Triggered

I’ve worked through everything in this CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy) group which, by the way, I am just about to graduate from. I thought I was getting better. A couple of weeks ago I was triggered by something another vet was describing about her experience. Memories from my own experience started flashing through my mind, and feelings, and sounds. My body physically shook. I couldn’t control it. … I had a hard time grounding myself so I could keep listening to her. In fact, I don’t remember really hearing anything she said after that. I was too busy trying to get myself back under control. It took awhile, but I managed. It turned out okay.

Tonight though. Damn. Tonight I was in a conference call  with other organization members addressing the needs of a woman vet who’s MST (Military Sexual Trauma) experience was similarly brutal to mine. There were questions about her behaviors, which I knew were consistent with someone who has been through this experience so I shared that I had been through this also (without going into details) and that I also had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and that it was common and legitimate that she might exhibit some of the behaviors she was exhibiting, etc.

We made the decision that I would be the one to primarily deal with her via conference call (along with only one other member on the call, so she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed or “ganged up on”). I’m fine with that. But then someone started going on about her story, questioning details, almost blithely describing details that for me had been gruesome and brutal and painful. … I had to yell “I’m sorry I have to get off here.” And I punched the hang-up button on my phone. My whole body was shaking. Again with the memories flashing in my head.

I’m still shaking. I can’t get this shit out of my head. It’s been four and a half hours and still my body is in knots. I thought if I wrote it down it might help, nothing else seems to be working right now. Got the headphones on, cranking up the tunes.

One and a half hours LATER:  How many times can you smash your head against a brick wall before the wall moves? None. That’s not the wall moving, that’s your head caving in.

I’m feeling a little better. But I still can’t shake off the memories. And now I feel depressed. Or maybe that’s sad. Who knows? It’s been so long since I felt anything much besides numb, it’s really hard to tell. Someone please tell me I’m not alone in that.

One hour LATER:  It’s 0404 hours. I think I can go to bed now. Except I’m starving. Dogs are so loyal! My buddy’s laying on her bed in my office, snoring so loud I can hear her through my headphones, when I know she’d rather be upstairs sleeping in the big bed. How can you not love that?

Divination

I love the way the sunlight twinkles bark

just before the sun goes down

–when cicadas buzz and sings the lark–

accentuating each scaly spot of skin

and every scar that connects them

exposing every untold story

not otherwise easy to see

I climb and trace the wrinkles

with my fingertips, touch the ghosts of

feathery caresses in transparent periwinkle

all the stories imprinted, I remember,

left there that September to September

recalling the time I sat in that branch

engrossed in a book I found by chance

in the traveling library, so absorbed that day

I fell out of the tree and broke my arm

it was the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay

that I fell into when I was nine, or maybe ten,

I worried more about the book than my descent

reminding me of the woods where I walked and mused

and learned the hard lesson that robins will refuse

even kill their young if they are scented with man’s touch

recollecting that, in the summer, high as I could climb I saw

waves of corn stalks slosh all around us and such

brought ships with adventures from far off lands

through one of those wind chimed seas my brother and I swam

for a mile to meet the nicest lady who fed us cookies and milk

until she died in the Palm Sunday tornadoes, with her ilk

she was our mother’s sister’s husband’s aunt

which made her a kind of relative–it was like that there

everyone was in some way related, so it was not for want

that kids could never get away with anything dumb,

some cousin of your mama’s sister’s neighbor, would plumb

call her to say she had seen you down at the creek

when you were supposed to be up at the garden picking beans

that was also the year I read Kant and Descartes,

from my father’s limited library of philosophers,

and Freud, and decided halfway through he wasn’t so smart

by god, he was a pompous woman-hating ass and

I put the book away, and have not read him since and

it’s possible I became a feminist in that moment

Freud awakened the ire that caused me to foment

a rebellious whisper inside myself: I did not imagine this,

I did not want this–not even in my imagination,

not in my id, my ego, or my superego–his was a fucked up analysis–

not with my Eros, not with my Thanatos,

and he can leave my libido out of this holocaust–

I am not the one that’s crazy, you stupid man

but I knew why my father was his fan

and maybe I knew something about Freud

that even he didn’t know about himself

he should have spent more time employed

with tracing the scars and wrinkles of an old tree

just before the sun went down over a tasseled sea

leaving ghostly imprints on its gnarly skin, recon sorties

that mapped his soul by telling its stories

— Able Boodha

The Abyss

Sometimes I want to beat against the chains that bind me, when all I need do is let them drop from my hands.

