It’s Not Easy Being Green

“It’s not easy being green”

3.18.15

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”
– Buddha

The intention when talking about the controversial topic of medical cannabis is not to attempt at changing your personal views.  It’s simply to let you see how it has affected me personally since this blog is about my journey with DID.  Let me interject by saying that I will speak more than once on a particular topic and possibly say some of the same things. Ignore that and keep reading.  You have to understand that every day for me is like the movie Groundhog Day. Now back to our cannabis topic…..

One thing I learned about living in a ‘melting pot’ of a city like Albuquerque is that there are many different views  and many of them very liberal on many different topics especially addiction and recovery.  I must say that being raised on a ’12-Step’ way of thinking in a ’12-Step’ recovery community, I was pretty rigid on my beliefs about addiction and recovery too.  I’m still a big believer in the 12 steps and have watched the miracle of recovery happen to many people including my own clients.

Living in a much larger city than what I was raised in has shown me what addiction looks like from the very bottom in most cases.  I have never seen a substance abuse problem of this magnitude ever in my life.  Most of my clientele have consisted of the homeless or methadone clinic clients.  Both clientele are difficult due to the unique challenges not only each individual face emotionally but just in basic needs that most take for granted.  I have a heart that has been touched and shot with cupid’s arrow for these guys I can assure you.

What I was soon faced with was something I would come to a cross roads about the many years of “recovery” beliefs.  I started hearing more and more about the Medical Marijuana Program (MMJ) here in New Mexico.  I was instantly almost angered by the idea as marijuana as a medication.  I thought to myself, “Isn’t the drug problem bad enough?”  However, the idea was talked about, both sides of the debate for several years now.  The clients that I was treating were clients with prescription pills, alcohol, heroin and most anything else for addiction.  Heroin, Alcohol and Methamphetamine being the main substances used out here but not presenting for treatment for marijuana addiction.  (I did not just say that it doesn’t or can’t happen.)  I did have to get used to the idea of this flower being referred to as a medication.  But, my clients claimed that their own quality of life was improving despite their addiction to the other substances.  The doctor overseeing the program was also very non-chalant about marijuana as well.

In the meantime,  my mental health issues had been hitting the skids for a while and were now becoming ever more present in everyday life.  I was not able to control or hide the “quirks” that I might would have at home.  I’ve always thought that with psychiatric medications and their side effects that I was actually better before I started taking them to begin with.  My psychiatrist later told us that it’s no wonder that none of the seemingly every psyche medication know to man that nothing really worked.  He explained that because of my diagnosis that some medications work on some alters where other medications make conditions for others worse.  Finally, someone that could answer at least one daily frustrating question.  I needed something to “tame the madness.”  I wasn’t sleeping at all.  I was aggressive most of the time.  I couldn’t stay grounded.  It was total chaos.  I’ve had times since then but thank God not as frequent by a long shot.

My psychiatrist said to me, “About all there’s left is medical marijuana.  Would you be willing to try it?”  My wife, knowing the addiction history I have, looked at me and had told him before but reiterated the fact that I am an addict.  He said, “You know, just try it. If it becomes a problem, we’ll get you off it and you don’t ever have to touch it again.”  A cold chill went throughout my body.  “Is this what I’m about to have to sacrifice to live?” I thought.  We took the signed paper and agreed to talk about it. I was torn inside.  I knew what I had been taught about addiction.   I also knew what I was being forced to live with and how my quality of life had plummeted.  Mel, as educated as she was in the area of addiction said, “At this point, I’ll try anything.”  We were both being drained of our lives while trying to be moms to an infant.  Something had to give.  I hadn’t smoked pot in many years and didn’t know one thing about medical marijuana and it’s medicinal properties.  My psychiatrist said it could help my PTSD and I knew that my options had come down to weed or a 9mm.

Exactly one month to the day that I sent the application off to the state I received my MMJ card.  I had begun reading about the different strains and about edibles and anything related to this plant.  When I got my card the fear had begun to fade and I was ready to get my life a little more livable and quality just like veterans with PTSD.  We were off to get my new green meds.

I get to a local dispensary, where I was greeted and asked not what my medical condition was but what symptoms I was having.  They begin educating me on the difference in indica, sativa, high CBD strains, edibles, tinctures, wax, shatter, crumble and what might work with my conditions.  I was very nervous about this new endeavor and scared about spinning out of control in the most miserable place in the world….ADDICTION.

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That first night I began to use my “new” medication was the first night I was able to see something at the end of the tunnel.  I couldn’t make it out, but I was intrigued enough to keep going.  I was finally able to sleep.  I was able to function during the day.  I was able to come off IBS medication.  My depression was being managed as well as my suicidal ideations, mania and urges to self-harm.  My relationship with my wife and son began to improve.  This is not a cure all plant by any means.  I still have to put in the elbow grease and deal with my trauma every day.  This sure makes the process much more tolerable.

Notice I didn’t say that it managed not eradicated thoughts and behaviors.  These behaviors still happen more than even Mel knows.  A lot of people might think that medical marijuana is just a reason people can give to get high.  The truth is that people take medications all the time for the wrong reasons and others take for the right reasons.  Also, medication high in CBD can also have very little psychoactive effects making it possible to work or go to school and function with no problem.  Medical marijuana patients are also often thought of as a Cheech & Chong type of brain cell lacking type of functioning. This isn’t true either.  Most people make comments out of ignorance and I just tend to ignore a lot of it.  Because, until you have a condition where conventional medication doesn’t work or has side effects that trump the original condition, you don’t know that level of desperation.

Most people ask how it’s prescribed? There are no labels that say, “Smoke one bowl in the morning and one bowl at night.  Finish off with Cheetos.” It’s very trial and error type of a process.   You will find your level of medication and if you overdo it, you won’t do it again.  Reason: because while you got too high the only question you could think of and not answer was, “Where did I leave my butt? And how do I reach the Cheetos?”

Our son has only heard marijuana being referred to as, “Momma D’s medicine.”  We don’t make a big deal about it and treat it like it is…..medicine.  I have been on the program for 2.5 years now and have never gotten out of control with my using or had any problems arising related to addiction.  I’m off all medications except a couple supplemental meds to help with areas in the body that the marijuana can’t.  The PTSD and DID haven’t disappear and probably never will. That doesn’t mean I have to either.

