It’s Not About The Food

It’s Not About The Food

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

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

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

–Mary Pipher

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

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

skinny back

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

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

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

scales

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

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

scales attached

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

We Called Him Friend

We Called Him….Friend

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

—John C. Maxwell

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

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

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

dr holmes

March 21, 1941-July 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

No Thanks Needed

No Thanks Needed

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

—Anonymous

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

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

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

ambulatance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Kevin Kruse

#Thispuzzledlife

The Healing Has Begun

The Healing Has Begun

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

— Hippocrates

Recently, I was asked to notice the things that irritate me throughout the week but more specifically in public where I have the most problems.  And OMG I must have totally been  attempting to be a trophy hog on disordered thinking or something.  Because I started noticing that everything about being in public bothers me  with the complete spectrum of emotions.  I won’t put too many specifics because well…..we live in a society with some real poop slingers.  No wonder I have so many different reactions both physically and mentally.

I already know from where some of these reactions stem but some I don’t.  At any rate, I still learned something about my triggers.  I also learned that I have a lot of work to do before I’m anywhere near comfortable in public again.  I’ll just have to trust the next step.

I have isolated myself so long that I’d lost all hope and refused to set any goals.  I guess before I set goals I needed to have some time to realize what it is that I want again out of life.  What are the things that I’ve missed and grieved over missing in life?  Some might not seem big but they were definitely taken for granted.

  1. First, I want to be able to be the kind of spouse to my wife that she deserves.  She didn’t ask for the complications of a mentally ill spouse.  I also didn’t ask for the mental illness.  She’s a real trooper in every way.  And she wholeheartedly supports my efforts to find peace.
  2. I want to be a mother to my children that’s there for them both emotionally and physically.  Yes my children are learning about mental illness firsthand.  It’s both good and bad.  They are learning how devastating it can be but they are also learning how to be advocates at the same time.  They deserve, as well as, I do to be emotionally available to them. They know that momma D is different.  And they also know that I’m momma the one who loves them more than my next breath.
  3. I want my career back working with difficult populations with addictions in some capacity.

nothing can dim a light

  1. I want to speak to graduate classes specifically about the stigmas surrounding the diagnosis of DID.  And how important ethics are and the damage that can be caused from not being ethical therapists.  And how bad therapy almost killed me.
  2. I would like to do public speaking outside the classroom also helping to lessen the stigmas of mental illness.
  3. I want to be able to live a life free from the torture of my past.
  4. I want to be able to grieve all these years I’ve held back out of fear.
  5. Above all I just want to be heard.

This might seem like not a big deal to some but this is still a tall order that I have never seen as being remotely possible.  I don’t know what lies before me.  I heard someone recently say that uncomfortability is the key to healing and growth.  I am definitely no stranger to uncomfortability. But more with the goal of peace at the finish line doesn’t appear to be a difficult choice.  The pace will be slow and steady which is the way I would view a ball season or an important game.  And well….I’m in the fight for my life.  Burning out on the front end just creates more setbacks. It’s also not a sprint but a marathon. Because it took 42 years to become this dysfunctional and to think it can all be healed over night is a miracle only Jesus could pull off.   Yes Sarah I do understand. Sometimes all you need is for someone to give you a chance to reap that opportunity.  My friends the healing has begun.

#Thispuzzledlife

Closing The Chaper

Closing the Chapter

12.29.2017

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

—Paulo Coehlo

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

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

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

eagle dancer

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

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

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

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

locked soul

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

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

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

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

puzzle piece blue

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Who Really Cares?

Who Really Cares?

January 11, 2017

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

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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

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

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

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

comfort zone

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

8.3.15

“Hiding my pain and acting strong, afraid to cry and

show my tears, I struggle with all this years later.”

― Erin Merryn, Living for Today: From Incest and Molestation to Fearlessness and Forgiveness

 I’m playing ‘catch up’ on topics and knew that I would eventually need to talk about the topic of the Duggar family.  I know that a lot of media coverage has made hearing the Duggar name sound  as comforting as snuggling with a pit viper.  In all fairness, though, I’ve waited to talk about this topic in the blog for a while on purpose.  I had a total system ‘shock and awe’ event that happened when details of the events were released.  Talk about ripping a scab off a deep and very painful wound.  Here let’s just start from when Mel and I began watching them….

