Yay Team Coco!!!!!

Yay Team Coco!!!

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

I’ve taken a little break from writing these past few weeks. The last couple of posts were prepared ahead of time in anticipation of knowing that a break in my life was just beyond my sight. And again, I was right. Sometimes things just go wrong no matter what all you attempt to do right. Not long after I had written the post, Her Name Is Marley, things would take a sharp turn south. Marley and I had been bonding and we were bonding tightly. She was cute, sweet, and cuddly. My days of having a sweet kitten in my life were many years overdue. She made my heart smile. But there was something hiding from me, Marley, and the doctors. Marley was sick in a way that I couldn’t love it out of her no matter how much we both wanted. Being sick with intestinal worms and low blood sugar were just symptoms of a much bigger issue. Within a two-week time period that was costly both emotionally and financially we were hit hard. And my little Marley was in the fight for her life.
I couldn’t have asked for more of a very caring staff from the local veterinary office. Marley, more than once, would lay almost lifeless in my arms while the tears streamed down my face hoping that my breaking heart would somehow fix the issues at hand. I could hear the concern in each one of the staff’s voice every time, I would call to check on her. Then suddenly, she appeared like nothing was wrong. She was also about half the size of a normal kitten her age. Within a couple of days, she was in the condition of being nearly dead. The cycle was gut wrenching and incredibly tiring. More than once I was up all night with Marley providing care and just making sure she would make it through the night. But she was miserable from her daily fight for life.

As a pet owner, your mind and heart can make you question humane treatment versus a sometimes-selfish want to keep your animal alive. I had finally come to the time when I asked the doctors, “How much do I need to continue to put her through?” They wanted to take her home to observe her condition closer before giving me any kind of answer. For the weekend, she went home with them and I took my concern and exhausted mind and body to bed for a little respite care. And as the cycle would again repeat itself. Fluids, glucose, and other medications were just prolonging the inevitable and they saw it as well. Marley’s condition would never be ok. I was told that she had a condition with her liver that would never get better. I took my broken heart and prepared myself to be without her. I remember little about those last couple of days. I was truly heartbroken and didn’t want another animal. I just didn’t think that my heart could bare to love another kitten or puppy of any kind. My connection with Marley had been deep and I didn’t want to feel that ever again.

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The universe and my coach seemed to see how much I need the unconditional love like the kind freely given to us by animals. Somehow, they both seemed to try convincing and push me emotionally into just giving the idea some consideration. I was mad at them both. I resigned myself to the thought but decided that I would not actively look for a kitten. If I were to reconnect, a kitten would just have to show up in my life. And that’s exactly what happened.

A litter of kittens had been found under a house and the momma cat had been shot and killed. A good Samaritan took the kittens to the vet and they were looking for homes. There was only one female and she would be mine. I couldn’t believe how big she was. She was normal size for a healthy kitten. Nevertheless, she seemed to pick up right where Marley’s love left off. It took her a couple of days to realize that she could safely be a kitten around me. And it took me a couple of days to realize that she would love me if I would let her.

One of the issues I have is allowing others to love me. The many years of abuse and love demonstrated the wrong way has caused me to put up emotional walls around my heart. I’ve found that love coming from some people has conditions. And what I’ve needed for many years is to be shown and taught the concept of love after abuse. And this little kitten that I fought so hard to not find appears to be just what the therapist ordered. For me, the connection with animals has always been easier and safer than the connection with people.
The first hurdle in our relationship was to give her a name that was meant for her. I watched her for a few days while also searching through lists of names. A 5-year-old alter kept shouting her obligatory pleas to watch one of her favorite children movies by Disney. And the title that also allowed her to keep part of a connection with Albuquerque and the Hispanic culture was Coco. This little kitten seems to look like a Coco to me. I have battle wounds from our many hours of playing. And my heart bares the pawprints for every minute she’s loved me through my tears and wounds that are and are not seen.
Every therapy session she’s close to me and usually sleeping at my feet with her paws touching my foot. She seems to understand that her job is to be by my side when my many tears fall. And so far, her daily work opportunities have been plentiful. As my heart continues to heal and the growing pains continue to hurt, we continue to be a dynamic duo. The pieces of my puzzling life are still being found.
#thispuzzledlife

Happy Birthday, Copeland

Happy Birthday, Copeland!!!

“You’re going to miss this one day, I whisper to myself as I’m
shot in the butt with a nerf gun while unclogging the toilet”
—Unknown

I remember when Mel was pregnant with our second and sweet little boy Copeland. It was one of the saddest times of my life because we had found out that Sarah’s condition had gone from being in remission to terminal and she wouldn’t have many days left. And we had lost Copeland’s twin at 12 weeks only a couple of months earlier. I was completely distraught at what was happening in our life. I felt guilty for being so sad at the loss of our unborn child and the latest news about Sarah. I was in a whirlwind of emotions and mad at God when I should have been grateful and looking forward to being a mom again. My mental health issues became more erratic at this time. My rock and my yoda and the one that was teaching me about life was about to be gone. I just couldn’t handle that. My heart was shattered at both losses. The world would go on and my world would never be the same.

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Mel and I would have to drive back because she had to go back to work. My parents would Facetime Sarah’s service as I sat in my truck waiting on an appointment. After the service was over, I cried secretly that I can explain. I cried because my heart hurt, and It felt like part of it was becoming necrotic. I also cried because my soul hurt. I needed someone to just hold me and let me cry over this loss. And as I cry now, I am sobbing like I did that day secretly in my house. I was mad at God for taking them both away. I just didn’t understand, and I still don’t. Everything hurt and it does again for a woman who loved me just because. What an emptiness I can still feel from those losses 5 years ago.

Sarah died in February and Copeland was born in May. And I think his birth was what I needed to keep going. Our boys will never know fully how stressed and distraught both of their moms were at that time. And how incredibly special and powerful to us for being our children. Copeland came along at a time at a time that we needed.

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I now understand what my parents have told me for most of my life. One of my grandfathers died in September 1975 and I was born in December of that same year. My mom tells me that my birth is what helped them get through Christmas. And for Mel and me, Copland’s birth did the same thing for us. That little baby boy put a smile on my face where only minutes before there was a frown from a hurting heart.Ever since he was born, and Marshall has had the duty of being a big brother we have had some of the greatest entertainment and love that mothers can have with their children. Here’s a conversation that Mel and Copeland had several months ago….

Copeland: What are you made of mommy?
Mel:_Sugar and spice and everything nice.
What are you made of Copey?
Cope: Plastic
Mel: No sticks and snails and puppy dog tails that’s what little boys
Are made of…
Cope: nooooooo I don’t have puppy dogs!!!
Mel: so what are you made of?
Cope: Rubber
Continuing the conversation later she asks
Mel: So what are you made of Cope?
Cope: plastic and rubber and Boogers!!! Lots of Boogers!!!!

Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold is the finest little superhero man cub that God has created other than his brother Marshall. I am blessed to be in his life and to be called Mom when I never saw that as a possibility several years earlier. I love you, son! And I’m so incredibly proud to be your mom even with challenges. Happy Birthday, Copeland!!!

#thispuzzledlife

The Marley Chronicles

THE MARLEY CHRONICLES

Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching
is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance.
—Dan Greenburg

Since I haven’t had a kitten in several years, I thought maybe I could write things that I observe Marley doing. Yes, I have been taking notes on her behavior. I have sat quietly, while giggling at some of the funny things that she does. The way I see it, at least I get to experience unconditional love that I’ve missed since Simba and Nalla died. I’ve really missed having that. Having a mental illness that most people couldn’t begin to understand, leaves me living on an island. And then you look into the eyes of an animal and you intuitively know that somehow, they just get it. There’s no explaining that needs to be done with them. All you need is the willingness and opportunity to exchange energy and the outpouring of love will continue if you let it. Enough of the sappy stuff and tears. So, anyway I have put together a list of Marley’s crazy little kitten behaviors and wanted to share them. She will eventually write on her own but right now she needs my help.

1. Kittens can make snow out of the paper in a Kleenex box.
2. Kittens do their best to kill broom bristles.
3. Kittens are more like toddlers than we realize.
4. Kittens behave better for their grandparents than for their parents.
5. Kittens are like little vampires with fishhooks in their paws.
6. All they really need for a toy is a house shoe or a sock with moving toes to kill and they will be entertained for several minutes.
7. Their owners must have a high pain tolerance, Neosporin and a lot of love.
8. Just because you have on long pants does not mean your leg won’t be used as a scratching post.
9. If you’re busy writing, they don’t care. They will make their way to your pen and paper and then sit on them and look at you.
10. Trying to set boundaries with a kitten DOES NOT work!!!
11. Yelling “SHELTER!!!” loudly doesn’t work.
12. When you’re ready to go to sleep they’re not.
13. Watching them raise their back and hop sideways at their reflection is entertaining for humans.
14. Bathroom time for you is supervising time for them. Their motto is “If you can potty, I can do it better.”
15. Being told “NO!!!!” While being sprayed by a water bottle will get you attention faster than the Corona Virus.
16. When I’m cleaning the house, kittens want to help until the “death machine” (vacuum cleaner) is turned on. Then she sprint’s who knows where and sits quietly until death machine leaves the house.
17. AND WHEN THEY FALL ASLEEP IN YOUR ARMS ALL OF THE ABOVE DOESN’T EVEN MATTER.

Marley brings me joy and laughter. While living in Texas the animals that helped to heal my broken heart for my grief were: Harley, Annabella, Princess, Journey Faith, Callie Ray, Smokey Bear, Mickey, Esme’, Bella, Fanny, Black Cat, Fat Cat and a very special connection with Ginger Bella. They all were incredibly special animals that I got to share time and space with. And I’m sure they were all helping me to prepare emotionally for my sweet Marley.

#thispuzzledlife

It’s Not About The Food

It’s Not About the Food

“Girls developed eating disorders when our culture developed a standard of
beauty that they could obtain by being healthy. When unnatural thinness
became attractive, girls did unnatural things to be thin.”
–Mary Pipher

This is a repost from a few years ago that never made it to my current blog.
One of the things that I’ve learned the most about my many maladaptive behaviors is that the perfect storm had arrived to ensure me having eating disorders when I was a very impressionable teenager. Not only was it teenagers having issues with body image. It was also the abuse that occurred during that time and the things that were said but also my impression about what had occurred and what was done. As a part of the abusive teacher’s very hateful nature was the being humiliated about myself as a human being in front of my peers. I was put on display a lot of the time and made to stand in front of the class while being made fun of without having any type of recourse. If I ever said anything back, I was punished by both she and the administration who clearly had no idea to what extent her abusive nature was. She, on more than one occasion would tell me when the rodents would get into my food in my locker “It doesn’t look like you need food anyway.”

My high school years during which I kept those eating disorders alive and well I became a sickly 83 lbs and ruined any of my hopes of playing athletics in college. What I was left with was a life of painful eating disorders that I still struggle with daily. These behaviors were further compounded when I met my ex-husband who disguised his personal reason for wanting to help me by encouraging the eating disorders in his own way.
I was made to weigh for him sometimes weekly because “I’m not going to be married to a fat ass” he would always say. He would also tell me that “it’s ok to have fat friends but you don’t have to look like them.” He micromanaged my food to the extent that that I was only allowed to eat what he approved of and nothing else. To make sure this happened he would allow me only 10 pistachios and 10 olives to eat while at work working two jobs. He would also sit out in the parking lot to make sure I didn’t eat anything that was not what he allowed. When I would tell him that I was hungry his supportive line was “No pain no gain.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Tomb And The Phoenix

The Tomb and The Phoenix

4.5.2015

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

—Rumi

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

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

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artist: Shannon Renshaw

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

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

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

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

Phoenix

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Why Didn’t I Leave A Harmful Therapist

Why I Didn’t Leave A Harmful Therapist?

“The reality is that for most of us trying to overcome therapist abuse (regardless of whether it is sexual, emotional, spiritual, etc.) very few other people have any idea what we are going through (even the mental health professionals we finally get up the courage to see after the abusive ones to try and pull ourselves back together). And because of that, healing can be significantly more difficult than it should be.”
—Michelle Mallon

I’m having a difficult time trying to find the words to describe my experience. The therapist that I’m talking about is one who was very ego driven. She put her ego before her ethics. And when it came to practice EMDR it was done 4 days a week with no processing time. She was also a very dominate and alpha female. I just went along with whatever she said and then I started becoming sick and before therapy I began to vomit. She worked her way into my system and began working with my main protector to whom she gave a lot of attention to in order to get to our well protected children. All my trauma was turned on with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), but nothing was ever resolved. This form of therapy usually works well for those with trauma, but I was always in crisis mode making it very dangerous to use this method.
Mel and I were lied to more often than we could count. And she didn’t want Mel’s input on anything. Red flags were flying high and I was still about giving her a chance in the name of loyalty. She also knew that I wasn’t a snitch, so she never worried about me turning her into the state licensing board. My psychiatrist was also considering dropping me as a client because she was retraumatizing me. While having him prescribing my meds was impossible. Before I knew it, I had become trauma bonded to her just like my ex-husband. I feared doing anything other than what she wanted. There was also information that was given to an acupuncturist that was done outside of the date on the release of information form. I had become her emotional hostage. I was looking for the good times that I remembered about the promises that she had made and well…I came up empty handed.

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Like many times with other perpetrators in my life I became frozen with fear about what to do. So, out of fear I continued seeing her. It’s easy to say, “Well just leave her and turn her in.” But I was terrified to do anything. I became very suicidal and my behavior became very erratic and impulsive more than normal. The one thing I learned when I was younger was snitching gives you a very dangerous label. So, no matter what, I was not going to snitch.

