Trauma Responses and the People Who Get It

This is my dogs trauma response each morning when I throw the covers off him to say “good morning!” I’m actually going to tell a serious story about a trauma response.

I will first say I have done a lot of healing on my complex PTSD. It’s more than I ever thought possible. When I don’t feel exactly right emotionally, I can figure it out and recognize my source and figure out where my thinking missed a few rational steps.

Something happened over the weekend. I really meant to sit down and think about why I felt so uneasy, but Saturday morning a dear friend died. I was going to go be alone on a hike Saturday afternoon and think about it, but I met a kind gentleman on the trail who was also disabled and accompanied me on my little journey. It was nice, just unexpected. Saturday night I went to get my tennis wheelchair adjusted and chatted with my disabled buddy a long time. Sunday I ended up seeing a friend I haven’t spent time with in awhile. Then Monday I had medical testing super early and went to see another friend. A lot of social time in general but especially when I needed to think.

I felt pretty bad by the time I got to my friend Monday as I wasn’t feeling fun. The pit of uneasiness in my stomach had grown so huge that I was having to work hard at being engaging and completely forgot I meant to think to myself and felt like I had a bad case of nausea and wanting to faint by the end of the day. I knew it wasn’t a physical problem for once, this one was emotional.

I was honest with my friend and told her I’ve been dealing with this low grade anxiety and dread for a few days and didn’t know what it was about as it’s not typical for me.

She started to ask me a couple questions just based on knowing my mom was a severe alcoholic. I told her I have a problem thinking everything is my fault, but I’ve gotten past that one.

So she asked me, “what did your mom do when she wanted to punish you?” I said she would withdraw and ignore me sometimes for weeks on end. I figured out that was where my anxiety and unease was coming from. You can call me awful things, but the silent treatment will spin me out each time.

Does it mean it’s realistic to what’s happening? Not necessarily as the situation doesn’t matter. The most important part was that I had a friend who was willing to help me figure it out.

As I drove home from her house, my stomach felt better and my anxiety was gone. I could listen to music on the hour drive home and enjoy it again.

It’s really unfortunate if you ever had to live in a situation where your view of the world and self gets changed because of someone else filling your head with negative garbage. I’m grateful I’ve learned a lot about life being ok in spite of all that.

Even though it popped up, I knew I’d be ok as not being ok is part of being ok. So I thought a lot about it today, rested, and validated I’m ok to not be a big bundle of smiles constantly.

I’m always trying to learn lessons from people I meet. My friend reminded me gently, then even more strongly that “maybe people come into your life Lizzie, to learn from you”.

Oh yeah. There’s that. Reciprocation. What?

Love

Lizzie

Spinster Life, what??

The holiday season in the US is rapidly approaching. It’s always a mixed time for me. I didn’t grow up in a large family with much tradition about anything. My dream was always to have a loving spouse with 10 children AND be the first female president of the United States.

None of that happened. I remember hearing as a little girl (can’t tell you the source) about how odd and weird spinsters were and you definitely do NOT want to become one. In case you aren’t sure what a spinster is, it’s an older lady who has never been legally married.

So I didn’t get the large family or the presidency, but I guess I got spinster status. I kind of like it. It’s unique and spinsters were always a bit odd. I don’t find myself odd in any strange ways. I don’t have a tv that’s even plugged in or functioning, but I do have a queue of too many books to read. I’m probably overly attached to my dogs and entirely too independent, but I love those things.

People are already beginning to stress over the holidays. There’s the usual business that just gets people worked up about perfect holidays. Many are trying to figure out how to see family safely in a time of Covid.

I guess spinster life for the win! I’m hoping to put a lot of earnest effort into my book. I have some new friends who might invite me to celebrations that I will have to choose to be a part of or not depending on size and what types of precautions they are taking.

Sometimes it’s hard to go through life without a huge family, but I have some great people who look out for me. I’m blessed I don’t have an irrational fear of doing things alone.

If the right person falls into my life, I have my screening “gang” as a friend and I were joking a week or so ago, we are like bulls. We see the red flag waving and run straight for it to be gored over and over. My gang will run a panel interview to make sure they are an appropriate fit!