Mel and I had been watching the Duggars’ program 19 Kids and Counting for a couple of years on and off.  We usually watched them when nothing else was on because of their radical, fundamentalist views.  However, when we did watch the show, I enjoyed watching the strange dynamics within the family like many of the other reality shows on television now.  We usually have fun diagnosing or predicting future diagnoses of each member of the families we have the pleasure of watching them interact together.  Yes, when both you and your spouse have counseling degrees and can recognize dysfunction a mile away, then watching reality TV tends to be so much more interesting.

Anyway, watching the children interact but also factoring in that networks need their ratings to remain profitable, you can just tell that with that many kids in one family, that all needs are not met for healthy mental development.  Aside from the fact that I feel deeply sorry for the mother’s uterus for having to birth that many children, I still had a deep concern for the mental well being of the children.  I would and do feel sorry for children who have to grow up in families where their religious beliefs are as abusive as any object or fist that’s thrown or used on the child.  Where these families might have the best intentions for their children biblically, it’s not healthy physically or mentally for children to grow up with such strict “laws” imposed on them by their caretakers.

When you have 19 children, you are setting them up for failure.  I have read and watched how the Duggar’s children interact and an older child is put in charge of a younger child.  Ummmm…..did I say that they are both children?  Yep, children should not be expected nor put in the position of ever having to be a parental figure to a younger child.  I realize that this happens even in smaller families and even non-religious families and it’s still destructive.

wolves in sheep clothing #2

When the news about Josh Duggar and the molestation began littering social media and other news sources, it didn’t take long for my heart to drop to the pit of my stomach.  I had a gut feeling about what had been the probable cause of the events but I wanted and had to hear more.  I was torn about isolating myself from the story because of how triggering it had already begun to be at the first mention of his actions.  The only way to explain how I felt was completely emotionally confused but needed to know more.

I was correct in my assumptions that the children were not being taught about healthy sexuality.  In many evangelical or other radical religions, the topic of sex and healthy sexuality are seldom discussed anything beyond “don’t do it or you’ll go to hell.”  So, children grow up not understanding fully and thinking that it’s wrong or deviant for natural body exploration.  Jim Bob Duggar, the father of the multitude, was quoted after walking in on one of his son’s masturbating that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” He then proceeded to punish his son by making him do chores with his hands tied.  What this suppression will lead to is sexual frustration and confusion.  Everyone has been around a teenage male at some point in their life.  The last thing they need is SUPPRESSION!!!!!  Heck, I would like to hand out extra sets of hands. I’d also like to point out that proving to the nation that you can produce a zoo just because you have the parts is not exactly an example of healthy sexual practices either.

The more I began to dig into the Duggar’s handling and subsequent minimizing of the situation is when I became so triggered that started becoming physically ill.  Then, I began to watch as many members of other “Christian” religions also minimize the actions of Josh Duggar.  I soon became enraged at what I was hearing and seeing.  The attitudes I was seeing were collectively stating, “He said he was sorry and asked for forgiveness, now leave him alone. It was an innocent teenage mistake.” Are you kidding me?!

Standby as I paint the picture of the rest of the crimes that were committed.  Keep in mind that Josh Duggar perpetrated 5 female children, 4 of which were his sisters.  The initial crimes were committed in 2002-2003.  Josh would’ve been 14 or 15 at the time.  The behavior was done repeatedly and the parents, as well as, other church members were well aware of what had transpired.  Josh’s parents stated that he was put in a program that consisted of physical labor and counseling.  Ok, brace yourself for this next part….

The program that he had allegedly been attending consisted of being sent away for three months to do construction work remodeling a building with a ‘mentor.’  This individual has since been convicted and is serving a 56 year sentence for child pornography.  Also, none of the adults that were aware of the incidences ever reported the abuse to the authorities.  That in itself is a crime!  Conveniently, the statutes of limitations had also run out by the time authorities were notified. No therapeutic counseling or treatment has been provided for Josh or his victims.  If it sounds like I’m also taking up for Josh, make no mistake that I’m doing no such thing.

Don't tell mom or dad.jpg

His parents minimization of the situation was clearly put on stage in an interview with FOXNEWS….” it wasn’t like this was some sort of terrible violation. It was just a little sexual groping of one’s sleeping sisters.”  “There were a couple incidents where he touched them under their clothes,” Jim Bob said. “But it was a few seconds.”  Now if that turned your stomach imagine how the children felt when their own father and mother described ‘sexual purity’ after their abuse.  Engage in any kind of sexual activity before marriage and you’re as desirable as a banged-up bike or a cup of spit: This is the message the Duggar parents conveyed to the girls who had been sexually assaulted by their older brother.

