My Cheeky Blues

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I am having a struggle today. I hesitate to write about it because in comparison to people I know, (and basically the whole rest of this seemingly Godforsaken world) I have many blessings to count. Matter of fact, I’ve been counting them all week since Monday when I found out my driver’s license was suspended. Guess what? Even motherf@#%ing GHANDI had a blue day. I’m having one, and I’m going to throw a leash around it and take it for a $#@damn walk.

First, let me tell you a little sad story from childhood to set the tone, and also because I will refer back to it later as a metaphor for all of my #wompwompwomp, aka Muc, short for most unfortunate circumstances. Nobody has immunity.

One day, while playing at a neighbor’s, a dog came up to me from behind, put his happy little paws up on my shoulders and festively started hopping. “Weeeee!” thought my lonely innocent young child mind, “Cha cha cha cha cha ChA!” And I gleefully giggled in delight as me and my little buddy conga’d our way across the yard, that is until the mother came out, wiping her hands on an apron as if she had been whisked away from baking , and yelled over to me, “Valerie, don’t you let that dog do that to you!” in her perfect New England accent. In that moment my joy melted into shame. I was only 6 ,and I didn’t know that the dog was trying to hump me, or what that even was. I just knew that it was wrong. This memory is crystal clear. A most unfortunate circumstance, indeed.

While I have made great strides in my recovery lately, I am not without trials. I feel a country song welling up in me. A very awkward country song.

Let’s talk about stuff you should not play with due to the risk of painful consequences, shall we? Number one, horny dogs. This applies to both the canine and human variety. Number two, Poison Ivy. Especially if you are highly allergic with a natural flair for the dramatic, like me.

I had brought a bunch of sticks and dead vines home from the farm to create my next sculptural project. I was enamored with the way the vines coiled and threw myself into placing them just so, thinking they really added something special, like little decorative flourishes. I was all kinds of up in it, let me tell you. I spent an entire day happily enjoying my work and giving thanks to God for all the good feels.

So fancy, no?

Later, I began to itch. Mind you, I had just come off a round of Prednisone and antibiotics for a nasty infected itchy rash caused by holly leaves. I hate to feel itchy more than I hate puking. At least when you throw up you feel some relief. The only thing that would quell my discomfort and very vocal misery was another trip to the Dr’s office and another round of steroids, this time with a Cortizone shot. When I realized I had been playing with Poison Ivy, (yes, even the dead vines contain the oil that causes the reaction…who knew?) I felt the same kind of shameful embarrassment that I had as that naive child, and when telling my boyfriend what I had done I said, “I may as well have been rubbing the f@#$ing sh!% all over myself! I’m just gonna go find me a horny dog now and conga around the neighborhood!” to which he laughed. Humor helps me keep from pity-partying-till-I-puke, and ain’t NOBODY wanna see that, especially while burdened with an itchy rash!

During this time, my Mom had another surgery to remove a small tumor in her bladder, I fiercely battled my fear and Anxiety, realized I was doing a job that did not utilize any of my skills, and questioned how I was going to make ends meet. Then there was the Wonder Woman-shielding against the crazy-making chaos of a certain family member who was telling me I needed to see an allergist, because I’m probably allergic to everything, like her. Um, no. Just some plants and her lack of boundaries and verbal abuse, thank you very much.

I now hate oral steroids or any kind, for that matter, because they made me angsty and super snacky, like The Hungry Hungry Hippo. I’m still working through my vanity issues, so feeling like a big ol’ fatty didn’t help matters. What could be a better time to give myself bangs? Oh yeah. I went there. My awesome hair stylist did her best to fix my mess, but despite her magic skills, at the end of the day it was just me. With. BANGS. I had sworn them off years ago, realizing I did not have the face for them. This is how I knew I was not myself. It was another most unfortunate circumstance- Fatty Bananas with bangs, no steady income, getting my Moms will done the day before her surgery, driving a car on it’s last leg, 80 miles round trip to the farm and back several times a week, and struggling to get out of bed. The bangs, though. Ugh. At least I was getting out of bed.

Then Monday happened. I have not been able to drive for a week now. My dear friend is dying in hospice. I’ve been consumed with thoughts of her and the pain that her family and friends are dealing with. I have wanted so much to hold her hand and send her off with my love. Feeling helpless is not a good place for a person with Complex PTSD. The resulting avalanche of triggers has left me paralyzed. Warrior down, people!F#@*!

Mood Indigo

It is just my luck that I answered a question on my license renewal form honestly, never realizing it would raise a red flag that would entail having two Drs fill out paperwork that has been denied two times now because neither Dr knew anything about that ONE time I dozed off at a traffic light. I called the DMV and they said all they need is a note faxed on letterhead corroborating the date and that I am no threat as a driver. (Glad they can’t consult with my daughter, who thinks I suck at almost everything.) I was told to call them as soon as she faxed it and everything would be cleared up. I made this known, at first, by a call to her office, and followed it up with an email. It is now Friday and I have yet to speak with her directly. Not for lack of trying, as you can imagine. Several calls a day and a few more emails and today after trying FOUR times it went straight to voicemail. This is my psychiatrist! She of all people knows that feeling helpless is my biggest trigger!

I finally sent one last email today, saying that I was no longer apologizing for inconveniencing her, for the consequences weigh much heavier for me, and that her refusal to take my calls or do the right thing and call me, was very disappointing and unprofessional. Then I asked the DMV how she could back me up on the date if I never told her about it, but they said it didn’t matter, because they just need her to write the note to put in my file. They said it should be simple for her to do. As of 5:46 today (Friday) they have received nothing.

To top it all off, the one thing that I had to get excited about was a complete bust. Seven inches of snow predicted last night and we got nothing. A frigid cold slap in the face! An opportunity to see my horse and the farm in the snow, because Smithfield did get some, squashed. Unable to do the only thing that sustains me through rough times, I am officially at my limit. I want to go to sleep until all of this cruelly unnecessary trigger BS passes. I want so much to be rid of these afflictions.

I can do nothing other than realize that healing is a journey, and it’s fine to shutter down in order to save myself from the storm. And looking on the bright side, it’s a good thing that I can’t drive right now, because if I went to the Walmart and had to fight to get those stupid #@$!%$#@&%$#@× plastic bags open, while the stupid #@!$^&^$#@× register tells me to “please bag your items”, that would surely be the end of me.

Hello, little black cloud. Goodbye, will to decline the pity party invitation. But $#@! it. “V” is also for VENT, and I am already starting to feel better.

Here’s to you, dear Glenda. Not only were you the embodiment of the word Glamour, but also grace, strength, and pure loving kindness.

Wrapping Up A Decade; Freefalling Into Darkness and Seeing The Light

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I had the incredible opportunity to go on a night ride with a couple of friends on Thursday, under the last full moon of this decade occurring at 12:12 on the date of 12:12. It came following a day of intense emotional out cries due to family dysfunction, which I released with the same force that pushes a child into this world. It took so much out of me that I couldn’t utter a word the rest of the day. I knew that I was being led to rest, and I put firm boundaries around this time.

Since we left for the ride at 6, the moon was just rising, spectacularly, over the horizon, which made the first 1/4 mile or so through Jacob’s woods like navigating as if we were in a velvet painting worn down through time.

It was decided that we would have a silent ride, enabling our senses to have reverence for the wisdom that this auspicious moon would impart. I marveled at the way our horses carried us through the hazy blackness, through and around a maze of trees and limbs both upright and fallen. I thought of the
potential dangers, but instead of having fear, those thoughts became a part of the melody of a piece of music from an old player piano; notes strung together in perfect sequence to create something beautiful. Nothing could have kept me from the understanding that this night ride was a sacred journey, the idea of which came over me as a driving impulse like breathing.

Down the sand path littered with puddles from the recent rain, we rode to the old saw yard road. The exhilarating sensation of trotting and cantering with minimum visibility could not be marred by the hard whip of a tree branch that stung my face in the cold night air. I was leaning into my prospective fear with wild abandon, in full faith that any pain along the way would give rise to a sensation of triumph analogous to surviving the hardships of a lifelong battle, to see justice by way of a cleared path to happiness, success, and prosperity. In other words, everything I’ve earnestly yearned for. 

When riding a horse through dark woods, in order to get the full benefits of one’s endeavor, there is no room for doubt. To be one with a horse requires mutual trust. If I had spent this magnificent hour second guessing every move or potential benefit outweighing the risk, I would have sacrificed the miracle of the purest meaning of faith that surpasses all understanding. It is not the belief of faith, but faith in action.

Our bodies are wired physiologically, to respond to trauma as a means for survival at the most primitive level. There is no time to reason over what course of action to take in a potentially life-threatening situation. When one experience’s trauma the most important areas of the brain involved are the prefrontal cortex (PFC), known as the “Thinking Center”, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), known as the “Emotion Regulation Center”, and the amygdala, known as the “Fear Center.” Take note here that there are THREE areas. In order to understand the spiritual significance of the number 3 and how it relates to the number 12, here are a few references:

https://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/3.html

https://mysticalnumbers.com/number-3/

The Magic of the Number 3

I am writing this upon waking, two days after the full moon ride, which turned out to be a night in which I was so charged from my experience that I could not sleep a wink. The sleep I woke from this morning felt like the best sleep of my life. I was smiling. I felt weightless. I praised God in loving, humble gratitude. Proverbs 3(yes, THREE!) says, Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 

I followed a divine impulse to roar out my pain and sorrow and my steps in the days that followed felt exactly like my full moon ride. When I went to look at my app that records the distance, this is what I found-

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I’m sure I don’t need to explain the significance of the triangle, but I will just share a few more pictures taken on a mystical beach day in September to illustrate how the Divine manifests in my life through impulse and synchronicity. It is these kinds of signs that occur with increasing regularity which continue to erase my debilitating fear and tendency to doubt.

And here’s one more, taken on my recent trip to Massachusetts in the woods beside the house I grew up in, where I was significantly raised by trees. PicsArt_12-14-01.34.00

Oh, and if you are into astrology, my life path number is 6! And yesterday someone graciously did a Tarot card reading regarding my career that dramatically confirmed what I already knew, but have been struggling with in doubt.

I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR! That makes me giggle because an abusive ex used to, in a derogatory way, call me Helen Reddie, who is famous for that anthem.  My name may not be Helen, but you best be damned sure, I’m READY.

Bring it, 2020.

Complex PTSD; Anatomy of a Trigger

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I have wanted to talk about triggers, the anatomy of a panic attack, and what that looks like for me as a person living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for some time.

Having been feeling very optimistic and experiencing a beautiful reprieve that drastically improved my attitude and strength was so blissful that I began to feel I had truly turned a corner in my healing journey, and though I knew it was still an important thing to share, I was not ready to revisit my suffering just yet. I wanted to give myself time to swim and splash in the healing waters. Sometimes the universe, (God) has different plans.

It is hard not to get angry. I have held onto my faith, even if by a thread at times, and I will continue to do so. Belief takes action. Anger is a default. I am willing to do whatever is necessary to change that. I start by not feeling guilty that I don’t want to communicate with my dysfunctional family who have no understanding of how this illness affects me, by not making excuses for declining social invitations, or answering phone calls. I am putting myself first.

During these past few months I have watched potentially triggering things on TV and been able to point them out, stay in the moment, and watch them pass. I have successfully dealt with a panic attack on the trail while riding by talking about my trigger with someone who would listen and allow that wounded child’s voice to be heard. But sometimes the painful memories, or the feelings of sadness and helplessness that they trigger, rise up from deep in the body in a manner in which they cannot be contained. My adult self disappears, as if suddenly held captive by this trapped energy that only allows me to see, hear, and feel as the child who survived this trauma.  I am blindsided. 

Dealing with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a challenge made bigger by the lack of information and support available. The difference with the Complex label has to do with the age and duration that the abuse took place.

The first thing I want to do when processing my painful, debilitating, triggered episodes, is to find comfort in knowing my symptoms are shared by others. This is so important to me because I feel like a freak in that fugue state following the trigger. Coming up empty in my search, I decided it was critical to explain what I experience, not just for other survivors, but for the people who may witness me in the midst of one of these episodes, as well as loved ones who struggle to understand.

There are two distinct responses to my triggers. One involves cumulative, excessive stress that I strive to overcome. I am determined to power through it, no matter how much it depletes my stores until something, either a situation, or words that hit the “no going back” trigger, causes my body to completely shut itself down. If I am standing, I will immediately slump to the ground and “freeze”. This is called the faint and freeze response which is the opposite of the fight or flight response. This happens in the wild when an animal fears inescapable death. They freeze, or play dead. In this state respiration slows, eyes become fixed, I am unresponsive, having retreated deep within myself where the harrowing enormity of what caused this can cause me no further harm. This usually lands me a visit from paramedics and a trip to the ER where Dr’s  and staff crowd around me, poking and pinching, using painful attempts to get me to “come to” . With each failure to get me to show signs of life, the methods increase in force, as they all stand by, utterly perplexed. One important thing to note is that I can see and hear everything going on around me. I cannot speak, I cannot move or even blink. I am paralyzed, trapped somewhere safely, deep inside, where I can wait until the threat has passed. I can feel the pain, it’s just a matter of enduring it so as not to be forced from that safe place. 

It takes a decent span of torture time before I make my way back  at the sharp prodding of a toe so excruciatingly painful that I bolt upright gasping for air and hyperventilating, as if  rising from the dead. It’s as if they have never witnessed any such thing. I must be the only person who has ever displayed such symptoms. I question my own sanity. 

One time a Dr kept applying very painful pressure to my sternum in an attempt to make me tell him my name, telling me they would not help me if I did not comply. Even with tears streaming out the sides of my eyes, there was no empathy for me. At that point they could have cut off a finger and I still wouldn’t have made a peep. 

There was one very kind older Dr during one of these trips. He seemed to understand what was going on. He spoke gently as he held my hand, and reassured me in a most loving way, that everything was going to be alright. I fell into a deep sleep after that, not from any medication being administered, but from the soothing nature of his words, which had been directed at the trapped, wounded child in me.

Western Medicine, particularly as it relates to ER protocol and training, is USELESS in helping people suffering from all forms of PTSD, and mental lillness in general. No wonder the suicide rates are so high. The pain generated from the flashbacks and memories of suffering trapped inside the body feel like unbearable torture. To know that there is absolutely no-one coming to rescue you from that battlefield is like fearing imminent death. In my usual state, I know that this threat holds no power over me.

That brings me to my second trauma stimuli response. They are always brought on by a trigger. These triggers can take the form of sights, sounds, smells, or actions that seem to trip a switch in my mind. It feels like instantly being in a different reality. I am looking out through my adult eyes, but I am seeing a memory from the past through my child eyes that witnessed it, complete with the feelings of terror and desperate need for rescue. Sometimes I am triggered and experiencing a trauma from my adult life, but the child shows up because I have been piggy back triggered; a double whammy that starts off as a traumatic memory from adulthood that then triggers intense fear and sadness from a childhood experience.

One minute I am my happy, witty self, engaged in whatever it is I am doing, the next I am overwhelmed by deep sadness, fear, and helplessness. I cannot shake it off. It comes on like a tsunami and I begin crying uncontrollably, gasping for air, covering my face,  as if doing so makes me disappear. Other times I hide in my closet where I can make myself as small and undetectable as possible, or if in public, I sit and hold myself, rocking back and forth, inconsolable. It is extremely humiliating. I am unable to communicate as my adult self. I am held captive, as an observer, powerless until those emotions subside. It doesn’t end there.  Something happens in my brain, leaving me despondent. It feels as if a wire has been cut. I am deeply depressed and cannot hold back tears. Physically, I am exhausted, as if I had just run a marathon and been tripped at the finish line. This phase of paralyzation varies in length from one day to several weeks.

The longer it takes me to recover, the deeper into Depression I go. I cannot simply “snap out of it” . I am not wallowing. I think it is like being struck by lightening. There has been an electrical surge that has altered my chemistry. I struggle not to loathe my setback, regretting having felt so triumphant and shouting it from the rooftops. I feel raw, skinless, unprotected and vulnerable. And my body feels heavy like lead.

I know that this negative, trapped energy needs to be released. Unfortunately I cannot afford weekly massages, which I believe would be a tremendous help. This is where horses have had the biggest impact on getting me out from underneath all the weight. Whenever I feel my mental illness robbing me of all control, I know that it gets restored whenever I am able to ride. The harder, the better. When I can do something that brings me joy, that I am good at, it gives me hope. 

“At times, it seems as though the depth of suffering and blackness, the downgoing, penetrates the psyche and breaks the barrier between the human and the divine so that the grace of the divine may respond.”

From PREGNANT DARKNESS; ALCHEMY AND THE REBIRTH OF CONSCIOUSNESS by Monika Wikman