Therapist abuse is using the imbalance of power in the therapeutic relationship to… Control, manipulate and exploit clients (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).
Clients who have suffered abuse in the past may not be able to distinguish between what is a violation and what is therapeutic (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).
The power and influence the therapist has, has a lot of potential to do a lot of good and by the same token it also has the power to cause severe damage that could have long lasting effects on the client (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).

When I met “Coach” I was so afraid of professionals that I didn’t want to have anything to do with her or any other therapists. I related their position to fear and abuse. I was unbelievably scared of anyone that I perceived in a position of authority and would strike out at them and try to run them off. Coach saw through my pain and showed compassion instead. I was so hurt by some of the things that were done and said by the other therapist that almost four years later I’m still, at times, having difficulties in the therapeutic relationship. I trust coach 110% as a person. But her position as a therapist still frightens me at times especially when discussing certain areas of my trauma. I have always felt bad that she had to clean up and deal with someone else’s mess. But, I so glad I met her. After having such a bad and abusive therapist, it’s comforting to know that there are still some that are incredibly compassionate. And I got the best one. Yes, I’m very biased. Thanks, Coach!!!!
#thispuzzledlife

I Don’t Belong (Poetry)

I Don’t Belong
In a place where I have friends, I don’t belong.
In a place where I have family, I don’t belong
In a place where there’s love,
I don’t belong.
In a place where I have freedom,
I don’t belong.
In a place where I have beautiful children,
I don’t belong.
There is life where I hold tightly to living
There is always someone giving
There are always differences
I’m not like others
Differences that some might see
Frustrations that have me clinging to life
I try to hold out for 2 boys and a wife
So hard I fight what others can’t see
The many parts of me
The hope that I held for so long
In a world where I don’t belong.
#thispuzzledlife

Yes I Can (Poetry)

Yes I Can
Flesh torn with jagged scars.
Reminding me that this battle is hard.
The sun reminds me that light wins over darkness.
And the little things remind me of how I’m blessed
All of this brought forth by music and a pen
Telling my story about where I’ve been
Their pictures with beautiful smiles
They never fade even after a little while.
I love them so and this is true
Two little boys that say, “Mommy, I love you.”
So, I choose to continue fighting
Because their love is so inviting
One assignment after another
Because I AM their mother
As I walk with them hand-in-hand
Signifying to them…” Yes, my mommy can!”
#thispuzzledlife

I’m Sorry (Poetry)

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

Wounded Healers

Wounded Healers

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

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

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

wounded healers

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

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

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

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

Her Name Was Sarah (Poetry)

Her Name Was Sarah
Very few people come
Into your life and leave a footprint
on your heart

She was the one that would start
By taking me under her wing.
She would also take my heart.

Our relationship was special and many
would see how incredibly
special she was not me.

She would first love me as an addict and
then as her daughter you see.
There was a special place in her heart that
was perfectly made for me.

Her tough love was strict
But I respected her so.
She wasn’t just a person
but one shedding hope.
She taught me many lessons,
and some were very hard.

She loved me through good times and
sheltered me from the bad

Who was this lady that never made me sad?
She was my rock and without her
I am lost and the grief I have for her
came at a great cost

She would first love me as an addict
And then as her daughter you see

There was a special place in her heart
that was perfectly made for me
Her tough love was strict, But I respected her so
She wasn’t just a person
But one shedding hope

She taught me many lessons
and some were very hard
She loved me through the good times
and sheltered me from the bad

Who was this lady that never made me sad?
She was my rock and without her I am lost.
And the grief I have for her came at a great cost
She would be disappointed at the
things I have done to the kids and Mel.

I can hear her saying, “Now what you’ve done has hurt both
Mel and the boys. You will learn a lesson and it will be hard.
Be careful about other people that love you,
you don’t put up your guard. You will end up
bleeding on people that didn’t cut you.

I still love you now like I did then. Don’t use my death as an excurse to drink, do drugs

and push people away. You pushed Mel and the boys so hard that they didn’t come back.

Think before you act, I’ve always told you. And don’t worry

every time you’ve failed. I’ve wrapped my arms

around you and given you a hug and helped you up.

It’s nice to remember such a beautiful person
and I loved her so much.
So much that it seemed to physically
and mental destroy me to lose her.

The day she died I lost the only rock I had.
It was very clear, and I was glad.
I can describe her in one word…. BEAUTIFUL.

It was nice to have a break from
the evils of the world we live in.
She was my everything and things
have never been the same since her death.

The number of tears I’ve shed
over her could fill up an ocean
She was a very special person to
me and her name was Sarah.
#Thispuzzledlife

Coronavirus And Social Distancing

Coronavirus and Social Distancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have toilet paper—no worries
—unknown
#thispuzzledlife

Corona Virus and More

Coronavirus and More

“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”
― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

With the Corona Virus being something very serious all over the world, as well as, social distancing being a necessity I have been able to find to some humor in my boredom. Over the last several weeks Coach has given me enough assignments to equal another master’s degree. She has compassionately gone for the jugular. If it took this long and bad therapy to show me what good therapy is all about. Then the wait was worth it. We have also noticed that bad handwriting can be creative and incredibly funny.
I’ve also mentioned several times throughout my blog about my grandmother called Nannie and some of her crazy antics. The Corona Virus would’ve been no different

I went down to our local grocery store so that my parents didn’t have to get out. At their ages, they are more susceptible to the coronavirus. When I got there the carts were already wiped down with disinfectant. So, I grabbed my cart and realized after about 10 minutes that the only people I saw were elderly people in the store and I started chuckling. The first reason for my laughter was that I had started on the right side of the store like my OCD always leads me.

 

IMG_2641Concern In China As Mystery Virus Spreads

Secondly, I realized that the everyone outside and inside the store would’ve been called names because there was no handicap parking space available. This was a very big deal for Nannie. I could just hear her saying, “Well I hope they all just go to Hell!!!!” Like she was the only one entitled to a parking place.
Thirdly, I could hear her saying, “Now, just look here at all these old people out shopping when they were told to stay at home.” While I tried to point out that she was one of those old people that should’ve stayed at home. Nannie was quite the entitled person in her own mind. And as my daddy always says, “Your Nannie always had decorated language.” Sometimes it takes us just slowing down for self-quarantine to see the humor in situations.
#thispuzzledlife

Goodbye 2019

Goodbye 2019

“Forget the past, it’s gone, but glance back occasionally to remind yourself where you came from and where you are going.”
—Chloe Thurlow

As I sit here watching the last days of 2019 pass by, I must look at how much I’ve grown this year. Looking back over the year 2019, I am constantly amazed that I’m where I am mentally. This year has been one of many struggles. This year was filled with some very hard times and a lot of growth. Some of the most difficult and loneliest times of my life were in the year 2019. But this year has also held a lot of redemption for me.
I spent many days and nights earlier in the year barely able to function. There were days where getting out of the bed was just too much to handle. And this was all done completely alone. Some days it took everything I had just to make it to my therapy appointments. 2019 was a year when I thought I was busy dying but I was persevering to get better. I was engaged in a lot of maladaptive behaviors, but I was also clawing to hold onto some form of life. Coach and I had some intense therapy sessions, but I never felt anything but her love and wanting me to succeed. There were many times I remember telling her, “Don’t you dare give up on me. And don’t stop pushing me.”
Then after having trusted her and doing whatever assignments she told me to do for over a year I began to reap the benefits. My thoughts and beliefs about myself and the world around me began to change. I soon had the hunger for being happy and happiness I would find. I then realized that the craving for being alone would dissipate and loneliness became my enemy. I would soon formulate a plan with my parents to move back home to Mississippi. Texas had served its purpose and brought about change and growth. I was no longer controlled by my trauma. And I now had an internal system that was helpful and working together instead of chaotic and hurtful to both me and those around me.

I was “different” in every kind of way. I was no longer facing life like I was going to a fight. I was beginning to enjoy life for what it was. Days were still difficult at times but not catastrophic. The day would come when my mom and dad would, at separate times, move my belongings home. Except the day my dad would fly out to help me we would drive my truck the 8 hours back to Mississippi together. I was excited to be making the move but terrified of the unknown. I knew one thing…. I had grown closer to God and my faith in him through a time of desperation had not let me down. Coach would continue to guide me through these tears of fear as well.

goodbye 2019

Excited as I have been moving back home, I have been moving forward with shaky uncertainty. I was terrified moving back to the same town that once held so much judgment against me. I was also moving back to where my children have been living and growing for two years without me. All these emotions I hadn’t counted on being so intense. I was so consumed with being happy that I wasn’t prepared for everyday emotions and frustrations of a situation like this. My “difference” became apparent to both me and other people who I had known all my life.

When I left this city almost 10 years ago, I was full of anger that had lasted the entire time I was gone. I was now returning happy and at peace with myself and my trauma that originated in this same town. I also had been embraced with my reappearance rather than shunned like I had been preparing. I came back to town feeling loved and looking for love again. I had been on a path of self-destruction that had almost taken my life. And now God has given me a chance to start over.
Each new day I try to find a way to grow and thank God for giving me that chance. My opportunity of being a better parent has proven to be a slower process because I am now starting completely over trying to learn how to do this the right way. And honestly, I continue to take shaky steps forward. I don’t really know what I’m doing but two little boys were glad to see me make it back to town anyway. I’m finally able to be fully present with my children and enjoy the simple things like rocking in a chair together.
Friendships that I thought were dead and gone are now renewed and healthy. I no longer go through my days wanting to die. I go through life with coach by my side and God leading the way. And hopefully I’ll be able to find a way to give back in a way that benefits others. And just maybe one day in my personal life I’ll find love in a healthy way and they will also be able to enjoy the new me as much as I do. Goodbye 2019.
#thispuzzledlife

Adjusting To Home

Adjusting to Home

“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Today is the two-week mark of me having moved back home to Mississippi. The timing of the move was to ensure that I was home for the holidays and that’s exactly what I did. I came home and was soon greeted by my little boys making the first week filled with love and happiness. Anytime you move from one place to another there is an adjustment period usually filled with frustrations and my time back has had those times as well.
For me there has been a mixture of emotions that I was somewhat prepared for but have also been surprised by. With my dark past in this small town and trying to get settled the stress of it all has brought tears to my eyes. The stress of being back in a town where there are some difficult memories to face mixed with the stress of getting new doctors, reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances, developing new routines and the death of a family member has left me emotional and a bit edgy. All-in-all I would consider the experience thus far normal.

In the best of circumstances, the stress would be a noticeable factor. But coming back to the place where all my trauma occurred with still very vivid memories has made the transition a little more difficult. The difficulties where they are uncomfortable are not impossible to overcome. My initial thoughts about moving back where that I would face a lot of judgment and harsh criticisms as I had in my younger years. What I have found is that I instead have faced people who still are supportive and who love me even knowing my past. And those who send their judgmental stares and comments my way have been drowned out by hugs and words of support and compassion. Me and old friends have sat while we all laughed and cried together with stories of difficult days from the past and the near future. And my aching heart is always soothed by the words of my children saying, “Momma D, we’re glad you moved back because we missed you.”

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My spiritual life which has held a lot of contentment for many years has been met by people who just want to love and support me while I find my way here in small town living of the Deep South. And thanks to coach before leaving Texas I was already learning how to let people love me again. Likewise, I continue to be supported by my friends from Texas who only want to see me succeed as they saw me in the days of barely putting one foot in front of the other to keep surviving. The best advice I was ever given as a child and an athlete that’s kept me going was, “Never ever give up.” And the words I always tell coach is, “Don’t ever give up on me.”

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Two of my hardest but most rewarding years of my life were spent healing in Texas. And it’s where I feel like I got my second wind in life. I love being able to smile a genuine smile today. I love feeling like I now have the capability to be a mother to my children. I love knowing going forward that my relationships with people will be ones that are genuine instead of superficial. And that they can be relationships that are healthy. I love knowing that my hard work has bought me something more rewarding than a degree could ever give to me……LIFE. And I love knowing that no matter how many times I wanted to nor how far down I got physically and mentally…. I NEVER GAVE UP. The miracle happened and I’m alive today to enjoy it.
#thispuzzledlife

Happy Birthday To Me

Happy Birthday To Me

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. “
—-William Barclay

Today is my birthday and a day that I haven’t really celebrated since I was young. My birthday has always been representative to me of the day that I was put up for adoption and given away because I was unwanted. And after meeting my birth mom several years ago the fear of being unwanted at birth became a reality. That was exactly what she told me. I didn’t receive the explanation from her that she was young and couldn’t take care of me. She very coldly told me, “You were an inconvenience in my life and you still are.” I don’t know how cold the chill was that went over me the day she spoke those words. But it was cold enough to chill my soul.
I’m not afraid to admit that this has been a very painful part of my life for a very long time. And in many ways, I have allowed her reality to control my thoughts and actions about myself for many years. And then I met Coach who through unwavering compassion has taught me differently. She saw the open wounds of those awful words and graciously began helping to promote healing.
What coach has taught me is that I wasn’t an inconvenience to anyone but her. The beauty of living in a free nation is that not all our realities have to match, nor do we all have to agree. She also taught me that my self-worth should never be determined by a woman who didn’t have the capability to love me anyway. I have two wonderful parents who love me and have done nothing but support me my entire life.

celebrate life

 

Today, I’m happy to say that December 4th is a day that should be celebrated. I am a good person who loves people and loves to be love by both family and friends. Life has not been easy, but the trauma doesn’t control me any longer. My birthday means that God was gracious enough to breathe life into me for me to make my mark on this earth the best way that I can. I have a family and two beautiful little boys that call me mom that love me. And I also have friends spread across the country that love me and want nothing but the best for me. And I have a “system” that does their best to help keep me functioning in new ways that we’ve learned the last two years. They are a special group that I depend on to help keep me going and loving me enough to keep me safe in every single way.