Despite continuing to face too many medical decisions, it’s also been a time of freedom. A “friend” chose to walk out of my life. It was one of those kind of moments of relief as I was pushing myself to fit in a mold that she needed me to be in that wasn’t me.

I am not a fan of cliches, but I do believe that when one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes the new door doesn’t open quickly. This time it did. This physically healthy friend (as far as I know) shut the door on me. I was trying to adapt my disabilities to fit her able bodied ways. It was hard. I was also trying to fit myself in a spiritual mold she chose, not me.

Now I’m getting more and more involved in the disability community and feeling grateful for the understanding it brings. My job advocating for people with complex illnesses makes me feel not so alone. While I don’t share a lot about my personal complex illness journey with patients, just hearing them chat about what their lives are like gives me a sense of belonging.

Spinster life. Huh. I also wished I would never be in a wheelchair or be diabetic as I could NEVER poke myself with a needle. While I’m not diabetic, my life entails 5 needles a week minimum. Darn karma with my sparkly pink wheelchair and everything else I couldn’t ever be.

In becoming all those things, I have a richness to my life that no material thing, specific belief, 10 children, a high profile job, or any of the things I thought I would become or tried to mold myself into, I never thought possible.

When I say “richness”, I don’t mean perfect or constant happiness. Richness is in acceptance that it’s hard. I don’t have to fake a smile, but when I do smile, it’s genuine and real as I certainly live a life paved with sparkly pink and several crashes in between to make it interesting.

Love

Lizzie

Finding A New Normal

My blog has been taking a backseat to a lot. I started a new job that is so exciting and such an honored opportunity that I have spent plenty of energy there. Granted, a lot of my work is done from home, I traveled last week and just had two very important and active days. The picture was watching the usual gamut of training videos that most new jobs require, which my dog, Napoleon found this one very interesting. I was asleep by 4 pm today.

In working, I’m trying to discover a new normal. How do I work, keep up my anti inflammatory diet, weekly infusions, manage tons of doctors appointments, regular house stuff, exercise…? I’m figuring it out. It’s going fairly well, but I can tell my next 3 days will have to be full of rest.

I’ve also had a ton of momentum to get going on my book. I read an excerpt of it to 3 of the company’s more higher ups yesterday (well one was the president!) and all 3 were very touched and moved by it. As a result, I’ve been asked now to get approved for hours to blog for them as another part of my job duties.

Part of finding a new normal has also been realizing and truly accepting that I’m doing amazing work. I’m appreciated, what I do is appreciated, how I’ve chosen to live with the chronic illnesses is REALLY appreciated, and I feel confident I’m not going to fail.

The company so much doesn’t know about my childhood trauma. My direct supervisor knows just a bit as we spent a lot of time driving where she told me some painful truths, and I chose to be calculated in what I said mine were. She could grasp enough.

Yesterday, they filmed me talking about my history with illness and the trajectory it took. My direct supervisor walked with me as I wheeled out to my car. She said, “I just want you to know I was so inspired spending those two days with you, but I can’t go on about it now as I’ll cry”. She has two disabled sons and even though their disabilities are really different than mine, she was surprised how independent I was.

She made me laugh as after she helped get my belongings into my hotel room for our work trip last week, she reminded me to close the inside locks in the hotel room door once she left. I said to her, “I’ve got this. Remember I went to Thailand alone 2 years ago?” She said, “well, I just have to mother you a little bit”.

And I thought about being mothered those two days and how it felt slightly strange. My own mom never cared. If she were alive today, she would be telling me I was going to fail at this job as she told me I failed at everything in life no matter how amazing I was.

This mothering I realize was normal. I had to go into a store so she asked if I could make it ok. Well of course I can! I’ve been taking care of my own needs since birth it seems. She asked so many questions about my comfort with temperature, if I needed to stop to stretch, if I needed so many things. It made me feel kind of bad.

