“Happy” Anniversary (Trigger Warning)

Yes, that says “Happy”. I am not sure this anniversary will ever be happy. I chose today to teach a class. I am trying to wind my brain down from the horrors that are the sound of fireworks. I spent the entire day in my room being cranky with myself. I got over that fairly early actually and enjoyed a mental vent session by reading a site called http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com . Eight hours later I am feeling almost normal and great for a stressful PTSD triggering day. This was the first fourth of July where I did not get sick from the smoke.

I am still feeling like the world is made of sand paper against my skin, but, I can control my snarkiness now. It’s in my head, and that has always been the case. I like to think that even Spock from Star Trek actually thought vindictive things up. “Vulcan Blood. I’ll show you McCoy!” If not, well, I am definately not a Vulcan or a Half Breed so it doesn’t matter. I am just human. That has been the theme for the week. I am just human. I am not Super Cripple, Amazing Woman, or even Functional. Just human. In preparing for the class I am to teach in nine hours, I realized I chose this day on purpose.

This is where I pause, and hide the triggering things, so you have to click a link today to get to the rest of the juicy details. Continue reading

Violence (Trigger Warning)

I keep rewriting this post. Violence is bad. We all know this. Violence is often celebrated in our culture. In the US most of the television shows, even for children, include some sort of violence or attempt to teach children what boys do and what girls do. Girls like fashion, pink, and hair. Boys like to fight, are great leaders, and work. Bull pucky. The media also rarely illustrates that women can be violent.

I am capable of killing. I am not capable of murder. I know that if I had to kill someone to defend myself or the ones I love, I could. I discovered this when I was young. I am very loyal, it is a part of my nature to protect people. This does come from my history with violent abuse. If I could take the pain then I could save my sister or brother. They used to do that as well. Each one of us did our best to be the only one in pain. I am capable of killing, but, I never have.

I have had run ins with so many things, my life sometimes reads like a fiction novel. I never used to think about writing nonfiction, so afraid of being told I had dreamed it all. My biological mother and I talked on the phone today, partially about violence. The violence of doctors.

When I was eight I began to see a psychologist. After the first meeting they handed my mother a prescription for Zoloft. The pills made me sleepy. I hated taking them, because I couldn’t think. My father was still around, and taking the pills at his house always meant more pain. My reflexes were already slow, how could I fight back? I mentioned this to my doctor and the threat came. “If you do not take your pills you will be locked up with the other worthless children.” This doctor was a man, I remember falling silent, wishing to tell my mother. He threatened too that if I told her that she would be sent away, abandoning the others. I took the pills.

This man is no longer a doctor, he tried this on a competent adult a few years ago. There was a scandal, it made the papers. This was just after I fired him. He was the first doctor I fired. I spent years after that taking more and more pills. At one time I was on six antidepressants, an anti psychotic, an anti epileptic medication that they thought would make me not depressed, birth control pills to try and force my body to have a period, and a few other things.

When I threw up, I had to take a second dose. Doctor’s orders. There are chunks of my life lost not just to suppressed memories but to my brain shutting down from the constant overdose. Most of the medications I was on were not approved for children, just adults over the age of eighteen. I reacted to most of them. Being allergic to so much, that is no surprise. Throwing up, bleeding with each dose, and hallucinations weren’t big enough side effects to be taken off of the drugs.

I was more violent during that time, as they tried to fix a chemical imbalance that did not exist, due to the drugs. They are not the only reason I lashed out at the world. Abuse does that, it teaches people to strike before they get hurt. I barely remember assaulting my best friend in High School. She touched my sandwich and teased me for it. I remember the anger and seeing her on the floor but not the act of hitting her in the head with a chunk of wood.

This was caught on film, there were witnesses. I went into a psychotic rage over food. I have some serious food issues, and I thought she was going to take my food. The fear of being deprived was so strong, that I had to protect myself. This was what I knew, I never knew people could share. I was a beast, primal in my reactions. She did not suffer permanent damage but was hospitalized for it. This lead to the only psychiatric hospitalization that benefited me. Hospital hiding the institution, feeding on itself and drugging children. Teaching them first hand who Nurse Ratchet was.

The reason being I finally needed help. I was shunted around the state, with my history and diagnoses no one wanted to treat me. It feels familiar at times with doctors, sending needles into my heart. I was misdiagnosed with mental health conditions. One to explain every disability. I was accused of things, such as self mutilation that came from my disabilities. I was lazy, I was stupid, I was just not good enough. Years of that, a decade in fact, of being told how worthless I was by doctors and I did not trust them.

I was sent to an experimental facility. The Ranch, as my family calls it, was a peer support program. We did see therapists, and we did have medication given to us but we lived in a boarding school environment. The program depended on it’s recipients to function. This made a difference, as I found people my age I could talk to. This was a first. I also learned I was not alone. At the other facilities you were shoved in until you behaved for three days or so, then went home. In and out like a yo yo.

Each of the children at the Ranch had been in and out as well. Most were not from New Mexico, but a few of us were granted access to keep diversity up. There was violence there, though there was also nature. The Ranch is the only place I have ever been able to drink the water. The water came straight out of the ground. The first thing the doctors did was take me off all of my meds. They gave me two months before they started me on another. They came so close to freeing me from my shackles of medication. The medicine they put me on did change things, it seemed to reverse some of the damage to my brain from the drugs that came before. I stopped losing my hair, I gained some weight and lost some girth. I even began to smile sometimes.

I also met horses. I was one with nature there. There was silence at times, and there was bonding. That was where I learned I could love. The fact is, my father was a diagnosed psychopath. Even knowing this these “great” doctors did not seem to consider that my behavior was environmental. The ranch is where I learned about PTSD. It is also where I learned that flashbacks were not just my burden.

One of the other dorms, full of boys, found a dog. I was triggered when the dog came to us bleeding. The flashback lasted for six hours. I relieved my father killing people’s pets because I liked them. I still cannot go into detail on those horrors without triggering myself. This poor dog was hungry, lost in the middle of no where, and then was assaulted. When he came to our dorm, my brain left. I woke up, and found that the world had for once stopped for me.

This was my turning point. It wasn’t being threatened with institutionalization in the adult hospital, it wasn’t the new drug. It was coming back to myself and finding that every girl had stopped what they were doing, had sat in a circle around me and the dog to which I was clinging and waited. When I stopped screaming, apparently I had been, my roommate asked what happened. When I told them, no one told me I lied, no one told me it was my fault. The first time in my life, someone hugged me and cried with me. No one punished me for needing help, a first in my life.

I was on the cusp of adulthood when this finally happened. I was about to reach a point of no return, trapped in the system. They saved me from my violence, and I saved them in turn. I love each of those girls still. Someday I may cross their paths again, though I do not plan to admit it to them if I do. We each deserve the right to deny our childhoods to an extent.

I spent my childhood dying daily. I am certain that not every therapist was bad, I do not remember them if they were not. I only remember the incidents of threat, of lies, and of burden. Child psychologists often can get away with crimes and breaking the rules of conduct that their profession has. Not all of them do, but, an adult has power over a child. A psychologist is alone for at least an hour with a child, and some of them abuse this power. I had one who found out I would turn on her like a dog hit one too many times. She spent the sessions telling me about her husband’s erectile dysfunction, and telling me I was fat. The male doctor who gave me the pills threatened me each time with different torments. One of the other psychologists took part in encouraging the children at my school to burn me at the stake.

It is no wonder that I hated the world. Until the ranch only a few teachers had ever shown me adults could manage to not hurt me. Each of them saved a part of my soul, saved a fragment of hope from the violence. My mother did try, but, it seemed hopeless that any of her children would turn out to be a healthy adult. How could we? She wasn’t. We only knew violence.

Perhaps the violence I know tempered me? I doubt it. I believe it was the small bits of love I could find. I do not believe the Ranch did all the work in saving me, I think instead they unburied the ground work set by another.

After Toastmasters I will write of my first Sensei, I will tell you of my time as Little Lotus and how the Batman was my father until I was six. It sounds silly, and the fantasy was. It still held violence but my Sensei taught me ways to thrive, not just survive. I will also write about my experience with hate and nearly being burned as a witch.

We, the subjects of oppression are forbidden anger, we are forbidden violence. Even when it is used against us, violence is often attributed to us. Those with mental health issues, mental disabilities, and physical disabilities are vulnerable to violence in unique ways. When defending ourselves we are demonized. Women who show anger are told to simmer down, they are told that their anger is inappropriate. Some are raped to control their power, to try and punish them for anger. Persons of Color of any gender are also forbidden anger. The stereotypes tell how violent they are, and yet when a man is shot down for his skin color and people get angry, the murdering cops get away with it because the people get angry.

Violence is all around us, it is on the TV, it is in books, it is in my beloved comic books. Violence is in our history. It is sadly in our future. I mourn for all the children and those who once were children who know violence. The kiss of violence is the scar of fear, the spectre of disillusionment, and the taste of bitterness that shatters dreams.

Violence is the most horrifying entity that has ever been introduced into society. Violence is not a part of human nature, it was taught. We learned it from somewhere. Violence is not never ending. The cycle can be broken. I have broken the cycle in my family. Even when attacked I try to protect myself without violence. How do you survive violence? How do you endure?

Anger is violent. Violence is a poison. My antidote for violence is to sing, to write, or to create something. To be violent is to become what you fear. Fear can turn to anger, anger turns into violence. The cycle swirls around. I created this post not just to educate, but to share. I want to share my peace. In order to do that, you must see my pain too. I fear these words most of all, therefore I offer them up to transform and fly into the universe like butterflies, unlocking the caged minds of others. I write these words not with anger, but with sorrow for who I was, mourning for the death of innocence as I knew it, and with love. The love is not just for myself, though I truly love myself. It is Wishing Love, I wish love upon each and every person in this world.

I wish love upon you, for whoever you are you do deserve love. I may know you, I may not. I embrace you with my soul. I offer you a haven of knowledge, a haven of peace, and a haven of change. I am a butterfly. Here you too may learn to fly.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Advocacy (Trigger Warning)

In conversation with one of my young friends I had a revelation. This was about thirty seconds ago. Sometimes advocating triggers flashbacks while I am trying to function. My mind lept then to other people who have to self advocate through PTSD symptoms. It isn’t always a flash back. If you do not have PTSD it might be harder for you to understand being jerked around by past trauma. Therefore I am going to explain, and this is why there is a trigger warning on this post. Sometimes reading about PTSD or other issue related things can trigger people.

This is not from the DSM (Diagnostic Manual thingy) but is from my experience. I may leave things out that apply to you or tell you things that don’t. The problem with labels is they are often not enough to truly explain what something means. Lets say someone shoots a gun. My first impulse is to be very still, not breathing, and praying that my father won’t make the shot. Even typing that sentence my head went into the land of fuzz and my chest is tight. I am taking slow breaths to focus and clear my mind. The trigger is not always a gun but just a loud pop. My brain is stuck on certain points of the abuse I suffered, it has a programmed loop that it likes to play. I have warning symptoms for my flashbacks now, and can often circumvent them.

My reality is in jeopardy from these loops. the weakest symptom is a tingle, intense fear, sometimes I start randomly bleeding. Why do I bleed? One theory a psychologist offered is somatic symptomalogy. Basically my body remembers, and it reacts so strongly to what my brain signals, that it thinks it is injured. This adds to the pain I feel. The pain from invisible injuries is far from phantom. I feel it. The next step after that is the sensation that I am floating, I disassociate and can see the entire world, but I am not connected to it. Usually I then go back in time. I see and feel at the same time, from multiple vantage points my father with his brand new gun, me and my siblings on the couch. I feel the cold metal of the gun pressing against my forehead. My nose stings with the tears I cannot shed.

The loud bang comes, I feel the heat of the bullet, my skin is burned by muzzle flash and I feel a horrible pain as the bullet grazes my temple. I don’t move. I don’t scream. I just stare up into that black hole, smoke pouring out of it and avoid looking into my father’s eyes, knowing he is going to be angry that he missed. I hear every word he screams again, how worthless I am, how I should be dead and must have moved. My sister starts to scream, my brother too but I can’t move. I look into his eyes and I see the blackness.

I still do not remember what happens next, though I have been told he decided to shoot at my sister, but I pushed her aside. I just know he tried to shoot his children, sitting on a couch that smelled like pee, and nearly killed his neighbor because the bullet went off. The cops were called but I took the blame. I said I was playing with his gun when it went off. I lied, to survive.

When I come back to myself I always want to vomit. Instead I focus on breathing. If the nausea is really bad I will take some Rolaids. Sometimes now, after years of effort, I let myself cry. Usually I manage a tear but my brain has yet to grasp the concept of tears. If I am not at home, it is worse to recover. At home I control my environment, I have a bed to curl up in, two soft fluffy cats, and my Person can go elsewhere more easily giving me the time I need to recover.

When I am advocating and flash back, I never know what to do. I try different things, and usually they work but the vulnerability can be debilitating. I flashed back my first time having to seriously advocate to that scene. That is why I chose to relate it to try and explain what PTSD is like. I wish I had simpler words but none can encapsulate just how much there is to it. Sometimes the flashes are different, sometimes I am still an adult but I am trapped, it is worse in some ways because I still feel the pain but I am completely aware that my world has vanished. I am never certain if I am going to hurt someone. I have before, but it has been a long time.

That first taste of advocacy was so bitter. The cops came, and one fondled his gun and my brain shut down. I was afraid, in pain and exhausted. I was being yelled at and deprived of my prescription because I needed my service animal. The cops even saw Sprite follow her training. When I flash she has three tasks, beyond her instinct to comfort me. First, she signals to my Person for help. Sometimes a conversation can end it. So she chirruped at the person of the day, and I had to form the words, “I need you to deal with them for me. I can’t.” Then, she helps me to sit. I had to wait fifteen minutes for a chair, I wanted to scream at them but I tried to stay calm. I was hyperventilating, they took this as my being dramatic. Then, she moves to my shoulder. Her instinct is to sit on my chest, but she might get flung there, I do not handle pressure on my chest well even when not panicking or flashing. Her instincts tell her to purr, to rub with just her face against mine. This grounds me.

The police threatened to arrest me if I did not leave the facility. I knew enough to know they couldn’t but they refused to acknowledge that I had rights. I couldn’t fight, but I had to. I chose then to repeat the law over and over. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t see their real faces for half the time. All I saw was my father and his eyes that reflected no light.

What can you do if you have PTSD and are an advocate? Here is the how to portion.

Step 1. Before you get to the point of advocating, have a support structure. This is a difficult process, because not every person can truly understand what it is to lose your reality. You need to have someone you trust availible, at least to call.

Step 2. If you have medications used to treat the symptoms of your PTSD in an emergency make sure to carry them with you, to keep a back up dose with your support person, and to keep your doctors number handy.

Step 3. Create a kit of items that help forestall your flashbacks. Nothing works for me beyond my cat. I can give her the signal she is trained for when i feel the warnings coming and ground. This is all I have right now, beyond my Person. No meds, just those two.

Step 4. Remember to breathe. Sometimes if you focus on just breathing you can help yourself.

Step 5. If you flash back during advocacy, try and focus on the responses that do not match the memory. This has worked for others, pulling them out.

Step 6. Advocate anyway. I did get the illegal policy over turned at the Pharmacy where I was threatened with arrest. I had to fight for a long time to do it, but, they relented. It is worth it even though it you might feel endangered or might BE endangered by your flashbacks.

Step 7. If you have to, stop. This opposes Step 6. Not every incident can be worked through. You might need to call your therapist, you might need to let your support person advocate for you. This is not a failing, this is merely the team network that advocacy should be.

I am glad to write this how to. I never considered how important it could be, but, in my mind my broken back, my asthma, and my failing eyes are not my most dangerous disability. The worst disability I have is PTSD. At times during flashbacks I have hurt myself, my friends, and reliving the painful memories can also cost me emotional, physical, or mental progress.

Keep in mind the time you are most fragile is just after a flash back. Some people can be triggered more easily, often it is easier to react in rage. Do not minimize your pain either. It is okay to cry, scream, and sometimes to just walk away.

I have done all of the above. Not every incident with advocating will cause a flashback either. Most of my time advocating I am left with memories of victory. My first taste of advocacy is as sweet as it is bitter, because I still succeeded, despite my unabiding terror of these men. My greatest cause was also revealed to me. I am actively fighting to get the local police trained in how to deal with enforcing the ADA. I want my rights protected, I do not want to fear being put in jail, dumped out of my wheelchair and my service animal being put into Animal Control’s care.

That was the threat, and so often is. My heart goes out to any other advocates who suffer from PTSD. I know each person’s PTSD is varied, some may not flash back, some might just panic. Others might not be able to stop their flashes. You can still advocate. Just prepare yourself as best you can.

A Response to “What are Service Animals?”

This conversation was held on MSN. My friend is using the Alias Tiffy, in respect to her cat. She asked the question about service animals and our discussion illuminates a bit more about what a cat is capable of. Eventually I will (hopefully) post video of my cat performing her tasks. I am sad to say my cat has an Upper Respiratory Infection courtesy of the shelter system and our new housemate. This doesn’t mean that you should not adopt, just make sure to get your cats medical care when they need it. All typos are left as is in the conversation, though emoticons were removed.

Tiffy says:
Ah, makes sense but scince I can’t see you, how can a cat help you walk?
Kateryna says:
My cat naturally shifts her weight to not fall. So, I trained her to shift her weight to help me not fall. What this means is that when I am walking and start to tip too far in one direction she goes to the other side of me and I can compensate.
Kateryna says:
She has cut my falling down by over 90%
Kateryna says:
Not enough   To stop me needing a wheelchair but I can go pee without falling five times in the six step journey
Tiffy says:
I think I understand
Kateryna says:
Awesome
Kateryna says:
Any other questions?
Tiffy says:
What else is she trained to help with?
Kateryna says:
She alerts me when I forget to take my meds. There is thankfully a lag time between the morphine leaving my system and the pain slamming back into me, and she can sense it. The trained response is for her to either get my med bag for me, or to yowl three times in a row.
Kateryna says:
If I need my meds and cannot reach them she is also trained to retrieve them.
Kateryna says:
She can also dial for an ambulence and can even call Locke on his cell if I fall or somesuch
Tiffy says:
Wow
Kateryna says:
She is trained to warn me when someone approaches from behind me, which cuts down on flashbacks and/or protects me from a random hand right on the injury
Kateryna says:
She used to do more but she is aging and has been sick enough times that the training had to be forgotten for her own sake.
Kateryna says:
Her mouth got torn up, she used to pick up objects etc.
Kateryna says:
She is even trained to “read” some packaging for me at the store, because i am blind as a bat and cannot see much anymore. So, she identifies the shapes or however she does it and paws the package
Tiffy says:
Ow
Kateryna says:
Yeah, she is allergic to poultry and the reaction cut up he rmouth,
Kateryna says:
The other things she does are more instinctual responses with trained reactions
Tiffy says:
Poor thing =/
Kateryna says:
She has a particularly shrill warble she gives when I am going to pass out, and if I stay still she calms down
Kateryna says:
If i am going to have a seizure she will yowl until I either stop doing what I am doing, it hits, or until I sit down, depending on what I am up to.
Kateryna says:
during the pass out time she calls for help, by going to every room in the house and making a ruckus
Kateryna says:
When it is a seizure she moves up to my chest and sits there unless I signal her to get help
Tiffy says:
So I guess most people who have service animals are pretty attacted to them, they’re really amazing
Kateryna says:
she is too sick to work right now, and I cannot get out of bed.
Kateryna says:
Direct correlation.
Kateryna says:
Without my service animal I cannot go outside, I cannot function.
Kateryna says:
It is worse actually than what it was like before she came into my life, because although my back is broken and my legs barely work, with her I feel as free as I did before my injury, and in some ways freer.
Kateryna says:
I lack saftey, I lack security, I fell four times this morning trying to do my daily things like peeing, because she is sleeping off her sickness.
Kateryna says:
I am also terribly worried about her, so I am not as efficient in my work.
Kateryna says:
A service animal is another limb. I love her more than Locke, but he understands why.
Tiffy says:
I hope she gets better soon
Kateryna says:
When she was electrocuted a year ago, he sent me money we needed for him to move out here, it took another six months to get him here but she would[ve died without it, and i am not sure I could survive without them BOTH. One I can handle being without but it sucks.

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