One woman's journey and dawning realization of the slow destruction of her spirit while trapped in the jaws of disability.

Disability is at first an affliction of the body, then a state of mind and finally a shackle upon the spirit.

Lydia M N Crabtree, 2012

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chronic Illness and PTSD

It has taken me a long time to admit how closely my PTSD and my chronic illness are married.  It has taken another adult survivor of sexual abuse in my life after years of not having a friendship with anyone who could relate to really show me how closely they are related.

Tonight is such an excellent and normal example of how PTSD disrupts my health.

I am exhausted. I have spent the day helping out my dearest sword sister as she struggle through a rough time with some serious medical issues occurring in her birth family. I feed children. Helped with homework. Was read great Doctor Suesse books and a book all about modern day Princesses by a Princess.

This is on the heels of finally getting my family back to a two car family. We purchased a vehicle that fits all of my and Alice's (my service animal) needs. Now, as long as I am feeling well, I can take my boy where he needs to go and I can get myself to where I need to go. New cars are fun and good and stressful as hell to shop for and purchase.

Stress is something that your body cannot delineate. My body reacts to stress regardless of the type. I can tell my mind that the stress is a better type (buying a new car) than the stress of assualt and my body still reacts to stress in the same physical ways regardless.

Over the years you learn to screen movies for violent scene's against women, rape scene's and other types of programing that might trigger a PTSD episode. Then sometimes you are watching a program you like and you see a character strangling a "dead" body. It is in these moments when you try to sit through or distract yourself until the scene changes that the seeds of PTSD snake up like kudzu on steroids. Suddenly your own throat is choking and your own anxiety is spiking.

You know you are safe. Your body is telling you, "I am tired. Please go to sleep."

And nothing you do can reign in that building anxiety.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Compassion Deficit

I have been writing for years now on being physically disabled. Most who follow my blog are aware that I am also mentally disabled. I suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Clinical Major Depression. I also have a degree in psychology and am fortunate enough to have many around me who love and support me. I have a husband who helps remind me to take my medications and a great therapist who specializes in PTSD and cognitive therapy which has been the best approach for me dealing with the 18 years of physical, mental, emotional abuse and the rape and torture I suffered at the hands of my biological family. I am well aware that I am screwed up. Not by choice, most certainly; however, as an adult thriver (one who has transmuted past trauma and turned that into fertile soil to thrive – going beyond surviving) of incest it is my job to be responsible for my here and now and I work hard to do so.

I am also physically disabled with a rare genetic condition called Dysautonomia, also called Neurocardiogenic Syncope. I am not as vigilant in my self-care of my physical disorders as I am with my mental ones and am striving to changes this again with the help and support of a close knit family I have chosen and friends who love me.

I have written in the past about prejudices I suffer because of my physical and mental illnesses. I have even discussed these prejudices with my therapist who also suffers from MS which has caused physical transformations that you cannot miss when you meet him.

What I haven’t talked about is how these conditions are dealt with in my spiritual community. I am a witch, a Wiccan and a Pagan. Being a spiritual movement that is generally accepting of much that is considered outside the norm of society, I have come across three distinct views of long term physical and mental illnesses all of which I have touched on at one time or another.

1.     You are not witch enough – the idea that if I was more enlightened, more witchy or pagany or spiritually right then I would not suffer from these issues – anyone inflicted with physical or mental illness that are long term, in fact, should just be a better witch.

2.     If only you would….. – being in a spiritual realm where there is a lot of healing focus and different healing modalities, most people say this to be helpful. If you would only (fill in the blank) then you would be healed. This reminds me of tent revivals I went to as a child where if an affliction wasn’t healed by the circuit preacher then it was a lack of faith – only we pagans are too sensitive to suggest this out right so instead we suggest a list a mile long with an assumption that one of those things would work. My problem with this is that everything about our lives is a lesson – and if my illness that has physical roots as well as psychological traumatic roots was completely curable, I wouldn’t take the cure. I am learning from my life. I could do better at managing my conditions and I try. I am not, however, broken. Do not try to fix me.

3.     A general avoidance – My sister Crystal Blanton is writing about instances of prejudice she has suffered because she is black. In one she describe being isolated at a family funeral by a relative of her husband (who is white) because of her color. It is this issue that I have been thinking about a lot and this issue that has triggered this blog. This issue that I haven’t been willing to look into the mirror and name as something I do. This issue that author DJ Conway brought to a head for me on Facebook.

General Avoidance – Prejudice against the Mentally and Chronically Ill

Conway posted a link which is a discussion regarding a paranoid schizophrenic having easy access to weapons. She then posted the following comments and had the following comments posted in response.

Please be aware that anyone diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic will label certain other people as the cause of their problems & never change that decision. They should be avoided. I know from experience. & a great many of them have guns in their homes.

Penny - I have both a cousin and a brother in law with paranoid schizophrenic... and neither one is violent, or prone to it.. most mentally ill are NOT violent.. most are often the Victims of said violence.... One violent person is NOT the norm for all.. my husband was mentally ill... and he was NOT violent...

it is the stigma of stereotyping that keeps many from getting help, it is the broken, overloaded, understaffed, underfunded mental health system that keeps them on the streets, and it is the lack of caring, compassionate people that keeps them victims.

D.j. Conway I'm NOT labeling mentally disabled people as violent, Penny. Statistics say that paranoid schizophrenics of certain types are dangerous to the ones they believe are the source of their problems.

Penny the key here is "of certain types"... and those types are very rare... you wrote anyone diagnosed as... not certain types of... anyone is not certain types...

