Category Archives: domestic violence

I Think You Just Don’t Want To Be Happy

Hey EVERYBODY!

I think that this unhappiness thing is just getting out of hand. I mean, c’mon. You’ve been skulking around here FOREVER. It’s like, SO obvious what you need to do. I think you know that. But I’m your friend. Your pal. Your buddy. So I will happily remind you. You’re doing this to yourself, you know that, right? You really just need to get out of your head and…

FORGET GRANDMA!

Yeah, she was nice and all, and like, related to you or whatever so she was around a lot, but still – never, ever, EVER think of her again. No holiday visits. No birthday presents. If you smell a cookie and it smells like hers and you involuntarily think of her cookies which automatically before you can control it leads to remembering that time you made those cookies with her? You see what you’re doing here. And you see that you’re doing it to yourself, right?

I’m telling you:

FORGET GRANDMA. NEVER THINK ABOUT GRANDMA AGAIN.

Also, don’t think about your parents. Or your siblings. Or any pet you had, or any house you lived in, or any kid you knew in school. Don’t dream about them either. Especially don’t dream about them. Because, really, if you dream about them? What good are you doing? You need to control that shit. You need to focus. Mind over matter.

Don’t think about classes you took, schools you went to, foreign lands you visited, books you’ve read, clothes you used to have, shows you used to like. In fact, you need to forget everything that ever happened to you. Seriously, man. Forget the past, will you? You’re fucking STUCK there, jeez. We ALL see it, and we really think you have issues. It’s like you WANT to have problems. Do you even WANT to be happy?

Oh, shit. Hold the phone, folks —

Sorry, but, uh… I just looked at my notes here.

Apparently, when I said “EVERYONE”, I was supposed to say “People with PTSD”, and when I said “GRANDMA”, I was supposed to say “the trauma you experienced”.

Otherwise, the advice is exactly the same, and it will work JUST AS WELL.

Whew. Fixed it.

(Hey! Thanks for checking out Armchair Therapy, where people who lack self-awareness counsel you about your own problems before tending to their own!  The moral of today’s story: Telling people with PTSD that they “seem stuck in the past” is a stellar comedy premise, truly. I mean, thinking that people can forget their entire lives by sheer power of will! COMEDY GOLD. If only Mitzi were alive for this, sniff (RIP, Babe). But hey, take part in the “Armchair Therapy Challenge” and give forgetting your life a shot! And please, write in to let us know how you do – oh, wait, you won’t be able to, because if you succeed, then you won’t remember reading this. Well, pin a note on your shirt for someone else to do it, okay? Armchair Therapy – if you don’t have an armchair, a broken futon will do!)

Share

Screaming Into The Void

I think one of the worst things about trauma – besides of course enduring it – is how absolutely alone you feel in its aftermath. You want to tell the people you love what you’ve been through. They are well meaning and suggest a therapist would be a good thing, and it probably would.

But I still would not feel seen. I would not feel as though my story matters to anyone. Except maybe the person getting paid to hear and probably misinterpret it.

I’ve had horrific luck with therapists. I would still be willing to try again, if I could afford it. And I could find a good one. But that does not solve the problem.

It’s the problem of feeling stifled and not seen and not heard (which reminds me of “Children should be seen and not heard”, which I heard so many times growing up). The problem of feeling like I have no voice, and that no one understands what I go through each day, trying to maneuver this heavy, tiresome burden strapped to my back. The feeling of loneliness that swallows me up, because how can anyone fully know me if they don’t know what I have been through?

If I can only sketch out a few thumbnails with little detail, if I can only truncate my experience into two or three sentences, there is no relief in that. It’s almost worse than not being heard at all. Whether it truly is or not, this *feels* like a disinterest in the whole thing. And that in turn feels like a disinterest in me, because I am the sum of all these experiences plus what I have been able to do with them.

No one will ever know the amount of mental work I put in each day, trying to straighten out all the horrible knots trauma made in my head. I am mining the good from the bad. I am fighting off the memories. I am striving to be well and to create a life of meaning. Even though I look back on my life and see so many missed opportunities and wrong turns and it would be so easy to just completely fall into despair, I fight like hell not to do that. To somehow cull a bit of Greater Purpose, to somehow win my creativity back, i’m fighting for that too. Not being able to share my history and the enormous inner life that springs from that feels fucking lonely.

