When Life is a Trigger Warning (Trigger Warning)

I wrote over 7000 words and WordPress ate it. I’ll try again later. I am really really not okay with this turn of events.

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.

Thank You is Sometimes All You Can Say.

This feels strange, to write. I am going to go for a crown. It took me a very long time to become aware of my own value, and through the Ms Wheelchair USA program, I can not only show my own skills and confidence but I get to hopefully inspire other women and men to be confidence. I have conversations daily with my friends, sometimes strangers, and every so often in the mirror with myself when my pain has me grasping for strength I am sure I will not find about confidence and value.

I minister aid to those in need. Today I recieved two gifts. One, is the first donation for my campaign towards the Crown, and the other was a bottle of holywater. I will not discuss my religion here, as I do not think that has bearing on who I am or what I am capable of doing, but I see this as a beautiful thing.

The woman who sent me the holy water is one of my strangers. It was just before Christmas and I went with a friend to the bookstore. Meandering we agreed to meet at the coffee shop and I went rolling through the shop. She looked happy, except her eyes. I remember how utterly void of joy they were, and she couldn’t seem to stop staring, so, I struck up a conversation with her about the books on the table. She didn’t take long to open up to me. I remember my utter shock at her telling me she was going to commit suicide. I responded before I thought with, “Why would you want to do a thing like that?” After an h our of conversation we hugged. I rarely hug people because it pains me, but, she needed a hug more than anything else. She told me she wanted to send me a package and after meeting me she couldn’t kill  herself. Our conversation touched on the spiritual, but mostly her need to be someone. She had forgotten herself for years to be a mother to a disabled child, and now her own grand child was disabled and she couldn’t fathom happiness for anyone. Today I recieved a thank you card, and the bottle from a local blessed spring. It reminded me of my power to inspire people. I did not need a reminder to know I am good, but, the reminder that I can touch people by being who I am was a surprise.

I then talked with a male friend of mine who often forgets to love himself. For years he has battled this and tonight I shared with him how I learned to love myself. I started telling myself three times a day in the mirror I love you. That was all I saw myself, when washing my hands. Then, I wrote on my stomach, legs and anywhere that was invisible to others, I love me. I love me. Over and over. It took a long time, then I started to believe it. Mike and I met over something daring, I did something that I might be ashamed of now, online as many others do. The evidence is thankfully washed away by server errors and time. I had made myself do something out of character, to see what would happen. I never went back in my shell. I instead became a real girl. No more hiding, no more sorrow. Shortly after this I broke my back, and had to resume chanting how much I love me. I still do some days, to help myself along when the pain burns me through and I forget that I am more than a disabled chick who can barely walk. When homeless Mike fed me, he even helped pay for Sprite the Service Cat’s vet bills. He is amazing, and, I hope that he remembers that. He reminds me of who I used to be, and even admits when he is wrong. A very rare individual whom I appreciate. He is who I turn to when even my well worn tactics fail, he can always make me smile and is the Brother of My Soul. He is greatness himself, and proved to me, before any other male could, that not all men are evil. Without him, I would still be fighting daily to not feel afraid in this world. Instead I feel love and warmth even in my darkest hours.

Then, I went into my favorite IRC, dedicated to graphic programers who make animal skins for IMVU, a 3D Instant messenger and started talking with a brilliant young woman. Her name, posted with Permission, is Weesha. We talk often, though the last few months before I started this blog that contact was rare due to no internet connection. I told her of my discovery, just before the deadline and without enough time, this year, to dedicate to my new goal of Ms Wheelchair USA. We brainstormed for ways that she can help me to spread the word about MWUSA, to reach my goal, and so that people can learn about my Platform. I haven’t finished fine tuning the platform yet, but tonight she spread the word far enough that the first donation was made by Jen, a person of similar interests, taste, and a person who deserves a very special thank you. My wonderful day started off in tears and has blossomed into a garden of delights.

I just want to say thank you, these people are beyond special. May any who read these words have as dear friends and family as I have. They feed my soul, they nourish my dreams, and wish for the dreams of all to come true. They deserve as much as they give. Each one has their hopes and dreams and this, dear readers, is my hope for them.

For Information on Ms Wheelchair USA please visit their website. There you can learn about the current Crown holder Beryl Holzbach.  I saw some of her youtube videos today and was brought to tears, mourning what is, and hoping that her advocacy brings great strides to the medical field.

  • Polls

  • Ye Olde Archives of Fury

  • Top Rated

  • Top Clicks

    • None