“Hey Pot. This Is Kettle.”

“Hey Pot, This Is Kettle”

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

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

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

pot calling kettle black

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

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

Happy, Joyous And Free (Poetry)

Happy, Joyous and Free

All I want is to be left alone,

To hide in a tomb as my home.

But traveling this path requires company

If I expect to come out of this mess triumphantly.

 

The deathly silence that I now crave

Is the same thing that will take me to an early grave.

Too afraid to pick up the phone and no fault of her own

The one that hurt me is already long gone.

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Being around people it makes me hurt

I stay trapped inside barely surviving while I do this work.

I try and I try but all I can see

Is failure upon failure that keeps following me

 

Allow me my silence because I’m working hard

Crying tears daily just walking in the yard

Because I understand who I use to be

Living my life and being totally free.

 

All Those days have come and gone

And now my life revolves around the inside of my home.

This work has to pay off at some point for me

Because I hunger to live life again happy, joyous and free.

 

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

But I Still Made It To Texas

But….I Still Made It To Texas

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

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

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

Heodore Hesburgh

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

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

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

armadillo  texas flag  longhorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Lost Child (Poetry)

The Lost Child (Poetry)

People have seen me as feral

And needing to be whipped more as a child

One thing is for sure…..

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

 

A gentle giant came into her life,

And taught her fundamentals and the power of a

smile.

To never give up is how an athlete lives,

Direction received by a lost child.

 

You broke her down brick by brick until she was stripped

almost to zero.

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

that was looking for another hero.

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

How do you tame this child running wild?

 

Prince Charming is how he portrayed himself

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

For the bricks already torn down exposing her soul

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

 

Tears were seen as childish and weak

How do you hide that which hurts so deep?

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

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

 

Getting an education would lead to freedom they said.

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

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

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

very day.

 

Brave as she was most never knew

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

was finally through.

Back to the world and running wild

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Her passion she would do but not for long

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

Someone else she was becoming and started to resemble him

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

 

Two little boys would be the apples of their eyes

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

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

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

 

How could she possibly heal from so many quickly leaving?

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

painful grieving.

The decision was made to start completely over again

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

 

Her life became a floor surrounded by four walls

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

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

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

heart of a lost child.
By Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

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

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

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

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

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

half heart

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

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

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

When I Think Of Death

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

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

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

valley of strange humors.

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

accept the death of anyone else.

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

country of no return.

Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in

its wake.

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

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

—-Maya Angelou

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Magnitude Of Waves

The Magnitude of Waves

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation

with the bricks others have thrown at him”

– David Brinkley

My life in the last few years has become one of seclusion.  Not total seclusion at this particular time but if that became a necessity again it would be a very easy transition.  My brain already chaotic with chatter and confusion makes the simplest of tasks, in public and private, incredibly difficult.  Isolation is something that I struggle with as it is a comfort zone for me and my quirkiness.

We as a human species require some form of human interaction.  This also explains why so many inmates that are placed in segregation for periods of time begin to decompensate and seem to start to atrophy mentally almost immediately.  And although having only limited resources within a controlled prison environment inmates will become creatively destructive just to pass the time in order to fight an internal collapse.  And there are others who become creative in a way to establish their own form of “hustle” in order to survive in these institutions.

I’ve been asked several times by different people, “What do you do in there all day?”  I have, in a sense, simplified (which is  sometimes debatable) my life by leaning on the things I enjoy such as:  listening and singing copious amounts of music; watching documentaries and reality shows; spend hours of researching different topics; reading scholarly journal articles; working on the inevitable therapeutic assignments; and writing so that my story and truth can finally be told.  I also spend a lot of time locked away in a sometimes dangerous playground….the one between my ears.  I, like other inmates of society, have a lot of time to think about my past, present and uncertain future for hours on end.  I also get to know more every day about the inner workings of internal “teammates.”

waves

In the wake of therapeutic activities guided by “coach” and the recent  agreement of a very reluctant teen to be more compassionate with other members others are finally being heard.   The issues of not being heard by others both internally and externally seems to be the general consensus throughout my system for many years.  While these “parts” of me feel separate they are still all a part of me.  Does this mean that I also have not been willing to listen to my parts who are still suffering?  Am I also negating my own thoughts and feelings that were convincingly told to me that they were wrong no matter what?  Maybe this is, in fact, a harsh reality that has been brought into the “tough love” of realization.

After lessons recently learned in therapy, I have been trying to listen intently to how each alter is doing in all facets of existence.  I always knew that the crippling waves of just about any feelings were connected to these warriors.  Deciphering who they belong to has been challenging to say the least.  The very loud and vocal ones are not that difficult to distinguish certain connections.  The ones who have been silenced seldom divulge the truth for fear of retaliation internally and externally then and now.

When it came her turn to speak this young bride with a steady stream of tears and visible anxiety begins to reveal her feelings not HIS.  And soon the pressure could not be withheld and the levees were breached.  The level of grief and torment I realized I never knew existed within her.  Grieving was incredibly dangerous to acknowledge around him.  The insults, ridicule and humiliation for her true feelings had to be buried to survive.  But that’s all they were…buried not eradicated.  Years of sitting in an ever expanding vat of deadly emotion being forced into submission was now boiling like hot lava.  Waves of heavy, depressive emotion crawl into my guts and soul like the waves from the ocean from a very angry Hurricane Katrina.  They make their way onto the land ripping precious items back out to the sea despite internal resistance.  And like the destruction of these powerful forces of nature after the waves subside, you never see specifically the precious items of “self” that are missing.  All you see is the destruction that  of the  once vile ways that humans can treat others and leave them for dead.

I look over to the still rebellious but somewhat compliant teen just to notice her reaction.  Her scowls, growling and ever growing distaste for the situation was evident.  I look at her with some slight form of confidence and fear to say, “Coach gave you direction for what you need to do.  And now I WILL tell and not keep it secret.”  I look back at the young bride and the first time with true compassion I tell her, “It’s time that you’re finally heard.  Coach is anxiously awaiting your story.  Use your voice.  Don’t fear her.  Help is here.”  She being one with eating and body image issues I thought I would again try to lighten the mood.  I tell her, “Don’t fear the tears because you’re losing water weight when you cry.”  The destruction has been left but the rebuilding has started.

#thispuzzledlife