Now December the 4th isn’t a day where people are prevented but rather embraced for wishing me a happy birthday. Today I smile instead of frowning and staying locked behind doors. There’s nothing like getting to share birthday time with my oldest son Marshall. And, today is a day where God is thanked for the breath of life that made me. And for my birth mom, she is silently thanked for being the vehicle by which I enter the world. These days of being grateful have changed my view on many things. I am grateful to God, the universe, friends, family and others I’ve not yet met for being a part of my journey. Because the day that someone is born is a day when life changes for anyone, they meet in ways we may never know. I say with all the happiness in my heart…” Happy Birthday to ME!!!!!”
#thispuzzledlife

Marshall’s Birthday

Marshall’s Birthday

“We never know the love of a parent until we become parents ourselves.”
–Henry Ward Beecher

The doctor walked into where Mel and I had been sitting waiting for the ultrasound. The doctor takes the apparatus and gel and moves it over her belly. Looking at the monitor he said, “Do you see that little blinking light?” Mel and I both shook our heads yes. The doctor said, “That’s your baby’s heartbeat.” For a moment the feeling was surreal, but it soon changed to excitement. This was our baby and we would be parents in less than 9 months.
The next few months we would be preparing for our little baby to reach the due date. At 12 weeks the doctor would tell us that our baby would be a little boy. We were both beside ourselves with excitement. But in a few months Mel would develop pre-eclampsia and be put on bedrest. This would make me extremely nervous, but I was still hopeful that everything would be alright.

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The days came and went but our baby’s birthdate would change from a date in January to December 3. This meant that he would be a preemie and would have to go to the NICU. The day of his arrival Mel was in labor 36 hours. I was just a ball of nerves waiting and hoping that both Mel and our baby would be ok. I eventually fell asleep on a couch in the room from sheer exhaustion. The next thing I know a nurse or doctor was trying to wake me saying, “Ms. Arnold your baby is about to be here.” Mel was also yelling, “Dana wake up!” I wake up quickly and head over to where everyone was scurrying around. Within a few minutes Marshall Lake Landrum-Arnold would be born and he was beautiful.
The team would whisk Marshall away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Mel wouldn’t get to see him for the next 24 hours. It also meant that we would have to leave our baby at the hospital when we went home. That must be one of the most agonizing moments of my life. So, our routine would be me going to work and dropping Mel off at the hospital to be with Marshall in the NICU in the morning. And when I got off work I would go by and pick her up from the hospital which we renamed Camp Marshall.
I can honestly say that those days were some of the most stress of our lives. Leaving your baby at the hospital while you go home no matter how well things are going is very hard emotionally. The level of worry isn’t one I can put into words. But eventually on Christmas Eve of that year we brought our little baby home. Marshall was making our hearts beat then and he still does. The Christmas of 2011 was one of the most special Christmases on record. Because he was and still is one of the best presents, I’ve ever received. Happy Birthday, Marshall!!!!!
#thispuzzledlife

I AM THANKFUL

I AM THANKFUL

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

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

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

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

THANKFUL

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

My Parts And Change

My Parts And Change

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

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

you survived

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

A Letter From Beyond

A Letter From Beyond

With all the healing work taking place I can’t help but think what my dear Sarah would be thinking. So, I’ve decided to write something to help my heart a little bit. Sarah was always concerned and who knows how many of her own tears and prayers were shed and said for me. She was one of the kindest people I knew, and compassion seemed to flow from every pore in her body for me. But make no mistake that she would also very sternly and loving to insert her shoe into my ass if she thought that’s what I needed. I imagine that if she were to talk to me today it would sound something like this…

Dear Dana,
I have been watching you for the last few years and have seen you decline at an incredible rate. You have given yourself every excuse to behave in ways that still make my skin crawl. I told you several years ago to never give yourself a reason to destroy yourself and things around you. Especially no excuses surrounding my death.

All I ever wanted for you was happiness and recovery. I know you were hurting but I never left you. But I have also seen you step up and take charge of your recovery. You have been through some agonizing days and even then, I never left you. And like pulling teeth you have finally begun to allow people to love you when you weren’t able to love yourself. You have finally gotten out of your own way and done work that has brought about healing.

I always had faith in you and your abilities, but you had to see it for yourself.  Your work was about you and no one else.   Your eyes have finally been opened to a new life. You have taken charge of your life and cleaned your side of the street the best you can. Your recovery with your new coach has been done one day at a time. And I can’t imagine a better team to make this all happen. This will continue if you get up every day and choose recovery. This process will continue to help you grow as you become the mother that your children deserve. Continue to work on your relationships that deserve the respect that you choose to give to them. Some relationships will be salvageable where others won’t. Thank God every day for life because people that you choose to allow in your life will be blessed just like me and Doug were. Celebrate life for it’s so precious and can disappear in an instant. Help Mel to raise the boys to be men that you both can be proud of. I loved you but never let love end just because a person’s life ended. You have gifts and a beautiful heart that anyone can see and love. Don’t cheat someone out of your beauty just because of a loss. Grieve and move past the hurt and pain. There are many other people that will be placed in your life that will be cheated out of your noticeable beauty if you let the past affect your present and future. Not only your children and family but also those you have yet to meet.

My wish for you is still happiness in whatever way that may look. Never forget to thank the people that helped and love you for they too have seen you hurting and hurt with and for you. There have been more tears and prayers said by numerous people that you may not realize. Anything is accomplishable if you realize that there’s a spiritual being bigger than you. For you are not the ruler of the universe. Ask for what you need and keep those you love close. You have learned many difficult lessons these last two years and I am proud of your efforts. Remember that every day of life is not to be fought with but worth fighting for. You make my heart sing and your beauty shines these days because you’ve found your own authenticity. And damn it looks good on you. I miss you and love you and will forever be by your side.

Thank your coach and her seemingly unending compassion and love that she shows you. She is a rare jewel. The days you thought I was gone was nothing more than me backing off and giving her space to try to help the one I and many others love…. you. Be a person people can look up to rather than one people fear. And remember that life is not easy and was never meant to be easy. I’m of you and love you very much, kid.
Sincerely,
Sarah

This has been an emotional piece for me to write but I needed to hear what I could imagine Sarah saying to me. She is still deeply missed. I’ve finally made peace with her death and subsequent absence. But I choose life authentically. I choose to let people love and care about me even though it’s still uncomfortable at times. I choose life.

#thispuzzledlife

The Angry Addict

The Angry Addict

Sometimes I find things that I’ve written but haven’t published on my blog. This is one of those writings….
There was a day when an angry addict walked through a treatment center door. A break from a harsh life and there would be many more. The addict was still a person, but we would prove to be one heck of a chore. Compassion was what she was craving, and her heart screamed, “More, more, more!”
This professional she was different and left judgement at the door. The patient she was also different, but she was never a bore. The pain was written all over that addict’s face. Turn her inside out and trapped inside was a very hurt child that simply needed some grace.
The addict asked, “What do you want? And why do you care?” With confidence, dark eyes and long black hair she answered, “Because you’re talking to someone who has already been there. I can tell someone has hurt you and I want you to tell me about it.” Like a puppy this grown child followed behind that confident swagger.
This one she was different, and the addict could tell. Talk about mean people from her past and present? Why did it even matter? Because when you walked in, I could recognize that war fought tattered look. He made off with your sanity like a cold and heartless crook. Wheat he showed was not love and I’m telling you the truth. You were at the mercy of a dark man and when he’s done is called abuse. I want to know the things they all did to you. Look into my eyes and know that love lives here not abuse.
We’re going to be serious for a moment so put the jokes, smiles and laughter away. My heart and stomach seemed to find that familiar sting that no one could make go away. I can see in your eyes that you’ve be battling for years. Drip, drip, drip and the grief poured out in a flood of uncontrollable tears. Gently she said, “Let me and others love you until you can love yourself.” Know that not all people hurt you like you’ve done to yourself. She saw the addict’s heart was as raw as her arms. And told her, “You can trust me because I love, and I will not hurt you.”
The 90 days in treatment had come and gone. And now she would return to her abusive home. But someone cared about what she had been through. As she made her way to the exit she heard, “Take care of yourself. You know I think you’re different.” And then the quick reply, “And so are you.”
Five years later the addict was a student and doing exactly what she said she would do. And one day she called that professional out of the blue. Months went by and their relationship grew from a “random connection” that was true. She finally got the courage to tell that husband, “We’re through.”
Days and nights where she would learn from her compassionate teacher. Yoda was teaching her now “open-hearted” adult kid because she knew how to reach her. A visitor to their house was confused about who I was, and I said, “I’m just a close friend.” The professional known as Sarah being as serious as she could be. She looked at the visitor and said, “No she’s our daughter.” I thought wait that’s me.
She told me one day, “Dana, remember this about how he treated you……
“Not everyone can see the good in a person because they’re always looking for their faults. He missed seeing the reasons we love you and that was his fault. If you see past cuts and scrapes on your skin and can look through all the bones and into your chest and hurting heart and under the thick layers of material that help to encapsulate your that fragile heart is a secret space and in that space is some material that’s growing and bubbling over and saturating your chest cavity with something called personal beauty. And that’s what we see and love you for every day.”
Our mother/daughter relationship grew into one that survived off promises, goals, loyalty, love and mutual respect. She was my personal definition of safety. But the day would come when she would be ripped from my protective grip. By an unforgiving disease that could careless who’s heart it would strip. My heart that was wide open began sounding the retreat back behind those protective walls never again to repeat.
But my heart never lets me forget that horrible day. I went when I was called home to the hospital because of promises we both made. And when it was time, I sat at her feet knowing that soon her maker she would meet. With my heart breaking and tears rolling down my cheeks. I took one big final gasp of air with her not knowing how I could just be.
She was my everything and I was her adult kid. How lucky I was to be with her when I felt her leave. “Dana if you ever get stuck not knowing what to do. Do the next right thing and hit your knees if you choose.” Her words still guide me with her presence gone. And I would give anything for her to pick up that phone. I want her approval either right or wrong.
A year and a half later when more bad things happened and the continual hemorrhaging of a once loveable heart. And a mind and body that had continued in a war. We entered the doors of another treatment center and dragging the leftovers of what used to be a human behind me. And a day later we would meet our new professional and something internally would change.
Angry at people for being hurtful and hating this lonely life without Sarah, I began striking out at everyone and everything even those that loved me. I wanted someone or something to pay for taking her away. Relationships began falling like the twin towers. I swore that no on would get close to me for very long without me destroying the relationship just so I wouldn’t have to feel that bad and scared ever again. Sarah was still somewhere close, but I was fighting mad. But this new professional we met with fire and venom never flinched. I tried everything I could to push her away. But the next time I felt Sarah this is what she would say, “Dana leave her alone because she is one that will stay. I picked her out for you and she’s who you need starting today. She’s the one you need. So, make it happen and move there.” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear because I wanted to prove my point that she would leave like everyone else. Mad I was and madder I got because I didn’t want anyone else to love me and leave.
So, I called up Texas and again found the one that would stay. Whatever I do I just can’t let her get away. She is the last gift I felt my Sarah give. And now she’s working with this angry and very hurt adult kid. The kid screams and silently cries about what others did. For she isn’t bad she’s lost and confused. And wanting her Sarah to hold her while she’s lost and confused. That angry teenage heart that still cries tears of blood. But again, she ran into a wall of pure love.
The pain of losing Sarah has been more than I could bare. But move to Texas I did because she’s never led me astray. I don’t want people to love me so why did I move here? Because I’m that same kid that despite knowing the harsh reality of life that has hurt me so bad. Texas is still better than the desert no matter what “things” I don’t have.
Texas hasn’t been easy, and no one said it would. But we’ve been pulled along by the little engine that could. No one knew what compassion and love can do. But to heal you must expose the bad and the good stuff too. And just for taking time to listen as you always do. Coach this angry kid wants to personally thank you.
#thispuzzledlife

There’s No “I” In Team

There’s No “I” In Team

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

–Andrew Carnegie

While watching the Word Series vivid memories have come alive. The smell of the hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill blanketing the air. The feel of the cool grass during warmups. The excitement of both team’s players and fans seem to permeate every inch of the park. And the little butterflies in your stomach are attached to the love and respect you have for your teammates and coaches.

We outfielders are warming up by coaches hitting ground balls and pop flies. Then we throw them back to the coaches awaiting our next turn. I soon hear coach Nick holler, “Charlie, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw! Try it again!” I take another turn and catch and throw with precision. He hollers, “That’s my girl! Good job!”

As game time closes in coach pulls me aside and tells us about the players for the other team. And just before we take the field coach tells me, “Charlie, I’m counting on you and your team is counting on you to lead them. Look alive out there and hit your cutoff man. Keep your eyes on me when you’re running the bases and watch the pitch hit the bat. And let’s get us a win. I’ll be right here if you need me.” I head to my position and soon hear, “PLAY BALL!!!!”

coach

In the time I’ve been in Texas, I’ve taken some of these same lessons to form the “coach/player” bond in my therapy. Coach has always told me that she wouldn’t let anything hurt me, but I had to do the work. I’ve given 110% effort and each time I’ve looked up when I was scared or didn’t know what to do coach was right there to assure me that I’m not alone. She tells me what to do and I don’t question her because I depend on her guidance through the nightmares of my trauma.

She’s seen me struggle with tears in my eyes and the strained ability to take another step forward. But she’s always said, “Dana, I’m right here if you need me. I’m not going to leave you.” Together we’ve been able to work together and now I stand on my own two feet and see life through a new set of eyes. I now have the confidence to be a mom and a wife again. And to see that I can live life with confidence. The work has been some of the hardest of my life but when I need her she’s there.