Then I realized that this is my new normal too. It’s not only about conserving energy, being proud of myself, understanding my life wasn’t a failure, but it’s an acceptance that mothering in a nurturing way towards me is needed and deserved.

Today, the PR/marketing director came to my house and filmed my doing my yoga, my art, my dogs, and we went for a short hike outside where he filmed and took over 500 pictures of me. He’s very particular about how things look with shadows and such. I wasn’t the problem, but I also felt like I won when he said, “now that’s a money smile” and was so excited by my smile again and again. After years of being called ugly, awkward, fat, stupid, and could go on and on as I’ve already figured out that isn’t true, I’m holding onto “now that’s a money smile”.

So many new normals. I think about the story of “the ugly duckling”. The duck wasn’t ugly. She hadn’t found her place until she realized she was actually a beautiful swan.

A job might not fulfill being all my place, but it feels so right.

May your life, no matter what state of chaos, illness, or triumph be allowed to have moments like mine. Simply making the choice to show up with more and more conviction landed me a phenomenal job and some true feelings of “I did it. I finally did it”.

Love

Lizzie

Sometimes others words are perfect

This was my work from home professional dress. My fuzzy socks matched my skirt. I have standards!! Needed comfort after a frightening neurosurgery appointment.

Not much to say today. Had a whirlwind and absolutely wonderful business trip that left me exhausted, but the work email kept dinging that another had come in as we are filming a sort of mini documentary of my chronic illness life next week and how I have found meaning. So the work continued today from my bed.

I’m beyond proud of how well my business trip went. Any normal person would be tired. I know I am. Not much to say, but I saw this and resonates so deeply.

I have genuinely given my truth to 2 people who still stick by me. I’ve asked why so many times. It’s as simple as they get it. Both manage a chronic illness or chronic pain and have had a significant traumatic event(s) in their lives. I feel solid with them. They make me feel like I belong. I’m never “too much”. I’m loved whether I feel well, crappy, joyful, sad, scared, questioning just “why??”, and everything in between.

Hope this strikes trauma survivors as much as it did me as I’ve learned to ask for help, but I’m still figuring it out. When no one teaches you all the life skills at the appropriate developmental ages and then betrays you so much as a little child, the ground often doesn’t feel solid beneath your feet and that’s when you ask for help to normalize it.

I am so thankful for my 2 daily. I don’t even question if they will go anymore. “Actions speak louder than words”, but for these two women, they have done both. It’s hard for me to use the word “love”, but I love both of these friends.

And for those who haven’t had to experience the kind of trauma that makes one this way, bless you. Please live with gratitude in your heart as it’s hard

I also blew the socks off my new job and not feeling like the failure I was trained to believe I always was.

Stay. Go. I’m ok. I know as I appreciate my own strengths and gifts, my life will be more and more enriched. Just two days of working in a field that is so meaningful built my armor up. Not the armor to keep people away, but the armor to know I’m strong and to take under the strength of that the others who are hurting or fear being abandoned.

It happens. We survive. We eventually trust as we find that tiny tribe that sees our worth. We take our flickering light that burns brighter by making that tribe to show others they can do it too. I’m there. I haven’t always been perfect, but I hate perfection and just grateful for so many who were so proud of me today. I love so many.

Love

Lizzie

Once Upon a Time, for a moment, I Felt Free

This isn’t a subject I talk about much as it’s painful and sensitive. In January of 2018, I returned to where I grew up after spending nearly a year with my family after coming down with transverse myelitis, using all my FMLA time at work, and having no way to support myself.

As I was making arrangements to get home, my little 10 year old told me on the phone, “mommy, I want to kill myself”.

I wasn’t even sure what to think. Did he feel this way because I had been gone? Was he lonely? Did he never think he would see me again? All I remember was telling him to hold on and that I would be home soon. It made him feel better. He promised to hold on

I made it home in January of 2018. He and I had some glorious days of being together after nearly 6 months apart as I worked on figuring out my life. I felt free. I felt like my new trauma healing had come full circle and that everything I had gone through was worth it.

Within a couple weeks, my son started telling me some horribly abusive things that had been happening to him. For about 4 months or so, I nearly exclusively took care of him while an investigation was underway about his abuse accusations. I held my little boy as I drug him to a handful of social workers, always telling the same story and always reassuring him he was brave as he felt scared.

He would wake up in the middle of the night terrified. He had become that brave child that was strong enough to speak out against what happened to him. He described what I can only call psychological torture.

The investigation happened. The person was substantiated on the charges, which is a fancy way of saying “guilty”. My son felt safe. I didn’t tell him about the substantiation verdict. I simply promised I would keep him safe.

After he had been with me a week when the investigation started and had left the other house he lived in, I got an email from his teacher stating she wasn’t sure what I had done, but my son hadn’t had any bathroom accidents at school (he was having them daily and just so it’s noted, older kids who have poop accidents without a medical reason are usually a sign of abuse. She was also amazed at how much his grades were improving as well as behavior).

It was a really hard time for me. We didn’t have a stable place to live as the vacancy rate in my city was next to nothing. While he was at school, I spent the days at the doctor having numerous tests run knowing I had neurological problems as well as autoimmune diseases that had yet to be diagnosed as those are sneaky problems to give proper names too.

I was tired. I was bone crushing fatigued, but I was there for my son. Was I perfect? No, but is any parent perfect, especially under those circumstances? I was also intensely angry for what happened to my son. He was confused and while he should get 50 gold medals for how composed he stayed during that time, he rightfully got angry too.

After a period of time, the guilty charge was overturned. He left my near full time care to go back to his other house. I just submitted. I was sick. I spent 4 months of my life caring for that precious angel of a child who is neither biologically or legally mine. I was also out of money.

Sure, I saw him with some regularity, often not as I didn’t feel well and there was a lot I couldn’t deal with. My son saw me change though. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” truly meant something to him. He told me how strong I was. I said the same to him. I was growing as a person. I was growing as a mom.

I was expected to say sorry to the people who were found guilty of abusing him. I did the best I could to apologize and own my part. No one apologized to me. It was plenty of accusations against while my son would still tell me late into the night on nights he spent the night at my house about the continuing psychological torture he said he was going through. I told him he had to tell someone at school or an adult as I tried to protect him and couldn’t. My son watched me be vilified. He said he would never tell again as he didn’t want me to be hurt.

I realized in those times that my son took the responsibility of my losing people, and even worse, getting really sick as his burden. I told him over and over that I was an adult as his mom, I protected HIM.

He continued to tell me about being yelled at and called awful things and horrible things being said about me. I was really sick at this point and so angry. I thought about leaving his life so he wouldn’t have to live in two worlds that were so different. He was struggling hard. I even wrote to someone about it as as much as it was destroying me, I was watching my son being ripped apart. He had been brave for years in standing up for what he knew was the truth of me. Instead, I asked to go to a 3rd party to work out my issues with the other adults caring for him. My request wasn’t flowery and friendly and sweet smelling, but neither was what my son was saying.

I knew on some level it didn’t matter. I knew I couldn’t live like this, but I knew my now 12 year old son couldn’t live like this either. I tried to find parenting books to give me advice. Therapists were useless in helping me, and trust me, I tried.

So a day or so after I sent the email, I was blocked from all communication from my son. I was removed as a parent from the school. The significant adults in his life were told I abandoned him. Some were told I was too sick to be a mom so I chose not to.

The unfortunate thing about my situation is that I don’t have any biological or legal rights to my son. I wasn’t part of the adoption, which is too much to explain right now. It’s nothing I did wrong, it just has to do with unmarried couples not being able to adopt together.

It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my son. I had a couple phone calls with him. We texted for a short time. There’s a system of power in place to protect the other adults that no longer let me see him.

I was a licensed foster parent at one point. Even abused parents are allowed to have visitation with their children. I was instead subjected to a sweeping judgment that at the drop of an email, I couldn’t see my son anymore. I was found guilty of I don’t know what without a trial.

It’s called parental alienation. No, I wasn’t always right. No. I didn’t make perfect decisions. Sadly, the other adults in his life certainly didn’t either. Maybe they reflect on it? I don’t know.

I do also reflect on what I did right. I reflect on the loving and giving heart my son has that I will take plenty of credit for. I look at the loving projects he did at my house like teach himself to loom knit off YouTube and had a plan to give out his homemade hats to homeless people this past winter. I still have the beginning of a children’s book he started writing and illustrating about a family that had fallen on hard times, but a huge meteor had landed in their yard that was going to change this family’s life.

Some people might pray by closing their eyes, folding their hands, and directing their prayers to a certain god or deity. I personally have Tibetan prayer flags in my backyard and the idea of them is that you say your prayers or good intentions and as the breeze blows them, those good intentions are set into the world going to their intended recipient or the greater good.

A piece of my heart has shattered having my son gone and the story you would hear from the other side is probably an ugly account of what a horrible person I am as that’s what the texts have said.

None of that matters to me except my sons well being that I have no way of knowing. I realize that as I slowly pick up the pieces of my shattered heart, I take those billions of shards of love to set them onto my prayer flags to be sent to my son so he can feel, maybe just a little that his mom still thinks of him, loves him, and wishes more than anything in the world to hug him when the breeze hits his face.

I’ve missed over a year of his life. There’s no speculating if he’s doing well, surrounded by love, making good choices, surviving, thriving, but all I know as I’m minutes away from my official official start date of my new job that is an absolutely amazing opportunity that I work to be a strong person, woman, mother, so if I’m lucky enough that he ever enters my life, he will see a mom who kept trying even though I honestly feel like giving up often because of this situation. It’s a pain that can never be explained.

If you are an alienated parent, whether a mother, father, or someone who was extremely significant in a child’s life to have it taken from you, I’m sorry. Feel free to email me. I won’t make your story public or ask you to be an activist. There’s simply power in knowing you aren’t alone, and I’m frankly exhausted from being silent about this.

One of the final things my extremely insightful 12 year old said to me just over a year ago was, “mom, you are Wonder Woman. Your shield is made up of your heart and your soul and that’s why you’re so strong”.

So no matter what’s said of me or the ramifications of not being silent anymore, I will hold onto his words as directed towards me. I certainly hope he’s found someone to love like a genuine mom again and says such profoundly beautiful things to them, but regardless if he does or doesn’t, those words were meant for me. I can send him loving words about his strength to flutter on the breezes in my backyard

Love

Lizzie

Feelings. Feelings. Cured my anxiety and depression, but??

Weary? Yes. Sad? Yes. Depressed? No. Anxious? No.

In one thing of being a trauma survivor, I was taught to be a people pleaser. I was taught the only way anyone will like or love you is to have a smile on your face.

Today wasn’t a smiley day. Today was a very brutally sad day. I had planned to go backpacking for 3 days alone to mourn as well as celebrate something I lost a year ago.

Instead, I ended up in the hospital over the weekend. I have been trying to tell my pain management specialist that something is getting worse with my neck as I have had huge pain increases. My left arm was useless on Saturday, which is why I went to the hospital in the first place. After a lengthy MRI of my brain , cervical, and thoracic spine, the news came back. My degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis has become much worse.

I have osteophytes, which are also known as bone spurs compressing and impinging on my spinal cord. Osteophytes grow when your spine become so diseased that your body mistakenly grows bone in the wrong places as a way to “fix” it. It’s like your body decides to grow the bone you are losing, except it doesn’t put the puzzle pieces together.

When the ER doctor came in, I asked if it was impinging on my left side? She said yes. I had a quick moment of pride that I have come to know my body so well when I tried to escape it for so long.

So there was no backpacking as even though I read everything possible on google and watched every YouTube video about backpacking with spine disease, this would be going from uncomfortable to dangerous.

So going out today to be in nature wasn’t my smartest plan. My life is a constant cost-benefits analysis. If I go outside to do what I need to put my mental health in check, I will physically hurt more. If I stay home and don’t go write the most beautiful letter to the most special person who ever was in my life outside, I will feel emotionally miserable. I chose to go outside.

My hike was quick. I stumbled. I fell even with my forearm crutches. My left arm isn’t very strong. Considering I was doing handstands just a bit over a week ago, it’s obviously a problem.

I found a spot and climbed a hill to write my letter and be one with my Kleenex. In the United states, we have a really hard time sitting with others pain. I have learned to do it for long periods with others as I know the isolation of sadness. I knew being in nature wouldn’t make me feel as alone with the pain of today.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s genuine. This is what grief looks like. This is getting it out. This isn’t depression or anxiety. This is reality. I know so many who won’t do this and suffer by taking psych meds to mask pain. If I didn’t grieve my day, I would be left with anxiety, or even worse, I’d just feel numb.

Just about at this moment, my phone rang. It was a friend who I have had a rather rocky relationship with, but we are both survivors of extreme childhood abuse, so sometimes neither of us can get it right as we just never learned how, although we both are putting in a valiant effort at figuring out life. It’s hard to explain to someone who comes from a loving, supportive family what compound grief is. I wasn’t just grieving the loss I was writing about, I was grieving the own loss of my childhood—a healthy thing! A lifelong process that will pop up.

So I answered even though my sobs were coming from my gut. She knew what this day meant. She just kept saying, “I know. I know. Let it out. I know”.

And I felt heard. And I felt seen. And I felt understood. And I finally felt a bit of normalcy in what is considered “abnormal” in American society—grief, pain, intense tears.

Sadness doesn’t need a pill. Sadness doesn’t even need a therapist often. What sadness needs is a supportive community to embrace you. Sadness needs to be as normalized as joy. Both are valid human emotions.

Despite this day still feeling very hard as I’m managing the physical pain of going out now and unknowns of my neurosurgical future or if this new debilitating pain is going to be my normal, I feel the slightest bit lucky that my forever messaging buddy with chronic illness saw me as she can with her limitations, and I was able to answer the phone while sobbing so hard without the person on the other end not being able to handle it or be too busy or need me to schedule my grief. She showed up on the phone while I sat on my granite monolith grieving and sobbing while she gently said, “I know”.

Who do you do that for? Are you capable? Do you feel your feelings? Please recognize that no one should feel pain and uncertainty alone. Show up. Sometimes it’s not convenient. Grief doesn’t come on a schedule. Tears can’t be put into a calendar for a coffee date in a week.

Love

Lizzie

Compassion Makes You Beautiful

There’s a brand of tea I drink that has little sayings attached to them. They are always meaningful, but this one had me really thinking.

Several months ago at the beginning of the quarantine in the United States, I was invited to join a group of women for a Sunday afternoon zoom meeting. I was excited at the chance to form community.

Something a woman had mentioned resonated with me, so I went on a limb and texted her individually. She sent me very long texts planning for our future friendship and asking numerous questions about my anti inflammatory diet as she wanted to try to go down that path. She invited me to her birthday party where her extremely large family was there. I got along with them wonderfully. This new “friend” asked if I had family. I just replied, “not really” (it’s not something I broadcast as I technically have plenty of biological family, they have either rejected me for telling the family secrets or I choose to live free from the shackles of their abuse), so in these situations, I just make it seem as though my family is all out of the area and that my mom died.

So very exuberantly, this new “friend” says, “well welcome to our family. We will be your family”. I left that day elated. I felt I was going to belong to a family!!

Shortly after, her texts stopped. I kept checking in. What was once pages of texts turned into 3-4 word replies. I felt stupid. Of course her family isn’t going to just embrace me. Whatever this friend is going through, I don’t know. Maybe something I sent could have felt like the meaning was off as we have all encountered that texting feeling can be confusing if you don’t ask for clarity. Make she isn’t interested. Maybe maybe maybe.

It hurt SO much that I left the group. I’m not interested in that kind of “community”. In my final text to the group to say I was leaving, I ended my message with “take care of yourselves and each other”. I genuinely meant it as within that group of women, many had things happening in their lives where they could use help. Take care of each other. It’s so important to have compassion to not only give to a community project, but to individuals you know are struggling. That is real satisfaction for me personally.