Sometimes I want to define who I am becoming, when all I need to do is be and let being be enough.

Sometimes the scream inside me is so loud I wonder how people do not hear it, yet I cannot even whisper “today there is fear and confusion behind this smile.”

I have walked many paths, but never more uncertain than this one I walk now. For I have no idea where I am, or where I am going … or why it even matters that I drop these chains and let myself fall into the abyss.

— Able Boodha

Dangerous Woman

So still

thunder is until                                                                                            loosed

when moon shines                                                                               and I am freed

I take all that is mine                                                                                from you

the oak holding up the sky

a leaf reincarnating as it dies

river cutting its way through rock

flower unfolding past a concrete block

even the earth

even the earth

I will roar into the silence shake the bones of your pretense fill the darkness with my jagged light expose your perverted hate-filled blight and by the time the sun rises above you will know what you have been afraid of:  that I am a dangerous woman.

– Able Boodha

Women

For a long time I felt disconnected from other women. Maybe it was because my mother was so emotionally distant because of her mental illness, the effects of the electro-shock therapy performed on her, the meds she was on, the divisive manipulations of my father upon our family, and the physical and psychological abuse she endured at the hands of my father.

It also didn’t help that I worked from a young age and had many more responsibilities than other girls my age. I found it difficult to relate to the silliness of most of them. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that I had been molested by my father from an early age, and was raped when older. As a consequence I felt different from other girls, and this difference was like an almost impermeable wall.

The aptly dubbed “women’s movement” or “feminist movement” gave voice to many of my own and other like-minded women’s thoughts and feelings. Then I entered military service and joined other women in a long line of sisterhood of warriors.

It was in these two places that I began to feel connected with the women I met, and with all women globally, and to feel a sense of kindred spirit with them … a sisterhood, and a kind of love that is not bounded by time and place, or religion, or race, or politics, or economics, or sexual orientation, or gender identity, or any of the artificial things people choose to divide themselves by.

It was the beginning of loving my own womanhood (or femininity), of seeing it as a strength and not a weakness, a gift and not a curse.

So when I recently heard a woman talk of some women treating other women they date in a crass way during sexual encounters and then discussing this treatment openly in public as though these sexual conquests were not living, breathing, feeling, human beings I felt disgusted to the core of my being. These braggarts are women who, by nature of their lifestyle, claim to love women (or so it seems to me). Yet this is how they treat them? I might expect this behavior from some men. When women behave this way toward other women it feels worse to me. Just as I find it more difficult to understand how women can traffic other women as slaves, particularly as sex slaves. To me it feels more heinous than when men do it. (Not that I’m condoning anyone doing it.)

Obviously people occasionally miscommunicate with each other, but why can’t all our intentions be to respect and honor each other? Why can’t we choose to mentor and cooperate with each other instead of compete with, and back-stab, and trash talk each other? We should be working together for the good of all. We should be voting together to ensure the rights of the least woman among us are protected, and her health is cared for, and her education is assured so she can fend for herself and provide her children with even better opportunities than she has. We should demand justice for rape and abuse victims, and hold men accountable for the children they father. We should demand an end to rape and abuse of women, children, and men.

And never, NEVER, should we leave another sister behind.

The Tattoo

you branded me

with your abuse your

secrets scarring me to

the bone my pain invisible

except for a slight limp and a

set of symptoms they call PTSD

in my silence you had power over me.

now I choose to brand myself my

voice in permanent ink to de-

clare your crime for all to

see reclaiming all the

power that belongs

by right to me

– Able Boodha

Stuck Point

This week I’m supposed to fill out the Challenge Beliefs Worksheets on Trust, for my Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) group. I’m getting the feeling this may be the first time I show up with my homework not done. It’s getting harder because every time I try to work a “stuck point” my mind has already zipped through it and it’s not a stuck point any more.

