The Art of Happiness and Reflection and Mother

Sometimes I am not sure what makes our brains do what they do, though given that science is not either I suppose getting it at all puts me a step ahead. I am adjusting to this happiness thing. Its an omnipresent pleasant sensation that has no real sensory equal. I like it a great deal, and am often just sitting in the moment and feeling that purr deep in the space between mind and body. I am also reflecting a lot on my past. It is not painful, and if it feels so I stop. It is different than when my brain screams to understand something but is more a cataloging of how I achieved my joy.

When I can I do this by looking at pictures. I am not posting them here because mostly I do not want to look at them again. I look back and see a twisted body, heart, and mind. I see in the pictures my pain, and remember just how I got into that tight spot. Then I put them away and look at the reality. My body is not better off but it is stable again. My competent doctor, I will always revel in having a competent doctor, has helped in such astounding ways. The simple gesture of trying medicines in a different family that I am not allergic to unlocked a door for me. Its such a simple concept and it does mean malpractice on all fronts. It was never a lack of medication options but a lack of damns given.

I find my mind is not quieter despite being happy. It babbles on and on, noticing everything and pushing on to seek and discover about itself, about the world. I am so different every day than who i was before, and I cannot help but embrace that. A year ago I would have never admitted to anyone that I do not read DC comics anymore. I am still the biggest bat fan… except that I am also not unaware of the serious issues with in he DC Universe. Batman, my childhood hero, beats on people like me. The different of mind. Batman uses his money, whiteness, and power to get away with what could be literal murder in many cases.

I suppose I lost my hero in my reflections, but it is also a case of not needing him to be a hero. I still drown myself in Bat things for the pleasure of it, without the hidden hook of needing a hero. I no longer want a real Batman to swoop into my personal gotham and wreak havoc for the villains. I did that for myself. I no longer need rescuing and my world is no longer so dark that the slighest thing will bump me over into no return. It is not a world without sun, except that I still never open my curtains. It just isn’t the same.

Mother’s Day is coming, and this year it is not an agony for me either. It was not last year but that was the first time. Cutting my mother out of my life made this weekend less painful. There are some slight twinges in that I am not there for my siblings but I do not think they need me to be so much so. They are adults now and able to choose to be free of Mother’s clutches. I am taking quiet time, not to reflect but simply because I do not want to hear all the cacaphony of both joyous and obligatory Mother Stuff. I feel left out that I do not get to celebrate with my mother this way.

I am a motherless child. I am a fatherless child. I am a child of the world. Raised by the village. Given strength by the village. I know in that aspect I am not left out but a conglomeration of the best of every woman I know became mother, same with every man I know becoming father in some aspects. It all is simple and direct yet I still am reflecting. Instead of taking part in the shouting from the rooftops or hiding from the idea of what Mother used to be I am going to just reflect.

I am going to reflect on the women who I know who are amazing mothers. Some are also amazing fathers. I am going to reflect on how they changed me for the better. The idea of a good parent is still one I sometimes struggle with. The concept of loving arms gently wrapped around me is no longer a terrifying nightmare because it is unheard of to my mind, it is just an option I am less familiar with. I think of all those mothers and I will reflect on the gifts of seeing them for what they are. The best mothers are guides, and I know many people who are guides.

In achieving my own omnipresent joy I can see the strands of time and people in my life and I can see that while my own parents never parented, I was saved from being so like them by countless good mothers. The strangers who could not ignore the abuse and said something. The people who clothed us, fed us, and sometimes just offered a space where the sensory depravity of the world did not drown us. My opportunities were rare, but each one was a glimmer in the night sky. Not a signal like the Bat signal I hoped for but something much more durable. Stars, twinkling into the darkness I thought an oblivion. House lights in windows showing me there was civilization beyond what I thought was the entire world.

The world is so much larger than I knew. There is so much joy to explore. There is so much joy I was given and so much I want to share.

I know that not every person who reads this will understand why someone who knew both biological parents could be orphaned at birth in the mental sense. The idea that all parents are good is their default. TO that person I say, you are more than lucky and perhaps you will be someone’s star.

So I will reflect now, in my sea and perhaps the world will only be brighter for a reflection of a light brightens it. I am the sea of stars, each one illuminating a choice, a chance, a path that lead me to being not just who I am today but a person who could survive without hate. I understand the village now, and it is in my freedoms to know that I am there, and maybe I will be someone else’s star.

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.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Trigger Warning)

Bette Davis, Joan Crawford…A movie about the horrors disabled people can face with an abuser.

This is one of the most wonderful but horrific films I have ever seen. Joan Crawford plays an actress with a jealous sister who not only tried to kill her but is now her only caregiver. Bette Davis plays all of my worst fears brought to life. She forces Joan to either starve or eat rats, her pet bird, or possibly poisoned food. Their maid, a beautiful African American woman, is the hero in this. It is she who sees the potential for something wrong and refuses to leave the day she is fired, instead insisting on seeing Joan’s character. It is she who saves her from embezzlement, being isolated, beaten, and left to die a slow and horrible death. She was cut off too, no telephone, stuck upstairs, the bell for help taken away. It is horrible to watch.Bette’s performance is that of pure evil, in the loveliest of forms.  The genius of this film is that they use clips of the actresses when they were younger. They build the story up and you feel the pain involved with Joan’s treatment.

This film also highlights the incompetence of others, enabling the abuse. The teller who illegally (possibly not at the time of the film being made) gives cash when a deposit is required. The neighbors who ignore the weak cries for help, though they may not hear. The doctors who ignore the patient’s panicked cry when she could under duress be recanting. I will not spoil the climax of the film, but needless to say, this one touched a nerve. There is murder in this story, no one wins. Hope is torn from the viewer and Joan’s character.

Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman is another film that taps on true life abuses. The abused housewife is not beaten, but is instead told over and over until she believes it that she is insane. His greed is what drives his crimes, polygamy, identity theft, and murder among them. He uses the technology of the day to prove to her she is insane. He too plays on my worst fears. He proves to me that men are evil, a blanket statement that feels utterly true while I watch this movie. It isn’t, but it feels that way. He abuses his wife, publicly and privately humiliating her, forcing her into things that were against her nature.This film was so effective it gave it’s name to an entire term in psychology. Gaslighting is the proper term for causing someone to think they are insane. There is more to this of course, but this is the best I can do to explain right now.

Why am I posting about two films made before my birth? They touched me. They burned my heart up and left me shuddering with memories. They triggered responses in me that were deeper than perhaps intended. I felt the trappedness from my previous experience. I felt the worthlessness of knowing I am wrong at all times, and that my only value to others was at their own pleasure, my own wants and needs coming last. I felt the fists of my father in me again. I felt the harsh words of burden.

I am not a burden, I am not insane, and I am free. I had to chant this at times, the wheelchair a prison during the entire time. I could see even one stair trapping me. I can only remember too well  how few people actually listened when I cried out for help. The cold stabbing feeling of being told my case was not compelling enough to prosecute, that no one wanted to protect a child from  her rapist father.

Caregiver abuse is one of the worst crimes I have ever heard of. Some call it elder abuse, but, elderly folk aren’t the only ones trapped by their bodies. Many are vital and amazingly resiliant. I am posting about these films so that you can perhaps try to feel the things I felt, in lesser measure. These films raise awareness of the plights of the hidden victims in this world. Perhaps even someone you know is enduring secret abuse. You might not be able to save them, but raising awareness even by one, can help them save themselves.

Whatever happened to Baby Jane? Be glad you are not so evil, and if you are, may you see your reflection and set your victim free.

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