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.

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it’s not/what you thought/when you first began it June 5, 2009

it’s not/what you thought/when you first began it…
lyrics from Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up”
from one of my favorite songs and film, Magnolia.

my absence is not due simply to work (i’m finished and broke again) or negative attacks. it’s also simply (and i hope i don’t offend anyone but if I do, I apologize in advance….) I need to take of ME.

21 years ago around this time, i was raped. as my regular readers know, it was so brutal, i blocked it from my mind for nearly four years until something triggered it. then, at 19, i began traveling a road of escapism, addictive behaviors, etc. along the way I was diagnosed with just about every ‘mental illness’ out there…first depression, then double depression, then borderline personality disorder and lastly bipolar. I’ve been on numerous psychiatric medications all of my adult life.

and now, as I’m about to turn 36 next week, i have realized (with the help of some dear friends and readers…you know who you are and I am eternally grateful to you!!!) that it’s not what i thought when i first began it. for the majority of my life, i wanted to BELIEVE I had a mental illness. i took the pills. i spent tens of thousands in medical bills…saw the most expensive psychiatrists, therapists, etc….none of whom never understood me nor cared to. a waste of money and time to say the least, but a lesson learned and I grew from it. that’s what life is about….

I have been reading Peter Levine’s Healing Trauma and of course I have realized that the symptoms of many ‘mental illnesses’ are absolutely 100% identical to the symptoms of trauma. and I have a lot of trauma in my life, not just the brutal rape. The obvious cases of trauma being war, sexual abuse, physical or mental abuse, loss of a loved one, etc. But I was surprised by the lesser known cases of trauma and I encourage you to read his book if you haven’t already or one similar.

while working on a job recently, a girl turned me onto a beautiful center here in town. it’s a sexual assault center. my first appointment was earlier this week. i nervously walked in and was immediately overwhelmed by a beautiful, caring and loving energy unlike anything I have ever experienced at a place like this before. i will get more into it at another time, but let me just say, it is a wonderful place. and i received a grant so my first 8 sessions are free, after that, sliding scale. not sure how i’ll afford it then, but I will find a way. what matters here is: these people CARE. they do not medicate you. they HEAL you.

during my first session i did 90% of the talking (not uncommon during a first visit) but when my therapist was able to get a word in she brought up dissociation and a form of esp…something I will also get into at another time. (my intuition has grown much stronger over the years and she explained why) but as i sat in her office staring at the toys, the window covered with children’s artwork and drawings…i cried….tears of joy and sadness. through the window I could see children doing their ‘play therapy’ in the beautiful yard. i cried because i wish i had that experience earlier (but have also learned there are no regrets in life, at least that’s my belief) and i cried tears of sadness knowing what these children have been through.

i made it very clear to my therapist, i am anti-meds in my case. especially after 20 years of the meds making me sicker and masking the real issue: trauma. luckily, she is too. i told her the meds I’ve been on that I can remember: Seroquel, Abilify, Paxil, Prozac, Lamictal, Effexor, Celexa, etc. she told me i’d be surprised to know how many young children come in to see her who are on 6-8 meds and it saddens her. i told her i am fully aware of the child bipolar, etc. epidemic. i told her it angers and saddens me. HOWEVER, my dear how it was refreshing to see a place like this where children are loved and nurtured. they are not medicated. my therapist believes fully in creativity and I could see it everywhere. I didn’t see a diploma in her office but instead toys and books and games. even though i know she has a degree…that doesn’t matter. what matters is her heart and what this center is doing.

anyway, i don’t have much energy for more right now. (i haven’t had any energy lately and my mind has been numb) i will end by saying…i am so thankful for this opportunity and i KNOW it’s going to work. i also know it won’t be easy. and so, I haven’t been reading blogs, the news, etc…like I normally do because I’m focusing on me right now. I must do so in order to heal. I have also been escaping by playing games but I believe that is a result of 2 months of non-stop work and the nature of this therapy I’m receiving. That escapism will end as I get further along in therapy.

and in the end….i will hopefully be free of 21 long years of trauma and paralyzing pain.

my love to you all.

 

Medicating grief isn’t the answer April 28, 2009

Filed under: change,hope,news — clementine @ 12:46 pm
Tags: , , , ,

We need more doctors like this. From an op-ed at the Boston Globe:

ON A RECENT episode of the HBO series “In Treatment,” a CEO of a major company describes with complete absence of emotion the death of his 16-year-old brother when he was 6. When Paul, his therapist, suggests that his panic attacks may be related, he leaves the office, saying he will ask his doctor to prescribe medication now that he has a diagnosis. Paul gently suggests that they continue the important work they have begun. I am eager to see how this plays out. I am quite certain, however, that in the real world, the CEO would find many doctors to prescribe medication, enabling him to eliminate the symptom without the hard work of grieving.

This episode reminded me of a case in my pediatric practice (with the details changed to protect privacy). A 5-year-old girl was referred by her kindergarten teacher for evaluation of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with a strong recommendation that medication be considered. Her behavior had been disruptive since preschool, but was now affecting her ability to learn. There was concern that she might not be able to move on to first grade. Before I even saw the patient, armed with standardized forms and psychological testing, I was quite sure that she would meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD and that medication would be a reasonable consideration.

I met with her parents, who described classic symptoms of ADHD, including prolonged battles at home around such simple tasks as getting dressed for school. About halfway through the visit, I began to ask, as I always do, about past history. “How was your pregnancy with her?” There was a pause, during which the parents exchanged looks. “Actually, I’m not her biological mother.”

Now it was my turn to pause, as I was quite shocked to receive this important piece of information so late in the evaluation process. With some reluctance, they went on to tell me that the girl’s mother was seriously mentally ill, had been intermittently involved in her life, and had disappeared completely two years earlier. But, they assured me, she never talked about her mother and it wasn’t an important issue.

This story has a happy ending. I agreed that medication could be helpful, but, building on the trust they had developed with me as their pediatrician, I suggested that the loss of her mother was actually very important and needed to be addressed. They accepted my referral to a therapist. I am fortunate to have an excellent colleague across the street who accepts their insurance. He wisely explained to them that children do grieve, and now the whole family is engaged in working with him around this painful and difficult task. This child is now thriving in first grade.

For this one positive outcome, there are hundreds that do not end this way. Children who have experienced terrible loss do not have the opportunity this girl had. They are aggressive and disruptive, and their symptoms are medicated away. They continue to struggle, often failing in school. Some of the reasons this path is chosen are lack of time, limited access to mental health services, and resistance to doing this hard work.

I recently received a letter from the state with the alarming statistic that 37 percent (nearly $190 million) of the MassHealth pharmacy budget is spent on behavioral health medication. The letter asks for input regarding possible ways to improve patient care while reducing costs.

I proposed that we as a society recognize that grief and loss cannot be medicated away. As one friend who recently lost her husband so eloquently put it, “Grief is a powerful release that validates your loss, relieves stress, and helps you heal.” Certainly medication may be an adjunct, particularly when people are so incapacitated by their symptoms that they are unable to function. But if we as a culture validate the experience of grief, if we offer the time and space and resources to support people through the difficult process, I am quite certain that in the long run we will not only spend less on medication, but will help people to heal and return to being productive members of society. It is with children that this investment will have the greatest return.

Dr. Claudia Meininger Gold, a pediatrician, practices in Great Barrington.

 

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.