ARMOR

Looking at my own flaws, mistakes, and faults is overwhelming igniting PTSD rockets when trying to sleep in the night. Much of my life has been about how others hurt me, which is every day due to an inability to trust or have faith.

And that is my flaw, though not my fault. Who would trust after a childhood like mine? But no free passes because life is among those who do trust, love freely, and tolerate closeness from others, even welcoming it daily while my own being shies away from it.

That mistrust compounded by a self that beats herself up? Like a prickly porcupine, cute when the quills aren’t out, deadly when they are.

That is my curse. Discovering it nearly drowns me in the night when the black thoughts hit. Looking at my armor reflects a face of aloneness. And if you don’t drill some holes in it you will be all alone.

TRUST

How many relationships have been blocked or lost through the years due to my inability to trust? More than what was kept. Yet slowly trust built enough to begin to sustain some, friends held close for twenty years now, maybe more.

But if feeling crossed, or more succinctly manipulated, and treated dishonestly, you are gone. And recently that could easily have happened yet again if not researched more by a touch of assertiveness in asking a question.

Her response made me sigh in relief and was believable. She just didn’t think about answering my email with her husband’s account even after asking her if we could converse privately as I do with all other women friends.

Strikes me odd that women do that, yet one friend sustained for decades had once done that too until asking if she’d open her own email account. She did and it seems as if she has enjoyed it ever since.

My friend could easily have been gone. By defying my request to have interchanges privately, my thought was she was upset with me for asking and was stubbornly going to email back with her husband’s account anyway.

But I asked why, and she apologized, saying she just grabbed a device and put in Patricia. I believe her- miracle upon miracle that some faith is restored, not an easy feat for me.

My childhood gave me no reason to believe anybody ever again. But there are some I am able to open up to, and yes, eventually trust.

PTSD

The PTSD rocket takes off without my permission, leaving many parts behind right here on earth. But a body can’t sleep splintered like that. On night three of rough, erratic sleep, a stronger sleep aid was resorted to.

Grogginess from it caused a bad fall the next morning possibly breaking a toe which throbs even now, also looking black and blue. That day, yesterday, a cardiology appointment was completed where a treadmill and ultrasound were used for my routine check-up. The gel felt so cold on my bare chest after huffing and puffing on the treadmill’s incline.

Though I did it, I cried like a baby during the undressing- the anxiety of the appointment, the hurt toe, but especially the after-effects of Xanax which always leaves me full of self-pity the next day for having to use it due to the traumas from childhood- bringing me right back to it all as if it were yesterday. Luckily the technician possessed all the qualities you’d want in a medical person, compassion, and competency.

“Everyone gets anxious at appointments. You’re doing great,” she said. (more than once)

“Samuel, will I ever heal from it?” I asked through tears, adding, “no wonder some people believe in reincarnation. No one reaches their full potential in one lifetime,” wondering how I could ever let this one person affect me so dramatically. Haven’t I grown? Can’t I find depth and wisdom to handle this, and rise above it?

Samuel doesn’t say much because I prefaced my lamenting by asking him not to say anything, to just let me express myself without trying to ‘fix’ it. So, he was blessedly quiet.

The peaceful lull of night after night of sleep ended as it always does, a happy period of sleep, then? Whether caused by an acquaintance who unfortunately is part of my inner circle of friends, or it just periodically happens because my bodily systems were broken in childhood, I just don’t know.

Seems too coincidental not to be due to this one person’s cagey deceitfulness reminiscent of my entire life; living in the shadows invisible to even myself because it made my mother’s life livable. And the others who did such monstrous things to their little sister. My close inner circle of those allowed in is limited. Rosalie doesn’t belong, yet there’s no way out of it.

Great effort is being put into trying to see some positives about having an untrustworthy person as part of my small, safe, inner circle. So far none has been discovered.

TAKE HOLD

Control the beast. The beast takes many forms; doubt, fear, insecurity, ungroundedness, an inability to trust or love, and the roots of self-criticism grown in childhood tangled so deeply it cannot be cut out only confronted daily.

Is it that simple, that all this time the adult just needed to take the reins not allowing the troubled willful child to have her will? But no, each path has many signs leading to the wrong places, maybe because fully feeling how wrong something is one learns what is right.

I won’t live long enough to get it all right. But the biggest secret hidden from myself all this time is that when others have said through the years, ‘you’re too hard on yourself,’ that it is a truth unrevealed to me. My head heard it, thought about it, but the critic kept on banging.

But when taking hold of the beasts causing worry, disruption, and chaos- choking them not by asphyxiation but with love, gentleness, kindness, and warmth… a soft place inside, an oasis opens inviting me in. The gnarly roots of self-criticism disintegrate making room for new growth of another kind.

FRACTURES

Waking at 2-ish, staying there with thoughts about failed relationships with brothers who have reached out, my mind flickers from one sad event to another. STOP. And calm comes but not sleep.

Up by 3AM sipping coffee as if it is later with kitty beside me… what is time anyway? Don’t pay attention to it. Pay attention to my body, and no way was it going back to sleep.

Since my habit is to go to sleep early perhaps this tendency to wake extra early is just how it is, especially in winter when my thoughts are as grey as the weather.

In normal mode, instead of woe is me mode, the coffee is enjoyed, then out to the kitchen for clean-up, and a loaf of banana bread for the oven with the aroma of sweet bread wafting through the air.

I don’t know why I can’t be close to these other three brothers, but there it is. I wish I’d stop thinking, even obsessing about it. The family fractures run deep. I have a hard time being close to anybody as doubt blurs all vision, trust, or faith. The fractures in me won’t be mended. I must live with them.

GIFTS

PHOTO BY PATRICIA

The huge snowstorm predicted overnight did not come…yet. Hunkering next to the stove with the cat too early for most souls, my mind rambles fleeting from one failed relationship to the next.

Failed, or just not compatible? There is a line not to be crossed. After living much of childhood feeling forced- don’t force me. Feeling there are no boundaries, there are some within. Don’t lead me where you want to go, come to me and let’s go together.

Some want control and will use any method even if manipulative, seedy, and behind my back. It is almost an instant recognition on my part, but instead of lauding my gifts at perception, the tendency is to call this immediate draw back from that person failure.

Yes, you can pressure me, but just so far. Start counting your gifts not tearing them down. Try. Keep trying, then try some more.

Choose Your Path

Just because someone wants to get close, befriend me, or keep in touch, doesn’t force me to do so in return. For a long time, decades, anyone wanting those things could easily have them. It felt like luck anyone would.

But as my being grew, deepened, and reverberated with the effects of associating with those that didn’t have my best interests, only their own, my choices began to at least make it into the questioning arena.

Is this person trustworthy? Too many times that answer was no, yet once in a relationship, my way of ending it was often harsh and abrupt.

Social amenities are not my forte. Secluding myself from a scary world left me lacking social tact. People don’t talk truth or are forefront with their chatter. You must read between the lines, not my specialty.

Get to the point, because my brain is already too busy, and tell the truth, something hardly ever done.

How are you? Just great, when really you feel like shit. What’s the point of asking? Even closer relationships can be like that, which isn’t close. The deeper connections, if one is lucky to have them, are rare, precious, and linger in one’s heart a lifetime even after they are gone from this world.

I cherish them and hold them dear.

Bury the Living

Though hard, it is good to get back to the work of inhabiting my body as one. The more time that passes after being with the chaos and drama of origin family members, the better I feel and the less my mind goes in loops over it.

Moving on to the usual, facing a day with its fears, and challenges with the diligence needed to be present. That is enough without the quagmire of the past, pulled back into old grooves where no growth occurs. It has. No going back, my core will not allow stagnation once tasting the fruits of expansion.

The time spent as a robot to please while with them, dimming as each days goes by. The wonders of each sunrise begins to settle in while worries, and mental games that sicken fade. Because the mind can make me sick if around others that are stuck in loops of their own.

My internal wisdom won’t let me stay in swamps of death-like goo, memories of what was that still are in that group. Who cloyingly begin drowning me with repeated attempts at collaboration in dysfunction. No, free me, let me loose. Tentacles of what seems like family luring me down into the tar that sucks a soul dead.

My issues are many without adding to them, all spelled out in the psychiatric textbooks of diagnoses. Though terms are not my thing, it is helpful to acknowledge my own reality so that gentleness towards self can grow; DISORDERS- Depressive, Anxiety, Trauma and Stressor related disorder, Dissociative Disorder…

It takes great care to manage my life without adding more stress to it. Perhaps these doors that have been left ajar with hopes of meaningful contact need to be closed, maybe locked. To come back to the basics each day, contemplation of my own mortality which spurs my desire to enjoy the simples pleasures amidst the pain.

Ah, to be free of it. As each day passes, more freedom lightens my being. Joy replaces depression. Tears dry, without knowing why they are there, wiping them away almost daily. Maybe it is a mourning all over again. Each failed attempt at connection comes with the price of mourning.

Bury the dead while they are alive? In a sense, yes. Or more succinctly, Live and let live

AUTUMN

photos by Patricia

And so the windows and doors are shut to protect from fall’s first frost. Heat wafts up from the registers gently warming the rooms and my body like a cozy blanket. The unwelcome shuttered feeling needs counteracting.

Samuel brings in the purple grapes giving my hands an afternoon of slipping off skins, cooking the insides then sieving the seeds out, joining the hot mixture back with the skins and other ingredients to make pie filling.

Miniature sunflowers make a spectacular autumnal bouquet, and walks add pleasure to my day. With the crisp air and vibrant sun the pull is to walk more then a long repose by the creek. A baby blue-bird kept me company along with many other varieties, surprising me with activity and songs. So many have already left for the season to warmer climates so it’s usually quiet as a tomb! 

The sister-in-law Ginny, and brother Don came for the morning staying vigilant about social distancing on the patio then a walk to the creek with more relaxation.

They didn’t mind drinking freshly perked coffee from the tray perched on a pretty cotton tablecloth, and enjoying homemade apple hand pies. There used to be a taboo about food sharing at the beginning of the pandemic, but they heard it’s no longer cause for concern. 

The visit was OK, but left me wanting more that probably won’t come. The closeness craved needs loyalty. It felt like being kept at arm’s length, but perhaps that is coming from me. My truth expects loyalty, but you are not loyal (or safe) if you interact with friendliness towards anyone who abused me so horribly.

I am at peace with how things are, proceeding with baby steps, and that’s OK. Being cordial and open is my choice. Surface interaction will have to do on the rare times we meet. My life goes on bringing joy unfounded, joyful for the first time in over 60 years.

That joy comes from being at peace with my past, and the present. And by being in the present, not something a person used to disassociation could do automatically. What has been automatic was spending most of my time in Neverland; a safe place made for me in another dimension still visited sometimes…zoning out.

When meditation became a daily practice over 15 years ago, the process of learning that one can be present and be safe began. That was not something learnt as a child, leaving my body… and taking a life-time to reclaim it. 

Peace has been found, a peace that as a survivor has been an ongoing struggle. It can last for days until a bout of sleeplessness makes for the need of a sleep aid. That injects a tumultuous barrel of self-pity filling the day after with sluggishness. But luckily that too occurs less and less mostly during the change in seasons.

After spending time with so called ‘family’ it becomes harder to close the door and go on as usual because the pull for clan is timeless. Real closeness remains most safe with Samuel, sons, and friends, the chosen family.

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.