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Rising from beneath: April 2021 NaPoWriMo, Day two

Today’s prompt is inspired by Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” It’s based on our own personal journeys. What might our experiences be if we took a different path?

No matter how many times I wanted or tried to veer from the path I was on, I wasn’t able to. Having travelled this far, I realize I don’t want to have taken a route other than the one I’ve been on.

Why?

People. My children and my grandchildren might not exist. Or, if they did, they wouldn’t be who they are. I wouldn’t have or know the people in my life, not the way they are now.

My life has always been challenging and full of stress. It’s made who I am. There’s more work to be done. I like who I’m becoming.

Rising from Beneath

I was told I could be anything I wanted…
But I wasn’t taught how and
I never met anyone who was.

I was told that if I had knowledge I would have power.
Helplessness was all I knew…
despite my accumulated information

I was told, “Aim high! Shoot for the stars.”
From my depths my aim was as high as other’s low.
I shot just to see the stars.

Years of climbing, fighting, struggling
Always landing back in the hole
Anchored by the trauma of my past.

Cycles of poverty and neglect,
Generations repeating the past.
Lord, let me be the last.

Breaking through, crawling out
Eyes blinded by daylight
Skin scorched by the sun.

Someone (not Churchill) admonished one and all,
“if you’re going through hell, keep going. It’s no place to stop.”
no longer energized, yet, here I am…still going.

I think it’s a good fight. It’s been a hard one.
Redemption, restoration, rebuilding
Self and relationships once lost.

Constantly feeling weak and lost
Continually infused with life’s breath,
Molded by refining love.

But wait, there’s more…so much more
Five decades to grow up.
Here’s hoping for another 3-5.

New battles rise up,
New fears to face.
The war against self goes on.

More to see, more to be.
My future resides with me.
My path lives in me.

Write about a time when…

Still feeling blocked. My soul is aching from all the hate and the suffering it’s inflicting on various people groups in my country. I’ve been housebound with a sick child this week and I’m dealing with some mental health stuff triggered by stress and worry about a family situation I have no control over or say in, but impacts me and my youngest child.

I’m determined to follow through with this session of The Ultimate Blog Challenge and write a blog post everyday. I just want whatever I post to be interesting, if not entertaining.

So, I searched for a prompt I could write about substantively. Here’s what I found: Writing Prompts: 60 Ideas You Can Use Today

I chose prompt 21: Write about a time when you or someone you love was scammed.


In some ways, this is my origin story…or one of them.

It was the beginning of my junior year of high school. My life had been upended…again. I was 16.

My uncle, who had been my guardian since just prior to my mother’s suicide four years earlier, had gone through a divorce and a custody battle over my baby cousin. He’d moved me in with my grandmother while he moved forward into a toxic and destructive new relationship.

Meanwhile, my grandmother and I were taking care of my cousin a lot of the time. She was with me so often that, when I was 15, I was often mistaken for her mom.

For whatever reason, I never knew, he moved my grandmother and me back to the place we’d lived when my mom and I had first landed in Portland. It was just down the hill from where his ex-wife was staying and back into the school district I’d been unenrolled from following the breakdown of our not-so-happy little family.

It was homecoming week and I was sneaking into school while other kids were sneaking out.

My uncle was MIA and had failed to do what was necessary to reenroll me in school and, because I was under a guardianship instead of living with my biological parents, I wasn’t allowed to enroll myself.

Contrary to everything pop culture indicates about the adolescent desire to avoid the confines of educational institutions, I WANTED to be in school…desperately. You see, I believed that the only way out of poverty and away from the kind of life I’d lived was my intellect and education.

I’d taken the PSAT (Pre Scholastic Aptitude Test) the previous year, as a sophomore. My scores were high enough that I received interest letters from Harvard & Radcliffe and Whitman College. I was also offered my choice of ROTC scholarships…all contingent upon my graduation from high school.

I was missing half of my first term as a junior and was anxious, angry, and feeling abandoned, again.

That’s when I met him.

At first, I shied away from him. We were living in the place where respectable morphs into disreputable and he was an unknown entity. Strange men were suspect and not to be trusted.

Then, when I was at loose ends one day, I ran into him again. This time, he was with a girl my age. I thought she was his girlfriend. It turned out that they’d moved in right next door. Within a short period of time, they became my port in the storm.

It turned out that she wasn’t his girlfriend, but someone he was helping to get her life back on track. Or that was the story…and I believed it.

He was 30, passably attractive, and treated me like I was an adult. He listened and talked with me as if what I had to say mattered. He was my safe haven from the drama and paid attention to me when no one else, my uncle, could be bothered. I fell in love.

Within a couple of weeks, I was finally enrolled in school, but I’d missed almost two months of the beginning of the school year and was struggling to catch up. I spent every moment I could next door, getting homework help, friendship, and feeling as normal as I had ever felt.

Things got physical. I initiated. In hindsight, I know I was manipulated to that point. But, I thought it was my idea. He pretended to dissuade me, but, took what I offered anyway.

Then, my uncle decided to show up and assert his authority. Probably because my grandmother had been trying to get me to stop going where I was headed and had reached out to him.

There was a scene right out of an angsty teen drama, where my uncle and I were yelling at each other (cue Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It). “We love each other!” I loudly declared. I don’t remember what was said next, but I got my face slapped. I almost hit back, but, my uncle was holding my 2 yr. old cousin in his arms. He saw the look in my eyes and taunted me, “Go ahead. Hit a man with a baby in his arms.”

Next thing I knew, I was out the door and locked in the bathroom next door. Shortly thereafter, the two men were squared off, outside, and I was on the door stoop, screaming for them to stop.

I went into my appointment. Things calmed down and my uncle eventually left. I snuck back out and went next door. We knew we wouldn’t be able to be together if things stayed as they were. The next day, we left.

Three months after we left, he got picked up on a parole violation. A month later I found out I was pregnant. A few months after lat, I turned 17. He was released, then, we were on the run, again. Almost a year after we’d first run away, our son was born.

We spent a little over three years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars. We put notes up in rest areas and told people stories about our circumstances designed to manipulate them into giving us money, food, and shelter. He was a low level scam artist and I became his apprentice.

Two weeks before Christmas of 1988, a little over a month after our son turned two, I’d had enough. I was 19 and over it all. I was done and he knew it. He disappeared for a week with that month’s welfare allotment. The shelter we’d been staying in either needed the monthly “rent” – money they set aside to save enough for move in expenses – or we had to go. They gave me our “deposit” back so I could try to find someplace for us to go.

Somehow, he knew to come back that night. We fought. He wanted the money and I wasn’t going to give it to him. He almost killed me in front of our son, but, stopped short for some reason. Then, he left. I never saw him again.

His love was a scam that changed my life forever.

Blocked

I feel like my brain went on vacation and forgot to take me with it. There’s just a hodgepodge of feelings, thoughts, and experiences from the past several weeks, swirling in my psyche. I didn’t really know what or how to write about it. So, I started where I was and followed where it led.


When my mind is blank
and my vision dim;
my heart is heavy
and my soul is grim.

When my words are lost
and my mouth silent;
my lungs are empty
and feelings are violent.

Avoid and evade
the sorrow and pain.
Numb the body
Disconnect the brain.

This half life
I do not want.
Yet, in this moment
my will is daunt.

The tank is empty.
The drive is gone.
It’s time to rest
and wait the dawn.

Open the heart
and clear the mind;
heal the soul
and mend the blind.

Love lives in me,
a spiritual well
I forget to drink,
my thirst to quell.

Reach deep within
Touch the eternal
Connect with love
Fraternal

Grasp the vine
In him abide
Mind, heart, soul
Full life betide.

Writing Prompt: Photo Challenge & Word of the week.

Packing It In

We’ve lived like this
for far too long.
We no longer kiss.
With you, I’m always wrong.

You have too much anger,
I’m too sad.
We’ve lost our anchor.
Together, we’re bad.

This negativity can’t last.
I want you as friend, not foe.
I think our time is past.
It’s time to let go.

What’s next will be hard.
It will be rough.
We’ve both been scarred,
but, we’re tough.

I know you see what I see.
There’s nothing left to say.
This is what needs to be.
We must go our own way.


Word of the week: packing

Writing Prompt: lettrs Three in One – Skylark Challenge 152, Word of the Week, Finish the Story

The sky turned darker and darker as she walked toward the beach. “This can’t be a good sign,” she thought to herself as she watched the flotsam and jetsam of the tideline being washed back into the ocean. Crest ravaged crest as the waves rose higher and higher, each one violently crashing into the next.

Conscious of the increasing danger in the charged atmosphere, still she persisted in wading through the lacy, white edges of the ocean’s skirt where it brushed the sandy shore. Inhaling deeply, she felt calmer, even as the storm heightened around her.

Turning to face the vast, explosive power of the swelling tide, with hair blowing in the gusting wind, her eyes closed against the mist, she threw her hands in the air, and let out a howling scream, venting her ire and frustration about the painful events and circumstances she’d been experiencing, which were out of her control. It felt as though the elements were speaking through her, for her.

Finally, as the skies opened and heaven poured out it’s laments, she turned and slowly made her way back to the gray and brown weathered beach house. Step by weary step, she steadily paced herself as she sought refuge from both the actual storm and the storm her life had become.

As she closed the door behind her, she was filled with a calm resolve. She felt centered and at peace with vagaries of her life. With the storm raging around her, she slept soundly, for the first time in what felt like decades.

Upon waking, she saw the morning light coming through the window and meandered outside to the porch. Feeling the warmth of the sun contrasting with the cooling breeze, she finally felt content and knew the course she would take upon returning home.

After packing the car and leaving the house key in the lockbox, she cast a final glance towards the calm ocean, whispered a prayer of gratitude, and drove away.

Skylark Challenge 152:
Wading, Washed, Tideline, Crest

Word of the week: Packing

Finish the Story: The sky turned darker and darker as she walked toward the beach. “This can’t be a good sign,” she thought to herself…

Writing Prompt: Skylark Challenge 151, 2nd Entry


Poison, Scent, Fluid, Shattered, Pale


The fluid had a pleasant scent, obfuscating the poison. He turned pale, as it went to work. The cup shattered as it hit the floor.

She came into the room, horror evident in her eyes. Right then she knew. He had framed her for his murder which was a suicide.

Cold fear gripped her heart. Squeezing her chest, it made her forget to breathe. Pain shooting up her arm, she collapsed to the floor, beside the one who had made her life misery. She gave up on her life, knowing he’d achieved his goal.

“Mom! Dad! I’m home and I’ve got a surprise,” their son announced later that day, as he unlocked the front door and entered with his fiancé…never imagining their life together was over before it had begun.

They could never get past the vision of a marriage of such hidden unhappiness, ending in in such horrific and tragic darkness.

His death certificate read: Death by poison, suspicious circumstances. Hers: Death by heart attack, natural. The headline read: Wife poisons husband, dies of a broken heart.

Crazy

You’re not crazy. You’re pain is not a pathology. Your pain makes sense…You’re a human being with unmet needs.
Now This Op-Ed video about depression

Crazy.

“She’s just crazy. I’m done.”

“That’s just crazy talk.”

“How crazy is that?”

“What are you, crazy?”

Crazy.

How often do we throw that word around? We use it as a throwaway label for people and situations we don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to try and understand. It’s mostly a word which people who consider themselves as “normal” use to explain away and dismiss the abnormal.

Guess what? It’s ableism.

What is Ableism? According to The Urban Dictionary, “Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people who have disabilities. Ableism can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment, or larger scale oppression. It is oftentimes unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.”

This definition isn’t only about physical disabilities, it also counts for those experiencing mental health issues due to atypical brain structure and neurochemistry.

Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
PTSD
Anxiety disorders
Addiction
Compulsive Behavior disorders
ADHD
Asperger’s
Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning)

These are but a few examples of things which people with non-neurotypical brains and brain chemistry experience.

Crazy

It is a word which holds a strong stigma. The thought of being “crazy” often causes people not to seek help for symptoms and behaviors which make them feel mentally and emotionally out of control. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy.” WE don’t want to be labeled and dismissed as being “crazy.” We don’t want to be treated as defective or dismissed because having atypical brains makes us “less than.”

I say “WE” because I have a Bipolar brain which has been affected by ongoing and varied trauma experiences. Four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type 2, and PTSD. Around the same time, my youngest child was educationally identified as having “High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Recently she received the official diagnosis of Autism AND ADHD.

These things cause us to think, react, and act differently than those who have neurotypical brains. We aren’t “crazy,” we aren’t disabled. We are neurodiverse and differently abled.

The thing about the word, “crazy” is that it’s such an inherent part of our American vernacular that even those of us who have been affected and marginalized by the term frequently use it ourselves.

I’m not going to “go off the deep end” (another phrase often used instead of “crazy”) and call out everyone, every time I hear the word used. However, I will start with myself and maybe those closest to me. I haven’t figured out what to say instead, but, I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

Maybe you’ll think about it the next time you hear or use the word.

In case you’re wondering, the August Scrawls Day 3 word is “atypical.”

Staying Present on Bad Days

It’s was a horrible, painful morning. And the one person I want to talk to had gone radio silent.

I wanted to eat. But, I had already eaten and my body isn’t hungry. I really wanted to go lie down. I wound up doing both. Especially the eating.

I was eating my feelings. Numbing myself with food. Hurting myself with food. I saw myself doing it. I knew what I was doing and why. I simply couldn’t, didn’t stop.

It was different than in the past. I didn’t let myself “zone out” while I was eating. With every bite, I knew what it was and accepted that the compulsion was too strong for me to resist. I didn’t criticize or judge myself. I let go of resistance and struggle.

Yes, I ate too much today. However, I didn’t eat as much as I have in past binge eating episodes. I also stayed relatively present to the emotions which were driving the eating:

  • Grief
  • Anger
  • Futility
  • Guilt

I was also in physical pain. I guess it’s easier for me to cope with the self-inflicted pain and discomfort of overeating than to deal with the other pain I was experiencing and who had inflicted it.

Don’t worry. I’m not in a Domestic Violence situation. I’m single/co-parenting a child on the higher functioning end of the Autism Spectrum (HFASD) who also has Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Sometimes we have daily and multiple times a day episodes of violent behavior from her towards me. Today was that kind of day.

Anyway, back to the mindfulness. I stayed present to the painful, ugliness. I did avoidance behaviors, but, I did them with awareness and without guilt. So, even in that, I stayed somewhat connected to what I was experiencing instead of dissociating.

I’m counting that as a win for mindfulness.

April 2018: A mindful month

Happy Easter for those who celebrate it…Happy April Fool’s Day to the rest.

Last week, I met with the therapist I’ve seen for the past two years for the last time. No, it wasn’t a milestone for my healing and recovery from PTSD & Depression or a sign I’ve got this Bipolar thing under control. I wish. She’s moving away. 😔

The good news is she helped me get back in with my original therapist – I’d transitioned when she had to take a leave of absence. Since I saw her the two years prior to moving over to my other therapist, it’s really good to go back to her. I don’t have to start over with a brand new person. YAY! 😃

Unfortunately, I can’t get in to see her until April 20th.

Considering all the life issues I’m dealing with, in addition to the mental health issues, this isn’t a good thing.

One positive thing is that I got the parent-child therapy started for me and my youngest – she’s on the high end of the Autism Spectrum and was recently identified with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). We get to see that therapist weekly. We’re going to work on attachment issues and the signs of depression the therapist saw in my daughter during our initial visit.

Now, I have 2/3 of the month of April without access to a therapist of my own. Considering I just came out of a two and a half month period of mania because I mismanaged my meds, I need something to keep me grounded and my newly stabilized sanity intact.

My therapist and I recognize that avoidance is a MAJOR issue of mine. Specifically avoidance of facing and processing emotions triggered by and/or triggering to the past trauma.

My primary tool of avoidance is self distraction and self-harm with food.

During the first two months of the manic episode the distraction was sex and risk-taking. The past two weeks, it’s been food and obsessive focus on a certain guy.

I’ve gotten my meds under control again…mostly. So, sanity is returning as I stabilize.

Typically, after a manic or hypomanic episode I’ll experience a short period of stability on my way down into a depressive episode. I can already hear that particular demon knocking on the door.

My therapist suggested mindfulness as a way to stay present to my emotions…allow all the big, scary, overwhelming feels to flow through me. To acknowledge them, without judging them. I need to give myself permission to experience my feeling and to stop running from them.

So, this month, I’m going to be accountable here to actually putting mindfulness into action. Anyone reading is invited to participate in the accountability…just be gentle, please.

In tonight’s mindful moment, I notice tension in my body, my breathing feels shallow, but isn’t, and I am experiencing achiness and pain in my legs and feet. As I lie (lay? – I always confuse those two) here I notice my thoughts wandering all over the place: frustration, exhaustion, thinking about the guy.

Anyway, it seems motherhood is calling and disrupting this moment of mindfulness.

I’ll check in tomorrow.

Keep Moving: When you’re going through hell

This journey toward health encompasses so many things in my life. Basically, it’s connected to everything – my emotions, relationships, mental health, life circumstances… It’s all tied together. Especially when I’m falling apart.

As some have noted from reading my other posts this month, my plate is full.

There are many moments on many days when I feel the full weight of it all. All I want to do is eat my anger, fear, frustration, resentment, uncertainty, and a myriad of other emotions triggered by the situations and circumstances of my life.

Numbing myself with food has been my pattern since adolescence.

After years of chaotic living and trauma, my mother’s undiagnosed, unacknowledged mental illness took her life via suicide. I was 12 years old and under her brother’s guardianship.

I was dissociated from my emotions by then and didn’t realize or acknowledge the effects it had on me. There was no discussion, no Memorial Service, and no grief counseling.

Just. Move. On.

I disappeared into books…and eating even more than I’d already been overeating.

Fast forward nearly 37 years later and here I am. Working hard to get healthy in the midst of trigger after trigger for eating my feelings.

I have been doing a phenomenal job, if I do say so myself, of staying conscious and present of my eating. Using the app to keep a record of my food and staying with the recommended guidelines has felt good, but also made me make better choices, because I didn’t want to see bad ones.

Last night I lost the battle.

True confession: Two Wendy’s chicken tenders w/honey mustard, small fry, & “small” coke.

Emotions: frustration, anger

Outcome: feeling bloated & sick

😑

The win that I’m taking away from this is that I caught myself almost immediately and didn’t shove the rest of the food into my face. I faced my feelings. Most importantly, I’m being honest with myself…and you.

I’m continuing to advance. I’m going to keep moving.


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