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

“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.

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

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

The Girl In The Closet (Poetry)

The Girl In The Closet

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Day I Was Born (Poetry)

The Day I Was Born

The day I was born everyone would see the baby isn’t she cute just look at her feet!

But what they didn’t know was already done

I had been given away like I was a toy gun.

You are a gift from God my parents would say

But this little girl didn’t see it that way.

Oh….she was young and she loved you so

This I hoped for but I needed to know.

I searched and longed for you every day of my life

Ballgames, ceremonies where could she be this is causing such strife.

The void that was left it couldn’t be filled.

Alcohol, razors, shopping and lots and lot of pills.

The primal wound is what it’s called

Nothing can help this pain at all.

I found someone that helped me understand the hurt.

She was my Yoda and now she’s under the dirt.

The day I finally met you I didn’t know how to feel.

This was the moment I’ve waited for and now the records would be unsealed

Questions were asked and answers were given.

What you said to me…Are you freakin’ kiddin’?

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This grown little girl finally got to meet her bio mom.

The little girl was so happy until that mom dropped the bomb.

“You were an inconvenience and I was mad at your dad.”

Really was that all the feeling you had?

The thoughts of hope and healing were once again gone

She hated me because I was me and I again felt all alone.

This new wound was more painful and I put my head in my hands and cried.

Because she didn’t love me like they said, it was all a big lie.

My soul felt abandoned it was dark and cold.

But this time I was not a baby I was 31 years old.

When I got home I just needed to be held

But instead he said, “just think about it she’s

 the one got rid of you” was all that was said.

Every day since I replay that same scene

Hoping that what she said was all a bad dream.

But I know what I heard on that cold wintery day

The woman that gave me life hated me in every kind of way.

When December rolls around I shoot daggers at that date

Because I don’t like celebrating the day I was given away.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make peace

Because She hated a baby for having a heart beat.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

 

Please Help Me!!!! (Poetry)

Please help me!!

I tried but I wasn’t enough

With every bite you just wouldn’t give up.

They never heard your words but i still do.

I wanted to please no one but you.

You raped me with your voice,

And I never had another choice.

Haunted by your abuse

I knew there was no use.

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Try and try I did every day,

Slowly pieces of me would begin to fade away.

I sit here with razors and something to drink

Wanting to do something anything besides think.

But you return with every bite of food

And every decision.

Just like before with your narcissistic precision.

The memories are too much for me to bare

Everyone says, “just eat who cares?”

I do and with food comes many tears

With so much of your abuse from so many years.

I hate food and this is me pleading,

Please stop and let me learn about eating.

You’ve had your turn And now the time is mine.

It’s time I leave your mean ass behind.

You’ve taken part of my soul with which you played with like a toy.

But all it was was one of your narcissistic ploys.

You tried to mold me into something I could never be.

My cries are loud and screaming, Please someone help me!!

By:  Dana Landrum-Arnold

#Thispuzzledlife

Code Of Silence

The Code of Silence

The predator wants your silence.  It feeds their power,

entitlement, and they want it to feed your shame.”

—Viola Davis

When I first begin getting to know someone, the very first thing I look for is their level of snitch. What do I mean by this?  Snitching is when you tell on someone to get yourself out of trouble.  Another word for a snitch is a tattletale.  To be labeled as a snitch socially is to be ostracized.  In other circles being labeled as a snitch can get you killed.  And snitching is a predator’s greatest enemy because that exposes secrets.

As a small child the term snitching wasn’t used yet. I did know what the term tattletale meant.  And what hurting my friend’s feelings and damaging a relationship because of telling secrets meant.  It meant people would be mad at me and I would have no friends.  Even teachers at daycares can get tired of all the tattling.  Step inside any daycare and you’re liable to hear, “The next child that tattles doesn’t go outside and play.”  These are two dichotomous examples of telling information.  My question to think about is are we teaching our kids the best and safest message?  There are always exceptions to the rule.  By the time these children are teens there’s an unwritten “code of conduct” around telling information whether it be relevant or not that might save lives.  This will also get someone labeled as a snitch.

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I can expand more about teens later, however, for the sake of this blog post I’m going to refer to myself as a young child.  My first lesson in keeping secrets that should’ve been told was around 5 years-old.  I was molested many times by my neighbor’s youngest and middle sons.  These boys were around 13-15 years old and old enough to know better.  The way I was held emotionally hostage was through threats like “the police would come and I would have my parents taken away.”  I was also told, “that I would make people mad and no one would want to be my friend. And it would be all my fault.”

This little girl named Dana would do everything possible to make sure both she and her family was safe.  From a child’s point of view, I hung on to every scary word spoken.  And afterwards they would tell me how beautiful I was.  The searing pain that would burn my body would leave an imprint on my psyche even today.  The pain and fear would start and I would leave somewhere in my mind where pain was not felt.  Still to this day, I’m very confused in just about every way in regards to having been molested.

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People  that seek power over other people instill in their victims that telling about abuse is a sign of weakness.  As a teenager, anytime I told or tried to tell about the abuse to the school administration this information would get back to the teacher making the abuse worse.  The message I got from doing that was to “forget asking for help and save yourself.”  After the abuse of my 8th grade year, I vowed that as long as I was around to witness someone needing defending or help I would step in and protect in whatever way that I could.  This has bought me unnecessary trouble with coaches and friends but to me it was worth it.  I could then lay my head on my pillow at night and sleep.

One night after Mel and I had been speaking to a class at the college, A mother from that class asked me where I went to middle school.  I told her Petal Middle School and she asked about the teacher that was so abusive.  Because her 8th grade son would come home from school every afternoon with tears in his eyes due to being called names in front of his classmates by a teacher. She told me the teacher she was speaking about and after my heart dropped into my stomach I said, “Unfortunately, ma’am that is who I was speaking about.”  She asked, “What should I do?”  I told her, “Tell someone and get your child in counseling like yesterday.”  I don’t know whatever happened to that mother and her child’s situation.  The information I shared with her helped she and her son?  However, a big load of shame and guilt was dumped on me as penance for that child and any other children after me that I kept the secret about the abuse ,consequently, leaving the predator unscathed and in the driver’s seat to handpick her next teen victim with ease.

