invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

beauty in tragedy June 27, 2009

i must admit. i really miss writing. but life has been hectic lately, to say the least.

i am in the middle of therapy at a local sexual assault center. it’s a wonderful place and i’m finally getting the ‘right’ treatment. trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy. so, 21 years this summer since I was brutally raped. the mask is off. the walls are coming down. and i am healing. finally. no more doctors pushing the dangerous medications…just a loving environment focusing on the trauma in my life. and there is a lot of it.

my therapist asked me last week if there was anything in her office that made me feel unsafe. the simple fact that there are no pharma reps pimping their latest drugs is good enough for me. i didn’t say that but she knows how i feel about them.

i have found beauty in tragedy there. i see children playing (they are big on play therapy) outside the window of my therapist’s office in the yard or in the sand box. i see paintings and drawings from children ages 2-14 covering the walls in the hallways and my therapist’s office. and i cry. i cry tears of joy and pain. but mostly joy. i know why these young girls are there. i stared at a girl around age 7 in the waiting room one day and my heart was heavy knowing why she was there. (this center only sees victims of sexual abuse) and yet i also felt joy knowing this girl (and others there) are getting the proper help now versus 21 years later like me. something tells me their life will be less painful and a little easier. and i cry…thankful for places like this.

i sometimes sit there and stare at the children and think….if only i had found the right treatment earlier. and then i remind myself i blocked out my rape for nearly 4 years and then spent years of escaping…listening to the wrong doctors and therapists, allowing them to label me with every ‘mental illness’ in the book. allowing them to medicate me, believing it was the only solution. and yet, i do not live with regret. it took 21 years to come to this place for a reason. i don’t know why but there is a reason and someday i will know. i think i probably already do and just can’t express it right now because there is so much going on. i have not been reading blogs or the news…still. i miss my friends and readers here. but….my husband’s father is dying. quickly. cancer in his liver. stomach. colon (which they removed) and lymph nodes. we have been out of town. my husband is making peace with the man (his father) whom he had not seen in 14 years for a very good reason. and now, we wait. well, he waits for the phone call. it may come today. it may come in 4 months. but it will come and it saddens me. i wish i were in a better place to comfort him during this time. it’s something i am working on.

i don’t want to get too much into the details…it is not my story to tell. but sometimes when one is on their deathbed there is often much regret for the horrible things they have done to loved ones. i do not want to have that regret someday. and so i will continue on my path of love, compassion and honesty.

in regards to my family, they are waiting for me to call them and ‘mend’ things….and although it hurts….i will do it, eventually. sooner rather than later. because, again, i do not want to be on my deathbed someday with regret.

i will continue to seek the beauty in tragedy. it is all i know to do.
peace to you all.

 

Dr. John Breeding on trauma March 17, 2009

I found this video at the lovely and very helpful beyond meds at ning website. Unfortunately, I’ve been sick the past several months and haven’t been able to spend as much time there as I would like. Anyway, this video left me feeling confused and intrigued:

I am interested because today I was reminded of my rape. It’s not an unusual occurrence-it’s a past traumatic experience that is almost always there lingering and sometimes taunting me or shutting me down, etc. Today, some of the many memories came up again. the gravel driveway. my head banging against a tire. the sound of my underwear being ripped off of me. the rest, mostly a blank. a bathtub. my friend holding my hand. blood. wearing nothing but a t-shirt. I was fifteen and then suppressed the events of this evening for nearly four years.

Three key things Dr. John Breeding mentions in this video in regards to healing past trauma(s) are:

take care of yourself
go slow
allow expression

Well, the first two, I don’t know how to do. The third, not a problem. Although I was raised in a home where I felt loved but misunderstood. But, and most importantly, there were rarely any expressions or emotions allowed-we didn’t talk about anything of substance. Pretty much everything was swept under the rug. If you’ve seen the beautiful film “Ordinary People” you’ll have a better picture. I don’t blame my parents for this-I have forgiven them-they were raised this way. My parents also tried to find a quick fix which is what led to my first psychiatrist visit at the age of 13 after I showed signs of depression and voiced suicidal thoughts. Again, I don’t blame them. I imagine they were doing the only thing they knew to do in that situation. That first visit led to over twenty years of psychiatric medications to include: Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Abilify, Seroquel, Remeron, Wellbutrin, Xanax and Lamictal. These are the ones I can remember. And, not one of them worked for more than 2 years. Actually, Lamictal was the only one that seemingly worked that long. I saw many psychiatrists and therapists over the years following my first visit at thirteen. I even checked myself into a mental hospital. NOTHING WORKED. But during all of the above visits, I was always labeled with something-depression, double depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar-and given meds and ridiculous tools from therapists that never worked.

Here’s where I’m going with this. So, I was raped at 15. But, what happened BEFORE that? Is there a trauma that I’m still blocking/suppressing after all of these years? I’m nearly 36 now. I know why my parents brought me to see that psychiatrist at 13-I repeatedly told them I wanted to die! But, why?!?!? I have absolutely no clue and this concerns me. How does one face and heal from a trauma that does not exist in their mind? My maternal grandmother was deemed mentally ill and spent a lot of time in mental hospitals, she had shock treatments, she was medicated most of her adult life. She died fairly young, due to complications of diabetes, during a very difficult time in my life. I was heavily medicated and we had never once had a discussion about her illness or her life. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I always assumed that I had inherited her “mental illness” but is that what she had? Is that what I have? My grandmother, for example, I know after much digging around and asking my aunts lots of questions, I know that her father burned to his death when she was around five. I’m don’t know anything about her mother, my great-grandmother, I don’t recall ever meeting her. But I do know my grandmother lived in orphanages and foster homes. I’m pretty certain she was sexually abused. So, for some reason, after my great-grandfather died in that fire, my grandmother did not stay at home. I remember my grandmother’s mysterious sister showing up at her funeral and everything was hush hush. Now that I think about it, I believe my grandmother also had a brother and he was not at her funeral.

My grandmother’s life, what I know of it, reeks of trauma. Which is exactly why this video caught my attention. I must blame some really bad doctors and therapists for not addressing and treating the trauma but instead labeling me with whatever they felt suitable, medicating me and moving on to their next patient.

Regardless, I’ll be heading to the library to check out some books while I can’t afford therapy or acupuncture and facing the trauma I know about. First on the list I suppose will be Trauma Through A Child’s Eyes by Peter Levine and Maggie Kline.

 

a familiar road December 3, 2008

things in my life have taken a turn for the worse. call it anxiety. call it depression. call it bipolar. and yes some suicidal thoughts thrown in the mix. call it whatever you want but it’s not fun. at all.

the past 12 or so months have been unusual and quite difficult. in no particular order dealing with:

-loss of health insurance for the first time in my life
-the 20 year anniversary of my rape which has flooded my mind more than usual
-the diagnosis of sciatica and adenomyosis
-choosing a road without medication for my mental illness
-the economy failing and finding it incredibly difficult to secure a job-especially when the last ten years of my “occupation experience” fall in the film industry, which nobody seems to understand. when you can’t get hired at the new whole foods or trader joe’s in town-things are bad.
-two newborn nieces i have never met
-difficulties with my family over numerous issues have brought much sadness

where have the above left me? in a deep, dark hole. and for the first time (in a long time) i have not been able to see the light and that fact frightens me.

it could be worse. i know this. we all do. i especially know this considering a family member was killed in Kuwait, he was 19 and had his whole life ahead of him. another cousin just happened to be at the Alfred P. Murray building on the same day Timothy McVeigh “visited”, Thomas died that day. A girl I worked with was shot during last week’s Mumbai attacks.

however, I have a mental illness and have come to realize that sometimes you must take drastic measures to get out of the “hole” and that (sometimes) requires taking medications you absolutely despise. (this would not be the case if i could afford acupuncture)

i paid a visit to my internist since i cannot afford to see a psychiatrist without insurance. yesterday morning i sat in her office taking deep breaths, trying to avoid a full blown panic attack. i stared outside her window, watching small snowflakes slowly fall to the ground. grey skies. ugly buildings. but beautiful snow. and my mind kept going back to the same place—when will this end? it was there that i decided, probably never. i will be fighting this illness my entire life. it’s like an incurable cancer that you are born with and forced to live with…until the end of your days. and i say that because…

my internist walked in and asked what was going on…i broke down…and three crumpled tissues later she was handing me 3 sample boxes of Abilify (the heavily advertised antipsychotic), a prescription for xanax and celexa. Wow. I fought the Abilify choice-I am 100% against antipsychotics after my Seroquel experiences. However, she basically told me i am in a very bad place and need something strong to get me out of it. She promised it would be short term-hence only a 3 week supply. During our visit I was reminded of something a nurse at a Vanderbilt psychiatric study told me. and i told the story to my doctor. basically, a few years ago i signed up for a paid depression study— after i listed the medications i had taken over the past 15 years, the nurse denied my participation in their study by simply stating, we have deemed you untreatable.

yesterday my doctor laughed at the idea of participating in such a study and my response was a bit harsh, and from the look in her eyes, I don’t think she liked it…..i said, “why not…i’ve been a guinea pig for the pharmaceutical companies for YEARS and i might as well get paid for it!”

untreatable. and that’s where i’m going with this. i am convinced the medications on the market for depression, bipolar, etc either a) don’t work b) work short term or c) make us sicker. and although a lot of my “symptoms” revolve around situational experiences, i do believe i was born with a mental illness and i have to figure out how to live with it and survive it…in a world full of stigma and companies that do not seem to give a damn about the medications they are pumping into our bodies. the studies are flawed and fixed. it’s all about the money. doctors are influenced/bribed. the hippocratic oath is a rare thing these days and that is very sad.

and so i stare at these and cringe:

dsc00502

as much as these medications disgust me it was the printout i received from my pharmacist that truly disturbed me, it was titled:

Antidepressant Medicines, Depression and other Serious Mental Illnesses, and Suicidal Thoughts or actions.

the printout goes on about how loved ones should pay close attention to any sudden changes in mood, behaviors, thoughts, or feelings. they list possible symptoms like…thoughts about suicide or dying, new or worse depression, new or worse anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, new or worse irritability, acting aggressive, being angry or violent, acting on dangerous impulses, an extreme increase in activity and talking (mania), feeling very agitated, other unusual changes in behavior.

How unbelievably ironic and SAD. medications prescribed to stop these very things can lead to any of the above. So much for progress. I have fought this illness since I was thirteen, that would be 22 very long years.

and this is where we are?!

but…i’m not back at square one. i’m just on a very familiar road. a road that is very bumpy, curvy and unpredictable. luckily i’m smart enough to know when that road leads me to a cliff, i do whatever is necessary to avoid jumping off.

maybe someday i will not be deemed untreatable. maybe someday my illness will be understood by the people i hold close to my heart. and hopefully someday that road will never lead to a cliff.

 

a message to sarah palin September 2, 2008

Filed under: 2008 election,life,pain,politics — clementine @ 4:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

In November 2006, then gubernatorial candidate Sarah Palin declared that she would not support an abortion for her own daughter even if she had been raped. Granting exceptions only if the mother’s life was in danger, Palin said that when it came to her daughter, “I would choose life.”

This is my message to Ms. Palin:

I was brutally raped at 15. It was such a traumatic experience that I completely blocked it from my memory for nearly 4 years. Suddenly (and something did trigger it) moments of that night flooded my mind. I spent years and years in therapy, very little of which was covered by my insurance company.

Oddly enough I wanted to remember the entire evening, I didn’t want the bits and pieces. A therapist told me, “your mind will only remember what you can handle” and I have lived with that reality. I floated through life struggling with that reality for the next 15 years. During those years I was lost and never in a relationship. However, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I found a great career after much sadness and struggle. And recently, almost 20 years after the rape, I found a man who loves me…a good man.

However, I cannot imagine adding a child to my equation. It was difficult enough living with the memories of that brutal night. It was extremely difficult going through the very long healing phase. If I had become pregnant from that experience, that child would certainly be a reminder of a horrible evening that ended with me in a bathtub, wearing nothing but a bloody t-shirt. That night changed me. A soccer star who quit the team. A smart girl who couldn’t finish college. A girl afraid to sleep at night unless she kept a knife under her mattress. A trusting girl who suddenly trusted no one. If I was forced to raise a child from that experience-I don’t think I would have made it. Suicide would have most definitely been an option. I know some might say that child could have healed me. I beg you to put yourself in my shoes, in any raped girl’s shoes…what if that child had his nose? his mouth? his eyes? those eyes that still haunt my dreams. The fear and pain would never subside. I don’t wish that pain on anyone.

Think about that, Ms. Palin.

p.s. I’m sure your answer would be, your friends, family and your local church would have surrounded you with support and love. I beg to differ. My church-going parents and sister will not talk about my rape. Most of my friends remain silent when I mention it. I feel like the bad guy, imagine how that child would feel??? This is not your choice or the government’s choice. This is a woman’s choice.

 

easy does it December 26, 2006

Filed under: life,pain — clementine @ 8:15 pm
Tags: , ,

this year as we shopped for the families in need, i hoped one of the little girls in the many families wished for an easy-bake oven. i never saw that wish. it wasn’t until the last day of shopping i saw an 8-year-old who had simple wishes…clothes, cd player, paints…that i decided to use some money left over and get her that easy-bake oven.

the easy-bake was one of the my favorite things as a child. i baked many cakes in that oven. two or so years later i moved on to bigger cakes and even won a few cake decorating contests in our local 4-h club. somewhere along the line i stopped cooking. maybe i just got lazy. maybe i caved into fast food and frozen 5 minute meals. maybe i stopped enjoying it. of course, it’s not the 1950s. women are working. dinner doesn’t have to be on the table at 5. those days are long gone. and that is just fine.

as we were shopping my swain watched my eyes light up every time we passed the easy-bake oven. christmas morning the last gift i unwrapped was just that. i thought he was being cute. thoughtful. sweet. all the things he his. later that evening my fears and anxieties overwhelmed me, as they often do. i crawled into bed, under the covers where it was safe and warm. he came back and he told me why he bought that easy-bake oven.

he wanted me to go back. go back to before age 15. and remember what it was like.

some kids had a rough childhood. some kids were poor. some kids never got that easy-bake oven they wished for. but i did. besides the depression i had a wonderful childhood. full of so many beautiful memories. life was easy. and it was mostly good. until i was raped when i was 15. everything changed. and i mean everything.

life was never the same.

today, the easy-bake requires no light bulb. and the cake seems very small. i hope the 8-year-old girl is enjoying it. i hope her life gets better. i hope my 15 never happens to her. but if it does, i hope she finds someone like my swain. and i hope he buys her an easy-bake oven.

 

burning the t-shirt October 29, 2006

Filed under: pain — clementine @ 8:03 pm
Tags: , ,

today i woke up feeling terrible. for several days headaches have been waking me from my sleep. and not just your average headache. head pounding. sensitive to light. i can’t focus. my only thought is, excedrin, make it stop, now. i thought maybe my sinus headaches were back but now i’m thinking it’s a side effect from lamictal. i’ve had them before but with acupuncture, they quickly disappeared. it looks like i’ll be returning for more acupuncture once i get paid.

the headaches coupled with it’s that time of the month…and a bunch of stress, i’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. the stress would be, me struggling…to let go of something that happened so very long ago. to this day it rears its ugly head and disrupts my life. it makes trusting someone extremely difficult and therefore causes problems in my relationship, my marriage.

i believe most mentally ill human beings are born that way. it’s genetic. that’s the case with me. because there is no other explanation for suicidal thoughts at 13. especially when life wasn’t so bad. my parents worked hard to make sure i had the best of everything. and yet, i didn’t want to live. life to me was hopeless. and that’s why at 13 i saw my first of many psychiatrists. and then just as life seemed painful enough a man entered my life. at a party. age fifteen. this is what i remember. a gravel driveway. my underwear ripped from me. hard thrusts. my head banging against a tire. a struggle. and then. a bathtub. i’m in it wearing only a t-shirt. and there was blood. on my ear. on my face. on my t-shirt. my friend since the age of four leaning over me telling me everything would be ok. except it wasn’t ok.

i was so far from ok that…that night and all memories of that night escaped me for years. it was as if it never happened. until one crisp fall day, four years later. it slowly creeped back. something triggered it, of course. i remembered the man and the night. i allowed the pain and the memories to overwhelm me to the point of escaping them. for years. drinking. alone. quit college. waiting tables. a brief stay in a mental hospital. never in a relationship. men used me and i was just fine with that or so i thought i was. i deserved it, it was how it was to be, i believed that more than anything.

there were periods of light. but mostly darkness. and then one day, i decided i was tired of spinning my wheels, lost. my dream to work in the film industry became a reality. and not by luck. i pursued that dream with all i had. some could say i’ve been successful. my list of credits is impressive. but all along, i was still lost. the work was yet another escape. for eighteen years i’ve been wearing the same t-shirt. it is old, worn and dirty. and yet, it has been comfortable, safe, all these years. until now. this year marked the year i let someone in. i opened my heart to a man and began to tear down the walls. the feelings of worthlessness. the fears. the anxieties. only, that t-shirt is still here. it’s not comfortable and i’ve replaced it with a nice warm sweater or a pair of pajamas but it’s still hanging there begging me to put it on, every once in a while. i want to burn that t-shirt. and i don’t know how. i need to burn it. i don’t know how. my only hope is that my strength will soon defeat this pain. i am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. i do not believe in turning back time, if only we could erase one moment. there are days i would like to, and this is one of those days. but…no, because we are who we are because of these pains. and i wouldn’t want to be anyone else but me.

i am reminded that i am so very lucky. my swain…my love is there, every step, every breathe, reminding me that i deserve this. i am worthy of this love and so much more. i believe it now, more than anything. but that damn t-shirt still taunts me.