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 #13: Placebo Effects

lol - so true of periodic paralysis I Could Use A Standing Ovation, Could You? The Journey of An Anxious Girl: that's a pain in my ass
<Image Text>: Doctor says to patient, “You have an extremely rare, hard-to-treat disease. Are you trying to make me look bad?”

I bought pink Himalayan salt pills today instead of my usual generic salt capsales. I know some people think the “highest amount of trace minerals of any salt” are independently useful, but my default assumption is still that salt is salt. I have a scientific image to maintain at all costs, after all. My conception of myself as intelligent largely depends upon carefully managing my own treatment in line with medical guidelines gleaned from published peer-reviewed sources with a preponderance of evidence, etc. etc. etc.

I’ve been called stupid plenty of times in my pre-ADHD-diagnosis days, so even though I have an excellent track record of identifying what is going on with me and my sibling – even when the medical establishment itself is befuddled – I have only ever learned to (mostly) trust myself because I can always cite my sources. It isn’t just me claiming something is true, it’s “the literature.” The bully-in-my-brain is far harsher than any true academic peer review I’ve ever received. I can’t point to a pile of studies that suggest that one type of salt is better for dysautonomia regulation than another, so thus it isn’t. It could be the greatest thing, since, well, normal salt, and I would remain a skeptic until there’s been at least one meta-analysis.

I’m not buying the pink stuff because I think it will work better; I’m buying the pink stuff because I’m hoping it will taste better. I have heard from numerous qualitative narrative sources with “lived experience” (aka Facebook groups) that it tastes better, or, at least, that it comes with a better pill coating that makes it taste less like anything. Even after two years of taking salt pills, I still gag a little three times daily when I take my prescribed grams of salt daily for dysautonomia. I know there are white salt pills out there that are so well-designed that they truly do taste like nothing. In a world where science can design “burpless” non-odorous fish oil tablets, simply masking the taste of pure salt isn’t an intractable user-design challenge. But, those resulting fancy “sports performance” salt pills are almost twice the cost of simple salt pills. Since I take half a dozen of them daily, that cost differential adds up.
Today, though, Amazon had a sale that reduced the cost of pink salt pills with an external pill coating to the same as the uncoated white salt pills that I normally buy. I jumped on it. Even for a month, it would be nice not to have to choke down the taste of pure salt in the morning. (If you don’t have dysautonomia, grab your salt shaker and shake it into your mouth immediately upon waking up. That should give you a sense of why taking my morning uncoated pure salt pills remains so unappealing even years later!)

I readily admit that this sale could set a dangerous precendent as – after a month of potentially not gagging a little three times daily – I might not have the willpower to return to the cheaper stuff. I still suspect that even if I do end up shelling out more regularly for pink Himalayan salt tabs, it will still be because of my taste preference, not because some salt is better than other salt. I have that self image to maintain, after all.

I could be wrong though. I have an excellent track record of identifying my own symptoms once they rise to the level of being so intrusive I can’t ignore them anymore. I can be fairly oblivious to sub-threshold issues. This morning’s purchase reminded me of one of those times when I convinced myself I was falling for the placebo effect, but I had accidentally stumbled onto a real medical issue that benefitted me to treat but would probably never have risen to the surface if not for my own ADHD inattentiveness.

This week’s Message in a Bottle is the story of how I accidentally empirically detemined that I was deficient in zinc simply because I failed to plan ahead. I wrote up the experience in a post that I originally intended for my nascent blog in 2017, but by the time I actually got the zinc test that confirmed I was deficient, I had forgotten about it. Any memory that I had ever written that post remained lost to the far corners of my brain – though I do take zinc and get my levels checked every six months – until this morning. It’s a bit of a mistake to claim that there is no filing system within the ADHD brain. If there wasn’t, I’d never have been able to retrieve the memory in response to any reminder at all. It’s more like…there’s a poorly designed filing system based on quixotic semantic associations that change every few months.

I couldn’t retrieve the appropriate filing index for “I once wrote a blog post about wondering if I had zinc deficiency” when I was tested for zinc deficiency. That would be too simple. I could retrieve that post after buying pink Himalayan salt pills this morning because the index was actually tied to the semantic category of “all the things in the world that might cause placebo effects.”

Also, for anyone wondering, yes, there have been a few published studies suggesting that zinc can mitigate some ADHD symptoms in those with measurable deficiencies. But, its effectiveness seems to be limited to symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Thus, zinc itself is probably not ever going to help me remember whether or not I have written any posts about zinc deficiences. However, paradoxically, having my rather “unique” mental filing system and network of semantic associations has actually been one of the most beneficial aspects of having ADHD for me as a scientist. While everyone else is thinking “B” when “A” is mentioned, I’m usually the one activating “X, Y, Z” and going “but, umm, what if it was actually this…” (Also the one going “I need to zinc think about this for a moment” because once I realize what they might be missing, I also realize what I might be missing, too!)

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #13: Placebo Effects”

Messages in a Bottle #11: Scheissegeist

Content warning: mentions of past abuse and medical crises. Mentions of the 9th Circle of Hell.

Zeitgeist means “spirit of the times.” It is the idea that you have to judge the past by the understanding of those of its day, not necessarily by modern conceptions. Scheissegeist…well let’s just say that is a term for how I judge 2018 by its time and leave it at that…

The following things happened (with a bit of obscurity thrown in to preserve anonymity) on March 7, 2018:

  1. My boss stated that he thought my branch office deserved to be closed and everyone in it fired. He stated at our staff meeting that “this is one of those days that I wish I didn’t have to work with any of you idiots, but, since I do, read this book for next week and reflect on why you all are so impossible to work with.”
  2. We had our meeting with X client.
  3. I practiced my statement about the abuse allegations we plan to file in the 9th Circle of Hell with my therapist because I was worried I was going to dissociate while giving it if I didn’t prep first.
  4. It was raining hard when I got back from therapy and I had forgotten my umbrella and wasn’t wearing my waterproof coat. I got thoroughly soaked on the way home.
  5. I read the management book my boss had assigned at the staff meeting that he thought would “fix” the problems with our office. (2019 post-script: the book itself was ok, but I don’t think my boss ever took any of its advice himself!)

How do I know for certain that this all happened on March 7th, 2018? Especially given that I don’t remember as much of the previous two months – including the night of a medical emergency that turned out to have been caused by the abuse I was practicing my statement for on March 7th – as a non-traumatized person would? I know because my lack of memory of the past two months was starting to seriously freak me out. How, exactly, was I supposed to file an abuse case over something so serious as medical neglect and use of medications for coercive control when I couldn’t remember large chunks of the night that my family member went into crisis as a result of that abuse? You’d think that given how close that night veered towards disaster – we were incredibly lucky we caught things when we did or I still can’t fully process what would have happened – the details would be forever seared into my brain. But, the human brain has many ways to respond to trauma. Some brains do etch every detail into their memory to the point that they can never forget any of them. Other brains, however, don’t.

Other brains survive by doing exactly the opposite. When trauma recurs, my dissociative brain falls back on the childhood survival strategy it knows best: blocking it all out because it’s too painful to remember and still function in day-to-day life.

I promised last week to share how I stayed sane without regular access to therapy in the 9th Circle of Hell during an entire year of fighting against abuse that ultimately went much deeper than even that first statement I was practicing for on March 7th, 2018. The above is my single biggest resource. On March 7th, 2018, I started what I now call my “reality journal.” I’ve experienced enough gaslighting and abuse in my life – not to mention pesky time loss from dissociation – that I have come to fear my brain’s ability to give abusers what they most want by pushing its own delete button. The fact that my boss was already making comments like those above routinely during staff meetings was further blurring the lines between the 9th Circle of Hell and my daily life last March in ways that I also recognized weren’t good. It’s hard to hold on to critical details during dissociation. I knew I had to, though, to fight back against the 9th Circle of Hell. My own dissociative memory has always been one of my secret Achilles’ heels in fighting that place. It’s hard to speak to what my brain wants so hard to never remember. My Partner figured out the reality journal workaround that is the best way I have found to date to help with grounding. On March 6th, 2018, he bought me a simple three-subject lined notebook from the nearest CVS and suggested I literally write down what happened to me each day 1) simply 2) linearly and 3) devoid of emotionally triggering language.

Writing simply, linearly and neutrally is much harder than it seems.

ADHD is known for a very non-linear conception of time. We can perceive “now” and “not now” – and pretty much all other emotionally salient times we have ever experienced get lumped into one or the other dichotomously. Whatever emotion is activated in the “now” concurrently activates all the other similar emotional times we have ever experienced all at once. If the emotion is the same, it’s in the “now.” And, anything emotionally different might as well have never existed. It’s in the “not now” that might as well be “never was and never will be.” That sort of sucks when the emotion currently activated is trauma, as it means I don’t just activate current trauma, I effectively relive every single similar experience as though it is all happening at once. I have had a lot of traumatic experiences.

I’m also rather verbose. Left to my own devices, my reality journal would contain all the minutia of the day to the point where I exhausted myself too much to keep up with it regularly. When I did manage to keep it up, it would inevitably be too detailed to actually pick out the important bits from the rest of the mess.

The point of my reality journal is to have it available to rely on when either my own brain tries to push the big red self-destruct button on my memories or when some asshole abuser tries to spin reality to protect themselves from retribution for what they have done. It helps, then, to write my cheat sheet without any language that could possibly trigger me enough to further encourage my brain to zone out when it is supposed to be keeping me grounded. Thus, the final guideline of non-emotional language. Despite my very best attempts at keeping my language neutral, many of those entries still make me cry to read. Some of them I even had to fill out with my Partner’s help because my brain had managed to push the delete button before the day even afforded me enough downtime to write my notes. But, every day is in there.

I have filled my reality journal out every single day since March 7th, 2018. It is now February 3rd, 2019. That means for almost 11 months – through Hell and occasional rain water  – I have written down what has happened to me in that same no-nonsense way. And, because I’m paranoid and have been in an apartment fire or two, I’ve backed that journal up every month to my trusty Evernote account. One of these days I will spill coffee on the thing, but I have a plan for it.

And, as horrible as 2018 was, there are some good things in that simple linear record. The good things are rare, but they are there. If I am to believe my own reality journal, the majority of the good things that happened to me in 2018 involved my Partner cooking for me! I wrote a lot about the various meals he made, including one time when he perfected Chick-fil-A knockoff sandwiches with homemade Chick-fil-A sauce. (Their sandwiches are pretty great, but their corporate morals are icky. They deserve to be plagiarized.) Left to my own devices, I’d probably only remember the bad news we got while eating those sandwiches, but, thanks to my reality journal, I also remember that he did make them and they were good. (I can also remember to pester him to make them again.) My ADHD brain may have overwritten the positive emotions from that dinner date with the terror from a later phone call, but at least I have written evidence that I felt them at one point.

I also suck at self-care, but there is something about seeing a “ledger” that is so far into the trauma red that it makes me want to at least try and add back in a rare good thing to fight back in black. Which brings me to the second important thing that kept me sane in the 9th Circle of Hell last year: I brought with me proof that I have a life outside of it.

The reality journal technique is something a person can start at any time. February 3rd, 2019 is as good a day as March 7th, 2018. (It might even be better. If I had it to do over again, I’d have started my journal on January 1st, 2018, when I was still in Iceland!) My second technique took quite a bit of advance planning, but when I finally pulled it off, it helped me enough to be worth recommending to even my brain fogged, ADHD or otherwise forgetful readers.

There are a lot of benefits to mindfulness meditation for mental health. However, as I have mentioned before, standard meditations don’t work for me. I don’t do “aspirational” or “gratitude.” I’m not awesome at emptying my mind, and I want to throttle most guided meditation leaders and mantra chanters. The only guru I apparently trust is myself. So, I made my own guided meditations.

I wrote out a play on a mountain meditation/envisioning a generic “peaceful happy” place meditation. Then I rewrote it to incorporate my usual mental snark. And, I took it a step further by making it actually visual instead of just “guided imagery.” The closest thing I have to a truly “safe place” is on the opposite coast. But, it is a place my Partner and I only ever return to once a year for a special event. I had to plan pretty far ahead to record my guided meditation there in 2018. Yet, it was worth it, because going there in 2018 might be the only time I can truly say I was “happy” – not just “not sad” or “relieved” – that year after the night of that first fateful medical near-disaster. (Iceland was pretty great, but that was pre-Crisis!)

I recorded myself in my “happy” place reading my own version of a guided meditation to myself. In the grey void of depression – especially with my non-linear ADHD brain – it can be pretty hard to believe I have ever felt any emotion other than mute horror. It helped to have the visual and auditory proof of myself sounding happy in the one place that is the most decidedly different from the 9th Circle of Hell that I can think of. It also helps that I recorded a “safe space” meditation for myself in a place that also isn’t quite the everyday world I live in, either. I like the East Coast. I like my life here on those days when I’m not talking to my bully-of-a-boss or anyone from the 9th Circle of Hell. But, the same townhouse in which we have made homemade Chick-fil-A in and watched dumb action movies with a bottle of wine is also the same townhouse where the phone has rung in the middle of the night and where I regularly speak to that bully-of-a-boss via webcam. There are many emotions permeating the air of my every day, where the place I recorded as my “safe” place is just…happy. It isn’t a trauma place, and it isn’t a complex “real world” place either. It’s a place where there was one dominant emotion, and that emotion wasn’t trauma.

If you have experienced trauma or depression for long enough, I will admit “happy” might feel too hard to come by to aim to record on a personalized guided meditation. I also acknowledge that traveling to the opposite coast is a bit pricy for a safe place. But, if you do happen to have a day or a place or a time when you feel any happiness – or even if you just walk through a new park that has no negative emotions associated directly with it and looks pretty – I recommend you pull out your phone and push the record button on your camera and record yourself telling yourself that things don’t suck right at that moment. The best evidence I have found that the past isn’t forever and that there is a world outside of the 9th Circle of Hell is my own voice telling myself that in a place that isn’t it. If “happy” seems a bit much to hope to capture on film – and, well, if I didn’t have years of memories associated with that one “safe place” I probably couldn’t have pulled off “happy” last year post-Crisis even there – “relieved” or “vaguely interested” would probably do in a pinch. The main trick is to record yourself in a moment when you sound and feel something other than emotionally numb. Those moments can be few and far between, so it takes pre-planning to capture them. But, once you have them, you have them for the next period of numbness.

I know the inherent nature of the 9th Circle of Hell and trauma itself means that I probably will return to numb as my baseline, but my reality journal and my guided meditations have at least helped me remember that there is a world outside of my own personal Hell. I fully intend to keep on filling out my reality journal ad infinitum and to record additional personalized guided meditations whenever I travel, go to an amazing new restaurant, or just have a moment when I am sitting somewhere visually interesting and realize “hey, life doesn’t suck right now.”

It helps to hear my own prior self reminding me to consider the full Zeitgeist of a Hell year like 2018, with all its complexity, instead of just its Scheissegeist and the various even older ghosts of my past that came before it in the 9th Circle of Hell.

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

 

Messages in a Bottle #10: Random Acts of Baked Goods Generation

It’s that time of year again: end of year reviews at work! As my trusty Passion Planner reminds me, this year has mostly been a trash fire. Also, I’m only “self-reflecting” upon nine months of work, because I spent three months on leave. Yet, I did fill out the monthly reflections for those three months because I did “freelance” work during that period. That “collaborative” spirit (aka running away from one set of problems by digging deep into another) turned out to be some of the best work I did all year. Strong enough that it may have saved my job when my mental-health-stigmatizing bully-of-a-boss fired the rest of my team. It sucks to re-read those months of “self-reflection” when there is so much 9th Circle of Hell crap alongside it, but there is no way I’m not reminding my boss of how pleased he was with the work I did on leave when my next year’s salary is being determined.

Unless you are a data analyst or are an avid gamer, the concept of RNG probably doesn’t mean much to you. I am both. I don’t believe people are inherently good. (Sorry, I’ve seen too much. We’re neutral at best like every other species. We can choose to be otherwise, but it is an active choice.) I don’t believe everything “happens for a reason.” I do, however, believe in RNG and the Central Limit Theorem. If you roll the dice often enough – even accounting for psychological phenomena like streakinessrecency effects and/or salience, which violate true statistical independence – sometimes jerks give you positive accommodations amidst a general office purge. Sometimes, truly random events happen that even the best statistical analyst – or the bully-in-my-brain – could never have predicted. Being granted the greatest accommodation my ADHD/C-PTSD brain could ever ask for – the right to be left alone – is something I could never have predicted.

If the same set of circumstances happened to 100 people, likely 99% of them would be fired (within my office alone, in fact, as I was the only survivor of nearly that percentage of purge!) Somehow, though, my boss never stopped loathing the visible indicators of my multiple diagnoses, but he realized during my leave that he could avoid having to deal with his employee-in-crisis and still get work out of her by just never speaking to her again. We meet as little as possible, I submit my work remotely, and somehow we’re both satisfied. Somehow the RNG that is life rolled such that I think I am actually more confident in myself during this review than last year.

My boss is a bullying arsehole, but I found a way to make it work? My Passion Planner really missed the mark there. About a month before I went on leave, it included a quote for the week that read “If you need a sign, this is it.” I made a little note in the margin that even my planner wanted me out of the company! The base set of variables (horrible boss, layoffs, financial instability as a result of the instability of the government we rely on for contracts) have not changed. Yet, I’m still employed. My end-of-year review seems like a perfect example of how you can’t always expect the worst, but it would be equally naive to conversely expect the bad to be rewarded with an equal amount of the best. The best you can remind yourself during Depression is often simply that RNG exists.

And that irony magnet superpowers violate randomness in blog-worthy ways. Today is National Cupcake Day. I learned that from another blogger who wrote about Random Acts of Kindness and receiving a cupcake during a rough day at work. I did not receive a cupcake from anyone at work the week my Passion Planner told me to expect a “sign.” All the good people who would have bought me one had, sadly, been fired already.

I did, however, stop into a corner market the first week of my leave. It was summer, the heat had been getting to me, and I had been an idiot to try and walk to my doctor’s appointment. Dysautonomia doesn’t care that I needed to move to avoid thinking about everything happening. I tried to buy a Gatorade and beef jerky, but I didn’t meet the minimum $10 to use a credit card. I had no cash. It triggered a bit of mental panic at the cost. It was, after all, my first week without a salary. I tossed some filler Hostess cupcakes by the register onto the pile anyway. I needed liquid and salt.

I must have looked as panicked as I felt at that moment, spending money I wasn’t sure I could replace and wondering if I’d ever get another paycheck from my company. I was thoroughly befuddled when the cashier suddenly nudged me to take my stuff and move along. The guy behind me had paid for my entire purchase. He had told the cashier I looked like I needed something to go right, then left before I surfaced from my spiral to thank him. I wrote that incident down in my planner with the note, “People think East Coasters are jackasses, but I bet nobody in the 9th Circle of Hell would buy me a cupcake while they screwed my family over.”

My Passion Planner, my own stats training and the bully-in-my-brain all couldn’t predict what my job would look like in December 2018. RNG can be a comforting surprise. However, my Passion Planner’s note from the week of June 10th, 2018, about signs also wasn’t entirely for naught. I’m an East Coaster now, by choice.

Things don’t happen for a reason. People aren’t inherently good. It’s a choice. I never got – nor expected – any cupcakes in the 9th Circle of Hell. My planner and that other blogger remind me, though, to keep being better than the 9th Circle of Hell or my boss. I probably owe a stranger an RNG cupcake…

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”

Messages in a Bottle #7.2: 525,600 Words

Written at some point prior in May 2018, intended for 5-26-18, my one-year blogiversary. The intro to this post (including why it is so delayed) is here.

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.

525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.

In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of

love.

525,600 minutes! 525,000 journeys to plan. 525,600 minutes – how can you measure

the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried. In bridges he burned, or

the way that she died. (don’t worry, not a tw, despite what the lyric might suggest!)

It’s time now to sing out, though the story never ends

Let’s celebrate remember a year in the life of friends

I had to perform that song as a pledge event for my sorority in college. Pledging unending sisterhood or some such. Does it surprise anyone that I joined a sorority? Honestly, it kind of surprises me, too. I’m also kind of surprised I didn’t fall over while attempting to vaguely “dance.” Undiagnosed Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome explains a lot in hindsight about why I got kicked out of ballet class (and soccer) and hidden away in the back where no one could see me for that college initiation “performance.” But, rush was a thing that was a fairly big event even at my geeky college. I did it as something to do to fit in in a new place, and I was sufficiently mystified when offered a bid that I accepted it partly on some vague grounds of “leadership activities look good for grad school” and partly some deeper, “you mean there might be a school where I’m actually vaguely acceptable for who I am?” I am a very forward planner and easily flattered by simply not being rejected.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #7.2: 525,600 Words”

Blog Awards Series #3/Messages in a Bottle #7.1: 525,600 Moments of Blog Awards

Today’s Questions are courtesy of Ease the Ride. They are both the hardest questions and the easiest questions to answer of all the blog awards, because there are really only three of them, and I had previously written a blogiversary post that, in theory, should have answered all of them. It was the post I intended to post for my one-year blog anniversary. I never posted it, so now it has become a blog award. The questions are as follows:

1) Write a paragraph of something positive about yourself

2) Briefly tell the story of your blog

3) Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

Continue reading “Blog Awards Series #3/Messages in a Bottle #7.1: 525,600 Moments of Blog Awards”

Messages in a Bottle #6: Cool as a Snowball in H#ll

From what I can tell, we briefly hit temperatures that were literally hotter than (the 9th Circle of) Hell this week. And, just as the Northeast might get a break from the insane heat wave that is gripping most of the country – for two days at least – I might be leaving it for another roundtrip to Hell. Argh. The 9th Circle of Hell additionally lives up its name by having always been unlivable in the summertime for someone growing up with undiagnosed Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the dysautonomia that likes to hitchhike.

I recently(ish) read two separate blog posts (by Narcoleptic Aspie and Crafts, Chronic Illness and Adulting) about how bizarre trying to use a Fitbit or another fitness tracker is for someone with a condition that includes autonomic nervous system dysfunction. Lavender from two years ago completely agrees with that sentiment.

I also discovered this random “journal” entry – not even written in my usual locked leather-bound journal because I was simply too out-of-it to hand-write anything – floating around in the flotsam and jetsam of my personal Dropbox.

The date of syncing of the post was late-July 2016, though given that my text notes sync to Dropbox only when I use wifi, not data, on my phone, the note itself could have been written on my phone anytime within a few weeks of that date. Out of curiosity, I went back and looked at my phone to see what Samsung Health recorded as my low heart rate at around 5:30am in July 2016. (Yes, this does mean my phone is over two years old, for anyone asking. I drop it constantly I’m not going to replace it every time a new model comes out just to shatter another screen!) I suspect this entry corresponds to a heart rate of 46 on July 12th, 2016. My recorded high for that month (156) also seems to have come at a time I marked myself as “at rest.”

It’s strange to think that if, on that date, I’d considered that I actually did have those extremes of heart rate while simply sitting inside in the A/C – and that it was my body, not my technology, that was broken – I might have been diagnosed at least a year earlier. But, of course, I assumed the technology just wasn’t that reliable. (Also, would that I could go back in time to a moment when the world wasn’t ending right now, as was the case two years ago! You know it’s a Messages in a Bottle when it contains that line. The world most certainly isn’t okay in “right now, right now!)

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #6: Cool as a Snowball in H#ll”

Messages in a Bottle#5.5: You Failed *Me* the Day The Newspaper Headlined “Families Trusted ___ To Care for Their Relatives and it Systematically Failed Them,” Too.

CW: Discussions of systematic abuse of various types.

This post has a much longer introduction here that explains why I am posting it today. Read that first if you want the full backstory (or forward story as the case may be). I won’t give the original date of this journal article. I’m already quoting almost verbatim the headline I found when I looked up the new hospital system I’d been referred to for outpatient treatment for ADHD in the new state I once hoped would be better than the one I grew up in. If I dated the journal article, I’d probably be sued for libel for mentioning it without having been a direct victim. I’m sure that hospital employs an army of lawyers to keep that article well buried, especially when referenced by families not directly involved. I wasn’t directly involved – in that abuse case, at least. I’ve been involved in others. I’ve been the family member speaking out against systemic abuse, and I’ve been threatened with libel for daring to speak the truth. It shouldn’t be libel when it’s true – but, hey, that this is the world we live in and the country we live in.

Go ahead and look up the article that I found in the city papers after just moving to a new city that led me to write the journal article below. You’ll find it. You will also – if you dig far enough to find that one – find dozens of others that are similar from other states. You’ll find enough that maybe you will wonder which article was the one referenced in this journal article. You’ll find enough that maybe you’ll take it a step further and wonder which of those articles is the one written about my original trauma. I welcome you to figure it out if you can, but I know what’s in print. I know that my little corner of the journalism world is buried behind a whole lot more recent stories of abuse. Stop and think about that for a bit. Then read this very meta post about a girl who was in one of those stories in the paper years and years ago later moving to a place she hoped would be better, but only finding in her new city paper another one of those stories of abuse, now written about the clinic she had just been referred to for her own care. Read her writing about her attempts to process a world in which this keeps happening and the therapist who was assigned to help her deal with it was part of the system itself. Then process that it never stopped happening for her even this week – and that’s why there is a whole separate post’s worth of introduction to this meta-post in addition to the post she apparently felt she needed to write just now. Is that a big enough picture for readers to believe that her trauma was real and that action needs to be taken to stop it from happening to others?

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle#5.5: You Failed *Me* the Day The Newspaper Headlined “Families Trusted ___ To Care for Their Relatives and it Systematically Failed Them,” Too.”

Messages in a Bottle #5: Don’t Tell Me I’m Safe

CW: Discussions of systematic abuse of various types.

This week has not been a good week. I’ve said before that I’m a primary caregiver (along with another family member who still resides in the state) of someone who needs full-time 24/7 medical, disability and mental health care beyond what is possible for us to provide at home. I’ve said before that one of the organizations licensed to provide such care was demonstrably abusive to my family member, and that we received no justice when we fought the state to try to close that organization even with all of our carefully gathered evidence. That organization is still open, still providing services to others, and that thought never leaves my nightmares.We removed my family member from that particular situation, but we didn’t change the system.

Over the years, other organizations that have been licensed providers in that region have been found to be abusive, too. The same state services that should have been protecting society’s most vulnerable have shielded the providers more than then they have ever shielded their patients. They have dolled out only slaps on the wrist, but slaps on the wrist don’t change anything. In rare instances, organizations have closed. (I’ll leave to your imagination what had to have been found for that to happen given what we discovered that didn’t lead to closure.) But, in most instances, they haven’t. I grew up with an acute awareness of just how common this kind of abuse is, how unlikely anyone is to help, and with further ramifications of the toll of that early exposure to trauma that then happened to me in other ways because the nature of early exposure to trauma is that it begets further situations that cause trauma for any person who grew up with it.

I fled from that state as soon as I could, and at one point I was naive enough to believe things would be better in other states. I then discovered decade-plus waiting lists for disability services in other states, and, quite frankly, that the abusive situations I hoped were unique to the Red State I grew up in happened in the Blue States, too. I am still on the list to try and re-establish services in the state I currently live in, but this Messages in a Bottle is both a current story of something that happened in the Red State I call the 9th Circle of Hell this week and a past story that happened in the Blue State in which I currently reside.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #5: Don’t Tell Me I’m Safe”