of circumstances. But apparently The universe knew what it took to make me crumble……COMPASSION.  I was still a very angry and scared person under all the smiles and laughter.  They had already found my weakness.

family

And you seem to know that the relationship is going to be interesting when one of the first people you see you say, “Hey 13 is that you?!” Calling someone, who would turn out to be one of my closest friends, one of your alters’ names can be incredibly funny.   I’ll be honest that an argument between a 10 year-old and a 13 year-old can be awfully flamboyant. But put them both in adult bodies and that could be sent to the comedy show of your choosing. However, The awesome look at nature and it’s scary and comforting critters it hides seemed to be medicine for my soul.

Charlie the Squirrel seemed to take the place of the Angry Birds in Albuquerque.  My personal encounters involves said tree rodent.  Oh Mr. Sandy cheeks decided that I needed a little more confusion and proceeded to bark at me machine gun style.  With my very well developed hyper startle response, Charlie might as well have been sitting on my face and chewing on it. All I could think to say was, “It jumped out from the bushes and almost killed me!”  Really he just scared the shit out of me from about 10 feet away in a tree. Then I scared the shit out of the people walking with me.  We still laugh about it all.

Life had become routine which I loved.  At night after most of the day staff left for the evening and we had all gotten our night meds and snacks people would head down to their rooms either for a shower and/or bed.  But there were also members of our tribe that enjoyed that 30 minute time period of sitting on the porch with the slight breeze and just decompress from all of the day’s activities.  The night wildlife was front and center.  If you were brave enough to listen to some of the conversations we would have you would realize that there was an amazing amount of healing that went on.  There started out with about 4 people, including myself, who took full advantage of hanging out with this new family.  By the time it was my graduation, there were usually over 10 people at night.

I was usually telling some kind of funny story or just getting tickled about the day’s activities.  There were stories about Miss Betty and the Mr. Bitchy.  Many also know about my Ozzy Osborne impression shouting “SHARON!!!!!!”  Any issues between me and Charlie the Squirrel had to be told. Funny stories from being an EMT. Or the funny things about being a lesbian mom raising little boys.  On a more somber note someone might bring a guitar to the patio and we would sing.

These other clients and staff were hearing details, ugly details of my past and they still loved me.  They were getting to know my alters almost as well as my own spouse.  The work we all did was hard to say the very least.  Walking in their doors with all of my therapy baggage at the forefront assured me just starting on trust again.  But my family members who were also working on their individual issues were also there.  After many years of Melody and I flying solo through this life of Dissociative Identity Disorder, I can only wish that the facility had been there much sooner. Finally I  had found a place that would take the time to get to know someone beyond the adolescente.

There were times when the work we had done during the day time just managed to leave the mark on someone’s face that said,  “I need a friend who understands and to be able to let the tears fall where they may without the fear or feeling of judgment.”  Healing with your peers with no parameters to interfere was total freedom.

At HSR, I found my tribe.  I found a whole host of “safe people” that I never knew existed.  All of the amenities are just a bonus with the total experience.  The food is prepared by one of the finest chefs on my list. The staff packs a lot of knowledge about both addiction and mental health disorders.  Their passion for what they do can be seen many miles away…like Albuquerque.  But what you’ll experience as a whole is beautiful.  I didn’t leave there with a lot of answers.  But I left there knowing and believing that all people aren’t dangerous and that was just what I needed.  Because “those people” and the alumni are who I call….FAMILY.

These are just a few of the reasons that Healing Springs Ranch is where I found my forever home with a brand new, handpicked by the universe, group of likewise compassion and passion for life kind of family.    I learned at “The Ranch” that even clowns need to make time for tears. And that not everyone is put on this earth to hurt me.  As for my alters and I, well let’s just say that the process of “being loving” with our tone to each other is still moving forward just at a snail’s pace.  And I did get to move closer to my HSR family.  As difficult of a process as it’s been not moving here with Melody and the boys, I’m in the arms of members of that same family.  I finally made it here about 2 months ago and I walked into those loving arms of people that I met hear. They understand without explanation but with humor when I say that I’m one of those people who are buy 1 get 15 free.

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I

guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

Locked And Loaded

Locked and Loaded

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

If you want to look at all sides of the historical and current school shootings then don’t forget this side.  Put yourself in the driver’s seat as a teenager who feels that there is no way out.  There are no easy answers.  Don’t think as an adult about how you would respond?  You have to imagine the world through the eyes of a desperate teenager who feels helpless just like those who killed. I’m not condoning anything.  Just don’t eliminate one of the sides of the problem or you’ll never achieve an accurate answer.

Imagine for a minute this scenario…..

Life as a 13 year-old rebellious but funny teen seemed to be pretty benign on the surface.  Teenagers because of the developmental stage tend to be difficult stressors for kids and their parents.  She had this incredible gift to make people laugh no matter the situation. Depression crept in and slowly started transforming her.  Her vitality for life was very slowly disappearing and it never seemed to matter or to care to those she tried to reach out to.  She had no animosity towards anyone.  She hated that she had been unwanted.  But everyone loved her because she was everyone’s favorite clown and friend.

What no one seemed to take notice of was that this clown was put into a closet behind the teacher’s desk and locked.  The teacher always had hurtful things to say.  She poked at this child like a pit bull chained to a tree and being taunted and whipped with sticks.  Anytime that child spoke up she was hit again.  Anytime she cried she was ridiculed and humiliated.  When she talked about food she was glared at and venomous derogatory body image comments were slung at her.  Every time she tried to fight back she got in even deeper trouble with the administration.  No one ever listened because of a label.  She wasn’t a bad kid.  But now she didn’t know.

All she wanted was for someone to leave her alone and apologize for what had just happened over several months.  Relief was nowhere in sight.  She began thinking that if she (the teacher) wasn’t alive to torment her that she could hang with her friends and continue playing ball.  But if she committed suicide she wouldn’t have to ever face another minute of this daily torture.  She can’t speak of it all as the embarrassment of what she thinks she has allowed.  And then her friend commits suicide and the seriousness and pain of what had just happened was brushed over like his life didn’t matter.  She is rocked to her foundation.

