Tag Archive | flashback

Too many words

When it takes me too long in between posts, it is not for a lack of words, rather I have too many.

My brain is as busy as a big city highway, thoughts rushing about, crashing into each other. Therapy has stirred up nightmares and flashbacks at an alarming rate. That, along with otherwise not sleeping has increased migraine frequency again.

My daughter is okay. I hate that she has scoliosis and that my genes gave it to her. It is worse than I thought it was, her s curve and rotation already raising her one shoulder and hip out of level, twisting her ribs so one side of her back appears rounder than the other. But only if you look closely and know what to look for. Dr recommended she start doing yoga to stretch and strengthen her core to combat the sore muscles she already has. Then we go back in a few months for new xrays, and hope the curve has not progressed much. Thats all we can do.

I managed the day of her checkup though I had several flashbacks. It could have been better, could have been worse. We went in through the garage, not the front door where AF used to drop me off. We stopped at the cafe for slow paced breakfast. Upstairs was heavily remodeled since I had last been there. That was good. I did feel triggered looking down the hallway where I spent countless painful hours of physical therapy with no gain. I did feel triggered in the large waiting room, recalling times waiting there by myself, times when both parents came and were so busy fighting I had wished I was alone. I knew the view out that huge window well, as it took me out of the waiting room to watch people walking down below.

It was actually comforting to meet Dr junior. I had forgotten how much I liked and trusted his dad as a child. Junior has the same amazing warmth and accent. The look on his face was entirely priceless when he asked who performed my surgery as a child, and I said it was dear old dad. I decided not to tell him it didn’t go so well, as I don’t fault the surgeon for that. 

I did feel sick to see my girl’s body distorted by this horrible disease. No one really knows a cause yet. 30 years later and we can’t prevent it from permanently deforming us, slowly twisting and winding us up as we grow.

So that would have been enough for my nerves. But no, that’s never how it works. My FIL was also at that hospital that day, having surgery. So we walked through the maze of buildings to visit with MIL and deliver the cards my kids had made. I was losing touch the longer I walked. I kept seeing my girl, who looks so much like me, and lost my bearings, struggled to stay grounded more and more.

We sat with MIL far too long. I asked hubby a few times if we could leave. We had been there several hours now, approaching lunch time, and girly was stressed and hungry. The surgical waiting room was not a good place for her. 

One woman was describing how her husband was missing his ears and chunks of his cheeks due to skin cancer. I wanted to comfort her but I had nothing in me to offer her. I wanted to run away.

Finally we left and started the long walk back to the garage. But this time the hallways looked different. Swirly. I could barely read the directions on the signs and kept getting lost. I easily lead us all there but was now confused. Hubby reached out and grabbed my shoulders. I screamed “Don’t touch me!” And looked for an escape. A few nurses and doctors asked if I needed help. I wasn’t sure…I kept looking around, waiting for something to make sense, waiting for hubby to take the lead, but he never did. My flashback had overtaken me. I was disoriented and scared. My only thought was avoid evryone and get to the car as quickly as possible. But I didn’t know how. I was trapped in one of my nightmares, hallways kept getting longer, people were no longer speaking english, I was struggling to walk, holding onto walls for balance, struggling to breathe but doing it anyway.

I just kept walking. Hubby and girly followed me. At hallway intersections we looked sad and confused and nurses pointed the way. Finally we could see our garage. I knew I could make it now, the fear lessened and switched to exhaustion. The final steps to the car took all my energy. Made it. Sat down. Breathing can resume.

I don’t recall leaving the garage or entering the highway. At some point I ‘woke up’ and remembered the suggestion to go somewhere fun. We needed lunch so I asked girly if she wanted to go to the mall. Sure!

We ate lunch and headed for her favorite store to search for a black dress for choir. I was still exhausted, struggling to stay grounded, but this seemed important. As we entered the store, hubby disappeared. He often does this, wanders off to look at something. So I waited. He was taking forever, so I checked my phone…dead. crap. Looked around and still did not see him so we kept shopping, but were forced to stay in that one store. She tried on a few things, no luck on a dress. Finally I spotted hubby sitting by the fountain outside the store. What? How long has he been there? I tell him I had no idea where he went. I tell him I don’t know if we should buy anything. He gets all defensive saying he thought we were better off without him and he didn’t know where we went and hows he supposed to know…

I was too tired for that. When I have flashbacks I have trouble making decisions, using math, deciding worth. I wanted his help but obviously was not going to get it. I told girly we would keep those things she liked in mind for another day but we should probably get going. She was fine with that.

