Let’s REALLY Talk

Today is #Bell #Mental #Health #Day. @Bell_LetsTalk  http://www.BellLetsTalk.ca

Be kind to everyone, you never know the invisible mental wars being waged on their psyche. #PTSD is what I try to spring back from daily since 2012.

Where once I was considered this strong, as a friend since age 17 said to me when I asked where is my support: “you are our leader you are the one with all the wisdom, the one we always go to for help. We just don’t know what to do when our leader goes down.”

My friend Ricky might be right but as I struggle to get back on my horse, as it were, I wish so many did not lose my number.

A friendly voice can change a dark day when the sun is shining brightly and you want to go out. But you can’t. Because everything overwhelms from traffic sound to children crying, triggers everywhere not to mention you are not safe to begin with because everyone you ever knew has changed. That means every one you ever meet is not who they want you to believe they are. It is called having your trust shattered utterly and trying to rebuild your life when everywhere you look are the barbed wire reminders and remnants of relationship, shadows hinged on sharp tines, the teeth of time waiting to pounce on you again, catch you in the sights again only to trigger you right back to square one.

The sad side effects of having a mental illness, condition or break down are that people change. There is something that happens to others when we change or behave in ways they are not familiar with. Some don’t know how to treat us and actually carry on as if nothing is wrong with us at all. Wrong. Ask, ask, ask.

Did you know that if you ignore a hurting person, you might be the last person to ever do anything to them again because that ignorance might be what drives them over the final edge? If I had a gun, I would already be gone. Truth.

Impulsive by nature, I have been in the depths of dark where someone turning away again, saying: “You’ve changed. You aren’t the fun loving woman I knew years ago. You are distant, sad and you swan around like a princess of entitlement not contributing much at all any more.”

This from a friend of 25 years I had met while we were both working for Social Services funded child care programs. In the first couple of years of freedom after leaving my marriage, I had a lot of fun with friends, family and just enjoyed the time spent with others without the dark cloud of my ex overhead. This was taken from me when he held my arms and a former close female friend who was  having a relationship with my ex despite knowing full well ALL the reasons why I HAD to leave,  kicked me in the crotch. PTSD began then and there but they would not listen to me, ignored my troubled mind and stuck me deeper in the vat of a sharp ice cube world where nothing is friendly, round or soft anymore.

She is no longer a friend, of course. But this is just one example of what happens to you when you endure PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Of course I changed! I have PTSD. Back then, I was much worse, stammered when I spoke, spent weeks in bed at a time and rocked the hours away when awake no matter I don’t own a rocking chair.

She never asked me a single question or she might have known it was all I could do to get myself dressed and to her home for a gathering of friends at Christmas time one year after I was already in the throes of PTSD but did not yet know what was happening to me and why I could not cope.

She never asked a single question or she might have learned that after saying this to me,( I did NOT, as she later said the gathering thought of me: had a better offer – how insulting and abusive is THAT) I drove the mile home in tears, unable to see the road clearly, fleeing the abuse to my home where I sat in my pretty dress and heels, alone at Christmas time crying for four hours straight in the dark. Is it any wonder my eyes are damaged and ache with too much stimulation. I don’t think so, it happened pretty naturally.

Finally, I turned the lights on that night, showered and got into clean pj’s to crawl into bed where I stayed for nearly a week. Thank you, kind friend of the past right where you should be.

Friends of decades. Vanished. Abandoning you. Dumping your friendship when you developed needs you never could have anticipated having. Binned your decades of relationships because the dynamic is altered: now you NEED. Shame on you for needing. no No NO!!! Shame on anyone who turns away from any hurting human. Help don’t hurt!

One thing I learned all too well is abusive people just abuse more when you are down in any way. Weakness or vulnerability are trampled and, in my case, my brain flashed and banged and clanged and hurt so much from all the hurt, I wanted to just die because my head was burning and trying to explode from all the hurt inside it.

Here are some things I have had done to me since getting PTSD so I am sharing things NOT to do with hurting people:

1. Do NOT tell them to just “get over it,” “move on,” etc  Would you say this to someone who just lost a loved one? Then why now, when this could last the rest of their days?

2. Do NOT avoid them as though they are the dredges of society and don’t have any right to feel what they feel. Respect their right to feel what they feel even if you cannot understand.

3. Ask questions. Just keep asking even if they cry or burst into tears and can’t answer. Ask again another day. But asking lets them know you care. Silence and avoidance just feel like more abuse on top of what you may have already endured. I know.

4. Find reasons to drop a little something by if you can’t handle it in person. Set a flower outside their door or a little care package of some sort because they may not be able to go shopping for themselves and any little thing, soup and crackers, some fruit would be so appreciated.

5. If you call and they don’t pick up, ASSUME nothing. Actually NEVER ASSUME anyway. But especially when they don’t call back in their usual pattern. They will when they can.

6. Text or email is good but I personally find the computer screen so overwhelming, I have to look away or keep my eyes closed while typing as I just did here.  Still, it is a way for a hurting person to let you know they are okay. If you ASK.

7. Offer to pick up things for them or run errands for them if they need a bill paid, etc. This one act of kindness could be the little thing that saves a day or a week of fretting and stewing trying to figure out how they will get it done themselves.

8. Do NOT pressure them about anything in any way. Everything feels like pressure so keep the conversation safe and gentle. They will tell you anything deeper or take it there if they feel safe enough to share more with you.

9. Do NOT tell people what to do. They did not totally lose their minds. They merely lost their ability to function as they used to. Allow them the dignity to find their own way back.

10. Assume nothing.  For one thing, you will likely always be very, very WRONG. For another, your assumption is a decision you made without adequate information. How can I be so sure of this? Because that is what assumption IS. A conclusion based on inadequate information. There can be no assumptions where informing others lives.

How can people get healthy if they are shamed, shunned and shocked deeper into themselves.

They cannot.

The physical trauma was evident in the year following the kick from the blood in my urine immediately to the discomfort and constant hurting for a year following that kick – nerves down there are several, it’s such a tiny area of muscle and tissue. Mental and emotional Trauma, which is what I endured, is not visible. Think of it as a bruise inside the head. A bruise a person never asked for. A bruise they are trying to heal as best they can.

#help don’t #hurt.#bellmentalhealthday#january #28th #2014

Saint Bernadette’s Song

Annual company parties could be awkward enough without the wild card of the potentially drunk table top dancer or the karaoke wanna-be who, uninvited, takes over the vocalist’s microphone. This party was no different.

Most just paid their quiet respects out of loyalty to job retention and went home before the final tome sounded. Others just didn’t know any better. Morale in this company of refrigerated food services was something bandied about for newbies and junior hires, long since dead to the front line working stiffs who kept the upstairs office suits in style.

Barbecuing salmon and prime rib over open fire pits fragranced the entry way and the Christmas music roared full volume,  a classic rock band hired to rev up festivities in the room overlooking the softly lit golf course.

One couple really stood out when they came through the doors of the Arbutus Ball Room at the Palisades Inn. But it wasn’t their flashiness. It was more that they appeared to want to hide, curving toward one another like infants seeking familiarity, safety and shelter from the world.

Dean approached the pair, his hand extended toward Marvin despite Bernadette’s pug nose risen to indignance before it was even necessary. Marvin seemed grateful and extracted his arm from Bernadette’s grasp to reach out with both hands to his long time co-worker.

“Hey, man, how’s it going?” Dean asked.

He nodded Bernadette’s way but that was enough for that short woman. Dean’s wife Amy knew Marvin’s wife Leta very well. In fact, she, Bernadette and Leta had attended a few concerts together, their musical interests aligned but their morals clearly not.

“Good, good. Good to see you, buddy,” Marvin meant it though he was panicked already, perspiration shining from the permanent furrows in his forehead.

Bernadette had insisted they attend.  Everyone saw for themselves her control just in the brutal way Martin had treated Leta after Bernadette inserted herself in the mix.  Everyone knew why the couple clung together, the lies they protected and told one another, their mutual agreement an invisible glue long cracked transparently in the eyes of all concerned.

Leta and Marvin were separated nearly five years when Leta’s best friend Bernadette, the very friend she had confided all the vile reasons why she had to leave her marriage in, this was the only glue holding Bernadette and Marvin together. It was how they made themselves feel it was okay to do what they were doing, that Leta was the crazy one. All while pressing her parts where Leta’s had once been and, if she had her way, Bernadette would be keeping them pressed there, no matter who it destroyed.