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I have lost my emotions

—  Dylan Klebold

 

eric harris 2

I hope death is like a dream state, I want to spend all my time there.

—  Eric Harris

These two thunderclouds collide along with a mixture of other storms in her life.  This marriage, of sorts,  bred the perfect storm.  Her inadequacies were put before her peers.  She was taunted daily about how no one wanted her.  Everything that she would never become.  Statements about being a baby for crying when the words stung like bullets.  She tried to tell and no one would listen.  Or it was the southern way to handle this parenting situation..”She is the adult and you are the child.  Tell her you’re sorry and give her respect!”  She was literally and figuratively trapped and no one could hear her silent screams.

How could you not notice the fact that she cried blood tears from her forearms?  How could you not notice the holes in the hallway and rooms?  How could you not notice that she had deadly eating disorders that would almost take her life?  How could you not notice the pain meds and all the sleeping and headaches that became part of daily life?

Now imagine for a minute that you were that child trapped with no help.  You just wanted it to stop in whatever way possible. Leaving school wasn’t an option.  How do you as a child attempt to rationalize a very impulsive yet very thought out plan to make it end?  How do school shooters develop?  There’s a very condensed scenario.  Often times parents do not know what to look for.  Wearing a mask is too easy to hide behind because no one really wants to know how we’re doing.  “Fine.” seems to be the best generic answer that is acceptable on a daily basis.

You said that you didn’t see the “typical” warning signs.  There is absolutely nothing “typical” about a teenager.  They are independent and impulsive beings with their own fingerprints.  It sounds more like you were blinded by your ignorance and politics to notice that this was happening right in front of you.  You were the adults meant to protect these children and you turned the other way.  Now you don’t like how they turned out.  Five minutes of listening to a child full of tears that you never saw behind those screens of smiles and laughter could’ve saved lives…maybe your own.

“–What if the kids from Columbine were here today.  What would you say to them?

–I wouldn’t say anything, I would listen to them, which nobody else did.”

Quote from Marilyn Manson in the documentary Bowling for Columbine.

#thispuzzledlife

For The Bible Tells Me So…

For the Bible Tells Me So…

“It is spiritual abuse that uses the Bible as a weapon to manipulate,

shame or guilt people into a way you approve of.”

—-Anonymous

 In the wacked out world and society that we as Americans live in we often like to define spiritual abuse in terms of nationality, ethnicity and dialect to other countries that shout, “JIHAD!!!!”  Our own country is saturated with individuals who use a form of spiritual abuse every single day.  We have our own radical extremists who are armed instead of bombs with suicide missions and IEDs and are armed with a tongue and a Bible.  In my case abuse, more specifically domestic abuse was carried out also using the Bible.  I speak only of my own past affiliation with religion.  Now before your polygrip starts slipping from what I’ve just said give me a minute to explain.  Or as many Southerners have once said, “Don’t get yer bowels in an uproar, yer kidneys in a downpour and yer liver in a jar.”

In no way am I saying that everyone that holds strong to their particular religious affiliation are classified as terrorists or abusers.  What I am saying is that we forget in our own communities that  religion both overtly and covertly can cause colossal damage like that of a terrorist.  The damage is not exclusively physical.  Pay attention next time you’re in an extra conservative area of the country and just pipe up and say that you don’t go to a church.  You will be ostracized quickly and/or be invited to a church and they are not expecting resistance of any kind.  If this does occur the likelihood of hearing the saying, “Yep, he/she is going to hell on a scholarship.  A full ride straight to hell if they don’t change their ways.”

I will give my experience of domestic abuse being justified behind a couple of verses that seems to be all the justification that some narcissist need to further carry out their deeds.  My views are not necessarily that of yours or anyone else’s.  There was this one story, though, that I’ve heard most of my life that was right outside of the city limits of Petal, MS on Blue Lake Rd. The people that had this place disguised as a religious run place for unwed mothers and their babies were actually carrying out abuse but only backed by the words held so close to the hearts of many Christians…..THE BIBLE.

sharkfish

Let me attempt to show you the similarities and differences of a couple of situations through words.  Regions of the country where my personal experience with religion is affiliated is in the Deep South of Mississippi.  I have only lived in one other area of the country…the southwest in Albuquerque, NM.  There are similarities in regards to religion in both regions.  And there are some strong differences as you can imagine.  New Mexico is incredibly more liberal and much more ethnically diverse than Mississippi and let’s just leave it at that.

I’m sure that individuals can tell me about atrocities that happen in the name of religion in the southwest area of the country.  By the time Mel and I moved to Albuquerque we were turned off to most forms of organized religion.  I will only speak of my own experience.  If you were to look at my badly scarred forearms from the many years of cutting, you would notice that more than a few were placed there behind some of the few chosen passages in the Bible.

Around the 1960s, the Bethesda Home for Girls was just one of many homes for unwed mothers run by the late Lester Roloff who played a supporting role in the facility as an evangelical pastor.  Around 1960 they operated a choir to market the facility. The facility had a federal investigation in 1986 launched against it amid allegations of abuse and “brainwashing.”  Some of the same allegations also occurred in another Roloff-affiliate home Ruth’s Home of Compassion in Rome, GA which were reported by The New York Times stating….

“In 1982, in a hearing heard by Judge Myron Thompson, The Montgomery Advertiser, Bobby Ray Wills, a principal operator of the home, disputed those reports. He acknowledged that the girls had to listen to religious tapes but said, ”It’s a washing, but it’s called blood washing and heart washing.”  Donna M. said she tried to run away in November but was caught. She was grabbed by the hair, she told the court, and disciplined by Linda Williams, an employee of the home. Donna said she was struck 19 times with a wooden board and ”put in a tub of hot water” to disguise scars and bruises.

