WHOLE

photos by Patricia

Rather morbid thoughts invade my brain, chased away by simple projects that bring childish excitement, even an over-sized card for my grand-daughter’s birthday. Or puzzles that sit on the table most of the summer untouched. Working on one now lowers anxiety that creeps in as the days grow darker and colder settling the ragged places that threaten tranquility.

Some who grow older wish for youth, not me. No way would living my life over be tenable. It was hard enough the first time separated from myself like super-charged electrons buzzing around my body. My soul in shattered pieces making each decision the wrong one, causing more pain not less. How could one make a decision when disconnected from oneself?

And how can one be connected when taught to act and behave in opposition to the truth of their existence? That those I loved sexually attacked me with violence and malevolence. But Mom wouldn’t have it. You are to love your family. Broken, never to be whole again… but I wouldn’t have that either and worked hard life-long to have a life.

To have the zillions of pieces come home and stay is a revelation that most others take for granted. Whole, at peace, and happy, because feeling peaceful is happiness. That is how my life finally evolved after decades of fracture before piecing back together.

 

PTSD

A day like others, yet when it was time to sleep, sleep won’t come. Maybe it just happens every week or so for no reason other than the zillions of parts of me flying around are more flustered than usual. The usual make up of my parts are more cemented than past years, but still damaged by a life of PTSD.

Could it be that a friend called for a video chat? Why, no, that happens with some regularity without upset. Maybe the efforts launched to stay productive when it has become so much harder with the drop of mood. Could pushing myself that way cause a break between body, mind, and spirit?

Not writing as frequently? Or does it happen just because my body goes off without me sometimes even when using marijuana oil with great success. Instead of getting up to let my prescription do its work, staying in bed until sleep overtakes me worked best.

But that medication makes the next day unproductive. Despite the sunny weather, only one lap was taken. It feels like the worst thing to do is get my heart rate up because it replicates the adrenaline response which has been so easily activated since the age of 8 when the attacks began.

A day of quiet without doing called for repeated messages to self that it is OK to do just that. Much of my days are usually judged by how much was accomplished, but is that really fair? No, sometimes staying quiet and working on kind messages to one’s self are the best medicine despite my yearnings to get moving and get doing.

Sometimes quiet helps recovery. Though there are improvements in my sleep and quality of life including taming wild, negative thoughts, due to the addition of the pot oil, there is still a disease to manage that knocks on my head with an unwelcome ‘hello.’

 

HUNGER

Photos by Patricia (bluebird baby)

Having to pretend since age 8 that the horrors suffered weren’t real, it became customary for me to stuff them away. That took a lot of food, food that mother loved to cook then see others eat. Weight gain, up and down since age 8.

Even mangling my inner organs to be normal. That pleased my mother who told me about the magical operation.

She left out the part that meant intense pain for hours, and countless episodes on the bathroom floor hoping to upchuck the extra teaspoon of food swallowed. What was left of my stomach was  a tiny pouch with only enough room for a tablespoon or so of food.

That is a problem for a person accustomed to using food as an escape from the body, and had since age 8 when my mother’s cure for the first terrifying attack was to stuff with me food. And if my mother’s love was at the end of a spoon it was better than nothing.

To be in my body now is a revelation. Not realizing that my entire life has been an escape, the exploration into this brings up empathy unfounded in my own inner workings. Because usually there is harshness, blame, and self-castigation. Compassion has begun to blossom.

To go through all that all alone. To suffer like that all alone, except for a mother on the side-lines always making it worse because she didn’t want a fat daughter. So she put me in fashion shows, and beauty contests, and then as an adult excitedly telling me about this operation which years later put me in the hospital due to internal bleeding where the inexperienced surgeon make his cuts to rearrange my internal organs.

It was never about weight, but about pain suppressed. About a little girl alone whose only resource was eating because you readily pushed food, loved to cook, and loved even more to see it eaten.

Mom, normal is to feel. Normal is to go to your daughter’s aid and keep any son from attacking me again. It doesn’t matter if you’re left a widow with 8 kids, you’re story over and over again whenever trying to tell you how angry I was at you and why.

You could have 20 kids, just stop and do the right thing. No more attacks, and don’t tell your little daughter who is crying hot tears down her cheeks, that if it ever happens again to tell you. Of course I wouldn’t, too ashamed to do so. As if I had the power to stop it by telling you. YOU STOP IT.

So food became an escape from the body as other sons took what they wanted. And I became more and more invisible as my body got larger. And that was 60 years ago but the same methods of not feeling are still being used.

Yet beauty occurs, that of feeling deep down inside with peace not tsunamis. I can go there and be OK, better than OK. Still tentatively trying it out, but more and more comfortable being there. It is a beautiful thing, one others live daily without question. But for a trauma survivor it is a new place to be that brings wholeness, peace, and love for self.

Instead of self-repugnance for a too big body since childhood, there is the beginnings of understanding and compassion. Food is used to numb, to not be in the body. I have not understood just how terrifying my childhood was. That leaving the body became the norm when my body was attacked, not the other way around which is really the norm when living childhood without trauma.

Without intervention or release of the agony inside me, I ate for the next sixty years. Even when the stomach was butchered into a tiny pouch- I ate. I had to, even though it meant long periods wrapped about the toilet on the cold tile floor. There was still interaction with ‘family’ acting like I loved them because that’s what was required. Of course I ate.

It is a new beginning where food is eaten out of hunger, not all the other hungers, but true physical hunger. And that only begins to happen when love and compassion are heard inside of me filling the ragged holes that food once filled. That is not the head or brain… that is the soul hungry for love.

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. 

 

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. 

PAPER DOLL

Though summer brings oppressive heat, walks bring peace to a mind working on over-drive. Before breakfast the heat and humidity is tolerable, even pleasant until the sun comes full up. So many thoughts bombarding into each other on a day when feeling scattered too.

How to come together? Time alone by the water— birds, raccoons, turtles, frogs, carps as big as sharks, and the water weasel, all keeping me company. It is OK to stay where safety is found, the decision to cancel so many plans repeatedly questioned.

No, we are not being too extreme. Others seem to be taking risks we’d rather not take. We are being cautious. Camping next week with Shane… no, nor any camping. A trip to Cory’s in Massachusetts’s…no. We don’t care to deal with public restrooms, or any other possible source of contamination.

And finally peace over these things. It is the right and safest decision for us. Whatever is needed is right here, it always has been. There is also relief at not having to travel. It always took its toll on my fragile nervous system, depleted after a life of excess cortisol coursing through my body unnecessarily. My startle response raced into fight or flight many times daily. My body still does it, though years of meditation have helped calm it down.  

There are wounds still needing attending to. Trust is not something regained, but maybe in increments. Samuel and others aren’t out to get me, a belief cemented into my views since childhood when learning just what human beings are capable of. That belief won’t completely change, but some cracks open up letting in light during rare moments of peace and safety.

Chet spent a good deal of time figuring when he could get at me, and that expectation, that others are trying to do evil, will last. It made an indelible imprint, a deep wound to attend to… a crumpled paper doll needing gentle care.

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!

Little Girl Me

My Secret Garden

Running out of THC has caused sleepless nights with groggy days due to having to take other medication for sleep. CBD oil on its own does not work. An added bonus unrealized until the whole plant oil ran out was my legs and how much better they work.

Huffing up the meadow hill, or even just around the house, painful aches with stiffness became highly noticeable. How can this simple oil be so helpful in so many ways? The rat brain cycle kicks in, that of negativity, round and round, over and over again.

The little girl at eight, all alone when loved ones attacked, growing to believe it was all my fault. The loud voice of blame attacking me by day as brothers attacked at night. Those voices bang loudly again.

Despair knocks as tears fall. Going through years of sleeplessness again after months when the miracle of sleep was blessed upon me is untenable. 

“I cannot handle this,” weeping without wanting to while telling Samuel about yet again another sleepless night needing to take a sleep aid.

Samuel says, “You can get a prescription!”

“No, I tried on-line,” crying more, defeated, adding, “It is too hard, and too complicated.”

“It’s not,” he said. “I looked. All you have to do is find a provider. Fill out an application, pay the fee, get a card, then you buy it from a New York dispensary.”

Tears fall more. He had already been on the computer after the first rush of tears when I’d left the room. The tenderness towards him touched a very deep place covered with mistrust put in place years ago.

The only way to survive was to protect what was left after brothers obliterated the essence of me. The spark nestled beneath layers of iron needed protection, a tiny ember below all the doubt, fear, and surety of the destruction to come.

Not the virus, though that can kill, but people. My life has been about fear of people. Because little girl me learned early what people can do.

MOTHER’S DAY

On Mother’s Day my gift is that my son’s and their family’s are people that they are. Each one offers the world so much of what’s needed right now; warmth, compassion, and love. My gratefulness spills over

The morning starts cool, crisp, and sunny drawing me out to walk much earlier than usual. Stunning, just stunning. My heart feels full with thankfulness as the leaf of grass sparkled with morning dew.

Later, both sons call, and with one we enjoy breakfast together during a video chat while our grand-daughter eats her oatmeal. The baby sleeps in front her on the island in a contraption that looks like a stuffed doughnut, but is generally used to support an arm while breastfeeding. 

The other son calls at the same time, so we drop one call to talk to the other. He also surprises me later by setting a balloon and fruit bouquet on the porch, ringing the door bell, then running to the middle of the yard with the rest of his family. (wife and three children) 

We chat, and laugh while the kids tell the latest stories while running around doing cartwheels and splits. 

It was one of those days being cognizant of what is going on in the world while remaining in my body…. a good day, a productive day, a day filled with love. Even my cat benefited from my being present. There is a difference between acting loving and really feeling it. Barriers and dissociation took a day off.