Becca I cannot believe what you just said. "They should be avoided" That is entirely unfair, especially as you are a teacher in the pagan community. After the shootings last summer, Autistics were labeled as "dangerous" too. Wanna know how many times people ask if I am scared of my children? Then I come on here and you are throwing anyone who suffers from this condition under the bus???? Shame on you Conway, shame on you. It makes me sad that I have so many of your books when you can throw a blanket of hate over those with mental issues and ask those who follow you to do the same.

Dia Nettles Crabtree I agree with the above. I have thoroughly enjoyed much of your work and long recommended your work. My brother in law is an undiagnosed schizophrenic and dealing with him as been filled with heartbreak. Watching him for signs of violence and watching him deliberately isolate himself from family while trying to cope with a reality that isn't the same as everyone else has been heartbreaking. It has worn heavily upon my husband. Knowing that this haunting illness is hereditary - watching my nephew deal with the beginnings of this illness is also horrible. I agree that most schizophrenic who are not highly functioning can be destructive and their illness is just that an illness. It isn't a result of choice. It is a result of a brain condition that was born into them and the treatments for these types of conditions or terribly complicated. In "When Why If" you talk extensively about harming none and what it really means. This type of indiscriminate categorization of a group of people perpetuates fear and does not promote solutions to those who have these illnesses and those who have the burden of dealing with loved ones inflicted. I agree heartily with Becca - As a leader in the pagan community this opinion is clearly harmful, hurtful and should probably be best kept to ones self. This is not a public service to anyone. This is a sign of a prejudice and a perpetuation of stereotypes and myths that might be best examined in relationship to past experiences and compassion for those who have to figure out how to love and care for those so afflicted. I know that dealing with the mentally ill within the pagan community is challenging and finding and setting boundaries in a compassionate way is further challenging. Yet - as ministers, as worshippers of the Divine spark in everything, do we not have a duty to find constructive ways to approach these issues without furthering destructive attitudes and prejudices. How can we approach families and offer support if our attitudes are colored by negative examples that do not rise above what is commonly accepted? As witches can we not transmute numbers into a look at compassion and solutions and ways in which pagan communities can healthily deal with these human beings and small reflections of the Divine? Their illnesses have not placed them at some rung lower than us or other than us. I am not sure I have a good answer on successfully dealing with mental illness in the pagan community. Perhaps this is the discussion you meant to start?


– I have DONE so much worse than what was SAID –


Reading Crystal’s posts have perhaps made me hyper aware of how easy it is to be, in general, unkind. It is easy to mean. It is easy to isolate those who are different or express different opinions. It is easy to ignore those who need more help from us than we know how to give. Our lack of knowledge leads to a sense of unease and the unease often is transmuted into actions that aren’t helpful or loving or compassionate.

My most recent transgression involves Jesus’s Shaman. Until Conway’s post I hadn’t thought about him other than some weird and often aggressive guy who comes to a weekly local meet and greet that I feel like I have to watch out for incase he makes women uncomfortable. This isn’t an arbitrary issue. Women have approached the organizer and told her he makes them uncomfortable. When he isn’t around I have gladly joined in “good natured” making fun of him with everyone else. I, can’t even give a real name for him because I don’t know it. He is Jesus’s Shaman to me because when I asked what path he followed he said, “I am a shaman.”

Having Cherokee blood, greatly diluted and having read many essays on how strongly some American Indians feel about Europeans high jacking their traditions, I asked who named him shaman.


Bloated with my self-righteousness, my own knowledge of occult, my own personal background I lambasted him and then swiftly dismissed him as nothing more than something to be avoided and someone that the group needs to run interference against.

It was the last event I attended where I witnessed a person I greatly admire interacting with Jesus’s Shaman that I began to get a reality check and see this young man through a different light. No one has better energy than Dancing Bear and I watch as Jesus’s Shaman looked at me with some fear hiding behind the shadow of the formidable presence of Dancing Bear. I suddenly realized, Jesus’s Shaman was afraid of me. I have instilled fear – not compassion in him.

I have enough training to know that he is probably dealing with some mental illness and I know facts about his life that tell me it has not been easy and his difficulties started as a teenager and have been compounded by some truly horrific events. All of this I kicked under the bus and ignored.

Until today. The problem isn’t just Jesus’s Shaman – it is also a beautiful woman in Tennessee I lost my friendship with. She was yet again someone who seemed to live with a mental disorder and wasn’t really addressing it. In my third degreeitis stage, I tried to fix her. Many years later it occurred to me – if I do not need fixing then who was I to decide who needed fixing and who didn’t? I am glad that others were around this wonderful person and assured her that I didn’t represent the whole of the pagan view on who she was.  I did offer apologies and I am well aware that I lost a loyal friend forever because of my high handed callousness.

This brought me to a realization that has been really bothering me as I have lounged on the beach with my family on vacation.

I am compassionately fickle. To some degree, perhaps we all are.

How easily we are to condemn the words of others without being accountable for the actions of ourselves? I have seen this state of missing compassion in my own child. I am coming to realize that his missing compassion is a reflection on my compassion fickleness. My love that has been selective. My word that has been inconsistent.

I have so many things running in my head around these issues. How do you deal with someone who is mental ill and could become a problem with a community? How do you set and hold boundaries in compassion? How can you define boundaries to ensure that you are setting boundaries and holding boundaries for yourself and NOT projecting the needs of for boundaries – actions or behavior on others? How do you stop yourself from trying to fix everyone? How do groups deal with persons who are mentally ill in compassion and love while protecting the interests and safety of the group?

What do I do about Jesus’s Shaman? I can apologize, however, I honestly believe I have done damage – again – that will not be easily remedied. I can stop talking about him in negative ways behind his back and encourage others to do the same. I can find the threads of compassion given to me and offer them to him. I can follow Dancing Bear’s lead and see if that doesn’t create a compassion in me that is constant. I can hope that Dancing Bear isn’t as callously compassionless to me as I have been to Jesus’s Shaman. I can try to keep this lesson in my front lobe and subconscious so when I face it again I do not fail another person who is mentally ill.

