Well up until today I was having a hard time seeing what I was thankful for. And then, in a rare and favorite moment, I felt compassion. Compassion for, well, myself I guess. My sister told me I’m her hero. That’s hard to swallow but I believe her I have to because she’s never lied to me. How someone can say something that fits right into that hole you have, that place where you kick yourself for not being stronger, for not being farther, for not accepting your illness but fighting against it only to worsen the symptoms–that sick cycle I keep continuing. But hey, at least I’ve noticed it. I’m becoming more…aware of what I’m doing. I’m angry a lot, even when I don’t think I am, and my family is gently trying to tell me so…well most of them. And what did I learn when my mother wasn’t there for me, when we chewed each other out BAD and screamed and cried and took our digs when I was having an episode? I learned not that she isn’t there for me, she is in her own way, but I learned we have wounds that don’t heal over night. Her in her insecurities as a mother and as a woman, and me in my two ways–denying this illness, and secondly, being to afraid to make more changes. Changes changes changes I’ve had to make so many, and so many have just happened. These last three or so years I’ve changed so much–I died, I was born, I was all but decimated, I was given faith, I became whole at the core, though the outer rings need tending to now. I’ve been afraid. That’s the bottom line. But I’ve made some kind of step somehow. It’s been brewing in my psyche and in my heart for weeks and it’s now forming into these words: I’m less afraid to face this ill body because my life in the “stuck” arena is awful. It’s cowardice. It’s not me. I’m seeing a new psychotherapist and I like her because she has boundaries and I need that. I’m not dreading going to see her next week. I’m looking forward to it. I found myself telling her and I couldn’t believe it when I was saying it because I’ve never told anyone before but I accept these terms of my life as a challenge, as a challenge I can overcome and the answers are in me I just have to find them. That’s exactly what I said. I’m giving myself a warrior badge for that instinct of mine. I have a lot to be thankful for, even when life feels like it’s been one kick after the other lately–I just wasn’t looking at the lessons. If someone tests your soul, who you are, who you are TO YOURSELF, then they’re someone to be thankful for. Difficulties and weaknesses often lead us to the very thing we need to learn. I’m looking at my weaknesses, and it’s been a long time since I have. Rumi hinted at these things–take to the difficulties that come upon you as a friend (he writes of thieves that get you and get you) because they’re bringing you back to your spirit, the importance of your spirit and how it shines and how you can make it shine. I have festered in my weaknesses long enough. I’ve sat in their gut and even stunned the time of waiting. But now I’m waking up again. I don’t like it in here and I’m seeking a window. Or an ulcer, to climb my way out of. Because that’s what I can possibly be good at and faithful to, since I’ve been denying it. Weak. I keep thinking of Mark Twain’s quote too “never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” I’m having this issue with my ex, and I’m learning (ever so slowly) that underneath the hurt and the dreaming of his attention is not him, but me–thinking I need someone to love me in order for myself to love me. I was thinking that I’m unlovable. That when people leave they don’t love you and never did. Write Into the Light blog showed me that. It’s not necessarily him I seek because he is weak and so much smaller than I am. He has the potential to find his greatness, but he doesn’t believe in it, is what I mean. And if you can’t see it in yourself, you can’t see it in others, which is why he never saw it in me. Well, that’s it for now. I finally feel some peace now.
word count: 2,382
I sneak up on him, crawling across the nappy green carpet in my scratchy nightgown. Sometimes staples stick up from hidden ridges and prick my knees. The carpet is smooshed like fields after a storm, with mysterious, stitched rivers dividing the landmasses. I crawl to the end of the dull and sticky table. Two owls with glassy, yellow eyes sit on their perch, holding up the dingy lampshade. A glass ashtray reflects golden light. I watch his profile as he smiles and talks with his brother—my new uncle—who sits among empty beer cans on the other side of the dark living room. They’re talking with words I don’t quite understand yet. He laughs, so I laugh. I like his dimples. I like everything about this strange character. My sisters and I are learning how to spell his last name. He wants us.
He hears me laugh and slowly turns an annoyed, oily face in my direction. My hair is still wet from the tub. He puffs a large cloud of cigarette smoke into my shiny face. They laugh. I cough and laugh, too. They keep talking. It means go away.
Sometimes I get sick when I walk by him in the house. I don’t know what I say but it is always wrong. Everything I touch or do is wrong. I need to be more like my sisters. I hide in my bedroom and shake, crying as I play with Miss Piggy’s string of pearls. Mom hugs me; she looks far away because she doesn’t know what I’m doing. I tell her I don’t want to have babies; I don’t want her to die; or I want to die. I won’t let her out of my sight. I’m terrified when she’s away. Sometimes she takes me with her to clean the urinals at the Rectory. But most of the time I can’t go.
He chases me with boots and fists and belts. My feet sweat and slip around in my jelly shoes when I make my dashes for the nearest door, even though I am never fast enough. He is huge and takes up all space. After awhile I don’t feel so afraid anymore. I propel across rooms like a boomerang—a strange mixture of euphoric flight and humiliation—and crash into the prickly walls or squeaky dressers. Upstairs my sisters sit on their ruffled sheets, waiting for my screams to stop. I didn’t know I was screaming.
It’s best to get it out of the way early in the day. One swift black boot coming at my head means blackout, and I can wake up and be left alone for the whole day to play with my Hug-a-Bunch and Barbie dolls. He locks himself away in the garage, chain-smoking Doral’s and sweating over an engine to Deep Purple. I try to offer him a coke or Kool-Aid, barefoot in the driveway. I think my sisters and me should clean the house to surprise mom when she gets home. I want to shine for her.
I don’t tell my mother about what happened. I don’t tell her my new Daddy Scott touches me. I don’t tell her how my stepbrother and stepsister are forced to sit in a tire swing while Daddy Scott videotapes, his pleasant voice telling them to touch each other. They’re wearing white tank tops over their tan skin. They look scared, yet somewhat somehow blank, as if they were dead. They do as he says. I’m watching. DO I join in? Am I doing it to? I don’t remember. Then we’re in the water and it’s warm and I am nothing but this empty vessel filling. I don’t know for sure if this is wrong, but the looks on their faces—dead children. I’ll never stop seeing their eyes. Their mouths turned down, silent.
