RAT BRAIN

It is one splendid picture perfect summer day after another. The only difficulty is taming my thoughts which easily run around and around in negative thinking. Breathe. Everything is OK. You are OK. This mantra is used often because ever since age eight my belief solidified that everything I did was either bad or wrong.

That is the damage done when a child suffers horrendous attacks by those she loves. Then is left on her own to hold it all in. And families expect that. My mother ensured it to her death bed literally. There she spewed out a verse from an author she liked then ordered me to write it down.

I kept it. Maybe in the hopes that someday I could see something different than the message she touted. Side-stepping the truth is impossible. She expected me to continue to obey the gag order long after her passing.

She never said it aloud until that day before she died, even then without saying it had to do with keeping quiet about what her sons had done. The dots aren’t far apart. There’s no denying what was demanded. 

It would be hard to miss. What else could it mean? And why, so that her sons wouldn’t suffer because of what they had done? Or the ones who knew and did nothing wouldn’t be shamed by secrets? Secrets which keep me bound and hostage. That meant more to her than coming to my aid even then. It took her death 11 years ago for me to begin to learn to love myself. 

“Do you have a piece of paper and pen,” she asked?

“Yes,” I said, fumbling in my purse for a scrap of paper. 

“Write this down,” she ordered.

And the good girl in me did. 

Talk Faith

Talk faith. The world is better off without
Your uttered ignorance and morbid doubt.
If you have faith in God, or man, or self,
Say so; if not, push back upon the shelf
Of silence, all your thoughts till faith shall come.
No one will grieve because your lips are dumb.

But not long after her passing the book began. Chapter after chapter the truth held in since age 8 bubbled up. With it all the joyous times, because there were those too. But suppressing some feelings suppresses them all.

I needed her even in my fifties. Her love, though tainted with exceptions, was the only love I was capable of feeling other than various pets over the years. I surely didn’t learn to love myself, or that others could really love me. Love became deadly wrought with danger and risk. But her love at times sunk in.

I complied with the requirement to remain mute about what was done, and it didn’t need to be ordered aloud. A child learns what brings love and what brings rejection. Also required was the pretense of love towards my attackers.  Families stick together. Isn’t that what families do? And I did so without recognizing the dark need of love from places that require too much in return. 

Yes they stick together even if it means going after the traumatized child now an adult. Because they make it about themselves not the victim, a doubled up betrayal by the clan. But the attacking siblings must have felt badly because each one died way too early except one. The one most hated survives. 

No one ever approached with a request for forgiveness. Perhaps I blame myself for that too, so enraged I would be too hard to approach. And that is the damage done life-long, that every action is wrong or bad, even that an abuser didn’t apologize. .

The rat brain effect swirling in my head always needs taming. When never learning to trust, interactions towards others are tinged with doubt, coldness, separation, and disdain. My ability to get close, though craving it, was irrevocably damaged.

Any tool to keep others at bay is used. And since swinging a bat is frowned upon, other tactics kick in without conscious thought. Craving friends, a boyfriend, or any human interaction, mistrust forced unconscious acting contrary to my yearnings. Facial expressions, body moments, and sarcasm became highly honed to keep others from getting close. This evolved without planning or insight into what I was actually doing. 

It has worked really well (mostly), though boys fumbled at my body in high-school or college, never a comfortable situation for me even after married. Now more aware, changes have been made. Over time friends have stuck with me. That wasn’t the case for decades, losing them one by one due to my inability to speak up or trust.

My brain still swings the hammer of wrongdoing, it’s an unfortunate knee jerk reaction. Sometimes the energy to fight it is available, but not always. That tendency seems permanent because what was learned in childhood cemented into my personality… I am bad.  

My first thought when another seems upset or I imagine that they are, is–what did I do wrong? It takes daily work to counter this part of me. Medical marijuana oil has helped. I don’t lie awake nights going over a scenario repeatedly wondering what I’d done, or angry at someone else because they have wronged me. 

