Twelve months ago I embarked on a journey, disappearing from blogging here at Mimosa Mornings. I tried a few times to return but it wasn’t the write/right time.
First, let me say, I am forever grateful to Sandy for her Sunday posts. Each week, Sandy took us through her own writing and life’s journey. Her wisdom and process, which sadly included Sandy’s grieving the loss of her beloved husband, Jim.
Losing a husband is something I experienced while very young. It’s the monster in my closet. While none of us are immortal, couples know one is going to go first, unless we go together -we still live in a sense of denial. During the marriage it’s all hypothetical or the reality that makes us cry in a movie or book. The fictional aspect can become a reality for some –I wish I could tell you how many people tried to comfort me by suggesting I watch the movie, Ghost, with Patrick Swayze and if you know me, you know I did not respond with Sandy’s grace or dignity. Then, there were the women who told me I was lucky –they’d been dumped by cheating husband’s and were angry, bitter divorcees. If I can offer any sound advice to a divorcee, please never tell a widow she’s lucky.
Each time someone near me experiences on of life’s losses, whether it be a job, health or death, it would send me into a tailspin. I assumed it was because I was broken. But, I persevered through tons of self-help books, yoga, diet, exercise, prayer and meditation. It was obvious that the rest of the world was handling life a lot better than I was capable. I had times where I shut down, literally and figuratively… memories would send me back so fast I couldn’t stop it. I would try to figure it out, talk it out but I would find myself alone down a rabbit hole.
So, I was a survivor and tried to be kinda proud of myself. But the truth about being a survivor is not all it’s cracked up to be. Think of the person who survives a car accident, plane crash or war. Not all survival means ‘back to normal’, ‘without a scratch’ and ‘just like new’! Survival often involves a lot of scar tissue, badly healed bones -both internal or external. I often felt like everywhere I went, I was soul-limping.
I also limp in life as I have a few disabilities, not the kind that garners any sympathy or ribbons -the kind that are laughed at or end up humiliating me. I have bilateral Mennieres, which means I am losing my hearing and falling down a lot. People seem to respond to hearing loss like you are purposely inconveniencing them! If I ask for someone to repeat themselves, I am snapped at or told to get hearing aides… I was even told my use of captions on TV is irritating to the other person in the room. And you would think randomly falling on my face would garner a little sympathy but no… It’s called a drop attack, it can occur when my ears feel full but that’s my only warning. I never even know I am falling until I hit the ground. I suspect my body’s resistance to losing weight might be to provide needed padding. So, how humiliating! No, it gets worse. The three times I fell in public, I was ignored! –people walked pass me and one woman even sat in her car for a few minutes -then drove off when I finally struggled to get up. I was later told that people probably thought I was drunk… OMG! Really? Well, if a drunk falls around me, I’d be helping them up.
So, my disabilities are not anything I embrace, I don’t like them, I fight them. I’m kind of grateful I don’t get any sympathy. Pity is an anathema for me, I was raised by women who reveled in dramatic pity-parties and even my young widowhood was seen as me trying to upstage them with the ultimate sorrow.
Oh well, I thought, whatever. I might not be able to train for a marathon but I am damned suited to be a writer and I love writing. But, for all my efforts, I was going no where. I’d get published but froze when asked to be part of an anthology. I’d get enthusiastic responses, then freeze when asked for revisions. I’d pitch a book but freeze when asked for the book. I’d fall down the rabbit hole. But, since I was perfectly able to write, I’d simply start a new book, another book and another.
Anyway, at my age I was just kind of glad I was still breathing and able to write. All the traumas and I survived, woo hoo! I once had PTSD but I was treated; so, I figured that was behind me. I wore out a few therapists dealing with death, dying and grief. I assumed I was as good as I could get, like the Japanese thing -all the cracks in my pottery had been mended with gold, or maybe in my case, super glue. But, a tiny voice wondered why I couldn’t move forward and would I continue for another forty years, writing and writing and writing? There was no stack of manuscripts under the bed to be found to be posthumously published, there was only a digital delete button.
Then catastrophe struck, health-wise… a simple medical test required intubation, which knocked out two of my teeth. Living in rural NC, and missing eye teeth kind of places you into the ‘meth addict’ category. Another rabbit hole, dentists are a huge problem for me. I fell back on my tried and true avoidance technique: research dental fear on the internet. I was a little dismayed to learn that women fearing dentists is a very common thing and now even treated as a special focus in many dental schools. Not so surprising: having a man hover over you and tell you to ‘trust him’ and ‘hold still’ can send you down the rabbit hole like you were shot out of a cannon. Rape and abuse victims simply avoid dentists or require sedation and even the process of being sedated can cause a panic attack.
I was furious when I read these familiar symptoms and even the reality of being part of a larger hidden group of women pissed me off. After all, I’d been a Marine, I survived lots and lots of things. So, why should a series of traumas years ago effect my getting dental care? I was extremely disappointed in myself.
Still toothless and unable to smile, which worked well into my irritated, permanent scowl of wtf disappointment, I ordered another self-help book. It Wasn’t Your Fault: Freeing Yourself from the Shame of Childhood Abuse with the Power of Self-Compassion Well, no shit, was my inner response. The book promised to help women like me overcome and move on… there was a brief warning that one might need professional help. Yeah, right, I thought, not me. But, halfway through the book –I froze, spun in place, couldn’t write, couldn’t get out of bed most days… I’d walk the dogs, for miles and get lost in long conversations with other dog walkers… become obsessed with the idiots with their unleashed dogs… (still idiots, obsession gone)
I finally bit the bullet and asked my husband if he’d consider the expense of me going into therapy for a little while. I apparently had complex PTSD, but I dealt with ordinary PTSD before so, how hard can it be?… I have to say, I am not sure whether my husband just loves me unconditionally (he does) or he figures I am too impossible to replace (I am)… He readily agreed but wasn’t sure how we’d handle the expense. I was sure we had to deal with me and we did manage.
So, it’s been a year of weekly sessions and I have to say, in the beginning, I almost quit several times. We discovered a massive, floating pile of crap in the middle of my ocean. It was choking the life out of me and while I was assured it was all treatable, I was lost for a while in anger. Anger at the people who did this to me, anger at myself for not being able to get help sooner and shame -lots of shame.
So, I’m back. I feel really great. I handle things much better. I walk away from things that used to send me down the rabbit hole. I must admit, the election was a setback. I love the image above, that dark character is rather sinister… Women all over the world in therapy responded the same way and many women went back into therapy. It seems the effect misogyny had on these survivors of abuse and traumas, of all ages –was universal. But, that anxiety for me is ebbing now.
Today, I’m back and feeling like Julie Andrews on the mountain top singing… My books? Yeah, well, now therapy is cut back to every other week and eventually once a month but I am working on normal artsy forty creativity issues. I just completed an Artist’s Way seminar and the twelve weeks provided some good habits. It also helped me recognize and acquire a few tools to clear my creative blocks.
I am not sure yet if I want to blog about any of the traumas or PTSD stuff. A part of me thinks it might be helpful to others and another part of me wants to just move on. Looks like we’ll see how 2017 unfolds here at Mimosa Mornings together!