In a couple of days, I face another scary time and I know she’ll be there. My eyes will be on her, again, to look for her guidance. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and will continue to gain through this work. I’m grateful to be alive. And I still know one thing to be true, THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM.

A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson.
John Henrik Clarke

#thispuzzledlife

Freedom In My Eyes (poetry)

You start a war on your hands and knees

Crying and begging for help shouting PLEASE!

There were days were I was tired and sore

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

But that floor was my lonely highway of healing

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

I was getting some much needed schooling

But hope and determination powered me forward

And the daily work sometimes leaving me scarred

This time I was still leading a team you see

Because the athlete would activate the wolf in me

I was changing into something I would need

But this time it would be the real and authentic me

Coach was guiding me to a beautiful life

Working hard once again to be a mom and a wife

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

For the first time in many years

There are no screams or cries

Because this time I see freedom in my eyes.

What If No Really Meant No

What If NO Really Meant NO

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis”
― Ellen Bass, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

There are things in my life t;hat I continue to hide under a bush away from the light. Mostly because it’s embarrassing to deal with. The sexual abuse I endured has affected my life in ways that I can’t seem to find words for. In my early 40’s I should be in my sexual prime. But instead I sit here getting nauseous at just discussing the topic. My first sexual experience was around the age of 5 years old which is incredibly too young to know anything about that side of life. It terrified me when it happened not once but several times. I hear their words and can still feel them touching me. I still hear the words whispered in my ear. It all burns so bad in my soul that I can smell my charred remains.
Where this is something that I’ve left covered and protected I’m also not healing in this area of my life. I have run until there’s no where else to run to. It’s time to turn around and face it. Coach has proven herself time and time again that she’s trustworthy of this information. Now it’s my time to allow my trust in her to do it’s job.

protect me

Sex for many years has been a taboo topic that most people shy away from unless poking fun. But, even as an adult I was violated aggressively by a person that was supposed to protect and cherish me…….my husband. Instead, however, fear and pain were shown. I allowed him to do things to me that I was against personally and saying, “NO” just made things worse. So, I reluctantly went along as his submissive with total disregard for how I felt.

Me and my alters don’t understand how this process is supposed to feel and be in a loving way uninhibited by young and adult alters who are terrified of being a part of a process that is meant to be one defined by the words “precious and sacred.” I have often said that I “let” people do to me sexually what they wanted. When, in fact, I was saying NO and being told what would happen if I didn’t allow it. So, silently I would lay still hoping and praying that whatever was being done would end quickly.

By the time I met Mel sex to me was a horrible amd very scary word. But, the damage had already been done. The nausea I now couldn’t control which ruined the experience time and time again. The only thing that seemed to save me what the ability to float away. What I did was leave alters in my place further scaring and traumatizing them. No matter how many times I tried this process became automatic. And now one of the most intimate areas of my life has lead to a life of hibernation rather than fulfillment. I didn’t “LET” anyone do anything. They took my pride, self-confidence and humanity. Which leads me to ponder the question, “What would life had been like if No actually meant NO?”

#thispuzzledlife

Once Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold
#thispuzzledlife

Answer The Question

Answer the Question

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

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

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

Through The Eyes Of A Child (poetry)

Through The Eyes Of A Child

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

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

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

because we didn’t understand your tears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Pot. This Is Kettle.”

“Hey Pot, This Is Kettle”

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

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

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

pot calling kettle black

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

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

The Mommy Hole (Poetry)

The Mommy Hole (Poetry)

I Started out as a tiny little seed
Not knowing there would be adults I would need.
I grew and grew as a little baby girl
Eventually having hair that she was supposed to curl.

When I was born, she gave me away
Why was it then that she chose not to stay?
That was a pain I would never forget
Hoping that she hadn’t really left.

In my soul she left a “mommy hole”
Not knowing that her decision would forever affect my soul
I looked for her left and looked for her right
But something also never felt right.
This hole was gaping, and I just couldn’t see
What I could’ve possibly done to make her leave me?
The hole would be filled with all things bad
Drugs, alcohol, razors and belts were now what I had.

My mom and dad there was nothing they could do
Because this was a struggle between only two.

My dream was to find her and to patch that awful wound.
But that wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
I tried to find her for the answers I needed.
My heart was scared, and warnings weren’t heeded.

The day finally came when we would meet face-to-face.
Please dear birth mom doesn’t do it twice
The answers were given and not what I wanted.
And now, as an adult, I would forever be haunted.

She didn’t love me like everyone said she did
How could you possibly hate you overgrown kid?
The cold blew over me and froze my beating heart
Making it difficult for anyone to soften that which had hardened.

And today I sit before you as a 43-year-old adult child
Still wanting and needing to be softened and nowhere near meek and mild.
You gave me life and that’s all you did
But you still have love waiting for you by your lost adult kid.

#thispuzzledlife

All That You Can Be (Poetry)

All That You Can Be

She was a sister and some could tell

We talked on the phone everyday and laughed

a lot as well.

I saw something that others could also see

Something was affecting her and that “something” was me.

 

She  went away and this was my time

To make good on my promises at the drop of a dime

This was a painful decision but I knew I was right

I needed to break away so she could return to the light.

 

I’ve cried many tears for my love it runs deep

She even took me in when I was struggling on the street

Sometimes decisions aren’t easy to say

But when love is involved those decisions we make

 

It hurts you now and this I can see,

Don’t forget there’s another one that hurts and that one is me.

No more worrying and losing so much sleep

I keep to myself so you can be all that you can be.

 

by: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

6.13.2019

“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.”
― Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits

Recently, there seems to be some type of shift that’s taking place in therapy. Coach and I have been working on a few things with “my guys” and that’s where it seems that the shift started. I can’t do much explaining other than my personal opinion because right now my job is to trust and let the fairy dust fly. The player/coach relationship that I had with my coaches was always considered very sacred to me. So, you can bet your ass that the “therapeutic relationship” that I have with coach is one that is very sacred and protected as well.

Tonight I was suddenly stopped in my tracks with a big dose of anxiety that instantly had me in tears. A lot of old and extremely painful feelings have been nipping at my heels and tonight was the breaking point. Crying in front of a therapist again has taken some getting used to. I didn’t say that it was comfortable but what it has been is……SAFE. After years of being made fun of, ridiculed and belittled for my tears, it makes doing what seems natural appear impossible at times. I can’t begin to explain how damaging abuse and “bad therapy” can deeply impact someone. What I can tell you about is the relief that is felt after months and, in this case, a couple of years watching so many things about a therapist and finally taking that chance again with my tears and not getting hurt. The unspoken message between stares that says, “I’m not going to make fun of you” instantly makes the tears fall faster. There’s not a monetary value that you can put on an experience like that. Your heart feels a pleasant but guarded relief and overwhelming grief all at the same time. Since that day a deeper level of trust and openness was achieved and therapy continues to evolve. Leaps and bounds is the Speed at which I’m doing work.

        complex traum

Last night I found a picture album that I had forgotten that I had stashed away in my room. Curious what pictures were in there I looked and felt a lump in my throat when I saw it was pictures of Marshall when he was younger. I was just being a proud momma until the pictures of him as a preemie in the NICU. Feelings ran hot/cold from head to toe. I felt the same fear that I had experienced when I was unable to hold him initially. I couldn’t understand why this was happening with our new baby. The guilt and shame was incredible then and still is now.

There were approximately 30-40 more pictures each with heavy emotions attached to each one. I sat there in the quietness of my bedroom and let the anxiety and 30 years of shameful grief overtake me. The tears were not gently rolling down my cheeks. I was “Snot crying” like a toddler in Wal-Mart.  Each picture’s emotion was like it had been felt for the first time. I held my stuffed animals and wished for anything but aloneness. I needed someone to tell me that grief will not kill you.  And that I couldn’t possibly cry enough tears to be seen in the emergency room for dehydration.  Maybe I could try and understand it my way that I could make sense of things.  The best possible explanation was that I was losing water weight.  Yep…I got it after that.  The grief I was feeling was just too much. Those pictures needed a better place to stay until they don’t have quite the sting that they do now.  And I’m proud to say that those pictures have a new temporary home placement.

After adjustments were made with my guys a couple of weeks ago, the freedom for better communication has been allowed. What a sense of freedom and a new level of understanding I’m experiencing with my alters. Emotions are still very overwhelming for me. They’re almost always very intense whether or not they are positive or negative.

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dont speak

I began to feel the individual feelings that my alters experience daily. I have been coasting on laughter and anger for so many years that I seem to have forgotten how to experience some of these feelings on their most basic level. And just me, my stuffies and my guys would be here to deal with them all……ALONE. I was soon overcome with grief, loss, guilt and shame not for myself but for those children, teens and adults who were so mistreated. I know it’s weird hearing someone talk about different parts of themselves like they’re the poor, pitiful neighborhood kids. But to me they are all individuals.  They just all live under one roof…MINE. Just roll with it.

I began to cry for the fear that each one experienced at a level that’s not easily put into words.

I cried for all of the anxiety, from the years of stress, that has left its permanent mark on my body physically.

I cry for the secrets that the children were forced into silence thus preventing help. And for the teens and adults that still keep secrets now because they still feel that they aren’t worthy of being helped.

I cry for the person that I use to be before the damage of the abuse showed such overwhelming evidence.

I cry for the children and their lost innocents.

I cry for those that needed and wanted help and it never arrived.

I cry for the fear of having relationships with people because when I was younger relationships came with an “OWIE.”

I cry for the adults who experienced every level of pain in a relationship for many years that was supposed to be one where love and protection were a natural reality.  Unfortunately, though,  relationships now equal fear.

I cry for the ones who had relationships with those trusted and respected people who have since died that had such a positive impact on us all.  But the loss was so great that the impact can be felt with every failed relationship since.

I cry for the one that hurts so deeply over losses that she will sabotage anything good.

I cry for the ones that miss out on the joy of being able to enjoy food and eating.  Because those times were used for target practice by others.

I cry for the little one that cries continuously. Her pain cannot be soothed.  She has a hole in her soul that was created from rejection and abandonment. She craves security and safety that was lost in 1975 and 2015.  Nothing and no one but me and the universe can hear her piercing cries.

And I cry for everyone who is doing their best to realize that love and compassion aren’t supposed to hurt.

And those who are also very slowly beginning to allow both empathy and compassion to collectively soften and re-warm the hearts that were tucked away for protection that have grown cold and necrotic.  With the re-warming comes new and healthy growth.  Hearts with healthy tissue begin to mend. The soul energy that had become so depleted will be renewed.  Tears go from the color red back to clear. The masks of the clown and the devil will not be the only two available because there won’t be a need to looked through the eyes “masking” pain. That determined athlete will have a renewed sense of purpose and a new set of trusted and loved teammates. And a new coach who’s words of wisdom gets absorbed and held onto with a death grip.  Self-worth and value become realized and then actualized.  Scars begin to fade from fresh battle wounds to the scars of the war once fought.  New and healthier ways of protecting myself will become the new breastplate that will be worn with pride knowing the work that was done to earn it. And another dynamic “coach” that will have motivated and pushed me with fairy dust to be the best possible “ME” that I could be.  But the greatest gift that will be gained covers it all……AUTHENTICITY.

Who will cry for this little girl? The ones that live inside of me.  She matters and so do they.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

#thispuzzledlife

All I Have To Offer

All I Have To Offer

“When you’re just like everybody else, you’ve nothing

to offer other than your conformity.”

—Wayne Dyer

Lately, I’ve been adding some poetry that I had saved on my phone.  What I’ve learned about having relationships with my internal guys is how to listen to them.  If I get a wild hair and need to either write a blog or poetry it usually means that someone is needing to be heard.  Write it down and then ask questions later has been my motto lately.  What I’ve realized is that chaos and confusion are minimized and open, honest and direct communication has been encouraged. Trust me….this is one big process of learning how to build and maintain relationships with “head mates” that have seen a lot of the evils of mankind. I would like to thank Hobby Lobby and Michael’s Crafts for allowing me to buy supplies from them in order to do projects that enhance the building of a better relationship with my alters.  Ok….now I’m being silly.

I usually start getting silly when I become uncomfortable in some way.  And well, “Coach of the Year” has assigned me to write about what I have to offer as a person.  I don’t always like the “assignments” but I love the lessons and answers I get from them.  To put it all into perspective, growing pains are called “growing pains” because growth doesn’t always feel good.  Likewise, growth as an athlete requires constant practice and learning the ins and outs of playing the game.

One of the greatest lessons about playing ball that I remember was when we were learning how to run bases. Stay with me because this part can get confusing. You don’t wait until you’re all the way down the baseline to the base to look at your coaches for direction about what to do. You ALWAYS keep your eyes on your coaches.  Half way down the baseline to 1st base you start looking at your first base coach.  If he or she thinks that  you can take another base they will point in that direction.  Half way to 2nd base you begin looking for your 3rd base coach for direction on either to stay or go while also listening to your 1st base coach from behind you about whether or not to slide.  If your 3rd base coach signals to take 3rd base he or she will also be rounding you to home or telling you to “get down” to beat the throw at the base.  If you start rounding 3rd base and head to home plate, you look to your teammates on whether or not to slide.  So, from the time the ball hits the bat you look for direction and trust that your coaches are making the best decision for both you and the team.  Either way, you’re not alone…ever. You’re simply being directed until you’re back to the safety of home plate.  They direct you but they don’t nor can they bat for you individually or as a team.  The work has to come from you.

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Artist: Celeste Roberge

It’s the same way for me in therapy.  I’m always looking to coach for guidance.  I don’t want anyone to do my work for me.  I hunger for her guidance and fear the unknown.  But I also trust her and know that decisions will be made in my best interest.  And from having been mistreated by a therapist previously,  being able to trust her to not hurt me or to not have ulterior motives is really kind of a big deal.  It has take now a solid 17 months to try to work through a lot of the fears surrounding the therapeutic process. I haven’t conquered them all but when I moved here I hadn’t conquered any. Getting hurt in therapy by a therapist has caused more issues then what I was prepared to deal with.  I had no idea how hurt I was but Texas has a way of revealing all kinds of things.  Yep….a modern day “Mr. Miyagi” she certainly is.

All of this ties into the original topic “What I have to offer?”  It’s embarrassing for me to discuss this kind of topic.  After years of being told by different people that I wasn’t good enough as a human being and the fact that I’m a total non-conformist, it’s really difficult to say, much less believe, that I have anything to offer this world.  I totally stick out like a sore thumb with the problems that often arise in public (tics, switching, emotional outbursts, aggression, etc) regardless if I can’t control them falling short in society’s definition of “normal” is not easy.

Having limitations like this certainly makes life incredibly more challenging.  The eyes that you view the world with after abuse seem to be put into place without knowledge that it’s happened.  The confidence that I worked so hard to gather and maintain as a child was completely dismissed and destroyed through the hatefulness of others.  The compassion that helped to build my confidence as a child didn’t seem to be able to shine through the darkness.  Slowly, I began to lose my spunk for life and likewise pieces of myself.  I could no longer offer those qualities in myself that I lived with daily that made me proud to be a part of the human race.  I no longer saw people that I welcomed around me as a precious commodity.  I now saw them as potentially harmful, shady and very scary.  I kept my jovial demeanor that everyone loved until the hurt I was hiding became the new clothing for my soul.  And my big heart that had always been one of my greatest assets had gone into hiding in order to also protect itself.  I looked up one day and had no idea who was looking back at me from my reflection in the mirror.  My arms were severely scarred.  Eating had become a necessary evil.  And my dreams and goals for what I had worked so hard to achieve had disappeared like grains of sand that slipped through my hands never to be seen the same way again.

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I had become emotionally feral through my own survival.  I seemed to have changed right before the eyes that had supported me for so many years.  And now, I had become not only someone I didn’t recognize but also someone that other people who loved and respected me didn’t recognize.  I simply had morphed from an individual that people loved into someone that people feared.  It was heartbreaking to know that this emotional freight train was going through destroying everything in my path and I was powerless to stop it.  Mel and I searched for answers daily for years in hopes of finding anything to help explain why I had become this aggressive monster that even she feared.  She fell in love with Dana who loved and cherished her unconditionally.  And almost overnight the Dana that she knew was gone only to be replaced by an aggressive, disrespectful, scary, immature and seemingly much younger version of herself that Mel didn’t recognize or understand.  And frankly, I had no explanation for anything regardless of the evidence that would be presented to me.

We moved to Albuquerque and for me it was something that I had hoped that a geographic change would help to remedy.  It didn’t.  Once we got there free from the oppression of the deep south, we sought out counseling knowing that I had problems.  We had no idea how deep those problems ran but soon we would.  I could offer nothing to anyone.  I felt I was being drained of my “goodness” and all the positive attributes that made me the compassionate and loving person that I had always been. All I felt was hurt.  And all I seemed to be able to offer was more hurt.  So, my only solution to stopping the hemorrhaging was to end relationships and to isolate myself, as much as possible, from society.  That way no one would have to suffer pain through my own doing anymore.

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Again we would come in contact with another hurtful human being in the form of a therapist.  The only thing good that came out of the 2.5 years that I saw her was the correct diagnosis.  Other than that she was incredibly damaging for me therapeutically and emotionally.  I soon wanted nothing to do with professionals and became even more aggressive to make sure that no one wanted to help treat me.  The truth was that I wanted so desperately for someone to help me.  I, however, was so scared of having another hurtful professional that the fear paralyzed me and sabotaged any type of help that might’ve been offered.  My new motto was:  “No one would ever hurt me again professional or not.  And I would do everything in my power to make sure that happened.”  True to my word I became a patient in facilities that people hated to deal with.  I gave a whole new meaning to the term “non-compliance.”  I trusted no one and hated everyone.  But my fearless and loving wife still searched for answers while trying to raise our two little boys despite me often times being in a condition where I couldn’t even get out of bed to take care of my basic hygiene needs.  And yes, there were times that she had to bathe me because I just wasn’t able to at the time.  That, my friends, is a example of love.

She would find a facility in Texas that she thought I needed to try.  For two years, she pleaded for me to go and I wouldn’t.  I eventually showed up and set the aggressive tone early just to prove that I could hurt and scare people just like they had done to me.  I finally met the therapist that would work with me while I was there.  I was determined to run her off too.  What I didn’t count on was that she would be able to see past the anger into the pain hidden behind the spewing and venomous rage.  I tried to end the caring and compassionate look in her eyes and couldn’t despite my greatest efforts.  This peaked my interest but the fear of her position as a therapist took over.  I knew that I had finally met my match.

Within 1.5 years of this experience I moved to Texas as a last ditch effort of trying to save myself from an assured death.  I didn’t come here believing that things would change and get better.  I came here because a rare find showed me compassion despite my self-destructive path.  So again….what do I have to offer?  For me, I’m still in the process of finding out what those gifts have the potential to be.  My sense of humor continues to be one of my strongest and best qualities.  I have an education that allows me to speak to people about the damaging power of abuse.  I have the emotional knowledge to be able to reach teenagers and to know the struggles of living life feeling emotionally trapped.  I have the knowledge and firsthand experience of seeing how compassion and love can topple the effects of abuse by soothing the pain and hurt.  I know and can feel what it’s like to be loved by someone who will sacrifice everything to make sure you’re safe because they want so desperately to help find the one they fell in love with.  I know what it’s like to make sacrifices as a parent to protect two little precious beings that still call me mom.  I know what it’s like to still be coachable after being a washed up “has been” athlete from 20+ years ago.  I have the experience and know how to continue to pick myself up and keep going when I’ve pushed myself way past my limits in order to survive.  I know what it’s like and fully understand the fear of letting someone in to help when allowing someone to do that caused so much hurt and pain.  I know the feeling of not being heard.  I know the agony of silent screams and the language of pain that can take on so many different forms. And I have the Experience, Strength and Hope of someone who’s been fighting a war my entire life without being in the military and not ever having to leave my homeland.

One thing that Sarah taught me many years ago was this, she said, “Dana, you have the capacity and ability to do great things.  But you can’t give away what you don’t have.  Recovery is what you need and what will make great things possible.”  So, I say this to you now…recovery is a marathon not a sprint.  You don’t ever reach the finish line of being “recovered.”  I still struggle emotionally on a daily basis and I still don’t yet have all of the answers I want.  I am, however, slowly receiving the answers I need.  Healing wounds is not easy nor is it comfortable.  And unfortunately, it’s also not instant.  It took me 43 years to become this damaged and dysfunctional and to think that it can all be changed overnight is unrealistic. One thing I never allow life to come between is me and my therapy.  I have my heart set on once again being a functional part of my family and to help my one and only soul mate raise our two little boys that we fought so hard to have.  And today I can say that the parts of my destructive self, no matter how slowly, have begun to be silenced.

“Mentors don’t just have to be people

who are older or more experienced that you are.

 Mentors are people who really care about you, know you,

and want to offer feedback and advice to help you grow.”

—Jennifer Hyman

#thispuzzledlife

Life With The Plant

Life With The Plant

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

—- Dr. Sanjay Gupta / Neurosurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

I AM RESPONSIBLE

I AM RESPONSIBLE

“Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared.

It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.”
― Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited

The term “Responsible” has never been a word that most people use to describe me especially in my teen years.  There are those teens who are very responsible driving, their studies and extracurricular activities.  I personally got caught up in the comedy of the situation from start to finish even if it was actually more dangerous than funny.   As a teenager when my well thought out teen ideas would emerge like going to bonfire parties with fellow classmates and upper classmen and seeing how many times and how much we can throw up in one night without dying; or driving like a bat out of hell with gasoline panties on down what was known as “Thrill Hill” outside the Petal, MS city limits at speeds where those that drove down it should’ve all met our demise; or  and this is the best one…..we as a softball “team” on the eve of a “hot as crotch” practice we thought it would be a great idea to get drunk as a team would help with team unity.  Guess who DID NOT buy that explanation?  Nope…as I recall the next day we ran, and ran and ran and ran until your hangover was gone or there was no more puke left to let loose.  I, for one, never drank the night before a practice EVER again.  I’m usually the one cheering on such outrageous ideas and had already begun planning jail commissary meals made with Ramen Noodles as somewhat of a “celebratory being handcuffed” gesture if needed.  Guilty your honor!!!!!!

The thought of coming in contact and being held emotionally hostage for the next 14 years never crossed my mind.  My main goals, at the time, was to stay as high as I could and not eat.  Both somehow seemed to soothe my heart from my 8th grade disaster only a couple of years prior.  But now we as a student body and a community had been gut punched by the disappearance and alleged murder of our classmate Angela Freeman.  As I’ve mentioned before our graduating high school class  and subsequent classes were pummeled with tragedies.  I felt like the combination of school and home where death and illnesses were always imminent in my daddy’s large family.   We just never got to recover from one thing before something else happened.  I was beyond mood swings.  I was like a mood theme park.  I just remember feeling different, alone and trapped.  Obviously, my theory about being able to do WHATEVER I wanted to do, as an adult, also had some flaws waiting for their time to appear.

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When I jumped full body into adulthood before my time that’s when I understood “keeping secrets” at the fullest.  I literally was taught so many lessons about life, at that time, that I couldn’t sit back to study and understand them. I was busy learning all about malignant narcissism without knowing the full meaning.  And since this was prior to when I decided to go back to college,  I also thought that domestic violence was all about physical abuse.  I was busy surviving and not really knowing what that meant either.  I knew that I never saw or heard things between my parents like I heard every moment of every day with him.  Heck, I just thought this was the reason people were so miserable being married.  I thought this was just the way things were suppose to be. Oh how my immaturity and naivety was drunk driving my way down the highway of life at that time.  I still look back in total astonishment at how I made it through the early days of abuse.

In the late 80s and early 90s, abuse against children and how it would affect their ability to function as an adult was not known or seen as important.  And the ability to go to therapy was more of a luxury item rather than one of necessity. Affordability was practically nil to many children and families.  I would also be willing to bet that there were no mental health benefits on an insurance policy either.  So, for me and other children and teens that needed the help early on would not and could not be provided with the help we so desperately needed.

“Stay away from lazy parasites, who perch on you just to satisfy

their needs, they do not come to alleviate your burdens, hence,

their mission is to distract, detract and extract,

and make you live in abject poverty.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

I’ve been told many times that the teacher that abused me was treated the same way by her father. My ex-husband and his brother were horribly physically and emotionally abused by their father.  The excuse that has always been given when I asked him about the abuse was justified by him saying, “We might’ve been scared of him but we weren’t out running the streets getting drunk or high either.”  I could also see very clearly how the abuse had affected him and how he still feared his father each time we went to visit him.  I was told what I could and could not say or do around his father.  And I always found it strange that he and his brother called his father by his first name rather than “father” or “daddy.”  The clearest point of view I saw about the abuse they went through was by how I was treated by them.  Both of the grown little abused boys over the years had also become their father.  These 3 people that I’m talking about were not “crazy” they were and still are just mean.  And to my knowledge have never had a day of therapy in their lives.  What they did do successfully was to perpetuate onto me and other people just like it was done to them.  And they go through life never having faced their on responsibility in acknowledging how the abuse affects and continues to hurt people through their aberrant, coercive aggressive, threatening and other overt and covert behaviors. This works down their intended target until the individual believes their lies as though it was part of the gospel.  And then ANYTHING that goes wrong is their victim’s fault no matter what.  Every weekend the ex-husband would go play golf as his favorite pastime.  I use to pray hoping that he played well. If not, somehow it was my fault that he didn’t play well.  People have asked me many times why I didn’t leave sooner.  The problem lies once they get you mentally to believe all of the lies that they tell you it rewires your brain and you wake up one day and everything you use to believe about yourself and the world has now become what they think and believe about the world.  Your beliefs were stupid and you were too dumb to have your own belief system anyway.  Therefore, we cling to that relationship with everything we have because being without them would mean total annihilation for us or so we believe.

The important part

Here’s the whole point of this particular blog.  These people and their behaviors are characteristic of transgenerational trauma in both families.  However, they have all chosen to pass this abuse on and do nothing about it.  With the traumatic life that I’ve lived, I have chosen to do some very emotionally painful therapy in order to stop the cycle of abuse since my abusers didn’t have the guts to do their own work.  They might can make it continue wherever they are now.  In my family, though, the cycle of abuse ends right here.  I have been carrying the abuse of the boys that molested me.  I have been carrying the abuse of my ex-husband and brother from their father.  And I have been carrying the abuse of the teacher that always has a “I just caught the stomach virus” look to greet you with.  Plus, I have been carrying trauma and abuse unrelated to them and that’s my own stuff.  Your baggage that I’ve carried for you for so many years will be waiting for you at the nearest dumpster where it belongs.  Ya’ll have had control of my past and present but the future is MINE.

I can’t even begin to fathom our children having the same fears that I had as a child, teen and adult.  And I would run in to rescue my sweet Mel if I saw any signs of this and that’s exactly what I’ve done.  Moving to Texas is exactly how I was able to rescue them thus far from the abuse.  I looked up one day and I was saying some of the exact same hateful stuff that my ex-husband said to me.  I have 3 people desperately wanting their other mommy and spouse to be able to come back together and to function as the family and couple like we set out to be.  And for that I AM RESPONSIBLE.  The one who was “too stupid to think for herself” was taking very detailed notes those years with you.  And once you study a system and the way it works you can also find the flaws in the system.  The night I got up and walked out I had just beaten the “ALMIGHTY NARCISSIST” at this own game.