The small little southern city with air tight politics and a nose for people’s business other than their own was to my detriment that year.  I was told many years later by one of the administrators that worked there my middle school years information that still burns my ears.  I was told, “You were a child at that time and I couldn’t say anything especially due to the politics.  But I can tell you now that she should’ve never been around children.”  The disappointment must’ve been written all over my face when she saw how perplexed I was.  She said, “Is there something I can try to clear up for you?”  I stood there for a moment not knowing what to say but burning with questions.  “Yes ma’am.  I do have a question…..So you all knew she was abusive and shouldn’t have been around children and you let her teach anyway?!”  “I was her verbal punching bag and her abuse has affected my education, my career, my relationship with my wife and children, my relationships with others and above all the relationship and image of how I view myself as a human being!”  I was mad but I couldn’t stop then tears.  She hugged me as we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

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 When I went to my own vehicle and unlocked the doors, I sat down and shook my head and said, “They knew the whole time and didn’t try to stop her.  Didn’t they know how badly it all hurt?  Did they even care? Yes, I fought every way possible to make it through that year in school that still shows its ugly scarring.  No matter what adult I tried to tell that year I got no help from the abuse.  And “snitching” never did me any favors.  Had someone look past the labels and protected me from the backlash of telling the truth about the abuse my life could and maybe even would be much different now.  That one year of school affected a few other teenagers in ways that are still damaging to them.  The most visible are the scars that line the forearms of those teens with 30 years of thick scarring  from the one thing that would listen to us all then…..razors.  I also had the experience of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia), alcoholism, drug addiction that were all there with their arms wide open to help shield me from the unwanted torture of abuse.

The “Code of Silence” protected by perpetrators in a way that I had no defense.  And as a very young bride, I would face abuse again for the next 14 years.  That “Code of Silence” that was used as an intimidation factor all those years worked.  It kept me silent and the perpetrators innocent.  I go to bed scared every night and the first emotion I have in the morning is fear.  This shame based silence that seen as normal or acceptable is very hurtful.  Maybe protecting offenders because of “snitching” isn’t the problem. And maybe listening and helping to protect children and teens when they tell should be handled first instead of politics and reputations.

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

–Elie Wiesel

#thispuzzledlife

“Bruised Inside”

“Bruised Inside”

“You’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare you’ve ever dreamed.But when it’s over, I know you’ll be the one standing.  You know what you have to do.  Do it!”

—Coach Duke, Creed

In my blog I repeat several different views about the abuse I went through.  It might be from a different angle but repeating will inevitably happen.  If this is a problem then read elsewhere because this blog is about MY healing and when I’m struggling or laughing about something worth sharing, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

This is a great therapeutic tool that I developed out of necessity several years ago.  At that time, it seemed to be just what I needed that listened and was non-judgmental to whatever problem I would write about.  Whatever the issue was, I wanted and searched for my answers to some of my strange behavior at times.  I was simply searching for where the “old Dana” went and who in the heck was this “new Dana” in many different pieces that is trying to emerge?

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The one part of life that I’m very strong in is protective instincts.  This means protecting those I love even if the protection is from me.  I can’t say that I love someone and then when the situation calls for this protection I not be willing to do just that.  I’ve ended a relationship recently for this very reason and it has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

Looking for answers as I’ve always done, I went to the library to see what I can find about a topic that has been bothering me “Bullying at school by teachers.”  Most books on this topic usually lead to bullying from other students.  But this day, I found a book that would seemingly have some much needed answers and validation that has been lacking.  The book is titled, “Teen Torment by Patricia Evans.”

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I opened the book to a random page with the title…..

In this passage I found this….”In a culture that overlooks verbal abuse, teens who are tormented by it face difficulties accomplishing developmental tasks such as independence, identity, and career goals.  When teachers put them down or rage at them these students lose the confidence to become independent. And one of the long-term consequences of verbal abuse is that it disconnects teens from their emotional self.”  Essentially, what happens is that the teen learns how to feel nothing in order to withstand the abuse.  “The teen then can’t figure out who they really are versus who they’re told they are.  Consequently, they look for their identity outside of themselves making up an image that seems more acceptable since they’ve already been told many times that who they are is not adequate as a human being.  They might develop an appearance so that no one really knows what has happened to them as a safety measure.  They will go to any lengths to maintain this image which to them seems safe.  Instead they end up losing their own interests and talents because all of their thoughts about who they thought they were have been told time and time again that they’re wrong.”

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Indicators of Verbal Abuse

  • Show a noticeable change in behavior
  • Become isolated and withdrawn
  • Pull away and refuse to talk
  • Seem depressed
  • Cry easily or often
  • Not have close friends
  • Have bad dreams
  • Complain about going to school
  • Cut classes at school
  • Refuse to go to school
  • Throw up before school
  • Seem to daydream a lot
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Get much lower grade than usual
  • Seem to have lost enthusiasm for anything
  • Become self-critical
  • Hurt themselves, cut themselves, eating disorders and pull their hair
  • Act aggressively towards siblings, peers or parents
  • Get angry often
  • Lash out at others
  • Get in many fights (Teen Torment, 2003).

When I was abused by this teacher everything that I was being taught, by my parents, about respect of another human being was confusing to say the least.  She told me so many negative things about myself as a human being and through negative body image that I was almost guaranteed to sprout the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia that I still struggle with daily after 30 years.  I’m tormented by her words and actions daily.  I can hear them as clearly as the day she said them.  And as sad as it seems, I hold onto my eating disorders and other self-harming behaviors with a death grip because somewhere along the way they were the only part of my life that seemed safe and something I can control.  But this “control” is a false control just like addiction to a chemical.  It’s also behaviors that pretend to be your friend until you realize that that “safe friend” has taken everything away mainly your sanity.  Self-harming behaviors of any kind have negative social implications which have made me a prisoner of my bedroom.  Most people don’t want to hear excuses for why you don’t want to eat.  They just see it as a disrespectful gesture and will think twice before inviting you again.  And God forbid if they happen to see your scars from cutting.  They think they’re hanging out with a psychotic monster that has the possibility to lunge at them with a razor blade at the dinner table.  My thoughts have always been, “If you only knew what caused these scars to appear, you’d think before judging next time.”

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When I finished reading only about 10 pages of information I laid my book down in my lap and began sobbing.  Finally, I had found some information that spoke for me what I couldn’t.  I saw on those pages validation for that horrible year of abuse with information about what it did to me.  I was called all the names and was told that I was stupid and fat among other things that children should never have directed at them by anyone much less from a “safe person” in a position of authority.  That year affected me in ways that I still can’t fully understand.  This book and it’s passages tend to make me retract from some of the information because of how close to home it all is.

