Angelica (poetry)

Angelica

She was still one that no one wanted around

Being kicked aside she was found

But no one had know her job

For she stepped up and sobbed

She was treated like property and chained like a dog

Submissive she was but she drew the short straw

Some would label her as an outgoing whoreface.

And she would have a scarlet letter she always wore

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

But she would soon get a new name designed

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

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

#thispuzzledlife

What If No Really Meant No

What If NO Really Meant NO

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis”
― Ellen Bass, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

There are things in my life t;hat I continue to hide under a bush away from the light. Mostly because it’s embarrassing to deal with. The sexual abuse I endured has affected my life in ways that I can’t seem to find words for. In my early 40’s I should be in my sexual prime. But instead I sit here getting nauseous at just discussing the topic. My first sexual experience was around the age of 5 years old which is incredibly too young to know anything about that side of life. It terrified me when it happened not once but several times. I hear their words and can still feel them touching me. I still hear the words whispered in my ear. It all burns so bad in my soul that I can smell my charred remains.
Where this is something that I’ve left covered and protected I’m also not healing in this area of my life. I have run until there’s no where else to run to. It’s time to turn around and face it. Coach has proven herself time and time again that she’s trustworthy of this information. Now it’s my time to allow my trust in her to do it’s job.

protect me

Sex for many years has been a taboo topic that most people shy away from unless poking fun. But, even as an adult I was violated aggressively by a person that was supposed to protect and cherish me…….my husband. Instead, however, fear and pain were shown. I allowed him to do things to me that I was against personally and saying, “NO” just made things worse. So, I reluctantly went along as his submissive with total disregard for how I felt.

Me and my alters don’t understand how this process is supposed to feel and be in a loving way uninhibited by young and adult alters who are terrified of being a part of a process that is meant to be one defined by the words “precious and sacred.” I have often said that I “let” people do to me sexually what they wanted. When, in fact, I was saying NO and being told what would happen if I didn’t allow it. So, silently I would lay still hoping and praying that whatever was being done would end quickly.

By the time I met Mel sex to me was a horrible amd very scary word. But, the damage had already been done. The nausea I now couldn’t control which ruined the experience time and time again. The only thing that seemed to save me what the ability to float away. What I did was leave alters in my place further scaring and traumatizing them. No matter how many times I tried this process became automatic. And now one of the most intimate areas of my life has lead to a life of hibernation rather than fulfillment. I didn’t “LET” anyone do anything. They took my pride, self-confidence and humanity. Which leads me to ponder the question, “What would life had been like if No actually meant NO?”

#thispuzzledlife

The Day I Left (Poetry)

The Day I Left

 

You bought me with your words

To make me into who you wanted me to be

I was now your ball of clay

And it all began on that day.

 

Day after day with orders spoken in my ear

Words that burn and ones I can clearly hear

Laughing and smiling while you mold me

Please just let me be who I want to be.

 

“No you will do what I say!”

I screamed, “Someone help me!” But they were so far away.

Speaking a language called fear

I wish my cries someone could hear.

 

There was nowhere to go, I was trapped again.

Scared as I was I knew I couldn’t win.

I couldn’t feel but I could see it all being done.

By the expression on his face, I could also see he was having lots of fun.

 

Each fiery lash from your tongue would damage me more and more.

And later from the ceiling I saw myself lying fetal on that

cold bathroom floor.

The game was one of survival and that I could see.

He wasn’t even close to the end of hurting me.

 

Bits and pieces I shattered like shards of glass and he couldn’t see

I didn’t know how much it drained the life right out of me.

When the cops weren’t there you wish they were.

But when they got there with fingers pointed they say, “It was her!”

 

Their eyes met mine and I knew that I had just been put in check

Scared that if I said a word hands would again be put around my neck.

This situation was getting worse and unsure how it might end

He had isolated me away from everyone and now I had very few friends.

 

I couldn’t be honest and cry my tears because someone would know.

How I let him treat me like a dog and his “beck and call” ho.

I had to leave and get out somehow because safety was looking bleak

But to get out of a situation like this, behind his back I would sneak.

 

Many weeks later that day would finally come and I would feel no pain.

I was turning my back on my “master” and I left carrying with me years

of guilt and shame.

Walking another lonely road looking for someone to help

But being the abused and injured dog with every step I would yelp.

 

Champions hold their heads high even with injuries and pain

Because through their strength and courage others will also gain.

I walk away still going forward in the opposite direction from you.

Looking for someone to help me work

through the abuse that could’ve been prevented by you two.

 

You think that you defeated me all those times you saw red

Because the only reason I won’t keep going is if I’m lying dead

You did nothing about your trauma and yes that was your choice

But writing gives me something I’ve never had……A strong and confident voice.

 

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Life With The Plant

Life With The Plant

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

—- Dr. Sanjay Gupta / Neurosurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

The Collar (Poetry)

The Collar

When I was with you,  you made it seem

Like you would always treat me as your queen.

You set the line and patiently waited

Wanting to see if I would take the bait.

I took that bait as soon as it hit the water

He was whispering under his breath

“HaHa! Now I’ve got her.”

 

A few years later the child bride would be of age.

And this was what he needed to secure her fate.

She didn’t smile much on her wedding day.

Because at the altar she knew she was making a very big mistake.

Instead of a ring she was given a collar

It was suppose to make her obey and if not she would holler

It kept her in line with him at the controls

He told her what she could eat and where she could go.

slave collar

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe on their Honeymoon he would find a way to chill out

My assumption was wrong and that very night she would find out;

because he told her she would kick him complete out

That night she would hear that her teammate was dead

But instead of hugs she was forcibly raped.

She learned how to cry in ways that he never saw.

And many times he never saw her tears fall.

 

She wasn’t his queen nor his bride

Because all she wanted was to run and hide

From his abuse she would understand a new life.

One where orders were obey and eggshells were walked on day and night

She did not want this life of hell

But this was the life where she chose to dwell

 

His hateful words and scary threats

She doesn’t understand why he does this.

She could never do right so how can I leave.

With tears in her eyes She screamed, Stop it! Stop it! Stop it please!

“It’s Your Fault!! You So Stupid…..You can’t do anything right!!!

Oh my God how do I leave?! Help was nowhere in sight.

 

“When she gets enough she’ll finally leave” is what they would say

They didn’t understand that she had wanted to leave long ago

“You’re my bitch and all four you go.”

And I made you my legal ho.

I was nothing to you but a junkyard dog.

IMG_1372 (1)

The door to my freedom Somehow managed to swing open.

But all I could do was sit in my house that became my prison

I don’t care that you called me hog

But what I had really become was one of Pavlov’s Dogs.

 

Many screamed get out and go

I couldn’t bring myself to leave him because that was all that I know.

It was comfortable because I knew that routine.

And I bet you guessed that I seldom was ever treated like a queen.

 

I thought long and hard on making a plan

I had to hurry just as fast as I can

the time came to leave him like many times before.

But this time I would keep my eyes straight ahead

and not look back at that door.

 

He followed close behind to my car and called me everything in the book.

And with every word he said I trembled and shook.

I’m leaving him and I must be crazy.

I would never again be called fat and lazy.

I could also remove that horrible shock collar.

And as I left him for the final time I was was terribly scared

Because I just walked out of my prison without a collar;

Finally free to eat what I want to eat and to Go anywhere I wanted to go.

By: Dana Arnold

#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

Closing The Chaper

Closing the Chapter

12.29.2017

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

—Paulo Coehlo

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

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

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

eagle dancer

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

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

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

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

locked soul

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

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

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

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

puzzle piece blue

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Passing The Torch

Passing the Torch

2.17.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah G. Pardue

7/11/53-2/11/15

   

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

#Thispuzzledlife

I’m Not Alone

I’m Not Alone

8.23.14

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

—Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Thispuzzledlife

Memories That Come To Life

Memories That Come To Life

8.21.14

“I feel no emotional connection to these outwardly human gestures.
I am not there, because I never left Afghanistan.”
― Jake Wood, Among You: The Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken By War

We recently went to the “small, southern town” thinking that I could do some ‘special’ therapy there.  This is a ‘trial and effort’ type of situation for us in dealing with my disorder.  We soon realized that doing therapy and even being in the state was causing more harm than good.  I couldn’t relax enough mentally or physically to be able to do the therapy.  There are just too many harmful emotions and people that are associated with that area.  When we do visit, I’m constantly watching EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.  Saying that someone is ‘safe’ doesn’t mean shit to me!  I luckily don’t remember what all of what was said and done.   I do remember how the feeling was like having my skin peeled off.

It’s a very conflicted feeling of wanting to be there but not wanting to step foot near that area.  Most of my high school teammates, my parents, our really close friends, people who support us, the fields that I put my body on the line to be a good athlete, the great memories of the terms “team” and “family, and the house I grew up in.  But also, are the memories of the all the abuse.  I always make a point to go by and visit both my friends, former classmates and my grandmother’s grave at their respective cemeteries.   I sit late at night next to the leftfield line where I experienced what the term ‘love’ was all about for the first time.  I think many times about how much fun we had as players and the things we got away with because we were high school athletes.  But, those thoughts always become overshadowed by what was going on, seemingly in another life.

I ride around that city and all I see and think is the horror that no one claims to know about but me.  There are those that I know recall what happened to me with the teacher.  They knew about it, knew it was wrong, and did nothing about it.  Everywhere, I seem to go in that city is a very bad reminder of what happened.  Some people have tried to say, “Just let the past go!”  Tell me how and I’ll do it.  That’s usually where the conversation about that ends.  I usually feel like I can’t escape the ‘nightmare’ that I had already lived.  I just wanted to go to my NEW home, Albuquerque.  Petal will always be the town where I was raised, taught manners, good food and respect.   But a lot of healing has to take place for me to be able to consider it anything other than a ‘nightmare.’  I have a lot of people there that I’m very close too.  However, I can’t even enjoy a visit with them because I’m so on edge about everything.

I was told by my ex-husband about the molestation that, “that happened a long time ago, what in the hell can you do about it now?” I have never forgotten that statement. I instantly felt like I had been emotionally raped because it wasn’t a big deal to him.  He told me later, “I have spoken with your parents about the molestation incident and they told me that they don’t believe that it happened because you would’ve told them about it.”  I didn’t know it then, but they still had no idea what had actually happened. I had made sure of that for a very long time.  I was devastated from what he told me.  I figured that with him being my husband that surely he would be empathetic that it happened.  I don’t know if he ever believed me or not.  But, I do know that there was never any empathy shown towards me about that subject in any way.  “Dana, it’s a &@*# play with it!” is not the way to help that person heal.  It actually re-traumatizes them. I now know what he told me was a lie. All I’ll say about that topic is that I rarely talk about it because of the shame of the abuse.

I’m actually reading a book that is explaining exactly what ‘wife rape’ is.  The book actually explains a lot to me.  I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over at times. So, reading a book is usually a feat.  I start seeing the canvas of words slowly form a picture of what looked like me.  I read further and could so identify with some of the other survivors.  I thought, “Now, I have an explanation for part of the 14 year ‘mind fuck.’” However, what I noticed is that slowly a repeat of an incident began to unfold.  I couldn’t stop it. I was silenced.  I saw his mouth and lips move.  I saw the redness of his face.  Some saw me as being lucky to be married to such a well known guy.

Unfortunately, his abuse was reserved for the party of 1…..me.  He was different around other people.   I knew him for who he was.  He was the product of the abuse from his father.  I was told, “There are no marks on you! No one will believe you anyway!  You’re the one with the mental history!”   Then the feelings began to rush to my heart, stomach and brain where the nausea and migraine ensued.  I looked around and realized that I was sitting in my chair. For a split second, though, everything was very real but from a different time.  I looked down and the book was still opened to the page I had been reading.  I vaped a little mmj (medical marijuana) and then went and tried to relax in the bed while my body thought that I had just been on a run from a dog.  Everyone else was already fast asleep.

Both my days and nights are like this at times.  The visions and memories are so real, in fact, that vomiting often follows.  It seems like it never ends.  I hope for better days sometimes.  Right now, it feels like I’m feeling it all over again.  All I know to do it hit it, whatever it is, ‘head on each time.’ Even if you are scared, you NEVER dodge an opponent!  You always step on the court or up to the plate ready to play ball!

#Thispuzzledlife