Stigma

The stigma and shame behind “labels” can create enormous havoc in an already broken and fragile state of mind. The struggle to cope and understand is greatly affected by once upbringing and the prevailing mindset of those around you.

I grew up in an environment where the mindset was that you fended for yourself and vigilantly hid any sign of weakness. Talking about “it” was a resounding NO…not an option. Going to the doctor was not an option, either, let alone a mental health specialist. Finances were slim to nothing. Any monies had would go to feeding the many mouths that begged for a piece of tortilla to appease their growling stomachs.

Any reference to a psychiatrist or psychologist was in disgust or disdain saying, “that person must be totally crazy to go to that! That’s not needed. They are good for nothing.”

There was an auntie who dared to venture into that forbidden territory. Oh, the things that were whispered about her. Those words cut to the heart. No one else dare venture out. They did not want to be part of those cutting conversations and side glances.

Do to extreme circumstances, another family member saw herself in need of venturing out. She did, however, in the strictest most hidden way. No one must know. Eventually, she stopped going. Maybe it was too difficult to keep up the front…we will never know. In her ultimate darkest moment, the “help” needed was denied and with no power to keep fighting, she ultimately succumbed to it all.

Many months have ensued, the memory of accepting my medical doctor’s advice comes to mind. The initial phone call. The first appointment. All the voices within and without. The fight to not get up from that chair. The fight to not flee that office…to run out. Each session, a struggle to accept.

I think I’m starting to accept…I think I’m starting to give my therapist a chance…I think this is NOT weakness, but strength…I think this is not shameful, but a necessity.

~ ~ ~ AND…it is…OK ~ ~ ~

Back from Oz

Back from the land of Oz. And, by the way, I never found that yellow brick road or the Wizard. I guess that’s just a fairy tale :-/

I decided to get away for a few days with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. The decision making was a grueling back and forth process, but I was proud of myself for finally making the decision to go. However, this chaotic brain of mine seems to have forgotten to upload the latest upgrade: “Girl, you can’t! Not right now!

Acceptance…a fluid place to arrive. Just when I think I’m there, I realize that I’m still fighting it. What is it that makes me want to please people? What is it that makes me want to do my old normal, when I am acutely aware of my new normal? What is normal? Questions, questions that bounce around in this very noisy and jumbled head of mine.

I ventured off into new territory without my safe place and my safe people. Yikes! Just typing this makes me cringe. Add to this the noisiness and crowds of airports. The crammed quarters of airplanes. Well, no wonder all my senses were on high alert and I was being triggered over and over again..

Finally arriving at my destination…phew, a sigh of relief! The smile and hug of a friend…into the car and off we go…a fun time awaits us.

Blah, blah, blah…talk, talk, talk…directions in hand…smiles, laughs – – – – – – –

SCREECH, SLAM, S—L—O—W—M—O……………………………….three car pile up, we are rear ended!!!

It’s all a blur…somehow, I got out of the car, sat on the curve clutching my daughters animal pillow (a comfort accessory). More noises – people, sirens…lots and lots of noises.

⇐⇐⇐Total Meltdown⇒⇒⇒

I’m home in my safe place with my safe people…recovering. Life continues at snail pace, but it continues. Thankful for a place called home 😀

PTSD Diagnosis

“PTSD: Symptoms may include nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma, avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the trauma, heightened reactions, anxiety, or depressed mood.
Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation
Psychological: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust
Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, or loneliness
Sleep: insomnia or nightmares
Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts”
Information obtained from Mayo Clinic website
The holidays of 2017 were absolutely brutal. My daughter had been gone a little over 6 months. She loved, loved the holidays. Christmas was one of her favorites. I called her Elf (remember the movie?), she called me Scrooge (that tells you something). She loved decorating. I think our home would have been a winter-wonderland if we would have had the finances to allow her to do it. But she did great with what we had. Her last Christmas with us she sat and watched as I decorated. The joy in her eyes was all worth it. She was so happy.
Trying to honor her memory I was “trying” to do Christmas, but my body would not have it. Stuffing my feelings didn’t help. I ended up passing out, and later in the ER because my doctor thought I was having a heart attack. Given my family history (The Unexpected) he wanted to rule out any cardiovascular issues. Thankfully “all” was good with my heart. He recommended I go to counseling. This was a hard pill to swallow and accept, because I “always had it all together”.
Receiving the PTSD diagnosis was surreal. My initial thoughts were, “no, not me!” “isn’t this only for soldiers? I’m not a soldier. I haven’t been to combat.” “wait, what will people think?” “I can’t tell anyone, this doesn’t make sense” and on and on and on.
Watching the show “Madam Secretary”, the main actress was dealing with PTSD. I broke down uncontrollably saying, “that’s me!!!” It was surreal to “watch myself” on someone else.
Not sure what this all means. Not sure how to handle this. Not sure of anything. Just putting one foot in front of the other and at times simply curling up in a ball “until it passes”.
Scrambled Mind is something I deal with a lot. I learned about Six Word Story from a grief website as they were doing #griefinsixwords. Being a “wordy” person, it was difficult when my mind was so scrambled, to write anything down. Putting thoughts into six words helped. In fact, that’s how I started dabbling in poetry and finding quotes. Simple yet so inspiring. As Matt Haig puts it:
“…A short optimistic quote isn’t cheap. It can be forged in pain and have the strength of survival. It can reframe your whole perspective…”
Acceptance brings peace. Finding ways to cope is part of my present journey. AND so we continue on this life journey one step at a time…and if need be we sit and give ourselves permission to Just be…

The Unexpected

The quadruple bypass had been a total success. The family began to let their shoulders down and breath a little easier, until…that first meal! Those infamous cornflakes – tasty clusters of flakes, yet deadly to a paralyzed, empty stomach. The first spoonful hit the stomach producing nausea, stomach cramps and pain, making the stomach bloat with extreme speed. The symptoms had now become agonizing with no sign of relief. Rushed to the OR! Doctors in desperate search of what had caused this drastic turn of events, and trying to figure out how and why this was happening while he was slowly making a positive recovery from his heart surgery.

The family lingers in the room waiting for an update. The nurse comes in and says, “He’s losing a lot of blood. Are any of you able to give blood for him?” We are willing. After some tests, it turns out only two of his kids are a match. One has been using so he’s out. The youngest of them all is taken to the room where she’ll sit as the precious life giving liquid flows out of her veins.

Waiting and more waiting. Finally, a doctor approaches. “We did all we could…” Words that you hope would only be said in movies, but no, this is real. Before any emotion can be shown, the doctor whispers to the widow, “If you want to take him now without waiting, we are going to have to wheel him out as if he is still alive. Otherwise, you might not get him for days, or even months due to all the red tape.” She, “strong-as-nails”, her norm, says, “I’m taking him now!”

The family is then asked to “stuff all their feelings and emotions” and act as if nothing has happened.

The gurney in front, the family behind…as if…all is good.

The body is delivered to the family home, and is customary in that culture, they will dress and prepare him for the all night wake.

Two of his five sons and his two daughters enter “that room”. He is wrapped in sheets. They approach and start unwrapping…GASP!!! UGH!!! The sight, the smells, the liquids! “How? why? Could they have closed him up? Can someone else do this? This can’t be happening!”

One white shirt after another, stained…useless. “We” aren’t equipped for this?” “This should be done by a funeral home.” Nope, this is us and this is how we roll…yeah…swallow that!

Somehow, he is prepped and ready for the all night wake and viewing of the tons of mourners that will come and pay their respects. Rosaries, prayers, coffee, chatter. Tomorrow, he will be carried through the streets of his village, ending at the cemetery with the proper burial. Then the people will scatter, life will continue as usual…

BUT those four “kids” will live with those images of their Dad. Neither will talk to each other about it; neither will talk about it to anyone…because that just how this family rolls.

Brain Explosion

It’s grocery shopping day. Gym√ Breathing and Meditation√ Driving with soothing music, and more purposeful breathing√

Grocery list in hand, let’s get this done without an “episode”…breathe…breathe!

Woman next to me drops a steel container…HUGE THUD followed by smaller ones, not because they are quieter but because my “brain exploded“…

the ringing in my ears is deafening…headache…trembling…shaking hands and legs, the whole body…do I hide, I can’t…I need to run and get out of here, I’m paralyzed…let’s get this done, how do I continue?…stupid woman, doesn’t she know? she doesn’t; she didn’t do it on purpose…scream, you can’t, it’s a public place…can they see me shaking? who cares!…more noise, really?!…my skin is crawling with ants, no it’s not…God, help me!…I can’t breath, yes you can…I’m going to vomit, seriously, here?! stop it!

I’m out, safe in my car. Now I need to drive home…how did I get home? Curl up in my comfy (safe) rocker, all blinds closed…sleep…sleep…sleep. Wake up exhausted, detached from reality…what day is it? what time? did I eat? do I eat? I hate this! what happened? how did I get home? Do I care? I’m going crazy! Who am I?

The brain is quiet, for now. The body is calm, for now. But, I wonder…when will it happen again???