As a teenager, I had much difficulty with emotion regulation.  I’m torment by her words and actions of that year.  Her negative body image comments have me fearing everything related to the topic.  I can still feel the bullets of her malignant words she shot my way directly into my still developing brain.  And to her I can say this, “You don’t matter and you never did.  I’m succeeding despite what you did.”  And for you I have a surprise.  What if it’s simply calling you and confronting you about what was done?  This kind of discussion needs to be in public where we both feel safe and can speak openly.  It could be that simple. Would you listen and deny any wrong doing?  Either way a surprise there will be because every day I wake up I’m bruised inside and you are the only one who can heal that wound.  Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise?!  Maybe that’s the surprise I’m waiting to hear and hold on to.  Maybe the surprise is something different. Only I know.

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Every single day I choose to work on some type of behavior or action that most people take for granted.  As much as I would like to re-gift this “gift” of surviving apparently it was meant for me.  And I’ll carry this burden with the hopes that my own children don’t have to taste this type of life and that monsters are just pretend instead of real as I and many others know them.  Carrying the trauma of the boys that molested me, my teacher, my ex-husband and his brother, a trusted therapist will end with me.  I will either win or die trying because when it comes down to it it’s all about leaving everything you’ve got physically and mentally in the ring, on the field or on the court.  Whatever happens my wife and boys will know that I gave everything I had until I couldn’t.  I wasn’t coached to give up until I had left it all on the field and could feel proud of my efforts whenever that day comes.

Rocky Balboa talking to Adonis Creed before his first fight….

You’ve never been in front of this many people….that don’t matter.

You’ve never been this far away from home….that doesn’t matter either.

What matters is what you leave in the ring

And what you take back with you is……PRIDE.

And knowing that you did your best and you did it for yourself.

You didn’t do it for me; Not for your friend’s memory but for you.

I can see in your eyes you’re going to do it…..Go Do This Champ!

#thispuzzledlife

Live To Fight Another Day

Live To Fight Another Day

“It might not seem like it now, but this is more than just a fight.”

—-Adonis Creed, Creed 2

The last couple of weeks have brought some very intense emotional days and nights.  I’ve manage to, once again, keep the smiles and laughter present and to hopefully not let on that I have been feeling every emotional strand that holds my psyche together.  Sometimes the emotions are not just one but all of them at the same time.  The toll, both physically and emotionally, that these intense emotions can take on a body and mind words cannot do justice to try and replicate.  The only description that I can find, at this moment, is a slow, creeping death.  And these are the times when I begin to question every decision and mistake made in my life including whether staying in Texas is still the best decision.

Lately, the battles with my behavioral addictions has been the ones to seemingly take me over.  The battles between my ears are crippling.  I’ve battled anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember.  Within the last few years depression seems to have intensified so much that I don’t even know the name to give it.  And my anxiety has me wondering why I don’t have a cardiac “crash cart” available on a moment’s notice.  Also, the fight for every bite of food and the urges of self-harm never stop talking to me.

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Coach Nick Kolinsky told our team time after time, “Little things make big things happen.”  He was obviously talking about us working as a team.  He reminded us that as players if we do our jobs fielding, batting and running individually that we are doing our part to help the “team” as a whole.  I’m now much older and his words about working as a team still ring true.  The sometimes little irritating therapy assignments are all for one goal…….FUNCTIONALITY.  Not only individually but again as a mother and a spouse.  And as a well oiled system.

Then there are the times that I get buried in questioning my diagnosis.  I’ll still try to find a way out of my condition being true.  But within minutes one or more of the symptoms return only to confirm that the diagnosis is, in fact, correct.  I think I’ve questioned this diagnosis since the day I was told that I met criteria.

The last  few months has been filled with neck surgery, back surgery and very soon a hysterectomy.  With all this stress and others my eating disorders thought that it was a perfect time to raise their ugly heads higher and with sometimes an unbearable strength.  If I look at this opponent as a whole it becomes too overwhelming to think about challenging its poisonous power.  Don’t get me wrong  I’ve been struggling for years with this big, smelly beast.  Life with ED (eating disorders) has gotten stronger over the years.  I know what to expect on each level of starvation.  The pain of anorexia and bulimia I cannot explain.  But there have been many days lately where just lying in my bed hurt.  The dehydration and everything that comes with it like dry mouth, cramping muscles, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting (there’s no food but there is bile), dry skin, brittle hair, lack of energy and this time it was a good ol’ case of thrush.  And along with it the added messages of those who spoke venomous comments to me as a teen and an adult are on some kind of marquee being seen and spoken one after another.  I usually lie in my bed crying about having to make simple food decisions.  My ex-husband would call this immature, senseless and childish self- loathing.  And for a minute I try to pull myself together.  My effort would be for nothing when the towering thoughts about how everything about food and body image is bad unless he takes total control to tell me what I can and cannot have to eat.   Those painful thoughts and sometimes realistic situations leave me paralyzed not knowing what decision is the “right one” so that I don’t get in trouble.  All in the name of “not wanting to have a fat wife.”

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“You would be as big as this house, Dana, if you didn’t have someone managing your food for you.  You’re just too dumb to make decisions about healthy food, I guess”  he would say daily.  “Remember this…..” he would say. “I’m not living with a fat woman!  Go look at yourself in the mirror and tell me if you can even see what I’m talking about.”  I would go to the nearest mirror where I could see down to my knees and look at everything about myself.  In my eyes and apparently his too, I looked like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man from the original Ghostbusters.  I could see how disgusting I looked or at least I better be able to see it.  I would again, as I had many times, gone back to where he was waiting and told him, whether I did or not, that I saw the problems areas on my body and that I would fix it.

Obviously, that was another time and another place.  But every time I try to put a piece of food in my mouth, I hear those words screaming at me.  Day after day and night after night his torture emotionally was more than I could take.  I would nod like I understood but I would soon lose what he was saying and me and my brain were elsewhere.  Nevertheless, I would do my best to follow food orders and always in sequential order came the secretive self-harm behaviors.    The combination of surgeries and trying to deal with the trauma of my eating disorders has been difficult at best.

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Unfair Opponent

The Unfair Opponent

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

–Isuna Hasekura, Spice & Wolf

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

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

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

screams

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

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

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

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

— Craig D. Lounsbrough-

#thispuzzledlife

The Healing Power of Strangers

The Healing Power of Strangers

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
― Rumi

Today was therapy day which was the first session since our big internal revelation about functioning as a team.  After some formalities in conversation we start our work with the our internal group all in one place.  Our protector stands at the plate with a serious, yet also playful, tone as the one who would take direction for the group.  Her blazing stare along with those of her “posse” is enough to cause hesitation and chills with many.  She stares at all members with an almost, “I dare you to step out of line” gaze.  “Coach” then directs her to address those most ostracized. She reluctantly begins to speak to these nicely as she’s told.  When asked what she thought she responds with, “those words tasted like vinegar rolling of my lips.”  The therapeutic point was eventually made, understood and internalize later in the session. And yes, we are still chewing on all of that.