It happened during afternoons when the yellow light came through my mother’s curtains like a stain on the bed. Faceless entrance, in on something, special–special just for that moment, until the hitting would start. I am becoming nothing. I have no Continue reading
http://soundcloud.com/kylanrice/return This is the most beautiful ppoem EVER. YOU MUST LISTEN
My relationship with my mother is a book in itself. This is not a post about her or me but rather about the deep waters we get ourselves into in a desperate search for love. All of us–my two sister, me, and my mother–desperate for love. We fail to remember we can receive it from each other, well at least me and my mother. You can read my poem about my mother HERE (Mama It Was Too Late) and another, HERE (70s Soundtrack). OK, one more HERE (A Trauma Theory). It was like so many moments, so many years, built up this moment here that happened a few weeks ago–asking my mother to validate me for her abandoning me when I was abused as a five-year-old but more-so when I was sixteen. How she chose his side, chose to believe him over me. I found myself pounding my fist on the table and screaming through tears “My life is fucked!! It’s FUCKED because of what you and “” did!” After the screaming match and her denying everything, me storming out after her sarcastic apology, my sister stopped me and told us we had to once and for all, deal with this burden and talk it out. (I was quite proud of her by the way). My mother fell apart. “I did the best I could! If that’s not enough for you I’m sorry but I did what I had to” (i’m summarizing). I was so still and controlled suddenly. “No,” I said, “It wasn’t enough. Not for me.” She said I hope I know what this feels like some day as a mother and I said that I wouldn’t because I would never abandon my Emma and side with her abuser. Not a chance in hell. She kept saying how she did her best or what she thought was best and that she was having trouble with her mental illnesses then (screaming at me like I should cut her slack for manic depression) and calmly, coolly, I said something I’d been waiting to say for years: “I don’t feel sorry for you.” It bit at her, but she yelled “I don’t want your pity,” spitting words at me like I’m the problem, as if I’d always been the problem. I think I’ll always be the problem. I told her I wasn’t doing this to assign blame and hurt but that, as a part of my healing from C-PTSD and everything else, I needed validation for what I’d been through and how I’d reacted and for what I didn’t receive. I wanted her to be there for me through this NOW and help me and try to understand what I’m going through instead of making it all about her. “Everything is not about you, Amy!” and calmly again I said “Mom, for once, this is ALL ABOUT ME. I’m the victim in this, not you.” And she broke some more saying “I know, I know.” I saw for the second time how fragile and weak she is. I thought back to her decisions, her generation of marriage and children and abuse, her view on life, her 1970′s please-the-husband-children-come-last. At least that’s my take. This is the woman who, I think out of desperation, married my alcoholic biological father out of fear of being alone and unloved, always feeling like the ugly duckling, not believing in her beauty. He was slow and a drinker. What drew her to him? Yet she was smart enough to leave him. And foolish enough to marry the man that was after me from the beginning. She was desperate. For love. Absolutely desperate, she was willing to sacrifice my well-being in order to maybe have more financial support and someone to “make her feel pretty” as she told me a few months ago. Yeah, I wanted to say, he made me feel pretty too. Ugh. I feel like she’s never known who she is, like she felt she wasn’t worth it. Why? Why is/was her self-esteem so low? So non-existent? (pause: my theme song is playing right now as I type: “Loser” by Beck, hehe). I can’t help but feel like her spite for me is because I’m stronger. I’ve always been stronger. She knew I rebelled and hated me back then because I stood up for myself when “—” was sexually abusing me. I wouldn’t have it. Yet I was under her finger enough to promise I’d never tell anyone as she asked because I wanted her to love me. I’ve always tried pleasing her and walked on egg shells and “made everything shine” for her and comforted her telling her what she wanted to hear because I wanted her to love me and have an ounce of respect for me. “You wish I were dead don’t you? Look at you! Look at you!” she screamed as I stood there ever so calmly. Her fears she tried transplanting on me. She wanted them to be mine, like she wished it were true. Why? I said she was wrong, and that I loved her, and that all I ever wanted was to be worth it enough for her, worth saving, and I never was, and why not? She couldn’t answer, it was too late for that answer. She showed, didn’t tell. I wasn’t worth it enough to save, to protect. I was just a kid, an offspring. I wasn’t supposed to have emotions that mattered, I wasn’t supposed to argue her values. And if I did, shame on me. She’s such a tough, mean, bitter shell on the outside and weak and scared inside, like a child. And I’m trying to learn to not be so concerned about that child anymore. She’s a big girl. She needs to face up to what she did and own it. I’m not going to own her shit anymore. And after this falling out or in, it became so much easier. I was watching a woman so desperate for love all her life she was now angry and bitter, believing she has no choices to better her life, and she’s right back where she started as a young, weak breaking woman because she didn’t have the balls to grow up, to experience the other love in her life she was offered. Love only meant men, as if they were the only creatures that mattered. I don’t pity her anymore. And she knows it. And goddammit that feels fucking good. A weight was definately lifted between the two of us, but there’s still so much ice in the air waiting and I don’t know why. Maybe because I know I’ll never get what I need from her, and I’m not even sure what that is. Love. Worth. Unconditional love. She doesn’t have that for me. Her love has conditions. For me anyways. I doubt she’ll ever read my essays and poetry about what I’m going through (as my sister told her to do if she wanted to have the courage enough to read it all to understand me–she said “would you read it if it were about you? and Jodie said Yeah it’s gonna hurt but she should read it if she wants to be there for me). Yeah, she’d read it if I was worth it. She’s so afraid of looking into the mirror, afraid enough to not put me first for once because that means facing the truth. And living in lies is living a dead life. I once told her when I write (she was upset because a post was somewhat about her) I told her I’m not gonna hide the truth, the truth in what happened is the reason I write, and I was in no mood for protecting her good name so it wouldn’t hurt her. Believe me I’ve already censored myself plenty in order to protect her….from her. My sisters and I have worked over-time protecting her from her. She does good for a few years, and always falls apart, and we’re the ones picking up the pieces and raising her, trying to get her to believe in herself, to believe she has choices, and she hates us for it, shuns us, gets back on her feet, and is bitter. We can’t really win. We’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop. Only we’re getting older. We’re looking at our lives, and deciding for once that we matter too. What do we have? Fathers that left us, abused us, abandoned us, and a mother that toys with our heads and hearts but at least she never left us. So what to do? All we have is each other. We have to make this work. I have to find in myself my own mother (again) and accept who she is and what I get from her. She’ll always think my intentions are evil for some reason, when all I ever wanted from her was to be loved unconditionally and be worthy. I have to find my worth in myself, and that’s hard, a battle every day.
Talking with my mother now is not about me being in control of that situation. It’s about being as honest as I can without totally losing compassion. Back when I was being abused and she turned on me, she used to say “Amy you reap what you sow.” Now I’m saying it to her in my head. She’s reaping what she sowed.
- I Need Encouragment (ptsdcreativewriting.wordpress.com)
In the mornings, it was excused for sleepiness. We’d pass each other in our own floor patterns and habits, maybe say good morning., My cigarette smoke leaked into the morning yellow on the back deck where I’d wake and listen. Birds and wind and traffic and exhalations. Then my brain would squeeze as the sun rose higher and the dreams cleared, knowing it was time for the day to begin, wondering how it would go, if it would last, if we’d changed.
We dressed at different hours–I, with the comfort of time suspended, unable to work and trying to heal–and he, in the rut of unemployment and agitated fingers buttoning his shirt. The hush of clothes as we passed in the hallway to the bedroom, maybe a polite ‘excuse me’ to break the air. I sought space at this time, for meditation and thought and perspective. He sought with hot flesh and prodding fingers and a tired way to love me. I couldn’t be touched. The possibility of my lover touching me quite thin, as my skin was too awake and afraid. I wondered if we had anything else to give–what was left to receive from each other when we needed such different things? One day I had said “space, Justin, space…I need to be alone because I’m broken. I need to take care of this mind” and I could never tell him how my soul wept for him in loneliness. I could never tell him he could have my soul if he tried to take it.
The year before, when I was healthy, he proposed through a poem he had written, down on one knee, his hands shaking. I cried the moment I understood, and the ring glittered like snow; I was really loved. We’d lay in silence together be and making love, our minds lax and limbs jello. How I could love him then, in the floating hours of the day, and I told him through my fingertips how I loved him. We’d laugh and touch our lips together. We’d flirt with argument. Later, in the kitchen Continue reading
When I was five
I used to jump from the top of the stairs
to the landing with a red cape,
believing if I kept trying
I’d be Super-girl
saving the world from damage.
Many afternoons, my bare feet
thudded the catchy carpet
as smoke rose up the stairs
with the patience of a coming storm,
my father puffing a pipe,
his big knuckles unharmed
from their crack into my cheek;
his eyes empty of what he’d done
beneath my cape.
It didn’t matter that there was no such thing
At least I could fly.
I owe this blog post to WIL over at Write into the Light, in her post “My True Self is Not Mentally Ill” where she begins by listing what she likes about herself (a hard thing for us all to do) and discusses how we see our true Self and then shares an amazing video by Mooji from Mooji Answers (you can ask him questions, read his Buddhist (?) insights and all amazing shit). It’s centered on how our Self is NOT ILL, our person, our body is, not who we are. Go check out the video at her blog. After I watched the video I went like crazy over to YouTube and looked Mooji Answers up and I came across this video of his on fear, called “What are You Afraid Of?” Some parts that really, really struck me were:
“The mind must have something to threaten you with in order to hold you hostage…and only when you, the beingness, the consciousness, the presence, which is not a person, believe yourself to be a person, believe you’re merely the body-mind instrument and functioning then this thing comes out of fear–once you touch “I am the body”…What is innocence? it’s useful because it is required by consciousness in order for consciousness to taste experiencing (without the body, no experiencing) but somehow something takes places–identification with the instrument and then the consciousness falls into this modification : “I am the body this is me” and then a TRAUMA ENTERS INTO THE BEING, IT FEELS “NOW I’VE COME INTO TIME” THE TIMELESS BROUGHT ITSELF INTO TIME AND ANYTHING THAT TOUCHES TIME, FEAR WILL COME, BECAUSE TIME HAS BEGINNING OR SOME END. THE BODY HAS BEGINNING, HAS END. …
When you believe “I am this body” then fear comes and can continue threatening you. How can the being-ness that has fallen under the hypnosis that “I am the body-mind” wake up from this? Setsang. In setsang, the waking room.
…how can that which is unbound have no beginning? no real concrete existence? Spirit–comes into fear, by holding onto time…NOT FALL ASLEEP INTO THE HUMAN MODIFICATION, IT MUST REMEBER WHO I AM, AND THAT IS DISCOVERING THE DIVINITY IN YOUR OWN SELF, THE TIMELESS AND THE DEATHLESS…”
CHECK IT OUT:
rough draft, written at 3am, hmmm
I think I’m seeing white birds
white birds scattering away
from my window, out there
in the cold January, their wings
sound, from here, like sheets—
my grandmother’s white sheets—
on the line in June.
The light coming in is white.
Color? Or space?
Like the space we can never fill.
Like the start of a narrative.
Like the blank walls,
like the hospital rooms
in their yellow smoggy halo. Continue reading
Given the Floor
I tell you there are oceans of it
I turn my head a little
Not wanting to see in your face
What you will do with what I’ve given you
I tell you confused timelines and repressed logic
Emotions already scalded under the magnifying glass
I show you I’ve no use for them
But that they hinder me
They creep behind and follow
They run through my pink tendrils
Like this yellow acid burning pits, holes
And striating a perfect heart into pulp
And I question it’s beating wherever I go.
The oceans I told you
Are such superfluous pools
I may not extend or breathe into at my own will,
They’re shallow here, deep there
Rich and worthless and terrifying
Against my better judgement.
I won’t ever reveal just how hard
It is to tread for so long.
I tell you the facts, the levels of salt in the water
As I calmly gulp and drown in it,
Beyond the numbing fear
That it has all gone too far
And I will choke on my own chemistry–
Eying you up, scrutinizing your every move,
To see if you can help save what’s left.
Listen to Modest Mouse:
Well I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long. I and my docs experimented with new meds, which involved getting off what had been lifelines for me for so long–abilify and seroquel. And we tried Latuda, which was amazing at first–got rid of my auditory hallucinations (yeah I hear a little girl crying CONSTANTLY throughout the day if I’m not medicated or “my time” is coming), but unfortunatley the amazing med made me sicker than a dog. I was a useless wreck, tapered off, then went somewhat crazed and terrified for lack of meds in my system, and now we’re trying Lamictal. I also had during this Bronchitis and a seriously infected tooth. Sure I’m complaining, but really I just wanted to tell you why I’ve been gone so long.
I am disappointed in my mental reaction to being off most, maybe all, my meds. The abilify was just about out of my system when I momentarily “cracked”, the Latuda I quit for three days to stop the nausea, and the Seroquel was well out of my system. My, I guess, “reaction” or “state” was extreme anxiety ( I was certain I was going to lose it again and be back in the bin), I thought flashbacks were coming liking a train and I was this amebic blog that was pissed that I hadn’t managed to develop my own, personal defenses and strategies strongly enough; I was sort of in that floating stage where nothing seems quite real,
The Center’s Keep
There are slights–these subtle moments,
in between–that I forget I’m looking for.
There’s no perfume or intention to stumble me
but, if my head’s quiet enough, I see that
inside the folds of my many faces there’s an
opening. I know it’s legit if the “we” turns to “I”
and the disaster of compulsions falls to a floor
and I’m left without all my chemistry clogging
And for a brief moment
my head ends
and I begin
and for the sweetest moment
I am my center.
It’s enough to get me by
as I try try to hold the gravity
yet once I seek what keeps me
(taken from http://bordersofthepersonality.wordpress.com)
I greatly feared is come upon me,
and that which I was afraid of
is come unto me,
I was not in safety, neither
had I rest, neither was I quiet;
yet trouble came.
(from William Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness)
So I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to attempt this. It’s tricky. Jessica Stern’s memoir is a memoir about PTSD, not the events. Clever. But not my route. It’s tricky because of the nature of PTSD and it’s other worldly void you’re dropped into, and then all the pieces and forgotten memories that come through your body–how the hell do you write that? in some kind of order? that’s believable? I have essays and bits and poetry and narratives all over, but the POINT I’m making isn’t about the facts, it’s about the fiction I live in. This is gonna take a looooonnnggg time.
Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was–
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.
for One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry…
I imagine you must’ve shut
yourself off somehow–the way
you’d eventually teach me to do–
before you entered my door
like a king’s shadow
I hear the scrape of your jeans,
your hands hot and big like swings.
I’m young so I love you. I do as you say. You blow smoke in my face.
Now, here, I slip
because you taught me how to shut off–
how to die inside,
and I have only memories
of my body–
fear, arousal, panic and pain,
death around every corner,
shh girl shh
I hid so well I lost me
in this confusion of a woman
trying to bud from
what’s already been picked.
What It Takes
Be as a bird perched on a frail branch
that she feels bending beneath her, still
she sings away, all the same, knowing she
I used to think that my story was a tragedy. That’s bullshit. My story is about love and our centers and what it takes to find that love. What it takes. I certainly didn’t feel that way a year ago—or even ten years ago. I lived through child physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and I was left to my own devices from the age of five on. I was also born with Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. Before the Complex PTSD set in—around my early twenties—I was a numb, fractured, unattached, empty girl, destroying myself as often as I could. Let me start from there.
I was in another city, wasted, when my biological father fell on the barroom floor and died. He drank himself to death. I remember the phone call from my mother at two in the morning. I felt nothing, as was often the case in those days. I pretended to hurt. Even though he left us when we were young so he could have his drinking life, my earliest memories of him are the safest ones from my childhood. He wasn’t like my abusive stepdad. My real dad loved me as best as he could. He was shy and slow, driving us around the old farmhouse in a wagon behind his tractor. There were two wild apple trees in the yard and in the spring the slightest breeze created a snowfall of the soft, pink petals. That was my purest time. That was a time I vowed I’d return to as a woman (though I never thought I could).
My mother drove the three hours to pick my sister and I up that night. It was on that ride back home that I began to feel it—something cracking, something opening–deep, deep in my body. The next morning when we viewed his body in the basement of the funeral home, I remember one minute I was staring at his waxen, long eyelashes that used to sweep across those big, terrified eyes. I just remember those lashes, and the next thing I knew I was launched into a full-blown panic attack. That was the beginning of PTSD’s temperature starting to rise. I moved home and lived with my mother until I was well enough. I went to college to pursue writing. I made the Dean’s List. I had a baby girl named Emma Jane. I was on top of my game for several years, dedicated to psychotherapy and a guinea pig to different anti-depressants, trying to find the right one. My moods were out of whack (still not diagnosed with anything but depression and anxiety) and I was having flashbacks, but nothing that I felt was dangerous enough to mention. I wanted to be well. I had to be well. I was strong, wasn’t I? I was a fighter, wasn’t I? I fought against my abuser and my mother because of her abandonment. I was invincible. Then why this creeping sensation? Why these shadows? I think you know, or your body knows, when something is coming. Busy your life all you want, but when issues go unattended, they’ll come back.
It was in my late twenties, after being properly diagnosed as Bipolar and finally, finally medicated that my life collapsed. I lost my job, I was losing friends, my fiancé and I lost our house (and soon I’d lose him, too). Inside it started as this static that disrupted my thinking. I had fevers. I wasn’t sleeping. I was having body memories and disturbing thoughts and they grew and spread. I’d catch myself, laying in bed at night, crying, and suddenly there were voices—voices in my head. They didn’t talk to me or demand me to do anything, but rather it was like I was listening in on a conversation of a young boy and an old woman, and they gave me peace. Of course it freaked me out in the morning. It added to the fever I ran around in. I was physically sick as well and the doctors had no answers. I was hypervigilent. I saw death around every corner. My daughter was the age I had been when I was molested, and I couldn’t deal with her. She scared me, honestly. My control was slipping, and with that loss I feared suicide. I wasn’t strong enough to stop myself if I did it. I hid all this from everyone, until I found myself running around the empty house holding my head and crying and breathing hard, whispering to my dead grandmother to save me. My mind was out of my control. I was terrified. When I shut my eyes I was seeing things—black figures and red eyes. I threw my things together and ran for the car, and drove myself to the mental hospital. I was like a five year-old in a woman’s heels, banging on the heavy security door. “Help me help me help me.”
It took months and several more trips into “the bin” before I was diagnosed with Complex, Chronic PTSD, Dissociative Disorder, and Psychosis. I wasn’t put on new meds at first—only pumped with shots of Abilify (my Bipolar medication). In the hospital I died. The girl I was was dead. I couldn’t save her—I thought I had to, and I was too weak. I had flashbacks of blindfolds on my eyes, blood on my face, and sexual body memories. I lost all control and identity. My sisters came to see me on Visitor’s Day and they bawled right along with me as I told them I was gone; a caged animal, half-beating. I knew in my very bones that I wasn’t going to make it, and that I had lost. I had lost what was mine because my stepfather chose to take it from me. I knew I’d never get her back, and I was right—only I didn’t know that what I would gain would be so much more.
As time went on, I got worse. I began to have sporadic, psychotic break-throughs. All the world dissolves around you and no one can save you—it’s a delusional trip. Voices I heard appeared in strings coming from the phone receivers. The only thing that calmed me was having someone holding me while it happened, me shrieking in their arms, telling them I wasn’t going to make it. It always passed, but they came on more and more often. I was so terrified of the psychosis that it froze me. I wouldn’t go anywhere, fearing it would happen, and I wouldn’t be left alone, because I was sure that it was going to kill me—or I was going to do it myself. My sisters and I developed a support system that saved me, along with a five-point-scale to let them know how I was feeling or where I was with my psychosis and moods that day. This fabulous way of living continued on for over half a year. I was finally put on a new medication during my fourth or fifth stay at the psych ward, and it eased the flashbacks. I couldn’t stop the psychosis though, but it had slowed to about once a month. As the symptoms let up a little (aside from the dissociative states and hypervigilence) I was finding I had room to breathe. I began to write again. When I can’t find my way, I use my pen. My questions and obsessions about my illnesses were turning in a new direction. Each moment that I wasn’t freaking out in was a decided and much appreciated blessing. I began to meditate. I began to read Hinduism’s Upanishads, Alan Watts and his Eastern thinking, Buddhist scriptures, books on Christianity. I was this swirling eddy. I was awakening as if from a long, long dream. Each day brought me closer to myself, and I began exploring who that self was. Where were my fractured identities? Why wasn’t I feeling like all split lines and divides, half-thoughts and doubts? Who was this woman in the mirror? My eyes were back somehow, as if a veil had been lifted, or was lifting. I cried every day for a long time, relieved that the worst had passed. I was gaining control. But how?
The body has to enter into its own darkness in order to find the light. The light is in the darkness. I had to accept that I had lost, and I had to let myself fall. I died. But somehow, be it faith or God or some divine intervention, I was becoming whole. And I’d never been whole in my life. I realized I had curled up in my own wounds and shadows and I faced utter fear and terror, and because of that sacrifice to my soul, I was able to become from it. As I grew stronger in spirit, my symptoms began to vanish. Your mind is not your friend, it is your enemy. Go with your instincts, your soul, your spirit—that is where the truth is. I let go of the stigmas attached to my illnesses, as I decided that they were not who I was. Letting them go meant breath, I gave them to something else as vague as air and I was new. The mental illnesses were becoming to broken, too translucent, to damage me anymore. I was becoming, at last, enough.
Writing it all down in poetry, essays, memoir pieces, and stories played a major factor in my healing. Once you’ve put down on paper, you’ve given it away. It becomes a thing, instead of part of who you are. I also spent much of my time alone in silence, just being. I was learning to love myself—no matter how messed up that self could be. I accepted myself, I loved myself, I gave myself what I wanted. The ache of what happened will never leave me, but it’s a small scar to own. It’s not ever an emptiness but a numbed, sacred ache that will never know grace or relief but grief for all that was lost when I was young. Sometimes I think of the woman I could have been had it not all happened. Sometimes I ache for that lost little girl. Sometimes I think he stole my life from me. And maybe that’s so in a way, but the parts he took away from me died because I took it to the edge, fell, and came back different. I know that had it not all happened—the abuse, the PTSD, even the bipolar (which I’m still learning to live with)—I never would’ve found myself. I never would’ve had a reason to search and discover. I’m more of who I was meant to be because of it all. In a strange way, PTSD saved my life. What did it take? What does it take to make it? I think that maybe, aside from courage, it’s the will to go on—and that will is so deeply in us that we don’t know it until we’re stripped bare of everything else, and we choose. We choose to survive.
Photo at Etsy
Listen While You Read: One and Only, Adele:
or Otis Redding Cigarettes and Coffee:
or Black Coffee (Peggy Lee):
I see I’ll be sitting under a menagerie of oaks, the canopy of green over the park. Emma will be older, playing, resilient, maybe even better. Because maybe I will be. But something will be missing. SOmthing I can finally put a finger on and label and recongize the associated emotion and feel it. It’s overwhelming, the emotions. I will be at my peak of my game yes, healthy, living, working, and God, laughing again. Picking flowers and planting them, making friends, writing, singing, traveling when I can afford it. And when I am alone on a more balanced plank of moods I love and need to be myself, I will feel in my chest what I feel now, what I felt when he said he was leaving, when he last kissed me and shut the door, when he knew to understate my emotions and hold me alittle longer but not too much or I start making fun of one of us. I wanted to tell him so much. It had been almost nine years, our daughter, seven. He was my only friend there too. My best friend. No one so opposite from what I am could get me more–understanding what I do before I do it, and opening his arms to consequence. He never treated me like I was “special” when I got really sick, hell I’d been sick the previous ten years with chronic, complex PTSD. He never knew me healthy. Huh, me either. I’m truly starting over here, alone, and I’m terrified. I could never…NEVER…tell him how much I loved him. I couldn’t feel him when he touched me due to my own past traumas. I could never see passed myself, I could never see this gentle, kind-hearted man who took on quite a case–me. And I exhausted the inexhaustable out. And here I sit alone, crying. Christ. This is not a pity therapy bullshit journal, it is a “piece” of shit to help me figure out who I am, what my emotions are. You want to know who I really am? Put my fingers on the damn keyboard cuz’ I don’t fucking know. Sorry anyway, hang on kinda jump back into that flowing void of my thought-strings that’s playing Adele and Cat Stevens. Man they are the tears. Anyway. I told him I loved him, and that I felt he deserved to be with someone who was emotionally capable of showing him that love every day, because I couldn’t. No matter how bad I always did. No matter how many times I’d turn the corner and cry, wipe it away, and change the subject. I believed it was weak to cry in front of him; no; I believed if he saw me emotional then I was…real. Vulnerable. I had to be stone, even after so many years with him. He couldn’t melt me down. I had to. But what he did do was by his very own shining character I was able to see what he was missing from me, what he deserved. What I was incapalble of. I tried. I tried to kiss, to say the I Love Yous, to say sweet things, to hold hands. We had nothing in common. We had everything in common except stuff. He has never known me well, all this time, except for this last half a year, and I can still barely say “I love you, take me back, I’ll be better” because I know he can’t do it. He can’t do it anymore and I don’t blame him. The thing is it IS DIFFERENT this time. I’m a new person. I’ve never been this person. I’m taking babysteps. I’m whole, not fractured. I have an identity, which, let me tell you, is a fucking handy thing to have. I can’t stress that one enough. Had I had one ten plus years ago, I would be married…right? Does everything happen for a reason? When I’m not with him there are parts of me, old parts of me, that wakes up–my music, my singing, my art, my charcoals, my drawings and portraits, my photography, my CURIOUSITY, my oldest, closest friends, traveling, and I’m becoming quite political. I’m waking up to a world OUTSIDE OF MYSELF AND IT’S LIKE THANK GOD WHERE THE HELL WAS I AND WHY DID I GO???!!! But the thing is he is not why I slept through myself, I was too sick to live inside myself, and it all accumulated and came busting through in one horrible year of ptsd, psychosis, bipolar, and dissociative states that wore us to the grind. He had all the financial burdens plus learning how to help me. He still doesn’t talk about those days. I feel three things. Guilt. Selfish. Alone. I don’t know why and no I’m not gonna explore it there’s too much to say here and I have to figure how to get it out.
His family has never known the healthy side of me either, and I’m afraid to show it to them. Well I was, but he’s gone now, it’s over, it’s time to grow up and move on and only return to each other if we don’t find what we’re looking for out there. His family is close and loud and they’re ALWAYS laughing and doing things together but what I mostly loved about them was how they cared for eachother–there were no strings attached to each other, they simply love each other and are there. They’re not forced to feel bad about themselves and others, guilty, judging, it could go on and on…as it was in, well, my family. I wanted my mother to love me the way Justin’s (that’s his names) mom loved him every time he walked into the room. So here I’d just like to say, that even though I do think his mom is not too crazy about me (i also used to be helplessly paranoid and it’s hard to shake on certain attitudes), I think she’s lovely, with a huge heart. And maybe I don’t blame her for possible negativity towards me, I’ve put her son (well, my illnesses and my perpetrators did) through the mill and he does so much for me and I can barely utter a meaningful thank you. I wish I could tell her all the times I cried just because I loved him so much and couldn’t tell him. Given the chance again, could I do it? I DON’T KNOW. How am I buildt? Is Chronic, Complex PTSD forever? I know scars are. I know bipolar is. I wish I could just hug that lady and tell her “thank you” for raising such a wonderful, amazing, stand-up, real man, a real friend, a kind, very thoughtful, compassionate, peaceful person who’d give the shirt off his back but spot a scam a mile away somehow. Anyways. I think I’m rambling. His dad, now, his dad is the dad I used to dream I’d have as my dad. He’s fricking hilarious, he pretty much lives at his cabin by the Pike Chain Lakes, fishing IS HIS LIFE. We used to have some pretty good parties at the cabin, earlier on. After Emma was born, I see that I slowly, gradually slunk inwards into myself, away from everybody. Instead of growing closer to his family, I got farther, and I know that bothered him as much as it bothered me. But they were alll so healthy and sane and I just wanted them to approve of me, to say “Hey, you can have a good family too”. Ahh well. His siblings aren’t that fond of me and I totally don’t blame them. How could they have ever known what a wreck I was beneath it all? And I played off my illness to Justin as if it were a joke. I wanted him to see me as smart and cynical, instead of flooding with emotions–more like drowning in them. I was humiliated by my mental illness “stigmas”. One of his sister’s husbands pretty much said i was too damn lazy to work and I was beating Justin down to a pulp because I didn’t want to work or some shit like that. Yeah Doug you. Ass. But a part of me felt like he was right–only for the last year I COULDN’T work because I was afraid of everything, the flashbacks were starting, psychosis, blah blah blah. But in the part I felt he was right about–I was “something” to go back to work. And as I got better little by little I realized I was afraid to work: I was afraid of change, I was afraid of people making fun of my weight, but mainly it meant it was time to begin. Time to begin to start building this life, from the ground work up, all over, all new materials, all new. And that’s scary.
So coinciding with this change is his change as well. He left yesterday for North Dakota. Probably for two years I’m guessing. We sat down one day (after we had originally split when I was still pretty sick but too much for him by then) and discussed how we weren’t living our lives, we weren’t living them together, neither of us were doing anything remotely close to what we wanted to do with our lives. He wanted to make money and get a headstart so he could come back to Ashland and start his family life with Emma in our hometown. My plan was to move three hours away to my sisters and niece. I always felt better there, alive, wanting to do stuff, meet people. But now that Spring’s here (I was going to move in June), one of my sisters might not be there, and I’d have no help with Emma, all her family and cousins would be back home. I don’t know. I’m probably not going to move. Yet. Which is a downer. But I start my classes not soon enough.
Back to the bench from the beginning. I’ll be sitting there, watching Emma play with her cousin. I’ll be alive, inside a real, whole, healthy body, respected body, a fighting body. I won’t be seeking anyone. I believe we find who we’re “meant to be” with through our journies–our choices and our rhythms lead us to them, it’s only natural. Maybe there’ll be no one. I wonder if I’ll be off most my meds by then… It’s quite fine if I’m alone, because I don’t feel alone anymore. I was alone my entire life, until I broke, and someone loved me enough to try to help me pack myself back together, to stop the flooding. We were a good team. I know that, twenty years from now, should it return, I could (though I wouldn’t) call him and tell him the signal “It’s coming” and he’d show up ready to be there. This time, his leaving, meant a little bit of everything. He’s urging me to move to be happy. He says he’ll never leave here. I love him but somewhere hidden inside I’ve somehow let him go. And it hurts. Hurts like a bitch. Life has to happen, and lots of it, before we could ever be whatever it is that we could be. The strange thing is, if I hadn’t been sick and abused my entire life, I wonder, where would I be? What would I look like? Would I have friends? Would I be singing? Would I be doing what I love most–writing? No. I don’t think so. What the fuck would I have experienced and learned in order to write about it? I wouldn’t take it all back for a “normal” life. We crazy-asses have sunshine, too, and let me tell you our good days are a hell of a lot better than yours! I’m not sure who I”m directing that too. White space. I’m trying to tell myself to stop being afraid. Everything I ever had to be afraid of already happened. So fn’ relax. That’s true. But I’m impulsive and maybe the smallest percent neurotic so my minds imagines big fears, big ones. Stupid. But big. I’ll write more later. Summary: I have a well-deserved heart-ache due to the loss of a dearly lloved one though who deserves it–is not so much me as the situation. What you gonna do?
I imagined it as
the gray silk of a woman
a woman with fine lines,
arthritic hands, palms open.
I imagined it as
a whisper from the divine
given over the passage of time,
a sacred record of what is.
But grace, what is grace,
but the ashes left on your skin
after the burning;
a dim relief in the darkest corners
of the human heart
where you have to push on
with all that’s severed inside you,
all that’s torn, all that’s been stripped.
It is not in your years but in your grit—
what you will sacrifice to earn wholeness.
Grace is clutching fingers, bleeding knees, broken beliefs,
a body climbing jagged glass to end the night.
Grace is the throttle of your will, and grace
is the breath you take after you have fallen.
Listen While You Read to Sleepless by Daisy May Erlewine :
So an intelligent, receptive Buddhist monk (and former psychotherapist of thirty years for people with PTSD) says something very interesting: Trauma frees us because we have come to the edge and returned. We no longer need to be fearful (http://clearmindzen.blogspot.com/2010/05/zen-of-trauma-part-one.html ).
So what happens when we no longer need, but we still are? Does it go beyond will? If we need more help along with our will, then is the will damaged? Or deterred? Can we really will our thoughts into healthy, helpful ones? I believe in part that we can (which means, based on will, we can’t) but we need therapy and perhaps medication–depending on the damage and severity. We need an outside means of survival…unless we’re really strong? No, this has nothing to do with strength. We need the patience and the awareness of the enlightened? We need to realize we are not our bodies and our minds, we are in everything and everything is in us. That’s forging a path for me–hard to see–but it’s there. Our society suggests to us that we are broken. Our own raising suggests it. Well we’re not. Something larger than us happened and something larger then must help repair. Or is that dualistic thinking? To have the full faith in the truth–that we are not our bodies and minds–is a breath of fresh air in this tight, achey chest. Because doesn’t that then knock down our terrorizers from the almighty pedestal of doom? Doesn’t that shame them as they cower in their own weakness? I think so. The deal is not to be concerned with ‘them’ or ‘it’. Oneness with the Self. Awareness and respect for the Self. That opens up an entirely new way of thinking. Is it possible to follow this and find your way and have faith in it–while you’re freaking out out of nowhere, dissociating, and depersonalizing? Can we find it and achieve it–the Moksha, the meditation, and deeper to the Self, beyond all desires, towards Brahman–can we find that place and life of being while our brain and nervous systems are chemically out-of-whack? Why are we so terrified–knowing deep down that yes we have seen the worst (thus far we hope) and we have been to the edge and back–it scared our balls off. Yet something in us tells us to go on without fear, because there is something much more amazing out there–or in here. Our instincts whisper to us like always, and when they’re in overdrive don’t we still feel a part of us that just knows (no matter how bad the flashback or whatever gets) knows knows knows that we aren’t entirely that scene. Our soul, our Self, knows no pain, but waits. Waits for us to catch up, with all the patience in the world, with our hearts. I’m sure I sound totally Western here but hear me out. The Buddhists have a name for depersonalization (panna?), and it is a level they seek to achieve. Hinduism isn’t all that different. What are these Eastern thoughts saying? I can’t wrap my brain around it and I’m becoming forever caught up in it–it’s only natural. Because it’s everywhere. And those of us with PTSD and Chronic PTSD (wave my little flag there) know that over time, all of our questions to evolve, they turn away from us and into something bigger, something more important. Is that Brahman? Are we tapping into what our pains and losses and loves have been trying to teach us?
…just a thought on labels and healing (perspective) 4-7-10
It’s a tricky thing—this method of healing. Because I don’t doubt my courage. I was, like so many others, forced to be tough. That stays with us as we grow—blossoming and mutating in ways at the same time. But hey who says the mutations can’t be beautiful? Just different. Different perspectives. I find myself not even having to muster up the courage because it’s within arm’s reach, as it always had to be. The problem is how to use it? These are times I may realize I need to just BE and FEEL. But again, there are good times, and bad, horrible times. And moments of pure bliss—small, yet ever more than enough, more than I can wrap my heart around. I have chronic, severe PTSD and the episodes (flashbacks) and anxiety and dissociation quite consume me at certain times. I was armed and ready and fighting—and then I realized I wasn’t going to win. There’s no way. And I think that’s because I’m not just being—I spend so much energy on the fight when I really need to learn to sit and feel, accept it and just be. How hard it is for people with PTSD to “just be.” How do you do it without slipping into dissociation I wonder? But I’ll keep practicing, I’ll get it. Rewire those thoughts, eh? I have to have the courage to fight in a different way. I need to redefine that word. I need to use my courage to feel and be, to take a moment and love my thoughts and think outside my head and with my soul—stepping away from the disorder when it’s in full swing and to accept myself and be aware that what is happening is natural and not of me, but from something I would never allow to happen to me. I will respect myself more when I struggle through the dark thoughts and emotions, and tell myself “this too shall pass.” I’ve started to face the vacuum of my identity, and I feel it, then I try to build upon it, and create the woman that’s inside of me—after I love her up some. Self-love has to stop being at the bottom of my list of things to do.
I feel it’s important that I say that I don’t (and maybe many of you don’t either, depending on your situation) feel like a victim. That word is so empty to me. I come from sexual, emotional, and physical abuse since the age of five, so to me—that was just the way it was. I had nowhere to go and know way of knowing better except for one thing that kept me connected to by spirit: instinct. I knew it was wrong and that it hurt and I didn’t like it, and I had the courage to stow away inside of myself to get free, because where else could I go? I knew somehow that I was worth protecting—even then. I carry that with me. No victim is not the word for me I feel. Only “normal” “healthy” people see us as victims. Victims seems to imply an attack on a mind and body already developed “correctly”, taught right from wrong. I don’t know what word fits—we feel maybe like we’re selfless (or coreless), unidentified spirits with spirits that swell with such private beauty because we’ve seen the agony. We’ve been burned, and so, we know. We know what is dark and lost and hiding. Imagine this though—we will one day blossom and be so striking—striking to ourselves in particular. Doesn’t that feeling seem so far away? How do we know our spirits will blossom? It’s obvious. The beauty inside has been hidden from us and we searched for it desperately within our own minds and bodies and souls, and we ventured (and continue to) into the fire, and we came out not innocent—but beautifully AWARE and incredibly okay. We learn to be okay. We survive and we fight. We change our definition of “fight” and do it a different way, without the violence and the dichotomies. We see ourselves. We survive and we fight—because we had to train ourselves to do so. We’re self-taught; we know our souls more intimately than anyone else I dare say. Our souls shone through all the filth and dirt and tears. Our souls guide us to purpose, and we keep getting up no matter how many times we fall. We are an army–the most beautiful army in every sense, fighting through love just for a glimpse of ourselves. We are not ever victims. We have always been fighters, we have always been courageous. Our instincts gave us courage. And now we have to ease those instincts and love them and feel our way toward ourselves again. My soul never left me—and that used to be my biggest fear. My soul is bleeding out the infection.
Amy J Sprague
Listen to Jason Mraz–Details in the Fabric:
Drop Your Shame at the Door
The mirror above the sink is made of metal or tin, like a baking sheet flipped over, bolted to the wall. I don’t resemble much in the scratched reflection. There is this pointy, hollow, puffy-faced woman with black circles around her eyes. I see a physical creature, held hostage. Far, far away I think I remember her, at least a trace, for a moment. And a deep saddness fills me–fills me up to the jagged edge of sweaty palms, a burning stomach, a fluttering in the chest. ‘Stop!’ the word careens through my mind ‘Jesus stop!’, up and down the roller coaster in my head. I think maybe I have to stop getting so close to that girl, because it brings out my disease–makes me nearly quit breathing–or I want to quit breathing. It makes me run for the nurse, who’ll give me a blanket to hold and lay me down on a heating pad and softly speak to me about the facts of PTSD. Facts calm me down. I won’t be able to breathe when I first lay down–I’ll close my eyes and scratch at my face for the blindfold I feel wrapped around my head. Then I’ll feel blood, hot and sticky, coming from some kind of hole on my cheek. She gives me a pill. I’ll smear the blood away and look at my hands at the peak of the flashback, and not see red fingers; no blood. And I can see; no blindfold. It’s all just my mind, like a dream. I’m shifting in and out of different planes of reality if I’m not dissociating. I have no control. The monster never reveals himself, just the shame arises and I am naked everywhere inside-out;skinless. I’m a little girl. Just another little face that cowers before a perverse hand and leaves this place. “Fear is not your monster. Don’t give it a name. We are here to show you that it’s not your monster, it’s your teacher.” I wash my hands. I am nauseous. I can’t get it away–this blood of mine on my hands.
Focus. I stop spinning in my head by saying aloud the word Focus. I can focus for about a minute. Sixty seconds of bliss as I touch the objects around me and describe them, which should supposedly help me from sliding off the ledge into dissociation. I stare out the thick window, I stare at my cot, my twisted white sheets, my balled up blanket I hold close at night like a teddy bear, my plastic pillows, my untouched books, an old journal that looks at me during the long afternoons. Then I’m speeding up, frantically saying as I grab at random “soft, smooth, hard, cool, squishy, solid, rock, concrete…” and my pace is what scares me back into a panic and I feel myself step away–in one, loud thunder-step she’s gone, leaving me empty again. I don’t stand a chance here, I think, the only place where there is help. And I sit and cry in an empty shell.
Days pass in what feels like a month. Happy New Year I laugh to myself. Just days, I say, just some days and I went so far. How do I travel so much in a few days, locked in one building, the mirage of help where the nurses sit in their glassed-in office, watching us, laughing, sharing chocolates and Christmas cookies and new diets. How many shifts went by for them? I’ve become dependent on Nurse Jo; she’s the one person I choose to show my absolute bottoms to, and she brings me back to the room in the quiet building under the street lights that reveal showers of snow, gently, outisde. At night, after supper, I stare out the glass door by my room. I stare at the soft knolls of rounded snow, imagine the buzz from the halogen street lights, the crumple of weightless snow singing to the ground. I can’t go out there and touch it. I think of the recycled generations and VIP’s that have spent the same kind of nights here. I cry (that’s about all I can do). Hard. I cry because I’d wanted someone to carry me, carry me like water–as Saenz says. But I’d run through their fingers. I cry because here I am trying to carry myself, and I’m just so tired; I have no faith left inside. No faith in tomorrow, or even the coming night when it gets bad. I realize how alone I am and that I’m falling with nothing to catch myself on. Am I destroyed? Did I blow it? Will I get her back? I stop crying and stiffen up. I’ll find her. On my own, dammit. I’ll get her back. I won’t carry myself. I’ll push myself. I’ll fight for her, because she was once so lovely. And I cry again, because it all just hurts and I have no defenses left.
there is a piece I lost
a great, big piece I lost
and I don’t know where I am.
I slipped away once upon…
I stole inside where touch and sight
could never reach me.
It was, truly, a brilliant escape
but it had a high cost
I can’t suffer the balance.
There is a piece I had to give
I don’t know which or how
but there is a piece I lost
and I spend all my time
searching for it
and that’s what makes me
So tired that I forget where I am
and all the other pieces
keep crashing into each other,
losing their places,
looking at me,
waiting for me to fill the space.
LISTEN & READ: 05 – 4am
The Panic of Peace
Flat affect. What a depersonalized symptom to give the hider. Yes, let’s play, you seek. You seek out your DSM and professional books among the cranberry-colored spines with gold writing, or solid, knowing, black fonts. And inside pours out six. Six disorders I have because I fit the criteria like a glove. I was better off not knowing. Yet it was something, a list, I could point to, aim the finger away from me. I wanted to say “of course I have flat affect, I’m fucking stunned that somebody with six disorders can hardly be funny anymore.” No I’m not dissociating at these times. I’m very real when I am angry or crossed or hurt or doubted. It’s when I’m scared or set by a sound or smell or the mind spins manically in and out over itself, that I calm down to dissociate, where I sit so terrified that they say “flat affect” and I’m so scared I don’t know what’s on my face. I dissociate when I panic that I am calm. That’s how messed up this body is. I’ve stowed away inside again, that’s what we do, us big kids. We’re an army– an army given cheap guns, yet known to be armed to the teeth with devices that a soul shall never ever pass, and they never will. Security lock down—it’s a brilliant defense, this dissociation, but it comes back for ya. You have to pay for it. It comes back when you’re almost thirty and thinking about a diet and reading the classics and going to school to become to become to become. And then, wham, shot down. It’s the early-on, unknowing that is most terrifying. I was sure I fucked myself up beyond repair, that back in the day, I’d done some irreparable damage and I was going to die. I saw death. I breathed my grandmother’s name and practically ran to mental health holding my head, to stop the black images popping up with red eyes. To catch my short breath, and the taste in my mouth…it was coming…the flashback. Blindfolds, blood, and sex. I’m a five year-old in heels, smashing my makeup on the ground, crying in the corner, banging on the locked yellow door.
So that’s the beginning, or shall I say, my first day, of PTSD. Drove my ass right to the bin. It was my first time but I always figured that I’d show up there some day. I don’t know why. I’m not one to prod my weird thoughts. That’s asking for mayhem. They shot me in the ass with meds and I cried all night and day after day. I remember thinking that this was it, that it wasn’t so bad, they’d fix me of course, and I’d never be back again. That was the baby version of PTSD, when the “psychotic episodes” or flashbacks were so minute they barely counted and I always came out of it squeaky clean, like it was a bad, dirty dream. Soon, after my stay there, these “episodes” began to creep into my mornings, I started dissociating more when the panic rose when triggers were set off, my legs went numb, I tasted rubber in my mouth. The flashbacks or episodes were lasting forever, on and off, at a moment’s notice. Strange, scared thoughts and ideas whipped me around on a fucking roller coaster and flung me out of its seats at the peak of the ride. Nothing was real. I called to my fiancé who seemed like an oil painting and we were all dissolving and he’d never reach me. “Talk me down. Help me. Talk to me.” I’d demand with my voice in total control. I couldn’t let anyone see that helpless chaos on my face. It was like seeing your own death. Yet you believe death would be easier. You don’t trust yourself in the tub with the pretty pink razor. What?! You’re screaming what to yourself because now the suicidal thoughts listed in the “DSM” are scrolling off the page and into your ears. Oh shit. The book. The stigma. You think as you sink “I’m one of them”. Depersonalization disorder, dissociative amnesia, panic disorder, PTSD…there’s one more (besides the bipolar) but I can’t remember. At this brief interjection of a strange paragraph I’d like to say “Gee, thanks. Thank you step-father. I have seen the light; the dark; and now I can’t see anything but exist as this open wound because of your own tormented soul. Thank you for the lesson, thanks for not beating this one into me. My flesh could’ve handled it better than my head, but could you have known?”
Anyways, death. Death. But what’s left? It got worse. They couldn’t help me. I was seeing things, feeling things, things were lost, demanding their recapture, and I couldn’t see them. I’m five years old, sitting in the crook of my fiancé’s arm, with flat affect.
What the printed, sacred documents of the doc’s don’t tell you is that there is something very key to survival…as they end their chapters in comorbidity and the morbid–suicide rates. They fail to mention the elements of two things that will save you: hope and love. Now why would a book about the mind involve such artificial, baseless tones to their story? You gotta figure it out for yourself, because each persons’ fate is different. These two elements cannot be captured, their purpose lays in secrecy as they fill us all with blessing. Hope is that last shred of light you see; it’s that part of your brain that drives you to the hospital for help, instead of into the tub. Hope makes you wake up and face another day, giving you clues and signs everywhere that there is more, so much more…to life. And in those signs beams love. The love of the fiancé who holds you to his chest and waits for you to get better, knowing more than you do that you’re going to make it. The love of the mother who doesn’t even have to speak, but sits at your side until your episode is over and you can look her in the eye with gravity. The love of the sisters, who allow you to wail out your fear and struggle through your belief that there is no future, just nothingness and death. They cry too, and you feel love because you’re not breaking alone. And the love of a friend, a long-ago best friend—agent of dreams—who tells you as you sit back in the bin again that you’re not alone, she said “tell her I am with her.” And she was. This intricate web of hope and love has shown me something not many people get to see—just how undeniably soulful it is to have each other, and to love each other—unconditionally. There is a greater purpose that must be so simple we can’t see it, but sometimes get a taste of it. It’s so simple that your heart becomes light and made of pink love that streams through your blessed body that heals; it’s so simple that the mind can find a moment where it is at rest and calm and knows peace. It can’t really be written—the love I’ve seen.