PTSD and Sudden Triggers…

PTSD and Sudden Triggers…

I guess I should write about this as it’s affected deeply me for weeks. I was sailing along doing well as far as my PTSD. The severe flooding I experienced in 2012 after being fired from my job for reporting workplace violations seemed to have resolved. It was a good thing because I still haven’t found a new therapist. I had one and hit it off well but my insurance won’t cover her. Something about she has the wrong type of accreditation; she’s an LCPC as opposed to a LCSW. In the Western Mountains of Maine there aren’t many choices unless one wants to drive an hour to see a therapist. I’ve found my insurance company reasonable in the past so intend to ask them for a reconsideration. I was just so busy between getting my German Shepherd’s blog up (BTW that’s not her picture up there), traveling for her weekly treatments and grad school beginning at the end of July with a required (10) day stay at one of their campuses.

Then out of the blue an email crossed my path about mid August. The story was so horrific that I was triggered immediately.  I mean, I could literally feel it  spread through my body ~ both cold and warm at the same time. The abuse this 4 year old girl suffered was very similar to what I had endured. Although I never thought my name was Idiot, I had been called it many times. In the past if I was triggered that intensely I withdrew for a while until I could get my emotions in check. However because of my dog’s medical issues I had veterinarian appointments so hiding out at home wasn’t an option. Dogs are very important to me as I never really knew unconditional love, no make that love in any form, until I emancipated myself and adopted my first shelter dog. It’s been a dog that’s gotten me through some of the worst times of my life so not keeping her appointments wasn’t  an option. Then in the past when I’ve been emotionally fragile due to triggers I’ve found solace in the Catholic church but this summer I’ve taken, for lack of a better word, a sabbatical from it  for several reasons. It’s a small parish where everyone knows your name (like Cheers ) yet they are mean, spiteful and unkind. So much so that the previous priest asked to be reassigned. He was replaced with a granola priest who I’m convinced will have the parishioners out there planting a church garden next spring. Plus he stares at the ceiling and speaks in a dull monotone (he’s only 40). Yet the parishioners fawn over him like  high schoolers at a prom. I was in the departing line one time and heard the couple in front of me telling him how wonderful it was to have a priest that, “Is one of us”. They were referring to him being a native of Maine whereas the previous priest was, God forbid, a transplant (like me). Then next up our diocese settled a sexual abuse case from many years ago and it came out that they would have settled earlier but  wanted the victims to sign a confidentiality agreement to never discuss the abuse which the now adult victims vehemently refused to do. If anyone has read some of my past posts, then you know I had a similar situation where I wouldn’t sign that type of agreement. I was flabbergasted as it was my understanding that the church was no longer “covering” up sexual abuse by priests. Guess I was wrong and it left me very unsettled.  So seeking comfort in the church wasn’t an option either.

Instead I’ve thrown myself into writing Sasha’s blog, sometimes for 8 hours straight.  It had originally been a Facebook page where she had over 200 followers but Facebook is simply not the venue for me so I deactivated my account. Since Sasha’s medical journey began in March 2016 that’s where I started the blog. Yet, when I’m not taking her to the vet I ignore people and stay home. I don’t have a lot of friends. Strike that. I have one good friend and some acquaintances. I haven’t talked to my good friend since I read about this abused child. I just don’t feel like engaging in banal conversation. Perhaps that makes me sound terrible but I’m trying to focus on what’s best for me for once instead of doing what other people expect of me. I never liked making small talk anyway but especially when I’m upset.

I don’t know if anyone has read the article about this poor child but here’s a link  to the horror she was subjected to.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. I still haven’t figured out how to put a share widget on this page for my dog’s blog but when WordPress Live Chat comes to life again on September 26 I’ll try and remember to initiate a chat before 7pm ET. I usually forget about it till long after that. Or, maybe I’ll just order one of these books. Seriously I’m a fan of the “Dummy” books.