This “friend” put in the group text when I goodbye something along the lines “I’ve been busy. You’re still my friend”. I’m busy. You deal with so much that I’ll leave you alone… and so the excuses continue. I haven’t heard from her since.

Where I say compassion will make you beautiful is that sometimes we don’t want to have compassion for those who most need it. Have you ever been one to send “thoughts and prayers”? I’ve been guilty of it and while it’s nice, it doesn’t really do much for a person in desperate need of community, genuine compassion.

Someone from my life reached out several days ago. She and I have some similar history as far as childhood trauma. It ended kind of ugly and was done, except she sent a text saying her mom had died. My compassion kicked in. Her biological mom died decades ago, but this one hurt. The mom that chose her died. She sobbed and sobbed saying, “this was the mom that chose me and she’s gone. She actually loved me”. My friend had a mom similar to mine. I cried with her as when you have no family and you genuinely get chosen, those losses hurt—a lot.

My exes mom, who I will just call “B” chose me. She died in the not so distant past. When she passed, there was no service and have no idea if there’s a place I could visit her. I did request something of hers to remember her by. I was given two very special objects of hers. One was a sleeping disc she put under her pillow for years. It hangs in one of the posts of my 4 poster bed.

When she passed, I was sick. I had a lot going on. I was sad, but I couldn’t properly grieve her. Tonight, the tears have been flowing for my friend who lost a mom who chose her and for the one that chose me. I’ve been reminiscing a lot throughout the day about how much she did for me over the years. Unfortunately, so much of it was confusing as loving kindness didn’t make much sense when I met her around 24 years ago. Even after things ended with my ex around 11 years ago, she was still loving and kind to me.

The last time I really saw her was in March of 2018. I had no place to live and only needed a place to stay for one night. She was compassionate. Despite being blind, she had put fresh sheets on her bed. She asked which side was more comfortable for me. She set out clean towels. She hugged me goodnight. She told me she loved me.

As she went to sleep, I went to her living room and cried. She was SO loving. She chose me.

Perhaps the pain of that “friend” welcoming me into her family to only disappear dashed my hopes at humanity a lot and certainly jaded me to her brand of Christianity was painful, but I also recognize it wasn’t meant to be. I left the group so I wouldn’t have to deal with that pain week in and out. It is ok.

Becoming chronically ill and generally living an atypical life of someone in my mid 40s has made me extremely compassionate. My circle is much smaller than it has ever been, but it’s solid as I know the world doesn’t have to accept me as that would make me a chameleon, a people pleaser. I’m done with that chapter of my life.

As I grieve B and for my friend who no longer has the mom who chose her and returns to the ranks of those of us rejected by our biological family, a club we never asked to belong to, I understand that we are strong. We are compassionate. We are loving and have to remember all that compassion we dole out to others, we have to look in the mirror and send it back to ourselves.

Better stop. I have a sunrise hike I want to do so I can sit and talk to B and thank her for choosing me when no one ever did in a genuine way as family as I didn’t get to thank her on this earth. I will thank her properly as the sun rises.

Love

Lizzie

When You School the Psychologist

This was an “oops” picture, but I love it as nature is my current therapist.

Pain management referred me to a pain psychologist as he was supposed to help me with energy conservation and the grief of chronic illness. Instead, he wanted to delve into my trauma history without really giving me the support for it. I promised him 3 sessions. I won’t be going back.

Our final session happened last week. I mentioned a painful one year anniversary is coming up for me. He said, “how will you distract from the pain”. I looked him straight in the eye with the reply, “distract from it? Distract from it? NO, I’m going to embrace it and while it will be a sad day, I am going to do something symbolic to celebrate what I’ve lost. Furthermore, being happy all the time is a western myth”.

With my words, he got very quiet. He looked sideways out the window. After a few second of silence, he said “true”. After another period of silence, he said, “I guess that’s better than taking a benzo”.

By “benzo”, he was referring to anti anxiety drugs like Ativan, klonopin, Xanax, or any of those drugs that are an attempt to mask uncontrollable anxiety. I took them for years as western psychology told me I had to be happy and calm. My personal psychology says feel it all to not be anxious. Forget psych meds…forever.

I’ve mostly departed from western psychology for over 2 1/2 years. I learned what I needed. I thought I needed the pain psychologist as I sometimes long for someone to know what happened to me. I want them to know my history so they know the pain I lived, to know I’m a success now. I want a stranger to be proud of me.

I realized in my 34 days I spent at what I refer to as my “trauma resort”, which is really a name for the rather fancy residential treatment I went to for my CPTSD in 2017. My individual therapist came to me on the Monday or Tuesday after I had arrived with a regular composition notebook and told me to start writing. I told her I was going to need more than one notebook.

My trauma story sits written on hundreds and hundreds of pages in several composition notebooks that sit in a special place in my room. My trauma story has been told on paper even if no one knows exactly in detail what happened to me.

I recognize that having an extremely traumatic past has shaped me. I used to think it meant a lifetime of misery and hating myself. I see now it gave me resiliency, an uncanny ability to feel adept at walking in other people’s shoes, sensitivity, kindness, compassion, and I am well aware it has hugely contributed to being chronically ill.

I spoke to a young woman a few days ago who I was actually at my trauma resort with. Another one passed through town and spent the night. They and so many others who have experienced trauma and are struggling have begged me to write my story. I’m not looking back. They don’t want the story of my trauma. They want the story of how I healed without western psychology.

So I hope to get it done eventually. It’s not that I’m perfect in my healing. Far from it in fact. I do know I’m committed to it. I recognize sadness and pain are equally as important as joy and elation.

As I go into a work meeting tomorrow morning that I joked to them I would prefer my title be “hope dealer” versus what my official title is, I will spread the message that life is hard for anyone. Being happy constantly isn’t attainable. I wasn’t blessed with a loving and supportive family or a life partner. I didn’t get the satisfaction of safe adults. What I did is get an inner resolve to live to the fullest that I can. I embrace it all, even when it’s really hard.

As I go into being a “hope dealer”, I will remind the people I’m working with that “constant happiness is a western myth”.

Love

Lizzie

Books and nature and suffering

This. So much this. An excerpt from Victor Frankl’s “Mans search for meaning”. I often tell people what thrust me into emotional healing was a ton of physical suffering. Frankl also mentions in his book that finding meaning in suffering is the highest achievement in finding meaning. He wrote that in a survey of who people admired most done in the 1980s, it wasn’t academics, financially successful people, great artists or even writers, the people they admired most were ones who suffered great adversity and held their head high. He writes in depth that American society thinks the only way to be is happy. Sadness isn’t pathological. I’ve been saying it for years. Guess Frankl beat me to it by many years. Read some books. You might find some meaning.

The night before last was bad. My neck is an arthritic, herniated, rare type of migraine causing disaster. It’s called occipital neuralgia.

I take pictures of everything in my world. By 4 am, the pain in my neck was so awful, I was just waiting for the ice to work. I couldn’t meditate or breathe through this pain, so I sobbed at how unfair it is. I won’t take an opiate at 4 am as I need to be clear and alert during the day. I rarely take them at night even.

The ice set in. It calmed the inflammation. I took a prescription dose of ibuprofen and got myself to “therapy” by sunrise as “ding ding, Lizzie you need to have an emergency therapy session with Mother Nature”.

This is my therapist: large, granite monoliths. This therapist is rock solid, literally 😂. Leaning into the power of this particular therapist reminds me I’m strong. I’m reminded I can do it. I’m held up even when I should be falling over. It gives me a break from my pain even though doing this causes me more physical pain after, but I sometimes decide the cost is worth it. Emotional freedom is ok with me. Chronic pain is chronic. It’s not going anywhere and as overwhelming as that feels, I can choose to be liberated into health in my mind. I’ll move while and when I can.

And today I played trying to figure out my backpacking equipment and scouring the internet on how to make it happen with a very bad back without causing further injury. My added bonus is I learned my $8 backpacking stove boils water in 3 minutes. An anomaly for cheap!

Love

Lizzie