In wanting to pay tribute to a wonderful woman whom I barely got to know and her partner, Ed, I’m re-blogging his post. This beautiful post reflects on love and loss, particularly to suicide. But as you will see from the content, these issues are complicated and layered with many issues stemming from childhood sexual abuse and how it can steal one’s soul. I’m proud of Ed Kurtz for loving her and having the courage and language to represent her with such sacred beauty.
Category Archives: emotional realm
For those of you that can’t handle my extreme and unbridled rage right now, let this serve as a TRIGGER WARNING. And here is a picture of a bunny to give you the opportunity to get the heck out of here.
Let the rant begin. This moment, right now, I’m furious. I’ve snapped with grief and I’m tired and exhausted and insulted and unwilling to hold it in any longer. The music is on full blast with Janis Joplin screaming I’ll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now
I’ve cleaned and cried and smoked cigarettes as I look at my home that I’ve finally decided has to be divided. How the hell did I get here? Did I not try hard enough? Did I not bleed enough for this relationship? When did my beloved home turn into a cold gilded cage? Where are my plants going to live now? The wisteria planted in the early days of love that is deeply intertwined among the trellis and surrounding trees, how do I tell it to unwind, that there is no place for it here now?
I’m full of rage as I look at the items deciding what’s mine and what’s his. I hate his socks right now. They are everywhere, haunting me from the place where they were discarded at the foot of the couch for an intimate moment. His socks are mocking me. I still love, he doesn’t.
I’m seething at any person, at any time, for any reason has questioned my sanity. My brain, while different and reacting unlike normal people (whoever the fuck they are) is not crazy. It was changed. It was changed as a child when my father and my uncles for numerous years raped the children in my family. They forever and permanently changed the way that I see the world and severely limited my ability to trust. But they never stole my ability to love because that I do fiercely, deeply and with loyalty to a fault. But back to crazy, I’m not. And I’m fucking tired of folks too ignorant and lazy to become informed before slicing me and other survivors open with insane stupid comments and blatant arrogance that you know better. You don’t.
And by the way, disassociation is a thing. A real fucking thing. It happens because its the wondrous coping mechanism of the human under attack. When the pain becomes too traumatic, too difficult, too much for tiny little children’s minds to process, it splits. Bam, just like that. You go somewhere else, someplace safer than the place you are in where your uncle is raping you at gunpoint. And guess what, when you’re gone, you’re gone. And to the major asshole who said that my disassociative episodes were a ploy for attention, well simply put, go fuck yourself. You speak with ignorance and venom. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I try and try and then I fucking try some more to be the best, intact, whole person I can be given my history. To say anything less than that of me is cruel and unforgivable.
No, I’m not done yet, there’s more. I’m enraged at any person, for any reason who turns a blind eye to pain. This happens in so many ways; through denial of wanting to acknowledge a person’s pain, therefore maybe having to deal with it OR being frustrated that said person struggles a lot so you offer a platitude in order to get the hell away from this person you’ve judged as insane. Again, look at the above bunny and leave me the hell alone. You don’t have to hurt me just to get a safe distance away. I get it, of all people I understand that this is tough fucking shit and not everyone has the stomach for it. BUT…there’s always the option of offering love and leaving anyway. Bottom line, I’m left here to deal with this confusing mess of neurons on a daily basis and it’s no walk in the park. It takes hourly awareness and diligent practice to stay centered and even heal from these traumas. Don’t add to them. And especially don’t pretend it’s in the name of love. I’m calling bullshit on that one.
While I’m ranting, I may as well cuss the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture drugs to make lots of money that are prescribed by asshole doctors. My anti-depressants are giving me such incredible suicide ideation that the ideation is now taking form and making a plan. And getting off this shit is a bitch. Again, another mind-bending bitch to contend with. And yes, suicide ideation and self harm is a real thing too. It’s not just words that we in a secret meeting of the I’ve-been-molested club got together and invented. These are real psychological phenomena. Google it, you’ll see. We don’t just get up in the morning, feed the dogs, have a cup of coffee and say “I think I’ll go slice on myself today and maybe for fun, I’ll go sit in the garage with the car running and see how fast I’ll puff up from carbon monoxide”. But seriously, people talk to us as if we do this self-loathing, self-harming shit for attention. Really? Do you really believe that I’d prefer that method of coping to say…. working at the dog rescue shelter or taking some flowers to the old ladies at the nursing home? If you believe that, you need a quick reality check and a good therapist.
The rant winds down here. Be kind, everyone is struggling. If you don’t know how to help and you want to, ask. It’s that simple. Is there anything I can do to help? If you don’t care or are just socially awkward, flash a peace sign, say Kumbaya my Lord or offer a hug. If you don’t have more, that’s fine but if you think you can fake concern, use condescension or just toss a crappy cliche’ toward me, you’re wrong. Because here’s the other thing that develops in survivors as we are fending off our nasty fathers and uncles, we became ultra-sensitive. I’m talking over-the-top, can practically read-your-feelings-without-you-knowing-it, living and floating in an emotional bizarre dimension that few know anything about. We know when you’re lying and we know when you’re trying to be cruel.
End of rant. For those who stuck around to the end, well, thanks. You’re tougher than most. For those who didn’t stay, block me on FB and have a good life. Kumbaya.
It is a brave woman that can sit with her pain. Sometimes it seems as if that’s all I do. But I will trust you on this and feel the hope again.
*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.
Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want…
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Somewhere around the end of last year, right around the holidays, the bottom fell out of my world. Emotionally, spiritually, physically. Actually, it had been falling out for over a year but the accumulated stress hadn’t taken its final blow.
It wasn’t the first time or the second but what felt like the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time. All my coping skills had been used over the last year surviving several huge hurdles and I now found myself with what felt like an empty bag of tricks.
The number of times I’ve bottomed out or the trauma of my childhood isn’t the point of this blog post, its about what I did in that situation. What I did was succumb. Psychically unplugged from life. Flat. out. gave. up. It had won. I just couldn’t pull myself up one more freakin’ time to stare down the demons again and again and again. Wouldn’t do it for my daughter, my husband and or for my dogs, which if you knew me is saying a lot.
After limping through the holidays on about 25% of myself, the final layer peeled off in early January and took my physical health with it. For months I was gone. Lost in that circular, downward spiraling, free falling haze. The demons recognized its frazzled, stressed out host with parasitic vigor. They seized that opportunity to invade my body with long buried memories of abuse and violence. They haunted my dreams, robbing me of much needed rest to heal and recover. They invaded and eroded my skin, giving me huge welts across the backs of my legs reminiscent of beatings with the belt. My skin itched and burned at the slightest touch, wearing clothes or any contact with a piece of furniture was a challenge. I lost the ability to be comfortable in my own skin. I had no where to go.
But mostly, they intruded upon my feminine parts with a vengeance. The little girl parts that took the abuse, tried to adapt and scar over, the parts that became swollen almost beyond recognition, the parts that tried and tried to stretch but couldn’t….eventually giving way to rips and shreds. Those parts were the target again. What the little child couldn’t tolerate at that time, she buried deep and then systematically began to hand back to the adult woman in bits and pieces over the years. Somewhere in our collective unconscious, we must have bargained. I must have made a deal with her that if she survived the early trauma through whatever means she needed to, then I, the adult, would deal with the suppressed memories and physical sensations later.
And that is what happened. For weeks turned into months, I rode the edge of the razor’s split. Burning, stabbing, swelling, searing pain. Urinary, vaginal, rectal. My every orifice that was violated contained sensations that rose to the surface. Over and over and over and over. The cascade of symptoms was never ending. Urinary swelling turned into infection which spread to my bladder and kidneys. More crying and screaming than my husband could handle.
Eventually by late Feb, the symptoms began to subside a bit thanks to Marilyn and Betsy, two women energy healers who encouraged and tolerated appointments with me; half dressed in nightshirts due to my sensitive skin and sporting ice packs for my swollen parts. Week after week, they lovingly helped me on the table and began to spin their healing magic. We began to make progress that continues at this writing.
That’s the backstory, here’s the point.
What it takes to get writing…. again….is LOVE. Four women emerged as a cosmic lifeline who carrying me out of the physical and emotional pain. Four women who I’d come to know online but never met, shared many conversations with over the years, created a small online support group for me. Just for me. Each day and often several times a day, I’d come to the group page to see beautiful images, unfailing words of support and love as well as space just to let me be. It was beautiful. I nicknamed them the “Fabulous Four” because I’m not sure I would have emerged from those dark depths without having these angels to carry me. And I’m coming up short with words to describe how it feels to be loved and cared for with this level of compassion, especially when one isn’t familiar with that level of support. Again, it was just beautiful.
As I plunged to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my writing and words died. It was impossible to write, think straight of have any type of creativity when coping with issues of basic survival such as pain. The bottom and largest portion of Maslow’s pyramid describes needs such as breathing, food, water, sleep. He suggests that one must be secure in the basic needs before being able to move up the hierarchy. Creativity is characteristic of the very tip-top of the pyramid and during this health crisis, far beyond my reach.
So, this is my debut….again. I have scaled the pyramid with the LOVE and support of four extraordinary women as well as my energy practitioners. My words are coming back as the crisis fades. I see hope again and crave being present on this blog and with my sojourners in healing. I’m confident that many more layers of the health crisis will be revealed when the time is right. As the accompanying image depicts, not only have I been lifted from the level of most basic needs, I’ve been infused with the energy of a Goddess-Priestess-Warrior vibe. The power of our hearts beating in unison, multiplied. I stand at the top of the pyramid with my arms wide open. I feel my power again.
Photo credit, used with permission from Sarah Durham Wilson, DOITGIRL .
The little boy comes to me with stifled tears, head bowed, chin jutted out, lips pursed together to keep in his words
I lie down behind him smoothing his long graying hair off his neck
He fights so hard; not to feel, not to disappoint, not to let the little boy get too far away from the only place he knows to be safe
I ache for his longings; his undiscovered freedom, stifled passions, joy without limits
I hold space for his gentle heart even when he can’t
He silently slips into sleep as I place a butterfly kiss on his salty neck and watch him come alive in his slumber, leaving tormented consciousness behind
Slowly at first, then with urgency, his legs start to twitch and run
I pray for godspeed to his running soul
and to please find my husband and bring him back
Photo credit: Image from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
I seem to have made it through the latest chapter of dark times.
When I started this blog, I felt lost. Then I found myself through writing and gave myself a voice that I’d never possessed before, at least for myself. I’d been championing for others for decades; animal rights, women’s rights, diversity, environment. It had become painful apparent to me that a great deal of time had been spent advocating for others and not myself. That was a game changer.
Writing this blog has enabled me to find my voice through writing but look several issues squarely in the eye. Honoring myself was one. A simple bumper sticker noticed by the artist, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts. Honor Yourself. Simple words that were nearly impossible to integrate.
The next issue was that I couldn’t wrap my thinking around the fact that someone, anyone would want to read what I had to say. In my mind, my words had to be profound, a literary masterpiece before putting them out for the world to see. Shouldn’t I get a MFA in writing or something or some sort of artistic approval before being so bold as to put my words, my life, my history into words? Well, that answer came soon too. Survivors trickled in, slowly at first, some stumbling and fragmented, some already having honed their beautiful craft of expression. All were worthy and I felt so blessed to be a part of a counterculture emerging for survivors, men and women, who were taking back their power. I wanted to be a part of that. For me, it was coming home.
My most recent absence is due to my utter confusion and re-entry into that dark place. You see, I thought I’d been through it and had emerged complete, or at least complete enough. I thought I was finally, finally in that safe cocoon where I could share my story of abuse and survival with the clarity of hindsight. I was wrong, at least sort of.
This summer I separated from my husband. My fairy tale crashed and I felt that I was a fraud. How on earth could I write stories of hope and love when I had failed at my own love story? Slowly, I moved through the hazy days of summer with my tool bag (purple of course) of rest, solitude, meditation, reading and dark chocolate. I cried when I felt like it, wandered through the library, raged at Grandmother moon in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, slept any time I felt fatigued and tried, oh how I tried, to find joy anywhere I could. I picked flowers and herbs from my beautiful garden and gave them to anyone I could think of; my church for Sunday morning service, the women at the convenient mart on the corner who are always so kind and make me laugh every time I’m there buying chocolate, my dear friend’s mother who was passing this summer, a friend who works long hours and commutes into the city each day. I gave them just because. Just because in the absence of my own joy, I needed to create that precious spark of joy for someone else and live vicariously off of that until I had my own.
Many, many people supported me though this passage, you will find them on my blogroll and Facebook page. I simply couldn’t have weathered this without logging on to see their daily posts on love, writing, poetry, painting, nature, food. I traveled with several as they made major changes in their lives too and hope that I provided them a wee bit of support also.
Slowly that spark began to burn again. Now I have more words and more insight into myself. I tip my hat to the dark side, purpose well served.
I still live a love story. Really, there is a love story in here somewhere. One that, once again, must begin with myself. With or without a partner, my daughter, my dogs, my house. I can write words of hope because now I’ve lived them again. I’m not a fraud but an innocent person who stumbles and trips often, sometimes sitting in the mud puddle I fell in, squalling and crying. But then there are times, when I laugh and dance around with a soggy tutu.
It’s all good.
It’s been over a month since I made the pilgrimage to the psych hospital for an evaluation. My emotions have settled down a bit and I’ve had contact with all the practitioners in my life who require a visit after such an incident. I’m also able to write about it with a caustic and a wise ass dark humor that I lacked in previous weeks. I suppose on this matter too, I’ve found my voice. I should know by now that given enough time and perspective, I usually do find my voice.
The prompting incident was another perfect storm containing all the ingredients for me to “drop my basket”. In Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Vivian Abbott Walker has a breakdown and is hospitalized in some asylum for months. She won’t discuss the issue for a long time but eventually coins a phrase to describe her mental collapse where she hallucinated, beat her children all the while forgetting how to chew food and pee in the toilet. Months later, she finally confides and describes to her Ya-Ya’s how she “dropped her basket”. In the absence of a better term, I’m going to borrow hers.
In a 6-day rampage of unmanageable BPD symptoms, gross lack of familial support and triggers out the whazoo, I finally consent to let a friend drive me to one of several major hospitals in St. Louis for an evaluation. I had nothing to lose. I had been crying for days, couldn’t remember when I’d eaten last, only slept because of the inordinate amount of anxiety medication combined with several other chasers of alcohol, Vicodin and Benedryl. It was a sure-fire combination to collapse into something resembling sleep but a losing combination in terms of maintaining equilibrium and optimal functioning of the body. Unconsciousness is the desired state for me when I’m so grossly triggered finding my reality irretrievable. No matter how many DBT skills, prayers, affirmations, walks in the woods, music and every other distraction skill I applied, nothing was working. I was scared shitless and needed a person. A real, live, breathing person to sit with me while I piggybacked off of their energy and found my center once again. And to make matters worse, I had been left alone for 5 days, scorned for the burdensome person that I was which was the tipping point to my basket drop.
This is the truly horrible part about Borderline Personality Disorder, which I probably have as a result of early onset trauma. It forever changes how our brains work and makes us a scary group of people to be around causing this paradoxical conundrum where even though your loved ones don’t want to hold onto your psyche at this particular moment, its about the only thing that actually works for me. The DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association classifies BPD with a list of symptoms that the candidate will have at least 5 of the 9 listed. And even though, there were many symptoms, BPD related or not, swirling around in this muck of 6 days, it was one in particular that probably defines most of my issue of that time. #1 on the list is “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment”. Yes, my efforts were frantic. I called pretty much everyone I knew in person as well as sought out online friends and even a guy standing outside the convenience store smoking in an effort to make some physical, face to face contact with someone. Pretty pitiful, huh? And yes, my abandonment was real AND imagined, I had both to contend with. And damn, I didn’t do well and definitely “dropped my basket”.
Enter Cindy and Kathy, my two saviors of the weekend. They sat with me one night until I felt well enough to be in my house alone. They brought food and conversation and did a fabulous job of distracting me, giving me some solid ground to stand on. That lasted one day before I was back in the muck; crying, not eating, mixing meds and smoking cigarettes, a habit given up over a decade ago. When, in 3 more days, I still hadn’t emerged whole, it was Cindy who declared it time to go for an evaluation. I didn’t argue, just packed a bag and grabbed my insurance card and off we went to the psych unit of her choice. Now, it sounds like I’m gonna start doggin’ on the state of psychiatric options and hospitals in general, which I’m not. For at this particular moment, I was damn grateful that I lived in a city where I had an actual choice of which one to go to and that I had insurance to get in the door. There were certainly patients in the waiting room who didn’t possess the golden ticket of primo insurance that I had, which made me cry even harder.
I was led down and around several corridors which I realize later put me way in the back of the ward in some sort of lockdown room. I was asked to undress into paper scrubs which is a far cry from the old paper gowns that didn’t close in back. My clothes were taken from me and within minutes a team of interns with a doctor arrived in a hysterical entourage of tall, rolling, podium like things with computers mounted on top. When they were speaking to me, all I could see was the back of the screen, not their faces, which made them look like a team of rectangled shaped droids with lab coats and feet. I found this really amusing and wondered if this would qualify as real or imagined abandonment. Let’s just say, given the situation, a friendly pat on the arm or some eye contact would have gone a long way. After giving them all their pertinent information, I was then left alone and I mean left alone. I didn’t see anyone for hours until I peeked out and told the nurse that finally looked up from her desk computer screen (Is there a theme here?) that I had to go to the bathroom, could she point the way? She promptly walked me back into the room and opened a low set of cabinet doors which popped out a toilet seat. She assured me that it was much more convenient for me to pee in this little toilet in the wall than to have to go down the hall but I knew better. This was the upscale version of a jail cell. My bladder and I made peace with our given situation as I didn’t feel that as I was shoeless and in paper scrubs in a lockdown room, that it just wasn’t a good time to fuss. I settled onto the exam table, curled in a semi-fetal position, pulled out my iPod from my purse (which by the way, still was in my possession and contained several prescribed controlled substances) and began to listen to my relaxation tapes. More hours went by but again, I had my entertainment and a potty, so I was pretty good. The nurse had given me a cup of water and a few graham crackers from her stash of snacks. Plus I’d seen a few people who seemed relatively caring and I felt a sense of relief that if nothing else, I was among people.
Then, whack. As I’m achieving a blissful state of relaxation and calm, thanks to the tools I brought instead of what was offered, the door slams open with the salty, seasoned veteran of the social work brigade. Now again, you think I’m gonna complain about her but I rather liked her. She took one look at my iPod declaring it a weapon of mass destruction and exclaiming how I could hurt myself with that. She took it really well when I told her if I wanted to do that, I would have done it in the three hours prior. Out she went to scold the graham cracker nurse then charged back in with her exasperated intern following behind. “Are you suicidal?”, she asked. “No, I’m Laurel”, I replied as I extended my hand to shake hers. This didn’t faze her as she went on to rapid-fire questions faster than the intern could write them down. The poor thing didn’t have a robotic scooting computer podium, so I slowed my answers down to accommodate her pace. No, I didn’t harm or cut myself. No, I haven’t harmed anyone else. No, I don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. She proclaimed me fit to go home unless I opted to stay for the accommodations of graham crackers, tap water and the potty in the wall. I declined and called another friend to please come get me.
Another hour later, I was given my iPod, my clothing including my bra which apparently posed a huge threat of strangulation to me here in the hospital. I will have to draw some stern boundaries with that brassiere when I get home to never threaten me like that again. The nurse presented me with my bill for the day and asked how I wanted to pay. I told her that in my despair and turmoil, I hadn’t even considered that to which she replied that I could mail it back with payment. A hundred dollar day that could have been spent at the day spa with seemingly better results. I’m thinking a massage and a pedicure.
Again, I will practice gratitude that a clean, well staffed, teaching hospital was available to me. If I was more chronic, the doctor explained, this might be the place for me. Since I’m fairly functional with an acute crisis, under the care of a psychiatrist and therapist, there aren’t services there for me. In other words, there isn’t a place for those of us in between. One must be out of control, harming themselves or others and pose a huge threat to society before the psych hospital is the place to be. OK, now I know that. But I still wonder where then, does one like me go? Where is the tribe of caring people who will help soothe the ravaged soul, bring tea and sing and rock me until my jangled self comes together. Shouldn’t there be such a place? I rely so heavily on myself for self nurturing and awareness but accepting my circumstances and limitations prompts me to always have a Plan B. I’ll keep looking, it has to be out there somewhere. At least, I know now where it isn’t.
Its an awkward junior high dance of where to place my feet, what do I do with my hands, how can I stop sweating each nuance of my being?
I suppose each day brings me closer to my truth. I’m not sure why my truth has been so buried. Who decided that it was to be my life’s journey to dig through the muck and proclaim my findings a treasure? Why is it taking so long? My post it notes that line the area above my desk say to practice acceptance. They also remind me that I’m entitled to make mistakes and that I can’t start the chapter of your new life if you keep re-reading the last one. I wonder if I’m not assimilating the lessons of my life or if I just have too many post it notes?
Today’s biggest question is one of my voice. Usually my biggest questions are regarding my voice; where it is, how loud is it, how do I use it to the greatest good? But underneath those questions lie the deepest challenge I face today. What do you do when it is apparent that your voice and message make those in your life uncomfortable? Where is the line of discernment between how the individual should proceed when they form a part of a larger group and what is their responsibility to the greater good? Should one compromise the group for personal benefit? Does one pray for the fear to be released from the family/community/church/friends with whom you’ve made a life with or does one practice a life unspoken or better yet, a life carefully spoken to those only ready to hear? And if so, how does one know the difference?
I’ve been quite drawn lately to the plight of the gay person who struggles with whether or not to come out. I find this a struggle that is similar to mine in the sense that neither can reveal the story truest to themselves without wondering how detrimental or incredible the outcome might be. How does one make that final, irreversible decision and action? It’s a long standing fantasy of mine to be able to tell the story of an abused and compromised child only to break the shackles of shame and liberated by the act of coming out. It seems as if it would be freeing beyond belief. Not taking the steps toward fulfilling that fantasy is a sort of slow emotional suicide. That scenario involves lots of pretending, not stating the obvious (well at least the obvious to me) and leading my life with as much rhythm as a flat line on an EKG. A basically unappealing and empty existence.
Is the solution a matter of re-framing one’s thinking to accommodate only thoughts of gratitude and a positive nature? Isn’t that denial?
Could the whole matter of avoiding the tough subjects in life some sort of grace that I’ve yet to develop? Isn’t that fear?
Should I practice more acceptance of what is and isn’t in my life and resign to a life without unabashed celebration of my total self? Isn’t that numbing and settling?
I’d love to hear from anyone who not only has had the same questions but any solutions to this personal crisis as well. Wishing I had more answers than questions, I leave that to you.
No graphic, triggering details. Just the facts.
Haven’t slept well in days, watched the clock go from 2 am to 3 am to 4 am….Tons of body sensations on my skin, in my brain. I’ve gnawed at my fingernails and took my anxiety meds. Practiced DBT and trauma release exercises. I’ve been through this enough now to know what is happening and how it will play itself out. I’ve identified it, named it and tackled it.
In other words, I’ve got this covered. I have tools and support. The memory still came in my sleep disguised as a writhing rattlesnake in my mouth. That’s what I woke up to was the feeling of it in my mouth and that’s what I’ve spent the day shaking off. Doesn’t take an expert in dream interpretation to figure out this awful phallic metaphor.
But you know what? Its okay. Today, I can hold onto my soul and refuse to let you have it. I’m gonna kick the demon in the ass today and let it know who is really the boss around here.
I’m the alpha bitch and that’s just the way it is.