Clouds (poetry)

Clouds (Poetry)
Have you ever laid on your back and stared at the sky?
And watch the clouds and sometimes wonder why?
People move around in a similar way
With purpose that move with little to say.
Pay attention to someone’s silence
It says more and they’re not necessarily violent
Quiet might be how they live their life
Without asking, you can see the resemblance of a similar life
They walk and you never see their eyes
Nor do you ever hear their silent cries
For the similarities you just might see
When I lay back and watch the clouds before me.
#thispuzzledlife

The Tomb And The Phoenix

The Tomb and The Phoenix

4.5.2015

“You have seen my decent. Now watch my rising.”

—Rumi

As cliché as this analogy might seem on Easter Sunday, it also holds big meaning for me in my own recovery from trauma.  I have made it very clear that I’m not a big ‘religious’ person per se. However, I do have a belief system.  I’m just not one that wears my spiritual beliefs on my sleeves any more than I flaunt my education.  Everyone has a spiritual belief system even if one says they don’t have one, which in itself is a belief.  Anyway, moving on….

One thing I’ve always understood is that psychology and religion more often than not, DO NOT agree on much.  Throw in a little Greek mythology and you’ve got a ‘hot mess’ for discussion for those with a closed mind.  I encourage you to have an open mind as I attempt to make a comparison/analogy from the standpoint of someone recovering from trauma.  I am in no way trying to offend anyone, as I respect that everyone has their own beliefs.  This blog always has been and always will be about ME and MY family’s journey.  If you find yourself starting to get somewhat annoyed, please refer back to paragraph #2.

open tomb

artist: Shannon Renshaw

As I think about Easter Sunday and what it has meant and still means for many, I want to attempt to describe to you where exactly I am and how I believe this morning as I continue to face my trauma.  As a child, I remember having Easter baskets left by the Easter bunny the night before in our living room for us to find first thing Sunday morning.  Ironically, I always seemed to get the same kind of candy and knick-knacks year after year.  I think the Easter bunny must’ve had some kind of secret ‘happiness meter’ that was used every year.  So…..”Easter bunny mom” remembered that gold brick eggs, Reese’s peanut butter eggs and Easter colored M&M’s became the norm in my basket. The night before, as a family, we would usually be dyeing eggs and watching the movie Jesus of Nazareth.  This is still one of my favorite classics old as it may be.  So this morning, I wait for our little 3 foot tall cuteness to awake and see what the Easter bunny brought him last night.

As an adult, the foundations of beliefs are the same but have a slightly different twist in a way that makes complete sense to me.  The question is….”Do I believe in the Holy Trinity and the Resurrection?”  My answer is undeniably yes.  There’s not a traumatic event in my lifetime that can come close to destroying that belief for me.  I was taught this at a very young age and is something that I still hold on to.  I don’t flaunt this because I feel that this is very personal for each person.  I also do not try and change anyone else’s beliefs.  Once again, I’m spiritual not religious so, my beliefs are somewhat different and are not exactly popular back in the ‘Bible Belt’ of the Deep South.  Oh, don’t get it bent, I have ‘beef’ with God for things that have happened to me as I’m sure most people who believe in God have also had at some point in their own lives.

After 2014 and the beginning of 2015, I have really had to do some ‘soul searching’ on several different levels.  Having lost numerous friends and family this past year in a variety of ways can lead to, somewhat, deep thinking at times.  Losing Sarah while subsequently leaving a void in my heart has really brought back a lot of memories of things she use to tell me.  One thing that has always stood out that she told me was, “Dana, you can’t give what you don’t have.”  This, my friends and family, is why I continue to stay on this very difficult and very frightening journey.

The Phoenix, in Greek mythology, was a bird that arose from the ashes of darkness.  Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix was later adopted as a symbol in early Christianity. While the phoenix typically dies by fire in most versions of the legend, there are less popular versions of the myth in which the mythical bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again.

Phoenix

On Easter Sunday the representation of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the grave is celebrated.  While this is important to me, so is the representation of the phoenix.  I personally feel that I will, in time, also begin my own rise from the depths of trauma and despair.  While in the midst of traumatic flashbacks, memories, migraines and all the other symptoms that come along with a lifetime of abuse, it’s very difficult to keep this in perspective.  Some days, all I want to do is just lie down and die.  I often wonder why I keep trying when my efforts seem futile sometimes.

I can say that the love that Sarah and other people have had and continue to have for me in this time when I’m unable to love myself, somehow, has become a motivation tactic.  That’s not to say that I don’t get tired and life doesn’t continue to beat us up.  Coach Nick Kolinsky always taught me to NEVER give up until the game is over.  And well…..the game is nowhere near being over.  I know how to survive only one way, when I get knocked down, I get back up.  That’s how I made it through my abuse and that’s how I’ll recover from my abuse.

Sarah would often times remind me, “Dana, you didn’t become maladaptive over night.  You’ve had years of perfecting this.  Likewise, you won’t recover overnight. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.”  Yes, there were some 12-Step influences in her thoughts.  That was exactly who she was.  She would always help keep things in perspective for me.  She was also one of the few that I actually would listen to.  Oh, how I love and miss the special ways that she managed to get through the tough outer covering of my thick skull.

As my painful and gut wrenching recovery continues, I have the warmth of her words to guide and comfort me.  That’s not to say that I wouldn’t give everything I have to be able to consult her one more time.  My tears for her loss continue to flow even now. Sometimes, I have to imagine what she would say to me if we did have that one last conversation.  And this is what I believe she would say…”Dana, my child, pick yourself up and continue to move forward in every way possible.  There are people that are in your life both physically and spiritually to guide you through this process. You are going through changes which are part of recovery.  This process has never been easy for anyone and you’re not the exception.  I will always be with you as I have always been. Do the work and rise to be the great therapist that I know you can be.”

And with that….off to work I continue to go.

#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

Angelica (poetry)

Angelica

She was still one that no one wanted around

Being kicked aside she was found

But no one had know her job

For she stepped up and sobbed

She was treated like property and chained like a dog

Submissive she was but she drew the short straw

Some would label her as an outgoing whoreface.

And she would have a scarlet letter she always wore

No one chose to get to know her only a label assigned

But she would soon get a new name designed

Her name would be Angelica and all she needed was grace.

For this would be the new name for her delicate and child-like face

#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.

The Wooden Door (Poetry)

The Wooden Door

You met me as an innocent child
If only for a little while
But even a little was too much
Because behind you is where I learned the meaning of
The word…. crutch.

Twist and turn my mind you did
Until that kid ran and hid
But you awakened that angry child
The one who would live life running wild.

Behind you is where the secrets lived
Because I couldn’t hang around to see what you did
She protected me from things I didn’t want to know
She took all the pain and it would show.

Red, purple and eventually white
That’s the colors of her painful stripes
Your evil would once again score
All behind that wooden door.
#thispuzzledlife

What IF?

What If……

“What” and “If” are to words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together Side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for
The rest of your life.”
—Unknown

These are two words that haunt me day in and day out. I think “what if” I had never tasted abuse in any kind of way. “What if” I had never crossed paths with likewise hurt individuals who decided to keep the cycle of abuse going? “What if” my career had never ended? “What if” I had never been exposed sexually in ways that make me wretch at just the thought? What if I had never met Sarah? What if I was never was able to be privileged enough to call myself a parent? What if? What if? What if?!!!!!!
Recently, coach has asked me to think about a few things. How am I exhibiting behavior showing that I’m still a victim and still under the control of my perpetrators? This is a very loaded question. Every day I seem to allow myself to be chained to a past that wants me more than I want it. However, I’m an addict in ever since of the definition and word. I still struggle with eating and self-harm issues. Every meal I skip, every time I purge and every time I engage in any kind of maladaptive behavior, I am still being their prisoner.

change the world

Do I consciously want to remain there’s? Hell no. The addict in me still wants the comfort of the blades and the pain as justification for what they did and for mistakes I have made. God how sick does that sound? These behaviors are what have always been there for me. With them I’ve never been lonely. I gain absolutely nothing more than additional isolation by staying chained to them so why do it?
So now I sit and ponder what life could be like IF I wasn’t still their victim? The only way to look at that is the direct opposite to how I feel living now. I would be one that lived life with passion. Life would be such a gift. I wouldn’t be living life scared and tortured by my memories and feelings. I could live life enjoying being around my wife and children. I would simply be an active member of society instead of a prisoner of my past.
I still have a lot of hurdles to overcome and self-harm in many different forms are behaviors that still stick with me. When the adults ganged up on me? My razors were there. When I was raped repeatedly. My razors were there. When I was put on display to be made fun of a belittled….my razors were there. I get up every morning just to try again. So, if I continue to engage in addictive behaviors and thinking I’ll remain their slave…BUT WHAT IF?
#thispuzzledlife

The Heart of a Comeback Kid

The Heart of a Comeback Kid

“My comeback was not about winning or losing; it was about the feeling
of being able to compete at top level again.”
—Thomas Muster

I’ve said many times that as an athlete I wasn’t coached to lose. So, losing for me has never been a viable option. In this battle for life losing is still not an option. What is a reality is how tired one can become of fighting for that number in the win column. Giving up is not what I’ve done or what I’m doing.
When I was playing ball, I was always pushed beyond my limits both physically and mentally. Some of this I would do on my own and some would inevitably come from my coaches. Either way this is not an area that’s foreign to me. Truly, I have become quite tired of fighting, but I won’t give up. I have said from the beginning that I’ll win or die trying. I know no other way to view a battle.
I’m not only fighting the demons that I was given. I’m also fighting demons that I’ve created. Years of aggression and not knowing the proper way to overcome things has led me to relying on my own recognizance. This means that inevitably I chose many different things and ways of coping that were and are still not healthy.

I’m currently taking an online class about self-sabotage and recognizing the ways in which I do this in all areas of my life. This might be the only thing I’m doing right currently. But what I am learning to do is to slowly begin to let those things and people that hurt me go. It’s very difficult to free yourself of the chains that bind you. Most of the time we wait for our “jailer” to come prancing towards us with the keys to free us. However, when it comes to dealing with trauma the process is quite different. We must free ourselves as a hostage therefore making it possible to not hold others hostage with a death grip because of fear. I’m doing the best that I can, but I still seem to lose my footing at times.

success

For me the fear is about not having something to catch me if I fall. I have always had a behavior or a chemical close by to help with this. Now, however, I’m attempting to eliminate not one but all of swords that I’ve previously used as power against myself and others. I have used these swords as a means of survival and have managed to cut just about everyone out of my life including myself. I have used all types of therapeutic assignments to aid in this healing. There are those extremely painful events that I want to handle personally with individuals. But this being a situation where the ability to handle it personally is being diminished has let me straight into a state of panic and at times rage. Trying to contain the rage and the intense feelings of disappointment are what I’m trying to soothe by holding on to my destructive ways.

I know what it’s like to be in the position of being captain of a team. I know that other teammates look to me for both guidance and direction. Having a mental illness like Dissociative Identity Disorder assures me that I have other teammates that are looking up to me in this way. They are children, impulsive teenagers and very hurt adults. And, yes, there is one who is “The Athlete.”

This athlete is the one who knows how to set a goal and how to block everything out but that goal while also maintaining the safety of other teammates. The athlete is the one that manages to pick me up and dust me off while saying, “Shake it off. I know it hurts but we have to keep going.” This athlete will also do ANYTHING to make sure the goal is achieved even if it’s harmful to oneself. The goal is to win. She is also a teenager/adult who will protect her own but sometimes her tunnel vision ends up harming those that seem to get in the way of that goal. She is also having to learn how to win in healthy ways.

Combined I am one hell of a person that loves people and loves to win. I won’t settle for 2nd place as this is 1st place loser. And in the game of life 2nd place is also not an option for me. So, I say this…when you look in your review mirror and see someone swerving and appearing to be crashing just remember that I have the heart of a comeback kid. I’ll be waiting on you at the finish line.

“Making a comeback is one of the most difficult things to do with dignity.”
Greg Lake

#thispuzzledlife

Perfectly….Imperfect

Perfectly…Imperfect

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
—Brene Brown

Sometimes “ah-ha” or “lightbulb moments” seem to come from out of thin air. You don’t question them. You sit and chew on them, if you have the time, until you’re able to digest what happened or what was realized. Lately, I’ve been bothered by why I care so much about others’ opinions of me. Maybe I was just wanting to find out how and why my humor seems to be attractive to people. If you think I’m tooting my own horn, let me assure you that’s not what’s happening here.

I’ve been sitting and wondering also why I have been tossed about and “unsettled” with my internal guys. I’ve really been working hard on realizing how painful and harmful my self-sabotage. Maybe I just ran into this while searching for answers. The toxic emotion that drives a lot, if not all, my self-sabotaging is fear and shame. Well what is it that I fear? Literally…. most everything. But one of the things that I fear the most is people leaving however that might look. I also have seemed to attach other people’s opinions they may or may not have about me to the worthiness of myself as a human being. That’s insane kind of thinking if you look at it. Growing up in small town U.S.A. that’s all that did matter. But the belief was so engrained in my belief system that if someone didn’t like me, I have felt useless. I remember this from the time I was very young. And then as a blossoming teenager looking for a place to belong, if I was funny, I didn’t have to fit into one group, I was accepted most anywhere and any group. The problem is that overtime if I wasn’t liked by someone the belief has been that I’m a failure with a heartbeat. When the reality is that people don’t give two squirts of cat pee what or how I’m doing.

jackass whisperer

You would think as much as I crave alone time that I would enjoy being alone. The truth is that I hate it. I was always a social butterfly. If there were 100 people to socialize with then I wondered why there wasn’t 101. Over the years I bought into some pretty horrible and crippling beliefs that have altered my life. With Coach’s help we also looked at how this belief system was influenced by my adoption. Low and Behold, I’m wanting something that I’ll never have….my birth mom’s love and approval for just being alive. When I met her there was nothing there between us and that hurt tremendously. My heart yearns and cries for her approval. I realized yesterday that I have attached people’s perceived opinions of me to my self-worth. But what hit me like a ton of bricks was when I said, “She didn’t have the capacity to love me. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person. I AM WORTHY OF LOVE AND HEALTH RELATIONSHIPS. AND NO ONE PERSON’S OPINION OF ME DEMINISHES MY WORTH AS A HUMAN BEING. What they think of me is not my any of my concern.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that the realization cures anything. But I think being able to say this with a good Brene Brown quote near by is closer to believing it. It’s not that I haven’t toyed with the idea at some point. I’m just simply….perfectly imperfect. My heart felt it yesterday and by then end I’d call that one hell of a session. Thanks, Coach!!!!

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
–Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

Confucius Says…

Confucius Says….

Ok so it’s difficult to find quotes about fortune cookies that are better just called stale cookies. I have mostly used them as entertainment to amuse myself. Anyway, since moving to Texas I’ve begun to keep my fortunes from the cookie which my alters all seem to need. What makes a cookie more delicious than having an expiration date of 1994, a slip of paper with a random fortune that will never come true and some fake lottery numbers. I haven’t found a number yet that was as lucky and a random set of keys to a brand-new house showed up in the mail for me.

I have several fortunes saved. Nowhere near as many times as I’ve gone to eat sushi and left there feeling like a frenzy feeding sharks on Shark Week. But some of the fortunes have by paranoia alarms going off and alters running for cover. When some of the phrases sound like Brene Brown wrote it that’s when a philosophical conversation breaks out. Yep, I have a head full of sporadic philosophical geniuses. And let’s face it, I’ve been a little too serious and emotional lately.

IMG_2046

The alters’ that love the fortune cookies the most are the ones that lay close to 1980’s music and culture. They also like to read them in the voice of Mr. Miyagi for added effect. My favorite fortune cookie must be the one pictured because we were all caught off guard at the thought of sleeping cookies. They’re so stale that they are more like “dead cookies.” I’m telling you that most people who live alone are literally alone. Not me…. I’ve got want-to-be comedians going all day long entertaining any and every one that I come in contact with.

It’s times like these when I wish that I could be silly with Marshall and Copeland playing and acting silly. Even they know that we play when momma can play because the swing always goes the other way. I try to take things as they come like if I was given the opportunity to duck I wouldn’t. Geez…. really universe? So, I don’t just write lighthearted blogs to help you. I do it to help me and to deal with life as it comes. I take some dark and lonely roads sometimes and get lost trying to get out. She said, “It will be worth it. Not easy.”
#thispuzzledlife

Realization of Life

Realization of Life
7.30.19
Oh how I want to die
And stop living every day as a lie
Using the masks so no one can see
Letting them see anything and anyone but me.

Behaviors and chemicals have helped with the pain
But now they do nothing with little to gain
Nothing more than an evil monkey on my back
Just waiting for the final day that I’ll crack.

Living life on the outside is how it seems
But on the inside it’s a nightmarish dream
Protection they give me and protection I’ve had
Why then do I fell so incredibly bad?

Wanting to die is all I recall
Planning daily for my final fall
Because pain this bad all I want is for it to end.
Not even wanting to share this with a friend.

But I talk to “my guys: to see if this is what they really want.
As the days creep closer the reality begins to haunt.
All we want is to end all the painful strife
Because our realization is all we want is a pain free life.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold
#thispuzzledlife

These Beautiful Walls

These Beautiful Walls
8.3.19
Some people see what others can’t see
These beautiful walls that keep me safe from me.
People think this is where we come to hide
But this is where I find members of a “trauma tribe.”

We are people who have been through more than most.
And more than not several of us have a host.
For we have seen and been a part of the evils of life.
And for us it has caused lots of strife.

We have fingers and we have toes
But with that comes many woes
Listen to me as I begin to close
We come here beaten down and come to
recognize ourselves as heroes.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold
#thispuzzledlife

Answer The Question

Answer the Question

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
—-Anonymous

Have you ever been so far down that the only way to look is up? I have recently begun to do just that. I’ll tell you a story about a man who was a very traumatized man from many years of abuse. He was fearsome and that power propelled him through most of his life. All along he kept living his life the way he wanted to and maintaining a life of chaos, guilt and shame. Slowly, over the years his pace wasn’t as quick. Even his facial features began changing into someone much older. His heart was growing weary of life as well as his desire for life.
Sun meadow

He was met by an angel that pointed him in the direction and said you will meet a man on your journey answer his question. You need him. “Do not leave this road or you’ll have more chaos,” the angel said. The man agreed and headed in that direction. Slowly the man started trying to take shortcuts to “feel better” along the hard and very painful road. And like the angel said his life became more chaotic until his whole self was lost in a world of self-loathing, depression and a hurt internal self. By the time he and the man met he was bruised and cut up from just making it there. He thought everyone had thrown him away because he thought and behaved differently.
He fell in every hole in the sideways and roads just barely able to pull himself out of the last hole. His internal drive for life was completely diminished. His facial features were indicative of a hard life. He had “battle wounds” all over his body stating that he was fighting a war. He looked at the stranger and said, “I’m supposed to answer a question. By the way, what is your name?” The stranger said, “My name is RECOVERY.” The now excited buy quickly told the stranger, “I need recovery. Will you help me?” The question you must answer for me is, “Do you want me?”
#thispuzzledlife

Hope In A Rock

Hope In A Rock

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.”
—Unknown

Hope is a topic that I have a hard time acknowledging. In my years of experiencing trauma in most forms “hope” was not a word that was familiar. After recently having to be hospitalized, yet again, I entered the hospital feeling like I had to drag myself in the doors. This time, though, I wasn’t worried about the locked doors, as much as, I wanted someone to be there in case I collapsed from sheer exhaustion. I took my aching soul and body back to one of the only safe places left for me. And this time I was determined not to fight the process but to be grateful to be behind the locked doors that I fear. Now my mind and body could just collapse if it needed and someone would immediately be there. And collapse is exactly what my body would do. I wouldn’t have any temptations in my immediate surroundings and “safety” was there.

After 4 days, the medical needs of my body that I have neglected for so long would finally come to a head and collapsing is what happened. Luckily, I don’t remember much about that happening. I would soon be informed in a local medical hospital just exactly what happened. I would wake up to the piercing sting of a nurse starting an IV on my upper right arm. “Shit that hurts! What are you doing?” I asked. I soon realized that I was sweating profusely and felt like death. I don’t even know or could realize the running around and tests being ordered or even how serious the situation was. The next thing I remember was being in a room having been admitted to the hospital. The nurse informed me that I was so anemic that I needed a blood transfusion. I was also told that my thyroid levels were so bad that I needed a Thiamine drip. She said, “You have severe anemia and your blood pressure was extremely low when they brought you in. It’s still very low and we will continue to monitor it overnight. But what’s could kill you is your thyroid levels.” My blood work show that my levels were 8X what they should be. And it was all because I hadn’t been taking care of myself. Once again, I’m in another predicament and no one’s fault but my own. My self-destructive path had almost caught up with me permanently and I just didn’t care. I was tired of fighting my demons.

Hope

After 24 hours, I was taken back to the trauma center and the safety of locked doors. The flashbacks I would experience for the next several days were horrendous. The color in my skin was now almost normal instead of grey. My demons always know where to find me and find me they did with a vengeance. I had no cannabis to help with the symptoms. I had no razors or any other maladaptive binkies that I could turn to for comfort except my eating disorders. I found myself gagging and running to the bathroom from the gruesome images and smells that no one saw or experienced but me. The migraines from constant switching were just another complication that I deal with most days. I had to find a way out of the physical and mental torture. I seemed to have just tripped over a bag of feelings and fell in. I kept my humor, but I could see the worry on the faces of staff and patients alike and I didn’t like it. These guys were my “trauma tribe” and wanted to help protect me from myself and the effects that evil deeds had cost me. I eventually left “trauma camp” and walked through the exit doors feeling better but still shaky. And then…addiction reared its ugly head and I was facing it instantly as almost to say, “You’re not protected anymore. I’ve got a surprise for you.” My next actions I didn’t even think. I just gave into. Failure again.
I finally arrive back at my house and those four walls were calling my name. I didn’t want to leave them for a long while. When I opened the door to my bedroom fear consumed me. The energy in my room was one of hopelessness and it was strong. I seemed to just collapse in my bed. My haven of craziness was waiting, and it seemed to be welcoming me with open arms. My confidence that I had leaving had been crushed instantly.

As tears filled my eyes and the chest pains of anxiety grew stronger, I laid in my bed sobbing like a child. I felt like a defeated athlete who had worked so hard only to fail again. It happened so quickly that I couldn’t stop the additional spiral downward. My head hurt was hurting so bad that I became nauseous. Nausea seems to be the one symptom that I can always count on arriving before most others. I smelled the rotting flesh of dead bodies. And I heard someone calling my name. Before I even tried to find out if it was real, I shouted, “What do you want from me?! Do what you want to me but make it stop!!!” My breathing became erratic and I knew that I had to let whatever was happening run its course. I was completely hopeless again. I felt as though something was surrounding me like a bunch of bullies. I was scared and needed something but couldn’t name it.
After several minutes of horrible memories and visions, I was again sweating and found myself scanning my room for details. I was looking for something to hold onto. My soul was hurting, and I didn’t know what I needed. I look over towards my desk where I have my scrapbooking projects and saw a rock that had been given to me. Written on the rock was the word “HOPE.” Finally, I could breath a sigh of relief because hope was what I needed. I stared at the rock for several minutes from the now safety and comfort of my bed. And I tried to absorb any and everything that seeing that was bringing to me. Hope had been found through a rock.
#thispuzzledlife

Keep Trying (Poetry)

Keep Trying
7.30.19
Many nights alone I spend crying
Accomplishing nothing but forward footsteps towards dying.
Replaying the events of my decorated past
Hoping and praying that I’ll go someday……and fast.

The memories and visions that haunt me
Are keeping me bound and not free.
Bound to my past I have remained
While being told that to heal I must reframe.

Doing my best, I still fall hard
Until I catch a glimpse of those friendly cards.
Because people are doing for me what I can’t do for myself
While I try to put the pieces together of my shattered soul and health.

Getting this bird back flying
I know that I must keep trying
No one can do for me and I understand this one thing….
I must once again find my authentic self, unashamed voice and sing.

#thispuzzledlife

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

Who Will Cry For The Little Girl?

6.13.2019

“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.”
― Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits

Recently, there seems to be some type of shift that’s taking place in therapy. Coach and I have been working on a few things with “my guys” and that’s where it seems that the shift started. I can’t do much explaining other than my personal opinion because right now my job is to trust and let the fairy dust fly. The player/coach relationship that I had with my coaches was always considered very sacred to me. So, you can bet your ass that the “therapeutic relationship” that I have with coach is one that is very sacred and protected as well.

Tonight I was suddenly stopped in my tracks with a big dose of anxiety that instantly had me in tears. A lot of old and extremely painful feelings have been nipping at my heels and tonight was the breaking point. Crying in front of a therapist again has taken some getting used to. I didn’t say that it was comfortable but what it has been is……SAFE. After years of being made fun of, ridiculed and belittled for my tears, it makes doing what seems natural appear impossible at times. I can’t begin to explain how damaging abuse and “bad therapy” can deeply impact someone. What I can tell you about is the relief that is felt after months and, in this case, a couple of years watching so many things about a therapist and finally taking that chance again with my tears and not getting hurt. The unspoken message between stares that says, “I’m not going to make fun of you” instantly makes the tears fall faster. There’s not a monetary value that you can put on an experience like that. Your heart feels a pleasant but guarded relief and overwhelming grief all at the same time. Since that day a deeper level of trust and openness was achieved and therapy continues to evolve. Leaps and bounds is the Speed at which I’m doing work.

        complex traum

Last night I found a picture album that I had forgotten that I had stashed away in my room. Curious what pictures were in there I looked and felt a lump in my throat when I saw it was pictures of Marshall when he was younger. I was just being a proud momma until the pictures of him as a preemie in the NICU. Feelings ran hot/cold from head to toe. I felt the same fear that I had experienced when I was unable to hold him initially. I couldn’t understand why this was happening with our new baby. The guilt and shame was incredible then and still is now.

There were approximately 30-40 more pictures each with heavy emotions attached to each one. I sat there in the quietness of my bedroom and let the anxiety and 30 years of shameful grief overtake me. The tears were not gently rolling down my cheeks. I was “Snot crying” like a toddler in Wal-Mart.  Each picture’s emotion was like it had been felt for the first time. I held my stuffed animals and wished for anything but aloneness. I needed someone to tell me that grief will not kill you.  And that I couldn’t possibly cry enough tears to be seen in the emergency room for dehydration.  Maybe I could try and understand it my way that I could make sense of things.  The best possible explanation was that I was losing water weight.  Yep…I got it after that.  The grief I was feeling was just too much. Those pictures needed a better place to stay until they don’t have quite the sting that they do now.  And I’m proud to say that those pictures have a new temporary home placement.

After adjustments were made with my guys a couple of weeks ago, the freedom for better communication has been allowed. What a sense of freedom and a new level of understanding I’m experiencing with my alters. Emotions are still very overwhelming for me. They’re almost always very intense whether or not they are positive or negative.

pretty please
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dont speak

I began to feel the individual feelings that my alters experience daily. I have been coasting on laughter and anger for so many years that I seem to have forgotten how to experience some of these feelings on their most basic level. And just me, my stuffies and my guys would be here to deal with them all……ALONE. I was soon overcome with grief, loss, guilt and shame not for myself but for those children, teens and adults who were so mistreated. I know it’s weird hearing someone talk about different parts of themselves like they’re the poor, pitiful neighborhood kids. But to me they are all individuals.  They just all live under one roof…MINE. Just roll with it.

I began to cry for the fear that each one experienced at a level that’s not easily put into words.

I cried for all of the anxiety, from the years of stress, that has left its permanent mark on my body physically.

I cry for the secrets that the children were forced into silence thus preventing help. And for the teens and adults that still keep secrets now because they still feel that they aren’t worthy of being helped.

I cry for the person that I use to be before the damage of the abuse showed such overwhelming evidence.

I cry for the children and their lost innocents.

I cry for those that needed and wanted help and it never arrived.

I cry for the fear of having relationships with people because when I was younger relationships came with an “OWIE.”

I cry for the adults who experienced every level of pain in a relationship for many years that was supposed to be one where love and protection were a natural reality.  Unfortunately, though,  relationships now equal fear.

I cry for the ones who had relationships with those trusted and respected people who have since died that had such a positive impact on us all.  But the loss was so great that the impact can be felt with every failed relationship since.

I cry for the one that hurts so deeply over losses that she will sabotage anything good.

I cry for the ones that miss out on the joy of being able to enjoy food and eating.  Because those times were used for target practice by others.

I cry for the little one that cries continuously. Her pain cannot be soothed.  She has a hole in her soul that was created from rejection and abandonment. She craves security and safety that was lost in 1975 and 2015.  Nothing and no one but me and the universe can hear her piercing cries.

And I cry for everyone who is doing their best to realize that love and compassion aren’t supposed to hurt.

And those who are also very slowly beginning to allow both empathy and compassion to collectively soften and re-warm the hearts that were tucked away for protection that have grown cold and necrotic.  With the re-warming comes new and healthy growth.  Hearts with healthy tissue begin to mend. The soul energy that had become so depleted will be renewed.  Tears go from the color red back to clear. The masks of the clown and the devil will not be the only two available because there won’t be a need to looked through the eyes “masking” pain. That determined athlete will have a renewed sense of purpose and a new set of trusted and loved teammates. And a new coach who’s words of wisdom gets absorbed and held onto with a death grip.  Self-worth and value become realized and then actualized.  Scars begin to fade from fresh battle wounds to the scars of the war once fought.  New and healthier ways of protecting myself will become the new breastplate that will be worn with pride knowing the work that was done to earn it. And another dynamic “coach” that will have motivated and pushed me with fairy dust to be the best possible “ME” that I could be.  But the greatest gift that will be gained covers it all……AUTHENTICITY.

Who will cry for this little girl? The ones that live inside of me.  She matters and so do they.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

#thispuzzledlife

All I Have To Offer

All I Have To Offer

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

to offer other than your conformity.”

—Wayne Dyer

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

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

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

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Artist: Celeste Roberge

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

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

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

  sand through hands

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

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

Enough-abuse-campaign

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

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

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

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

“Mentors don’t just have to be people

who are older or more experienced that you are.

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

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

—Jennifer Hyman

#thispuzzledlife

The Day I Was Born (Poetry)

The Day I Was Born

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

But what they didn’t know was already done

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

You are a gift from God my parents would say

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

Oh….she was young and she loved you so

This I hoped for but I needed to know.

I searched and longed for you every day of my life

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

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

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

The primal wound is what it’s called

Nothing can help this pain at all.

I found someone that helped me understand the hurt.

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

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

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

Questions were asked and answers were given.

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

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

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

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

Really was that all the feeling you had?

The thoughts of hope and healing were once again gone

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

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

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

My soul felt abandoned it was dark and cold.

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

When I got home I just needed to be held

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

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

Every day since I replay that same scene

Hoping that what she said was all a bad dream.

But I know what I heard on that cold wintery day

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

When December rolls around I shoot daggers at that date

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

I don’t know if I’ll ever make peace

Because She hated a baby for having a heart beat.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

 

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

Acknowledgment Of Strength And Courage

Acknowledgement of Strength and Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

—-Lao Tzu

Lately, there has been a request to identify strength and courage from within myself.  And, honestly, the answer is not very easy for me to identify nor to convey.  I haven’t written since early April and couldn’t have written if I had wanted to.  Sometimes I seem to get lost in my own world not knowing how to get back to the present date and time.  The words “strength” and “courage” seem to be ones of perception rather than having a concrete definition that fits most people and situations.  Hang in there with me.  I promise there is a point.

One of the more difficult things in my life has been to accept compliments.  The ones I did get from perpetrators always seemed to have some form of abuse attached to them.  Growing up and developing as an athlete I regularly received compliments from my coaches.  I not only developed confidence but the discipline and hard work were always worth the effort.  I received compliments from my parents, the parents of friends and teammates.  When the compliments began to take on a more sinister tone and action from some people, I began to fear the very thing that only years before seemed to propel me into a healthy confidence and feeling of safety.  Kind words, in their own way, can now cause instant fear and embarrassment unseen to the naked eye.

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You can point out that survival of all the abuse is an example of both strength and courage.  However, my stance is simply that I did what I had to do to live.  Is this a great example of minimization? Well of course it is.  But emotionally this is truly how I feel about my story of survival.  So…..to identify examples of each I am forced to look at these things from another angle.  I identify these by looking into the heart and eyes of my alters.  This has truly been a process that has now led me to a position and attitude of gratitude.  Trust me, it has not always been like this.  For years I’ve been stuck continuing to try and deny the depth of my mental problems and diagnoses.  And what this has led to for my system are feelings of denial and minimization of their strength, courage, bravery and existence of them both individually and as a group.  This has led to anger, resentment and a whole lot of unneeded and hurtful chaos from them at times. They have had a general feeling of being unneeded and unwanted after years of wading through a life of blood, sweat, tears and the evilness of others.  They have never wanted a  war medal but rather just acknowledgement of the abuse and their efforts.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.  Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

—August Wilson

Me and “my team” or “my guys” as they are commonly referred to are not expendable.  These children, teens and adults stepped into some very frightening situations when my mental and physical limits as an individual had been reached.  Their actions often times with accurate precision led to self-preservation with the ultimate goal to preserve life.  Their strength and courage doesn’t seem to have limits for which I’ll am eternally grateful.  Their existence was created out of fear, pain and necessity. Mel will tell you that there have been times when physically and emotionally I shouldn’t have been able to function on any level.  But you could also look up and standing before you would be someone who seemed to be functioning almost completely normal. The quest for my education while undergoing abuse, sometimes daily, is a stunning example of this very thing.  Now several years later the answers as to how this was even a remote possibility are very clear.  My guys stepped in and helped to make sure that my goals were achieved despite always being told that my dreams were nothing more than under achievable pipe dreams.  To me, they are a living testimony of strength, courage and bravery that cannot be matched.  And maybe my story is changing from one of survival to one about redemption.

“I never said I wanted a ‘happy’ life but an interesting one.  From separation and loss, I have learned a lot.  I have become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost every human being exposed to life and to the world.  We don’t ever know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.”

—Isabel Allende

#thispuzzledlife

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

“There are certain life lessons that you can only learn in the struggle.”
― Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability

I have been asked more than once since writing these blog posts how I decide what to write?  The truth is that I don’t always know.  Sometimes it can be a topic that has embedded itself in my gut.  It can be a topic that I continually search for answers and/or the meaning in my life.  But, I often times will begin writing without any type of direction.  Maybe it’s even some type of struggle where writing is my way of asking the universe for a lesson to be taught.  And my thoughts have always been to sit back and wait for my answers to be revealed.  Whatever the “reason” or “lesson” my intent is to be open and receptive no matter how difficult.

I have always been one that has taken the hard road out of necessity. Mel will be one of the first to tell anyone who asks that “Dana has to see something for herself before she will make a decision.  You can tell her all day long the easiest way to go but until she sees things for herself she won’t budge.”  This is not a fact that I deny.  Maybe the hard truth is the only way I learn.  If you wait for me to read between the lines, I will most assuredly leave you frustrated.  Being incredibly hard headed and coming in 2nd place only to my Nannie, has never really made the “easy way” a workable option either.  I must have questions answered and the questions about the questions answered.  I might still reach the same conclusion but it will have taken me twice as long.

As a young child and then a mouthy teenager if I was told not to do something you can write it down that within hours or minutes I would be doing the very thing I was told not to do.  This is where playing sports and having coaches who had the ultimate authority taught me discipline.  As an adult and without their sometimes harsh discipline I seemed to go through life hungering for direction.  Also, through this same discipline I was taught how to pick myself up and keep going.  Because it wasn’t all about me, it was about our TEAM.  This team concept is one lesson that I have never lost.

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At 43 years-old and a difficult adult life, I’ve had to take some hard looks in the mirror and some much needed soul searching that would’ve had the ability to piss off Gandhi. Go a step further and do this in solitude with the daily worries of a mother and a wife and it doesn’t take long for someone to start questioning whether or not the chip on my shoulder is actually worth carrying.  It also has the incredible ability to lessen the teenage arrogance in my walk and anger written on my face all seemingly hidden by a smile and a few jokes.  Because when you don’t have the daily distractions of life there’s nothing that can bring forth an argumentative yet very sobering day like the one staring back at you.

There have been many times that I have stared in the mirror only to see the one looking back almost as if to say, “Really?  Smiles and laughter are all fun and games until you get a really good look at yourself when the clown isn’t on stage, isn’t it?”  I continue to look in the mirror at the stern arrogance of the one who, in recent years, has been able to provide intimidation whenever needed.  I look down at my hands remembering how much damage can be done to a room in a fit of rage.  I then look at my forearms and hear the familiar taunts from 30 years prior and the feeling of words spoken as though they were being said for the first time. The adult that was to educate her never raised her hand in anger because the muscles she used as a weapon could also cause damage.  I look up as tears begin to stream down my face wishing, for that moment, that someone would make the pain in my chest cease.  I search for a laugh or a smile to be instantaneous medicine as it has been for the majority of my life.  Instead, however, were a set of eyes belonging to a very hurt teenage child who is fixated on the guilty memory of the unknown mother who said, “She hurt my son too.” Through the tears she tried but couldn’t convey the language of her pain.  Pain, as she would discover, wasn’t always spoken. And on this day, the lessons were learned.

#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

Code Of Silence

The Code of Silence

The predator wants your silence.  It feeds their power,

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

—Viola Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

–Elie Wiesel

#thispuzzledlife

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.

IMG_2410

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

Tears Of A Child (Poetry)

The Tears of a Child

I came into this world screamin’ and cryin’

Never knowing that the world would be lyin’.

Big hands that touched with searing pain

And it would only be for their perverted gain.

 

Surrounded by four walls I would cry alone

Until she opened the door and I was already gone

Locked inside I screamed, “Don’t Leave!  Help me!”

But I would never be granted any reprieve.

 

A Child bride I would soon become

The tears I cried inside were many but to the outside there were none

I would defend you and say that life was grand

But you would crush me without even using your hands.

 

The venom you spewed I would also come to use

Innocent family and friends….If they only knew.

That little girl screaming for help and they didn’t have a clue.

That which the little girl is surviving might make her turn forever blue.

 

“Mommy! Mommy!” were the words she always longed to hear.

But the innocent screams rang so loud and clear.

She looked for the one that helped rescue her

But she was another one gone.

How does she handle it now in this world all alone?

 

She screams, “Mommy!  Mommy! ” from somewhere deep inside.

She was always taught to keep quiet and hide.

She also longs for the one that gave her life

But she’ll never meet those precious boys or her beautiful wife.

 

This child she’s full of anger and hates most things she sees.

The words they can’t hear are her hungering cries of “Help Me, Please!”

Please help me and don’t leave me alone.

But again she looks up to see they’re all gone.

 

She keeps those tears buried deep inside

Just like when she was taught to run and hide.

If they knew and could only see

These tears of a child that continue to haunt me.
By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Footsteps To Freedom

Footsteps to Freedom

“It is fear that reinforces the walls we build, people are afraid to be swayed from their convictions, afraid to question their moral instincts and expose themselves to ideas that may challenge the fabric of their entire existence, but what are we if we are not seeking to better ourselves?”
― Aysha Taryam

During this month of incredibly intense therapy one of the things that I’ve come to realize is how terrified I am of change no matter the reasons. Over the years I have become accustomed to people naming my limitations and just accepting them. Being controlled for so long has created for me a life of imprisonment even though the doors of freedom were opened many years ago.

Eleven years ago I was granted the freedom legally from a very long abusive relationship where everything I did, said and felt were controlled by someone else. The control enforced for so many years was done so covertly that even I was blinded to my own reality. It was always disguised as “I’m just trying to make you a better person.” When in reality he did nothing to help make me a better person. He simply was destroying what was left of a good person. I was slowly mirroring his dysfunctional and abusive self through his personally designed program. I didn’t like this change because it hurt me in every way possible and to not accept it, as difficult as it was, could’ve led to my demise.

I was given gifts and compliments both in front of others and behind closed doors. What was never seen, though, was the high price of his momentary kindness. Anytime I was complimented or given gifts especially at holiday times or after arguments was then completely overshadowed by his abuse sometimes only hours later. What this taught me to do was to be aware when things were too “ok” that something bad would happen or would be taken away. Maybe this was his sick justification for his niceness. He seems like a nice guy to those that know him but behind the steel doors of my personal imprisonment to him on an intimately emotional level was a block of ice of a human being that cares about nothing but his own gratification in whatever way he can achieve it.

Since our divorce I still can’t accept comments, gifts or any kind gesture without thinking, “What do you really want for your kindness because everything comes with a price?”  What I have been conditioned to believe is that if things get “too good” or a time without chaos then he would, in turn, take those moments of kindness and hurt me with them.  Therefore, I have always felt that if these same nice events happen then I must destroy them because it doesn’t hurt as bad if I’m the one doing the sabotaging. This also affects my relationships with people. I don’t mind having superficial relationships but if I start forming relationships that are deeper then I panic and start pushing the person away until they want to leave.  I have become so accustomed to this that I have learned to disconnect emotionally so quickly and easily that most times I can’t even feel the pain of the loss.

footsteps to freedom

The essence of a therapeutic journey is about CHANGE. Maladaptive behaviors are very much a comfort zone and the thought of changing the things that continue to remove happiness and consequently leave me with a life unfulfilled and empty terrifies me. The easy solution to most would be simply stop doing what you’re doing and things with get better. And, truly, I wish it was that easy. I don’t love the behaviors and mental craziness that comes with it all. What I do love is the consistency that lies with what I understand and what seems to make sense even if only I can make sense of it. What would and could the possibilities of my life be if I were not chained to my compulsions, addictions and yes even his control and deadly way of life? The truth is that I don’t know. So instead of reaching out to grab a new way of life, I timidly sit back and watch everything positive and beautiful in my life disappear piece by piece. This is not something I enjoy. This is something that I’ve come to expect because this reality is something that I know.

Expecting good things is something so incredibly foreign to me. The cage door of my cell was opened but because I’ve been so accustomed to power and control that’s the only way I’ve known how to live. Without being told exactly what to do I feel completely out of control and very unsafe. In a way, I still feel like I need the one thing I feared about him…HIS control. Most all other forms of control in regards to authority figures and institutions, as well as, other social situations will most definitely bring out the werewolf in me.  I become very aggressive in many instances.  Given the opportunity to leave this continued imagined control which still seems to feel like he still presently oversees and I’ll stay put and wait for my next order.  This has me very confused and above all frustrated.  The dichotomy of these decisions leave me cowering and in tears.

As his child bride with him 19 years my senior, he set out to raise a wife.  I tried endlessly to become that which was envisioned which was the picture of perfection.  I had no idea, at the time, that I would be constantly chasing and trying to achieve something that never could be achieved.  Years later I still find myself chasing this same perfectionistic  life and image but now in solitude.  I have continued to allow him to be the overseer of my daily activities and thoughts from which I have yet to be able to break free.  I am still chained to my “master” in so many ways.  And seemingly by choice I continue to let him rob me of a beautiful life with my wife, children, friends and family.  The harsh reality of this weighs very heavily on me.

My “inside guys” are seeing and feeling this push for this realization and the action that comes with it.  Is there resistance?  Ummmm……am I breathing?  All they can seem to understand right now is fear and that is always considered unsafe in any situation.  Thirty years of teens being able to live life as they dysfunctional please. And 20+ years of adults not having voices and/or choices now being told they can create a life that WE choose not that HE chooses.  This is one concept that’s going to take practice even if, for now, it’s just about the radical idea that things can be different.

The need for change is why I moved here.  The importance of change is why I stay even though my heart wants me to run back to Mel and our boys.  But the fear of change is what  torments me worse than the memories and images.  Who will I be if I’m not defined by outside influences and behaviors?  With my tireless coach’s help and seemingly endless compassion maybe one day I’ll have those answers.

I’m still moving in a forward direction but I’m shaking in my boots. And it seems with every step forward a new tear drops.  Painful as this process is it’s still not as painful as the words and actions from the one who caused the tears to begin with.  Me and a certain teen see this process as “Footsteps to Freedom.”

“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.”

—Thucydides

#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 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

Advocates

Advocates

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

–Marshall Landrum-Arnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

survival

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

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

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

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

Either you love one or you are one.”

–Mark Ruffalo

#thispuzzledlife

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

Locked And Loaded

Locked and Loaded

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

If you want to look at all sides of the historical and current school shootings then don’t forget this side.  Put yourself in the driver’s seat as a teenager who feels that there is no way out.  There are no easy answers.  Don’t think as an adult about how you would respond?  You have to imagine the world through the eyes of a desperate teenager who feels helpless just like those who killed. I’m not condoning anything.  Just don’t eliminate one of the sides of the problem or you’ll never achieve an accurate answer.

Imagine for a minute this scenario…..

Life as a 13 year-old rebellious but funny teen seemed to be pretty benign on the surface.  Teenagers because of the developmental stage tend to be difficult stressors for kids and their parents.  She had this incredible gift to make people laugh no matter the situation. Depression crept in and slowly started transforming her.  Her vitality for life was very slowly disappearing and it never seemed to matter or to care to those she tried to reach out to.  She had no animosity towards anyone.  She hated that she had been unwanted.  But everyone loved her because she was everyone’s favorite clown and friend.

What no one seemed to take notice of was that this clown was put into a closet behind the teacher’s desk and locked.  The teacher always had hurtful things to say.  She poked at this child like a pit bull chained to a tree and being taunted and whipped with sticks.  Anytime that child spoke up she was hit again.  Anytime she cried she was ridiculed and humiliated.  When she talked about food she was glared at and venomous derogatory body image comments were slung at her.  Every time she tried to fight back she got in even deeper trouble with the administration.  No one ever listened because of a label.  She wasn’t a bad kid.  But now she didn’t know.

All she wanted was for someone to leave her alone and apologize for what had just happened over several months.  Relief was nowhere in sight.  She began thinking that if she (the teacher) wasn’t alive to torment her that she could hang with her friends and continue playing ball.  But if she committed suicide she wouldn’t have to ever face another minute of this daily torture.  She can’t speak of it all as the embarrassment of what she thinks she has allowed.  And then her friend commits suicide and the seriousness and pain of what had just happened was brushed over like his life didn’t matter.  She is rocked to her foundation.

dylan 2

I have lost my emotions

—  Dylan Klebold

 

eric harris 2

I hope death is like a dream state, I want to spend all my time there.

—  Eric Harris

These two thunderclouds collide along with a mixture of other storms in her life.  This marriage, of sorts,  bred the perfect storm.  Her inadequacies were put before her peers.  She was taunted daily about how no one wanted her.  Everything that she would never become.  Statements about being a baby for crying when the words stung like bullets.  She tried to tell and no one would listen.  Or it was the southern way to handle this parenting situation..”She is the adult and you are the child.  Tell her you’re sorry and give her respect!”  She was literally and figuratively trapped and no one could hear her silent screams.

How could you not notice the fact that she cried blood tears from her forearms?  How could you not notice the holes in the hallway and rooms?  How could you not notice that she had deadly eating disorders that would almost take her life?  How could you not notice the pain meds and all the sleeping and headaches that became part of daily life?

Now imagine for a minute that you were that child trapped with no help.  You just wanted it to stop in whatever way possible. Leaving school wasn’t an option.  How do you as a child attempt to rationalize a very impulsive yet very thought out plan to make it end?  How do school shooters develop?  There’s a very condensed scenario.  Often times parents do not know what to look for.  Wearing a mask is too easy to hide behind because no one really wants to know how we’re doing.  “Fine.” seems to be the best generic answer that is acceptable on a daily basis.

You said that you didn’t see the “typical” warning signs.  There is absolutely nothing “typical” about a teenager.  They are independent and impulsive beings with their own fingerprints.  It sounds more like you were blinded by your ignorance and politics to notice that this was happening right in front of you.  You were the adults meant to protect these children and you turned the other way.  Now you don’t like how they turned out.  Five minutes of listening to a child full of tears that you never saw behind those screens of smiles and laughter could’ve saved lives…maybe your own.

“–What if the kids from Columbine were here today.  What would you say to them?

–I wouldn’t say anything, I would listen to them, which nobody else did.”

Quote from Marilyn Manson in the documentary Bowling for Columbine.

#thispuzzledlife

Into The House Of Horrors

Into The House of Horrors

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character;

and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.”

–Arthur Schopenhauer

 

It’s a scene that I’ve replayed many times over the last 10+ years.  I drove that dirt road to the lot where our house had been built only 5+ years prior.  A couple weeks before I had carried out a decision that had been planned for a few years.  I was about to execute my plan to leave him for good.  This was already 14 years later than I should’ve ever stayed with him.  However, the way that I had been silenced for many years continues to leave its mark on me today.

 

The fears of food, body image, decision making, judgment by him and a diminishing self-worth was now fully engrained.  Some of the horrors that I lived through at 22 Casey Lane, Petal, MS continue to torment me today.  Everything that I knew about living life as an adult was done one way…..HIS WAY.  I divorced him 10+ years ago.  But did I really leave him?  Part of me did leave him.  But another has remained in that imprisoned life; on his arm and controlled every since.  He told me that I would never get rid of him and thus far, that statement hasn’t let me down.

The day/night that I left him was shortly after his brother had come into our house drunk and pointing a gun at me.  My husband told me that once again his brother would have no repercussions for how he had treated me.  I soon found out that all of their scary antics over the years had been devised by my husband.  “Like Father, Like Sons”  I’ve always said about those two men.  I had been looking for a way out for many years but was left only seeing myself as being helpless.  But this night was different.

When he told me, after having been terrified by the recent gun issue, that nothing would be done to protect me or our house from his brother and hearing his brother screaming, “I have done everything you asked me to do to her!”  I knew I had to get out.  I still remember watching myself standup a few days later saying, “I’ve had enough of this shit!”  I walked out to my awaiting blue Honda CRV while being screamed at every step of the way.  What he was saying and calling me was a compilation of things he had said over the last 14 years of insults.  I was beyond terrified at what I might’ve just brought on myself in the coming days.  Like most cowards threats were made with no follow through.

Shaking from pure fear I drove to my parents’ house only a few miles away like I had done many times before.  The typical end result was me listening to and getting sucked back into the house of a man with a silver tongue.  He was my husband and my predator.  This time I was determined to get out and stay out because it was just too scary now.  I was just going to have to “white knuckle” the urges to want to go back.  Through the tears and frustration I stayed true to my goal and did not go back.

The only analogy I’ve been able to use to convey how victimization feels is like a crime that has been committed but I did it to myself.  You know that a crime was committed but the way of a predator is to negate his or her wrongdoing and put it on the victim.  Often times I would be apologizing for something I had not even done.  He had me so convinced that I was responsible for his and the world’s unhappiness that no matter what I did I would always be a failure.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  I didn’t see this while in the abuse.  I just kept striving for excellence by his standards and before I knew it 14 years had passed me by.  The damage to my psyche would not be realized for another few years.

I would go back a couple of weeks later to get a few more of my things and to pick up my animals.  My cats Simba and Nalla, who I had raised from a bottle, and my African Grey parrot, Rocco were my first priority.  I didn’t know what I would do with my hamsters, gerbils, cockatiels, ferrets, iguana, outside cats, rats and outside dogs.  The rest of my belongings and furniture would have to wait for now.  I had a neighbor who was watching my house and would know when he left so that I could get the things I needed safely.  I was given the go ahead but was told to hurry.  I had driven that bumpy ride down the dirt road and onto the driveway of our house and I was sweating and nauseous from the fear of going back to the house.  The fear was paralyzing but my animals deserved to be out of his abuse as well.

When I unlocked the door and cracked it open the putrid odor of death hit my nose never to be forgotten.  I didn’t know what it was but something was very, very wrong.  I had no idea what I would find but it was about to be a very harsh reality.  I didn’t know if he had been murdered.  If he had gotten in an argument with his brother and was dead.  I just had no idea what I was about to find.  I walked down our hallway into our bedroom where the smell was so overbearing.  I was already gagging but still had not found the source.  I feared finding someone’s dead body.  Not seeing anything out of the ordinary I began to walk across the hall to the animal room.  What I found froze my tears in their tracks.  This was the source of the smell was right here.  I don’t even know how I felt in that moment.  The animal room was filled with lifeless animals covered in maggots and blowflies.  He had intentionally starved and not watered them. The exceptions to life were those couple of rodents feeding off others in their tanks.

I was frozen with fear and disgust that these animals that I had taken care of for years were all dead.  Some were partially eaten.  Some were cut in half by whatever he chose to do.  This room where I was able to escape his torment, if only for a moment, had become a torture chamber for the other innocent ones.  My cats and birds all had molded food and no water.  My dogs were going crazy in their outside pen.  Thankfully the outside cats had scattered.  I couldn’t think.  I didn’t know what to do.  I simply had to react and just save the ones I could and get out and fast.  I got my cats and bird out of the “house of horrors.”  I couldn’t save my dogs and was told that a few months later they were taken out of their pen and shot in the front yard.  I left that day with the harsh realization that the abuse had not just effected me.  How do you get over something like that?  You don’t.

“Curiously, deep, deep down—and undoubtedly unconscious to them—they know they’re not really what they project. In fact, one of their central defenses (or stratagems) is to endlessly project onto others the very flaws (and fears!) they’re unable, or unwilling, to allow into awareness. As critical as they are about others’ shortcomings, they’re amazingly blind to their own.”

Leon F Seltzer Ph.D., Evolution of the Self

 

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For The Bible Tells Me So Part 2

For the Bible Tells Me So…..Part 2

“If a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in

the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission.”

― Flemming Rose

Let me start this entry by saying that I am in no way putting in “jabs” to any particular religious belief or sect.  I’m simply stating how religion can be used in an abusive nature.  I have my own personal experience with Southern Baptist and Southern Evangelicals.  I don’t dislike either one.  Abuse has also been publicized within the Catholic religion.  But let’s face it, abuse of any kind knows no boundaries and/or limits.

In the many years that I longed for and searched for my birth mom I heard the same story over and over about how she was put in touch with a pastor in the Petal/Hattiesburg, MS area and then like a bad explosion I was born.  When I got older I had to be able to understand what all this meant.  So the only way I could fully comprehend this was to call it  “The Underground Railroad for Unwed Mothers.” To tell a few more of the details surrounding her prenatal arrangements and my eventual birth, my birth mom was from Indiana at the time.  She was 16 years old and had gotten mad at my biological father and fled to put me up for adoption as soon as possible.  This information I received when we met face-to-face.

As I stated in the first part of this blog entry being an unwed mother was not exactly as socially acceptable as it is now.  We are not talking about 50 years ago either.  In the 1970s was when my birth mom had me.  In the 1990s when I graduated high school teen moms were still regarded as “less than” no matter the circumstances.  These “less than” opinions were not only from the standpoint of the church where I personally saw people treated differently depending on socioeconomic, gender, race, sexual orientation and just about any other category where someone might “stand out” as being not “normal.”

not afraid to grieve

Nevertheless my birth mom was actually suppose to go to the Bethesda Home for Unwed Mothers when she was pregnant with me.  However, she was too far along in her pregnancy to be accepted there.  This was the best outcome for me as the baby for her to not be allowed there regardless of the reasoning.  For her, though, she has made it clear many times over that I was “an inconvenience in her life then and now.”  Tell me even reading that you didn’t feel that punch to the gut.  Now imagine that you’re that baby that grew up wanting nothing more than to find part of your identity and you’ve been forced to wait to find this woman that you inherently have longed for your entire life because of state laws.  All the while hoping that your opinion of what “adoption” means to you is different.  Only to be rejected again but now you feel that very deadly blow.  I could do absolutely nothing.  I could say nothing.  Me being left speechless seldom ever happens.

To this day, when I am still and think back to that moment I have to change the subject because it’s just too painful to remember.  To make matters worse, when I returned from finding the answers I needed my husband at the time told me “she’s a filthy and disgusting woman and she gave YOU up for adoption.”  I can’t describe what that did to me emotionally.  Every feeling and thought that I had up to that point about my self-worth came down to that one comment.  I have never recovered from things like that that were said to me daily.

When she was turned down at the girl’s home she stayed with another local pastor and his wife until she had me and like clockwork she left never to think about me again until the phone call from my biological brother telling her that I had been found about 30 years later.  She has had an incredibly difficult life.  She and my biological father passed along some strong addiction genes and well…..not much else.  The “Nature vs. Nurture” debaters would love to study this one.  I was going to mention something about good looks but roasting myself has become somewhat of an art.

enemy no chance

The point in all of this is that religion can be incredibly shaming to those that aren’t stereotypical worshippers.  This means going to church or whatever your place to worship and acting a certain way or   being vocal.  Now, personally, I don’t care how anyone worships or who they worship because I consider this a very private matter between you and your higher power whomever or whatever that might be.  Here’s a quote from an author on this very thing…

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme, McHugh is telling us. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly. Is it any wonder that introverts like Pastor McHugh start to question their own hearts?”
― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Pastor Marvin Winans is a gospel singer a member of the Winans Family a famous gospel group.  He also leads the choir called the Perfecting Church Choir.  He also has produced several albums with this choir while also being a part of “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”   Winans also delivered the eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral in 2012.   The comment from an elder in the church about his policy regarding baby dedication for unwed mothers and their children was this…..

 “Pastor Winans has a strict policy — he won’t bless the babies of unwed mothers in front of the congregation”, Fox 2 Detroit reported.

Grace said “she felt degraded by the pastor’s decision. She’s hoping he reconsiders, even if it means having her son dedicated during the week by a church elder.”

Until then, she told Fox 2 Detroit “she has no plans to return to Perfecting Church.”

“I absolutely would not set foot back in the church right now because I feel like they look down upon me and my kind, meaning single moms and unwed mothers,” Grace said.

Pope Francis recently said in May that the Catholic Church should bless children born out of wedlock, because their mothers chose life over abortion.

“’Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term. … “What does she find? A closed door,” he said, according to Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors (http://archive.eurweb.com, 2013).”

What about those of us that can’t attend comfortably because of trauma either by clergy abuse, PTSD, social phobias, etc?  Well, let’s just say that I’m open about many facets of my life regardless of ostracizing.  Loud music which is usually the status quo in most churches sends chills all over my body.  Not because of the words but because sensory overload and hyper startle  reflex that will have me cringing and crying if I can’t get out of the situation.  If I’m still unable to leave violence is my “go to when niceness doesn’t work.  I’m openly gay  and legally married with children, addictions, mental illness, phobias, PTSD, eating disorders and medical cannabis.  Do I need to keep going?

I’m that baby that was refused dedication to the church because I was born to an unwed mother  (figuratively of course).  My point is this…..the church has lost sight of its mission if Christianity is your thing.  I have my beliefs and questions just like most that keep that information in the dark.  I don’t believe for a minute that the only relationship you can have with God or your chosen deity has to be within a church.  Nor does it make you “less than” because you don’t chose to worship like others.

I’m currently surrounded by people who are loving Christians who understand mental illness and its roots.  They don’t shame me into going to church with them it’s a choice that I make.  And if I start having an issue I simply leave the service and it’s no big deal.  Many churches have a room removed from the service area or provide ear plugs for this and many other reasons and conditions.  God just knew that when the mold broke that I would be quirky but that I would SURVIVE and thus far that’s exactly what I’ve done.

#Thispuzzledlife

For The Bible Tells Me So…

For the Bible Tells Me So…

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

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

—-Anonymous

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

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

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

sharkfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pain changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man On A Mission

A Man on a Mission

“When you push yourself beyond limits, you discover inner

reserves, which you never thought existed earlier.”
― Manoj Arora, Dream On

Throughout all my many years of abuse there have also been people who have crossed my path leaving their mark on my life in a way that facilitates growth.  Dr. Paul D. Cotten was just one of those people.  He also crossed paths with my father when he was in junior college.  Ellisville State School was a residential facility for individuals with mental retardation.  As you can imagine, I went with my dad to work when I was little, therefore, being around individuals with many different types of disabilities was the norm.  As an adult I consider that exposure a blessing.

When I started my educational career at William Carey University as a non-traditional undergraduate, I told my dad the names of some of the professors.  As I mentioned some of the names he began to tell me stories about his connection with Dr. Cotten and some of the funny things he would say.  My experience with Dr. Cotten was one that I valued and learned from at every interaction.  He was not an easy professor, by any means, but he knew how to get me to perform at my best.  He pushed me sometimes to tears but I knew that what he was doing was out of love for his students.

dr cotten

I took him for several classes but my favorite and most challenging had to be Abnormal Psychology.  Dr. Cotten was very instrumental in deinstitutionalizing and placing these individuals with disabilities into the community.  The focus of our internship programs were with the elderly and mentally retarded populations.  Yes I was able to do many hours in substance abuse programs but he would not let me make that my focus.  I have stories I could tell about working with these populations and was truly blessed.

Anyone who crossed paths with Dr. Cotten was one where you either hated him or loved him as a professor.  I truly believe that most people loved him because he always challenged you to be your best.  Some of the best advice I was given as a student by him was, “Before you diagnose someone you first have to understand that they are an individual.”  Dr. Cotten also saw clients for evaluations for court commitments.  The stories that he would share would have you laughing but his points were always very clear.  He told us in one of the Gerontology classes  that “Most people retire from something rather than to something which shortens their lives due to complacency.”  He had more irons in the fire in his 70s than most will have in a lifetime, thus, making sure he wasn’t complacent. He milked life of every minute of every day no matter how difficult sometimes.

894ae-william-carey-university55d83ad6bea86

In tears, I went to him one day in his office where he had placed a piano that he would often be playing southern gospel music. I announced my arrival and I looked at him and said, “Dr. Cotten I respect you so much why are you pushing me so hard if you know what I’m going through at home?”  I was still married to my ex-husband, at the time, and the abuse I suffered at his hands was immense.  Dr. Cotten then told me, “Because I know that you’re capable of more than what he’s telling you.”  I couldn’t really understand everything in the moment but I took that interaction back with me and I have never forgotten how much that motivated me to finish my degree through the blood, sweat and tears.  I just couldn’t understand why he cared but he did.

He was always so funny but very business-like at times.  I asked him while walking to another class why he was there on his day off.  He simply told me, “I’m here to help stomp out stupidity.”  I could do nothing but laugh because that’s exactly what he was doing.  He also required us to be counselors at Camp Kaleidoscope, which is a camp for children with autism and other spectrum disorders.  I was terrified but I will always give him credit for making us well rounded as students.

When I heard of his passing in 2017, at the age of 80,  I teared up at the death of a man who made such a big impact on my life both personally and professionally.  But most of all, he was a man of integrity and always wanted the best for his students no matter what branch of psychology they chose. He was also over the music therapy program and touch lives everywhere he went. He touched my life at a time that was tumultuous and finding a reason to live was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Thank you Dr. Paul D. Cotten for blessing my life and for seeing more than just a traumatized individual that stood before you.  You have inspired me to continue in the world by helping to “stomp out stupidity.”

#Thispuzzledlife

The Healing Has Begun

The Healing Has Begun

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

— Hippocrates

Recently, I was asked to notice the things that irritate me throughout the week but more specifically in public where I have the most problems.  And OMG I must have totally been  attempting to be a trophy hog on disordered thinking or something.  Because I started noticing that everything about being in public bothers me  with the complete spectrum of emotions.  I won’t put too many specifics because well…..we live in a society with some real poop slingers.  No wonder I have so many different reactions both physically and mentally.

I already know from where some of these reactions stem but some I don’t.  At any rate, I still learned something about my triggers.  I also learned that I have a lot of work to do before I’m anywhere near comfortable in public again.  I’ll just have to trust the next step.

I have isolated myself so long that I’d lost all hope and refused to set any goals.  I guess before I set goals I needed to have some time to realize what it is that I want again out of life.  What are the things that I’ve missed and grieved over missing in life?  Some might not seem big but they were definitely taken for granted.

  1. First, I want to be able to be the kind of spouse to my wife that she deserves.  She didn’t ask for the complications of a mentally ill spouse.  I also didn’t ask for the mental illness.  She’s a real trooper in every way.  And she wholeheartedly supports my efforts to find peace.
  2. I want to be a mother to my children that’s there for them both emotionally and physically.  Yes my children are learning about mental illness firsthand.  It’s both good and bad.  They are learning how devastating it can be but they are also learning how to be advocates at the same time.  They deserve, as well as, I do to be emotionally available to them. They know that momma D is different.  And they also know that I’m momma the one who loves them more than my next breath.
  3. I want my career back working with difficult populations with addictions in some capacity.

nothing can dim a light

  1. I want to speak to graduate classes specifically about the stigmas surrounding the diagnosis of DID.  And how important ethics are and the damage that can be caused from not being ethical therapists.  And how bad therapy almost killed me.
  2. I would like to do public speaking outside the classroom also helping to lessen the stigmas of mental illness.
  3. I want to be able to live a life free from the torture of my past.
  4. I want to be able to grieve all these years I’ve held back out of fear.
  5. Above all I just want to be heard.

This might seem like not a big deal to some but this is still a tall order that I have never seen as being remotely possible.  I don’t know what lies before me.  I heard someone recently say that uncomfortability is the key to healing and growth.  I am definitely no stranger to uncomfortability. But more with the goal of peace at the finish line doesn’t appear to be a difficult choice.  The pace will be slow and steady which is the way I would view a ball season or an important game.  And well….I’m in the fight for my life.  Burning out on the front end just creates more setbacks. It’s also not a sprint but a marathon. Because it took 42 years to become this dysfunctional and to think it can all be healed over night is a miracle only Jesus could pull off.   Yes Sarah I do understand. Sometimes all you need is for someone to give you a chance to reap that opportunity.  My friends the healing has begun.

#Thispuzzledlife

Shattered (Poetry)

Shattered

Life began being ripped away,

how that felt I can’t begin to say.

With no voice I lie and wait

Someone? Are you there? Touch is what I crave.

As a little girl touch was what I got.

I didn’t understand. It was painful and hot.

Teen years rolled around and I was locked away.

All I did was cry and pray.

I wanted to disappear in every way.

Everything has a price that must be paid.

She hated food and she hated life.

You did everything possible to make her your wife

SHATTEREX

You always promised you’d never hit her.

But oh those words were so strong and very bitter.

You cut her down and again she was little.

Take her fears and insecurities and made her very brittle.

She refused to leave and would not go.

All she was to you was a legal ho.

To substances she turned to dull her pain

Given the chance she’d do it again.

Many losses and now a new wife.

With two little boys and a new life.

The old life hangs on and the fears are great.

Everything about life she has learned to hate.

Friends and family she’s lost most but not all.

She’s somehow trapped again by four walls.

If they all knew what all it takes to live every day.

Forget the fact that she loves weed or that she’s gay.

Because of you A shattered psyche and a shell is all that is left.

She gets up every day wondering is this the day she will taste death?

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#Thispuzzledlife

 

Who Really Cares?

Who Really Cares?

January 11, 2017

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I think this is a question that is often asked but responses are typically….”Not me for sure” “I could care less what people think” “Their opinions don’t pay my bills”  But if we all really look deep do we truly care what people’s opinions are of us as an individual?  I can only speak for myself on this topic but I can honestly say that I’m torn.  Remember, this is where I am emotionally on this topic at this moment.  With so many internal opinions this answer is likely to change momentarily.  However, I can say that the majority of my life the message has always been conveyed to me that “image” is very important, if not, one of the most important things in life.  And it’s the opinions of others that somehow control the vision or path of my future.  Let me explain…..

Being raised in a very conservative and small southern town the typical way of dealing with things has always been to “keep it in the family and put a smile on your face.”  Do I think that this way of thinking is detrimental to completing the normal emotional/psychological/physical developmental stages?  Why no.  But I do think that in some instances it can make for difficult adjustments.  I clearly remember as a child getting ready for church on Sunday mornings and for one reason or another I or my sister would get in trouble usually leading to tears of frustration about simply not getting our way.  But let us pull into that church parking lot and it was, “Dry it up and put a smile on your face.  We are headed inside the church.”  What this translates to is this….”Don’t let anyone see anything that is considered ‘out of the norm’ because it will reflect poorly on our family thus making us look like incompetent parents.”  Now, I obviously can’t say that this is exactly what my parents were thinking or feeling but it definitely rings true for those friends, family and perpetrators that I’ve had dealings with.  I’m also in no way trying to demonize the way my parents raised me.

Is this a very catastrophizing way of looking at a very harmless situation?  Absolutely.  But this is a very multi-generational and societal way of thinking that is very common nationwide.  This is also a side effect of a society that focuses primarily on appearance that is often unauthentic.  Nevertheless, these very unrealistic expectations that have false attainability beliefs infiltrate the minds of impressionable children and teens and they are constantly chasing an image or ‘image like’ appearance not only to fail but fail miserably.  The thought, in turn, of not being good enough is implanted and constantly reiterated until it becomes a belief and then a self fulfilling prophecy.  This obviously doesn’t ring true in every situation but, I would be willing to bet that there are both young teen boys and girls who struggle with body image and appearance in epic proportions.

All of my perpetrators in some form abused me in ways that attacked my appearance and body image to a level that has left long time scars and often gaping wounds both internally and externally.  These wounds, by far, have been some of the deepest.  Body image and self worth were tied into one very distorted concept that birthed very distorted beliefs.  The specifics of these events are left for those willing to listen professionally.  Please understand that they are as fresh today as the day they pierced my skin and psyche. This belief is also one that is also held in high regard by society as evidenced by the astonishing numbers of children, teens and adults who are held captive by eating disorders, compulsive plastic surgery or any substance or behavior that falsely advertises that there will be TOTAL control or perfection such and I would be the first one with my hand out.

comfort zone

Now, why all of this long and drawn out explanation?  Well, because for me this is exactly what my ‘perfect storm’ looked like. Essentially, I’ve been marinating in false beliefs and concepts the majority of my life in many different ways.  These beliefs that have developed at a very young age while also being further molded by daily verbal and emotional abuse just so happened to be the perfect breeding ground for lifelong eating disorders and body image issues.

I was recently asked the question…”How do I imagine a world without the care of what people think?” Again I quickly thought, “I don’t care what people think in the least bit.”  Then the reality of the question hit me a few seconds later and I looked at her like someone who had just seen an individual streaking in their living room.  All I could muster was the puppy head tilt.  I honestly had to fight back tears because I knew what was being hinted at and how incredibly painful this topic is for me.

Since I’ve now had time to digest the question further I can honestly say this….I have no idea what a world where no one cared what other people think about them.  This in no way has any hint of sarcasm attached to it.  It’s almost like asking Helen Keller what it’s like to have sight?  When I’ve never lived or understood how to live life full of true freedom in that way, it’s difficult to imagine a life like that even being possible.  That’s not to say that people don’t fully understand and embrace that concept currently.  It sounds like a beautiful fantasy that I’ve been unable to touch, smell, see or taste thus far.

I can tell you that personally with the weight on my shoulders that I’ve carried daily for many years surrounding this topic, it would probably feel like I was so light that I might float away if I were that free.  I don’t really know an answer that isn’t conflicting.  What I do know is that caring what people think about me and my life and life choices does not get the bills paid.  I think also that because of the nature of human beings wanting and needing to belong often times we tend to try and conform naturally to what society, family or friends think for fear of not belonging and having that connection of acceptance from another.   I also know that caring what people have thought has left me with devastating effects to my own detriment  and often in ways not seen with the naked eye.  So, I guess maybe this is just another situation where moderation is the key and too much is dangerous.  I’m not too proud to say that I just don’t know or understand that balance yet because I live in a constant state of fight or flight.  However, I’m beginning to understand exactly how far this issue permeates every part of my being.

Usually, I write and I get a noticeably uplifting release.  Tonight, however, I must say that the feeling is an all over heaviness on my heart, mind and body.  As a tear muscles its way through a tough, outer exterior, I am reminded at how very painful and yet cathartic these moments can be.

#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

#Thispuzzledlife

Back In The Saddle? We Think Not.

Back in the Saddle? We think not.

November 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

Circling The Drain

Circling the Drain

11.19.15

“Even in times of trauma, we try to maintain a sense of normality until we no longer can. That, my friends, is called surviving. Not healing. We never become whole again … we are survivors. If you are here today… you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it thru hell and are still standing? We bare a different name: warriors.”
― 
Lori Goodwin

The behavior they see is but a snowcap on top of a huge mountain of anguish.  They refuse to see the truth even when it’s partially revealed because it’s much easier to sift through and pick out the nicer parts of the story.  To most people, we should be walking around thanking God for such a beautiful day to experience life.  But to us…..it’s all about survival.  It always has been.  They ask us to see things through their eyes but refuse to even glance through ours.  Hell, the truth is that OUR truth would have most people retching at the sugar coated version.  Now, imagine living in it day after day….  Oh to outsiders, we should be so happy and grateful that we have a loving spouse, beautiful and healthy children.  To us….it’s still about  survival.

Many times we have heard, “Dana, all that happened a long time ago and it’s just water under the bridge.  Be thankful for what you do have because it could’ve been so much worse.”  “Oh, her father was mean like that to her too.” And to those that say that, I pity their ignorance.  If trauma was that easy to get over, therapists would be out of jobs.  The analogy about not being able to unbreak a plate couldn’t be any closer to the truth.  Some have also said, “Oh well I went through much worse than that and nothing’s wrong with me.”  My thoughts are, “Congrats have fun with that bucket of denial that nothing’s wrong.”  Some have even said, “Well, you’ve survived and aren’t living in it now.  So, now you can move on and enjoy your life.”  Let’s see…even if I make my pros and cons list about how grateful I am for things in my life I still have an overwhelming fear of food, active eating disorder, social anxiety, PTSD, stomach problems, digestive problems, suicidal/homicidal ideations almost daily, a 6 year degree that I can’t use, no memory, rage issues, problems driving, active self harm issues, a non-existent sex life, frequent switching all of which I cannot control and the biggest complaint I get is my attitude.

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 You see, when everyone is getting dressed for work, we get ready to battle our demons alone yet another day.  To the average person this looks like a lazy person who just doesn’t want to work and is another cause for the ever increasing issues of being a drain on society.  Truth is, they would have the barrel in their mouths much sooner.  When I was asked one time about having PTSD if I had served our country as a soldier in the war I simply replied, “I didn’t serve our country, but I’ve been fighting a war all of my life.”  People usually do the typical double take and look away.  Now, if just that made them uncomfortable what do you think they would do with the gory details or god forbid had to live it? Guess what? I relive each and every detail every day and night that I take a breath.  At times the memories have me hugging the toilet while waiting for the next wave of vomit to come rushing out of my mouth from the increasing anxiety that has my body feeling like it’s being ripped apart.  I would just like to state that any vomiting is not from my eating disorder as I despise the act. The migraine is pounding so hard that a sledgehammer is a welcoming thought.  The tears flow a constant stream as the voices scream their demeaning insults from as few as 10 years ago to as far back as 35 years ago.  All I want is for someone to come help rescue me but again it’s the familiar feel of having to fight on my own yet again with no guide.  Where is everyone?!  I panic but I shouldn’t because I’ve been here many times. I just want someone to make it STOP!!!!  And then another wave of vomit, that I had been anxiously awaiting, arrived.  I lay my head on the seat of the toilet and just begin sobbing and thinking, “When is enough, enough?”

#Thispuzzledlife

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

She Will Always Be Her Daddy’s Little Girl

“He sweeps her hair back from her ears; he swings her above his head. He says she is his émerveillement. He says he will never leave her, not in a million years.”
― Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

Call this a typical Father’s Day post, but you can’t call him a ‘typical’ father.  This man that I’m going to talk about is a man that he and his wife were and have been and continue to be diligent servants of their Heavenly Father.  As a result, in December of 1975, after a grueling 8 years of red tape and frequent hoop jumping their dreams of being parents and for him being a father came true.

This was a job that he rejoiced in and fully embraced through both tears and laughter.  Even though some of my childhood memories evade me these days, I can still smile at some of the memories I have of my father.  As a small child, he would often become a regular jumping and punching bag in exchange for instantaneous tickle torture moments.  There were also those times when he would take me on Saturday mornings on the lawnmower while he cut the grass only to have to stop to put his soon sleeping daughter in the bed.

During my younger and developing ball playing days, he would almost daily throw the ball with me in the front yard.  I must admit that before I developed control in my throwing he would frequently travel to the jungles of the azalea bushes to retrieve a wildly thrown ball.  He never complained but I think he secretly celebrated each time he didn’t accidentally stumble upon a water moccasin.  Yep, he feared those dreaded bushes.

When it came to basketball, well, he tried is about all I can say.  I think he mainly just wanted to make sure that there were no unneeded dents left in the vehicles.  The job of playing basketball was turned over to the neighborhood kids. Really?  You didn’t think I noticed?

When I hit my teen years, he prayed, like my mom, without ceasing.  My mother told me that once I became a teenager that something took over my mind and body that was not of God.  I cannot tell a lie.  If I asked my father that now he would very calmly say, “Why yes, sis, that might’ve been correct.”  Now you have to imagine that my father gets about as excited as a basset hound. And most of the time you need a cattle prod to check to make sure he’s still breathing.  Nope, it’s not a deformity, that I know of, it’s genetic.  He didn’t ever say a whole lot when I was younger. Now, he just claims that with 3 females in the house, he couldn’t get a word in.  All 3 of us were just hormonal as hell is the way I still see it.

dad

If there was a downfall, I would have to say that I didn’t learn to fix ANYTHING.  I know what a hammer is. Isn’t that good enough?  Granted, I was always playing with the neighborhood kids, but he was always fixin’ things or doing projects for or with momma. These days I just hope my wife can YouTube a video of how to do something and fix things.  I’m just not one to be able to fix things.  My job is to tell you when something doesn’t work.  And to provide motivation through entertainment.

He has seen me take some extremely difficult roads in life and has had to sit back and watch with tears in his eyes as his daughters were having to learn some heartbreaking lessons.  There have only been a handful of times that I’ve see him cry.  But, the tears I haven’t seen, I’m sure number in the millions and likewise the prayers.  He has watched me waste away from addiction and abuse and is currently seeing the severity of the effects of mental illness.  He also sees me continuing to battle my abusers through memories that can be paralyzing. He watches as I continue to move forward even if that is a crawl. With both he and my mom, there’s never a shortage of encouragement.

I can personally count on one hand the number of men that I consider “safe.” My #1 started with my father. I have never feared him in any way other than maybe another lecture on the power of positive thinking. He never drank, smoked, cussed, hollered, screamed or anything remotely aggressive in our house.  Heck, a basset hound doesn’t have the energy to do that. He taught me what love, honor and respect are all about. So, when I encountered some of my predators, my brain was seeing behavior that I couldn’t understand.  And it was at that time, that he held and comforted me as I cried about some of the evils of people and the world.

Everything that he has done for me cannot be conveyed in a post nor can the true emotions.  Even through just the little bit that I shared you can tell that he’s not my father.  He’s my DADDY!

#Thispuzzledlife

Gooood Morning, DID!!!!!

Goooooood Morning, DID!!!!

 “And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension.” 
 Ayrton Senna

“I’m still alive? Not again?  They will make fun of you. You’re a bad person that no one likes.  You haven’t amounted to anything. You’re a bad mother. You’re a bad wife. You’re wife says she likes you, but really doesn’t.  Someone is going to hurt you today.  Fear everything and trust no one. I’m not even sure my  son even loves me.  What if people know this about me?  They see my scars.  They know what I’m thinking. They’re watching me eat.  They are talking about me.  Someone is going to sneak up on me and hurt me.  He will get past the guards.  Someone will kill me.  Should we kill them first?  Are people talking about me again?  They say they love me but do they really?  We are going to be homeless. No one better touch any of my stuff and get it out of order.  Food is bad and makes people not like you.  Food scares me.  Why do I have to eat? How many people must we interact with today?  Everyone must remain as a united front of power and intimidation.  Don’t look for a fight but always be ready for one. Always watch everything around you.  Never ever let someone disrespect you without making them regret their decision. Stay loyal and help when needed.  Is something going to happen to my son?  What if someone tries to go to the daycare and kidnap him? Watch their movements and behavior.  They think I’m stupid but I’m not.  No one will ever believe me. They will die and leave me all alone.  When will they ever pay for what they’ve done? Why do I have to continue living like this while they Is everyone I love ok? What if something happens and I can’t get there to help?  What’s about to happen? Is the work worth the payoff?  Why do we continue to fight all of this?”

And now it’s time to start the day.  Gooood Morning, DID!!!!!!!

#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