“How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego.”

Amanda Torroni

#thispuzzledlife

Family Traditions

Family Traditions

“The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet

memories of our family that we pass down to our children.”

—Unknown

I said that I wasn’t going to write a separate post about Christmas but gentle pressure from my parents seems to have prevailed.  Truthfully, I was already thinking about writing something about my family’s traditions that continue today.  These are very important to me.  Not only does it show the sacrifice of family members that I never knew.  It also created and still creates an ongoing story that was passed from my grandparents, to my parents, to me and my sister and on to both of our spouses and children.

I can’t speak for anyone else in my family and their personal thoughts and feelings about traditions that may or may not be carried out.  However, Mel knows one thing about me…..Traditions will be carried out every single year no matter what.  This year they will be carried out in both Mississippi and Texas.  For me, it’s how I’m able to keep in touch with those warm and very happy times that I remember about my grandmother Alma Buxton that would be known simply as Nannie.

I have hours upon hours of funny stories about my Nannie and our trips to Wal-Mart and her horrendous driving when she utilized the motorized scooters.  Her personal view of road signs and regulations as mere suggestions for how one should drive safely.  But there was a time when my Nannie would sit with me for hours telling me stories about our family.  She and I would both get tickled about almost anything.  The filter that should’ve been installed was missing completely so random thoughts would fly out of her mouth at a moment’s notice.

Nannie

Most people that know me understand that very little can offend me. And that I will laugh at something’s that funny regardless of the appropriateness of the situation.  My Nannie and I laughed  A LOT while I was growing up.  And we laughed even more as she and I both got older.  But every year Thanksgiving and Christmas activities could be written with accuracy without being there because it was Family Traditions being carried out.  And it was the same way every single year until she died.

Our holiday would begin on Christmas Eve when our entire family (mom, dad, sister, aunt and Nannie) would go out shopping.  When I was younger the story was told that my grandfather, Samuel E. Buxton, who drove a big truck would come home on Christmas Eve and that’s when he would do all of his shopping.  His job made it where this was his only time to do his shopping for the family.  Then all would go that night to drive and look at all the Christmas lights and decorations.  Sadly, he would pass away 4 months before I was born and I would never grow to know him personally.  But my Nannie and parents always told both me and my sister how spoiled we would’ve been had he lived to know us.  I must admit that our family never had any problems spoiling both of us just fine.

Mel and I have both told Marshall and Copeland how spoiled that would’ve also been had they been lucky enough to meet some of their ancestors on both sides.  Marshall Lake Landrum-Arnold is named after Mel’s grandfather and Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold is named after my grandfather.  We take this time each year to explain Black Friday and how we would shop as a family starting very early in the morning.  And then tell them about what we both did as kids with our families on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve began once my Nannie and Aunt arrived at our house to have the sleepover into Christmas Morning. Almost every year my place to sleep was with my Nannie.  We would have whatever meal was created by mom and dad. And small town news was discuss for the first couple of hours.  We would then all pile into whatever car was available and head over to Chain Electric in Hattiesburg who’s windows would be decorated with some form of moving decorations complete with Santa and the reindeer with Rudolph leading the way.  There were also usually a family of bears with lights that were smiling and moving their paws.  The rest I can’t remember because they eventually moved so much that they fell apart and the business was closed.  But this little girl stuck in an adult body remembers the time that our family saw this as an important time and event complete with driving through neighborhoods known for their light decorations.

When my sister and I were younger sometimes we would have fallen asleep while looking at lights.  My daddy would gently pick us up and put us in our respective beds.  The years when we didn’t fall asleep we would come home from looking at lights and put on our pajamas.  We would then put out the milk and cookies with a note written to Santa thanking him for bringing our long anticipated toys.  We also left out Purina Cat Chow for Rudolph because everyone knows that reindeer feed on cat food as a snack.

A few hours later we would awaken before God and the angels to look at what Santa had brought us.  We also anxiously looked in our stockings where surprisingly Santa had some kind of inside information about us wanting grapefruits and walnuts in our stockings…every….single….year.  Our family cat always got a can of tuna that end up in the cabinets where it originated only hours before.

As we got older, Nannie wasn’t quite as slick as she had been for many years when she would wake up grunting and groaning with every step she took toward our stockings.  You could very loudly hear her stuffing the stockings with something in crinkle paper and having a hard time accomplishing her task in the dark.  Sometimes you could hear her saying, “Awwww…..shit…..just get in the damn stocking!”  I couldn’t help but giggle.  My aunt always had a stocking so big that you could’ve fit a clan of gypsies and a midget in it.

Then for several years before her death Nannie would say religiously, “This is my last Christmas.  I’ll be dead by next year. You better enjoy me while you can.” “Why, Nannie?” we would ask.  “Because I’m old.  And when you get old you die.” We would all chuckle but we knew every year that the reality of that statement could be true.

My mom and aunt also have a box that’s used for giving a gift between them every year.  I must admit that there was nothing quite as comforting as sleeping with my Nannie when I snuggled up to the warm hump in her back while her snoring sounded like a growling bear. There would also be Christmas music playing by groups such as the Carpenters, Charlie Pride, the Oak Ridge Boys or maybe even Alabama playing on a cassette or 8 track tapes.  Tears glisten in my eyes now just to think about how safe I felt with my family before I knew that the world could be so cruel.

Christmas Morning after gifts were opened and likewise recorded by my daddy either on cassette tapes or video tapes.  I honestly don’t know if those tapes even made it to 2018.  Some had the voices of my mamaw Susie Kendrick, my dad’s mom, who I dearly miss.  She was the direct opposite of my Nannie. She had a filter and luckily it never got damaged. If you’ve met my daddy then my grandmother was incredibly similar. The time was now about eating myself silly on my daddy’s Christmas morning breakfast complete with homemade biscuits, grits, eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast burritos, some type of jelly and of course sorghum syrup that he would mix a pat of butter with just prior to putting it on a biscuit and then being inhaled.

For the next couple of hours we would try on new clothes and I would take my new basketball outside and shoot some hoops before we went to our neighbors house to make sure that Santa had made it there as well.  Nannie and momma would’ve prepared the ham and the dressing the night before.  The topic of the size of the ham was apparently important.  Nannie never ceased to tell us how much both the ham and turkey weighed.  I grew up thinking that we must talk about the weight of these two types of meat until I realized when I got older that no one really cared about the weight as long as it could fit on the fork or between two slices of bread for at least the next two weeks.

The food I waited for every year was the sweet potato puffs that had a melted marshmallow covered by a sweet potato then rolled in cornflakes and baked.  And then………my Nannies’ sweet and sour onions that just seemed to hit the spot twice a year.  Ironically, I still cook these onions every year and for a moment I can smell my Nannie and hear her laughter when we would open her spices together, make faces and laugh like life was just simple.

Each year that our boys have been born we told them even as infants about the importance of carrying out our family’s traditions and what it means.  It’s not just about seeing decorations, eating good food, and getting presents.  For me it has always been the legacy of the importance of family that my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles not only spoke of but showed us through their actions the sacrifices that would be made all centered around one thing……the love of our family.

“I love those random memories that make me smile

no matter what’s going on in my life right now.”

–Unknown

#thispuzzledlife

But I Still Made It To Texas

But….I Still Made It To Texas

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

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

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

Heodore Hesburgh

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

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

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

armadillo  texas flag  longhorn

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2410

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Lost Child (Poetry)

The Lost Child (Poetry)

People have seen me as feral

And needing to be whipped more as a child

One thing is for sure…..

She needs to be tamed and not allowed to run wild.

 

A gentle giant came into her life,

And taught her fundamentals and the power of a

smile.

To never give up is how an athlete lives,

Direction received by a lost child.

 

You broke her down brick by brick until she was stripped

almost to zero.

But you forgot the one thing that wouldn’t stop…a beating heart

that was looking for another hero.

The lies, humiliation and manipulation cut like blades on the arms of a child

How do you tame this child running wild?

 

Prince Charming is how he portrayed himself

But she wouldn’t be put up on a shelf.

For the bricks already torn down exposing her soul

Would further be destroyed and she would be left out in the cold.

 

Tears were seen as childish and weak

How do you hide that which hurts so deep?

Internally you step back and let your “new friends” deal with this creep.

Do what you have to do but don’t make a peep.

 

Getting an education would lead to freedom they said.

But no one saw what he had already done to her naive and vulnerable head.

“You’ll never be anything without me” he would say

She left him with the last bit of energy she could muster and got out that

very day.

 

Brave as she was most never knew

To leave and stay gone never to return to the hellish days with him, for she

was finally through.

Back to the world and running wild

She would still need guidance but only through love for this lost child.

 

Her ROCK she’s known for several years said, “some people can’t see the

beauty of a person” and with that she shed some of her first tears.

What would she do now with the freedom of a new life?

She would be introduced to her soul mate that she would later take as her wife.

 

Her passion she would do but not for long

The grip he still has on her was not yet gone.

Someone else she was becoming and started to resemble him

They would both feel the pains of having to sink or swim.

 

Two little boys would be the apples of their eyes

But when her ROCK disappeared she couldn’t silence her cries.

For she would be floundering with no direction and again running wild.

With a broken heart and hurting soul of a lost child.

 

How could she possibly heal from so many quickly leaving?

It appeared that she would be setting out on another road of more

painful grieving.

The decision was made to start completely over again

Not knowing what would happen or if she would ever again have friends.

 

Her life became a floor surrounded by four walls

In another state she would once again walk these new, dark halls.

For again she’s living a life and running fast and wild,

But her new coach would see past the actions and into the

heart of a lost child.
By Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

At Least I Didn’t Poop On The Floor

“At Least I Didn’t Poop On The Floor”

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

–Jerry Seinfeld

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

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

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

noise with dirt

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

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

one sock on

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

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

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

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

hand out of pants

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

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

Copeland:  What are you made of mommy?

Mel:  Sugar and spice and everything nice….

What are you made of Copey?

 Copeland:  Plastic

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

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

Mel:   So what are you made of?

Copeland:  Rubber

Later Mel tries to ask the question again.

Mel:  So what are you made of Copey?

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

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

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

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

even know exist until you love a child.”

–Anne Lamott

#thispuzzledlife

Play Ball!!!!!

Play Ball!!!!!

“I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish.”
–Phil Jackson, Basketball

In my years of playing sports, I was fortunate to have many different coaches each with their own unique styles of coaching.  I never had one coach that didn’t know how to effectively motivate me.  Their styles of coaching, however, were as individual to them as I was as an athlete.  When most players “age out” of a league inevitably a coaching change would also occur.  Luckily, I was able to keep the same coach for the majority of our summer softball league through high school. Playing varsity sports, however, came with new coaches and a new level of maturity as a ball player.

Anytime a player, for whatever reason changes coaches, that event becomes a brand new period of adjustment.  You have to develop the confidence and trust in the new coach just like the new coach has to develop the confidence in you as a player.  You both go through similar phases at individual speeds.  As a player, you watch your coach to see if his/her actions are congruent with the words they speak.  You watch to see if your coach’s words are truth or just empty promises that are spoken out of convenience.  Likewise, the coach watches behaviors of their players both on and off the field. They watch to see how individually motivated you are to play and to be a “team” player depending on the sport.  They also want to see if you’re going to put forth 110% effort or just try to skate by half-assed.  They look to see if you’re loyal to the sport and your individual game.  Having an “off day” isn’t the same thing as few players perform perfectly all the time. How you recover and are motivated from an “off day” is what differentiates the good players from the great players who develop into champions.  Through these observations you both have to decide if the person before you has the potential to be a part of a winning team.  They also watch to see to what extent team unity has been developed.  This is also when the coach sees if the “team” or individual is in need of some type of remedial work sometimes starting again with simply fundamentals.

players respond

In the game of my life things are incredibly similar.  “Coach” and I have gone through an adjustment period with not all of it “fun” but necessary.  She agreed to take this player on without having much information about the extent of prior coaching and essentially with an “AS IS” label among many others.  She would use her gentle force of discipline to teach this hardheaded player HER way of playing.  First, though, she had to determine at what level of functioning this player was performing.  She determined that a previous coach a few years ago was quite damaging and was too controlling to develop the trust with this player. It damaged the player almost for good and didn’t allow for growth of anything but resentment for future coaches and the hurt and pain that wouldn’t leave anytime soon.  Despite the rough shape of her new recruit, coach has seen worth where some others have not because this coach refuses to put down a horse for having a broken heart.  She knows that what this player needs is to start back with the fundamentals which include love, compassion and above all…..TRUST.

Coach knew that this player was hurt deeply but with time, patience, consistency and a relationship lacking in judgment this player might just begin to melt and the potential that waits in the shadows might one day be achieved just like she had envisioned.  Coach also knew that this process would be a marathon not a sprint and that both parties would have to be willing to believe that the process could work.  After all, a win is still a win even if it’s not done gracefully.  The biggest statistic that this player carries in her portfolio is that 199 times she has fallen and 200 times she has gotten back up. This player couldn’t and still can’t even begin to imagine the potential but coach can and that’s all that matters, as long as, this player is coachable.

fearless player

Practice after practice and with trust building on both sides coach began to see what she had initially envisioned for this player.  This player has shown that she works hard for every play and gives her all in practice because she hungers to be a champion again despite what she has been told and the already failed expectations of others that has left her with a broken spirit.  Coach saw that this player had aggression that needed to be tamed but would never hurt her again like some previous coaches did with invalidation.  Coach knows that on the other side of this untamed aggression and with additional love and consistent discipline is an incredibly loyal champion waiting to emerge.  How does coach know this?  Because she can see that covered by a sometimes nasty shield of aggression is the heart of a champion that is currently keeping her player alive.

Today begins the ball season that this player has been practicing endlessly for even when coach hasn’t been watching.  These “opponents” who are unnamed are those “teams” that left this player for many years scared, hurting and dysfunctional despite her best efforts.  This player is finally entrusting of her coach to stand side-by-side and to play against these opponents as she has been guided and will continue to do so until victory is achieved. The battle wounds will be plentiful and falling down will inevitably happen as this is part of being an athlete. But she’s determined to win or die trying.

She is told who her first opponent will be and she begins to shake with fear.  Her coach gently reassures her that her ability is there but that she is the only one who can execute for she is the player and that is her job.  Coaches teach and guide.  Ambivalence rolls down her cheeks for fear of yet another failure and this player takes the field to lead her team, as the team captain, like she has practiced many times.  But not without turning to look back to make sure her coach is still there as promised just one more time.  Standing there is her coach in the shape of that familiar and long sought after diamond.  And once again this player has the confidence to show her trustworthy coach that she is indeed coachable.

Coach nods with one more sign of encouragement and hollers…..PLAY BALL!!!!

“Coachable people seek out those who speak truth to them, even if it is a painful truth, because it protects them and it makes them a better person and leader.”
― Gary Rohrmayer

#thispuzzledlife

Life Is Better When You’re Laughing

Life Is Better When You’re Laughing

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

—Woody Allen

The above title is the writing on the outside of my private journal.  Understand comedy however you wish but for me it has gotten me through a lot of situations both good and bad.  I have always prided myself on the fact that regardless of what events have taken place in my life, my ability to laugh and find humor in most situations was never damaged.  Often times humor was used against me as a form of humiliation and embarrassment.

As a child, I’m not sure if I was humorous or not.  However, with my dad’s quick wit and grandmother’s lack of a filter, in any capacity, there was always a reason to laugh.  In my teen years, clowning around became second nature and a form of survival.  I became a class clown that followed me into adulthood.  In most treatment centers and psychiatric units you can most assuredly find me as the guilty party wherever roars of laughter might be exhibited. This is not because I like attention.  I do, however, love laughing with like minded individuals.  Things I Have Learned on Psychiatric Units is another blog where some of this very humor was captured.

I am usually telling stories related to my late grandmother’s antics especially when birds, squirrels, her individualized driving abilities or lack thereof and Wal-Mart scooters are the topics. She never could quite understand the fact that birds and squirrels have co-existed for thousands of years together.  She also never realized that both birds and squirrels can survive on food even if you don’t personally feed them every day.  There were many days when you would catch her screaming at the squirrels in a murderous rage about staying out of the bird feeder because they had their own food (corn cobs) placed securely onto a tree.  After throwing random objects from her house such as knives, spoons, cooking pots, a tea pot and house slippers at said bird feeder and using language that would make even the most liberal of southern Baptist blush she would then proceed threatening them with verbalized thoughts of a mass squirrel genocide.  Even after her death some of those same house slippers were found buried beneath leaves of the once violent anti-squirrel tyrant.  The blog post Birds and Squirrels also reiterates some of these same scenarios played out by one of my greatest friends….my Nannie.

comfort zone

Her driving consisted of her ignoring street signs, mainly speed limit signs, because they were viewed as a suggestion rather than law.  My family and I started driving her around soon after we all realized that safety behind the wheel was not her goal or a priority.  When I would take her to Wal-Mart my 80 year-old grandmother used the same lack of driving skills on the scooters.  There were times when I would look up with her driving solo to the women’s clothing section right up into a clothes rack.  She then proceeded to tell me the scooter was broken  and that’s why the incident has occurred.  Never once did she acknowledge operator error.  She would somehow cuss her way into leaving the area on the “broken” scooter only to leave a trail of blouses that had been ripped off the rack.  She would also drive down to another section of the store with additional clothing and hangers swirling around and grinding in the tires.  I’m sure Wal-Mart wrote these damaged items off because they most assuredly could not be sold after my Nannie had done her damage.

The ability to laugh at our own shortcomings allows us to not take life so seriously.  Laughter helps to reduce pain, strengthens immune function and decreases stress.  Whenever I feel some type of major depressive episode coming on I’ll usually find a movie or a standup performance by one of my favorite comedians/actors to help chase it away.  Granted this doesn’t always work but laughter has been some of the best medicine for me.  Some of my favorite comedians are:  Kevin Hart, Katt Williams, Dane Cook, Tyler Perry, Rickey Smiley, Jim Gaffigan, Aries Spears, Gabriel Iglesias, Will Ferrell, Jim Carey, Dana Carvey, Margaret Cho, Amy Schumer, Ellen Degeneres, Tig Notaro, Melissa McCarthy, Mo’nique, Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, Cedric the Entertainer, Jeff Dunham, Mike Epps, Russell Peters, Darren Knight (Southern Momma) and the late Robin Williams, Chris Farley, Bernie Mac, John Candy and Ralphie May.

While my ex-husband could be comical, he used his humor in a very demeaning way against me.  And in public or around family is when he would let these skills reverberate with only me having the knowledge that this was not done in fun. I picked up on those comedic verbal sniper attacks very well. Also, since tears and real emotions were not considered “safe”, humor whether appropriate or inappropriate was always acceptable.  To this day, I’ll deflect most emotions other than anger or humor because it just doesn’t feel safe even with safe people.  Luckily, my “coach” already knows this and gets my attention when deflection seems to be my goal instead of feeling uncomfortable feelings.

Learning how deal with feelings through laughter is ok.  However, using humor as a way to avoid feelings can be detrimental and deadly if taken to extremes.  Re-learning how to deal with feelings appropriately is not an easy task.   But I will still take time out with telemarketers to let them know that I have to end the call because I have a cow on fire in the front yard.  Again, another part of life where I must learn and accept the importance of moderation and balance.

#thispuzzledlife

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

“The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.”
― Rob Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape

Recently I was asked to write about how it’s been the last three years since my dear Sarah’s death.   The last month has been one of many struggles personally and internally with ‘coach’ doing her best to bust open the rusty chest.  I usually seem to resist in my own way by attempting to appear much stronger than I actually am.  But then on the hot car ride, more like a convection oven on wheels with no air conditioning in the hot Texas sun,  to whatever residence I’m currently occupying are the awaiting late nights and very lonely tears in whatever solitude I might find.

The one thing I am coming to understand that no matter how much you consciously or unconsciously try to either force progress or resistance, the moment only seems to reveal itself when it’s time.  Mind you this is not a conscious resistance but more one of years of conditioning.  This has often led to much frustration on my part behind a curtain of smiles and laughter.  Nevertheless, I have been wanting and wishing for this much needed painful moment like “Lasterday” as our 6 year-old says.

With the struggles and seemingly endless supply of frustrations of everyday life something either good or bad was bound to happen.  Knowing and subsequently feeling the almost familiar impending doom of something unidentifiably, uncomfortable and scary about to reveal itself, all I could do was wait for whatever it was that was about to happen.  Usually, these feelings come with some form of outwardly aggressive behaviors that lead to some unpleasant event.  However, the moment that I had been wanting and needing the last 3.5 years would finally reveal itself.

I’m not actually sure why this particular time was the right time for this level of grief but nevertheless it would happen.  I’m usually pretty damn good at covering up a lot of painful feelings through my humor but Texas struggles seem to be the site of more and more private tears.  Maybe it’s just part of the process but “coach” has been gentle and we have trusted and allowed her guidance. The total mental exhaustion sometimes doesn’t leave much energy for writing.  And in these times solitude and rest seem to be about the only event in which I can muster any energy.

half heart

The struggles of living in an internal world that most can’t comprehend and an outer world that I don’t fit in bares a very heavy weight on both my mind and my heart.  And particularly when I feel like I’m trying to move through life with shoes made of concrete are the times when I want to quickly pick up the phone and call Sarah for her guidance and reassurance.  The reality of the loneliness and emptiness of every such situation the last 3.5 years since her death only brings about tears with little to laugh about when I selfishly need her right then.  And the emptiness seems not able to be filled by anyone but her still at this time.  I have searched but diamonds like that are not easily found.

These past few weeks have brought the feelings of loneliness, abandonment and grief that I buried back in February 2015 and has been recently staring me in the face.  Only when I didn’t avoid the eye contact with my demon did the finality and the pain of her death bring me to my knees in anguish.  My eyes swollen many mornings from several long nights of stinging tears made me look like I had taken a beating from a prized fighter.  It wasn’t until I was reading a former blog post called Passing The Torch that I realized that one possible contributing factor was that her approaching birthday of July 11th was drawing near.  This just seemed to make the grief that much more painful.  I knew that I had been missing her but her birthday just seemed to creep up on me like a dark figure until there was no escape from the shadowed figure.  I didn’t want anyone else’s comfort.  I wanted HER and ONLY HER.  The only way I was able to explain how it felt was like it was the day of her death and my heart was hemorrhaging.  I just hurt all over.

A most well voiced lady one day wrote and spoke about death so eloquently.  Dr. Maya Angelou, describes this feeling perfectly…..

When I Think Of Death

When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with

alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day

will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this

valley of strange humors.

I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to

accept the death of anyone else.

I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that

country of no return.

Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in

its wake.

I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting?

‘ with ‘ it is here in my heart and mind and memories.’

—-Maya Angelou

Very simply put I have been lost since the day Sarah took her last breath.  I was fortunate to have been in the room when she did that very thing.  She and I both made a promise that we would be in each other’s lives until the very end.  I, honestly, never thought that it would be so soon but I was blessed to have seen and been a part of many different areas and roles of her life.  My life was blessed, as well as, 1000’s of other people mainly other addicts and alcoholics that she chose to plant the initial seed of recovery in some way into their lives.  And to have she and her husband Doug at my undergraduate college graduation several years back was a day that I couldn’t stop smiling.  I look forward to joining her, at some point, once again in an effort to make part of my heart whole again.  For 15 years, I was blessed to have a beautiful, authentic and loving creature touch mine in a way that I will respectfully always call her my “Chosen Mom.”  Because the day she died was the day that half of my heart also got wings.

#thispuzzledlife

The 1-2 Punch

The 1-2 Punch

“Grief is perhaps an unknown territory for you.  You might feel

both helpless and hopeless without a sense of a ‘map’ for

the journey.  Confusion is the hallmark of a transition.

To rebuild both your inner and outer world is a major project.”

–Anne Grant

Another sleepless night and I’ll just call I….grief and shame.  It comes with no instruction manual or statute of limitation.  To me it’s one of our body and mind’s deepest and purest emotions.  Grief is one of these emotions that float around in our psyche waiting for its “perfect” time to be exposed.  Its perfect timing usually does not equate to our perfect timing.  Some of us prefer to grieve in private to hide whatever shame we’ve been intentionally or unintentionally exposed to about the process.  No matter how heavy or light the grieving is on a more intimate level we would usually prefer to have someone close by for support.

My personal grieving process is one that’s very confusing and shame based. While still living at home with my parents prior to my relationship with my ex-husband, grieving was considered a natural part of life.  Emotions were acknowledged and processed usually around the dinner table.  At the hands of an abusive teacher at age 13, was the first time I very distinctly remember being shamed for my tears.  Tears were no longer seen as an emotion but rather as a weakness.  The lesson learned from this experience was “Ignore the emotion. Hide the tears.  The abuse won’t stop but it shouldn’t get worse.”

trauma

Tried and true this method worked for this moment and many more years.  I had no idea where powerful emotions other than anger went.  They just seemed to dissipate as quickly as when they appeared.  The grief has been out of sight from the naked eye.  Though it was only buried and not gone.

Grieving around my ex-husband was never acceptable as you can imagine.  His grief no matter how minute seemed to always be justified.  My tears led to comments about being “childish and embarrassing” for him especially when in public.  At home behind the dread closed doors, I was still called “childish” and “stupid.” I was also made fun of, laughed at and “taught a lesson about being an adult” by way of some sexual encounter.  I very quickly learned how to also control those emotions with a shovel and dirt.  So where do the emotions go?  They are buried deep in the ground where your heart rests.   They are festering sometimes for years one on top of another.  Eventually maybe sooner rather than later a foreign substance or maladaptive behavior comes along that seems to provide some type of pseudo-catharsis.  It presents itself as the dependable one who will always be loyal and non-judgmental and a best friend  We buy into the rationalizations only to have the name ADDICTION tattooed on our foreheads like a scarlet letter.  The substance and/or behavior soon becomes the “best friend” that will cut out throats leaving only a trail of destruction to show the quality of the relationship.  This “stuffing” of emotions is in no way exclusive to grief.

Shame

Three years after the death of Sarah and I sit here quietly in the wee hours of the morning, in my bed facing this very emotion.  A heavy heart and a lump in my throat that seems to be limiting my air flow is the result of this incredibly painful memory.  From the time we were notified that she was terminally ill until she passed away from approximately 1.5 weeks.  I felt as though I had no time for grieving because I had promised to do the difficult job of being with her until the very end.  Out of respect, I felt that I needed a safer time and place to deal with this.  However, tears just seemed to continue to fall despite the fact that I could not feel any emotion.  I vowed to process this the minute I got back to Albuquerque.

Once I was able to line up another therapy session the weight of Sarah’s death and the miscarriage of Copeland’s twin got the best of me and I began sobbing like a child.  I was being so vulnerable and raw with my emotions for the first time since the horrible days of not being allowed to grieve around my husband.  I just needed to be able to cry as an adult child and parent for these heavy losses.  I hungered for something as simple as compassion.  This day and time “compassion” would be the illusive fugitive.  The response I received from this “trusted” professional was, “Dana give me a break.  She wasn’t your real mom and that wasn’t a real baby.”  All I could do was freeze and try not to vomit.  It was like another 1-2 punch experienced many times previously but all in their own unique fashion.  I became numb and have no further recollection of the remaining time in session.

inner children

In the years since this happened any time emotions about the loss of Sarah make it to my throat but rarely do they leave my eyes. The shame for grieving even with so-called “safe” people now felt “unsafe.”  This incident alone has made for some difficult therapeutic baggage.  I don’t know how to put what happened into words but betrayal is how it felt then and now.  Being able to address this topic with professionals on a level deeper than just superficial has been nearly impossible because of one thing…FEAR.

Luckily after this incident our trusted couple’s therapist of 6 years, at the time, was patiently awaiting the return with open arms as we come back licking our wounds.  Unfortunately though the damage had already been done.  The same actions by my former perpetrators had now rolled out of the mouth of my therapist.  When I finally met “coach” in nothing less than a flamboyant display of behavior my distrust and subsequent hatred for professionals of any kind was very evident.

I’ve always said that compassion is my kryptonite.  “Coach” hasn’t let me down in this area.  It’s been a very slow process to learn to trust the right kind of “safe” people.  As the boiling lava of grief surrounding the loss of Sarah and our unborn child continues to fester, I still find myself going into the closet in my bedroom to cry so that no one else in the house can hear me.  The few times I actually do shed tears around others is simply because I consider them my very closest.  As I continue to deal with the shame of showing intimate emotions I also realize that I’m working with someone who would never treat me like that.  With all the complexity of untangling some very painful areas of my past, I must admit that I can leave that for someone other than me.  When I met “coach” someone in the same professional position had planted a seed about the possibility that it could happen again.  The pain of it slowed me down but again compassion is winning out. And slowly but surely my tears are finding their way out of my eyes again.

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

–Dr. Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

Advocates

Advocates

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

–Marshall Landrum-Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

survival

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

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

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

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

Either you love one or you are one.”

–Mark Ruffalo

#thispuzzledlife

Soul Murder

Soul Murder

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

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

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

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

soulmurder.jpg

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

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

leftovers

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

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

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SUCH BEHAVIORS INCLUDE:

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

COMMON WAYS THAT ABUSERS AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Miracles Right In Front Of Us

The Miracles Right in Front of Us

“Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what

a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”

–Jon Bon Jovi

Easter is the time when most if not all Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has always been widely known for performing miracles.  While living in New Mexico and working with a melting pot homeless population you begin to see that religion and spirituality can take on  many different meanings for different people.  My decision was simple do I accept their differences?  And well…..it was a very easy decision a resounding YES!!!  As individuals we are not made to fit into a box.  The point in being an individual is that you’re different from others.  You are uniquely you.

The clients that I worked with came from many different walks of life and belief systems.  I allowed them to be and feel accepted without judgment.  Pretty soon a mutual respect was developed and connection with them was made.  I’ve heard different stories about miracles happening mainly from religious people.  Working with the substance abusing homeless populations sometimes the miracles were only for one or two to see.

Where 12-step recovery was really pushed there not all of the clients were accepting.  This is when I began to see the importance of individuality in the counseling field.  I also learned that the term “recovery” can mean different meaning for people.  Some prayed to God, Allah, The Great Spirit, the earth, nature, the spirits, etc.

The miracles that I’m specifically talking about were maybe something like being able to have a genuine smile during a conversation.  It might’ve been learning to trust someone who is white because of  the transgenerational trauma forced on their people.  It could’ve simply been someone treating them with respect rather than as a label.  Or it could’ve been about someone willing to listen when no one else would.  Nevertheless, for these clients miracles happened.

miracle.jpg

The detox center might have been the only place where the term “recovery” was ever mentioned to them..  There’s an obvious shortage in substance abuse treatment centers throughout the nation.  But with the population that I worked with most had no insurance because they were homeless.  This ensured them being discharged back into a very hostile living situation.  Consequently, the rate of recidivism was very high.  One thing I knew without a doubt is that they would call sometimes looking for something, as simple as, a warm cot and a sandwich.

I think a lot of times that “we,” as a society, have a definition of miracles where we expect people to walk on water or raise the dead so we can catch the proof on our IPhone.  And many times life circumstances keeps us temporarily blinded to the beauty that sits before us.  I’m certainly not an exception to that rule either.  The weight of my trauma gets so incredibly heavy sometimes that the only thing I can see is the unfairness, despair and hopelessness related to it all.

The good days are the ones that drop by just like an intermittent reward system when gambling.  You keep putting money in the machine and winning minimally or not at all.  And then there’s the win, though not too big, that keeps the dialogue of “I’m close, I can feel it” continuing.  If  look at how the stars line up in our lives sometimes we realize that other painful situations had to happen for the miracle to occur.  Here’s are a few of the miracles that I’ve noticed in my life.  This list is by no means exhaustive.

1). It’s a miracle that I made it through my former marriage alive.

2.)  It’s a miracle that Sarah Pardue and I crossed paths in a treatment center  because I was a drug addict/alcoholic that was angry and running amuck in life.

3.)  I was a miracle that I met my best friend and soul mate, Melody Landrum-Arnold, and I met each other through Sarah.

4.)  It was a miracle that Mel and I ever left the deep south.

5.)  It was a miracle that we met our therapist in Albuquerque.  She turned out to be one of the very rare finds in that state. She was certainly the wind beneath our family’s wings.

6.) It was a miracle that both of our invitro babies Marshall, 6, and Copeland, 3, made it successfully to their forever home with two mommies.

7.)  It’s a miracle that we made it out of New Mexico as a couple due to so many years of stress and a lot of it related to my mental illness.

8.)  And how could I ever forget what a miracle it was to find a new coach that saw my anger and rage, knowing me very little, while on an inpatient unit and still willing to work with a group of broken children trying to function as a healthy adult.

9.) And well….leaving my two boys and my dear wife to go live in a state and sacrifice not having the time with them in order to work with my coach regularly in an attempt to save my own life….that too is a miracle.

At the detox center, I would work around the rules to get everyone who asked for help some type of help no matter the situation.  And sometimes……they would show up hoping to see a friendly face and maybe experience another little miracle.  And well…every encounter with them I experienced a miracle too.

#thispuzzledlife

What Is The Primal Wound?

What is the Primal Wound?

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

Nancy Verrier, The Primal Wound

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

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

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

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

adopted-trauma

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

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

primal wound.jpg

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

He Was More Than A Coach

He Was More Than a Coach

“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen.

 The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”

—- Vince Lombardi

I’ve always spoke very highly of all the coaches I played for now 20+ years ago.  I’ve always had that strong connection to them regardless of how much time has gone by.  Now if you want to know how I get motivated, let me know that “I have a ballgame to play and my team needs me.”  My life as a ballplayer took on some of the most raw feelings I’ve ever experienced.  Being an athlete was about more than just a game, it was about the entire journey of learning fundamentals and evolving into an individualized athlete with a heart of a champion.  Here’s the story of a man that knew exactly what to do to help me step my game up as an athlete.  But what he didn’t know he was creating for me was a way to survive.

Nicholas “Nick” Kolinsky was a ex-football player who had a heart as big as his frame.  He is still and will always be a legend from the South MS area.  He was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to MS many years ago to play for the 1962 championship football team from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He stayed around that same area met the love of his life and raised one beautiful family.  His youngest daughter, Nikki, and I would be teammates for several years.

This man was surely a legend in the city but for me the term “legend” would take on a whole other meaning.  I would meet coach Nick sometime in the early 1980’s.  I had play some form of “coach pitch” softball for a year but this was “real” softball, as I saw it, because we had tryouts.  I was an okay player but nothing was serious and I was having fun.  We had the tryouts complete with coaches from the league and their notebooks looking on and taking notes.  A couple of days later my parents and I got the call that I would play for Nick’s Ice House and my coach would be Nick Kolinsky.

This big and loud man would laugh and smile in a way that you just instantly know that he was different than most people you meet.  His happiness and love for life, his family and now this young softball team was infectious.  You never had to ask me if I wanted to go to practice.  I would sometimes walk back to the vehicle with my heart crying tears because I didn’t want practice to end.  I ate, slept, breathed and fully saturated myself with his coaching as much as I could.

Coach Nick

He pushed me but in a way that I wanted to play at my best.  He always told us as players, “You will perform in a game the way that you practice.  Winners never ever give up.  Every play and every ball you catch or hit effects everyone on your team and  they are your family.  You leave it all on this field.  If at the end of the game you have played the best you could and you left it all on the field no matter what the score you will always be a champion in my book.”  He knew how to motivate me.  I instantly took some of these lessons with into now a 42 year-old womanhood.

Every athlete has a difficult night where things just don’t seem to work.  You misjudge balls.  Your hit timing is just off and you begin to worry if you even have any eye/hand coordination left.  It was these times when coach would say to me, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw!”  It wasn’t earth shattering to be “off” for those games but disappointing it was.  He could somehow tell when I needed that “compassionate coach” side and he always encouraged me.  He would bring his big “man size” body down to my child size self and look me in the eyes with compassion and said, “Keep going baby.  These kind of nights don’t last but you have to keep pushing through them.  Don’t you give up!  Do you hear me?!!!  You leave it out here on this field no matter how much you have to give.  Your team needs you.  If you get scared and don’t know what to do on those bases KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME.  I’m right here and we will do this together.”

Now to most people this interaction might not have been that big of a deal.  To that developing child and athlete, that was all I needed to hear.  He didn’t say that he would be there to do it for me.  He said, “I’m right here and we will do this together.”  From that day forward, I played with confidence and have faced every obstacle knowing that he would always be right there.  He had no idea what those positive interactions would do for me as an adult.  Every single time I had to pick myself up from one of life’s unfriendly occurrences, I always heard my coach saying, “Charlie get up!  Your team is depending on you.  The game is not over yet. Get back over here!”

charlie hustle

Charlie was a name that Coach Nick gave to me because of the way that I played.  He always told me, “You play a lot like Pete Rose.  You have some of the best hustle I’ve ever seen.  From now on you will be called Charlie Hustle.”  As long as there was daylight and the “want”, “need” and “will” to continue was there he would stay after practice and hit me additional balls to help me sharpen my skills.  Our team seemed almost untouchable.  It wasn’t just me who would benefit from his coaching.  We practiced and practiced hard every single practice.  Lolly gagging was not allowed by him, other coaches or the other players on the team.

After ballgames it was nothing for him to load up the entire team in the back of his pickup truck while we cheered going riding through the city like we were national champions.  And to me we were.  I’m glad that he gave me a foundation of self discipline.  It might be in only a couple areas of my life but it took and I’ve never let go of many of his life lessons.  We were told very seriously, “that being a winner is not given.  You have to put the work in and even then you might not win the game or the battle.  It’s the same with life.  You give everything you have all the time until there’s nothing left to give.  That is a champion!” He gave all us players a t-shirt that had his business logo on the left chest.  But on the back it said “I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS”  He told us as a team that those shirts you have to earn to be able to wear them.  Until I graduated high school, I was known by my nickname Charlie Hustle and I wore that shirt with pride.  I always wore that shirt under my uniform shirts throughout my high school career as a kind of balance and piece of my coach right there with me like he had promised.

Because of the impact of his compassion in my days of being a child and developing athlete, I have survived many different situations.  I worked hard to live through a lot of things.    I reconnected with him after this many years.  I was contacted by one of his daughters via Facebook to tell me that his health was declining.  On one of our trips back to Petal where he and his family lived the whole time I knew them.  I walked into the house where he was sitting and his eyes lit up.  “Dana!!!”  He chuckled. My eyes filled with tears and I hugged him and said, “Coach I’ve missed you.  Here’s my family.”  I don’t know if the tears fell like they’re doing now as I write this.  But shortly after Marshall pooped on his lap he wanted to talk about old games from when I played ball for him.  It was like one of the most beautiful times as a child had been resurrected by the gentle giant that had become a gentle old man.  I called him several times since that visit and each time we spoke he had a even more difficult time speaking due to a failing heart.

nick's boys

My beloved coach passed away July 5, 2016.  The grief is so great that it’s taken until now to be able to write about such a great man.  The towns of Petal/Hattiesburg knew when this man passed away.  For me it was like a new national day of mourning.  The pain of the little child inside had me disappearing inside myself.  My athlete has never stopped mourning over his loss.  Anytime you ask me about this guy I called Coach Nick I tear up but not out of sadness.  I tear up over the gift I was chosen to receive.  That was just gratitude rolling out of my eyes.  Since trauma has had such a big impact on my life more than once I always wear that shirt into a session with my therapist when I need his encouragement.

Ironically, as the universe would see fit, I met the one who would be the next big coach in my life only a month later.  This time things are different.  Now I’m not in the fight for a win in a game, I’m in the fight for my life.  And everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Grateful again?  You bet I am. I will find a way to succeed because I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS!

Below are links and newspaper about this guy everyone knows as The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  Please take a little time to read about this man that both South Mississippi and I loved.

 

 

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/news/local/hattiesburg/2016/07/05/hattiesburgs-nicks-ice-house-icon-nick-kolinsky-dies/86728744/

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/sports/college/southern-miss/football/2016/07/13/cleveland-nick-kolinsky-jack-lucas-had-special-bond/87010864/

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hattiesburgamerican/obituary.aspx?pid=180567264

#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

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

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

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

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

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

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

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

IMG_0015

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

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

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

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

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

finding myself

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

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

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

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

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

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

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

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

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

Locked And Loaded

Locked and Loaded

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

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

Imagine for a minute this scenario…..

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

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

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

dylan 2

I have lost my emotions

—  Dylan Klebold

 

eric harris 2

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

—  Eric Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote from Marilyn Manson in the documentary Bowling for Columbine.

#thispuzzledlife

For The Bible Tells Me So…

For the Bible Tells Me So…

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

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

—-Anonymous

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

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

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

sharkfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pain changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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