Holy hand grenade, I’ve been going through a time. Let’s review. A neighbor dog killed one of our ducks in our yard, never tried to make it right, and someone is shooting arrows at my side porch.
Along with those slings and arrows, I’ve had: two funerals, two stomach viruses, looking for a new SS lawyer, phone calls and paperwork, and that most Karen of 90s holdouts, faxes!
Speaking of 90s holdouts, I found a copy of the CD Bona Drag, by Morrissey. The original with the red shirt on the blue background. I had that on tape! It was five bucks at a music store. Snapped it up.
When I finally sat down to listen, I realized that every single one of the songs was a hit that would show up as the first song on a Pandora playlist. But they were all together! These iconic songs were all ordered into one entire unfolding experience. A two year journey of delicious pop, with 60s girl band throwbacks, the slyest and snarkiest of lyrics, and a smooth yet odd and expressive voice. I had never fully appreciated those songs until I heard them set in that order.
That’s what the rest of my life has been in want of: order. I’m world-renowned for my intense dislike of chaos (and people going barefoot). I needed to get my life in some form of order, and I needed to let nature dictate that order. I needed to listen to each piece of it all in its own time, in order.
I love not worrying. Worry gives me panic attacks and agita. But when needs must, at least let me take it one at a time.
The first part to call was physical. Take a shower. Clean clothes. Drink water. Eat! Your brain is hardwired to react to scarcity, or any physical discomfort. You ever get depressed when you’re sick? And you ever tried eating? It’s like magic! Your body and brain work. I also highly recommend sleep. Melatonin helps.
This can all be truly hard when you are worried or anxious or depressed. But they’re some of the first parts of myself I try to reclaim from disrepair after a shock, sickness, or emergency.
I hate that I’ve become this person, but I gotta move my body! Slowly start walking about, swing my arms, dance a little, do some gentle yoga. My body becomes a Gordian knot after a few sedentary days. Only I slowly work it out, unlike other, “greater,” Greeks. My body is screaming, “move that arse.”
While we all are forced to make quick calls, literal and figurative, most of the time, those calls can wait a day or so for us to recover. And even for us to clean our normal work and life space. I’m a big fan of dedicated spaces that are ready for whatever.
And of course: can’t ignore the call to self-soothe. I try being very kind to myself. Let myself have permission to not be top functioning. I struggle with this. I feel I should do every dreaded task at once, when I could probably put aside time every day to work on the pieces. But if I don’t stop to just do a thing that soothes my mind and body, I can’t function at all.
The sooner I get myself on my regularly scheduled program, the better. But it does take time to come back from a major life whalloping. But at least there is plenty of daylight to get things done. Plenty of long summer days to tend to myself and life.
Obviously, things are still rough going. But I’m taking it in stages. Pasito a pasito. Baby steps. Making time for fun/good for me stuff. Even stopping at that music store for no reason was a win. I also got “Viva Hate” by, Morrissey. So I’ll sit down for a proper listen in good time, and in order.
– JL ✌🏼💚💐🖖🏼
PS – Fax machines are an arcane, invasive species of communication. There is no limit on killing them.
As I recover from my abuse and trauma, I’ve spent a lot of time on forums for folks who have experienced abuse or have a Narcissist in their life. Reading the questions and experiences of these folks has been eye-opening and educational.
Did you know there are Covert Narcissists? Covert Malignant Narcissists? That Narcissistic Abusers and Borderline Personality Disorders are different? I didn’t. But now that I have explored the subject, I’d like to answer the five most common questions regarding why Narcissists, BPDs, and abusers abuse, and what to do about it.
*Note: these are similar to questions I have seen, and not actual questions and/or concerns from real individuals.
1)Why did my Narc boyfriend call it quits, date another person, then start calling me six months later like nothing happened?
Because he’s a jerk who is playing mind games with you. Block his number, and block him on social media. Seek therapy, learn to value yourself, and waste no more time on him. Get out and live!
2) Whydoes my Covert Malignant Narcissist girlfriend keep saying she needs space, then begs me to take her back?
Because she’s a selfish jerk who is leading you on by playing childish mind games. Block her number and block her on social media. Then learn to love yourself. Try seeing a therapist trained in helping folks like yourself move on, and get on with your life! Best of luck to you!
3) Why didmy Narc abuser divorce me after 4 years of marriage? What did I do wrong?
You did zero things wrong! Now that your abuser has left your life, thank your lucky stars. Block their phone number and block them on social media. Please look to your own self-care now. Be thankful that you only spent 4 years with them and not 40, or didn’t end up in a hospital or worse There are several hotlines for victims of abuse (try your local YWC/JA) that can point you in the direction of a trained trauma therapist who can help you heal, move on, and live the rest of your life as the best you possible. You may also want to speak with your own doctor. They may want to check you for physical damage. They can also give you a referral, or point you to other resources. Some states offer financial and other assistance for victims of crimes in your state. In mine it’s called the Victim Compensation and Assistance Program (VCAP). This program does not require a police report or court proceeding. Your local YWC/JA also may offer services such as therapy, housing assistance, etc. I wish you healing and the very best in your new abuse-free life.
4) How do I deal with a Narcissistic parent now that I’m a parent? My spouse can’t stand them, and doesn’t want them anywhere near our child. What should I do?
First, congratulations on the new addition to your family! Being a new parent is an enormous undertaking that will take all your patience, effort, and time. So why add to your anxieties and exhaustion by allowing a cruel and abusive grandparent to torture you and your spouse? Is that even the type of person you want around the new, fresh little person you’ve both created? Listen to your gut and your spouse’s concerns. And don’t let this person continue the cycle of abuse. Brené Brown has wonderful advice on setting boundaries in her books and Podcast. If setting boundaries doesn’t help, block their number and block them on social media. Find a doula or a local young person to help with babysitting and childcare. It’s a lot cheaper than the therapy your child will have to go through being near this toxic person. But please consider therapy for yourself. Many insurances now pay for tele-psych/therapy, which could better fit your new schedule. Learn to love yourself, and good luck to you and your spouse on your new family.
5) Why is my Narcissistic parent trying to turn my family against me, and what do I do? I feel like everyone hates me now! I love them, what should I do?
I am so, so sorry you are dealing with this. Unfortunately, most folks can have children, and that includes selfish, rigid, or abusive folks. It will never be easy to accept that your parent can’t or won’t be able to offer you the love you crave, need, and deserve. Take heart in the fact that your parent’s behavior is probably well-known in your family. I suggest blocking them on social media and their phone number as a first step. Get a good therapist trained in family trauma and abuse to help you learn that you are not to blame, and to love and cherish yourself. It may also be worthwhile to reach out to your family individually and reestablish one on one contact with them. But be warned, folks like your parent are skilled at pitting people against one another, and they may have recruited others. There’s not much you can do in that case, but do seek out support from friends and family that truly love you. And build yourself a support system with them, or a therapist, doctor, school counselor, coach, or pastor, anyone you trust. You’ll soon discover that your life will be a lot more peaceful, with room to let yourself bloom and grow. Focus on your own interests, hobbies, and life, and surround yourself with those who truly love and support you. Life is difficult, chaotic, and messy, don’t let those who make it worse into your life. And always remember, you are deserving of love, even though you may not feel that way now. Through practice and time, you will learn to stop blaming yourself, feeling unworthy, or ashamed. And grow into the beautiful, loving, and best you possible. Take care of yourself, and all the best to you in your journey.
I hope many of you find this helpful and learn to step out of the dark shadow where abuse thrives. Stop attempting to understand your abuser. And learn instead to turn the soft light of your own compassionate and loving heart on your fears, wounds, shame, your worst moments, and your most raw and painful nerve. I invite you to try this meditation from Sara Blondin’s book “Heart Minded.” It’s the 6th track, but all are both useful and healing. And from the depths of my heart, I wish you healing, love, and a joyful life.
I always liked my birthday. It’s at the end of May, near Memorial Day weekend. The Spring is just turning to Summer. The temperature is perfect, the flowers are blooming, the Sun is showing off. But last weekend felt more like early March than late May. And that was just the topper to a small, private sadness that doesn’t mean much in the big scheme. But means something to me.
It’s not the number of trips around the sun (AKA aging) that gets me down. I look at my long-lived family, and feel encouraged that there’s at least as much in front of me as behind. But, the world is wily. No one knows how much time is left on the clock. So, best to make the most of it all.
But there was a lot of pain this year. And I need to acknowledge it, lest I grow a tumor. I was denied Social Security again, and when I read why, they listed “asthma” as one of my conditions. I have asthma, but that’s not why I applied. So, asthma, anxiety, and neurological issues. But missed that my neurological issues stem from repeated minor concussions due to Domestic Violence. And the CPTSD from my life in a war zone. Because when your life, your home, your body, your feelings and experience are violently abused, you live in a warzone, and there’s no VA for it.
Social Security didn’t look at any of my psychiatric and therapeutic notes for their decision. They didn’t wait for me to submit all my evidence. And the woman who dealt with my case always sounded like I caught her mid-nap. They’ve been working from home, so she may well have been napping. She certainly fell asleep on the job dealing with my case.
On my birthday, we were chatting with the neighbors when my Alpha female Border Collie, Abbey, decided to try to take on their Alpha female Rottweiler. No one was hurt. But the man kicked my dog, twice. And said that she had bitten someone’s face, which is a damn lie, and bit of whisper down the lane gossip. She chased off a dog that was going after my chickens. I got a leash on it, brought it back to the other neighbors. It was a friend’s dog. It’s lip bled a little. I gave them my number. They’re fine. Now I get to hear bullshit gossip about my dog from a man who just kicked her. It’s still really upsetting. Kicking a dog has to be one of the lowest forms of expressing anger.
And then there was the card “from” my two year old niece. It was adorable, and I cried. But I realized that my sister has, for some time, been using the same type of boundaries my therapist recommended for my more troubling relationships. Minimum contact. And it was my Mom’s birthday soon after mine, and that was hard. I did send her a card, but it’s not easy to 1) realize that your own sister doesn’t want to speak with you while 2) you love your mother, but don’t know how to engage without being hurt. And all of it was just sad. Not an epic tragedy, just a small, sad, private pain. One more heartache amid the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.
Things were good with SO. And I got flowers, we ate oysters, and I got a few things. But Saturday I had to sleep because of a migraine. And my nightmare hollering had my dog waking me up through most of it.
I’m down. I have to appeal the Social Security decision, which can take months to a year. I need to find a new lawyer, and I didn’t click with the one my former attorney referred me to. In fact, she was an icy bitch for someone who handles Domestic and Sexual Violence cases. And I realized something I’ve suspected, that my own sister just can’t or doesn’t want to deal with me. Who knows what will happen with my Mom.
I did have a laugh, after a lot of ouchie, when a duck ripped my right thumb open. Yep, you read that right. I had to rescue one of my duckies who thought it could fly. And as I was putting it back, my dog jumped up, and the duck dug into my thumb to push off. It’s funny. Go ahead and laugh. My doctor’s office sure did. But it’s all wrapped, and I get to sport a not-creepy-at-all latex glove on my right hand. Like if Steve Martin’s dentist also did the Moonwalk. Definitely hampers my guitar playing. And I waited a few days before attempting downward facing dog. Guitar and yoga are two big coping mechanisms for me though.
I also had a few perfect gardening days to sneak in the last bits of my gardens. Which was lovely.
But I’d like to thank two people, aside from aforementioned SO. My cousin & her hubby who stopped by on my actual birthday and who I was finally able to hug! And my friend in Detroit, who called me, and we had a good long chat. Even laughs.
So, chalk this up as a recipe for a birthday that can get lost. It wasn’t my loneliest or worst. Just another small, sad non-event. I am still owed a day at the lake though.
Hope everyone is well. Sorry, not sorry for the bummer post.
Have you ever gotten a pimple that you’ve named after a person or stress? “Oh that? Why that’s ‘Newman.'” (Jerry Seinfeld sneers.)
Well, I have terrible news! There is a way to name, recognize, and work through how your body expresses your emotions. But part of it is called “exercise.”
Let’s rename this. We’ll call it “body awareness.” Does that feel better? Cool.
The abused or traumatized are more likely to live a shorter life. Drugs and alcohol, risky sex and activities, abusive relationships, and severe physical aliments such as heart disease or high blood pressure, are generally what the future looks like for those who don’t get help.
A few years back, a therapist first asked me where I feel my psychic pain in my body. And I knew just what she meant. It’s somewhere between my heart and stomach, about where the rib cage begins. I had never really thought much about it, but she knew to ask about it. Now, in my Trauma Therapy, my therapist has turned me back to focus on that place.
In the meantime, I had gotten back into yoga around the time of the Pandemic and lock downs. And I realized there was a whole bundle of issues hidden within me. Making me — keeping me — feeling utterly powerless and miserable. Which is a sure recipe to whip up a brew of depression and rage.
My new therapist was happy to learn I practiced Body Scans and yoga, and we incorporated a softening body meditation to our sessions. Either at the end of our session or the beginning. And I began to really get a sense of where I was holding myself tightly, or was stiff, even how I was sitting. I am beginning to become familiar with how my feelings are expressing themselves in my body.
And, as my yoga practice deepens, I’m growing to know my body better. What each little knot, weakness, and buldge hold. It’s also taught me I can be strong, flexible, and feel better in my own skin. And it makes me happy, proud of myself, and feel more in control. A sure-fire method to improve my mood and work through anger.
While every other medical tradition from the Romans’ “healthy mind in healthy body” to India’s Ayurvedic medicine recognizes the link between mental and physical health. We in the West see this as an epiphany. At least I did. As do the tons of wellness articles I keep stumbling upon.
But is it really surprising that you’ll feel better mentally if you feel better physically? Or vice versa?
As for me, my therapist helped me see that feeling in my stomach and name it Shame. A shame so crippling that my posture was slouched, my limbs were weak. My ass got, um, assier every moment I sat locked in frozen fear of doing anything because I was sure it would be wrong. So getting my back and core stronger, and opening my chest and shoulders more has become foundational. And I do see and feel the difference in my posture. I’ve both worked on and learned more, but I’ll leave that for another post.
I am beginning, every so gently, to learn to open up in that space where I feel the Shame that cripples me. That locks me in place. That makes me feel stuck, powerless, and pathetic. And that drives my anger. It takes patient, loving practice to soften the pain parts and strengthen the healthy me parts. To learn how to let go of the fear that holds me bound. To trust in myself enough to make a choice to do a thing, and then do it, even for a half an hour yoga session. It gave me some confidence.
I’m not prescribing yoga in particular. Any type of movement makes you aware of your body. Strengthens, unknits, and loosens. I do recommend Body Scans, though. You simply breathe as you notice each part of your body, and what you feel there. This is enough to help let go. And a useful tool for stressful moments.
There are tons of Body Scan meditations on Spotify and YouTube. I recommend trying a few. This guy’s voice sounds like Alan Rickman, and somehow that’s incredibly soothing. But find the one you like. Quiet your mind. Listen to your body. It holds your story, and your future. Hopefully a future without Newman!
*Author’s note: Yoga, exercise, and meditation won’t prevent tumors, or heal them. Maybe figurative ones. But, you know, balance. A little Western Medicine and some ancient wisdom.😉
Monty Python’s Parrot Sketch is a master class in Gaslighting. And as absurd.
Let’s pretend we’ve all lived under Commie rocks in North Korea our entire lives, and look at this famous comedy sketch afresh. See what it can teach us about Gaslighting. Shall we?
If Gaslighting is driving/convincing another person they are insane or cannot trust their own senses, thoughts and feels, then the Shop Keeper (Michael Palin) is the Gaslighter. And the Customer (John Cleese) is the Gaslightee.
Cleese returns to a pet store where he recently purchased a less than alive parrot. Cleese confronts Palin, who is sneaking a smoke behind the register and pretending to close. Cleese stops him, and explains his dead parrot issue. Palin’s Shop Keeper drives Cleese from polite customer to a ranting, shouting maniac, banging the parrot on the counter. All by simply denying that the parrot is, in spite of all proof, dead. A frustrated Cleese leaves after being offered a slug, and Palin moves into a song about wanting to be a transvestite lumber jack.
As the John Cleese in this exchange — no matter what you say, no matter how much you beat that dead parrot — you will never be in the right. And the best you’ll ever get out of this argument is the offer of a slug.
Michael Palin does not care that he sold you a dead parrot, he will do and say anything to convince you the parrot is not dead, drive you crazy trying to prove the parrot is dead, and maybe offer you a slug for your troubles. All he cares about is being a transvestite lumber jack. And, to him, you’re the thing stopping him from that dream of cross-dressing lumber jacking. And he feels no pity in making you pay for his dissatisfaction with his life. It’s YOUR fault!
There’s not much we can do about the parrot death-denying shopkeepers of the world. They will continue to sell dead parrots, and will persecute anyone who calls them out on it. It’s not their fault they never got to be a lumberjack. It’s clearly yours. No matter how much you wish them well in pursuing their Canadian dream. You’re the one annoying them with a dead parrot!
As the unfortunate purchasers of a dead parrot, the best we can do is look for that inner Graham Chapman to show up and declare our situation “entirely too silly.” Listen to that voice! He’s right. It is entirely too silly to lose your mind over a dead parrot. Everyone knows it’s shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. That it is an ex-parrot.
So what can you say to your Shop Keeper? How many times must you beat a dead parrot for someone who does not care whether they sold you a dead parrot to begin with? You don’t. Say nothing. That’s all you can to protect yourself from the crazy-making, Gaslighting Shop Keeper, apart from accepting the slug.
Just remember, it’s not your fault they never became a lumberjack in heels. It’s all too silly to continue. So don’t.
“A Shame Narrative,” my therapist called it. I call it “Ermergerd this is impossible I can’t think about it without getting agita and crying. I should probably wash all the baseboards or nap.” Then I stumbled on the picture above, and I realized I had found a safe way to approach my Shame.
Trauma therapy is beyond what I’ve ever experienced in therapy over about twenty years. It’s good I have that basis in self-knowledge, Mindfulness, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. But trauma therapy is the big leagues. It’s definitely scary. And it can be draining.
The two most important parts are an empathetic, well-trained therapist, and my desperate desire to manage the constant nightmares and other paralyzing affects of CPTSD on my life.
I won the Irish Sweepstakes in therapists. She pegged me fast. She asked about where I feel my pain in my body. And used my interest in meditation to develop a regular practice of body scans before, and sometimes later in a session. She took the bare pieces of my story, my responses to the scans and stimulus –such as the Pixar short “Float” 🥰😭😭😭😍 — and came up with Shame.
And she’s right. I’m not sure when it started, but I was very young. Possibly under 4. It’s this drop in the heart, and a burning, twisting sense of being powerless, unlovable, and utterly alone in a pitiless, dark, lonely void where no one cares, and I don’t matter at all in this world.
She said, we can use my story of those feelings to help provide a “Portal” to slowly reach through to my trauma. And then I get to write a Trauma Narrative. Huzzah? But the approach makes so much sense because the feelings around those memories are too raw for me to even go near. Even while they break into my daily life as nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or my (over or under) reactions to triggers.
But how to approach my Shame? I’ve always felt that, as long as a person experiences real, unconditional love at some early point — through a grandparent, teacher, mentor, etc — then that person will always hold that feeling. And they will have a chance. I’ve had a lot of mentors and teachers in my life, but the first and best was my Dad.
Dad loved mentoring young people. And he had many “adopted” kids. Mainly my cousins and his former students, ending up the Best Man at many marriages (six times in the case of one unlucky-in-love student who called him Dad). He was both professionally succesful, and never lost that bit of 1st Sargeant he learned in the frozen hell of the Korean war. Dad served in Truman’s Desegrated Army. It equipped him with the ability to work with and inspire others of any type. So long as you didn’t play “grab ass.” He questioned his young acolytes and listened, and questioned some more. He was genuinely interested in the thoughts of people, especially young people.
And he had that same interest in me as a growing human being. Usually we’d be doing an activity. Sky watching, driving around following the local grocery stores’ free samples schedule (Dad could usually old-lady-flirt his way to extra samples), and during art lessons. But the best times were fishing, like in the picture above.
I’ve found my way to get to the Shame by viewing my gnawing doubts, fears, anxieties, and self-loathing from the point of view of the girl my Dad saw. Dad dubbed me “Loney.” (Lone-ee) When I look back at myself as Loney, I have more sympathy and compassion for myself. I see the curious, dark eyed girl he saw and loved. And I can cast that into my future that he never saw nor will.
If I view myself as Loney, it’s a step removed from recording Jessica’s feelings of Shame. It’s my way in through that “Portal” described by my therapist. Slowly, the idea is to increase my understanding of and exposure to the most delicate pieces of myself, my experiences, my Shame. But I feel I can do that if I remember Loney and carry my father’s love for Loney in my heart.
Late February in the Northeast: The snow hasn’t time to thaw before the next storm. I’m not even trying to clear it off. I have stacks of forms to fill out, and tax records to organize. There they sit. My yoga and meditation practice were interrupted by rebellions in my sinuses and lungs. My routine is reorganizing around three separate forms of weekly Zoom therapy (Trauma, speech pathology, and vision) and PT. It’s the longest month of the year, despite what the lame-stream calendars say.
So, how not to go full Nicholson? How/where/what to do to dig out? If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or the effects of (C)PTSD dysregulation — or are simply feeling overwhelmed — I’m here to say “Do the Easiest Thing.”
When I’m literally and mentally snowed under a growing mountain of stuff I have to do, stuff that keeps me able to do those things, and the stuff I enjoy doing — it may as well be Everest. Yet it always comes back to me doing The Easiest Thing.
Let me explain. Amongst the blizzard of crap I’ve read over the course of the Pandemic regarding mental and physical health, one suggestion has stuck. Do the Easiest Thing that helps. Look around. Where are you? What can you do with the least effort and/or the least time to lift yourself up? Sounds easy, but it’s taken many a rock bottom fall for me to begin adopting this practice.
Let’s talk about the sorts of Easiest Things I do and don’t mean. Absolute #1 thing not to do? Don’t doom scroll social media. Do not read the comments on an innocuous-looking post about local vaccination sites. Don’t get into a pitched internet or personal argument. That’s not helping. Don’t do it.
That doesn’t mean your phone is off limits. But unless you open that demon device with a clear intention, best to steer clear.
Which leads me to My Easiest Thing. Music. Specifically — 🥁🥁🥁 eye rolls ready? — I listen to Morrissey/The Smiths. There’s something about his unfailing pop instincts, mixed with with that voice, and his witty/intelligent/alt-culture outsider lyrics that picks me up. He would never insist I be happy, and he shares his everyday struggles and loves and losses in a voice that always croons, floats, yodels, and growls to me afresh.
Before long, my mind gets caught up, and my body follows. I may start to sing, get up and dance, until I feel well enough to do the next easiest thing: like the dishes! All while bopping about and singing “lalalalala interesting drug!” Heck, I may wipe down the counters. I may even make or at least prep for dinner! Or sweep the disgusting floor!
Suddenly, I find myself singing in the shower. And — while hours may have passed, and I didn’t necessarily get to anything particularly pressing — I wasn’t staring at the wall or a screen. What I did was simply give myself a completely healthy mood boost that made slightly more difficult tasks seem within reach.
To be honest, sometimes that mood boost may only lead to teeth brushing or playing with doggo. But heaven knows I’m not miserable now. And that’s my bigger point about The Easiest Thing.
And that one thing, that playlist, is simply a way to bring me to present, back to at least the steady kick of Sister I’m a Poet. From foot tapping, to standing and moving isn’t too far to go. It’s just a foundation of feeling better that allows me to build up to tasks that require more effort, concentration, or presence.
You can take your own progression at any pace you please. Your easiest thing may be a shower. Or a phone call. Or having a coffee or tea break. I choose music because it only takes opening Spotify and pressing play. It also lasts, and gives my mind and body a little something to groove on.
Of course, I’m writing this because I hit another bottom, and resorted to My Easiest Thing. Hopefully, in a week or so, I may be back to my yoga, cleaning schedule, or that mountain of paperwork, or that Everest of snow (w/an assist from the sun🤞🏽). Maybe eek(!) out another blog.
Then I’ll stumble and fall, because that’s what I do! But I can fall right back into the arms of my favorite music.
What’s your Easiest Thing? How do you keep picking yourself up when you’re snowed under? Leave a comment, let me know. And ya know, maybe pour something out for Spring to hurry along.
It’s never a great day when you have to tell someone you’ve been sodomized. I feel bad saying it in this forum because it may get somebody down. But that’s why I need trauma therapy.
Rarely do we ever become so intimate with anyone that we can say “I was drugged and raped…er, sodomized.” And it’s rarer that the recipient of that info knows what to do with it. Today I met someone I hope knows what to say. It was my first day of trauma therapy.
This entire delve into better treatment for my trauma related injuries and illnesses began with a talk with my PCP. I was frustrated, and considered untreatable by two clinics in a row. Now, mind you, this is in bumblebuck, methtown, USA. I had good treatment at Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia. But twenty years of mindfulness and talk and CBT? Sure, I learned a lot, but I needed more.
So, a neurology referral from my PCP for a doctor who deals specifically with domestic and sexual violence seemed ideal. And it did open up new avenues of treatment of both my physical and mental self. Now I have my PT I do at home daily, weekly speech pathology and vision therapy to deal with those pieces. But ideally, my goal was to get in with a trauma therapist.
I finally had my first Zoom session with her today. It was exhausting. Left me tired, shaky, and shaken. Because the sodomy is part of my extended history of trauma, I need to share it. Along with reporting the physical, verbal, and emotional abuses of X, etc.
Even I don’t want to talk about these things. But for the first time I’m approaching therapy honestly. I love to please and charm, but — while it might let me temporarily deal with social situations — it’s not any way to deal with therapy or complicated and difficult subjects.
So I began hard work today. Deal with every abuse, every injury mental or physical, so that maybe I can heal. I cannot survive anymore with my emotions a raw, raging nerve. And boy, believe me I try. I’ve become a yoga addict, I meditate, I keep a journal, I eat healthy. I generally shower. Do my hair. And that takes hours: just to feel normalish and OK.
So, this trauma therapy is a new thing. I’m still not quite recovered from my experience of my session today. And it will occur every week. Along with the speech and vision. And the check-ins with my neurologist’s assistant. As a beautiful heart I know through social media told me, she prays for strength. Wish the Force be with me, friends. This ain’t easy.
Anger dominated 2020. Yes, there is sadness, fear, anxiety, and loneliness, but rage ruled the US this year. Rage over Coronavirus, rage over the deaths of black Americans. Under a leader consumed in the fire of rage, we only speak in anger. But whose anger matters? Depends on how much you matter.
Sometimes described as “anger turned in on oneself,” Depression is the sense that you are the problem. You don’t have the rightbe angry. My abuse taught me that I didn’t deserve to be angry. That I was so worthless, I had no right to feel what I felt. Or to even think as I thought. As a consequence, that anger has built to Vesuvian proportions. And then I blow. Only recently, have I even begun to address this issue. Only recently have I realized I have a right to be angry at all.
2020 was also a year of skyrocketing suicide and overdose deaths — Deaths of Despair. The only way to prevent those deaths involves breaking down the barriers in social status that keeps the voices of the desperate and despairing from ever being heard.
The only forum I have to express my anger is this blog. I am literally nothing in the grand scope of human value based solely on money. What status my earlier work has gained is losing its lustre over the years. And I can barely speak what is in my mind and my heart. But I HAVE to write now.
I hope 2020 is the low point in American life that brings attention to those of us slipping through the gaping holes in our social safety net. We live with the end results of 40 years of “Trickle On Economics.” And the attitudes that accompany it. The poor are poor because they want to be. The government should have no role in mental health, or any healthcare. The ruinous war on drugs. The “tough love” of the 90s — a time that fully endorsed the shaming a 22 yr old woman who was seduced by a President, while those with mental health and drug and alcohol issues were locked out from their families. And now, Poverty and Food Insecurity has reached the lower rungs of what remains of our Middle Class. The Sheriff is knocking on the door to evict. The Repo man. The mortgage companies. While our government does NOTHING to help.
If you still think that you are beyond the “trivial” fears for food or shelter, you are holding onto the greatest American lie. That with hard work, and persistence, things will work out. The world is random, and you’re as subject to the whims of fortune as much as anyone. I hope you’ll never know how much.
I have persisted in trying to help myself. I’ve encountered sexism, and the stigma of poverty and mental illness in every area of my life. And meet a general attitude of “I’m alright Jack. Screw you,” at the best of times. At the worst, silence. And I know I’m not the only one who is barely keeping it together. But that doesn’t help anyone.
I practice the self care. I practice meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. I eat healthy. I get outside when I can. I find ways to make do. And, yes, I am grateful for what I do have. I’m not some Main Line lady keeping a Gratitude Journal whilst holding a vase and wondering if it brings me joy. I’m thankful I have 194$ in food stamps for the month, and somewhere to live. How small and meager must that which I’m grateful for become? “I’m grateful I found rubber glue to fix my shoes.”
I have had enough of those who pretend to be there to help. Especially in mental health care. As an experiment, I joined a Facebook group of psychiatrists and psychologists. One man suggested that I had “sand in my vagina” and that I might be pregnant. Another woman accused me of not wanting to work. Ya know, because having $1.11 to your name is SO MUCH FUN! Constantly begging reluctant providers to sign forms to allow me to keep Medical Assistance and SNAP, filling out paperwork to prove I’m poor and need help. This is such a joy I should put it in a gratitude journal!
In the end, I was kicked out of that forum when I mentioned how easy it would be to include those providers’ statements in Google reviews of their businesses. Silly me.
I know my voice means nothing. I know I mean nothing. I know I’ve been taught that. And, literally had it banged into my head. To the extent that I have traumatic brain damage, and crowns for front teeth. I know that everything I say is construed as an attack by those I love. I know I’m annoying and getting in everyone’s way. That no one knows how to handle me. And even my interests are considered beneath contempt. I mean, you know your thoughts are worthless when an interest in history is tantamount to criminal behavior.
Yes, I’m angry. And very sad. And problematic. But I know, simply as a human being, that I am worthy of better treatment. I’m simply not important enough to be cared about. And I’m not alone. So be truely grateful you can become infuriated by a state wide restaurant restriction. Be thankful that a late Amazon delivery is your main cause of distress. Or maybe look deeper, and see what’s really upsetting you.
All this time I cling because I have no one else to go to. I have no where else to go. Submit or literally be left in the cold. That’s what’s enraging me. Too bad I’m not important enough for it to matter.
I belong to a high risk group. Not for Coronavirus, the other Pandemic. The Pandemic Nicholas Kristof wrote about in WhoKilled the Knapp Family? This killer Pandemic has lowered the life expectancy of Americans by a full year. The best name I’ve found to describe this American holocaust is “Deaths of Despair.”
Deaths of Despair include suicides, and deaths from drug or alcohol related causes. They were at record highs before the first case of Covid-19. And, as moratoriums on evictions end, states struggle to provide extra Unemployment Benefits, and millions of Americans stare down a bleak and uncertain future, you’d think mental health professionals would be in high gear to help. And you’d be wrong.
We are not humane. We are barely a society. But don’t tell your therapist. The United States is none of your business. In the face of the articles, the facts, the statistics, mental health professionals stare into the face of human misery, and tell you to keep a gratitude journal. You must give up your personal convictions and accept that you are both responsible for your own happiness, but you have no control over the world.
I do take the time to be grateful. It is useful to think about pleasant moments to break the interminable limbo of loneliness and suffering, to mark time during the Pandemic. And my eyes cannot stop searching for beauty amidst the squalor, the violence, the pain. But humanity has limits.
Eli Weisel, author of Night, recounts his first experience of the Auschwitz death camp as a young teen. The babies disappearing into wreaths of smoke. The disinterested SS guards indicating “Left” to slave labor until death, and “Right” to women and children condemned to the infernos. He and his father were ordered “left.” His mother and sisters, “right.” He speaks of the death of the boy he once was, yet still inhabiting his body. And he marks the death of God in his heart. His eventual resentment for the father he must work harder to keep alive. And his feeling of liberation upon his father’s death.
Weisel’s story represents the second chapter of Anne Frank’s diary. The two were about the same age when they were sent to the camps. And while everyone loves to quote a 15 yr old girl’s belief that all people are essentially good. Nobody seems keen to acknowledge that she and her family died a pointless death of unimaginable, dehumanizing suffering. That all young people want to believe in goodness, to imagine their future as beautiful, full of love and the standard of happiness due to all human beings, and their own power to cause change. That’s simply what young people believe.
If Anne Frank had continued her diary, it may well have read much more like Weisel’s tale. Or the tales of North Korean camps where human beings fight over a piece of corn in human feces. Or of the Chinese who were reduced to hoarding dead babies for food during the Japanese occupation and civil war.
But not here. Never here. Not in America, the nation that helped to liberate both Europe and Asia from those two brutal regimes. The country to which the poor, repressed, war weary and hungry have turned for 300 yrs. Here we are responsible for our own success. Here we are the guardians of our own happiness. Here, to fail in any respect, is your fault.
I think of upper-middle class ladies “decluttering” their homes by holding objects in their hands to see whether they still “bring joy.” While most of us make do with duct taped appliances, buckets to catch leaks, wood glue, broken screens, and only throw a thing out when it’s ticked you off enough.
If you are fortunate to have a place to put your things: an apartment, a home. If you can afford food from the grocery store, or use the discounted canned goods store, or a small garden, or a food bank.
I saw a phrase recently that captured the dilemma many Americans find themselves in now. “The rent eats first.” It describes to what extent people will go without enough or any food to avoid homelessness. What objects bring you joy in your group shelter? Your street corner?
Placing responsibility for happiness on the individual in crisis mirrors the American insistence that access to good schools, child care, healthcare, decent pay for one’s labor bear nothing on an individual’s ability to achieve in life. It’s all on you.
This insistence lives beside the common therapeutic response I have heard for the last four years. And has endured throughout the Pandemic, the mass economic ruin, the constant march of new names — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, Ahmaud Arbery — the anger, the violence, the hurricanes. The man at the top who blames his failures on a former President, a would-be President, and a woman who ran for President. He takes no responsibility. So those of us in crisis? We must bear the responsibility.
And worse: we are told we must accept that we have no control. I thought “We the People” were this nation’s true governors. That the folks in the halls of power were “public servants.” And I don’t even see an exclusion of the mentally ill among our Constitution’s rankings of whose lives matter. Three-fifths a white life if you’re black, no vote for most citizens, but nothing about PTSD.
The conventional wisdom of not placing one’s happiness in the hands of another was written by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Yet he took on the happiness of others as his duty. He was the Emperor. He spent decades fighting a virulent contagion in the Empire. His wisdom is acknowledging that, yes, we should not tie our happiness to the approval of others, and that even he had limits to controlling life. But he also recognized his responsibility as a leader to protect, to ease suffering, and foster the happiness of the millions of Roman citizens that lived as far as England, North Africa, and all the way to Iraq. The dinarii stopped at his traveling writing desk.
Instead, America’s mental health system has fully embraced Trumpism. If you are struggling, if you are sick, if you are in crisis, it’s your fault. Following the “lead” of President “Blame Obama,” I have endured “therapy” that has asked me to empathize with racists. To understand their fears. I asked for another therapist immediately, and was soon ejected from the program under threat of being physically restrained and committed.
That’s modern therapy. It’s the male doctor who told me that who was President should be the least of my concerns. That instead I should work on my “anger issues.” I don’t know if he realized how much he challenged my commitment to nonviolence in that moment. My friend calls that feeling “stabby.”
I often think of the episode of The Walking Dead in which Rick is forced to behave like the”Walkers” (zombies) in the show. He and his son have been kidnapped, and one man is attempting to rape his boy. So he uses the only weapon he has left, and tears the throat out of his son’s would be rapist with his teeth. He was reduced to the tactics of the non-human to fight the human.
It’s not a far step from Eli Weisel’s feeling of freedom upon the death of his father by SS batons. The journey from human being to beast is not far. The crushing powerlessness that poverty and violence mixed with mental illness causes cannot be alleviated by “just following orders.” The casual indication of “Left” and “Right” to the gas chambers echoes the “it is what it is” policy of the US government. And reminds me of the grey, back-stabbing, fluorescent lit hell described by C.S. Lewis.
Government policies are harming my mental health and sentencing myself, with millions of others, to a life of powerlessness, loneliness, and eventually to crisis and despair. I have every right to be concerned over how public policy affects my life. I didn’t give up my rights when I entered therapy, or fell into poverty, or needed government assistance.
The step from “gratitude” journals, being told to accept you have zero control, while being tasked with responsibility for a spiral into crisis, to fighting other human beings for a piece of corn stuck in human shit is not that far. And it’s no wonder so many Americans are opting out of that false choice by taking their own lives. It’s the one act of personal freedom left to far too many.
The mental health community is on the hook for its embrace of Trumpian notions of dehumanization, fear, and lack of empathy. It reflects his dog-eat-dog worldview, and lack of concern. It belies more about the death of society and values more than any evangelical Christian’s concerns. It’s a betrayal of the social compact that demands our rights end where another’s begin. And violates the one rule above all others, to love and treat others as you would thyself, no exceptions.
A society is a living thing. But we can only access the benefits of living together, if we also accept our responsibility for one another — for the whole. American society is dying. And it is a death of despair.