Food of Life

photos by patricia

Get to the root causes of why you overeat. Yes. Feed this body so it works properly.

What about the psyche, emotions, and the soul that searches for something never found? These crucial parts still crave satisfaction and wholeness.

I eat anxiety. I eat to feel better about the little girl lost, unloved and unprotected who to this day struggles with self-esteem and so much more. It is a desire and basic need that will forever go wanting because no one can go back and make it right…or safe.

At 64 I am only just learning to be kind to myself. That is key. Yet the constant challenges of confronting that harsh voice inside remains and needs work daily questioning its validity.

Food soothes. Food quiets the voice. But then another voice booms even louder, “You are fat, you are bad!” but it is one I’m used to from the age of 8 when food numbed the horrors. I go in circles and circles.

Keep at it, keep trying.

Waking to the birds, the humidity is thick. Taking coffee to the patio, bare feet against the cool cement, the nesting mourning dove calls hauntingly and sweetly back to her mate sipping water at the birdbath. They are on nest two. At this rate they will have three families by summer’s end. A tranquility descends into my being.

Each day a mystery. Will you feel fear, or be OK? Tame the beast of impermanence. Each day a challenge wrestling with thoughts, turning them around, finding the peace restlessly craved; a quietness in the soul that when found allows textures to be felt, scents to be absorbed, and moments to be full…

ANXIETY

photos by patricia

Anxiety spills from my pores quicker than blood. I mop it up with food and push it down, food that becomes tasteless and only quantity matters, enough of it until the quickened pulse and throbbing nerves are still.

It is a constant work feeding this body as it needs rather than feeding the tormented psyche that expects dread and doom at any moment. Each step, even in the quiet meadow, there can be danger lurking… A lion, goblin, or hooded monster? Just who do you think is behind that bush or around the corner?

The brothers of my childhood lie waiting.

A hole was torn into my bedrock of being, one that cannot be fused with strong bone. Up through the crack gurgles demons and terror. It cannot be stopped, it is always there waiting…

FATHER’S DAY

photos by patricia

The thick heavy warm night causes restlessness. Sticking to the sheets from the oppressive heat rather than pulling up the quilt to snuggle beneath it from a cooler night wakes me. The dark and quiet is unnerving. Even the errant baby mocking bird has learned to keep its night-time chirps silent.

I roll this way then that way finding no comfort. Still that mind, do it. Stop thinking of each thing you’ve ever done wrong or seems wrong. It’s OK to have made mistakes. Who loves you? Do you? The answer comes back, “No.”

You will find your solace in loving yourself with all your mistakes and past misdeeds. You are the one who needs to do this, and you can. That is where solace lies, within. Go there and love her. Why in the night do these things loom so large?

Waking early in my gown I take my snippers and camera to the meadow. The sun is still red as it climbs over the hedgerow, the day’s heat at bay for only a half-hour more. I lie in the dewy grasses to take just the right shot of the daisy smiling at me, “Good morning. How are you?”

A bird flies from the birdhouse startled at my presence. A few circles of meadow grasses have been trampled in a neat circle suggesting deer have spent the night. Clipping wildflowers for a bouquet then heading back to the house, the sun heats the land quickly. House windows need to be shut at once to keep the heat out.

Shaking the blue-checkered tablecloth onto the table I ready for the day’s festivities. It is Father’s Day and we host my son and family for a swim and picnic. The bouquet is a perfect centerpiece. Strawberries from the garden are added to the rhubarb from a friend. It has already made seven jars of jam but enough is left for hand-held pies, the star of today’s cook-out.

The rhubarb mixture is never ending. I keep rolling out pie crusts and crimping edges getting weary. After three batches going into the oven separately they are finally done, perfectly browned at the edges, oozing a trail of juice at the slits, and glistening with sparkly sugar.

The day is complete with swimming in-between thunderstorms, cooking out, then opening some Father’s Day gifts for both Samuel and son Shane. And though I love our time together feeling that our hosting was a success, I also love time alone with nature needing it like sun and air. This morning a gentle rainy day lay before me, the quiet a peaceful respite after yesterday’s activities…

RECOVERY

Equilibrium returns slowly at a snail’s pace, that feeling of wholeness, OK-ness— centeredness out of reach, floundering for shore, a safe place and feeling safe only craved for not found. Days pass and a moment of noticing a thing of beauty occurs, like the glittery bits in the new stone for the garden path, and hope flutters like a sparkle of sun then passes. It takes time to recover from a simple eye exam.

Simple for others. I had to medicate myself in order to be in a closed, windowless room with a technician then the doctor. Each took their turn putting the mammoth glaring machines up against my eyes which also means another human only an a few inches from my face and body. The room is darkened. I want to remain calm and seem like a normal person not the crazy mixed up one I feel like inside.

So I pity myself, something I hate to do yet the exhaustion of the appointment and bringing that terror up from the recesses of my gut out through my mouth in a coherent way to explain my surgical needs took everything. It has taken four days of directing my body to perform needed household tasks, even making jam, but something was off, where is the joy? Separating from the terror meant separating from myself. I’m a robot.

Today the pieces are joining. Wisps of daisies dance with buttercups in the meadow taking me to a place of peace and beauty.  Wisteria hanging in grape-like clusters a few feet away float an exotic aroma through the kitchen window, its floral wafting a caress. Mowers heard in the background add to the mix of heady scents with the sweet smell of fresh cut grass.

Molly stretches in the sun on the porch, her white belly full from breakfast, glorious in fluffy white. She too radiates with the coming summer and all its untold, mysterious splendors…

Samuel’s roses…

STORMS

photo by patricia; mourning dove fledgling

The day is spectacularly bright, sparkly and sunny but a stormy tornado twists my insides. The weight of PTSD is oppressive. Sometimes I wonder why we have children. Why put them through this thing called life? I don’t want to face this day. It takes courage. One day is all lovely and nice and the next has me asking why do I have to live it?

Others do not bear the burden of this heavy sadness that sends me to the couch to rest, closing my eyes to the world and its overwhelming challenges. My husband and sons don’t just seem calm, they are calm, at least calmer than me in the midst of a storm. I can barely hold on.

“Are there stitches?” I ask the eye doctor fearfully.

“Just once this past year, that is rare,” he answers.

Though I like him, he doesn’t get it. Trying to explain to another who hasn’t lived with fear that shoots one to the outer limits of the stratosphere is not possible. Though compassion for the obvious struggles may exist, one does not know what another feels unless they have been there.

But a medical person should know the ramifications of adults traumatized as children and how to handle treatment accordingly. Some do. He doesn’t.

“It’s more common than people realize. One out of four are sexually attacked as children, some statistics state one out of three,” I explain, adding “My adrenaline eats up anesthesia and sedatives. Others sleep but I am wide awake. I need more than the average person”

I call back and ask more questions about the needed cataract surgery for the left eye. He reassures me that wanting my procedure done in the hospital rather than his surgical center is a good idea. He thought about me after I left which is heartening.

He intends to talk to one of his colleagues about my issues, a cataract surgeon at the hospital I use. So when I’m ready there is a referral and a safe place to go. They took very good care of me before in the out-patient department. 

The follow-up with a phone call to have more questions answered and being more thorough about my needs and care is new to me and a long time coming. I’ve lived through some bad procedures and callous doctors by going through the system like everybody else.

Others seem to go through with things with little or no problem. It is not that way for me whether colonoscopy’s, endoscopy’s, dental procedures and certainly not for cataract surgery. Taking the time to feel assured I’ll be taken care of properly and feeling confident in who will be doing it are prudent measures.

In the past intense fear kept me numb. No questions were asked because I couldn’t ask them nor had the ability to advocate for myself. I am learning.

VOICELESS

So much is taken when a child is sexually abuse by a loved one, family friend, or anyone the child knows well and trusts. Of course the same is true if it’s a stranger but that is not usually the case.

Her world as she knew it stops. Trust- stops. Innocence? Gone. Of the many damaging aspects that follows me throughout life, some have lessened others increase. The constant feeling that anything going on is somehow my fault has mostly lessened.

That is called personalization. Google’s definition of the term in psychology: Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

It feels like living in a bad, dark box of wrongness. This feeling can descend at any time but I have learned to look at how the other person adds to the situation and often is more the cause of the problem than I am. I have learned to be on my side. I try to chase that thinking off quickly but sometimes get stuck and need help to like myself again and feel OK. 

This is hard. I still feel locked in and remind myself often, You are free. You are free to feel, think and respond as you really do feel and think. Living within the confines of the silence that ‘family’ required is a box I still find myself punching my way out of.  Just who am I? And how do I really feel? And what do I really think, even if it doesn’t please another?

PSTD responses continue, adrenaline rushes only a moment away. Anxiety an ongoing issue. Tiredness from living a life filled with too much cortisol being expelled on a daily basis due to the startle response, often several times daily, has depleted my body’s reserves.

There is a limited amount of energy available each day. This is a chronic permanent issue very hard to accept which means there’s a tendency to overdo because of a craving to keep up with others.

One of most disturbing aspects is the loss of my voice, taken at age 8 never to be found again…not really. Bits and pieces pop back when that voice surprises me when I firmly say, NO, or speak up naturally from my gut. But too often I am mute. I can speak up later on the phone, email or in a letter. Safer.

And why not? I was taught to love those who attacked me and to say nothing. I learned I didn’t matter, didn’t count and was less than. That is when the feeling of always being wrong took root…and grew as I grew.  Roots have a way of never fully coming out. If I spoke up the risk is abandonment and loss of family, the only people a child has.

So I try to accept the frustrating fact that even at age 64 my voice for myself is often mute when I need to be very vocal in advocating for myself. I can be ferocious for others, like my children when growing up, but not for myself.

The work of being gentle with myself towards this very real loss that didn’t occur by my doing and other grievous losses continues. A gentle approach opens up an internal richness that offers softness, warmth and acceptance. 

SHATTERED

“Are you sure you want the title to be SHATTERED?” my younger son Cory asks before he begins the design for the cover of my memoir

Without hesitation I answer, “YES!” No doubts there.

“And the cover. Do you really want drops of blood?” he asks with great skepticism, even sounding critical. 

Immediately my answer spills forth, “Yes!” I say with surety, for once without timidness, feeling wrong, or any doubts. Thinking it through a moment my firmness remained.

Although he took every step along the way with me, the first one strong enough to do so, when my feelings were firm about something I stuck to it; a freeing feeling.

Yes, blood drops. What was extracted from me was virgin blood and also a child’s virginity in every way- spiritual, emotional, physical, my innocence and a change in who I was and who I would become. Those drops depict what was taken.

Though Shattered, I am not broken. I may feel broken at times, but the pieces keep coming back into place. They may not make a whole that would have been, but one that is richer. The bumpy surface indicates character and depth, a more beautiful whole in every way.