School officials produced a half-inch-thick piece of wood, about 18 inches long and 3 inches wide, that they said was used for discipline. Donna testified that another piece of wood, a split baseball bat with holes in it, was also used at the school. Another witness testified that a longer and thicker board was used. Willing to Take a Risk

David C. Gibbs Jr., a Cleveland lawyer, is representing the school, Mr. Wills and Miss Williams in the case. When he cross-examined Donna today, @she acknowledged that she knew that fleeing the home was against the rules and that she would be disciplined if she was caught. She said she was willing to take that risk.

Mr. Gibbs stressed during his cross-examination of Donna and Cindy T. that all the girls at the home were aware that the home had strict rules of discipline based on their religious convictions. Cindy, 16, of Quitman, Miss., testified that she was beaten several times for talking about her past, talking about fleeing the home, and for getting low grades in the academic program.

Today’s court hearing resulted from a complaint filed with the court last month by relatives of a 19-year-old unwed Hayneville, Ala., woman, who was about five months pregnant at the time and had been sent to the home on the recommendation of a minister of a church here. The woman’s relatives subsequently decided that they might have been misled about the home’s environment.

Her understanding, said Candy H., the plaintiff in the suit, in an affidavit filed with the court, was that the home would provide a refuge from possible public ridicule over her pregnancy out of wedlock, provide religious counseling and arrange for her to put her baby up for adoption by Christians. 

As a condition of this help, she said, she was required to sign a contract saying she would stay at the home for a year, would make no phone calls for three months and receive no letters from males. These are standard rules, all sides concede, calling for punishment if they are disregarded. A call by Candy to a relative a few days after she entered the home, however, prompted her sister and mother to seek her release.

In an affidavit filed with the court, Candy, who has been sitting at the plaintiff’s table throughout the day’s proceedings, said: ”I am concerned for the health and safety of other girls at the Bethesda Home for Girls, particularly the physical and mental health of the unwed pregnant girls for the following reasons:

”Pam Hurd, a pregnant girl who has been at the Bethesda Home for Girls for two months, was beaten a week ago by Linda Williams in her office with a wooden board. Pam Hurd returned from Mrs. William’s office crying and in great pain. Pam Hurd sat in her desk and continued to cry. Pam is five months pregnant.

”Veronica, a helper at Bethesda Home for Girls, threatened Pam with additional beatings if she did not stop crying. Pam responded, ‘I just can’t help it, because it hurts.”

”Pregnant girls are repeatedly told they are worse than murderers for having sex out of wedlock,” the affidavit said. ”Pregnant girls are demeaned in front of other girls. This was very upsetting to the girls, as it was to me.”–The New York Times, 1982.

The owners Bobby Wills and his wife Betty is mentioned in relationship with Mountain Park Academy, which were run in the still un-regulated state of Missouri in the early 1980s.

 In 1986 FBI started an investigation. The state sought new homes for 120 teenagers. Aside from the protests from local Christian fundamentalists the investigation resulted in the closure of the facility. Girls, some of whom were pregnant , who was committed to these facilities due to their pregnancy were often forced to give their child up for adoption. 

A girl named Connie Munson died during an escape attempt from the facility. 

In late 2010, the former campus was victim of a fire which destroyed the main dorm.

A lot of these girls have had long lasting effects.  You can do an internet search about this organization and find additional information about the allegations, investigations and eventual rescue of the minors and prosecution of the owners.  These girls ,unfortunately, were not in the minority with these types of behaviors then or now.  Now how does this relate to me?

pain changes

In my marriage to my husband that lasted from 1997-2007, a significant change happened in his abuse.  First, I was told once we were married, “Now that we’re legally married you have to do everything I say.  If you don’t give it , I can take it because I’m a husband.”  Again the message that God thought this was ok because it was in the Bible which was conveyed on so many levels.  We even had a pastor who told us when we went to couples counseling and I complained of how rigid he was about food and body image comments the pastor told us, “A man has a right to have his wife look a certain way.”  Again this seemed to be another confirmation to him that must have given him the “go ahead” on the way he had already been treating me for a few years.  By that time, he had already mentally broken me down to the point that I was afraid to be without him.  Either way this seemed to be the go ahead to seal my fate into being this controlled until I left him in 2006.

Sometimes the behavior does not classify as abuse but rather mixed messages.  The therapist in Albuquerque that I worked with for 2.5 years and was anything but healing in nature was also incredibly ego driven.  The narcissistic way that she conducted therapy was a similar way that my previous marriage to my ex-husband.  Obviously, there were some significant differences but the differentiation in the imbalance of power, verbal aggression and just malicious tones scared me right back into a state of submission.  This is why women and men stay in abusive relationships longer than they want to often to the individual’s detriment.  It’s the breaking of a human being into submission.

The verse so often cherry picked right out of the Bible to justify their behavior was Ephesians 5:22 which states “Wives submit to your husband as your husband submits to the Lord. ”  It appears that this is a mandate for wives to do whatever the husband demands if reading only this part of the chapter.  The will of the woman and the reasonableness of the request are irrelevant to folk who misinterpret the text. Thus, when a wife refuses to “obey” her husband, he sees it as his job to make her “get in line” or to  “make her a better person” as I was told.

This misreading does injustice to the text and to the victims of domestic violence. Ephesians 5:22 is preceded by verse 21: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Paul has in mind a magnificent sign to the world of God’s transforming work: People giving of themselves freely and mutually. This fits the opening verses of this chapter (Ephesians 5:1-2), which tells us to “be imitators of God” by “living a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Kinnison, 2008).” Furthermore, Paul goes on to admonish husbands to love their wives as they would love their own bodies. (Ephesians 5:28).

In the early 1980’s, I was molested by my pastor’s children at the young age of 5.5 years old.  The details are sketchy for now but make no mistake that I still know, hear and see things in the form of flashbacks that give me all the proof that I need.  I remember some of these times where I was terrified to say anything about what had happened.  It wasn’t fear of my parents.  It was the fear for what would happen to me if I did tell.  I would keep this secret for almost another 30 years.  The fear was due to an imbalance of power by kids much older than me.