When we got home I thought I could rest and recover. Hubby had the same idea. He fell asleep and left me to make dinner, monitor homework, manage bedtime. 

The next day he said he thought everything went perfectly. I snorted a bit, surprised by our different impressions of the day. He asked what I thought could have been better and got angry when I made suggestions, because now I was attacking him and pointing out everything he did wrong. I wasn’t even going to bring it up, he asked. I wasn’t going to bring it up because it doesn’t help. I can’t rely on him, in those moments, I am forever alone.

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Preparing for triggers

Tommorrow will be a day full of unavoidable triggers. And other stresses too. I am taking my daughter to the back specialist. Upon my insistence, I asked pediatrician for an xray. She has mild scoliosis.

Breathe. It is mild. It may stay mild. 

Because I want the best for her, I am taking her to the same place I went. Recently and as a child. But now we get to go to the pediatric office, the actual same place I went. Even better, better for her, worse for flashback potential, her Dr is the the son of my Dr back then. Same name, same floor. I lost it a few months ago when I had to go to the same building for radiology. 

I have to keep myself grounded and present. My daughter may see a full blown panic attack or flashback for the first time. But I have to be there for her. It would have been better for me to choose a different dr, but not best for her.

So I can do this. Somehow I can do it. I already feel sick, a migraine. Nightmares for days have kept me from resting. I am so tired.

Then other stresses combined as usual to make this week even harder to manage. And yet I must. More later on the other stresses, too much to write now

Mama needs a new pair of shoes

My mom’s memorial service is tomorrow morning.

I’m still breathing, and I guess I’m holding it together somewhat because here I am typing, not hiding under my blanket in a dissociative state.

I can’t wear pretty or even most normal shoes. I’d like to look nice for my mom’s service. I’m unable to wear anything resembling girl shoes at this time, so a dress is definitely out. Planning what to wear has been horrible, in one way it doesn’t matter, in another it matters a great deal, and mostly, it is just making the fact that mom is gone way, way, too real.

I’ve been wearing one pair of sneakers for the past year or so since this hemiplegic migraine stuff started. I only have one pair of shoes that I can get my weak foot into without it crumpling up inside or twisting when I walk. Once I determined I had a nice pantsuit to wear, I was not too keen on wearing these beat up blue sneakers with it.

I asked Hubby to help me buy some nicer shoes. I need it to be totally flat, no arch support, and no memory foam that they seem to be putting in everything, and no heels of course, and no odd textured soles that slip out from under me. I need the shoe itself to be lightweight, I’m already limping and dragging. It needs to be flexible, not too stiff, so it doesn’t push back against the way I limp and trip me.

I tried on some cute shoes first. That was a mistake, because it hurt deeply when I couldn’t even stand up in them, unable to support any weight on my weak foot and ankle. Next I tried some loafer styles, but they were too open and didn’t come up high enough and slipped right off my noodlish foot. You see, you don’t think about how much muscle tone your foot has, but when it is gone you can’t even hold a slipper on it, it just slides off when you lift your leg. Next I tried some shoes that had laces, almost like men’s dress shoes. They stayed on, but either my toes crumpled up and I couldn’t flatten them inside, or they were too stiff and heavy.

Cue the flashback. And the tears. I was suddenly 12 again, desperately trying to get a recently paralyzed leg to wear the 7th grade band uniform black dress shoes to go with the black skirt. I made myself a toe splint out of popsicle sticks and medical tape, one stick under each toe and then a support bar under the ball of the foot and one on its side in between each toe jam, and between the toes and ball. Then I packed tissue in all around it to make up for loss of muscle tone, and taped the shoe to my actual foot in every place I could as well to keep it from sliding off. I made it through the concert and afterwards unwrapped a very bloody foot that night, but I was very pleased with myself because it worked, the shoe stayed on. I played perfectly and smiled prettily during the concert, no one knew about the construction set in my toes or the blood seeping into the tissues. I thought that was a normal solution and that I did a good job. No one, not even my parents knew what I did or how it hurt. They didn’t force me to do this, I did it myself, because I had to. I knew I had to hide my flaws, solve my own problems, and smile while doing it. So I did.

I told Hubby about the flashback and wiped away the tears. He said something like, “This is so not fair you have to go through this again” I said “yes, but this time, you need to tell me that the shoes don’t matter. Right?? That if the only shoes I can find are zebra striped and hot pink, that I’m more important. That walking without pain, that not falling, is more important. You need to tell me that now. Tell me.” Seriously I am laughing at the absurdity of the cruelty of the universe to have weakened my leg so much again, to send me back to these childhood memories. But I’m almost wondering if I have to relive some of this crap to let it go. Because this time I won’t hurt myself, and this time I have people that care more about me than the impression it would make if people knew I couldn’t wear the proper shoe.

Hubby looked right at me and told me the words I should have heard long ago. That its okay to show up wearing whatever shoes can get me there with the least amount of pain. That no one cares if my shoes match, that they only care about me. Then he looked at me with that sideways look he gets, and asked if that was what I need to hear? Because he thought I should know that. I confirmed I needed to hear it, needed permission to do something ‘wrong’ like wear the wrong shoes, because I’ve never been important, I’ve never been anything. He says ‘Hmmm…’

We both seemed to gain strength from that, and looked over the store shelves one last time before giving up. I finally found something! I couldn’t have done it without Hubby’s help – both his physical help of bending and getting shoes from low shelves, and his emotional support. I would have given up like I had the other times I had tried to find shoes in the past year and came back with only my ratty old sneakers again.

So I am sorry mom. I tried, I really did, but the only shoes I could find are actually suede boots. But it snowed again yesterday so boots aren’t so out of season even though it is Spring, and it will look fine with my black jacket. And with a little luck I won’t fall when I wear these-practicing at home here today. They aren’t comfortable, that would be asking too much – but they are lightweight, flexible, flat, and have good traction.

This made me think of an old commercial for perfect fitting socks…found it…   🙂

So my noodlish drop foot is only one concern weighing on me. I’m dealing with each one as it comes up, somehow. But I feel like a punching bag. Or maybe a barfbag. Katy Perry feels like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind. I have one of those stuck in the thorns of my rose bush outside, so maybe that works too. I feel baggy. Out of control. And so damn tired. Enough already.

Shoes done – check!

Next I get to fight with my insurance company and see why they denied approval for my surgery. On Wednesday. Yeah. Seriously. Just let me take care of myself without fighting so hard. Why….

 

Shining Light on Shame Gremlins

 

shine light

(Photo Credit: By carlos gonzalez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shame is a powerful feeling that is not only an emotion but can also be a state of being – a form of existence. Shame results from comparison, when you look deep inside and evaluate yourself as not good enough. It can start from someone else’s criticism or from your own criticism directed inward. Guilt is when you feel you have DONE something bad. Shame is when you feel YOU are bad.

Huby and I spent two sessions discussing shame with our couples counselor now and my mind is blown. We both apparently have shame triggers, what the counselor calls shame gremlins, responsible for our patterns of arguments, misunderstandings, lack of intimacy, and poor communication over the years. Counselor said the only way to kill a gremlin is to shine light on it. (remember what happened in the movie?)

Okay, he had my curiosity, again. He was either crazy or brilliant, so I paid close attention because either way is interesting to me. He said shame makes us wants to hide, alone, in the dark. (ding, ding, ding – not sounding crazy) We naturally don’t confess we are feeling ashamed and may not even recognize it. Instead we go into defensive and self-protective mode automatically. (wow not crazy at all…) What are your automatic reactions? Do you get angry and yell? That’s what Hubby does. Do have an urge to leave the room, run away, hide and be alone? That’s what I do.

Shame is more likely to trigger anger in men and depression in women. Hmmm.

So here’s an example of how shame causes trouble in my marriage:

We’ve been preparing the house for a kiddo to have a birthday party here this weekend. You all know I hate having people here, but I worked through my fears with many worksheets and I’m feeling okay about this party. Even though I’ve spent 10 out of the past 14 days in bed or in the hospital bed with migraines, I’ve been able to let go of SOME of the anxiety. I still don’t want the party here, but I am resolved to do it for the kiddo, he deserves to have his friends here. I can do it for him. My illness is out of my control. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do. I’m strangely almost peaceful about this. I’m doing what I can and it feels like enough, almost. Its not terrible anyway.

So my role is to mainly manage and delegate to kiddos what to do and keep them working. We were all busy cleaning last weekend and I was having my 7 year old do some dusting. While we were doing this, Hubby came over and said something to me about how good we were all doing, and that we were “deep cleaning” not just tidying, so it was taking longer but worth the effort and really needed done.

If you’ve ever watched a 7 year old dust, there is no “deep cleaning” happening.

So I giggled at Hubby’s comment and said something like “I don’t know about “deep cleaning” but we are making good progress here”

Hubby instantly got angry and started yelling at me about how hard he is working and I’m so mean or not fair, and he’s sick of these nasty comments, and whatever he does is never enough…on and on and on…

Woah – I had no idea what happened. But now I do. Hubby was instantly shamed.  My comment wasn’t about him, but he interpreted it that way, internalized it as criticism that I don’t think he is doing good enough, and that HE is not good enough. So his automatic defense is to yell back in anger, anything to stop feeling that shame. Shame is intolerable, anger is easier to manage.

So then he yells at me, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. Here’s the fun part. It then triggers shame in ME! But I don’t fight back and yell. I get quiet, slip out of the room, isolate myself alone in my room, feel like crying, maybe feel like dying for being such a terrible person and I don’t even know why.

Wow. OK. How many hours of my childhood did I spend in exactly that state of mind? Hiding, trying to be invisible, trying to figure out what I did wrong, how to be a better person, keep myself away from everyone to protect myself from the chaotic world. I felt safest when alone. No one attacks or shames me when I’m alone.

Here’s the crazy part. Neither of us actually ever criticize each other – intentionally. We’re not like that, we try to be kind and good, and over the top appreciative of each other. It’s why it is so surprising and confusing to have the shame gremlin show its ugly head in the middle of an otherwise pleasant conversation, and then AHH, teeth, claws, daggers, RUN.

Here’s another example of a shame gremlin the counselor wants me to shine that light on:

This one will actually be more difficult. I’m supposed to tell Hubby every time I have a flashback. Instead of trying to hide it. My method for coping with flashbacks has been to get myself grounded as quickly as possible, figure out if anyone noticed, make up some excuse for me acting weird if they did notice, pretend to be ok for as long as possible, then recover from it later when I’m alone, and maybe tell Hubby about it later, maybe not.

I’m ashamed to have flashbacks. I feel like a freak. I don’t want anyone to know or worry about me. I don’t want to talk about it, or what I just experienced. And sometimes I can’t. Sometimes there are no words to express what I re-experienced. (Why? Well let’s see, say we are going out to dinner and Hubby reaches for his coffee and I have a flashback about driving with AF, and I feel his hands on me, sliding up my thigh like he used to do while he drove and I would try to sit as far as possible by the door out of his reach but nowhere was out of his reach. So am I really supposed to share that moment, explain the memory, bring more attention to it rather than look away from it? And then Hubby and I are supposed to somehow continue into the restaurant for dinner then? Talk about spoiling the mood. Is it fair that I went through that alone? I guess not, but I don’t see how it is better for us both to feel the pain) Yeah, well, these counselors say I can’t do that any more. No more hiding. If I’m with Hubby I need to tell him about it, and if I’m alone I need to write it in my flashback log and share with Hubby later. Eeek.

Just writing it now brings up HUGE amounts of fear. I’m supposed to hide. I’m not ready. I’m comfortable in the dark with the gremlins. I’m afraid to shine the light. This fear is terror, throat choking terror. I have a few stuck points to work through about this and I’m still working on the phrasing. Here’s what I have so far.

  1. If anyone knows there is something wrong with me I will have failed
  2. I am worthless if I have any flaws
  3. No one will love me if they know the real me
  4. My secrets are too horrific to share
  5. Accepting help is a sign of failure, worthlessness
  6. It is pointless to try to explain myself because no one ever understands
  7. If people know about my problems…(I don’t know how to finish this one, it’s so strong, I’d rather die protecting my secrets than be exposed, but I can’t think of an ending that makes sense. I’m just “not allowed” to tell people about my problems and this core belief is hard wired)

 

 

Being Strong for Your Kids (When you want to curl up and cry)

My youngest is in the hospital. Again. This is the third ER trip in the past 6 months, all critical to saving his little life. It seems that when my little guy gets sick, he gets really super sick. One time was croup, something my other kids had many times and it was uncomfortable but never life threatening. Then a few months ago and a few days ago he became severely dehydrated after a day of vomiting. Too dehydrated for the amount of time of the illness and his age.

So my little guy and Hubby found themselves being life-flighted in a helicopter from our nearest ER to a specialized children’s hospital. Wow. Just writing those words makes me shake and cry again.

I’m trying to be strong. But I found out yesterday it is ok to feel scared. I thought I was hiding that I was holding back the tears, but his nurse saw, and brought me a box of tissues and stayed by my side kind of hugging/rubbing my arm while they strapped my kindergartener into the flight bed.

His potassium levels were dangerously high and his heart could have stopped. From one day of vomiting. I thought he just had the tummy bug that is going around. The doctors are investigating a possible metabolic disorder that causes a strong reaction like this.

When I took him in to the hospital, he was still walking and talking and being a sweet little man. They struggled to get in the IV because his blood volume was so low. It took several pokes to get it started, and lots of mom being strong and asking him to be brave and still even though they were hurting him. They barely got enough out for labs, and when they did, the numbers were scary.

Once the IV was running a bit, they needed another blood sample. It took about 6-7 pokes all up and down his little arms, and they could not find a suitable place. His little veins kept collapsing as soon as they inserted the needle, and the tiny ones are hard to find. By this point he is kicking and screaming and it takes 6 of us to hold him down and my little guy goes hysterical, similar to when he used to have night terrors as a toddler. My job was to appear calm and use my voice to soothe him. I did it for a while, but then I had a flashback, of my own traumatic hospital stays as a child, and just watching him in this state was too much. I had to walk away so he wouldn’t see me cry and get more scared. I looked out the window and had to ignore his screams just to remain present.

Then I asked a nurse, begged her, is there any other way to get the blood we need? She said she could try to reverse his IV and draw it out bit by bit, but we would need him to lay still. SO I went back and explained to my bitty boy that we were going to try something else, without more pokes, and he needed to trust me. I sat on his bed, held his head and his hand, and make him look at me. I felt him relax, just a little, and it was enough for the nurse to get started. This process took about 20 minutes, drawing 1 cc at a time in a syringe, and produced a hemolyzed sample full or possible errors, but it was a start. I was so grateful to that nurse.

Then when they saw the dangerous potassium levels, Dr ordered albuterol breathing treatments, said it lowers potassium. Kiddo had fallen asleep from the exertion of the fit. A respiratory therapist came in and placed the mask on him while he was sleeping, and it was good for a minute, until he woke up, saw a stranger holding something on his face. He went hysterical again, and she attempted to hold him down and hold the mask on when I asked her to stop. By that time about 4 nurses were in our room, because of the screaming. I asked them if I could have a few minutes to calm him down before we try again. I told him the names of all the strangers in his room. I explained what they were doing, and what the computer (EKG and ECG machine by then) screens were measuring, watching his heart beat. I told him his heart needed special medicine so he could feel better and go home. I asked him if he wanted a drink, to sit up, and even have a chip? If he did, he could do all that before we gave him the medicine. And we said he could not choose to have the meds or not, but he could choose who holds it, him, me or the nurse. He pointed a little finger at me. So got a sip of gatorade, a potato chip, and then he let me hold the mask.

The respiratory therapist thanked me for my help, and showing her a technique for working with children. She said she never thought of talking to them like I did, and explaining the machines. Why do so many people forget kids are just little people and treat them like property? Of course many hospital workers treat adults this way too, they forget that hospitals aren’t routine for patients, and that we are all scared, and children even more so.

I am happy, so so happy, to say that my little guy is out of the danger zone, out of the ICU, and starting to look more like himself. He keeps looking at his little gold wings pin the helicopter crew gave him, I think to prove to himself that he really did ride in a helicopter. So we can focus on why this is happening, we’ll be meeting with a geneticist, endocrinologist, and probably many more -ists for exploring tummy issues, cellular issues, blood issues and anything else to prevent this from happening again, or knowing how to respond better if it does.

I had to get this story out, so I can go back to the hospital and be strong again. I came home to let out the dog, we sent the siblings to Grandma’s but forgot to send the dog in the rush and chaos.

I also have to say Hubby has been truly amazing at comforting and caring for his little boy, so sweet to watch them together. I’ve never seen Hubby so gentle and soothing and jumping up to cater to his every need.

Dances With Pedophiles

Get ready for a post full of pain.  I’m angry and hurting and not quite sure what to do with it, or how to find peace again. I’m still struggling with what is right.

I made it to my niece’s wedding. (See this old post )

The day itself was lovely. My niece was so obviously happy and in love, full of hope for her future. It was amazing to share her special day. I just wish I didn’t have to share it with two known pedophiles.  Yes two. This family has two abusive grandfathers, one is my father, and the other is my sis-in-law’s father.

I was prepared for my own abusive father to make an appearance. I was feeling strong and knew I could handle it. I was completely taken aback to see the other grandfather there, and seemingly welcome. Just 2 years ago, he was caught touching a few of my nieces. They stopped talking and visiting at that time. I guess they asked the bride not to invite him, but she did anyway – since the grandfather had never violated her and she had nice memories of him and missed him.

So let’s paint the picture. It was nice small wedding, in a tiny chapel, and then a fairly small reception hall. My own abusive father did not attend the wedding (I personally think he fears the lightning bolt may strike him down if he dares enters a church) but the other guy did – all smiling and proud like he owned the place and nothing was ever wrong. I felt like a hand was gripping and crushing my heart when I saw him there. But I focused on the ceremony and how happy the young couple looked, and how much in awe my own children were since this was their first wedding. (I did not like the old churchy phrases in the vows of her submitting and obeying her husband, but I didn’t dwell on that)

After the ceremony we had a couple of hours before the reception, so we explored the quaint college town. After a stop at McDonald’s, we visited a tiny candy shop with many flavors of popcorn, a cool antique shop, and an art gallery/store with many amazing handmade items like wooden boxes, felted creatures, mobiles, candles, etc. We were all truly enjoying our time there. I was not feeling nervous at that point. (Although the interesting and over-friendly shop owners in the small town made me wonder if I was actually in a Stephen King novel at one point)

We knew in advance that this would be a dry reception and had made the necessary preparations. Hubby bought a dozen little airplane or mini-fridge sized bottles of whiskey. We dosed our sodas before going in, and filled my purse and his pockets with extra bottles. Not that we couldn’t make a few hours without drinking, it was for the fun of it. We felt like we were in college and sneaking a drink became a fun distraction for us. We’d sneak off to the restroom and have a secret shot, and giggle together while the pastor and best man spoke of the evils of drinking.

After the long, way too long, toasts and introductions, I heard a waiter say they needed to make room for a man in a wheelchair. They were making room at the table next to mine, right behind my seat. Yup, you guessed it. In came my abusive father on his motorized scooter, with his mini oxygen tank. His emphysema makes him unable to stand any more. I looked out the window and at my kids across my table as I heard the scooter behind me. I did not turn around. Hubby put his chair closer to mine and sat with his arm around me.

Somehow we had our dinner, with a pedophile directly behind us, and another a few tables away. My daughter asked “Is that Grandpa?” and pointed behind me. I said yes without turning around. She looked away and went to talk with her cousin, completely uninterested in him. My boys didn’t even ask. My youngest doesn’t even know who he is. I felt so good that they would never be a part of his world, never miss him, and never know him. So happy I was able to do that for them. Even if he is still alive, there will be no confusion about wanting him invited to special events.

Then my little guys needed a potty visit. I went with all 3 kids out to the lobby. As I waited outside the Men’s room for the boys to finish up, I saw my abusive father, my brother and his youngest son heading outside. I was curious but not worried since my brother was there. When I got back to my seat, my mom said she overheard my abusive father asking the little boy to go out to his van! She said she told my brother right away and he went along with them. No idea what that was about, and I’m not letting my thoughts wander too far about it. Needless to say that brought me up to high alert level and made me question if we should stay, but everyone else was having a good time, so I should be as well, right?

Dinner was over and the happy couple had their first dance. It was so sweet and tender, I was bursting with joy for them. And then it was time for the father-daughter dance. I saw my brother head out onto the dance floor, but then my mind turned him in to my own father, and I was immersed in a flashback. Instead of my brother and my niece, I saw my father and I dancing at my own wedding. I felt my father’s hand on my back as we danced. I felt the crowd watching us, so few of them knowing our secret. But the ones that did, let me dance with him, so I took my cues from them. And then I was back to current time, the flashback passed, but I was afraid I was going to scream, cry or vomit. I told Hubby I had to get out of there. We rushed out of the room and went to sit in our van for a while. My vision restored, my fear passed, and was replaced with a deep seated anger – nearly rage – that I was out here suffering while the pedophiles were in there having a grand time. So I steeled my nerves, downed another mini-whiskey, and went back inside.

Like anyone raised as prey, the first thing I did upon re-entering the room was locate my children and the two predators. I realized I shouldn’t have left them and felt so guilty. They were fine, more than fine, dancing with their cousins and not even aware I had left the room. My Mom was watching them and motioned for me to join her. I wasn’t ready for that and shook my head as I scanned the room for the predators – the scooter-bound one was taking picture after picture of the children dancing (vomit rose in my throat as I thought about them lustfully viewing those pictures later) and the other was on the dance floor, twirling one of my nieces (She was 18 and seemed to miss her Grampa). Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and only I was suffering or worried. Although I am used to this now, it is still surreal to feel like the crazy one. The only one with problems, why can’t I just relax and have fun? That’s what they say to me, not to let these creeps have power over me, to ruin my day. I tried to eat the wedding cake and convince myself that we were all OK and safe, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t take my eyes off those men for a second.

My other brother brought his new girlfriend over to meet me, and I cringed. I didn’t want to meet her, and I had no energy left for small talk. She started asking questions and demonstrating ownership of my brother, with her hands all over him, and telling him where to sit and stuff. I don’t like her, and view her as manipulative, though I don’t really know her. But I’m an expert at spotting fakes. I was ready to leave, and about to leave soon, and told the kids just a few more dances. They were having a great time and hadn’t seen their cousins in nearly a year. To them – nothing was wrong. I so much wanted for them to have this wonderful memory and begin thinking about falling in love some day.

But then something was terribly wrong. I felt it before I saw it. The other grandfather left the dance floor, and walked over to one of my nieces (about age 13) that was holding my youngest niece (about age 2) who had fallen asleep in her arms after making her pretty dress twirl and twirl the hour before on the dance floor.  Her grandfather held out his arms and though I could not hear him, obviously asked to hold the littlest one. I watched in horror as my niece easily handed over the tiny sleeping girl and went off to dance, never looking back, never thinking twice, never viewing any harm or threat in the situation.

I lost my mind. It’s a good thing the music was very loud, because I screamed, “Oh hell no!!” and then “I can’t fucking do this any more, I have to get out of here!” and I ran out of the room blinded with rage. Hubby followed me again, made sure I was OK, and then went back in to tell my brothers and my mom.  I paced around the lobby liked a caged lion ready to attack, so full of adrenaline that it felt like my heart was thumping in my head instead of my chest. It took every ounce of energy I had to remain outwardly calm and not cause a scene. I just needed to feel safe, and to know those little girls would be safe.  And to stay grounded in reality. Why was no one else upset? Why?

My brother and sis-in-law were shocked when I went back in there, pointed at the grandfather holding the little girl, and said very clearly, “This is not OK. I can’t pretend that this is OK. I love you, but I have to go now. Please keep your kids away from him. Please.” I walked around the room, fists clenched, my fingernails digging in my palms to keep me grounded and present, and hugged everyone and said goodbye with the best smile I could still manage. Luckily everyone was so busy chatting or dancing, and the music was so loud, I don’t think anyone noticed a problem. It made sense for us to go, we had a long drive home.

I went back out to the lobby while Hubby gathered our kids and belongings. My mom came out to wait with me, and kept rubbing my arm and telling me it was all OK, that everyone was watching the Grampas and no one would let anything bad happen here. She insisted they were safe. Every time she touched my arm I had to control an urge to punch her or her push her right through the door. I was so sickened that everyone was more concerned about appearances, that they actually thought it was OK for that man to hold that sweet little girl. And what about the girls he touched? What were they thinking? I’m sure they were minimizing what happened, and thinking it must not have been so bad if Mom and Dad allowed him to dance with them now. Those mixed messages are so dangerous and can open the door for that man to contact those girls in the future. They listen to him because he is an adult. Even though that teenage niece knew what he had done, she didn’t think twice about giving her little sister to Grampa. It’s just Grampa. Yes he’s weird, but that’s just Grampa.

———————–

And now I’m so confused. I spoke with my brother the day after the wedding, and he said he felt he didn’t have a choice here, not a good one anyway. He said his adult daughter invited the grandparents even though he asked her not to. He said he had everyone on high alert and was shocked at first that his daughter listened to Grampa so easily. But then again we weren’t shocked. Children rarely defy adults, we’re just not wired to do so. He said Grampa was watched much more closely after I left, but that they could not tell him to stay away from the children. They said he is angry and unpredictable and would have no problem making a scene and ruining the wedding. So for fear of a scene, a toddler was held by a pedophile. Because it was ok, calm down, everyone was watching, so nothing bad could happen. Why am I the only one that thinks something bad already happened? Why do they allow these people to control them, to do things they know is wrong, to avoid a scene, and actually protect the abuser? Should they have put their foot down and demanded the Grampas not be invited? And then he said that my own father had no formal invitation, that he showed up anyway. I’m not sure I believe that. I think the young bride acted the same way I did, and wanted an image of a perfect wedding, which for her needed to include grandparents. For me, at my wedding, it had to include my father or I would have had to tell hundreds of people why he wasn’t there, and I was unable to do that yet. My delusional world of denial was the the only thing that kept me alive at that point.

But now, me now, would I have done the same for my own daughter’s wedding? Would I have allowed this man to touch my youngest daughter to keep things going smoothly for my oldest? No. Never. If it were my own daughter in his arms, you better believe there would be a scene. Even if it made me look like the crazy one. Maybe they’d accuse me of being drunk. Whatever. It’s bad enough that these creeps get to enjoy viewing children. No way would I allow them to get within arms reach.

But for them – I played along. I can’t change them, I can’t protect every child, and it isn’t up to me to scream pedophile. No one would believe that charming man, smiling, laughing, and dancing with his grandkids was actually plotting out ways to get them alone. At least this man will go back to his own state and leave us all alone. But I still feel responsible and like I let down my nieces some how. Like I should have done more.

Damn these men for putting this burden on us. Damn them.

 

PTSD and Schizophrenia May Be in the Same Spectrum

PTSD and Schizophrenia may be related as varying degrees of a similar malfunction.

I was describing a recent flashback to my therapist, and I finally got brave and actually described it without watering it down. I told her how it seemed so real, and that I could see, hear, feel, smell – everything- my past superimposing and flickering over my present – leaving me unsure for moments which age I actually was.  I told her I was afraid to say that before, afraid I would get taken away and locked up. She smiled her sad smile at me, knowing what I meant. I asked her if any of her other clients describe flashbacks as powerful hallucinations – and she said yes.

So that got me thinking – woah – what if my brother’s schizophrenia is similar to my PTSD flashbacks? What if all hallucinations work on the same mechanism, the same spectrum of disorder, but that schizophrenia is much more severe?

What if schizophrenia is a flashback that doesn’t end with a safe return to reality?  I shudder at the thought. 

Turns out some recent studies have been thinking along the same lines. Check out this article: http://healingattention.org/documents/doc_litreviewpsychosis.pdf

Excerpts from that article:

“Paranoid delusions: faulty attempts to explain traumabased hallucinations? Some people, when faced
with negative, emotionally loaded, or unusual or anomalous experiences quickly jump to the
suspicion of external threat, i.e. they become paranoid. Hearing voices when there is nobody
there is often (but not always) a negative experience, and is often experienced as unusual

or anomalous. Paranoid delusions are sometimes, therefore, understandable attempts to make sense
of hallucinations (in various sense modalities) (106, 146–148, 155–157).
Paranoid delusions can, of course, develop in the absence of hallucinations. Is there a difference
between the hypervigilance to threat acknowledged in PTSD patients to be the outcome of
trauma and the belief that people are out to get you which is labelled delusional in traumatized
people diagnosed psychotic? (30, 33). Having been severely or repeatedly abused as a child is
likely to render other people a serious potential threat, a threat that can easily be generalized to
anyone or anything that is reminiscent of the perpetrator or the circumstances surrounding the
abuse. The processes by which hypervigilance develops into fixed paranoid delusions would
appear to be a fruitful research avenue. Again, Nadel and Jacob’s (159) work on the impact of
trauma on the brain is salient. Whether we label this PTSD, DID or schizophrenia, the resulting
fear, distortions and impoverishment of lives remain. Heightened sensitivity to stressors: the Traumagenic
Neurodevelopmental (TN) model Many of the theories attempting to explain trauma’s relationships with hallucinations and
delusions, such as high levels of distress in the face of anomalous experiences and hypervigilance
to threat, are consistent with a heightened sensitivity to stress in general. A study of 271 severely ill
in-patients found that the two subscales of the Brief Symptom Inventory most strongly related to
sexual and physical abuse were psychoticism and interpersonal sensitivity (164).
Heightened reactivity to stressors is a cardinal feature of schizophrenia (165) and is considered
the core of the constitutional vulnerability that forms the diathesis in the stress-diathesis model.”