Obviously this is the week for trust. Which I do and don’t do. I have plenty of reasons not to trust people given my history. On the other hand, I pretty much give people the chance to hang themselves (and usually more than once) before I decide whether they’re trustworthy or not. It’s not like I test them. I just am a little choosy what I share with most people until I get to know them well. But then, aren’t we all? Who goes around waving their arms and yelling, “Hey, over here, yep, crazy family, yeah, PTSD, yep, I’m nuts, yep, step right up and let’s be buddies, right here … uh, why are you running?” Most likely, the runners are depressed and can’t handle all that activity. I also do not normally lead with my income level, religion, political affiliation, or other controversial categories of information. These tend to sort themselves out in subsequent subtle conversational cues as time goes on.

But let me explain the worksheet and what I mean by “stuck points.”

I can’t remember how to define a “stuck point.” (I told you I have memory problems.) Best guess, it’s like an irrational belief that you’re stuck on that doesn’t work for you. For example: No one is ever trustworthy. Obviously, someone is sometimes. So your belief is irrational, likely emotional (since it is clearly not factual), and I forget what all else. The Challenge Belief sheets are a great way to work through something when a thought is causing you distress, the thought likely being a stuck point. Here are some more: I can’t do anything right, I’m a total loser, no one ever likes me, I’ll never find a boy/girl-friend, I’m totally stupid, I’m totally unlovable, I’m so broken it’s a wonder I can walk …

Crap. I hate to make shit up just to have stuff on the sheets but maybe that’s what I should do because I really can’t think of anything and I’ve been trying since Friday.

Is “This sucks” a “stuck point?” No, it’s a fact.

Stress Reaction

Do you ever feel so stressed when people are pressing you for answers that you’ll agree to or say almost anything just to get them to back off? This happens to me all the time.

Even in therapy, where you’d think I’d feel safe enough, comfortable enough, or whatever the word is, to say “hey, slow down, quit dogging me, let me process this, I can’t give you an answer right now, I don’t know what I feel right now–I’m too stressed to figure it out, I don’t have words for this right now …” But no. I just accept whatever label, feeling, etc. they want to throw at me, anything to get off the hot seat.

I used to be able to handle amazing amounts of stress exceptionally well when I was younger. Maybe it’s the Post Traumatic Stress. Maybe it’s from having too much stress for too long, but now I can’t seem to handle much stress well at all.

The thing is, when I’m in the situation I’m barely aware of what’s going on with me. I’m in survivor mode. I’m just reacting. It’s not until later, when the stress is gone and I’m processing what happened and why it feels wrong to me, that I get that I once again gave someone what they wanted (or agreed to something, or with someone) just to get them to back off stressing me. And it’s usually that someone has used manipulation to get me to do something I really don’t want to do, or I’ve agreed to do something that I’ve felt pressured to do because of friendship, or I’ve given in to pressure from very aggressive and persistent sales people, or situations like the above scenario.

I’m getting better at catching this. But too many times it still catches me unawares. To make it worse I have a serious memory problem. (I’ve been told it’s because of my PTS.) Particularly with words. I often find myself using the wrong word to describe something, but I can’t think of the right word. Sometimes they may start with the same letter but have completely different meanings. When I’m stressed my memory issues are worse, especially around words and their meanings. A helluva problem for a writer to have, yeah?

Somehow I’ve got to find a way to become aware of what’s happening when I first feel the stress, and develop a method for handling not only the stress, but the stressor. Meaning the person (or jerk) pressuring me.

Anyone else deal with this? Thoughts on this, oh wise blogosphere? All helpful suggestions appreciated.

The Excavation

standing on my grief

old bones in the ancient pit

my countless bodies

broken and tossed carelessly inside

covered in lime

unacknowledged

until

now

that I have excavated them

I weep

for the torn and bloodied pieces

for the interrupted meanings

for the lost possibilities

for the experiences of lost hope

for the utter useless wastefulness

of all that human anger and

hate and

violence

spewed onto one person’s life …

enough to fill this ancient pit full

with all these corpses.

– Able Boodha