The Party Of One (Poetry)

The Party of One

This was the day for 9 months that I longed to see

You were the one that was meant for me.

Instead I was thrown away and forever shunned

I began life solo as the little party of one.

 

I soon had a new mommy and daddy

To look at me I appeared very happy

And then the boys’ hands touched me and it was no fun

for the little girl was the party of one.

 

You were there to help educate our minds

not to tell us, “You’ll Never Be Anything!” time after time.

You lied and told them I was disrespectful and having fun

But the only party I was attending was the party you reserved for just one.

 

I took you as my husband and you took me as your wife

But what you had in store was not a beautiful life.

You monitored me daily who i saw; what I did and what I ate

All I did was develop more and more silent hate.

 

I did what you said but it was still my fault

Do you have any idea what lessons you taught?

You made me your dog and to you it was fun

If only they could see you brightly shining at this party of one.

 

I’ve tried and the answer is consistently…fail

I can’t make it as a friend, daughter or mom anywhere

along the trail.

I long to hear from you just one more time saying,

“I’m here and together we’ll prevail.”

But the grief is so heavy without you that I feel like I’m in hell.

 

I’ve wished for life to be anything but this

I’ve already fought so hard just to be here and for that I’m pissed.

You all stripped me of everything good and it’s seen everyone

And though we are many, we are still the Party of One.
By:  Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

The Lost Child (Poetry)

The Lost Child (Poetry)

People have seen me as feral

And needing to be whipped more as a child

One thing is for sure…..

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

 

A gentle giant came into her life,

And taught her fundamentals and the power of a

smile.

To never give up is how an athlete lives,

Direction received by a lost child.

 

You broke her down brick by brick until she was stripped

almost to zero.

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

that was looking for another hero.

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

How do you tame this child running wild?

 

Prince Charming is how he portrayed himself

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

For the bricks already torn down exposing her soul

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

 

Tears were seen as childish and weak

How do you hide that which hurts so deep?

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

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

 

Getting an education would lead to freedom they said.

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

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

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

very day.

 

Brave as she was most never knew

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

was finally through.

Back to the world and running wild

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Her passion she would do but not for long

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

Someone else she was becoming and started to resemble him

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

 

Two little boys would be the apples of their eyes

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

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

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

 

How could she possibly heal from so many quickly leaving?

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

painful grieving.

The decision was made to start completely over again

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

 

Her life became a floor surrounded by four walls

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

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

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

heart of a lost child.
By Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

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

The Long Drive Home

The Long Drive Home

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

of where you are going, change will occur.”

–Anonymous

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

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

tunnel

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

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

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

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

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

~Mary Anne Radmacher

#thispuzzledlife

Play Ball!!!!!

Play Ball!!!!!

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

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

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

players respond

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

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

fearless player

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

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Preparation Meets Opportunity

Preparation Meets Opportunity

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”

—Joe Paterno

As a athlete the one thing you always prepare for is Game Day.  Usually this means an opening tournament to kick off the season.  Nevertheless, there are those moments prior to this day that a coach cannot prepare you for.  This is time for you as an athlete to sit with yourself and to reflect on what you’ve been taught, thus far, and to prepare for the upcoming season.

My time was always spend inundating my brain with music prior to ballgames.  This was the time where I could not and would not be disturbed and with my focus becoming even clearer.  I thought about lessons I had already learned and the specifics about our upcoming opponents.  Some things were known about top players via scouting reports but there were a lot of unknowns.  What I did know, though, was that I was being coached by someone who had faith in me and my abilities regardless of my own confidence.  I also knew that I had a “team” that counted on me as much as I did on them.

The time that you take for yourself during these moments is one that might not be shared with the rest of the team and/or coaches.  You imagine yourself making plays and potential plays.  You think earnestly about what you’ve been taught about the game and more specifically “your game.”  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  And how are you as an individual player an asset to your team?

closer than i was

You reflect on how hard you’ve trained and those that have trained you.  My number one concern each year was not whether or not I had been coached effectively.  It was simply, how would I perform as a player.  The heart, guts and ability was there but when it came to “game time” how would I measure

up?  Would I give my all just to fail miserably due to opening day nerves and/or jitters?  Would I succeed but only at the level of average?

I wanted to be the best and the best was what my goal was.  In the rankings 2nd Place was first loser.  Life is not about how much fun you have playing the game.  And in life everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Life is about winning and losing.  Winning coaches don’t get fired. Top performing athletes don’t get traded.  Sorry but I just don’t buy into “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose” theory.  I was taught that winning does matter and as a athlete if that’s not your goal then why are you even trying or participating.  I do, however, understand that perfection isn’t possible even for the most talented athletes.  There are failures that occur that are also known as “lessons.”  These sometimes come with a high price but you will inevitably learn from them if you’re willing.

The last month I have been spending some much needed time preparing myself for a moment such as this.  I have looked back over the last 6 months since moving to Texas at the incredible struggles that still seem to have with no end in sight.  I have thought about lessons that I’ve already learned from “coach” and her willingness to be compassionate and consistent. I have shot looks in the direction of my demons that you give to an opposing team’s players and coaches when you pass them as they prepare for the same game.  The “stare down” is one that’s meant to size-up your opponent as well as to break them down through intimidation.  And lately, I have stared my demons in the face with a look of “soon, very soon we will meet.”

Without preparing for a season both mentally and physically the results would be less than a desirable outcome.  I’ve hoped and desperately wanted this opportunity that I’m about to have for some time now.  And honestly, even through reflection it’s difficult to imagine that I’ve finally been presented with this very opportunity.  The lessons already learned are some that have been very difficult and gut wrenching.  But now……my demons will answer to me.  Scared as I may still be to face them, I press forward in the battle for my life.  And with any “luck” I might just succeed.  Some say winning is about luck.  But I say that it’s about “Preparation Meets Opportunity.”

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

– Derek Jeter

#thispuzzledlife

The Healing Power of Strangers

The Healing Power of Strangers

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
― Rumi

Today was therapy day which was the first session since our big internal revelation about functioning as a team.  After some formalities in conversation we start our work with the our internal group all in one place.  Our protector stands at the plate with a serious, yet also playful, tone as the one who would take direction for the group.  Her blazing stare along with those of her “posse” is enough to cause hesitation and chills with many.  She stares at all members with an almost, “I dare you to step out of line” gaze.  “Coach” then directs her to address those most ostracized. She reluctantly begins to speak to these nicely as she’s told.  When asked what she thought she responds with, “those words tasted like vinegar rolling of my lips.”  The therapeutic point was eventually made, understood and internalize later in the session. And yes, we are still chewing on all of that.

The topics that I despise the most is food, eating and body image soon became the topic of conversation.  The correlations between this struggle and particular traumas were addressed.  And then came the topic about a specific food that I can almost never turn down….SUSHI!!!!!  The is an internally approved food but one in particular like to eat sushi like it’s the only “life force” for survival.  The protector is explained to about the importance of not being so rigid with food choices and abusive comments.  And of course when even internal children are around they pick up on things said by “coach” too.  The kids start shouting with excitement, “Chicken nuggets and ketchup packets…HOORAY!”  Then statements spoken are, “Can we have sushi tonight? Please!!!”  Rolling her eyes she sternly but calmly says, “No.”

We get our assignment for the coming week and I tell “coach” goodbye until next time.  I leave there nervous about the teen’s distaste and controlling nature about eating.  And our little natives were definitely restless.  Over and over I would hear, “Please let me have some sushi!!”  “Yea and chicken nuggets and candy too!!!!  And Ketchup!!!”  I knew that she wouldn’t tolerate much more but the  chants would not stop.  She tries to stay restrained but frustration leads to her snapping at those chanting, “Stop it!  Just stop it!  I said No!”  The children always seem to be protected from the majority of her abuse and they certainly know this.  A certain little 7 year-old says, “Coach says for you to not be an asshole.  And you’re being an asshole. I’m going to tell her!”  This, thankfully, seems to be the only bad word that he says but he can definitely use it liberally at times.  She huffs and puffs like she’s about to blow the house down and says through gritted teeth, “Fine go get some sushi then!”  Cheers ring out while she grumbles.

change your thoughts

We FINALLY settle on a place for the beloved sushi and make a B-Line for the restaurant.  Once there I have a couple of tokes of my medicine with the hope that I can head off the already rising anxiety.  I soon start to relax and get out of the car to watch the sushi piece-by-piece going to meet its maker.  I quickly notice different people in the restaurant and hope that no one can seem me.  Luckily, everyone’s attention seems to be on their own meal or conversation and they don’t notice me.  I fix my plate and then sit down at my table.  I start indulging in this little momentary slice of heaven.  Even when eating completely alone in my room I will start rocking while eating.  This doesn’t change when I’m in public.  It seems to ease the pain of the entire event.  I eat a couple of pieces and then the paranoia and anxiety explode with the thoughts, “This is bad!  This is bad!”  I put on my iPod to try to drown out the loud thoughts while continuing to rock.  I look at my plate scared to eat another piece.  My hands start shaking and I feel like I’m about to throw up.  I look at my plate again and think, “But sushi is an approved food what’s the problem?”  I realize the chaos is not from the protector but is coming from the one he married.  She feels the weight and the stabs of his words, “Look at yourself.  You eat like you’re in prison!  Everyone is watching you.  You disgust me!”

About 15 minutes has now gone by and the whole mood has now changed.  And then…..we make eye contact with another patron.  “Go! You’ve got to leave now because they just saw you”, I hear.  I quickly get up and try to exit the restaurant as quickly and as inconspicuous as possible. I go to pay for my meal and notice a bald woman, at the register,  who was obviously taking cancer treatments.  I’m thinking, “Ok just please hurry.”  I make small talk when it’s my turn to pay about how good the sushi was trying not to convey the difficulties of my recent struggle.  The employee says, “Oh you like sushi?  Sushi good for you.  You not here long.”  I say, “Yea, I’m kind of on a tight schedule.”  All I want is to be out that front door and away from food.

I start walking to my car when the bald woman whom I’ve never met says, “I can tell you struggle with being here.”  I try to blow it off and give a short answer so that I can move on.  “Yea I struggle with being in public and eating issues”, I tell her.  I keep walking to my target and she continues to follow closely beside me.  I keep thinking, “Please don’t say anything intrusive lady.  She is NOT in the mood.”  The lady boldly says, “Honey can I pray for you?”  Sirens go off internally by much more fierce protectors.  “No religion!  No religion!”  I freeze. I start looking for particles of fairy dust in the area and thinking, “Damn I must’ve overpaid her today or something.  How is this happening?”  I oblige her by saying, “Yes, please do.”  She prays specifically for my eating disorder issues and for some reason I know she means no harm.

I relax my guard a bit and we begin to talk briefly.  I find out that she moved to Texas from New York to take part in her own healing not related to the cancer.  After only a couple of minutes she says, “Honey, you’ve got to change to speaking healing in your words.”  Ok….I start looking around for “coach” thinking she has me on hidden camera.  Does this woman have a earpiece where “coach”  is telling her to say these things?  The whole moment seems surreal but comforting.  I told her, “You know I’ve been told those same things recently.”  She says, “No truer words.  You might want to listen.” I tell her goodbye and thank her again for her kindness.  I have no idea what her name was but something powerful had again happened at a time when I needed it.

I sit in my car for a few minutes trying to decipher everything that had just happened.  Why? I wonder.  She was a total stranger.  Why does she even care?  I get home a few minutes later with my fortune cookie still intact.  I always love to read my fortune even if it says, “Your ship will come in before your dock rots.”  This time I open the cookie up to have this written on the slip of paper, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.”  Wow…just…wow.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

—Aesop

#thispuzzledlife

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

“10-4 Control We’re 10-8”

“One single word – like EMERGENCY, or love – can

revise a whole night. A whole life.”    

 Alena Graedon

Several months ago I wrote a blog titled No Thanks Needed.  This was one call that I worked while in the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) field.  Let’s face it, no one calls for an ambulance or seeks out any helping professional because things are going great in their lives.  Likewise, I didn’t seek out counseling because functionality was my No. 1 attribute.  I began seeking counseling because I was being tormented though it was not voiced at the time.

The title of this post “10-4 Control We’re 10-8” I have said hundreds of times while working on the ambulance.  It simply means, “Yes we are enroute.”  I’m sure this varies from service to service depending on the differences in 10 codes and signal numbers nationwide but you get the general idea.  There is no possible way to do justice through words what working in this type of job carries physically, mentally, spiritually and just about any other area of a human being’s existence.

As a teenager, I had my heart set on being a police officer.  Then I determined that since I loved doing drugs that being a police officer was probably not the best option.  However,  I had the need and want to be in some type of helping profession.  At a young 20 years of age the thought of going to school 6 years for a counseling degree was nowhere near the table.  Finding out that I could go to EMT school for 6 months, however, was.  I was beyond excited and totally immersed myself in my studies and training.  My husband wasn’t real excited because the pay was extremely low in that career.  But for me there was a higher calling, the want and need to help people.

emt prayer

I studied myself silly those 6 months and learned everything I possibly could about this exciting field that I saw myself loving naturally.  We were told about different types of scenes that would be a high likelihood that we would encounter. However, nothing could ever prepare me for the things that I would actually see and experience.  In my personal life, though, the grasp of the evil hands of abuse seemed to become tighter and tighter.  He pretended to support my career decision but that’s all that it was….PRETEND.

In February 1997,  fresh out of EMT school and newly married I got my first truck assignment making a meager $4.95/hr with the local ambulance service.  I worked for an ALS (Advanced Life Support Service) which required that a paramedic to also be on the truck.  This meant that the drugs given and additional skills that would be required were higher than my scope of practice.  Some of these skills would include intubation, cardiac monitoring, starting IV’s, giving narcotics and various other skills that I as an EMT-Basic could not legally do.

Performing as an athlete required split second decisions but now it was not about winning ballgames it was about someone’s life.  Mistakes now had a much higher price tag.  The one thing I always tried to be as an EMT was humble.  There were those that had a very narcissistic view of their position and thought of themselves as a god.  This was not a stance of mere confidence but a stance that nauseated me to my core.  Most of the time I would see this in paramedics which we would then refer to them as “Paragods.”  Working alongside confidence rather than blatant narcissism was where you could really learn and working with confident paramedics I did learn.

We were taught in school about the importance of “self-care” while in this career that would be crucial to making it past the national burnout rate which, at that time, was only 5 years.  Included in the self-care education was the importance of EAP counseling after a bad call or mass casualty.  The daily stress of the job and the ongoing abuse at home ensured that I would never come close to that 5 year mark.  There are laws now that regulate the amount of hours that a crew can work without downtime but then apparently there weren’t. It was nothing to have to work 24, 36 or a 48 hour shift with very minimal sleep and/or food.  We were commonly called “Trauma Junkies” because it seemed the more horrific the scene the better as bad as that might sound.

trauma junkie

There were several “bad calls” that I experienced but only a couple where afterwards I went to a supervisor to request EAP services just like what was suggested.  What I was met with was the attitude of “if you can’t handle your job then you might need to consider another career.”  Not only that but then you have to face being ostracized by not only management but also the other medics in the company and seen as “less than” or “weak.”  So, really the only option was to “suck it up” and somehow separate mentally from the daily harsh reality of life.

Anyone who has ever worked in some form of EMS services understands that as a means of survival the job requires that emotions be put to the side and you function purely on logic.  But suppressing these emotions does not mean that emotions were not affected.  In this kind of career there is a lot of maladaptive behaviors that take to the forefront namely drug/alcohol addiction and a high rate of suicide.  Not surprising but nevertheless a reality.  I saw things and was involved in situations that the human brain has difficulty processing and accepting.

My husband’s opinion and others that I’ve spoken with at times posed the statement, “Well you chose the career” or “You have the easiest job on the planet.  All you do is sit on your ass in an air conditioned truck.”  Easiest job on the planet couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  It was one of the most dangerous and taxing jobs that one could possibly encounter.  The downtime that we would have sitting in the truck “posting” at a location was only due to other trucks being on calls and us covering their area.

I have always replied, “Well then who else was going to do the job?  You?”  That was always met with silence.

My husband, at the time, was a newspaper editor and well he didn’t and still doesn’t have a clue what that type of job entails.  I told him more than once, “If you can work on someone’s mother, father, grandmother, child or grandchild for them to still die even after your best efforts and then go home and lay your head on the pillow and sleep soundly doing this day in and day out then you’re not human. You’re a machine.”  The ability to function like this day in and day out requires a certain degree of callousness.  But make no mistake that those calls bothered me then and now.

walk a mile in our boots

For the last 21 years, I have run some of those same calls all day and all night like my career never ended.  The putrid smells of rotting flesh from week old dead bodies that had to be taken to the morgue I can again smell at random times throughout the day.  The smells of blood, fuel and mud/dirt from car wrecks.  The screams of mothers who I had to tell that their child was dead or wouldn’t survive due to the severity of their injuries.  The horrible images of abuse and/or neglect of children, adults and the elderly.  The smell and site of exposed brain matter from head injuries, suicides and or murders.  The individuals that died simply because you couldn’t get them out of the vehicle because the jaws of life were being used elsewhere and subsequently the vehicle caught fire and were burned alive.  The children that would look at you and ask, “Are you going to help my momma or daddy?” While knowing full well that their parent was already dead.  The decapitations that looked and felt like you were in a real live horror film. And the leftover pieces of meat that don’t even resemble a human body after being hit by a train consume my thoughts and emotions when most people lay down for a night’s rest.  It’s at these times, once again, that my shift starts on the once beloved career working on an ambulance.  I didn’t work several years.  I only worked one year on the ambulance until the abuse  at home combined with the daily trauma that I was exposed in this career caused me to buckle.  I saw enough in that one year to still have me waking up in the mornings with my face and shirt wet with sweat.

Without fail whenever I see or hear those lights and sirens, I instantly want to run and jump on the truck and ask, “Ok. What kind of call are we going to?”  Sometimes I’ll still listen to a local scanner to find out what’s going on throughout the city especially on a weekend.  I will also hear those very same words, “10-4 control we’re 10-8” and then the crew is given the next location for an additional call. It’s in those moments that I realize that EMS and the need and want to help people will always be a part of me.  And at night I realize that EMS is still a part of me.

One of the most powerful lessons that was taught to me through experience of working in EMS is to tell those that you care about that you love them even strangers because you might be the only one that speaks those words.  The last words you say might very well be the last words that are said.

“The most basic job of an EMT is to notice things and then wonder about them.”

–Thom Dick

#thispuzzledlife

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

Remembering The Day Half My Heart Got Wings

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

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

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

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

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

half heart

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

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

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

When I Think Of Death

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

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

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

valley of strange humors.

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

accept the death of anyone else.

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

country of no return.

Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in

its wake.

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

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

—-Maya Angelou

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

#thispuzzledlife

The 1-2 Punch

The 1-2 Punch

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

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

the journey.  Confusion is the hallmark of a transition.

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

–Anne Grant

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

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

trauma

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

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

Shame

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

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

inner children

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

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

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

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

–Dr. Brene Brown

#thispuzzledlife

The Magnitude Of Waves

The Magnitude of Waves

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

with the bricks others have thrown at him”

– David Brinkley

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

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

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

waves

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

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

The True Meaning of Sacrifice

“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success,

it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure,

and the temporary failures.”

–Vince Lombardi

Memorial Day is the day of the year where we celebrate and recognize the ultimate sacrifice given by those who served our country.  It’s not about the barbeques or all day swimming with friends and family.  The tumultuous times regarding the leadership and safety of our country is not only seen on major news channels but also witnessed within our own living rooms.  Our troops returning home have sacrificed the life of daily freedoms and modern conveniences to go fight to protect our freedoms.  Often times, though, when they return the true meaning and consequences of fighting a war now have redirected their once simple way of living by way of PTSD and all the complications that go along with it.

As I attempt to live this life with my own issues, I am often met by complete strangers who see my medical alert dog tag identifying PTSD as my condition.  They soon notice and sometimes question the many scars on my forearms.  They ask, “Were you in the military?  Did you go to fight the war?”  My response is always, “Ma’am/sir I didn’t fight or serve for our country.  But fighting a war I have done since I was a young child.”  It is at this point that the questions usually cease and their own uncomfortability surfaces not knowing what to say next.  And well….I usually let them marinate in their own thoughts without explanation.

epcot family

Today marks mine and Mel’s 11 year anniversary.  We don’t count our “legal” anniversary because well that was controlled by the laws of the land prior to that date.  Our marriage and family life has been one of sacrifice both individually and collectively since day one.  We have sacrificed relationships with both friends and family as a result of our love for one another.  And we have also sacrificed many parts (no pun intended) of our relationship as a direct result of my own personal traumas and the scars and open sores which they have left.

And yet again we find ourselves continuing to sacrifice our family cohesiveness and my time away from our children all in the hopes for better days ahead.  I can write clear headed for now and these are the times where I can see the importance of that sacrifice.  There are days recently where I’m blinded by the tragedy of those traumas and living life is not a priority in any fashion.  Sometimes, though, I seem to get sucked down into the ditch of a previous life when the only option was to survive or die.  The images of abusive memories soon become those not of the past but of the present.

Mel patiently and very lovingly makes sure the kids are taken care of and are safe and have some form of normalcy for them all.  The tears she silently cries I don’t know about now.  I’ve seen enough of her tears for me, our children and our family unit to last me the rest of my life.  She and the kids continue to heal their own wounds while I search for answers of my own.  She loves me but knows that this walk I’m on has come to a point where I have to do it without them.  The continuation of hope for a day when I will have been able to shed some of these layers of hurt and pain and to function as a happy and healthy member of our family seems to be in the back of her mind at all times.

There was no possible way for us to envision the what the term “sacrifice” would entail.  She and I both continue to watch and be a part of daily struggles regarding attachment, trust and bonding even with the most compassionate people. My absence for birthdays, kindergarten graduations and just daily life as a family can never be gotten back.  However, the days of being genuinely happy to be alive and to one day be able to be “fully present” for future events is all the justification we need to know that the right decision was made for me to move here to do this work.

The transition has been one that has not been easy in any sense of the word.  I brought therapy baggage that has complicated things in ways that I thought would be easy to ignore and work through.  What I’ve found is that that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is also when the words spoken by trusted coaches ring very loudly in my heart and soul which say, “Keep swinging the bat.  Keep shooting the ball because no athlete plays perfectly all the time.  And it’s these times when you have to keep going and try, try again until you achieve the results you want. It’s about hard work and never giving up.”

Happy Anniversary, Mel!!!

#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

Soul Murder

Soul Murder

“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.” 
― 
Louise O’NeillAsking For It

I have written and spoken several times about my life and domestic violence.  Under the umbrella of domestic violence are several forms such as:  physical abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse; economic deprivation; endangerment; criminal coercion; kidnapping; unlawful imprisonment; trespassing; harassment and sexual abuse.  I knew that several years after leaving him that something about our sex life continued to haunt me.  I didn’t know what it was called but I always knew what it felt like….SOUL MURDER.

In the conservative deep south, I was brought up like many children to “save yourself for your husband.”  This was not a tall order for me as sports was my number one priority.  I would meet him at the age of 17 which was 19 years his junior.  Naivety led me right into the cold awaiting arms of a predator disguised as “Prince Charming.”  He used the one promise that he knew I couldn’t refuse to set the hook and reel me in “I will help you find your birth family.”  Rolling off his silver tongue of manipulation would be the promises of a future with a man who would “treat me like his queen.”  But like most things that seem too good to be true his promises would turn out to be lies.

I guess what made this so confusing was that I NEVER saw my dad treat my mom with disrespect.  I was questioning the whole time, “This is what I saved myself for?”  He was my first and the guy that finally trusted in such an intimate fashion only to have that trust betrayed in a way that is still too difficult to handle emotionally.  I secretly wondered why I was never told about this side of marriage.  The truth despite his “brainwashing” justifications for his actions was that no this was not normal and healthy marriages do NOT consist of this type of dominating behavior.

soulmurder.jpg

Many years later while looking for answers regarding the strange, threatening and coercive nature especially with the passages of the Bible about how a “woman is to submit to her husband,” I came across the term Marital Rape and I knew instantly that this was what had happened.  The term marital rape describes “any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse that is committed without the other person’s consent. Such illegal sexual activity are done using force, threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. The sexual acts include intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behavior with other individuals, and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted. It is also known as spousal rape” (https://definitions.uslegal.com/m/marital-rape/, 2018).

I personally have not been able to make sense of such an intimate form of betrayal.  This type of violence destroys you from the inside out.  Remembering how scared I was as a young child when the first time I was introduced to sexual abuse the rules of these types of scenarios were still very clear.  The easiest and least painful way to get through the moment was to give in to their demands.  If you try to fight them the abuse gets worse.  If you don’t “perform” for them the abuse gets worse.  And as I was told many times, “What are YOU going to tell them Dana?  You’re the “head case” with the mental history, not me.”  The puppet master continued to pull the strings to make sure that his needs and only his needs were met.

leftovers

Even as I write this the nausea bubbling like a pot on a stove builds its way to the back of my throat as I think about and remember the vile ways that I was treated as property rather than as a human being. I was not a wife but rather a legal whore.  Being told what I was going to do for him and then berated with humiliating and very damaging body image comments afterwards just seems to further rake into your soul with the devil’s claw.  Consensual loving sex is not…

  • Forced sex. This should be obvious. But some men have the mistaken idea that marriage changes the rules. It doesn’t. If a husband holds his wife down, pushes her, or imposes sex by hurting her, it’s rape. Making love doesn’t include making someone cry.
  • Sex when the wife feels threatened. If a husband forces sex through verbal threats of harm to the woman or to people or things she cares about or if he comes to her in a barely contained rage, she can’t consent. She can only comply rather than risk being harmed either physically or emotionally.
  • Sex by manipulation. If a husband calls his wife names, accuses her of not being a good wife, or blackmails her emotionally by suggesting she’s so bad in bed that he will go elsewhere, he’s manipulating her. Some men even threaten to leave and take the kids with him if their wives don’t comply with demands for sex. When a wife falls for these tactics, it isn’t consent. It’s rape.
  • Sex when the wife can’t give consent. Loving sex is genuinely consensual. If a woman is drugged, asleep, intoxicated or unconscious, she obviously can’t give consent. Even if she says “yes” in such circumstances, the “consent” isn’t valid or truthful. She’s in no shape to consider the consequences or to participate as a willing partner.
  • Sex by taking a woman hostage. Some men keep themselves in a position of superiority by controlling all the money, by making contact with friends and family difficult to impossible, or by making sure there is no way for her to get transportation out of the house. The woman becomes a hostage in her own home. Like many hostages, she gives up and gives in to whatever he wants — including sex.
  • Sex when the woman feels she has no choice. Giving in isn’t the same as giving consent. When a woman feels that it’s just easier to give in to sex than to respect her own needs, she is being raped (https://psychcentral.com/lib/marital-rape/, 2016).

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SUCH BEHAVIORS INCLUDE:

  • Short-term psychological effects include PTSD, anxiety, shock, intense fear, depression and suicidal ideation.
  • Long-term psychological effects include disordered sleeping, disordered eating, depression, intimacy problems, negative self-images, and sexual dysfunction (https://vawnet.org/material/marital-rape-new-research-and-directions, 2018).

COMMON WAYS THAT ABUSERS AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT

  • Denial: Acting as if nothing out of the ordinary happened, boldly stating that it didn’t happen, calling you crazy for saying that it did, saying he doesn’t remember.
  • Rationalization: “You must have wanted it” “You could have stopped me,” “A husband is entitled to it”; Rationalization is also blaming you: ” If you gave me more sex I wouldn’t have to force you”
  • Minimization: I didn’t really hurt you” “You’re making a fuss about nothing” “I just wanted to make love to you.”
  • Claiming Loss of Control: “I was too turned on to stop”, “You make me so angry” (https://pandys.org/articles/partnerrapeoverview.html, 2009).

To say that I’ve lacked a fulfilling intimate sex life would be the understatement of my life.  The level of fear that I experience even with the most supportive relationship cannot accurately be described with words.  Whether it be child alters, teen alters or adult alters who step in to try and make this very part of my life possible, it always becomes a disaster.  Oh and the mood gets squashed when you think, “Finally, I can do this!” But, yet, you find yourself running from the bedroom straight to the bathroom to vomit.

What I can say about this type of abuse over many years is this….

He not only raped my body, he also raped my mind and murdered my soul.  I was very fortunate to meet someone like Mel who is one of the most caring, understanding and compassionate people I know.  Our relationship has always been based on love and not sex.  I married someone who loves me for the shattered and leftover parts of someone who use to be a fully functioning human being.  It took me loving and bowing down to a monster to be able to recognize an angel.  She and I walk hand-in-hand often with tears in both of our eyes trying to find a way through all the destruction.  She didn’t ask to be married to a spouse with so many complex problems both physically and mentally.  She does it because she loves me.  Would I go through it all again just to have her?  I go through it every day.  The abuse has never stopped.

“Here, from her ashes you lay. A broken girl so lost in despondency that you know that even if she does find her way out of this labyrinth in hell, that she will never see, feel, taste, or touch life the same again.”
― 
Amanda SteeleThe Cliff

#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

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

“An abuser can seem emotionally needy. You can get caught in a trap of catering to him, trying to fill a bottomless pit. But he’s not so much needy as entitled, so no matter how much you give him, it will never be enough. He will just keep coming up with more demands because he believes his needs are your responsibility, until you feel drained down to nothing.”

― Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

In my seemingly unending quest for answers about my past and present, I’m constantly trying to make connections about my current belief system, every day decision making, the tears, jokes and, yes, even the smiles and laughter.  What I’ve slowly learned about the effects of abuse is that no matter what form of abuse was carried out, your belief system about yourself and the world around you will inevitably be changed.  I had very little physical abuse but i was subjected to emotional and sexual abuse.

Narcissism seems to be a common thread among abusers.  They are their own God but most of all they make themselves your God.  The only way I  learned how to deal with them is by stroking their enormous egos.  Today being around someone that makes even a narcissistic comment will usually trigger some type of a knee jerk reaction from me.  Usually, it just ensures that you bought some form of argument with me at a sale price.  I can’t stand it and it infuriates me.  Even a person with a big personality triggers me.  Depending on which alter is triggered, I’ll either be very aggressive or I’ll “cow tow” and avoid eye contact.  Either way socially both are very problematic.

People sometimes seem to think that if you don’t have black eyes and broken bones that abuse couldn’t have possibly happened.  What they don’t understand is that there are gaping wounds unseen by the naked eye that are looking back at them.  As the partner your job is trying to help the abuser to cover their own tracks.  And making continuous attempts at achieving their unattainable requests and demands.  You become convinced over time that everything in the world that goes wrong must have some connection to you.  His beliefs were the only ones that were right and your beliefs are now non-existent because they were seen as wrong and stupid.

One of the most hurtful comments I’ve heard about domestic violence of any kind is “Well he only did what you allowed him to do.”  This insinuates that in some sick way I enjoyed or was ok with  the things that I was being subjected to.  This couldn’t be any farther from the truth.  Some say that individuals who are narcissistic abusers lack the capacity to empathize.  Personally, I think they can empathize but it’s with the ultimate goal of manipulation in the form of pseudo-empathy. The abuse creates trauma bonding with the abuser which makes it incredibly difficult for the partner to leave the increasingly abusive relationship.

puppetgirl

The relationship pretty much consisted of my husband pretending through intense involvement and idealization which was quickly followed by devaluing.  However, instead of discarding me when he was finished he would begin telling me everything I did that was wrong including myself for just existing. He would begin luring me back with his silver tongue of promises and things that I could do to make sure that never happened again.  Once the idealistic narcissist has gotten their partner to commit, yet again, to the relationship the true self of the narcissist re-emerges.

First the belittling comments begin which then escalate to a narcissistic rage.  Their feelings of inadequacy which are at the heart of the narcissist will then be projected onto the partner.  And soon once the narcissist makes a mistake it then is transferred the partner as their fault.  They also use manipulative abuse that leads their victims to questioning their own thoughts and behaviors.  I was subjected to public humiliation when he would say something that seemed benign to the public but is very offensive to the me.  He does this because he enjoyed the emotional reaction that it would provoke in all parties.  Ultimately, the narcissist takes no responsibility for any relationship difficulties and shows no feelings of remorse.  And then they believe themselves to be the true victim because their partner could not meet their expectations. The path of destruction this leaves within the psyche of the partner is colossal.

As every single day that I continue to try and recover from a total of 14 years of his abuse, my heart hurts for the woman who loved so hard that it nearly killed her.  And now instead of exuding confidence she exudes fear, shame in her tears and the feeling that her soul is already dead.  After all when she use to try to speak to him about her reoccurring depression he would say with laughter, “Depressed?  What do you, of all people, need to be depressed about?  You have it made living with me.  For the love of God, Dana, get off the cross cause someone else needs the wood.”  Comments like this all the time left me fearing my own tears that I couldn’t control falling many times.  I felt guilty for always being depressed.   And above all, I felt guilty for thinking that he was in any small way disrespectful towards me.  Because I believed that it was ME that made him act and react the way he did.  He couldn’t possibly be telling me lies about this because I was the dumb one who couldn’t see to get things right.

Crying which works as a medication to cleanse the soul has never done me any favors with abusive people.  It always made the abuse that much worse because now you are seen as weak.  I learned not to cry and didn’t for many years. Those tears seemed to go away but only to the inside where I felt completely alone but comforted. But, I did cry to my razors.  And they were the ones that were the most non-judgmental.  Living with and being abused by a narcissist I learned one thing….They don’t have time to consider your feelings because they’re too busy trying to make sure that you’re taking care of their feelings.  And in essence they can’t see the beauty of a person because they’re always looking for what’s wrong with them.  I have heard people say,  “Well at least he didn’t break anything on you.”  Shamefully and secretly I have thought, “He didn’t have to raise his hand to break me. He was my puppet master.”

#thispuzzledlife

Tears That Still Drip Sore

Tears That Still Drip Sore

“A pattern of raised crisscrossed scars, some old and white, others more

recent in various shades of pink and red. Exposing the stress

of the structure underneath its paint”
― Amy Efaw, After

Sometimes the material and subsequent titles for these blog posts come from out of nowhere.  I begin writing and then sometimes I just watch as the words are typed. I’m sort of multi-talented like that at times.  Stand in the way of children and teens while they’re attempting to have their input on a blog and well…..it’s just not worth the frustration.  Anyway, this is a topic that, literally, continues to resurface.  As an angry teen, I thought that I had found something that could help me somewhat contain the intense aggression that seemed to be so foreign and scary.  And just like the drug that seems to come along a the perfect weak moment to sweep you off your feet and directly into a marriage with it so, did my razors.

Since the day we met I haven’t found another chemical or behavior that has launched such a false sense of safety and control for me.  Yes I have seemingly have a continuous love affair with eating disorders.  Self-harm just seems to be in a category of its own that nothing else can touch.  I had no idea what this behavior was called but I knew what it did for me.  IT just seemed to let the air out of the balloon.  Somehow I just seemed to find balance if for that brief moment. Then the shaming comments made by teachers, administration, doctors, friends and family seemed to little bit of sparkle that I had told no one  about  began to disappear.  Some of the worst shaming I’ve ever faced is by those in the medical community.  After only my second trip to the local emergency room, as a minor, it would be my last.  It was a horrible experience with an uneducated and very judgmental doctor.  So even today when I should go to the emergency room, it would take the entire Texas National Guard or me being unconscious to get me there.  This is why a lot of us have suffered in the dark.  The freedom to openly discuss this topic has never been well received.

child window

Where the scars are embarrassing at times because of the questions asked and assumptions made.  In the words of Plumb’s song CUT“…the only anesthetic that helps me feel anything kills inside.”  This behavior is one that was typical of some type of anger or depression.  However, now, I can have this compulsion even on “ok” days.  The types of emotions that seem to trigger these thoughts are all encompassing.  Even in graduate school between classes I would have to go to my vehicle to be able to cut to make my brain settle enough to go to another class.

I begin to feel a very strong paranoia followed by a tsunami of emotion in my gut about something I can’t identify.  You try to do what they say to but my feel my face get hot and the voices and sounds begin disappear.  I use to see this religiosity of the behavior carried out many times without the fear of feeling the pain.  Now, I see and feel nothing.  She uses it not as a soothing tool but rather her “cat-o-nine-tails” as her way to enforce her discipline.  And this is her way to hold everyone inside hostage from speaking truth.  Her raw power and emotion have kept us safe for many years.  Her extreme paranoia and impulsiveness continues to wreak havoc and destroy even with good intentions.

solitary

She doesn’t understand how to view the world as an adult.  She continues to live life and view the world like the one she was created in….FEAR AND CHAOS.  Don’t hurt her because she’s incredibly sensitive.  But she’ll be the very one to push you as far away as you’ll let her just so she doesn’t have to feel the pain of losing someone else that she’s deeply connected.  To be that angry every day takes a lot of energy.  I’m scared of her every moment of every day.  I don’t take the comedic moments for granted as I completely understand Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and her capabilities.

The next episode I’m able to open my eyes and continue breathing once again.  As with any other addiction though, there’s always a bullet with our names on it that we continue to dodge until we can’t.  And then….a new statistic emerges for various types of studies done on mental illness.  It was done out of love and compassion she thinks.  And into the arms of love and compassion she can finally retreat.  No more scars.  .

And at the very last second the hands and shoulders of compassion are extended.  This war torn mind and body slowly begins to trust enough to step off into some pain.  Instead of the vision of  hatred thought by many, there’s a kid silently crying all alone desperately wanting  help. But striking out at anything that moves be it good or bad. SILENCE HURTS.

#thispuzzledlife

What Is The Primal Wound?

What is the Primal Wound?

“…Being separated from their birth mothers and handed over to strangers in the adoption process is the only trauma where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful…”

Nancy Verrier, The Primal Wound

Even as a young child my parents can tell you that I was a very inquisitive.  I was also the child that questioned EVERYTHING.  There was no accepting because someone said to.  I had to know the “whys.”  This has often led to difficult roads and battle wounds as a result.  As an adult with a very difficult diagnosis to comprehend much less to ask someone else to understand, I still question everything.  Maybe it’s normal to question these things.  Keep in mind that I function most of the time as a “teenager with an attitude” and you know how much ego, time and energy that requires. Sometimes it’s just like having annoying bags of hell that can suck the life out of everything it touches including my body attached to me like appendages.  But sometimes the internal conversations are better than any comedy routine I’ve ever witnessed including the questions.

I question every person’s motives, practitioners, governments, my adoption, abusive behaviors and, yes, I still question my diagnosis A LOT!  Being on disability, currently, allows me time to search for answers about my puzzled life.  As you’ve read throughout my blog, my connection to adoption and why it’s so painful for me has led me to some obsessive days and nights searching online for something to explain the pain in my soul that I’ve never been able to accurately paint a picture of with words.

On an Attachment and Parenting blog, one adoptive parent is quoted as saying….

 “Scientific research now reveals that as early as the second trimester, the human fetus is capable of auditory processing and in fact, is capable of processing rejection in utero. In addition to the rejection and abandonment felt by the newborn adoptee or any age adoptee for that matter, it must be recognized that the far greater trauma often times occurs in the way in which the mind and body system of the newborn is incapable of processing the loss of the biological figure. Far beyond any cognitive awareness, this experience is stored deep within the cells of the body, routinely leading to states of anxiety and depression for the adopted child later in life.”

adopted-trauma

I now have a simple explanation for the type of feelings that can destroy me to deal with.  The rejection and separation process can still be felt deeper than any other sensation I’ve personally felt.  These words gave me an instant reaction and all internal members on guard and children/teens to safety.   I realize that the intensity felt by other adoptees is on a continuum of variance.  The intensity I feel today is the same intensity I felt as a infant, child and teen.  And as an adult, it can still be very crippling as the loss is for both me and my birth mom is extremely powerful.

In Nancy Verrier’s book The Primal Wound:  Understanding the Adopted Child, 1993, she describes the Primal Wound Theory by saying, ” that develops when a mother and child are separated by adoption shortly after childbirth. It describes the mother and child as having a vital connected relationship which is physical, psychological and physiological, and examines the effects of disrupting such bonds.”  I still haven’t been able to read that book because of how much the topic really disturbs me.  The Nature vs. Nurture debate is another avenue in continuous research.  I see myself both sides of the debate which as people we are a constantly evolving through that very mixture.

primal wound.jpg

 As an adopted child, I needed and wanted to find parts of my identity.  I was always the kid that looked nothing like my parents but I did have some behavioral traits.  I was raised around some comedy goodness with both my daddy and Nannie.  Their individual humor is enough to sit and tell stories for several hours.  My environmental and social interactions helped to shape beliefs both about myself and other people.  There’s a much longer discussion for that debate.  Genetically, my skin color, facial characteristics, bone structure, eye color, etc. is the Nature side of the debate. The debate often centers around the effect genetics have on human personalities as opposed to the influences that environment and development might have.  So you can see that this will probably on for infiniti + infiniti.

As a developing child, not being able to look in the stands at my ballgames or in a crowd at the mall and not see anyone that I looked like was torture.  I love my adoptive parents no less.  Unless you’re an adopted child with this strong need to just know “why” you can’t understand the obsession.  At major life events birthdays, weddings, graduations, birth of a child, etc. while I tried to enjoy everything in the moment, I couldn’t help but to feel the loss for people who I originally belonged to.  This has also been a big source of guilt and shame from just wanting to know.

My parents were always very supportive in my efforts to find my answers and truth about this situation.  My birth mom, father, full brother, aunts, uncles, paternal grandmother, half brothers, half sisters, step-mom and some cousins eventually met but not on the same turf.  As an adopted child, I had to accept prior to going to meet them all that I would be rejected again.  This time the rejection would be felt as an adult.  I needed that one-on-one time with my mom to ask her the “whys” that continue to haunt me after my answers were received.  But, first, the willingness to feel that incredible lifelong wound gaped open even further if the universe saw fit and it did.  Not the Lifetime ending I was looking for.

What I have done to deal with this wound in the past was to shove anything I could into that big, dark hole in my soul.  I poured alcohol, pills, razors, purging, restricting, perfectionism in certain areas, people pleasing, etc. into this insatiable appetite for something only she could fill.  I guess we can just call this particular therapy topic a work in progress.  And maybe, in time, with COACH by my side, I’ll attain some resolve and peace.  The whole purpose for moving to Texas was to get some healing.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

#thispuzzledlife

Two Cats That Changed The World

Two Cats That Changed the World

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France

I’ve written about some of the funny interactions between me and animals namely the Angry Birds of Albuquerque.  And I’ve probably mentioned, at some point, my cats Simba and Nalla in passing.  But what I would like to share is how two cats changed one part of this big world….MINE.  They changed me through their unconditional love.

In June 2000 I was working at a local vet clinic in the Hattiesburg, MS area.  Specifically, I was over the adoption center they had there.  I would take in puppies and kittens and find homes for them.  There was a lot of work that went into that job but I loved working with the animals.  This became a place of catharsis that was a nice break from the daily emotional abuse of my marriage.

One day a gentleman walked in with a box and inside it were two little kittens barely a week old.  He told me that the momma cat was killed attempting to move these little kittens across the road.  We typically didn’t take animals this young so, I took them on as a personal project.  From that day forward that box and those two kittens went everywhere I did.

My days and nights included bottles every two hours for these little beings.  I hungered to be a mother but deep in my soul I knew that bringing a baby into that volatile situation was not smart.  And these kittens were filling that void for the time being.  During some of those long nights and sleep deprivation I said to them, “Six weeks and you will be finding a new home.”  Tube feeding, bottles, antibiotics and ringworm later and six week old playful kittens would be taken in that same box to the adoption center.

I made their cage extra special and comfortable.  These cats would be going to their new home together as the loving sisters that they were.  I watched every visitor to see if they were interested in these cats.  I was going to interview anyone who was interested with a fine tooth comb.  Secretly, I hoped no one wanted them because somehow I had formed a connection that I never thought possible. No one came in and met my unachievable standards for these cats.  So…..they came home with me where they would live out the next 15-16 years.

 

I would find solace in these cats that had no expectations of me.  They loved me unconditionally and new when the perfect time was to want to cuddle.  Always on their terms of course.  If I cried in silence as I usually do, they could hear me from any dark clothes draw, closet or clothes basket in the house.  They came running and meowing almost as if saying, “Momma let us love you.”  I could be having a true snot crying moment and as long as they were in my lap or touching me somehow they were my own personal sponge to absorb my tears and often heavy emotions.

 Simba and Nalla would become the original “Battle Buddies” our fight to survive abuse both physically and emotionally.  The emotional and psychological abuse from my husband and brother-in-law could be intense and dangerous.  Somehow, though, as long as Simba and Nalla were there I seemed to be engulfed in a bubble that no abuse could reach at least for that moment.  This seemed to be that extra bit of protection that I used to my advantage.  As long as they were determined to be by my side, I was determined to one day find a way out.  That day would eventually come.

There were nights when he would angrily get up with a belt and going into the room where all my animals slept and began hitting anything in his path.  My cats were terrified of his anger just like I was.  He would hit torment them with a broom which they never get over.  As much as I wanted to protect them, it was just too dangerous, for both me and them, to intervene.

My and “my girls” eventually left that relationship with PTSD intertwining our emotions and thoughts.  I would take them into my relationship with Melody with all of our scars both visible and unseen attached.  Anytime one of us had to use a broom to clean Simba and Nalla would run for cover.  And loud noises and even mild arguments and you would find them tucked away in whatever haven of safety they could find nearby.

My girls were quirky as hell just like me.   The ultimate form of loyalty I experienced with them and it was beautiful to say the least.  A couple of years ago I walked into our living room in Albuquerque to find Nalla, our black and white, overweight kitty sometimes called our “Gateway Kitty,” rolling around on the floor in obvious pain.  I looked into her eyes and knew that she was suffering in a way that was not visible.  We made eye contact and a feeling from her that said, “You know what to do. Please stop my suffering.”  I’ve always told pet owners that when it’s time to put a family pet down you would just somehow know.

This was the day that I had feared since they were very young kittens.  My heart was breaking for this beautiful creature that through love had propelled me to safety.  The years of intense love for both she and her sister was now gathering for this one moment.  With tears streaming down my face and Mel looking on I said, “Get the laundry basket comfortable for her….It’s time.”  Trying to comfort Nalla knowing that I really couldn’t physically she seemed to know that my heart was breaking.  I kept looking into her eyes needing the reassurance that what I was doing was the right thing.  And she looked back at me as if to say, “It’s ok.”

Simba was meowing not really knowing where Nalla was going.  She went to her place of solace which was a pillow next to mine on my bed where she slept every night.  The ride to the vet was one of the longest rides I had ever taken.  My heart was breaking even if the right decision was being made.

I handed the laundry basket with one of my best friends in it to the tech.  With tears falling I kissed Nalla and told her that I loved her.  A few minutes later I would receive the her collar with the bell on it.  A couple of weeks later I would receive her ashes.  Simba seemed lost but still tried to comfort me at all costs.  Somehow a the survival of an era seemed to be coming to an end.

Exactly one year to the week I would go through the same process with Simba my grey and white tabby.  It was like their job had been done and it was time for me to fly on my own.  These beautiful animals were with me through a horrible time in my life.  They expected nothing other than treats and junk food.  There job, as they saw it, was to be with me in whatever way needed or possible.  And through their undying compassion I was beginning to heal.  Those two little kittens were more than  house decoration.  They changed my world.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

–Martin Buber

#thispuzzledlife

And Then I Saw Her…..

And Then I Saw Her….

“I instinctually began as a wee life longing for the warmth and protection of my birth mother to survive. The umbilical cord was physically severed, but the esoteric spiritual connection that bound me to my birth mother was heightened by our unnatural separation.”

—Unknown

I clicked as I randomly do on Facebook looking for my biological brothers since losing contact with them a several years ago.  Yay!!! I found two of them.  I begin looking through their pictures seeing what their lives had evolved.  We all looked older for sure.  We had mostly more gray hair, added weight and children.  I begin looking for my only full biological brother throughout the pictures and friends lists.  I finally saw a picture of him and instantly felt my heart and stomach become full of emotion.  Oh my God Dana quit being so sappy! I hear very suddenly from very close to me.  I choked it back thinking…ok that was childish.  And then I saw her……

I saw pictures of my birth mom and I froze.  My heart seemed to just stop and for a moment nothing existed not even me.  I felt a wave of hot and cold go from head to toe.  I felt nausea and  a sudden dump of bubbling acid in my stomach.  And soon the mixture of emotions began to drip faster and faster out of my eyes until now there was a continual stream of tears that followed my jaw line down to my chin before quickly dripping into my lap.  I didn’t think I felt anything but someone did and it was incredibly painful.  The children that long for her also fear her.  The fear that again rejection and subsequent separation would be felt in its entirety.

The more I looked through the pictures the more I was getting a good look at myself only 16 years my senior.  I crumbled seeing parts of my identity by way of genetic code form a picture similar to myself.  I wanted to run to her.  I wanted to reach out and say, “Mom it’s me, Dana!  Meet my family.  Love me PLEASE!”  No sooner did the thought happen that another quickly followed, “Run she’s dangerous!! No I want to stay!  Don’t take me away! I want to stay!”  My heart breaks as the little baby who’s incessant crying ceases, if only for seconds, until the pain of the separation is felt once more at full force.

My chest instantly feels with pain and I fear that I might vomit.  My brain is on complete overdrive.  I begin to panic.  I needed to physically go.  I didn’t know where. I just had to go.  My back needing another surgery and in much pain made it impossible to get up and anywhere.  Internal conversations were not exactly conversations.  They were orders being barked in order to keep everyone safe.  WHAT THE HELL IS THIS???!!!!  GET THAT BABY AND RUN! LOCK THIS SHIT DOWN NOW! GET THOSE KIDS TO SAFETY!!! Even in her rage against us all her voice began to shake.

There they were almost on cue.  The faces, the voices, the monsters had come back to say, I wouldn’t have kept you either!  No wonder she didn’t want you.  She knew you were crazy that’s why.  You’re trash and always will be.  Just think, Dana, she was the one that gave you away.  Even the angry one was for once speechless.  Tears began to slowly fall from her angry and very deeply hurt eyes as well.

The confusion of how I think I must feel versus how I actually feel has become an all out war.  There are no answers only guilt and shame.  The fear I had been feeling about something bad going to happen was now in my face.  And like a wall of water I slowly begin to drown in my own red tears.  I begin fiercely dog paddling to stay afloat as I do most times.  But this pain is unlike any other.  This colicky adult child hungers and cries for the very thing that can soothe just out of reach.  As I dry tears that run red, I also witness those of a child who can’t be comforted.  And I’m quickly reminded…Remember the last time you cried about this you were made fun of and weren’t heard.  We all got hurt.  

“A baby is born with a need to be loved—and never outgrows it.”

—Unknown

#thispuzzledlife

The Thunder Rolls

The Thunder Rolls

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated.

When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally

heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears

the screams healing can begin.”

― Danielle Bernock, Emerging with Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, and the Love That Heals

And this…..11:45 pm and it all slowly stars to descend upon me like a searing napalm death throughout my mind and body.  Each night it is the same familiar torment by way of body memories and flashbacks.  The same ambulance calls of 20 years prior.  The same horrific scenes, smells and sounds from former abusive relationships.  The pounding words and actions of an adult’s abuse of power that scared the young teen so bad that now all that’s left of her is RAGE, and ironically, lots of jokes and laughter.  The agonizing physical and emotional separation from the one who only became the vehicle, by which, that baby would enter the world still, somehow an inconvenience just for being born.  All of this in a sense of organized confusion that’s been set on continual repeat.

I feel something changing in my soul that’s not comforting but more evil.  Physically, all “systems” (no pun intended), were on some type of “Red Alert.”  The wave of fear that also spreads systemically is met by a cold shiver all the way down my spine.  As if I were in a standoff with my demons, I look it in the eye as if to say, “We Meet Again.”  I felt like I was looking into the eyes of the devil himself.  I was frozen with the fear of another night of flashbacks. I don’t move only to be enveloped by the sequential events that unfold every….single…night, and unfortunately, a lot of days.  The torturous movie reel and flashes of scenes from another time and place would remind me of where and how I have both failed and survived.

energy.jpg

The humiliation and dehumanizing mind games I still seem to wear as clothing in my own little crazy haven of distorted safety and love.  The sting of being a verbal punching bag as some kind of demented sport riddles me like Swiss cheese.  I don’t care if I die, I just want it to stop I repeatedly think.  Suicide seems like a viable option until I imagine the tear filled eyes of my children and wife.  You “white knuckle” these nights that are long and dark. Someone please stop this haunted fair ride you scream silently from deep within.  Teens and adults worn down by years of this daily torment has left its mark on even the youngest of alters.  The fierce guardians with a “no one goes in and no one comes out” stance leaves this community trapped by its on members.  Only for those screams to silently falls on deaf ears once more.

Just before you cash in your chips and just fall where you once stood you hear from the dark recesses of your mind you remember……

“And one day when you’re scared and unsure of what to do….Pick the direction and just do the next right thing.  You deserve the answers that are rightfully yours.  And when you find them protect your heart.”

“Look at me and we’ll do this together, Charlie.  What you do affects your entire team.  Your team need you now!  Dig deep and come on! And when you want to give up you just DONT.”

“Everything in life is a gift.  It may not come with pretty wrapping

 and a nice bow.  But it’s still a gift.

“Feel your feelings and be safe.”

“Do not react when you are in your emotional mind. Find something to be used as a distraction.  If you don’t have a train get creative.  View your situation without judgment.”

Because some nights require your sharpest tools for immediate recall to use at a moment’s notice.  Your mind and body has been trying to return to some form of homeostasis but the shaking continues.  Your shirt damp with sweat need the help of a cold wash cloth to help with grounding.  Some of images are now like dissipating like lightening from a summer storm.  Your chest tight with anxiety very slowly starts to lessen.  Another night of battle complete with me standing but tattered. Another night that your demons think that they win.  And my response this very night was, “Oh you thought you won?!!!  Watch this!!!!”  Again I made it because I have the heart of a champion.  “Charlie…you played your heart out tonight and made your team proud.  Now take a rest.”

You catch a glimpse of the sun slowly beginning to emerge from the darkness.   This very moment is what they told us to continue to fight for….another day to do something different.

#thispuzzledlife

He Was More Than A Coach

He Was More Than a Coach

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

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

—- Vince Lombardi

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

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

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

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

Coach Nick

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

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

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

charlie hustle

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

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

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

nick's boys

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

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

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

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

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

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

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

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

IMG_0015

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

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

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

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

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

finding myself

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

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

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

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

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

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

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

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

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

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.

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For The Bible Tells Me So…

For the Bible Tells Me So…

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

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

—-Anonymous

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

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

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

sharkfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pain changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s Not About The Food

It’s Not About The Food

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

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

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

–Mary Pipher

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

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

skinny back

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

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

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

scales

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

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

scales attached

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

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

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

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Tears Of A Mother’s Heart

The Tears of a Mother’s Heart

“There is no greater burden or torture in this life than for

a mother to live without one or more of her children.”

—A Bed for My Heart

In this blog entry, I’m going to talk about something very near and dear to my heart.  I’ll talk about the unsolved mystery of a classmate of mine named Angela Freeman.  At Petal High School in the small town of Petal, Mississippi most of us had grown up with each other and Angela was no different.  I had always known her and had been in several classes together.  Me being busy playing two sports and trying to maintain my drug addiction and eating disorders seemed to alienate me somewhat emotionally from a lot of my high school days.  However, my humor and fun loving personality was typically my norm.  But the disappearance of Angela was anything but normal.

Just 3 years earlier I had undergone some of the worst abuse at the hands of a teacher.  Our class also lost another member at the age of 13 to suicide.  Still seriously affected by some of these traumas I was left no room for recovery because sports took up all my time.  That busy daily schedule might have been the one thing that saved my life as a lost teenager.  I didn’t have answers for how to deal with this and neither did anyone else.  By our senior year our graduating class had been pummeled by tragedies.  But the disappearance of Angela seemed to rock everyone to their core.

On September 10, 1993 when everyone was doing after school activities and at home with their families Angela was fighting for her life, the life of her unborn child and would have spent her last days at Petal High School.  She was last seen at the local Pizza Hut and her vehicle was found in a remote area of Perry County by a well known bridge in the Mahned community known as the Mahned Bridge.  I thought about the parties that  had been there many years prior and chills ran up and down my entire body.  Because that day could’ve been anyone of us teens from any of the surrounding communities and cities.

angela freeman1993

angelafreeman age progression

Age Progression

mahned bridge

Current condition of the Mahned Bridge is impassable

angela freeman headstone

Evidence of no closure

The local news channels were covered with pictures and the latest information about the case.  There were also many different fund raising events.  Soon, though, the hoopla would die down and many years later Angela’s case would become a cold case and would be featured on the television series Unsolved Mysteries.  Her case could also be seen on different news channels and those I won’t even begin to mention as I don’t want to leave any out.  But the fact of the matter is that 25 years later Angela still has not been found.

As of 2017 the following was released by a FOX 25 News Channel….

“Perry County authorities say Angela was last seen at the Pizza Hut in Petal on September 10th, 1993. Witnesses say she was arguing with her former boyfriend in the parking lot around 1 a.m. That same morning, only hours later, Angela’s 1984 Honda Accord Hatchback was found abandoned at the old bridge over Leaf River. Angela’s mother Debra spotted a puddle of liquid beside the car. Police told her it was transmission fluid. They assumed the teen was just another runaway. But when Monday passed and Angela didn’t show up for work, Debra called her local TV station. It was then that authorities began to believe the clues were leading them to something much more sinister than originally expected. “Forrest County dogs were down at the bridge and people were starting to look for her and that puddle that was so fresh on Friday that everybody had parked in overnight, the dogs went straight to it.”

“That puddle would turn out to be Angela’s blood and the search intensified. K9 units were able to sniff out Angela’s keds, one in the tall weeds near her car and the other beyond a locked gate on private property. After multiple searches through Leaf River, Angela’s body never turned up, leaving an entire family without closure. Her grandmother said, “My late husband, which was her paw-paw, she loved him to death. He passed away in ’96 and he never knew what happened and at my age, I would just like to find out before my time.”

—FOX News 25

And 25 years later I’m now a parent and I cannot begin to  comprehend what it’s like to lose a child in that manner with or without closure.  Heck, I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child that’s already been born.  The fact that her parents have found the strength to get up each morning since her disappearance just to put one painful foot in front of another shows their personal strength and level of love that they had and still have for their daughter Angela.

The answers to Angela’s disappearance have never come to light.  But the painful memories of her disappearance still burns in the minds of those who loved and cared about her.  I can tell you that 25 years later that the trauma of her disappearance has remained alive and well in my psyche.  And anytime I see a reminder of this horrible tragedy I get the same sick feeling as when it first happened.  Whoever committed this crime has not only effected a family but they also have effected an entire community.  And truthfully, it has made me draw my own children in closer and my defenses as a parent have become detrimental in ways because of my own fear of some sick individual trying to get their hands on my babies.

I send out a plea even now that cries for the life or remains of Angela so that her family and friends may have some form of closure.  My heart cries for her mother, as a mother myself that has cried for her children in ways they also didn’t know. Angela would now be 42 years old.  If you have any information regarding this case please contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible.

“Before you tell a grieving parent to be grateful for the children they have, think about which one of yours you can do without.”

—Unknown

Here are some links that cover her disappearance and subsequent investigation.  Copy and paste the links in your browser.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_cSIj0NKKc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epFJR9CEmm8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27pWLTxJxqo

#Thispuzzledlife

We Called Him Friend

We Called Him….Friend

“The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people.”

—John C. Maxwell

I have been asking myself lately why I felt the need to write about these individuals who made such a big impact on my life.  The answer…..I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally emotionally able to write about them.  Or maybe now that this big life change has happened I have had the time to do some soul searching about people who have impacted my life both positively and negatively.  Whatever the reason I write to process these feelings in private because I’ve always feared expressing emotions other than anger or laughter.  One man that knew the trauma I was experiencing and that spent a tremendous amount of time talking to me each week was Dr. Charles Holmes.

I first met Dr. Holmes during my undergraduate work.  I took several classes he taught on both the undergraduate and graduate level.  He wasn’t a man that crossed boundaries.  He was simply a man who loved his students almost like that of a father.  The first class I took under him was the History of Psychology.  Honestly, the class couldn’t have been more boring.  I would have random thoughts like, “Oh my God did I remember to put on deodorant?  Do penguins have knees? What did I wear?  I look like I just rolled out of my hamper!”  That was one class I truly had to suffer through not because of the instructor but the material.  I was secretly thinking, “To have lobotomy by a leper wouldn’t be as painful.”

He taught many different classes that impacted the lives of so many students.  And then…..I took the Psychology of Addiction and instantly I was in love.  At the time, I had never spoken publicly about the puzzling nature of my life.  When I presented the topic chosen in the class which happened to be about self-harm.  I let my peers into a very small corner of my world and proceeded to throw up after the presentation was complete.  I was also still living with my ex-husband so I was very cautious about telling too much.  But with Dr. Holmes it was just different and you knew that by talking to him. He cared and wanted to know how his students were doing personally not just academically.

dr holmes

March 21, 1941-July 17, 2015

He told us about working with homeless addicts and alcoholics on the streets of New Orleans, LA and I hung onto every word he said.  He knew I was living in an abusive situation but didn’t know the extent.  He didn’t pry but rather just assure me that he was there if I ever needed to talk.  He saw me struggling every day with my personal life of addiction but always had an encouraging word.  He also presented the opportunity to speak to other classes and this continued on into graduate school.  These opportunities were slowly making the shame and guilt dissipate while educating others.

After Hurricane Katrina he told me about some work he was doing in the Pearlington, Waveland and Bay St. Louis areas of Mississippi which were the hardest hit areas.  I was already doing some photography for a book another teacher and I were working on about the devastation.  He invited both Melody and I to help on some rebuilding projects through a Christian organization he was affiliated with.  I can honestly say that the work done in those areas was extremely rewarding.  Not to mention all of the memories that I still have from that.  Here were families broken from the tragedy and I was there to help.  My heart and soul lit up instantly.

I pulled him aside one day before class and said, “Dr. Holmes you’re messing up my theory about men.”  He said, “What are you talking about?”  I said, “Well my experience with men truly exemplifies that all men are pigs and extremely harmful.  Why aren’t you?”  He said, “Dana because I don’t see people in a way as personal property or to make personal gains.”  We hugged and I have never forgotten that.  He would soon make it where all of his classes were required to attend my speaking engagements on campus including the Regional Pine Belt Counseling Association where several professional members of the community also attended.

Once Mel and I moved to Albuquerque life got busy and we spoke every once in a while.  But I did tell him when he asked where I was working that it was with the homeless and how much I appreciated him planting the seed.  I missed him terribly and as my mental health declined all I wanted was to sit down with him and to be told, “It’s going to be ok.”

When we would travel back to Mississippi I would always stop by the college and look up these professors that meant so much to me.  And I could always count on a big hug from Dr. Holmes and occasionally I would help “stomp out stigma and stupidity.”  Whether he was in class or not I would peek around where he could see me and he would excitedly stop his lecture and say, “Come on in, Dana.  Class let me tell you about this former student.” My heart leapt for joy each time and seemed to make it all worth it.

One day while Mel and I were planning a trip back to Mississippi his wife accidentally called me.  It was probably a butt dial.  But I called her back as this was odd.  She told me, “Dana doc isn’t doing well and if you want to see him come on.”  My heart sunk into my stomach and I felt sick.  My beloved professor and friend was dying and there was nothing I could do.

We raced the clock trying to get there before he passed.  Luckily or maybe something granted by the universe, we got there in time.  I walked into his room where he was connected to different medical devices.  I could see he was struggling to breathe and when our eyes met he said, “Dana?”  I said, “Hey doc it’s me. I told you I would be here if you ever needed me.”  He smiled and said, “Are you still cutting?”  I said, “Really that’s your burning question to ask me after this long?”  He and I chuckled and I said, “Yea doc I’m still struggling.” We had a rather short conversation but I told him before I left, “Doc thank you for being such a good man, professor and friend. You really blessed me and it was an honor to have you in my life.”  We told each other “I love you” both with tears in our eyes and hugged.  I left and he soon passed away.

When it was time for his service I saw some William Carey University professors like Dr. Cotten there and I was trying to choke back the tears that were wanting to erupt in my throat.  Then as the service finished and people were mingling a couple walked up to Mel and I and said, “Hey, I think we know you.”  I was scared to death because I couldn’t recall their names or faces.  Ashamed I said, “And who might you guys be?”  They said, “Your name is Dana, right?”  I just knew that they must’ve seen my face on a wanted poster or something.  Reluctantly, I said, “Yes that’s me.”  And they said, “We remember you from helping to rebuild our house after the hurricane with Dr. Holmes.” I was astonished and had a sense of pride as well.  I said, “Yes he was one of my good friends and I’ll miss him dearly.”

#Thispuzzledlife

No Thanks Needed

No Thanks Needed

“I didn’t become an EMT to have a front-row seat to other people’s tragedies.  I did it because I knew the world was bleeding and so was I, and somewhere inside I knew the only way to stop my own bleeding was to stop someone else’s.”

—Anonymous

There’s no possible way to accurately describe what it’s like to work as an EMT on an ambulance.  It’s a career that requires split second decisions and those decisions can and are life changing in many different areas.  This was a career that I had fallen head over heels in love with.  Please keep in mind that anyone in the EMS system that gets called out is not because someone is having a good day.  The same thing for seeing a therapist.  No one seeks out a therapist just to go in session and say, “Hey, everything is going great.  All I wanted to do was pay a co-pay.”

For me working in the EMS system only for a year still had big consequences.  The things I saw in that short year still affect me today deeply.  Companies that own this type of service whether they be hospital based or privately owned are suppose to offer stress debriefing after difficult calls.  However, I worked for a company that was more concerned with getting shifts covered rather than the emotional and physical well being of their employees which I’m sure was pretty standard in the late 90s.

The year that I worked I developed PTSD as a result of everything that I saw.  Some are effected deeply by this and some have less of these effects.  Neither of which are right or wrong.  PTSD is cold and heartless in its effects and can affect anyone at anytime.   I and many others saw human bodies in conditions that no human eye should ever encounter.  Yes I chose that career but anyone who enters a career like that are going to see the cruel ways that humans treat others and the consequences of poor choices.  And then you also see instances where accidents have sometimes devastating effects.  Who does this type of job?  Well someone has to do it and I felt incredibly drawn to do this work despite the low wages, long hours and effects on the human psyche.  Living in a very abusive situation at this same time left me with no one to talk to without judgment.  I also never felt like I could talk with my co-workers because of the machoesque attitudes that were front and center most days.  Maybe this was their own way of dealing with things but I needed a release and I never found it there.

ambulatance

Very seldom do you ever truly reap the benefits of such horrible scenes.  But there was this one time where I felt that my hard work was done with an outcome that I could smile about.  He was a young 7 year-old boy who was heading to his big brother’s birthday party about an hour away.  His mom stopped to fill up with gas while he messed around inside the gas station store.  Mom was busy with another sibling and making sure the car got filled up with fuel.  But this day something caught the eye of this 7 year-old little boy.  There was a mechanic shop right across the road.  Whatever his reasoning was at the time is unclear but this little boy darted across the busy road only to be hit by a drunk drivers side mirror on his head.  The child went down and we got the call.

We were told that the call involved a child and that it was serious.  My own stepchild was also 7 years-old at the time so this one was going to be difficult.  I just had no idea how difficult it would be.  Upon arrival the mother was noticeably hysterical while her child was laying on the unforgiving road.  My partner said,  “Dana we’ve got to get out of here he’s bad.”  So, load and go we did and his mom still hysterically crying was in the front with me.  I think we made it to the hospital in about 3 minutes.  But this call no matter what our efforts would be left in the hands of God and the universe.  I couldn’t leave this situation until I found out if this child was going to make it.  I stayed in the trauma room among all of the chaos of a severe traumatic injury.  He was showing some very disheartening signs that this injury would be his last.  They worked on him for a while but I had to leave prematurely because we had another call to take.  I almost couldn’t think because I wanted to stay with him.  I guess somehow I thought that if I stayed that he would have a better chance.  Irrational as that might seem I just didn’t want to leave him.

A few days later I went back to check on the boy and his mother.  The boy having a major brain injury was still in a medically induced coma to give his brain time to heal.  His mother told me that he was going to be flown to a hospital in Jackson, MS to receive specialty services for his injury.   In my gut,  I just knew that the long term outcome would not be favorable.  We lost contact but I never forgot this little family.  This scene was one that I would replay many times over the next 10 years.

We would bump into each other only by chance maybe once or twice.  I found out that he was in a wheelchair and that the medical bills reached approximately $1,000,000 but he was alive.  I saw he and his mother she and told him, “She’s one of the people that picked you up on the ambulance.”  His beautiful little face lit up and said, “You helped me?” Starting to get choked up but swallowing those tears into my soul I said, “Yes baby I was there.”  That answer seemed to be enough and I said goodbye once again.

A few more years went by without anymore contact.  And then at the 10 year mark I received a call from out the blue.  It was his mother.  In my gut I was thinking that he had died due to complications from his disability.  But his mother said, “Dana this is_____.  He wanted me to call you because he’s graduating high school now and wants you to see him walk for the first time.”  Frozen my thoughts were, “Wait what?  Walking?!!!!”  The only thing I could say was, “I’m there!! Give me the time and place.”  So she did.

I immediately explained everything to Mel since we were now together and asked her if she would go with me.  She agreed and when the time came we both went to this event.  She was taking pictures and I was down on the football field where the graduation ceremony was being conducted.  I stood with his family and prepared myself for what I was about to see.  What I saw was the most courageous 17 year-old boy who didn’t let a set of horrible circumstances stop him from achieving his goal of one day walking before a crowd of hundreds of people.

Chill bumps and emotion overcame me and a sense of pride that this little boy wanted someone who met him under difficult conditions to be there again for the most important day of his life.  Honestly, there’s no way that he should’ve lived but that decision was not mine but was something granted from God.  My life was changed that day yet again.  He reiterated through his actions again the importance of never giving up.

After the ceremony was over and he was sitting back in his wheelchair, I walked to him to tell him how proud I was of him and to tell him goodbye.  He told me, “Ms. Dana thank you for everything you did for me.”  And I told that little warrior as I looked into his eyes, “No thanks needed.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!”  I gave both he and his mother hugs and a little kiss on his forehead and then turned to walk away.  My heart was overflowing with joy and I concluded that all the images and calls that still bothered me was worth every penny to be able to have this God given opportunity to witness.

“Life is about making an impact not making an income.”

—Kevin Kruse

#Thispuzzledlife

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.

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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

Frustrations Of Life

Frustrations of Life

The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. And it can lead to a range of self-destructive behaviors.

— Peter A. Levine

Hopefully, at some point as an adult, life will inevitably let you see it for what it truly is.  I take a step back and look at the year in my life that altered my entire future which is now my past.  The specifics of that year I dreadfully replay on a daily basis.  With both horror and amazement I sit and still try to comprehend almost 30 years later the “whys” that never get answered.  The “torture” as I felt those damaging words, aggressive taunting in front of all my peers knowing I was unable to speak or I would face further punishment. It was a part of the daily mind games, harassment and bullying that pelted my psyche like a spray of bullets.  That same year a fellow classmate and friend committed suicide.  I also sustained a basketball related knee injury that plagues me to this day and became a factor into shattered dreams of one day playing ball past high school.  Life continued to happen and all I knew was that I wanted out.  Out of school and out of life.  I just wanted it all to stop.  I screamed so loudly for someone to help me.  The screams fell on deaf ears.  The screams were there and I could hear them but no one else could.

The inside canvas of my psyche now resembled a pile of suicide wrist rags.  There was a rage that scared me deep within that continued to gain strength and building like a monster hurricane.  I was trapped both physically and figuratively somewhere within the recesses of my mind.  The horrible headaches I now began having became misery on top of misery.  I had to do something or I felt I would implode from emotions.

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On the outside I looked and was  treated like the well liked class clown and promising athlete.  I was friends with everyone.  I was never bullied by anyone except by one of the people that was there to protect me. Not to hurt me.   I tried to play off the situation time after time.  Each tear was portrayed as streams of weakness.  Those tears quickly  became bolts of lightning full of rage and hatred that no one could see building with each hurtful comment.    I seemed to just be beginning to disappear within myself.  I didn’t understand or care as long as I disappeared and couldn’t hear and feel her words.  The pills and the razors were just an added bonus.  Suicidal thoughts , for the first time, began to consume me.  And the obsession with death became an infatuation that never ends.  In reality the “perfect storm” was being created and no one seemed to notice not even me.

I made it through that year licking my wounds  That year changed me forever.  Not a day has gone by in 30 years that I haven’t dealt with the repercussions of that abuse on a daily basis.  Other things in my life have contributed to my  eventual downfall in life but that year stands out as the most painful.  Instead of being that carefree and very fun-loving teenager that I once was, I’ve become a 41 year-old mother of two who still functions like a teenager.  I feel like a teenager on most days.  I see fellow classmates and wonder why I never matured like they did?   Whatever happened during that abuse stunted my emotional maturity at the point at which it happened.  I hate life.  I hate most people.   I’m always scared.  I’m sick physically from the stress on most days.  I can’t have a normal relationship with my family or children because of the overwhelming memories and feelings associated with that event.    Six years of college and two degrees and they mean as much as monopoly money now. My career that I worked so hard to begin was over before it got started.   I’ve lost through one way or another most of the important relationships in my life because my mood swings are so out of control and aggression seems to be the primary emotion exhibited.  The independence of driving has slowly melted away because I can’t focus long enough to drive safely.  The physical pain that seems to engulf me on many days ensures vomiting and tears.  I battle daily with both anorexia and bulimia as I have for the last 30 years.  Deciding on what food to eat every day usually leaves me in tears and hungry.

My life seems like I’m watching a movie of the newest horror film.  I don’t even recognize any of it because it’s so far from where and what I’m supposed to be doing by now.  All of which could’ve been prevented had someone simply been willing to see past the label and ask what was wrong.

Most mornings I wake up pissed because I realize that I’m still alive. Even with the best little family at my side, I hate every moment of every day. If life is that miserable then what’s the point in living it, right?  Many of my friends “tapped out” on life so apparently it’s not just me.  The advice given to me as a child was to “trust people and build relationships on trust.”  I did that and it left me disabled at an early age.  Again, I feel trapped.  This time I’m trapped within myself.

#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

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

8.3.15

“Hiding my pain and acting strong, afraid to cry and

show my tears, I struggle with all this years later.”

― Erin Merryn, Living for Today: From Incest and Molestation to Fearlessness and Forgiveness

 I’m playing ‘catch up’ on topics and knew that I would eventually need to talk about the topic of the Duggar family.  I know that a lot of media coverage has made hearing the Duggar name sound  as comforting as snuggling with a pit viper.  In all fairness, though, I’ve waited to talk about this topic in the blog for a while on purpose.  I had a total system ‘shock and awe’ event that happened when details of the events were released.  Talk about ripping a scab off a deep and very painful wound.  Here let’s just start from when Mel and I began watching them….

Mel and I had been watching the Duggars’ program 19 Kids and Counting for a couple of years on and off.  We usually watched them when nothing else was on because of their radical, fundamentalist views.  However, when we did watch the show, I enjoyed watching the strange dynamics within the family like many of the other reality shows on television now.  We usually have fun diagnosing or predicting future diagnoses of each member of the families we have the pleasure of watching them interact together.  Yes, when both you and your spouse have counseling degrees and can recognize dysfunction a mile away, then watching reality TV tends to be so much more interesting.

Anyway, watching the children interact but also factoring in that networks need their ratings to remain profitable, you can just tell that with that many kids in one family, that all needs are not met for healthy mental development.  Aside from the fact that I feel deeply sorry for the mother’s uterus for having to birth that many children, I still had a deep concern for the mental well being of the children.  I would and do feel sorry for children who have to grow up in families where their religious beliefs are as abusive as any object or fist that’s thrown or used on the child.  Where these families might have the best intentions for their children biblically, it’s not healthy physically or mentally for children to grow up with such strict “laws” imposed on them by their caretakers.

When you have 19 children, you are setting them up for failure.  I have read and watched how the Duggar’s children interact and an older child is put in charge of a younger child.  Ummmm…..did I say that they are both children?  Yep, children should not be expected nor put in the position of ever having to be a parental figure to a younger child.  I realize that this happens even in smaller families and even non-religious families and it’s still destructive.

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When the news about Josh Duggar and the molestation began littering social media and other news sources, it didn’t take long for my heart to drop to the pit of my stomach.  I had a gut feeling about what had been the probable cause of the events but I wanted and had to hear more.  I was torn about isolating myself from the story because of how triggering it had already begun to be at the first mention of his actions.  The only way to explain how I felt was completely emotionally confused but needed to know more.

I was correct in my assumptions that the children were not being taught about healthy sexuality.  In many evangelical or other radical religions, the topic of sex and healthy sexuality are seldom discussed anything beyond “don’t do it or you’ll go to hell.”  So, children grow up not understanding fully and thinking that it’s wrong or deviant for natural body exploration.  Jim Bob Duggar, the father of the multitude, was quoted after walking in on one of his son’s masturbating that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” He then proceeded to punish his son by making him do chores with his hands tied.  What this suppression will lead to is sexual frustration and confusion.  Everyone has been around a teenage male at some point in their life.  The last thing they need is SUPPRESSION!!!!!  Heck, I would like to hand out extra sets of hands. I’d also like to point out that proving to the nation that you can produce a zoo just because you have the parts is not exactly an example of healthy sexual practices either.

The more I began to dig into the Duggar’s handling and subsequent minimizing of the situation is when I became so triggered that started becoming physically ill.  Then, I began to watch as many members of other “Christian” religions also minimize the actions of Josh Duggar.  I soon became enraged at what I was hearing and seeing.  The attitudes I was seeing were collectively stating, “He said he was sorry and asked for forgiveness, now leave him alone. It was an innocent teenage mistake.” Are you kidding me?!

Standby as I paint the picture of the rest of the crimes that were committed.  Keep in mind that Josh Duggar perpetrated 5 female children, 4 of which were his sisters.  The initial crimes were committed in 2002-2003.  Josh would’ve been 14 or 15 at the time.  The behavior was done repeatedly and the parents, as well as, other church members were well aware of what had transpired.  Josh’s parents stated that he was put in a program that consisted of physical labor and counseling.  Ok, brace yourself for this next part….

The program that he had allegedly been attending consisted of being sent away for three months to do construction work remodeling a building with a ‘mentor.’  This individual has since been convicted and is serving a 56 year sentence for child pornography.  Also, none of the adults that were aware of the incidences ever reported the abuse to the authorities.  That in itself is a crime!  Conveniently, the statutes of limitations had also run out by the time authorities were notified. No therapeutic counseling or treatment has been provided for Josh or his victims.  If it sounds like I’m also taking up for Josh, make no mistake that I’m doing no such thing.

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His parents minimization of the situation was clearly put on stage in an interview with FOXNEWS….” it wasn’t like this was some sort of terrible violation. It was just a little sexual groping of one’s sleeping sisters.”  “There were a couple incidents where he touched them under their clothes,” Jim Bob said. “But it was a few seconds.”  Now if that turned your stomach imagine how the children felt when their own father and mother described ‘sexual purity’ after their abuse.  Engage in any kind of sexual activity before marriage and you’re as desirable as a banged-up bike or a cup of spit: This is the message the Duggar parents conveyed to the girls who had been sexually assaulted by their older brother.

The Duggar sexual philosophy is that girls’ bodies do not belong to themselves. They’re under the authority of another male figure, and then they belong to their husbands. There is no individual right of female sexual pleasure. There is no value placed on female bodily autonomy, ownership or control. The message is that girls’ bodies are never their own, that the girls themselves are simply vessels for male pleasure, male desires, and male authority, and the girls’ job is to preserve their bodies to hand over to the appropriate man. Ok, this was not their “husband” anyway.  It was their brother for God’s sake.  If you were raised in a home with these types of beliefs would you, as a female child, said anything already knowing that your fears and confusion would not be validated?

too heavy

From someone who has been sexually assaulted as a child and later as an adult, the lasting effects reach far beyond most “non-touched” people’s minds.  I must keep reiterating that just because I had sexual trauma does not correlate to my being gay.  Seems like an elementary concept to some but it still needs to be driven home to others.  I was also one that didn’t think that being molested had any long term effects because until my 30s, I had not remembered any lingering negative effects from the incidents.  I was also in the middle of still surviving a very emotionally, mentally and sexually damaging marriage at the time that took every ounce of energy.  I was also in college working on my undergraduate degree at the time of issues arising directly related to my molestation at a young age which helped to keep my mind occupied.

When our oldest son Marshall was born, I started noticing a lot of anxiety about giving baths; changing diapers and anything requiring basic care regarding hygiene and his genitalia.  I would actually start to sweat while changing diapers.  I would get nauseous and often times cry while not knowing why I couldn’t do basic “mommy duties.”  I felt as if I were violating him in some way.  I felt dirty and just wrong for simply trying to take care of our baby.  The same type of “innocent teenage mistake” that I’ve heard Josh Duggar’s actions referred to was robbing me of the pleasure of being a mom.

The effects of the guys that touched me both as a child and adult reach far beyond just our son.  This information is reserved for the brave souls that continue to work with us both as a family and a system.  There’s many more statements made by the Duggar’s that absolutely turn my stomach.  Josh Duggar committed a crime and was at an age where he knew that touching his sisters was wrong.  To have the behavior reinforced by adults, two being primary caretakers, who knew the behavior was continuing and refused to report it to the authorities or get the proper help that their son needed says to me that there’s more than one perpetrator.  What makes this situation even more hurtful was that their weapon of choice was the Bible.

#Thispuzzledlife

The Chaos Of Life

The Chaos of Life

8.2.15

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor E. Frankl

The last few months have been nothing less than total chaos for our ‘internal’ and external families.  Life can sometimes just knock the wind out of you both physically and mentally.  From the very ‘nerve racking’ entry into the world by our new preemie son Copeland to our latest adventure back south and so many things in between, Mel and I both feel like we are being pecked by a duck.  Don’t think for a minute that we haven’t taken notice about missing one of the best therapeutic tools we’ve ever used…….writing.

With Mel’s pregnancy being much less than desirable, Copeland’s health issues, national news, loss of friends both physically and emotionally, the return to the harsh south, my ‘internal’ system has stayed in a seemingly steady uproar about many different things.  Just trying to keep our relationship together the last couple of months has been a struggle at times.  However, there’s one thing we both agree on….the fact that DID doesn’t’ go away and neither does life.  So, we dig deep like we have many times and try to find a way to weather the storms of life together as a couple by ‘taking the bull by horns’ and bracing ourselves until it’s over.  The complexity of life, right now, is nowhere close to slowing down.  There’s a lot that needs to be said and feelings that need to be voiced in order to try and regain some type of balance.

Like I’ve said many times before, we live a very puzzling life that has the ability to leave us both shaking and scratching our heads and wondering what could possibly happen next.  My priorities have been to attempt to ‘roll with the punches’ and, unfortunately, that’s included not writing for a little while.  This morning, I stagger to my laptop, not induced by a chemical but rather just exhausted from the daily and very familiar feel of a high level of stress.

soulsofsuffering

Throughout the chaos, Mel and I have been able to put more pieces of the puzzle together.  She has a very close and tight bond with my alters which makes it much easier for communication.  Now some might think that since she’s my wife and we’ve been together for a number of years that having a relationship with my alters, since they are, in fact, parts of myself, would be a given. Trust me when I say one thing…nothing with alters are a given.  Relationships with alters are a completely different beast than what most people would assume.  One thing that must be kept in mind is that, alters formed as a result of a traumatic situation.  And in my particular system, a trust bond was not just broken but completely violated in one way or another.  So, even people who I’ve known for years betrayed that trust in sometimes vile ways.  Therefore, all we’ve been conditioned to understand is that people are evil until proven otherwise and that has no time limit.

DID, as a disorder, is a difficult disorder for both the client and family members.  Throw a big ole’ helping of ‘LIFE’ month after month and the difficulty and further complexity of the disorder will raise its ugly head with triggered alters.  Mel and I have and will continue to lean on our therapists both individual and couple for strength and guidance as we have done for several years now.  We will also continue to do the best to support each other and our children even though I can resemble an angry and bitchy Chihuahua.  And ‘we’, as a system, will continue to seek for the answers through healing in any way possible so that we might all function one day like a well oiled machine in order to be able to do the work we were called to do by helping others.

For now, it’s about  just trying to catch our breath and gather our footing again.  Lots of tears have been shed lately and I’ll take you inside the last few months with upcoming blog posts. And once again, I begin to feel better even if I was coerced to write reluctantly this morning by some certain ‘insiders’.

#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

Copeland’s Arrival

Copeland’s Arrival

6.3.15

“You may one day do great things and I will be proud of you,

but no matter how old you are or what you do with

your life, you will always be my little boy.”

—Anonymous

The day had finally come for the arrival of the newest member of the Landrum-Arnold family.  Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold was born May 3, 2015 at 8:06 pm.  He was born exactly six weeks early measuring in at a whopping 5.6 lbs and 17.5 inches long.  The long days and nights of sweating the health of our only living baby in utero was finally worth the wait.

The scene was like you would expect any other delivery process with doctors and nurses fluttering around but knowing exactly their individual jobs.  However, mine and Mel’s situations in life usually consist of a ‘hang-up’ and occasionally attached with it is humor.  Mel was induced slowly with Magnesium and Pitocin over a 27 hour period before finally dilating 7 cm in less than an hour.   And yes, before you even wonder, she did have an epidural because neither she nor I would have survived without one. While we were headed to the delivery room knowing that we would see our new baby boy soon, all I could think was, “Oh my God, I have no one to go into the delivery room in my place like we had planned!” I get all dressed up in scrubs and head off reluctantly to face the next few moments.  As we make our way into the delivery room, the nurses tell me where to stand and start making adjustments to the bed.  Apparently, this was a very bad idea to the bed itself.  It soon malfunctioned and Mel was eventually sitting in a 90 degree angle and I was forced to stand on my tiptoes to hold her hand because the bed started going up and wouldn’t stop.  We laugh about this now minor issue that occurred. But, at the time, all I could think was, “I’m not going to be able to be with her during the delivery because she’s going to deliver on the ceiling!” Yes, I know that I was irrational but the fear was real and irrational.

Some people have the misconception about preemies that the issues are about weight.  While this is true, the deeper and more concerning issues are gestational and developmental.  Here’s an example….When a full term baby is born, they are born with the instinct to suck, swallow and breathe at the appropriate times.  Preemies have to be taught to do this correctly because they are born before this instinct kicks in.  Even when being taught these skills, premature babies must drink a higher calorie formula and be fed at certain times to ensure proper weight gain.  All diapers both brown and yellow must be weighed and a chart is kept to track the weight gains and losses, as well as, how much is consumed at every feeding.  Even with all of this in place, preemies are also often tube fed either through their mouth or their nose.  Preemies also have issues with maintaining proper body temperature and breathing properly which can lead to apnea and bradycardia episodes making it too dangerous to go home without being monitored constantly.  There is a lot more involved than what I’ve briefly stated.  Make no mistake that it’s one of the most grueling and stressful processes that any first time or seasoned parents can go through both emotionally and physically.  This was our second go around with a preemie and just as stressful.  The smartest and most important thing Mel and I did for our family and ourselves was to say, “No family visiting until after we get home from the hospital with Copeland.” We couldn’t handle one more drop of stress be it good or bad and we knew that going in to the situation.

copeland

The next hurdle would be one that we were familiar with but still scared us to our core.  When Copeland was born, he was whisked away very quickly and immediately put on a CPAP machine and other tubes, wires and additional machines like a lot of preemie babies.  We would not get to see or touch our baby for another 48 hours.  That’s one of the many things that families with term babies with no complications seem to take for granted at times.  I can’t explain, in words, how excruciating that was to see and feel our brand new baby being taken away before we could hold, touch or kiss him.  Even that moment couldn’t compare to leaving the hospital and going home without our baby.

There was a time that I remembered sitting in my vehicle, as I normally do, listening to music and vaping some good medicine while trying to regain balance.  There was that one day, though, and there have been many since where I put my head down in my hands and just cried alone out of sheer exhaustion.  I have cried out of fear for our son’s uncertain future; the loss of our other child that was supposed to be born but wasn’t; and just the simple fact that the long wait for Copeland to arrive was finally here.  For me, this grieving process was and still is much needed.

For the next month, our days would consist of Mel spending entire days at the hospital in the NICU with Copeland feeding, bathing and rocking him.  I would be running errands, taking care of daily house chores and making sure Marshall was taken care of.  We would also get reacquainted to what I like to call ‘preemie math.’   We would soon be measuring everything in grams and ounces.  Finally math that I could understand! I need to point out that I would also go to the hospital and spend time in the NICU with Mel and Copeland but our time would have to be limited because all the stimulation of the hospital and stressful nature of the situation could and eventually would overload my internal system.  There were days when I would go early in the morning with Mel to the hospital after dropping Marshall off at daycare.  I would stay a couple of hours and then have to go home. The stress alone could take me the rest of the day to recover both mentally and physically.

NICU

One of my greatest fears of having another child was not knowing where the same amount of love would come from that we already have for Marshall.  When Copeland was born it was like a secret hidden door within my heart, that I never knew was there, opened up and another “honey hole” of love was discovered that was put away for safe keeping for this special little preemie boy.  Unlike, with Marshall, I seemed to instantly connect and become increasingly protective and bonded to Copeland.  The fear, guilt and shame hit me like a fierce wall of water.  Had I cheated Marshall?  Was I showing favoritism?  All I could possibly think at this time was, “Omg, what do I do and what have I done?” Once again, my disorder has cheated me and my family out of moments that should be cherished. I struggled with these fears and doubts until I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.  I went to Mel with my tears and broken heart and she reminds me that mentally I’m in a completely different place then I was with Marshall.  She puts the situation in perspective in a way that I can internalize by telling me that Marshall paved the way through early motherhood and early DID to prepare my heart and system for Copeland.  Even now this is still a difficult concept to accept.

For a split second, the idea occurs that I should just pick up the phone and call Sarah.  Just as I’m about to dial her number, the harsh reality hits me again like a gunshot to my heart, that she’s dead.  I start to panic inside while trying to keep it hidden but my tears have other ideas.  Oh, how my heart selfishly longs and hurts to hear her comforting words again. How I wanted to desperately to send her pictures of our brand new baby boy. My head and heart begin spinning out of control with no one to fill that hurt and need to be comforted in only a way that she could.  I don’t have time for this now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

big strides

As I have done most of my life, I put my hurt and grieving on the back burner to handle the job before me.  No matter how hard I try, the feelings soon turn to anger.  The more I tried to suppress the feelings, the more the anger was building.  As I tried sorting out all of the feelings and where they were coming from, the love for Copeland continued to grow.

Marshall wanted to fully embrace his job as a big brother; however, the hospital had a lockdown on anyone under the age of 15, including siblings until June 1st because of some type of respiratory virus that was concerning the CDC.  This meant that the only way Marshall could even see Copeland was made available through modern technology.  Thank you God for Facetime on Iphones!  Marshall was itching to get to see and hold his baby brother.  As my dear ‘farm raised’ wife would say, “Marshall could worry the horns off a billy goat.” And that is exactly what he did for an entire month until he and Copeland finally met.  He just couldn’t and wasn’t expected to fully comprehend the situation at hand.  In his mind, he has a baby brother so why can’t I see him?  This situation alone was heart wrenching.

The day Copeland finally was able to come home, we all were able to breathe a sigh of relief even his big brother, Marshall.  For on this day, we were able to see colors a little more clearly and the sun shone a little bit brighter.

#Thispuzzledlife

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

Mel’s Corner: Illusions of Control

05/11/2015

“Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no trouble, noise, or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

– Lady GaGa

Having a spouse with dissociative identity disorder can be quite hard.   Often times events can be quite hurtful and you will have full memory while the spouse has none.  That is a hard thing to accept.  How can a person say or do something then have no memory of it? And then treat you like nothing ever happened?  I started to question my own reality.  Maybe it didn’t happen, maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’m the one with the problem.

The way my wife’s system works is when she becomes too overwhelmed she will have alters who will “pop out” to take over a situation.  Depending on what alter comes out, depends on how the situation is handled.  Also alters can tend to just come out if they feel like they need to take control or if they feel she is not doing an adequate job of taking care of the situation.  Often times a protector comes out.  Different systems have different alters who are protectors.  My wife just happens to have a more aggressive, angry protector because that’s what worked for her for so many years.  What that means for me is I tend to get the back lash of situations a lot.

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 I’ve found that in order for me to survive those situations where things become overwhelming for me emotionally, I have to remind myself that I’m talking to her protective alter, and this alter was developed to help protect the system.  Although it’s not ok to have behavior this way, often times there is nothing I can do about it but ride out the storm.  During these times I’ve learned that the serenity prayer has brought me much comfort.  I usually like to break it down to the situation.

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.  I can’t change the fact my wife will always have DID.  I can’t change the alters that she has in her system.  Sometimes even the situation is beyond my control.

The courage to change the things I can.  I can change how I react, what I say and how I approach her and the situation.  This one is harder than it sounds, although I can change my reaction, often times emotion has taken over and I have to pause to change my reaction.  This one takes much practice, and even today I become overwhelmed and my reptilian brain (fight or flight) takes over.  I find that stepping away from the situation when I can brings me more clarity.  I also find my therapy background tends to come out during this period as well. Many times it’s “safe” thing for me to just switch over and treat it as a therapeutic process thus protecting my feelings.  There are days when I just loose it and break down.  Those days I do get angry with God for even having a disease like DID.  Although it served its purpose when the abuse happened, it’s no longer needed and it’s something that never will go away.  There are times I need a friend to tell me that everything is going to be ok.  It’s during these times I have to look beyond myself and know that I need strength from a power greater than myself.  Somewhere deep inside I know everything will be ok, it always is, but for some reason I just can’t access that part of myself.  Hearing it from someone else gives me that spark of hope I needed to get through the situation and continue to believe that all will turn out ok.

And the wisdom to know the difference.   Wisdom only comes with time.  Only after touching the stove a few times do you learn that it’s actually hot.  Wisdom has taught me when to challenge an alter’s thinking and when to back away and let the system reset.  Time has also taught me to pick up on subtle cues that tell me which alter is out.  Some alters take great joy in trying to fool me into thinking they are someone else in the system and I’m sure they succeed many times in fooling me.  There are sometimes I even question myself as to whom I am talking to.

There is a longer version on the serenity prayer that adds these additional lines:

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen

 

The part I find most helpful in the addition is “living one day at a time”.  There have been times that a day is too overwhelming and I have to live a minute or hour at a time.  Making it through those small amounts of time get me through the day and then eventually through the situation.  There are periods that can be months long of chaos.  Times where an alter is out of control for days.  Thankfully in our journey those long periods of chaos are not as frequent as they have been.

 

“I’m sorry, Gemma. But we can’t live in the light all of the time. You have to take whatever light you can hold into the dark with you.” ~ Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty

I believe there are many situations in life we look back on and think, that wasn’t as bad as it felt in the moment. We made it through that situation and will make it through this one.  Pain is relative.  For example if I’m in physical pain, the worst possible pain I’ve experienced (a 10 on the scale), is childbirth.  For me that’s all I can compare it to.  When I was a child it would have probably been vaccinations would have been my 10.  Looking on that today, getting a shot is nowhere near the pain of childbirth, so pain is relative to what we know.  I’ve had people tell me that they don’t know how I do it every day that I have to be a strong person.  While that might be true, this is my normal.  I wouldn’t know what to do if my life wasn’t like this.  Now could I survive under constant stress, pressure and turmoil, no.  That’s why I’m glad that the chaos has breaks, even if they are short breaks, it allows me to catch my breath to go through the next wave without drowning.  I think most people don’t know what they could do because they might not have been faced with the situation.    I think this from the promises listed in the Big Book of AA sums it up.   ” We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”  We have to learn from the past, or else we are destined to repeat it.  Not learning, we react the same way each time and we will get the same outcome, but if we learn and grow then we move through that situation with a new perspective.

#Thispuzzledlife

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

Madres Especiales (Special Moms)

5.10.15

“It takes someone really brave to be a mother, someone strong to

raise a child and someone special to love someone more than herself.”

—Ritu Ghatourney

 

This post is one that is going to have a lot of emotion attached to it.  The topic of mothers and mother figures has been what has helped to shape me into the being that I am.  There’s a lot of happiness, laughter and tears associated with each name.  So, instead of just talking about being a mother, I thought I would share a little bit about some very special “mothers” that have influenced my life.  I would like to say that every woman that has been a ‘mother like’ figure to me in my life cannot possibly be written about in one blog post.

Let’s start from the very beginning and get the topic of my birth mom out of the way.  Her name is not worth mentioning so, I won’t even bother.  As much as I would like to say that I despise every part of her being, which in a lot of ways, I do, and I also must give her credit for giving me life.  She was the vehicle by which I entered the world.  Once I met her and was able to comprehend the fact that she wasn’t just a teenage girl that got pregnant and couldn’t take care of a baby.  Rather a very self centered woman without the capability to love a child in the way that a child deserves to be loved….I was able to move forward.  Sorry, Lifetime, the stories are sometimes just fairy tales.

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Susie Antonia Barbour Kendrick, was a woman who was truly one of a kind.  She had 10 children.  Her mother had 10 children.  And her grandmother had 13 children.  So, it’s very easy to be a part of this family and not know all of my relatives.  I never heard a cross word or any type of negativity come out of her mouth.  She was the child of a preacher and has many possibly a hundred or more decedents that are directly from her.  This side of the family is the much more conservative side but I love them all. Even in the depths of fighting cancer and the anguish both physically and mentally that go with that process, she always had a faith that was unwavering.  Her faith was so strong that even in the latter days of her battle while she lived with us, while I was still in high school, she prayed for a washcloth for 8 hours straight.  She also told my dad at some point that when he was a child that he ran down the aisle of the church and threw mud at the preacher.  People that know my daddy might say that that was very possible scenario.  While I know that this behavior was the result of the progression of brain cancer.  I chuckle at some of the things she said and did that were so out of character for such a sweet and very mild mannered woman, but she was my mamaw.

mother

My maternal grandmother, Alma Rebecca Howard Buxton couldn’t have been more directly opposite.  My Nannie was one of a kind as I have mentioned in an earlier post.  When she moved to mom and dad’s house, she and mom would sometimes argue like teenagers.  Honestly, there were times when I would have some good ole belly laughs from watching them both interact and the childishness of some of their arguments most often instigated by, you got it, Nannie.  However, she would always say it was because of momma’s smart mouth.  True as that may be, momma had to learn from someone.   Momma had become very frustrated one of the many times with Nannie and I simply told her, “Momma, one day, you’ll give anything to have one more argument with Nannie.”  I can’t speak for my momma today, but I bet since the day Nannie died January 2, 2006, the day of wishing she was arguing one more time has come by to visit her many times over.

I have mentioned and will continue to talk about and refer to Sarah Garner Pardue as a mom.  I think it’s pretty clear from earlier posts what type of woman she was and how she influenced and continues to influence my life today.  I seem to shed tears on a daily basis for this beautiful angel that now gently brushes me with her wings to let me know she’s still near me.  Wow, even now I tear up.  She was one of the few that actually saw all sides of me and loved me unconditionally anyway.  I can’t say enough times that there are just not many people still out there that I’ve encountered that can still manage to do that without ulterior motives.  Through all of our hours of conversations and trials that relationships can bring, the one thing she always wanted for me was happiness, serenity and contentment.  Some people may not ever understand the relationship I had with she and Doug and that’s OK.  Even now, I don’t know how to fully explain what the relationship was, it was just special.  And I will always feel blessed to have been in the room at her feet when she took her last breaths.

The above people have left treasured marks on my heart that I will take with me to my grave.  The next person is in a category of their own.  My MOTHER, Margaret Pearl Buxton Kendrick. To me she is special not superficial means but in character.  Even with the very special relationship that I had with Sarah, momma never once seemed to feel threatened or jealous because she has always known that she’s my momma.  Everyone has one true momma whether she is good or bad.  My momma stayed up with me rubbing my legs from horrible leg cramps as a child.  Cleaned up shit, pee and vomit in the middle of the night.  Waited for me to come home often high or drunk.  Watched from the sidelines with tears in her eyes as I battled the depths of drug addiction, domestic violence and demons that she knew existed but didn’t know their names or faces.  She has sat with a broken heart, at times, trying to fully comprehend the word ‘powerlessness.’  She has watched her children suffer heartaches and cried with them.  She has watched countless hours of Little House on the Prairie and cried about the woes of the Ingalls’s family’s crops being destroyed after a hail storm. She cried when Mary Ingalls lost her eyesight.  She would sing the songs, in the living room, with the congregation in the one room church on Little House on the Prairie like she was a member. She has rejoiced with her daughter in the excitement and trials of being an athlete. She has watched her oldest daughter’s soul be cracked and broken from abuse that she sometimes knew nothing about.  She has watched as her daughter’s once beautiful and childlike forearms metamorphosis into graffiti like battle ground full of 20+ years of self inflicted scarring.  She has seen firsthand how powerful a man’s words and actions can destroy the beauty that was once encapsulated the essence of her daughter.  She has watched her daughter slowly melt away from an eating disorder at a young age.  She has watched and heard her daughter’s reputation be destroyed by lies while knowing the truth.  She’s watched as her daughter has shed tears and learned some very difficult lessons in friendship which she knew would lead to internal growth.  She has also watched a daughter find the love of her life and become a parent in a non-traditional way with all of the naysayers at her back.  And today, she watches as her daughter, once again, is knocked down by a mental illness that she fights every single day to emerge as a Phoenix rising from the ashes of despair.  That my friends, is a very selfless mother who puts her children’s needs before her own.  She took this baby that was unwanted and raised her as her own with the help of her faith and a God fearing man that I also call my daddy.  And that is something that is priceless and that can only be repaid through example for my own children.

One day, such is the circle of life; I’ll be in the same position as my mother.  I will one day sit and wish I could have just one more argument with her.  My wonderful wife will be here to comfort me when I’m in need.  But as long as I have the sweet memories of my momma, I’ll always have something beautiful to write about.

On this Mother’s Day, I can finally say, “Mom, I get your sacrifice and the level of love that I was told I wouldn’t understand until I had my own child.”  You didn’t carry me under your heart, but in it.  Because of the example that you have set for me regarding family, sacrifice and love, our sons will also be blessed.

#Thispuzzledlife

Battle Wounds From A War

Battle Wounds From a War

5.1.15

“Cutting is not attention seeking. It’s not manipulative. It’s a coping mechanism–a punitive, unpleasant, potentially dangerous one–but it works. It helps me cope with strong emotions that I don’t know how to deal with. Don’t tell me I’m sick, don’t tell me to stop. Don’t try to make me feel guilty, that’s how I feel already. Listen to me, support me, help me.”

A Bright Red Scream

Big Trigger Warning for those not in a good place to be able to handle the topic of self-injury.  This post will be explicit for the topic to be as real as possible.  If you are in early recovery from self-injury please use your own judgment carefully before proceeding.  You have been warned.

I’ve been in this position before. My heart is pounding. My skin is crawling. My thoughts are racing.  The rage is building to a dangerous level that I’m not sure I can contain.  “I hate myself for this.  Ladies aren’t suppose to have such hateful thoughts.  Why must I always get this angry?  Am I capable of hurting someone?  I think I might be.  What would people think if they knew?  “You should’ve just had it beaten out of you when you were younger and you wouldn’t be acting like this.  You disgust me!  You’re flawed and no one ever has or ever will like you.  If you had been liked your birth mom she wouldn’t have given you up.  You must be psychotic.  You’ll never amount to anything just look at you.”  These are just some of the things I’ve heard since I started this behavior as a child.

Like bullets from a war zone, the thoughts and feelings hit my heart and mind over and over.  I try to shake the feelings of hopelessness, embarrassment, helplessness and intense feelings of being unwanted and the unforgiving loneliness.  I try to sit with the feelings as I have done before.  This time is different. I haven’t felt this level of intensity.  Every time I take in a breath my upper back feels like it’s being pounded by a sledgehammer.  I try distracting with music and my head just pounds more.  The thoughts become louder and louder.  I need relief and I need it NOW!  Nothing I know that has helped ward off this is helping at this moment.

just scars

I begin to feel my body going numb starting with my face and working its way throughout my body.  Soon, I no longer feel or hear, I just see.  Someone resembling myself is going through a very familiar ritual of gathering supplies strategically kept close by.  I know what is about to happen.  I’m out of balance and need to make all of the craziness in my head stop.  By now, I feel completely detached from even my own limbs.

The blue tourniquet is tied around my upper arm unsure how tight.  My left arm is cradled in a towel. Brand new blades are fully exposed and glistening in the light.  My heart is pounding with excitement and anxiety all at one time.  My only thoughts are, “I’ve got to have relief NOW!”  The other part is knowing that relief is only minutes away.  I look at my arm and I’m paralyzed as I watch the blade being picked up and placed against my skin.  In one quick swoop the blood begins coming out.  This is done another 10-20 times. My body seems to instinctively know when enough is enough and how deep is deep enough.  After 27 years, we have had some practice with this.

The endorphins flood my bloodstream with enough force to relax both my mind and body to a point of complete relaxation.  I continue to enjoy the relief that I had just experienced and was letting whatever poison that seemed to be occupying my mind with such hatred leave my body.

This is always done privately because, what if someone knew?  I didn’t want to die.  I just needed to regain balance and this has worked for many years.  Deep breaths now and my ‘system’ has seemingly returned to normal.  I have all my bandages prepared beforehand so, everything is waiting for the deed to be done.  I bandage this wound, still not completely feeling all parts of my body, like it’s something sacred.  Soon, I begin to worry about who and how I’m going to cover up this behavior yet again.  I make my plans and stick with it.  I don’t dare seek medical attention even though I need several stitches because of the fear of being disrespected  by being told, “I am just attention seeking. You did it so I don’t feel sorry for you.  That was just a sorry attempt at suicide which she obviously didn’t want to do too badly.”  So, I take care of it and watch it heal as I have many times before.  But, the guilt and the shame of the current episode start to invade my thoughts.  And so the cycle continues…..

If you were to see my forearms they might look to some of you like a scene out of a horror movie.  When I look at my arms, I think “Damn, look at what all I have survived.”  Yes, once again, this behavior began at age 13.  My eighth grade school year that would forever change my  life.  Individuals who engage in this behavior typical have a range of reasons for beginning and continuing the behavior.  My initial reasons for beginning this behavior was because of intense anger that I was forced to hold inside.  I was in a ‘no win’ situation with the teacher, my predator, so no emotion could be shown.  I was so angry that I wasn’t completely sure what I was capable of doing.  What we now know and understand is that when feelings get stuffed for so long they manifest in other ways.

razors

“The truth about childhood is stored up in our body and lives in the depth of our soul. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perception shamed and confused, our bodies tricked with medication. But our soul never forgets. And because we are one, one whole soul in one body, someday our body will present its bill.”

-Alice Miller, A Bright Red Scream

It never ceases to amaze me how people are about watching trauma shows on television about emergency rooms across the nation with gunshot wounds, stab wounds, car wrecks, etc covered in blood and guts and yet freak out like the thought of cutting oneself means ‘run for the hills.’  I think maybe part of the issue is something that’s accidental versus intentional.  Self-harm often gets labeled as some type of pseudo-suicide attempt when in actuality that has absolutely nothing to do with suicide.  True self-harm is also not a behavior that is a bandwagon type of behavior.  Self-harm is about using what seems to be a last ditch effort to hold on to life without committing suicide.  I’m also not saying that everyone who dies by sliced wrists, forearms, legs, stomachs, faces and heads aren’t as a result of suicide vs. self harm.  But, self-harm also can become an addiction.  The endorphins released at the time of the injury can last for about 30 minutes.  Medical professionals seem to think that just because someone states that they were not able to feel at the time of the behavior that they can’t feel when being stitched up.  Often times the nurses and doctors have personally given me a feeling of being ‘less than’ or have treated by wound like I had absolutely no feeling by being rough with my arm.  After the 30 minutes is up, you can feel every single bit of pain.

I’m not harmful to other people with my instruments.  I found a way when I was much younger to deal with my anger.  As maladaptive as it might be, it worked to help me survive what my mind thought I needed help with.  I realize that this is a behavior that must change for long term recovery and to encourage a healthy ‘system.’  Trauma and PTSD can have you fine one minute and not the next.  This behavior I continue to struggle with from time to time. Self-harm does not consist of just cutting, there’s also burning, breaking bones, exposing skin to extreme temperatures, eating disorders, hair pulling (trichotillamania), etc.

I’m no longer really embarrassed but just accepting that  cutting is also a part of where I’m at in my process right now.  I had gone several years previous without cutting but jumping into trauma therapy and the effects of PTSD can make it very difficult to deal with.  I’ve made much progress over the years in trying to recover from cutting. It’s definitely a slow process for us even with a very supportive and understanding wife.

I’m not ashamed nor do I flaunt my scars.  Our only difference is that our tears are red.  I’ve been in a war my whole life and kind of see them as “Battle Wounds from a War.”  Please think and educate before you judge.

#Thispuzzledlife

420: Not Just A Stoner’s Holiday

420: Not just a Stoner’s Holiday

“If the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”
– Terence McKenna

This time exactly one year ago I was attending the High Times Cannabis Cup in Denver, Colorado. I didn’t view it then as a ‘get high free-for-all’ but rather as a ‘looking for new meds adventure.’  Believe it or not, there is a difference in marijuana and how it affects the body based on what type of condition that’s being treated.  Yes, I did happen to run into Snoop Dogg at one of the dispensaries.  And yes it was awesome!  This year, however, since our little boy is on the horizon, my wife advised that I stay close to home.  Notice I said my wife advised me.  So, I…..took her advice.

Anyway, I think one of the common misconceptions about those of us who use cannabis whether as a medicine or recreationally are seen as the stereotypical ‘stoners’ like Cheech and Chong.  I also think that most people’s perceptions are that most consumption is through smoking out of a pipe or a bong (water pipe).  I’m not going to attempt to go through all the specifics about the different strains because there are more than I can count.  I will say that this medicine in made in the bud, edible, wax, shatter, tincture, salve and pill forms.

Why do I seem to harp so much about this medication?  It is also helping me to survive the wounds from the past.  The addiction community, depending on the area of the country, are usually not in favor of any ‘mood altering’ substances.  Think about this…..ever been around your spouse or yourself in the mornings before you’ve had your coffee?  I’m just sayin’.  Yep, very mood altering.  Now, I’m not making light of the concerns.  That was just something I thought of that I personally found amusing.

Snoop Dog Dana

In earlier blog posts, I’ve stated my concerns about being a former practicing drug addict and being suggested to use cannabis as a medication.  Not everyone’s situation is the same and I get that.  I can say that my wife and I felt like we were in a ‘do or die’ situation.  Is it mood altering for me?  My wife would tell you, “Thank God it is!”  With everything that goes on in my brain on a daily basis, vaporizing some medical grade cannabis can actually bring me back down to reality and into a much calmer state.

Now, some of the arguments I’ve heard against medical cannabis is, “not everyone is going to have a legitimate medical condition.”  You know what? That’s true.  How many prescription drug addicts have legitimate conditions that require the AMOUNT of medication that they’re taking?  I would much rather all the prescription pill drug addicts trade all their pills in  for a designated amount of weed each month and see how far down the death rate goes and the overdose rate goes.  All of those amounts will correlate to the amount of Cheetos and Girl Scout Cookie stock rising to an all time astronomical high.

These are very ‘tongue n’ cheek’ views but getting heated usually doesn’t help much.  I just know that I was very closed minded and had very tunnel vision on addiction and how it MUST be treated before moving to New Mexico from the South.  My former clients, additional recovery services and my own struggles with mental illness have led me to a less rigid view on this drug.  I still maintain a somewhat rigid view on just about any other drug.  The benefits of marijuana are seen and felt everyday in the LIVES of the LANDRUM-ARNOLD FAMILY.  If this medication can bring me this much mental and physical relief from PTSD and other complications associated with a lifetime of abuse.  Surely, our soldiers should be handed an ounce and a card when they step back on to U.S. soil from having to kill people and see their buddies killed just so I can be free.

235

Let me wonder just for a minute out loud about things in the elusive ‘perfect world.’  I wonder if cannabis were available to everyone how many people would still be on social security disability long term.  I wonder how many suicides could or would be prevented. I wonder how much the crime rate would go down.  I wonder how many soldiers would actually be able to adjust to civilian life instead of living with an ongoing war between their ears that, from personal experience, is unbearable.  I wonder how many more people with physical disabilities could get the relief the need and beg for daily?  I wonder how many children could have a better childhood free from seizures.  I wonder how many people would and could live instead of dying from cancer.  I wonder how long it’s going to be for others to have a quality of life also.

I guess I should get you a little bit of information about how the term “420” became the big “stoner’s holiday.”  So, here’s a little explanation from good ole Wikipedia which is NOT a scholarly source, I might add…..

A group of people in San Rafael, California, calling themselves the Waldos because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”, used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about. The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time. The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis”. Multiple failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply “4:20”, which ultimately evolved into a codeword that the teens used to mean marijuana-smoking in general. Mike Edison says that Steven Hager of High Times was responsible for taking the story about the Waldos to “mind-boggling, cult like extremes” and “suppressing” all other stories about the origin of the term.

Hager wrote “Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?” in which he called for 4:20 p.m. to be the socially accepted hour of the day to consume cannabis.  He attributes the early spread of the phrase to Grateful Dead followers, who were also linked to the city of San Rafael.

Now wasn’t that just the most profound information you’ve ever read?  Sounds like a true stoner story for sure.  Some say that ‘street weed’ and ‘medical grade’ are the same. They are NOT.  Medical grade is governed so closely as to what they can use on the plants to make sure they’re safe for the public.  Street weed, well…..is not governed and is often sprayed with chemicals which can cause paranoia, psychosis, etc. depending on the chemicals used.

The medication I use today has three side effects:  eat, laugh, and sleep. Yep, that’s about it.  I still have other conditions that require additional medications.  Let me remind you that marijuana is a medication not a ‘cure all.’ Therefore, there are some conditions that still are unknown or cannot be treated with marijuana that is known at this time.   One thing I do know, for ME, all of my psych meds are rolled up into one vaporizer.

420 the ‘stoner’s holiday’ is written a few different ways such as:  4/20, 420, 4:20.  Most see this just as another day for people to get high.  But for those of us who depend on this “weed”, “flower”, “medication”, “bud”, “ganja”, “herb” or whatever you want to call it to simply have a quality of life.  We see this as a day to celebrate this medication that helps make life worth living again.

#Thispuzzledlife

It’s Pow Wow Time: The Gathering of the Internal Nations

It’s Pow Wow Time: The Gathering of the Internal Nations

4.18.15

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

— Chief Seattle, 1854

To many people a “pow wow” is just a cool production of Native American individuals dancing.  However, I must admit that I’ve always been drawn to the culture for much different reasons.  Initially, I was attracted to the dress and dance, as well as, traditional and cultural newness that I had never known.  I always knew that the attraction that was much deeper an even a spiritual attraction to these beautiful people.

You have to understand that having been adopted and then hearing stories of my biological heritage hearsay is all I have to go on.  For whatever the reasons I’m connected spiritually to the Native American culture.  When I met my biological family I was first told that we all had native heritage going many generations back.  It doesn’t take long to look at me and realize that there’s nothing 100% Native American about me.  I like to consider myself more like a casserole.  If you’re not from the South or don’t understand the term, Google ‘casserole’.

For years, I’ve tried to understand why I have such a strong attraction to not only the culture but more specifically pow wows.  The Gathering of Nations Annual Pow Wow in Albuquerque, NM each year has since helped me come to several revelations.  This particular pow wow is the largest in North America and is just as it says…..The Gathering of All the Nations.  Not just one particular tribe such as Navajo or Apache but all nations of tribes are welcomed to attend.  This pow wow also represents the carrying out of traditional dances and ceremonies which include dances of elders with children.  The bright colors in the regalia, not costumes or outfits, are more modernized but beautiful nonetheless. The pow wow generally is held in a coliseum venue and the four directions: North, South, East and West are blessed by an eagle which is considered sacred.  The meaning of the Eagle symbol was to signify courage, wisdom and strength and its purpose was as the messenger to the Creator. The eagle was believed to carry prayers to the Great Spirit in the Spirit World and also had a special connection with visions.

eagle

One general truth that threads throughout the Native American spiritual beliefs is the belief of Mother Earth.  The Native Americans felt that the earth was our mother, the sky our father, and all things were interconnected.  The many Creation myths of the Native American stress the mutuality and interdependence between people and other forms of life.  There is mutual respectfulness required when interacting with trees, birds, and plants and also natural forces such as the wind and the rain. Their creation stories empathize that Creation did not just happen a million years ago and end there, but that the Spirit that first infused the world is still with us now and can be experienced as “immanence”, the spirit which imbues all things.

To many Native American tribes the Native drum contains thunder and lightning, and when it is beaten it helps to get the creators attention and it also helps contact the spirits of the Native American forefathers.  There are those native peoples who also believe that the drum is representative of the

heartbeat of mother earth.  Whatever the reasons for the traditions, which I’m still discovering, put it all together and the result can make the hair stand on the back of my neck and arms while bringing me to tears.

One if not the most important part of the whole pow wow is Grand Entry.  This is where all of the dancers in each category are led out by a veteran guard and in front of them are the Elders, the most sacred.  It’s a symbolism and feeling of being that can’t be written in words.  Their spirituality and religion I totally respect. And yes there are certain ethics that must be upheld to remain respectful of traditions.

Outside the venue is a trader’s market that has vendors that alone could keep you busy all day long.  Food vendors with Indian tacos, buffalo burgers, fry bread and roasted corn thoughts are dancing in my head.  But the magic is in the environment by watching dancers and drummers carry out traditions of their ancestors.  The coliseum is bursting at the seams with tradition and they’re free to do it without any consequences from the government.  All while lightly dusted with the smell of sage and sweet grass.

Not being able to go this year is like a void and let me explain why.  The beautiful Grand Entry instantly connects me emotionally and spiritually with my own ancestors.  One time every year I can feel the level of comfort that cannot be felt at any other time.  The drumming is a connection to my birth mom’s heartbeat that I long to hear and be a part of but never will.  This is my comfort like I was wanted by her.  Once again, total comfort.  Like the safe feeling I get being around my brother Levi, this feeling is magnified 100 x when I connect with the protection of my ancestors and those who have crossed over.

This obviously is not everything that fully encapsulates all of the spirituality and religion of the Native Americans.  This is how it helps me regain my own balance and peace in a world of utter internal and external chaos.  My internal ‘system’ seems to gather and are all peaceful and comforted just for one weekend that we all like to call “The Gathering of the Internal Nations.

#Thispuzzledlife