These years here on the country plot have not always been easy, but peace has moved into unfamiliar places that others take for granted— the core that believes in one’s goodness offering stability, centeredness, and calm. It tends to linger in me now too.  

The Cure

Eerily quiet and unusually dark at my accustomed waking time, the silence is unnerving. Where have the birds gone? My guess is many have left for warmer climates already. They surely arrive here earlier in the spring than most people realize, as early as February’s end.

The feelings of loneliness this usually brings is not as deep or as painful. There is an energy occurring that wasn’t present during all the years of restless sleep when waking at all kinds of hours, staying awake watching TV.

Good sleep means more energy. It also means a brighter outlook on things with a happier mood, happy which equates to more peaceful. The magic cure seems to lie in the pot oil begun after visiting Cory last fall in a state where the oil is legal.

After choking on  smoking the pot also purchased, then hallucinating afterwards freaking out, needing my grown son to talk me down, it was the oil that was more fitting for me. The pot these days is nothing like my college days because it is way more powerful.

The oil seems to have cured much of what ails me. Not a total cure, but toning it all down and still there to manage. What a blessing, and all in this innocuous little plant. It probably wouldn’t have done all it can do earlier in my life because there was just too much to overcome. 

But after years of therapy and living through the worst, it was the little bit needed to send me over to the side of peace. Still the work goes on. It does not offer immediate self-esteem. Nor does it remove anxiety, an issue worked on daily.

But it does help with sleep a great deal along with the tendency for repetitive negative thinking. But discipline is needed to keep countering those voices which sometimes thrash me down unequivocally.

All the tools that help are needed, and this is one of many. But this addition after all these years is an amazing balm to my overworked systems. Though it works for me, it is not a recipe for everyone. We each find our own ways through our own hell’s. 

 

At Peace In The Moment

The day is quiet, laying before me like an open book. Rather than do, do, do, my quest resides deeper staying in one place a very long time. With sneakers on, uncharacteristically ready for action, Samuel asks, “Do you want to go biking?”

Wanting stillness and peace, not action, I respond, “I’m not ready. I have to eat, get dressed, then meditate.”

“Well, I don’t like it when it gets too hot,” he says, adding, “I’m going.”

Good. Time alone today is a good thing, opening the windows after he leaves because he said keep them shut so it stays cool. There’s cool, then then there’s cool when feeling so chilly a sweater is needed.

It is summer, and after the stickiness that made me happy to have air conditioning, today is just a nice summer day to be enjoyed fully… windows open.

Sometimes in my efforts to please even just one other person, my self is lost in the shuffle. Sometimes compromise means giving up too much, so much the internal forces are not at peace which equates to unhappy.

Sometimes the business of placing so much effort each day in moving my body more, the pleasure is lost in the doing instead of being.

So today come back home and experience the satisfaction of each moment without pressure.

FEEDING THE SOUL

photo by Patricia

What is needed to make it a day that satisfies? Exercise, meditation, and feeding the soul nurturing messages. Not an easy feat for a person used to feeling that the joys of life do not apply to me. But over time progress is made.

Activity improved to the point where chances were taken that should not have been taken. Yet again trying to be like others, but these others aren’t living with the effects of early trauma. Going without treatment, having to keep all of it inside my little being caused lasting damage.

Learning to accept limitations is ongoing work along with sending messages that encourage instead of destroy. Habits can evolve over time, not by stopping it cold, but by replacing the old habit with a new improved one.  

Feed the soul with positive messages, messages that are true. You have value. Dive deep and look, you will see, feel, and live it.

SWEETNESS

Our new bird house up for only a week before being occupied.

There is beauty all around me, some of my own making, much from Mother, the same Mother who takes my breath away with her beauty and casts scourges upon us in the form of a virus.

But inside me there still lives darkness, gloom, and disaster, a surety of blackness that believes I don’t deserve life.

It lands on me like vulture claws in the quiet loneliness of night when sleep won’t come. This time due to simply sending an email to a brother, a non-abusive brother, but one who buddied up with an abusive brother for life choosing his company over mine. That makes him a co-conspirator of the worst kind, and very dangerous for me.

