All I Have To Offer

All I Have To Offer

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

to offer other than your conformity.”

—Wayne Dyer

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

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

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

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Artist: Celeste Roberge

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

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

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

  sand through hands

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

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

Enough-abuse-campaign

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

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

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

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

“Mentors don’t just have to be people

who are older or more experienced that you are.

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

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

—Jennifer Hyman

#thispuzzledlife

I Came To You For Help (Poetry)

I Came To You For Help

I came to you for help

And I left with several whelps

None for eyes to see

But I still feel the wounding of how you treated me.

Pleading for someone to help me sort out my confusion

Not knowing from moment to moment when I would have another delusion.

The voices in my head were so incredibly loud

And I couldn’t eat or sleep and I freaked out in crowds

“I can treat anything” is what you said

But all you did was raise the demons in my head.

We lost our babies and Sarah too.

And after two years you didn’t have a clue.

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I opened up to you and you perverted my truth.

It became a game of falsifying and being a sleuth

I got scared and I got hurt

And you twisted our words for only you to make it work.

No matter how many tears I cried

It still didn’t feel as bad as the day that I almost died.

I called and called like you asked me to do

Please tell me what I did to ever disrespect you.

My loyalty once again was

my weakness.

Why oh why does this have to be a source of bleakness

You were Too damn proud to admit defeat

I could see that you resembled someone that was set on repeat.

The very ones that you hurt you couldn’t even see

Would also be the ones that were crying their pleas

I guess I should be counting my blessings now and again

But I was your sloppy seconds that you let out of the pen.

Again I would try to get back on my feet.

I’ll never forget that painful week.

I searched and searched but I feared everyone

Hating the process of trying to find a trusted one.

Getting hurt by a “safe one” as you referred to yourself

You made it much more difficult to find real help.

The years of searching and this is my truth….

She cares about me and “my guys” and doesn’t give a shit about you.

By: Dana Arnold

#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.”

confinement

“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

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

Play Ball!!!!!

Play Ball!!!!!

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

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

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

players respond

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

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

fearless player

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

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 1-2 Punch

The 1-2 Punch

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

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

the journey.  Confusion is the hallmark of a transition.

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

–Anne Grant

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

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

trauma

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

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

Shame

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

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

inner children

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

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

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

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

–Dr. Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

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

For The Bible Tells Me So…

For the Bible Tells Me So…

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

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

—-Anonymous

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

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

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

sharkfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pain changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s Not About The Food

It’s Not About The Food

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

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

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

–Mary Pipher

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

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

skinny back

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

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

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

scales

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

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

scales attached

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

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

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

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Passing The Torch

Passing the Torch

2.17.15

 “I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.” 
― Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Let me start off by saying that I am one of thousands of addicts/alcoholics whose life was touched by Sarah G. Pardue.  I remember vividly lying in my bed, depressed and mad at the world that I was sitting in some “rehab” that was meant for people who lived on skid row or had no teeth.  I was very quickly but gently told that addicts come in many different forms and that I just so happened to be one of them.  I didn’t know who she was but there was something about her that attracted me to her.  Not in a sexual way, but like there was more that I wanted and needed to know about this person.  She very gently told me, “Dana, we’ll take this one step at a time.”  I was so sour at the world that instead of thanking her for her kindness.  I simply said, “Really, is that available stitched on a pillow.” I promptly proceeded to roll my eyes.

I guess maybe that comment or instincts kicked in about how I might be as a client.  I was like a feral cat that was just angry and hurt.  She had that perfect balance for me.  She knew exactly how to push me without being condescending or aggressive.  And she knew that I needed that very nurturing side to let me know that she was a human that didn’t have any intentions on hurt me.

I, unfortunately, can’t remember all 90 days of being a patient at Pine Grove’s Women’s Next Step Program, but I remembered the therapist that would forever change my life in a very unique kind of way.  I was once handed a “character defect” worksheet where there were like one hundred or more on there that we were to circle as our personal character defects that have entangled our lives with addiction.  I very quickly looked at both sides; handed the sheet back to her and said, “Nope. None of these describe me or my current, past or present behavior.”  She had that “momma look” in her eye that can spark fear in Satan himself.  She simply and very non-confrontational said, “Really? Would you like us all as a group help you pick out which ones belong to you?”  I promptly answered, “No. I’m sure I can find a few.”

After 90 days of treatment at the “resort” as the husband at the time use to refer to it, I head out on my own with promises that I would one contact her in the event that I found my birth family or completed school.   She had done a lot of something most people don’t really know how to do for me that made a huge impression on my life……LISTEN.  To that struggling drug addict, that meant more than that next ‘high’ for me.  I will admit that I didn’t go willingly.  I also didn’t leave willingly even though I had completed the program because for once I was safe from most things.  I cried because I was leaving a “special” and somewhat sterile environment from the outside world that was so mean.

About 5 years later, I tracked her down at work to tell her that I had gone back to school to become a drug/alcohol therapist and was currently in my undergraduate work.  I also called to tell her that I been found my biological brother and was flying to meet him, 2 half brothers, my birth mom and birth father.  We agreed to talk when I got back from my trip and that’s when the re-connection emotionally began for me.  From that point forward, I felt like I owed her the unpayable because she had done the one thing that no one besides my parents and certain close friends had never done, at that point, not give up on me.  She always saw some form of potential that even today I still can’t see.

She slowly began and I allowed her to begin to love me until I could love myself.  Under the hard exterior, I was melting like butter.  I was a kid again with an adult separate from my parents that seemed to love me and listen anytime I said anything.  She knew that I was still married to my ex-husband and I was also doing internships under her and a couple other people.  It was like everything had come full circle.  She and her now deceased husband Doug Pardue became like surrogate parents to me.

They used some very tough love approaches to some of my behaviors and some I didn’t appreciate.  I always, knew though, that it was done out of love.  They would have “good cop, bad cop” sessions with me that made the show Cops look like pretend.  I don’t know if some of you know what being “12 Stepped” means but  I can tell you that I’ve had both of their shoes broken off in my hind parts, more than once to get my attention, in an attempt to save my life from whatever behavior was consuming me.

For whatever reason, the stars lined up perfectly again and she is now simply called “mom.”  Our friendship grew into something much more special.  She has been a “life force” for me for the last 14 years.  They both saw me at my worst as a struggling addict of all kinds of addictions.  And they were both there celebrating the victory of completing my undergraduate degree in psychology while finally leaving a very emotionally and sexually abusive marriage.  Their compassion and my independence that I gained while becoming educated led to me believing that I was not nor would I ever be all those things I had been told all those years by him.   I was the only one that could make that change.  I wanted someone to come rescue me.  This time, though, the realization was that I had to do this scary part on my own.

I became part of their family and she and I had lots of talks about life, in general.  We always told each other that we loved one another no matter what.  I also was getting to learn from the one that I considered as the “master” of counseling.  I watched her every move both at work and away from work.  I wanted to learn everything I could possibly learn from the “Yoda of 12-Step.” The key that she taught me to working with others was not with words but with actions.  She quite simply taught me the definition of compassion.  I’ve never lost the feeling of an innocent stranger that was getting paid a salary, that for once, cared about what I had to say about what had been done to me and how I felt.

A few months down the road she introduced me to my now legally married wife.  She played matchmaker which was never intended.  I’m glad the universe saw fit that we be together. We have a beautiful little boy and one on the way to thank all because of Sarah G. Pardue.  Both she and Doug took me under their wings and showed me again that a healthy love was possible.   I might not ever fully understand why they did that.  However, grateful doesn’t begin to describe the feelings I have about what they did both directly and indirectly in changing the direction of my life.

I did complete a master’s degree in counseling in 2009.  I have fallen in love with working with the ones that always seem to be the “leftovers of society.”  Truly, this is partially due to my own trauma.  But the other reason is because of the example that she set for me time after time.  She didn’t just talk recovery, she lived recovery.  The clients that she worked with saw this and you couldn’t help but to gravitate to something you don’t see every day in a person……AUTHENTICITY.

Sarah fulfilled her passionate dream of working with drug addicts/alcoholics and touched many lives.  There is only 1 of the 30 women that I was in treatment with, at the time that I stay in contact with.  She also happens to be the only one that never relapsed.  I’ve had my struggles for sure. And the other former patient has been a prayer warrior for Sarah during her time of grief and acceptance of the death of her husband and her own illness that took her life.

As I sit in this hospital room, waiting for her time to meet her maker, past friends and family members.  I also think about how much she impacted my life in a positive way.  I’m just one addict that she took time with and let them know that there was still value in a person who had been told for so long that there was no value left.  She did addiction work for 20+ years.  How many addicts/alcoholics lives did she impact in ways that no one will ever know?  To me her concept of counseling was very simple, “Read the person, not the book.”  She taught me things about counseling that no book could ever convey.  You just have to be able to watch the miracle happen.

What an example of true love, compassion and everything authentic that many of us as her patients, friends, family and co-workers got to see displayed even when she no longer went to work.  The word RECOVERY has her picture out beside it. What a beautiful person that God loved me enough to allow into and bless my life.  And because of her love and continuous fight against the war on the “disease of addiction” my future clients will also in some very special way will be touched by her as well.  With tears in my eyes and streaming down my face, I can say that there are many people that will always remember the legacy that she left on the hearts of many addicts/alcoholics that didn’t deserve another chance.

 I have taken that same compassion and concept into my own style of counseling.  She has passed the torch to be paid forward as she did with many of us.  I remember that everyone is individual and will have individual needs. Above all, she taught me compassion before judgment because in everyone there is some worth.  Thank you for loving me, Sarah G. Pardue!!!!!

And she is now with the love of her life, Doug Pardue.  You two will be dearly missed.

Sarah G. Pardue

7/11/53-2/11/15

   

“You were born a child of light’s wonderful secret— you return to the beauty you have always been.” 
― Aberjhani, Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black

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