Trauma Spilling Out Into My Dreams

*****Trigger Warning. I talk about mental illness, sexual abuse and suicide.*****

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I have been in this current PTSD episode since July of last year. Anyone who has PTSD will probably say that living with PTSD is much like living in a war zone, especially when you are in trigger mode. Often times you can’t control the flooding of emotion from your traumatic experiences. One example are flashbacks. I have had moments where I’m back to the root of my pain. For example, the cabin where I was molested. When I flashback I lose all sense of time and I time travel back to the past. I’m back to that cabin. The imagery is so vivid that I could probably paint and exact replica of the way the cabin looked. Everything from the musty smell that comes from old cabins to the band playing at the club house. I can hear and sense the wind sweeping through the window in the bedroom where it all happened. A lot of times I relive some of the aftermath of the trauma. Like going to the shower to wash off the filth or walking up to my parents door to tell them what happened and never did. Finally to the couch that I slept in each night after you know happened and he went to bed. Someone once told me that PTSD is like opening a door to escape from the danger and each door you open leads you back to the danger. There is no escaping it. I live in that world constantly.

So you can imagine how troubling that all is when you experience it. The last six months have been hell. I’m finally at the root of the fallout. A nuclear bomb tore my being apart and I tried to deal with the best way I could as a kid. That meant putting the horrible feelings into a box. Locking it and hiding it so good that I didn’t even remember there was even a box in the first place. Much like in Wreck it Ralph when King Candy/Turbo hides Vanellope’s code so that he can take over and erase her memory. That’s essentially what an abuser does. Which meant hiding the fallout behind a candyland of my own. So much sugary sweet that it would rot your mouth out. Eventually the Cy-Bugs will start to eat away at the candy facade to hunt you down. Since my Mom died in 2012, the veil between the two worlds has been lifted and I have been on the run ever since.

During this last year, I have worked hard to cope with the aftermath. I’m learning to not let the trauma swallow me whole like it’s done in the past. Which means not pushing away the horrible events and the feelings that result of the bad events. In order to heal, you must relive these horrible moments as an adult. Now when I flashback to events like the abuse I allow myself to feel the pain and let me tell you there isn’t anymore gut punching that that. Especially when it’s related to my Mom dying or anything related to the emotional abuse from my father. Every bad feeling finds its way to the surface like the Cy-Bugs and I must blast each one away. This episode is different than any in the past because I’m triggered by every trauma in my life. So you are talking about four big traumas in my life. In the past, an episode was related to only one trigger. The last big PTSD breakdown was in 2004-2005 and that was related to the childhood sexual abuse. Now it’s everything. No longer can I run from the trauma and there are a million Cy-Bugs ready to kill me.

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If you don’t have PTSD it might be difficult to understand what it’s like. I describe it like constantly feeling in danger. Like the predator is stalking you and waiting for the right moment to rip your jugular apart. It’s a war zone from which you can’t escape. At any moment the opposition could throw a bomb your way. Friends and family become strangers, and strangers become enemies. You can’t trust anyone, including yourself. Your primary goal in these situations is to stay alive, which means hiding any way you can. One way I do this is to isolate in my home. Many times the predator is at my back door, determined to track me down. Even the faint sound from my breath could tip him off, so I have to stay frozen. There is nothing more scary than having to live in those life threatening moments again. Many of these situations I don’t realize that I’m in the past. It’s only been the last few years that I have started to sense them earlier on. In the past, I would get triggered and not realize that I was triggered. I would get very depressed and weeks later I start to realize something happened. Then I realize that I have been triggered. Most the time I don’t even know what has triggered me.

That’s is different from this current PTSD episode. I know exactly when I’m triggered because they are played out like I’m watching a movie at the theater. So I spend my waking hours trying to battle all the Cy-Bugs. I have use my coping techniques to destroy each predator, one bug at a time. I have to remind me that I’m no longer in danger and I have escaped that traumatic place. I tell myself that it’s not my fault at all. That I’m lovable and the reason the person hurt me is because of something they are lacking. I use to think it was my fault. That because my child self couldn’t find a reason why someone would hurt me (that was supposed to love and protect me), it meant that inside something was wrong. That meant believing that I was unlovable. Too emotional. Too much. My light was used against me and I was brainwashed into believing that my light was too blinding. So I extinguished it and grew up in darkness. The darkness has ate away my soul and poisoned my veins, and now it’s a do or die situation. I have been the closest to the trauma killing me than ever before. In January, I wrote a suicide note and had a plan. So I am in “Danger, Will Robinson” mode. The fire alarms are blaring and I can’t find out a way to put out the fires but I’m trying.

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This all goes out the window, when my trauma spill out into my dreams. The Cy-Bugs have burrowed so deep that they have reached my subconscious. They are trying to kill me from the inside out, which is another Disney movie. We can only have one metaphor at a time. So I’m not going down that road. Anyways I have started to have PTSD nightmares. There not your typical boogie man nightmares either. I re-enact the trauma, like it’s Unsolved Mysteries, but in new ways. For example, I will have nightmares where my Mom dies in new ways. She never dies in the hospital. One night I dreamed that both my parents died when we went to Disney World, which is one of the few wonderful moments from my childhood. I loved our trip to Orlando, as it was a dream of mine to go to Disney. So to have my wonderful memories turned into nightmare is just cruel. Hiding trauma, pain and insecurity is much like putting air into a balloon. That balloon can only take so much before it finds relief any way it can. So it will either explode or it will go flying across the room, like a chick with its head cut off. The Cy-Bugs have found the trap door to my soul and now are torturing me through my dreams, which you absolutely can’t control. My dreams are so vivid and real, that it feels like I’m awake when I’m enduring the dreams. It’s like I have an out of body experience. I’m awake watching the dream on the big screen. It reminds me of shows like Grey’s Anatomy when they have viewing windows into surgery rooms so students can watch surgeries. I get to watch my guts being ripped apart, every single time.

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Each time I wake up, I feel like I’m dying. I haven’t felt a more horrible feeling than that. I can’t even begin to describe it. It’s like someone has put me in a giant can and shaked me about. I’m dizzy and disoriented. Time comes to a screeching halt. I can feel the insides being ripped apart one piece of flesh at a time. I spend the nights having my guts punched repeatedly. It’s like I have amnesia when I wake up and I forget all my coping mechanisms. The world that we no is gone and I forget all my coping skills. I lose all sense of reality. So the first few hours are hell, as I slowly wake up from the trauma. So the dreams where my Mom dies I relive the true feelings I felt the morning she died. I have had so many PTSD nightmares related to my Mom’s death that I could write a book. Of all the traumas, that was the most horrific. It almost destroyed me. Since 2012, I haven’t been able to bounce back from a nervous breakdown.

The dreams are non-stop. There isn’t a night that I go without a PTSD nightmare. They stopped momentarily when my psychiatrist put me on Prazosin, which is for PTSD dreams. That didn’t last long and the nightmares returned. I’m at a fairly high dose too. This morning I awoke to another PTSD dream. During the night I woke up, like I usually do and I was relieved to that regular, non-scary dreams. Finally some relief, or so I thought. I laid back down and the Cy-Bugs returned. This nightmare was related to the rejection from the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally. They all came together to confront me on how embarrassing it was for them that I have been living this way. I’m supposed to hid my pain and pretend like nothing happened. Which means being like everyone else and hold down a job. I haven’t had too many positive people in my life. There was one person who always loved and supported me, no matter what. Everytime we’d have a family function I would always gravitate to my lesbian aunt. She could see me for who I was and never judged me. She was my safety net. Prior to this hospitalization I have only had one person ever visit me and that was during my first hospitalization in 2000 when I first started to deal with the childhood sexual abuse. I can remember that moment very clearly today. After that visit, I never had any friends or family visit me during my other hospitalizations. My hospization in January I finally had a friend come visit me, who surprised me. I had always dreamed of having a visitor. Each time I would watch friends and family come visit their loved ones, and no one would ever come for me. This time someone did and I was pure joy and happiness.

Even though my relationship with my Mom was complicated, she loved me deeply. In the end, she was only one of the few who stuck it out. When she died I lost that resource and the world became a dark, dangerous place. I no longer had my superhero to come rescue me. She was murdered in front of me, like Bruce Wayne in Batman. Last year I lost one of the remaining people in my life who was light. My aunt gave up on me and rejected me finally. It broke my heart as I love her deeply. This time the person chose to leave me, unlike my Mom dying. I was too broken for my Aunt and she could no longer deal with my damager. I should point out that I rarely reached out to her for help and when I did it was just sending her a message asking her opinion on something. I never cried on her shoulders and she didn’t really have to live around my trauma but she was judging me from the sidelines and she wasn’t ever at the games. I was deleted off facebook and blocked. She ignored my messages wondering what I did to deserve this. I was erased and it destroyed me. So this dream was related to that and my heart was broke last night, all over again.

I’m alone with my pain, grief and sorrow. There isn’t a more horrible feeling than that. It’s like floating away into outer space. Eventually you float so far that all you can see is darkness. The black hole finally swallows you whole. The only thing surrounding you are all the angry, evil voices inside your head.

I just want relief. I live in pain during the days and that only intensifies when I sleep. Many nights I have multiple ptsd dreams about different traumas. One night I had the worst PTSD dreams ever. One dream was related to my Mom dying and the other was the sexual abuse. The two main traumas in my life. I woke up dying. If I didn’t have therapy in a couple hours it probably would have killed me. That’s how intense the dreams were.

I’m getting to the point where I’m just lost. I’m desperate for them to go away and it doesn’t appear that they will anytime soon. I can’t take a higher dose of the PTSD med because of my blood pressure dropping to dangerous levels. Which means I’m stuck with my dreams. The only thing I can control is the aftermath and I’m doing the best I can. In some ways I have mastered them but not really. I have just gotten better on coping with them. They still hurt like hell, that hasn’t changed, but the time period isn’t as long usually. They are intense enough that I’m exhausted. This morning I woke up feeling so tired. Not again, I thought. I had jinxed myself by thinking I was going to have a night just living with Freddy Krueger. Nope, the devil was there instead.

What worries me is that eventually I will get to a point where they nightmares will eat away at my conscious and finally kill me. I’m fighting so hard to keep the Cy-Bugs at bay but my defenses are low and my army is now just me. Right now my coping skills are whispers and I’m holding onto them for dear life. I will say that the hours I’m awake have started to get a bit better. I have started to enjoy some of my days and I have started to blossom a little bit. I’ve become less scared and have started to want to leave the house. I have more energy than I have in a long while. Which means keeping up with chores better, though right now I’m rather behind. I can only take it so long before I have to start cleaning. I know that these are good signs.

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I feel myself slipping and that scares the hell out of me. One of the PTSD dreams last week was related to my Father hurting me. I spiralled into a deep depression. Probably the worst in years. I wasn’t suicidal. I was just in complete darkness weighed down by the pain. I was sluggish and lethargic. Up to my neck in muck, with poisonous fog all around. This time I knew what had caused the spiral and was able to process it with my therapist. I have been able to recover mostly and that’s progress. I guess what troubles me about these spirals is that they will eventually hit the bottom like I did in January. This was very close. I know the next time I might not be as fortunate and might be successful at ending my life. I feel like I’m racing for time, not knowing when I will finally drown in the trauma.

So while I have become good at coping with my waking hours, I can’t control my nightmares and they are not giving up. They are seeping into every waking hour and I keep batting them away. I’m just desperate for some rest. I want to be able to move forward and these fucking nightmares keep trying to pull me under. Leave me alone. Today was one of the first days where I had a more fuck it attitudes towards my nightmares. I have tried to escape (flight) them, and I have certainly been frozen, now that remains is fight. If they won’t stop then I’m going to kill every last one of them. So as scary as all of this is and I live in constant fear, I’m not letting the pain and trauma win. To do so is to give up control to everyone who has caused me harm. Nope. Not going to happen anymore. You are not worthy of my anger, pain and sorrow. It is you that is lacking what you fear in me. My light can’t be estinugused and you tried with all your might. The only thing that it’s done is made me stronger. I have come to realize that not only am I unstoppable but unbreakable as are. So have at it mother fucking PTSD dreams. I’m ready for you know, with a baseball bat in hand. I’m determined to conquer my dreams. It’s a do or die situation. This is the final batter and I will not give up until I succeed.

It’s so easy to only see the failures. I’m learning to see the victories. Here are my wins so far:

  • I have been in therapy since 2012
  • On psych meds since 2012
  • Escaped homelessness
  • Have my own apartment by myself
  • I finally have a psychiatrist
  • I have a case worker
  • I have not missed a therapy appointment and go no matter what
  • Lost nearly 90 lbs
  • Started to take the bus again
  • Back to working on Dragzilla, my comic book
  • Using my grounding exercises
  • Being honest with myself
  • Starting to process the deep wounds
  • Using mental health lifehacks, to my life easier
  • Came out as Trans
  • In the process of take hormones
  • Dealt with the loss of my Mom
  • Working on overcoming the constant need to please people
  • Working on self care
  • Cutting out people in my life who are not good for me
  • Loving myself
  • Starting to make friends
  • Going to my trans support group
  • Getting help when I need it, like being hospitalized
  • Taking risks like making new connections
  • Being myself and not hiding my light
  • Not taking things personal. What others feel about me is not my business.
  • Finally have my independence
  • Stability for the first time ever. I no longer have to live in fear of losing my housing due to the inability to pay my rent or due to someone else. I live alone and no one can tell me what to do. I can leave my apartment messy. I can cook in the middle of the night. I can sleep in until afternoon and no one can say a damn thing.
  • Starting to blog again
  • Taking steps to not relapse. Like ensuring I take my meds with pill packs and delivery of my meds right to my apartment.
  • Advocating for myself and letting the professionals in my life what I need. Liking getting rides to appointments from my caseworker. Otherwise I might not have gone.
  • Coming up with an action plan with my therapist, when I’m not safe. I send her a text saying 911, if I’m going to kill myself and she will call 911.
  • I had a sculpture in an art show in NYC. A fight foot tree made out of eyewear material
  • Had a rose sculpture at Art Prize in Grand Rapids that got me the sculpture commission in NYC.

Until this year I wouldn’t have been able to recognize all these wins. The smallest crumble will eventually make a cookie. I have come so far and I’m back on track. I’m near the finish line I just have to keep moving forward. Do what I need to do, when I need to do it. Survive the storm. Eventually it will pass. They always do. That’s one of the few constants in my life, having them eventually end. Now I’m preparing better for each one and putting to place action plans to keep myself safe.

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So as tough as last night was, I won this battle. It didn’t really take me under. I felt horrible for about 15 minutes and then started to process it by writing this post. Other’s reality is not my own. So my family can judge me for my mental illness, that’s their right but that is not my truth. They can’t take away my triumphs. They just can’t handle my guatemalaness. (That’s a Birdcage joke)

They weren’t there for me during my bad times. Therefore they won’t be there for my successes. This time that’s my choice, not theirs. I deserve nothing but the best. I am going to use my light to help other people. I have value in this world and am going to only seek out people who want to be in my life, and will make an effort to want to see me. My differences are my strengths, like my artistic ability with my comic book.

So I’m on my way and screw my PTSD dreams. I’m working on healing the wounds one trauma at a time. Eventually the ptsd dreams will just be a regular nightmare. I will wake up and be like wow that was a crazy nightmare, and move on with my day. I won’t even feel bad about it. Dreams are just dreams, they are not based on reality. I haven’t been able to see that this year but I’m learning to. One ptsd dream at a time.

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A Heavy Heart

So tonight I have a heavy heart, as I am reminded that there are many sad and lonely people in this world… many of them who are dealing with their pain with various addictions such as drugs, alcohol, etc.

Some may wonder what causes a person to turn to suicide or overdosing?  Often times there are warning signs that people either ignore, don’t see or just play off as nothing to serious. Some people don’t want to get involved or just feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or do…

What causes people to not take a stand for the people they love? Why has our society gotten away from taking care of each other? Out of sight, out of mind…

Asking for help is just a luxury that many people don’t have the ability to do. It is like drowning in water and not being able to reach for the life preserver because it’s too far away. The same implies to reaching out for support. You either feel you don’t deserve the help, feel like you will be judged or just don’t have the courage to ask for help. The deeper you are in that hole, the less likely you will get help.

I was there four months ago. I knew I needed help and was tired of feeling miserable but didn’t have the resources to get the help… I was also deeply depressed which altered my thinking and rationale. I’m thankful that I have never picked up additions to alcohol or drugs because those who do struggle even more. That’s not to say that I don’t self medicate because I do but my drug is food… and sometimes even sex… Thankfully you can’t overdose on food or sex, though you can find yourself in a dangerous situation with both addictions.

In research it’s been shown that gay men are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their pain, as well as suicide… All it takes is growing up in a non-supportive family for you to grow up feeling less. You constantly find yourself trying to run away from it all but you never are successful from shaking off the pain. So you learn to turn to anything you can to drown out the pain.

Personally for me, it’s never that I want to die… I just want the suffering to stop… and when you don’t think that it ever will end, that’s when you start to become reckless with your thoughts and actions… Whenever I hear about someone committing suicide or dying from an overdose, I wonder could they been saved? Sure there is the thought that if someone wants to die, there is nothing that you can do… but what about before they hit rock bottom? People don’t become suicidal overnight, there are many things that lead up to them killing themselves.

As someone whose dealt with depression most of my life, when you need and want help often times there is a lot of red tape and barriers to getting the help you need and deserve… Being gay can certainly add to those barriers. Unless you live in a big city, there are few options for getting help if you are gay including if you find yourself homeless. Sure if you have insurance and money then it’s easier to get the help but many people who are struggling have neither. It’s sad we live in a world where health and well being are associated with money. I believe it shouldn’t cost a dime to stay alive.

If you see someone struggling, in trouble, don’t wait for them to reach up for a helping hand… by then it may be too late… reach down and help them up… Be their rock. Give them the support they need. Show them love, care and compassion. There are so many people out there that still can be reached. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of this world and we often lose sight of what’s important.

I think the more we try to better ourselves with technology, education, etc we become less human… Individualism is important but so is community. There are so many people in this world who are hurting and feel so alone. Do you stand by and let them hurt/die alone… or will you take action and be there for them when they need someone the most. You may be the difference between someone living and someone dying.

This world needs love… and lots of it…

When Somebody Loved Me

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When somebody loved me,

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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And when I was sad,

She was there to dry my tears

And when I was happy,

So was she

When she loved me

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Through the summer and the fall

We had each other, that was all

Just she and I together,

Like it was meant to be

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And when I was lonely,

She was there to comfort me

And I knew that she loved me

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So the years went by

I stayed the same

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She began to drift away

I felt alone

Still I wait for the day

When she’ll say I will always love you

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Lonely and forgotten,

I’d never thought she’d go away

Wishing she would smile at me and hold me just like she used to do

Like she loved me

When she loved me

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When somebody loved me

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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Death Becomes Us All

As much as we try to hide from it, death is inevitable. When you are younger it is easier to hide from it, especially if you haven’t ever had to face the death of a loved one. As you become older you are forced to face it when people you know start to die. Though regardless the number of deaths that have hit home it never makes it any easier to deal with.

I remember my first experience with death when my grandfather passed away in 1986. I was ten years old. I can remember his funeral very clearly. I can also remember watching everyone cry and wonder what it all meant. It was almost like I was watching a movie. I wasn’t particularly close with my grandfather and really didn’t understand what death meant at that early age.

It wasn’t until I was twenty that I experienced someone else dying. This time it was my Aunt Karen who had cancer. While we didn’t really get a chance to see each other that often, she was someone whenever I saw her I was happy. I can remember she had bright red hair and we always were able to joke with each other. It was also my first time dealing with Cancer. It didn’t take me very long to realize how horrible of a disease it was.

The last time I saw my Aunt alive was about a month before she passed away. It was very important for me to visit her before she passed. I knew I had to see her one last time. I wasn’t prepared to see her in the shape she was. Her skin was yellow and her stomach was severely bloated, even her hair had faded to a dull red. I could see that her life was being slowly drained out of her by the Cancer and chemotherapy. I remember bringing her white daisies. I was told regardless where the vase was put in her room, the blooms would grow towards her.

When it came time to say my goodbye at her showing it was extremely difficult to face her. I can remember my Mom having to walk with me up to her casket. I was so afraid. When I walked up to her sleeping so peaceful I envisioned her waking up. I am not sure if it was a hallucination or some spiritual connection but I really saw her getting up. All I know is that it severely spooked me.

Later that year her husband, my uncle, passed away… He also had cancer.

All these deaths were expected, as they were sick. It wasn’t like it was any easier but it at least prepared you for the idea. The next death I encountered was my Aunt Fran in 1999. I was in my early twenties by then. I can remember that day very clearly. My Mom and I were out shopping for Halloween decorations for our family party coming up. Our family tradition was to have a big Halloween party every year with a haunt as part of the festivities.

As we pulled up my father met us at the door and said that something had happened with my Aunt and that they rushed her to the hospital by ambulance. I don’t remember what happened next other than that my Aunt had passed away of an aneurism. There was nothing that they could have done, it was quick and sudden, and she was gone.

This was the first time I really felt a high level of grief and of course shock because it was so unexpected and sudden. This was the first time I realized how fragile life was and how there was no guarantee for tomorrow. It also hit close to home because if someone close to me could die, so could my own mother. At the time I couldn’t imagine what my cousin was going through losing her mother at such a young age, she was only 50. Of course now I know…

My Mom and Aunt were close so it was particularly hard on her. It was tough to see her in deep pain. I was pretty close to my Aunt and I can remember every time she called our house she was always giving me a hard time. After she died it dawned on me that she would never give me a hard time again, and that made me extremely sad.

My Aunt Fran was the first person close to me that had died and I felt the harsh sting of grief. After her death we didn’t have another Halloween party for many years. Her death changed the family and it was never the same.

Five years would go by without any more deaths. As I grew older I realized it was only a matter of time before another death would take another loved one away. The next death was my Grandfather from my father’s side. We weren’t as close to his side of the family as we were with Mom’s family. I can remember feeling a sense of loss of getting to chance to get to know him better and never getting a chance to do so. He was also really the only grandfather that I was somewhat close to. My other grandfather passed away so young, that I really don’t have too many memories of him. Plus he was very sick the last couple years of his life.

So I also grieved over the loss of my last grandfather. He was the closest to a positive father figure for me. I have fond memories of him and my grandmother taking me up to their cottage on Lake Manistee in Kalkaska. Every time I would see him he was always so warm and jolly. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw him.

The next death really brought into question my own mortality when my Cousin BJ passed away at the age of 23 in 2006. At the time I was living in Florida. Again I can remember that day very clearly. My Mom called me to tell me the news. When she said his name beeg (that was his nickname), I thought she said Paige. Which set me in a state of panic because she is my niece and was only four years old at the time. I will say that after that moment, how I looked at death completely changed.

I can remember feeling so helpless being so far away from my family and wanting to just be with them. It felt like I was a million miles away. I wasn’t able to get a flight back home until the next day. Living so far away you lost the luxury of rushing back home in an emergency.

This was the first time someone around my age had died. BJ was someone I grew up with and while as adults we weren’t very close, it was a tough loss to deal with. He was someone I shared a decent amount of time with between birthday parties, family vacations, holidays and various occasions. It was extremely sad and tragic how young he was. It was also tragic that he was just starting to get his life back together.

After his death I became to fear death more to the point where I would panic when my loved ones were sleeping. I can remember countless times checking to see that my Mom was still breathing or panicking when she was sleeping thinking she had died. My biggest fear in life was losing my Mom. I honestly felt like we were invisible. I can remember thinking that God wouldn’t take my Mom early because she was a good person and so were my sister and I. Boy was I wrong…

A few years ago I started to force myself to prepare for the loss of my Mom. I can remember out of the blue starting to think about it. Now I realize something or someone was preparing me for that dreaded, awful day. While I began to prepare mentally I still thought my Mom would live to an old age.

You know how they say that people usually die in threes? Well I believe that to be very true. I am not quite sure why but I have experienced it on numerous occasions. The last few years was a domino death effect.

By now you have probably come to the conclusion that Cancer runs in my family. A little over two years ago my Aunt Thelma was diagnosed with a brain tumor and about six months later she died. While we weren’t particularly close, as she lived in Kentucky, she was again someone I was very fond of. I was always happy whenever they would make a trip up. I wasn’t able to see her before she passed and that was tough to deal with. I regret not being able to say goodbye and see her one last time.

This was another occasion I experienced the grief of the children of a parent, pure desperation and grief… you could see it in their eyes.

During the funeral service the preacher talked about not being saved and never getting to see Thelma again or something like that. This completely triggered me and sent me into another state of panic, so much that I couldn’t drive home to Michigan. Being gay in a Southern Baptist family didn’t make me very popular. At an early age, my father brainwashed into me that I was going to hell for being gay. I grew up in the church and it was all fire and brimstone.

As an adult to cope with spiritual abuse I had two choices, live in fear for the rest of my life or put away my spirituality. I took the lessor of the two evils and buried my spirituality deep within me. I got to a point in my life where hearing the terms God or Jesus would give me panic attacks. So I tried to stay far away from anything related to religion, even my Mom’s side of the family.

Being there that day unearthed my fears of never seeing my loved ones again. While I no longer believed completely that was the truth there was still a part of me that held on to that untruth. So much that I still struggle with it. I connected God to pain, misery, judgment and damnation. I saw God as this angry Judge, Jury and Executioner.

Recently it dawned on me why I have struggled to get my creativity back and that’s due to me hiding my spirituality. For me, I can’t have one without the other. It has been a slow and daunting battle to get connected back to my inner spirituality. I know that it is there but I struggle reaching for it.

The next death was something I honestly didn’t think was ever going to happen because my grandmother (mom’s side. All her grandchildren called her Mom Mom.) was in her early 90’s. She was tough as steel and I thought she would out live us all. About two years ago she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. They removed the volleyball sized tumor but her body couldn’t take it and six months later she died.

Losing her was particularity tough for me for many different reasons. The first one that growing up we were close. She lived down the street from us and we saw her quite often. She didn’t drive so my Mom would usually be the one to drive her where ever she needed. Her and my Mom were very close. Losing her broke my Mom’s heart.

While I felt close to Mom-Mom growing up, that faded with adulthood. I held a grudge with how she treated me after I came out about being molested by the cousin she raised. She was someone who made it clear who were her favorites and who weren’t. After that it was clear that I was not her favorite.

When my parents split up my Mom and I had no place to go. So my grandmother let us stay with her but I was only allowed to stay for two months. Even though I had a job and was working on getting my own place, I had to go. She didn’t care that I had no place to go.

My hurt was too big for me to be around her, so I hide from her. Even when I found out that she had Cancer I didn’t come around that often. I emotionally couldn’t handle the pain. Part of it had to do with the fact that I avoided situations where I might possibly see my Cousin. Coming out about the abuse and being gay made me the black sheep of the family. Talking about the abuse was something our family didn’t do, they just swept it under the rug like it never happened. If you would only life up that rug you would see the countless skeletons that were buried deep underneath.

While I couldn’t be there for her during her illness, I was able to be there for her at the end… When it became apparent that she wouldn’t live longer than a few days I rushed to be with her. I put all my hard feelings aside and faced the chance of seeing some people I didn’t want to. At the time it was the toughest thing I had overcame, not only for having faced my fears but to see the process of someone dying. It was horrible to see a woman so full of life and spit fire, lay there motionless and pale… almost like a ghost… The only thing she could do was whimper. I knew that she wouldn’t make it til the morning. I honestly didn’t want to leave that night but due to the pressure of others I did… That night I couldn’t sleep… I had this vision of walking my grandmother into the light, where loved ones were waiting for her. I later found out that it was around the time she passed away. Soon after my Mom called me to tell me she had died. I rushed over to her house. Again I could feel the fog of grief and desperation.

Everyone was too grief stricken, so I went into action calling the funeral home and other family members who hadn’t heard the news. I even called the cousin who had bothered me, that was not an easy feat. When the funeral director came to pick up my grandmother it was important I stay inside, when everyone else couldn’t handle it emotionally. I didn’t want strangers handling her body without me watching. It was important that they took good care of her.

Again I experienced children grieving over the loss of their mother, now this time it was my own mother grieving over the loss of her own mother. I was amazed at her strength dealing with the pain. My grandmother was someone of great support for my Mom. They were very close and I wasn’t sure how she would handle her death. I don’t think she did either but I was able to see her inner strength come to shine. It was quite remarkable. I was reminded how strong of a lady my mother was.

Around the same time my grandmother passed, a dear old friend of mine passed away from Cancer. We had lost touch the last few years but he was someone I was always fond of. We became friends during a time in my life where I was in turmoil over the sexual abuse. His and his partners friendship meant the world to me. He was an old soul, very spiritual. He was also an amazing painter, painting these very spiritual life like pieces of art.

Every Christmas he would send me a home made Christmas  card. Even after I moved away he kept sending them. He had a very gentle, loving spirit. Whenever I was around him I could feel the warmth of his inner glow. I can remember the first time I met Stephan very clearly. He was a vegetarian and I told him I would try to eat his food. As much as I didn’t like vegetarian food it was important for me to try it, which was a huge feat for me as I am not really someone who tries new things…

He made me soy meatballs with vegetables. I ate the whole plate and politely turned down seconds. 🙂 From then on we became good friends. When I learned that he wasn’t doing very well, I was deeply saddened. I couldn’t imagine God taking away such a gentle spirit. This was the first time I had a friend who I was once close to pass away. I regret not being able to see him one last time or not being able to make it to his funeral.

By now death had become a familiar part of my life, though it never made it any easier. Especially for what would happen next. Around the time my grandmother passed away I started getting these thoughts of my own mother passing away. They would usually come to me out of the blue and were always quick thoughts. I forced myself to think about the idea, as scary as that was to prepare myself. Something told me it was something I need to do… I never thought that almost two years later my worst nightmare would come true.

I was in the middle of a nap before work when my sister woke me in a panic. She told me that Mom had been coughing up blood and we needed to take her to the emergency room. Obviously I wasn’t going into work. I can remember calling my boss and telling him that my Mom was coughing up blood and he was like we are really busy, do you think you could come in later? I am like HELL no, well I didn’t say that but I surely didn’t go in. I wanted to tell say something like are you crazy?

I will never look at an ER ever again the same. So much so that the last time I had to go to the emergency room I was horribly triggered by the privacy curtains. I was alone in the ER room and instantly I was transported to that scary day.

I wasn’t sure if my Mom would ever stop coughing up blood. I remember telling convincing myself that it was strawberry sauce, as I was very squeamish when it came to blood. I knew that it wasn’t normal for someone to cough up blood and I was obviously concerned. I just wanted the blood to stop and would have done anything to make it stop. I don’t think I had ever been so scared than I was that night. My mind raced to understand what was happening. If there was a normal amount of blood to cough up, this was abnormal. I felt so helpless.

That day our lives forever changed and things would never be the same…

After countless tests, scans and blood work the C word was mentioned. Especially after they compared a chest xray to one that was completed eight years ago that both showed an abnormality to her lower right lung. When it was confirmed that my Mom had Cancer my heart dropped to the ground. At the time we knew nothing about Carcinoid. I had never even heard of the term. When you think of Cancer the first thing you think of is misery and death. I forced to think about the death of my beautiful mother. It was a day I wasn’t prepared for.

She was diagnosed with Cancer in April of 2012 and by September of that year she was dead. Never in my scariest dream did I think this was to be so early. Granted my Mom wasn’t in the greatest health, as she would frequently get bronchitis and pneumonia but nothing would make us believe that this would happen.

Two years prior to her death, I started to get these premonitions of my Mom’s death. Losing her was my ultimate fear of all. Having those premonitions was very alarming but something told me to face them. Granted I had no clue that it would happen so soon. I now realize someone was trying to prepare me for her death. I honestly don’t know if I would be here today without having mentally prepared ahead of time.

When we drove our Mother down to Nashville, TN to have the tumor removed it never dawned on me that she could die. I am a major worry wart but even during her surgery I wasn’t freaking out. I was calm. Her surgery was a major success. Her doctor was able to remove the tumor and found that Cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes like previously they had thought.

She was on the road to recovery. About a week after her surgery my Mom’s vitals started to deteriorate. They struggled to find a balance with her pain medicine that wouldn’t make her loopy but still managed the pain. She went from being out of it, to lethargic. She started to go into afib which they said was normal for a chest surgery. Her oxygen levels started to decrease as well. Something wasn’t right but my sister and I seemed to be the only ones to notice. By the fourth day of all of this, I noticed a strong odor and questioned the nurse about it… In which she said “oh, I didn’t notice it. She must have soiled herself.” She said that she would give her a bath, which three hours later she still hadn’t so my sister started to clean our Mom herself. That is when she noticed a brownish liquid coming out of her wound.

Finally they took notice. By the morning the xray showed that her lungs were filled full of infection and she would need to have another surgery to clean out her lungs. During the second surgery I was obviously more concerned but I still had confidence that she would make it through it.

Thankfully she made it through the second surgery but reality hit us all when the Doctor came out to tell us how serious her condition was. He stated that she wouldn’t have made it through the weekend without surgery. Of all the news prior, this hit me the hardest. This made me realize that Mom was not invincible and could die.

This time she was hooked up to a respirator and was sedated. Even though I was more concerned I didn’t doubt that she would recover.

Through the cultures they found they discovered that sometime that first week my Mom aspirated and became sepsis. The rest of her right lung was very damaged, and they found gangrenous tissue as well. Plus her left lung was now sick as well. They struggled to find the right setting on the respirator that my Mom tolerated. She didn’t seem to like that tube down her throat even when she was sedated. When they tried to turn off all the sedation, she went into a panic and her whole body began to convulse. Her legs and arms went crazy. My sister and I had to hold them down. It was a very scary moment for us.

They talked about putting in a tracheotomy, as they felt that my Mom would handle that better but the day they were to put it in she began to deteriorate again. She began to run a high temperature and her oxygen levels began to drop.

The next twenty one days was a constant roller coaster ride for my sister and I, as we watch our beautiful mother deteriorate as she so peacefully slept. During it all we never gave up hope, even when many doubted her stamina. Many of the Doctors told us there was little hope for recovery but that didn’t stand in our way of believing in the strongest woman we had ever known. We knew she would overcome it and in the end she did.

The day before her death, I awoke to a room full of doctors, nurses and staff surrounding her bed. It was like I was in the middle of a dream but yet I was awake. My Mother’s healthy lung had collapsed and they had to do an emergency procedure to install a chest tube. They were successful with the procedure and she started to improving slowly. Even then I still didn’t give up hope.

The next morning I again awoke to a room full of staff, this time her potassium had dropped to dangerous levels. I was told if they couldn’t get her levels to the normal range she would not make it. They advised me that they would put her on dialysis. I won’t lie I have never been more scared in my life. I prayed and prayed that she would make it.

Two hours into the dialysis, her potassium levels had increased but her other vitals had not and I was informed that she would not survive. I sat by her side and never gave up on her. Once the dialysis was done, she slowly began to drift away. Her heart rate slowed… lower and lower… I can remember this deep feeling of desperation and feeling out of control. I grabbed ahold of her and wept, as her heart began to give out. Five minutes seemed like an eternity and I just wanted relief. I went from disbelief to acceptance and told her it was okay for her to go home. They pulled her breathing tube out and not a gasp escaped from her lungs. Her body had gave out and it was time for her to return home. Finally her heart gave out it’s last beat and she had passed on.

I’ve never felt more alone than at that moment, as I stared at her worn out lifeless body covered in bruises and filled full of tubes. I finally realized how sick her and worn out her body was. She gave her all and fought fearlessly for twenty one days.

I had envisioned us living a life like Sophia and Dorothy from The Golden Girls. She was my everything but life had other plans. I know now that if she would have survived she wouldn’t have been the same lady as before and her quality of life was very important to her. As much as I miss her, I would not want her to suffer any more. She suffered enough on this earth. She is free from it all, including the Cancer.

Mama was always afraid of death. That was one of her struggles with having the surgery but she faced it like a warrior and didn’t let fear conquer her. I know that she went to heaven at peace.

It has only been recently that I have been able to use the terms death, die, etc. when it comes to my Mom. My mind knows she is gone but my heart still struggles to grasp it. The last nine months have been the hardest of my life and there have been times I wasn’t sure I would survive. There were even times I felt so desperate that I contemplated taking my own life.

This whole experience has also made me face my own mortality, including others close to me. When your Mother dies, anything is possible and you realize that nobody is invisible. The unknown becomes the scariest boogie man ever. I still struggle not knowing what I believe in when it comes to the afterlife. Now that I was forced to face death I have so many things that I think about, like what it is like to cross over? At times I struggle to grab hold of my own spirituality that I fear never seeing my Mother again.

I struggle with the concept that one minute a person is healthy and then the next they are not. Recently someone else I knew was diagnosed with Cancer in January and by May she had passed away. This experience has showed me how fragile life is and that there are no guarantees. I have struggled to get back on my feet and I feel like I am wasting valuable time. At times the grief is so crippling.

Any advice for those who also fear of losing a parent, is to force yourself to think about the day when they die and value the time you have with them. As hard as that may be, it will help you face that dreaded day.

In the end, we are all terminal. It is a wake up call to value even the littlest specks of life because eventually death becomes us all…

Getting Back On Track

So today I came to the conclusion that I need to look at my recovery and depression as I do with my dieting journey, that a set back isn’t final… it is just a step back… or as my friend calls it doing the cha-cha. As long as I keep moving forward that is what’s important. Each step back is an opportunity for me to grow.

The last month my train got off track and now I am working on getting my cars back on that healthy recovery track. Sometimes you get stuck and you need a push to get you back to where you need to go. That is where I was, stuck majorly.

I have learned that everything is connected from my depression to my eating habits to how I socialize with others. When one of those areas starts to falter, all the others will soon follow. Looking back my diet habits were a warning sign. Taking care of myself has been a up hill battle and as I continue to hike up that mountain, I have to expect an occasional fall. The key is to get back up and continue up that mountain.

So back on track I go. I am in the process of getting back to therapy. I have an appointment with the Michigan Rehabilitation Center which will help me get back into the workforce. I even got signed up with the state insurance. I am on a new anti-depressant. I am still on my diet (I still dislike that word) and plan to work on incorporating phsyical activities again aka Just Dance!

I also hope to become more social. When Mama died, I gave up on everything including having fun. I miss having friends to hang out with. I thrive having a group of friends.

The key with me is that I haven’t been thriving. I have been a wilted flower that has been pulled up out of the earth. As frightening as it may be I need to plant my roots back into this earth, that will be the only way I can be happy. Hiding in my cave just snowballs my depression to the point where I just want to die. Mama wouldn’t want that life for me.

This is the first time being away from my family for this long. I won’t lie it has been very difficult being away from them. After Mama died, I attached myself to them and held on for dear life. So much that I wouldn’t let go. Losing them has been my biggest fear of all, especially after Mama passed away. When your Mom dies anything is possible. You go into this intense state of panic. I think in a way I believe if I stay around all the time I can prevent bad stuff from happening but I know that isn’t the case. I couldn’t stop what happened to Mama and that made me feel completely helpless. I had to stand back and watch as my beautiful Mama faded away. Watch as she was surrounded my doctors, nurses, etc. I just wanted to scream and make her better but I couldn’t. I felt so alone and scared.

I think part of what caused this week’s depression episode was my mind and body coming to terms with her death. Even saying the words die, death, etc have been hard for me to verbalize. This is the first time I have really typed out those words. To accept her death was just too painful and real… but as time goes by it has a natural way of making you accept it, regardless how hard you fight it. By not seeing or hearing from her for a period of time it has made me come to terms with it.

It is still hard for me to believe that she has died but I am working on getting my life together again, that is what Mama wants. She always wanted the best for me.

So as tough as this will be I am going to do it for her and me. I deserve it. I also must remember as tough as it will be, it won’t be any harder than the experience of Mama being in the hospital and ultimately dying from complications of her surgery.

As my beautiful four year old niece says, Mama is always in my heart… and right beside me…

My Wake Up Call

Tonight I watched the movie “Pay It Forward”, it was a movie I had always wanted to see. Honestly I didn’t expect it to end the way it did, tragically…

There was one scene that was particularly difficult to watch. It was a scene of a woman about to jump off a bridge. The reason that was so diffucult is that I was there a few days ago. I wasn’t about to jump off a brige but I did have a handful of pills in my hand, ready to do the same… end it all…

As I write this I am in a facility for those who are struggling. Kind of an in between place from a hospital and home.

After watching the movie I started to think about life and the idea behind the movie. This movie reminded me how much an impact we can have on others and how wide spread that something as simple as saying hello to a stranger can impact others.

In the movie the 11 year old character had no idea how far what he felt was unsuccessful attempts of paying it forward had spread, all the way to California.

I myself had forgotten my impact on this world. I allowed my grief, pain and suffering to grab ahold of me. My depression over took my body and went into auto drive. I more I fed into the depression the worse I felt. It would tell me things like nobody cares, you are worthless, etc.

To the point where all I could see was the loss, of my mother, and the darkness. It was like someone (myself) had put me inside this gigantic box, that didn’t have a way out. All I could see and feel was blackness.

All I wanted was relief and when you can’t see anything but the pain, you become desperate. The depression told me the only relief was death. I couldn’t see anything else, not my friends or my family.

I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted the pain to end. The suffering to stop. What people who have never exprienced depression is the depth of suffering that you endure. Living a good part of your life in suffering makes you exausted… to the point where you have very little left to give. It is like your life is on a continous loop, a flashback that won’t stop.

When you are in that depression bubble everyone becomes a stranger, even the closest people in your life. It is like your negative self kidnaps you and keeps you locked up. When I become depressed I isolate. The more isolation I experience the harder it is for me to get myself out of that depression bubble.

In the past when I would get in this cycle I wouldn’t even be aware of it. The difference today I knew that I was triggered but I couldn’t stop it… Once you are in that cycle everything becomes amplified to the millionith degree. Things simple become complex. Things minor become extreme. The depression becomes this monster that overtakes your body, kind of like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. You become this creature that you don’t even reconize.

When I talked to the intake social worker and told her what happened the last year she said you stopped living… and it was the first time I realize that I did… When Mama got sick and died, I stopped living. Sure since then I have physically moved on but emotionally I gave up. I quit school. Quit most things in life. I didn’t get to this suicicidal point over night, nor in a month. It had been building momentum for a year.

It is like putting air in a balloon… if you keep inflating that balloon either one of two things will happen. Either that balloon will fly around the room like a chicken with its head cut off or it will explode. Well for me both happened.

Since Mama died in September I have been living life, feeling like I was dying inside. As time went by I went even further into that dark cave but I didn’t feel that I could tell anyone I was dying. It was very triggering for me as this is what I felt the eight years after I was molested at the age of ten. During that time I so wanted to tell someone I was damaged but didn’t feel like I could… nor could I get the words to escape me. Until the point where silence turned into anger and anger turned into screams…

By Wednesday morning I could no longer stay silent. I was so desperate and close to ending it all… that all I could do was post my cries on Facebook.

This wasn’t the first time I had thought about killing myself. For me depression and suicidal thoughts come hand in hand. For me having that option gives me comfort. It is a way out of a bad situation, as extreme and final as it is. While it wasn’t the first time I thought about killing myself this was the first time I came so close to acting on my thoughts.

When I posted my cry for help on facebook, I had the pills in my hands… and even went as far as putting the pills to my mouth. I had even bombarded my living area, so that no one would be able to get to me.

Thankfully people started to respond to my cries for help and my phone started to ring off the hook. People where answering my call. At first I didn’t pick up, as I was still in that bubble. I had shut everyone out by putting up the worlds largest wall.

Thankfully the calls didn’t stop and I gave in to my dear friends pestering. She burst my bubble. Talking to her was the slap in the face I needed.

The problem with depression is that it impairs your ability to ask for help. Many people think if someone is in trouble they will ask for help and most of the time that isn’t the case. Severe depression can be a silent killer.

After Mama passed away the first two weeks were filled full of help and support… but then after that everyone went back to their own lives. I mean that is to be expected. Then you go into this uneasy period where people are unsure and weary to bring it up, with the fear of upsetting you.

Whether my friend realized it or not, she was paying it forward to me. She was the ripple in my pond. She proved the depression wrong, as did the countless of other people who interviend that day. The depression was lying to me all this time. My friend help me stand up to that evil beast.

I am forever grateful.

It almost feels like I am a different person. I realize again that I can’t get through this grief and pain, alone. I had shielded myself in that cave and gave up. I didn’t see the reasons for living any more like I do now… I just needed a reminder. A wake up call to realize that I am not alone.

So now it is my time to continue to pay it forward, that is what my Mama would have wanted. It won’t be easy but I must do what I need to move on from that bad place. I once read that when something traumatic happens and your life is in chaos, that is where you can begin to grow… where the real work begins.

Too afraid of dying, too afraid of living…

I feel like giving up but I am not going to… Lately I seem to be having more trouble with everything in my life from my dieting to the grief over the loss of my Mama. About a month ago I was triggered by something and it has set me into this downward spiral.

Suicidal thoughts isn’t something new for me. I don’t like that I get them. I wish I could just make them go away. This might sound cray cray but honestly these thoughts give me comfort.

Now if you know me and this alarms you, I am sorry…

I thought my grief was getting better but it seems to be worse. I miss my Mom so very much. So much that it feels like I am going to die. I constantly feel like I am going to suffocate or drown…

Lately how I feel is that I don’t really want to be here. I don’t know how I am going to get through life without my Mom.

I know what death, especially suicide, does to your loved ones… so I would never do anything drastic… but I think about it…

I feel like I am in limbo, in between the living and the dead.

I know I am in a PTSD cycle but I don’t know how to get out of it. I feel imprisoned by the pain, suffering and grief of it all. I just keep swimming, though I do more thrashing than paddling.

I am desperately trying to stay afloat, and I am getting tired…

I despise depression and ptsd. I wish I could just move on… get better… I feel so trapped. Inside I am dying and this is the only place I can tell anyone… It is a horrible feeling to be around people and hold that secret… reminds me of all the years I had to hide that I was gay and molested…

Maybe that is why this whole experience is triggering…

I am hesitant to talk about this for many reasons… one it is personal and deep… two I worry it will freak people out, mostly my family… three typing it out makes it real…

I am posting it because I need to release all of this pain, grief, suffering, etc… I also know sharing my pain in a public manner might help other people who are in my same situation…

I honestly don’t know how I will ever get through this… it is all too much…

During my mom’s battle with cancer, we talked about the storm… and this idea that you just sometimes have to hold on… that eventually the storm will pass… and I believed that… I just never thought my Mom would die…

It has been seven months since her passing and that storm is still raging on… my boat keeps getting full. It feels like I am still at her hospital bed, waiting for her to get better… waiting for her to wake up… well that day will never come…

and I keep waiting…