The last thing I want to do is be a lifelong victim. That isn’t what this is about. It’s not about just generically “seeking attention”, either. I seek no melodrama in this. I just want understanding. I want the people I love to care about the things that happened to me as much as they care about someone with a single, lesser trauma. It’s not a trauma contest, mind you, but it would be nice if the umbrage could be evenly distributed sometimes.

I have worked hard to maintain a polite demeanor when in the presence of others, in that I smile at them even when I don’t feel like it, I ask how they are, I force myself to be cheerful or at least friendly, not sullen, because who wants to go in with an affect that carries with it every bit of heaviness from every single trauma? I cannot be that person. I have worn my innards on my outside many times and it is a very low place to be. It makes things worse. Much worse.

Not only does it feel like hell, but medical professionals treat you like utter shit.  If I showed on the outside how I felt on the inside sometimes, I’d get 5150’d. Because again, no one knows how much work I have put into rehabbing myself from psychosis and homelessness and a lifetime of alternating torture, abuse, and neglect.

Long ago I was taught two things that figure into this idea of forced affability:

  1. No one wants to hear it. (It being anything wrong, anything bad, any kind of problem.)
  2. You have a face for work and social life and a face for home behind closed doors. (What that means when applied is that you end up with a confusing and vacillating identity and you feel constantly feel like an impostor, or like you are outside of yourself observing. In short, you wonder if you might be a sociopath.)

People think that because I can be polite and inquire about their well-being and carry on a conversation, that I’m not suffering. But every day, I am suffering in some fashion, a little or a lot, depending on what flashback my brain is trotting out to attempt to annihilate me.

This isn’t something I want to spend all of my time talking about. Yes, I have PTSD, among other mental maladies, but I don’t want to be a poster girl for it, nor do I necessarily want to make it my ‘brand’. I just want what I think a lot of people want, most of us really.

I want to be seen.

I want to be heard.

I want to be understood.

Being really, sincerely listened to and empathized with is validating, and it says that a person matters, that what happened to them matters. For someone to say “That must have been really hard going through that”. Especially after you’ve had a lifetime of abusers telling you it wasn’t abuse, that it was YOUR fault, or that ‘hey, nothing happened at all, I don’t know what you’re talking about, you fell’ kind of bullshit’. You feel as though it really was your fault, and no wonder people don’t want to hear it, because obviously anyone can do anything to you at any time and the world is completely okay with that.

People can completely lose their shit over a guy with more power than a woman jerking off in front of her, but it feels like crickets when it comes to my kidnap experience, where I was kept against my will for a weekend by an abuser who it turned out was also a rapist. This is how POC must feel about when a white girl gets kidnapped and her disappearance gets tons of press coverage while a little brown girl is missing and her story gets maybe 30 seconds of air time, if any.

It’s like the world doesn’t give a fuck. Which actually is true.

And the loneliness of that goes right to the bone.

Share

The Impossible Dream

My eldest cat, who is eighteen, is blind. She screams all day. I say “screams” and not “meows” because it is usually not her standard meow, but instead a howling caterwaul that sounds like how I sometimes feel when I post to this blog. It is blood curdling and, frankly, nerve-fraying. I do my best to soothe her. I make sure she isn’t hungry or thirsty, I make sure she doesn’t have to use the litter box. I pet her, talk to her, sing to her, kiss her on top of the head. Any fix I try lasts for approximately 10 seconds. And then it’s right back to Scream Time. So basically everything I am doing lately is with this backdrop of abject feline misery.

If that’s not enough to make me feel not so good at the life thing, clips are not doing well at all this month. I mean, generally speaking I am not pulling in much from them, but every little bit helps and some months are better than others. I am pretty sure that other people doing this are better at it in one way or many and make significantly better bank than I, because I don’t see anyone besides myself doing this for long without much reward. Why then do I do it for not much reward, and for as long (excuse me, fucking long) as I have? It takes a long time to recover from a psychotic break, first off. Secondly, systems are not set up so that one can easily be weaned off of them, particularly when said systems are set up only for subsistence and not for leveling up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Spending every day scrambling to do better sucks up a lot of focus.

Not that this will stand in my way. I am stubborn. And though some may believe that hope is a pipe dream, I still see value in it. It is the fuel that keeps me going. The hope that with enough focus, enough effort, even with the bullshit obstacles that stand between me and the serious improvement of my situation, I can overcome. Some may say that my hope is directed toward something ‘too good to be true’. That it’s overshooting to imagine that I could go from what I do now to what I want to do. To that I say, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t have a choice.

I got started on this road because I lost my job due to mental illness, which violates the ADA – but I didn’t know about the ADA, and I didn’t know that I could apply for Social Security Disability. At that time, I had enough credits. I was absolutely eligible. But my husband, who loved letting everyone know what a Socialist to the Nth Degree he was, didn’t bother to tell me about these two things. I just figured, well, I have to do something to earn a living. And so I did. I I pulled something out of thin air, rather than get assistance from the government. Who knows, had I pursued the idea that the government could help me, what might have happened had I applied for SSDI at that time. I would have gone down a completely different road. I would have had access to needed medication, I would not have worked in jobs where I got no SSDI credit, I would not have met the person who put a gun to my face and who would eventually hold me against my will and assault me in numerous ways. A lot would have been different. A few things might be much better. A couple of things would be missing from my life though, and the people that I now treasure, I would not know. So you know, it evens out. In fact, interpersonally, I come out far ahead. I am lucky, and grateful for that fact.

But, because I worked instead of applying for disability at that time, I am now a “lifer” on a much lower, less survivable form of disability assistance. That is, unless I can pull off the rabbit in the hat trick. Some may think it’s not feasible. But some didn’t think it was feasible that I would be able to rehab myself to the point I am now at, post-psychotic break. One therapist even went so far as to say, “You will never be happy. You will be lucky if you are able to function at all.”

Yeah, she probably should not be a therapist.

There are still some speed bumps, even if the road turns out to be mostly smooth, which is a big even to throw in there. I am still inconsistent in a lot of things, though I try to work on this fact daily. I have a lot of ups and downs and bursts and dearths of energy. Sometimes my brain is a really scary place in which to hang out. And sometimes I get stuck in the past, because there is just so much of it that was traumatic and hurtful and confusing, and because I am trying to unravel all the wrong things I learned and replace them with correct things.

I read a tweet yesterday that nearly knocked the wind out of me, it was so resonant. It was about being just intelligent enough and just high-functioning enough for people to glance over and assume that any sort of difficulty a person was having with things like organization or going places or communicating or what-have-you was not due to illness or disorder – in this case ADHD, which I also have – but to be difficult out of spite. I can’t even tell you how many times that has happened to me. How many times people have summed me up incorrectly and figured, “Oh, well if she can do THAT, then she can also do THIS, and she JUST DOESN’T WANT TO.”  In fact, shortly after my psychotic break – which lasted four months before anyone even thought that maybe my bizarre behavior was a sign that something had gone terribly wrong in my brain – my mom said to me, “That stuff was all just because you were mad at me, wasn’t it?”

She wasn’t saying that out of any kind of cruelty or anything, she just did not understand, having been born in the times of Walk It Off or Be Lobotomized. She listened when I explained that it was mental illness, not spite, that caused me to behave as I did. But a lot of people don’t listen, and they don’t believe. Some of these people are actually doctors. But present as high-functioning and you can be easily labeled as attention-seeking or worse, a malingerer.

Whatever, though. In the end, all of this is a bunch of words, and I will be aided mostly by action. And that action is learning to code. I have achieved a total of seven certificates so far, but only one of them recently – the first six were from a false start two years ago. Still, this one cert is a big deal for me, and now I am trying to figure out something I was never taught – how to set goals, and create a logical daily plan of steps to achieve them. We shall see how that goes.

In the meantime, I am doing the best I can as I can grab time to focus on it. It can be frustrating, because sometimes the free site I am using leaves important info out and then gives you a problem to do that utilizes the info they left out and it feels like you are expected to just magically “know” it. It is really easy to say, “I’m not cut out for this”, but the thing is – I am.

I am cut out for this. I believe I can do it. I do not know how long it will take. I do not know if it will result in my super-hoped-for goal of a really good job. But I am finally using my mind again, and that feels so amazing, and so right.

There is a place within each of us, no matter how stressed, no matter how crazy, where the judgement of others at long last falls away, and we feel most ourselves. The trick is finding out how to access it.

What can you do today that will help you access that place?

Share

And Then There’s Maudlin

 

I am trying to correct something that cannot be corrected.

I am a product of my experiences.

I am a product of being beaten and psychologically tortured. I am a product of being chronically bullied and belittled. I am a product of rape and ongoing sexual abuse. I am a product of domestic violence and false imprisonment. I am a product of doctors and therapists who not only did not care but actively made things worse. I am a product of unknown origins, of sealed birth certificates and shameful secrets. I am a product of the inability to properly communicate my inner life.

Sarah Silverman says that, if you are a product of your experiences, then the best way to change yourself is to change your experiences. And that makes a lot of sense. So I am trying to do that.

The present moment though, that’s the rub. And there is that inability to communicate my intrinsic experience, which I chip away at but which seems at times an insurmountable thing. This lack robs me of voice, of words. It traps me in the amber of the abstract.

When I do find that voice, which is rare, there is not of a lot of land it can claim. Because I also lack what is known as an informed witness – someone who is able to comprehend the different levels of experience, who can understand the full gravity, and who will listen, or literally bear witness.

I can’t explain why this is so important. I can only tell you that it is. It is impossible to live a full or even a half full life under the dark cloud of a traumatic past. In fact, a therapist once told me, “You will never be functional, and you will never be happy”. She was of course a terrible therapist for saying that and I never saw her again. But, even though I rebel against that statement and strive to prove it wrong, it haunts me.

How much is the mental illness, and how much is the trauma? Where is the line of demarcation in between the two? How much of the mental illness was due to brain changes caused by the trauma?

I cannot afford good therapy. I can barely afford rent. I can go to a cattle call “mental health services center” where I will be treated as though my IQ is 70 because hey, if I am poor, surely I must also be an imbecile. At such a center I will be assigned a therapist who is either an undergrad trying to log hours or a social worker who for one reason or another is unable to work in private practice and who certainly would not specialize in co-morbid conditions or the treatment of trauma. So this is my problem, and mine alone.

It is a very lonely problem to have. Perhaps that is where the import of an informed witness reveals itself. Maybe it is just enough to have someone in there with you, in that Sunken Place, so that you feel less alone.

I don’t know. And every day I see more and more that I just do not know.

I know that Sisyphus smiled as he neverendingly pushed that boulder up the hill, only to have it roll back down each time. I know that Victor Frankl was able to find a meaning to existence while captive in a death camp. So I try to smile, and I try to find meaning.

Too often, though, it gets the best of me.

I need help, and I have no idea how I will get it. And like the Sword of Damocles, over my head looms Trump’s budget, which would slash the living allowance that pays my rent, and strip me of the coverage needed to pay for my seven required medications. And I am not the only one whose life this will upturn.

If you support Trump, I’d love to hear the reasoning that explains how taking away a disabled person’s home along with their anti-psychotic medication among others Makes America Great Again. No, go ahead, please explain this to me. I’ll wait. I’d love to hear how actively psychotic people are improving our lives daily, to really understand how tax cuts for the rich outweigh human life. (Actually, if you STILL support Trump after all that has come to pass, perhaps YOU are the one who requires anti-psychotic medication. But I am not a doctor. I’m just a Person Who Wants To Help.)

Anyway. For someone with an already exaggerated sense of impending doom, this budget thing really throws a scary new angle into the parallelagram. Or panopticon, depending upon your view of the situation.

And the situation itself is the figurative landmine that I step on every morning, the corner I am painted into. It’s the rock, the hard place, and the discomforting space in between.

 

Share

Domestic Violence and TBI

So there is a new study that shows a correlation between domestic violence and Traumatic Brain Injury.  This in itself: Why does it take a study to discover that women who get hit in the head could have a brain injury? I kind of feel like this is something we should already know. That, for example, getting your head smashed against, I don’t know, say, a stucco wall might not be good for your brain. Or having a chair pulled out from underneath you so that you go flying, head first, into a hardwood floor, could possibly shake things up enough to make a difference in functioning.

They’ve known for ages that football players are suffering TBI’s. Would it not have stood to reason that anyone else experiencing a physical trauma similar to being tackled might also have injury to the brain?

This study and the apparent need for it elucidate for me why, after the accident where I was thrown from the car, no one ever thought that perhaps my brain had suffered as a result. If it took this long to figure out that getting punched in the head might hurt your brain, then it’s likely the jury is still out on accident trauma, too. Lucky me, I have had all of these experiences. Though now I would have to say I’m definitely stirred and not at all shaken, there was a time where some thoughtful medical attention to my brain may have been of some benefit. I mean, if I have tinnitus from getting punched in the ear, then surely having my head smashed against a wall did not make me any smarter.

Basically the upshot of this post is that it just seems we should have known this already. But, now that the information is out, at least the trajectory of this sort of information can progress.

If you found this page because you were searching “domestic violence” and you are in trouble: there is a number you can call. You can go to thehotline.org on your computer or smartphone, or if you are able to make a call, you can call (800) 799-7233 . If you are reading this and are in a bad situation, please tell someone. You do not deserve the abuse, and none of it is your fault, regardless of what anyone says.

Share