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. 

 

Caution! Major Whine Around The Corner…

Caution! Major Whine Around The Corner…

Wrote this at 1 am  this morning …

I feel a major whine coming on! Why can’t I enjoy summer? Go ahead and ask. No? Don’t want to ask me? Well I’ll tell you anyway. I CAN’T enjoy summer because nearly seven days a week I have to listen to gunfire during daylight hours than once dusk falls its firecrackers. Today is July 3 and the gunfire started around 11 am, reverberating through the woods. and mountains. Then as usual when darkness fell the firecrackers started. Thought they really amped it up due to the holiday weekend. If I knew who they were and where they were lighting up I’d stick a cherry bomb up their ass.

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How do you like me now bubba???

I moved to the Western Mountains of Maine from a very urban area over ten years ago. At the time I thought I was buying a little slice of heaven; over 30 wooded acres beginning from bottom of my  driveway and extending up into a mountain. I live in a 2 story log home at the top of a steep 825′ driveway ~ definitely not visible from the road.

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Bucolic ~ not!

It’s bad enough the hunting season (the first of several) begins in August and the dogs and I have to outfit ourselves in bright orange when we hike lest we be mistaken for a black bear and shot! The hunting seasons end in December but I never bargained for all the shooting. A resident or visitor is not allowed to discharge a weapon  on Sunday yet it happens every week without fail. Calling the authorities is an effort in futility. I live in the willy whacks ~ how could anyone pinpoint where the shots are coming from?

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My bucolic hideaway turned into a nightmare. My property abuts the river which means it’s private but no one is phased by the “Private Property” or “No Trespassing” signs I painstakingly nailed, hammered and staked over my entire acreage, especially the river area. It’s so beautiful there; pristine, quiet ~ the perfect place to relax. Also, where else can you take a couple of really big German Shepherds and have such fun?

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I often find fire residue, shell casings along with nasty garbage, evidence of burning and a plethora of what I have learned is the #1 favorite beer in Maine ~ Bud Light. I eben found a “sex toy” once!!! On MY riverbank! Come here ~ I’ll give you a toy!

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My home away from home

In 2012 fireworks became legal here and my summer peace came to an abrupt halt. One eventually becomes accustomed to the sound of gunfire during the day but now the nights are disrupted by the never-ending boom of firecrackers and such. We recently had a forest fire burn for about 10 days during a particularly dry spell and I have to wonder if an errant spark caused it. Tonight they started about 9pm and it lasted until after midnight! I’ve mentioned how annoying the constant din ~ no make that freaking booming, is to people in casual conversation and they don’t see anything wrong with it. Obviously I’m from another planet where the inhabitants are more sensitive to the beauty and tranquility of nature.

Makes me long for concrete under my feet and the whooshing sound a subway!

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A firecracker and a box of matches = lost sanity!

 

 

 

I Sat in Your Chair Today

I Sat in Your Chair Today

Technically it’s mine but you always chose it when we went to the river.

Seven weeks ago you stood on your lawn with police and rescue personnel present, and in the shadow of the setting sun, put a gun to your head and pulled the trigger. The last words you said were more in the form of a question. “What? I can’t hear you”.

When I learned of your death my universe was suddenly a very vast place and I was extremely alone. I guess I was selfish because I always counted on you being there. You were my sounding board, my go to person. I knew you suffered from depression and had made a suicide attempt many years ago. I knew because of the unwarranted termination of your job of 20 years, you were without healthcare coverage thus you weren’t able to continue either your therapy sessions or afford the antidepressant you’d taken for years. I wish I could have helped you! I begged you to use your VA benefits, apply for assistance through the local healthcare system, visit a labor lawyer – but you refused. I couldn’t understand why but finally stopped harping. Was I wrong? Should I have kept after you? What could I have done differently my dearest friend? I was always there for you but it was difficult to reach you because of your damn unreliable ISP and finicky computer. You never knew that I was planning on buying you a laptop. I tried to talk you into a cell phone off my plan but as usual you declined using the idiotic excuse “I don’t like all the noises cell phones make”. You and your damn independent streak. Looking at my words I realized that I’ve just described myself. It’s amazing we melded so well despite our arguments, like a married couple. Hence I introduced you as husband #2. I smile as I recall the expression on your face the first time I introduced my “two husbands” to the very Catholic women at the Parish Hall. They took my humor rather well I thought.
You had that quirky little smile when I said or did something outrageous or just plain dumb. Like getting stuck in your snowy driveway not once but twice the same day. Hell within the same hour. I miss that smile. I miss your wit and listening to your antigovernment theories while desperately trying to keep a straight face. I miss your hesitation when I hugged you goodbye. You lived such a solitary life that you had difficulty with human touch.
My four years of hell have reached an apex. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster unlike anything I’ve ever experienced since those horrific childhood years. Every morning I wake up and within five minutes I’m a wreck because I realize I’m one day closer to being in a courtroom. The mere thought of it terrifies me, a residual effect of standing alone in front of a judge when I was just a child. Of being sentenced to a reform school for being incorrigible at an age when little girls still play with dolls. No – I’m not going there today. I refuse. I’m trying to think of the courtroom as just another room in a big building. Like a large room in a museum or a restaurant except with a different decor and theme. I tell myself that at the end of the day I’m free to walk out of the courtroom just as I would any other large room or venue. I’m trying to reprogram my mind. As frightening as it is to enter a court room, I have to tell myself it’s not, it’s a piece of cake, I can do it, it’s only a room, and I’m in rooms all the time, every day of my life. At my house, at the store, it’s just a room with walls and strangers in it, no different from any building I go to each week – post office, bank, grocery store, it’s just another building and I’ll be in a room like any other store I frequent, but at a different address and without shopping privileges! Somehow it’s not working for me though; my innate terror is simply too great. So I’ve vacillated whether I should settle out of court. It’s easier on so many levels. No emotional “courtroom” appearance, no testimony, not having my character and very essence attacked by a bitch desperately to rise in the law firm. I’ve met her type so many times before – driven and ambitious. Society often thinks it’s only men that ruthlessly climb the corporate ladder. They’ve obviously never met a woman who’s determined to move up the company food chain. They epitomize the word cutthroat . Settling would resolve nearly all my angst. A nice tidy business arrangement. I’d sign a confidentiality agreement and they’d give me a check. However therein lies my problem. This whole fiasco has never been about money. It’s never been about revenge. It was about the right to patient privacy, something they’re entitled to plus guaranteed under HIPAA. It’s about an employer who, instead of rectifying a problem, chose to retaliate against a nurse who was only doing her job. I’m not naive. I know many people enter the field at a young age because of the money, the ability to work the hours or amount of days they want, and the fact that no matter where they move they can usually find a job. Then there’s the people like me who are in a completely different profession but because of a life experience or circumstance find their calling is nursing. We go back to school (again) and armed with our degree jump headfirst into our new career. Of course it’s a nice paycheck but for me the greatest satisfaction was helping my patients. A nurse doesn’t just address physical needs such as wound care or pain relief. We are duty bound to protect their rights. Patients have a right to privacy which means you cannot discuss them by name when you’re off duty. It also means that if you see their privacy being violated you are obligated to address it.

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Yet here I am, four years later ~ drained of our savings, penalized and taxed for cashing in pensions, and dreading the day I have to appear in court. All because I reported a facility that failed to address the problem I reported several times.
Having said that, I’ve rejected a settlement offer. I know it’s crazy and I’m a glutton for punishment but I keep thinking about you. About the day that young woman fired you in front of everyone. I think about my termination and what it’s cost me. I think about all the other people who are unfairly terminated by an employer just because they’d been there so long that they are at the top of the pay scale. Or terminated because they called attention to safety violations. Or maybe because the manager simply didn’t like them. If you aren’t protected by a union your job is fair game.
Employers have to be made to realize that their employees are real people. With a life outside of work, perhaps a family or a dependent parent. They have bills to pay, obligations to meet. If they’re fired through no fault of their own they struggle financially and emotionally. And that’s where my problem is. I’m not naive in that I know I can’t change the world but by going to trial, speaking out, I can change one employer and that’s good enough for me. If I quietly accept a check and sign a confidentiality agreement, the employer is in essence buying my silence. They are free to continue caring more about insurance reimbursement than patient rights. What will the past four years of struggle have been about if I allow myself to be bought? As much as I fear the courtroom, I could not live with myself if I compromise my ethics. And in a small way, I’ve decided to see this through for you as well. While not the same company, a victory will give me a certain amount of satisfaction.
You’re still with me in so many ways just as I know you’ll be with me in court. That’s good enough for me. Let’s kick some ass…

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My friend loved his cats!

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.

And So I begin. Up First? Pancake Makeup…

And So I begin. Up First? Pancake Makeup…

In addition to being a mother & “Gammy”, I’m a nurse. I need to establish that because it figures prominently in the next parts of my journey; a journey I don’t want to make because it terrifies me to the innermost core. Unfortunately my back is in a corner and I have no other choice. In addition to the heart wrenching grief following the April 21 suicide of my dear friend, I’m plagued with anxiety and nightmares over the upcoming trial. The only time I’m not a wreck is when I first wake however within five minutes my internal clock reminds me that this new day brings me one day closer to trial and I usually  begin jaw clenching within the hour.

In six weeks I’ll be sitting in a courtroom because I dared blow the whistle on an employer. In hindsight if they had simply corrected the issue of patient rights being violated, none of this would have happened. Instead, when I went to them following the proverbial chain of command, they waited a few weeks then suspended me for theft. Not just a random run of the mill theft but of (4) anti-nausea pills; a medication so benign that it will probably be over the counter in a few years. What they didn’t know was that just the mention of that word threw me into a complete state of panic; intense emotional flooding so severe that it caused physical pain. To this day, nearly four years later, I don’t know how I drove the 16 miles home nor do I remember the drive. All I remember is being called a thief, which for me is an absolute recipe for disaster. Violent memories which had been safely under control came flying out and surrounded me like a swarm of bees, each sting worse than the previous. Memories that had taken me years to seal deep within individual compartments in my mind were now loose and running rampant. I was a child again and I was branded a thief. The one thing I DO remember is that I couldn’t stop shaking. It was so violent that I was banging my teeth together. How does one get up in the morning, happy with life, at peace with themselves, and in the blink of an eye hear one word, ONE LOUSEY WORD, that has the power to turn their life upside down in ways they never thought possible? I’ve been triggered before. Actually many times. None however had this type of effect on me. No triggers had ever reduced me to being a complete and utter emotional cripple.

I was called a thief by my “mother” from the time she entered my life when I was about 3 years old. I was adopted at age 2 by a man and his wife, both in their 40’s. While the wife had grown daughters from a previous marriage (she was widowed), this was her husbands’ first marriage. Sadly she was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after the private adoption and was dead within a year. Her husband, now my father, had no idea what to do with a 3-year-old so he found me a new mother ~ in a bar. They married in Atlantic City and voila! Instant family. Of course I didn’t learn all these details till many years later so as a young child thought they were my “Mommy & Daddy”. I thought beatings and being alone all day were what people did. I guess to my child’s mind, my life was normal.

My father worked all day and I was home alone with Mommy. I never remember her engaging in any type of game, physical contact or conversation with me. The rule was that I would stay in my playroom for most of the day until my father came home from work. I was not allowed to go back into my bedroom nor in other parts of our rather large house. I don’t know what she did while I played in the toy room because I never recall her having any friends, only a widowed sister (a lunatic named Viola). My mother rarely watched television and I’d never seen her read a book. Looking back, I believe she had a little world going on in her head so had no need for outside stimulation.
She saw herself as a victim which played prominently in my childhood. She would appear in the playroom and tell me to come with her. She’d take me to her closet and show me one of her “cocktail dresses” as she referred to them. She’d say “Look at this Bunny.” as she pulled out a navy blue dress. “This looks like my cocktail dress but it isn’t. My dress was expensive. This dress is cheap. See that pancake makeup on the shoulder? You know I don’t wear makeup. I don’t need it because I’m Daddy’s child bride. Somebody took my dress and replaced it with one just like it but I’m smarter than them because I saw the pancake makeup. They thought they could fool me but they can’t”. I remember looking at the dress, thinking that it looked like hers. I also knew she used something for her face that she called pancake makeup. She had two tubes, one black and the other white, which she would occasionally remove from her purse and apply. Yet I stood silently while she rambled on. This happened frequently and was usually centered on her clothing being replaced with an identical item but of inferior quality. In my child’s mind I “thought” the items she would drag me out to see looked like hers but she was Mommy so I believed her. So began my introduction to years of fear, fear that the nameless, faceless people would come to steal from us when we were home. What would they do to us? Would they shoot us like on the movies my father watched on weekends? Would we die like the soldiers in those movies?

I’m not sure when the exact transition began but Mommy stopped accusing strangers of stealing her clothing. Instead, she began to target me. She would accuse me of stealing her makeup (the same pancake makeup that she denied using because she was a “child bride”), my fathers razor, just about everything. I remember crying and telling her I didn’t steal anything; that maybe the people did it. It fell on deaf ears as she reiterated that I was the thief and that she would tell my father when he got home from work which always ending with “and you know what that means”.

I knew exactly what that meant. I was going to be beat, the severity dependent on whether he had stopped at a bar for a few drinks. Drunk Daddy was ruthless when he was mad and when he finished pummeling me, would kick me while I was on the floor crying. I would try to reason with him, pointing out that his razor was up high in the bathroom medicine cabinet and that I was too small to reach it but my words fell on deaf ears. In time I began to realize that Mommy enjoyed this almost as if it was a game because I’d often catch a glimpse of her standing nearby with an ever so slight grin on her lips. Shortly after my father left for work in the morning she would appear at the door of the playroom to announce the latest item I’d “stolen”. She’d smile and say “You just wait till your father gets home. Daddy knows how to handle bad girls’”. I think it gave her a perverse sense of pleasure knowing that I was going to have the hell beat out of me. In time, I learned exactly what this psychotic woman was capable of. The beatings were only the tip of the iceberg.

 

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Her “pancake makeup”was identicle to the two tubes on the left

The End of One Road…

The End of One Road…

A simple thing really. I ran out of cloud space while filming my dog today. I began to check settings and deleting unnecessary things. Then it happened. My eyes filled with tears as I saw an email from you. You’d sent it to me after my beloved Callie died and I was on the “crazy train of grief”. I’d cut inches off my hair then the next day  cut even more. I can still see the look of shock on your face when I pulled in your driveway a few days later; you’d never seen me in short hair, never knew that I had curls resembling drunken corkscrews. The email began with your usual sarcastic wit that I’d come to love. You offered to lend me sheep shears for my next cutting adventure but warned they were the “manual type”. You suggested a mohawk for less upkeep with a matching one for my hubby. You made a point of telling me that your cat’s had “no comment” on my hair. Then you shifted gears and wrote a beautiful letter about my loss. You mentioned little “Callie-isms” that I never knew you’d noticed. You spoke of her as you did of your cats, with love and kindness. How the first thing you recognized when we’d met years before was her uncanny devotion to me, a devotion you never saw waver even towards the end when her body was weak.

I’ll never forget you nor will I ever stop loving you. Our friendship transcended the usual male female relationships. I never knew exactly how to describe either of us ~ gender fluid? Intergender? All I know is we had a wonderful, platonic friendship built on trust, an emotion that doesn’t come easily to me. We felt so secure, so safe with each other that we shared many dark parts of our lives. You will always have a special place in my heart because death ends a life, not a friendship.
I will always hold your memory close to my heart but I must move on now. I can’t weep during the day and toss and turn at night. I can’t continue to forget to eat and stay sequestered inside my house. I wish I could have saved you; I wish I could have convinced you to return to counseling, renewed your prescriptions, insisted you promise that you would call me before you picked up a gun. Hell, I wish I had searched your house for a gun!

Sadly, I can’t change a damn thing and even though it’s causing me severe anxiety and heightened depression, I HAVE to pull myself together. I have a legal matter looming on the horizon. Jury selection is in two weeks. It’s been a long four years which I don’t think I would have gotten through had it not been for your support and unwavering loyalty. I’m terrified and wish you were in the courtroom every day as you promised but in hindsight I realize your own pain was simply too great to carry any longer. But I have to see this through, not just for me but for you as well. The defense attorney took one sentence from my therapist’s session notes and as you know, she ran with it, thinking she’d found her “smoking gun”. Her questioning of me is going to be brutal and I have to find a way to prepare myself. I was supposed to go to counseling every week beginning last October so I would be prepared but after only two sessions life got in the way when Callie was diagnosed with lymphoma. Then it was one thing after another and I never went back. Now it’s too late. The attorney is going to bring up things that happened decades ago, events that have zero relationship to the crux of the case. She’s going to question me about my darkest hours, about secrets that I haven’t shared with my own family and I don’t know if I have the emotional stamina to get through it. How can the horror I suffered decades ago be relevant to what happened in 2012? How can the legal system allow me to be excoriated over events that happened before I even began school? Events I had no control over? The only way I can prevail is if I begin to address each nightmare now in the safety of my home as opposed to in a public courtroom. All my life I’ve been running and hiding but your suicide made me realize that running isn’t the answer. It’s time to bring the memories out, address them for the evil they were, then lock them away so that they can never hurt me again. You of all people can understand this for even though you’re gone, I want to believe your essence remains.
I’m going to win, but first I have to search deep within myself for answers. 

I know you’ll understand…