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.  

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.

Bestow Love not Hate

photo by Patricia

An unease invades the morning reverie. Perhaps it is the lack of sunshine hiding behind thick clouds on a balmy morning still warm from yesterday’s heat. Perhaps it is a change in me. Day after day of an upset stomach the realization surfaces that my body is telling me something. But what, so disconnected from it that I really don’t know. 

Connect. That doesn’t come naturally, though it must have in my first 8 years before the attacks began. A skinny kid with long blonde hair, happy on a beach before my father died, Then all went tragic and crazy.

Boom, like lightening, weight came on and stayed on for the next fifty years keeping me safe, hiding me, making me someone other than who I was meant to be.

Trust is the most grievous loss, gone forever. What kinds of relationships sustain without trust? None. The daily feat is picking up pieces of shattered me trying to trust enough to get close… husband, son, or friend. 

The timidity to speak up about likes, dislikes, to put forth anything looking like a boundary, gone. Boundaries obliterated when even my body was not my own. When unmarked boundaries are crossed and my mouth stays mute, then grudges, resentments, and hate howl. 

Oh that anger, not allowed either. It takes a lot of food to suppress anger. Over the years anger began to  erupt naturally on rare occasions expressed in the moment, naturally, freeing and normal. Taught to stay quiet this was miraculous even in its rarity. 

And with a quiet muted mouth, my body grew large screaming unhappiness, terror and pain. Nobody listened. It was one more thing to hate about myself.

But what if I listened to its cues? What if love was bestowed not hate? With no map, no direction, no permission, could I do it? Over and over I try, and fail. But what if?

 

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. 

TRAUMATIC

photo by Patricia

There will come a time when looking back, what is happening now will be less traumatic. Living through it is traumatic. My escape is eating, eating so much nothing else can be thought of except that. Eating fear works but with a toll, self-loathing. 

It eats me up with no room for escape making everything worse and harder, even sleep. Waking, or not falling asleep, with an urgency close at hand, the emergency is internal adding to the external chaos.

What I do matters. If actions are used that are self-destructive such as over-eating, dread increases, even if unconsciously. My body knows it isn’t able to remain stable if fed incorrectly or too much. No wonder sleep evaded me. The threat to life was me.

Living through this is traumatic. While walking the meadow on a sunny morning, spring renewing herself with green adornments growing daily, my thoughts uncovered a truth. Even without the virus’s taunts of death and sickness looming every moment, my life has been much like that anyway.

Threats to life were everywhere, in every person, around every corner, my hyper-vigilance since the eight only compounding as each year passed. This additional threat topples me over the edge even while trying to act nonchalant about it.

Whether alcohol, shopping, food, or drugs, SOMETHING needs to take me away from the truth of so much suffering. Yet that isn’t the answer. Taking a stand does. Stand up in the middle of it. Do what can be done to be healthy.

A friend calls, the first in the last many weeks, and we spend time together on the phone as if we were together. My friendships are precarious due my issues of trust, or lack of it, compounded with the inability to speak up for myself causing great anger when taken advantage of.

Yet some friendships have endured and are so needed right now. They are fresh air compared to any interaction with the origin family whose own baggage interferes with any chance of closeness.

A failed zoom meeting will be tried again with our little group of five who have met consistently each month for many years. We are all less capable with these digital things than our grown children who are adept at computers and their workings.

Time was again spent in my studio after being absent from it for many months. Rolling out clay to be baked in the kiln, music playing gently in the background while the cat hunched on the shelf curiously looking down at me as incense burned… my hands worked with satisfaction.

All things nurturing are so precious right now…

Yin and Yang

photos by Patricia

When trust is lost as a child in a harsh traumatic way, no amount of therapy brings it back. Years and years of therapy didn’t make my teeth stop grinding at night when the monsters came. Monsters at night, people by day. Daytime people are just as scary.

Teeth guards for grinding. Toe dividers for bunions. Powders for areas on the body that are dark and moist. Vitamins for this, that, and the other thing. Drops for dry eyes, white noise for ear ringing, and on it goes as a body ages and needs more care.

And those things are tended to, but what about the psyche that craves things not found in a bottle or bought in a store? Things in my psyche broke early on and there’s no fixing them.

As spring waves in green overtaking the falling snow, my brain chemicals go awry and this is yearly, some years more frantic with upheaval than others. Tears roll down my cheeks as the harsh childhood voices break me in two, feelings of badness embedded into my personality booming as the ghosts of what my child suffered become real once again.

Bad, bad, bad. Looking around at others during that time when traumatic attacks were suffered by brothers loved and trusted, I felt ashamed wanting to hide. It wasn’t them, it was all me. Trash, rotten trash. And spring brings the feelings crashing in like a steam-roller.

Waking in the night with these thoughts of every thing done wrong in my life, returning to slumber was impossible. That made the day impossible with teary episodes throughout it. Yet magic still occurs when both sons call and their love is palpable.

When one son says after seeing tears that couldn’t be hidden, ‘Go out and get some vitamin D. Love you,’ with eyes intense looking straight into mine. (through the tablet)

And the walk was glorious on a crisp spring morning. Yin and Yang.

 

Soft Voices

Photos by Patricia

Walking the meadow relief was felt that my birthday was over. No worries about who remembered or cared. Those feelings still haunt despite my age and eons of growth. The formative years surely shape a person, and mine was warped by rejection, abandonment and trauma.

And that is why my psyche is not hammering down about my lack of faith, or inability to trust. There are softer voices in play that hold compassion and understanding about why some feelings are strong. And feelings are natural. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have them.

Rising above feelings doesn’t mean not having them. It is feeling them curious as to why they are unwanted. Look for the source, understanding often follows. The day is balmy, full of life springing everywhere.

Samuel arrives creek side. “Want to take a paddle?” he asks.

“Sure,” I said.

And off we go, surprised at how fast the grass grows from one day to the next, the water calm as there is no wind, the current gentle. On the way back to the house after a meditative rest by the creek— the first dandelion…

Ye of Little Faith

photo by Patricia

Faith, like trust, is lacking. I have faith in mother nature and her wild ways. But not faith in people, nor trust, trusting only my cat, and very young children. Kicking at the ground during laps around the meadow, head down, thoughts about the post just written swam in my head.  It does matter that Samuel forgot, yet chastising myself for such shallowness during a time of crisis and upheaval on our earth. 

Samuel has gotten somewhat forgetful of late, but that wasn’t enough of an excuse. Despite my vows not to pout, his forgetfulness caused one of those silent days towards him warming only when other events unfolded.  

Happy Birthday, running through my mind. Is it something to celebrate? Had a choice been given at the moment of conception, knowing what’s to come, my choice might have been NO. But dying now is not wanted because peace is found after a fretful, buzzing, anxious life apart from myself.

Walking up towards the house on the last lap, a van very much like my son’s pulled halfway down the driveway. Getting my coat off, going to the front window, there was his family, three grand-children atop the van, two lively parents beside them, and a huge hand-crafted metal sculpture of a soaring butterfly stuck in the ground with bows.

Going to the porch they sang Happy Birthday. The grandchildren hopped down to run around the front yard doing cartwheels. Chagrined at my earlier feelings of ‘poor me,’ smiles and laughter took its place.

A card from a friend, a call from another, others do remember and care. Then the florist arrives setting a huge arrangement on the porch…. from my other son and wife. After spraying it down with disinfectant, careful not to put my nose down to the roses for a whiff, I dared bring it in. Also the balloon bouquet left by Shane’s family and their beautiful cards, scrupulously washing my hands afterwards, then spraying everything again.

Washing my hands didn’t seem enough as the cards and balloons had touched my clothing. So off went everything into the wash with hot water, and into the shower for my body and hair.

My faith does not lie in people unfortunately, nor does my trust. Yet the day restored both.

DUMP TRUMP

The time change, the ever expanding Corona-virus, spring, enough to catapult my interior into the stratosphere, yet peculiarly there is a calmness inside I attribute to the full plant pot oil added to the CBD oil legal and available in New York State. 

But it is the last vial with no ability to refill until a visit to a state where it’s sold legally. Oddly, all these years living in a hyper state of panic, cured by a little oil derived from a plant.

Sleep improved drastically, and also a calmness throughout the day that no amount of therapy, meditation, exercise or work on positive thinking could provide. One half dropper at night before bed.

Added to the work daily to achieve health which includes work on thoughts, a main culprit at bringing me down, along with the other activities listed, peacefulness inside my being seems to match others not afflicted with severe life-long PTSD. That’s miraculous.

Still my insides feel squirrely due to the Virus that half the administration says we will contract, not if but when. The scientific half that has not been gagged by Trump who possess brains, stamina, character and integrity.

The other half, Trumpie and his cohorts—LIE. When he or his liars come on the air I look away. Faces of liars during this crisis make me feel sick, not hopeful.

So there is a low humming concern vibrating inside me, yet for now our area has not been hit. That might have more to do with no testing, rather than no virus. It is not the time to lie, be ignorant, nor every time say how great you are and how everything you do is so great.

It is the time for hard work, honesty, and compassion for others, all lacking in the person leading who does not lead, but instead continues to look out for his own money and interests. My wishes for honest leadership in this crisis go unresolved… again, over and over, again and again. No comfort there.