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…”

Advertisements

End-User Experience

SelfCareRevelation
<Image Text>: “Most People have ‘Ah ha’ moments. I have “Oh for fuck’s sake, fuck this shit” moments.” Note: this is a pretty apt description of the process of me finally accepting that I’m better off actually taking care of myself rather than letting the opinions of others prevent me from benefitting from readily available accessibility aids that would save me critical spoons.

Movie theaters have become events in and of themselves. One that opened near us recently has a full restaurant inside of it where patrons can eat at traditional tables before the movie – or order their carnitas nachos to be served at tables inside the theater while they recline in their heated leather seats. The theater also boasts gourmet versions of standard guilty pleasure treats made with all natural, non-high-fructose-corn-syrup ingredients like white raspberry slushies and cheddar and caramel popcorn.

And – although they offer treats with more FODMAP-friendly ingredients that make me less likely to need them in a hurry (if you know what I mean) – they additionally offer bathrooms with marble stylings and individual sinks each equipped with their own personal accoutrements and air dryers so I’m not missing even more of the movie than necessary getting stuck waiting in a line when I’m hoping to rush back to my seat after an inevitable potty break during the three-hour-long Avengers: Endgame.

All of this luxury comes with a price tag roughly 20% higher than a standard 3D theater without these little extras. My Partner and I only see a handful of movies in a theater each year. We figure for those movies we judge worthy of a night out, we might as well make it a true experience. (Also, those bathrooms. Seriously. That alone is worth 20% more to any spoonie with GI issues as part and parcel of their diagnosis…)

Unfortunately, the first time we saw a movie in our new elaborate dine-in theater, the experience was missing one detail that further explains why, in the end, it hasn’t only been the price tag that has limited the number of films we’ve seen in a theater each year. Closed Captioning.

Continue reading “End-User Experience”

Cohen Events

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there?”

“Orange.”

“Orange who?”

“Orange you glad Trump might finally be impeached as dictator of this Banana Republic?”

I’m berry sorry, everyone. My joke might be a bit green still, but here’s hoping the currant hints of corruption while in office from Cohen’s testimony do eventually ripen and bear fruit. Trump is definitely rotten to the core.

And on that grape thought….sweet dreams everybody! 😉

 

You’ve Been Catfooded!

Don't you love when your dog looks at you like that? Or your cat? Little shits! I am your master, I am here to serve you...
Image: Two cats sitting on a sleeping human in bed. One cat is shaking the human awake with its paw. The cat tells the other cat, “the food is good, but the service is slow…”

Did I ever mention that my Partner and I are weird people? Like “gallows humor” and “eat anything on the planet at least once” weird? Or that we’re advocates for social justice? If not, you have officially been warned.

I may have mentioned before about how my kitty has PTSD from being abused, starved and abandoned before we got her. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that she also has kidney issues, old injuries that limit her mobility, and even more allergies than I do. If the abandonment anxiety alone wasn’t enough to prove she is my spirit animal, then the rest ought to guarantee it.

We suspect that her complicated medical issues might, unfortunately, have been the reason she was ultimately abused and abandoned. I mean, we’ve seen it done to vulnerable humans. It’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to assume it happens even more frequently to vulnerable kitties.

We didn’t know about her issues when I first started fostering her. I was just told to shove as much food and liquid into her as possible. She was too sick to eat, so anything I could tempt her with was automatically approved. I fell back onto gold-standard kitty addictions: tuna water and Fancy Feast. She ate both with gusto, and my Partner and I both quickly realized never to combine cheap cat food and smelly tuna in her tummy again. Let’s just say what she produced was thick enough to mortar a bunker and lethal enough to weaponize to use to clear out the bad guys holed up in that bunker at the same time. She put my two-ply lullaby to shame.

Nothing says a “third date” like an emergency trip to the grocery store to buy every possible form of air freshener in the aisle at nearly midnight. I say she’s “our” foster failure. And, in her mind, she is. She met both of us on the same day. But, technically my Partner and I hadn’t even DTR’ed at the time I got her, and her adoption papers are under my name alone. She’s “our” cat in hindsight, but, at that time, I think my Partner really showed his character by helping clean up after her when he had no official responsibility towards her, or me. I don’t regret it. That experience didn’t require half the strength that actually marrying me and handling my caregiving responsibilities demand. Heck, by the standards of my life it was humorous. It even had an actual resolution, which is particularly unusual in my life. One veterinary specialist, some kitty Prozac, and a lifetime commitment to buying her expensive allergen-safe cat food later, and her tummy troubles cleared up. (However, if her special food ever goes off the market, please send gas masks. We’ll need them.)

That experience has become a running joke for the trajectory of our relationship – and spawned another running joke that our kitty eats better than we do. How many people can read right on the can that their pet’s food is safe for human consumption?

We also watch a lot of Food Network, and while we were dating my Partner dared me to make him a meal that “highlighted” her wet and dry food in the same dish, Chopped-style. If I could successfully fool him into going back for seconds, he’d fork over for a Michelin 3-star restaurant willingly. I never quite remembered to do it when he’d remind me. We’re now married, so any gourmet meal would be funded out of pooled money anyway now. But, the challenge has always stood. And, I’ve always had on my mental bucket list – at least I have every 6-9 months or so when something reminds me of it – to undertake it anyway.

Continue reading “You’ve Been Catfooded!”

For Better or Worse

CW: Anonymity is so inconvenient sometimes. I can’t, for instance, tell you the actual state motto of the 9th Circle of Hell. “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here,” while appropriate, is actually not nearly as morbidly satisfying as the true state motto. If I ever write a memoir of my experiences in Hell – or, better yet, find a way to channel its traumas into some kind of a black-comedy stand-up – the title will simply be the unadulterated state motto. Some things are just too darkly ironic in and of themselves to be able to be embellished by even the most skilled satirist.

That said, the aforementioned “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here” is appropriate enough as a placeholder that any post I write about the 9th Circle of Hell from now until eternity probably warrants a content warning. Keep that in mind. This post is a darkly ironic reminder that trauma really does affect everyone, whether they grew up in Hell or married into the family.

Continue reading “For Better or Worse”

Frozen in Time

CW: Don’t read this if you are in any sort of a bad place. I’m physically safe. I’m mentally shattered. You don’t need to do anything. There’s nothing anyone can do anyway unless they had serious political connections. I am not a danger to myself or others. No, the danger, as always, is from others, and this post is more about trying to survive their latest devastation. This post is about how it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to try to survive. It just never ends. It’s a dark post – even though I promise I’m safe – so please read with caution. I’m the scant protection someone else has from the 9th Circle of Hell. I won’t ever abandon that responsibility to ease my own pain. I’ve been on the other end of that type of abandonment and still feel the hurt and weight of the responsibility it left me with. I will survive this and keep fighting as best I can. I just wish deeply right now that I didn’t have to.

Continue reading “Frozen in Time”

Houston, We Have a Problem

Explaining_is_Hard

That problem is, apparently, that I sound like an astronaut communicating through a crinkly 1960s com unit from the Moon – while my space suit springs a slow leak and I rapidly lose oxygen.

Did I ever mention that social anxiety makes absolutely no sense? I may be a bit underconfident when I perform on stage, but I at least can speak in multiple sentences without choking, in either the figurative or the literal sense.

This is not the case with job interviews.

Despite the protracted visit to Hell this month, I did manage to get off a small batch of applications to potential data science positions. This is a reasonable accomplishment, as these applications, even outside of academia, are not short. There’s no simple “slightly modify your resume, change a paragraph of a cover letter” and go. Each one requires references up front, transcripts, lists of published papers, and other odds and ends to create a complete portfolio. Each one has its own specific hoops** to jump through. Some I have seen even want samples of publicly available code on GitHub! We don’t even really use resumes. It’s all C.V.s. Oh, and I’m pretty much mentally broken right now and my typical protective mental walls have been dangerously breached by all the workplace bullying and 9th Circle of Hell full-scale substantiated systemic abuse.

All of those lodestones aside, I was able to complete one stage 1 phone interview. One of the rare legitimate benefits of ADHD is that if you truly enjoy what you do – and I do, just not always the workplace culture that surrounds it – hyperfocus can be harnessed to your favor. You can, for instance, pull off reading everything a lab has published in the past five years, plus review what consulting gigs and patents have been pursued in tandem, the work of their external research partners, and even their potential security of grant and/or venture capital sources. (I’m pretty sure a big part of the systemic breakdown of the current workplace culture is ultimately funding-related self-protective offensive attacks. I’d like some indication I’d be with a more established, stable entity instead of out of the frying pan and into the fire.)

There was nothing about that organization I didn’t know, and I had really carefully thought-out answers for the standard interview questions and what my background could contribute. Those answers were even good!

I managed to answer with great content, but the rushed breathiness of someone who basically was fighting a potential panic attack the entire time. Have you ever noticed how sometimes you can’t take deep breaths to calm anxiety, even if you try? You get physically stuck in a kind of hyperventilation. If I had forced deeper breaths (I briefly experimented while on mute), I risked going into a sort of coughing/retching fit. Being somewhat rushed and breathy – but not dry heaving – seemed better.

So, that sucks. I’m pretty sure in the past I’ve sounded like I speak a mile a minute and likely talked over people (because ADHD), but I at least haven’t sounded like I exhaust myself with my talking. Now, I seem to have the “don’t overwhelm with too much content too quickly” more under control, yet I get no benefit because some form of anxiety + idiotic autonomic nervous system functioning literally starved my brain of oxygen while I spoke! Did I mention I wasn’t actually – at least so I thought – even that anxious? My anxiety over this interview was nothing compared to the traumatic meetings I’ve had recently with the 9th Circle of Hell. My answers were good. I felt confident in them. If I had managed to speak like someone breathing the air around her instead of from deep inside a malfunctioning space suit, I’d even have said I felt pretty confident I’d get a second interview. But, apparently, when giving interviews after a lifetime of Hell, the devil is still in the delivery.

Has anyone else had that experience? You actually feel confident in what you want to say, but your lungs seize up and you can barely draw the breath to say it anyway? Any tips? This is kind of a scary new expression of my anxiety. Everything about my stress responses lately have been new and scary.

** For anyone who is going to suggest that perhaps I could actually make good on my claims about using statistics for social justice by applying to an advocacy organization, I have bad news. 1) There really aren’t a lot of grass-roots mental health or chronic illness groups that employ data geeks. 2) I am, still, a data scientist not a computer engineer by training, so sys admin positions don’t quite fit. 3) The ones that do have openings seem to want you to have already worked in advocacy. I saw one that actually seemed cool, but they explicitly stated their technical staff need to be “camera ready” to give solo press conferences about findings. Because even the data staff need to be PR-savvy, I guess the socially anxious aren’t the target mental illness demographic for mental illness advocacy by default? I still like the idea, but it seems like breaking into the world of making the world a better place is surprisingly complicated?

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

Where’s Whoopsie #13: I am the 1 in 5

Happy Fourth of July from one of the 1 in 5. Which 1 in 5? Well, probably not the one you are immediately thinking. Yes, I am one of the 1 in 5 Americans who experience mental illness in a given year. I’m also one of the almost 1 in 3 Americans living with multiple chronic conditions (and one of the 30 million of us living with five or more diagnoses!). However, I’m talking today about being one of the 1 in 5 Americans who have gone to a protest since 2016.

Our country was founded on ideas of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Those are being denied to too many of our countrymen, including members of my own family. I believe it is patriotic to hold our leaders accountable for being the country we claim to be. My advocacy has taken place in intimate courtrooms and on huge street corners. Because I am, however, also one of those other 1 in 5s and one 1 in 3s, protesting isn’t always the most straightforward thing. Thus, this Fourth of July, I thought I’d post about how I have pulled off attending protests with ADHD, C-PTSD, social anxiety, depression, migraines, dysautonomia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, IBS and just the general B.S. that – while they aren’t evil incarnate like the Republican leaders willingly setting Americans up for injury or death by dismantling our social safety net – even the well-intentioned Progressives who arrange protests are still often so very clueless about how to make protests inclusive for differently abled Americans.

Thus, I present Lavender’s Fourth of July Guide to Protesting as a Spoonie

Continue reading “Where’s Whoopsie #13: I am the 1 in 5”

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”