Home Sweet Home

Cory’s photos

“Would you rather come home instead of meeting at the lake house?” I asked Cory.

“Oh no, we have to have a lake,” Cory said.

And that was that. My cloak was to make it sound as if it might be a better choice for him. But I fear the real ploy was because I don’t do well in traffic or staying elsewhere.

But we made the best of it, enjoying our two year grand-daughter and son for three nights, four days. Long kayak rides, long talks, and constant playtime made it all worthwhile. During the visit his wife was at home directing the movers into their new home. Oh young people. My younger years were more energetic and adventurous too.

Now? Home is where my soul rests free. Home is where the adventures take place into my own self, connected to the world yet safely ensconced where all things are familiar. 

The call of certain birds living here, not there, so comforting. An early morning walk in the meadow with dewy grape leaves sparkled with jewels at every tip. Mist rising over the creek as the sun’s warmth begins to lift them away. 

A body jarred throughout life with adrenaline rushing through the veins becomes depleted. Taking care of my needs looks different from others. My illness isn’t seen except in the tears making rivers down my face expressing the stress of living.

Yet Cory’s challenges with the move, coming home to boxes up to his ears, and their commute today, three times as long as before, outweigh my challenges ten to one. Or so it seems.

In another place my body shuts down, all of it to some degree, the five senses, even internal organs. Nothing works as it is meant to because the warning bells have clanged. When danger is sensed all energy goes into survival.

My medication should be used more not less. But I laid awake hoping for sleep. When it doesn’t (of course) then I take it, waiting another hour in the dead silent darkness till sleep comes.

When away from home, why not take it an hour before sleep like I did in the forest when camping? Because my denial system keeps hoping for something that will never come, to become a person other than myself. One that hasn’t been traumatized, then living with it unprocessed. That has fractured my being in many unseen ways

The need now is constant loving care. I’m working on that, both the care and the love. Throw acceptance in the mix too.  

When apologizing for asking about how to meet my needs when we visit his new home in a month, Cory says offhandedly, “Any illness needs care and planning, just as much as someone in a wheelchair.” 

My son possesses unusual depth. Though I’m not one to use labels, sometimes it is just easier; PTSD, Anxiety NOS, Depression. The depression isn’t debilitating at the moment. There have been bouts that needed a support person, and may need one again in the future. But for now I limp along doing OK on my own. 

Accepting what is… Many tears come from not wanting it to be so. But Cory understood. And Samuel, as much as he is capable.

Home. Home Sweet Home. In spite of the challenges, I wouldn’t trade a moment of the very special, sweet memories. One of the best parts of going away is coming home.

 

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Permanent PTSD

https://healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.wordpress.com/

When understanding what is happening, more gentleness and compassion can be bestowed upon what first feels like my weaknesses. Preparing for the trip to the cottage tomorrow to meet with my son and two year old grand-daughter had gotten me in a flurry. A 4 AM waking meant staying awake with a head full of a ‘to do’ list.

But the night after, even with being so tired, sleep did not come. Coming out to the couch I said to Samuel, who always stays up later, “I’m wide awake. But it makes no sense, I know I’m tired.”

He nods, then goes off to bed. Samuel is not much of a talker.

Feeling sorry for myself for having to take a sleep aid, adding to the ‘I hate myself list’ comes eating. The bag of pretzels found its way onto my lap, not usually a snack that’s around just for that reason, my tendency to numb out with non-nutritious snack food. Who overeats on baby carrots?

Self-hatred completely full as the Xanax took effect, sleep came solid for 7 hours. The day of reckoning came upon waking. There are many days like that. Feelings of disgust; with myself, with life, with me being haunted with being me. Why do I have to be me?

Why can’t I be like everyone else around me? Picking themselves up and going wherever they please, all over the world. Even a trip to a lake gets me in a frenzy. It was more than that though.

It took all day to figure it out and begin to be gentle with myself; accepting that I can’t snap a finger and be someone else. I can’t snap a finger and be a different girl than the one born to a family who would abuse me over and over again, then spend the rest of their lives, and my life, never talking about it, never validating the traumas sustained, never apologizing. .

The bird. It was the bird again. Abashed to admit it, the bird traumatized me once again. The first nest was in the pine tree by the house. Bad enough. But this was right on top of us. Samuel wanted to hose it out of wisteria when she began to build but I wouldn’t allow it.

If only I had. It was at the back door over the patio where sitting every morning in my sanctuary brings peace, joy, and a contentment of well-being not felt for most of my life.

When sipping coffee, the sun rises while hummingbirds zip by my face towards the feeder close-by. Chipmunks scoot by near my feet playfully making me laugh aloud with their antics. The flowers open still dewy, as the warmth of the first rays massage my legs and feet with their heat. A train often echoes in the distance magnified by the cool, moist air.

Gone. Taken. Unsafe. 

She built her nest peaceably enough. It wasn’t until the eggs hatched that the terrorizing began, ramping up the very last week before they left it. I stayed housebound only using the screened porch. 

My safety was stolen, my haven, my paradise. It is embarrassing to admit it was a bird. Samuel added to my chagrin, and self-contempt by saying, “It’s just a bird. It really can’t hurt you, but it is annoying. Next time I’m going to shoot it.”

At this point killing it sounded good to me too, perhaps even drowning the chicks so that the killer birds would back off. Maybe they could die too. My love of mockingbirds has shifted dramatically.

But Samuel’s usual lack of depth about my body’s reaction, and my inability to have any control over my hyper-arousal, made the pain feel heavier and deeper. No validation does that. 

Once again he doesn’t get it. And I believed him, feeling ashamed at my overreaction even as I try to explain how my broken system works. Even while I think of children in war-torn countries where their everyday life really is threatened without relief. That doesn’t seem to lesson my own body’s reactions, or my feelings of futility about the on-going challenges. 

Once the siren goes off, that’s it, my system’s on alert and stayed that way the entire day, though I was unaware of it. Like two people inhabit my body, a calm one, and one who is frightened for her life all the time. That system is inaccessible. 

Refusing to be a prisoner in my own home, I dared walk to the garden. That set it off. Juggling an armload of squash with a water bottle to squirt my attacker, the attacker won. He chased me to the door, swooping down at my head as I fumbled with the door knob, frightening the hell out of me.

This had happened another day at the back door after a walk in the meadow, staying away from the house on each lap so that the ‘killer bird’ would not get agitated. My escape inside was so frantic my shoe got caught in the door. He was right at me all the way to the door. I had to duck out quickly for an instant in order to retrieve the shoe, afraid to be poked in the head or face with it’s sharp beak. 

My heart was pumping, adrenaline shooting through my veins. Even by nighttime my system couldn’t calm down. It was out of my hands, even though Samuel blamed me, and I agreed as my ever-ready harsh critic battered me black and blue. But by nightfall understanding came, and it all made sense.

Not that I want to accept it. The permanent effects of the early abuse has to be accepted over, and over again. I so want to be like others, but in that intense yearning do not accept myself, taking me farther away from myself, making the chasm wider, colder and so much lonelier. 

It wasn’t my doing. My poor body has done this since childhood, a place where terror reined, especially in my own bed, and what usually is a safe place for a child… her own bedroom. 

Things go along peaceably. Then they don’t. We leave tomorrow, and all is ready. Today can be peaceful. The baby birds have left the nest. Last night’s walk to the meadow was without incident. Feelings of safety are being tested, but it will take a while before full security returns. (and my love of birds) 

To not feel safe at home was a big thing, even if caused by a little one pound pecker. 

 

Kindness to Self

After trying to help a friend who struggles with very similar self-esteem issues rising from the sexual attacks by beloved family members in childhood, after emailing the supportive letter, I wondered at my own words later. Each and every day I must fight the phantoms of my own beginnings, and the cruelness of psychological patterns that are incurred due to the traumas suffered. 

Expressing anger? Nope. A natural defense coming out of a nurturing childhood. Not mine.  Blaming oneself for any and every negative occurrence, even those that have nothing to do with me? Yes, yes, yes. Raymond, a psychiatrist once seen regularly, called it ‘personalization.’  At least there’s a name for it. 

These conditioning’s were learned early. A child must blame themselves. If we didn’t where we would be? With no family, and a child needs their family no matter who there are or what they’ve done. As once stated in a book read early in my confrontation of the true facts of my family and childhood, “It’s the only game in town.” 

So as a child, she takes it in as if the sexual attacks were her fault because there’s no other way. The insanity of it has shortened lives, either by one’s own hand, or by so many other medical issues that plague a body due to all that trauma trapped inside.

When anger isn’t expressed in the moment, this wonderful thing others are capable of with such immediacy, tears come. Pent up feelings need to unload somehow. Yes hurt is present, but more so, feelings that are unexpressed. 

I was taught to be silent, even about the theft of my body. Healing afterwards, as crucial as a setting a broken arm, surgery, or stitches, did not occur, causing all the implosion of rage and hatred for what was being done to turn inward. Attacking oneself has become a way of life. 

Why fault that little girl who had to keep it all in? She is in there, getting hurt all over again.

I wish my adult self had the tools to protect my little one. But how could I learn those? I chastise myself for that, and for not shouting back anger in the moment now as deserved.Of course I couldn’t as a child, but it is still a difficult struggle even now. Criticizing myself for these losses isn’t kindness. Yet it’s my first reaction after another’s cruelty, stupidity, insensitivity, and that list goes on and on.

There’s as many ways to be hurtful as there are people. And each time it is all about the other person. There are some who pick up on who would be a good victim for their ‘oh so subtle’, and not so subtle attacks. Learning never to express anger makes a person vulnerable to those who lack character, are weak, and take advantage of others.

Like Tom, my sibling. Like another close family member who repeats what Tom did, though he has moved away and is also losing his memory. There are many ways to take advantage of a person who never had a say in her own life.

One, like me, who wants to treat others fairly, with kindness, not vindictiveness even if hurt badly can be easily mistreated on an on-going basis. When another wants his or her own way and can get it, they manipulatively keep taking.

Removing myself from such toxicity has been successful, but not always possible. Taking the hit keeps me up nights, but improvements are being made there too. Kindness. Forgiveness of self, which can then extend to others for their quirks, hurtful ways, and selfishness. 

It is enough to break a person, which is why kindness to self is something to nurture like a baby plant or helpless kitten. The job each day is working on kindness to self.

ONE DROP

You are but a drop of water in the ocean of humanity, the thought came while walking the meadow still sultry from the morning dew. Even out in the beauty of the fields my mind wanders getting stuck on a person or a thought, rolling over it again and again. Wake up!

Snapping back to now, what’s around me comes alive, but my thoughts pull me back time and again. It’s OK. Go to where you need to, even that safe place where the world slips away and nobody can touch you.

Yet the struggle continues, to be present, or be consumed by how this person has hurt me, and what to do. Settling down for a breather after laps are done, ice still in the water bottle, I take a long drink. Plopping it down a drop falls into it. It stopped me. My trivial concerns are a  mere speck in the universe, hardly even that.

You are but a drop in the ocean of humanity. Let it go, all the stuff, and reap in the rewards of NOW. Having all that we have, even though we scrimped and saved every penny along the way, which makes it a comfort knowing we can manage with both of us retired, should make me happy and appreciative. Appreciative, yes, happy?

Too often thoughts ravage my mind. The beauty around me is lost. Come back to now. See the splendor, dissolve into it. Still the body, the thoughts, the ever too busy mind. And then it happens. Stillness. And peace. Sitting a long while on the patio, Samuel joins me.

We notice new flowers blooming as others fade. A hummingbird visits back and forth to the feeder only a few feet away. Birds sip on the birdbath nearby. We don’t have to go anywhere for excitement, it’s right here in our backyard, wherever you are in the present moment. Be alive. Be where you are.

TRAVELS

The lonely theme, or ‘left out’ feeling so entrenched into my being is questioned then explained. It is no wonder that feeling crops up time after time, even when what lies beneath is peace and ease at how things are now.

With 8 kids and two parents busy with so many, the feeling of lack runs through me. Not lack of basic needs, but emotional ones. Adding to that the badness that grew inside my being from the sexual attacks after Dad’s death, the abandonment of death added to the list of traumas.

What is most needed now, is what I can give to the little girl abandoned. What the adult me can do. When these themes run through me it is time to be gentle, loving and kind. Not thwart the goodness but dissolve into it like falling onto a cloud.

Each piece can be extracted and studied, the losses, one by one. There were many. Though others may not appreciate my worth, because looking from the outside you cannot see, I know, and I can.

As the day opens with the red-gold sun pouring over the far trees as misty fog swirls over the field, it feels like a beginning, each day a new start to the adventures beyond, and more acutely the adventures within.

Captive of the Negative Brain

It’s the PTSD. Remember that? The thing that you spent most of your life not acknowledging because nobody else ever did. (which would have made it real, and more importantly would have brought intervention with the possibility of recovery) Laying my head down the thought comes, will I get to sleep tonight? Never a good sign. It is as if I’ve already made up my ever restless mind. 

PTSD made living so unbearable, wearing my body down over the years as I tried to keep up with others, so much that the effects became life-long. It literally broke something in the brain, and all the pathways to it. Negative thoughts  take hold choking me. There is science behind it, but don’t ask me to explain, or do a research paper. (I have enough to worry about) The neural pathways are funky, even the slightest disturbance fires them up.

That’s what happens when trauma goes unprocessed. My family, and most family’s, sure as hell won’t give credence to sexual abuse occurring within their midst. Intervention is crucial at the time of the trauma(s). Will it ever be? Will sexual abuse to a child by a family member, or friend of the family, or even the camp counselor ever be talked about openly? So that the child can process the trauma?

I know I would have needed to talk about it, all of it, over and over again. Just like my grand-son after the terrific car crash where his baby sister and mother were beside him as the  lights swirled, and the ambulance paramedics  loaded them all onto stretchers. 

He spent many visits with me in the garage and on the driveway putting up bright orange emergency cones, and turning on the red flashing lights Samuel had installed on his battery operated jeep. The story started with Mommy holding up her hurt arm, and his sister crying. But over time he became the paramedic saving everyone. The hero mastering the situation that threatened his psych now healed. He went on to other things, the crash no longer holding his mind, memory or nervous system hostage to the terror. . 

That is the intervention needed but never comes, a safe accepting environment where the trauma, like any other trauma, can be worked through with care, love and patience.  

That must change for our little girls (boys) to survive. The dirty details others are uncomfortable listening to need to be spoken. Only in hearing the evil things done to little ones will change occur. It is happening in your family, behind the closed door bedroom where the children are ‘exploring’ but it goes too far because one of them already knows more that they should, or in the tent out in the backyard, the tree-house at the neighbor’s, at Auntie Peg’s when Uncle George is home, at Scouts, camp, or anyplace when you are not watching, noticing, and intervening.

It could be as simple as saying, ‘OK you two, find another game to play,’ with a smile, not a look of horror on your face. Or keep the door open,  don’t allow long periods of time out in the cute little playhouse where nobody’s watching. Watch. Kids explore. And too often older kids, even young children, have learned too early what feels good ‘down there’ and act out for more on other children who don’t yet know.

Having sexual feelings awakened at too young an age causes it to expand to other children quickly. It isn’t always an adult, adolescent, or teen. It can be a child of the same age as your own child who had it done to them, and now knows about the powerful feelings that feel so good more is naturally wanted. 

Waking in the night, or unable to fall asleep without a sleep aid isn’t always about something wrong, something that needs changing, or something that needs paying attention to. Often everything is in its place, and my life is being lived in alignment with my beliefs and principles.

Nothing is wrong; everything is wrong. It is unprocessed trauma that damaged my systems permanently. It is PTSD, my little beast that won’t be tamed. My mind turns on the negatives which become louder in the darkness, rolling through like thunder, activating the system that has been on the edge since age 8.

The courage for family’s to intervene when Uncle Joe, Daddy, or even sometimes Mommy   sexually abuses a child at the time it occurs, saves her, and offers a road to complete healing. That is yet to come for most families who allow their shame to cause destruction to their daughters(sons). It just doesn’t happen, not yet. Not until we are brave enough to stand up and say this happens, and at a rate you don’t want to know about, which is why it happens. 

Recently I woke up dreaming of Tom. We were close by each other and seemingly alright, but I clearly remember thinking, He doesn’t know how badly he hurt me. He never asked, nor ever asked to be forgiven. No one did. The other three are dead. I don’t know about Chet’s two friends who also attacked me, having such fun while I suffered silently. 

I am 66. I still need to speak of what was done. I never had a chance to. And I may not live long enough to process it all and be done with it because the damage still causes suffering. I will do what I need to do until it is done. I want it to be done now, but wanting is not reality,  and denying what is doesn’t work. The damage is irreversible. Due to diligence, courage, strength and miracles, periods of graceful joy occur, then inevitably tumble into times that are not. 

RELAX

photo by Patricia

Upon waking the first feeling is a flash of fear. How to mold the day with discipline, another one to face in a way to feel good about at day’s end. The sun sunk behind the horizon will shine, and the dark thoughts will be chased away by its beams.

That is it, how to live each day so that the brilliance within shines. So that the best comes out, and the rest is worked with patiently, and with loving acceptance.

Beyond the years accumulated where the childhood beliefs ruled, there is a being who partook in life with the wild abandon of joy. Moments of it erupted while doing things dearly loved; running the horse through the fields on a summer’s day, digging in dirt to plant, the soil tying me to mother earth as one while bird melodies make sweet music to work by.

Just sitting, paying attention to the body, allowing each muscle to relax, the cool cement of the patio on my feet while the sun warms the rest of my body. Relaxed enough to feel the sun, hear the birds, and ingest the intoxicating aromas around me.

It is news to me that the many milkweeds Samuel so carefully harvested in the meadow for the monarch’s to multiply on, emit a fragrance so luscious it made me wonder where it was coming from. The wild roses had come and gone while we were away, but the blissful hint of another blossom made me walk over to a milkweed that had flowered. There was the answer to the mystery as I breathed in deeply.

Directing myself to just be takes deliberate intent, but worth the effort as all the senses come alive if relaxed enough to let them in.