Yet, like a moth to flame… but who doesn’t want family? Picnics, holidays, to be part of a group? My groups call for safety. And those ‘people’ are not safe. To initiate contact ALWAYS means no sleep that night.

Taking a sleep aid finally at midnight, watching TV for almost an hour, resisting food as a way to numb, back to bed and my dooming thoughts. Because this is when everything looks bad, and feels bad. Every bright thing in the daytime becomes foreboding and all my fault.

The rock hard boulders push me further into the pillow with the weight. Then a gentle voice, as if an apparition of an angel spoke above me, what if you filled yourself with loving words, kind thoughts, sweet truths…

And the turn-around began, countering the badness into reality. The outcome? A feeling, a belief, the knowledge deep inside that began to open with love… you are a good and special person. Like everyone around you that you admire, you too are admirable. And with that sweet sleep came.

Our resident toad living on the patio making a home in a potted plant burying himself in the dirt every night. He has live there for weeks!

PEACE and GRATITUDE

photos by Patricia-Hollyhocks

Boom, boom, boom, the night skies lit up all around us, though trees blocked most of the sparkling neighborhood fireworks. Giving up sleep at the usual time, I padded out to the front porch to see. Not much could be seen except bits of the exploding colors over the tree tops, but fireflies delighted close-by in the front yard. The moon rose full, golden yet crimson, another jaw dropping sight as it opened huge in full splendor.  

After a while it quieted and so did I. It was an uneventful fourth as far as doing or going, yet still a nice, but HOT day. After the sunbeam walk, sheltering in the house kept me cool. The bread-maker was used for dough to make pigs-in-a blanket for Samuel.

The last patch of lavender was cut, as sweat dripped down, and my back hurt from bending. The bees competed for the last blossoms. Maybe the heat affected my head— I began talking aloud to the bees.

“This is my garden. I planted these, they are mine, you can’t have them,” I said to them buzzing near my shears as they snipped, snipped, snipped.

I am determined even though highly allergic to bee stings. As a child it was necessary to have a series of injections over the course of months to build up resistance. A serious reaction made me swell up with hives and become quite sick after picking grapes, squeezing a wasp in my hand accidentally.

Injections didn’t help much. I still become sick wondering when the next sting might send me to the hospital. But I will have my lavender making three beautiful baskets around the house decorated with purple ribbon adorned with white polka dots. When my senses are paying attention, the scent is luscious and soothing. 

And more walks, one at a time throughout the day, the walk back up to the house causing me to huff with the slight slope and heat. But a wonderful way to enjoy the day and get out of the air conditioned house. One enjoyable lap at a time reaching ten laps by day’s end.

Flip-flops are risky but easier than putting on socks with sneakers or hiking shoes. Though the meadow path is worn down, clover still grows attracting lots of bees. I may regret the risks I take padding through it practically barefoot. Even on this little plot of land there is danger. 

Our days are quiet but pleasurable most of the time, except when PTSD kicks in reminding me of what I can and cannot do, or just to say hello. 

Peace and gratitude reign.

Go Away PTSD

photo by Patricia

It was bedtime. Routine in that area has become very important, extremely so. Yet forgotten, or the hope that maybe this one time I could do something excitingly spontaneous and it would be alright.

It wasn’t. The next two days didn’t go so well.

So on the way back to the bedroom after putting the crazy cat in the studio for the night, I took a peek at the night from the back porch. Fireflies appeared, one by one, watching, mesmerized, feeling childhood awakening in the bones of my memory.

Dashing around the yard at dusk with the kids from the neighborhood playing Kick the Can, or Ghosts in the Graveyard. Being called in late once dark settled in, all dirty and tired, falling asleep easily after a day of hard play. But that is not Patricia-world now. Now routines must be adhered to.

But only this once? Since things are going so well, can’t this once be added on to what has been a stretch of wonderful summer days? Days when miles upon miles of bike rides along the path by the water are also combined with laps and laps of walking, because energy expended seemed to compound into more energy.

Can’t a quick dip in the pool be enjoyed? The quiet water luring as the last pink faded from the sky casting a rosy glow. Donning my swimsuit, an irresistible dip was risked. Fireflies grew brighter as the waves cuddled me. But my senses began to ratchet up rather than calm down as they should have been doing.  

The impromptu fun delighted, the water warm, the twinkling solar string lights making it a magical wonderland of joy. Too much joy, exciting me beyond any possibility of sleep. The haranguing voice began its pounding, ‘YOU KNOW BETTER! YOU YOU YOU.’ 

Routine. Remember that? You must pay attention to your unique body needs. Stimulating your senses when they should be winding down won’t work. Lying awake long after Samuel came to bed, medication had to be taken. Not only did my body go off the deep end, so did my mind.

The negative thoughts chewed like snarly, dripping fangs, taking bite after bite, pounding my being with fearful stabs. After staring at the television for over an hour, another dose had to be taken.

Finally drowsiness, and back to bed. Sleep came as if encased in a tomb like a mummy with no movement until waking. There goes a day of waste. No walking, no chores, no nothing except for the escape into watching beloved movies. Because a body that jumps into the dangerous pool of PTSD needs calm. No motion, nothing except feeling sorry for myself. That equates to food used to numb it all out adding to the load of crippling self-hate.

It takes a second day to recover and feel as if back into myself. Depression, disconnect, and displacement from my very being all needed time, quiet, and seclusion before re-connection to body, thoughts, and spirit. Go away Samuel, leave me alone. Everything had spiraled about like a mini universe out of control, all from a simple quick dip in the pool. 

This morning wholeness. The fresh picked lavender scent is noticed as the gurgling fountain settles my soul. The morning feels cherished, not feared. Because once the PTSD breaker is tripped, fear, panic, and the surety that a terrifying thing is about to happen exposes every nerve as it readies for danger. Terror from childhood when the peril was real crashes in putting my alert system on edge with red-light vigilance. THAT is tiring, and once happening, out of my control. 

A special day is one when my being feels whole and is whole. When the tiniest event floods me with pleasure; the toad living in the potted plant on the patio blanketing himself under the wet dirt as if it is a home with a bed, the birds sipping at the birdbath, the abundant lavender in bloom along with the heady scent calming my very pores with their aroma.

The morning is sweet again with wonder as we celebrate 42 years together. On this day, at this moment, I feel whole. 

The Tooth

“How are you?” asks the dentist.

“I am two people,” I reply, and the air was still, adding before she was able to figure out what to say next, “a terrified child, and a person who asked you for help knowing you are competent to do it.”

“I’m sorry you went through all that,” she replied, and the two of them went to work.

The process of getting the lost filling repaired took about an hour, but the rest of the day felt wasted. Too tired from the medication needed to calm my flight of flight response meant resting afterwards. I even fell asleep for a lengthy nap which is a rarity. But still, this time was different.

Rather than a rumbling terror each day prior, my message to myself, or more precisely to the terrified child within, was, I’ll take care of it. It’s only a tooth to be fixed.

And compared to the terror of what’s floating in the air these days, tooth problems do seem minor. Yet my PTSD symptoms worsening with age won’t go away because I tell them to. Medication was still needed.

Though seemingly a wasted day, it was not. It was of great achievement. The hunk of filling came out about when the pandemic hit. My tongue has slipped over the rough edged gap ever since not chewing on that side.

The owner of the office assured me that the they dispel a spray in-between patients, and I’d be first in anyway. But I wish the two working on me didn’t chat back and forth while only 6 inches from my face. Stick to what is needed to be said about the process, not senseless chatter.

In normal times unrelated chatter soothes, but now caused worry. They had on masks and eye gear, but no shields. How do I know if their breathing and talking wasn’t getting on me lying there with my mouth open? It seemed very wrong for both patient and provider.

But it’s done, I did it!

POWER

Turning on heat at the start of June is a first, the register next to me soothing as the warmth spills out. The temperature has uncharacteristically plummeted breaking records at one extreme then the other. Frost and snowflakes in May, catapulting to record highs, then needing heat from the furnace a few days later. 

Though the pool is open, and for a few days the temperature was 90 or close to it, my idea of going in was floating in circles as the force of the filter splashed a current to ride on. Samuel went all the way in a few times, but it isn’t quite warm enough for me yet. Now in the 40’s the water will take awhile to warm again. 

The summer looks different, is different. Cancelling an upcoming camping trip with Shane and his family at our favorite place in the Adirondacks, along with a trip to see Cory’s family and new baby… both a loss, but curiously a relief too.

Traveling is hard for me. The less it’s done, the better. My system hypes up and once that happens it is hard to calm down. And that is during what is the best years of my life.

Looking back would I want to live it again? No way. The anxiety running me was wild, reverberating like live wires through my system. The daily fear of living, and people, caused even simple decisions to go awry.

Even now I must tell myself, slow down, breathe, where exactly are you going so fast? Living in over-drive separated from my body is the norm. But not now. Now is the time to go slow, protect myself, and for the first time take care of myself in all the ways previously neglected.

It is not an easy job, or one that comes naturally. Taught to deny all needs, this takes conscious effort. Taking action to block all those called ‘family,’ even if only for a day or two, brought back a feeling of power and control that being pressured into doing something not right for me took away. Freedom was lost, victim-hood floundered, priceless freedom gone— poof, like a puff of smoke. 

Strength flowed back. Seeming a silly move, it was not. Then the thought of those I cared about possibly contacting me without my response caused me to unblock all but the sister-in-law who pressured me. The others can access me if needed.

That action reminded me where my power lies, within me. It is not something to give away again, but I will. The craving for family always there, always pulling, always in need of. A cauldron calling me into her dark brew where wishes come true. 

Freedom and Safety

Waking in the night a breeze of fear passes through me. All the people called ‘family’ were put in the block sender list yesterday to feel safe. But what of the love felt for each of them? The love is from an immature girl, remaining a girl all through my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, only beginning to mature in the last decade… a slow and painful process. 

And with maturity comes the realization that lies are not OK. Interacting with each of them, always on their terms, is not OK. Pretending is not OK. Being buddies with an abuser, aligning with him against me, is not OK. Pretending he didn’t slink up in the night to abuse me… is not OK.

By not talking about the crimes committed against me make the crimes loom larger. Lying awake in the night remembering. The confused mixture of pleasure and confusion as a little girl, still sleepy laying there at the end of couch with my little brother asleep at the other end.

Tommy’s head between my legs— waking to the soft pleasure but not understanding. The next morning, and all the years after, the brother I loved so much with admiration and trust, turned his hate upon me. I was a reminder of his crime. His fear of exposure compounding the punishment that would defeat me for decades. That leaves me fighting for a life even now. 

On little shoulders that would take even more trauma, some so violent that remembering isn’t safe to this day. My psyche protects me from it still.

I am blocking emails that never come unless someone dies or wants something. No one dares to get close, reality might set in. But what of my reality?

Attachments cause deep pain. My preference is to attach to the land and mother nature who soothes, bringing smiles of joy as the chipmunks play, or a flower blooms .

Attach to my children, and their children. To Samuel, who I’m learning to trust for the very first time in over 40 years of marriage. Trust for a friend whom I’ve finally learned to erect boundaries with, a miraculous feat… trust that will reach out only so far because she will slam me down if I let her. 

That is enough to be challenged with. The origin family carries baggage with heavy requirements I have no energy to meet. (Yet agree to anyway when pressured.) So take away the temptation. 

After trying repeatedly to develop relationships individually with no takers, it became apparent that groups were only what was wanted— herd immunity. My need for safety equates to detaching. Craving freedom that was lost when feeling forced by pressured guilt to do something I did not want to do paralleling my formative years. Freedom and safety come home.