I am going out on a no-dog related adventure next week. My iPhone 5S must have known Apple was launching a new one because it died ~ as in deader than a doornail. I’m a visual person so want to see the size difference between the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The only thing I DO know is that if you opt for monthly payments through Apple you get Apple Care free. Verizon has a similar deal. Whereas if you buy it outright you get nothing, nada, zilch.

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No significance to this cat picture other than I like it so much I used it as my screensaver at most of my jobs.

 

Does Time Heal? … Part 2

Does Time Heal? … Part 2

This has been my most difficult post to date. I actually wrote it a week ago but whenever I tried to post  I simply couldn’t get my finger to scroll the touchpad to the Publish widget. Even tonight the  simple task of  proof reading has taken on a life of its own ~ so I’m just doing it…

I’ve pondered my own question since I initially posted it on  June 22 and think that in my case it’s safe to say it doesn’t. Life will be going along at a steady happy pace then out of the blue something happens and you’re transported back to a place you thought was long gone. A place, a time, or even a state of mind that you thought was buried with time yet here it is, front and center, reducing you to a bundle of spiraling emotions and tense nerve endings. You actually experience a physiological state called fight or fight.
The other night I wanted to escape all the horror in the world; the attack in France, assassination of police in Dallas, the civil unrest brewing in America and the ongoing terrorism in other parts of the world. I wanted to forget about my drive to spread the plight of K9s dying in hot police cars throughout social media. I wanted a night away from researching my dog Sasha’s complex and ever-changing medical needs so I turned to an ongoing and numerous subject ~ my hair. Blogged about my efforts over the years to have Pantene like hair and failing. I went to bed that night without a weight on my shoulders and it was truly wonderful. The next morning I was home alone with the dogs when it sounded like a knock on the front door. The dogs went ballistic because a knock on my door is truly a rarity. We live off the beaten path and our driveway is akin to a steep, dirt logging road disappearing up through trees. The only person that comes here with any regularity is the UPS delivery driver because I buy through Amazon frequently.

 

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I don’t even have politicians soliciting my vote during election years. Complete solitude but instead of welcoming a knock on the door I went into a full-blown panic mode of almost epic proportions. Regressing a minute, panic induced because a knock on the door terrified me until I was about 23. It was approximately 14 years since the original life changing trauma, I was a mother and I NEEDED to lock it away because intellectually I knew I was safe. I knew my fear was irrational and I could not allow it to define me any longer, especially with small children who depended on me. I put the traumatic memory in a compartment within the deepest recesses of my mind and sealed it shut. I did the same with each horrible memory, one by one. I could not be the kind of mother my children needed, the kind of mother I ached for as a child as long as those memories were floating loose in my head. Once I completed the compartmentalizing and sealing process, I actually felt  better. I won’t lie and say my psyche wasn’t in turmoil and chaos from time to time but I couldn’t afford to be so I suppressed it. I had an image of the storage area in my mind; it was a dark room with columns of boxes which not only appeared welded shut but each with a chain and padlock. For the most part they stayed safely locked away until 2012. Then came my rude awakening ~ that traumatic memories which have not been properly addressed and processed can never truly be left behind. Instead they lurk below the surface, ready to trigger you at any given moment and often without a precipitous factor. When an employer accused me of theft in retaliation for reporting activity to a state agency which I was ethically and morally bound to do, I knew I was risking my job but it never entered my mind that the repercussions would be so costly to my mental health. Of all the ways they could choose to retaliate they inadvertently stumbled on the ONE thing that most assuredly wold drop me to my knees ~ an unjustified accusation of theft. The very thing that caused so many of my childhood beatings. Of lying on the floor crying that I didn’t steal this or that but not being believed. Of being beat with a leather belt, kicked with feet or being pulled by the hair. All by the parent I loved and at the bidding of a truly demented woman. Even worse, there were no relatives to intervene, no teachers expressed concern about my frequent bruises and cuts, no social service agency reports nor police involvement. As I previously wrote when I tried to describe that day, all the individual compartments within my mind, relics of past abuse and terror, flew open and I was flooded like I never knew was possible. It was as if EVERY incident, EVERY beating, EVERY lie, EVERY emotion was front and center in my car, accosting me from the dashboard. I remember at one point suddenly pulling over, getting out and shaking my head hoping  that would bring me back to the present, as if standing for a minute in the bright sun of a summer day would erase the horrors on the dashboard. It didn’t and even now, four years later I don’t know how I drove home. I have a deep-rooted fear of the police because they removed me from my childhood home before I was even ten years old. Not because I was a physically abused child, not because I was sexually assaulted the summer before kindergarten. It was because my crazy stepmother called them. My father came home later than usual that day and smelled of beer. I had the impression for several years that he wasn’t allowed to go to the bar unless he took me with him, a practice that began the summer before I started kindergarten. My mother would have conversations with herself during the day while sitting in the living room with a tissue tightly clenched in her hand. She wore a pained expression at times and an expression of smug superiority at other times. Superiority was the look she had as she showed me her dresses that she said were cheap substitutes of her expensive ones, switched by the nameless faceless people I was terrified of for many years. She radiated smugness as she proclaimed “They can’t fool me. I’m too smart”. That was the same expression she alternated with the pained look of a victim during the conversations she had sitting alone in the chair. I knew from listening by the door to her talking with herself that women were chasing my father in the bar; that they were trying to take him away. So began my ritual of going to the bar with my father. He had to come directly home from work, eat dinner (or not) then he and I left for the bar. I remember hour upon hour of sitting on the bar stool as he played pool with his friends. I had an endless supply of cheese puffs and orange soda from my fathers drunken friends. I would sit on the barstool staring at large jars of pickled eggs, pickled pigs feet, and just pickles that graced a section of the wooden bar near the beer taps. To this day I despise orange soda, cheese puffs and anything that’s pickled in any way, shape or form. I don’t drink alcohol, never went to a bar/club, play pool and so far haven’t had a conversation with either myself or a tissue.

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PS: I snapped the header photo last week with an iPhone in Bethel  ~ home to one of the several ski resorts in Maine.  I drive there every week for Sasha’s acupuncture. 

 

Taking The Plunge…

Taking The Plunge…

I started this blog to chronicle my AT hike which I realize now was just an attempt to escape PTSD ~ something I had under control until 2012. I’ve made a few posts about my abusive childhood but like so many of us, life got in the way. The death of my “heart” dog Callie Ann, a beloved friend’s suicide and the multiple medical problems of my beautiful German Shepherd Sasha. In the process I found it necessary to end a somewhat long relationship with my therapist, a LCSW. I found another one I liked only to learn my insurance won’t cover her fees because she’s a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) as opposed to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Insurance companies and even states vary I’ve learned so in my downtime I might write an appeal to my health insurance company. Until then, I’m just going to dive in; get it out of my head. For me words are a catharsis. I use words to give shape to my experiences. Words help me “see” who I am, what I’ve done, where I’ve been, where I’m going. Words help me understand. They are a coping mechanism of sorts, a means of expression through which I can separate the good in my life from the not so good.

Initially I thought it best to blog in chronological order but upon reflection have reconsidered. It would be intensely painful and some days my stress management ability is in overdrive and other days ~ not so much. Instead I’m going to write random entries; if a memory comes to mind I’ll write about it and see where it leads.

Just going to plunge in  because essentially I’ve had:

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I know, I know ~ not related but its a German Shepherd!

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Then God said, “Let there be light”

Then God said, “Let there be light”

I wrote most of the following entry on June 27, 2016 on our way home from a progress exam with Sasha’s internist. Decided I would leave it as  is. I posted part of it on Sasha’s FB page but omitted personal details…

     ~

We are almost home (Sasha’s internist is a 5 hr RT). The AC in our Honda Ridgeline simply stopped working, we’re hitting construction everywhere, and I’m starving. However none of it’s annoying me for I’m still ecstatic because Sasha’s pupils are beginning to react to light (PRL). Being realistic, today’s discovery is a baby step but nonetheless it’s progress.Sasha woke up blind on April 7. Since she was in the process of preparing for stem cell therapy, I initially had the veterinary neurosurgeon perform diagnostics to uncover the cause.  I did the gamut; MRI imaging of her head to rule out an organic disturbance, a spinal tap to rule out neurological infection, a plethora of lab tests especially the ones that would indicate a tick borne illness however everything was normal. My next step was having Sasha evaluated  by a veterinarian ophthalmologist which included more tests and an ERG ( electroretinogram) which is a test to evaluate retinal function. Think of it as an EKG monitor that we see hooked to a hospitalized patient on a medical drama. When the patient’s heart stops, the EKG makes a noise and the camera zooms in on the flat line shown on the monitor. When an ERG  performed on a dog shows a “flat line” it indicates total destruction of the visual cell layer (the rods and cones) of the retina with subsequent blindness.  The diagnosis is Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS), you are told there is no treatment and given handouts on “Dealing with a Blind Dog”. Nearly 5k in diagnostics only to be told to help Sasha adapt to blindness as she’ll never see again. “You can’t help her”.

Sasha Quick ERG April 22, 2016
Sasha’s ERG ~ April 22, 2016 (not exactly flat lined)

 

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One of the many tests by the opthalmologist
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More tests

Somehow it didn’t “feel right” to me and since my mantra is “Can’t is a fellow that never tried” I didn’t accept it. Not because I didn’t want the burden of a blind dog but rather, I wouldn’t have accepted that diagnosis for a human family member so why would I for Sasha? If there was a chance to regain either full or partial vision I wanted her to have it. She’s had so many atypical medical issues yet always landed on her feet. After the FCE in 2011, I accepted that she wouldn’t reach the last Schutzhund level or scale a 6′ fence – who cares? But I wanted to be able to watch her face as her eyes followed a tossed snowball or a chirping band of tree hopping squirrels. And if there were no options, I would have accepted that too; but I owed it to her to explore.

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Sasha ~ In Schutzhund class one month before the FCE

As a young child I was not allowed to touch, play, talk to, or interact with the family dog on ANY level. Her name was Beauty; jet black fur with a slight wave to it and long lovely ears. Looking back I think she was some type of spaniel. To be honest I don’t know where she came from as she simply appeared inside our house one day when I returned from kindergarten (just as she mysteriously appeared, a few years later she was gone). I also don’t know where she was most evenings and on weekends as I would only catch fleeting glimpses of her. I asked my father one night (when he wasn’t drinking) why I couldn’t play with Beauty. He said “Mommy told me she caught you sticking pins in Beauty’s ears”. I can still feel the hurt and shame that enveloped me that night because I knew I had never, ever done anything to hurt Beauty but from living with a mother that lied, I inherently knew to protest or deny her accusations was futile. I can also remember the rare times I would see Beauty in the living room while my parents watched the evening news. My father would be stroking her and my mother alternating between giving me her famous smug smirk or looking at me in horror and making motions with her arms as if to protect Beauty from the me ~ the resident demon. She would do it when my father was engrossed in the current new story so that he wouldn’t see her. I always felt like she was a like a taunting schoolyard bully instead of a mother. Gotta tell you, it was a real joy being 5 years old in that house! So as usual I immersed myself in books, many which were about dogs. Our home had an abundance of older books, many of which I still have today. We seemed to have many by Albert Payson Terhune, a native of NJ. He wrote about his beloved collies and while I couldn’t read many of the words in his books,  I still enjoyed them.

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Albert Peyson Terhune & his collies of Sunnybank

Until I became a mother the only happiness and unconditional love I’d ever had was from the dogs I was blessed to have in my life. Their wagging tails and sloppy kisses kept me going when I wanted to literally give up. They lay by my side as I cried uncontrollably. They entertained me with their hilarious antics on lonely nights and weekends. An introvert my nature, I sat on the floor with them and enjoyed a Saturday night party of treats and tracking. They were usually the only ones who were openly happy to see me. Somehow because of them I felt validated as a person. All the hateful venom hurled my way as a child didn’t matter because in the eyes of my dogs, I saw love and acceptance and that was enough to sustain me. As we do with our loved ones, I put their veterinary needs before my own the same way I later put my children’s needs before my own. That’s just what we do in life. I won’t deceive or gild it though; keeping up with Sasha’s medical costs has been one of the biggest financial challenges of my life, especially since I wasn’t working and involved in a legal matter. It pained me deeply that I had to turn to asking people to lend me money but it all goes back to what mattered more; my pride or Sasha’s well-being. Definitely a no-brainer!

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Sasha May 2016

So yes, today I am excited, blessed, thrilled and confident. Tomorrow something may crop up in her care that changes that but I know that whatever obstacles she encounters will be stepping-stones. I believe Sasha knows how very loved she is. I also think she senses that her internist, Dr. Sarah Noble, truly cares about her. You can see Sasha perk up and radiate contentment whenever Dr. Noble enters the room. Her other hero is Dr. Plechner who ironically is located on the West Coast while we are on the East. Opposite ends of the country yet he has been there every step of Sasha’s SARDS journey. Dr. Noble collaborated with him for Sasha’s treatment by using a protocol that he researched and developed. Many in his profession believe he is too controversial but I say this; it was the controversial pioneers that gave us many of the gold medical standards (both human and animal) in today’s world. Bottom line, Dr. Plechner’s theories made sense. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. As a healthcare professional I researched SARDS, his protocol for treating it, spoke with owners of dogs whose vision returned after using his treatment plan. At the end of the day I knew it was an opportunity I wanted to give Sasha but accepted that, like anything in life, no guarantees. Both Drs. Noble and Plechner care about their patients, viewing them as a sentient beings as opposed to Patient #936. With heroes like that in her corner along with the beautiful thoughts and prayers from all of her followers on Sasha’s Journey , Sasha has a sure-fire recipe for success. Most of all, she is loved and that will never change ~

 

 

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Sasha Smiles

A brand new key ~ or not?

A brand new key ~ or not?

 

Had my initial session with the new therapist today and she’s very nice but ………………………………………It’s so damn hard to start over. It took nearly 10 years for me to develop enough trust in my previous therapist to bring up my childhood. Starting anew was more intimidating and stressful than I had envisioned. Plus when she asked me what brought me there today, I really had no clue what to say. Anxiety of course but over which thing? My trial in less than one month? Jury selection next week? The almost four years of depositions, mediations and mud-slinging that it’s taken to reach this point? The fact that the defense attorney wants to eviscerate me because of something that happened when I was a child? Or the fact that she can even introduce it? The suicide of a much-loved friend less than one month ago? The grief over the death of my beloved dog in November? Or the medical issue my German Shepherd is currently facing? Or maybe it’s just the constant growing fatigue coupled with absolutely no desire to do anything. The bone aching fatigue that develops after years of watching nearly everything you attempt  morph into clusterfucks of what seem like behemoth proportions.

Perfect example. I did my income taxes this year, plain and straightforward like every other year. I e-filed in mid January, pleased that finally something went off without a hitch. The months passed and my refund wasn’t direct deposited. I finally called the IRS at the end of March and after a few attempts, figured out how to reach a “live” person only to be told the most ridiculous thing by someone they obviously hired directly from the unemployment line. He was truly clueless and I honestly think he was just pulling things out of the air. End result? They would send me a letter within two weeks. When it didn’t arrive I called again, this time getting a polar opposite response along with the “letter in two weeks” promise. Waited until the end of the first week in May and called again only now I was really mad. Spoke to a woman who had no idea why I had not received a refund, why it hadn’t been processed, why it was in the “Review” section but hey! I would receive a letter in eight weeks explaining everything. Eight weeks??? Oh hell no! That would bring it close to July 4. The next day I emailed my congresswoman’s office and after several days of back and forth emails to provide requested documents, they were ready to roll on it. The aide from the congressional office found out what the problem was (basically there was none), reached out to the Tax Advocate’s Office and within two weeks the refund was deposited into my bank account. This begs the question but why? Why does everything have to be a battle? Why can’t things go smoothly ~ not every time but once in a while? I’d definitely settle for that.

So as I sat here tonight pondering the whole therapist debacle the phone rang. It was my original therapist. I let it go to voice mail. When I listened a few minutes later the first thing I noted is that she was rambling a bit, unusual for her. She said the reason she hadn’t returned any of my calls was because she didn’t have any openings. I realize she only practices two days a week but since we’ve had an extremely long patient client relationship, a return call should have been in order, even if she didn’t have any openings. Especially after the two teary messages I left following my friends suicide. She ended her message by saying she has a cancellation for tomorrow (Thursday) at 5 PM and to call her in the morning if I’d like it. Now I’m really in a quandary because the thought of starting over with someone new wasn’t quite as appealing to me today in her office as it was when I wrote about it last night. She’s also in a town that for some unknown reason I’ve had an aversion to ever since I moved to this state. I know I know. How can someone have a hangup over a town? I have no explanation for it other than I do. Usually when something like that happens it’s because the person or object triggers unpleasant memories from my past which is something I can understand, and rationalize. But a town?

Not really sure what I’m going to do tomorrow ~ take the 5 PM appointment with the old therapist or not. Frankly I wish I could just run away from ALL of this the way I ran away from my traumatic childhood but this time it’s not that easy. I just want SOME of it to be over so I can try to get back to figuring out my life.

Stay tuned because I have no clue what I’m doing!

Feeling Liberated!

Feeling Liberated!

I’ve been seeing a therapist since 2002 when I had a PTSD trigger that almost debilitated me. Before I decided on my therapist, I tried two others. While I’m sure they were highly competent, not everyone is a good fit. Perhaps a patient is more comfortable with a therapist of the same-sex, the opposite sex or a different age group. Whatever the reason, I think an integral component to productive, therapeutic counseling is trust and confidence in your therapist.

Because of childhood sexual abuse, I felt more comfortable with a female. We were both in the same age group which I found helped me to express myself more proficiently. The treatment modality she uses for PTSD is TRI (Traumatic Incident Reduction) which I’m still on the fence about. However, compared to EMDR I prefer it because EMDR did absolutely nothing for me.

My therapist had a quirk that annoyed me however; she often didn’t return phone messages. I don’t mean one message but several. She was also lax about getting paperwork completed – another annoyance. However I was able to overlook these two issues because I felt comfortable with her and I trusted her, both keys to a successful outcome.

After several years of weekly sessions I felt that I had journeyed as far as I could at the time so ended our sessions for a few years. Unfortunately, when I reported an employer for violations and they retaliated by accusing me of theft, I regressed in a matter of hours. Although my former therapist had changed locations she was still accessible so I began weekly sessions again. I really felt like I was making progress. Not as fast as I would have liked but with the childhood I emerged from I’d probably need therapy for a century so was content with baby steps.

The first thing that went awry was her session notes. She knew I signed a legal release for her to share her notes from specific dates with the attorneys involved in my whistleblower case. While I did not ask or expect her to withhold anything, I also didn’t expect her to make a random entry about my childhood – something we were not covering in therapy during this time frame. That was all the defense attorney needed and she ran wild with it, thinking the event my therapist had noted occurred when I was an adult when in reality I was 9. Her firm sent a list of questions and when I refused to answer, forced a hearing in front of a judge. They asked that he instruct me to answer and if I refused, that I be jailed. What she was asking for was a recipe for disaster because one of my worst childhood traumas occurred when I was 9. God was with me that day because the judge denied the request.

When I went for my next session I asked my therapist why she made that particular entry and she admitted it was an oversight. I was still angry at the defense attorney but respected my therapists honesty so as they say, life went on. A few months later I learned the defense attorney was still hell-bent on getting this information even though my attorney reiterated it was related to events that were literally decades old. I spent a panic filled winter because I knew that after 3.5 years, I would be given a trial date sometime in 2016. The defense attorney had waffled on the subject of settlement until she read that entry. After that it was definitely going to trial. My panic level rose when I learned the defense used a little known law to have my case moved from federal court to superior court. In essence, my trial will be in the town where I shop, walk, worship – you get the picture. Not sure how I’ve kept it together because I know as surely as the sun rises, the defense attorney will ask questions about an event that had zero bearing on what happened in the workplace in 2012. She is going to ask about the most horrific part of my childhood that I’d never shared with anyone other than my therapist. When I reached a certain age I left and never looked back. My own husband doesn’t know about my past! I asked my lawyer how the defense could do this to me, that I thought someone’s childhood was off-limits. He explained that the judge would make the decision as to how much latitude he would allow the defense.

I prayed, thought and prayed some more. With trial in a month I decided to tell my adult children and husband (a condensed version as opposed to every violent detail). I just didn’t want to take a chance of having them read something in the paper; I preferred it came from me. Telling my family, but specifically my adult children was never part of my life agenda as it had no purpose. Just because you give birth to someone doesn’t require that you share every detail of your life with them but in my situation I felt somewhat cornered.

At the same time my beloved German Shepherd, who is my Prozac with 4 legs, developed some major health issues which required treatment several hours south. I am a HUGE animal lover so opted to put my therapy sessions on hold for a few weeks so that I was free to travel with my dog to the neurosurgeon. The last week of my dogs treatment I planned to call and make a new therapy appointment when the unthinkable happened ~ our dear friend whom I loved like the brother I never had, committed suicide. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I was so grief-stricken that I literally didn’t leave the house, respond to emails or accept telephone calls. Suicide is always extremely difficult to process but when it’s followed by a complete lack of respect for the deceased or their life’s possessions it’s even worse.

I called my therapist and tried to control my tears as I left a voice mail. When several days passed without a call back I tried again. I was a wreck over my dear friend’s suicide but was unable to process my grief in a constructive way because of all the “craziness” in the wake of his suicide. I’d tried (6) times and was shocked when I suddenly said to myself “No more”. In the interim I made an appointment with another therapist who, although I’d only met socially, believed we could mesh well together. As an older gentleman in my parish says “I can feel it in my bones”. Heck, she returned my call! That in itself is worth points.

Before I can continue in my journey however I had to close out the chapter with the first therapist, a chapter that with the exception of a few years lasted over a decade. I called this afternoon and as expected, reached her voice mail. When It was time to speak I just calmly said that all of my calls had gone unanswered, even the two where I was crying about my friends suicide. Since she chose not to respond to them, I could only draw the conclusion that she was either no longer able or willing to be my therapist and as such, I had found a new one. I thanked her and hung up.

I thought I would be upset or at least heavy-hearted but in reality I was quite happy. While I like her very much as a person and to a degree will miss our sessions, I can’t help but think if she hadn’t admittedly made that “oversight” I might not be sitting in a courtroom next month, being questioned about things that should never be discussed outside of a professional therapist’s office.

However, at the end of this day, as I look forward to my first session with the new therapist tomorrow, I AM thankful for everything my original therapist did for me. Grateful for her patience, understanding, kindness and most of all for helping me find the key to unlock coping mechanisms that I never realized I had, coping mechanisms which I’ll carry forward in my journey. Thank you J.

Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt

Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt

What do you do when you’re involved in a whistleblower case that has taken four years to reach court? And during the interim you’ve lost whatever financial foothold you had in the world? Savings account ~ gone. Both you and your spouse’s pension funds ~ cashed in with a hefty penalty. It seems as if overnight you went from being comfortable to having no safety net what so ever. It’s a horrible feeling. You beloved pet becomes suddenly ill and you have to beg and borrow to get the money to provide for her. Upkeep becomes expensive on your car so you take it off the road, leave it parked in your driveway and change the insurance status to “in storage” which lowers your premium considerably. You try to consolidate errands to town (a 32 mile round trip) to save on gas and wear & tear on the only vehicle you haven’t taken off the road. And in the middle of all this penny-pinching and stress your brain is on fire because your former employer accused you of theft, the one thing that can reduce you to a rubble of nothing. Your’e emotionally stuck, unable to move forward yet your mind has no difficulty taking you back at any given moment, back to when you were a child, back to when you lived in a house with an alcoholic father and a psychotic mother, who in time you learned weren’t even your parents; they adopted you or rather, they purchased you from an unwed mother who became pregnant when she cheated on her boyfriend. Ever the prince, her boyfriend forgave her, said they would get married and raise the baby together. Sounds like a dream come true but dreams are often like houses made from popsicle sticks, ~ they fall apart. He still wanted to marry her but he didn’t want another man’s child so when I was two he made her choose. Guess I don’t have to tell you who she chose. Somehow she learned about an older couple who wanted a child and for the right price, a private adoption was arranged with a local attorney working out the details. I was turned over to my “new parents” at a diner in NJ. I can’t even fathom something like that happening today.

The one constant through everything is that in previous generations, children did not have rights. Historically, children were considered the property of parents, they were merely chattel. Child abuse? It had to practically happen in public before anything was done and even then, most of the time the family stayed intact. It was completely acceptable for a father to backhand his child. How society has changed since my childhood in the 60’s. Now we read of situations where a child will threaten a parent by saying, “I’ll report you”. They sue for emancipation, sue to have tuition for an ultra-expensive school paid, or go to live with a friend or relative but take their parents to court for full financial support. As a survivor of horrific child abuse I think it’s wonderful that society has evolved to the point where they recognize the rights of a child as a human, a sentient being. I am extremely glad that schools, courts, and healthcare professionals understand that children are people, not merely possessions; that social service agencies were created to protect children. In the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s (and long before) many children were mistreated and abused physically, emotionally and sexually yet it was allowed to continue because society either chose not to or refused to acknowledge it. We were our parents property, we were a disposable commodity. Teachers turned a blind eye to bruising and fractures, which today would be investigated as potential signs of abuse. We usually passed through school without one single adult questioning cuts, bruises or frequent fractures. Looking back, I think that teachers believed if our grades were good, surely our lives were.

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Many children who experienced abuse at home performed extremely well at school because it was our sanctuary, a place where we were safe, if only for the day. I became a professional clock watcher, silently counting down to the dismissal bell. I dreaded spring because I knew it led to summer, a time filled with fear and countless hours on a bar stool while my father drank and played pool. I was always excited to see summer end because the change in seasons signaled a return to my beloved school where I became a sponge, trying to soak up every lesson, no matter how difficult (math comes to mind). Because I was never praised at home, I strived to do well because earning an “A” validated me ~ if only in my own mind. I remained socially awkward in that I wasn’t able to talk to my classmates about extracurricular activities, television shows, toys or my family. So I remained painfully shy and an introvert, the latter trait still holding true. Looking back, I can’t remember if it bothered me that I was one of the last picked during group activities but I’m going out on a limb by saying it didn’t. From my earliest memories of home, I inherently knew it was best to stay “invisible” and I think that carried over to school. I was a bit of an oxymoron in that I loved getting good grades, winning a spelling bee or composition contest yet hated hearing my name announced as the winner. Even now, decades later, I still don’t like calling attention to myself or entering a room late where all heads turn and look. Yet strangely enough I enjoy public speaking, an area I first delved into during high school. Why would an awkward introvert enjoy speaking before a room full of strangers? Because as one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughterhouse-Five “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

 

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