The topics that I despise the most is food, eating and body image soon became the topic of conversation.  The correlations between this struggle and particular traumas were addressed.  And then came the topic about a specific food that I can almost never turn down….SUSHI!!!!!  The is an internally approved food but one in particular like to eat sushi like it’s the only “life force” for survival.  The protector is explained to about the importance of not being so rigid with food choices and abusive comments.  And of course when even internal children are around they pick up on things said by “coach” too.  The kids start shouting with excitement, “Chicken nuggets and ketchup packets…HOORAY!”  Then statements spoken are, “Can we have sushi tonight? Please!!!”  Rolling her eyes she sternly but calmly says, “No.”

We get our assignment for the coming week and I tell “coach” goodbye until next time.  I leave there nervous about the teen’s distaste and controlling nature about eating.  And our little natives were definitely restless.  Over and over I would hear, “Please let me have some sushi!!”  “Yea and chicken nuggets and candy too!!!!  And Ketchup!!!”  I knew that she wouldn’t tolerate much more but the  chants would not stop.  She tries to stay restrained but frustration leads to her snapping at those chanting, “Stop it!  Just stop it!  I said No!”  The children always seem to be protected from the majority of her abuse and they certainly know this.  A certain little 7 year-old says, “Coach says for you to not be an asshole.  And you’re being an asshole. I’m going to tell her!”  This, thankfully, seems to be the only bad word that he says but he can definitely use it liberally at times.  She huffs and puffs like she’s about to blow the house down and says through gritted teeth, “Fine go get some sushi then!”  Cheers ring out while she grumbles.

change your thoughts

We FINALLY settle on a place for the beloved sushi and make a B-Line for the restaurant.  Once there I have a couple of tokes of my medicine with the hope that I can head off the already rising anxiety.  I soon start to relax and get out of the car to watch the sushi piece-by-piece going to meet its maker.  I quickly notice different people in the restaurant and hope that no one can seem me.  Luckily, everyone’s attention seems to be on their own meal or conversation and they don’t notice me.  I fix my plate and then sit down at my table.  I start indulging in this little momentary slice of heaven.  Even when eating completely alone in my room I will start rocking while eating.  This doesn’t change when I’m in public.  It seems to ease the pain of the entire event.  I eat a couple of pieces and then the paranoia and anxiety explode with the thoughts, “This is bad!  This is bad!”  I put on my iPod to try to drown out the loud thoughts while continuing to rock.  I look at my plate scared to eat another piece.  My hands start shaking and I feel like I’m about to throw up.  I look at my plate again and think, “But sushi is an approved food what’s the problem?”  I realize the chaos is not from the protector but is coming from the one he married.  She feels the weight and the stabs of his words, “Look at yourself.  You eat like you’re in prison!  Everyone is watching you.  You disgust me!”

About 15 minutes has now gone by and the whole mood has now changed.  And then…..we make eye contact with another patron.  “Go! You’ve got to leave now because they just saw you”, I hear.  I quickly get up and try to exit the restaurant as quickly and as inconspicuous as possible. I go to pay for my meal and notice a bald woman, at the register,  who was obviously taking cancer treatments.  I’m thinking, “Ok just please hurry.”  I make small talk when it’s my turn to pay about how good the sushi was trying not to convey the difficulties of my recent struggle.  The employee says, “Oh you like sushi?  Sushi good for you.  You not here long.”  I say, “Yea, I’m kind of on a tight schedule.”  All I want is to be out that front door and away from food.

I start walking to my car when the bald woman whom I’ve never met says, “I can tell you struggle with being here.”  I try to blow it off and give a short answer so that I can move on.  “Yea I struggle with being in public and eating issues”, I tell her.  I keep walking to my target and she continues to follow closely beside me.  I keep thinking, “Please don’t say anything intrusive lady.  She is NOT in the mood.”  The lady boldly says, “Honey can I pray for you?”  Sirens go off internally by much more fierce protectors.  “No religion!  No religion!”  I freeze. I start looking for particles of fairy dust in the area and thinking, “Damn I must’ve overpaid her today or something.  How is this happening?”  I oblige her by saying, “Yes, please do.”  She prays specifically for my eating disorder issues and for some reason I know she means no harm.

I relax my guard a bit and we begin to talk briefly.  I find out that she moved to Texas from New York to take part in her own healing not related to the cancer.  After only a couple of minutes she says, “Honey, you’ve got to change to speaking healing in your words.”  Ok….I start looking around for “coach” thinking she has me on hidden camera.  Does this woman have a earpiece where “coach”  is telling her to say these things?  The whole moment seems surreal but comforting.  I told her, “You know I’ve been told those same things recently.”  She says, “No truer words.  You might want to listen.” I tell her goodbye and thank her again for her kindness.  I have no idea what her name was but something powerful had again happened at a time when I needed it.

I sit in my car for a few minutes trying to decipher everything that had just happened.  Why? I wonder.  She was a total stranger.  Why does she even care?  I get home a few minutes later with my fortune cookie still intact.  I always love to read my fortune even if it says, “Your ship will come in before your dock rots.”  This time I open the cookie up to have this written on the slip of paper, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.”  Wow…just…wow.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

—Aesop

#thispuzzledlife

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

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

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

and the temporary failures.”

–Vince Lombardi

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

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

epcot family

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Anniversary, Mel!!!

#thispuzzledlife

Advocates

Advocates

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

–Marshall Landrum-Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

survival

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

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

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

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

Either you love one or you are one.”

–Mark Ruffalo

#thispuzzledlife

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

“An abuser can seem emotionally needy. You can get caught in a trap of catering to him, trying to fill a bottomless pit. But he’s not so much needy as entitled, so no matter how much you give him, it will never be enough. He will just keep coming up with more demands because he believes his needs are your responsibility, until you feel drained down to nothing.”

― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

In my seemingly unending quest for answers about my past and present, I’m constantly trying to make connections about my current belief system, every day decision making, the tears, jokes and, yes, even the smiles and laughter.  What I’ve slowly learned about the effects of abuse is that no matter what form of abuse was carried out, your belief system about yourself and the world around you will inevitably be changed.  I had very little physical abuse but i was subjected to emotional and sexual abuse.