I can say this… DJ Conway is an awesome writer and I have lots of her books. I can completely understand how scary and irritating the mental ill are to deal with. I am sure she is the type of person who is trying to figure out ways to have compassion while maintaining safety for herself and those she is Priestess to. I agree that the mentally ill should have restricted access to weapons that can cause harm, especially guns that even includes me.

And what I have done far outstrips a few words she had to say about guns in the hands of paranoid schizophrenics. Perhaps the mirror Conway is holding is one we can all look into and ask ourselves – are we living and dealing it the mentally and chronically ill with as much compassion as we believe we are entitled to? If we are not – we can focus on that and simultaneously offer love, compassion and understanding to everyone we know, in every situation we are in with every opportunity we have.

At the very least – we can try. In the trying, we can learn. In the learning, we might find the compassion we lack for ourselves that causes us to have a compassion deficit for others.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Energy Tokens

I have been exhausted. I have tried to write this blog several times and have been so tired that I only get a few lines out before I give it up. My husband encouraged me to write the blog for as long as I am able.

My life daily is filled with Energy Tokens. I get up and know what activities are facing me that day and then decide how to utilize the energy I can feel my body has available. When I am having a good day, I wake with lots of energy tokens. However, nothing compares to the tokens I used to wake with. If we take 100% as the way we wake when we feel good, then we convert that to tokens, you might wake with 100 tokens.

Some of us Type A personalities wake with 150 tokens or more a day. Having been that person living in my new normal of good days only having 75 to 80 tokens is frustrating.

Then I get sick after enjoying the 75 to 80 token days and get even more frustrating with having only 30 or 40 tokens.

For most of us sleep and food will regenerate the tokens at our disposal. For those with a chronic condition, we don't regenerate the tokens at the same rate. Sleep makes up for some missing tokens which is why I take naps on a daily basis and I wake frustrated that I didn't get more tokens back than I do.

I have gotten to where I am less upset about being sick and more upset about the debilitating effects the illness has on me. When I want to write and literally can't get my tired brain to contribute, it makes me crazy.  Conversely when I have full token days consistently, I get crazy annoyed when they go away. I feel like a failure.  My family gets used to 75 to 80 token Dia and then sudden have to pick up my slack around the house. When friends and family all whom I don't get to speak with often I find myself giving any tokens I have to them desperate to reconnect in any way possible.

This is one of the daily challenges for the chronically ill. And I don't write this to discourage family and friends from reaching out to the chronically ill. Facebook is a goddess send to the chronically ill. It takes less tokens to check Facebook and to send encouragement and love through Facebook than any other way. If you could send love or affection on Facebook actually revives our tokens as well.

People ask me all the time, "What can I do?" So send some love to those you know who are chronically ill on Facebook and think of it like giving them one energy token.  You can give an energy token a day by sentiments of love and encouragement to your friends on Facebook or by giving them a quick text on their phone. Especially if you wake with over 100 tokens a day, giving tokens of love to others when it costs you next to nothing, is the very best thing you do. Have you given a love token today?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Destiny or Survival?

Illustration by Will Worthington
Wildwood Tarot by
John Matthews and Mark Ryan
Since my award of disability, I have been furiously taking care of issues that have long been outstanding in my house hold. My son has clothes that fit again. He is getting a bed better suited to his long body than the twin he currently sleeps on. We paid off long standing debt and set money aside for future expenses that we know are coming.

               For me the biggest change is that I have entered an online course that is about Renaissance or Medieval astrology. I have wanted to do this for two years or more. Ever sense I ran into John Michael Greer at PantheaCon and discovered Geomancy. He in turn directed me to Christopher Warnock and and I have been driven to take his courses ever since.

               When I finally signed up and got my books ordered, I decided to go back and refresh myself in regards to geomancy. I had also acquired a new tarot deck by John Matthews, Mark Ryan and illustrator Will Worthington. Matthews is a scholar whose books I have been collecting for years. His insight into ancient Gallic structure and spiritual beliefs are simply unparalleled. I was excited about the The Wildwood Tarot because Matthews uses his knowledge of Gallic belief and myth coupled with Ryan’s knowledge of tarot and the beautiful art of Worthington to create a deck that called to me.

               So I started to do a daily study of these two divinatory tools. My refresher in geomancy has gone very well. I am enjoying it immensely and find, as I did previously, that geomancy is a powerful predictive tool with layers and layers of insight and meaning.

               Matthews Wildwood Tarot however, is still confounding me. It is the first time I have ever STUDIED a tarot deck. In the past, I have simply read the cards allowing Divinity to lead my definition of the cards and being completely unconcerned with the intent or meaning behind the decks creation. However, my respect for Matthews has me pulling a card per day and trying to decipher out what I think it means. After writing my impressions, I read the book definitions and then try to fit that into what is happening around my life or what I anticipate for my day ahead.

               Unlike my geomancy figures, this deck has me scrambling. Today’s card was the Knight of Vessels – Eel. I was surprised to learn that the Morrigian transforms into the eel in battle and that Cuchulainn’s famous spear, Gae Bolga takes its name from the eel. The book describes the meaning of this card as:

Purity of intent, your destiny defined, you’re able to bring wisdom and maturity to your tasks. Embarking on a quest of personal revelation, your vision leads you onward. Your deep feelings are expressed at every turn. (page 128, The Wildwood Tarot book) 

               What amused me about this is that this is the time in my life when I feel like I have no defined destiny. My life is about survival and daily health. Do I have enough energy to finish the laundry? Do I have enough energy to run the errands I need or want to run? I feel that I have been relegated to dissection of the baser of my needs. In Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, I often feel I am working at the base on safety, shelter, food and safety (I realize I said that twice). 

               It is the constant battle of those of us surviving incest, abuse and long term illness. Our world narrows and revolves around just making it through one more day. We aren’t as social. We don’t reach out as much and when we do our emotions are like sunburned skin. We want the sense of feeling community without the close personal contact. We are raw and fear anything that will rub against our already exposed nerves.

               I have lost so many friendships that have left this feeling of bereft-ness within me. I do not know how to restore the balance in some long time friendships or how to be of benefit to some from my past. I do not know how to rectify perceived wrongs. I do know I can try and move forward and hope I do better this time. I am a social person – very social and the interaction with others is another therapy for me.

               And none of these things are a well defined destiny. My well defined destiny in my past was to write and publish Family Coven and it hasn’t gotten done. Before that my well defined destiny was simply to write a book and be published and it hasn’t gotten done. The only constantly held destiny in my life is a belief that I have been called by Divinity to serve Divinity. Since my illness, I am simply stuck, feeling like my destiny is champagne in a bottle whose cork won’t give. My current pursuits are attempts to let some of the pressure of my excited champagne out in a controlled and measured way so that my bottle doesn’t explode.

               I am also struck by the correlation between destiny and the symbol of protection that the eel represents in ancient Gallic culture. I am unsure if I am subconsciously saying I have been protecting my destiny from scrutiny by hiding behind my disability and illness or if my illness and disability manifested to protect my long held beliefs regarding my destiny from scrutiny.
And you shall be naked, to me, in your rites.... Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente with modifications by Lydia M N Crabtree
               Recently, when talking to my son about performing music, I told him to be an artist is to be willing to walk naked, emotionally, onto a stage in front of strangers and hope that what they see and hear of your emotions is something that resonates with them.

               Being called to priestesshood as I have been, I can say with certainty that walking out in the world and trying to uphold the oaths taken to the Lord and Lady is the same. You walk out and bare your naked self – emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – to the world around you and pray that what you say is what Divinity wants you to say. You do this without any guarantee that what you need to say is being said properly or heard as it needs to be heard or understood as it needs to be.

               In a way it is worse than displaying art because by nature spirituality is your core and your being. Someone starts critiquing how those are for you and they are saying that you are spiritually lost, not properly calibrated. It took me years to realize this. In this realization, I am able to see how often I did this to others which make the happening to me sharper because I feel the guilt of knowing I am feeling what I have caused others to feel.

               I woke today hoping to work on my book and end up writing a blog instead. I feel equal parts disappointment and relief. I wrote something, after all, which is always preferable to nothing and simultaneously I feel I am giving no benefit. The only destiny I feel I am living is to continue to learn and grow and develop. I serve when and if the opportunity arises and mostly I am left isolated from my past desires and without a road pointing to my “destiny defined.” I do not feel I am embarking on anything, just trying to get through each day and bring some type of meaning to the living of that day. It leads me to wonder if living to the best of one’s ability is destiny or survival.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Contractual Nightmares

The most disconcerting thing about violation is nightmares.
I went to bed last night fairly content with my lot in life. I was happy: happy with my husband and the life I am leading; happy about the future and my son’s imminent return from his winter visit out of state; happy about how blessed the Goddess and God have made my life.

Here I am four in the early morning when not even the commuters have crawled out of bed to face Monday morning traffic.  My nightmare last night was so vivid, I woke to find myself curled in a jumbled pile tucked up as close to my husband as possible. I was sweating in sheets and my unfortunate bid for the reassuring contact of my husband had left my back feeling like I had performed some type of unholy tantric acts in my sleep. My newly fixed nose was pretty beaten up having been stuffed into the soft blanket I often sleep with and the stress had caused a dsyautonomic flare. All my muscles ache and it feels like I have been hit by a bus that came barreling through my bedroom on silent wheels in a hushed violence. The only evidence of the strike was how difficult it was for me to untangle and stagger into the bathroom for pain medication.
The problem with my nightmares is that it takes whatever problem I have let sit in my subconscious and manifest those problems in my dream with a barbwire twisted sense of reality. Currently I am suffering maternal anxiety with my son so far away. We talked everyday about everything and nothing and him being gone for so long is a gnawing barb to my subconscious. Yesterday, two good friend’s had really bad days. I made one of them extremely upset and there was no resolution by choice. Sometimes bad days need to come and go before perspective can be reached and because of my deep and abiding love for my friends I chose not to confront the issue during that hot, instant of confusion that comes when stress overwhelms those we love and makes them a little difficult to accept that love we have.

These things for most of you would be minor bumps upon the road and certainly not nightmare worthy…for a survivor of incest and consistent childhood abuse it turns into this story.
We are in THE house. My family lived in multiple houses growing up and there was one house on the end of a cul-de-sac where the majority of the confusion and abuse I survived took place. It was from this house we suddenly upped and moved from the city to Nowhereville under mysterious circumstances to build a new house in the mountains of North Georgia. It was in this house where I meet my childhood best friend who would eventually find me as an adult and confront me about my father raping her. It was in this house where my bedroom was separated by an entire floor from my mother that I watched my father rape my sister on multiple occasions. The bad, ugly house that seems so innocuous on the exterior and was a place of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual anguish on the inside.

In this house, my biological mother is searching for my brother. Even in my dream, where I have been trained to lucid dream, I understood that it wasn’t my biological mother looking for my brother it was me looking for my son. Of course, we couldn’t find either. I was content to let the dream continue because even as my subconscious played out in Technicolor the feeling of loss I had been experiencing in my son’s absence, I understood that it was just that: a reflection; a mirage; a healthy way for my subconscious to better deal with my missing child. Besides, my waking, conscious, participating self knew that in less than twenty-four hours I would be at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport picking up my child, so he isn’t really lost, misplaced or even really gone.
Then my biological father enters the dream. At first he is what he has always been in my life, a threat. My father being a stone sober explosive abusive meant living weeks and months with a man that seemed as harmless as a fly, as upstanding as his Masonic brother’s believed. Then something would happen and our entire world would crumble, dishes would break, threats would be made and carried out, safety and security would morph into hatred and distrust. I would be ripped away from feeling loved and thrust into a world where nothing pleased my biological parents and I was left scrambling to figure out how to restore a more even keel to my own existence.

The threat his presence always represents is twofold: the eminent creation of violence and the establishment that I am not loved. Having been trained to participate and direct my dreams, at first I am able to keep his presence in my dream a threat only. I am able to handle the thoughts that I know are fabricated and not really a part of my current life. My biological father isn’t going to beat my biological brother or my son because he is missing. Neither is missing anyway. One has divorced himself from me and sided with my biological father and the other is safe in a bed in Massachusetts being loved and carried for and spoiled by others who love him. For awhile I am able to contain the dream centering it around looking for my biological brother with occasional appearances by my harried biological mother who is worried about waking my biological father.
“This is just a reflection of my anxiety regarding my missing son,” is the mantra my brain tries to chant without being overwhelmed by the tidal wave of emotions the dream is creating.

Then my biological father awakes demanding to know what is going on.
Once again I step in to try to manipulate the dream. Suddenly my dream self is dressed in a business suit and my father is naked but covered in his own bed. He used to sleep during the day and some of the most disastrous incidences often came from waking him accidently. We were trained to be quiet as mice or get snapped shut in the mouse trap that was my father’s violence and uncontrollable rage.

I confront him and the dream shifts to contract negotiations. I begin to tell my biological father that I have been in heated contract negotiations with a woman about property and that the woman thought she had figured out how to get out of our contract. However, she didn’t know the law very well and I had already gotten the signatures I needed so she was stuck!
I am swamped suddenly with a sense of foreboding and begin to struggle with feelings of love and acceptance. My heart is suddenly worried about whether or not I am being loved or I will continue to be loved. IN the dream I am trying to win my father’s affection with my prowess as a business woman and simultaneously worrying about the woman I am in contract with, whether or not she will continue to love me.

Remember my friend who was having a bad day? One of the crazier after effects of continued abuse is a belief that we are unworthy of love. Not the platitudes we spout breezily on Facebook or Twitter. LOVE – unconditional, constant and regardless love that is given without merit or regard to anything other than one person has decided to love another.
My friend is a survivor of her own hells and this type of love for her is different. She hasn’t had a lot of love that is based on a voluntary contract that has stuck and been unassailable even in disagreement or strife. In my dream, I am telling myself I have taken a contract to love her, even when she wants to get out of that contract; my love for her is binding. In the face of her fears about people continuing to love her without judgment, I am going to love her. In the face of my past and her past, I am going to love her.  My dream self is telling the manifestation of inconsistent love that I have figured out how to consistently love someone else despite the blueprints for loving I was given by my past.

Then my biological father says, “How do you know she will uphold the contract?”

A dream that I had been able to steadily navigate overwhelms me as past feelings of regret and unloving come swarming in to assail my subconscious mind. I am surrounded by the white noise that has form and words and tells me all the things I fear the most:

“She won’t love you like you love her.”
“She will break this contract.”

“There are things you can do to make others not love you anymore. There will always be things you can do to lose the love of those around you.”

My subconscious mind provides me a ViewFinder of still photos showing me all those who have professed undying love for me and then found me lacking and unlovable. Many of these photos are persons from my past and some are even in my present. People I know or suspect for whatever reason do not love me anymore. It ends with a still photo of my beloved friend her face contorted in rage, all traces of love gone from her.
At this point the dream world shatters and I wake in that sweaty, aching heap trying desperately to reassure myself that my husband, my stone, my constant still loves me. If he were awake I would ask him and he would tell me. I ask him all the time, “Do you love me?” and he patiently answers, “Yes!”

“Of course!”
“You’re alright honey. I love you and will.”

But his warming assurances are locked in his own slumber and I know he has to get up soon and go to work, so I crawl out of bed and take pain medications and sit down to purge myself from the nightmare so I can face my own day unencumbered by the remnants of my own nightmare.
I know you are surprised that this dream isn’t violent. My most violent dreams come in that time just before sleep when I feel the most vulnerable. That is when I daily relieve the horrors of sexual and physical assault. My deep slumber is when I dream of the most damaging things done to me, the emotional and mental vestiges years of physical trauma inflicted upon my psyche. In the end, all survivors of childhood abuse ultimately worry about the love contracts in their lives.

We have love contracts with all the people we are in contact with from our most distant Facebook acquaintances to those very closest to us. These contracts are often unintentional and are developed over time. It is the unintentional nature of most love contracts that leave survivors of childhood abuse floating on a sea of uncertainty. My first marriage was a victim of a completely unintentional and ever evolving love contract. My current marriage is rock solid because of an intentionally built love contract.
One of the things I have come to understand, due largely because of my sisters of choice, Sarah and Crystal, is that love contracts do NOT have to be unintentional and they do not require anyone’s signature but my own. My friend who is freaked out and screaming and upset is actually worried about the expiration date of our love contract. What she hasn’t yet realized and accepted is that the contract for our friendship and love doesn’t have any stipulations in it. For adult survivors of abuse, contracts without stipulations are an unknown and unbelievable thing.  Without Sarah or Crystal or my late mother, Coco, I am unsure I would even understand that myself.

You see, it took people coming along and given me that unconditional, unstipulated contract of love to help me understand several things that are vital in loving. First, love is a choice based on nothing but the decision to love.
Why does my husband love me? Why does Sarah or Crystal love me? Why did Coco love me?

No reason whatsoever.  They decided to love me. They decided somewhere along the line to love me without stipulation. They decided to teach me how loving is suppose to look. Coco showed me the love contract all mothers should have for their children. It is the contract I have for my own son based upon the blueprint she gave me.
Sarah showed me the contract of unconditional, unstipulated, unassailable love. We have hurt each other deeply and those wounds have healed giving way to a deeper, more abiding love and affection. With each year that passes that love becomes something more than a contract and is almost like breathing. This love is the oxygen in my emotional system and reflects most accurately how my husband loves me.

Only his love adds to it all the affection, cuddling and awe that lovers give to one another. He sees me through the lens of his love contract and I am always beautiful. I am as beautiful to his loving eyes today as I was when I married him ten years ago or hand fasted him eleven years ago.
Crystal’s love is the responsible love. She is the tough love that says there are expectations and when you fall short, I will love you anyway because I know you. You would never intentionally harm anyone because I know you have been intentionally harmed and that thought you would do the same mortifies you. However, sometimes you act without thought, your impulse and pride get you and you need someone who loves you enough to tell you these things. It is a truer love in some sense than the lover’s contract Tony has and it is a harder love to believe in because I am left feeling that I will do something to be unloved and eventually my sister by choice will choose to love me no more.

It is this fear that my dream echoes for my other friend. She is worried about our love contract. She is scared that her own past and her own anxieties is going to run me off of loving her. In my dream I triumphantly tell my biological father that my contract with her is unbreakable and I owe Crystal for the knowledge of why.

The why is: I choose to love her and what she does or believes or chooses is irrelevant because my contract isn’t really with her, it is with myself. In fact, I do not believe you can actual have a contract of love with someone else really. Love is a decision you make in your heart to give something that has to be believed on with faith by the other party. You can’t wrap it up and gift it at Yule. You can’t quantify it. You can’t define it. It is outside the realms of this materialistic realm.
Once I understood this, I could choose who to love and what they did, the choices they make, the things they choose to do have no bareing on my contract to love them. I have contracted with myself to love them. I have said, “She I am going to love.”

He, I am going to love.

For me this means that I am going to try and see the person through the eyes love. When they rant and rail against the horrors of their past or present, I am going to love and try and understand the things they say and do are all tied back to a fear of losing love. When they assail me with hurtful words or actions, they are asking what the limits of my love are. Can they do something to make me not love them anymore? What is that thing? Where is that line? They are in essence saying, “I know there is something that will make you not love me anymore and I am going to find it before you do.”
Make no mistake there is a difference between love and healthy boundaries. I love people who are no longer in my life because they couldn’t maintain healthy boundaries and had to consistently push and push to figure what it was that would force me to not love them. I love them still and I have separated myself from their behavior. Truly a person can only accept love if they love themselves and most of us do not love ourselves enough to recognize when we are being loved.

I haven’t always had this outlook. There was at time when my judgment of others cost me dearly and I lost the respect and admiration that love is tied to of people I dearly wish I could still claim I have. There are some hurts, however, that never heal and some wrongs that do not deserve to be forgiven. Because of this knowledge I have of myself and how in the past I have broken my own contract to love others, I woke in a cold sweat, my insecurity rolling down my mind like the sweat down my back.
What if my friend doesn’t know about this intentional contract to love? What if they are unaware they are worried that they will do something to be unworthy of love? What if they have conditions on the contract to love me and I fall out of favor of their love?

Even as I wake I try to remind myself that isn’t how loving works really. Love is about my choice.
She, I choose to love.

Even if she has stipulations, even if there is something I does that make her love me no more.
She, I choose to love. 

My love for her is based solely on my decision to love and in the face of the most painful emotional turmoil; I can remain true to my decision. I can let my own worries of love and acceptances go, because I cannot control the behavior of others. I can however control my own.
She, I choose to love.

I can make these choices because others have chosen to love me.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
I love you because I know no other way
Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVIII love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other wayI love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other wayI love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Surgery Coming, Praise Be!

I am sure my childhood memory just makes
it seem this is the dog that bit my nose.
 Being an adult survivor of incest, physical and mental abuse, I am constantly surprised by the endless ways this abuse manifests in my body. Being in constant emotional and physical upheaval, I sucked my thumb well into my tween years, a habit my biological father abhorred. Although, many of my memories are vague or suppressed, I can clearly recall the first time he broke my nose.

It was over my thumb sucking. Being the middle child I was sitting in the back seat of our family station wagon going somewhere. My biological father was irritated already for some unknown reason (my biological father was not a drunk and never drank). Between my siblings, I was feeling tired and isolated. Suddenly, my head snapped back and my nose began to bleed.
 Coming back to my immediate surroundings, I hear my biological father yelling at my biological mother.
 “She keeps sucking that damn thing and I will rip it off. Maybe that will teach her!”

 I can remember further irritation on my biological father’s part that I had to go inside and change and then place me in the way back of the station wagon, laying down with cold compresses to stop the bleeding before my family had to make an appearance at wherever it was we were going.

 It wasn’t the only time a backhand found my nose. In my early years, this type of sudden and violent “correction” of behavior happened often. The first time I heard deviated septum, oddly enough, was when an injury occurred that had nothing to do with my biological father’s temper.
 I was in Dallas, TX visiting my biological father’s relations. They had a little, old yippy dog and neglected to tell me that it had a degenerative disk disease which caused it to bite people if they pet the dog on the back. I was in the back alone trying to stay off the radar of everyone sitting next to the dog for company. Suddenly, it jumped upon my chest and latched itself upon my nose ripping it up significantly.

 I was taken to the ER and remember that the police showed up after a loud argument about whether or not to call a plastic surgeon happened in the hall between my biological father and the attending physician. I can remember him saying, “Can’t you just stitch her up? I mean really even you said it would only be a few stitches.”

 The police came and sequestered me away from my biological father. They had to hand cuff him because he put up such a fuss about being separated from me. Then the plastic surgeon came in. He was very handsome and extremely kind. He brought me some food and Spirit, my favorite.

 After sometime had passed this young doctor screwed up his courage and in a room that held a case worker, a nurse and himself asked me the one thing I had hoped someone would ask me all my life.

 “Did your dad hit you?”

 I sat there in Dallas, TX and thought about what I knew about kids who ended up in the system. My life wasn’t so bad right? Better the devil you know, than the one you don’t, right? I hated Texas it was flat and barren and there weren’t any farms, only cattle. It was hotter and more humid than Georgia and I could watch the steam rise at all hours of the day off the asphalt that seemed endless.

Besides, I was raised to tell the truth.
 “Not this time. A dog jumped on my chest and bit my nose.”
 I can remember the adults standing in awe that I had suggested I was abused but insisted that this was not one of those times.

 “It is ok,” the handsome doctor said, “You can tell us if he hit you. We won’t let him do it again.”

 I nod sagely and say, “OK, he didn’t hit me….this time.”

 I can remember sitting there and praying that they would ask other questions. If he touched me in bad places or if he had hit me other times, but these adults were completely focused on my nose and couldn’t seem to get off that one issue.

 Later I would come to understand that not only did my nose show the signs of significant and frequent abuse but my front tooth had died after one of these violent episodes and it’s tell-tell color told the doctor’s that I had been hit in the face before.
 Several adults tried to get me to admit that he had hit me that day. I stood by my guns and kept dropping the only hints I had the nerve to drop.

Finally, my biological father’s family showed up with animal control and the dog in question. My biological father demanded that I be released after being treated. I can still remember sitting inside the room and listening to the officer and doctors arguing with my father in the hall. The authorities had decided they wanted to do a full physical exam and my biological father wouldn’t allow it. He also kept saying he wouldn’t pay for the nosey plastic surgeon that had been called into consult.

 Silence bore down on me and I can remember being really afraid that I would get hit later for all this commotion.

Then that handsome doctor got a menace to his voice.

 “If this child shows up in this ER again, you better believe I will be calling in a child counselor and another type of doctor to investigate my suspicion that she is being abused. And keep your God-damn money, I’ll give her my care free of charge. No one should have to live with outward reminders of stupid dogs or any other stupid thing.”

 I can remember him working over me and talking to me and the nurses the whole time he worked. He told me that he would tell my dad to get a cream to try to minimize the scarring but that he was doing all the stitches on the inside. He said without the cream I would have a small scare that might turn pink in the cold but that was ok because no one would wonder about because I would grow up and wear makeup anyway. He gave me very careful and explicit instructions on wound care making me repeat them back to him several times. Looking back I understand he worried I wouldn’t get any further care. As if this conversation spurred him on, he left me for the nurse to clean up as best she could (I had bleed profusely and simply covered in it.).

 He went out and asked about how long we would be in the state. My biological father suggested that we would leave the next day, even though I knew we had only just arrived. The doctor told him he had to see me again because the stitches I had been given needed professional removal and reminded my biological father again that he wasn’t charging him for anything he did.

 So we stayed the planned two weeks and I saw that doctor again in his office right before I left. My biological parents refused to leave my side during the visit even though the doctor suggested they do so. He removed his neat handy work, praised me for taking good care of the wound and promised me I would heal beautifully.

 Oddly enough, for a long time after this, I felt like someone somewhere out there knew the dirty secrets my biological family had worked so hard to hide and worried about me, maybe prayed for my safety and I was greatly comforted, even though I eventually returned to Georgia and the hell of incest and abuse.

 Survivors of incest and severe abuse live in bodies that have been worked over. I have back issues and my major joints (hips and shoulders) show signs of degenerative wear caused by the violence I endured. For me, my teeth have always been this reminder of my abuse whenever I looked in the mirror. This past year was spent getting that tooth fixed and it was just finished up after months of internal bleaching this past week.
 It turns out, although I can’t see anything but a small scar a little dog gave me in Texas, my nose was in worse shape than my tooth. Looking today at my CAT scan of my sinuses, the reason for the over dozen sinus infections this fiscal year was evident even to me and I am not an ENT. I knew I had a deviated septum because other allergists and doctors had noted it. What I didn’t realize was the damage affects the entire sinus cavity.

 My deviated septum curves sharply to the left. Since my biological father was fond of the right handed back hand, it makes sense. This curve causes the sinus on my right side to be all squished together. So when I have an allergy to something it completely blocks that nasal passage. On the left side or inside the curve of the deviated septum, my soft nasal tissues have ballooned. I do mean ballooned. They are enlarged and have created some relatively large pockets where bacteria can get in and infect my sinuses.

 At this point, even if I got the IgG treatment to bolster my immune system, it wouldn’t solve my sinus problems. Corrective surgery is the only viable solution coupled with IgG treatments which we are still fighting with the health insurance company to provide. As I currently have a sinus infection, the focus is to get it cleared up and find a window when I am not infected to perform corrective surgery. The small pain I felt as they dug around my sinus cavities to type the infection I have gave me a good taste of what I am going to feel like when I wake up from this surgery. It wasn’t pleasant.

 Despite this and the thorough warning the ENT gave about the extensive corrections that would occur to both nasal passages and the septum, I was cheerful as I drew a picture for Tony of my messed up sinus cavity as I remembered it from the CAT scan.

 “You seem awfully excited at the prospect of a bunch of pain and bed rest for three to five days,” he teased me with a wink and a knowing smile.

 I am. Just like that plastic surgeon said in Dallas, no one should have to live with the scars caused by dogs or anything else. This surgery will erase damage caused by a violent and indifferent man. No one but me will know the difference from the exterior; however, everyone in my family will benefit from having me well more than I am battling infections.

 Still, this surgery seems as important as the year long work on my teeth. It is like being permitted to erase some damage that represents years of abuse. It is like going to sleep and waking up being a little more whole than I have been since that day I was sitting in that station wagon.

 Now if we could just get the insurance company to approve the IgG treatments after the surgery, I think we might begin to see a significant improvement in my health. In the mean time, Alice and I are riding around in our own vehicle, finally, thanks to Judge Dole. I am careful to only drive when I know I am well enough and it is really exciting to be able to see my doctors most of which are within a two mile radius of my home. I was even able to take my boy to a well child care visit, the dentist and the dermatologist this week. All of which are less than two miles from my home. I don’t have to ask for rides or hope the Paratransit. Alice gets a roomy back end and is fascinated by the rear windshield wiper.

 I even spent an hour at the dealership today getting a careful and thorough walking through of all the features, got help programming all my doctor’s offices into the navigation system and learned all about putting my music on an SD card.
 Recently, I find myself priestessing others who suffer from PTSD and chronic illness. As I watch them struggle with the surprises and revelations that PTSD can bring, I feel an overwhelming gratefulness that I have my sisters, my husband and son, my God and Goddess and Judge Dole.

Despite all that has happened and all the damage that has been done to my body, I can honestly say I am blessed. As I age, continue counseling and continue to relentlessly seek healing for my body I am finding I can undo some damage. I can restore myself to more of wholeness than I was left in when I cut ties with my biological family. I had little choices in the damage I endured and all kinds of choices in how I mend and heal myself going forward.

 I changed my name and no longer bear that tie to the biological family that harmed me. I chose a middle name that better reflected who I am.

 I spent a year getting my teeth fixed and now I have a beautiful smile that doesn’t tell silent stories of abuse suffered.

 I am going to get my nose fixed. Just like I have spent years mending my inner soul from the difficulties of my childhood, my nose is going to get mended on the inside too.

 I have been validated and upheld by a Judge, my chosen sisters, my husband and my son. I have drawn to myself others who can share the journey of healing PTSD requires.
 There is so much I have been given that makes me glad I am a survivor and chose to live long enough to enjoy a place of blessing, love and hope.

Praise be the Morrigian and Mannan!
Praise for delivering my husband priest and blessed child!
Praise for guidance even when I thought the darkness had consumed me and I had been forgotten!
Praise for the love, security and stability I thought I would never find, keep or feel.
Praise for the other survivors who insure I no longer walk this path alone
Praise for two sisters who chose me as I chose them and love me in the manner of any family – the best they can.
Praise for the mother I loved and lost, choosing me and making “Daughter” have meaning,
Praise be the elements who represent those extended friends and adopted family who circle around me in ways I had never perceived or conceived.
Praise be that my sight is unblocked and now I can see them.
Praise be for a harvest I thought I would never see.
Praise be the lesson of the platypus and seven ravens.
Praise be.
Praise be.
Praise be. LMNC - 11/08/2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Learning to Live Again

I've been thinking on this topic for a while. So much empowerment has come from honest communication about my medical situation. The only think I haven't talked about is my compromised immune system. I am currently trying to get as treatment for that and it has required a lot of back and forth with the insurance company. We are continuing to fight for the treatment. In the past twelve months I have had over a dozen different documented infections. This is because I am lacking in the immune response called IgA. I am also IgG deficient. The hope is that if we can get treatment for my immune system, then we can see a significant improvement to my overall health.

I have been trying hard to do more - exercise more, eat better. Today, the last remnants of years of abuse evidenced on my teeth were finally erased. I am really excited about this. Having the ability to care for your teeth is a thing that makes me feel worthy. There is also something very significant about having your tooth decay dug out on Samhein and cleaned and replaced. Made me feel like my teeth were symbolic of the new year.

My boy's new found devotion to Divinity is such a breath of fresh air that I can't help but be ecstatic about it. It has breathed new devotion into my own spirit.

Mostly I am having to learn again how to have a life while managing a long term debilitating illness. My Family Coven are making strides and I am still doing to much on a daily basis; however, we are learning tricks and tips toward organizing life to all our benefits while meeting every one's needs.

I have had some intense visions and dreams surrounding my patron God and Goddess. I can feel a peace and a certainty that we are provided for and will be provided for. It is a solidness I rest in.

Blessed be the time of the dying off of the old
The time of the welcoming of the new
Renewal of all that has been good and right
A breaking away from strife and spite.

Blessed be the last harvest that provides
For the long winter tides
A guarantee that with this harvest
Our bellies will be full, our minds at rest.

Blessed be the Lady, Crone, Dying Midwife,
She who walks not only the dead to rest but our strife away
Blessed be the Lord, Sage, Who stays with us
Waiting to protect us against the shortest of days.

Blessed be the harvest we can finally understand
That was planned, planted and begun before our needs could be named
And here our horn is full, our life over flowed
As the Old Year leaves and the New Year Reigns

Blessed be, the old, named and un-named,
Dead and dying
We honor you for all you were knowing that the link between all we are and have is tied irrevocably to death's we have had.