William Shakespurr

He sits, staring at me with bright eyes and adoration. He rubs his head along my leg, sending shocks of pain that make it spasm to my brain. He curls against himself, pulling away. I look at him, trying to treasure the time that remains, knowing soon he will be somewhere else. Somewhen else. Still he will be my William. He lays his head down and I find myself crying again. This doesn’t help my body, to cry but it helps my soul. I close my eyes and I can see a golden light with hope for his future, and for mine imbedded into it.

He has lived with me for a year. He has endured for a year. This has not been a year full of joy for either of us but, the little moments still jump out. I met him in the Mall, where a city run shelter sits full of animals in glass houses. They all seemed so sad. William however responded, despite having just had surgery a half a hour before. He looked at me with his bright eyes, a greenish gold that has no real name but makes me think of Umbra, the other world and dreams. He made this little face that looked like a smile and shoved his pink nose at Sprite. She did not say a word, which was good as with every other cat she had cursed like a sailor, frightening the people that were trying to set us up with a new friend. She was not happy but, I knew he was the right cat.

He never yowled, meowed, or even hissed. He never complained or whimpered even for six months. It was my first month here, in my new home which I leave embedded in as much mystery as an open book truly can, when he first made sound. I remember, he and Sprite were playing, he more than she. She turned and licked his nose and he let out this squeaky meow. Like a rusted door, or a dying battery more than a meow. It resonated and frightened him. Sprite looked amused and smacked him with a paw, he meowed again, and then panicked running away from the spot. He meowed with every step and found he couldn’t escape the sound in his throat. This was the first moment I smiled after the abuse. For that I am always grateful to him, and always will be.

Still these little moments are nested in concerns and pain. It was apparent once a few days had passed that something was wrong with him. He couldn’t walk, instead he dragged himself with his claws in the carpet. He couldn’t jump but slithered up things usually falling. When he would go from room to room he would do it painfully, I could tell he was hurting, and often he bashed his head into walls He had fits, clawing at everything. Then the coughing started. Kennel Cough. Thankfully that is a treatable disease now, though I was unsure if it was. I spent the hours waiting to get him and Sprite to the vet and their medication, which could kill me, in a panicked daze. He was weighed that day, 17 pounds. I was glad he was an adult cat.

He was not an adult at all but a very large baby. I still say it sometimes, “Come here big baby.” He’ll climb into my lap, carefully as he can and lays there when I do. I like to roll him belly up, he makes a face with his eyes half closed, half crossed and his tongue hanging out. Sometimes he lets out a purr that is as squeaky as his meow. The vet said he had permanent brain damage and would, without serious care and guidance, never recover. They also told me he was at most three months old based on his tooth growth. I suspect their math was a bit off, maybe he was six months old, but likely just four or five.

I started to try to teach him things then. I had to teach him to eat, which consisted mostly of me shoving food in his mouth and triggering his swallow reflex. It took about a month for him to be able to eat on his own. Maybe being force fed so he didn’t starve made him dislike wet food but he rarely ever eats it now. That or he doesn’t want to have to get in Sprite’s way. She’ll smack him with her claws and send him running for cover.

He had to learn to walk. Instead of dragging himself I used the harness and some yarn to hold him up. Recreating a harness used in my physical therapy before they gave up on my ability to improve my balance. I never did, I just cannot balance the way others do. It took most of the last year for him to learn to walk. At first he couldn’t even retract his claws. He always had them out. It was like cuddling a switchblade. Still, he learned. He sometimes has trouble but he walks with his claws in.

Teaching him to jump was actually a lot of fun. The lazer pointer was a tool then. I used that to teach him to run too. He would scramble after it, in circles, to the left, then to the right, then the darned dot would move up the wall. After a week of staring at it mournfully, he stretched up, when that wasn’t enough he just stood there for the longest time. I remember the sigh he heaved, before walking away the first time. Still, after more time, he jumped. Now he even jumps on the bed. I’ll walk past, or go to lay down and there he is hopping up and down on my waterbed. Sometimes he will leap from the floor all the way to the top of the cabinets, OVER the refridgerator. You cannot tell he had to learn how.

He is not apparently smart as a cat, but, if you were locked in an apartment in 100+ degrees with only the water you could get from the toilet and the sink you would have brain damage too. He sometimes gets overwhelmed by light, sound, and motion. I do too. When he panics I have learned the best thing is to ignore him if I cannot touch him for fear of the claws. If I can touch him, I pull him close, pull a blanket over him and hold him until he is calm. Sometimes I wish someone had done that with me when i was younger but, I do not know if it would have worked.

He dislikes rock and roll but loves Show Tunes. If I  have to leave him alone, I find he makes less of a mess of the apartment if I can leave some music playing. So far he doesn’t like Evita but seems to adore cats. Still, Porgy and Bess is the one that he responds to the most. My William is a fighter, with a bit of an artist. I am not sure I could trust him with small children. Sometimes if I pet him he will bite and claw. The reaction does not fit the “crime”. I think with his size he could hurt someone. William is now somewhere over a year old and is about 27 pounds. He has doubled in size, and then almost a half more was added on. His paw when resting on my wrist hides it. When he then stretches his paw out my palm vanishes. I cannot have him in my lap as much now, and when I do I come away with bruises from his weight. This cannot go on.

He knows when the lights go out that you lay down and go quiet. He knows that but if the sun is up and I must rest or if he is being naughty, which is often, he will pounce and claw my feet. I already can barely walk, a tiny scratch puts me out of the running, and all I can do is lay there waiting for someone to come and help me balance. I live alone. This cannot go on. He needs somewhere he can be inside, free of dogs, children, and adults who are heavy handed. He needs somewhere that he gets a lot of play, is rarely alone, and is either the only cat or is with a cat that is able to fight back. He bites Sprite’s ears and her ears are pretty bad right now, because I cannot make him stop. He needs somewhere that there is quiet, love, and excitement. I no longer can do all he needs.

William cannot be an out door cat. He has been out a few times, and will sometimes steal a ride with me on the Scooter when I go out. He is fearless. When he escaped on his own he tried chasing cars. He caught one, but luckily it was parked. It sounds a bit humorous but, though he is a very large cat he is so much more fragile than most. His ribs never quite healed. Most of his body has been broken or damaged. He had a broken tail, which you can only feel if he lets you touch it, he had broken ribs, a fractured skull, and often he is in pain. I suspect this relates to his sometimes violent reactions to touch and care.

I think he wouldbe happier with another cat present but he is too afraid of dogs. He was willing to take on a dog that is as tall as I am when I am sitting, (three or four feet) just to keep the dog away from his people, just to protect himself and the only space he had left at the time. He needs to be somewhere that he will not be locked up a lot. No carriers except with the vet, no being penned in the bathroom for hours at a time at least once a week. Somewhere that he can roam  but be safe. Somewhere he can be held and give chase. Somewhere that William can be.

No longer does this home fit his needs. He has literally out grown me. He was considered a feral by the Vet, a vicious little cat that was broken. Now he is a loving cat that wants to please. He has the most darling smile, bright eyes, and when I cry all he does is lay with me trying to make the tears stop. He once tried licking them away but I said ouch, and he stopped. He understands enough of what is going on to be a very good cat for someone able enough to accomodate his needs.

William helped me too, it was not a one way journey. I know I can handle training an animal if I have the energy. I know I can still connect with an animal that seems to others to be lost. I still have my gift of being the friend of feral cats. I also know he is the last of the ferals that I can tame. He is the last of them I can show the world where we worship them. i will not miss his deciding to wake me up to kill my feet but I will miss his bright curiousity. I will miss his warmth when I was cold and had no way to stay warm except to cling to the two furry bodies at hand.

I will miss his discovery of things. Every day he rediscovers everything, and when you are so depressed that life is unbearable, that can still be enchanting. I still am fighting my depression but he has given me something that is precious. For a long time he and Sprite were my reason to live. I knew when I chose to keep him after his diagnoisis as a cat with a disability I was choosing something hard. I actually called the shelter and told them what was up and the only reason I kept William was their response angered me. It struck a nerve. I remember that conversation clearly, “Oh bring him back in, we’ll put him down and you can bring some other cat home.” His disability meant he had to die. It meant surely he was unlovable. The contract I signed upon adoption gave me thirty days to keep him or return him. If I kept him I was obligated, required, and bound to report any medical challenges, his death, or if he ran away. I was obligated to keep him. I was obligated by them. My disability is always going to be new to me, it feels new every day. That nanosecond before the world and pain crush me, before I am aware of my body when I wake, i am not aware of my disability. I just am. I face the shock of being physically broken daily. William recovered. I will not.

I kept him, because if I let them kill William, I was approving killing myself. I felt it in my soul. If I let them murder this cat because he needed more, was I not reenforcing the idea that disability is a death sentence? I know that I cannot keep him now. His increased ability has let me set him free. William has recovered so much ability, that most people will never see him as anything other than a very large cat. He no longer makes the carpet crackle when he walks, he has gone months without any fits, he meows, he plays. William has something special. William is forever a kitten. His body will grow up, grow old, but his mind will forever remain that of a kitten. H e will forever want to play and pounce. He will forever run after sunbeams. He will forever be young. In this way he is essentially immortal. Until the day that this cat dies, which could be decades from now, he will be innocent.

I have struggled with the decision of rehoming William for months. Never once did I decide it was time. It took serious injury for me to realize it is time. His weight dislocated three ribs, I had to go to the ER twice in one week. I am adapting to the changes in my body but I cannot hold him anymore. I am putting my health and my life at risk by trying. He no longer needs me. He wants me. He loves me. He leaves his mouse toy for me daily. I wake up with whichever mouse was handy when he decided to sleep on my pillow. When I started to fall ill a few weeks ago he started following me and trying his best to mimic Sprite’s awesome healing talents. Still, I dislocated ribs. I am covered in bruises and scratches from accidents. I am too fragile for this cat.

Wherever he goes, he will have a few things that go with him. There are toys that must go, his mousey that is so ratty that it looks like trash but if you throw it away he will find it and spread garbage over your entire home (yes, I will send you the most hideous cat toy in the world), his cat furniture which is collabsible and colorful, his crinkle tunnel, and his fluffy stuff on a stick. Those go with William. Sprite has her special toys which she hid from him, and of course those stay. If you take this cat  home with you, you recieve the greatest gift that any child or animal can give as well. Love. I cannot say it is love without comprimise, I can tell you that if you hurt him he will hurt you. I also can tell you that this cat has protected me from criminals. He is just as good as a guard dog, if the person scares him. You will get the little moments too. You may be working on a project, or watching the evening news and you glance at him and he is fast asleep sucking his paw. I dare you to tell me that such an adorable sight wouldn’t sway your heart a bit. You get a walking, purring, snuggling hallmark card.

I will miss William. I will miss even the bad times, the hard times, and yet I cannot cry more than a few tears when I imagine his future. I see him in a home with a large living room, his toys scattered about. Someone playing with him. I see him running, and yes this imaginary world is possible. After all, that is what love is. For him, love is play, mice toys, and playing fetch.

Medicalization of Humanity

I have spent my life being a patient. Most people do to an extent but a lot of non disabled people do not wind up in a doctor’s office monthly. Those that do are usually seeing a psychologist. I have been talking to my biological mother again, because she needs my help. In exchange for helping her with training her dog to be a Service Dog I asked for payment in therapy. Not literally, but, figuratively.

I think she was startled but, I am wounded emotionally. I am so angry at her, and I need to forgive her. I can’t do that without working out some of the issues and I want a mother. Some of the things that have angered me include over medicalization of my emotions. Being human has never been an option for me, despite the obvious inability to escape it.

From reading my blog you know already I have a history of abuse and chronic illness. You might have also noted an undercurrent of loathing for labels, though I am working to embrace mine. Some labels cannot be avoided. After becoming an adult I went and paid for a psychoanalyst to evaluate me. I wanted to know if, without my mother’s influencing them with her fears, I was really as insane as everyone told me.

I did this because I didn’t feel crazy. I felt depressed, but, not crazy. I did not think I was becoming a sociopath like my father. I put effort into fighting that, and won. What I did, to help prevent influence in this doctor’s office by my past was withhold information. It took several calls to find a doctor willing to work with zero patient history, but, the woman who did the test with me understood my need to find the truth.

In my childhood I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar, Depression, and a slew of other labels that never quite fit, including Multiple Personality Disorder. Most of these get renamed with each DSM, and with number V coming out (I don’t know my roman numerals and I am not looking up the translation, it is either four or five), I am again feeling pensive.

Part of it is the sudden ability to cry. For the first 23 and a half years of my life I could not cry without bleeding. I cannot seem to suppress my tears anymore. Again, some of this is because of effort though the effort sends me receding into myself at times. With that test, I was freed from the stigma of most of the labels I had received.

Those that stuck are depression, lower case because it is something that is perfectly natural considering my family history and personal history. It also is not something I will ever treat with pills again. Another is obsessive compulsive disorder. I need the world to be in order, and this comes from my past. Anything out of place could cause a beating. My disability has helped me with this. I cannot order the world, and I am healing because of it. I had no way of cleaning my room for years, it was horrible.

The test also helped hint at something else, I am Autistic. I have Aspergers. I haven’t told many people, just my Person and my mother. Now the world knows. I feared the Stigma of Autism. My best friend (All my friends are my best friends) Maxis is autistic and helped me to realize that my Autism just lets me be me. It has made things more difficult in some ways but I have adapted, and am extremely high functioning and no one can tell. My labels are not readily visible.

I also am an adult with Attention Deficit Disorder. I adapted as a child, after taking Ritalin. The Ritalin made what turns out to be a side effect of the autism, my extreme sound sensitivity, worse. I couldn’t stop screaming, all my pain was there, and of course I turned out to be allergic to it. My mother pulled me off of the drug despite my institutionalization. I recollect hearing her voice through a closed door, I was curled up in a corner in the Time Out room, being punished for not brushing my hair. My mother had come to visit and I had cried telling her how loud everything was, and hearing her tell the staff off for drugging me was the best sound out of all of them.

I am still sound sensitive. I can hear the sounds most people tune out. When a computer is turned on, each second I hear the scraping of the needle in the hard drive. it is deafening. I have five running right now, and have adapted to the cacophony of my world by adding more stimulus. I have yet to find true silence, even with a power outage but that is the best peace ever. Still, having mental distractions helps me cope.

I find it a bit ironic that being nearly deaf in one ear has not decreased my ability to be overstimulated by sound. Overloading is so far what works best. The great part about hearing everything is hearing my cats purr, when no one else can. Sometimes that sound is the best in the world. My nerves have always been just as sensitive, my skin feels too much and that can cause even the touch of William’s paw to have me crying out.

Still, in my life more damage has been done by mental health practitioners. I have been supposed to find a therapist for almost a year. First, I used the excuse of insurance, which did not cover without a copay. Then when that was fixed, I used the excuse of truth. I do not want a Therapist. I really hate them, and do not trust them. I am aware of my need now, to find one. I need someone to work with, so that I can help myself and my mother.

I remember my first Therapist. Her name was Candy, and my father upon finding this out asked if my Mother was taking us to see a stripper. He thought it was funny, I thought it meant that the doctor tore up paper. Instead, she told my mother that she could change my father. She told me and my sister, we all shared the sessions, how women must learn to cook and my bruises and burns, were just the signs that I was going to be a great wife.

I never believed her. My sister did, and when I told her at night that I thought that Candy was insane, she told me that she is a doctor, so therefore I must be wrong. I kept it to myself but at the age of four I just told her things I thought she wanted to hear. My father was sent to a mental hospital after attacking a man, or something like that a year later, and my mother did not let him back in, despite Candy telling her we would all go to hell. I think the woman let her religious tenancies effect her job.

The next therapist I saw was the one who had me put on my first Antidepressant. I was almost eight, and Doctor Baca decided I was depressed. Likely he was right but he never let me address why. He wasn’t a listener but talked about how I needed to try harder in school, how I needed to bathe more, how I needed to do things to be popular. If I got a word in edgewise he used it to shame me. I had begun to develop breasts, and upon relating the nickname I had at school, because my bra broke in Phys Ed, he agreed. I was slut shamed. The Nickname is not related here as it reveals the name that I have shed, but it contained the word whore.

The list of bad therapists goes on and on. No person is perfect but even the best amid them just wanted to label me. Many tried dangerous tactics and all of them post Doctor Baca insisted on medications. I took so many pills, and many had adverse effects including causing me to gain 100lbs in a month, but, the pills were more important than the girl. Each doctor took any crying as a sign not of emotional release but of depression. If I was happy at all it was a manic, if I was angry it meant I was psychotic. I lost touch with emotion itself.

My response was to try and kill myself, though, I couldn’t figure out how and asked my mother to help. The first time wasn’t the cause of my institutionalization, though the threat was leveled. I just didn’t comprehend it. The suicidal ideation passed and yet my brain warred to follow the rules that were leveled at it. My needs were far from met, and my Autism being undiagnosed meant I had no help. I was adrift, and lost.

The worst weekend of my childhood came then. I was beaten to the point of nearly dying, and denied medical treatment. There is much more to that story but it will not be blogged about, my fear of being attacked over it is too strong. My entire life was changed at that moment however. That is the hinge of life for me. That too, is when my personality changed the first time. The direct result of head trauma. That is the weekend where the first breaks in my back were had, my Xrays showing as an adult that when I was about eight I had four vertebrae break in my back, two in my neck. They healed well enough thankfully but I was in agony, I was alone, and I knew that I should not trust anyone ever again.

I was also threatened with food. My father had decided I was fat. I wasn’t yet, I was perfectly healthy, but he decided I should stop eating. He also instructed me to cut myself, though I did not manage that one. I did manage the eating disorder. He had told me too, if I did eat he would know and would beat my mother to death. I had to protect her. She always has needed my protection. So I gave up food. It was not hard, due to the pain.

Pain is the best appetite suppressant I know of. It kills the urge to eat in me, and is the reason for many people becoming malnourished with access to food. I lied to my mother the first few days and told her I wasn’t hungry, but, then she told me my refusal to eat hurt her. If I didn’t eat she’d surely die. Catch 22. No matter my choice she would die. I decided to eat, then, I would just throw up after dinner. Then my “daddy” couldn’t kill her and she wouldn’t know so she wouldn’t die.

This worked for a while, and my stomach stopped hurting and my skin even healed from some of it’s symptoms of allergy. I was however, bulimic by the diagnostic standard. No one asked why I was bulimic at the tender age of eight. My family didn’t figure it out very quickly, but, eventually they did. I am sure I had a decline in health. My memory was very foggy, and I had begun to have bursts of rage. Perhaps this came from the head injury, the painful seizures that I had started to have, hiding everything, or the burden of the household falling to an eight year old girl. It could even be the bulimia, the overdosing of drugs by my doctors, or, all of the untreated genetic ailments.

My stepfather had begun molesting my older sister, he was too afraid of me to hurt me, so I shaved my head. We discovered then how misshapen my skull is. My skin had begun to split on my breasts, and I thought if I was a boy then I would always be safe. I was of course unaware of the stigmas that were to come, but, I thought being male would make it all better. So, I tried to cut my breasts off. I failed, and for that I am grateful now. I am not sure what the therapists told my mother about all of this, but, from my perspective no one took into account that something might be wrong physically or that the abuse took a toll.

I was taken to a hospital, dumped off, and my mind and body were invaded. I do not know why these doctors thought a physical examination was necessary my first night there, but, they gave me a complete physical, including a pap smear. There was no explanation, but, I lashed out. My first night there was spent in the padded room of solitary confinement.

Diagnosis were tossed at me like darts at a board, seeing if one could fit close enough. Most of the girls there were suicidal, all of them had been molested or raped. Each of them had been battered, and all of the children were in pain. The staff were not all kind. One of the male staff would hit me, but I never said a word. He told me if I did, he’d see to it that I did not get to see my mother ever again.

My hair is also complex. Only half of it is curly, and this is all in the under hair. I had to bathe twice a day there to pass their cleanliness challenge, because of the Hidradenitis Suppertiva causing excessive sweat. I was allergic to the shampoo and cried each time I bathed. They gave me more antidepressants.

I mentioned once, how much my body hurt to the doctors there. I was quickly learning though, that all they wanted was for me to suddenly become a normal child. I wasn’t sure what that meant but noted what the children who got to go home endured. They could not yell, they could not scream, they ate every meal but not seconds, and they were nice all the time, if the adults were looking. I began to master the system. This meant no crying, so I got even better at being a machine. I let my world fall into their system of order.

I did go home, but, I couldn’t keep up the act of perfection. So, the cycle hit over and over again. I still couldn’t eat but was gaining weight. I was shamed for it. I was stuck then in either my mother’s clothes or sweat pants. Time passed and I was a teenager. My first period came on the eve of another hospitalization. I thought I was dying. The inability for people to discuss this function without clinical talk or shame had cost me knowing that this was going to happen. It didn’t help that my mother had told me all about how evil my Uncle Verne is. Verne is a rapist, a pedophile, and of course he would surely be out to get my mother’s children.

She had me stay with my grandmother while she made arrangements to have her crazy and devalued daughter locked away. My uncle called. Grandma had left me alone, despite my mother’s very valid fear that I would kill myself. I was considering it staring into her medicine cabinet when the phone rang. This was before caller ID hit that small town. I thought it was my mother. I thought maybe she had realized that the kids at school were mean, my hands hurt, and so did my stomach and I just couldn’t live like that. It was a strange voice. His voice was raspy, cold, and hearing me he sounded suddenly excited. I talked with him for a while, until I realized who he was. We didn’t trade names but when he called me by mine, I asked if he was my uncle.

There it was again, that duality, I was told by my mother that upon pain being dealt my way, I must never be rude on the phone. I was also told I must never let my uncle know where we were, who we were or to hurt me. I was terrified. Then, I felt warmth running down my legs. I remember what I said, “I am sorry Mr. Uncle Verne, I have to go now. I will tell my Grandma you called.” I hung up and went and sat in the tub crying because I was bleeding.

I thought that I was going to die, which, saved me from my suicidal thoughts. It was partly there because so often I was asked if I wanted to die. The idea wasn’t original to me, though I may have wound up having it anyway. I am not blaming the doctors, as without them I still would have died, I am merely questioning their methods. For every emotion there was a label, a drug, and a punishment.

For my fear of my period I was told I was a misogynist. I hadn’t even known what that was, but, upon being told I hate women, I thought it apt. At that time I wasn’t aware that self hatred is not the same, and the over labeling and medicalization was helping me to dehumanize. I was instead a child trying to make people love me. At this time my memories of my Sensei had been suppressed, and yet the mark of them remained, I was subconsciously seeking that same love.

The rest if my timeline, up until the Ranch, mentioned in earlier posts, is a blur, a mix of self hatred, cruelty, and a few bright moments when I went off the medication without telling people. Not all of my memories were destroyed by the meds, and the medicine did help me learn to control my flashbacks. I was so lonely however, unable to make contact with myself, isolated, and then something amazing happened. My freshman year of Highschool, I became the Valentines Princess. In my school this was on par with the popularity contests of Home Coming Queen or Princess and Prom Queen. My classmates elected me, and openly made this truth known, because of the simple fact that the most popular girl in school was pregnant and did not know who the father was. The pregnancy was not the issue, many other girls were pregnant too, it was the culture of this town. If you were not sexually active you were not acceptable. It was that she had cheated. Perhaps it was a form of slut shaming, but I was only aware of the fact that I had won. I had been chosen to represent the beauty of my class, a symbol of the perfection of love.

These memories are so crisp, as is the memory of my sudden happiness ending, realizing I had to tell my mother that I had won and needed a dress. There was no way I could take the title. I went to tell the coordinator, another student in my class and she found me first. She had already talked to the other wealthy students, and they were going to pool their allowances to buy me a dress, a trip to the salon to style my hair and they were going to have my hair done. They also were going to give me a free ticket to the Dance. At this point, my mother had left my Step Father, and money was so tight we could barely afford food. When I told her however, I expected anger and was given joy. She was happy for me.

We went through the rituals of beauty, I even shaved my legs, ignoring the pain that caused. We had my hair done, and, when I walked out with my Tiara in place, taking the arm of the boy I thought was the most handsome in school, ignoring his displeasure at being my escort, I stared out at the people in my school and was given a moment of joy. No one booed. I had expected that, after all every day I was on the outside. I kept the roses the principle bought each of the Valentines Court members for years, only shedding them when I no longer needed the reminder of my value, for I am worth more than roses and a popularity contest.

When I told my therapist about the feelings I had had, he told me I was becoming a narcissist. He berated me for every single feeling, and I went back on the meds. I was so certain he was right, and that my mother was too. The messages given to me during these visits to the psychologist were all so negative. Tomorrow I am calling and making appointments again. I am an adult now, perhaps, this will free me from some of the pain I feel. Perhaps I will find one who is willing to work with me on how to emotionally survive my physical pain. If I am offered medication my first visit, I will not return to that doctor.

I am still fighting for my humanity. I grew up meeting and failing expectations, never making my own. I am an adult now, and my own expectations are met. Yet when I cry, even at the end of a sad movie, I question, evaluate, and judge myself. My crying is the hardest, it is the most difficult for me to allow. I have come to embrace Happiness, anger, jealousy, but sorrow is the biggest terror. Even in the media we face the words of stigma. Pharmaceutical companies, doctors ignoring the validity of emotion, deranged fathers, and depressed mothers (Feel free to rearrange, relabel, or adjust these two for your own needs) all collude against humanity.

This is not the only way that people are dehumanized just one example of it. There is something in the air, something in the water, or perhaps just a tradition diluted with time that has caused dehumanization to become far too common. Civil Rights are torn away from people based on their supposed inhumanity, the disabled are not granted access because we surely aren’t human. I tried so very hard to shed my humanity, yet without it I cannot sing, I cannot write, and I cannot breathe.

I am afraid of psychologists. What if they refuse to not try and force me to take drugs? What if it turns out in the future I was wrong and needed the antidepressants? The consequences of these choices are the real fear. I fear too, that my next psychologist will refuse to see my pain as real. The wheelchair is not enough for some people, or it is too much. I will be writing a how to article on shopping for psychologists, after I am done, detailing my method. I will share it here.

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.

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