Narcissism seems to be a common thread among abusers.  They are their own God but most of all they make themselves your God.  The only way I  learned how to deal with them is by stroking their enormous egos.  Today being around someone that makes even a narcissistic comment will usually trigger some type of a knee jerk reaction from me.  Usually, it just ensures that you bought some form of argument with me at a sale price.  I can’t stand it and it infuriates me.  Even a person with a big personality triggers me.  Depending on which alter is triggered, I’ll either be very aggressive or I’ll “cow tow” and avoid eye contact.  Either way socially both are very problematic.

People sometimes seem to think that if you don’t have black eyes and broken bones that abuse couldn’t have possibly happened.  What they don’t understand is that there are gaping wounds unseen by the naked eye that are looking back at them.  As the partner your job is trying to help the abuser to cover their own tracks.  And making continuous attempts at achieving their unattainable requests and demands.  You become convinced over time that everything in the world that goes wrong must have some connection to you.  His beliefs were the only ones that were right and your beliefs are now non-existent because they were seen as wrong and stupid.

One of the most hurtful comments I’ve heard about domestic violence of any kind is “Well he only did what you allowed him to do.”  This insinuates that in some sick way I enjoyed or was ok with  the things that I was being subjected to.  This couldn’t be any farther from the truth.  Some say that individuals who are narcissistic abusers lack the capacity to empathize.  Personally, I think they can empathize but it’s with the ultimate goal of manipulation in the form of pseudo-empathy. The abuse creates trauma bonding with the abuser which makes it incredibly difficult for the partner to leave the increasingly abusive relationship.

puppetgirl

The relationship pretty much consisted of my husband pretending through intense involvement and idealization which was quickly followed by devaluing.  However, instead of discarding me when he was finished he would begin telling me everything I did that was wrong including myself for just existing. He would begin luring me back with his silver tongue of promises and things that I could do to make sure that never happened again.  Once the idealistic narcissist has gotten their partner to commit, yet again, to the relationship the true self of the narcissist re-emerges.

First the belittling comments begin which then escalate to a narcissistic rage.  Their feelings of inadequacy which are at the heart of the narcissist will then be projected onto the partner.  And soon once the narcissist makes a mistake it then is transferred the partner as their fault.  They also use manipulative abuse that leads their victims to questioning their own thoughts and behaviors.  I was subjected to public humiliation when he would say something that seemed benign to the public but is very offensive to the me.  He does this because he enjoyed the emotional reaction that it would provoke in all parties.  Ultimately, the narcissist takes no responsibility for any relationship difficulties and shows no feelings of remorse.  And then they believe themselves to be the true victim because their partner could not meet their expectations. The path of destruction this leaves within the psyche of the partner is colossal.

As every single day that I continue to try and recover from a total of 14 years of his abuse, my heart hurts for the woman who loved so hard that it nearly killed her.  And now instead of exuding confidence she exudes fear, shame in her tears and the feeling that her soul is already dead.  After all when she use to try to speak to him about her reoccurring depression he would say with laughter, “Depressed?  What do you, of all people, need to be depressed about?  You have it made living with me.  For the love of God, Dana, get off the cross cause someone else needs the wood.”  Comments like this all the time left me fearing my own tears that I couldn’t control falling many times.  I felt guilty for always being depressed.   And above all, I felt guilty for thinking that he was in any small way disrespectful towards me.  Because I believed that it was ME that made him act and react the way he did.  He couldn’t possibly be telling me lies about this because I was the dumb one who couldn’t see to get things right.

Crying which works as a medication to cleanse the soul has never done me any favors with abusive people.  It always made the abuse that much worse because now you are seen as weak.  I learned not to cry and didn’t for many years. Those tears seemed to go away but only to the inside where I felt completely alone but comforted. But, I did cry to my razors.  And they were the ones that were the most non-judgmental.  Living with and being abused by a narcissist I learned one thing….They don’t have time to consider your feelings because they’re too busy trying to make sure that you’re taking care of their feelings.  And in essence they can’t see the beauty of a person because they’re always looking for what’s wrong with them.  I have heard people say,  “Well at least he didn’t break anything on you.”  Shamefully and secretly I have thought, “He didn’t have to raise his hand to break me. He was my puppet master.”

#thispuzzledlife

Tears That Still Drip Sore

Tears That Still Drip Sore

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

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

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

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

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

child window

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

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

solitary

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

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

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

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

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

finding myself

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

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

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

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

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

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

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

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

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

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

Frustrations Of Life

Frustrations of Life

The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. And it can lead to a range of self-destructive behaviors.

— Peter A. Levine

Hopefully, at some point as an adult, life will inevitably let you see it for what it truly is.  I take a step back and look at the year in my life that altered my entire future which is now my past.  The specifics of that year I dreadfully replay on a daily basis.  With both horror and amazement I sit and still try to comprehend almost 30 years later the “whys” that never get answered.  The “torture” as I felt those damaging words, aggressive taunting in front of all my peers knowing I was unable to speak or I would face further punishment. It was a part of the daily mind games, harassment and bullying that pelted my psyche like a spray of bullets.  That same year a fellow classmate and friend committed suicide.  I also sustained a basketball related knee injury that plagues me to this day and became a factor into shattered dreams of one day playing ball past high school.  Life continued to happen and all I knew was that I wanted out.  Out of school and out of life.  I just wanted it all to stop.  I screamed so loudly for someone to help me.  The screams fell on deaf ears.  The screams were there and I could hear them but no one else could.

The inside canvas of my psyche now resembled a pile of suicide wrist rags.  There was a rage that scared me deep within that continued to gain strength and building like a monster hurricane.  I was trapped both physically and figuratively somewhere within the recesses of my mind.  The horrible headaches I now began having became misery on top of misery.  I had to do something or I felt I would implode from emotions.

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On the outside I looked and was  treated like the well liked class clown and promising athlete.  I was friends with everyone.  I was never bullied by anyone except by one of the people that was there to protect me. Not to hurt me.   I tried to play off the situation time after time.  Each tear was portrayed as streams of weakness.  Those tears quickly  became bolts of lightning full of rage and hatred that no one could see building with each hurtful comment.    I seemed to just be beginning to disappear within myself.  I didn’t understand or care as long as I disappeared and couldn’t hear and feel her words.  The pills and the razors were just an added bonus.  Suicidal thoughts , for the first time, began to consume me.  And the obsession with death became an infatuation that never ends.  In reality the “perfect storm” was being created and no one seemed to notice not even me.

I made it through that year licking my wounds  That year changed me forever.  Not a day has gone by in 30 years that I haven’t dealt with the repercussions of that abuse on a daily basis.  Other things in my life have contributed to my  eventual downfall in life but that year stands out as the most painful.  Instead of being that carefree and very fun-loving teenager that I once was, I’ve become a 41 year-old mother of two who still functions like a teenager.  I feel like a teenager on most days.  I see fellow classmates and wonder why I never matured like they did?   Whatever happened during that abuse stunted my emotional maturity at the point at which it happened.  I hate life.  I hate most people.   I’m always scared.  I’m sick physically from the stress on most days.  I can’t have a normal relationship with my family or children because of the overwhelming memories and feelings associated with that event.    Six years of college and two degrees and they mean as much as monopoly money now. My career that I worked so hard to begin was over before it got started.   I’ve lost through one way or another most of the important relationships in my life because my mood swings are so out of control and aggression seems to be the primary emotion exhibited.  The independence of driving has slowly melted away because I can’t focus long enough to drive safely.  The physical pain that seems to engulf me on many days ensures vomiting and tears.  I battle daily with both anorexia and bulimia as I have for the last 30 years.  Deciding on what food to eat every day usually leaves me in tears and hungry.

My life seems like I’m watching a movie of the newest horror film.  I don’t even recognize any of it because it’s so far from where and what I’m supposed to be doing by now.  All of which could’ve been prevented had someone simply been willing to see past the label and ask what was wrong.

Most mornings I wake up pissed because I realize that I’m still alive. Even with the best little family at my side, I hate every moment of every day. If life is that miserable then what’s the point in living it, right?  Many of my friends “tapped out” on life so apparently it’s not just me.  The advice given to me as a child was to “trust people and build relationships on trust.”  I did that and it left me disabled at an early age.  Again, I feel trapped.  This time I’m trapped within myself.

#Thispuzzledlife

Battle Wounds From A War

Battle Wounds From a War

5.1.15

“Cutting is not attention seeking. It’s not manipulative. It’s a coping mechanism–a punitive, unpleasant, potentially dangerous one–but it works. It helps me cope with strong emotions that I don’t know how to deal with. Don’t tell me I’m sick, don’t tell me to stop. Don’t try to make me feel guilty, that’s how I feel already. Listen to me, support me, help me.”

A Bright Red Scream

Big Trigger Warning for those not in a good place to be able to handle the topic of self-injury.  This post will be explicit for the topic to be as real as possible.  If you are in early recovery from self-injury please use your own judgment carefully before proceeding.  You have been warned.

I’ve been in this position before. My heart is pounding. My skin is crawling. My thoughts are racing.  The rage is building to a dangerous level that I’m not sure I can contain.  “I hate myself for this.  Ladies aren’t suppose to have such hateful thoughts.  Why must I always get this angry?  Am I capable of hurting someone?  I think I might be.  What would people think if they knew?  “You should’ve just had it beaten out of you when you were younger and you wouldn’t be acting like this.  You disgust me!  You’re flawed and no one ever has or ever will like you.  If you had been liked your birth mom she wouldn’t have given you up.  You must be psychotic.  You’ll never amount to anything just look at you.”  These are just some of the things I’ve heard since I started this behavior as a child.

Like bullets from a war zone, the thoughts and feelings hit my heart and mind over and over.  I try to shake the feelings of hopelessness, embarrassment, helplessness and intense feelings of being unwanted and the unforgiving loneliness.  I try to sit with the feelings as I have done before.  This time is different. I haven’t felt this level of intensity.  Every time I take in a breath my upper back feels like it’s being pounded by a sledgehammer.  I try distracting with music and my head just pounds more.  The thoughts become louder and louder.  I need relief and I need it NOW!  Nothing I know that has helped ward off this is helping at this moment.

just scars

I begin to feel my body going numb starting with my face and working its way throughout my body.  Soon, I no longer feel or hear, I just see.  Someone resembling myself is going through a very familiar ritual of gathering supplies strategically kept close by.  I know what is about to happen.  I’m out of balance and need to make all of the craziness in my head stop.  By now, I feel completely detached from even my own limbs.

The blue tourniquet is tied around my upper arm unsure how tight.  My left arm is cradled in a towel. Brand new blades are fully exposed and glistening in the light.  My heart is pounding with excitement and anxiety all at one time.  My only thoughts are, “I’ve got to have relief NOW!”  The other part is knowing that relief is only minutes away.  I look at my arm and I’m paralyzed as I watch the blade being picked up and placed against my skin.  In one quick swoop the blood begins coming out.  This is done another 10-20 times. My body seems to instinctively know when enough is enough and how deep is deep enough.  After 27 years, we have had some practice with this.

The endorphins flood my bloodstream with enough force to relax both my mind and body to a point of complete relaxation.  I continue to enjoy the relief that I had just experienced and was letting whatever poison that seemed to be occupying my mind with such hatred leave my body.

This is always done privately because, what if someone knew?  I didn’t want to die.  I just needed to regain balance and this has worked for many years.  Deep breaths now and my ‘system’ has seemingly returned to normal.  I have all my bandages prepared beforehand so, everything is waiting for the deed to be done.  I bandage this wound, still not completely feeling all parts of my body, like it’s something sacred.  Soon, I begin to worry about who and how I’m going to cover up this behavior yet again.  I make my plans and stick with it.  I don’t dare seek medical attention even though I need several stitches because of the fear of being disrespected  by being told, “I am just attention seeking. You did it so I don’t feel sorry for you.  That was just a sorry attempt at suicide which she obviously didn’t want to do too badly.”  So, I take care of it and watch it heal as I have many times before.  But, the guilt and the shame of the current episode start to invade my thoughts.  And so the cycle continues…..

If you were to see my forearms they might look to some of you like a scene out of a horror movie.  When I look at my arms, I think “Damn, look at what all I have survived.”  Yes, once again, this behavior began at age 13.  My eighth grade school year that would forever change my  life.  Individuals who engage in this behavior typical have a range of reasons for beginning and continuing the behavior.  My initial reasons for beginning this behavior was because of intense anger that I was forced to hold inside.  I was in a ‘no win’ situation with the teacher, my predator, so no emotion could be shown.  I was so angry that I wasn’t completely sure what I was capable of doing.  What we now know and understand is that when feelings get stuffed for so long they manifest in other ways.

razors

“The truth about childhood is stored up in our body and lives in the depth of our soul. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perception shamed and confused, our bodies tricked with medication. But our soul never forgets. And because we are one, one whole soul in one body, someday our body will present its bill.”

-Alice Miller, A Bright Red Scream

It never ceases to amaze me how people are about watching trauma shows on television about emergency rooms across the nation with gunshot wounds, stab wounds, car wrecks, etc covered in blood and guts and yet freak out like the thought of cutting oneself means ‘run for the hills.’  I think maybe part of the issue is something that’s accidental versus intentional.  Self-harm often gets labeled as some type of pseudo-suicide attempt when in actuality that has absolutely nothing to do with suicide.  True self-harm is also not a behavior that is a bandwagon type of behavior.  Self-harm is about using what seems to be a last ditch effort to hold on to life without committing suicide.  I’m also not saying that everyone who dies by sliced wrists, forearms, legs, stomachs, faces and heads aren’t as a result of suicide vs. self harm.  But, self-harm also can become an addiction.  The endorphins released at the time of the injury can last for about 30 minutes.  Medical professionals seem to think that just because someone states that they were not able to feel at the time of the behavior that they can’t feel when being stitched up.  Often times the nurses and doctors have personally given me a feeling of being ‘less than’ or have treated by wound like I had absolutely no feeling by being rough with my arm.  After the 30 minutes is up, you can feel every single bit of pain.

I’m not harmful to other people with my instruments.  I found a way when I was much younger to deal with my anger.  As maladaptive as it might be, it worked to help me survive what my mind thought I needed help with.  I realize that this is a behavior that must change for long term recovery and to encourage a healthy ‘system.’  Trauma and PTSD can have you fine one minute and not the next.  This behavior I continue to struggle with from time to time. Self-harm does not consist of just cutting, there’s also burning, breaking bones, exposing skin to extreme temperatures, eating disorders, hair pulling (trichotillamania), etc.

I’m no longer really embarrassed but just accepting that  cutting is also a part of where I’m at in my process right now.  I had gone several years previous without cutting but jumping into trauma therapy and the effects of PTSD can make it very difficult to deal with.  I’ve made much progress over the years in trying to recover from cutting. It’s definitely a slow process for us even with a very supportive and understanding wife.

I’m not ashamed nor do I flaunt my scars.  Our only difference is that our tears are red.  I’ve been in a war my whole life and kind of see them as “Battle Wounds from a War.”  Please think and educate before you judge.

#Thispuzzledlife

My Life With Ed

My Life With ED

“We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

The topic of eating disorders is one that can cripple me to my knees.  The thought of having to discuss the topic with someone is like knocking the wind out of me.  If just the thought of this bothers me this bad then I would caution anyone with an active eating disorder or early recovery from one about very triggering information about my disordered past and present.  This post will probably be done over a couple of days due to how much it will stir internally.

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that the age of 13 was a very difficult year and was emotionally abusive by a teacher.  This was the year that several behaviors started for me such as:  cutting, eating disorder, drug addiction and very early alcohol abuse.  At the time, I didn’t understand that the behavior was called an eating disorder.  I just knew that I was about to start playing high school sports the following fall and I had to be faster and stronger.

The time I remember the first “dieting” type behavior was soon after the eighth grade ended.  I went on a crash diet and within about two weeks lost 20 lbs.  I had, in that short time, taught myself to dislike certain foods.  I had been using the drug Mini-Thins which was marketed as a bronchodilator at many truck stops that had both ephedrine and caffeine in its makeup.  This was well before ephedrine was taken off the market because of so many sports related deaths.  I clearly remember there being 100 tabs for $7.99.  Any allowance money went straight to those little pills.  Now you’re wondering exactly what purpose they served for me, eh?  This drug while containing a precursor for methamphetamine, completely knocked out my appetite while decreasing all water weight and supplying me the energy to play two sports without eating.

apple with tape measure

I was completely wrapped up in a big ole ball of addiction already and had no idea.  I’ve always said that addiction was the best friend that cut my throat.  It served its alleged purpose while wrapping me up in a killing machine of codependency of both behaviors and substances.  All it took for my eating disorder to continue was one compliment or another pound lost.  I soon found myself becoming a quicker ballplayer with greater stamina and explosive power.  Unfortunately, this never worked well with the aggressiveness that also developed this year.

When I went to high school, and thank goodness they weren’t drug testing athletes at that time, I was a full blown addict already out of control within only about 3 months.  My eating disorder had now progressed to weighing 12-15 times a day.  I slept in teachers rooms during lunch so I wouldn’t have to be around food.  I was now both anorexic and bulimic.  My bulimia purging was through laxative use.  I was getting drunk to the point of passing out and/or vomiting anytime I went to a “party.”  The mind bending part was that I was really climbing in my athletic play. I was a starting freshman on both the softball and basketball teams. I thought and felt like I was on top of the world.  I seemingly ‘had my cake and got to eat it too.’

The next couple of years I continued to lose weight but my playing slowly started on a downward spiral.  By my senior year, I was a sickly 83 lbs on a 5’7″ frame.  I had resorted to stealing diet pills and would frequently have mini seizures or some type of severe jerking movements and saw spots in the mornings.  I was constantly weighing myself.  I was constantly tired and cold. I would eat one small salad a week and would cry if I had to eat in public.  The questions had started long before about “why aren’t you eating?” “Are you losing weight?”  Most of the time I would just tell people that I wasn’t hungry. I had already eaten or my stomach hurt.  I would explain the weight loss off as just training harder and having a higher metabolism as a teenager.  My dreams of playing college basketball and/or softball were disappearing and I didn’t even care.  I was also now taking 25 pills a day just to maintain my habit.

fork with tape measure

People began to tell me how sickly I looked.  My eyes were dark and sunken. My face was sunken and my ribs and backbone were unhealthily showing.  My digestive system was completely messed up. Mentally I didn’t know whether to ‘scratch my watch or wind my butt.’  And my body had begun to feed on itself.  As a result, I was unable to be in top notch shape as an athlete because I always had pulled muscles in my back.  I had just watched myself as a beloved player of the game of basketball go from being able to play hard and fast the entire game to having to come out of the game shortly after tip off because of lack of energy or injuries.

When I moved from my teen years into my years of domestic abuse, I was required to weigh for my husband and to stay in a certain weight range.  I had finally started to recover minimally, I thought, pull out of my life of an eating disorder.  However, it seemed that I was being forced back into those behaviors again.  I was soon being told what I could and could not eat.  How and what I ate were criticized constantly.  I was made to take pictures of myself in bathing suits or naked and put them on the refrigerator as a reminder what I looked like when I got hungry.  And when I went to work and food establishments were nearby, I was dared to eat when it wasn’t the food I was allotted.  Sometimes I would look up from where I worked and my husband would be out in the parking lot watching me from his vehicle.  I became terrified to eat again and I was starving.  Most of the time, I would wait for him to go to bed and I would sneak food hoping to God he didn’t hear me.  Still, he would inevitably start pinching at my body and making comments about how I looked and dressed.  He would tell me, “You want to see something disgusting?  Just look in the mirror.”