Marvin looked grey, thinner than ever and you could see he was paying a toll for something alright.

“Looks like a good party going on. Where’s the bar?” Marvin asked this while patting the flask of vodka inside his navy blue jacket, his constant reassurance policy right where it always was.

“Follow me, “ Dean said as he turned on his heel to lead them . Dean was young looking for his age but the past few years had not been kind to Marvin and they looked at least a decade apart although they were the exact same age.

Bernadette’s ash washed skin spoke of women in candlelit rooms, voodoo halls and dolls in the dead of winter, hidden away from sight until business picked up when tourist season started in spring. Her unevenly tattooed eye brows underlined the gypsy apparel, the entourage of cheap glittery necklaces and gawdy earrings.  All she needed was a scarf tied around her head to complete the look.

Leta was a classy lady who dressed with an easy elegance that only seemed to heighten Marvin’s presence just as Bernadette’s presence cheapened him.  It wasn’t only Bernadette’s disloyal choices and appearance that set her apart from any good taste in the room. It was the secrets she had to agree to keep, the secrets she wore as brazenly as though Leta was a crazy woman who made everything up out of thin air about her husband. Bernadette should have known Leta better than that, the thirty years Marvin had to make things right were wasted, Marvin was full of promises and that was about all is what Leta had told Amy.

Amy was at the bar getting herself another ginger ale when Dean slipped an arm around her shoulders. The flashing Christmas lights cast a fleeting pall over everyone, an inexpensive mockery of true disco ball days.

“Look who’s here, sweetie,” Dean said.

Strains of Heart’s Barracuda were keeping the dance floor full and the band promised to do any song requested so Amy had just requested they do Elton John’s “Your Song” – the song Dean dedicated to her at their wedding.

She turned expecting to greet someone gladly so that her smile froze awkwardly, half expressed while she uttered a curt, “Hello.”

“Amy,” Marvin said, “Hi, uh, It’s nice to see you.”

“I’m sure it is,” Amy said, her eyes fastened on Bernadette who seemed oblivious to her own ill chosen appearance.

“Well, what a night this has been so far! Let’s get a beverage and sit down, Marvin, the air in here is so dry.”

Bernadette grabbed the moment to laugh it all off – laugh, laugh, laugh it off she liked to say-  with the type of forced laugh people give when thinking themselves funny.  No one else laughed but she didn’t seem to notice. Stubbornness was one of her most prideful traits. She pulled Marvin’s sleeve but he seemed distracted, not really present with her or anyone else. Suddenly he just followed along like a good little doggy and Amy turned to Dean.

“I hope you didn’t invite them to sit with us.”

“ I knew better than that, “ Dean said this smiling at Amy, glad for her pluck. It had never left her from the time they were high school sweethearts through raising their three twenty- something children. At forty eight Amy could still cut a swath across a room in her stylish dresses and heels even though her favorite clothes were soft blue jeans with pilly old sweaters. Amy was a confident woman and it was her goodness that struck people ahead of her presence. Somehow you just knew this was one good woman who wouldn’t entertain anything unseemly.

Including Bernadette McGratten.

Bernadette was already chatting up the company president, a beefy man with a Santa paunch and the charm of thirty snakes, already drunk as a lord and clapping Marvin on the back like they were long lost pals. In some way, they were.

Later in the night, when the band started playing softer music, slower dance songs, Dean said to Amy, “I feel sorry for the guy, believe it or not. Everyone is avoiding them. He looks lost.”

“He looks lost because he is roary-eyed drunk! He’s not lost. He is just trying to escape himself.”

Amy knew she was right about this.

Leta had shared that Marvin’s self loathing was the hatred between them. He hated himself for all the harm he had caused her and the children, for hurting them all so irrevocably. He treated Laura terribly and apologized only when she left, “I am so sorry I treated you so inhumanely. I know I treated you like an animal. Like a piece of dog shit on my shoe. I am so sorry. I was never a good husband but it wasn’t your fault. You were such a good wife. You are the purest person I have ever known. “ He’d also said he would always love Leta and she knew it was true but, as she told Amy, that just isn’t enough anymore, I don’t want to die here in this sham of a marriage.

“Speaking of escapes,” Amy said aloud, “I need to make one to the ladies room and I wouldn’t mind leaving anytime after that. Just let me know when you are ready to go.”

The band hadn’t played her request yet but she was tired and it was an hour’s drive home for them.

The washroom was rife with colognes and perfumes and as Amy exited the stall she was in, there stood Bernadette at the sink, her back reflected in the mirror as she leaned against the counter.

“Why does everyone hate me?”  she asked.

“Don’t play cute with me,” Amy said. “You know why.”

“Leta left Marvin long before I got involved. I didn’t take him from her.”

“No, you could never do that, you never stood a chance there,” April said. “But you know as well as I do why she had to leave.  Then you call her crazy and make crazy motions at her right in her own home before you haul off and kick her when she is helpless. Why didn’t you just leave, leave, leave as both of them repeatedly asked you to? You’re a nurse for God’s sake, you’re supposed to know when someone is distraught.  And you were the reason for Leta’s distress and you knew it! Does it feel good to be you inside there? I can’t imagine being a soulless person like you who spouts religion and God, God, God as if you actually know him.  The only God you know has a pitchfork.”

“You don’t understand…” Bernadette started.

“No! You don’t understand. You crossed a line of love and loyalty of friendship for a person who thinks nothing of committing crimes. How could you bring your own children into a situation where you know he is reformatting his hard drives weekly to cover visits to underage porn and other unimaginables that destroyed their marriage? If I didn’t despise the evil you have done to Leta, I might even feel sorry for you. First her marriage is a sham and then her friendship with you is all false, too. Karma is a bitch, Bernadette, and when you meet her, give her my regards.”

Amy grabbed the door handle, the cool brushed steel welcome against her clenching fingers.

“ Please…you don’t understand… let me tell my side… you don’t understand,” Bernadette plead.

“Your side??! I don’t want to hear your side of anything!  I don’t want to ever understand the kind of evil person who could do what you have done to Leta. You don’t even know the meaning of “friend”. You have no idea what virtue and conscience even are or you could never do what you have done. To anyone. But especially Leta. She really loved you and you abused her love. How dare you write to her telling her ‘she’ is of no character value – turn around and look in that mirror if you want to see what soullessness looks like!”

Amy was shaking when she stepped back into the ball room where Dean was smiling her way. “Take me home, my man, I need out of this place right now.”

Bernadette watched them leaving.

She watched everyone leaving.

They always left.

They never looked back.

She looked over at Marvin sitting with the company president who was asleep, his head on the table. Bernadette felt calm again, took a deep breath and started for the table where Martin sat, too drunk to talk to, too drunk to drive himself home, too broken for any glue to hold him together ever again.

Marvin was different from the rest of the men in her life. She could feel it. Everything was different this time.

Once, after a two month relationship she deemed so intense it warranted a ten year depression along with a revolving door of men who routinely dumped her before they even opened the gate let alone got out of it, she thought she would never feel this intensity again but here it was with Marvin.

Bernadette knew Marvin would never love her the way he loved Leta because he couldn’t after what she had done to Leta. He knew she knew what he was and what he had done, too. He even told her that Leta was the purest person he ever knew. She would rather he was able to say that of herself but she could settle with that the same way she settled with everything else she knew was not good or right about this whole situation.

Bernadette knew he really needed her because he had nobody else left who wanted him. Not even Leta.

Marvin really, really needed her now.

And that was enough for her.

She hummed the final bars of the Elton John song to herself …

How wonderful life is…

© Aurora Morealist

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I pasted most of the poems I wrote, the poems that saved my life these past two years, into an ebook to try and raise about the stigma of mental health. Art saves lives is the message of my sometimes very dark writing… still, my writing is the only thing no one can ever take way from me and it will not violate my trust and loyality like some people in the world do who caused my PTSD, physically and emotionally attacking me, nearly destroying me totallly. Gentle people like Stephanie Borkowski who also suffers from PTSD give me hope. Here are the questions from her interview in a link to her pretty, peaceful blog: