Warrior Princess

January 21, 2014

The Worse It Is

canstock2022383“The more you see, the worse it is.”–Elana Newman on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I read a couple of articles  about PTSD over the weekend.  I’m always drawn to stories about fellow-travelers, no matter how we came to be on similar paths.  Of the two men featured in the articles  one was a journalist who covered the Middle East wars and one was a Navy seal.  Both ended up dead by the hand of another vet  and the other crashed his car into a tree.  There is debate as to whether that was a successful suicide.

I didn’t think to prepare myself for the emotional fall-out.  It’s either never occurred to me or I forgot that reading about PTSD actually evokes it’s symptoms.  I really must learn to keep track of these things.

I was never in Iraq or Afghanistan; I am not a journalist or a veteran.  However, I saw (and sometimes was forced to participate in) my own private war, waged within the confines of my home as I grew up.  By the time I was three, I’d already seen and heard more traumatic events than most people have to endure in a lifetime.

It’s true.  The more you see, the worse it is.  I’ve learned to “manage” my flashbacks.  When the film starts rolling in my head, I often have to resort to imagining a room inside my head.  The room is made of stone, the door is thick wood and heavily bolted.  I move the images into that dungeon.  When I can.

If you run into me in a hall way, I will be noticeably startled.  Some people find this incredibly amusing.  I try to forgive them.  I worked with one sadist who found it endlessly entertaining to sneak up on me.  Luckily for him, he was never close enough to experience the consequences.  If you catch me unawares and you’re close enough, you will definitely get hurt.  I did find another way to stop him, though.  I will not be re-victimized by any asshole.  I’ve done my time–and more–as a victim.

Living in my head is a lonely existence, being lost in a terrifying house of mirrors, with the requirement that I find a way to live in this world without anyone knowing.

“The symptomatology of PTSD.
In PTSD a traumatic event is not remembered and relegated to one’s past in the same way as other life events. Trauma continues to intrude with visual, auditory, and/or other somatic reality on the lives of its victims. Again and again they relive the life-threatening experiences they suffered, reacting in mind and body as though such events were still occurring. PTSD is a complex psychobiological condition.”
― Babette RothschildThe Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment

That’s right.  The more you see, the worse it is.

January 13, 2014

The Truth May Not Set Others Free

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“Adversity is the first path to truth.” – Lord Byron

“My father committed suicide.”

“I have breast cancer.”

“I was a victim of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse.”

“I have a mental illness.  I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” (see above)

When I was a young woman, I kept the secrets of my real life to myself.  Exactly like every other young person, I deeply longed to find acceptance by fitting in.  I studied long and hard to determine just what it would take for me to blend into the crowd.  I became a consummate chameleon.

I now tell the truth.when it’s appropriate.  The truth about my life’s difficulties isn’t something I share immediately, unless the topic arises in conversation.  If people wish to hear  a statement of fact, I provide them with as much truth as I believe they can handle.  Not everyone is capable of hearing everything. Some people have refused to shake my hand after I’ve told them about my breast cancer.

Some people change the subject quickly when the topics of abuse, mental illness and suicide come up.  Some people believe they know how I feel.  Others would like to hear the gory details about my life because they find it titillating. All of these responses have become predictable.

I don’t like to experience unpleasant reactions, but I believe that every time I tell the truth about these things, I chip away at stigma and intolerance.  I’m willing to face the consequences. I’m not trying to get a pat on the back nor is this a call for more people to take the leap of truth.  I just hope that I’m doing a tiny bit to create a future in which all that is profoundly difficult in life can be voiced without fear.  I hope that I’m standing in solidarity with all of the people who have, and continue to, suffer in silence.

May the truth liberate us all someday.

May 16, 2013

Standing at the Threshold

captive gray wolf portraitChildhood is frequently a solemn business for those inside it.”  George Will

I have a new therapist who believes that everything from the past should be placed on a shelf and simply regarded.  “Just look at your father and say, ‘hmmm…’,” she said in response to my comment that my father ruined my life.  Hmm….

I get it.  I’m responsible for my own life.  I’m a twenty-first century kind of person who takes ownership of the choices I’ve made.  If I’m happy with the person I now am (and yes, generally speaking, I am), then the past was a gift that helped me to arrive at this moment.

However.  My father most certainly ruined my life.  From the time I was 11 until I was 13, I had no friends. From the time I was 11 until I was in my late twenties, no one ever came to visit me in my parents’ house.  I knew there would be too much explaining that would have to be done and, ultimately, it would just drive away those who were kind enough and brave enough to call me their friend.

I spent my teenage years into my twenties carefully watching, trying to mimic the behavior of people who seemed to move with ease through the world.  I internalized those observed words and gestures, the courtesies and the rules by which people outside my family lived.  I became a dazzling impostor.

But I still had to live in my parents’ world.  Every night when I entered the front door, as a child and a teenager.  I entered alone, without protection.  No matter how brilliantly I’d performed at school, no matter whether there were moments with a young man that made me forget that inevitability.  I was alone.  That door always awaited me.

When Ann, my new therapist, tells me that my deep  solitude is merely biting off my nose to spite my face, she fails to see that my life as always been spent alone.  It’s the one thing I was never able to learn.  My life with my parents was, indeed, the pathway to this moment.  But I live this moment and all of the others that came before…alone.

My life has been dedicated to overcoming my past.  That defining effort has robbed me of so many possibilities.  Ann exists in a different universe where all choices are possible.  I’m eternally standing at the threshold of that door, gathering courage to walk in.

 

December 10, 2008

Psychological Waterboarding

Panic off.  Instead of relying on rumors, Owner has turned up some reliable sources regarding the financial health of our clients.

That noise you hear is me laughing insanely and beating my head against the wall.

I won’t get fooled again.  No matter what the annual salary hit I’ll take, I’ve had enough.  In the meantime, cackle cackle whack whack.

November 6, 2008

Wading Through High Waters

It took a while to slog through my dad’s anniversary.  Actually, I think I’m still wading through some sadness.

Hubby and I are on speaking terms again.  He’s been more helpful than usual, so I’m thinking that, at least for the time being, we’re on almost the same page.  Being on the same page is a bit much to ask, but having him on a quarter of the page I’m on is a huge improvement.

Crazy Land has been chewing up all of my discretionary, write in my blog time.  While IT Boy was on his honeymoon, I was the only recourse for Loathsome when his email went berserk.  He stalked into my office and asked me if I had a computer.  That is so Loathsome.  I made him cut to the chase and tell me what was happening.  You can’t imagine what a huge task it was to just get the basic facts out of him.  I was exhausted before I began.

I spent two days working on his computer, then I abandoned all hope.  I set his email up on another computer so Loathsome could function while we waited for the return of IT Boy.  A week into using that computer, it stopped running the accounting software.  Of course, everybody blamed Loathsome for the troubles.

IT Boy got back this past Monday and devoted three days to Loathsome’s email.  I understand that, as of yesterday afternoon, virtual memory has been restored and it’s stopped shutting itself down or freezing up.  I had correctly pinpointed the problem and I take some pride in the fact that IT Boy wasn’t able to waltz in and fix the problem immediately.

Yesterday I invited my Crazy Land cohorts to join me for a belated birthday celebration/thank you party.  Two days after issuing the invitation, I suddenly remembered that I’ve had several birthday parties when no one showed up.  Yes, it was a sad, sad childhood.  Nothing like setting yourself up to be hurt and disappointed…again.

Everyone but Golf Pro showed up, though,  and I was able to thank everyone for helping me get through three years of breast cancer hell.  It was actually better that Golf Pro was MIA.  Everyone is even more furious at him than usual.

I’m so happy to have 15 minutes to keep track of what’s going on, even if it’s on a very minimal basis.  I have to try to find a way to work this into my days, which continue to be far too busy.  I’m inventive.  I’ll just put me on my daily schedule.

October 21, 2008

Loathsome, A Unique Brand of Distraction

This is the second day in a row that I’ve devoted almost entirely to Loathsome’s computer.  IT Boy is on his two-week honeymoon, which leaves us without any computer support.

Surprise.  I am not IT Ggirl.  Error message said not enough virtual memory.  I created more virtual memory.  I cleaned up the disk and eliminated hundreds of files.  Then error message said Microsoft Outlook should be reinstalled because a .dll file is missing.  I’m not reinstalling anything, Loathsome.  It seems to me that there are systemic problems.

As I tried to understand and work through the many problems, Loathsome required a blow-by-blow explanation of what I was doing and why.  Kill me, please.  I might as well be speaking Swahili.  Loathsome is relentless, as if by telling him, he might be prepared to deal with future problems himself.  He’s either deluded or he’s trying to impress me with his commitment to grasping the workings of Microsoft Windows.  Not impressed, as you might imagine.

Up side?  Not much time to think about suicide.  The baffling thing is that this year is so unbearably sad for me.  I’ve spent at least the last five years being enraged at my father.  Even aside from the suicide, I have plenty to be angry about.  Most people have trouble understanding how I could have any emotional connection with him at all after he made my life a slow motion, eternal train wreck.

Again, the universe has offered up Loathsome as a distraction.  I’m moderately happy to take it.

four days

October 20, 2008

Remembering the Dragon

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are but princes that are waiting to see us act just once with beauty and courage.  Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest essence, something helpless that needs our love.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

5 days

October 8, 2008

Crumbling Crazy Land

That’s me there on the left, standing in the wilderness, looking up to Heaven.  Like everyone else on the planet, my financial plight looks very iffy.

Tomorrow morning, the Crazy Land stockholders are holding a meeting to decide the fate of the company.  The good news is that I’ll definitely be employed at the end of today.  Tomorrow is anybody’s guess.

This is where what I learned from breast cancer is shoring me up.  Can I control any of this–the state of the world economy, the state of Crazy Land or my own financial future?  Well, not particularly.  If you can’t control it, gotta let it go.  I’m letting it go again and again.  About every 15 minutes at this point.

In the meantime, I’m going about my business, filing workers’ comp claims, updating databases, searching for unbilled expenses.  What else can you do?  It’s difficult to stay motivated when it’s entirely possible very little of my work will mean anything in 24 hours (give or take a few).  Nonetheless, it’s important to take care of my responsibilities until they’re not mine anymore.

Loss.  As I recently shared with a friend, it’s been my big lesson for the past decade.  I wish I could learn the truth behind it so life won’t continue to slap me in the face with it.  All I know is that you have to let go.  What am I missing here?

A life of constant instability, conflict, lovelessness and loss–what am I to make of that?  I don’t even have a therapist to help me work through this.  Okay, that’s kinda funny.  I guess the only thing to do is continue to open my heart to compassion and to pain–not just my own but for everyone who suffers or has or will.  Finding humor always helps, so I have to hold on to that understanding, too.  Other than that?  Beats me.

Oh yeah…a postscript.  The great things in my life.  I live in a house.  I have adequate food and clothing.  I’m receiving medical care (at the moment).  There are many people in my life who love me and many whom I love.  I have an entertaining and brilliant (though not financially productive) husband.  My mom is still with me and we’re close friends.  I have two great dogs.  I am not going through chemo, nor am I looking at another surgery (again, fingers crossed).  I am not in excessive pain.  I can think.  I can see.  I can communicate.  I have a sense of humor, even though it’s rather dark and warped.  All in all, I’m a very lucky woman.

Prayers, finger crossing, throwing salt over shoulder, saying a mantra…whatever you do, feel free to include me.

September 16, 2008

Not So Brave

Filed under: Destroying My Childhood, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 1:17 pm

I haven’t been reading comments or emails lately.  I’ve been sharing difficult material and, frankly, sometimes I lack the courage to read responses.  Please continue to comment and know that, whenever I’m brave enough, I’ll read and respond.

Thank you for caring enough to say what’s on your mind.  I may be scared of what that is, but I’m grateful you join me in my explorations of pain.

September 10, 2008

The Damage Done

Filed under: Destroying My Childhood, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 12:40 pm

Warning:  This post may trigger flashbacks for survivors of incest and other sexual abuse.  For everyone else, this is unpleasant, so proceed at your own risk.

Last Friday, my therapist and I uncovered the sleeplessness that plagues my around this time every year.  The deep roots of my insomnia are buried deep in the period of time when my father embarked on his relationship with the 13 year old he eventually married.

He demanded that I develop a “friendship” with her.  There was a three year age difference, a tremendous gap between 11 and 13.  Nonetheless, I did as he demanded.  There was no denying his demands.

It was the middle of the summer or thereabouts when I recruited her.  By the time September rolled around, there was a noticeable shift in her “friendship” from me to him.  I felt angry, confused and abandoned.

One day, when she was there (as she always was then), my dad suggested that he, she and I play spin the bottle.  I didn’t know from spin the bottled; I was a kid.  Again, Ed was not a guy who tolerated disobedience.  If he wanted something and you weren’t inclined to give it, there were grave consequences.

Of course, only being three of us “playing,” the bottle inevitably came to her (or him, I don’t remember).  He leaned over and kissed her with mouth open and tongue inserted.  I was puzzled.  When the bottle came to me the next time, he gave me a short (entirely appropriate) kiss.

“Why did you kiss her differently from me?” I demanded to know.  Not having an answer, he chose to French kiss me.  I immediately felt shame and the “game” ended then.

Of course, things got worse as the year ground to an end.  I never ceased to take responsibility for his behavior.  I never escaped the shame.

This time of year every year reminds me of the beginning of an unbearable situation degenerating into another, even more unbearable situation.  Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.  In my case, they kept getting worse, year after year.  Obviously, I did much more than survive it.  Nonetheless, there’s been a heavy price to pay.  I’m paying it still.

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