So, while this topic isn’t very popular with a lot of people back south, for this family, it’s important that not only us but other families benefit from this plant as well.  I’m a believer and advocate for this medication even as an addiction professional.  More importantly, my wife is a big advocate for a plant that has helped to save her wife’s life.

#Thispuzzledlife

Silencing The Lambs

The Silencing of the Lambs

3.16.15

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

—Sandra Brown, Women Who Love Psychopaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Patch Adams And Therapy

Patch Adams and Therapy

3.12.15

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”—Patch Adams

I am sitting here watching the movie Patch Adams tonight as I have many times.  Tonight, however, this film takes on a whole new meaning in a couple of different ways.  Bare with me while I try to convey the importance of this film as it relates to therapy.  While Robin Williams was always a personal favorite actor and comedian, this particular movie rings loud and clear in several ways to me.

Firstly, while having the dreams of being a doctor, he still wants to have strong human connections.  In the movie, he compares medical school to being in the marines due to a lecture on transference.  Throughout the movie you see him trying to find that balance by using some very unconventional yet amusing tactics.  One particular scene shows him doing student rounds with a senior doctor and he begins talking to a group of students about a patient’s condition right in front of the patient.  Robin Williams, who plays Patch Adams, additionally wants to know the patient’s name.  He introduces himself and calls her by name and instantly a connection is made.

In my undergraduate studies at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS we were also taught about transference and professional distance with clients.  The truth is that transference is inevitable.  Every human being has some type of impact on another’s life. One of my professors told us in a lecture something that will always stick with me….”Your clients are people first.  Then, they have a diagnosis.”  Probably some of the most valuable information that I have ever been able to use when I worked with addicts.  We are also taught to leave personal or outside issues at home.  The thing that I’ve learned the hard way is that…well…I’m a human being.  While great in theory, it’s not completely possible.  Is it possible to leave enough at home and still function professionally and ethically?….YES.

As a recovering addict, had I not seen the ‘human side’ of my inpatient therapist, Sarah Pardue at such a crucial time, I would’ve never listened to her then which might’ve ended my life from some form of drug overdose.  It doesn’t mean that she didn’t have professional and personal healthy boundaries.  You can’t really put into words what the connection is like.  It’s a very safe and scary feeling all at one time.  For 90 days, I got to see a professional who was a human being that also had feelings and emotions.  She was always one of the most ethical and respectable professionals that I’ve EVER come in contact with.  When I became her student several years later, her humanity was still there and I was completely astonished that she was still able to maintain that after so many years in the therapy field while at times bombs were going off around her.  What a positive impact her example set for me professionally.

Lastly, as a trauma survivor, I have to see that a therapist is a person before they’re a professional.  Remember, because of my trauma and education, I can read people and their body language very well.  This became a survival tool that has worked to my advantage in the counseling field.  Any sign of inconsistencies and red flags are flashing, neon signs.  I watch everything everywhere and at all times.

Processing trauma takes an enormous amount of trust with professionals.  After all, the goal is to share some of the scariest topics and information with someone who is a complete stranger. And if someone we’ve known for a large part of our lives betrayed our trust in vile ways, how are we expected to trust a complete stranger with a degree? Every single day you can turn on the local news and see flaming examples of abuse of power.  I have watched as people portrayed themselves as one thing and their true colors sprint out of the closet just like I did when I ‘came out’ about being gay.  Yea it stings. But, then it hurts.  And eventually, you will look down and find scars. So, needless to say, it takes me a very long time to trust people…..period.

While working with clients, I’m not ashamed at all to say that I’ve cried with my clients at times.  Did I let this interfere with the professional therapeutic relationship? Not at all.  I still had professional and personal boundaries.  Some would possibly see this as not having emotional boundaries thus being unethical.  Ask some of my former clients and they would tell you that their ‘therapist’ was a human being just like they are. Ultimately, isn’t the goal of therapy or medicine to improve ‘quality of life?’

#Thispuzzledlife

Under The Cover Of Darkness

Under the Cover of Darkness

3.9.15

 “PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” 
― Susan Pease Banitt

And there you are again as you begin to arise with the memories of your vulgarities of control, hate, bitterness, soul shredding and belittling.  Once again you’re not seen but you are heard again by the one it has all been intended for….ME.  You have a paralyzing fear to you that can’t match anything in my life so far.  I watch it. I hear it. I smell it. I feel it all over again.  Yes, you are alive and well during the day.  Nighttime, under the cover of darkness, you are at your most evil.  Finally, no distractions and I can be all yours, once again.  You remind me of everything they did and you convince me it was all my fault.  You tell me that it was my fault that no one helped me because, I kept the secrets.  You have me convinced that people are constantly staring at me and all of my imperfections both seen and not seen.  I didn’t somehow make amends by surviving it the first time?!  You have attacked my mind and body too many times to count.  I go to bed in pain and wake up in pain.  There’s not a medication for ailments that no one else can detect.  You hit me with waves of sometimes debilitating physical issues that make me wonder why I ever wake up in the mornings.  The body cramps, nausea, vomiting, migraines and diarrhea are worse than detoxing from opiates.  You interfere with my sleep time and time again.  Yet, life continues every single day.  But for me, I get ready to stare you in the face while constantly looking over my shoulder yet again.  This body that I live in is still being perpetrated while they continue to live as though nothing ever happened.  Sometimes the pictures are just snapshots.  Tonight, however, they’re scrolling on a marquee sign.  What people don’t see is what happens on the inside.  You are a killer of many and a disabler of many more.  You are PTSD.

Since almost a year ago, our lives as a person and a family have been shaken to its core.  My wife and I look back and try to put the pieces together of a very emotionally charged year.  Now, bigger changes have happened in regards to my therapeutic care at an extremely crucial time in my life.  I’m truly at a loss for words at the reality of the situation.  My brother, Levi Pierce, taught me a lesson during our middle school tenure about being a fighter.  My athletics taught me about not giving up and about how pushing beyond known limits is possible.  This combination makes me a fierce competitor but an even more fierce survivor.

One of the most powerful quotes I learned at a young age that has also made its presence known both on and off the field is….

“Little things make big things happen.”

—Coach Nick Kolinsky

#Thispuzzledlife

Happy “Legal” Anniversary

Happy “Legal” Anniversary

2.25.15

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

– Airicka Pheonix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: The Diagnosis

Mel’s Corner: The Diagnosis….

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light Part2

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 2

1.29.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 1

1.1.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Anonymous

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzled

Illusions of Halloween

Illusions of Halloween

10.21.14

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

—-Margaret Atwood,  The Empathy Trap book page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Day Time Stopped

The Day Time Stopped

9.17.2014

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

—-Ian Maclaren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Winners

Winners

8.14.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Pete Rose

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Family Day

Family Day

9.8.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Who Am I?

Who am I?

9.8.14

“Don’t underestimate me.  I know more than I say,

Think more than I speak,

 & notice more than you realize.”

–Anonymous

Behind the smiles you don’t see the frowns.  Behind the laughs you don’t see the cries.  Behind the eyes you don’t see the tears.  And behind the contentment that you see in the pictures of me and our son, you don’t see the fears that I hide.  You see what I allow you to see.  I let you see what is socially acceptable.  But, you DON’T see the real me.  What if you did? Would you even recognize me? Could you even pronounce my name?  Or would I be that same person, to you that you’ve grown-up with and known the majority of your life?

I resemble the same person you knew in middle school and high school.  I have a wife instead of a husband.  We have a 2.5 year old son.  We live in the time zone known as “Marshall Standard Time.” I wear shorts and t-shirts instead of cleats and uniforms.  I’m still the same ‘clown’ that you’ve always known me to be.  I still laugh at inappropriate shit. My humor about things has never disappeared.  I’m just not as “happy-go-lucky” as I use to be.

 There wasn’t one event that caused a change in me over time.  It was abuse that occurred over many years that has changed me.  If I met you 20 years now since high school, you would see that same person that you were in the halls with but attached to my leg is a little boy. And attached to my heart is my wife, Melody Landrum-Arnold.

No one ever knows someone else’s true “secrets.”  You saw a seemingly happy wife walking by her husband’s side and holding his hand.  You saw parents supporting their child in every way possible. You saw an athlete very passionate and dedicated to the sports she loved.  And you saw a fun loving and respectful person when our paths crossed.  There were scars and open wounds that you never knew.

What you didn’t know or see were all of the “secrets” of a lifetime of abuse.  What if you knew all of my thoughts? What if you knew the things I was made to do? Would you look at my scars and be disgusted? Could you look me in the eye because I couldn’t you? Would you stand there speechless because of the lies you were told and believed? Or would you say, “Gee, I’m sorry” and avoid all eye contact.  Why? SHAME.  Those of us who were once victims carried the shame of our abusers who were “shameless.”

I wish people who have and continue to judge me could spend one day in my brain with all the chaos as a result of the abuse.  You wouldn’t survive one minute!  No one taught me how to survive all of that.  I figured it out on my own.  Some behaviors are maladaptive, I’ll agree.  I did what I had to do to SURVIVE in any way possible!

I’ve been very strong for many years but I’m tired.  Mornings like now seem like the movie Groundhog Day.  The abuse replays every moment I’m alive.  Every morning, the abuse starts all over again.  I feel like, I’m stuck in survival mode all the time.  Sometimes I feel like a victim and sometimes I feel like a survivor.  I try and live life “one minute at a time” because “one day at a time” seems entirely too long, right now.

I’m very much a realist.  I see things for the way they are, instead of the way they can be.  The whole analogy of the duck is how I view even the simplest of events, ideas, comments, etc.  So, basically I get in my own way.  Part of this process is going to be to retrain how the brain perceives things, I think.

I also repeat things sometimes at different times.  So, if some of the abuse stories seem to overlap, just ignore and keep reading.  I’ll explain why this happens later.

Please try and understand that this is just where I’m at in my healing journey.

#Thispuzzledlife

I’m Not Alone

I’m Not Alone

8.23.14

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

—Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Fight, Flight or Freeze

August 6, 2014

“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”

 —Will Rogers

After a good “wake n’ bake” morning, and a nice phone call from my brother Levi Pierce, I think he and I realize that we’re more alike than different in a lot of ways.  That’s actually more of a scary thing than funny.  He and I have discussed since we reunited about whether or not the “karma bus” is plowing us over for being such smartasses when we were younger.  I haven’t stopped being a smartass and neither has he.  So, I’m guessing that the “karma bus” is following ever so closely behind us waiting to stomp the gas pedal…LMAO!

I have to admit that we are very “hot-headed” individuals that would give you the shirts off our backs. We are both very loyal people which would explain the closeness of our relationship even after not being in contact for 20+ years.  However, I will warn you of two things……(1) Don’t ask either of us a question unless you know and accept that you will receive our honest  “opinion” and, more than likely, a smartass answer to go with it. (2)And don’t expect either one of us to sit by and watch injustices being done especially to our closest friends and family.

When a perceived threat or an actual threat for one’s safety occurs there will be one of three responses:  fight, flight or freeze.  I will speak for myself on this one, when I say that when my trauma was occurring, I was a fighter.  Anger seemed to be the only emotion that people would respond in a way that felt “safe.”  For me, the safety was that people would back away from me and leave me alone.  This soon became a very useful tool for me for a means of survival. Tears have always been considered a weakness for me. My tears were always used as a way to belittle me or lead to further abuse.  Anger became my greatest motivator.  But then anger progressed into rage….

I would go into blind rages where I would have no recollection of the events.  Actually, the level at which my anger and rage can get, scares me.  I have no idea where this rage comes from. I do know where it began….age 13. I was forced to hold all emotions because I couldn’t win no matter what I did.  Columbine had not happened yet and I’m glad the seed wasn’t planted.  Because, you had two teen age kids who were mad at the world and were tired of being bullied by adults.  Instead of Klebold and Harris, it would’ve been Kendrick and Pierce.  We had also realized that other teachers and staff knew how we were being treated and did nothing about it. We had no ‘ill will’ towards any other students, just the adults.  I felt as though I had no voice.  I would complain about how mean she was and no one ever heard what I was saying. I already had the first of many “labels” I would have throughout my life. I was labeled as a ‘troublemaker’ and ‘behavior problem.’ Once the label was in place, there was no wiping it off even when they were the ones in the wrong.  I vowed from that day forward that “no one that I knew would ever have to fight on their own as long as I was around.”

At the point in my life when this was occurring, I remember having my first thoughts of both suicide and homicide.  I became very intrigued with death.  Like I said before, horror movies always provided relief from all of the rage that was building inside me. The movies provided for me what I wasn’t able to do…”a release for the rage on my perpetrators.”  Finally, in my own fantasy world, they were getting what they deserved. The drugs, cutting and alcohol were all just to make living tolerable.  Was it maladaptive? Well, of course. All I knew, was that adults were unsafe to me then.  Because, all I saw was the abuse of power that was coming from them.  So, being raised that “adults were always right” was very confusing .

These thoughts have continued since then.  I’m constantly trying to keep the “rage” maintained.  My approach doesn’t work all the time. Therapy has helped me to feel that rage on a different level. Now, I’m at least at times able to feel the anguish, fear and sadness behind all of the rage.  However, I can still have a hard time crying even with people I trust. Where parents aren’t given a guidebook on “How to Raise a Child,” neither are children given a book on “The Healthiest Ways to Survive Trauma.” So, on both sides of the scenarios, individuals are often given only split seconds to make a decision.  Sometimes the decisions turn out to be good and some bad.  But, whatever decision you make about the situation, if it works for someone then that person will continue to use those same behaviors as a viable option.  If it doesn’t work for you, then you look for solutions until something does work.

There are definite commonalities among children and adults in responses to trauma.  However, each reaction will be individual to the person.  Up to the point at which the trauma occurs, no one has the same experiences. So, trauma affects people differently.  Some experiences even could and can appear to have almost no impact on one person. But, then causes major life disrupting behaviors for others.

#Thispuzzledlife

Fears And Anxieties

Fears and Anxieties

August 4, 2014

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.”

—-Rudyard Kipling

Most people who know me would say that I’m very much a “social butterfly.” I loved being around people. Hell, my motto has always been..”The more, the merrier.” These days I would rather have my uterus pulled through my nostrils than to be around people. Being on the opposite side of the country from where my abuse occurred definitely helps.  Regardless of whether or not they are “rational or irrational” they are still fears that I face every single day. Some of the fears and/or phobias, I haven’t had to deal with in a very long time. Not all of the fears do I know the origin? That, I suppose, is what is happening through this therapeutic process.

So, on our latest trip to the small, southern town everything that had already been opened was immediately exacerbated by being back in the town where the abuse occurred. Our little family, drove back there in search of some specialized treatment. I was nervous, but desperate……so I agreed. What I encountered when I arrived was a host of feelings and emotions that I couldn’t handle. Even the thought of going back to that town can trigger lots of anxiety, nausea, vomiting and migraines.  Being there in the flesh, I’ve realized causes more harm than good.  We are considered a “minority family” and I have always expected the looks and comments when we go out in public.  I also wear a haircut that’s not considered “normal” there. So, this also brings about stares and comments.  Remember, that with PTSD, situations can be perceived as a threat even when there isn’t one. For me, being in public and around people is like lighting my skin, mind and body on fire. I can’t possibly keep an eye on everyone and their actions to assure “safety” for both me and my friends and family.

IMG_1216 (1)

When I was married to my ex-husband, the how I ate and what I ate always came under great scrutiny. So, many times, I would wait until he would go to bed and eat what I wanted. My greatest fear was that he would see me eating and make his venomous comments again. My weight was always monitored in some way by him. So, going back to visit has very, much intensified my fears of eating. I don’t like eating in front of people I know for fear of judgmental comments or thoughts. These fears are what fueled my eating disorder when I was a teenager. Eating in public, now only happens with shades on and Ipod going all while having just “medicated” before I even leave the house. That is the only way that makes being in public even possible, at this point.

Another thing that I have realized is a HUGE trigger for me is change. Keeping things the same in my surroundings is very safe feeling.  I hate it when I walk into an area that I’m very familiar with and it has been changed. This sets off “red flags” about my surroundings being different and thinking that I should be very concerned that something or someone might harm me. This is also why I do very well with a rigid schedule. If my schedule is going to change in any manner, I have to know ahead of time so, I can mentally prepare. I don’t, however, do well with rigid people. Once again, I’ve been perpetrated by very rigid/narcissistic people. Any hint of this from a person, sets off fireworks throughout my mind and body.

I told you earlier that music got me through a lot of abuse. And now, it’s helping me while I’m attempting to heal from the abuse. Music always spoke for and to me in a way that I can understand. My music choices are very eclectic and for a good reason.  If you’ve ever been around me much, you know that my moods are just as eclectic. Lmao!!!!

#Thispuzzledlife

Just Another Day

Just another day…

8.3.2014

“Long as you been living, you ain’t NEVER heard of anyone overdosin’ on marijuana. You might-a thought that he was dead. He ain’t dead. He gonna wake up in 30 minutes hungry enough to eat up everything in your house. That’s the side effects: hungry, happy, sleepy.” That’s it.

—Katt Williams 

Yesterday was a difficult day. I have a lot of “social anxieties and phobias” these days among other things. Sometimes, I try to dismiss this notion and go with the “bright ideas” in my brain. Yea, didn’t work out so well yesterday either.  So, I said that I would reveal something new about me when I posted again. Let me clarify that this is “new” to this blog.

I am a “medical marijuana” patient.  While there are still mixed feelings about this particular “medication” and whether or not it’s an actual  “medication”, let me try to explain what it does for me. So, for the time being, just put all of your preconceived notions about cartels, societal issues, addiction and anything else that might interfere with you actually understand what it’s like to take this as a medication.

I must admit that when, I first encountered this topic with a client of mine at the time, I was very skeptical.  He spoke about the relief he got from this medication for chronic pain.  I was working at a methadone clinic when I met him.  Coming from a very conservative area of the country that is very 12-Step based on the topic of addiction, I too was very leery to say the least. I didn’t make a big deal about it because, I knew by that time, that every recovery model doesn’t fit every client. So, I kept my eyes and ears open about the topic of marijuana as a medication.