The Duggar sexual philosophy is that girls’ bodies do not belong to themselves. They’re under the authority of another male figure, and then they belong to their husbands. There is no individual right of female sexual pleasure. There is no value placed on female bodily autonomy, ownership or control. The message is that girls’ bodies are never their own, that the girls themselves are simply vessels for male pleasure, male desires, and male authority, and the girls’ job is to preserve their bodies to hand over to the appropriate man. Ok, this was not their “husband” anyway.  It was their brother for God’s sake.  If you were raised in a home with these types of beliefs would you, as a female child, said anything already knowing that your fears and confusion would not be validated?

too heavy

From someone who has been sexually assaulted as a child and later as an adult, the lasting effects reach far beyond most “non-touched” people’s minds.  I must keep reiterating that just because I had sexual trauma does not correlate to my being gay.  Seems like an elementary concept to some but it still needs to be driven home to others.  I was also one that didn’t think that being molested had any long term effects because until my 30s, I had not remembered any lingering negative effects from the incidents.  I was also in the middle of still surviving a very emotionally, mentally and sexually damaging marriage at the time that took every ounce of energy.  I was also in college working on my undergraduate degree at the time of issues arising directly related to my molestation at a young age which helped to keep my mind occupied.

When our oldest son Marshall was born, I started noticing a lot of anxiety about giving baths; changing diapers and anything requiring basic care regarding hygiene and his genitalia.  I would actually start to sweat while changing diapers.  I would get nauseous and often times cry while not knowing why I couldn’t do basic “mommy duties.”  I felt as if I were violating him in some way.  I felt dirty and just wrong for simply trying to take care of our baby.  The same type of “innocent teenage mistake” that I’ve heard Josh Duggar’s actions referred to was robbing me of the pleasure of being a mom.

The effects of the guys that touched me both as a child and adult reach far beyond just our son.  This information is reserved for the brave souls that continue to work with us both as a family and a system.  There’s many more statements made by the Duggar’s that absolutely turn my stomach.  Josh Duggar committed a crime and was at an age where he knew that touching his sisters was wrong.  To have the behavior reinforced by adults, two being primary caretakers, who knew the behavior was continuing and refused to report it to the authorities or get the proper help that their son needed says to me that there’s more than one perpetrator.  What makes this situation even more hurtful was that their weapon of choice was the Bible.

#Thispuzzledlife

The Chaos Of Life

The Chaos of Life

8.2.15

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

Viktor E. Frankl

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

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

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

soulsofsuffering

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

dad

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

05/11/2015

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

– Lady GaGa

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

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

ying yang fire water

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

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

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

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

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

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen

 

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

 

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Circle Of Life

The Circle of Life

3.31.15

“Simba, you have forgotten me. You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba, you are more than what you have become; you must take your place in the circle of life. Remember who you are…. remember….” -Mufasa, The Lion King

The title of this post just had to have a quote from The Lion King.  Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out a lot of things.  I use to have a place back where my parents live that I could just go to think.  In the desert and a much larger city sometimes you have to get creative.  So, I started thinking about the simple things in life that made me happy as a child which also brought me much comfort.  The three things that have always remained constant are my love for ballparks, animals and music.

Albuquerque while much larger than the town I grew up in has ballparks attached to dog parks. PERFECT!!!!  So, when I need some ‘down time’ from being a wife and a mom, I drive to a local park and watch the animals play in the respective area while taking in all of the sounds of the ballpark and my IPod.  My senses instantly become overloaded and the memories begin to flood the good times in my life of opening day at the softball fields.  The familiar smells of charcoal grills with hamburgers and hotdogs, fresh cut grass and dirt can take me back 20+ years to a time when I had life by the tail and was trying to enjoy the ride.

The sound of the pinging of aluminum bats. The cheer of the crowds and the familiar laughter and talking among teammates in the outfield bring a ‘genuine’ smile to my face which few things can do these days.  I think to myself sometimes, “What I wouldn’t give to be able to play one more game being coached by some of my beloved coaches and the adrenaline pumping through my veins at a rate that only an athlete can understand.”  For a brief moment, I’m at peace.

I notice the still changing seasons which bring about new birth evidenced by green instead of brown, dormant, winter grass.  Little bits of green have begun to appear slowly almost with the fear of another final winter blast.  I begin to think a little deeper about recent situations and notice that once again the only thing constant has been change.  Friendships are changing.  Therapy is changing. Our family size is changing.  Everything is once again changing.  Scared?  I must be honest and say yes.  Sad?  I cannot tell a lie.  Excited about what lies blindly ahead? You bet!

I begin to think even deeper and internal conversations lead to this revelation.  When my Nannie passed away, 9 months later I meet my best friend who would become my wife.  My wife’s uncle passes away and Marshall is born almost one year later.  Sarah just passed away in February and we are within weeks of having our brand new baby boy join our family.

I’ve been dealing with some things and have answered questions in a way that brought on a comment from my wife, Melody saying, “That sounded just like something Sarah would say.”  My heart has been so heavy recently because I have some situations that I would like to hear her guidance that only she could help me to understand.  Her wisdom was such that it was written on my heart.  I must admit, though, that I wish it was written on paper.

The above quote from The Lion King hit me with a handful of Sarah and my Nannie.  My grandmother would’ve “churched” the idea up with some of her ‘special’ words.   Sarah would’ve said it almost exactly.  Remember, she was and always will be my Yoda.

Then I suddenly had a vision of both Sarah and Nannie meeting for the first time in heaven.  The solemn mood soon led to a deep belly laugh with this vision.  Those that knew Sarah knew that she had a one of a kind swaggered walk of confidence rather than arrogance.  I told her a few days before she passed and was still somewhat coherent that, “Mel and I had a baby that was born in Heaven and if she would keep an eye on it with my grandmother, we would greatly appreciate it.”  I refer to our child as “it” only because the doctors were not able to determine the sex of our child at the time of its demise.  She indicated to me that she understood what I was saying and when I looked in her eyes. As usual, I was filled with peace because of the level of trust we had always had between the two of us.

The funny part comes in when I envision the encounter between my grandmother and Sarah.  She had seen pictures of my grandmother so, there’s no doubt she knew what she looked like.  Anyway, I envision Sarah looking around and see this older and shall I say very spunky lady with this itty bitty baby in her hand.  So, she walks up to her and says, “Hey, who’s little one you got there?”  Nannie being the brash and sometimes ornery woman that she was responded, “Who are you?”  Sarah replies, “Hi, I’m Sarah Pardue.”  I have a “friend”, as she would usually tell stories, that she and her wife lost a baby about the age of that one right there and asked me to check on for them.  Nannie would reply, “This is my great grand baby. My granddaughter and her wife lost a little one a few months ago.”  I can almost see the wheels in Sarah’s head turning and putting 2+2 together and getting 4.  She said, “You wouldn’t happen to be called Nannie would you?”

Let me interject this by saying that Sarah had the nose of a bloodhound to sniff out addict behaviors.  And the “street smarts” to outwork Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami on any kind of murder case if she were needed.  There was a resource somewhere for something that she always had at her fingertips.

Anyway, Nannie would reply in her very hysterically, unique way, “Who are you?”  Sarah would simply say, “Yea, I thought so.”  As Nannie starts to reach for her familiar house shoe that she would use against the squirrels to fling at them like a monkey does poop, Sarah would say, “Dana told me you were a spit fire.  I told her I would come by and check on this baby.  You see, this baby is part mine too” as she would chuckle.  Nannie would say, “Dana? How do you know Dana?”  Sarah would just look at her and say, “Let’s just say, I know how hard headed she can be and possibly where some of it came from.”  They would both have a good laugh and then the storytelling would begin. And even then Sarah would abide by HIPAA regulations.

Whether this actually happens or not, I’ll never know.  Sometimes the things that keep you going are knowing that the people that meant the world to you are together and have finally met each other like you always wanted them to do.  More importantly, lately, I have been feeling so lost, lonely and just flat out missing and needing to talk to Sarah.  I need and want HER opinions.  Am I glad she’s at peace? Who doesn’t want close friends/family to have personal peace?   I miss her to a degree and a level that even I don’t understand.

Through writing this post, I have received the answer in black and white through a quote and the feelings this writing has stirred up for me.  I do NOT have the ability to read between the lines so open, honest and direct communication is what I require for understanding.  I am also in no way trying to minimize the passing of either of these beautiful individuals.  Just a mental scenario that has kept me comforted recently that I thought I would share.  Sarah in essence sort of “kicking me out of the nest” from heaven by saying, “Dana, you have it within you to do your work and find your own answers now.  I will always be a guide for you as are your ancestors.  But, this journey is about you and only you.  Go now and find your answers and peace as you have helped others find theirs.”

And my tears have turned to smiles if only for a moment.

#Thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Clown

Tears of a Clown

9.7.14

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

—Patch Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife