On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, April 16, 2017

WILL

How are things with Sissy?

We have good days and bad days.  If she had her druthers, they would all be bad days.  She tries hard to make it so!  Seems she has become hard wired to only know how to be challenging, stick provoking, and refusing to follow any direction.  It's going to be a hard adult life for her which is disappointing because I have tried to give her the tools she needs to be as successful as she is capable of being.

The timer is counting down to 18 when things begin to shift.  She's had an updated psychological evaluation by social security which has determined her eligible for disability.  (That is always nerve wracking for me because I know she's disabled but will the federal government agree based on their paid cronies that analyze the results of their prescribed reviews?)  That evaluation gets sent to a host of entities in our community that are purported to offer assistance programs like vocational rehabilitation and the department of mental health and developmental delay.  The plan is to find an assisted living type facility.  The ideal was to have things move before 18 but the cogs of the wheels turn slowly so it may be another year yet.  *deep cleansing breath*

She is working with another community service specialist that is teaching her life skills.  Sissy still refuses hygiene of any kind and would rather pretend that she is five and live her life at that speed indeterminably.  Of course, her therapist and I have reassured her 1,000x a session that she WILL be 18, she WILL be an adult, she WILL need to be responsible to some degree.

Her education is a bone of contention.  I see no value in her continuing until she achieves a diploma and at the rate she is going, that won't be until 20 or 21.  She won't be a wage earning tax payer beyond some cursory vocation that earns her a marginal wage that doesn't interfere with her social security income.  And to that end, even though she has the ability to do a task that requires some intellectual prowess, she won't.  The thought has come up to just let it go, let her move on to a facility without ever finishing her education but some of these facilities insist on a completion of education in some fashion.  The other thought is that Sissy may have the ability to finish her education with a GED instead.  It's not a mystery, she is smart enough to do that!  But WILL she?  

The core issue to all of these things as Sissy approaches this huge milestone is her WILL.  She is hell bent to make sure that her WILL won't match her ability.  There has been many moments when her therapist has had to step back and breathe because she has wanted to walk away in sheer exasperation with Sissy.  After all of these years, we have finally gotten ourselves a therapist that is able and willing to go the distance with us, two years and counting, Ms L has become family.  

The more "beautiful" moments with Sissy in therapy include her squeezing her eyes tightly to force tears, covering her ears and screaming, "leave me alone!" Ms L and I try not to get angry and irritated at Sissy's flat refusal to participate but many times Aspie Boy chimes in and tells her to stop and just do her therapy like she's supposed to.  Of course, that often incites further riot followed by "Shut Up Aspie Boy! This is MY therapy session! Butt out! It's none of your business!!!"  Followed by Ms L and I replying almost in unison, "Oh, but Sissy you make it EVERYONE's business when you scream and shout and refuse to be different, actively continuing to bring harm to your family."  And Sissy says with venom in a calm, controlled tone, "So you're saying I'm TRYING to hurt my family?!?!" Then Ms L or I will say to one another, "look at that, all the tears are done..."  It's funny when you're not in the moment but it's not funny when you're seated at the table with her, repeating this exact scenario every Monday evening for two straight years.  

But who's counting?


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Inside the mind of PTSD

Are we all souls at a state of unrest? We hear talk of the dead coming back to haunt because they have unfinished business.  When people die we wish that they rest in peace because maybe some don't. We seldom mention the living being at the same state of mind largely because we still have time to settle ourselves.  And if we can't?

I know, I'm a rhetorical pundit, but that's only because these thoughts rumble through my head like a battered dump truck that has hauled one too many loads of rocks and rubble from a dig site to an undisclosed offload site.  In my mind, the offload site doesn't exist so the rocks and rubble of my thoughts pile up in various places of my frontal lobe only to be removed and hauled to another part of the same cerebrum region; an infinitesimal loop of  digging, hauling, and dumping the discord of my mind.

Where am I? I'm in an eddy of life, one of those swirl pools in a bubbling creek where water effortlessly glides over smoothed granite stones while leaves and pollen get caught up and slowly spin in a rock outcropping from the force of the current that flows past it.  It's not a terrible place to be but the water can stagnate.  I've often wondered if after the years of so much trauma and stress I have become accustomed to that pace and subconsciously crave it, like longing to be in the fast paced current of the creek, perpetually bubbling over the granite stones, racing onward to nowhere in particular but moving nonetheless.  I've read a few cursory studies that have demonstrated that brain chemistry is altered for PTSD sufferers and therapists agree that the best way to come out of the adrenaline high from the racing stress-induced pace of life as a result of trauma, is to force oneself to be quiet and rest.  Easier said than done. 

Sunday mornings are the hardest. I hate the solitude of it, waking alone, sipping coffee alone, ruminating about the things that need to be done before a new work week starts, accidentally making myself anxious, wondering if I will be alone for the rest of my life, scrolling through endless facebook posts, deleting email, trying to brighten my mood with good music, opting to sit on the deck and listen to nature's music, petting the dog's head, thinking about the to-do list and being frustrated that it is always just me to get those items checked off, longing for companionship, texting people just to feel connected to other souls, dreading when Sissy wakes up because I can't tolerate her drama any more, feeling frustrated that I can't just enjoy what I currently have because life is actually really good right now, realizing that I'm stuck in that loop in my brain again, wishing beyond hope that I could be a soul at rest finally.  

I chastise myself for not enjoying what I currently have, for being incapable of just being.  I remind myself that I have overcome enormous obstacles and that I'm OK.  I stop and breathe and let my temporal lobe absorb the sensory stimulation instead of stagnating in the cognitive frontal lobe.  I allow a slow smile to creep across my face.  A friend replies with a text message and I feel connected again.  Wonder girl giggles in her room at a video she is watching.  The dog harrumphs at me for not continuing to pet her head.  I feel my blood pressure drop and the anxiety fade.  I put on Reiki soothing music or I do a meditation.  I tell myself positive affirmations.  I recount the amazing things I have done in my life time and remind myself that I have overcome impossible obstacles.  I hear the wind chime and watch squirrels chase each other from a branch on one tree to a branch on another tree, forty feet in the air.  I hear the rumble of a motorcycle and think, "good for them, it's a beautiful day for a ride," then I plan to take a drive in the mustang with the top down.  I hear someone's yard blower and say, "add that to the to-do list but don't panic about it, you LIKE yard work, it's soothing and gives you a sense of accomplishment."  Another text comes in and it's a second friend wishing me a good morning.  I feel loved because I have so many amazing friends

I don't want to be alone forever.  My little soul can't handle it.  I wasn't created to be just one, I have always been a lover, a romantic, the marrying kind.  I want to give to someone and find comfort in a warm embrace of unconditional love.  I want to have a Sunday morning on my back deck with coffee for two. Two people to accomplish the to-do list, another soul to breathe the air with me and giggle about the nutty squirrels.  Another person to have great ideas about how to spend a day or what flowers to plant in the front or to grumble about cutting the red tips.  Someone else to say, "hey, we should walk the canal today," or "let's be slugs and stay in bed all day, Monday is almost here."  I will myself to be at peace even though it's only me, every day, all day, knowing that I can't make love come and that happiness can only come from within, not from another person.

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This is what it is to be in the mind of someone that is recovering from PTSD.  I have endured some incredible trauma that should have rendered me helpless but I chose to overcome and be the best me I can be, every second of every day.  The mother of one of my students is currently doing research on mice with PTSD.  The preliminary findings are that the hippocampus region of the brain is smaller and has fewer neurotransmitters and those neurotransmitters that exist don't fire signals correctly. When I heard the results of her research I cried because of the validation.  I kept saying that my brain doesn't work right, that I have to work around the erroneous messages in my brain and it's true.  I do.

PTSD  manifests differently for sufferers.  Clearly our soldiers that have been in combat have a distinctly different form of PTSD than people that have endured other traumas.  Treatment is unique to the individual and should not be taken lightly.   For me, through therapy, I have managed to eliminate every trigger except one, being called by my full name "Jennifer".  If I can't overcome that trigger, then I will likely legally change my name but that is a huge decision and not one that I take lightly.   One of the biggest challenges I still face is the anger of having a traumatized brain, the frustration of fighting with my thoughts and the difficulty it creates in finding a place of rest and solace regardless of my circumstances.  

For my readers that caught up with this blog in the beginning, when things were so hard with Sissy, the answer to your unspoken question is, "Yes, raising a damaged child with so many mental health issues and the resultant behaviors from those issues caused long term exposure to stress and trauma that exacerbated my PTSD." Although Sissy has control over how she responds and she openly chooses to respond poorly, actively defying her therapy goals, it no longer causes me further anger, I just shake my head in exasperation and walk away, removing the impetus for her defiance.  But raising a disabled daughter is not my only trauma.  I had a traumatic abusive childhood followed by a traumatic abusive marriage.  By all accounts, I shouldn't be as functional as I am and to that end, I give myself measures of grace and mercy.

If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, I hope this post helps you understand what it is like inside the mind, the daily battle that occurs there, the struggle to keep balance mentally and emotionally, even with tools like pharmaceuticals and therapy.  I have gotten to a good, safe place in my journey and for the first time in my life feel like I am the one in control of my destiny.  It has taken me years, hard work, persistence, and the internal motivation to be better.  I can't undo the trauma to my brain, but I now know how to function well despite it.  Please give someone with PTSD a hug today and tell them they are doing a great job.  Like me, they may feel like their soul will always be in a state of unrest, regardless of the beauty, life, and love that surrounds them.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Resisting

That which we resist, persists. ~Carl Jung

I heard this quote in a podcast Saturday and it has stuck with me.  What am I resisting?  What things am I still hoping for in life that have come to fruition because of my reticence?  What am I allowing to persist in my life as a result?

Although the situation of my life has radically changed because I have driven the wild horses pulling the chariot of my life like a slave woman escaping her tormentor, racing to freedom because her life depends upon it, I haven't achieved the happiness in my soul that I desire.  The ease of life and laughter evade me.  The desire for connected, meaningful companionship persists.  Jung would say it is because I resist both just as I claim to long for them.

How then, does this resisting manifest?  I'm speaking to myself in an effort to make sense of the mind through yet one more pathway in life that I have yet to see come to fruition, the writing of a book so many have suggested that I compile finally.  If I write as I think, perhaps I will find the answer, like pulling a thread and unraveling a cloth, the answer is in me, it always has been and I will find it as I write or ponder and hopefully not unravel completely.

As I drove to work this morning, I asked myself these questions, already buoyed by the comments on my revival post to the blog, the things I once desired began to flood my heart and the fog in my head started to lift.  I wanted to write a book once upon a time.  I wanted to get my doctorate.  I wanted to have a happy home and marriage, a companionship with a partner that rivaled the best of friendships and children that were accomplishing their goals as they marched toward adulthood.  I wanted to get out of our city and see places, meet people, see the world.  What stopped me?

Grad school. Ya'll, it kicked my butt!  I still feel like I'm recovering three months later.

Parenting Sissy.  Most days with her are better but then there are these bits of time, sometimes days on end, when she is still hard as Hades and I cry my way to work.

Work.  Being a single parent and working full time is HARD.

Dating.  It has stolen my faith and trust that there are decent humans out there seeking the same end goal as I am.

I drove, I thought, I asked myself what I am resisting and the answer seems to be that I am resisting success.  Yet by all accounts, I am successful already.  I have accomplished some impossible feats in the last three years, dragging my family kicking and screaming to a higher station in life.  I say I resist success because in my mind, I don't see myself that way.  I see myself as still struggling because that's how I feel on a daily basis, like I'm still in the fight for my life, for survival, for peace, for hope.  It's a lie of course, but old habits die hard and as my physician said it, when we are in stressful situations for extended periods of time (in my case, for years,) the body adapts and accepts that as the new norm for functioning.  It takes time to retrain the body and mind to function at the new baseline of normal which is to live successfully in a stress-free environment.

So I resist stress-less life too.  Thus the mental stress persists.

As I drove, (it's 25 minutes to work every day and 40 minutes home with evening traffic), I let my mind imagine what it would feel like to achieve the other successes I once longed for.  Who would I be? What persona would I have?  What kind of mate would be a good match for that woman?  Where is the love in my soul? Can I still bond with others?  What else do I resist?

I resist love.  Thus lovelessness persists.

Love has been unsafe for me in every way.  From a parent, to a spouse, to raising my challenged kids, to dating life.  Love has proven to be a red herring yet I long for it.  I see it in others' lives and I want it, desperately.  What is it like to be loved unconditionally?  I have no idea.  I can say that I try to love unconditionally but do I really?  It starts with self-love and am I loving myself unconditionally, with abandon and forgiveness, grace and mercy, patience and kindness?  No.  I'm so hard on myself.  Just read these words I'm writing! It smacks of self-loathing even though I am trying to find the answers to why I can't achieve love and why happiness seems so distant.

I resist happiness.  Thus sorrow persists.

Happiness is scary because in my story, it disappears eventually.  Oh, it likes to show up from time to time but it doesn't stick around.  Sissy hates happiness.  We can be enjoying a great time as a family but Sissy will nip that shit in the butt as quickly as it starts.  Happiness for me, is always chased with a swift kick in the ass, a reminder that happiness is not allowed.  That's dark and perhaps melodramatic.  It's not intended to be, remember, I'm writing this post as a stream of consciousness and I am literally letting my unconscious dig through the mind to uncover the truths I'm avoiding.  So yes, happiness in my life has not been allowed though I long for it.  I try to create it.  It doesn't stay, it is a facade.  No, that's not quite right. It is transparent - present and not present at the same time.

I resist truth.  Thus falsehoods persist.

The truth is, I'm an incredible woman but it is next to impossible for me to wear that truth, own it, digest it, be it.  So the lies creep in.  A few weeks ago I did an experiment.  I went about my day reminding myself that I am a confident, capable woman that is lovable, desirable, and beautiful.  It was amazing! I felt like I could do anything and people were drawn to me like moths to a flame.  It was a paradigm shift that lasted four days then slowly, slowly, the lies crept back in and I believed I wasn't worth anything again.  Dang it those old haunts in my head!

I resist new paradigms.  Thus old pathways persist.

This one I can do something about.  I can keep doing those daily affirmations.  It wasn't hard and it worked.  *a smile just slowly crept across my face as I stopped and repeated those words in my head* I can keep doing those daily affirmations and you know what will happen?  I'll tell you exactly what will happen, I just saw into the looking glass because I unraveled every last bit...

When I accept the new paradigm, I will be able to accept truth.  When I accept the truth about who I am, I will accept the happiness of that truth.  When I accept the happiness, I will be able to accept love.  When I accept love then the stress will fade into nothing.

It starts right now.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I'm Still Here!

It took me half a day to figure out how to log back in. *rolling eyes at self*

Updates:

House sold in October 2014
Sissy went to PRTF in October 2014
Moved in November 2014
Sissy discharged from her last hospitalization in April 2015
I'm working full time teaching high school biology at a local school since July 2015
Grad school finished in December 2016 with a 3.83 GPA
Still single
Sissy is 17
AB is 16
WG is 12

Let's see if I still have anyone out there hoping I might post again one day...