This therapeutic relationship had an incredibly forceful presence that scared the ever living shit out of me.  This was another situation where I would “cow tow” to someone who presents very authoritatively.  Most people know that I can, at times, be very confrontational.  However, someone with a very dominant and powerful personality is my kryptonite.   I have been known to avoid eye contact with people that are very dominant. I will have physical reactions around them.  I did not say, “Bad or dangerous people.” Those that find this and use it to their advantage in an abusive fashion are incredibly dangerous to me.

The very last day this therapist and I ever spoke and her reign had finally come to an end.  She told me on the way out, “You know what I’m going to do for you?”  Like an idiot I said, “What?” Like some words of wisdom would actually surface.  She told me, “I will leave you with this last comment….I’m going to pray for you.” “After all you’ve said and done and that’s the best you got?” I asked.  Some might ask which situation was more damaging for me?  She was because of the professional position gives an edge.  But to me they both used the Bible and they were both abusive.  Their somewhat deathly blows were both using the Bible as the main weapon.

I walked off with tears in my eyes and thought…”JUST ANOTHER SITUATION I HAD TO SURVIVE AT THE HANDS OF ANOTHER PREDATOR.”

Whenever I would ask my ex-husband why I had to do whatever task was at hand for him he always told me, “Because the Bible says so.”

http://www.ethicsdaily.com/abusers-distort-bible-to-justify-domestic-violence-cms-14959, Kinnison,  2008.

http//www.nytimes.com/1982/03/05/us/home-s-ex-inmates-tell-of-beatings.html, 2012.

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Tears Of A Mother’s Heart

The Tears of a Mother’s Heart

“There is no greater burden or torture in this life than for

a mother to live without one or more of her children.”

—A Bed for My Heart

In this blog entry, I’m going to talk about something very near and dear to my heart.  I’ll talk about the unsolved mystery of a classmate of mine named Angela Freeman.  At Petal High School in the small town of Petal, Mississippi most of us had grown up with each other and Angela was no different.  I had always known her and had been in several classes together.  Me being busy playing two sports and trying to maintain my drug addiction and eating disorders seemed to alienate me somewhat emotionally from a lot of my high school days.  However, my humor and fun loving personality was typically my norm.  But the disappearance of Angela was anything but normal.

Just 3 years earlier I had undergone some of the worst abuse at the hands of a teacher.  Our class also lost another member at the age of 13 to suicide.  Still seriously affected by some of these traumas I was left no room for recovery because sports took up all my time.  That busy daily schedule might have been the one thing that saved my life as a lost teenager.  I didn’t have answers for how to deal with this and neither did anyone else.  By our senior year our graduating class had been pummeled by tragedies.  But the disappearance of Angela seemed to rock everyone to their core.

On September 10, 1993 when everyone was doing after school activities and at home with their families Angela was fighting for her life, the life of her unborn child and would have spent her last days at Petal High School.  She was last seen at the local Pizza Hut and her vehicle was found in a remote area of Perry County by a well known bridge in the Mahned community known as the Mahned Bridge.  I thought about the parties that  had been there many years prior and chills ran up and down my entire body.  Because that day could’ve been anyone of us teens from any of the surrounding communities and cities.

angela freeman1993

angelafreeman age progression

Age Progression

mahned bridge

Current condition of the Mahned Bridge is impassable

angela freeman headstone

Evidence of no closure

The local news channels were covered with pictures and the latest information about the case.  There were also many different fund raising events.  Soon, though, the hoopla would die down and many years later Angela’s case would become a cold case and would be featured on the television series Unsolved Mysteries.  Her case could also be seen on different news channels and those I won’t even begin to mention as I don’t want to leave any out.  But the fact of the matter is that 25 years later Angela still has not been found.

As of 2017 the following was released by a FOX 25 News Channel….

“Perry County authorities say Angela was last seen at the Pizza Hut in Petal on September 10th, 1993. Witnesses say she was arguing with her former boyfriend in the parking lot around 1 a.m. That same morning, only hours later, Angela’s 1984 Honda Accord Hatchback was found abandoned at the old bridge over Leaf River. Angela’s mother Debra spotted a puddle of liquid beside the car. Police told her it was transmission fluid. They assumed the teen was just another runaway. But when Monday passed and Angela didn’t show up for work, Debra called her local TV station. It was then that authorities began to believe the clues were leading them to something much more sinister than originally expected. “Forrest County dogs were down at the bridge and people were starting to look for her and that puddle that was so fresh on Friday that everybody had parked in overnight, the dogs went straight to it.”

“That puddle would turn out to be Angela’s blood and the search intensified. K9 units were able to sniff out Angela’s keds, one in the tall weeds near her car and the other beyond a locked gate on private property. After multiple searches through Leaf River, Angela’s body never turned up, leaving an entire family without closure. Her grandmother said, “My late husband, which was her paw-paw, she loved him to death. He passed away in ’96 and he never knew what happened and at my age, I would just like to find out before my time.”

—FOX News 25

And 25 years later I’m now a parent and I cannot begin to  comprehend what it’s like to lose a child in that manner with or without closure.  Heck, I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child that’s already been born.  The fact that her parents have found the strength to get up each morning since her disappearance just to put one painful foot in front of another shows their personal strength and level of love that they had and still have for their daughter Angela.

The answers to Angela’s disappearance have never come to light.  But the painful memories of her disappearance still burns in the minds of those who loved and cared about her.  I can tell you that 25 years later that the trauma of her disappearance has remained alive and well in my psyche.  And anytime I see a reminder of this horrible tragedy I get the same sick feeling as when it first happened.  Whoever committed this crime has not only effected a family but they also have effected an entire community.  And truthfully, it has made me draw my own children in closer and my defenses as a parent have become detrimental in ways because of my own fear of some sick individual trying to get their hands on my babies.

I send out a plea even now that cries for the life or remains of Angela so that her family and friends may have some form of closure.  My heart cries for her mother, as a mother myself that has cried for her children in ways they also didn’t know. Angela would now be 42 years old.  If you have any information regarding this case please contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible.

“Before you tell a grieving parent to be grateful for the children they have, think about which one of yours you can do without.”

—Unknown

Here are some links that cover her disappearance and subsequent investigation.  Copy and paste the links in your browser.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_cSIj0NKKc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epFJR9CEmm8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27pWLTxJxqo

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We Called Him Friend

We Called Him….Friend

“The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people.”

—John C. Maxwell

I have been asking myself lately why I felt the need to write about these individuals who made such a big impact on my life.  The answer…..I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally emotionally able to write about them.  Or maybe now that this big life change has happened I have had the time to do some soul searching about people who have impacted my life both positively and negatively.  Whatever the reason I write to process these feelings in private because I’ve always feared expressing emotions other than anger or laughter.  One man that knew the trauma I was experiencing and that spent a tremendous amount of time talking to me each week was Dr. Charles Holmes.

I first met Dr. Holmes during my undergraduate work.  I took several classes he taught on both the undergraduate and graduate level.  He wasn’t a man that crossed boundaries.  He was simply a man who loved his students almost like that of a father.  The first class I took under him was the History of Psychology.  Honestly, the class couldn’t have been more boring.  I would have random thoughts like, “Oh my God did I remember to put on deodorant?  Do penguins have knees? What did I wear?  I look like I just rolled out of my hamper!”  That was one class I truly had to suffer through not because of the instructor but the material.  I was secretly thinking, “To have lobotomy by a leper wouldn’t be as painful.”

He taught many different classes that impacted the lives of so many students.  And then…..I took the Psychology of Addiction and instantly I was in love.  At the time, I had never spoken publicly about the puzzling nature of my life.  When I presented the topic chosen in the class which happened to be about self-harm.  I let my peers into a very small corner of my world and proceeded to throw up after the presentation was complete.  I was also still living with my ex-husband so I was very cautious about telling too much.  But with Dr. Holmes it was just different and you knew that by talking to him. He cared and wanted to know how his students were doing personally not just academically.

dr holmes

March 21, 1941-July 17, 2015

He told us about working with homeless addicts and alcoholics on the streets of New Orleans, LA and I hung onto every word he said.  He knew I was living in an abusive situation but didn’t know the extent.  He didn’t pry but rather just assure me that he was there if I ever needed to talk.  He saw me struggling every day with my personal life of addiction but always had an encouraging word.  He also presented the opportunity to speak to other classes and this continued on into graduate school.  These opportunities were slowly making the shame and guilt dissipate while educating others.

After Hurricane Katrina he told me about some work he was doing in the Pearlington, Waveland and Bay St. Louis areas of Mississippi which were the hardest hit areas.  I was already doing some photography for a book another teacher and I were working on about the devastation.  He invited both Melody and I to help on some rebuilding projects through a Christian organization he was affiliated with.  I can honestly say that the work done in those areas was extremely rewarding.  Not to mention all of the memories that I still have from that.  Here were families broken from the tragedy and I was there to help.  My heart and soul lit up instantly.

I pulled him aside one day before class and said, “Dr. Holmes you’re messing up my theory about men.”  He said, “What are you talking about?”  I said, “Well my experience with men truly exemplifies that all men are pigs and extremely harmful.  Why aren’t you?”  He said, “Dana because I don’t see people in a way as personal property or to make personal gains.”  We hugged and I have never forgotten that.  He would soon make it where all of his classes were required to attend my speaking engagements on campus including the Regional Pine Belt Counseling Association where several professional members of the community also attended.

Once Mel and I moved to Albuquerque life got busy and we spoke every once in a while.  But I did tell him when he asked where I was working that it was with the homeless and how much I appreciated him planting the seed.  I missed him terribly and as my mental health declined all I wanted was to sit down with him and to be told, “It’s going to be ok.”

When we would travel back to Mississippi I would always stop by the college and look up these professors that meant so much to me.  And I could always count on a big hug from Dr. Holmes and occasionally I would help “stomp out stigma and stupidity.”  Whether he was in class or not I would peek around where he could see me and he would excitedly stop his lecture and say, “Come on in, Dana.  Class let me tell you about this former student.” My heart leapt for joy each time and seemed to make it all worth it.

One day while Mel and I were planning a trip back to Mississippi his wife accidentally called me.  It was probably a butt dial.  But I called her back as this was odd.  She told me, “Dana doc isn’t doing well and if you want to see him come on.”  My heart sunk into my stomach and I felt sick.  My beloved professor and friend was dying and there was nothing I could do.

We raced the clock trying to get there before he passed.  Luckily or maybe something granted by the universe, we got there in time.  I walked into his room where he was connected to different medical devices.  I could see he was struggling to breathe and when our eyes met he said, “Dana?”  I said, “Hey doc it’s me. I told you I would be here if you ever needed me.”  He smiled and said, “Are you still cutting?”  I said, “Really that’s your burning question to ask me after this long?”  He and I chuckled and I said, “Yea doc I’m still struggling.” We had a rather short conversation but I told him before I left, “Doc thank you for being such a good man, professor and friend. You really blessed me and it was an honor to have you in my life.”  We told each other “I love you” both with tears in our eyes and hugged.  I left and he soon passed away.

When it was time for his service I saw some William Carey University professors like Dr. Cotten there and I was trying to choke back the tears that were wanting to erupt in my throat.  Then as the service finished and people were mingling a couple walked up to Mel and I and said, “Hey, I think we know you.”  I was scared to death because I couldn’t recall their names or faces.  Ashamed I said, “And who might you guys be?”  They said, “Your name is Dana, right?”  I just knew that they must’ve seen my face on a wanted poster or something.  Reluctantly, I said, “Yes that’s me.”  And they said, “We remember you from helping to rebuild our house after the hurricane with Dr. Holmes.” I was astonished and had a sense of pride as well.  I said, “Yes he was one of my good friends and I’ll miss him dearly.”

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No Thanks Needed

No Thanks Needed

“I didn’t become an EMT to have a front-row seat to other people’s tragedies.  I did it because I knew the world was bleeding and so was I, and somewhere inside I knew the only way to stop my own bleeding was to stop someone else’s.”

—Anonymous

There’s no possible way to accurately describe what it’s like to work as an EMT on an ambulance.  It’s a career that requires split second decisions and those decisions can and are life changing in many different areas.  This was a career that I had fallen head over heels in love with.  Please keep in mind that anyone in the EMS system that gets called out is not because someone is having a good day.  The same thing for seeing a therapist.  No one seeks out a therapist just to go in session and say, “Hey, everything is going great.  All I wanted to do was pay a co-pay.”

For me working in the EMS system only for a year still had big consequences.  The things I saw in that short year still affect me today deeply.  Companies that own this type of service whether they be hospital based or privately owned are suppose to offer stress debriefing after difficult calls.  However, I worked for a company that was more concerned with getting shifts covered rather than the emotional and physical well being of their employees which I’m sure was pretty standard in the late 90s.

The year that I worked I developed PTSD as a result of everything that I saw.  Some are effected deeply by this and some have less of these effects.  Neither of which are right or wrong.  PTSD is cold and heartless in its effects and can affect anyone at anytime.   I and many others saw human bodies in conditions that no human eye should ever encounter.  Yes I chose that career but anyone who enters a career like that are going to see the cruel ways that humans treat others and the consequences of poor choices.  And then you also see instances where accidents have sometimes devastating effects.  Who does this type of job?  Well someone has to do it and I felt incredibly drawn to do this work despite the low wages, long hours and effects on the human psyche.  Living in a very abusive situation at this same time left me with no one to talk to without judgment.  I also never felt like I could talk with my co-workers because of the machoesque attitudes that were front and center most days.  Maybe this was their own way of dealing with things but I needed a release and I never found it there.

ambulatance

Very seldom do you ever truly reap the benefits of such horrible scenes.  But there was this one time where I felt that my hard work was done with an outcome that I could smile about.  He was a young 7 year-old boy who was heading to his big brother’s birthday party about an hour away.  His mom stopped to fill up with gas while he messed around inside the gas station store.  Mom was busy with another sibling and making sure the car got filled up with fuel.  But this day something caught the eye of this 7 year-old little boy.  There was a mechanic shop right across the road.  Whatever his reasoning was at the time is unclear but this little boy darted across the busy road only to be hit by a drunk drivers side mirror on his head.  The child went down and we got the call.

We were told that the call involved a child and that it was serious.  My own stepchild was also 7 years-old at the time so this one was going to be difficult.  I just had no idea how difficult it would be.  Upon arrival the mother was noticeably hysterical while her child was laying on the unforgiving road.  My partner said,  “Dana we’ve got to get out of here he’s bad.”  So, load and go we did and his mom still hysterically crying was in the front with me.  I think we made it to the hospital in about 3 minutes.  But this call no matter what our efforts would be left in the hands of God and the universe.  I couldn’t leave this situation until I found out if this child was going to make it.  I stayed in the trauma room among all of the chaos of a severe traumatic injury.  He was showing some very disheartening signs that this injury would be his last.  They worked on him for a while but I had to leave prematurely because we had another call to take.  I almost couldn’t think because I wanted to stay with him.  I guess somehow I thought that if I stayed that he would have a better chance.  Irrational as that might seem I just didn’t want to leave him.

A few days later I went back to check on the boy and his mother.  The boy having a major brain injury was still in a medically induced coma to give his brain time to heal.  His mother told me that he was going to be flown to a hospital in Jackson, MS to receive specialty services for his injury.   In my gut,  I just knew that the long term outcome would not be favorable.  We lost contact but I never forgot this little family.  This scene was one that I would replay many times over the next 10 years.

We would bump into each other only by chance maybe once or twice.  I found out that he was in a wheelchair and that the medical bills reached approximately $1,000,000 but he was alive.  I saw he and his mother she and told him, “She’s one of the people that picked you up on the ambulance.”  His beautiful little face lit up and said, “You helped me?” Starting to get choked up but swallowing those tears into my soul I said, “Yes baby I was there.”  That answer seemed to be enough and I said goodbye once again.

A few more years went by without anymore contact.  And then at the 10 year mark I received a call from out the blue.  It was his mother.  In my gut I was thinking that he had died due to complications from his disability.  But his mother said, “Dana this is_____.  He wanted me to call you because he’s graduating high school now and wants you to see him walk for the first time.”  Frozen my thoughts were, “Wait what?  Walking?!!!!”  The only thing I could say was, “I’m there!! Give me the time and place.”  So she did.

I immediately explained everything to Mel since we were now together and asked her if she would go with me.  She agreed and when the time came we both went to this event.  She was taking pictures and I was down on the football field where the graduation ceremony was being conducted.  I stood with his family and prepared myself for what I was about to see.  What I saw was the most courageous 17 year-old boy who didn’t let a set of horrible circumstances stop him from achieving his goal of one day walking before a crowd of hundreds of people.

Chill bumps and emotion overcame me and a sense of pride that this little boy wanted someone who met him under difficult conditions to be there again for the most important day of his life.  Honestly, there’s no way that he should’ve lived but that decision was not mine but was something granted from God.  My life was changed that day yet again.  He reiterated through his actions again the importance of never giving up.

After the ceremony was over and he was sitting back in his wheelchair, I walked to him to tell him how proud I was of him and to tell him goodbye.  He told me, “Ms. Dana thank you for everything you did for me.”  And I told that little warrior as I looked into his eyes, “No thanks needed.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!”  I gave both he and his mother hugs and a little kiss on his forehead and then turned to walk away.  My heart was overflowing with joy and I concluded that all the images and calls that still bothered me was worth every penny to be able to have this God given opportunity to witness.

“Life is about making an impact not making an income.”

—Kevin Kruse

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Who Really Cares?

Who Really Cares?

January 11, 2017

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I think this is a question that is often asked but responses are typically….”Not me for sure” “I could care less what people think” “Their opinions don’t pay my bills”  But if we all really look deep do we truly care what people’s opinions are of us as an individual?  I can only speak for myself on this topic but I can honestly say that I’m torn.  Remember, this is where I am emotionally on this topic at this moment.  With so many internal opinions this answer is likely to change momentarily.  However, I can say that the majority of my life the message has always been conveyed to me that “image” is very important, if not, one of the most important things in life.  And it’s the opinions of others that somehow control the vision or path of my future.  Let me explain…..

Being raised in a very conservative and small southern town the typical way of dealing with things has always been to “keep it in the family and put a smile on your face.”  Do I think that this way of thinking is detrimental to completing the normal emotional/psychological/physical developmental stages?  Why no.  But I do think that in some instances it can make for difficult adjustments.  I clearly remember as a child getting ready for church on Sunday mornings and for one reason or another I or my sister would get in trouble usually leading to tears of frustration about simply not getting our way.  But let us pull into that church parking lot and it was, “Dry it up and put a smile on your face.  We are headed inside the church.”  What this translates to is this….”Don’t let anyone see anything that is considered ‘out of the norm’ because it will reflect poorly on our family thus making us look like incompetent parents.”  Now, I obviously can’t say that this is exactly what my parents were thinking or feeling but it definitely rings true for those friends, family and perpetrators that I’ve had dealings with.  I’m also in no way trying to demonize the way my parents raised me.

Is this a very catastrophizing way of looking at a very harmless situation?  Absolutely.  But this is a very multi-generational and societal way of thinking that is very common nationwide.  This is also a side effect of a society that focuses primarily on appearance that is often unauthentic.  Nevertheless, these very unrealistic expectations that have false attainability beliefs infiltrate the minds of impressionable children and teens and they are constantly chasing an image or ‘image like’ appearance not only to fail but fail miserably.  The thought, in turn, of not being good enough is implanted and constantly reiterated until it becomes a belief and then a self fulfilling prophecy.  This obviously doesn’t ring true in every situation but, I would be willing to bet that there are both young teen boys and girls who struggle with body image and appearance in epic proportions.

All of my perpetrators in some form abused me in ways that attacked my appearance and body image to a level that has left long time scars and often gaping wounds both internally and externally.  These wounds, by far, have been some of the deepest.  Body image and self worth were tied into one very distorted concept that birthed very distorted beliefs.  The specifics of these events are left for those willing to listen professionally.  Please understand that they are as fresh today as the day they pierced my skin and psyche. This belief is also one that is also held in high regard by society as evidenced by the astonishing numbers of children, teens and adults who are held captive by eating disorders, compulsive plastic surgery or any substance or behavior that falsely advertises that there will be TOTAL control or perfection such and I would be the first one with my hand out.

comfort zone

Now, why all of this long and drawn out explanation?  Well, because for me this is exactly what my ‘perfect storm’ looked like. Essentially, I’ve been marinating in false beliefs and concepts the majority of my life in many different ways.  These beliefs that have developed at a very young age while also being further molded by daily verbal and emotional abuse just so happened to be the perfect breeding ground for lifelong eating disorders and body image issues.

I was recently asked the question…”How do I imagine a world without the care of what people think?” Again I quickly thought, “I don’t care what people think in the least bit.”  Then the reality of the question hit me a few seconds later and I looked at her like someone who had just seen an individual streaking in their living room.  All I could muster was the puppy head tilt.  I honestly had to fight back tears because I knew what was being hinted at and how incredibly painful this topic is for me.

Since I’ve now had time to digest the question further I can honestly say this….I have no idea what a world where no one cared what other people think about them.  This in no way has any hint of sarcasm attached to it.  It’s almost like asking Helen Keller what it’s like to have sight?  When I’ve never lived or understood how to live life full of true freedom in that way, it’s difficult to imagine a life like that even being possible.  That’s not to say that people don’t fully understand and embrace that concept currently.  It sounds like a beautiful fantasy that I’ve been unable to touch, smell, see or taste thus far.

I can tell you that personally with the weight on my shoulders that I’ve carried daily for many years surrounding this topic, it would probably feel like I was so light that I might float away if I were that free.  I don’t really know an answer that isn’t conflicting.  What I do know is that caring what people think about me and my life and life choices does not get the bills paid.  I think also that because of the nature of human beings wanting and needing to belong often times we tend to try and conform naturally to what society, family or friends think for fear of not belonging and having that connection of acceptance from another.   I also know that caring what people have thought has left me with devastating effects to my own detriment  and often in ways not seen with the naked eye.  So, I guess maybe this is just another situation where moderation is the key and too much is dangerous.  I’m not too proud to say that I just don’t know or understand that balance yet because I live in a constant state of fight or flight.  However, I’m beginning to understand exactly how far this issue permeates every part of my being.

Usually, I write and I get a noticeably uplifting release.  Tonight, however, I must say that the feeling is an all over heaviness on my heart, mind and body.  As a tear muscles its way through a tough, outer exterior, I am reminded at how very painful and yet cathartic these moments can be.

#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

Circling The Drain

Circling the Drain

11.19.15

“Even in times of trauma, we try to maintain a sense of normality until we no longer can. That, my friends, is called surviving. Not healing. We never become whole again … we are survivors. If you are here today… you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it thru hell and are still standing? We bare a different name: warriors.”
― 
Lori Goodwin

The behavior they see is but a snowcap on top of a huge mountain of anguish.  They refuse to see the truth even when it’s partially revealed because it’s much easier to sift through and pick out the nicer parts of the story.  To most people, we should be walking around thanking God for such a beautiful day to experience life.  But to us…..it’s all about survival.  It always has been.  They ask us to see things through their eyes but refuse to even glance through ours.  Hell, the truth is that OUR truth would have most people retching at the sugar coated version.  Now, imagine living in it day after day….  Oh to outsiders, we should be so happy and grateful that we have a loving spouse, beautiful and healthy children.  To us….it’s still about  survival.

Many times we have heard, “Dana, all that happened a long time ago and it’s just water under the bridge.  Be thankful for what you do have because it could’ve been so much worse.”  “Oh, her father was mean like that to her too.” And to those that say that, I pity their ignorance.  If trauma was that easy to get over, therapists would be out of jobs.  The analogy about not being able to unbreak a plate couldn’t be any closer to the truth.  Some have also said, “Oh well I went through much worse than that and nothing’s wrong with me.”  My thoughts are, “Congrats have fun with that bucket of denial that nothing’s wrong.”  Some have even said, “Well, you’ve survived and aren’t living in it now.  So, now you can move on and enjoy your life.”  Let’s see…even if I make my pros and cons list about how grateful I am for things in my life I still have an overwhelming fear of food, active eating disorder, social anxiety, PTSD, stomach problems, digestive problems, suicidal/homicidal ideations almost daily, a 6 year degree that I can’t use, no memory, rage issues, problems driving, active self harm issues, a non-existent sex life, frequent switching all of which I cannot control and the biggest complaint I get is my attitude.

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 You see, when everyone is getting dressed for work, we get ready to battle our demons alone yet another day.  To the average person this looks like a lazy person who just doesn’t want to work and is another cause for the ever increasing issues of being a drain on society.  Truth is, they would have the barrel in their mouths much sooner.  When I was asked one time about having PTSD if I had served our country as a soldier in the war I simply replied, “I didn’t serve our country, but I’ve been fighting a war all of my life.”  People usually do the typical double take and look away.  Now, if just that made them uncomfortable what do you think they would do with the gory details or god forbid had to live it? Guess what? I relive each and every detail every day and night that I take a breath.  At times the memories have me hugging the toilet while waiting for the next wave of vomit to come rushing out of my mouth from the increasing anxiety that has my body feeling like it’s being ripped apart.  I would just like to state that any vomiting is not from my eating disorder as I despise the act. The migraine is pounding so hard that a sledgehammer is a welcoming thought.  The tears flow a constant stream as the voices scream their demeaning insults from as few as 10 years ago to as far back as 35 years ago.  All I want is for someone to come help rescue me but again it’s the familiar feel of having to fight on my own yet again with no guide.  Where is everyone?!  I panic but I shouldn’t because I’ve been here many times. I just want someone to make it STOP!!!!  And then another wave of vomit, that I had been anxiously awaiting, arrived.  I lay my head on the seat of the toilet and just begin sobbing and thinking, “When is enough, enough?”

#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.

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“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

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

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

4.18.15

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

— Chief Seattle, 1854

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

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

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

eagle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

“I Believe You….”

“I Believe You….”

4.12.15

“I Believe You. It’s Not Your Fault.”

—-Anonymous

Ok, so just maybe the quote isn’t one from a famous philosopher, actor, psychologist, theorist or author.  Technically, anyone could say those two sentences. After thinking about some of the words for the past couple of weeks, I have come to the following conclusion.  We’ve all heard the saying that something can, “make or break someone.”  Well, here’s a rather stunning example of just that.  In the therapeutic world these two sentences can, in fact, ‘make or break’ a trauma survivor.

There was someone that I was working with recently that I asked, “Do you believe me?”  This had been a question that had been gnawing at my insides for a long time that I never voiced until then.  The response was, “It doesn’t matter what I believe. It’s about helping you deal with the feelings.”  Now, why is this significant?  Firstly, I would like to point out that I do not believe in any way that this was said maliciously.  However, something within my internal ‘system’ just wouldn’t let it rest.  I instantly my anger grew by the second.  The anger was not creeping but sprinting straight from my gut to my brain at a speed that I was, unfortunately, extremely familiar.  All I wanted to do was get out of where I was and get as far away as I could.  At the same time, I was very confused at how very angry I was becoming over seemingly something so insignificant.  I just wanted to get out of the situation. I felt as though there was about to be collateral damage.

Later, once I’ve had time to allow the physical feelings to subside and for my brain to return to the typical crazy norm, I search inside for answers.  What could’ve possibly triggered me so badly?  I didn’t know but….it didn’t feel good.  My body had exploded with tension in all of my 2000 parts.  And the only way, I can describe what my brain felt like was like an earthquake had shaken everything into disarray.  Once again, I sit and listen to the ranting and raving of some of the ‘insiders.’  I just try to remain a by standard and listen.

I also can’t help but to feel a very overwhelming sense of fear that has me partially paralyzed.  I’m trying to sort through everything while trying to maintain and it’s not working.  Me and the medical marijuana become rather close friends for the rest of the day.  My mind and body was screaming for relief.  I talked some to my wife but kept a lot inside to try and sort out on my own.  What had just happened?!

I was looking for a great big ‘a-ha’ or ‘bright light’ moment and it came down to something this simple, yet, very important.  Perpetrators are master manipulators in every way possible.  The two most significant things I was always told was that, “No one would ever believe me and somehow it was MY fault.”  While I was not outright told that I wasn’t believed, I was also told that it didn’t matter. I was beyond crushed.  Alters in my system went ballistic.  There were ‘internal’ tears, anger, screaming, raging, blaming, hurt and pain that was resulting in a chaotic mess.  Each day, I find out more and more ‘triggers’ that can lead to a reaction.  It looks like we found another one.

One of the advantages of being a trauma survivor is hyper awareness of surroundings.  Advantages how?  I notice everything that is going on around me down to minute details.  That’s how, in some instances, I was able to stay ahead of my perpetrators and stay safe.  Also having a degree in a behavioral science helps understand behavior as well.  Therapeutic relationships of any kind especially with someone in power can only thrive if there is trust that has developed.  Once that is gone so is the relationship.  What if you were someone’s one and only contact and they came straight out of a lifetime of trauma and abuse to someone who doesn’t believe that it matters whether or not we as trauma survivors place a high importance on being believed about what has happened to us? For this brief moment in time, my abusers seemed to be correct, we didn’t seem to be believed. Does it scare you?  It did me.

#Thispuzzledlife