The Meeting of the Minds

That’s what I call my nightly visits with my neighbors. When I first moved into this apartment complex I would notice a group of residents sitting by the pool. They were there every night. They were always so friendly. At first it was a little off putting as I’m kind of reserved and shy. I’m from that way of don’t talk to strangers. Plus if I’m in the middle of a depression/PTSD episode then I’m even more inward. It’s not like I’m unsociable. I just get nervous around new groups of people. If the people I love will hurt me, what will strangers do. It’s that sort of thing. Plus when you’re gay you learn to stick towards people like you.

At first I would just say hello and goodbye whenever I went to the pool until one night I had the courage to sit with them. Eventually it would become a nightly thing for me to do. Regardless of how bad of a day I’ve had I know that I have that to look forward to. Lately my depression has started to fight with me and I’ve struggled to get out of the house. In the past it would be common for me to not leave my house for days, even weeks. Lately I’ve had days where I didn’t want to leave the house but I force myself. Today was one of those days. I’ve not been feeling good physically so that just made me want to stay in but I forced myself into the shower and went down there for the meeting.

Saturday I didn’t make it down there. It was the first time in weeks that I didn’t go but I didn’t let that mood keep me down for long as Sunday I was back down there. I even had one of the neighbors ask where I was. So that made me feel good to know that someone cared enough to miss me. It’s so easy (especially with PTSD) to think that everyone is against you, when that’s always been your experience. I’ve been forcing myself out of that comfort zone and it’s become one of my favorite things to do.

Lately I’ve been opening up to them more. I was really nervous to tell them that I was gay and had a disability. As much as I love them, they do have the tendency to gab. They know everything that goes on at the complex down to who lives where . As you start to get to know people better people start to ask you questions like what do you do for work, etc. They had started to do that with me and it made me nervous. Plus they see me all the time and they have to wonder what is my deal. I know they’ve made reference to other people like me who aren’t working. In the back of my head I wonder will they judge me but I’m at the point in my life where I don’t have time to worry about stuff like that.

A few days ago I let a few of the residents know I was gay. It was brief but I had let the cat out of the bag. Tonight I went even further. I had mentioned that I had a bad experience at  Doctor here in town and they started to ask questions. At first I wasn’t going to go into it but I said what the heck and spilled the bins. Then the whole group (about seven of us) started to talk about being gay,etc. No one verbally chastised me or made me feel less. They were supportive and listened. It was really nice. A few of them said that they had gay people in their family too. It was really refreshing to be around a new group of people and be accepted.

I also know that they were going to start putting things together about my disability. I talked on more than one occasion about going to the doctors and knew they were going to ask more questions. The potential rejection for being gay is nothing new and it’s something I’ve become accustomed to. My disablity on the other hand is something I’m ashamed of. I know I shouldn’t but that’s the way I feel. If I had a physical ailment then I’d feel less like people were judging me. A little later they started talking about one of the residents who use to come around all the time and now has stopped and barely talks to anyone. One of the residents talked about how he’s known him for a long time and referenced to him having a mental illness as being odd.

I started to take it personal. It felt like he was calling me odd. I quickly checked those feelings at the door. Then they started to talk about well maybe he has depression to which I chimned in about my experience, that there were times I would isolate myself and didn’t want to be around other people. I even mentioned that I had PTSD. It was really self affirming to stand up for myself and others in my situation. There is so much stigma still about anything related to mental illness. After I started to open up a few other people mentioned that they had taken anti-depressants in the past. I’ve learned that not everyone is out to get you, nor do they mean any harm. Sometimes people just need to be educated and shown a different way.

We talked about everything for about five minutes and then moved onto something. We talk about everything. They ask me how I’m doing and ask me what I did today, to which I replied not much. Our meetings are a great release as we can talk about our day or what’s bothering us. Cats are often a topic of conversation as we have adopted a stray cat named Mazzie. She always comes up and makes the rounds getting attention from each of us. She’s like our mascot. It took her a while to get use to me but now she comes through my legs and lets me pet her. For the longest time she’d sit at the edge of the pool and stare at me forever.

I kind of feel like this is my own Golden Girls. We all care about each other and look out for each other. One of the residents fell recently while walking and sprained her ankle and broke her toe. She’s not been able to come out with us the past few nights. Every Tuesday the complex has coffee and donuts in the morning. This morning one of my neighbors brought her a few donuts. Another neighbor brought her a card with all our names on it. Just like the Golden Girls sometimes we get on each other nerves. Like we have a Rose of the group. I sometimes wonder what they say about me when I’m not there. lol Though if you’re a quiet one they don’t tend to talk about you. I’ve never heard anyone talk about two of the residents who are a couple I think. They remind me of the Odd Couple. They’re a lot like me we talk but it’s not really heated.

If you’re quirky or a spitfire someone is going to have something to say when you’re gone. Like one of the neighbors is really sassy. I love her. Recently we got the pool maintenance guys a thank you card and she drew obscene pictures on it, well obscene for old people. She’s always picking on other people but in a good hearted way. She’s one of my favorites. She’s always so personable and always accessorize fabulously. One of the ladies is the opposite of that. She’s kind of your typical grumpy old woman types. I mean she’s not grumpy per say but occasionally she will be. It doesn’t occur all the time but when she gets going, watch out.

Since meeting with them nightly I know everything that goes on in the community. Today’s topic was the local Kmart closing. It was brought up numerous times today. Also the local buffet place Old Country Buffet closed on Monday unexpectedly. That was also a hot topic. Who needs a newspaper when you have them. Just because most of them are older occasionally they talk about stuff that make me blush like condoms and vibrators. So anything is game for discussion. Many of the residents don’t have family nearby and this is it for them. People get busy with their lives and it’s easy to get left behind. Many of the residents in my group have lived at the complex for a very long time. Like over ten years. I’m the newbie.

So far we’ve had an indian summer. Today was near 80 and that’s rare for Michigan. I know sooner or later the cold weather will arrive. I’m rather dreading winter for many reasons but mainly because our meetings will be sparse. Winter has always been tough for me in terms of my depression. Any type of forced isolation just magnifies my depression and PTSD. So it makes me nervous knowing I won’t have these nightly visits to boost my morale. I think I might check with the office to see if we can have the clubhouse one night a week for our meetings. If I had my own place I’d open up my home to them.

So it’s been really nice to make these friendships. It’s really helped with my depression and PTSD. I’ve had some very tough weeks and these meetings have kept me grounded. Thankfully I have an intake appointment for therapy this week, so that will help. There’s a depression support group that I would like to check out as well. I just need to keep myself busy this summer. I hope to get a YMCA membership soon. That will help fill the void of not being able to swim. Oh how I miss the pool. It’s such torture to sit next to an empty, covered pool. It was a great summer so I really shouldn’t complain. My neighbors also have helped with my transition of moving away from my family, which was very difficult. So I’m thankful for this place and I love being their neighbor.

My neighbors have helped me blossom up again. I’ve become a lot more social and getting outside has helped me to lose weight. I’ve lost over 18 lbs so far. My blood sugar and bp are back to normal levels. My personal grooming has improved dramatically. So I’m on the right track. I just need to find alternatives to help cope with the winter and the loneliness.

 

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The Stigma of Having a Disability

Today I read an article about this woman with down’s syndrome and how she had got a job at her sister’s salon. When Jenna was asked what her favorite thing about working at the salon she stated that she didn’t have a favorite thing because she loved everything. Here was a beautiful woman just full of sunshine and she didn’t let her disability stand in the way of her being happy. Her sister is advocating for more businesses to hire those with disabilities especially those who have down’s syndrome.

The article made me think about my own disability and those with a mental illness. There is still a lot of stigma attached to having a disablity especially if it’s a mental illness. Whenever I tell someone new about my disability there is always this fear that I will be judged or they won’t like me. I’m learning to stop being a people pleaser but that takes practice.

Lately I’ve been spending my evenings sitting with my neighbors at the apartment complex I live in. When I first moved in I would notice a group of the residents sitting together and talking. At first I was a little put off by it, as I was very reserved and didn’t talk to many people, let alone people I didn’t know. They were always so friendly whenever I came to go swimming. It took me about a month and I started to join in on their conversations. Before long I became apart of the group and most evenings I’m outside with them talking about life. I love living here. These meetings give me something to look forward to, it’s really the highlight of my day. I’ve been very lonely lately and it’s really helped to fill that void. In the past I’ve always been very social so this has helped me blossom back into the social butterfly I use to be.

After you spend a good amount of time with people they start to ask questions and that always puts me in a very awkward situation wondering if I should tell them about my situation. I’m forty years old on disability. I have had this cover that I tell everyone that I’m a graphic designer which is true but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. What if I tell them and they don’t want to hang out with me anymore. Those are the things that go through my mind. Most of the residents are older and are on a fixed income as well but I know that some will wonder why I’m on disability so early in age. If I tell them I’m on disablity will they ask more questions as to what kind of disability.

My history with having a mental illness is not everyone understands it. Some don’t validate it as a disability because they can’t see the symptoms. If only mental health was treated just like general health then matters would be so much better. So if you have a disability that’s a mental illness you really have this stigma attached to you. People with depression and other mental illnesses are good at hiding it. On the outside it might seem that the person is happy but underneath is a lot of pain and suffering. I can see why some would see the disconnect but many of us have learned how to survive in a world full of stigma. Sometimes it’s easy to just pretend you’re okay.

If having a mental health disability wasn’t enough I also have the added stigma attached to being gay. I’ve always been really hesitant sharing that information with new straight people in my life. It took me about a month and it finally came up tonight. I’m in this new mode of not caring what people think, well I’m learning, so when one of the residents was talking about another resident who was in his 50s and not married implying he might be gay. She did the hand gesture to imply that he was gay. I started to cringe. I know she didn’t mean any harm by it but I couldn’t not leave the conversation without taking a stand. I didn’t confront her on it. I just made a couple of comments about that it’s not always the case about single men. Then another resident started talking about if you’re boyfriend is wearing nicer jewelry then you might having something to worry about. I replied well that wasn’t always the case, that not all gay people were fabulous like that. I then said that I was one of them but I said though I’m still fabulous. The one lady goes are you gay and I said yes. They laughed at that and we went on talking about something else.

In the back of my head I wondered were they thinking negatively of me now. Those are just fears and I can’t entertain them. Even if they did it has nothing to do with me. All I can do is be me and live the life the best of my ability. Some people will judge me and I really don’t need or want them in my life. It’s hard to let go of caring what people think of you. I’ve done it most of my life so it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I’m working on it. The same goes with having a disablity. Those who judge people with disabilities are the ones with the true disablity.

I think that’s the misconception that we’re half a person, were not able. I use to think my disability was just that. It made me feel like less of a person. I now see the value in myself and realize that my disability is what makes me special. Having to endure years of depression and PTSD has gave me the tools to help others who are walking down the same path as I have. I’m stronger and more empathetic for having to walk that path. I also judge life on one’s impact. You don’t have to have a college degree or even a job to impact other people. I know that I bring joy into people’s life. Just today I was talking with the complex manager and she talked about how she loved having me live here. She also talked about my joyful personality. It made me feel wonderful that she saw me for who I am. I don’t always feel that.

I think it’s important to not get caught up in those who don’t see you. Some people just don’t have the ability to see past something. That’s their flaw not yours. Sometimes you just have to let it go, which is tough as nails at times. Awareness is also important and something I’m working on creating with my blog. People can change and if other’s don’t take a stand and advocate for what they believe in, nothing will ever change. Some people don’t understand why I’m so public with my struggles. I know people judge me for that, even people in my own family. That’s just apart of the stigma, that you’re suppose to keep mental illnesses covered up. Being open about a mental illness will put shame and guilt upon the family name. This does more harm than good. They’re not living my life so they have no right to speak for me. They don’t have to fight the same battles nor have they had to experience what I did.

So I’m going to keep being me and live the life the way I want to. Being authentic will only help me to grow it will also give others the courage to do so as well. I will finish with one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson. We are all meant to shine…

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I’m Unbreakable!

I had a light bulb moment today, rather bright one too. As I was walking home from my appointment this evening I had thought about some of my tough times. Walking for me isn’t easy. I’m 408 pounds (down from at least 425, probably closer to 450) and my knees aren’t in the greatest shape. So anytime I walk it’s rather painful. Often times I have this feeling of that I can’t make it. Feet turn into miles and I get these hallway moments like you see in the movies.

Tonight I pushed through that uncomfortable feeling as I knew I had to walk almost double what I normally do one way. I purposely planned on doing my assessment for therapy and psychiatry services at the end of my appointment to get blood drawn, as I knew I could walk home afterwards. So rather than have the medical transport driver take me home, I had him drop me off at my appointment. Initially I thought about doing on another day, which meant walking there and back. I figured I was less likely to go as the assessment was just a walk in. So having something scheduled would make me complete it. For someone with a mental illness, not having a therapist is problematic. I had struggled to find a place that took my insurance and thankfully my primary care doctor recommended this place.

It wasn’t until after 4pm that I finished the assessment. I hadn’t ate since 10pm last night, so I was starving. So I decided to walk to the Panda Express which I thought was closer than it really was, which made my walk home even longer than I originally anticipated. I will be honest, my first thought was to take the bus home. As I was eating in the nice air conditioned restaurant I saw the bus stop. It was hot out and I really didn’t want to walk home. Well the bus gods were not on my side today, as the last stop had come and gone. So I reluctantly made the truck home. Thankfully I had a soda to keep me refreshed and I just told myself that I would take a lot of breaks. I don’t do very well in the full sun, it drains my energy very quickly. Fat people aren’t meant to be out in the sun, we’re much like vampires.

I normally walk to the local grocery store, well at least the two times I went walking. One way it’s about a half mile if I don’t take any shortcuts and I usually do. Each way I have to take at least two breaks. By the time I’m home I’m usually pretty beat. So going home tonight I had to go twice as far one way. My first thought was take take a bunch of breaks. It helps to make the trip not so daunting but then I saw the time and it was getting close to the time I meet with all my neighbors. We sit around talking about everything. I call it the meeting of the minds. It’s really my highlight of my day. I wake up looking forward to it. I wasn’t going to miss tonight or be late. So I decided that I was going to cut my breaks in half. It was kind of a challenge to see how quickly I could get home. Each stop I barely sat for two minutes and off I went. By the last stop, which was almost 1/4 of the way home, I was exhausted and wanting to quit. That just wasn’t an option for many a reasons. I started to feel defeated again and then I thought about the hard times that I had endured throughout my life.

That’s when the light bulb exploded. Through all the suffering, pain and hard times I was still here. All those moments that I thought I had broken in two were just an illusion. Feeling broken isn’t something new for me but this last time felt definitive. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to come back from losing my Mom. It was the ultimate defeat. I thought I was broken for good and I mean completely severed in two broken. Even in the toughest time in my life I was still alive and well, then it dawned on me…

I’m UNBREAKABLE!!!

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It was the greatest energy boost I could get. The rest of the way I just booked it home. It felt like I was running a marathon and was on the last leg to the finish line. I was determined to get home in time for the meeting of the minds and I did. As I made it to the lawn on the comlex I collapsed on the ground and just stared up into the blue sky and felt great. I took a deep breath and got up to go inside. The person I was two months ago would have never went downstairs to do some more walking in order to socialize with others both due to physical and mental reasons but today was different. I took another quick break in front of the chair. I got freshened up, grabbed my lawn chair and my water and I was out the door within ten minutes of getting home.

I made it on time too. We usually meet around 6:30 pm and  that’s when I got there. I was the first one. 7 pm rolled by and I was still alone. Then a few minutes later one of the residents came by and sat with me. I was so relieved. I thought I was going to be alone and that made me sad. When I don’t get to have my visits it’s a major bummer. So we sat and for an hour and talked. It was really nice. It feels great to be apart of the community. This complex I live at is unlike any other apartment complex that I’ve lived in before. Once a week on Tuesdays the complex has a coffee and donuts gathering in the community room at 8:30 AM. I’m not a morning person at all so today was the first day I was able to get up in time to make it, which was torture seeing all those donuts and not be able to eat them due to my lab appointment at 2 PM. So I took two of them home. It took all the willpower I had to not eat them. I put them aside and took a quick nap before my appointment.

All I could think about today was getting to have a donut. I wasn’t thinking about not being able to eat until evening when I scheduled my ride for so late in the afternoon. So I was starving. Finally after a long, productive day I was able to eat my donut at 8 PM and it was delicious! This football shaped long john donut felt like the reward from my marathon win and I enjoyed it.

Back to being unbreakable. Yes, I’m long winded, this I know. It was a huge revelation to have. This week hasn’t been very easy, well since Friday. Honestly it’s probably been the toughest few weeks in regards to my mental health since 2005. For a survivor of sexual abuse and one that has PTSD having flashbacks is a very common thing. As common they are each one is just as unsettling and jarring as the last one. Last Friday was the four year anniversary of my Mom’s death. Not thinking about what day it was I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that day but I didn’t think about it until I was in room waiting for the doctor. Each minute that passed that room began to turn into my Mother’s hospital room. Even the nurses desk reminded me of the nurses station in the ICU unit my Mom was in.

September 9, 2012 was the day a hole was punched through my heart. I spent the last 21 days in her ICU room, rarely did I leave the room. I slept on the small couch in her ICU room, well slept isn’t really what it should be called. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with a loved one in a hospital room knows what it’s like. Still to this day hearing the beeps from the machines send me panicking. The day she died was the worst day in my life. It was also the scariest and most alone day too. She had a rare form of Cancer and we had to travel to Nashville for anyone to help her, which was over nine hours from home in Michigan.

My Mom had stabilized and things weren’t looking good but we still had hope. My sister had just left to go home for a few days as the kids were starting school. Her stats has improved slightly.  There was no indication that things would go the way they did. She was stable and we held onto hope that she would recover. The next day I was awoken to my Mom being surrounded by Doctors, nurses and medical staff. Her one good lung (and that wasn’t the greatest) had collapsed and they had to put in an emergency tube into her chest to inflate the lung again. I was rushed out of the room not really knowing what was going on. They finally were able to stabilize her and I was relieved.

The next morning at 5AM I was awoken again to her being surrounded. This time things were much worse. Her kidneys were failing. They told me that they were going to put her on dialysis and that if things didn’t improve in four hours that she wasn’t going to make it. Again I was in shock but I held onto hope. Four hours passed and she didn’t improved. There was nothing more that they could do and wasn’t sure how much longer she’d live. Here I was in a foreign city, alone and eight hours away from home and everyone I loved. I never felt so hopeless and alone. I had no one to turn to. No one to help me. Normally my Mother was the person I ran to when I needed help and this time the woman who was always there for me was dying in front of me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it. I sat behind the nurses station in shock. I felt like I was five years old again. My Mom’s last 21 days of her life she was on a breath machine so she was never awake after she went in for surgery. Never did we think that the words she spoke when she was taken in for her second surgery would be her last but they were. I wish I remember what she said…

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The last moments of her life was probably the most peaceful moment in my life. When she was taken off life support there was no movement or even a gasp. She laid there still as I watched her flatline. It wasn’t like you see in the movies. It felt like I could feel every last heartbeat. It was slow, almost eurythmic. She was gone. I felt so horrible for my sister who didn’t make it back in time before she died. Call it plausible deniability but up until the last hour of her life I still had so much hope. It never dawned on me that she could die from the surgery. I’m the biggest fear of death and I thought it would have come up prior but it didn’t. We anticipated a long road of recovery for my Mom but that wasn’t the case.

The next day we left Nashville but my heart/soul stayed in that hospital room. For over a year I spent every day in that room. I could close my eyes and I would end up back in that room. Even sleeping I would still be in that room. I almost thought I was never going to find a way out but eventually one of the doors was a way out. I was constantly in a flashback. Things got so bad that I had to be hospitalized and that helped me out of that room through therapy and medicine. I’ve worked very hard to stay out of that room and it’s been one of the toughest things for me. PTSD wasn’t something new as I have it with the abuse but this time it almost did me in… but it didn’t. I have spent a good portion of my adult life in and out of the hospital with depression and the PTSD but this time seemed final.

I thought I was broken for good and no amount of tape would put his humpty dumpty back together. I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be fully there for the rest of my life. I had gave up and didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to die anymore but I didn’t want to live either. So for almost three years I was a zombie. I lived in the land of the inbetweens. This year has been quite different (some by force) as I have this resolve and determination that I haven’t had before. A kind of fuck this shit attitude and I don’t mean the kind that you just don’t care about anything. The kind that you do care so much that you’re not willing to put up with the shit you use to. I’ve done my fair share of settling. I guess that’s what I was, I was settled into the fact that I was going to be half a person for the rest of my life.

Well not anymore. I have this willpower that’s intoxicating. I feel like I have on these boxing gloves that won’t come off. I’m kicking butt and taking names. I’m determined to build a better life for myself. A world with stability built on a solid foundation. So tonight I was reminded of all this. Through so many hard moments I was still alive and well, and still kicking. All this time I thought it had KO’ed me but it didn’t… not even close. I didn’t realize this until tonight as I was hot and tired, feeling like I was going to give up. I thought about my current pain and the pain I’ve endured the past thirty years and it didn’t even measure up to what I’ve went through.

I’ve been kicked down so many times, treated poorly and told I was worthless. For thirty years I’ve listened and took it to heart. I’ve believed everyone who has hurt me especially the ones who were suppose to love and protect me. I thought they didn’t love me because I was lacking something but all this time it was them and not me. These moments, those teardrops were all a reflection of them and who they were as a person. They were the ones who were without.

So Friday was a really tough day. I was stuck in this hospital room in a PTSD bubble. I was in full trigger mode. I could feel myself floating out of the room. I wanted to run as fast I could but I had the strength of mind to know that I needed to stay there in order to get the help I needed. So I pushed through. I was put through even more obstacles with the new doctor as he didn’t have the greatest bedside manner. I was already out of the room by that moment and I could feel myself go further away. I started to do some grounding exercises. I started to tap my leg repeatedly so fast it felt like I was in the middle of Kentucky Derby. Thankfully the student doctor was a woman and was very kind. She helped me gain exposure. I was in the middle of a major panic attack, probably the worst one in ten years. Panic attacks weren’t something new to me, as I have had them throughout different times in my life. Though up until a few months ago I hadn’t had one in a very long time. That was part of the reason I was there to see the doctor was for my anxiety. I had started to flashback about everything and I mean everything. Every bad moment in my life was being played back like I was in a movie theatre full of people.

Not only did I push through, I stood up for myself… which hasn’t always been my strong suit. I will take care and advocate fiercely for other people but my own. The Doctor was dangerously uninformed with the LGBTQ community and HIV/AIDS. He had referred to being negative as being clean… which is a huge NO NO as it’s deeply degrading. You get clean in a shower, not when you’re negative. I let him have it and I even wrote a complaint on the organization’s website. He was also very uninformed with the drug PrEP. It’s sad when the patient knows more about something than the doctor. I had also been fasting as I was hoping to get a glucose test completed because I’m prediabetic. My appointment was at 2:30pm and the doctor didn’t even get in my room until 4pm. So I had waited almost an hour in that room, in a panic attack and deep in a PTSD cycle. It was tough but I did. They kept me waiting so long that I missed the lab hours by thirty minutes as I didn’t get out until after 5pm. So I had fasted for nothing. I was triggered, angry and starving but I didn’t let it defeat me. I just pushed on and did what I had to do. That’s what I’ve always done. I might not be good at many things but I’m an expert at surviving.

Usually when I have a PTSD episode it can take me a week to come out of it but that night I was outside sitting with the residents like nothing had happen. That was new for me and it felt great. I still wasn’t close to 100% but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying my nightly visits with the round table, that’s what I call it. While I was aware of a lot that day it didn’t dawn on me that I was still full in the PTSD cycle. When I’m triggered friends and family become strangers, and strangers become enemies. Nothing and no one is safe. It’s like living in a war zone. It’s a horrible place to be. I have had episodes where I have hid underneath my desk at work, or barricaded my door.

Writing for me has always been a great release. It’s like journaling for me. Often times I don’t have anyone to talk to, so blogging helps with that. Therapy is the one time I have to talk and I don’t have that right now. Hopefully that will change soon as I did the assessment today and have the intake on Thursday. As I had said previously lately I’ve been having flashbacks about everything including the sexual abuse. The last ten years the sexual abuse hasn’t been on the forefront of my problems. I knew the pain was still there but it didn’t cause me a lot of problems, well at least not indirectly or at least I thought. Recently I’ve realized that monster has always been there, it was the puppet master directing me all this time. For the past ten years I didn’t want to talk about the abuse in detail. I could tell people it happened but I couldn’t go into detail it was just too hard. My latest therapist I saw her for one and half years and I never went into detail with her. Trust is huge when dealing with sexual abuse and that takes a long while.

Here’s the thing about trauma and pain, no matter how hard you try to hide it eventually the pain will seep through the cracks. My latest living situation reminded me of some bad times in my life, the early years. So it has triggered the sexual abuse, the mental abuse from my father and the loss of my Mom, and everything hurt in between. As I was writing my last post I began to open the gate and I was flooded by emotion. It felt like I was drowning.

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Very quickly my room turned into the room where I was molested. I was transported back to that time, very much like the other world in Stranger Things except the monster was my cousin. There was no escaping him and when I returned home just like Will I was never the same. So at 5am Monday morning I was back at that cabin on Long Lake in Michigan in the year 1986. I relived every scary, dirty moment. I mean everything. It was like it was happening for the first time. I reached out and could touch the walls. The other times I’ve been so triggered it ended with me being hospitalized. I was almost there but again I pushed through. The next day I felt horrible I didn’t end up getting to bed until noon but I made sure to wake up for my nightly visits with my neighbors. Again I pushed through the pain. It was tough to push through and remind myself that these people weren’t strangers, out to hurt me but I did it!

In the past, after a major PTSD episode I withdraw from everything and everyone. There have been times that I haven’t left the house for weeks. Everything goes downhill. I stop caring about anything including my personal grooming habits. I become more depressed until it gets so severe it snaps me out of it. That’s the worse thing about PTSD often times you don’t realize you’ve been triggered until weeks later. The last bad episode in May of 2013 I was in the middle of a month long trigger and I almost killed myself but yesterday was different. The past two months no matter what’s been thrown at me I’ve dodged every attack and jumped every hurdle. The more that’s thrown at me the stronger and more willful I become.

Tonight I was able to look back at the past four days and see all the strength in between all the bad moments. It’s never been not being strong enough. It’s always been not realizing how strong I really am. Looking back I just saw how strong I always was. I wasn’t the shadow, I was the tree… strong rooted in the earth and fuck anyone who tries to tell me otherwise. I don’t believe them anymore. Thirty years of deep suffering and pain, and I’m stronger than ever! It’s taken thirty years to discover that I’m UNBREAKABLE!!! So watch out world, I’m coming for you.

I will do what I’ve always done, get shit done. So if you try to stand in my way I’m just going to jump right over you. Obstacles don’t have a hold of me anymore. It’s not to say that tomorrow isn’t going to be easy because I know that healing takes a lot of hard work. Setbacks are normal and expected but the key is to get back up. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, just as long as you keep doing it you will be golden. It would be nice if I could say tomorrow won’t be as hard as the last but I know that’s not how life works. I have to open back the wounds and heal some more. To get to where you need to go sometimes you have to travel back through the place that scares you the most. I think it’s important to remember that no matter what you endure in the future you’ll never be back to that moment in time. It might feel like you’re stuck in the past but really that’s just a lie. Nothing can hurt me any more deeply than losing my Mom and the abuse did. The flashbacks are bound to happen again and it might be just as severe if not more but I now realize that I have the tools to fight them. I have my sword and shield to battle all the demons. Plus I have my Mom who is now my guardian angel.

So the moral of the story is we’re much stronger than we realize. We wouldn’t have gotten this far if we weren’t. Surviving is the hardest thing in this world to do and once you’ve done enough of it you become a warrior. We are warriors. I’m ready for wherever the universe wants to take me and I will do whatever I have to in order to be happy. Everyone deserves that.

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There’s No Escaping This Day: Four Years of Grief

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You think after so long of grieving one would become an expert but sadly it doesn’t ever work that way. There never becomes a point in the process where you say to yourself this is over, now I can move on. The shift is gradual but there’s never a defining moment, and it never goes away. Life get’s easier but you can never put yourself back together the way it was before the loved one died.

It’s been four years since my Mom died and it still feels like it just happened. Lately I’ve been catching myself wanting to call her. I have these moments of I should call Mom and tell her about this… then when it dawns on me that I can’t I get to relive the grief all over. I’m dreading the 9th, that’s the day she died. I know that day exists but my heart can suffer anymore. It about killed me.

As hard as I try there’s no way of escaping the 9th. I honestly wish I could just sleep the whole day away but that’s not reality. I’ve gotten to the stage of grief that I don’t want to be reminded of the grief. I went through a long period where that’s all I wanted to talk about but now it’s just too painful to relive it all. There was even a time where just seeing her picture caused me a great amount of pain. Thankfully that’s mostly passed.

You cope with loss the best way YOU can. There is no roadmap and everyone does it differently. There is no timetable or schedule to follow. Take as long as you need to heal. I’m at year four and it’s still really difficult for me. The first two years were the most difficult. Those were times I constantly felt like the air was escaping my world. Every day was a danger will robinson moment. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to escape it but I did and you will too.

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I sometimes get caught up in the why’s. The other night I was swimming alone and feeling so lonely. I just looked up in the clear blue sky and asked why… to both my Mom and God… No one answered back. Though if someone did I think that would really scare the living daylights out of me. The why’s are natural, they’re all part of the process. You try to bargain with the loss, you’ll even argue with it. You might even scream and yell at the person or even god. I know I’ve screamed, well not at my Mom but just in general. Though I’ve gotten angry at her. Then I realize that I’m being selfish.

If my Mom were to have survived the surgery she would have been miserable and I would never want that for her. She gave so much in her lifetime it was her time for peace. She earned it.

I still struggle with the whole process and I still don’t have a firm grasp of the afterlife. I just hope that I get to see her one day. Earlier (again while in the pool. it’s where I do all my thinking.) I had this thought that I might not ever see her again and thought to myself that would suck. A few years ago that thought would have sent me spiralling out of control. I guess I’ve come to terms with the possibility. I don’t have anything figured out with this world. I barely can control my own emotions, thoughts and behaviors let alone think about the answers to all the worldly questions. All I can do is hope. I’m not sure what that will mean, while we be friends in the next life? siblings? I don’t know… I really hope she’s my Mom again. I can’t imagine a world where she isn’t my Mom.

I look in the world and I see a lot of grieving. As you get older it unfortunately becomes part of the process. Now that Facebook has connected us all it’s much easier to find the grief. It breaks my heart, especially when I see it’s a new loss. To think that someone else is hurting just as much as I did or more, feels unbearable. I would do anything to take away their pain. Sadly loss is the type of pain that you can’t fix. It’s not a cold or a broken bone. Grief is this whole that’s been carved out of your heart and no amount of patching will cover it.

The 9th reminds me of all that. For someone with PTSD getting away from the event that caused you such pain is a very troublesome and tough task. Every door you open leads you back to that room. You constantly feel like the floor is going to collapse underneath you. You relive each moment like you’re watching a movie on the big screen. For the first year I couldn’t leave the hospital room where my Mom died. Everything reminded me of that day. Even closing my eyes didn’t give me any peace as it didn’t take me to a different place. Closing my eyes was just like opening a door back into that room.

I wish I had some great advice to give about how to overcome grief, especially PTSD but all I can do is give my perspective. Many people won’t understand you or what you’re enduring. Try not to listen to or believe them. They’re not you and they don’t live in your shoes. I’ve heard that the amount of pain/grief that you feel for the loss of a person is equal to the amount you suffer. Well I loved my Mom very deeply and I suffered more than I ever have.

I just kept opening doors. There were times I was so exhausted that I could only peek through a window. I think the key is repetition. Never give up. Go at a snail’s pace if you have to, that’s still moving forward. You know your progress, no one else does. Many times I would have to remind myself that I was no longer in that room. I had to do that the other day. It’s four years and I still am having to do that. It sucks, I won’t lie but you gotta do what you need to do to survive.

Sometimes surviving is all you can do. Surviving is much like grief. There is no roadmaps, nor are there levels of experience. It’s not like a videogame where you level up and hit your max. If only it were that easy but life isn’t. I’ve survived for the past four years. I have jumped hurdles and I’ve hide in caves. I’ve done it all. There were days so dark that I couldn’t even feel my way out of it.

I did most of the grieving all on my own. I use to think that was a negative but thankfully these days I see that as a strength. I was single (still am) and had no one to turn to. I had very few people to talk to and the ones I did weren’t able to give me what I needed. So I went inward and shut myself off to the world. I thought to myself I can never be hurt like this again so to protect myself I shut everything out and I mean everything.

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I’ve always let other people reach my heart and it’s affected me deeply. My Mom dying was the final blow. I lost the one person who loved me for who I was one and even my relationship with her was flawed at times but through it all she was always there. She was the person I turned to when I felt most lost and scared. So during the most difficult time in my life I had no one to reach out to. The calls stopped and the people offering support went on to their busy lives. I mean that’s to be expected it’s apart of life. Grief pauses your world but the rest of the world keeps turning. It’s really hard to adjust to that. You just want to scream bloody murder until someone hears you but no matter how hard you try they keep moving past you.

I have always taken things too personal and I’ve never been able to figure out why. At a very early age my feelings, want and wishes were given away not by my choosing. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to overcome this and I’m not even close to figuring it out. While I still things personal there is one thing that’s changed. I finally give a fuck enough about myself that I can say hey that’s fucked up. I’ve tolerated less for too long. Finally I’m at the point in my life where I can say that. I know I deserve better. I might feel like I’m unloveable but that doesn’t make that true.

I’m getting a little off point but what I’m trying to say don’t take it personal if the people in your life can’t give you what you need. It has nothing to do with you and all to do with where they’re at. That doesn’t make the bad always it’s just a reality of life. I learned a long time ago when I started to get help for the sexual abuse and the depression that some people can’t handle other people’s pain and suffering. When I was first hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and depression I saw good friends disappear. People get uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. So they distance themselves not even realizing it.

You might not know what to say always but sometimes just saying hey that sucks can do a world of good. Everyone knows what heartbreak is like in some way or another. It’s basically rejection. Death is the ultimate rejection. While not everyone has had their heartbroken with love, most have faced rejection in their professional life or even with friends. So you might not know what it’s like to lose a parent but that doesn’t mean you have to know the answers. No one who grieves ever expects anyone to fix the problem. No solution or math equation will fix this problem.

If someone you love and care for is in pain reach out to them. Not everyone has the strength to reach out for support. I know I didn’t. With grief it’s so easy to get caught up in the fear, especially if you’ve lived your life that way. Push through your uncomfortableness. You could make a difference in that person’s life by just saying something as simple as I’m thinking about you. Empathizing doesn’t cost anything nor does it take any effort or skill. Sadly not everyone knows they have that tool in their toolbox.

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Do whatever necessary to ask for help. If you have to scream it upon the rooftop, do it! It might scare some people but if it gets you the help you need then it did the trick. Three years ago I was there in so much pain that it became unbearable. When pain gets so unmanageable with no release in sight, you become desperate for a solution. In many cases that means suicide. I don’t think I ever wanted to die I just wanted the pain to end. I think that’s a very common and dangerous misconception about anyone who goes down that road. Often times they’re seen as weak. I know when I had my breakdown there were some who judged me, especially the fact that I went so public with my help.

In April of 2013, six months after my Mom had passed, I tried to kill myself. Thankfully during my desperation I posted a suicide note on facebook which prompted a friend I met during my Mom died to call me. My dear friend talked me off the ledge and I got the help I needed. Yes it scared a lot of people and I wished I had the strength to do things differently but in the end it kept me alive. Who would want to take that away from someone over the fear of having something be so public. It’s the keeping things hidden and a secret that does more damage than good. Society needs to talk about the difficult stuff including suicide.

My depression and PTSD spiralled out of control and I was floating into outer space. I needed something to hold onto but as hard I fought I continued to spiral further out into the black abysses. I was trying to do everything alone and I was failing miserably. Everything was upside down. Therapy and medicine has helped me turn things backside up. I’ve even ventured out of the basement into a new place. Life still isn’t easy by any means and I’m still having to overcome obstacles but I see now that I have always had this strength.

I’ve always found it funny when someone says you’re stronger than you think. I think it’s funny because for me that’s never been the question of my strength. Obviously if we weren’t strong we wouldn’t have been to endure the pain but you just get tired of jumping hurdles. Even the greatest sprinters and hurdlers get tired every once in awhile. Relief is really all that’s needed. Just keep working at it. It might not be as quick as some might would like you to move but as long as you see progress that’s all that matters.

Sometimes you just have to admit when life sucks and sometimes it really does. The key is not to get caught up in that. I have and it’s not easy to dig yourself out of that hole. After all I’ve endured I’m still here. There’s great strength in that, knowing something didn’t kill you. No matter how long you rest just get back up. That’s what matters. Keep weathering the storm. The scars don’t weigh you down they become apart of your armor. Think of it like rain gear to help you battle future storms. The change in my life has brought new hurdles for me to jump and my scars are helping me get through it. I’m determined to build a happy life for myself built on a solid foundation this time. A home that is my own and no others. A place that I can do or say whatever I want and no one can say a word to me.

Independence and stability are often times taken for granted. For someone with a mental illness they become a lifeline. I’m done with the bottom always falling out from under me. I’m tired of suffering. I’m tired of hurting. So I will keep on fighting until I get what I deserve and can live my life the way I want… and the way Mama always wanted for me.

I hope I can make her proud and honor her legacy, while creating one of my own. So if you’re dealing with grief hang in there. Sometimes you’ve just have to hold on and ride out the storm. I can do this and so can you!

I Love you Mama. Huggs

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There Is No Expiration On Dreams!

I had a thought the other night, that my life hadn’t worked out the way I had expected it to. Then I thought about my Mom and how she must have felt the same way when her marriage of over 30 years ended… and her two kids (who she loved with all her heart) grew up and move away… There is this great sense of loss from the realization that you’re life isn’t anywhere near the way you had envisioned it to be so many years ago.

I just turned 40 this year and I’m having to start all over again. Very much like my Mom had to do when my father left her for the last time. Here she was in her early 5o’s having to face a scary world alone. Independance is frightening and not always comforting. Though my Mom finally had her freedom it came with a price. Being alone for someone who is codependent can be a very unsafe place. She gave her life up for her husband and kids. It wasn’t until recently that I understood the loss she felt when my sister and I left.

It heartbreaks me to know the pain she felt in the last ten years of her life. I would do anything I could to change things. My Mom had to fight for everything she had, against all odds. She could have given up but she didn’t. Living on her own was often times difficult both physically and emotionally. She suffered plenty and I will always regret not being able to make her life less painful.

My life also hasn’t been easy. I fight every single day. I fight the tears. I fight the demons. I look back at the last twenty years and I wonder where did that time go. For most of that time I’ve lived in fear. Fear has crippled me. It has stunted my growth. I’m trying very hard to overcome it all. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so alone. Everything is scary.

I never thought I would end up this way barely able to take care of myself, with very little to my name . I don’t know who I want to be anymore or where I want to go but all’s not lost. I have hope and I’m determined to change my life for the better. I can’t keep living my life this way.

So I’m doing what I have to survive. There is one thing good thing that the sexual abuse has taught me and that’s how to survive in the darkest of environment. The abuse and the pain turned me into a Navy Seal. My Mom was exactly the same way.

While I might not know who I want to be there is one thing that I do know. Is that I want to be happy and I deserve to be. I’ve just have to keep on trucking through that muck. It’s not easy but it’s something I must do. I’m determined to get my freedom back no matter how hard and long I have to fight. Life is too short to settle and stay hidden.

So while I grieve over the person who I wished I had became. I will honor the person I grew up to be. I’ve always been on the same path I just took a few scenic routes to get to my destination. I still can be that person I’ve always wanted to be. I mean I already am. I’m strong and fearless. I’m an artist and I’m spiritual. I’m not perfect but my heart is pure. I must remind myself that you never get to a point in your life where you can’t get what you’ve always dreamed of. No matter how old you are there’s never a point where it’s too late. Our dreams don’t have expirations. That is something I need to remember during the days when I’m tired and feel like turning back. Going backwards won’t make my dreams come true but hard work and determination will.

So I’m starting down a new path. A place where I will build my foundation one pebble at a time. A foundation built on love, hope and dreams.

Depression Stigmata

I wish… that depression didn’t have such a stigma attached to it. I wish people wouldn’t question my symptoms because they can’t be seen like other illnesses. I wish I didn’t have depression but I do.

It’s easy to get trapped in thinking that you don’t deserve anything good especially kindness. Depression grabs ahold of you like cheetah to an antelope and it won’t let go until it’s gotten the kill.

Many times in my life I’ve felt weak, more times than not. Recently I was faced with something very difficult and the depression flood gates were opened wide up. The waves could have taken me under and washed me into sea but I stood still.

It’s not been easy. In a few days time I was transported to three years ago when I stuck in Nashville faced with the death of my sweet Mama. No matter how far I run I can’t see to get away from those two days. With the snap of my fingers I’m instantly transported back to that scary place. Where I’m alone and scared.

Even today I feel alone and scared but I refuse to give into the pain. I might end up homeless and alone but at least I’m still standing. No matter what is thrown my way I will survive it.

When you’ve faced depression head on for so many years you begin to rack up the scars. Look at them one by one and all you can see is the pain but if you’re able to look at them from afar you realize they’ve turned into armor.

The future is unknown. Even tomorrow is unknown. What I do know is that I deserve kindness. I deserve to be happy. We all do. I am not my depression. I’m so much more than that. So if you know someone struggling and you’re unsure how to handle the situation just show them kindness. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems but a little kindness goes a long ways.

Coat of Many Colors

Watching Dolly’s movie about her life called Coat of Many colors reminded me of many things. There was a line in the movie that hit me most and it was Dolly saying that growing up was not only some of her hardest times but best times as well. I wish I remembered the quote exactly, as it was more eloquent.

I have to agree. I can look back at my life and see all the wonderful things. There was a time that all I could see was the bad. Like little Dolly when she lost her soon to be brother to heaven, my heart hasn’t sung in a very long time. I’ve been angry at God… angry at Mama. I’ve tried to do it alone because I didn’t want to hurt anymore but that doesn’t work either. God is like love, without it the world becomes a very dark place.

I was raised in a very similar background as Dolly. My family was quite religious, Southern Baptist as a matter of fact. Many of my Sundays were spent in a similar church as shown in the movie. I don’t remember the fire and brimstone but I do remember all the singing. For a moment I was transported to my Mama and grandmother singing. I’ve tucked away my spirituality because of the fire and brimstone not realizing I was giving up the singing.

I think the moral of the movie and the testament of Dolly’s life is letting your heart sing. I can’t remember the last time those melodies plucked at my heart strings. My heart stopped singing long before Mama died.

While my childhood wasn’t quite like Dolly’s in regards to be poor we certainly didn’t have it easy. While I was watching Dolly’s Mother portrayed in the movie it was like my Mom was on the screen. My Mom did what she had to do to provide for us including making crafts for extra money to get my sister and I the things we needed.

My Mama did grow up in a family much like Dolly’s as they were very poor. To help the family my Mom had to work in the muck fields which meant picking onions in the sweltering summer sun. When kids were out playing she was out in the muck. The house she grew up in was the size of a small apartment with an outhouse for a bathroom. There were nine children in the family as well. So it was a full house.

I don’t know when but my Mom also stopped singing as well. We were both very codependent. She grew up with a father who was an alcoholic. From a very early age she learned how to walk on eggshells and was groomed to expect it out of life. Her adult life only mirrored that just like mine has.

When you grow up in dysfunctional family you learn how to survive, not to live. Chaos becomes the norm and it transforms you into an altered being. One where you tolerate other bad situations because you feel that’s what you deserved.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cycled through these moments where I’ve questioned what will happen next… as in when the ground will fall apart underneath my feet. So many times it’d fill up a book.

I’ve been beat down before but I’ve always gotten my voice back within a considerable time. While I’m further from that bad place (where I tried to kill myself two years ago) my voice is still soft. I don’t know how to get it back. It’s the exact feeling when I was being abused. I wanted to yell but nothing came out.

It’s been three years since my Mom has died. What keeps me from singing??? My therapist recently asked me if my father was a wise man. At first I thought why the heck she was asking me but after a few moments I said no… that he was foolish. She then asks me what I believed such an idiot and to which I replied I don’t know…

Ever since I’ve been scratching my head wondering why all these years I’ve listened to foolish people. I’ve let them keep me from singing for far too long. I’m just not sure how to create the life I deserve.

I’ve built a world around all the wrong things. Life (a happy one) seems so far away. No matter what I refuse to give in to the hopelessness. At times those voices are so loud they’re painful but I’m just angry enough to say fuck it. The good thing about getting kicked to the ground, you can’t go any further.

I would just like to use all that junk (the bad feelings, people not believing in me, the pain, the grief, abuse) as fuel to fight. To just say fuck it to the world and push through. Up until this point it’s dragged me down.

There is great resiliency in taking a stand and saying you’re fed up. No one has control over me but me. I don’t know how or when but I will move forward from it all.

So I’m going to put back on my coat of many colors as I’ve earned it. I’m going to hold onto my songbook and wait for the day I have something to sing about again. The notes are still there deep inside of me. I just have to discover them and I will…