Skip ahead to today and I still have a lot of hang ups around food, eating and body image.  This is probably one of the topics that haunt me the most.  I still cannot eat in public without wearing sunshades, headphones and trying to hide behind menus.  We have fears of being recognized and being talk about concerning whatever we might order or how we eat.  I’m scared to death about trying new foods.  I’m scared to make food selections.  I’m very uncomfortable with eating around people especially those that I know.  I prefer to eat privately.  These days it’s not about getting the high from the endorphins.  Now it’s strictly about fear of judgment.   Yes, I still have an eating disorder.  No, I’m not an anorexic weight.  Let me get stressed out and the first thing I do is start restricting.  There I said it.  I have a really long way to go on this recovery.   And with DID, as you may or may not can imagine, things can be extremely stressful for extended periods of time.

As my dear Sarah would tell me if I asked her advice on this one, she would say, “Dana, start at step #1.  This is a marathon not a sprint.”  Again, I can smile.

#Thispuzzledlife

It’s Not Easy Being Green

“It’s not easy being green”

3.18.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0002

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 1

1.1.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Anonymous

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzled

Traveling

Traveling

8.16.14

“The trauma said, ‘Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.” 
― Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase: By Andrea Gibson

This morning begins as usual just stirring in our bed trying to wake my senses up.  Automatically, I look around the room to see if I should be alarmed by anything new or out of place.  I sit up on the side of the bed and soon the physical symptoms are on me like a ‘pit bull on a steak.’  The horrible headache that is becoming increasingly worse by the minute is initially unphased by my medical marijuana lying close by.  My body feels pain down to its cells.  I’m having muscle cramps making me question if all of the effort to get better is actually worth it. Why do I hurt like this? If my body is purging itself of the poisons created by the trauma on a cellular level, then I wish it would hurry the hell up.  I did notice that I started getting sick yesterday afternoon.   I  discounted it from being in public for a few minutes yesterday.   Today is different….every morning that this is happening has me feeling that I’m paying penance for something. When is my next acupuncture session? At least, I get a couple of days of almost no physical symptoms.   Alas, the marijuana is working well enough for me to get Marshall dressed and taken to school.  This morning is all about physical symptoms. The feeling is not consciously about social anxiety. But, rather…”Don’t let me puke on the way or when I pull up at the daycare.”

I think to myself…

 “I finally make it back home.  Now, I’m locked in and safe. But, now I’m alone. Anything could happen. Instant ‘shock and awe’ stomach cramps. Can I ever have a day, that for most people is just a mediocre ‘ok day?’ My body and mind is on fire!  The feel of air on my skin is like hot tar being poured on me. My back feels like I was impaled with something sharp. My muscles all over my body feel like they have begun disintegrating. My jaw and teeth feel like they could fall in my lap at any moment. My body must be detoxing, but from what? It must’ve been something I did yesterday. But what did I do and where did we go if anywhere?”

Losing time for some people is nothing more than daydreaming, missing an exit on the interstate, or getting enthralled in a good book.  However, the term “losing time” for me and my family can have very scary and unique meanings from the average family. Everyone, at one time or another, forget your keys or something that you meant to take with you to the store. You suddenly remember, that it’s the list that you have made with what you needed. You go home, find the list where it was left, get back in the car, and head off to the store. No harm, no foul. You don’t qualify for a diagnosis because of it. As a former therapist said to me, “Welcome, to the Human Race!”

My first memory of losing any type of time was in the 8th grade.  While being in that closet, I went elsewhere. It seemed somewhat familiar but ‘safe.’ I don’t remember what the scene was or where I went, it just wasn’t in that closet. I seemed to be locked in a type of paradise.  Every once in a while I would hear, “Are you listening to me?!”

By the time I got to high school, I felt like I got a new start. I was now 20 lbs lighter even though I did it unhealthy.  I was excelling in the sports I was playing. I was dropping weight seemingly every day.  No behavior problems reported by teachers.  I was pushing my body passed its limits but I was ok or so I thought.  This was the first year that I actually remember ‘losing extensive time.’  What is the difference?  Well, instead of a few moments that we all lose naturally.  I had lost an entire week.  I knew that I had ballgames that week so, how did I not remember how I played? I was doing a lot of diet pills at the time. So, that was the answer.  I remember thinking, “It’s nice to be back. But, where was I?”

Skipping a few years, to when I was married to my now EX-husband.  There were times that I remember seeing his mouth move but not hearing or knowing what was said.  That was fine with me. I didn’t know why it was like that but I was completely ok.  There were also those times when I would hear his first loud venomous word and then I would slowly fade away.  I could see him hollering at me but not hear or feel any of it.  My cutting really took off in this relationship and I realized that the same mental and physical stuff happened then too.  I didn’t think anything about it but I knew that my thoughts that I had were very, loud and continuous. I couldn’t dare mention this to the narcissist. Everything that ever happened to me was a joke and made fun. I would just keep my comments quiet and assume all the blame which is what they want.  Feelings belonged somewhere, but on my sleeves… VERY UNSAFE.

Several years later, I meet Melody and other things begin to happen.  Why would this happen around her? I didn’t understand and she surely wouldn’t either.  I just played everything off like, “I did a lot of drugs and they fried me.”    I didn’t tell her about what seemed like separate conversations to myself in my brain.  Everyone, surely has “loud” thoughts.  Heck, I wasn’t even divorce yet.  This type of stuff sometimes happened when he hollered at me or I was cutting. Why with Melody when she was a ‘safe’ person?   I was still watching and waiting for her true colors to come out and hurt me.  In the 7 years that I’ve known and loved her, I have the opportunity to see her true colors every day and they are a beautiful rainbow.  She’s genuine and I think somehow I must’ve known that back then.  We were in graduate school together and taking the same classes. So, to be able to pay attention, I would have to play games on my phone while they were lecturing.  I explained this to my professors before hand and they completely understood.  We thought that we were dealing with a college ADD thing.  Mel still had to re- explain the lecture once we got home. Once I got it and was able to ‘feel’ the connection of the material, It’s locked away.  So, graduate school was a bit more difficult for me, but that makes me no less of a graduate.  I just had to do things a little differently for me to be able to comprehend the information.   Even back in elementary days, I remember crying because I couldn’t answer the questions about the story that we had just read. Trial and error is how we acclimated to our situation and we do the same thing now.

My physical symptoms have me very sick so I’ll continue tomorrow. NAMASTE!!

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Trapped Trauma

Trapped Trauma

8.8.2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Hello world!

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

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

puzzlepieces2

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife