Why Didn’t I Leave A Harmful Therapist

Why I Didn’t Leave A Harmful Therapist?

“The reality is that for most of us trying to overcome therapist abuse (regardless of whether it is sexual, emotional, spiritual, etc.) very few other people have any idea what we are going through (even the mental health professionals we finally get up the courage to see after the abusive ones to try and pull ourselves back together). And because of that, healing can be significantly more difficult than it should be.”
—Michelle Mallon

I’m having a difficult time trying to find the words to describe my experience. The therapist that I’m talking about is one who was very ego driven. She put her ego before her ethics. And when it came to practice EMDR it was done 4 days a week with no processing time. She was also a very dominate and alpha female. I just went along with whatever she said and then I started becoming sick and before therapy I began to vomit. She worked her way into my system and began working with my main protector to whom she gave a lot of attention to in order to get to our well protected children. All my trauma was turned on with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), but nothing was ever resolved. This form of therapy usually works well for those with trauma, but I was always in crisis mode making it very dangerous to use this method.
Mel and I were lied to more often than we could count. And she didn’t want Mel’s input on anything. Red flags were flying high and I was still about giving her a chance in the name of loyalty. She also knew that I wasn’t a snitch, so she never worried about me turning her into the state licensing board. My psychiatrist was also considering dropping me as a client because she was retraumatizing me. While having him prescribing my meds was impossible. Before I knew it, I had become trauma bonded to her just like my ex-husband. I feared doing anything other than what she wanted. There was also information that was given to an acupuncturist that was done outside of the date on the release of information form. I had become her emotional hostage. I was looking for the good times that I remembered about the promises that she had made and well…I came up empty handed.

therapist abuse

Like many times with other perpetrators in my life I became frozen with fear about what to do. So, out of fear I continued seeing her. It’s easy to say, “Well just leave her and turn her in.” But I was terrified to do anything. I became very suicidal and my behavior became very erratic and impulsive more than normal. The one thing I learned when I was younger was snitching gives you a very dangerous label. So, no matter what, I was not going to snitch.

Therapist abuse is using the imbalance of power in the therapeutic relationship to… Control, manipulate and exploit clients (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).
Clients who have suffered abuse in the past may not be able to distinguish between what is a violation and what is therapeutic (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).
The power and influence the therapist has, has a lot of potential to do a lot of good and by the same token it also has the power to cause severe damage that could have long lasting effects on the client (https://patch.com/maryland/odenton/what-is-therapist-abuse).

When I met “Coach” I was so afraid of professionals that I didn’t want to have anything to do with her or any other therapists. I related their position to fear and abuse. I was unbelievably scared of anyone that I perceived in a position of authority and would strike out at them and try to run them off. Coach saw through my pain and showed compassion instead. I was so hurt by some of the things that were done and said by the other therapist that almost four years later I’m still, at times, having difficulties in the therapeutic relationship. I trust coach 110% as a person. But her position as a therapist still frightens me at times especially when discussing certain areas of my trauma. I have always felt bad that she had to clean up and deal with someone else’s mess. But, I so glad I met her. After having such a bad and abusive therapist, it’s comforting to know that there are still some that are incredibly compassionate. And I got the best one. Yes, I’m very biased. Thanks, Coach!!!!
#thispuzzledlife

My Parts And Change

My Parts And Change

“DID is about survival! As more people begin to appreciate this concept, individuals with DID will start to feel less as though they have to hide in shame. DID develops as a response to extreme trauma that occurs at an early age and usually over an extended period of time.”
― Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook

I don’t know why I’ve decided to write another blog so soon. Maybe it’s because I’m so eager to get back home that the loneliness of this room has taken its toll. But maybe it’s also because my parts are talking so loudly about the upcoming change that it’s hard to do anything else. I still hold true to my beliefs about the benefits of my two years of hard work and the spirituality that I hold near and dear. But to ignore what my parts are saying would go against everything I’ve learned. So, I’ve decided to give this some attention.
My child parts are like typical children. They’re excited to know that they will be able to play with Marshall and Copeland soon. They look forward to being around them again and to once again. And a certain little 5-year-old looks forward to being able to play with her chap sticks that have carefully been sent back home at an earlier date. They also long for a parent’s love to help ease the scariness of this new change.
My teenagers have a menagerie of emotions like most teens. Some are ready to go NOW and are having a hard time with patience. They all look forward to this scary but new life and experiences. My once loud and aggressive protector is the one who is surprisingly calm during this time of stress. She has always been the one no one could get close to. But through healing she has become one that knows her place and realizes that everything isn’t about a fight. The kid that she is longs for someone to simply hold and support her while this change happens. She’s not afraid to admit that she’s scared. But she also knows that she’s still one of the backbones of strength and courage in my system. Instead of being a part of aggression she has found and made peace with her trauma and now works with us all instead of causing chaos. She has become one of the hardest working parts in relation to recovery. And she holds tightly the words of our dear Sarah close to her heart.

you survived

She was hands down the loudest but most damaged alter I have. Her loyalty to our coach and our system is comes from a place that’s admirable and loveable. And I must admit that having her working with us for several months now is something that makes my heart leap for joy. Her heart is open and healed and has become one of my parts that I couldn’t live without. She one that has brought about the most change and has remained open to love, peace and happiness. My part that is her direct opposite and wise beyond her years is still strong with positivity. Very simply put she brings light to the darkness. The desires of her heart I won’t share but peace from within is what she exudes.
My athlete and student are parts that keep us all going. Having the respect for our dear coach they both repeat the phrase, “Stay the course and trust coach. She hasn’t led us astray yet and we need her right now. We trust her because she’s proven trustworthy. Listen and follow her guidance because she will help lead us home safely.” And I must admit that writing keeps “the student” occupied.
A few of my adult parts looks forward to helping Mel raise the boys. They also bring about nurturing and grace on a daily basis. They look forward to being role models for my children that will help me to be the mother I need to be. I have other desires of my heart but none more important than the ones that foster my being able to take care of myself instead of having to be taken care of. I look forward to being able to take care of myself instead of being trapped within myself and frozen with fear.
All these parts make up me, Dana Landrum-Arnold. I’m proud of who I am now and what I can become as a person in the future. My heart longs for many different things. And I’ll admit that I’m very nervous. But when I look back on the days of Texas, I can say that it has been the most rewarding and difficult time of my life. I have worked harder for this resolution of my trauma then anything else. The scars of my story are evident on my arms and my heart. But the peace I’ve fought so hard for is written all over my face and heart as well. I now see myself as one who has discipline, courage, strength and love to share with anyone who will accept it. I am a good person who a set of individuals tried to destroy a little at a time. What I was blessed with was several parts of myself who fought my battles and took care of me for many years regardless of how maladaptive the behaviors were. And now I’ve grown to the point that it’s time that I take care of them and my responsibilities as Dana. They helped me to survive and now I will help them to thrive. My name is Dana Landrum-Arnold and I have a story to tell.
#thispuzzledlife

A Letter From Beyond

A Letter From Beyond

With all the healing work taking place I can’t help but think what my dear Sarah would be thinking. So, I’ve decided to write something to help my heart a little bit. Sarah was always concerned and who knows how many of her own tears and prayers were shed and said for me. She was one of the kindest people I knew, and compassion seemed to flow from every pore in her body for me. But make no mistake that she would also very sternly and loving to insert her shoe into my ass if she thought that’s what I needed. I imagine that if she were to talk to me today it would sound something like this…

Dear Dana,
I have been watching you for the last few years and have seen you decline at an incredible rate. You have given yourself every excuse to behave in ways that still make my skin crawl. I told you several years ago to never give yourself a reason to destroy yourself and things around you. Especially no excuses surrounding my death.

All I ever wanted for you was happiness and recovery. I know you were hurting but I never left you. But I have also seen you step up and take charge of your recovery. You have been through some agonizing days and even then, I never left you. And like pulling teeth you have finally begun to allow people to love you when you weren’t able to love yourself. You have finally gotten out of your own way and done work that has brought about healing.

I always had faith in you and your abilities, but you had to see it for yourself.  Your work was about you and no one else.   Your eyes have finally been opened to a new life. You have taken charge of your life and cleaned your side of the street the best you can. Your recovery with your new coach has been done one day at a time. And I can’t imagine a better team to make this all happen. This will continue if you get up every day and choose recovery. This process will continue to help you grow as you become the mother that your children deserve. Continue to work on your relationships that deserve the respect that you choose to give to them. Some relationships will be salvageable where others won’t. Thank God every day for life because people that you choose to allow in your life will be blessed just like me and Doug were. Celebrate life for it’s so precious and can disappear in an instant. Help Mel to raise the boys to be men that you both can be proud of. I loved you but never let love end just because a person’s life ended. You have gifts and a beautiful heart that anyone can see and love. Don’t cheat someone out of your beauty just because of a loss. Grieve and move past the hurt and pain. There are many other people that will be placed in your life that will be cheated out of your noticeable beauty if you let the past affect your present and future. Not only your children and family but also those you have yet to meet.

My wish for you is still happiness in whatever way that may look. Never forget to thank the people that helped and love you for they too have seen you hurting and hurt with and for you. There have been more tears and prayers said by numerous people that you may not realize. Anything is accomplishable if you realize that there’s a spiritual being bigger than you. For you are not the ruler of the universe. Ask for what you need and keep those you love close. You have learned many difficult lessons these last two years and I am proud of your efforts. Remember that every day of life is not to be fought with but worth fighting for. You make my heart sing and your beauty shines these days because you’ve found your own authenticity. And damn it looks good on you. I miss you and love you and will forever be by your side.

Thank your coach and her seemingly unending compassion and love that she shows you. She is a rare jewel. The days you thought I was gone was nothing more than me backing off and giving her space to try to help the one I and many others love…. you. Be a person people can look up to rather than one people fear. And remember that life is not easy and was never meant to be easy. I’m of you and love you very much, kid.
Sincerely,
Sarah

This has been an emotional piece for me to write but I needed to hear what I could imagine Sarah saying to me. She is still deeply missed. I’ve finally made peace with her death and subsequent absence. But I choose life authentically. I choose to let people love and care about me even though it’s still uncomfortable at times. I choose life.

#thispuzzledlife

Freedom In My Eyes (poetry)

You start a war on your hands and knees

Crying and begging for help shouting PLEASE!

There were days were I was tired and sore

And even more days I could do nothing but crawl on the floor.

But that floor was my lonely highway of healing

Not knowing if I would live through the work because it was so grueling

I was getting some much needed schooling

But hope and determination powered me forward

And the daily work sometimes leaving me scarred

This time I was still leading a team you see

Because the athlete would activate the wolf in me

I was changing into something I would need

But this time it would be the real and authentic me

Coach was guiding me to a beautiful life

Working hard once again to be a mom and a wife

This time I look in the mirror I don’t see tears

For the first time in many years

There are no screams or cries

Because this time I see freedom in my eyes.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

I AM RESPONSIBLE

I AM RESPONSIBLE

“Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared.

It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.”
― Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited

The term “Responsible” has never been a word that most people use to describe me especially in my teen years.  There are those teens who are very responsible driving, their studies and extracurricular activities.  I personally got caught up in the comedy of the situation from start to finish even if it was actually more dangerous than funny.   As a teenager when my well thought out teen ideas would emerge like going to bonfire parties with fellow classmates and upper classmen and seeing how many times and how much we can throw up in one night without dying; or driving like a bat out of hell with gasoline panties on down what was known as “Thrill Hill” outside the Petal, MS city limits at speeds where those that drove down it should’ve all met our demise; or  and this is the best one…..we as a softball “team” on the eve of a “hot as crotch” practice we thought it would be a great idea to get drunk as a team would help with team unity.  Guess who DID NOT buy that explanation?  Nope…as I recall the next day we ran, and ran and ran and ran until your hangover was gone or there was no more puke left to let loose.  I, for one, never drank the night before a practice EVER again.  I’m usually the one cheering on such outrageous ideas and had already begun planning jail commissary meals made with Ramen Noodles as somewhat of a “celebratory being handcuffed” gesture if needed.  Guilty your honor!!!!!!

The thought of coming in contact and being held emotionally hostage for the next 14 years never crossed my mind.  My main goals, at the time, was to stay as high as I could and not eat.  Both somehow seemed to soothe my heart from my 8th grade disaster only a couple of years prior.  But now we as a student body and a community had been gut punched by the disappearance and alleged murder of our classmate Angela Freeman.  As I’ve mentioned before our graduating high school class  and subsequent classes were pummeled with tragedies.  I felt like the combination of school and home where death and illnesses were always imminent in my daddy’s large family.   We just never got to recover from one thing before something else happened.  I was beyond mood swings.  I was like a mood theme park.  I just remember feeling different, alone and trapped.  Obviously, my theory about being able to do WHATEVER I wanted to do, as an adult, also had some flaws waiting for their time to appear.

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When I jumped full body into adulthood before my time that’s when I understood “keeping secrets” at the fullest.  I literally was taught so many lessons about life, at that time, that I couldn’t sit back to study and understand them. I was busy learning all about malignant narcissism without knowing the full meaning.  And since this was prior to when I decided to go back to college,  I also thought that domestic violence was all about physical abuse.  I was busy surviving and not really knowing what that meant either.  I knew that I never saw or heard things between my parents like I heard every moment of every day with him.  Heck, I just thought this was the reason people were so miserable being married.  I thought this was just the way things were suppose to be. Oh how my immaturity and naivety was drunk driving my way down the highway of life at that time.  I still look back in total astonishment at how I made it through the early days of abuse.

In the late 80s and early 90s, abuse against children and how it would affect their ability to function as an adult was not known or seen as important.  And the ability to go to therapy was more of a luxury item rather than one of necessity. Affordability was practically nil to many children and families.  I would also be willing to bet that there were no mental health benefits on an insurance policy either.  So, for me and other children and teens that needed the help early on would not and could not be provided with the help we so desperately needed.

“Stay away from lazy parasites, who perch on you just to satisfy

their needs, they do not come to alleviate your burdens, hence,

their mission is to distract, detract and extract,

and make you live in abject poverty.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

I’ve been told many times that the teacher that abused me was treated the same way by her father. My ex-husband and his brother were horribly physically and emotionally abused by their father.  The excuse that has always been given when I asked him about the abuse was justified by him saying, “We might’ve been scared of him but we weren’t out running the streets getting drunk or high either.”  I could also see very clearly how the abuse had affected him and how he still feared his father each time we went to visit him.  I was told what I could and could not say or do around his father.  And I always found it strange that he and his brother called his father by his first name rather than “father” or “daddy.”  The clearest point of view I saw about the abuse they went through was by how I was treated by them.  Both of the grown little abused boys over the years had also become their father.  These 3 people that I’m talking about were not “crazy” they were and still are just mean.  And to my knowledge have never had a day of therapy in their lives.  What they did do successfully was to perpetuate onto me and other people just like it was done to them.  And they go through life never having faced their on responsibility in acknowledging how the abuse affects and continues to hurt people through their aberrant, coercive aggressive, threatening and other overt and covert behaviors. This works down their intended target until the individual believes their lies as though it was part of the gospel.  And then ANYTHING that goes wrong is their victim’s fault no matter what.  Every weekend the ex-husband would go play golf as his favorite pastime.  I use to pray hoping that he played well. If not, somehow it was my fault that he didn’t play well.  People have asked me many times why I didn’t leave sooner.  The problem lies once they get you mentally to believe all of the lies that they tell you it rewires your brain and you wake up one day and everything you use to believe about yourself and the world has now become what they think and believe about the world.  Your beliefs were stupid and you were too dumb to have your own belief system anyway.  Therefore, we cling to that relationship with everything we have because being without them would mean total annihilation for us or so we believe.

The important part

Here’s the whole point of this particular blog.  These people and their behaviors are characteristic of transgenerational trauma in both families.  However, they have all chosen to pass this abuse on and do nothing about it.  With the traumatic life that I’ve lived, I have chosen to do some very emotionally painful therapy in order to stop the cycle of abuse since my abusers didn’t have the guts to do their own work.  They might can make it continue wherever they are now.  In my family, though, the cycle of abuse ends right here.  I have been carrying the abuse of the boys that molested me.  I have been carrying the abuse of my ex-husband and brother from their father.  And I have been carrying the abuse of the teacher that always has a “I just caught the stomach virus” look to greet you with.  Plus, I have been carrying trauma and abuse unrelated to them and that’s my own stuff.  Your baggage that I’ve carried for you for so many years will be waiting for you at the nearest dumpster where it belongs.  Ya’ll have had control of my past and present but the future is MINE.

I can’t even begin to fathom our children having the same fears that I had as a child, teen and adult.  And I would run in to rescue my sweet Mel if I saw any signs of this and that’s exactly what I’ve done.  Moving to Texas is exactly how I was able to rescue them thus far from the abuse.  I looked up one day and I was saying some of the exact same hateful stuff that my ex-husband said to me.  I have 3 people desperately wanting their other mommy and spouse to be able to come back together and to function as the family and couple like we set out to be.  And for that I AM RESPONSIBLE.  The one who was “too stupid to think for herself” was taking very detailed notes those years with you.  And once you study a system and the way it works you can also find the flaws in the system.  The night I got up and walked out I had just beaten the “ALMIGHTY NARCISSIST” at this own game.

“How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego.”

Amanda Torroni

#thispuzzledlife

Live To Fight Another Day

Live To Fight Another Day

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

—-Adonis Creed, Creed 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The Comedy Of Daily Life

The Comedy of Daily Life

“Laugh. Laugh as much as you can. Laugh until you cry. Cry until you laugh. Keep doing it even if people are passing you on the street saying, “I can’t tell if that person is laughing or crying, but either way they seem crazy, let’s walk faster.” Emote. It’s okay. It shows you are thinking and feeling.”
― Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously… I’m Kidding

Lately, my life in Texas could be described as “OMG not again!”  Yep it has been a wild and crazy roller coaster that hasn’t let me down yet. Most days consist of staying in my bedroom in tears over things I can’t control and mistakes I’ve made.  I’m a worrier that will worry for others even when I’m not asked.  And being a parent and living away from my wife and kids is just an added layer of worry.  I think sometimes, “Holy Hell when will we catch a break?” If my life were a song it would be the screams of a cat whose tail is being smashed in a rusted, squeaky gate.  And then out of nowhere the comedy of life presents itself in a way that seems to catch me right before I willingly dive off a cliff.

Recently, I’ve had some comedy that has given me some much needed laughs.  I have been asked many times about where my comedy comes from.  And honestly, I just keep my eyes and ears open and wait for comedy to happen because it inevitably will occur when we least expect it.  I truly think that it has saved my life in many different ways.  So, as I usually do, I will share three times that I’ve gotten good laughs recently.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on the back porch watching the local wildlife like I usually do.  I have seen both predator and prey while usually singing or listening to my favorite Pandora stations.  There are squirrels in quantity that appear to be training for the “Limb-to-Limb Olympics” while also working on their dismounts.  I have had interactions with opossums, cats, snakes and the laziest frog I have ever encountered.  Those are other stories that have their own comedy attached to them.

This particular day was about the squirrels climbing fast up a tree and then a sudden stop.  Out of the corner of my eye about 30 feet away I saw a black cat crouched down on the outside of the fence looking into the backyard at the squirrel.  I thought to myself, “This is about the dumbest cat I’ve ever seen.  He’s crouched down and will run into the fence instead of catching and debilitating the prey which seems to be the focus.” I watch for a few minutes and the cat never moves.  So, I think that “cat calling” will definitely get its attention.  I start make sounds that sound like mating tomcats.  The cat still doesn’t move.  By now, I’m thinking that the cat is deaf and if I start walking its way maybe it would see me.  I slowly start walking to the fence and had gone about 10 feet when I realized that the black cat that I had been calling was actually a black trash bag that was caught on the fence and  blowing in the wind.  I couldn’t help laughing so hard that my stomach hurt.  I knew that this incident wouldn’t help me in a sanity hearing. I just imagined trying to plea in court by saying, “Your honor I was accidentally “cat calling” a black trash bag because of my eyesight, I promise!”

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Then a ride around town and I saw this sign knowing what it was meant to say but the letters were pushed too close together.  From a distance it looks like Dairy Queen was adding a new menu item that  was called “Dipped Strawberry Buzzard!”  I obviously knew what it was meant to say but I had to stop and take a picture because I knew that no one would believe that I saw this in small town Texas. I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks.

The 3rd incident involves me going to Target.  I’m constantly trying to go in public in hopes that I will overcome my fears and it never happens.  Anyway, I was there right after the store opened thinking that this was the best time to go since there wouldn’t be many people.  I got that part right.  I keep an eye on everything and everyone with an escape plan close at hand.  However, I got sidetracked by looking at some clothes.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a figure standing right next to me.  I squealed and he jumped.  I was seriously thinking that a serial killer had just attacked me.  Actually, I was never touched but as far as I was concerned I was already bound and gagged.  Me and the gentleman both laughed.  I admitted that I watched entirely too many shows involving murders and profiling serial killers like Criminal Minds.  But I was pretty sure that I could solve a murder for the FBI on my own.  I also told him that I got so scared because I had just been reviewing cases and the statistics were high for serial killers that were found shopping in Target. Seriously, how was I going to justify that one. And that was a good laugh as well.

Life is difficult no doubt.  For me, life is extra difficult and a lot of times its for no other reason than I stay stress over things I can’t control. This tumbleweed from New Mexico has learned to ALWAYS keep my eyes and ears open and looking for possible danger.  In the meantime, I will continue to look and enjoy the comedy that life hands me.  Whether I provide the comedy for someone else or life drops it in my lap, I continue to fight this very difficult life and trying to stay alive. And maybe…just maybe one day I’ll begin to see my own worth and value that coach and other people have seen in me for many years.

#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

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

The Long Drive Home

The Long Drive Home

“When the pain of where you’re at is greater than the pain

of where you are going, change will occur.”

–Anonymous

After therapy sessions on the long ride home in the Pontiac “toaster” attempting to live through Texas drivers is when I usually come up with new blog topics. I have a little while in my own thoughts accompanied by music to chew on the new lessons I’ve learned after each session.  This week “coach” stirred the pot with my internal brood. Topics were coming at me like tennis balls from a rapid firing machine. Each topic seems to resurrect other difficult topics until I feel like I’m playing “Whack-a-Mole: Therapy Edition.”  Right now I have to have total trust in “coach” because I don’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt. Assignments that can have internal dogs growling for control and others hiding all in the name of “healing” have made the natives restless.

Once I leave therapy I want to go nowhere but to the safety of my “hobbit hole” of solitude and have down time or nap time whichever comes first. Today, I was headed home feeling like the week of “game play” has sucked the life out of me. Still somewhat shaky emotionally from our session I hop in the black leather “hot pocket” with my music going and begin my reflection. About 20 minutes into my drive and stress of the Texas speedway I begin feeling nauseous but try to ignore it. The traffic and recent emotional upheaval becomes too much and I feel the familiar tunnel starting to close in on me. Panic ensues and the roar and number of vehicles zipping past and surrounding me has me feeling like an elephant is sitting on my chest. The sweat now profusely dripping off my nose, chin and arms combined with the ever increasing nausea and diminishing senses has me paralyzed with fear. Afraid that I might wreck or puke in my lap I search for the nearest gas station looking for a moment of solitude to try to regroup. I pull over and start crying not really knowing anything more than I’m completely overwhelmed. I don’t know how long I was there but I realize that I’m now not at the original stop but somewhere completely different in a bad area of town as I overhear loud arguing. My first thought is, “Just get me home!!” I carry a disposable ice pack for such times when grounding is needed. I reach in my bag and activate the ice pack and start crying hoping and praying that no one sees me and tries to interfere with this another horribly embarrassing moment. The brisk cold helps with the nausea and then I fade away completely again. After several minutes I realize that the ice pack is now not cold but I think I can now make it home. What just caused this? Maybe it was the heightened emotions from the week. Maybe it was something physical. Or maybe it was both.

tunnel

With my car still running I head back out onto the speedway and eventually make it home. I stagger inside still dripping with sweat and my entire wardrobe for the day soaked. I change into dry clothes and collapse on my bed completely exhausted and still shaking from the fear that I had just experienced. Was this a sign of failure or healing? I don’t know.  I suddenly remember former coaches telling me, “Pace yourself but keep going.  We have a long season in front of us.” And with that I was able to find some momentary comfort.

This week had the spice of siracha and was muy caliente in therapy. It wasn’t all graceful but I’m still standing and didn’t have to do it all alone. Compassion keeps me going and every day a shattered confidence is slowly being rebuilt.  Coach is taking away my very comfortable “maladaptive binkies” and the grieving surrounding that and further unknowns has me scared not knowing who I will be without them.

This marathon is about rediscovering who I am among other things. I didn’t get this dysfunctional over night. To undo a lifetime of lies which were my only truth in search of my authentic truth simply takes time. The work is hard and exhausting on every level. And the long ride home is sometimes where I am forced to realize just how strong I can be.

 Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at

the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

~Mary Anne Radmacher

#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

My Own Prison

My Own Prison

“To be able to break free from prison, one must know how they became imprisoned to begin with.”

—Anonymous

One of the things I’ve learned through the process of trying to live with this disorder are “triggers.”  Triggers are anything that can set off a memory that can take someone back in time to when the original trauma.  It’s like being in an instant time machine.  A trigger can be anything related to sight, sound, smell or taste.  These seemingly innocent moments to most people can set off internal and external eruptions in others.  This can often lead to strong and immediate reactions by those they affect.

I don’t have all of the answers about these little disruptive beasts yet.  And no matter how much I want all of the answers immediately I have to always keep in mind that it has taken me 42 years to become this dysfunctional and repair work does not happen overnight.  I guess to be cliché this process is “a marathon not a sprint.”

The ultimate goal of therapy is to be able to acknowledge these events but not let them overtake you.  Before this can happen specific triggers must first be identified and the event can be processed.  Recently, I did a therapeutic assignment related to this very thing.  One of my personal and very strong triggers is the feelings of being trapped either physically and/or emotionally.  This is one of the biggest reasons why I don’t have much success in lockdown psychiatric units and inpatient programs.  My ultimate goal is ALWAYS TO GET OUT!

confinement

While doing this assignment I looked specifically at individual traumatic situations where these fears were imposed and I was instantly blown away.  I had no idea how “trapped” I have felt the majority of my life.  When I began breaking down the different time periods for these situations things have begun to make a little more sense.  I felt myself becoming nauseous and beginning to float away while looking deep inside for these answers.  Here are just a few that were identified.

  1. Being molested by people older, at the young age of 5 years old, and not feeling powerful enough to make it stop while also holding these secrets left me feeling trapped.  These abusers were also our neighbors and were always around me because of how close our two families were even at church.
  2. As a teenager, I was trapped as some sick form of sport and/or punishment in a closet where I was verbally abused, humiliated and tormented on a daily basis.  I was like a dog that was chained to a tree and forced into aggression.  I was often sent to the office to face false accusations by the administration where no verdict other than GUILTY was ever considered.  I always felt as though no one would listen and that no one cared what was happening.  The times I reported that this teacher was “being mean” ultimately got back to her and the abuse intensified.  I was often belittled and embarrassed in front of my classmates.  The reality of that situation was that there was no way out….period.  That was the first time that I ever had any type of suicidal feelings of any kind.  Her words still burn deeply as the day that were first said.
  3. Anyone who has experienced domestic violence, in any form, knows the fear and panic of wanting and needing to leave but terrified of the repercussions.  I was also followed and constantly watched.  The mental anguish from his degrading comments and vile actions left me feeling completely lost, broken and fearing my own decisions.  No matter what decision I made it would always be wrong.  He had me convinced that I would never be able to do anything without him because I was too dumb.  The most powerful statement he ever made to me was “You’ll never get rid of me.” And so far this statement has not been untrue.  I was trapped.

trapped

These are just a few examples of feeling trapped.  And now….I’m trapped by all of the memories, images and statements that were made by those individuals.  I still can’t seem to break free from the abuse as it torments me daily.  The paranoia of being watched, followed or being attacked has me questioning the intensions of others.  Instead of waiting to see if the paranoia holds validity, I protect myself by being very verbally aggressive to innocent people who just happen to making seemingly non-malicious comments or glances.  Essentially, I’m in a perpetual state of being triggered.  Waiting for a happy ending that never happened during my trauma and today only fuels my impulsiveness in this area.

Being around too many people with too much stimulation sends me and my “protectors” into overdrive and into a state of fight or flight.  It seems to overload my brain, thus, making me think I’m in danger.  The anxiety becomes so uncomfortable that the only thing I can do is just “get away” in whatever form that might take.  I seem to tame this only by being alone and secluded from most people including those I dearly love.  I have become a prisoner of myself and life.  The dichotomous view of life leaves me imprisoned by my fears within four walls of my bedroom.  Outside of these walls I’m simply prepared for battle in one way or another by indiscriminately striking out at anything that moves. The situation that comforts me is also the walls of my self-created but protective prison.  My abuse was very real and still is. And I’m a work in progress.

#thispuzzledlife

Miracles Right In Front Of Us

The Miracles Right in Front of Us

“Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what

a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”

–Jon Bon Jovi

Easter is the time when most if not all Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has always been widely known for performing miracles.  While living in New Mexico and working with a melting pot homeless population you begin to see that religion and spirituality can take on  many different meanings for different people.  My decision was simple do I accept their differences?  And well…..it was a very easy decision a resounding YES!!!  As individuals we are not made to fit into a box.  The point in being an individual is that you’re different from others.  You are uniquely you.

The clients that I worked with came from many different walks of life and belief systems.  I allowed them to be and feel accepted without judgment.  Pretty soon a mutual respect was developed and connection with them was made.  I’ve heard different stories about miracles happening mainly from religious people.  Working with the substance abusing homeless populations sometimes the miracles were only for one or two to see.

Where 12-step recovery was really pushed there not all of the clients were accepting.  This is when I began to see the importance of individuality in the counseling field.  I also learned that the term “recovery” can mean different meaning for people.  Some prayed to God, Allah, The Great Spirit, the earth, nature, the spirits, etc.

The miracles that I’m specifically talking about were maybe something like being able to have a genuine smile during a conversation.  It might’ve been learning to trust someone who is white because of  the transgenerational trauma forced on their people.  It could’ve simply been someone treating them with respect rather than as a label.  Or it could’ve been about someone willing to listen when no one else would.  Nevertheless, for these clients miracles happened.

miracle.jpg

The detox center might have been the only place where the term “recovery” was ever mentioned to them..  There’s an obvious shortage in substance abuse treatment centers throughout the nation.  But with the population that I worked with most had no insurance because they were homeless.  This ensured them being discharged back into a very hostile living situation.  Consequently, the rate of recidivism was very high.  One thing I knew without a doubt is that they would call sometimes looking for something, as simple as, a warm cot and a sandwich.

I think a lot of times that “we,” as a society, have a definition of miracles where we expect people to walk on water or raise the dead so we can catch the proof on our IPhone.  And many times life circumstances keeps us temporarily blinded to the beauty that sits before us.  I’m certainly not an exception to that rule either.  The weight of my trauma gets so incredibly heavy sometimes that the only thing I can see is the unfairness, despair and hopelessness related to it all.

The good days are the ones that drop by just like an intermittent reward system when gambling.  You keep putting money in the machine and winning minimally or not at all.  And then there’s the win, though not too big, that keeps the dialogue of “I’m close, I can feel it” continuing.  If  look at how the stars line up in our lives sometimes we realize that other painful situations had to happen for the miracle to occur.  Here’s are a few of the miracles that I’ve noticed in my life.  This list is by no means exhaustive.

1). It’s a miracle that I made it through my former marriage alive.

2.)  It’s a miracle that Sarah Pardue and I crossed paths in a treatment center  because I was a drug addict/alcoholic that was angry and running amuck in life.

3.)  I was a miracle that I met my best friend and soul mate, Melody Landrum-Arnold, and I met each other through Sarah.

4.)  It was a miracle that Mel and I ever left the deep south.

5.)  It was a miracle that we met our therapist in Albuquerque.  She turned out to be one of the very rare finds in that state. She was certainly the wind beneath our family’s wings.

6.) It was a miracle that both of our invitro babies Marshall, 6, and Copeland, 3, made it successfully to their forever home with two mommies.

7.)  It’s a miracle that we made it out of New Mexico as a couple due to so many years of stress and a lot of it related to my mental illness.

8.)  And how could I ever forget what a miracle it was to find a new coach that saw my anger and rage, knowing me very little, while on an inpatient unit and still willing to work with a group of broken children trying to function as a healthy adult.

9.) And well….leaving my two boys and my dear wife to go live in a state and sacrifice not having the time with them in order to work with my coach regularly in an attempt to save my own life….that too is a miracle.

At the detox center, I would work around the rules to get everyone who asked for help some type of help no matter the situation.  And sometimes……they would show up hoping to see a friendly face and maybe experience another little miracle.  And well…every encounter with them I experienced a miracle too.

#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.

nottouch

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

He Was More Than A Coach

He Was More Than a Coach

“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen.

 The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”

—- Vince Lombardi

I’ve always spoke very highly of all the coaches I played for now 20+ years ago.  I’ve always had that strong connection to them regardless of how much time has gone by.  Now if you want to know how I get motivated, let me know that “I have a ballgame to play and my team needs me.”  My life as a ballplayer took on some of the most raw feelings I’ve ever experienced.  Being an athlete was about more than just a game, it was about the entire journey of learning fundamentals and evolving into an individualized athlete with a heart of a champion.  Here’s the story of a man that knew exactly what to do to help me step my game up as an athlete.  But what he didn’t know he was creating for me was a way to survive.

Nicholas “Nick” Kolinsky was a ex-football player who had a heart as big as his frame.  He is still and will always be a legend from the South MS area.  He was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to MS many years ago to play for the 1962 championship football team from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He stayed around that same area met the love of his life and raised one beautiful family.  His youngest daughter, Nikki, and I would be teammates for several years.

This man was surely a legend in the city but for me the term “legend” would take on a whole other meaning.  I would meet coach Nick sometime in the early 1980’s.  I had play some form of “coach pitch” softball for a year but this was “real” softball, as I saw it, because we had tryouts.  I was an okay player but nothing was serious and I was having fun.  We had the tryouts complete with coaches from the league and their notebooks looking on and taking notes.  A couple of days later my parents and I got the call that I would play for Nick’s Ice House and my coach would be Nick Kolinsky.

This big and loud man would laugh and smile in a way that you just instantly know that he was different than most people you meet.  His happiness and love for life, his family and now this young softball team was infectious.  You never had to ask me if I wanted to go to practice.  I would sometimes walk back to the vehicle with my heart crying tears because I didn’t want practice to end.  I ate, slept, breathed and fully saturated myself with his coaching as much as I could.

Coach Nick

He pushed me but in a way that I wanted to play at my best.  He always told us as players, “You will perform in a game the way that you practice.  Winners never ever give up.  Every play and every ball you catch or hit effects everyone on your team and  they are your family.  You leave it all on this field.  If at the end of the game you have played the best you could and you left it all on the field no matter what the score you will always be a champion in my book.”  He knew how to motivate me.  I instantly took some of these lessons with into now a 42 year-old womanhood.

Every athlete has a difficult night where things just don’t seem to work.  You misjudge balls.  Your hit timing is just off and you begin to worry if you even have any eye/hand coordination left.  It was these times when coach would say to me, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw!”  It wasn’t earth shattering to be “off” for those games but disappointing it was.  He could somehow tell when I needed that “compassionate coach” side and he always encouraged me.  He would bring his big “man size” body down to my child size self and look me in the eyes with compassion and said, “Keep going baby.  These kind of nights don’t last but you have to keep pushing through them.  Don’t you give up!  Do you hear me?!!!  You leave it out here on this field no matter how much you have to give.  Your team needs you.  If you get scared and don’t know what to do on those bases KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME.  I’m right here and we will do this together.”

Now to most people this interaction might not have been that big of a deal.  To that developing child and athlete, that was all I needed to hear.  He didn’t say that he would be there to do it for me.  He said, “I’m right here and we will do this together.”  From that day forward, I played with confidence and have faced every obstacle knowing that he would always be right there.  He had no idea what those positive interactions would do for me as an adult.  Every single time I had to pick myself up from one of life’s unfriendly occurrences, I always heard my coach saying, “Charlie get up!  Your team is depending on you.  The game is not over yet. Get back over here!”

charlie hustle

Charlie was a name that Coach Nick gave to me because of the way that I played.  He always told me, “You play a lot like Pete Rose.  You have some of the best hustle I’ve ever seen.  From now on you will be called Charlie Hustle.”  As long as there was daylight and the “want”, “need” and “will” to continue was there he would stay after practice and hit me additional balls to help me sharpen my skills.  Our team seemed almost untouchable.  It wasn’t just me who would benefit from his coaching.  We practiced and practiced hard every single practice.  Lolly gagging was not allowed by him, other coaches or the other players on the team.

After ballgames it was nothing for him to load up the entire team in the back of his pickup truck while we cheered going riding through the city like we were national champions.  And to me we were.  I’m glad that he gave me a foundation of self discipline.  It might be in only a couple areas of my life but it took and I’ve never let go of many of his life lessons.  We were told very seriously, “that being a winner is not given.  You have to put the work in and even then you might not win the game or the battle.  It’s the same with life.  You give everything you have all the time until there’s nothing left to give.  That is a champion!” He gave all us players a t-shirt that had his business logo on the left chest.  But on the back it said “I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS”  He told us as a team that those shirts you have to earn to be able to wear them.  Until I graduated high school, I was known by my nickname Charlie Hustle and I wore that shirt with pride.  I always wore that shirt under my uniform shirts throughout my high school career as a kind of balance and piece of my coach right there with me like he had promised.

Because of the impact of his compassion in my days of being a child and developing athlete, I have survived many different situations.  I worked hard to live through a lot of things.    I reconnected with him after this many years.  I was contacted by one of his daughters via Facebook to tell me that his health was declining.  On one of our trips back to Petal where he and his family lived the whole time I knew them.  I walked into the house where he was sitting and his eyes lit up.  “Dana!!!”  He chuckled. My eyes filled with tears and I hugged him and said, “Coach I’ve missed you.  Here’s my family.”  I don’t know if the tears fell like they’re doing now as I write this.  But shortly after Marshall pooped on his lap he wanted to talk about old games from when I played ball for him.  It was like one of the most beautiful times as a child had been resurrected by the gentle giant that had become a gentle old man.  I called him several times since that visit and each time we spoke he had a even more difficult time speaking due to a failing heart.

nick's boys

My beloved coach passed away July 5, 2016.  The grief is so great that it’s taken until now to be able to write about such a great man.  The towns of Petal/Hattiesburg knew when this man passed away.  For me it was like a new national day of mourning.  The pain of the little child inside had me disappearing inside myself.  My athlete has never stopped mourning over his loss.  Anytime you ask me about this guy I called Coach Nick I tear up but not out of sadness.  I tear up over the gift I was chosen to receive.  That was just gratitude rolling out of my eyes.  Since trauma has had such a big impact on my life more than once I always wear that shirt into a session with my therapist when I need his encouragement.

Ironically, as the universe would see fit, I met the one who would be the next big coach in my life only a month later.  This time things are different.  Now I’m not in the fight for a win in a game, I’m in the fight for my life.  And everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Grateful again?  You bet I am. I will find a way to succeed because I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS!

Below are links and newspaper about this guy everyone knows as The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  Please take a little time to read about this man that both South Mississippi and I loved.

 

 

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/news/local/hattiesburg/2016/07/05/hattiesburgs-nicks-ice-house-icon-nick-kolinsky-dies/86728744/

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/sports/college/southern-miss/football/2016/07/13/cleveland-nick-kolinsky-jack-lucas-had-special-bond/87010864/

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hattiesburgamerican/obituary.aspx?pid=180567264

#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

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

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

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

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

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

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

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

IMG_0015

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

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

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

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

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

finding myself

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

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

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

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

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

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

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

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

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

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.

#Thispuzzledlife

It’s Not About The Food

It’s Not About The Food

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

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

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

–Mary Pipher

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

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

skinny back

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

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

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

scales

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

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

scales attached

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Closing The Chaper

Closing the Chapter

12.29.2017

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

—Paulo Coehlo

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

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

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

eagle dancer

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

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

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

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

locked soul

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

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

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

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

puzzle piece blue

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Inside The Rage

Inside the Rage

November 15, 2016

“Rage — whether in reaction to social injustice, or to our leaders’ insanity, or to those who threaten or harm us — is a powerful energy that, with diligent practice, can be transformed into fierce compassion.”
― Bonnie Myotai Treace

 Explicit and detailed rage scene!

I peer through the widow making sure I’m at the correct house. I spot her sitting in her living room with that same scowl on her face from 27 years earlier. The memories of her hatred flood back with the force of Hurricane Katrina and almost paralyzing.  This is the moment at which she would experience the same fear, humiliation, belittling and taunting that I once received from her.  I have prepared for this moment my whole life.  “Be strong, Dana. It’s now our turn” I tell myself.  I knock on the door knowing that I would be recognized immediately.  She opens the door. And before she can say anything I rush the door pushing her off balance back into her house and onto the floor. I pull my 9mm out and point it at her saying, “What you thought I forgot?! Now it’s time to even the score. Please I invite you to take a trip down memory lane with me. You might’ve forgotten what was said and done but I never did. And I never will.” I quickly tie her hands behind her with rope and lock the doors. I make her sit in a chair where she’s tied and threaten to be killed if she says anything without being asked. I tell her, “So this is what it’s like being one up on somebody. No wonder you like that so much.”  With the “deer in the headlights” look on her face and tears welling up in her eyes I say, “Oh is the baby going to cry now? Bitch suck it up!  I had to and I was a child!!!!”

I start pacing with adrenaline and anger at a level that I’ve never felt before. I feel certain that I’ll probably have a heart attack at any moment. But I don’t care. I tell her, “Think to yourself why are you and I back in this position?” Her breathing has become rapid and erratic.  Tears are now flowing down her cheeks and she’s shaking with fear.  “Hey you little bastard!  I asked you a question!” I said as I threw something across the room breaking it against the opposing wall. She starts trying to talk but it sounds mostly like babble. “Shut that hole in your face and talk normal you little idiot! Is it all coming back to you now? Where is everybody to save you? Come on!  Say something or do something so I can send your little unwanted ass to the office again. Hell, no wonder no one wanted you. I wouldn’t have wanted you either.  You’re just a little piece of trash that no one will ever want” and with that I slapped her as hard as I could across the cheek.  A whimper and a whence she continues to cry but now sobbing.  “Suck it up, fish sticks! We’re just getting started.”  I chuckled and say, “Look on the bright side….at least this won’t be every day for a year in a secluded storage closet.”  “I didn’t do anything wrong!” she says.  “Wrong answer, dumbass!” and I slam into her throat with my forearm knocking both she and the chair over with a thud. “IT AIN’T FUN WHEN THE RABBIT GOT THE GUN, IS IT?!!!!”  She slowly shakes her head and starts sobbing louder. “You know what?  I don’t give a fuck what you have to say right now!” I tell her. I rip a piece of duct tape off and put it over her mouth. “You should see how pathetic you look. You could dish it out to a kid but you can’t take it?  This time I have a smile on my face and YOU have the tears. How does it feel now that the roles are reversed?  Who gave you the right or idea that it was in any way ok for the way you treated children? You fucking disgust me!”  As I look into her eyes, I can tell that she is experiencing the depth of fear that I did. The feeling I got was something of validation.

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I slowly walk behind her and whisper in her ear….”No Child Left Behind” and “Teachers touch lives for a lifetime.” I ask her, “Do those statements mean anything to you? Because they mean everything to me. Remember when I fell through the cracks and had to endure your abuse by myself?  Remember how you would embarrass me in front of my peers with your hatred?  Do you remember any of the things I said to you being said to me?  And I find out through the years that you’ve said similar things to other children? So why are you so surprised that I’m back?  The guilt of not having found a way to stop you so no one else got hurt is why I’m back, bitch.” All she can do is look at me knowing well what I’m talking about but not knowing what I’m fully capable of doing. “You altered the course of my life forever with your abusive hatred! You took my fears and insecurities and used them as a weapon by making them public through humiliation!  Your words and actions have left me unable to deal with life and on disability now.  I got me degrees to prove you wrong but you still managed to raise your ugly head and cripple me this many years later.  I survived you and your abuse. Will you survive mine?”  I turn around facing the wall instead of her and I felt a small tear streams down my face.  I turned around. I pointed the gun at her and hearing her muffled screams I say to her, “They say the root of all evil is money.  But it’s not.  The root of all evil is the abuse of power.  You don’t matter to anyone. You never did.”  As I’m starting to pull the trigger I’m startled by a loud noise.  What I soon realize is that the loud noise was the ice maker in the refrigerator here at home. And I’ve been sitting in my recliner for a couple of hours looking at a chair on the other side of the room.

A flood of nausea from a now raging and might I say, angry, migraine is now plaguing me physically.  I quickly try to figure out the current situation, time and place.  My heart is pounding and adrenaline is rapidly flowing through me veins. I grab my pipe with my medical cannabis needing some ‘hurry up’ relief.  I’m already having to play catch up with this migraine.  My legs feel like they have been set on fire. And I’m doing my best to hold down lunch. I feel like something is trying to crawl out of me and run.  From deep within I hear and feel the panic of “Let me out! Get away from me! Let me out! Get away from me!” This calls for a dab of wax. But not before I realize that the belt is wrapped around my arm as a tourniquet in the familiar preparation for cutting.  I just lay back and let it happen.  She needs relief and so do I.  Several minutes go by and I slowly begin to reorient to my surroundings again with a neatly bandaged arm.  I’m weak and exhausted but I now feel now, as though, I might not die.  I look around the room and see that it resembles somewhat of a ditch house for drug addicts or the homeless.  Things are broken that I have no memory of doing yet I was alone all day.  I quietly begin to sob by myself partially out of fear.  But also out of relief that this time no one was home but me.  And I say once again to my internal guys, “Thank you for keeping me safe yet again.”

“I finally understood what could drive kids to show up with guns and shoot up their schools.”
― Nenia Campbell, Freaky Freshman

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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.

trapped in head

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

The Angry Birds

The Angry Birds

November 30, 2016

“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Since I’m having to play ‘catch up’ on what a life living with Dissociative Identity Disorder has been like for the last year or so, I thought I would introduce you to some comical friends of mine….The Angry Birds.  If you’ve ever followed my blog you know that living with DID has some very funny moments among so many difficult ones.  When I have  an opportunity to belly laugh I usually will take it wherever and whenever I can.  And by the way…..Laura Ingalls Wilder and I have been BFF’s since childhood.

One of the many perks of having DID is the overwhelming anxiety that permeates every pore and cell in my body.  While having social anxiety and not wanting to leave the house is very doable. There’s also the feeling of needing to ‘get away.’  This does present quite a dilemma at times.  Writing is a great therapeutic tool for really anyone if it’s your ‘cup of tea.’  It never has never been one for me until I started writing this blog.  The term “journaling” has always had a negative connotation associated with it.  I promise every time it’s been suggested I look at the person like my oldest son does me when I tell him that chicken nuggets, candy and boogers are not food groups. But the Angry Birds are definitely therapeutic in their own unique way for us as well.

As I’ve stated before, living in the state of New Mexico with a mental health diagnosis that carries so much stigma has given a whole new meaning to desert living.  Lack of resources calls for creative therapeutic tools such as this blog. Through no intention of my own we are beginning to have a real fascination for a group of birds that live in a city park.  The Angry Birds are not the ones watched on TV and the movies by many children.  But yes they do provide entertainment for this ‘system’ and to those passing by and possibly overhearing conversations between me and these birds

What started as another place for me to go and decompress, in times of need, is quickly becoming a place where lessons in therapy and life are happening.  I’ve always enjoyed animals because a connection with them has always felt safe.  People I fear. No I’m not a tree hugger. I just enjoy and respect the human/animal bond.

don't take no

The Angry Birds consist of a mixture of around 100 birds that include mostly waterfowl. Some of them I recognize and some I do not.  It’s pretty much duck, duck, goose for me.  I initially started going out to that area and feeding them bread at random times just for a change of environment.  Then it got incorporated into my morning schedule.  Each morning I would go out and spend a few minutes with these birds talking and thinking.  With this many birds at one time behavior issues about territory were bound to arise.  I always seemed to have one alpha goose that would keep all of the encroaching birds out of my personal space.  This bird is rewarded for its hard work and loyalty with a whole piece of bread to itself.  The first therapeutic pitfall with these birds are BOUNDARIES specifically there’s smashing over mine.  There was a lot of biting other birds butt feathers and uncalled for loud honking.  This I realized is what my ‘system’ looks and operates like at this time……Chaotic.

canadian

Soon these birds had grown to expect me to show up with their bread like I was a local drug dealer dropping off a stash.  I would drive up to the area and I would instantly see and hear flippers heading my way and the Canadian geese flying in.  In these early moments, I have definitely felt like Ace Ventura Pet Detective.  They all get that Zombie Eyed look about them while looking and walking towards me.  In this moment I feared for my lady bits until I realized that the bag of bread was hanging in that area.  Yes I did quickly move it.  Because of their territorial nature our very early conversations consisted of me trying to talk to the Canadian Geese about manners for waiting our turn. I would literally be hollering at them, “Be Loving!!!!” And at times I would throw flying saucers and baseballs made purely of wheat bread at them to help correct their behavior issue.  The feeding frenzy that would ensue is one that would have Jeff Corwin scratching his head.

mouthy

bread takers

One of my moments of arguing with one of the Angry Birds I’ve named Mouthy who is a really, loud mouth grey goose, started hissing and honking at me one day.  He was biting the other birds and starting to use offensive language with me so I did the only thing I could think to do in the moment….Honk back.  I looked up to see a mother and her small child laughing at this conversation.  It was a very immature moment but Mouthy settled down and was grateful for his bread.  I told him, “Mouthy you can’t just go around biting and bullying when you’re in a bad mood.” BAM!!! There was a therapeutic revelation.  Simple revelation but still a revelation nonetheless. I began to make a connection to my past about this scene of me and these birds.   It took me several minutes to be able to convey what this moment was like. ” I know, I know” a certain little insider said.  It’s like being in Mr. Popper’s Penguins the movie.   I had to chuckle and I said, “Well little one, I guess you’re right.”  Granted there was a lot of biting, very unnecessary and over stimulating honking by all of them and I simply said, “Ya’ll are some angry ass birds.”  And that’s how the therapeutic Angry Birds have come to be.

Disclaimer:  No birds or waterfowl were ever harmed before, during or after any visit.

#Thispuzzledlife

“I Believe You….”

“I Believe You….”

4.12.15

“I Believe You. It’s Not Your Fault.”

—-Anonymous

Ok, so just maybe the quote isn’t one from a famous philosopher, actor, psychologist, theorist or author.  Technically, anyone could say those two sentences. After thinking about some of the words for the past couple of weeks, I have come to the following conclusion.  We’ve all heard the saying that something can, “make or break someone.”  Well, here’s a rather stunning example of just that.  In the therapeutic world these two sentences can, in fact, ‘make or break’ a trauma survivor.

There was someone that I was working with recently that I asked, “Do you believe me?”  This had been a question that had been gnawing at my insides for a long time that I never voiced until then.  The response was, “It doesn’t matter what I believe. It’s about helping you deal with the feelings.”  Now, why is this significant?  Firstly, I would like to point out that I do not believe in any way that this was said maliciously.  However, something within my internal ‘system’ just wouldn’t let it rest.  I instantly my anger grew by the second.  The anger was not creeping but sprinting straight from my gut to my brain at a speed that I was, unfortunately, extremely familiar.  All I wanted to do was get out of where I was and get as far away as I could.  At the same time, I was very confused at how very angry I was becoming over seemingly something so insignificant.  I just wanted to get out of the situation. I felt as though there was about to be collateral damage.

Later, once I’ve had time to allow the physical feelings to subside and for my brain to return to the typical crazy norm, I search inside for answers.  What could’ve possibly triggered me so badly?  I didn’t know but….it didn’t feel good.  My body had exploded with tension in all of my 2000 parts.  And the only way, I can describe what my brain felt like was like an earthquake had shaken everything into disarray.  Once again, I sit and listen to the ranting and raving of some of the ‘insiders.’  I just try to remain a by standard and listen.

I also can’t help but to feel a very overwhelming sense of fear that has me partially paralyzed.  I’m trying to sort through everything while trying to maintain and it’s not working.  Me and the medical marijuana become rather close friends for the rest of the day.  My mind and body was screaming for relief.  I talked some to my wife but kept a lot inside to try and sort out on my own.  What had just happened?!

I was looking for a great big ‘a-ha’ or ‘bright light’ moment and it came down to something this simple, yet, very important.  Perpetrators are master manipulators in every way possible.  The two most significant things I was always told was that, “No one would ever believe me and somehow it was MY fault.”  While I was not outright told that I wasn’t believed, I was also told that it didn’t matter. I was beyond crushed.  Alters in my system went ballistic.  There were ‘internal’ tears, anger, screaming, raging, blaming, hurt and pain that was resulting in a chaotic mess.  Each day, I find out more and more ‘triggers’ that can lead to a reaction.  It looks like we found another one.

One of the advantages of being a trauma survivor is hyper awareness of surroundings.  Advantages how?  I notice everything that is going on around me down to minute details.  That’s how, in some instances, I was able to stay ahead of my perpetrators and stay safe.  Also having a degree in a behavioral science helps understand behavior as well.  Therapeutic relationships of any kind especially with someone in power can only thrive if there is trust that has developed.  Once that is gone so is the relationship.  What if you were someone’s one and only contact and they came straight out of a lifetime of trauma and abuse to someone who doesn’t believe that it matters whether or not we as trauma survivors place a high importance on being believed about what has happened to us? For this brief moment in time, my abusers seemed to be correct, we didn’t seem to be believed. Does it scare you?  It did me.

#Thispuzzledlife

LGBT And DID

LGBT and DID

4.3.2015

“Gender preference does not define you. Your spirit defines you.” 
― P.C. Cast, Awakened

I’m not going to get on a political soapbox about LGBT rights.  The fact is that, people aren’t going to change my mind based on their beliefs. I’m not going to change their mind about my beliefs.  Honestly, being a member of the LGBT community and having DID leaves me in the minority of the minorities.  Do I care?  Some areas yes, but the thoughts don’t control my life.  Does the idea of refusing service to someone based on who they love concern me? Yes and I don’t believe that it’s right at all.  However, no one’s opinions about my life and marriage pay my bills, sleep in my bed or raise our son.

My mother gave me some valuable advice my whole life that even as a child I was able to quote.  When I would complain about something not being fair, she would always say, “There are a lot of things in life that aren’t fair.  The sooner you learn to live with them, the better off you’ll be.”  To me, that translates to a very common theme in 12-Step communities which simply means, ‘Living life on life’s terms.’  Abuse is the exception to the rule.  Abuse is never ok.

If my wife and son were to go into a restaurant and be refused service because of the makeup of our family, sure I would probably make a scene by making my voice heard.  I have no problem defending my family at all costs.  Chances are after a verbal lashing from yours truly, the person who refused the service might actually think before making such comments.  I don’t know.  Maybe try checking with one of the employees at our local library to see what he says.  Anyway, my wife and I were taught something even more valuable while growing up in the deep south….the art of southern cooking.

 One thing I know without a doubt is that, I’m gay and very happy being my authentic sexual self.  I was very unhappy living a life that wasn’t me as a straight female.  Some people, including family, have an issue with me being married to a woman even though I was being abused by my ex-husband and very unhappy.  You know what…it truly is their issue and not mine.  I’m happy being with the woman I love and being treated with love and respect. I don’t regret one day since I ‘came out’ even though I, too, have lost friends and family as a result.

I found my soul mate in one of the most chaotic times in my life.  We love each other as much and more than we first met.  We have weathered storm, after storm, after storm mostly on our own.  So, for us, our relationship was do or die.  Melody is truly my balance.  Since my diagnosis of DID, life for us has still remained chaotic even when our personal life has been ok.  Life keeps pounding us with more and more.  What I do know about us as a couple and as a family is that we are incredibly resilient and strong.

Our lives on a daily basis don’t even fit the ‘our plate’s full’ analogy.  ‘Our plate runneth over and over and over’ seems to be more accurate.  If you need a better description, think of an organization that’s collecting money for some charity and they have the thermometer that’s colored red as the collection of funds climbs.  When they reach the top, the red starts spewing out the top.  Yea, that’s a more accurate picture of how full our plate usually has been for several years now.  Mel and I took a proactive approach 6 years ago to start couples counseling as a way to maintain a healthy relationship.  How valuable these therapists have been for us as a couple during all of this chaos.  Sometimes, it has truly felt like our couples’ counseling has been the only thread holding us together.  She sees her therapist. We see our couples’ therapist. And someday soon I’ll have my own therapist again.  Truthfully, I would just like to take a break from individual therapy until our new baby boy is born to give my ‘system’ time to chill.

People can have their opinions about gay rights and that’s fine.  I also have a choice whether or not to be a one member audience as well.  Sometimes I choose to jump into an already futile and  very argumentative effort.  Nothing really ever gets accomplished but the usually equally aggressive insults.  In the big scheme of things, everyone has an opinion and thinks that they’re right.  Laws are changed by the government not me.

I’ll tell you what the most important thing in my life right now…potty training the 3 year old.  We also have friends and family in need.  I’m looking for a new therapist.  And daily, I deal with the horrors that I’ve experienced my whole life.  I do my best to try and put the pieces of my puzzled life back together.  It’s not that the topic of gay rights isn’t important to me.  It’s just that, at this particular time in my life, other things take precedence.  I’ve got my wife and son and no government or food establishment can take that from me.  Most of the time I just roll my eyes and shake my head.

Every single day the evidence of my life of secretive abuse floods my mind and body.   I fight like hell to get out of the bed and to try to challenge my fears and anxieties about life.  Life isn’t easy being gay or having DID.  Both have their own stigmas and bent belief systems by society.  Have your own beliefs and opinions, but you can’t touch our rainbow bubble.

And since the uproar about the pizza establishment has become such a big deal….I don’t feed my genitals pizza anyway.

#Thispuzzledlife

Patch Adams And Therapy

Patch Adams and Therapy

3.12.15

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”—Patch Adams

I am sitting here watching the movie Patch Adams tonight as I have many times.  Tonight, however, this film takes on a whole new meaning in a couple of different ways.  Bare with me while I try to convey the importance of this film as it relates to therapy.  While Robin Williams was always a personal favorite actor and comedian, this particular movie rings loud and clear in several ways to me.

Firstly, while having the dreams of being a doctor, he still wants to have strong human connections.  In the movie, he compares medical school to being in the marines due to a lecture on transference.  Throughout the movie you see him trying to find that balance by using some very unconventional yet amusing tactics.  One particular scene shows him doing student rounds with a senior doctor and he begins talking to a group of students about a patient’s condition right in front of the patient.  Robin Williams, who plays Patch Adams, additionally wants to know the patient’s name.  He introduces himself and calls her by name and instantly a connection is made.

In my undergraduate studies at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS we were also taught about transference and professional distance with clients.  The truth is that transference is inevitable.  Every human being has some type of impact on another’s life. One of my professors told us in a lecture something that will always stick with me….”Your clients are people first.  Then, they have a diagnosis.”  Probably some of the most valuable information that I have ever been able to use when I worked with addicts.  We are also taught to leave personal or outside issues at home.  The thing that I’ve learned the hard way is that…well…I’m a human being.  While great in theory, it’s not completely possible.  Is it possible to leave enough at home and still function professionally and ethically?….YES.

As a recovering addict, had I not seen the ‘human side’ of my inpatient therapist, Sarah Pardue at such a crucial time, I would’ve never listened to her then which might’ve ended my life from some form of drug overdose.  It doesn’t mean that she didn’t have professional and personal healthy boundaries.  You can’t really put into words what the connection is like.  It’s a very safe and scary feeling all at one time.  For 90 days, I got to see a professional who was a human being that also had feelings and emotions.  She was always one of the most ethical and respectable professionals that I’ve EVER come in contact with.  When I became her student several years later, her humanity was still there and I was completely astonished that she was still able to maintain that after so many years in the therapy field while at times bombs were going off around her.  What a positive impact her example set for me professionally.

Lastly, as a trauma survivor, I have to see that a therapist is a person before they’re a professional.  Remember, because of my trauma and education, I can read people and their body language very well.  This became a survival tool that has worked to my advantage in the counseling field.  Any sign of inconsistencies and red flags are flashing, neon signs.  I watch everything everywhere and at all times.

Processing trauma takes an enormous amount of trust with professionals.  After all, the goal is to share some of the scariest topics and information with someone who is a complete stranger. And if someone we’ve known for a large part of our lives betrayed our trust in vile ways, how are we expected to trust a complete stranger with a degree? Every single day you can turn on the local news and see flaming examples of abuse of power.  I have watched as people portrayed themselves as one thing and their true colors sprint out of the closet just like I did when I ‘came out’ about being gay.  Yea it stings. But, then it hurts.  And eventually, you will look down and find scars. So, needless to say, it takes me a very long time to trust people…..period.

While working with clients, I’m not ashamed at all to say that I’ve cried with my clients at times.  Did I let this interfere with the professional therapeutic relationship? Not at all.  I still had professional and personal boundaries.  Some would possibly see this as not having emotional boundaries thus being unethical.  Ask some of my former clients and they would tell you that their ‘therapist’ was a human being just like they are. Ultimately, isn’t the goal of therapy or medicine to improve ‘quality of life?’

#Thispuzzledlife

Under The Cover Of Darkness

Under the Cover of Darkness

3.9.15

 “PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” 
― Susan Pease Banitt

And there you are again as you begin to arise with the memories of your vulgarities of control, hate, bitterness, soul shredding and belittling.  Once again you’re not seen but you are heard again by the one it has all been intended for….ME.  You have a paralyzing fear to you that can’t match anything in my life so far.  I watch it. I hear it. I smell it. I feel it all over again.  Yes, you are alive and well during the day.  Nighttime, under the cover of darkness, you are at your most evil.  Finally, no distractions and I can be all yours, once again.  You remind me of everything they did and you convince me it was all my fault.  You tell me that it was my fault that no one helped me because, I kept the secrets.  You have me convinced that people are constantly staring at me and all of my imperfections both seen and not seen.  I didn’t somehow make amends by surviving it the first time?!  You have attacked my mind and body too many times to count.  I go to bed in pain and wake up in pain.  There’s not a medication for ailments that no one else can detect.  You hit me with waves of sometimes debilitating physical issues that make me wonder why I ever wake up in the mornings.  The body cramps, nausea, vomiting, migraines and diarrhea are worse than detoxing from opiates.  You interfere with my sleep time and time again.  Yet, life continues every single day.  But for me, I get ready to stare you in the face while constantly looking over my shoulder yet again.  This body that I live in is still being perpetrated while they continue to live as though nothing ever happened.  Sometimes the pictures are just snapshots.  Tonight, however, they’re scrolling on a marquee sign.  What people don’t see is what happens on the inside.  You are a killer of many and a disabler of many more.  You are PTSD.

Since almost a year ago, our lives as a person and a family have been shaken to its core.  My wife and I look back and try to put the pieces together of a very emotionally charged year.  Now, bigger changes have happened in regards to my therapeutic care at an extremely crucial time in my life.  I’m truly at a loss for words at the reality of the situation.  My brother, Levi Pierce, taught me a lesson during our middle school tenure about being a fighter.  My athletics taught me about not giving up and about how pushing beyond known limits is possible.  This combination makes me a fierce competitor but an even more fierce survivor.

One of the most powerful quotes I learned at a young age that has also made its presence known both on and off the field is….

“Little things make big things happen.”

—Coach Nick Kolinsky

#Thispuzzledlife

Life On Life’s Terms

Life on Life’s Terms…

2.21.15

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

The title of this post is very cliché in the 12-Step community. However, recent events from the last few months have finally answered, for me, how this fits into my life. I know…I’m a slow learner. “Living life on life’s terms” recently has come to have meaning by my own disorder that I struggle with both mentally and physically every single day I open my eyes. I manage my DID the best way I know how, at this point. I have excruciating body memories that often leave me in tears, migraines, diarrhea, severe anxiety, nausea, vomiting. Not to mention how crazy it can get ‘upstairs’ sometimes.

Just because I have Dissociative Identity Disorder or someone else has bipolar, or depression or whatever your current diagnosed or undiagnosed opinion of your situation is doesn’t mean that life just ceases to go on. This disorder in itself can be very tricky and dangerous depending on what alter is in charge at the time. This too is a work in progress.  My point in general is that just because I have a disorder doesn’t mean that people won’t die, people won’t be self-centered, people won’t reject us as a family and as it’s been going lately even one of our own unborn children might die.

Yesterday was one of my proudest and saddest days of my life. I had it all set up before the day began. I was hoping for a therapy appointment so that I could process what I knew was soon going to happen a bomb was going to go off inside my head and body whether I wanted it to or not.   Whatever was going to happened, I just didn’t want it to happen while I was alone. So, also knowing that grief was a part of this process that was about to ensue, and how acupuncture is helping with the release of trauma from a cellular level much like writing, I took my very sore and aching mind and body over to where I was to have acupuncture so that the grief could also be helped to be released soon after the service was over. Loneliness is a feeling that I don’t handle very well. I needed my wife, one of my therapists or someone to be there at that moment.  But, alas, I was there to face yet another demon alone.



I took all of the medication that I thought I would need for this event and kept it very close at hand. Mom and Dad were going to try and FaceTime Sarah’s service for me.  I begin getting so anxious that I would miss this service that I was nauseous. I was already in excruciating pains from body memories and knew that another bomb was about to go off in my physically and mentally. This wasn’t going to be an incident where not just one alter was going to be effected. All would be deeply affected and hurt.

 And suddenly there was the call from my mother and the FaceTime camera was going perfectly and I’m so relieved at the moment that I’m able in attend. When Doug passed away, there was no possible way for us to get home so, I was bound and determined to see Sarah’s service.  When the service started, I was once again thinking, “Is this funeral for the Sarah I called mom?” My heart begins to ache and my eyes fill up with tears as I keep my shades on and ear buds in. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Crying in public and around people tends to be dangerous for me in the past and shows that you’re weak and an easy target. I choke back what I can. Eventually when the reality hits me that she’s really gone and I’ll never be able to ask her for her levelheaded advice again, I’ll never be able to sit on her couch for hours talking and laughing about experiences both good and bad about being therapists. Or about what a handful of a patient I could be. Or about the precious woman she introduced me to and our little boy and one in the oven.

I cried but seemed to maintain a calmness all through the service.  My heart was going out to her family and the friends and former co-workers that spoke.  The things they said about her couldn’t have been any more truer words.  With the many people’s lives that she touched, I was even able to say a very brief “hello” to one of the former therapists that worked with Sarah at the same time I was a patient.  They played “good cop, bad cop” very well together.  However, this person also is a very highly respected person by me to this day for what she helped Sarah accomplish….getting through my extremely thick skull.  I’ll leave it at that for now.

I held most of the grief in until I said goodbye to my parents.  In that lonely parking lot, I cried like a child that had just lost her parent and for me she was just that.  I sat there and cried and cried until the cries switched over to crying about the pain in my body.  The bomb had been set off and exploded.  My legs are now throbbing and I’m sobbing uncontrollably while trying to keep anyone from seeing. Why?!  I just don’t understand.  She was suppose to be fine from the chemo.  Oh how my heart still doesn’t understand.  The emotional level of this grief has brought on nausea to a point that I’m terrified that someone will see me begin to vomit.  I take a couple of hard swallows making sure I keep, I guess air in.  I made sure with my eating disorder that it was ok to not eat since I was going to be dealing with something so difficult.  The eating disorder agreed that food was not the best thing plus it would make me look horrendous.  Even dry heaving would’ve embarrassed me to the point of never returning as a client even though no one was around to really see anything.

My body was screaming and my mind, heart and soul were in shambles.  “What do I do now?” I keep asking myself.  She was my voice of reason.  I’ve lost all track of time and there she is, the one I’ve been waiting to help relief me of some of the agony.  Yes, she’s an unbelievable acupuncturist but she’s also a human being.  She instinctively knows that something’s wrong.  I proceed to chat with her a moment about it.  The tears as hard as I tried to keep them from falling and save myself some embarrassment, they just kept falling at a rate that I rarely do around someone other than my wife.  I knew that I had no storage left in my body to hold anymore grief since many years of grief have accumulated.  I had strategically schedule this appointment for this reason.  I wanted to grieve and let it be released at the same time.  I vividly remember stepping out of the vehicle, waiting to be made fun of for crying, and it never happened.  I could hardly walk because with each step the fire in my legs became more excruciating.  She took time with me to just let me talk about my grief but the pain in my legs and my soul was too much for me to handle.

I woke up to almost non-existent pain but more like soreness from the tenseness of my muscles.  I was lying down which rarely happens because of the sexual trauma from my past.  I wake up with a horrible headache and very disoriented trying to put together the pieces of how much time had gone by and what had transpired that I had no knowledge about.  I know that something has happened because I was lying down.  The embarrassment of her seeing me in the condition that I was in when I remember walking in was starting to flood me.  Honestly, I’m glad that someone that I trust was there with me.  I don’t know what all happened.  It happened on life’s terms and so did Sarah’s death.  What I do with that hole in my heart and soul remains to be seen.  I’ve felt powerful grief when my grandmothers died.  This grief while just as important was just different.  She was like my guardian angel on earth.

I have little to no knowledge of driving back to meet my wife for another appointment or the rest of the day.  I awoke this morning pain free with what I like to call an “emotional hangover.”  I was greeted this morning with a migraine and nausea.  But, for the first time in quite a while I woke up on my own and not courteous of excruciating body cramps.

#Thispuzzledlife

Lessons From 2014

Lessons Learned from 2014

12.30.14

 “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” 
― Benjamin Franklin

The year 2014 while very trying has taught me many lessons…..

1)Toddlers tell their teachers at school that while their mommy is pregnant that really their little brother is locked in a closet at home.

2) Sometimes potty training is just not possible with some kids.

3) Loyalty while detrimental at times reaffirms you as a person and your dedication to friends and family.

4)After 20+ years after all the grime and muck of life, people’s hearts can remain the same.  I said HEARTS not behavior.  These are two completely different things.

5) One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is that life can vanish in an instant.  And the world will continue moving on.

6) Sometimes people are actually sicker than we know at the time.

7) Stopping the ‘trauma cycle’ is an option instead of a requirement.  Just because someone was evil to you, doesn’t give you a right to spread that same evilness in a different way.

8) When you look up and no one is around, first look in the mirror.

9) Being loyal doesn’t mean leaving those behind who have supported you from the beginning.

10) Being a mommy is an AWESOME and very difficult job.

11) Why some animals eat their young has become more clear with a toddler in the house.

12) Realizing that sayings your parents have told you throughout life are true is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow.

I’m quite sure that there are more lessons that I’ve learned this year.  The memory I once took for granted is no longer there.  However, lessons were learned and taught this year and yes they were are still are very painful.

The time with my brother, Levi Pierce and his family were probably some of the best times of my life.  He and I stayed up late at night talking and crying together.  He comforted me as I did for him.  After 20+ years, he’s still the same soft hearted guy that I knew as a child.  Make no mistake, you will never see that if you disrespect him in any way including through his family.

I have lots of difficulties because of my own trauma and he has his own set of issues.  The love and the friendship have never diminished.  The stars realigned at a perfect time once again.  I can only thank the universe for allowing me to learn these lessons even though they were and still are very difficult.  My loyalty to people hasn’t and will never change.  However, those that I trust with that very intimate part of my life have.  Both me and my family/friends have suffered because of my view of “loyalty.”  This is something that I must also work on for myself and those around me.

It has finally become very clear to me how very dangerous “black and white” thinking can be.  There has to be grey areas.  Through both therapy and life, I’m learning some very difficult lessons.  All I can do is embrace these “gifts.”  Right now they feel like spears have been impaled in my head and heart.  To me, I find truth and lessons in both the journey and the destination.

I was told by a therapist several years ago, “That everything that happens is a gift.  It doesn’t always come in pretty packages with big beautiful bows.  But, it’s still a gift.”  Right now, I’m trying to dig through some things and find the ‘gift’.  Maybe just maybe if I just continue to do the right thing that these gifts and purposes for these trials will reveal themselves to me.  And through this my heart will not change but I will grow.

“When we acknowledge it was our bad decisions we made that put us in these bad situations, only then can we accept them, get over it, and move forward.”

–Anonymous

#Thispuzzledlife

The Day Time Stopped

The Day Time Stopped

9.17.2014

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

—-Ian Maclaren

I usually try to start of my posts lighthearted or a good toddler moment.  This post I cannot seem to find anything to joke about.  I have searched deep within me and all I find is tears.  I have questions but no answers.  My life has been changed yet again forever.  The quote above couldn’t be more fitting for this life event.

There are many dates that are in my little book of life that I keep tucked away in the deep recesses of my mind.  The day September 3, 2014 is another day that will never be forgotten.  That day was the Wednesday of the same week that we got back from being with Levi and his family in Arkansas.  I was slowly beginning to decompress from that situation.  Adjusting back to daily life in Albuquerque was underway.  I missed him more than I ever imagined.  It was back to being a long distant relative.

I was trying to get the house back in some type of order from us leaving in such a hurry.  I was washing and folding clothes with nothing specifically planned for the day.  I recognize the sound of facebook messenger alerting me to a message.  A mutual friend told me that she needed to talk to me ASAP.  So, I half way drop what I was doing and said, “What’s up?”  Not knowing or worrying about the answer that would come back.  “Hey, I have a friend that said that he wants to ‘end it all,’ she said.  I said, “What’s going on?” I didn’t ask for a name because I didn’t see the relevance at the time.  Instantly, the therapist side of me is at attention.  She asked, “Do you know a guy on facebook by the name of Kyle Brewer?” I told her very quickly, “Of course I do.  We went to school together some in elementary and middle school, why?”  Apparently, I couldn’t seem to do math because I didn’t see the correlation as to why the question was asked.  She said, “It’s him that’s saying that.”  I still didn’t worry because we had just spent some time with him as a family on our recent nightmarish visit to Petal, MS.  We had gone out to his house and spent time talking and laughing.  I told her not to worry that he would respond to either me or Mel.

Kyle and I were also alike in the sense that we both love to find the funny in just about anything.  We were always finding rude, inappropriate but yet hysterically funny things on Facebook and sharing them with each other.  He had a some

what perverted style of humor that most would find distasteful.  He and I were able to enjoy some good laughs over a snow cone or two.  He also adored Marshall.

He wasn’t responding to me or Mel in any way.  I instantly knew that my friend was in trouble.  I’m usually not very ‘jumpy’ about suicide threats.  But, in my gut, something told me this situation was different.  This mutual friend of ours had also been trying to get in touch with him all morning.  She was in another state and so was I.  Why did he pick her to tell?  Because he knew she was too far away to do anything about it.  That’s just my hypothesis.  And he also didn’t specifically mention wanting to ‘end it all’ because he knew what profession and obligations I would have if he did say something.

We began discussing what we needed to do.  In the meantime, the only thing I could think to do was to grasp at straws by putting a message out on Facebook for him to call me.  I think the message actually read something like, “Kyle Brewer, pick up your damn phone and call me right now!”  The minute I hit send and it was posted he contacted me through messenger.

I told our mutual friend that I was currently talking to him and to go ahead and call 911.  I told her, “If he gets mad at you, then he’ll be mad at me because he knows you don’t know where he lives.  And if he gets mad, as long as, he’s alive he can get over it. But, if he was dead he would no longer have that option.”  I tell her that she has to tell the dispatch verbatim the way I tell her to tell them how to get to his house because it was located way out.  She calls and soon tells me that dispatch is heading out there to do a welfare check just to make sure he’s ok.  They also tell her that when they know something they will let her know.

While all of that was going on, I was desperately trying to talk to Kyle.  What was said between us is something that I will only discuss with my therapists.  The point is that as long as he’s talking, he’s not dead.  I share some very personal stuff with him and ask him questions.  He finally tells me, “I’m tired. Thanks for the talk!!!!”  It was at this point, that I knew that Kyle was no longer able to keep the mask that many of us use everything we have to keep it in place anymore.  We were both talking from our hearts without humor.  That was the last time I ever had contact with him.

It was a couple of hours later when our mutual friend messaged me and said, “Dana, we need to talk.”  My blood ran cold; my heart began to shatter and my stomach was turning like I was on a ride at a theme park.  I already knew.  She said, “Dana, he’s dead.” At that moment, time seemed to stop.

Fortunately, Mel was here with me and Marshall was still at daycare.  I began sobbing like a small child.  I couldn’t make sense of anything.  My greatest fear was that the emergency services wouldn’t make it there in time.  This seemed to be the reality for the moment.  All of my senses seemed to disappear.  My tears felt like they were coming from every pore in my body. Mel just sat, held me and let me cry.  At that moment, there was nothing else that could be done.

We did find out later that the emergency services did make it to his house in time.  He greeted them in the yard like nothing was wrong.  There probably didn’t seem like a reason to stop him from going back into his house. He told them he had to run back inside and would be right back out.  He went back in his house, locked the door and shot himself.  He was one of them. He was a volunteer firefighter that probably knew many of the people that arrived to check on him.  He used the mask to both his favor and detriment.   I lost my friend to a term called PRIDE.

Kyle Brewer was like many of us ‘clowns.’ We all seem to have it together because we can make people laugh.  Take a moment and try to imagine what my friend Kyle would’ve looked like if we had been able to turn him inside out.  I bet you wouldn’t see anything but a heart full of love for those he loved mixed with the tears of what he knew was about to happen.  EVERYONE has demons and secrets.  He just didn’t see the other side where there could be light instead of darkness.

Even now, I selfishly shed tears because I’ve lost yet another friend by violent means.  I also cry for his family of EMS workers and biological family.  He will never be able to carry out his duty as an uncle, son, brother or husband because of one decision.  I don’t hate nor am I mad at him.  He was my friend and I will continue to grieve his loss.

I have now been involved in just about every angle of suicide as both a teenager and as an adult.  Has this one event changed me? You bet it has!  I question everything I said to him.  I’m constantly re-reading our last conversation.  And, I question my ability as a professional.  What my head understands, my heart can’t comprehend.

I’ve had people contact me through various ways thanking me for what we did to help.  I can’t help but to very angrily think, “I did nothing! He’s still dead! We all lost!” I wish I could see things differently right now, but I can’t.  I take their nice comments and say thank you like I was taught many years ago.  But, I will probably be forever haunted by “The Day Time Stopped.”

#Thispuzzledlife

Winners

Winners

8.14.14

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
-Muhammad Ali

Today is one of those days where I regret being able to open my eyes.  I rolled out of bed this morning and felt like I had been at war all night.  My body feels like I’m detoxing from a chemical that I haven’t taken.  And it’s already begun happening at 6:00am.  I feel the overwhelming sense of sadness mixed with anxiety.  The nausea is hitting like a gulf coast wave from Hurricane Katrina.  I feel that overwhelming sense of needing to vomit.  Halleluer! I must not have eaten before I went to bed last night! I didn’t see any remnants of anything.  So, I grab my cannabis wax pen and take a couple of hits off it to settle my entire system down.  This has also helped to combat a horrible headache that was beginning to hit like a thousand hammers.  Then the diarrhea hits like some kind of ‘shock and awe’ attack on Iraq.  How soon until I have another acupuncture session?

I’m actually catching a break from these symptoms right now.  The medical marijuana is just like any other medication, it too has its limits.  However, the combination between both mmj and acupuncture and a drastic slow down in therapy seems to be slowing everything but my mind.  What was started about a month ago and was exacerbated when we traveled home has continued to plague every inch of my mind.  This blog, no doubt, is an exit for both frustration and education on certain topics.  But, for now, certain things must be kept hidden to ensure safety on several different levels.

Am I just trying to have a “poor, pitful me” moment today? Hell no! You’re just getting a ‘firsthand’ look at what some people’s days are like.   Like I’ve said before, “writing about these topics on my own abuse has had numerous effects on me both mentally and physically.”  Yes, I realize that I had an awesome life up next to others who have had some horrific things happen in their own lives.  I’m not going to compare stories because this blog is not about minimizing anyone’s personal traumas.  Have I cried about feeling so guilty about being upset over seemingly insignificant things? Absolutely!  But, the fact is that things did happen.  I’ve held that shame and guilt so long that my mind and body feels like I’m melting.  And I’ve stuffed and stuffed feelings for so long that I’m not only nervous….I’m terrified to work with them.

The “special” people helping to guide me through this process must either be angels from God or “gluttons for punishment.”  LMAO!!!  I feel like I’m really just beginning this treatment even though, I’ve been in therapy for a few years now.  I just don’t have the ability to keep my defenses up like I use to.

As an athlete, “YOU NEVER GIVE UP!” You play until you hear the whistle blow.  This drive is not one that can be taught. You must be born with a love for the game and the athletic ability to become the best ballplayer you can become.  I got my softball playing nickname ‘Charlie Hustle’ from one of my earliest and dearest coaches assigned to me by Nick Kolinksy.  He always told me that I played a lot like Pete Rose and never gave up.  I smile every time I remember as a kid playing ball for him and always feeling a sense of ‘safety’ around him.  He would tell me sometimes, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw.”  He made his point very clear but didn’t crush my self esteem as a ballplayer or as a person in the process. He and other coaches are on my list of ‘special’ people that had a dramatic and positive impact on my life from a very early age.  I never complained about going to practice or games.  That was a way out for me.  Playing ball was my life.  Pete Rose said it the best way that I know how to describe the love that I had for the game.  

“I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.”

—Pete Rose

Occasionally, that old, washed up athlete comes alive in me again with reminders about how “putting one foot in front of the other is still considered progress.” I get caught up a lot on what the definition of ‘progress’ or ‘winning’ is about in regards to therapy.  Sometimes, the best I can do for that day is just get out of the bed.  Even doing that means that I made progress because one foot had to be put in front of another foot for that to be accomplished.

Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to process trauma.  To me it’s all about going to war, except this time, I know what I’ll be faced with.  I have survived it once so, it can be done. Do I have the strength? That remains to be seen.  I relive everything all day everyday anyway. What makes this situation different?  I have actively made a choice to volunteer to go through it again.  The fear can make me angry, frustrated and paralyze me at times.  I must admit that it’s very unfair to be almost 40 years old and still paralyzed in many ways by what others have done.  I can hear some of the old, southern biddies saying, “She made her bed, now, she can lie in it.” And that’s fine, if that’s your reality.  My reality is this….”I don’t care what the circumstances were…No one deserves to be abused in any way….EVER!  My ex-husband, teacher, baby sitters and birth mom didn’t deserve the abuse that they suffered at the hands of their family and people they trusted.  When the effects of the abuse begin affecting them then, the new generation of abuse is born and is taken out on other people who become their victims just like I did.”

This time….”I WILL NOT ONLY SURVIVE, I WILL WIN!”

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

I’m Not Alone

I’m Not Alone

8.23.14

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has the answers, it sings because it has a song.”

—Maya Angelou

I don’t normally blog on Saturday mornings at 5:30am.  This morning I was awaken to what felt like my insides twisting.  I felt nauseous but lay still to make sure it was real and not a dream.  I decided very quickly, “Nope, that wasn’t a dream.”  I also noticed that my whole body was hurting with what seemed like “growing pains” as my pediatrician use to call it.

I go through my morning routine of turning on my vaporizer and the coffee pot.  But, this morning, I decided against coffee and would have a diet coke.  Since, everyone else was asleep, now was the perfect time to read some of my library books.  I started vaping but at a higher rate because the pain in my body was becoming ever more painful by the second.  I once again felt like I was in full detox from some chemical.  I also have these symptoms randomly attack me at different times of the day.  I’m starting to get a headache but get busy trying to keep it at bay.

I think I finally begin to feel my medication beginning to work after a few minutes.  My nausea begins to subside somewhat, my headache is doing ok for the moment but my muscles and tissues of the rest of my body seem very angry at me.  I pick up my book and begin reading.  Due to the types of abuse, I endured both as a child and adult, I’m constantly looking for answers for why things happened the way they did.  The book I’m currently reading is Wife Rape. It’s an older book but I need answers.  This was the same book that had me reliving a scene from my former marriage the other night. So, I kept that in mind and agreed with myself that I started feeling anything familiar in my mind or body; I would put the book down. Deal!

I’m instantly sucked into that book again. These women had stories like mine.  Some were much different, but the “acts” were about control.  This I already knew. But, seeing things in black and white can sometimes be the one thing that makes things “click.” I kept reading some of the sentences and paragraphs over and over.  I thought, “How do they know how I felt in that moments or those surround those types of events?” I just had to read more. The book not only describes the actual accounts of abuse from the survivors. But attempts to explain why this “secretive, abuse happens and how the abuser also views this as both their “biblical and societal RIGHT as a man.”

I want to make perfectly clear that I am sensitive and also understand that this can and do happen in ALL kinds of relationships.  Since this book is older, I’m not distracted by the fact that they use information from heterosexual relationships.  But, since I’m discussing my previous heterosexual relationship, I won’t make a big deal about what types of samples they used regarding gender.

These women describe, in detail, how they felt, hurt and emotionally survived their abuse.  It was like looking in the mirror again.  My instant thought was, “How do they know this much? I’ve told only a couple of people some of what happened?  Who betrayed my confidence?”  I very quickly realized was how much I identified with all of these survivors.  Not only what they did but what they thought.  They also seemed to “lose time” with some of the attacks on their body. Their worth as a human being has been severely damaged.  They also spoke about how much easier it was to just “go along” instead of fight.  That fighting back always seemed to make everything worse in every way.  I knew and felt that too.

I had ignored my body but soon realized that I now feel like someone is trying to tie my body in a knot.  EVERYWHERE was and is still hurting like I’m being hit with a bat.  The nausea is back. My stomach is cussing me repeatedly and my head is pounding.  My upper back feels like I was just shot and just breathing almost brings me to tears because of the anxiety.  I prefer to think that my body is ‘bleeding’ many years of emotions that I never felt ‘safe’ enough to release.  I feel like every day I don’t write, that my body is filling up with toxins.  But, I’m physically miserable too.  My body feels very conflicted.  Do I have that much “stuff” to process that I haven’t started getting better physically yet?  From somewhere deep inside me, I hear…”Someone please stop this NIGHTMARE! I can’t handle reliving it again!

Most people would say, “Just put the book down and it will get better.” I really wish it was that easy. My body and mind are remembering every single vivid detail of everything that has happened.  It’s not just the book.  But, the book is really helping me understand what exactly happened to me the 14 years I was in a relationship with my ex-husband.  I relate to so many of those women though which makes me feel like I’m in a group therapy session in my own little way.  Sometimes you do stuff knowing that it’s going to hurt because you seem to understand and long for more understanding.  Do the benefits outweigh the risk?   I don’t know what the right answer is right now.  Maybe I’ll take what I have read and read it more at a later date.

#Thispuzzledlife

Fears And Anxieties

Fears and Anxieties

August 4, 2014

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.”

—-Rudyard Kipling

Most people who know me would say that I’m very much a “social butterfly.” I loved being around people. Hell, my motto has always been..”The more, the merrier.” These days I would rather have my uterus pulled through my nostrils than to be around people. Being on the opposite side of the country from where my abuse occurred definitely helps.  Regardless of whether or not they are “rational or irrational” they are still fears that I face every single day. Some of the fears and/or phobias, I haven’t had to deal with in a very long time. Not all of the fears do I know the origin? That, I suppose, is what is happening through this therapeutic process.

So, on our latest trip to the small, southern town everything that had already been opened was immediately exacerbated by being back in the town where the abuse occurred. Our little family, drove back there in search of some specialized treatment. I was nervous, but desperate……so I agreed. What I encountered when I arrived was a host of feelings and emotions that I couldn’t handle. Even the thought of going back to that town can trigger lots of anxiety, nausea, vomiting and migraines.  Being there in the flesh, I’ve realized causes more harm than good.  We are considered a “minority family” and I have always expected the looks and comments when we go out in public.  I also wear a haircut that’s not considered “normal” there. So, this also brings about stares and comments.  Remember, that with PTSD, situations can be perceived as a threat even when there isn’t one. For me, being in public and around people is like lighting my skin, mind and body on fire. I can’t possibly keep an eye on everyone and their actions to assure “safety” for both me and my friends and family.

IMG_1216 (1)

When I was married to my ex-husband, the how I ate and what I ate always came under great scrutiny. So, many times, I would wait until he would go to bed and eat what I wanted. My greatest fear was that he would see me eating and make his venomous comments again. My weight was always monitored in some way by him. So, going back to visit has very, much intensified my fears of eating. I don’t like eating in front of people I know for fear of judgmental comments or thoughts. These fears are what fueled my eating disorder when I was a teenager. Eating in public, now only happens with shades on and Ipod going all while having just “medicated” before I even leave the house. That is the only way that makes being in public even possible, at this point.

Another thing that I have realized is a HUGE trigger for me is change. Keeping things the same in my surroundings is very safe feeling.  I hate it when I walk into an area that I’m very familiar with and it has been changed. This sets off “red flags” about my surroundings being different and thinking that I should be very concerned that something or someone might harm me. This is also why I do very well with a rigid schedule. If my schedule is going to change in any manner, I have to know ahead of time so, I can mentally prepare. I don’t, however, do well with rigid people. Once again, I’ve been perpetrated by very rigid/narcissistic people. Any hint of this from a person, sets off fireworks throughout my mind and body.

I told you earlier that music got me through a lot of abuse. And now, it’s helping me while I’m attempting to heal from the abuse. Music always spoke for and to me in a way that I can understand. My music choices are very eclectic and for a good reason.  If you’ve ever been around me much, you know that my moods are just as eclectic. Lmao!!!!

#Thispuzzledlife

The Simple Things

The Simple Things

8.24.17

“You know all that sympathy that you feel for an abused child who suffers without a good mom or dad to love and care for them? Well, they don’t stay children forever. No one magically becomes an adult the day they turn eighteen. Some people grow up sooner, many grow up later. Some never really do. But just remember that some people in this world are older versions of those same kids we cry for.” 
― Ashly Lorenzana

I must admit how very frustrated and tired of feeling so bad every single day.  Is all of the pain worth the alleged outcome?  I’m not trying to be just nasty and negative.  I have always doubted thinking that things could and would turn out good.  It has always been easier for me to be able to accept things better when I view things as having a bad outcome so, that I wasn’t disappointed from what I see as unrealistic expectations.  If things turn out good, well now, that’s just a bonus for the day.

Having never worked at this deep of a level processing trauma, I don’t really know what to expect.  However, I know what is happening physically and the answers for relief haven’t been found yet.  Acupuncture does work for a couple of days on most of my physical issues.  However, I’m looking to be able to have normal aches and pains from being close to age 40. Not protests from my body as a result of abuse.

I’m actually taking somewhat of a break from individual therapy for a few weeks.  Having the blog has been a good “out” for me.  However, no matter whether I’m processing on a deeper level with a therapist or just documenting my daily struggles through this life of mental illness, I wake up most mornings wondering when relief will arrive.  When will I feel as though, I’m strong like I use to be to seemingly be able to handle anything that came my way?

I have a very loving and caring wife.  I have the most awesome, sporadically psychotic toddler that between he and I we understand that we both “hung the moon” for each other by just existing.  I would love nothing more than to be able to fully accept and be able to “feel” love without questions and wondering about people and their intentions.  I would love to be able to be hugged by someone and not have the feeling like, “they have me now! Back away, back away! They’re going to hurt you!”  I would love to be able to except someone’s kindness and feel that I deserve someone being kind to me without feeling embarrassed and wanting to hide.

I’m not so calloused to think that everyone walking the planet is bad.  I’ve met some truly AWESOME people in my life.  There are some individuals that I’ve met here in Albuquerque, which I love dearly.  Relationships regardless of what kind of relationship they require work, trust and communication for them to be both healthy and rewarding.  I learned some hard lessons about being in a very “unhealthy” relationship that I continue each day to pay dearly as a result.

When do we as victims begin to metamorphosis into just another survivor with a story?  When do I and many other people get the “peace” that we deserve?  When is the high price that I’ve paid for many years for decisions I’ve made finally reach the part where “enough is enough?” When, where and how do I get to reap the goodness from the universe for always pushing myself to be the best I can be?

Some days are more difficult than others to experience for everyone.  But, imagine this……..

“The same daily struggles that most families have.  Except that when you open your eyes, you have visions of being touched inappropriately to the point that you seem to feel it. Voices telling you, “you’ll never be anything without me!”; “I would’ve given you away too!” “You’re a nasty little girl!”  Visions and sensations of things you were made to do and did not choose to do.  Being able to take your child to daycare and return home without feeling like someone is following you. I just want to be to able to go in public without the use of both typical and alternative medicine just to keep from vomiting because of anxiety.  Or just being able to give and experience a “genuine love” from your soul mate.

All I wish for everyday is to be happy.  I would venture to say that most people want that as well.  Instead, I live in both physical and mental misery.  I see, hear, smell and fear things from my past all the time.   I have always believed that someone or something else that I couldn’t see was there for the events.  But, having a very minority view of these events, I DON’T believe that God was there.  Someone was for sure, but it wasn’t GOD!

Some people might say, “What are you griping about? You have weed legally now.”  I wish I could say that medical marijuana is a “cure all” for abuse.  What it does is help to minimize symptoms compared to what they can be without it?  That gracious plant can’t take away what a human has done.  It can, however, slow things down where they aren’t as frightening and allow me some form of respite.

It’s a very lonely world to live in on the inside.  Life on the outside is one world.  But, life on the inside…….It’s a different galaxy!

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Balance

Balance

8.22.14

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human

 event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” 

― Susan Pease Banitt

I always like to start things off very light because some of the subject matter can be difficult.  So, being one of two mothers to a toddler boy age 2.5 years can be quite funny at times.  For instance, Marshall has this new thing about wanting us to read his books before he goes to bed.  No big deal, right?  But, now he wants to read them back to us.  The other night I was the chosen parent to listen to him telling a story about a truck.  Story goes like this……”Vrrrrroooommm Vrrrrooommm a mess, bath, clean…the end!” I couldn’t help but to laugh and tell him, “That was such a good story.” His response was , “Truck dirty.”

We have also realized all of his creative ways to manipulate his mommies when it’s time for bed.  The other night Marshall convinced my wife, Melody, to do a full and complete room check for monsters.  I mean, if you think about it, what kind of price would Ghostbusters charge for a service like that?  Nevertheless, eventually, he ended up in the bed between his moms.

In the morning, I have one of his feet on the side of my head.  Apparently, he’s going to be a soccer player because I must’ve taken kidney shots from him all night.  But, what made me chuckle was that he was lying across our pillows at the top of the bed.  I think Melody is in a coma from pure exhaustion from having to hang on to the 3 inches that Marshall allowed her to use as her bed for the night.  I was laying face down in what seemed like a weave that belonged to a cat right next to the concrete wall.  I start sneezing like I had just snorted some kind of deadly allergen.

Kids are so innocent. They understand what is in front of them and don’t worry about tomorrow.  They call it like they see it until they are conditioned by parents, friends or society to try and conform otherwise. That’s where my job comes in for him as his parent.  I worry about things all the time concerning him.

I have said that I was going to take a break from blogging because of my physical symptoms.  But, mentally, I have to be able to process somehow.  So, I’ll do the best I can.

Yesterday started off with me all excited to blog and do therapy assignments.  One of the assignments, I knew would be difficult.   Blogging has always seemed to be what I need for now. I took all kinds of medicine and smoked some as well.  All day long, I would change my treatment approach to help defeat the “Atomic Migraine” that was forming.  I already didn’t feel good but I finished most of both assignments.  My wife reminds me that she has an acupuncture appointment later that day.  No worries, I’ll get Marshall from daycare.  A few hours when she got home, I couldn’t close my eyes or try to walk without feeling nauseous.  I begin to think, “Maybe both activities were too much for me today.” I take stronger medicine and begin to smoke wax and keif for something stronger for the nausea and headache.  Anxiety meds were added as well because my back hurt so bad.   I tried to walk but looked like I had just left a bar that I had been at for several hours.  The right side of my head felt like it was on fire and boiling. When I get severe headaches like that, sometimes I exhibit neurological issues. My brain basically turned off once we got in the truck headed to her acupuncture appointment.  She actually let me take her appointment because I was so sick.  After about two hours of treatment, I was able to walk more normally again. I was still shaky but much better.  Most of the rest of the evening was and still is a blur.

So, I don’t know what my exactly my “balance” looks like or is going to feel like.  But, I that’s what I keep striving to find.  Life is about “Balance.” Right now….well….balance is like a word from another language that I can’t have translated or understand.  Even my best day is a struggle.

Carpe Diem

#Thispuzzledlife

More Traveling

More Traveling

8.19.14

“She was a stranger in her own life, a tourist in her own body.” 
― Melissa de la Cruz, The Van Alen Legacy

I always feel the need to speak about toddler events in the mornings because well…..sometimes they’re just funny.  So, I was doing the usual getting Marshall ready for school and loaded in the car.  I asked him if he would like some cheetos since that’s what we had in the car for him as a snack.  He shook his head and said, “Momma D, no cheetos…only toes!” “Ok, Marshall, mommy will only call them ‘toes’ from now on.”  Sometimes this kid makes me really laugh.

The term “traveling” has a much different definition to me than the general public seems to understand.   When “traveling, “I’m definitely anywhere I want to be.  I could be on the beach somewhere enjoying the sun or checking out the lesbian buffet.  Every place can be new or one that seems to bring much emotional comfort.  However, sometimes the memories of abuse invade and I to go elsewhere without even knowing it.  To the average person, a function such as this doesn’t seem that different from seemingly “ignoring” the spouse or a boss.  Everyone at some point wishes they were somewhere different especially when at work or just needing a vacation.  Most people don’t use this as a defense mechanism but rather just ‘daydreaming.’

As a child, throughout my molestation, I was mentally forced to be somewhere else.  I couldn’t possibly deal with things as they were.  Each time I knew of another “episode,” my mind would go elsewhere.  I had no idea that the ‘dissociation’ had occurred. I just knew that I couldn’t physically and mentally handle the situation at hand.  The specifics about the molestation are going to be left to my very brave therapists.

Over time, this natural and sometimes forced dissociation becomes second nature.  Just I like said in an earlier post about with PTSD symptoms happening when there is an actual or ‘perceived’ threat, this has now become an automatic type of coping mechanism.  Since, I have apparently been doing this since very early childhood even without my knowing, this behavior has become a daily response to anything ‘perceived’ as threatening.  To put these ‘threats’ in perspective for you, I can give you examples of ‘perceived threats.’ Things such as: loud noises, too many people in one area, too much visual, tactile and auditory stimulation, social situations, being by myself, being touched by someone, hollering, bad weather, and many more situations.  As you can imagine, I have varying reactions to therapy because I’m processing everything that happened on different levels.  So, seeing me as the person you know is completely different from what and how they see me as a person.  I’m still the same person you know and grew up with if you see me.  You probably won’t know anything has ever happened or is wrong.  After all, we are taught from a very young age to keep things in the family even if the family doesn’t know.

Dealing with the trauma on such different levels, my therapists and wife get to see very unique sides of me.  Dissociation is very natural for me especially while in therapy.   Sometimes I can stop it and sometimes I can’t.  This can and does present problems in therapy at times, but we work through it and figure out what’s happening.  The goal is to try and minimize “traveling,” while getting use to not using it at all to function daily?  Is this possible?  Really, I don’t know.  I am trusting in the people that I work with to guide me through this healing process.  I have to admit that I wish there was some kind of ‘rapid’ trauma treatment that I can do while under sedation.  Almost like processing without being conscious of what is going on.  This, unfortunately, isn’t part of the process.  The part of the process I’m currently in is one of both mental and physical chaos.  I do the best that I can because that’s what I was taught by both my parents and coaches even when it’s scary as hell.

I write because everything else scares me to the point of vomiting.  I have lost 40lbs because of the stress on both me and my family.  I’m not currently restricting in regards to eating disorder behavior.  Even though, I definitely have a lot of “eating disorder” thoughts and some behaviors especially in public or with certain people.  But, I go sometimes for days without knowing that I haven’t eaten.  I have even overdosed on medication and had no idea until a couple of days later that this had occurred.  I go for minutes, hours, day and sometimes weeks with not knowing what has transpired.  I simply understand this as “traveling.”  Sometimes I have done things in that ‘state’ that I am and will continue to be embarrassed about. Things are said and done are like a game that I think people are playing with me to make me feel bad.  I have bought things, gone places, eaten, not eaten, had conversations, had arguments and have had ‘rage’ events that I have no memory of happening.

I carry a lot of guilt and shame once I understand days later what has happened.  Does this sound like a quality of life to you? My perpetrators have left a war for me to deal with everyday.  I simply try to win one battle at a time until the war is over.  Medical marijuana just helps with a lot of the horrible physical and mental symptoms that I have from all of this. It doesn’t take back anything that happened. I have to take a lot of this medication to be able to go out in public or therapy because everything’s so painful.  For those that think that ”a drug is a drug,” you’re right it’s just like insulin being used as a medicine.  And sorry my disordered behavior has nothing to do with marijuana except to keep both the public and me safe.   I have a quality of life now that I haven’t had before.  Not everyone uses this plant as a medication or recreationally within limits.  There are actually people who no longer think about suicide because they the government has made a medication legal that can also give them a quality of life that they never saw possible. There are a lot more people that use and die from prescribed medications that the trusted doctors administer.  Please educate yourself on this, someone you know might can and could benefit from this plant one day.  It just might be you!

#Thispuzzledlife

Traveling

Traveling

8.16.14

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

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

I think to myself…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife

Back Again

Back Again

8.17.14

“Triggers are like little psychic explosions that crash through avoidance and bring the dissociated, avoided trauma suddenly, unexpectedly, back into consciousness.” 
― Carolyn Spring

I wake up this morning sadly realizing that the nightmare every day hasn’t ended.  This morning I wake up very startled that no one was in the bed with me.  “Oh Shit! I have to get up!  What if he’s already home from work?  Did I lay out anything for dinner?  Has he already fixed his dinner and is patiently waiting to berate me for sleeping? Why had I been sleeping?” Something is telling me that things are going to be bad when I walk into the den.  I’m instantly nauseated by the heavily approaching headache. Stomach cramps have begun to let me know of their existence.  I have to face this to figure out what has happened.

I stand up and my body feels “disconnected” but has a severe pain in my chest.  This feeling is surely to lead to total annihilation of my mind and body. With my “insides” beginning to shake with fear, I make the dreaded walk down the hall.  I notice nothing but the task before me.  Everything sounds like I’m in a cave.  I notice nothing but the familiar way that my body prepares for his emotional venom.  Just get ready to disappear! I say to myself.

I walk into the den where Melody and Marshall sat watching TV.  A sigh of relief hits my body when I realized that I must’ve been in a really bad dream.  It was a bad dream that happened several years ago.  My body seemed to somewhat relax as much as it could. The build-up of tension from my scare had already activated my autonomic nervous system.  ‘Shock and awe’ hit instantly.  I can tell that everything inside of me was all out of whack.

Just another day that started off with a flashback.  What did I do? I survived to be able to tell you about it. Trauma can manifest in many different ways. This way, unfortunately, is a frequent side effect of PTSD that I experience. Sometimes, it can manifest with pictures, sounds, etc. that can trigger a painful event.  There is the also, just as disturbing, the feeling of being in the situation right at that moment.

It is nighttime as I’m finally able to write about the event this morning. Mentally and physically, I have well……been somewhat of a ‘mess.’  That doesn’t mean lying around ‘snot crying’ all day. Sometimes one can bounce back from remembered event and not having anything more than a few feelings that they feel.  However, for me, I have very little memory of anything since it happened.  Had you been right here when it happened, you would’ve had no idea that I would be as affected as I was today.  I have been fighting severe anxiety all day with no success. I have smoked weed, taken all kinds of medicine with no relief.  I haven’t been that scared in a long time. Maybe all of my ‘insides’ just got upset and haven’t had enough time to settle down.

I have a thousand different thoughts that run through my head like it’s on a marquee and never stops.  This event has rocked my world today.  All I can say to any of my perpetrators is…..”THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!”

#Thispuzzledlife

Hello world!

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

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

puzzlepieces2

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife