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

Life With The Plant

Life With The Plant

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

—- Dr. Sanjay Gupta / Neurosurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

What December 4th Means To Me…..

What December 4th Means To Me…..

” Today, on her birthday, I am teary eyed about the other woman

who also remembers that today, 43 years ago, she gave life

to a child that is calling me “Momma.”

—Unknown

I must admit that my birthdays for a long time have carried with them a dark cloud. As a child, I remembered them being like most kids’ birthdays. Cake, ice cream, presents and if you were lucky a party at McDonald’s complete with a tour to the store’s freezer just to find out that it was cold. A paper birthday hat and the playground equipment that was fun only in spring or fall seasons because you didn’t dare play on it in during the humid summers of the Deep South for fear of being burned alive by the stifling hot metal. The consequences of being a child playing on metal playground equipment would remind you that next time maybe you shouldn’t.

In my teen years, birthdays usually consisted of The Petal Lady Panther Basketball Classic. Softball season would’ve ended by now and we were well into our basketball season. There were plenty of local “social parties” complete with a bonfire, alcohol and loud country music. I was also busy trying to fill an emptiness in myself that I couldn’t identify. I just knew that emotionally I hurt. I began treating that hurt with any substance or behavior that seem to soothe that pain even a little bit. Little did I know that I was already in the death grip of addiction by the time I graduated high school. The combination of both the physical and mental stress of addiction for a mere 4 years would take the dream of playing college ball of any kind away.

As a late teen and early adulthood, I wouldn’t only see the dichotomy in a person’s behavior. I would often times feel the shift in his behavior before it actually happened. It was also on some of those same scary nights that my birthday December 4th would fall. Apparently, there was an unwritten rule about what men, specifically my ex-husband, were entitled to on any day but celebrations of any kind were a guarantee.

jesus and baby

This “emptiness” was now identified as a void. And the void was the one thing that has haunted me daily since middle school….my adoption. The abusers in my life have always made sure that this particular topic’s wounding got a little deeper with their ability to hurt without touching. Each year that passes it makes this time of the year just a little bit more painful. I’ve always seemed in some way to seek out the love and acceptance of my birth mom that I’ll never receive. She, unfortunately, does not have it to give to me to satisfy that insatiable need that never seems to be filled.

In the process of searching, finding and being rejected again and years of abuse I’ve pretty much walled my heart off to most people including close friends and family. Each year it gnaws away at me until the thought of getting close to someone scares me so bad that I reach out and destroy that relationship. Now In my 40’s I walk around with such a thick and, at times, aggressive coat of armor that I run off a lot of people before they get a chance to really know me past my silly sense of humor. Several people know that my birthday is off limits in regards to contacting me. Social media is turned off and my phone is put on “Do Not Disturb” making it virtually impossible to contact me unless you’re here in person. Very grumpy I can be on this the one of the heaviest days of grieving for me all year long.

Coach has the uncanny ability to get me to do  “therapeutic assignments” that can have me stomping around like a toddler who was given the wrong colored cup. I have the ability to act just like that when I think my unhealthy ideas are much better and/or more fun. This birthday would be different though. I had to be receptive to her ideas and be trusting enough in her as a person and as a professional for her guidance to be remotely acknowledged on this topic. And by the end of the day after coach stirred the fairy dust and a few of my own tears fell, for the first time in many years when the sun went down my smile didn’t. It was genuine happiness and…..well….it was different but it was nice.

I guess what made the day even more special was celebrating my birthday with our oldest son, Marshall who turned 7 years old yesterday. I never understood how my birth mom felt. I heard the painful words she said to me. But when I laid eyes on our beautiful first born, I’m glad that I don’t know what it’s like to be her. Because I have two beautiful little superhero, “man cub” children that call me Mom and I get to call them Sons.

I can still say with much assurance that the impact my adoption has had on my life has been tremendous in both good and bad ways. There are many tears left to cry on this topic. And much more emotional healing that needs to occur because coach does more than blows a whistle…..she plants seeds.

#thispuzzledlife

This Won’t Hurt A Bit

This Won’t Hurt a Bit

“You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”
― Alice Sebol

Sometimes the simplest situations become a real struggle for me.  The fear that developed many years ago is the fear of being touched.  I’m not talking about just getting butterflies.  My fear totally encapsulates everything about me.  This makes it incredibly difficult to go to see doctors no matter the reason.  I’ve been living with herniated disc issues with nerve impingement.  It should just be a simple thing to go to a doctor and follow their advised regimen.  For me….It’s like being put in a tub of boiling water and saying, “Be Still!”

This has to be one of the most frustrating areas of my life.  I tend to stay in unneeded pain because of this intense fear.  I luckily got an appointment same day I called to meet with someone about my back.  When I hung up the phone from making the appointment I just started crying.  The fear blankets me and the panic ensues.  Knowing that I’m about to be touched by someone in a position of power and dominance is more than I can tolerate.  I don’t think doctors even consider how it must feel for people who have been traumatized to be touched.  There are a very small group of people that I will let hug me.  And family don’t get a free pass just because they’re family.  There is not one moment I like because socially it’s very embarrassing.  Sitting before you is a woman who is very tense and has a smartass tone in her voice and comments.  When you walk towards her she drops her head in shame only for her tears to begin dropping.

What the doctor now sees in an “immature” adult who is just being “childish.”  Before I left Albuquerque, I got a respiratory infection that required antibiotics.  This meant that I absolutely HAD to be seen by a doctor.  This was not one of those ailments that I could stay at home and manage.  I went to one of the local Urgent Care centers once again attempting to face my fears.  The nurse calls me back and, of course, heads directly to the scales to be weighed.  I politely tell her that I have eating disorders and that weighing makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  She says, “Ok whatever.  You don’t have to stay on their long.  But hurry because I just pushed the button to zero out the scales.”  As if the gates of hell just opened and said, “Welcome…”  I quickly snap back and say, “yea I’ve had experience on scales all of my life. I would hate to inconvenience you by making you push a button again.”  I completely understand that eating disorders are not something that people are typically versed in.  However, the medical community I expected, at the very least, some compassion about the situation.  And well…empty yet again.

Already edgy and completely irritated that my feelings were totally disregarded and invalidated, I sat up on the exam table completely embarrassed and humiliated.  The hairs on the back of my neck were raised like I was about to be examined by Satan himself.  The doctor soon walks in and says that she wants to listen to my chest.  Not a big deal until you see that little internal child that sees another scary and painful situation where someone much bigger than you is about to touch you.  It doesn’t matter what their intentions are at this point.  My fierce protector began her warm up with the nurse and is waiting to pounce in protection of this child.

The closer the doctor gets the more I begin to shake uncontrollably in fear.  I begin sobbing at the first step.  The doctor replies quickly without one ounce of compassion, “What is this childish reaction?  You’re being ridiculous.”  I reply, “Ma’am I have been molested and raped during my life and being touched is very scary no matter the reason.”  She says, “Well this reaction is just ridiculous.  You are an adult and shouldn’t be acting like a toddler!”  I said, “Ma’am why don’t you just give me some damn medicine so we can be out of each other’s life.  You’re stomping on that one damn nerve that I had left before I even walked in here.  You have a personality like a bag full of badgers and you have the compassion of a pit viper!  Medical school has you guys so scared of transference that you’re practically dead from the neck up.”

What the doctor didn’t know was that I had gotten so scared that I peed in my pants.  I left as soon as possible with tears still in my eyes and wet pants.  I thought to myself, “Why did I even try again?  This is why I don’t go see doctors.  They don’t care and don’t listen.”  Examples I can list for days about my interactions with doctors.  Yearly pap smears, mammograms and whatever that needs to be checked have not been done in several years.  Even with Mel going with me as added support it’s like dropping me right back into the situations that scared me to begin with. I can’t stay grounded and switching happens in fast forward depending on the type of doctor.

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We have both spoken with doctors and asked if I could be sedated to have cancer screenings done.  There answer’s always, “well we might could do some Xanax.”  Mel’s reply is always, “not unless you want her to catch a charge.  That medicine makes her very aggressive and well…she doesn’t need any help in that area.”  They always reply, “I’m sorry there’s nothing that can be done.”  Of course I have my own questions in return.  I usually say, “Ok let me get this straight….so in the year 2017 we have dentists who can sedate because of adults and children with severe fears and anxieties about their visit.  But for sexual assault survivors who fear being touched there’s nothing that can be done to simply help with cancer screenings?  Doctor do you see how that rationale is about the dumbest I’ve ever heard of?”  I’ve been told before, “well maybe you should see a therapist.”  My smartass reply, “Oh well thanks for the advice.  I never considered seeing a therapist to make things better.  When do you think I should make an appointment?  And by the way….I told you all of that at the beginning of this visit.  Maybe active listening skills should be something you work on while I’m in therapy.”

What just happened was that I was highly triggered before I ever entered the office.  But the visit turned out to be that I was touched and not heard.  And well, that makes the visit counterproductive for us both.  It really just hammers home the idea that my feelings don’t matter and they are touching me anyway, no matter the reason.  Sounds a lot like what my perpetrators did.  The only difference seemed to be that this touch simply came from someone in a white coat who was trying to help me.

Have you ever noticed how we as a society ask people how they’re doing but we don’t really want to know how anyone but ourselves and immediate family are doing?  The reason is that we aren’t prepared to hear how someone is actually doing.  We often don’t know how to respond and makes for a very uncomfortable social situation.  In regards to medical professionals, some type of education needs to be taught about the long term effects of abuse on children and adults.  Shaming patients is so damaging.  Even saying, “This won’t hurt a bit” is a mute point.

I want and need my medical issues to be addressed desperately.  But repeats of this situation keep me away because of the extreme embarrassment and shaming that typically occurs, maybe even innocently, at the hands of someone in a “one up” position.  When this happens I don’t see a doctor.  I see those same hands that caused the initial fear coming for me again.

For those that think abuse have no long term effects…..THINK AGAIN.

#thispuzzledlife

Back In The Saddle? We Think Not.

Back in the Saddle? We think not.

November 14, 2016

“Somehow the disorder hooks into all kinds of fears and insecurities in many clinicians. The flamboyance of the multiple, her intelligence and ability to conceptualize the disorder, coupled with suicidal impulses of various orders of seriousness, all seem to mask for many therapists the underlying pain, dependency, and need that are very much part of the process. In many ways, a professional dealing with a multiple in crisis is in the same position as a parent dealing with a two-year-old or with an adolescent’s acting-out behavior. (236)”
― Lynn I. Wilson, The Flock: The Autobiography of a Multiple Personality

Since my last blog, life has hit both me and my family like a tsunami.  Attempting to live with Dissociate Identity Disorder has become a bigger challenge than either my wife or myself could’ve ever imagined.  The agony of trying to find a therapist in the state of New Mexico who specializes in this disorder has been nothing less than impossible.  The lack of knowledge on this disorder by therapists that we have dealt with has left my wife and I in tears and shaking our heads. We have decided that New Mexico has given us the best it has to offer….our boys. As far as competent mental health services, it like the rest of the country it leaves a lot to be desired.

I like many other clients resort to staying away from the therapy field, for the most part, because of the additional damage that has been done.  There just aren’t enough therapists who are competent enough treating severe trauma related disorders.  Let me lay it out….so, when an individual goes to a community mental health therapist they are usually being seen for depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, phobias, etc.  Where all of these are often seen in trauma related disorders the thing that sets this apart from DID is the fact that there’s often one issue that becomes problematic.  In DID, there are often numerous issues that on a 1-10 scale are all busting out at a 15 at any given time.  Additionally, my psyche has compartmentalized memories of the traumas which has created alters all with their own personal needs, fears and individual diagnoses. There are times throughout the days and weeks where I have absolutely no memory of anything.  I or shall I say some part of me could’ve been having a conversation and interacting with you as though I was completely coherent.  Trust me…being told I’ve done things leaves me just as stunned as telling someone that I have no idea what had transpired during my encounter with them.  As frustrating as I’ve seen therapists get while attempting to blindly treat this disorder, what has been the most damaging are uncontrolled egos.  Where there might be a lack of knowledge of specific trauma related issues, whatever happened to genuine compassion instead of therapeutic arrogance?  Luckily, there has been only a one, thus far,  that hasn’t jumped out of the pot just because the water got hot. Personally that has done more for peace of mind than any therapeutic relationship in the past.

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Slowly, I hope to fill in some time gaps from the last 1-2 years.  Our boys are what seems to propel this family into continuing the often heart breaking and gut wrenching symptoms and effects that this disorder is taking on both me, Mel and our kids.  They keep days when smiling isn’t possible at least somewhat tolerable.  The purity of love between a child and a parent is one that’s individual and impenetrable.

I won’t lie and pretend that everything is Ok because it’s not.  Bad experiences therapeutically has left me incredibly rigid from the sting of unethical behaviors.  Physically I stay sick every single day in some way.  But truthfully, fear keeps me paralyzed. I have in many ways become a prisoner to my house.  Driving has become too dangerous because of uncontrolled dissociation and switching.  My eyesight changes as alters change making being able to see while driving anything but safe.  Getting lost while driving and not knowing where I’m located and, at times, not knowing the city or state where I’m located presents its own unique hurdles.  Sometimes daily migraines up to 17 hours before any relief is achieved.  And, well, after the previous 3 year battle to prove my innocence in a DUI case because of a dissociative episode while driving has left me quite shaky when it comes to driving by myself.

anne sexton

Going into public now requires that I be heavily medicated to keep the pure terror and panic attacks to a somewhat manageable level and keep anything unpleasant from happening like vomiting; or a terrified and paranoid alter from appearing; or not being able to complete a sentence because too many are trying to talk and I sound like I’m stuttering. I also seem, at times, to not be able to count money or to be able to answer routine questions asked by anyone at a business without little beads of perspiration on my brow because I can’t comprehend what they’re asking or what the conversation consists of.  With Mel by my side the help is there but the embarrassment is often times unavoidable.  When I’m by myself , I’m socially a wreck. I make it out the house and into my vehicle only to turn around within a couple of miles because the anxiety gets intolerable.  I then retreat to my life behind the walls of our house wondering if and when this nightmare will ever end.

With so many stigmas surrounding the disorder and myths about how it should present itself, it’s no wonder so many professionals haven’t the slightest idea what small glimpse of a world they might see before them.  Strictly based on the ideas that Hollywood portrays is another reason so many have the opinions that to have DID you must resemble Sybil Dorsett in the movie Sybil.  When, in fact, switching can be very subtle and unnoticeable.  There is also the ongoing debate about whether or not Dissociative Identity Disorder is an actual disorder.  This disorder has been in the manual since the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition, 1980) when it first called this disorder Hysterical Neurosis, Dissociative Type.   Since then, the sometimes strange and hurtful behaviors and complications of this disorder have been studied. The knowledge and reasons for the disorder forming are of a much  higher prevalence than once thought. But an even higher prevalence of misdiagnosis sometimes for many years due to the lack of education about how to diagnose properly.  This disorder is very complex, perplexing, frustrating and at times damaging both physically and emotionally to the patient and the families.  Very simply stated….. Dissociative Identity Disorder is very much a reality for our family.

#Thispuzzledlife