Messages in a Bottle #14: If You’re a Poet and You Don’t Know It…

Traumaversaries are weird. I have learned that it is entirely possible for me to feel stressed, anxious, rejection sensitive and floaty for days with no overt understanding of why I am feeling this way – even throughout events that should otherwise be fun in present-day 2019 – because my subconscious mind still remembers what my conscious mind has chosen to forget.

In my conscious recollection, the first week of June will always suck, and I probably should additionally be wary of early July this year. July will mark the one-year anniversary of that casting off of my fragile sense of safety and my “here and now” to go on not-FMLA and dive again into the horrors of the past in seemingly endless present-day loop. In my conscious memory, I’m aware of these dates as potential “traumaversaries” (from both 2018 and accumulated triggers), and I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had had rough mental health episodes earlier this month. I plan to take extra care of myself in early July.

But, I was surprised by how quickly and painfully those old PTSD symptoms crept up on me these past few days because – as far as I understood – these middle couple of weeks of June were a relative period of quiescence in the general storm of 2018 (and the 9th Circle of Hell in general.) But, apparently, my body remembered what I, myself, did not. Because, after it became apparent I was struggling even in the midst of otherwise enjoyable events, I finally sucked it up and looked up what was happening this time last year.

Trauma memories can affect the subconscious mind (and body) as well as the conscious one, and reality journals don’t lie. This time last year, I had a particularly unmemorable (aka dissociative) day in which I had to take a call with the 9th Circle of Hell that was demeaning and demoralizing, and then be screamed at by my bully-of-a-boss for four hours afterward as further demoralization.

What was my offense that led to his hours-long recasting of every bit of work I had ever done for the company as worthless trash? Well, I had had a meeting with him, and I had been particularly fragile, given how poorly I had been treated on the phone by the 9th Circle of Hell. He insulted me – just the normal amount he always did (and always does) – but on that day I couldn’t quite take it. And, I committed one of the cardinal sins of workplace unprofessionalism in his eyes. I cried. And, when he pointed out that I was committing that egregious sin, I only managed to stammer out that my sibling had nearly been lost from abuse by people licensed to take care of him, the 9th Circle of Hell didn’t care, and I had no clue how to find safety when the very people who were supposed to oversee this stuff were turning a blind eye. Instead of having the grace to stiffen up and grovel for my initial offense, I said more about myself, and admitting such additional “inappropriate” personal details required, apparently, that four-hour spontaneous meeting wherein I was further dehumanized and demoralized as he pretended that I was some sort of imbecile who had barely functioned at my job for the years I’d been there. 

Perhaps if I hadn’t already dealt (unsuccessfully, at that point) with the demons of the 9th Circle of Hell that day, I might have gathered my wits enough to challenge how – if I were truly so egregious an employee – I’d been marked highly by him at each of my past evaluations and had always received merit-based raises to boot. Perhaps if I’d not been treated so egregiously by the 9th Circle of Hell that day, I might also have had the foresight to record his own tirade such that – by the time I went on not-FMLA at the end of the month – I might have had that recording of his own meltdown as leverage to ensure he took me back. (Given he fired the rest of my office while I was on leave and his last words to me before I left were to “fix it in the next few weeks or you are no longer any use to the company,” that leverage probably would have been very reassuring, even though, as my regular readers know, I ultimately survived both Hell and my boss and was rated high-performing again at my last review of 2018.) Perhaps any one of those things might have gained me a bit of a handhold as my entire life crumbled around me last year and prevented this time of the year from now also becoming a traumaversary. But, I did none of those things last year.

I simply dissociated.  After I checked out of my own mind, my body was apparently able to parrot the right amount of kowtowing to appease my bully-of-a-boss and shut him up. I did enough not-imbecilic work in the next few weeks that when I finally asked for not-FMLA, he remembered why he’d hired me and offered it to me (albeit with those delightful parting words to terrify me on the way out…) I pretended I was fine, and – thanks to the miracle of dissociation – I absolutely believed this week wasn’t the one year anniversary of anything terrible until my own imbecilic mind betrayed me and I went hunting for why I have been feeling so re-traumatized lately. 

Dissociation was probably the only way out of that mid-June day that I didn’t-want-to-remember-that-I-remembered from last year. It is also, however, just as weird as any traumaversary. I said and did the right things to somehow set myself up as an employee worth granting not-FMLA to a few weeks later. I looked and behaved like a human – and a competent one at that. I just don’t happen to remember any of it. Thus, the weirdest thing I have now learned about trauma and dissociation in 2019 is that even I didn’t quite realize just how well I pretended to be human while taking leave of my brain temporarily in 2018.

In the process of attempting to work out why I have been so triggered this week, I discovered that – sometime during either the dehumanizing and the demoralizing that was that call with the 9th Circle of Hell and/or the dehumanizing and demoralizing that was my boss discovering I was upset by that phone call – I wrote a poem.

I. Wrote. A. Poem.

That is very weird. I clearly had to have written it in a very dissociated state, because – while I was lucid enough to record in my reality journal that I had been severely dissociated enough to have lost cohesive memory of portions of two events that day – I was not lucid enough to record anything in my reality journal about having written a poem. It’s definitely my poem in my handwriting in my locked leather journal that only I know the passcode. Yet, I’m the kind of person that is terrified to write poetry even in my locked journal because my own-bully-in-my-brain would still be able to find it. I must have seriously needed to distract myself with something else equally scary to have resorted to poetry to hold on to my pretended connection with humanity on that particular day in June 2018. I’m half terrified of just how much I clearly did to maintain my human mask while dissociated and half proud of just what all I accomplished even if I don’t remember it.

I would ordinarily be too terrified to ever share a poem I’d written – especially one that I clearly didn’t proofread as I didn’t remember it existed! – and I wouldn’t post Messages in a Bottle two weeks in a row. But, whether I like it or not these next few weeks all have the potential to be “surprise” traumaversaries for me, this year at least. I’d like them not to be traumaversaries forever. My fear of the internet’s response to some potentially bad poetry this week in 2019 is nothing compared to what I was dealing with this same week in 2018. I should celebrate that with a bit of fearlessness. That means reminding myself that I am safe in the “here” and “now” in 2019, and also that – even when I was trapped in Hell in 2018 – I was still resourceful enough to survive it (again.) If writing a poem was part of that survival, I probably should at least post that poem in commemoration.

A fair warning, though, that poetry written in a dissociative despondent state is not going to be full of rainbows and butterflies. Any readers who are sensitive to descriptions of feelings of hopelessness and depression might want to stop now while they are still just reading about reading a poem written in a dissociated state, instead of reading it!

For everyone else, enjoy my (untitled, because I was apparently not quite that thorough in my trance state) poem from 6/14/2018 below. I did cheat a little bit. I added the punctuation in post hoc because my original handwritten version had none.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #14: If You’re a Poet and You Don’t Know It…”

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Messages in a Bottle #12: Six Degrees of Kevin Broken

CW: descriptions of systemic abuse, abuse statistics, speaking out about past abuses

This Message in a Bottle was literally previously a published blog post in March. But, the original version of the post was first password-protected, because, at the time, I worried that putting it out there simultaneously would somehow undermine the credibility of what I was attempting to accomplish in the non-blog world.

Now, a couple of months have gone by. We’ve received our reply, and our story, for whatever it is worth, is in the hands of one of those task forces charged with “getting to the bottom of things” in hopes that the failures of the 9th Circle of Hell will at least teach the East Coast how to clean up their own act for vulnerable populations. Will it accomplish anything? I don’t know. I’m justifiably jaded, and I know that systemic abuse within and by state-funded agencies across the nation has no easy solution. But, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. So, in theory, taking action anywhere is metaphorically striking a blow against the 9th Circle of Hell, as well? Or something like that? I don’t know. But, my Partner and I tried offering our experiences as an example of what never, ever should happen to those in care facilities in any state anywhere in the U.S. – or across the globe. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Individuals with disabilities experience sexual assault and other abuse at rates at least seven times higher than the general population – making them the most at-risk population – even before rates of assault in institutions and other state-funded agencies are factored in. As this NPR article states, accurate statistics can’t even begin to be reported for such places. I know this first hand – because I’ve tried to get them – so I concur that the true rate of abuse and neglect are, in reality, almost certainly even higher than what is reported.

I also know that PTSD is an incredibly common response to traumatic experiences such as abuse and neglect. PTSD is a common mental health challenge across demographics, and individuals with disabilities aren’t somehow immune to it as they experience these unconscionably high rates of abuse and neglect. PTSD is a response to trauma, and individuals with disabilities experience a disproportionate amount of trauma. It is no surprise that many disabled individuals develop trauma triggers and PTSD as a result.

It is unconscionable that there isn’t more awareness that a more frequently traumatized population will also be more likely to require sensitive, trauma-informed mental health care from caregivers and agencies. It is even more unconscionable that – rather than getting such care – that those same trauma responses that Mental Health and Trauma Awareness campaigns try to normalize within the wider population are still dismissed in individuals with disabilities as unexplainable, meaningless “bad behaviors.” Then, these “bad behaviors” are not only misattributed but are commonly used by agencies as an excuse to evict clients who have already been through plenty (quite possibly at the hands of the agency trying to use their trauma responses to evict them in the first place!) 

For Mental Health Awareness Month this year, I want to remind people that the toll taken on my own and my Partner’s mental health by the evil actions of the 9th Circle of Hell in 2018 were also extracted on my sibling. I may have to be the one to tell the story because the system isn’t really set up to give my sibling a voice, but I want to be clear to people that just because I am the one writing the story, that does not imply that I was the only one scarred by the events of 2018. I’m just the one with the most current capacity to shove it in the system’s face in an attempt to create change.

The post below was written as I worked through my own trauma responses in an attempt to use our experiences in 2018 to shove such awareness into the faces of some of the members of the “system” on the East Coast. I write most frequently about Hell itself, but I am well aware of the East Coast’s failings in the same areas that have recently come to light in a 2019 report on my current state’s “behavioral health” system. I don’t know if my story of being spurned by the East Coast while desperately seeking a way out of the 9th Circle of Hell in 2018 will ever help reform either state’s system, but, well, I keep banging my head against the wall.  The East Coast asked for personal narratives of systemic failures.  I’m perfectly fine with both relaying the literal Hell we went through last year and how if any of their state services – which I guess were busy continuing to fail in the ways outlined in that recent unpleasant report of their own – had gotten off their behinds when I requested emergency placement, we might have been spared several iterations of last year’s Crisis. I also blame the East Coast for failing to be the resolution to the Crisis the 9th Circle of Hell created.

Shockingly, the One-Horse Townhouse remains a genuinely decent-seeming place. I’m as jaded as they come, and I am forever waiting for the other shoe to drop. But, at the moment, they seem like a rare exception to the literal nation-wide travesty of care. I won’t claim anything other than blind luck led us to them. I mean, in the 9th Circle of Hell (as in too many other states) there is no way to look up whether and how many prior abuse cases a provider has had. So, clients literally have nothing but blind luck to go on when attempting to keep themselves or their family members safe from those sky-high abuse rates I described above.

Maybe sharing the trauma echoes I had to work through in March in an attempt to create broader awareness of the trauma and mental health needs of disabled individuals across state systems will somehow up these odds for families. Or, at the very least, maybe it will at least raise “awareness” during Mental Health Month of the need for trauma-informed mental health care for one of the most marginalized demographics this May as long as high abuse rates remain their norm. 

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #12: Six Degrees of Kevin Broken”

Offer What Light You Can

Content Warning: I began my Reality Journal on March 7th, 2018. Astute readers might realize that, if we are almost to the one-year anniversary of the creation of that journal, we have already passed the one-year anniversary of its inspiring event. I can somehow concurrently not remember enough details of that night because of dissociation and have vivid emotional flashbacks and nightmares about what could have happened. I’ve tried to process that night in therapy recently, and I’m revealing more details by default in this post. Those details are dark, but they are in the past. Though I write about something horrible, know at least that it is not something horrible from my present. With the 9th Circle of Hell, I know I must be very clear about time or it could be confusing. Be safe when choosing to read this post. If you are not in a good mental place to read about the abuse of the vulnerable in 2018, please don’t. If you do read, please read to the end. The emotions in this post are not directed where they might seem from a cursory glance. Given that this post addresses the Disability Day of Mourning, please also be respectful that, though the worst possible outcome of that night in 2018 did not happen for my family, it did happen for others. My nightmares are others’ realities. The Disability Day of Mourning honors those realities.

Continue reading “Offer What Light You Can”

The Trolley Persecutor

CW: keeping secrets about child abuse, descriptions of child abuse, discussions of death and systemic abuse, swearing, and standard “never go to the 9th Circle of Hell” trauma.

I’ve said before that I’m open to being challenged on even very sensitive topics on this blog, as long as basic trust and safety is maintained. One blogger I really respect, Mishka of Crafts, Chronic Illness and Adulting, challenged me with her comments on my last blog post exactly because she never doubted me when I said that, in the 9th Circle of Hell, a profoundly disabled minor child in the foster system would probably have died without a protector. If that same disabled adult nearly died from systemic abuse as an adult even with multiple guardians attempting to protect him, what hope would the same child split up from his sibling have had?

And, since that is true, what choice really did any “family” member have but to stay silent about my own abuse – the same way I did – to protect him? I was struggling with that question in the post itself, and, knowing more now about Mishka’s history, I can see why she was struggling. The stereotype of the “abused child” is that they become the abuser. But, really, that is quite rare. The vast majority of us only abuse ourselves. And, well, was that adult who warped my reality by not only staying silent really not also destroying herself? How do you “choose” between one child’s possible death and the warping of another child’s soul, sense of self and continuity of memory through denying what is true until they have to fragment their reality into a dissociative disorder to survive it without tearing off pieces of your already tattered soul too?

I struggled with that question when I wrote the post. I struggled again when I thought how to answer Mishka. I – who has written on her own Glossary of Terms that ADHD’s one upside is that it enables me to think so far outside the box that I “don’t know where the box is” – couldn’t think outside of “pick one abusive situation or another.”

Trauma keeps us in a box of our abusers’ making. We are ever so good at convincing ourselves that we are both all-powerful and powerless at the same time. We are so powerful that somehow if we’d just said the right thing, done the right thing, recognized the tells, and played the game, we could have prevented what happened to us. We are so expert at controlling others that if we fail to keep them from abusing us, we believe at heart that we are to blame. Yet, we are simultaneously so powerless that when an abusive system sets up two abusive choices, we are too powerless within our abusers’ reality to ever question the foundations upon which it was built.

My Partner, who has no ACES, has no such coercively imposed limitations, and no such moral doubt as to whether my “family” member should ever be excused. My Partner called my life the ‘Murican Red State version of the good-old philosophical “Trolley Problem.” If an out-of-control trolley is going to run over five people if it stays on the track it is on, but you could flip a switch and have it only run over one person, would you? Most people would say yes, but the vast majority of people never even consider any of the other options. Most people never think outside the box to realize that staying within two fundamentally abusive choices is victimizing to the switch-thrower as much as it is to the six people on the tracks and that perhaps the only solution is to break the rules themselves. A person could throw themselves in front of the trolley. They could daringly leap aboard the train and try to speed it up to the point where it derailed when it hit the track switch at a dizzying rate of speed. (I live in the Northeast. More than one Amtrak train has derailed by taking a track change at too high a speed. It could work!)

Continue reading “The Trolley Persecutor”

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Secrets…

CW: keeping secrets about child abuse, the aftermath of systemic abuse in the present day, family secrets, intergenerational trauma, swearing, and standard “never go to the 9th Circle of Hell” trauma.

I’ve run away from this topic for a good three posts now, but I guess it’s time to return to our regularly scheduled shit show. It’s time to give an update on life in the 9th Circle of Hell. One might assume I’ve been running away from the topic because it involves more of the same present-day Hell, but I’ve honestly gotten pretty damn used to calling out abusive group homes on this blog. I’d feel no compunction against describing the latest in the series if needed.

The complication here isn’t about what’s happening in the present. It’s the fact that the moment the present vaguely stabilizes, there’s always, always ways the past can still betray me in the 9th Circle of Hell. It is the land of betrayal, after all. Writing about the past abuse that happened to me – or anything that relates to it – is always so much harder than writing about the systemic abuse I substantiated in this very year 2018. A “family” legacy of secrets and lies is so very hard to shake…

Continue reading “And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Secrets…”

Uh Oh, Spaghetti-Ohs!

You know what they say: if you’re stuck in bowl hole, don’t keep pigging digging.

I grabbed a few spoons – and I don’t mean of the good kind – and dug in this week. That’s the nature of executive dysfunction coupled with a tendency to dissociate.

I am not the best at self-care in general, and I am generally worse at it when I’m alone or dissociated. My Partner has left me in the awkward position of being alone in our apartment on the East Coast (well, alone except for our kitty*) twice this year.

The first time he didn’t leave because of an active crisis, and I was generally aware and present the entire time he was gone. Or, at least I was as aware and present as anyone with ADHD ever is. I have now entered into my second year living on the East Coast, but I haven’t quite gotten used to having to keep food on hand for Nor’easters in March. By the time my ADHD brain worked out we were having one the last time I was alone – which was, basically, as the snow was starting to fall – our grocery delivery service had already stopped deliveries. I had to resort to stock ups for the next three days from what I could find at the CVS on the way home from work.

Continue reading “Uh Oh, Spaghetti-Ohs!”

Too Little, Too Late?

Remember how I said that despite all my efforts, the first abusive group home my sibling was in never actually closed? Because, well, in the 9th Circle of Hell: 1) There’s a chronic shortage of providers (because the state itself effed its own finances and healthcare so thoroughly that no provider can afford to provide decent care, so only the lousy ones seem to stay in the business, but *shh* we don’t mention that part…) and 2) The state regulatory agencies have their noses so far up the providers’ @$$3s that they help sweep abuse under the rug to keep their favorites open? Slaps on the wrist are usually the most one can ever expect.

Well, the second abusive group home – the reason I had to take not-FMLA this summer and basically had a breakdown that broke the last latch on the vault that all my trauma memories were stored in – was closed. I found that out today. No one cares about the abuse itself in the 9th Circle of Hell, but screw with financials in a state that cannibalized its own treasury and sometimes things happen, I guess? Money is all that matters, not compassion or decency.

I think I claimed at one point that I would consider it a victory if ever anything I testified to or reported or uncovered ever managed to help to force even one of the most abusive group homes in the 9th Circle of Hell to close down. I assume I can claim some credit for this place closing. And, it certainly deserved to be closed for its practices.

I just probably should have been more specific about my victory conditions. It should feel like a major victory whenever a horrible place closes, especially in a place like the 9th Circle of Hell, where they virtually never do. It should feel like maybe I did something good in the world. Because, trust me, that place really needed to close! I will reiterate that again just in case a summer’s worth of despondent blog posts hasn’t made that clear enough before. That place needed to close.

It doesn’t quite feel like a victory since I mentioned before that there are basically no placements left anywhere that will accept clients with trauma histories, and now all the rest of the clients previously served by that horrible home will also have to find emergency places. Their substantiated histories of trauma, however, won’t make that easy for them. It doesn’t quite feel like a victory when exposing what’s wrong in the system only leads to the same catch-22 that my family is currently caught in for the rest of that place’s victims. It doesn’t quite feel like a victory when my own sibling was still able to be summarily evicted from the Bedbug Motel because its emergency management didn’t feel like dealing with someone with a trauma history and probably engineered their own loophole conditions to be able to kick him out legally as a result.

It just doesn’t quite feel like a victory since even that place’s closure didn’t actually end the crisis…

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

Messages in a Bottle #9: The Archivist

This CW is so important it should be in neon flashing lights. This is a serious post. Serious like: mentions of 9th Circle of Hell current systemic abuse, mentions of the same kind of systemic abuse on another blog, and mentions of past suicidal feelings and coercive control. I really meant it when I said the lights were off this month, so please please be careful when reading this blog post. There is no date on this “past” post because it’s not truly a post written in the past. It’s a memory, from a time when I would never have written anything down, that has been bothering me. I think I need to write to exorcize that old ghost and thus fight my new demons more effectively. Be safe.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #9: The Archivist”

Improv #11: I’m Mrs. Bright Blogs

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there?”

“The Bright Side”

“The Bright Side Who?”

“The Bright Side Who Doesn’t Actually Exist”

“Oh. Then I guess this is just another dissociative conversation with the bully-in-my-brain, then?”

“You catch on not quickly at all, don’t you? Also, your joke sucks.”

I’m fairly sure the first rule of building a blog audience is “own your domain name so you can engage in SEO and promote yourself across social media.” I failed that rule the moment I set up my account because I was too afraid to pay for an anonymous blog with a non-anonymous credit card. I also do not have the spoons to maintain more than one social media site, period.

I maintain a free site even though my lack of spoons has gradually led me to dial back on the other paranoid hoops I used to jump through to maintain anonymity. Part of my expression of a PTSD sense of foreshortened future is a fear that, if I did dare to make that all-of-$36-dollar annual investment in a domain name, I’d immediately go broke. I would be inviting the wrong kind of irony magnet. Then, my audience accustomed to something simple like “lavenderandlevity.com” would all abandon me as soon as continuing to follow me required the modicum of effort to bookmark “lavenderandlevity.wordpress.com” again. If you follow me while I use the free version, I suppose you’ll probably follow me on a paid version. But, would those who would only follow a paid version ever bother to reverse course? Do I really even want followers for whom I have to write witty, engaging content all the time? C-PTSD says just stick with free: I’ll never have to fear inevitable future rejection from potential future financial disaster. C-PTSD is dark.

Which sucks because…

Continue reading “Improv #11: I’m Mrs. Bright Blogs”

Where Would the NHS Rank Trauma on the Pain Scale?

Hi everyone,

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who talked me through the past two days. I made it out of that Sheraton break room eventually, and I did manage to give my presentation the next day. I know some people asked what I was presenting on, but in the world of research – startup, policy, or academia – your research is probably the most tell-tale marker of your identity. If I told you about my presentation, I’d be telling you who I was, who my bully-of-a-boss was, and – by extension – who my sibling and all the various systemic abusers in the 9th Circle of Hell were all in one easy Google search. I’m sorry, that doesn’t feel safe. Hopefully, the grad students and professional researchers among you understand.

The bedbug place lost its license, albeit not for the reasons I originally expected. I still don’t know the reason. They also appear to have chosen not to undergo the appeals process they – as providers – are entitled to in the 9th Circle of Hell. (The 9th Circle of Hell, of course, has no corresponding client appeals process or any independent way to determine the outcomes of license inspections. Yes, this is technically a violation of federal law, for those few of you in the know who are wondering, but it has been ignored by the feds for at least two years.) They packed up, fired their employees, and for hours it seemed like they were prepared to dump several facilities worth of patients on the street.

Continue reading “Where Would the NHS Rank Trauma on the Pain Scale?”