At the time, I was currently, carrying a diagnosis of Bipolar II and PTSD. So, the regimen at the time was counseling and Lithium among many other medications.  I was taking medications to counteract the side effects of other medications. I genuinely just felt bad from all of the side effects of everything. I soon developed lithium toxcity as a result of having no blood work done in 4 months of taking this medication. So, after hallucinating at work and looking and appearing that I had had a stroke, I was rushed to the local ER.  I was terrified! I couldn’t determine whether or not I  was hungry, if I had to use the bathroom; I couldn’t walk properly and had very slurred speech with facial drooping. My wife had to bathe me and take me to the bathroom because the effects were so severe. She was also 8 months pregnant at the time of these events. I soon lost my job because I couldn’t control the effects that was happening.

My psychiatrist continued until September of 2013 to try every combination known to man to help settle the emotional and physical stress that I was experiencing.  After 4 years of trying any and every medication combination and always seeing very minimal relief for a short period, he suggested medical marijuana (MMJ).  Being a recoverying drug addict, I was scared because of the lack of knowledge that I had about the plant and its benefits. my medications were already being dosed to me by my wife because sometimes I wouldn’t remember taking medications and would either take too much or none at all. Her dosing me was something we put into place early on due to my addiction history. So, really, this was going to be nothing different.  Luckily, New Mexico is one of the few states that recognize PTSD as a worthy diagnosis to receive such medication.

I do understand the argument that one can make the outcome of any study be biased in results.   I have  to go off personal experience and information from scholarly journals about different problem areas.  Some people think that PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a disorder that is somewhat meant for soldiers that return from war or veterans.  No, I didn’t serve in the military.  But, trust me, I’ve been in a “war” the majority of my life.  These battles, I fought alone.

PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger. The areas of the brain that are affected are the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex (http://www.nimh.nih.gov, 2014). PTSD from the many years of trauma have all but crippled me. I am in constant fear of any and everything. I have struggled a good part of my life with suicidal ideations and feelings of worthlessness. I have physical symptoms that can be debilitating every single day. I have flashbacks every single day. I have basically become a shell of the person that I was even in high school. Some days…I’m just lucky to get through the day without vomiting.

I have essentially “glazed” over the full extent of my life of trauma. Certain information will be reserved only for the professionals that work with me.  I am currently on a few typical medications, as well as, the MMJ because my physical symptoms or psychosomatic symptoms are so bad.  When you get to a point sometimes, it doesn’t matter what people suggest, you’ll try.

Since being on MMJ, I was able to return to feeling like I could get things accomplished during the day.  From who and what I used to be, I’m completely different in several ways.  Even 6 years of a college education, isn’t bigger than what was done to me and many others.  So, say what you want about “medical marijuana” but it keeps a bullet out of my mouth everyday so far.  Not every medication, even when it’s considered ‘alternative’, is used to just get high. i have been off the MMJ for several days at a time and there was no withdrawals either physical and/or psychological. My intention on trying to change your views on “medical marijuana” was never here.  I just wanted to let you know how just maybe this ‘evil drug’ has helped me.  Medical marijuana and “street” bought marijuana is completely different.  The  controls on what can and will be used on the plant in regards to chemicals is very heavily governed. Insurance doesn’t pay because politicians are still in bed with the pharmaceutical companies.  But, we can file what we pay in a year on taxes for medical purposes. Even so, it’s a small price to pay for me to be able to try and aid in helping me to learn to live life and to be able to watch our son grow up.

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown Pt.2

Tears of a Clown Part 2

9.8.14

“The angriest and saddest people are hidden behind a mask. A mask of laughter and happiness. It’s amazing what you can fake with a smile.”

-unknown

Please forgive me for not having exact recollection of when things happened.  My memory is somewhat different these days.  Sometimes I remember parts of events that happen, but not dates and times that correlate.  The more stressful the situation, sometimes I can have a very vivid or absent recall.  As you can imagine this situation would be put in the ‘high stress’ category.  I also want to point out that in calling Levi my ‘brother,’ I’m not negating the relationships that he has with his biological family.  I totally respect the relationships that he has with them.  I do know, that I could never replace his biological brother and sisters, like they would not be able to replace me in his life.  I think that there’s definitely a mutual respect about that that was established that didn’t even need to be spoken during this particular incident.

At some point, I was sitting by Levi’s bed in a chair, with Charlene, Mel and Marshall in the room.  His mom was under covers sleeping on a cot that made jail mattresses look like a Sealy Posturepedic.  I looked over at her finally sleeping peacefully but scared that the cot might actually eat her.  I hoped that I would actually get to spend some time with the mother of one of the closest people to me.  Levi is in excruciating pain as you can imagine.  He still tries to talk to me.  Secretly, the nausea is creeping closer and quicker than I was prepared.  I soon begin sweating which also led to chills. I wake up to Charlene and Mel wiping my forehead with cool cloths and fanning me.  I had just passed out.  I tend to get up and leave when friends or family are in a lot of pain.  The energy that they put off is too much for me to handle.  I absorb every emotion.  This time, though, as hard as it was, I stayed right by his side.  I couldn’t do any of the nursing stuff like his wife and brother because well….I’ll start throwing up.

His family, my family and I were just about to go through a 6 hour waiting period while he was in surgery known to me as “purgatory.” Prior to him going to surgery, though, someone looked at me and asked, “Are you Dana?”  Immediately, that usually means I’m in trouble for something.  I was secretly trying to figure out if it was the hairstyle or the lesbian part that gave me away. Instead, I was told, “It’s so good to finally meet you!”  I was completely taken aback in amazement.  Another person said, “Yes, we’ve heard so much about you.”  Inside, I remember thinking, “What did that nut throw me under the bus about?”  I figured he had told some of both our funny and serious childhood stories.  So, I slowly begin doing for his family what he would do for mine….MAKE THEM LAUGH!

You see, for clowns, everyone else’s needs are always put before your own because our job is to keep people happy.  It’s as natural for him and me as breathing.  When feeling uncomfortable, always make someone laugh…Rule #1.  Rule #2….Never let them see how you really feel.  Yea, I couldn’t hide how I felt for this guy.

My #1 goal then was to take care of and support Charlene while we were waiting these agonizing hours for our brother, uncle, poppa, daddy, friend and husband to go through the start of a long recovery process.  There were many people who were waiting with us that I curiously wanted to meet.  But, my protective instinct took over for Charlene without her ever knowing.  I was ready to support her like Levi would support Mel if the tables were turned.  And I can assure you that her anxiety was minimized very quickly.  Marshall was playing with his new friend Boudreaux who is about 10 months old.  He is also the grandson of Levi and Charlene.  They were having a great time playing when “Nurse Ratched” told us to keep it down.  She said that they don’t usually have children in that area.  There were children’s toys and furniture place all around the waiting room.  So, I start having an allergic reaction to a sudden case of stupid.  I’m thinking yea, just waiting until Marshall gets in the zone, he’ll show you loud.  I honestly wondered if maybe they trained monkeys since all of that was not for children.  Maybe it was just intended for immature and very small adults. I knew what time it was and started counting down until Marshall was getting ready to have a full meltdown.  Marshall was getting into full ‘toddler psychosis mode’ so, Mel took Marshall back to the motel for a nap.  Then, it was just me and the Pierce family.  This could be good or bad, I didn’t know.

I already was very comfortable around Charlene and Chris.  I have known Chris as long as I’ve known Levi. So, I knew I was safe with them.  Marshall was actually an ‘ice breaker.’  I started out slowly and then came the stories about being a toddler mom.  We were all laughing in the end.  In the meantime, I was internally trying my best to protect by heart from crumbling under the intense fear of losing him during the surgery.  I was also able to spend some time catching up with Chris after 20+ years.  We both had some good laughs all by ourselves.

After a very short time of being around his friends and family, I heard what both of our wives have said, “You and “Spunky” are way too much alike! Are you sure there’s no DNA?”  But, as a family, they were able to witness that connection that’s unexplainable.  I’m sure some thought that I was just an old ‘buddy’ from school.  We will argue with each other like an old married couple while you would be watching and laughing.  But, he’s also like a sibling and a ‘soul mate’ all rolled up into one. (It’s not the same type of ‘soul mate’ like a spouse.)  I know… I know….. It sounds weird.  To me and Levi, it’s weird also, but we accepted the relationship when we were kids.  I know some people thought that God broke the mold when he made me. Wrong! He needed one of each gender.

His mother looked at me and said, “I didn’t know I had a daughter.  This whole time I thought “Spunky” was getting into trouble all by himself.”  I was like, “I only helped him through middle school and part of high school.  The rest of it, he did on his own.”  Then I felt bad because I had just “thrown my buddy under the bus” to his momma.  I remember thinking, “Really, Dana? Ummmm….you’re both almost 40 years old.” I chuckled at the thought of what he would say if I told him that.  I wondered if they knew how terrified I was that they wouldn’t like me.  One similarity between us is that we both have a huge hang ups about how things appear vs. how they actually are.  Like I said, he and I were fighting the same types of demons at school with teachers.  On the inside, I was shaking like an abused animal. The outside, I appeared ‘cool as a cucumber’ while bringing a much needed distraction from the current situation.  I think some were just watching me and wondering how they are so much alike.  You really would have to see us together to understand.

I’ve thought about how our relationship has remained so strong even after 20+ years.  I was finally able to unravel and understand that for me he is a ‘safety blanket.’  Not in the sense of being needy…..ewwwww.  When I’m around him even the first night we reunited, I feel emotionally just like I did as a teenager.  With him, I was always felt ‘safe’ even when it wasn’t.  But, I knew that everything would be ok.  He always tried to protect me even when he couldn’t.  He would even go, as far as, intentionally getting detention so I wouldn’t have to be there alone.  We both are still attached to each other like we’re kids.  Trust me, when we get around each other, WE ARE KIDS!

With what seemed like forever, the doctor came out to speak to the family about how the surgery had been very successful.  He now had 7 plates in his face and his jaw was wired shut.  The eye socket was not as bad as they thought.  And there should be no problems with his vision long term.  We could all now breathe a sigh of relief.  I wanted to vomit but I had to maintain a consistency in presentation.  My guard was finally able to be lowered and we could all relax a little bit.  That’s what I needed to hear to make it through the night.

Later that night……the “Tears of a Clown” began to fall again.

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown

Tears of a Clown

9.7.14

“The role of a clown and a physician are the same – it’s to elevate the possible and to relieve suffering.”

—Patch Adams

This post is one that I need to write but also dread.  Why?  Because, I’m about to unmask the ‘clown’ that so many have known from both me and my brother, Levi Pierce.  I can’t describe what the last week or so has been like for both me and my little family.  I’ve been from one end of the spectrum of feelings and emotions to the other end.  My body feels like it has been in a war where I got my ass kicked from just the stress and trauma of the situations.  My heart feels like a shredded mess of suicidal rags. By the way, that was just a metaphor. Don’t get all excited about how I word things.  The subjects that I will be discussing are very emotional on every level.

There are very few people that can make me tear up just by hearing their name.  Levi Pierce, Melody Landrum-Arnold and Marshall Landrum-Arnold are three of the people that if I remove the mask and tell you from an emotional level how I feel, you’ll definitely see the tears streaming down my face.  It’s automatic.  I can’t stop it unless I switch back to talking about them from my head instead of my heart.  All three of these people hold very special places in my heart.  I also have a very deep love for all three individuals.

I’ve already told you what an abnormally normal and spiritual connection I have with my brother.  On the morning of August 28, 2014, Marshall and I woke up and were in our morning routine which includes calling Momma Mel.  So, when I called she told me that there was a message from Levi’s wife that he had been in an accident.  I briefly check facebook messenger to see if there was a message from her on my phone.  I didn’t see one from her but there was a message from his brother that said, “It’s about Levi please call.”  And instantly, my heart began to break and my soul began to die.  I had not called yet but I knew it was bad.

With tears streaming down my face as I write this, I was terrified to make that call.  I felt in my body and mind nothing but horror.  I finally picked up the phone and made the dreaded call to his wife.  She said that he had been in a bad motorcycle accident and that the right side of his face was crushed.  There was a possibility that because the eye socket was crushed that he could be blind in that eye.  He had a broken jaw and needed facial reconstruction.  They couldn’t do surgery because his blood pressure and other vitals wouldn’t stabilize. But, for the moment, he was alive.  She and I disconnected the phone call.  I did ask her to please keep me posted.

I call Mel at work and instantly fall apart.  I couldn’t think, breathe or feel anything except the pain similar to what I felt when my Nannie died.  She told me she would make arrangements to come home.  I said, “We’re heading to Arkansas because there was still a chance.”  All I hoped was that somehow he would at least wait for me to arrive to say goodbye since nothing was for sure.  I was utterly devastated already.

My wife and his wife are so understanding and respectful of the relationship that he and I have.  There’s never been even a hint of jealousy from either one.  Even though I’m very much a gay and he is very heterosexual, both of them know how very close of a relationship that we have a very special connection that they also see but can’t explain.  The subject of making the trip was never a question.  That’s just what we were going to do.  I began vomiting and tried to start packing.  I knew that I was walking but I couldn’t feel the ground.  I couldn’t even understand what I should put in the suitcase.  My “core” had just taken a heavy hit.

We end up leaving somewhere around 2 pm that afternoon.  I was smoking weed like a chain smoking cigarette junkie.  I was getting no relief from the physical pain.  And nothing was going to be able to touch my emotions now.  This is the part where Mel could’ve given me arsenic and I would’ve never known.  I was such an emotional mess that she gave me what only God knows really?  From what she’s told me, I slept the entire trip.  We arrived sometime around 3 am in the morning to the motel in Arkansas.  She said that I wanted to go then but she was exhausted too.  And yes, Marshall was with us.  I have no recollection of anything except arriving at the hospital on a mission to see my brother.

When we finally, find the floor where he was, I started making some mental notes about surroundings and people there.  I look off to the left and I recognize a face, it’s his dad after 20+ years.  I see a couple more people who look at me for just busting up in his room.  I see his wife, Charlene Pierce and his brother, Chris Pierce.  Mel was somewhere trailing close behind.  I don’t know if I even said hello before turning and finally making eye contact with him.  He still had not been able to go to surgery because of his vitals.  We both teared up and he says the most precious words that I could barely understand….”Hey, sis.”  I couldn’t help but be able to feel his fear for what he was about to face.  I cried for him, his wife and his family.  There were a lot of people in his room that I didn’t know.  But, I hugged him what I could and just held his hand and cried.  I wasn’t ‘snot crying’ then but I felt it creeping.  The nurse comes in, takes his vitals and says, “You’re vitals have returned to normal. We’ll get you ready for surgery.”  I can laugh about it now, but I think I was like, “What does that mean?”  Normally, I would have the best time with people who asked questions like that.  Today was different.  I couldn’t comprehend anything other than an all over fear that I had never felt.

Now, let me take just a second and let you know that I don’t take any credit for how his vitals were able to almost instantly return to normal.  All I know is that we have such a very powerful and spiritual relationship.  But, this time, I couldn’t get his back like when we were kids.  I just had to be there for he and his family.

At some point, the surgery technicians came to get him.  The staff were letting some of the family give him good luck wishes and kisses.  I took a moment and went outside the room to try and pull it all together.  Yea, that didn’t work.  His brother and I are a few of the last to see him.  He’s shaking all over and told me,  “I’m scared.”  I said, “Me too.”  I told him, “We’ve always shared the load for each other.  Let me take your fear and pain off your shoulders. I love you.”  He simply said, “You better be here when I get back.” That was one thing he need not worry about, I wasn’t going anywhere.  He wanted me to hold his hand and walk him down to surgery.  I kissed him on him forehead and told him that I loved him.  And that day you would’ve seen the “Tears of Two Clowns.”

#Thispuzzledlife

The 9-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

The 9 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

8.29.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cedric Richmond

#thispuzzledlife

The Simple Things

The Simple Things

8.24.17

“You know all that sympathy that you feel for an abused child who suffers without a good mom or dad to love and care for them? Well, they don’t stay children forever. No one magically becomes an adult the day they turn eighteen. Some people grow up sooner, many grow up later. Some never really do. But just remember that some people in this world are older versions of those same kids we cry for.” 
― Ashly Lorenzana

I must admit how very frustrated and tired of feeling so bad every single day.  Is all of the pain worth the alleged outcome?  I’m not trying to be just nasty and negative.  I have always doubted thinking that things could and would turn out good.  It has always been easier for me to be able to accept things better when I view things as having a bad outcome so, that I wasn’t disappointed from what I see as unrealistic expectations.  If things turn out good, well now, that’s just a bonus for the day.

Having never worked at this deep of a level processing trauma, I don’t really know what to expect.  However, I know what is happening physically and the answers for relief haven’t been found yet.  Acupuncture does work for a couple of days on most of my physical issues.  However, I’m looking to be able to have normal aches and pains from being close to age 40. Not protests from my body as a result of abuse.

I’m actually taking somewhat of a break from individual therapy for a few weeks.  Having the blog has been a good “out” for me.  However, no matter whether I’m processing on a deeper level with a therapist or just documenting my daily struggles through this life of mental illness, I wake up most mornings wondering when relief will arrive.  When will I feel as though, I’m strong like I use to be to seemingly be able to handle anything that came my way?

I have a very loving and caring wife.  I have the most awesome, sporadically psychotic toddler that between he and I we understand that we both “hung the moon” for each other by just existing.  I would love nothing more than to be able to fully accept and be able to “feel” love without questions and wondering about people and their intentions.  I would love to be able to be hugged by someone and not have the feeling like, “they have me now! Back away, back away! They’re going to hurt you!”  I would love to be able to except someone’s kindness and feel that I deserve someone being kind to me without feeling embarrassed and wanting to hide.

I’m not so calloused to think that everyone walking the planet is bad.  I’ve met some truly AWESOME people in my life.  There are some individuals that I’ve met here in Albuquerque, which I love dearly.  Relationships regardless of what kind of relationship they require work, trust and communication for them to be both healthy and rewarding.  I learned some hard lessons about being in a very “unhealthy” relationship that I continue each day to pay dearly as a result.

When do we as victims begin to metamorphosis into just another survivor with a story?  When do I and many other people get the “peace” that we deserve?  When is the high price that I’ve paid for many years for decisions I’ve made finally reach the part where “enough is enough?” When, where and how do I get to reap the goodness from the universe for always pushing myself to be the best I can be?

Some days are more difficult than others to experience for everyone.  But, imagine this……..

“The same daily struggles that most families have.  Except that when you open your eyes, you have visions of being touched inappropriately to the point that you seem to feel it. Voices telling you, “you’ll never be anything without me!”; “I would’ve given you away too!” “You’re a nasty little girl!”  Visions and sensations of things you were made to do and did not choose to do.  Being able to take your child to daycare and return home without feeling like someone is following you. I just want to be to able to go in public without the use of both typical and alternative medicine just to keep from vomiting because of anxiety.  Or just being able to give and experience a “genuine love” from your soul mate.

All I wish for everyday is to be happy.  I would venture to say that most people want that as well.  Instead, I live in both physical and mental misery.  I see, hear, smell and fear things from my past all the time.   I have always believed that someone or something else that I couldn’t see was there for the events.  But, having a very minority view of these events, I DON’T believe that God was there.  Someone was for sure, but it wasn’t GOD!

Some people might say, “What are you griping about? You have weed legally now.”  I wish I could say that medical marijuana is a “cure all” for abuse.  What it does is help to minimize symptoms compared to what they can be without it?  That gracious plant can’t take away what a human has done.  It can, however, slow things down where they aren’t as frightening and allow me some form of respite.

It’s a very lonely world to live in on the inside.  Life on the outside is one world.  But, life on the inside…….It’s a different galaxy!

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Balance

Balance

8.22.14

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human

 event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” 

― Susan Pease Banitt

I always like to start things off very light because some of the subject matter can be difficult.  So, being one of two mothers to a toddler boy age 2.5 years can be quite funny at times.  For instance, Marshall has this new thing about wanting us to read his books before he goes to bed.  No big deal, right?  But, now he wants to read them back to us.  The other night I was the chosen parent to listen to him telling a story about a truck.  Story goes like this……”Vrrrrroooommm Vrrrrooommm a mess, bath, clean…the end!” I couldn’t help but to laugh and tell him, “That was such a good story.” His response was , “Truck dirty.”

We have also realized all of his creative ways to manipulate his mommies when it’s time for bed.  The other night Marshall convinced my wife, Melody, to do a full and complete room check for monsters.  I mean, if you think about it, what kind of price would Ghostbusters charge for a service like that?  Nevertheless, eventually, he ended up in the bed between his moms.

In the morning, I have one of his feet on the side of my head.  Apparently, he’s going to be a soccer player because I must’ve taken kidney shots from him all night.  But, what made me chuckle was that he was lying across our pillows at the top of the bed.  I think Melody is in a coma from pure exhaustion from having to hang on to the 3 inches that Marshall allowed her to use as her bed for the night.  I was laying face down in what seemed like a weave that belonged to a cat right next to the concrete wall.  I start sneezing like I had just snorted some kind of deadly allergen.

Kids are so innocent. They understand what is in front of them and don’t worry about tomorrow.  They call it like they see it until they are conditioned by parents, friends or society to try and conform otherwise. That’s where my job comes in for him as his parent.  I worry about things all the time concerning him.

I have said that I was going to take a break from blogging because of my physical symptoms.  But, mentally, I have to be able to process somehow.  So, I’ll do the best I can.

Yesterday started off with me all excited to blog and do therapy assignments.  One of the assignments, I knew would be difficult.   Blogging has always seemed to be what I need for now. I took all kinds of medicine and smoked some as well.  All day long, I would change my treatment approach to help defeat the “Atomic Migraine” that was forming.  I already didn’t feel good but I finished most of both assignments.  My wife reminds me that she has an acupuncture appointment later that day.  No worries, I’ll get Marshall from daycare.  A few hours when she got home, I couldn’t close my eyes or try to walk without feeling nauseous.  I begin to think, “Maybe both activities were too much for me today.” I take stronger medicine and begin to smoke wax and keif for something stronger for the nausea and headache.  Anxiety meds were added as well because my back hurt so bad.   I tried to walk but looked like I had just left a bar that I had been at for several hours.  The right side of my head felt like it was on fire and boiling. When I get severe headaches like that, sometimes I exhibit neurological issues. My brain basically turned off once we got in the truck headed to her acupuncture appointment.  She actually let me take her appointment because I was so sick.  After about two hours of treatment, I was able to walk more normally again. I was still shaky but much better.  Most of the rest of the evening was and still is a blur.

So, I don’t know what my exactly my “balance” looks like or is going to feel like.  But, I that’s what I keep striving to find.  Life is about “Balance.” Right now….well….balance is like a word from another language that I can’t have translated or understand.  Even my best day is a struggle.

Carpe Diem

#Thispuzzledlife

Memories That Come To Life

Memories That Come To Life

8.21.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

A Little More Travel

A Little More Travel

8.20.14

“Punishments include such things as flashbacks, flooding of unbearable emotions, painful body memories, flooding of memories in which the survivor perpetrated against others, self-harm, and suicide attempts.” 
― Alison Miller, Healing the Unimaginable: Treating Ritual Abuse and Mind Control

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

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

I ride around that city and all I see and think is the horror that no one claims to know about but me.  There are those that I know recall what happened to me with the teacher.  They knew about it, knew it was wrong, and did nothing about it.  Everywhere, I seem to go in that city is a very bad reminder of what happened.  Some people have tried to say, “Just let the past go!”  Tell me how and I’ll do it.  That’s usually where the conversation about that ends.

I was told by my ex-husband about the molestation that, “that happened a long time ago, what in the hell can you do about it now?” I have never forgotten that statement. I instantly felt like I had been emotionally raped because it wasn’t a big deal to him.  He told me later, “I have spoken with your parents about the molestation incident and they told me that they don’t believe that it happened because you would’ve told them about it.”  I didn’t know it then, but they still had no idea what had actually happened. I had made sure of that for a very long time.  I was devastated from what he told me.  I figured that with him being my husband, at the time that surely he would be empathetic that it happened.  I don’t know if he ever believed me or not.  But, I do know that there was never any empathy shown towards me in talking or other things.  I now know what he told me was a lie.

#Thispuzzledlife

More Traveling

More Traveling

8.19.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Back Again

Back Again

8.17.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Social Stigma

Social Stigma

8.12.14

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

—–Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Trapped Trauma

Trapped Trauma

8.8.2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Hello world!

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

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

puzzlepieces2

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife