Vulnerability

I’m experiencing a hard shut down, triggered by vulnerability. “Vulnerability refers to the inability (of a system or a unit) to withstand the effects of a hostile environment.” [Source: Wikipedia.] I recognize my vulnerabilities as triggers for dissociation, panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares, or any other symptom of anxiety, depression, or PTSD. My triggers for the defense mechanisms that serve to protect me are these vulnerabilities:

 

  • Specific Trigger Dates:
    • January 11th — date my divorce became final
    • January 15th — my dad’s birthday
    • March 1st — my oldest son’s birthday
    • April 11th/12th — date of first rape
    • April 14th — the day my dad died
    • April 27th — my youngest son’s birthday; memories associated with giving him up for adoption
    • August 11th — date of second rape
    • December 3rd — marriage anniversary

    Suicide Attempts (Possible trigger dates):

    1. August 9, 1996
    2. April 12, 1998
    3. October 14, 1998
    4. December 4, 2004

    Holidays that I recognize as being triggering:

    • Easter
    • Mother’s Day
    • My birthday
    • Thanksgiving
    • Christmas
  • Certain strong emotions, e.g. rage, grief, terror, contempt, disappointment, despair, hopelessness, disrespect, humiliation, frustration, overwhelm, shame, confusion, and shock.
  • Confrontation.
  • Harsh or negative criticism and judgement of others, feeling persecuted.
  • Acts of aggression and violence (hostility). I’m horribly sensitive to media coverage that is gruesome or hateful or violent, etc. Coverage of stories regarding rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or even sexual harassment can be triggering for me.
  • Exhaustion — whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or all of the above.
  • Feeling exposed, out in the open, insecure paranoia.
  • Injustice.
  • Loss of safety or insecure environment. Threat of homelessness, starvation, or abuse make me catatonic, totally checked out.
  • Feeling misunderstood, unheard, or not believed.
  • Lack of consistency, routine, or structure in my daily life.
  • Change — big or small, I don’t do well with change.
  • Healthcare — mental health or physical health, either one. I still, to this day, have “institutional” type nightmares; and I never stayed at any psychiatric facility for more than one month. I have no faith in the medical community, no faith in our doctors to actually listen, hear what they’re being told, and understand that I know my body better than they ever will given the brevity of time spent with patients. I have no patience left for psychiatry. I’m right there on that cliff of anti-psychiatry, ready to jump off. I don’t even have any trust left to give to another counselor or therapist. I have absolutely no cause to believe that corporations (pharmaceutical, healthcare related and insurance related) will grow a conscience and do what is “right” for the American people. And absolutely NO confidence in our government to protect us from predatory greed.

I think it’s a fair assessment to say that most people nowadays are feeling vulnerable, insecure, and lost in bewilderment in reaction to not only the violence of this past Saturday’s protests but also the hateful rhetoric spreading through social media like wildfire. And we still have that pesky little problem of a US president who does not belong there due to his emotional instability. This is a matter of National Security. Period. When the Commander-in-Chief is compromised due to illness, he must abdicate his position to someone of sound mind and body. Periods of hate and violence breed more hate and violence. There’s no doubt that our feelings are completely warranted in this particular situation. The political climate is volatile. Social unrest is of dire importance. It must be dealt with delicately and swiftly. Neither are Trump’s strengths.


What brought about this sudden change in the posts shared here on my blog as well as my reasons for listing my triggers again is specifically a reminder to me to remain vigilant in how I manage mental illness, especially now without the help or support of mental health services. Trust no one; and NEVER complain! That’s the message I’ll take away from my experience with PMHC and their corporate owner VBHCS.

I filed a formal complaint about the mishandling of my Safety Net review. Neither my counselor nor case manager took responsibility for the screw up, each blaming the other. Less than a month after I filed that complaint, my counselor tells me he’s no longer providing counseling due to a job change at the end of this month. No termination process whatsoever, just him asking, “I didn’t know if you wanted to take a break from therapy for a while?”

Me: Yeah, I think so. (Quietly livid — inner voices raging and screaming, while mocking, “Told you so! Told you so!”)

My counselor: I kind of figured that you’d want to. I was thinking on and off all day if I was going to approach this with you because I didn’t want to shock your system.

Too late for that. It was yet another shock, and I shut down — hard. I felt like I had just been kicked in the gut and booted out the door with a, “Buh-bye, now. Good luck!”

Coincidence? Or am I just being paranoid?

Did I just get discharged from mental health services because I filed a formal complaint?

The Requiem

Maybe I indulged an unhealthy obsession today or maybe it’s a process of grieving a loss. Either way, the result was a form of obscure poetry that speaks to the pain so many of us feel in the wake of one more light going out in the sky of a million stars. Linkin Park’s music got me through many a dark night when my own suicidal urges were at their worst from 2002 through 2005. Chester Bennington will be missed greatly. My most sincere condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

Linkin Park Playlist Includes:

Rebellion
Valentine’s Day
Iridescent
The Radiance
Runaway
Skin to Bone
Lies Greed Misery
Lying from You
The Catalyst
Victimized
Powerless
What I’ve Done
Fallout
Guilty All the Same
In Between
Castle of Glass
Burn It Down
Burning in the Skies
When They Come for Me
Heavy
Faint
Blackout
Empty Spaces
Numb
Wastelands
Forgotten
Wake
War
From the Inside
Battle Symphony
Crawling
In Pieces
Roads Untraveled
Leave Out All the Rest
Foreword
Somewhere I Belong
A Place for My Head
One More Light
Wisdom, Justice, and Love
Until It’s Gone
Points of Authority
Wretches and Kings
Hands Held High
The Summoning
Robot Boy
Drawbar
Session
With You
The Little Things Give You
Shadow of the Day
Tinfoil
The Messenger
Keys to the Kingdom
Halfway Right
Breaking the Habit
Until It Breaks
Cure for the Itch
Lost in the Echo
Figure 09
A Light That Never Comes
Pushing Me Away
Talking to Myself
Nobody’s Listening
Invisible
By Myself
Easier to Run
All for Nothing
One Step Closer
Nobody Can Save Me
A Line in the Sand
Final Masquerade
In the End
Given Up
Don’t Stay
I’ll Be Gone
Good Goodbye
Sharp Edges
Papercut
Bleed It Out
Hit the Floor
Waiting for the End
No More Sorrow
In My Remains
Mark the Graves
The Requiem
Sorry for Now


If you are feeling suicidalplease, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out.

The Clothesline Project

Today was an interesting day. As I looked through my Facebook feed, I noticed a post made by Genesis House about an event going on at Tennessee Tech University called the Clothesline Project. After calling for more information, I made the spontaneously impulsive decision to drive to Cookeville to check it out.

I remember hearing something about this last year but didn’t go at that time. Today, however, I was determined.

I went. I walked around looking at so many people’s contributions to the project and chose to make a T-shirt of my own. My hands were shaking the entire time I worked on my shirt. I drank 2 cups of water in the short time I was there as my nervousness tends to manifest in dry mouth and thirst. A nice lady from Tennessee Tech’s Women’s Center provided the second cup and a couple of brownie bites. This made me smile and eased my mind a little. In fact, everyone there was so supportive and encouraging.

Despite my horrible anxiety and nervousness, I think my shirt turned out pretty well:

It felt good to participate. My only regret is that I wasn’t finished with my T-shirt in time to participate in the “Take Back the Night” march around campus. Still, I’m proud of myself for having gone there, for handling the triggers so well, and for making my own voice heard. I’m proud of myself because I pushed myself outside my comfort zone to participate in this.

This was a special and meaningful day for me — very therapeutic.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Great Smoky Mountains

This past week has been brutal. The wildfires in the Gatlinburg area triggered that sense of helplessness and despair I so often find myself in. I grew up just outside Sevier County. I spent most of my childhood and teens frequenting the many tourist attractions of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountains. So many of my happiest memories are attached to one place or another there as is the case for most of us who grew up in East Tennessee. I worked 2 seasons at Dollywood after graduating high school and again briefly in ’98 — my favorite job of the many I’ve held. I have a strong attachment to that area.

It’s home.

My heart and soul belong to the Smoky Mountains. As a child, I spent many a summer day swinging on my front porch in the foothills of the Smokies, gazing at those beloved mountains off in the distance. That’s where I learned to meditate, though I had no name for this practice back then. The Smoky Mountains taught me to simply “be” and savor my natural surroundings. It may sound silly to those who have never experienced the “spirit” of a place, but those mountains are truly alive. Still to this day, they take my breath away and fill me with peace whenever I return to them, like a mother nurturing her child.

That’s why these wildfires hurt so much. I’ve cried more tears this week — unstoppable, heartbroken tears as I watched a fiery inferno threaten all that I hold dear. “It could have been much worse.” I keep telling myself that, but it does little to assuage the devastation I feel. The only thing that has helped my sadness at all is seeing communities come together all over the state raising money and donations to help with relief efforts. These acts of kindness restore at least some small measure of faith in humanity to do the “right” thing.

As of writing this:

  • The death toll is at 13 people.
  • 15,653 acres were affected by the fires.
  • “1,000 structures were either damaged or destroyed by the fires.”
  • “4,871 people remain without power in Sevier County” as of 8:15 pm last night.

[Source: “Fire death count remains at 13; searches winding down.” WBIR, 2016. 02 Dec. 2016.]

I can’t even imagine the devastation to the wildlife population without immediately falling into a panic and more tears.

The Sevier County community relies on the tourism industry. These fires could have devastating consequences for many people in that area, especially those who lost their homes. At this time, monetary donations would go farther than anything else. Please, consider giving what you can: American Red Cross.

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

I, quite seriously, feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m back to questioning whether I’m alive or dead. Nothing feels real, so I’m going with the latter. What if I’m the only person who knows we’re all dead and trying to work out our past life’s traumas? All of this talk of moving on is meant to push us into the next life — reincarnate to try again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

I’m really struggling right now.

I feel like I don’t belong here, like an alien stranded on some strange — very disturbing — planet that’s about to veer off course into its sun. Half the population is creating hell while the other half of us are simply trying to connect the dots, prove there’s a better way to deal with suffering. Progress based in love and compassion is our only way forward. Hate and exclusion moves us backward to repeat past mistakes over and over again. Everything seems so black and white, good or evil, positive or negative. Polar opposites. The balance is teetering on the brink of destruction and each side keeps rocking the boat.

Chaos is winning.

I feel lost. I feel like nothing more than an observer, silenced by overwhelm, suffocating from too many triggers, buried alive under so much hate. I’m “out of my mind.” I feel like I’m experiencing all of this out of my body, lost and untethered, with no desire to bother coming back. Content to watch the world crash and burn, taking my soul with it, I mourn for our planet as much as myself as even she has lost the will to live.

The rape of our planet’s resources is the perfect metaphor for the crushing disappointment in humanity to defend and honor the female population.

What chance do women have in a barbaric patriarchy that treats us like objects to be used for their sick and twisted amusement?

This election and its aftermath left me in a state of shock and dismay. To say I’m disappointed in its outcome would be the understatement of the year. I find myself fighting dissociation, that familiar numb disconnect fueled by a desperation to survive the suicidal ideation triggered by the events of the past few weeks. I’ve had nightmares for at least the last 3 nights in a row. The flashbacks are intense, invasive and graphic memories causing severe panic. KR, trying to be helpful, took me to buy pepper spray. It was a sweet gesture; but knowing my freeze response when I feel threatened, I would never get the chance to use it.

In response to a comment someone left on a link I shared on Facebook, I wrote:

As a direct result of Trump’s language throughout his campaign and that leaked video, every time I see that man’s face come across my news feed or hear another ignorant thing he says, I feel triggered. I know, that’s *my* problem to deal with; and I’m coping to the best of my ability. However, I associate Trump’s face with every man who ever sexually harassed me, with every man who ever sexually assaulted me (grabbed or otherwise touched me inappropriately), and with the men who raped me.

THAT is what Trump represents for me. Half of the voters in this country validated his words and actions JUST by voting for him. I accept the fact that Trump won this election, but acceptance does NOT mean I have to tolerate his hate speech. Acceptance does NOT mean I condone his behavior or validate his twisted beliefs. Acceptance is NOT approval.

What I’m feeling isn’t “fear.” It’s disgust — not just for Trump but also for the 47% of Americans who voted for him, who condone the behavior of a bully and sexual predator. Disgust and contempt.

And that is what all of this boils down to. I’m not usually so open about my private struggles under my “real” identity. I was taught from an early age not to burden others with my problems, especially not family; but this election sparked an unbridled rage within me to speak out that I’ve never felt before. I broke down after writing that response.

I called RAINN’s support line for, ya know, support. I was transferred to an organization out of Murfreesboro, TN. I told the woman who answered, “I think I need to talk to someone.” She seemed annoyed when I gave my reason for calling. I immediately regretted having reached out to a total stranger for help. I thought, “I must be wasting her time over an issue that took place over 18 years ago.” I felt weak for allowing the political climate to trigger such a strong response within me. She took my name and phone number and said someone would call me back.

I’m still waiting 4 days later to “talk” to someone.

could have called any other crisis line; but I chose RAINN because I thought, “They’re trained specifically to deal with issues of this nature.” Right?

I never wanted to be a part of Trump’s reality, but I am. I have been for a long time. Men, who think they can grab a woman’s private parts because… they can? Consent means nothing to a sexual predator. It was bad enough that someone running for our highest office here in the US bragged about this type of behavior, but for that same man to actually become President of the United States?!

It’s not just a slap in the face to anyone victimized in this way. It’s like being sexually assaulted and raped all over again.

No. I’m not okay.

A lot of women are struggling today with these same emotions and triggers as a result of this election. Know that you’re not alone. I know from experience, too often it feels that way. I’m still searching for the emotional support and connection to people who understand what I’ve been through, but…

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

Hope Is a Guiding Light

For many women Mother’s Day is an especially difficult day. I’m speaking to those women who for whatever reason don’t share the daily lives of their children, who either lost custody of their children or signed away their parental rights. I know the pain — gut wrenching heartache — that accompanies both scenarios. I know the guilt and shame you’ve felt from the insensitive comments made by friends and family who can’t possibly understand the reality in which you find yourself.

I know the despair and heartbreaking sadness of such a profound loss as that of losing a child to a significant other and also that of voluntarily giving a child up for adoption, to another family to raise. In my own life, both of these scenarios occurred within a year of each other, seemingly reinforcing the other, deepening the wound and that sense of loss and despair. So often over the years, I thought of all the life experiences I was missing in my children’s lives. They do grow up so fast.

I know that none of us knows exactly what the other is going through, nor do we share the exact same set of circumstances; yet each of us can relate to one another at a deep, emotional level. Others without our experience of a Mother’s loss could never understand this intense pain. We, who never wanted the stigma of being childless mothers, suffer a great loss, an emptiness/incompleteness that tears our hearts to bits, shatters our soul to the core, and so often leaves us in a broken heap on the floor with every anniversary, birthday, and Mother’s Day. Even holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving lose their meaning when they’re overshadowed by a loss of this magnitude.

Never think for a moment that you don’t matter. You matter! You deserve to be acknowledged on Mother’s Day, too!

Use today as a day for mourning your loss if you must. Don’t allow anyone to take that away from you. Get through the day with great courage and cry your tears and feel that pain. Know that pain won’t last forever. It comes in waves and lessens with time. Remember to give yourself credit for that strength and courage that only you can validate in your heart.

Distract. Soothe. Repeat.

Find a method that works best for you to get all of that pain and sadness out and commemorate that severed bond. Get creative. Journal or write a letter to your child (even if you don’t/can’t send it), create a video or use poetry to soothe your soul. Paint or draw your emotions. Start a scrapbook for your child full of happy and sad thoughts, your life experiences, and those moments you do experience with your child. For those of you who don’t get those experiences right now, hold onto that hope with all your heart that one day you may — you will — have that chance to be a part of your child’s life.

Never give up that hope. Let it be your guiding light during the storms.

A Birth Mother’s Letter to Her Son

Seventeen years ago, yesterday, I gave birth to a baby boy. Three days later, he would leave the hospital with his adoptive family; and I was left to cope with the loss. I’ve written extensively about the circumstances of his conception and birth previously in the post titled, My Story — Part 4 (The Second Half of My Year of Hell). From that post:

I got to spend 3 very emotional days with this little bundle of joy. His adoptive parents and I chose his name together. I felt honored that they would share this experience with me. His parents (and all the people at Caring Choices, too) were truly the first kind faces I had seen in a very long time. They showed me such compassion that I knew I had made the right choice. On May 15, 1999, I signed the surrender of adoption, giving up this child to his adoptive parents, who took him home from the hospital 3 days after his birth. This was truly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made; but I felt that it was in his best interest to find more suitable, stable parents to raise him than what I, myself, could possibly provide. This was one very special gift that I was able to give in this lifetime, and I can only hope that karma rewards with compassion.

This post is a letter I chose to write in honor of his birthday, which still proves to be an incredibly difficult day for me even 17 years later. 


My dearest C–,

My, how time flies. You’re already 17 years old — a young man. Each and every year on your birthday, I pull out the photo album of photos your parents sent me of you and your family throughout the first 3 years of your life. I also read the letters your mom so graciously sent me. Your family will always have such a special place in my heart for the love and compassion they showed me during a tumultuous period in my life. I am so thankful to your parents, your adopted sister, and their entire extended family members for accepting you as their own and for their love and support.

I sincerely apologize for not taking the time to write and update you all about my life as we had agreed. Unfortunately, the struggles in my life often made communication with others very difficult for me. One day, when you’re older, I’ll tell you my story should you ever decide you wish to hear it. I know this won’t make up for not being a part of your life, but it is important to me that you understand my absence and know that I thought of you often with all my love. I can only ask for your forgiveness and compassion for not being strong enough to continue writing letters and sending photos. The pain of remembering that time in my life was simply too great.

I’m deeply sorry for not being able to be part of your life. When I chose to give you up for adoption, I only wanted what was best for you. I wanted you to have everything I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to provide. In finding an adoptive family who could provide you with the love and emotional support you deserve, I felt you would have the best chance to grow up in a stable, healthy environment. Despite my soul feeling incomplete without you and the heartache of sorrow I felt when I gave you up, I know I made the right choice. You deserved to grow up without the weight of my burdens in life. You deserved to experience a happy childhood within the safety and security of healthy role models.

One day, I would love to hear of all your joys and heartaches, your accomplishments and defeats, your passions and dislikes, and your hopes and dreams. I often wonder what you look like, now. I wonder how you’ve turned out. I wonder what subjects you enjoy at school and where your life will lead you. I wonder if we will ever meet again — if you ever think of me and wonder the same. It is my hope that I gave you the BEST of me, and that life treats you kindly. You’ll forever be in my thoughts.

All my love,

Your Birth Mother